Golden Feeling

Tifa was woken up by a loud bang from outside the Gold Saucer bedroom she was snoring away in. She groaned in annoyance, swiping to take off the Moogle-stitched night-mask that clung snugly to her eyes, attempting to keep her from worrying and go back to sleep. That wasn’t an option, unfortunately — even if the group was taking a bit of a break from their mission, they still needed to be alert.

Tifa finally managed to rip the mask off of her face, throwing it to the wall next to her in frustration. She took a look around the room and saw that none of the other girls were around, leaving her alone to investigate the disturbance.

“Thanks a lot, everyone,” she said to herself, rolling her eyes. She pushed herself off the bed, still groggy, and cautiously took a few steps to the entrance of the room.

Please don’t be a thing I actually have to deal with, Tifa thought, readying herself for a fight. I am…so tired.

Tifa took a beat, before kicking the door open and jumping into the hallway outside, fists raised.

“Eep!”

Aerith was standing in front of her, hands covering her face in a flinch. Tifa dropped her fists and relaxed her shoulders. A frown was still on her face, however.

“Aerith, what the hell are you doing out here? And what was that noise?”

When Aerith realized it was Tifa, she, too, relaxed her guard. “Oh, Tifa…sorry, I was on may back to the room to put some of the stuff that I won at the Wonder Square away, but I dropped some Materia…”

Sure enough, Tifa turned her gaze downward to see a few pieces of shattered glass, swirling with elemental energy that was already beginning to fade away. Tifa put a palm to her head, sighing.

“Oh boy…here, let me clean this up before someone gets nicked and turns into ice or something.”

Tifa withdrew into the Inn room, grabbing a pan and broom to sweep the mess away. Aerith stood awkwardly in the hallway, half-protecting passerby from stepping on the Materia, half-not knowing what to do with her hands.

“There,” Tifa said, wiping her hands as the last of the debris was cleared. “All better. I’m gonna head back to bed now. G’night!”

Before she could step through into the room, Tifa felt a small, delicate hand grab her own. She turned to see Aerith looking up at her with sparkling eyes.

“Well that won’t do after you helped me out! Come, come hang out with me!”

Tifa toyed with a strand of her hair. “Eh…I dunno…”

Please? Cloud and Barret are off to do whatever bro-nonsense they occupy themselves with, Yuffie won’t leave the Casino, Red stopped accepting my petting, and Vincent is…well he’s Vincent! I’m on my own here!”

Aerith gave the girl the best pout she could. Tifa’s face was scrunched in conflict, but she eventually had to acquiesce. How could you say no to a cute face like that?

“Fine, fine,” she said. Aerith squealed in happiness as Tifa went back inside to put on a full outfit to join her.


“So…what is there to do here?” Tifa asked as she and her date stood in the Gold Saucer’s Event Square. “Whenever we end up here I usually just use the time to catch up on sleep, so…”

“Oh, there’s so much!” Aerith replied, eyes glittering in excitement. “Here, I’ll take you to the best spots! Come on!” She grabbed the girl’s hand and half-pulled, half-dragged her to the Terminal Floor.

“Okay, so first is the Chocobo Square! Let’s go!” Aerith shoved Tifa through the tunnel that led to the feathered friends, catching the girl off guard — she sometimes forgot that Aerith’s strength belied her demure stature.

The pair appeared on the other side, greeted by the strong earthy smell of chocobo feathers, even though they were housed in stables far past the stadium and reception area. Despite herself, the scent sent Tifa’s memories tumbling back to Nibelheim for a brief moment. She shook her head, speaking to clear her thoughts.

“So…you watch the Chocobo Races here, then?” Tifa asked. Aerith shrugged her shoulders, hands behind her back as the pair climbed the steps to the stadium.

“Sometimes! Sometimes I race, too. But we aren’t doing either of those today!”

Tifa’s focus snapped to the girl. “Wait, you race at these things? Like, how often?”

Aerith gave a dismissive wave, preferring to not address the topic further. Tifa couldn’t stop staring at the girl. Aerith was a continuous surprise on all fronts.

And that would only further prove to be the case as the pair made their way past the Stadium’s front entrance, trailing around the main building and to the Chocobo Stables. Tifa glanced around nervously as Aerith swung the door to them open with a powerful shove. The warks of the chocobos increased in intensity as they stepped through.

“Uh…are we allowed to be here?” she asked. Aerith giggled.

“Yes, silly! All I had to do was bat my eyelashes at the stable-hand a little bit. Now I get to come in and pet the chocobos whenever I want!”

“Really? It was that easy?”

“Yep! Look!”

Tifa stopped examining the green chocobo in the stable in front of her to turn to Aerith. She gave a doe-like bat of her eyes, their emerald shine popping out even more than usual in the dusky light of the stables. A small, seductive smile was on her lips. Tifa gulped. Finally, Aerith broke the spell, throwing her head back with a laugh.

“See? Guys fall for this sort of thing so easily.”

“I don’t think just guys do…” Tifa muttered under her breath. Aerith turned back toward the girl.

“Did you say something, Tifa?” she asked.

“Uh, n-no! So, which chocobo here is your favorite?” she asked, hastily attempting to change the subject. Aerith clapped her hands in excitement, rushing over to a nearby crimson-colored chocobo.

“Here, here! Come pet him!” she shouted. Tifa sighed.

Crisis averted.


“Where to now?” Tifa asked, after petting the chocobos to Aerith’s satisfaction. The girl held a finger to her chin in thought.

“Hmm…oh, how about the Battle Square? I don’t go there very often.”

Tifa snorted. “Really? I would have guessed you were moonlighting as the arena champion if you hadn’t told me otherwise.

“Eh.” Aerith shrugged her shoulders as she and Tifa walked through the tunnel that led to the Battle Square. “We already fight so much on the road, I didn’t really want to do more of it on vacation, you know?”

“Fair. It’s good to take a break now and again.”

The duo found themselves in the Battle Square lobby. Though it was pretty late into the night by this point, there was still a large number of people roaming about, watching the monsters that were kept in see-through cages for spectators to look at in fear and awe. Aerith noticed a booth off to the corner of the area and skipped over to it, Tifa walking behind her while keeping a close watch on the people around them. She couldn’t help it — one of their enemies could have been planning a sneak-attack at any moment.

Tifa’s musings were interrupted by a gasp from Aerith. She turned to see the girl holding a giant cactaur plush.

“Oh my God, look at it Tifa! It’s adorable!”

Tifa nodded in agreement. “How much is it?” Aerith looked up at the shopkeeper expectantly.

“For you miss? 100 BP,” he said, stroking his moustache.

“BP?”

“Battle Points! You get them either by betting or participating in the Arena.”

“Oh, dang it!” Aerith said, dejected. “We don’t have any of those. Come on Tifa, let’s go.”

Tifa put a hand on her hip. “Now hang on a second. How much BP do you get in a fight?” she asked.

“About 1000 BP a match, all things considered,” the shopkeeper replied. “But the beasties in there are pretty tough, miss.”

Tifa snorted. “I’m gonna take a stab in the dark and say that I’ve probably fought tougher. I’m down.”

Aerith grabbed Tifa’s hand, a small frown on her face. “You don’t have to do that, Tifa. We just talked about enjoying our downtime!”

“You want the cactaur plush, right?”

“Well yeah, but—”

“Then you’re getting the cactaur plush. Go find a good spot to watch. I’ll see you after.”


The Arena in the Battle Square was musky and dank. In all honesty, they really needed to open a window. Such was Tifa’s first thought as she stood at the center of the ring — not that she could hear herself very well, with the crowd around her screaming in excitement. She wasn’t used to so much focus being put on her.

Tifa looked at the floor. On it, “The Brave Do Not Fear the Grave” was written in blocky yellow text. She scoffed at the message.

“If you’re not scared, you aren’t brave — you’re either not being challenged, or a total fool,” she muttered under her breath. A horn billowed, signifying the entrance of the monster. The gates in front of her opened, and a giant troll with a club stomped out onto the ring in front of her. Tifa sized the thing up. It was a slow-moving beast. She smiled.

This was going to be even more of a breeze than she thought.

Another horn billowed. The start of the match. Tifa lightly hopped from foot to foot, punching her fist into an open palm. The troll was only able to take a step forward before she broke into a sprint. The beast, caught off guard, went in for a swing. Tifa let her weight drop down, her momentum carrying her into a slide under the troll’s club. It whistled harmlessly over her hair as she moved through the troll’s legs. Tifa leapt into the air as the monster attempted to understand what was happening, giving a few flips as she did so — may as well entertain the crowd a bit while she was here, after all. At the apex of her jump, she readied her fist. Gravity lent her a hand as she shot downwards. She pulled back, slamming her fist into the troll’s face as she blew past it.

