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!

Happy Birthday, Mint

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!