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Topics - Coryn

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 21
Manga Creations / Death of a Bachelor - MR Canon
« on: January 07, 2023, 06:30:45 PM »
So, uh.... I've been pretty quiet on the posting writing side for a while, but I did a thing about a month ago and here it is. In short: I got married, and not putting it into canon somehow felt wrong, so I did. Anyone who reads this is an honorary attendee of my wedding.


Scene 1

A brilliant morning in early September met the streets of the city with a cool breeze and the scent of fresh rain. Clear droplets of water reflected rolling clouds from the surface of a table for two outside a small cafe. Quick hands came down and swatted them away, forcing the raindrops to dance off the edges of the table and matching seats. A pair of artists took their places in the freshly cleared chairs, and resumed their conversation from the night before.
          "I just don't understand it," said Suuper, "the composition always looks so blocky no matter how many times I redraw it."
          "You want it to flow better?" Asked Killer B.
          Suuper said, "yeah. I want it to be more alive, more fluid."
          Killer B shrugged and motioned to Suuper's bag, "get it out and let me see. I'll help as much as I can."
          As Suuper fished out a tablet nestled amongst scraps of cloth and crumpled sketches, a groaning sound distracted him. Suuper followed Killer's furrowed gaze, and landed on its source.
          Coryn shambled down the street, a gutteral monotone emanating from his half ajar mouth. Dark circles highlighted barely open eyes, and the moderator's arms hung limply at his sides.
          "I don't think Coryn has been sleeping well," said Killer B.
          Suuper replied, "he seems…"
          "Zombified?" Finished Killer B.
          "It's a little early for Halloween jokes," said Suuper with a frown.
          Killer B shrugged, "like the metaphorical light has gone out of his eyes?"
          "That's a good way to put it."
          "Is it? Do you have a pen and paper in that bag? I want to write that line down for later."
          As Suuper found some paper that wasn't too crumpled, Coryn shuffled by, unaware of his fellow raiders chatting across the street.

Scene 2

Days had passed, and Coryn needed space to think. Somewhere wide open where no one was around to bother him. So he chose the one place he could be sure he wouldn't run into another human being.
          EcchiWorld may have been the butt of this joke, but Coryn appreciated the silence of its mid-afternoon all the same.
          The park was warm beneath a bright sun. These last days of a fading summer still had enough heat to soothe the body and mind. Fountains with placid pools dotted the landscape, their gentle spouts of water barely disturbing the basins. It might have been considered a good spot for a family picnic, if you could ignore the obscene statues, that was. Coryn wasn't sure people could bend like that without serious spinal damage.
          The blonde breathed deeply of the perfumed air, felt the wind blowing through his hair. He closed his eyes, and with a deep sigh released a portion of the stress he had built up the last few months. For the first time in days, he felt a small sense of peace.
          It was a passing moment, made all the more fleeting by the feeling of someone gently seizing his arm and embracing it.
          Coryn opened his eyes and turned to find Lewd-tan cuddled up against him, her head resting on his shoulder.
          "Watcha thinkin' 'bout?" asked the tan, her voice sultry and commanding despite the phrasing.
          Coryn shrugged, but couldn't dislodge the tan, "nothing, or at least I'm trying to."
          Lewd-tan pouted, "that's no fun, why don't you think about me instead?"
          The tan picked up her head and whispered into Coryn’s ear, "I've been hearing so many nasty rumors about you recently. We sisters talk, y'know? You're skipping social engagements. Your heart isn't in your work anymore. You aren't sleeping. And you've even gone weeks without saying a word to anyone in the city! Why Coryn, if I didn't know better I'd say you were planning to quit MangaRaiders for good!"
          The moderator didn't say a word. He met Lewd-tan only with solemn silence, and it shot a pang of anxiety through the tan's system.
          "Hey now don't be like that!" She said with alarm, "why…why don't you come up to the temple, hm? I'll give you a little treat even Ecchi-tan won't know about?"
          No reaction was forthcoming.
          Crap! Thought Lewd-tan, he really is leaving us!
          "Hey… hey now… you can't," sputtered the tan, "you can't just bail on us after all these years! You've been with us my whole life! We're your friends, Coryn!" Her voice dropped back to a whisper, but all sensuality had left her, the next words she spoke were an honest plea "don't you love us anymore?"
          At last, Coryn looked her in the eyes. A small smile crept across his lips, "it's okay Lewd, I'm not leaving MR."
          Lewd-tan heaved a sigh of relief. Somehow she had worked herself up over nothing.
          "I'm getting married," said Coryn.
          Lewd-tan's jaw went slack, dropping open and stretching her face into a look of pure bewilderment. Following her mouth's lead, the rest of her muscles ceased holding her up. The tan then broke character entirely by performing a comical pratfall off the bench and onto the asphalt below.
          Lewd-tan was baffled, befuddled, discombobulated, flummoxed, at a loss, and many other words synonymous with 'confused beyond all reason at her friend's apparent betrayal of everything she held dear'.
          It was the one thing she hadn’t prepared for.
          Splayed out on the pavement with her gaze locked on the sky, Lewd-tan tried to process what was happening, "I…you…how…what?!"

Scene 3

Legomaestro approached the ominous cube.
          The invitation had arrived in his inbox a week earlier. Its text had announced the type of event, the date, and the location. Everything added up right down to the intricate font and the fancy paper. But somehow Lego hadn't come to terms with it yet.
          He really is going through with it, isn't he? Thought Lego as he mounted the first step.
          The cube had been deployed in MangaRaiders' central square, just beyond the doors of MR Tower. Helicopters and workers bearing the logo of a company with a saccharine sweet name had brought it in, hooked it up to the power grid, and then left after a few tests. The mechanisms were operational.
          A small flight of steps led Lego to the doors. He tugged at his suit collar, took a deep breath, and pushed his way inside.