When Tifa landed on the ground, the troll was already collapsing behind her. She slammed a foot onto the monster’s corpse, throwing her arm into a flex and grabbing her bicep in triumph. The crowd erupted into cheers.


“No, I’m good. I’ll just take the Battle Points, please.”

Tifa was waving off a Golden Saucer Sponsor when Aerith found her. Her moves during the fight had garnered quite a bit of interest. The suited man walked away, dejected, when Aerith hopped in front of her in excitement.

“Tifa, that was incredible! You’re so strong!”

Tifa blushed, turning away from the girl.

“T-thanks.”

“Do that thing again!”

“What thing?”

“The thing you did at the end of the fight!”

“Oh, you mean, like this?”

Tifa flexed her bicep again. Without warning, Aerith grabbed onto it, poking and squeezing at Tifa’s large muscle. She flinched in surprise.

“Wha—”

“You know, I never really noticed before, but you’re really buff, huh Tifa?” Aerith asked. It didn’t really feel like a question.

“Yeah, I…I guess so,” Tifa sputtered. For a flash of a second, she thought she saw Aerith bite her bottom lip, but the moment flashed by so quickly, Tifa couldn’t be sure. She let go of Tifa’s arm.

“Come on, let’s go get the plush!” she said, rushing the pair over to the shop booth yet again. The shopkeeper was already holding out the cactaur plush for Aerith.

“I assume you’ve come for this, miss?”

“Yeah, but…that still leaves us with 900 points, now that I think about it…” Aerith and Tifa exchanged glances.


Tifa dropped the last of the giant stuffed animals they procured onto the desk next to her, before sighing and falling back onto her own bed.

“Where are we even going to put all this stuff?”

“Hmm…I dunno!” Aerith replied, dropping her own haul as well. Maybe we can send some of it back to Midgar. I bet Marlene would be pretty happy.”

“True.” Tifa adjusted so that she could stretch herself out on her bed in full.

“Well, that was fun, but I’m beat,” she said. She felt the weight on her bed shift. Aerith had hopped onto the bed, having kicked her boots off. Tifa’s heartrate suddenly sky-rocketed against her will.

“Scoot over, I’m tired too!” Aerith said. Tifa moved, trying to make word sounds come out of her mouth, but doing a terrible job. They lay like that for a while, staring up at the ceiling in silence, the only sounds Aerith’s breath, and the blood pounding in Tifa’s head. Ever so often, the flower-girl would kick her feet into the air, matching the motions of the fan above them. Finally, she spoke.

“Wanna know something?” she asked.

“What?”

“I heard what you said. In the stables.”

Tifa shot up, looking down on the girl frantically. “You did?”

Aerith giggled, sitting up as well. “Yeah, but I didn’t want to push it if you didn’t want to talk about it.”

Tifa stammered. “I-I’m sorry, I didn’t—”

“—You don’t have to apologize! You wanna know something else?”

“What?”

Aerith inched closer to Tifa. The hairs on the girl’s arms stood on end.

“I like you too,” she whispered.

“You do? Since…since when?”

“Hmm, I don’t know…when did we meet?”

“At Corneo’s.”

“So, then!”

“What!?”

Aerith pouted. “Is it really that much of a surprise? You’re a knock-out, Tifa — literally, sometimes! You’re really nice, and smart, and have you seen your muscles? Because I have, and let me tell you, phew—”

“—Wait, wait,” Tifa said, holding a hand up. “So we’ve been mutually crushing on each other this entire time? How long have you known that I like you? Did you figure it out at the Stables?”

Aerith interlocked her fingers. “No, I’ve known for a while.”

“Then why didn’t you say anything?”

“Because I wasn’t sure if you were ready or not! I don’t know if you noticed, but we’re kind of in the middle of some stuff right now…”

Tifa’s eyebrows furrowed. “Well that’s dumb. I’m definitely ready.”

Aerith’s eyes narrowed as she smiled. “Good. Then you won’t mind if I do this, then?”

Aerith leaned over Tifa, letting her lips press against hers for a fraction of a second before pulling back. She looked at Tifa questioningly, waiting for her consent. Tifa nodded.

“I don’t mind at all…” her cheeks were red, but for once, it wasn’t out of embarrassment. Aerith moved to kiss the girl again, with more force this time. Tifa shut her eyes as their lips met, grabbing Aerith’s waist to pull her closer. Feelings that had existed unrequited for so long were finally being realized as the pair fell backwards onto Tifa’s bed.


They lay together, blissfully, before Tifa’s eyes shot open in realization.

“We have to get ready before Yuffie comes back,” she said, starting to rise from the bed. Aerith grabbed the girl’s arm before she could move further, a lazy smile on her face.

“First of all, she won’t be back for a while. Second of all, she already knows.”

Tifa covered her face with her hands. “Is there anyone that didn’t know about us before me?”

Aerith looked upwards in thought.

“Hmm…Cloud, probably?”

The two girls looked at each other, before finally bursting into a fit of laughter. Aerith grabbed the her new girlfriend to kiss her a few more times before the night was over.

French Kisses

This was a piece for @bunnifuku, who you should definitely check out! She does super cute art and is really great!


There was an ethereal quality to the dusk Anais found herself walking in. It felt like at any moment the overcast clouds would give way to the sun could shine onto the cobblestone streets she was crossing. Though most were in their homes, there was a buzzing energy to the air — soon the tension would snap, and the day would begin in earnest. Normally the streets were filled with students on their way to class, their boots stamping through the spring-time rain, and various business owners opening up shop, getting their stalls ready for passerby. Instead, Anais was traveling alone. It was nice — like getting a second look at the town as if she were only just getting a better view of the trees and flowers that helped give it its beauty.

Anais had a reason to be out and about so early, and she was looking up at it with a proud gleam in her eyes by the end of her short walk. She could hardly believe it if you were to ask her. Years of sweat, work, disappointment, more work, more disappointment — and yes, even a few tears, though she’d never admit it — had led her to this moment. The French Kisses bakery was hers. It didn’t feel real, even as she ran a finger over the wooden sign that had its name emblazoned on it, lazily swinging in the air next to the door. She gave it a good tap, before stepping inside.

Everything inside the bakery was spotless. Anais had made sure of that beforehand, ruthlessly combing over every bit of dirt and dust she came across and forcing her boyfriend Donnie to wipe every surface of the building down somewhere between two and two-hundred times. What remained was a bright and open room that had the morning light filtering into it from the front windows, welcoming to any customer that happened to walk by and notice it.

Anais cracked her knuckles as she made her way past her bakery’s lobby and into the kitchen that sat behind it. Somehow, this section of French Kisses was even cleaner than outside, but that was inevitable — a clean bakery was a happy one. She tied her long, silver-blue hair into a ponytail to keep it out of the way, throwing on an apron and taking note of her stock. She had gone over what she wanted the first batch of goods to be in her head a hundred times the night before, but it was a different thing entirely to be making it. Sure, Anais had been baking for a while now — enough to open a shop, actually — but it was always for her, or her friends. This would be the first time she’d be serving a customer alone. She had to make sure that everything came out perfectly.

Thus she started with cookies. Not exactly a breakfast meal, but a good warm-up. Everyone loves a cookie, no matter the time of day. There were a million ways to make them and just as many ways to decorate them. Anais prepped the dough and frosting as the shadows outside grew longer, with the sun finally deciding to show a trace of its face to the world. As that first batch sat in the oven after Anais politely told the cookies to make sure they tasted delicious, she could feel herself getting into the groove, deciding to multitask with some croissants, moving between the butter that needed to be made while shaping them into petite crescents. Anais debated whether to give them a filling or not, before deciding to drizzle them with a chocolate syrup she had made up a few days ago as a happy compromise. Satisfied, she turned back to the now baked cookies, deftly frosting them with a variety of cute heart-shapes.

The bakery was beginning to fill with the smell of fresh goods, lulling Anais into an almost hypnotic state as she went from one pastry to the next, humming quietly to herself all the while. She was happy she had given herself enough time this morning to prepare, as she found herself making more than she anticipated. That wasn’t a huge issue, however — anything she didn’t sell she could take home with her. A perk of the job, she’d say.

