Simple and Clean

You’re 3.99 years old. The wedding you’re at is boring as hell, so your cousin hands you a GameBoy Color with Link’s Awakening inside. The only videogame you’ve played before this is Pac-Man, at an arcade in Egypt. You are in awe. You cannot believe videogames can be like this – they can tell a story, just like the Redwall books that are enamoring you at the same time. You want an N64 on your birthday, and instead of getting Star Wars Rogue Squadron like you planned, you get Ocarina of Time.

You’re 5 years old. You still haven’t beaten Ocarina of Time. You’re only allowed 2 games a year, so you’re trying to savor the experience. Plus, you’re terrified of the Shadow Temple. You are enthralled by this game. It is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. You explore every nook and cranny. You finally understand what the phrase “explore every nook and cranny” even means, because you’ve done virtually everything there is to do in the game. You finally beat it. You cry. A lot.

You’re 8 years old. You have a few games under your belt at this point. Besides reading, they’re your favorite pastime. Your mom acquiesces to your passion for the hobby, as long as you’re reading, getting A’s in class, and only playing on weekends. You’re finally getting a PlayStation 2 for Eid-al-Fitr. It’s the first time you’ve ever fasted for real. You’re allowed one game along with it. You pick Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly, having enjoyed the previous games in the series. It’s the first game that’s ever betrayed you. You are crushed. You return a game, for the first time in your life. With your second chance, you choose carefully. You see a game called Kingdom Hearts on the GameStop shelf, and recognize Cloud from Final Fantasy 7 on the back of the box. He didn’t let you down before. You buy it. It is incredible. You love it so much you break your mom’s rules, playing it on weekdays for a brief 20 minutes while she’s away to pick up your little sister. You beat it. You cry. A lot.

You’re 11 years old. You’re getting a game for your birthday. You’re keeping up with the industry now. You know what IGN is, and you like to do the polls on GameFAQs, and print out the walkthroughs. You really want Shadow of the Colossus. Your mom asks the GameStop clerk if the game is violent. Your heart freezes. Is this the end? The clerk looks her dead in the eye, and says “no.” Thank you Jeff from the Aurora Mall GameStop. I hope you’re living your best life. Shadow of the Colossus changes your life. You’ve cried from games before, but not like this. You question things you were certain of before the credits rolled. You realize that games can be more than just entertainment, or even more than just a story. They can change who you are, fundamentally.

You’re 12 years old. You hate middle school. It is the worst thing you’ve ever experienced, and you’ve had an infected lung tissue removed from your body. That’s how bad middle school is. But it’s okay, because Kingdom Hearts II has released. You have grown up, and the game has grown up alongside you. Sora has grown up alongside you. You play it in a rush during your Spring Break. The ending is so cool that you show it to your friends. They don’t care and have never been interested in Kingdom Hearts in their life, but you can’t help it.

You’re 16 years old. High School isn’t as bad. You skip prom to play Portal 2. You don’t like Skyward Sword, and it causes you to question everything you’ve ever known. You aren’t sure if you’re changing, or if the games you’re playing are. Sometimes you’d rather write than play. You have ideas for novels, but you know you aren’t good enough to make them. Not yet. Everyone is talking about Skyrim. Your friends are talking about Skyrim. Your teachers are talking about Skyrim. Your crush knows what Skyrim is. You want to talk to her about it. You don’t. You don’t talk to her at all, actually.

You’re 19 years old. College is…okay? You have money to buy your own videogames now, from your job at the Registrar. Despite that, you find yourself spending less money on them. You don’t find yourself enjoying them much anymore. You replay all of the Kingdom Hearts games in the HD collection. They’re still good. You recognize that they’re silly, but they’ve been with you all this time, and they mean something to you. You think next year might be better.

You’re 20. You hate everything. You hate college. You hate your major. You hate your roommate. You don’t want to do anything. You spend hours lying on your bed. You go to class, sometimes. You stare at the menu screen of Xenoblade Chronicles X, but you never press start. You don’t even know what the point of getting it was. What a waste of money.

You’re 21. You switched majors. You feel weird about it, but you realize it’s for the best, and that you have to make choices for yourself sometimes. You pick up Persona 4: Golden. It’s soothing. A reminder that you can do better, and be better. You move in with your friend from middle school. You have plans to stream together. You never do, but you like living with him, and don’t dread going home.

You’re 22 years old. You think you like videogames again. Final Fantasy XV, Gravity Rush 2, Nier Automata, Tales of Berseria, Yakuza 0: you’re spoiled for choice, and reminded of the quality they can carry. You wonder again if games changed when you weren’t looking, or if you changed when games weren’t looking. You think it might be both. You play every Kingdom Hearts game in order, from Kingdom Hearts to Dream Drop Distance. You hear that Kingdom Hearts III is releasing fairly soon. You doubt it.

You’re 24 years old. Kingdom Hearts III is releasing tomorrow. You wrote that novel, and you’re about to write it again. You don’t live with your friend from middle school anymore, but you stream with him (almost) every Saturday. You’ve reestablished your whole online persona, and feel more comfortable with yourself than you ever have been. Kingdom Hearts III has blot out the sun as it looms over you. You wonder what will come after it’s finished. You feel like a chapter of your life is closing, and it makes you very uncomfortable. You are embarrassed that a videogame about Mickey Mouse is causing you to have a life crisis, but you figure that writing about it might help.

It doesn’t.

But it was still pretty fun.

Ode to Aqua

I’ll be assuming you have a general knowledge of Kingdom Hearts in this piece. I…I have to. It’s the only way to write this in under 10,000 words.

Kingdom Hearts is a series filled with clones, clones of clones, time travel, nonsense dialogue, and a bewildering plot that is debated on GameFAQs forums and Reddit threads to this day. It’s confusing. It’s a mess. I love it.

But underneath the cacophony of discussion about hearts and weird anime-haired lions is Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. A game that’s so subdued and uncomplicated in its focus, it almost feels like it’s from an entirely different series.

It’d be unsurprising if you haven’t played Birth by Sleep. Released on the PSP in 2010, only the most rabid of fans would be willing to buy the game on such an unsuccessful console. It wouldn’t be until Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix (yes, I know, and I’m sorry) released in 2014 on the PS3 that a larger audience would gain access to the game. Which is great! I consider BBS to be the best of the series, and a large part of that has to do with Aqua, one of the game’s three playable characters.