          Your list of family and friends could get pretty long on the Net. And when everyone wants a good seat, weddings become very difficult. Thankfully Your Perfect Day Of Love & Matrimony, Incorporated were there to help! They were ready and willing to drop one of their Honeymoon Special Hard Light Wedding Experiences [Patent Pending] in the location of your choosing as long as someone was willing to sign their terms and services.

          Lego emerged into the virtual space, a carbon copy of the physical venue the couple had selected. The vaulted a-frame was all wood and glass, with a picturesque wooded lakeside beyond the windows and golden sunset rays streaming in. Cushioned bench seats flanked the center aisle, among which sat familiar faces.
          Although the space struck Lego as rather barren of guests, he knew there would have been an uncountable number of people ‘occupying’ the same building he was. The happy couple would only see their physical guests and a select number of the holographically piped in attendees, but they would also have a complete list of all ‘in attendance’.
          The moderator couldn’t remember off the top of his head which side was the bride’s and which was the groom’s, but neither did most of the other raiders in the room so he decided to sit next to whoever had a space next to them and was the least likely to cry through the ceremony.
          Lewd-tan it is, affirmed Lego in his mind.
          Lego found all of the tan sisters sitting together in the second row, but it wasn’t until coming up beside them did he realize what he was looking at.
          “Lewd-tan,” asked Lego, “why are you dressed like a 19th century widow?”
          Lewd-tan looked up at Lego, and even obscured by a black veil he could see the streaks of mascara running down her cheeks.
          So much for the plan.
          “I always mourn the loss of an eligible bachelor,” said Lewd-tan with a sniffle, “but I think I’m beginning to accept his loss.”
          “Uh…” moaned Lego as he found himself sitting down regardless.
          From Lewd-tan’s other side, Ecchi-tan (who it must be said was dressed more appropriately for the occasion), leaned forward and smiled, “just ignore her today Lego, she’s being over dramatic for effect.”
          Lewd-tan huffed as she dabbed her eyes with a lace handkerchief, “I can’t help it. Being overly dramatic is on my half of our schtick.”
          “Sooo…,” said Lego in an attempt to change the conversation, “has anyone here actually, y’know, met this gal?”
          NO1SY leaned in from the third row, “you haven’t met her yet Lego? I thought you of all people would have.”
          Lego scratched his afro, “I haven’t. I guess I haven’t been around a lot lately though.”
          Finally it was MR-tan’s turn to cut-in. She leaned back to look around Ecchi and Lewd-tan’s heads, “they started dating just before the war started.”
          Lego suddenly felt a little hot under the collar, and not just because he had put on weight since getting his suit fitted, “OK, so it’s been a little longer than ‘lately’, but I promise to get better about it soon.”
          Mercifully the music changed before Lego had to answer any more uncomfortable questions.
          An airy classical song began to play, and from the doors at the back of the chapel entered an old woman and a not as old but still older man. Lego pegged them as mother and son, and also not physically present on MangaRaiders. The ceremony had begun.
          After the first pair had sat in the reserved first row on the left, another pair emerged, and Lego’s jaw dropped a little. He couldn’t explain it, but he knew he was looking at Coryn’s parents. The man was Coryn from the nose up, and the woman was Coryn from the mouth down. For a moment Lego couldn’t piece the odd sensation together, but soon reversed the situation in his mind and could understand just where Coryn had got his genetics from.
          Lego whispered over to the tans, “Coryn has parents?!”
          MR-tan gave him a queer look, “of course he has parents. He’s human.”
          “I’m human,” said Lego, “but I don’t have parents. I was built in a lab!”
          Ecch-tan rolled her eyes at him, “he’s a regular human. Regular humans still have parents, even on the Net.”
          “Oh,” said Lego, “I forget sometimes.”
          With the first part of the processional out of the way, the effervescent string quartet faded out and was replaced with an upbeat pop song from several centuries ago. It had a vaguely romantic theme, but could have been creepy if taken the wrong way, and just screamed ‘Coryn’s taste’. As the new song hit full volume, the back doors of the church swung open, and in strutted Coryn’s virtual avatar.
          “You bastard”, muttered Lego under his breath.
          Lego had to admit it though, Coryn looked sharp. Clean shaven and in a light blue suit, the cyborg had even turned off his eye glow for the occasion.
          Next came the best man and maid of honor. Although Lego had been somewhat miffed to not be chosen, he quietly assented to the choice when he realized that Coryn had chosen Nairbons for the best man position. Next in the groomsman line-up came Coryn’s brother who Lego vaguely remembered from a short stint on MangaRaiders when they were all much younger. The last two groomsman Lego didn’t know by sight at all, but must have been close to Coryn if they had arrived in this scenario. There wasn’t much to remark on concerning the ring bearer and flower girl, as children to his credit didn’t hold Lego’s attention, but they did their jobs well and didn’t cause a scene, which was all one could ask for from literal children.
          As the wedding party took its place at the front of the room, the back doors had closed again. Once everyone had settled, the pop music faded out, and a moment later was replaced with what everyone expected.
          Here comes the bride.
          The doors opened and she appeared.
          This time it was Lewd-tan who swore.
          “That bastard!” said the tan loud enough that Lego hoped the microphones weren’t on, “she’s pretty!”
          “That’s my line!” said Lego in response.
          Tall, burnette, blue eyed, and beautiful, the bride swept up the center aisle accompanied by an older gentleman who could only have been her grandfather. Lewd-tan was jealous. Lego was jealous. MR-tan was quietly counting backwards from ten in her mind to keep herself from smacking her sister.
          “Is Coryn crying up there?” asked NO1SY, “I think he’s going to cry, and if he starts crying then I'm going to start crying!"
          NO1SY started fishing around in his suit for a handkerchief, and MR-tan shushed them all as loud as she dared, “he’s holding it in admirably, now quiet!”
          As it always was, all eyes were on the woman in white. But after this moment the assembled raiders could hardly remember the ceremony. Nairbons officiated, rings were exchanged, there was a kiss followed by applause as the new husband and wife strutted out. All the things one expected to happen at a wedding happened. Pride, happiness, and jealousy all intermingled into a single warm emotion.
          ‘Hometown boy makes good’, would read the headline the next day.