Finished, Anais took the trays of food outside and meticulously placed them on the displays in front of the store, as well as next to the cash register. It was more work than using mock deserts, but she needed to make a good impression on opening day. And speaking of opening…

Anais took the “Closed” sign and held it in her hand for a moment, taking a deep breath. This was it! She flipped it so that “Open” faced towards the outside world, welcoming any and all to enjoy themselves at French Kisses.

…Oh dear.

Anais hadn’t thought this far ahead. What was she going to do while waiting for a customer to show up? She had already made everything she wanted to for the day. The girl paced back and forth for a few seconds in distress, before deciding to plop herself on the stool in front of the cash register. She smoothed her pleated skirt and tried to look as natural as possible, which was admittedly difficult, considering she was staring straight ahead and waiting for someone to walk through the door.

The day had finally begun for the rest of the town, as demonstrated by the foot traffic that Anais could see filtering past French Kisses’ windows. Each time someone walked past the store, her heart would jump just a little bit higher from her chest. She gulped, patting her knees in comfort. Anais had considered the possibility that the day would be slow, even with all of her marketing attempts.

Though hers was the first bakery on this side of town, it was always difficult to get the attention of people, let alone asking them to give you their money. Plus, they were probably busy…should she have started later in the day? Or waited for the weekend? Or maybe—

But before Anais could ruminate further, biting her nails with anxiety, she heard the tinkling of the bell at the front door. If her heart jumping in her chest before, it had now definitely leaped out of her body entirely and took a ride on the nearest roller- coaster. Anais shot up from the stool and gave a sharp bow to her potential first customer.

“Welcome to French Kisses!” she said. It might have been too loud. Was it too loud? Oh well, no turning back now. Anais looked back up to see a small old woman hunched over in front of her, leaning on a cane.

“French Kisses, huh? That’s quite the name…thank you dear, I didn’t realize this was a hot spring, as opposed to a bakery,” the woman said, rather drolly. Anais blushed a deep crimson, bouncing from one foot to the other.

“I…um, sorry. You’re my first customer.”

“Of the day?” the woman asked, an eyebrow raised. “E-ever!” Anais said, stuttering.

The woman clacked her cane lightly against the store’s stone tiles. “Ah! No wonder this place didn’t seem familiar. I’ve been in this neighborhood for decades, you know. Something or another is always changing or getting replaced. Oh but I’m rambling. First customer, ‘eh? That’s quite the honor.”

“The honor is mine, ma’am!” Anais said, bowing again. Such vigor was in her movements that her ponytail uncoiled itself back into its full length, reaching to her skirt. The older woman gestured at the girl dismissively.

“Cut that out before you hurt yourself. And my name is Gladys — it is most certainly not ‘ma’am.’”

“Oh! Mine is Anais.”

“Very good Anais. Do you mind if I take a look at what you’re selling?”

“Of course! I mean, of course not!”

Anais stepped aside and let the woman past to examine the display. She made to look busy, even though she absolutely wasn’t, while occasionally stealing glances at Gladys as she focused intensely on the food she had laid out. It was taking her quite a while. Anais was about to make a recommendation when the older woman finally spoke up.

“I’ll take one of each of these please,” she said, pointing.

Anais moved so quickly behind the display she may as well have materialized there. “One brownie and one croissant coming up!” she said. She took a small breath to calm her nerves so as not to drop the pastries as she pulled them out from the display and on to the counter.

“Will that be for here or to go?” Anais asked, finally starting to feel a bit more like a professional.

“For here, young lady. Lord knows I don’t have anything else to do.”

Anais couldn’t suppress a smile as she laid the pastries out on two plates and moved them over to the counter where Gladys was sitting.

“Thank you, Anais,” she said. Anais nodded. The woman looked up at her as silence grew between the two.

“Anais?”

“Yes?”

“Why are you standing there?”

Anais clasped her hands together. “I have to see you take the first bite!” “You do?”

“Yes, I do! I have to know if it’s good! You can always tell in the first bite, you know.”

“I…hmm. Fine,” Gladys said, shrugging her shoulders. She cut a piece of the brownie off with her fork and plopped it into her mouth. Anais held her breath while she waited.

Gladys chewed for a moment before her eyes widened in surprise. Anais leaned forward.

“Well?”

“This is…” the older woman started, before stopping. She took another bite of the brownie.

“Well!?” Anais repeated, her eyes glowing in excitement.

“I’ve been in this neighborhood a long time, Anais, as I’ve mentioned. And I have to say, this is the best dessert I’ve ever had here.”

Anais jumped into the air, clapping in excitement.

“That’s great to hear, thank you so much! Please enjoy the rest!” The girl retreated back to the counter while Gladys ate.

“Would you like some tea or anything?” she asked. The older woman waved her away. “No, no, I had some before I left this morning, thank you.”

“Where were you going before you stopped in?” Anais asked, leaning her chin on her hands behind the cash register.

“It’s the same routine every day, really: morning walk, then chess at a friend’s house.” “Wow, that sounds really nice!”

Gladys chuckled. “Well, it certainly keeps the mind sharp. But tell me, Anais — what got you to open a Bakery in this little town?”

Anais looked up at the ceiling, watching the fan above lazily spin to keep the bakery’s air from getting stale. She smiled.

“It’s always been a dream of mine! I just always thought the idea was cute, and I was always pretty good at baking, so…having a place where people could come enjoy themselves with a pastry after a busy day really appealed to me.”

“That’s quite the dream, especially for someone so young,” Gladys said, biting into her croissant. Anais shrugged.

“I guess! But it’s coming true! And that’s partly thanks to you. Thank you!”

“You might be giving me too much credit, but I suppose I’ll take it,” the old woman said, shaking her head with a laugh.

“What about you, Gladys? You’ve had a dream you always wanted to make come true, haven’t you?”

“I did.”

“Did you get to make it come true?”

“No. Don’t get me wrong,” Gladys said, waving away the frown that was spreading across Anais’ face. “I’m very happy with the life I’ve lived. No regrets there. But there’s always that ‘what if?’ that lingers in the back of your mind. I didn’t think I could make it happen, so I never tried. But you’re trying. I suppose that’s what’s so impressive about this little bakery.”

“What was it that you wanted to do?” Anais asked, leaning forward.

“Hmm…maybe I’ll tell you the next time I swing by. You are very easy to talk to, Anais.”

The girl grinned in response. “Thank you! I get that a lot.”

Gladys rose from her seat, having finished off her food. She handed the money to Anais, but the girl refused to accept it.

“You’re my first customer,” she said. “It’s on the house. Just tell your friends that French Kisses is open!”

Gladys nodded. “I most certainly will, Anais. Make sure to bake enough for all of them.”

“I will!”

Anais held the door open for the older woman to walk out of the bakery. As she let it swing closed, Anais looked out the window with a smile. Her dream officially wasn’t a dream anymore.

One down.

The rest of the town to go!

Nautilus Lights

The lights of Nautilus were blinding, obscuring the night sky above with a kaleidoscope of colors. Neon signs of all shapes dotted the walls, some pointing to Chocobo and Carbuncle plushes, others to different entertainment areas for guests. All of the combined light was almost harsh, but it didnt’ seem to bother Cocoon’s citizens at all, as they ran about from one section of the park to the next, not a care in the world. The cool breeze that came off the venue’s large lake certainly helped as well. When it brushed Vanille’s cheek as she stood in front of the city’s gates, it felt different from Pulse’s, though the wind that carried it was the same. The girl glanced at Fang, who was standing next to her with the all-knowing smile that she usually carried on full-display.

“Are you sure we should be doing this now?” Vanille asked, frowning. “We’re about to…you know…”

“What?” Fang asked, eyebrow raised. “Attack Eden?”

“Fang, shh!”

“Stop being such a worrywart! Eden’s not going anywhere, and your L’Cie mark hasn’t grown all that much. We deserve to take a break and have a little fun before we save the whole damn world, I think.”

Vanille’s gaze lowered to the floor.

“But…”

Before she could mope any further, Fang pushed the girl in front of her.

“Come on, then!” she said. “Everyone is already out having fun! Well, except for Lightning, but that’s to be expected, isn’t it?”

With that, the pair made their way into Nautilus. The gate gave way to a flowing crowd of packed citizens making their way to everything from the Chocobo Ranch to the Arcade nearby. The buzz of excitement almost swept through Vanille, but her anxiousness of losing sight of Fang overrode it.

“Fang!” the girl shouted, twisting around and against the surge of bodies to search for her partner.