Birth by Sleep is a prequel to the Kingdom Hearts series, taking place ten years before the first game — in essence, before things got wild. It tells the story of Terra, Aqua, and Ventus, three keyblade wielders that want to become Keyblade Masters alongside their current teacher, Master Eraquis. Their exam to become masters occurs at the beginning of the game, where Aqua succeeds, and Terra does not. This division between the friends sets off a chain of events that basically screws everything up for the whole universe and will lead you to ask questions like, “what’s the difference between a Heartless and a Nobody? and, “wait, so Heartless carry hearts in them, effectively not making them heartless?”


Aqua is a blessing to the Kingdom Hearts franchise. She feels too good for it, if we’re being completely honest. She displays a level of competency that’s pretty much unmatched by any other character in the game, including characters like Yen Sid, who are supposed to me mentors to the series’ plucky gang of Final Fantasy rejects.

It’s refreshing to play a female protagonist that isn’t helpless or weak, and especially important, isn’t undermined by the rest of the cast. On the contrary, Aqua is without a doubt one of — if not the — strongest character in the series, if you take into account what she accomplishes by the end of Birth by Sleep.

By the time credits roll, Aqua pretty much single-handedly prevents the Worlds from being completely swallowed up by darkness. She saves Ventus and defeats Terra-Xehanort, the hardest boss in the game, before letting herself get swallowed up by the Realm of Darkness to save Terra, too. Then she travels and survives through the Realm of Darkness for ten years to find a way out, before helping save the Worlds again by closing the door to Kingdom Hearts with Mickey. In short, Aqua gets things done, and it’s that agency that makes her so engaging and impressive to me.

On top of that, she’s just fun to play. She has access to the most powerful spells in the game and feels more competent than Terra and Ventus. I spent hours grinding for levels to make her deck of commands a force to be reckoned with. Her barrier is the best at defending against attacks from all directions, too. By the time I was ready to face the final boss, I had moves that would essentially clear a room of Heartless in less time than it’d take you to say “Sora, Donald, Goofy!”

In essence, Aqua is the best. She almost (almost) makes up for Xion, Namine, and Kairi’s general lack of agency in the other Kingdom Hearts games – the first is unplayable, the second has been a damsel forever now, and Kairi has barely had a chance to show off her keyblade skills. But there’s one major problem I have with how Aqua’s character is developed.

She’s the Team Mom. Aqua ends up being a baby-sitter for Terra and Ventus. She’s constantly having to help them fix their problems, and provide support for them. She’s pigeonholed into being a maternal figure a lot of the time, especially when you consider her overall lack of impact on the plot up until the end of the game. Sure, you could argue that this is due to Xehanort not wanting her to interfere in his plans for the two boys, but that feels like a weak explanation.

It pains me to say it, but Aqua’s character development feels like an afterthought at times. A Fragmentary Passage, a recent addition to the series that has you play as Aqua during her time in the Realm of Darkness, thankfully alleviates some of those issues for me, as Aqua confronts some of her fears and character flaws in an interesting way. But Birth by Sleep was her debut game. It would have been nice for her to get that sort of depth there. A lot of my love for Aqua stems from the characterization that we the fanbase have given her, in spiteof Nomura’s storytelling decisions, not because of them.

All that said I feel that Aqua shines through these flaws. She’s the heart of Birth By Sleep. Its her sense of justice and loyalty and her ability to kick ass that carry her through to the game’s final moments, cementing her as the true protagonist of Birth by Sleep, a key player in the Kingdom Hearts franchise, and one of its best characters. Without her, I don’t think Kingdom Hearts would be nearly as interesting.

Which leads me to ask Square Enix: please let Aqua, Kairi, Namine, and Xion finish strong in Kingdom Hearts III. With so few female characters to begin with, it’d be a shame for you to fail them so close to the finish line. You’ve had fourteen years to make sure you get it right. Don’t mess it up.

Freelancers Excerpt – Kat and Coretta

Art by @spacegarbage

Pretty much the entire novel is being changed on the Freelancer’s second draft, but one thing I’m pretty sure I got right is the moment Coretta and Kat start dating. It is a pretty good balance of cheese and fluff, in my opinion, and other than changing it to first person, it’s probably going to still go like like this. So here’s a peek!

Coretta offered to take Kat home. The two girls walked through the deserted nighttime streets. Streetlamps shone on the snow, which had settled into a light, windless fall after the group’s encounter. Kat hardly spoke the entire walk. Coretta wasn’t sure why.

They finally arrived at the gate to Kat’s house.

“Alright…see you,” Coretta said.

“Yeah.” Kat walked through the gate, locking it shut behind her.

Coretta pushed past the dumbbells weighing on her chest to say something. As far as she could remember, she had never fought with Kat before. At least, not like this. They had bickered about stupid things, yes – but this was a Fight, with a capital F. And it scared her.

“Hey, um…did I, do something?” Coretta asked, twirling a finger through her hair as she did so.

Kat turned and stared at the girl for what felt like an eternity. It was a look Coretta had never gotten before.

Still scared.

Kat opened the gate again, letting herself through to stand in front of Coretta. Finally, she spoke.

“What you said to that old man, Coretta? I didn’t expect it from you. Are you sarcastic and kind of a grump? Yeah, no one will dispute that. I like that part about you. You’re to-the-point. You like the things you like and hate the things you don’t. Sometimes I wish I were the same. But I didn’t take you to be selfish.”

Despite herself, Coretta flinched at the use of her full first name.

“Selfish?” Coretta asked, digging her feet into the cement. “I’m selfish for not wanting to get hurt in some fight that has nothing to do with me, for people that don’t care about me, with powers I didn’t even ask for? That makes me selfish?”

“Yes, Coretta, I’m sorry, but it does. I get it. You hate this town. I know better than anyone what that feels like, and you know that. But you know something else?”

Kat balled her hands into small fists.

“At least I try. I try to look on the bright side of things. I try to get through, day-by-day, even when it feels like throwing myself off a building would be a million times easier. I try to climb over this garbage dump of a town to see the sky every once and a while.”

Kat took a step forward, looking up at Coretta.

“And you help me do that, Cora. Sometimes you’re the only thing keeping me going. Seeing your goofy, perpetual frown – or better yet, your even goofier smile – is one of my favorite parts of the day.”