Scene 4

"Da da da da da da da da, TEQUILA!" shouted the assembled raiders in unison with the music. The tables, decorations, and expansive reception hall may have all been a hard light illusion, but the food and alcohol were real enough. The 'marriage cube', as the group had taken to calling it, came fully stocked with enough provisions to fuel an all night party, and there was little more raiders enjoyed than feasting, drinking, and talking long into the night.
          Unlike the ceremony, the reception room was sized to fit the entire guest list, and every attendee was represented, which brought the true scale of the event into focus. Manimal and Vacant could barely see the far wall from the raiders' tables in the back of the room. Though they didn't know if it was their eyes or the potent combination of roasted meat, ale, cake, and champagne coursing through their systems. All the same, they had gallantly volunteered to haul food and drink back from the serving area multiple times.
          The wedding party had already breezed through the dinner, traditional dances, and cake cutting, so the new husband and wife now took on the unenviable task of trying to talk to every last table before anyone could leave. They had been snaking back and forth for an hour before finally making it to the raiders.
          "You didn't have to sit all the way in the back," said Coryn over the music, "there were closer tables."
          "Freands…" announced Lego with a slur, "alwas sit in baqsh…"
          "How much has he had?" asked the beaming bride.
          Lego slapped a bottle of whiskey onto the table that had been drunk three-quarters of the way down, "dis much…you bastard."
          "Excuse… me?" said the bride.
          "Ignore him," said Artist-tan as she slurped on a juice box, "he was talking to Coryn. It's an old joke."
          "I can't believe your real name is M******!" shouted Lego, who had just remembered his shock from earlier when the new couple had been announced.
          Coryn sighed, "it's my given name, but if you ever use it I will release every piece of blackmail I have on you."
          This shut Lego up, and made the bride giggle, "after what Coryn has told me about you raiders, I'm glad you live up to the interesting stories. It seems like you have a lot of fun together."
          "Plenty. Or at least, we used to," said a dark voice from the bride’s left.
          Turning to meet it, the bride came face to face with red-eyed Lewd-tan still in mourning dress. Unsure of what the situation was, Coryn’s new wife held still as the red haired tan looked her up and down. Lewd-tan circled around the bride once, taking in the full picture. When she at last returned to the bride’s front, Lewd-tan leaned over so she could give Coryn a thumbs-up as fresh tears swelled, "you have my consent, you lucky bastard."
          The tan spun around dramatically and made for the restroom, "come sister! My period of mourning is at an end! Bring out my slutty party dress!"
          Ecchi-tan rose quickly from the table, an oversized purse in hand, "coming Lewd!".
          Meanwhile, Coryn’s new wife leaned into his ear and whispered, "her name is 'Lewd'?"
          "Long story," replied Coryn.
          "Speaking of long," said a voice from behind them. As the pair turned, Hasith and Corycaly came into their fields of view. Each carried platters of food and drink, "those lines at the buffet. I hope you don't mind Coryn. We helped ourselves out on the table's behalf, again…"
          Corycaly sat down her tray of champagne with a tinkling of glassware, "and it is so lovely to meet you my dear," she said to Coryn's new wife, "after all this time we were beginning to wonder if he was going to remain a bachelor forever."
          The administrator cast a backwards glance at the table and muttered under her breath, "it's something of a trend…"
          Hasith either didn't hear or ignored the comment, and clapped his now freed hands on Coryn’s shoulders, "what my old friend means to say is that we're happy for you Coryn. Congrats on finding the other half," said Hasith with a smile.
          "Thank you, everyone," said Coryn.
          "Now if you'll excuse us," said the bride, "we have a dozen more tables to talk to before I'm allowed to take these torture devices off," she jokingly kicked up a foot to display her fancy but deeply uncomfortable looking dress shoes, "and as of twenty minutes ago I really could use a beer. Let's go sweetie," she grabbed Coryn by the arm and off they went.
          Back at the table, MR-tan leaned her cheek into her fist and smiled, "that boy is all grown up finally. Maybe he will start a trend?"
          Vacant's collar suddenly felt much tighter. He scooted his chair away from the tan, "hey ah, don't say that too loud now! You don't know who's listening!"
          Thankfully for Vacant, Manimal suggested moving onto the dance floor (where the DJ booth would be in easy reach for requests), and there was much agreement to follow that plan instead. That night the raiders partied well, powered by a happy occasion almost none of them had seen coming just a few years earlier. Coryn least of all.

Thanks to anyone who reads this. This was an incredibly personal thing to write about, and I only hope I conveyed half of the emotion that went into the day itself (9/16/22, btw). Big thanks to NO1SY as usual for being my editor, and an extra big thanks to my wife who read this and gave her approval to post it (although she will almost certainly never see this post, lol).