“Right here.” She appeared amongst the sea of citizens, grabbing Vanille’s hand and leading the two of them to a quieter area of the park. Vanille gasped, hands on her knees, when they finally broke free from the crowd.

“That was…a lot of people…” she said between breathes. Fang smirked.

“Yeah. I’m just happy nobody knocked the cloth off my arm,” she said, gesturing at the make-shift fabric she used to hide her L’Cie mark.

“That’s why I’m saying we shouldn’t be here!” Vanille replied, shooting upwards and pointing at the girl. “If we get caught, we’re done for!”

Fang scratched the back of her head. “Yeah, yeah…listen, the park seems pretty busy as is, so we don’t have to go anywhere too crowded. But I know a place we can go. Come on!”

She took Vanille’s hand again, leading her around the corner where they resting. They found themselves walking parallel to Nautilus’ lake. This part of the park was much quieter, and darker, with the only light coming from the street lamps that illuminated their passage as they walked under them. Only a few park-goers seemed to have made their way to this area, most of them more content to be swept up in the excitement of Nautilus’ main events.

Vanille took a deep breath.

“Ah, this is much nicer,” she said. Fang laughed.

“This isn’t the norm for you, is it V? You’re usually one to jump right into the action.”

“You’re right, but…I think I’m just nervous. Plus, who are you to talk about ‘the norm’? You’re not usually one to hold my hand!”

Fang, realizing that she was still clinging to the shorter girl’s hand, yanked herself away and cleared her throat.

“I just…wanted to make sure you didn’t get lost, is all.”

“In an empty section of the park?” Vanille asked, a mischievous smile dancing across her lips. She was amused — Fang wasn’t so easily riled up. It was a nice change of pace. On that note, Fang scoffed.

“Whatever! Do you want to see this spot or not?”

“Sure I do!” Vanille replied. She skipped ahead.

“Lead the way!”

Fang showed Vanille a side-path against the row of buildings that ran up against the lake, leading to a long, winding stairway that snaked its way upwards. When they finally made their way to the top, Vanille found herself gasping.

“It’s beautiful!”

It was. The stairway led onto a spaceous balcony that hung just above the lake, which stretched out beneath them. The glittering lights of Nautilus reflected off of the pool of water, creating a dazzling array of colors that shined back onto the balcony. And best of all — there wasn’t a single soul around. Vanille turned to Fang, beaming.

“How did you find this place?”

“Hope told me about it,” she replied, leaning against the balcony. His mother showed it to him when they came here, a long time ago.”

“Oh…”

Vanille frowned. It didn’t feel right to enjoy a spot that Nora found.

“Stop that,” Fang said, reading the girl’s mind.

“Wha—”

“—You can’t keep blaming yourself for everything that happened to everyone, Vanille,” she interrupted, pointing a finger at the girl. “Like everything, the Fal’Cie did this to us. Made us who we are, and hurt the people we care about. It’s not our burden to bear.”

“I know, but…”

Warmth blossomed against Vanille’s cheek as Fang held her hand against it.

“Listen to me,” she said, looking the most serious Vanille had ever seen her. “This is why we’re going to Eden. We’re going to change our fate, and make up for the things we’ve done, understand?”

Vanille nodded, closing her eyes, and letting herself fall into Fang’s hand a little further. Fang responded by grabbing the girl into a hug, catching Vanille by surprise.

“I’m glad we could spend this time together, before the end,” Fang whispered. Vanille leaned back, still wrapped in Fang’s arms.

“Fang…”

“Yes?”

Vanille poked her partner roughly, making her flinch.

“Ow! What was that for?”

“Don’t ever leave me like that again!” Vanille said, pouting. “I was so worried about you! You should have come with me!”

“Alright, alright,” Fang said gently, stroking the girl’s hair. Despite her attempt at chastising, Vanille felt a shiver go up her spine.

“P-promise!” she spluttered. Fang bent forward, pressing her lips against Vanille’s. The girl was shocked for a moment, before closing her eyes and kissing her in turn. Finally Fang stepped back.

“How’s that for a promise?” she asked, smirking.

Vanille’s heart was slamming against her chest, and heat rose up all the way to her forehead. A sort of dizzyness was overcoming her, but it didn’t feel bad — in fact, it felt amazing.

“I…I don’t think that promise was good enough, Fang,” the girl whispered.

“Oh?”

“Y-yeah. You’re gonna have to show me you really mean it.”

Fang put a finger on her chin. “Oh really? Let me try again.”

With that, Fang grabbed Vanille by the waist and lifted her into the air. As the girl yelped in surprise, Fang placed her on the balcony divider, before leaning forward to kiss her again.

“Fang!”


Fang and Vanille met the rest of the L’Cie at Nautilus’ center pavilion. Hope waved at the pair as they approached. Snow spoke first.

“Where’d you two run off to?” he asked. “And Vanille, why do you look so…riled up? Did someone see your L’Cie mark?

Someone did,” Fang said, smirking. Vanille’s embarrassment was such that she literally squealed in frustration, stomping away from the rest of the group. Snow was even more confused.

“What the heck? What’s her problem?” Snow asked. “If someone did see her mark, we should probably get out of here before PSICOM shows up.”

Fang burst into laughter, Sazh only shaking his head.

“Boy, you have a lot to learn,” he said, as the group went on to enjoy the rest of Nautilus’ entertainment, leaving Snow staring blankly.

“Why do I feel like I’m missing something!?”

The lights of Nautilus were blinding, obscuring the night sky above with a kaleidoscope of colors. Neon signs of all shapes dotted the walls, some pointing to Chocobo and Carbuncle plushies, others to different entertainment areas for guests. All of the combined light was almost harsh, but it didnt’ seem to bother Cocoon’s citizens at all, as they ran about from one section of the park to the next, not a care in the world. The cool breeze that came off the venue’s large lake certainly helped as well. When it brushed Vanille’s cheek as she stood in front of the city’s gates, it felt different from Pulse’s, though the wind that carried it was the same. The girl glanced at Fang, who was standing next to her with the all-knowing smile that she usually carried on full-display.

“Are you sure we should be doing this now?” Vanille asked, frowning. “We’re about to…you know…”

“What?” Fang asked, eyebrow raised. “Attack Eden?”

“Fang, shh!”

“Stop being such a worrywart! Eden’s not going anywhere, and your L’Cie mark hasn’t grown all that much. We deserve to take a break and have a little fun before we save the whole damn world, I think.”

Vanille’s gaze lowered to the floor.

“But…”

Before she could mope any further, Fang pushed the girl in front of her.

“Come on, then!” she said. “Everyone is already out having fun! Well, except for Lightning, but that’s to be expected, isn’t it?”

With that, the pair made their way into Nautilus. The gate gave way to a flowing crowd of packed citizens making their way to everything from the Chocobo Ranch to the Arcade nearby. The buzz of excitement almost swept through Vanille, but her anxiousness of losing sight of Fang overrode it.

“Fang!” the girl shouted, twisting around and against the surge of bodies to search for her partner.

“Right here.” She appeared amongst the sea of citizens, grabbing Vanille’s hand and leading the two of them to a quieter area of the park. Vanille gasped, hands on her knees, when they finally broke free from the crowd.

“That was…a lot of people…” she said between breathes. Fang smirked.

“Yeah. I’m just happy nobody knocked the cloth off my arm,” she said, gesturing at the make-shift fabric she used to hide her L’Cie mark.

“That’s why I’m saying we shouldn’t be here!” Vanille replied, shooting upwards and pointing at the girl. “If we get caught, we’re done for!”

Fang scratched the back of her head. “Yeah, yeah…listen, the park seems pretty busy as is, so we don’t have to go anywhere too crowded. But I know a place we can go. Come on!”

She took Vanille’s hand again, leading her around the corner where they were resting. They found themselves walking parallel to Nautilus’ lake. This part of the park was much quieter, and darker, with the only light coming from the street lamps that illuminated their passage as they walked under them. Only a few park-goers seemed to have made their way to this area, most of them more content to be swept up in the excitement of Nautilus’ main events.

Vanille took a deep breath.

“Ah, this is much nicer,” she said. Fang laughed.

“This isn’t the norm for you, is it V? You’re usually one to jump right into the action.”

“You’re right, but…I think I’m just nervous. Plus, who are you to talk about ‘the norm’? You’re not usually one to hold my hand!”

Fang, realizing that she was still clinging to the shorter girl’s hand, yanked herself away and cleared her throat.

“I just…wanted to make sure you didn’t get lost, is all.”