“It…it is?” Coretta had turned beet red. She didn’t even know she could do that. Kat giggled.

“Yes, dummy, it is.” The girl turned her gaze downward. “But after hearing what you said back there…I can’t help but wonder if you don’t feel the same way about me.”


“Because it feels like you’ve given up. On everything. You want to turn your back on saving this town. But what if we could do something to make it better? What if we could turn it into a place that accepts us?”

Coretta looked down at Kat. She had never noticed the green tinge in her eyes before today.

“I don’t know if it will, Kat. Change doesn’t happen that easily.”

Kat took another step closer, a mischievous grin spread across her face. “We’ll make things change.”

Coretta scratched her nose, eyes darting in either direction. “I, uh, I don’t know if I need it to change. It’d be great, and you got me, I’m onboard for Operation: Save the Town. But I’m just saying. It’s not a hard requirement for me.”

Kat’s eyes widened. “Why not?”

Coretta shut her eyes tightly. “Because…I have…you.”

Saying each word aloud felt like pushing a boulder up a flight of stairs. Coretta’s eyes remained closed. She was too afraid to open them back up to see Kat laughing in her face. The silence and stillness of the air made it feel like she had drifted off into space.

Coretta was about to open her eyes again, to take back everything she had just said, when she felt the touch of Kat’s lips against hers.

It was so brief, she thought she had imagined it. Coretta’s eyes shot open. Before she could process it, Kat was already closing the door of her house behind her. Coretta stood on the sidewalk, the wind suddenly whipping up, causing snow to stick into her afro.

“…Did that just happen?” she asked, to no one in particular.

If Coretta stared at her phone any longer, it might have snapped in two out of sheer performance anxiety.

A text appeared on the girl’s phone. She swiped it up, eager to see what Kat had said in the group chat.

Except, the message wasn’t for the group.

It was for her.

Coretta felt her heart pounding in her chest, her finger hovering over the message icon. Finally, she tapped it open.

“Can we meet up?”

That…wasn’t as earth-shattering as Coretta thought it was going to be. But it still made her incredibly nervous. There was none of Kat’s usual exclamation points and smiley faces. They were still in “Serious Mode.” Coretta chose her words carefully.

“Yeah, of course. Where at?”

Another minute of anticipation.

“My place. Parents are on business again.”

Coretta’s heart jumped up into her throat. She’d been to Kat’s place before, of course. But things were different now. The rules had changed.

“Alright. Be there in 15,” she responded after a few deep breaths.

“Coretta and I will be there,” Kat responded to the group chat, a few seconds later. “We’ll be a little late.”

Coretta rose to leave. Her mom cleared her throat as she busied herself in the kitchen.

“Are you going to go see Kat?” she asked.

Coretta did her best to hide her blush. “Y-yeah.”

Anne looked the girl up and down, before smirking.

“She finally told you how she feels for real, huh?”

Coretta nearly tripped over her seat.

“Wh-what are you talking about, ma?”

Anne tapped her daughter on the nose with a swift boop. “Sweet child. I am your mother. I held you in my belly for months, and I’ve been taking care of you for four presidential terms since. There is literally nothing on this green earth that I can’t tell about you. Crushes included.”

The burden of her secret turmoil finally lifted, Coretta let out a deep sigh. “It’s weird, mom…it’s like, things have changed. We’ve been friends for so long. I don’t know if we can go back to that now.”

“Do you want to?” Anne asked.

“Yes. No. I don’t know!” Coretta said, throwing her hands in the air. Her siblings giggled at her yet again. Anne hushed them, before lifting Coretta’s chin up to look her in the eye. “Listen to me, kid. If you don’t feel for Kat the same way she does as you, then you shouldn’t lie to her, or yourself. You’ve been stuck to each other like glue for ages now. I don’t think this would be enough to break you two. But. This is something that you can’t take back easily. Be honest with yourself. You have to choose.”

Anne winked. “Plus, Kat’s very cute. You could certainly do worse.”

Coretta ducked her way out of her mom’s embrace, groaning. “I’m going to go before I die of embarrassment.”

“Good luck sweetie! We’re rooting for you!” Anne and the twins waved at Coretta as she closed the door behind her.

Coretta knocked on Kat’s door, gulping as she did so. No response. She was probably in the garden behind the house. Coretta steeled herself, taking one shaky step after another towards the backyard.

She was always so surefooted, so certain of herself. But now it was like Coretta’s whole world was turned upside down. Why was this happening?

Coretta turned the corner. There she found Kat, sitting on the swing chair her parents had built for them when they were kids. Her eyes were closed, her headphones clamping down on her unruly blonde hair. Coretta could see flecks of paint on Kat’s fingers, and in the frilly white blouse the girl was wearing underneath her scarf and coat. Coretta took a few steps towards the chair, gulping. Sensing the girl’s approach, Kat opened her eyes. She gave Coretta a small smile.

“Hey,” she said. It was quite possibly the quietest the girl had ever been. Coretta didn’t know if she wanted to hug her or hop the fence and sprint away, never to return.

“Hey,” Coretta managed to say back. Kat patted the spot next to her. Coretta hopped in, letting the swing carry the two of them backwards, before settling into a comfortable rhythm. Kat turned to her friend.

“We probably…have a lot to talk about, don’t we?” she said, letting out a nervous giggle. Coretta nodded. Kat looked out at the snow-covered garden.

“I…um. I guess I should say I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have just sprung up on you like that.”

“Oh. It’s okay.”

Kat propped herself on one elbow, her hand over her eyes. Her face was red, an embarrassed smile unable to hide itself. “I just couldn’t help myself. I think…I guess I really wanted to do that, for a long time.”

Coretta shifted from one leg to the next. “How long have you felt this way?” she asked.

“When I turned thirteen. I had told you the week before my birthday that I really wanted that poster of Sailor Moon. You know, the one at the place we used to buy comics from? You couldn’t afford it, obviously, because it was limited edition and you were fourteen. You didn’t have any money. But you were too proud to ask your mom for help. So you drew it yourself. From memory.”

Coretta remembered. “It was awful. I’m pretty sure it was the first and last time I ever picked up a paintbrush.”