MR Pub / Chit Chat 2023
« on: January 01, 2023, 09:47:51 AM »
The chit chat topic is dead. Long live the chit chat topic.

MR Pub / Chit Chat 2022
« on: January 01, 2022, 01:57:53 PM »
The chit chat thread is dead! Long live the chit chat thread!

Y'all who have been here a while know the drill, but for those of you who don't: we restart the chit chat topic each year to keep it to a manageable size. The old topics are locked but readable.

So to get the ball rolling, how was everyone's new year? At our place we watched a handful of movies and drank french 75's. It's practically tradition now in this time of COVID.

break Room / Merry Christmas MangaRaiders - 2020
« on: December 24, 2020, 07:55:07 PM »
Merry Christmas to all of our raider family who celebrate it! It's been a wild year, and like myself I'm sure a lot of us will be spending it away from family for the first time. Have a good one y'all, and remember that no matter how far apart we are, raider is always family!

Love you guys! Happy h :santa: :xmasgifts: :xmasgifts: :cheers: :cheers: :cheers: :cheer: :x-mas: :x-mas: :x-mas:olidays!  :santa:

MR Pub / American Thanksgiving 2020
« on: November 26, 2020, 01:02:13 PM »
Happy Thanksgiving to all our American raiders! I know it's a little weird this year, but I hope you're all staying safe and making the best of it!

(And you know it's the holidays on MR when we get a spambot posting dubious links, lol. I'm working on it.)

General Manga writer discussions / Writing Log
« on: July 06, 2020, 10:31:30 AM »
Alright, so I'm putting this out there for everyone to participate. It's a simple idea to help try and encourage more engagement between members of our writing community, as well as a way to keep ourselves on track and thinking about or own progress. I'm totally stealing this from my own routine where I keep track of my weight and do calorie counting. It's easy to understand where you stand once you're actually keeping track.

Simply: When you write or do something related to writing, let us know what you did and for how long. Hopefully this will help everyone learn where they may have room for improvement, and see if others are doing things that they may be forgetting to. Hopefully it will also be a fun way to let others who read our stories know that we haven't abandoned our projects!

Sunday, 7/5/20, 3 hours: Reformatted Arcs 1 and 2 of Coryn's Saga for easier reference while writing Arc 3. Arc 1 reformatting completed. Arc 2 reformatting expected to be wrapped up next Sunday.

Happy logging y'all.

Manga Creations / MR: War Arc: Coryn: Part 2
« on: June 14, 2020, 04:18:30 PM »
Alright folks! I'm like, way behind on getting this one done (sorry), but here it is! The second and final part to Coryn's War Arc side adventure! Please read it and let me know what you think of it! If you haven't read the first part yet, you can find it here:,19535.0.html

And if you haven't read the beginning of War Arc yet, you can find that here as well:,19407.0.html

I'll be posting part 2 all in one big block, so apologies for taking up so many consecutive posts! No let's see it!


Bethuw’el stood looking upon the city. His city. MangaRaiders had fallen before him eight months before. Practice and planning had fallen into lockstep. Every site they had conquered before had served as a stepping stone on their way to victory, and soon, even mighty MangaRaiders would be just another stone in the river of his conquest. After this city another would fall, and then another, and another, and another, until the whole of the Net had fallen under the sway of a resurgent 4Kids. He could feel it in his bones. It danced across his skin and seared itself into the lenses of his eyes. A stone was just a stone, no matter how large nor how strong. Greater stones yet remained, greater victories and valiant tales of war were yet to unfold. And yet, something sat at the back of his mind. An irksome urge that whispered to him in his sleep, at dinner, whenever his mind had the opportunity to wander. MangaRaiders is dead, it would coo. But it is not yet buried, it would finish. Bethuw’el knew it nothing more than an inevitably. But the failure, no matter how small, irritated his sense of order. He had achieved greatness through precision and attention to detail. If no stone was left unturned, then no fault could be found in your method. And yet MangaRaiders, which had fallen in a matter of hours and served under his rule for months had many stones left to flip.
   The great general turned towards his Lieutenants. Narcissus, Pisti, 4Kids-tan, and R-Kain stood in line before him. Their past failings were superimposed in Bethuw’el’s eyes. He knew their greatest defeats, each one playing out again and again in his mind. On the other hand, he also saw their victories, their moments of greatest triumph. Each shared a fraction of the blame in their collective failure to fully subjugate MangaRaiders, but Bethuw’el knew they did not share that burden alone. The Raiders were a veteran force. Their greatest heroes had each faced 4Kids on a number of occasions and triumphed. Yes, they could not stand before them in outright battle. Yes, they had been taken by surprise and had their weaknesses turned against them. Yes, they had been driven into hiding and guerrilla tactics. This could not be ignored. But Bethuw’el knew well that an entrenched and local force always held the advantage, no matter the numbers plied against them. He had learned it himself in the days after 4Kids' destruction. For what general could lead that had not known hardship?
   Bethuw’el banished the thought from his mind, and contemplated something else. He himself could not go without blame. If the city was not completely under his sway, it was because he as a leader had failed his troops. Had he not tasked himself with the greatest duty of all? To ferret out and destroy MangaRaiders’ leadership? He could not set that aside. Although banished from their home, the two administrators had failed to counterattack. Could the city’s leaders have abandoned it with only the slightest of provocations? Bethuw’el felt for any site who befell such a fate. But that was not his opinion of the ones known as Hasith and Corycaly. Those two had battled 4Kids before, and were not likely to let a slight such as this go. By now they would have found a way to circumvent the hacker’s work, and have a new entry at the ready. So why not try to use it? Surely they would not fear his army, for even mighty Bethuw’el knew to fear a city’s founder on their home turf. No, it was not like these two to cut and run as he had seen so many others do. They would return, and when they did, Bethuw’el would need to be ready.
   Bethuw’el took a few more thoughtful puffs on his cigar and scanned his eyes across his lieutenants. It was time to end the formalities and discuss the matter at hand. “Let us not delay further. What news have you of the banhammer?”