“In an empty section of the park?” Vanille asked, a mischievous smile dancing across her lips. She was amused — Fang wasn’t so easily riled up. It was a nice change of pace. On that note, Fang scoffed.

“Whatever! Do you want to see this spot or not?”

“Sure I do!” Vanille replied. She skipped ahead.

“Lead the way!”

Fang showed Vanille a side-path against the row of buildings that ran up against the lake, leading to a long, winding stairway that snaked its way upwards. When they finally made their way to the top, Vanille found herself gasping.

“It’s beautiful!”

It was. The stairway led onto a spacious balcony that hung just above the lake, which stretched out beneath them. The glittering lights of Nautilus reflected off of the pool of water, creating a dazzling array of colors that shined back onto the balcony. And best of all — there wasn’t a single soul around. Vanille turned to Fang, beaming.

“How did you find this place?”

“Hope told me about it,” she replied, leaning against the balcony. His mother showed it to him when they came here, a long time ago.”

“Oh…”

Vanille frowned. It didn’t feel right to enjoy a spot that Nora found.

“Stop that,” Fang said, reading the girl’s mind.

“Wha—”

“—You can’t keep blaming yourself for everything that happened to everyone, Vanille,” she interrupted, pointing a finger at the girl. “Like everything, the Fal’Cie did this to us. Made us who we are, and hurt the people we care about. It’s not our burden to bear.”

“I know, but…”

Warmth blossomed against Vanille’s cheek as Fang held her hand against it.

“Listen to me,” she said, looking the most serious Vanille had ever seen her. “This is why we’re going to Eden. We’re going to change our fate, and make up for the things we’ve done, understand?”

Vanille nodded, closing her eyes, and letting herself fall into Fang’s hand a little further. Fang responded by grabbing the girl into a hug, catching Vanille by surprise.

“I’m glad we could spend this time together, before the end,” Fang whispered. Vanille leaned back, still wrapped in Fang’s arms.

“Fang…”

“Yes?”

Vanille poked her partner roughly, making her flinch.

“Ow! What was that for?”

“Don’t ever leave me like that again!” Vanille said, pouting. “I was so worried about you! You should have come with me!”

“Alright, alright,” Fang said gently, stroking the girl’s hair. Despite her attempt at chastising, Vanille felt a shiver go up her spine.

“P-promise!” she spluttered. Fang bent forward, pressing her lips against Vanille’s. The girl was shocked for a moment, before closing her eyes and kissing her in turn. Finally, Fang stepped back.

“How’s that for a promise?” she asked, smirking.

Vanille’s heart was slamming against her chest, and heat rose up all the way to her forehead. A sort of dizziness was overcoming her, but it didn’t feel bad — in fact, it felt amazing.

“I…I don’t think that promise was good enough, Fang,” the girl whispered.

“Oh?”

“Y-yeah. You’re gonna have to show me you really mean it.”

Fang put a finger on her chin. “Oh really? Let me try again.”

With that, Fang grabbed Vanille by the waist and lifted her into the air. As the girl yelped in surprise, Fang placed her on the balcony divider, before leaning forward to kiss her again.


“Fang!”

Fang and Vanille met the rest of the L’Cie at Nautilus’ center pavilion. Hope waved at the pair as they approached. Snow spoke first.

“Where’d you two run off to?” he asked. “And Vanille, why do you look so…riled up? Did someone see your L’Cie mark?

Someone did,” Fang said, smirking. Vanille’s embarrassment was such that she literally squealed in frustration, stomping away from the rest of the group. Snow was even more confused.

“What the heck? What’s her problem?” Snow asked. “If someone did see her mark, we should probably get out of here before PSICOM shows up.”

Fang burst into laughter, Sazh only shaking his head.

“Boy, you have a lot to learn,” he said, as the group went on to enjoy the rest of Nautilus’ entertainment, leaving Snow staring blankly.

“Why do I feel like I’m missing something!?”

Movement Animations in Games

There’s something to be said about a solid running animation in a videogame. Considering that most games involve movement, it’s easy to take for granted what really good movement feels like in the heat of play. But it’s very easy to mess up the way it feels to actually move about in a virtual world. That said, I’m going to go through a few of my favorite movement animations in games.

Main Character — Xenoblade Chronicles X

The original Xenoblade was a slog to get around in. It truly felt like Shulk and Co’s movements were slower than the actual animation, making it look like you were sliding across the ground. Xenoblade 2 fixed this, upping the movement speed overall. But it’s Xenoblade Chronicles X that remains the leader in the trilogy when it comes to movement. Your character’s standard run was brisk and speedy, but it was the full-on sprint that took the cake, letting you hoof it through the game world without losing a breath. It also could be chained into an immensely satisfying jump that let you cross chasms with ease.

2B — NieR: Automata

Surprise surprise. Every animation in NieR: Automata is absolutely bonkers. 2B’s movements have a weight to them that make her feel real, while still being responsive enough for you to feel like you have complete control over everything she does. Hell, even her walking animation is good! Platinum knows how to pick ’em. This won’t be the last time they’re on the list, either.

Cole — Infamous 2

It makes sense that Infamous is on this list, considering Sucker Punch created Sly Cooper, one of the better platformers of previous generations. All three Infamous games felt great to move around in, but Infamous 2 gets the edge here for the fantastic ice powers you can get, which make moving around even more exhilarating.

Bayek — Assassin’s Creed: Origins

Ever Assassin’s Creed game has great movement in it, so I decided to just pick one of the more recent ones. Origins was a great game overall, but I especially enjoy how Bayek’s weight shifts through the sand as he walks and runs out in the desert. The way holding the control stick in one direction leads to him eventually sprinting at full tilt is also intuitive after a few minutes of practice.

Hunter — Bloodborne

I don’t know what it is about Bloodborne in comparison to other games From Software has created, but it’s the one with the movement I loved the most. It just felt tighter and easier to control. It’s also one of the few games on this list where moving backward is just as important to me as moving forward. The way you can go back and forth on a dime to control distance between your enemies is why I decided to put Bloodborne on this list.

Link — Breath of the Wild

The Link in Breath of the Wild is a spunky little guy, and that shows in his running animation. The way his armor and weapons clink and clank against him in the usually silent Hyrule gives the animation even more character. I’m also not usually a fan of stamina systems, especially when it comes to running in a game, but I’m willing to let it slide for the simple fact that Link’s sprint feels much faster in Breath of the Wild than it does in Skyward Sword, which has the same concept, but worse.

Noctis — Final Fantasy XV

Regardless of how I feel about Final Fantasy XV as a whole, I can say pretty confidently that it feels good to simply run around in the game’s world. I don’t know how Noctis doesn’t get tired running in all that black in the middle of the midday sun, but I’ve learned not to ask questions when it comes to this game. Either way, there’s an exaggeration to Noctis’ run that makes simply running around all together satisfying, especially when coming up on a gang of monsters you’re about to crush.

The Traveler — Journey

It’s a good thing it feels good to move about in Journey, considering running is just about the only thing you do in the game. I don’t mean that in a negative way, of course — Journey is an amazing game, and the way the Traveler shifts and slides through the sandy dunes of its world make exploring entertaining, even in the most vast stretches of landscape.

Raiden — Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Oh hey, Platinum’s here again! The ninja sprint that Raiden does in Revengeance feels so good in action. It’s also a useful gameplay mechanic, letting you move automatically above or around objects to focus on fighting your enemies as opposed to getting stuck on geometry. Plus Raiden looks great doing it the whole time. And the way electricity gets stamped on the ground when he takes steps…it might be time to do another playthrough of MGR, everyone.

Amaterasu — Okami

Some say Okami is too long of a game. I say those people are incredibly wrong about everything and should reconsider their life-choices. Besides the fact that the game is amazing the whole way through (eh…give or take the first thirty minutes), it also feels amazing to dash about as Ami. The way flowers sprout behind you is such a unique stylistic touch, and the fact that they turn gold when going at your fastest speed is a level of detail that would help Platinum — then Clover Studios — make a name for itself later on in the game industry.

Treasure Master

Look at this guy. Look at him go.


Ok that’s all of them!! If you have a favorite animation of any kind in a game, post it here, or @ it my way over on mastodon, @eightbitsamurai!

Creating a Character

I don’t consider myself an “authority” on writing but I do like to give out advice if people need it. I’ve talked at length about my favorite disaster lesbian OC Mint quite a bit, and have seen some friends on Mastodon and elsewhere talk about wanting to make an OC, but not being able to because “they’re not creative enough” or “don’t know what they’d create.”