Kat choked back a laugh. “It was beautiful. It was the nicest, cutest thing anyone outside of my parents had ever done for me. I don’t remember a single other gift I got that day. All I cared about was that stick-figure Sailor Moon poster.”

The wind blew through the swing chair, tousling Kat’s hair.

“I still have that poster,” she said. It was true, displayed prominently above Kat’s mirror, its own special spot free of any other wall decorations.

“You really couldn’t tell I had feelings for you?” Kat asked.

“I dunno…my mom made jokes sometimes, but I thought she was just being her usual self. I’m really bad at this sort of thing, Kat. You could wear a neon sign that said “I Like You” and I’d still question if you were being for real.”

Kat turned her whole body towards Coretta, now looking her directly in the eye.

“I’m being for real,” she said.

Coretta scratched her cheek, unable to meet Kat’s gaze. “Yeah, I can see that now, haha…”

“Are you mad that I kissed you?” Kat asked.

“What? No, of course not.”

“Do you…like that I kissed you?”

“I…I think so?”

“Can I kiss you again?”

Coretta’s heart felt like it was about to burst out of her chest. She came to the sudden realization that she hated being sixteen.


Kat pushed herself over to Coretta. She lay a delicate hand against the girl’s cheek, before leaning in to kiss her again.

Coretta thought she was prepared, now free of the element of surprise. She wasn’t. Even if one were to not count yesterday’s events, this would still be her first kiss. She wasn’t even sure if she was doing it right. But she knew she was enjoying it.

Kat pushed herself back, her eyes trained on Coretta.

“Is this okay?” she asked.

“I…I don’t know, Kat. I really like you. Like, a lot. And I do feel like this is something that could work.” “


“But what if it doesn’t?” Coretta said, rubbing her face in exasperation. “We’ve been friends for five years now, almost six. What if this doesn’t work? What if this – us – what if it ruins that? I don’t want to lose my best friend.”

Coretta expected Kat to be upset, or at least to frown. But she was smiling. “Can I be honest with you?” she asked.

“We just kissed in your backyard. I would like you to be honest for this entire conversation.”

“I honestly can’t picture any part of my life without you, Coretta. Whether we’re a couple or not. I have these feelings for you because we’re so close, you know. Even if you didn’t feel the same. But after what that old man told us yesterday, I just knew I couldn’t go any longer without telling you how I really felt. What with the world ending and all, heh.”

Coretta stared at her childhood friend. The person that seemed to understand her more than anyone else. The one that shared her deepest secrets, and who Coretta could confide to in kind. Who had stuck with her for as long as Coretta could remember. They were partners, a team that could take on anything their crappy town threw at them. And Coretta realized she couldn’t picture a life without her either. “Cora?” Kat asked, waiting for her response. Coretta leaned forward.

This time she was the one that kissed Kat.

Thanks for reading, hope you liked the gay!!!

More Mint

I’ve really been doubling down on my Vocaloid OC, Haruko Mint (or just Mint), and I wanted to solidify some info about her character now that I have a better idea of what she’s like.

So, more background: Mint primarily sings future wave and future funk music. But Mint only sings part-time, or when she’s on tour with Queen. The other half of her time goes to videogames

MWith the negativity, bigotry, and other general garbage surrounding the gaming industry, Mint felt like her talents and upbeat personality would best be served trying to change the culture around videogames. As such, she does Lets Plays online, where she’s extremely popular with the 17-24 age range for women – or at least, that’s what her analytics say.

Mint’s programming lets her plug into the games she’s playing and “become” the character, aesthetically. This is her biggest gimmick as an LPer, and what allowed her to grow her fanbase, to the point that artists even drew art of her as the characters she plays:

She generally likes to play JRPG and Action games, but is known for the occasional FPS as well – even though they aren’t usually her speed. A secret: Mint absolutely LOVES Picross, but it’s not entertaining enough for a stream, so she plays it on her downtime.

Mint runs a tight ship on her channel, with a thoroughly enforced set of rules. Her roommates, Bubblegum and Aprajita, will sometimes mod her channel during Twitch streams, and even play games with her when they aren’t busy. She hopes that her prescense in the industry will inspire other girls to get into gaming, both from a development and content-creation perspective, and to improve the environment for any marganlized person that wants to be part of the industry without being harassed or discouraged.

In light of that aspiration, it is important to know that Mint will take shit from no one. Her infamous fight with a harasser at a Denny’s Parking Lot is proof of this. Nor does she care how that may affect her “image” – she keeps her dented skateboard from that day on her wall, both as a memento to the man she sent to the hospital, and a warning to anyone else looking to mess with her. She is adamant that a person should stay true to their beliefs and mean what they say. She doesn’t appreciate flowery words or too much talk, although this can sometimes get her into trouble with her sponsors.

People often ask: what the heck is up with Mint’s robo-ears? They aren’t ears at all, in fact. Rather, they’re a headset that Mint tends to keep on at all times. Developed for her by Queen, Mint’s headset is extremely high-tech. It exists as a pair of noise-canceling headphones, can be used to take phone calls, automatically syncs up with most of her consoles and auditory equipment for her playthroughs, and lets her integrate with the games she plays. It is her most prized possession.

When Mint is on break, she can be found in the local skate-park, where she’s general grinding her way to relaxation. She picked up the sport a few years previous and enjoyed the freedom and spontaneity it allowed her. Fans looking to score a selfie with the girl would find their best chances there, assuming she’s in good enough of a mood.

That’s all I can think of at the moment, but if there’s more I want to develop of Mint’s story, I’ll make another post! In the meanwhile, here’s a fun page that has all the art of Mint made so far, as well as her hex colors: Refsheet

See ya next time!

Mara and Rubrim – Patreon Story

Mara waited.

She had been sitting on the rock for a few hours now, but had been waiting far longer. Years, in fact, and seven to be precise. It was a lucky number for a lot of people.

Not for her.

Were she not so anxious, Mara could have taken a moment to appreciate the beach spray as the waves lapped up against the shore. The cove was always beautiful this time of year. On a weekday, everyone at the island would be working, and with her free period being the last one of the school-day, Mara was able to enjoy some of the stillness outside, with only the occasional passing car disturbing her bike ride. If you could fly, you’d be able to see how the cove formed into a crescent moon of sorts, almost perfectly. There was supposedly a mathematical beauty that could be applied to geography, but Mara wouldn’t know — it was her worst subject.