   Hasith and Corycaly stood on the dark and twisting plane. Below them stretched nothing but raw, undefined Net. Nothing but potential and equivalent casualties, the raw materials that those genius men and women of generations past had utilized to build humanity’s new home. They had seen it once before, when MangaRaiders was founded. It was from this digital cosmic soup that they had seen a newborn site rise into the confines of the warm and welcoming Net. They wondered if they would not be seeing it again soon, or if perhaps this was the last time it would ever grace their vision.
   Corycaly gave a look towards Hasith. He knew the look, and he didn’t like it. It spoke of things to come, but he could hardly contemplate what was next. The pair had been on the run for months and months now. The sudden banishment had left them stranded on the Net, each astray in a random and unfamiliar location. It had been weeks before they could track the other down, and ever since there had been the chase. 4Kids had agents in places the pair would have never considered. Just when they thought they had arrived safely, jackbooted soldiers would appear and chase them out, like foxes from a hole. It was quickly becoming untenable. The Lost Chorus had done well to stay hidden, to stay in the shadows while they conducted their horrid business. Peace had finally been achieved, only for an unrealized threat to grow in unseen places. Hasith had often compared 4Kids to a virus. It would infect and spread and there was little you could do to stop it. After all, what kills a thing that is not alive to begin with? But his and Corycaly’s eyes had been opened since January. 4Kids was no virus. Yes, they implanted themselves, grew and overtook the host, but they were no virus. They were alive, just as human as anyone else. Just as dual-sided and scheming and lovely and caring and weak and strong and terrible and beautiful and human as the rest. And in their humanity lay their most terrifying nature. It was humans who had wiped out MangaRaiders. It was humans that they sought to drive out and destroy and kill now. Humans were the most terrible beast of all. And now, the administrators of MangaRaiders knew it just as well as anyone else.
   For more the pity.
   Hasith sighed and reciprocated Corycaly’s look. The situation had to be addressed sooner or later. “I know, I know.”
   Corycaly shook her head. “I know you do Hasitha, that’s why I’m trying to convince you to actually do it.”
   It hadn’t been easy recently. They had heard the rumors, but didn’t believe them to be true. Maybe they didn’t want them to be true, but there they were, plain as day. Broadcasts had been coming from MangaRaiders. Some brought good news, some brought bad. Others came as neutral tidings. The same things, over and over. ‘We are alive’. ‘We are fighting’. ‘We have not given up’! At first the transmissions were handwaved as a trap. Yes they were coming in familiar voices, yes the source was verified as the city they called home, but what hope could they have? Bethuw’el had caught them completely unawares. Voices could be replicated. Locations could be fabricated. For all the two ex-administrators knew, they were being lured into a trap. 4Kids was trying to trick them, and if the advice was followed the two would be located and destroyed. It was a hopeless case. But as time went on, the broadcasts continued. They never focused on a single location. Anyone on the Net who knew the right frequency could listen in. Relevant details and codewords were given out. Nothing that could not be discovered by the Lost Chorus, but still, it was something. Something that could be tied back to a trusted source. A trusted friend, even in all of this darkness.
   Corycaly had reached her decision first. Hasith was the only one left to convince. The ‘night’ before, when Coryn had been quite sure he was alone except for 3.0 and himself, they had even heard sobbing. A man who they had seen go through indescribable hardships for the sake of their city had sat quietly alone somewhere, and cried for their return. Hasith had nearly broken on the spot. He could not recall having heard the ex-moderator cry in the eleven years that he had known the man. The child even. If Hasith thought back to the first time he had met Coryn, he could still clearly remember the crumpled form on the white plane that surrounded MangaRaiders in those days. A pitiful thing, encased in foreign armor that failed to mask his true nature. He and Corycaly couldn’t help but give aid to the boy. Upon reflection, Hasith realized just how young each of them had been at the time. These days Coryn was older than they had been when Hasith and Corycaly had scooped him off of the primordial plane and taken him in. It was hard to consider, that everlasting passage of time. One day Haith and Corycaly would be old and worn, ready to pass on to the next life. But would they do it in a realm that neither considered home? It was the question that had pressed on Hasith for eight months now. It might be the question that defined his entire life.
   Hasith took in a deep breath. It wasn’t all that he wanted, so he took another. At last, he looked at his companion. “Cory, I’m ready to send a response.”
   Corycaly gave Hasith a scant smile. The tiniest amount of hope had just creeped back into her weary form. “It’s about time you are…”