I’m here to tell you, dear reader, that this is simply untrue. Inside all of us, right next to those two wolves everyone keeps talking about, is a great original character that is probably cool and/or cute and more than likely extremely gay. Let’s find them!

Oh and this info is useful for any stories you might want to make too. It’s the same thought process I used to make the protagonists for my current novel-in-progress, and I think they’re pretty cool, so hopefully, this advice helps!

Why Would I Make an OC?

A counter-question: why not? It’s 2019, everyone is tired, and we’re trying to find happiness wherever we can. OCs can be that. If you want a more pragmatic answer: creating characters is a good creative exercise. And it’s fun! The point is: you don’t really need a reason. You could make your character and never look at them. Or you could make them, then base your entire online persona around them (hehe, that’s me). Both methods are valid!

Without further ado:

Step 1: Wants, Needs, Feelings

The thing that separates a character with depth from one that’s flat and kind of uninteresting is how you describe who they are. I see a lot of character creation sheets on tumblr and twitter that ask a million questions about their physical characteristics and their likes and dislikes – these are, in my humble opinion, not very helpful at the beginning of creation. I think it’s better when first establishing a character to dig a little deeper. Personality extends beyond an OC’s favorite ice-cream, or even how they blush when they’re embarrassed.

Instead, ask yourself questions like the following:

  1. What does the character want? What do they need? Love? Power? Wealth?
  2. Why do they want the things listed above?
  3. How do they get the things listed above, if they do get them?

You want to start with these sorts of questions because they’re the center that your character revolves around. Everything they do or say should generally be in service of these wants and needs, and informs all the stuff we’ll be talking about below.

This can extend to likes and dislikes as well! Consider:

Bad: Mint hates going to the doctor.

Good: Mint can’t get a shot without Queen there to hold her hand.

See the difference? The former is fine – it’s a statement that adds to Mint’s character. But the latter adds another layer: it shows Mint’s dislike for doctors’ offices, as well as one of the ways she relies on her girlfriend for support. It’s an easy way to add more depth to the character you want to make.

Then there’s feelings. Describe how your character feels about other people. How they feel about the place they’re in in life, and their physical location. Are they content with who they are? Are they anxious to leave the spot they’re in now? These sorts of questions give your characters even more depth, and help you understand who they are better, as well as how they might react to certain situations.

Step 2: Fashionista, How do you Look

You might think it counterintuitive that a visual design comes as the second step, but it really isn’t. When you establish your character’s wants and needs, you can have an easier time describing how they look and act. For Coretta, the protagonist of my novel, I first described her wants, needs, and feelings:

  • To succeed in school so she can support her mom
  • To leave the town she’s in
  • Dismissive of the students around her
  • Demanding of morality and justice

The above informs a lot about Coretta: how she dresses, her posture, how much she takes care of/cares about her physical appearance. Combine this with inherent traits (race, age, how gay they are, etc.) and you’re well on your way to an interesting character!

Coretta is Black, 5’9”, and has curly hair. She tends to wear loose-fitting clothes like sweatshirts, sweatpants, and hoodies, as they let her move freely and keep her anxiety in check by letting her relax. She has green eyes, a large nose, and is broad chested in her build. She tends to slouch, unless she’s angry, in which case she uses her full height to tower over her peers.

If you’re just looking to make a cool looking character or in general need a visual design, you can also use a visual creator! There are a lot of dress-up-esque apps on your phone and online that can help with this. My favorite is Charat, which is where Mint was created! You could also commission an artist to draw the character for you if you don’t have any artistic ability – I have never done this before in my entire life.

Mint’s Original Design

Step 3: Top or Bottom?

It’s important.

What Next?

To be honest, the stuff above is most important in the process of creating a character, so you’re pretty much done! After that it becomes a question of what you’re going to do with them, which is what stops a lot of people from creating characters. There are a couple of things you could do next:

Make another one! Why stop there? Make a second character! Are they related to the first one you made? Do they like each other? What sort of shenanigans do they get up to? Expand your little OC world.

Pair them with a friend! This can be super fun! I have Mint, while my friend has Queen. We spend a lot of time back and forth describing what sort of stuff the two get up to, and sometimes my friend even makes art of the two! (she can draw, I…cannot, lmao) Having another person to get creative with can be rewarding, plus it offsets some of the creative burden from you!

Make a story! It can be short or long, drawn or written…hell, you could even make it a micro-blog or something like that! I’ve written fics of Mint and Queen after fleshing out her backstory, and it’s been a lot of a fun, and a good break between my other projects.

Nothing! This is just as valid a response as the above. I mean, if you’ve gotten this far in the creation process, I’d assume you’re invested enough to do one of the above things, but you don’t have to be. It’s a hobby like anything else!

Anyways that’s it from me! Hopefully this helps if you’ve been wanting to get into character-creation, whether you’re trying to make an original character for a creative project, or a Mint-type OC, who exists only to be cute.

Okay, bye!

When We First Met

Bubblegum’s place smelled like incense and perfume when I walked in. This usually meant that Aprajita was cooking something up and masking the smell to keep everything fresh. It smelled amazing, strong but also delicate, and not so intense that I felt my sinuses burning.

“Yo, I’m here!” I called out.

“One minute!” came Bubblegum’s reply.

The apartment was decorated with all sorts of pictures of Bubblegum and her partner. I picked one of the frames up, gazing at it absentmindedly as I waited. Bubblegum and Aprajita were sitting together on a boat off the coast of Malaysia, according to the inscription on the back. The former was decked out in all pink, per her usual style, with a grin so wide it almost took up the whole picture. Next to her was Aprajita — or as their girlfriend like to call them sometimes, “Api” — wearing a blue blazer that looked way too thick for the weather they must have been in. They had a tiny smile on their face — a momentous occasion, all things considered. The two expressions you most often get from Aprajita were usually “neutral” and “slight frown.”

Bubblegum came bustling through the door, an orange box in her hands.

“Alright, here it is!” she said, passing the box off to me. I nearly buckled under the weight of the thing, surprised by how heavy it was when it reached my hands. Bubblegum clasped her hands together, smiling.

“They’re not that far from here, so it should be quick!”

I gave an exasperated sigh.

“Bubbles, I know we’re band-mates, but that doesn’t mean I’m also your delivery girl!” I said, putting the package down next to me and placing my hands on my hips.

“Of course Mint, of course! Buuuut shipping is expensive, and if it’s a local delivery, me and the customer get a discount when you do it!”

“Yeah, and all I get is a sore back,” I muttered. “What’s in this thing anyway?” I asked, tapping the box with my boot. Bubblegum crossed her arms.

“I can’t tell you that, obviously. It’s against the law.”

“From what I’ve heard, the law isn’t a thing that’s stopped you before.”

“I will neither confirm nor deny the truth of those statements,” Bubblegum replied. It came out so quickly and rehearsed that I was almost worried about the sort of crap she got into before we met. But she’d never tell me, so it was never worth dwelling on.

“Ask them yourself!” she continued.

“That…would be weird,” I said, scrunching up my face.

“From what I’ve heard, being weird isn’t a thing that’s stopped you before.”

Touché,” I said. I lifted the package up and slung it over my shoulder.

“If nothing else, this courier gig is going to get me jacked,” I said as I made to exit Bubblegum’s place. “Tell Api to save some food for me, please!”

“Will do! If they’re feeling extra generous, they might even throw some curry in on the house.”

God, please.”

“But…only if you get that package there quick. Ciao!” The pink-haired woman shut the door behind me before I could protest.

“Well, curry’s a suitable enough bribe,” I said to myself. “May as well get to it now.”

My skateboard was waiting for me on the porch. I kicked it off of the wall and hopped on, kuh-kunking down the two stairs that led to Bubblegum’s home before getting onto the sidewalk. My friend wasn’t lying about her customer being close — they were only a block or two away. And the weather was perfect for a ride on my board. A breeze was running through the summer sun, preventing it from scalding the neighborhood with its heat. Clouds assisted in the endeavor, only letting the yellow orb peek through them now and again as they passed above me.

I lazily pushed myself left and right on my skateboard, mind elsewhere as I let muscle-memory kick in while I rode. I had been across these paths so many times before when coming to Bubblegum’s house for band practice, I could probably ride through them with my eyes closed. It was incredible to think that our little garage, grass-roots effort had gotten so popular so quickly. People were even starting to recognize me while I was out skating! I had no idea how I was going to deal with it if we really blew up…

Before I could ponder the effects of potential fame any further, I found myself standing in front of the client’s place. They were on the third floor of a narrow apartment complex, nestled between houses on either side. It looked to be a little cramped. I shrugged, hopping off my board and making my way through the lobby and onto the elevator. It spit me out where I needed to be, with the client’s apartment being only a few paces away.