She checked her bag for the seventieth time.

Chalk: check.

Prism: check.

Pocket knife: check.

MP3 Player: a very expensive check.

Everything was there, she knew that, but it was the only thing keeping her sane while she waited.

Mara examined her wrist. 8 o’clock. 17 minutes to go.

It was time to start.

She hopped off of the rock, careful not to scuff her uniform shoes in the sand, and trudged over to the cliff wall. It was vined over, but that’s what the knife was for. With a deft hand, Mara flicked it open, cutting away at the foliage until there was nothing but cracked gray rock in front of her. Satisfied, she turned away and took seven steps forward, before pulling out the prism from her pack and laying it down on the sand, making sure the sun would shine on it.

10 minutes to go.

Mara took a deep breath, taking in the smell of the sun as well. No point in panicking — if it wasn’t perfect, it wouldn’t work. Not for another seven years. She returned to the wall, pulling out the chalk. The sigil wasn’t too complicated, but it required a steady hand. Mara didn’t need the Book to draw it — she had memorized it by heart in the past seven years. It dotted itself on every doodle she whittled away at in class. There was no way she was ever going to forget it.

She took a step back, admiring her handiwork. It was perfect, or at least as perfect as she could make it. And with 7 minutes to spare too. Not bad. Mara sat back on the rock. Nothing left to do but wait.

The last seven minutes were agonizingly slow. But it was finally time. The sun touched the horizon. A beam of light shot itself across the ocean waves, straight into the prism. A kaleidoscope of colors burst forth, painting the sigil on the wall in rainbow hues.

A moment passed.

The sun continued to set, but the colors were now burned into the wall. They sparkled, before bursting out, like a switch had been activated. Mara did her best to contain her excitement: it had worked.

The wall began to fade away. In its place stood a girl with brilliant red hair and a grin plastered on her face.

“Did you wait long?” she asked.

“Rubrum!” Mara shot forward, tackling the girl with a hug. She held her like that for at least a full minute, before Rubrum finally yanked free from the girl’s grasp, laughing all the while.

“I take it that’s a yes.”

“Seven years, seven hours and seventeen minutes, to be exact! I’ll be happy if I never have to see the number again. But forget that, come and sit down!”

Mara led the red-haired girl to a blanket she had spread out on the sand. There were two smoothies waiting for them.

“Wow, you’re actually prepared this time,” Rubrum said. Mara pouted.

“Shut up! I was ten last time, I barely knew how to tie my shoes.”

“I’m pretty sure ten year olds know how to tie their shoes, Mara.”

“I will shove you back into that hole if you don’t stop!”

“And miss out on a mango smoothie? You can try.” Rubrum plopped onto the blanket, taking a giant sip from the drink, before letting out a satisfying sigh.

“Ah! I missed this.”

Mara sat down next to the girl.

“What, they don’t have smoothies in your world?”

“They do, but nothing like this.” Rubrum took another sip. “Ours are all about revealing the secrets of the universe, and other such nonsense. I hope when they’re found, ‘add flavor to your food’ sits at the very top. See how dumb they feel.”

“If I had known, I would have brought more for you to take with you,” Mara said, trailing her finger in the sand.

“It’s all good!”

“Oh! I did bring this though.” Mara ruffled through her bag, and pulled out the MP3 Player.

“I filled it up with a whopping 30 gigs of Ska music, just for you. God knows why you like that stuff, but I guess somebody has to. Oh, and it’s red!”

“Holy crap, is that a Zune!?” Rubrum grabbed the music player out of the girl’s hand, examining it closely. “I was looking at these in my Scroll like a week ago! I can’t believe you got me one!”

“I can’t either,” Mara replied, unable to stop herself from grinning. “This was a year’s worth of savings, for your information. Don’t say I don’t do anything for you.”

This time it was Rubrum that put Mara into a choke-hold of a hug.


Mara pushed the girl off her. “Yeah, yeah, you’re welcome.”

“I’ve actually got something for you too!” Rubrum pulled her satchel off from her robes, popping it open. She pulled out a green book.

“You said you were interested in flight techniques, so I figured I’d give you my old beginner’s book of runes! It’s really simple stuff, so you can do it, even without the aptitude. Just…make sure nobody’s around when you do it, or they’re going to ask questions.”

“Wow!” Mara took the book into her hands, flipping it open to check the pages.

“Yeah, I think I can make this work. Thank you!”

“Of course! Now take a sip of your smoothie, it’s starting to warm up.”

“Oh wow, you’re right.”

The girls drank and talked, regaling each other of the time they spent apart. Thought it had been so long, it was if no time had passed at all. The sun gave way to stars as the hours passed. They lay on the beach, staring up at them.

“It’s weird,” Mara said.

“What’s weird?”

“That we meet up like this, but…you know, we both look up at the same stars. It’s weird to think about.”

Rubrum snorted. “That’s corny as heck, Mara.”

Pft. Yeah, it is.”

“But it’s true.”

The girls sat in silence.

“Can I really not come see you?” Mara asked. Rubrum got up, the elbow she lent on slightly scraped by the sand.

“You know you can’t, Mara. If you did the Gate would get closed immediately. We’re already brushing up against dimensional law as is. I had to petition the Elders for a year and a half just for them to consider this.”

“I know…but I want to.”

“And I want you to…” Rubrum sighed.

“Fine. I will ask them. But no promises, do not get your hopes up!” she rushed to finish as Mara squealed in excitement. The red-haired girl got up, examining a rock of some sort on her wrist.

“That’s time. I better get back.”

Mara sat up, running her hand through her hair.

“Really? You can’t stay a little longer?”

“Hey, I’m about to ask the Elders to break a ten-thousand year law. We really shouldn’t push it, Mara.”

“Ooookaaaay,” she said, getting up herself. The two girls walked to the cove wall together. It shone its rainbow hues once more.

Rubrum turned to Mara grinning. “Same time, same place?”

Mara grabbed the girl into a hug. “Always. I’ll be waiting.”

Rubrum rubbed her eyes and quickly turned away, hoping that Mara didn’t see. She did.

“See you!”

The red-haired girl stepped towards the wall. And then she was gone.

Mara stood in front of it, waiting. She knew nothing was going to happen — that Rubrum wouldn’t suddenly reappear, that they’d get to go on further adventures together — but it didn’t hurt to wait.