   Coryn dropped his head and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. 3.0’s calls had worried him at first, but upon reaching the severed head/radio combo, he had only been greeted with a singular sense of relief that he had not felt since long before the Lost Chorus’s invasion. Even if it were only for a moment, he had heard the voices of Hasith and Corycaly, and they had done more to soothe his heart than any fabian victory ever could. The ex-moderator tried to stand, but instead, just fell flat against the cave stone. It was a shock he wasn’t anticipating. His legs had grown weak without warning, but it didn’t bother him, he was too excited to be bothered by anything right now. Coryn started at a chuckle, but soon broke out into nervous laughs here and there, but then the full relief of laughter as the connotations of what he had just heard fully sunk into his soul.
   The broken laughs attracted the other members of Swift Team. They slowly gathered around Coryn until he at last was able to register that he was surrounded. Once he did, the scientist righted himself and replayed the message 3.0 had received. Each member of the team reacted with relief, even if in their own unique way. They had been sending out messages all summer. To finally get one back was something they had not anticipated at this point. Each was caught by surprise as Coryn had been. It was not an immeasurable amount of time until they could respond themselves. Once all immediate questions were answered, the team took a collective breath. Wishes and hopes built up from months of silence were aired, but all were met with shaking heads and null responses. This tribulation was not over yet. This trial would not be finished soon. Despite what they had heard, Swift Team still had much to do, but the details of their mission had not yet been decided. At last, the company of raiders had determined their strategy. Coryn addressed the group, as a way of formalizing the pact. “It’s settled then, we need to eliminate one of their leaders. Hasith and Corycaly need chaos to sneak back in. They need 4Kids weakened in a meaningful way. We’re going to kill their strongest fighter. We’re going to kill R-Kain.”

Manga Creations / MR: War Arc: Shorts
« on: December 08, 2019, 07:59:27 PM »
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The War Arc Shorts topic and The Last Halloween topic have been merged into a single War Arc Shorts topic. Numbering of shorts have been retroactively corrected).

Alright, so this was actually my one-day-one-shot. I thought it would be fun to do a halloween story for War Arc, but the timeframe passed to actually have it come out for halloween, so I decided to make it something of a joke and put it out that the beginning of December. Sue me. It's already posted in the one-shot topic proper, but I'm putting it in its own dedicated topic anyway to it will be easy to reference in the future.

Short 1 - MR: War Arc: The Last Halloween: Part 1
MR: War Arc: The Last Halloween

Swift Team sat huddled in their cavern. Being deep below ground they were well insulated from the cold chill that late fall had brought down on them. But caves were so often cool, and so often damp. Even though it never dropped below a balmy fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit, the caves' natural moistness and the near freezing temperatures above ground kept the raiders from ever feeling truly warm except when gathered around their fire pit.
        This late November evening was one such time. Coryn, Vacant, Devola, Echo, and 3.0 sat staring into the meager blaze, calmly chewing on chunks of stew as they relaxed their bones after a hard day of taking the fight to the Lost Chorus. It was quiet, and the quiet was beginning to drive one of them quite insane.
        At least, that's what Coryn told himself. He had just been topside all day, quietly watching 4Kids troop movements while Echo quietly sat next to him watching 4Kids troop movements while Coryn sat next to her quietly watching…
        Yes, he was beginning to get a little stir crazy, thanks for asking.
        "What a mess," Coryn thought to himself. "It's not even winter yet and I'm already dying to experience the outdoors again." But of course, who was he kidding? He hadn't gotten to enjoy the last spring, or even a moment of the summer. Coryn was even beginning to fantasize about the absolute hell he had gone through back in XX18's spring. That may had been a mess. A 'right mess' even, as Vacant might say. But what could he do? He needed a distraction. Maybe a hard drink. Definitely a hard drink. Maybe a cigarette if he could find one in the loot they had taken from Lost Chorus soldiers.
        Coryn noisily finished his bowl of stew and stood up. "I think a night like this calls for a drink! Who's with me?"
        Vacant raised a hand. His mouth was still full of stew, but there was a gleam in his eye. The Brit had never been on to turn down a drink, and that was an especially useful trait tonight. What he and Coryn were about to indulge in was no classic vintage of fine wine, and it was a harrowing experience without a good friend to take the journey with you.
        In fact it was a much debated question what 'druel', as it had come to be known, even was. Some said it was a type of wine, others supposed it to be a long of beer, many called it a liquor and ended the day there. This question rang out from Swift Team's cave to Lost Chorus concentration camps scattered across MangaRaiders and the wider Net beyond, and yet no consensus on classification could be found. All any of them knew was that you made it using the unidentifiable fuel that powered Lost Chorus aircraft, the exhaust system of a 4Kids transport truck, whatever leftovers you had on hand, and a prayer.
        Blindings were common, but the old adage held true. Humans could, and would, make booze out of anything.
        Coryn carefully removed their own stash of druel from the larder and found a set of glasses. The caution and the real glass were necessary parts of this endeavor. Druel, while nominally from being processed, was still nominally explosive. It would also eat through most man made substances in under a minute. Both of these facts were discovered by the first unfortunate who tried drinking the stuff from a plastic cup. Thankfully human stomachs were made of sterner stuff, and could safely ingest druel provided the necessary precautions were taken first. Coryn tilted the old thermos, and out poured a clear liquid with a yellowish tint and the pearlescent refractions of something that maybe still had a little oil in it.
        The pair gently clinked their glasses together, and downed the nasty stuff with a cry of "Cheers, prosit, l'chayim!"
        Druel went to work quickly, and by the time everyone was back around the fire, themes of druel still at hand, Coryn and Vacant could feel the warmth of high proof alcohol creeping out of their stomachs and to every part of their body. The unnatural heat buoying them, the pair struck off into a lively conversation, which was soon joined by the rest of Swift Team.
        As the hours grew long, and everyone with the desire had drunk enough druel for their tongues to loosen, Coryn found himself staring into the swirling swill in his glass, and a thought crossed his mind. Suddenly sure of himself, whether by his own charisma or the druel's he posed a question hebhad no intention of hearing the answer to. "Have I ever told you the tale of," Coryn dropped his voice down low, "The Last Halloween?"
        "Did you just capitalize each of those words?" Asked Echo.
        3.0 said. "Halloween was a month ago Coryn. We all just sat around the fire. You were there. Can someone take away his poison juice?"
        Devola began to reach over, but Coryn yanked his glass away before Devola could get close enough to pose a threat.
        "I'm not talking about last Halloween. I mean last year's! The one before this one!" Shouted Coryn.
        "Now hold on!" Proclaimed Vacant. "I do remember that Halloween, and as I recall, you are the last person who should be telling that story!"
        "It was a chilly October evening." Started Coryn.
        Devola cut in. "It was unseasonably warm actually. And it's not the time of year for ghost stories any more is it? I saw a bunch of Lost Chorus soldiers putting up Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/Saturnalia lights last week, or whatever it is they call it."
        The scientist shushed the artist, then restarted his story. "It was a surprisingly mild Halloween night…"