I gave the door a swift knock, and waited.

Nothing.

I gave another quick rap with my knuckles, louder this time.

Still nothing.

“Hello?” I called out. It was then that I realized I could hear a faint sound on the other side of the door. I put the box down and leaned close to the door, ear pressed against the cool, black-painted wood.

It was music!

And not playing from speakers, either. A guitar was shredding somewhere inside, completely drowning out any sound of my knocking. While I admired the thing’s aggressive style, I had places to be. This just wouldn’t do.

“Hey!” I shouted, now finally pounding on the door. “I have a package for you, fam!”

The sound cut off. I let my hands fall to my sides, tapping them impatiently while I waited. I was just about ready to leave the package in front of the door and bounce when it finally swung open.

A taller girl stood in front of me. She had striking pink hair that swept forward, nearly obscuring her eyes. and shaved on one side. And she was dressed in a casual grey jumper that looked like something a mechanic might wear. The sleeves were rolled up to reveal chain-patterned tattoos on either of her arms. My eyes widened, a thought exploding through my head unannounced.

Holy shit she’s cute!

“C-can I help you?”

I gaped at the girl.

“Hello?”

“O-oh! Hi! Um, I…” I was sputtering. I was already screwing it up! Aprajita would roast me if she found out. I could already hear her words echoing in the back of my head. “Some top you are.” Noooo!

I tried to stick the landing as best I could. I gave a small wave. “Hi, I’m Haruko! My friends call me Mint.”

“Um…cool,” the girl replied. “I’m Queen. My friends call me Queen.”

“Oh, cool, cool…” So much for sticking the landing. I shot up straight.

“Oh right! I have a package for you. From Bubblegum? The Etsy lady?”

The girl — Queen — lit up at the realization. “Awesome! I’ve been super excited for this stuff.”

I passed the box to her, putting my hands behind my back afterwards. Queen gestured towards her apartment.

“You wanna come inside? It’s hot out, I can give you a glass of water or something.”

My heart shot up into my throat.

“Are you sure? I don’t want to intrude…”

“You aren’t. I’m here alone, so if anything, you’ll be brightening the place up. Come on in.”

I stepped into the apartment and past Queen, trying not to look too eager all the while. I caught the smell of metal coming off of her fingers from playing her guitar. When I walked through the hallway into the apartment, I let out a small gasp.

“Woah…”

The apartment was filled end-to-end with all kinds of fancy technology. A lot of it I couldn’t even describe to you. Stacks of computers were lined up like battle-stations, and multiple desks were strewn about with monitors on them displaying all kinds of information that I definitely did not understand one bit. Cables snaked their way pretty much everywhere — past monitors, coiled around desk legs, under tables and scattered on the ground. Queen stepped through the jungle of tech with ease, not bumping into a single thing as she walked from one end of the living room to the next.

“Sorry about the mess,” she said as she headed into the kitchen. “I don’t usually have guests over, so I’ve never had to clean up. It’s a bad habit of mine.”

“You’re good,” I said. “Do you work with all this stuff?”

“Yeah.” The kitchen was separated by the living room with a counter, so the tall girl was able to continue talking to me while she accessed her fridge. “Most of it is just diagnostic stuff, but the rest is for one kind of project or another, even if I’m never actually working on them as much as I’d like.”

I sighed in understanding. “I feel that. I have like three or four songs on my mind at any given time. Nine times out of ten I don’t work on any of them and veg out on the couch instead.”

“Oh, you play?” Queen asked, stepping over to me with a glass of water and gesturing towards a couch that I hadn’t noticed amidst the sea of electronics. I nodded.

“My friends and I started a band a couple of months ago, actually. Minty Fresh. I didn’t pick the name, by the way!” I quickly added as I sat down, waving a hand. It was Bubblegum’s idea. I promise I’m not that conceited…”

Queen seemed to have stopped listening to me. Suddenly she put her hands on her head, gasping.

“You’re the singer of Minty Fresh? What the hell?”

“Um…yes?” I replied, acting as a question more than an affirmation. Queen shot her hands out towards me, palms upward, as if I just broke one of her computers.

“That’s amazing! I was at one of your shows, like, two weeks ago, at Future First! You opened for Kanon!”

I gave a sheepish grin. “Yep, that’s me…”

“No wonder you looked so familiar! This is so cool! I always wanted to start a band, but the guitar has always been kind of a hobby for me. But you’re like, out here! Doing it!”

I laughed. “Don’t sell yourself short! You were shredding pretty hard just now from what I heard.” I was trying to turn the subject away from me, still unused to the fact that people were starting to recognize who I was. We were in a small enough town, but still…it was weird.

Luckily, Queen seemed fine with moving on. “Thanks. It’s a nice break between projects. Ah, speaking of!”

I sipped at the water Queen provided me while she jumped to the parcel I had delivered, pulling out a pocket knife that she used to swiftly cut the thing open. I sat up on my chair to look over her shoulder while she pulled everything out. It was more advanced-looking technology, as well as some sort of shiny block.

“Yes! This’ll do nicely.”

I kicked my legs idly on the couch as the girl examined all of her new toys. “What’re you gonna do with all that stuff?”

It seemed like Queen had to struggle to tear herself away from her present to focus her attention on me. “I’m trying to make a helmet. I want it to have a HUD, and maybe even interface with a couple of my other things.”

“Oh, I see, I see. A HUD, huh? Pretty cool.” I had no idea what a HUD was.

“Where does Bubblegum even get this stuff?” I asked. Queen laughed.

“It sounds like we shouldn’t ask. She was selling it for pennies, too, she may as well have been giving it away for free.”

“Yeah, that’s kind of her MO. I assume it’s a middle finger to…something.”

“Capitalism?”

I shrugged. “Oh hey, what’s that at the bottom of the box?”

Queen turned beet red. “This is, uh, just an extra thing that I got.”

“Can I see?” I was curious, but I didn’t want the girl to explode, which seemed very close to happening if you got a good look at her face.

“S…sure.”

She passed the thing to me. I could tell just by feeling it that it was made out of crocheted yarn of all sorts of colors. I ran it through my fingers and turned it around.

“Oh my God.”

It was a sweater. Emblazoned on the front was a cat hanging on a branch with text above it that said “Hang in There!”

Queen couldn’t meet my eyes as I looked up from the sweater and at her.

She’s…too cute!

“Did Bubblegum make this for you?” I asked as nonchalantly as possible. The girl nodded. “I knew I recognized the handiwork. This makes more sense to put in an Etsy shop, anyways.”

“This is so embarrassing…” Queen muttered. “But I guess I won’t see you again, so…”

I gave her the most innocent smile I could. “Oh, you won’t?” I asked.

Queen looked like she was about to faint. I almost felt bad for teasing her so much, but enjoyment beat out whatever little conscience I had.

“I mean…if you want to…oh, actually, I remembered something. At your concert, I saw you were struggling getting some of your equipment working.”

This time it was my turn to blush.

“Was it that obvious?” I asked, tapping my cheek.

“Oh, no no, it’s not your fault!” Queen was up and about again, moving to grab a sketchbook off of her desk. It was clear that she was always in her element talking about tech, which was, like everything else about her, extremely cute. She flopped onto the couch next to me, flipping the book open to a page with what looked like a pair of headphones, striped red near the top.

“That stuff is always really difficult to work with, especially in the moment. But see, I had this idea for a headset that sort of unifies everything it connects to, and lets you control it with minimal effort.”

“That’s…awesome.” I wasn’t even trying to flatter her at this point. It’d actually be really helpful for concerts too.

“Right!? So I was wondering if you’d wanna try it at your next show?”

I beamed. “Sure!”

“Awesome.” She was up again, pacing back and forth. “So I’ll need to get a look at all your instruments and amps and stuff, and definitely anything wireless you have on stage. Hmm…and I’ll need your measurements too.”

I crossed my arms, giving a sly smile.

“Measurements, huh?” I asked, coupled with an exaggerated eyebrow raise.

Queen stuttered yet again. “O-of your head, I mean. I don’t need, like, other measurements.”

I crossed one leg over the other. “Sure, but do you want them?”

She pretended not to hear the question. “Alright, so I definitely don’t have enough space to do this here…is it okay if I come to you?”

“Yep!” I replied, hopping from my seat. “It’s a date!”