Nothing happened. Mara grabbed her things together, hopped on her bike, and began to peddle. She had no idea what she’d be like seven years from now, but she knew that Rubrum would be waiting for her.

And Mara would be there.

Thanks to WagonStar for this request! If you want me to write a story for you, feel free to subscribe to my Patreon!

Commissioning Dos and Donts

I have commissioned a lot of art. Like, a lot of art. Like, a LOT of art.

Like, a LOT a lot of art

And I’ve been commissioned a couple of times myself. I’ve been on both sides of the equation, as both commissioner and commissioned, and while my experiences have mostly been great, there have been times – on both sides of the coin – where things went…less than smoothly. So I figured I’d make some points that will make commissioning easier for everyone. Here’s my not-so-definitive guide on commissioning.


So you’ve decided to ask someone for some art! Great! This is gonna be fun. Or at least, it will be, as long as you follow these steps:

  1. Be clear in what you want. Artists will have a commission sheet of what they have available for their art at the time. Read this carefully. If they don’t do mecha, don’t ask for Gundam art.
  2. Going off of 1, have references ready! If it’s not something you already have art of, pull samples of clothing or facial types, and use those as examples instead. If you don’t have that, at the very least give a thorough written description of what you’re looking for – though some artists might not take written references, so keep that in mind!
  3. After a commission has been accepted, don’t message them every single day asking where your art is. I’ve had this happen to me. It sucks. Wait at least a week before you start questioning where your art is. Life happens, and there might be a bit of a delay.
  4. Related to 3, if there’s a deadline for the piece, make that clear! The sooner you make that clear, the better. If you wait too long, you might get charged extra – I know I would.
  5. If you feel like the art you’re paying for is too cheap for the quality you’re getting, then add a tip! Paypal makes this extremely easy to do. Art is difficult to make a living off of, and artists are forced to price themselves low because capitalism sucks. Do your part to make things easier on them!
  6. Don’t complain if an artist has a high price attached to their art. If the quote you get is too high, politely tell them it’s outside of your budget range and move on. Do not try and haggle. Seriously, just don’t do this.
  7. If there’s something in the rough sketch of your art that you don’t like, let it be known! You’re getting the draft so that changes can be caught and fixed early. I once had someone with resentment for a logo I made for them 2 years earlier email me their dissatisfaction on a random Tuesday. All it did was tick me off.
  8. If you post your commission somewhere, please still source the artist. Yes, it’s your art you bought, but it’s courteous to tell people where you got that cute icon from!
  9. Don’t steal art. Can’t believe I have to say that, but yeah, don’t steal art.


Holy crap! Someone likes your art enough to want to pay for it. Go you! Let’s try and make this as painless as possible.

  1. Make a clear list of what you will and won’t do for commissions. This will be extremely helpful unless you like explaining yourself over and over again.
  2. Make a solid payment system. If you ask for payment upfront, make sure to be on the ball with communication and work. If you don’t ask for payment until after you give a rough sketch, you have a bit more leeway, but don’t send anything too high quality either – you don’t want your art to get stolen!
  3. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. I only ever take two commisions at a time, because more than that leaves me overwhelmed. A long list and no progress can feel insurmountable, so make sure to stay balanced!
  4. I want to reiterate. Communicate!!! You have an obligation to give a product to your customer. If you’re overwhelmed, say so. If you’re going to be delayed, say so! Cry-typing about being stressed on Twitter just makes you look bad, and I promise that if you’re upfront, your customer won’t scold you – and if they did, they weren’t worth making art for anyways, to be honest. But! You still owe them a product, and if you can’t supply it, it’s up to you to come up with some kind of compromise.
  5. Stay organized. I use Trello to keep track of projects. There are a whole bunch of ways to organize your boards, but I personally have “Paid -> WIP -> WIP Confirmed -> Finished” as my workflow.

That’s every tip I can think of at the moment, but let me know if you have more. In the end, it really does just come down to communication, on both the artist and the customer’s part. But when it all works out, it leads to a thing of beauty, in my opinion: an original piece of art made specifically for a customer that they’ll always love – and money for me. I love money.

H’aanit x Primrose: A Hunting Trip

2019 is the year I write more overly-indulgent fanfiction of my favorite ships, baby.

“We have to wait for how long?”

Primrose clung tightly to the red furs she found herself layered in, attempting to trap every bit of heat she could in S’warkii’s frigid forest temperatures. The sun was shining through the forest trees, but it wasn’t enough to completely empty the place of snow, with melted water and slicked ice surrounding her. Primrose was more used to Sunshade’s deserts, and wasn’t happy with how different she looked in the change of clothes – like a lightly toasted marshmallow.

“As I said already, it will not reveal itself for a few more hours. We will have to wait.” H’aanit was too busy taking care of her bow on a nearby log to take notice of Primrose’s discomfort. She adjusted the strength of the bow’s string, carefully pulling it to check its weight against her hands without damaging the weapon. Primrose watched her, leaning against their tent. She loved seeing the woman work, fully absorbed in her task. It seemed like this was when H’aanit was most at peace, and it pleased Primrose to see her so.

“When I said ‘take me on a date,’ I didn’t exactly mean a hunting trip,” Primrose teased. H’aanit looked up, shaking her blonde braid out of the way.

“I have been to your home, but you have never been to mine. This is what we do. What I was raised to do.” It was true, of course — Primrose was the last to join the merry band of eight. She had warmed up to each of them individually — even Olberic, with all his stoicism. But Primrose was immediately smitten with H’aanit the minute she saw her, quietly sipping at her ale in the Sunshade tavern while the rest of the party…well, partied, her beautiful snow leopard curled up at her feet. Primrose always had trouble opening up to others, considering her past. Despite that, people were always so nosy.

But H’aanit…here was a woman who knew not to pry. She never pressed Primrose on anything, preferring to let her speak when she was ready. Her silence wasn’t that of contempt or disinterest, but a companionable warmth. It made Primrose feel safe to share her heart.

Prim lightly shook herself out of her reminiscing. “You’re right. And even if S’warkii is freezing, it’s still beautiful. How often did you come to these woods?”