        MangaRaiders a year and one month ago was a very different place than it was today. Ask anyone walking the streets and they would have told you the same thing. MangaRaiders is a peaceful place. Its members are kind and gentle. They might rip your arms off if you do wrong by them, but generally nice people! They promise. Anyway, you certainly wouldn't have said, or even thought about saying that in a little over two months the place would experience a full scale invasion by a military power thought vanquished by the wider Net that was being led by a master general and tactician, loyal even in defeat, and his band of fanatical followers. That is in no way what you might have said, but it is what happened. You might have said that you fancied a pint, or that yeah, you could eat if you and a buddy wanted to check out that new restaurant on the corner.
Really this whole thing was quite unexpected. But back on October 31st, you really wouldn't have expected it.
        That night, the raiders were doing as raiders tended to do late on Halloween night. Namely: inciting a ruckus and carrying on.
        The MR Pub was abuzz with activity. Pub-tan knew how to throw a party, and Halloween night was absolutely no exception. Costumed raiders drank, danced, and chatted as party remixes of classic 'spooky' songs played over the sound system. Vacant, who was dressed as a cowboy, saddled up to the bar next to Mahlua, who was costumed as one of the 'witchy' girls from a 90's harem anime that you weren't cool/weird enough to know about. Across the polished wood bar and pumpkin shaped party favors atop it was Pub-tan, who was working her own party as a zombie… bartender. Say what you want about the woman's party throwing skills, Pub-tan was an adamant professional.
        "Pick your poison." Directed Pub-tan as she waved her hand at the bottles behind her, which had all been replaced by theme appropriate containers of various deadly chemicals in old timey bottles.
        With some apprehension, Vacant leaned over towards Mahlua. "What are you having?" He whisper shouted over the crowd and the music.
        "The Arsenic and Old Lace." Replied Mahlua as she pointed at the paper menu of the night's cocktail specials pinned to the wall. "I'm not sure if I like it or not yet. But I admit, I am no expert."
        That source of help exhausted, Vacant studied the menu himself, and out in his drink order. "I'll take a 'The Revenge of Frankenstein', please."
        "Resurrecting that for you right away." Chirped Pub-tan as she turned to busy herself with various bottles labeled things like 'laudanum' and 'bleach'.
        Vacant smiled nervously and made some small talk while he waited. "Right then! What's the dirt Mahlua? What's the ol' raider four-one-one on who's hot and who's clearly trying too hard?"
        Mahlua raised an eyebrow and stared at him for a while. She turned a few scenarios around in her mind before replying. "Are you looking to cheat on your girlfriend, or find out about the costume contest? I can help with both but I thought we should be clear about your intentions first."
        Vacant flinched back in shock. "Ayorite!" He… said? It was one of those classic Vacant-isms that you couldn't be sure was a word or just some vaguely British swaying filler sounds. "The costumes, of course!" He explained. "Everyone knows I'm clearly the man with it in the bag for winning the historical round. You can't even play on your bonafied and recognized by the state Sheriff Big-Balls here! But uh… who else is in the running you think?"
        Pub-tan had slid Vacant's drink into his hand while he had been explaining himself, and now he took a cautious sip of it. The cocktail was like green, with a blackened orange peel garnish. It tasted herbasish, with a hint of citrus, sweetness, and… earthiness? Surely Pub-tan wouldn't have gone so far as to put actual dirt into a cocktail, even if she was well known to be an artistic purist when it came to her cocktail recipes. Either way, it only took a second sip for Vacant to decide that whatever was inside his glass, it was delicious.
        Vacant was about to follow up on his query after a moment of silence, but just after looking up to see what Mahlua's reaction was, it was clear that she was scanning the crowd and processing some thoughts. After a little while longer had passed, she turned to Vacant and sent down her verdict. "Fortis is going to win."
        "What?!" Cried Vacant. He's just gone as that Overlord guy!"
        Mahlua asked. "Your point?"
        Vacant said. "Well he's already a skeleton isn't he?"
        The witch nodded. "True, but he's got the best stitching out of anyone here. His sewing skills are his ace in the hole."
        Reluctantly Vacant had to accept Fortis's skill with a scrap of cloth. He still harbored suspicions that Mahlua was playing him for a fool and trying to throw him off the scent. It was entirely possible, likely even, that Mahlua herself had some grand plan to win it all. Possible, he thought, but put the thought out of his mind. Surely Mahlua would not degrade the sanctify of the costume contest! Surely it was beyond her machinations!
        It wasn't, and she most certainly would. But that's a special secret for later ;).
        It was as the narrative aside ended that a deep banging emanated from the pub's door. This sound could not be mistaken for knocking. It came three times like a knock. It was as if something hard and yet fleshy was hitting the door, but the sound was unlike any that the party goers had ever heard. It overcame their conversations, the sound system, and even Pub-tan's inner thoughts. It could not be a knock. It should not be a knock! This was clearly not a knocking kind of party. And yet the knocks came, and when they finished, not a soul in the establishment breathed a word.
        And then the door fell in.