“It is? I mean, it is. Right.”

I grabbed a marker off one of Queen’s desks and gently took her hand to scribble on it.

“Here’s my number. Call me whenever you wanna swing by, Q.”

“O-oh. I could have just put it in my phone.”

“I know,” I replied, grinning. “Well I won’t be taking any more of your time, and I have to get ready for practice.” I made for the exit, Queen following behind me. I turned to the girl as I kicked my board, letting it slide under my arm as I grabbed it from the air. I was absolutely trying to flex, and was very happy the thing didn’t slap my face, like it did pretty much every other time I tried to pull that move off.

“Feel free to order from Bubblegum again. I certainly wouldn’t mind,” I said as I waved my goodbye. As I left the apartment, Queen called out to me.

“Hey Mint!”

I turned. “What’s up?”

The girl had a hand in her pocket. “Oh, nothing, I just…I like your hair, that’s all. It suits you.”

“Oh! Thank you!”

“Yeah. Alright, see you later.”

The girl closed the door. I was able to contain myself all the way to the elevator, where I couldn’t stop myself from hugging my skateboard and squealing in excitement.

Character Intro: Coretta Jones

Been a while since I’ve done one of these.

Last time I wrote about Kat, deuteragonist and Coretta’s childhood friend (and later in the novel, #1 smooch pal). Today I wanna talk about the protagonist of this novel. Coretta.

Who’s Coretta? She’s quiet but brash, sarcastic and quick to react to pretty much any situation. She finds herself taking on the role of leader/protector/caretaker in situations because she feels responsible for everyone. This stems from the way in which she helps her single mother, Anne, who raised Coretta alone for most of her life – subsequently, this is how she ends up becoming the leader of her group of psychic pals.

Coretta’s goal in life is to become successful enough in the future to take care of her family’s needs. Because of this, she pushes herself academically, even though she tends to distance herself from school. She understands where her race places her on the social totem pole, especially at her school, and is quick to remind others of their bad behavior, ill-intentioned or otherwise.

Coretta is very demanding of others’ morality and sense of justice. She doesn’t let anyone get away with anything and believes that adhering to your set of beliefs consistently is what leads to a person worth respecting. People that are hypocritical will feel no end of scorn from Coretta. She respects hard work and dedication, though this sometimes leads to her not practicing enough self-care. Coretta herself can be weak in her resolve when it comes to things like dating, and “fun for fun’s sake” — things she believes she isn’t interested in. She hates this contradiction in herself, and tries to stamp it out. Coretta’s largest flaw forms itself in her stubbornness, as well as her unwillingness to let herself have fun, based on the pressure for her to perform well.

A lot of Coretta’s characteristics are based on my sister, but more exaggerated (although…not by much. Don’t tell her I said that!). I wanted her to be a black girl because they don’t get a spot as main characters in YA novels as often as I’d like. Plus, girls are more fun to write anyhow. There are a lot of unique angles and dynamics that can only be written from a black girl’s perspective, from the focus on the importance of family to the issues that only they have to deal with, and I try to showcase some of that in my writing. Needless to say, it’s hard to be a suburban superhero when every cop in town remembers your name…

I’m very fond of Coretta and am excited to show how she develops in her journey through The Freelancers. I hope you’ll like her too.

Peppermint

Wow it’s been a while, hasn’t it? To be honest, after having a nice freakout about The Freelancers, I’ve mostly been focusing on writing it again, and have really been at it in earnest, catching up on chapters and solidifying where I want the plot to go. Any time that hasn’t been going to writing has been spent on consuming other media, or working, which means the blog has been left by the wayside a bit.

That said, I had a fun idea recently, regarding Mint. I think making her a vocaloid, a spur of the moment decision at first, has helped in the long term with making her an interesting character. For one, it allows her to exist has a multimedia entity. A recent example of this is that Mint is officially an UTAU, voicebank at all. You can download her voice and use it to make any kind of music you want.

Beyond that, I’ve been thinking of the ways having an OC essentially be data could affect their story. One way I considered is how redesigns/alternate designs could work. Which is my way of introducing Peppermint!

Peppermint is a Mint offshoot. Essentially, she’s a homebrew of Mint’s original software, that’s been modified and redistributed enough to become popular among vocaloid fans. Her design is an inverse of Mint’s, with red hair and eyes instead of her usual green. Her personality is also different – where Mint is a firecracker (or a trash goblin, if you asked her girlfriend), Peppermint is more subdued, which you can tell based on her facial expressions and body language. They’re even different in terms of musical interests – Mint having a focus on future funk, and Peppermint with rock and otherwise more dramatic/intense genres.

Peppermint is quieter, but a bit more intimidating. She is also, admittedly, a bit of a trash goblin like Mint, but she does a better job of hiding it. She likes marathoning shitty movies, dancing, and tinkering with her motorcycle on days off.

This was originally going to be an April 1st joke, but I missed the deadline and I liked Peppermint enough for her to be a real thing, so…poof, here she is. I hope you like her as much as I do!

Art by @mishakeet!

Making Things Makes Me Sad

Lately I’ve been finding the indie artists I see in my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist on Twitter and sending them DMs about how I enjoyed their songs. My trend towards empathy has been scaling upwards as I’ve gotten “””older””” and part of that has reflected itself in my thoughts on the process of creation. I can’t imagine what it’s like to make a song and posting it on Spotify, but I feel like it’s an extremely brave thing to do on such a saturated platform. I think the enthusiastic thanks I get in return for my DMs is a pretty good indicator that this is true.

I have mentioned now and again that I’m writing a novel about a bunch of gay kids with psychic powers. I said it’d come out in 2019, which is probably a mistake. I haven’t written for it in while. For once it’s not because I’m not sure what to write next — one of the perks of being on a second draft instead of a first, I guess. It’s actually because I’ve been pretty paralyzed at the idea of releasing the thing, just, you know, in general.

Anyone who tells you that you should just write for yourself is either a liar or already extremely famous. To act like your creations are not made with the intent of sharing them makes no sense to me. Obviously one should write for themselves in the sense that they create what they want to create…but creativity is a form of communication and expression. To that end, the idea of putting my all into this work only to have two or three people read it is enough to have me lie in bed and never get out of it.

I think my general lack of self-esteem does a good job of exacerbating this issue. You’re kind of expected to believe that everything you make is “good.” No one wants to hear about what you don’t like about your work — unless of course, you mention it after said work has become popular, in which case it’s seen as humbling. Hell, even writing this makes me feel like I’m being…hmm. Ungrateful? Which is a weird description, but pretty accurate, I think. It feels like I’m expected to just be happy with what I get when I finish this novel. But not addressing the fact that I want as many people as possible to read this stupid thing feels disingenuous.

I don’t know if The Freelancers will be great as I work on it. I don’t even know if it will be good. I don’t know if people will want to read it, or tell other people that they should read it. If creativity is a form of communication, lack of interest is a pretty good litmus test for quality, shallow as it sounds. I think this writing block has just been sitting here because I have to come to terms with the fact that the immense effort I put into making this book will not be met with much in return. I think that’s supposed to feel freeing, but for me it’s just depressing. Oops.

This is probably — well no, it is — the reason I’ve been writing so much fanfiction recently. The instant feedback you get from it is kind of addictive, I’m not going to lie. People know what Kingdom Hearts and Nier Automata are. The barrier of getting people to care about your characters and the world they inhabit is non-existent when it comes to fanfic, and all that’s left is for people to read what you wrote. That’s freeing, but it’s also not what I want, creatively.

A lot of this plays into how social media works, and vying for the attention and time of people with less and less of it. Most people don’t even read the most popular and critically acclaimed books that are coming out now. Why would they read this random thing that I’m writing? I don’t have a publisher. I don’t have much in the way of marketing skills. I am nobody, and I don’t see why I should continue to try.

Alright, PHEW, that all comes across as very depressing, which I don’t mean for it to be. It’s just been something I’ve been thinking about a lot. Hell I’m far from the only person who’s struggled with these thoughts. But I am struggling with them, so…regardless, I don’t plan on quitting any time soon, mostly out of stubbornness than anything else. I’ve come this far, all that’s left is finishing it, putting it behind me, and getting prepped for the next project. Because I think, regardless of how I feel about myself or my creations, I won’t be able to stop making things. It’s in my nature, as cheesy as that sounds. If you’ve stuck around this far, and you do plan on reading The Freelancers when it comes out, know that I’m extremely grateful. If you couldn’t tell, I’m kind of dying for validation here. Whoops!