“Nearly every morning, with my master.” H’aanit placed her bow in the snow next to her. With a deft hand she unsheathed a pocket knife, sharpening her arrows one after the other. “This place is beautiful in the spring. I didn’t take much notice of it at first, but Z’aanta encouraged me to find the beauty in it all: the dew on the grass, the way the sunlight comes in softer than it does in the summer. How pools of water disturb the forest’s silence just so…” H’aanit laughed.


“That old man is a fool, but I’ve come to realize that he is the only reason I am with you now.”

Primrose’s eyes widened. “Really?”

“Really. I always felt that I needed to be…serious. Responsible. Perhaps it was due to never knowing my mother and father. Regardless, I always chose to ignore anything that wasn’t important to my role as village guardian. But I’ve come to realize that I don’t need to be like that all the time — that it was fine for me to enjoy myself, to open myself up to what I want, instead of what I needed to do. And if I hadn’t, I would not have been able to meet a girl as lovely as you.”

If Prim wasn’t wasn’t red from the cold, she was certainly scarlet now. The girl coughed into her mitted hands.

“That’s quite enough of that,” she muttered, her eyes shifting nervously. H’aanit tilted her head, a small smile on her lips.

“Are you embarrassed, perhaps?”

“I will walk all the way back to Sunshade by myself if you do not stop!”

“Were it not to disturb our prey, my laugh would be heard from here all the way to town,” H’aanit said. Her fist was clenched, as if she had captured the laughter like one of her many beast. Primrose stomped a foot.

“It’s so frustrating! I’m so used to being in control, but around you…well I am a mess, to put it simply.”


“It is very well not good!”

“It is.” H’aanit rose from the log and walked past Primrose to pull out her traps from her bag, making sure they were maintained as well. The scent of pine-needle and sandalwood   floated past Prim, causing her pulse to quicken.

“I am glad that you loosen your walls around me, Primrose. To keep them up at all times must be exhausting.”

The dancer shrugged her shoulders. “You get used to it, to be honest. I learned when to put on the mask of a smile when I was on stage, and after a while, I carried it wherever I went. I had to.”

H’aanit placed the traps back in the bag, turning to face Primrose, her jaw taunt.

“When the time comes that you must finish your journey, Linde and I will be by your side, ready to face what comes. I trust you know this?” Now it was Primrose’s turn to smile.

“Of course I do, H’aanit. Oh, that reminds me!” Prim snapped her fingers, before rummaging through her bag.

“What is it?”

“One second…” Eventually, the woman pulled two emerald green ribbons.

“A match! For you and Linde. I wasn’t sure what your favorite color was, so I just used my own judgment. If you don’t like them, the shopkeep promised that we could swap them out, but I wanted it to be a surprise.”

“They’re perfect,” H’aanit said. She took one of the ribbons from Primrose’s hands, lifting it up to the sun so the light could bounce off of it. Without warning, she leaned down, pressing her lips against Prim’s. The girl was startled for a moment, before she closed her eyes, kissing H’aanit back. The forest, if not the world, was silent, but for the two of them.

Finally Primrose drew back, taking a few sharp breathes.

“Okay, we must stop there, or I will melt through these furs. Now turn around for me.”

Primrose sat on the log, while H’aanit leaned up against the girl’s knees in the snow, letting the dancer do her hair for her and tying the ribbon along with it.


“Hm?” Primrose hummed as she worked.

“After this, I would show you how to use a bow.”

Prim looked up into the trees. The sun would be setting soon, and after that, the hunt would begin in earnest. There was still so much to do. A promise that Primrose had yet to fulfill. But for now, she was content.

“Of course,” Primrose replied, stroking H’aanit’s hair.

A JRPG Primer

I’ve been meaning to put this guide together for a while because I have a bunch of friends that don’t know where to start when it comes to JRPGs. Which is fair — there are a million of the things, and a lot of them are pretty bad. That said, what’s nice about the JRPG is that despite what sounds like a niche genre, there are tons of options for all kinds of people to get into them based on their own preferences, from action games to the more traditional turn-based affairs.

Disclaimer: Blah blah blah opinions, this isn’t a book of gospel, blah blah, tell me what you’d suggest as a start, yadda yadda.

The format of this guide is as follows: I’ll name a game, and then I’ll name who it’s for. The only exception to this is what game you should play first, which, if you’re a beginner in the genre, should always be…

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger, for all intents and purposes, is pretty much the perfect game in its genre. It’s JRPG nirvana. It never slogs, never forces you to grind, and has a combat system that’s easily approachable while still being cool to experiment in. It’s an expertly paced game that teaches you all the standard JRPG systems. The only thing that might cause me to hesitate when it comes to recommending Chrono Trigger as your first JRPG is that everything after it might feel weak by comparison. And that’s the best praise I can give it!

Child of Light

Child of Light is a great intro into JRPGs, and a good indicator that just because something is made by a Western developer, doesn’t mean it isn’t a JRPG – I promise you, that sort of conversation isn’t worth arguing about. It’s relatively short, grabs the amazing combat system from Grandia 2, and is family-friendly as well. The art and music are also phenomenal. Plus, you can play it on literally every modern system out at the moment.

Persona 4

If you’re a fan of anime, or miss high school (which, honestly, why?) but haven’t played a JRPG, Persona 4 is right up your alley. A satisfying blend of high school sim and traditional JRPG gameplay, with a dash of pokemon-esque strategy, Persona 4 is an addictive trip. Pick this if you miss summer trips with your friends. I went with this one over Persona 3 and Persona 5 because the former takes forever to get going and the latter is so mechanically perfect as a turn-based game that it’d be hard to go back to earlier games in the series. Persona 4 is available on the PS2, PS3, and in enhanced form on the PSVita.

Shin Megami Tensei IV

Maybe you read all that and your nose wrinkled in disgust. “This is why I never got into JRPGs,” you’re thinking. “I don’t want dating mechanics or slice of life skits!” You’re probably looking for Shin Megami Tensei IV, then. If you ever thought “I want Pokemon but instead of being my friend they want to kill me” then this is actually the perfect game for you! What you get in exchange for a brutal game is an interesting storyline about the nature of humanity and what words like law, chaos and neutrality really mean.

Seriously though…be careful making this your first choice if you’re not ready for it. And IV is on the friendlier end of the spectrum!

Nier / Nier Automata

Are you looking for more interesting and weird storytelling as present in SMTIV, but without the brutal difficulty? Do you like good music? Are you a dad? If you answer “yes” to any of those questions, you’ll love Nier and/or Nier Automata! Though the latter is a sequel to the former, you can jump into them in whichever direction you like, in my opinion. The original game in the series is a bit less polished than the first, so if that sort of thing is important to you, start there before moving to the silky-smooth gameplay of Automata. Either way, you won’t be disappointed!

Paper Mario / Mario Bros. RPGs

The Paper Mario and Mario Bros. RPGs have the benefit of being attached to the most iconic videogame character in gaming history. Both series have simple but interesting and active combat systems that are easy to grasp as a JRPG beginner, and include all the characters you love — including some wacky new ones. Any of the games are a great place to start, but I recommend Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door and Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story from each series, respectively.

Tales of Berseria

Maybe you’re the type that finds the turn-based nature of JRPGs to be a snoozefest. If you’re willing to not to shy away from some Big Anime Archetypes, The Tales series is right up your alley! These are fast-paced action games that make combat fun even 30 hours into a story. Before last year, I would have recommend Tales of Symphonia or Tales of the Abyss as good places to start. And they still are! But Tales of Berseria gets bonus points for being on the current generation of consoles, as well as including an interesting group of characters and some quality of life choices that help set it apart from other games in the series.

Final Fantasy X

Of course there was going to be a Final Fantasy game on this list. It’s hard to avoid the JRPG Juggernaut. Out of fifteen games, I went with FFX. It has a simple but effective battle system, isn’t incredibly long like some other Final Fantasy games, and is straightforward — sometimes literally, depending on the area you’re in. Plus, if you find yourself wanting to dig deeper, there’s a metric ton of post-game content you can dive into that will test your JRPG skills to the limit. It’s also available on pretty much every platform in existence, so it’s easy to find a copy.

Blitzball still sucks, though.

Fire Emblem Awakening

Are your turn-based JRPGs not turn-based enough? Let Fire Emblem give you the strategic rush you need. Fire Emblem games can be extremely difficult, but Awakening gives you enough options to ease your way into the game’s addictive RPS strategy systems without having to worry about getting your entire team killed. Couple that with a fantastic localization and tons of customization options, and you’ll be knowledgeable enough to be one step closer to playing Final Fantasy Tactics, the graduate-level equivalent of the strategy-jrpg.

And I’d say that’s that! You’ve got your retro games, your anime games, your action games, and so on. I’m pretty confident that if you jump into one of these games, you’ll get a handle on the fun stuff JRPGs have to offer. And if you have your own suggestions, let me know!

Some Stuff I listened to in 2018

I’m two days late and I don’t give a fuck!!

Thanks again to Spacegarbage on Twitter for indulging me with cute as hecc banners for these posts, go look at her stuff it’s very very good!

Anyways this is the stuff I liked this year. Usually this is restricted to game soundtracks, but I didn’t like much game music this year so I’m throwing non-music albums into the mix. It’ll be fun. I don’t think it’ll be very descriptive, but I’ll make up for it by posting my favorite song from each album.

Let’s go!

Persona 3: Dancing Moon Night

I’m not including P5’s remix album here because imo it wasn’t very good. Persona 3 lends itself better to remixes, and it’s the one that got the Naganuma track, so it wins out. I never bought the game but I still listen to this pretty regularly.

Nier Automata: Piano Collections

An excuse to listen to more Nier Automata music is always good. I listened to this one while I was working a lot…I remember when I used to listen to piano albums to study. I don’t study anymore! Oh god I’m an adult now oh shit oh no


Not gonna lie, it was a close race between this and the Splattack remix for best track on this one, but Into the Light is original so that’s what I went with. It doesn’t really matter though, every single track on this album slaps. I can’t die until I see an Off the Hook concert.

Octopath Traveler

The Octopath Traveler OST is like 40% of that game’s appeal, to be honest. It really sets the mood from the very beginning, and every track is catchy as hell. I still whistle the main theme from time to time.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna ~ the Golden Country

You ever hear a song and just have it tingle all the way up and down your spine? Like, it checks off every single note. You get completely enthralled in the track, stop what you’re doing and just listen? That’s me with Torna’s battle track. This is probably my favorite song of the year. I honestly find it hard to describe in words. This youtube comment does a good job of explaining how ridiculous the XC2 OST creators are:


Gonna commit a blaspheme here I’m sure but…I actually wasn’t THAT fond of the entirety of Deltarune’s OST? But it makes up for that with 5 or 6 songs that really tie in all the musical motifs together, and what’s good in there is really really good, so it still gets a spot on the list.


Celeste’s soundtrack accentuates the parts of it that are amazing. Like the game itself, it’s gentle and encouraging, and I still listen to it regularly when I need a bit of a push.

Promise World – 3D Blast

I don’t even remember how I found this album, but it slaps. It’s a wild blend of Dreamcast/PS2 era vibes mixed with future funk leanings.

Moe Shop

Oh look, more Future Funk. I’m an MYLK fan which is how I found this album, and the cover was so aesthetically pleasing I had to give it a listen. It was worth it!

彼女は魔法少女 – Moe Shop

This album was the inspiration for Mint! So that’s fun. Def had to get a spot on the list. Even more future funk.

DROGAS WAVE – Lupe Fiasco

Probably the most important album of the year, and what made me remember that hip-hop can still be pretty good (I’m sorry, this statement makes me sound old). A fascinating concept album depicting a group of slaves that sink on their ship but end up being granted the ability to breath underwater by Poseidon, and it only gets more interesting from there. This album is cathartic, especially for a person of color (that’s me!).

事実上 – Reol

I want Reol to kill me

Hatsukoi – Utada Hikaru

Even outside of it showcasing the next Kingdom Hearts theme, Hatsukoi is fantastic from beginning to end. It’s a testament to Utada’s lasting power, even after more than a decade of performing, she’s still got it.

私的旅行 – DAOKO

I don’t usually like DAOKO’s stuff, actually. But my extensive amount of time playing Dragalia Lost has warmed me up to her. It’s good! I like it.

RWBY: Vol. 5 – Jeff Williams, Casey Williams

The RWBY albums always appeal to the Hot Topic, buttrock, Sonic Adventure 2 part of me that I’ve never truly shaken off, and Volume 5 is no exception, heh.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Various Artists


Pretty sure that’s everything. What did you listen to in 2018? Tell me!!