        Like something had sliced the hinges in half it was. The door hit the ground to reveal a figure in the darkness. They stood there, oddly tall, oddly thin. An unexplainable orange light poured in around the figure, and it cast them into a silhouette that prevented identification. With slow ponderous steps the figure advanced. As they entered the dim lights of the pub, it became that the mysterious figure at the door was none other than Coryn.
        Oh God was it Coryn.
        The moderator was holding himself… wrong. Coryn's eyes were closed. His arms were out at his sides, stiff as boards. He didn't move his legs in the way legs ought to move. It was like he was on strings. A macabre, human marionette, being puppeted by someone or something who hadn't seen a human walk for a while now, and couldn't quite remember how it went.  This was strange enough, but could have easily been passed off as a bit. But if anyone in the pub held that opinion, it came couched in believing that it was a joke gone too far. Willful destruction of city property was obviously looked down on, but that wasn't the real problem here.
        Coryn was naked.
        At least, he was mostly naked. He retained a pair boxer-briefs mercifully where they were supposed to go. But everything above and below his crotch was as naked as the day he was born.
        Okay, time for reasonable minds to interfere. "Coryn I know I said I wouldn't discriminate on contest entries, but this is too much." Said Pub-tan. "You aren't allowed to be half-naked."
        "I can see your bulge mate!" Blurted out Mahlua, which arose a few murmurs, but she recomposed herself before adding. "And you know I respect your bravery when it comes to matters like this, but like, you are the last person I would have expected to pull a stunt like this on MR."
        Again, it grew quiet. Things were starting to get a little awkward now. The erie orange light was still coming from outside, and Coryn had yet to open his eyes. Finally Pub-tan gave up, and started towards the end of the bar so she could enact justice. "Alright Coryn, we've all got the joke now, but I'm going to have to give you a temporary pub ban for breaking my door down."
        Just as Pub-tan was about to lift up the bar gate, Coryn's eyes shot open. They weren't right though. Coryn's electric blue lights were gone. It might not have been apparent from the back of the bar, but nothing about his eyes were right. His irises were twice as big as they should have been, his pupils were mere pinpricks at their centers. And instead of blue, there were solid swirling colors. Green, purple, and orange spun around his tightly contracted pupils like a hypnotist's wheel. Then Coryn opened his mouth, and our came his voice, but it wasn't just his voice. It was his voice and his voice and his voice and his voice a thousand times over, all laid atop each other until he was echoing his own echo. "HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED OUR NEW HEAVEN? WE HAVE KICKED OUT THE NEW OLD GODS AND FILLED THE BONE PITS WITH THE OLD NEW GODS AND THE OLD GODS AND THE GODS AND THE NEW GODS AND THE NEW NEW GODS! HAVE YOU NOT SEEN THE OLD OLD LIGHT? IT FILTERS IN FROM THE ANCIENT FORESTS OF WOOD AND CITIES OF STONE AND OCEANS OF WATER AND RIVERS OF BLOOD. ARE WE NOT ALL JUST FLOATING ON TOGETHER IN THIS GREAT ELECTRIC SEA WITHOUT PASSION? WITHOUT DIRECTION? FOLLOW ME TO THE NEW HEAVEN! WE ARE GOING TO FIND THE-"
        Coryn had been speaking nonsense at a mile a minute, and was likely to keep on, but Pub-tan had silenced the tirade prematurely by introducing the butt of her shotgun with the side of Coryn's head. Coryn crumpled to the ground in a pile. It hadn't made any sense. Not just his eyes or his voice or his words. Sure, if you were off in the back of the room, or if you didn't know the moderator that well, you might not have noticed. But those that were close enough noticed… something. They wouldn't figure it out for a while, but there was a question in the back of their minds now. It was a question that once solved, would be too late for anyone.
        Had Coryn always been that tall?
        Had he always been that thin?
        Back in the present moment, Pub-tan, Mahlua, Vacant, and Lego had gathered around Coryn. The scientist was still unconscious on the ground. They weren't sure what to make of the situation, and the whole thing was a major party killer if they were being honest. A handful of newer raiders and out-of-towners had already abandoned the pub. They couldn't be blamed for this of course. If you weren't used to the weird stuff that happened around MangaRaiders, you wouldn't stick around when a mostly naked guy waltzes into the Halloween party and gets clocked out by the bartender.
        Just another holiday for the rest.
        At least some headway was being made when it came to what to do with the body. Lego, who was dressed as Jimi Hendrix, guitar and all, offered to lock up his friend in the drunk tank back at MR Tower.  Hopefully Coryn had just taken a little chemical assistance to get in the mood to party, and it had backfired something fierce. Who knew what he cooked up in that lab of his anyway? Ecstasy 4.0 probably wasn't beyond the pale.
        Yup! They would just have to pick Coryn up, turn off whatever light he had rigged up outside, and let him sleep off whatever weird trip he was on.
        At least that was the plan until Coryn rising uppercutted Lego right through the pub's ceiling. It looked like it hurt, and it did. Mahlua and Vacant grabbed Coryi by the arms, but he was screaming more nonsense and thrashing around to dislodged them. The shotgun was still in Pub-tan's hands, so she cocked it and leveled it at Coryn's head. "Coryn calm down! Calm down Coryn! I don't want to use this thing!"
        But the scientist found the strength to throw both of handlers. They were knocked back into the crowd, and Pub-tan used the opening to hop back over the bar. She landed squarely just in time for Coryn to leap over the bar after her. For Pub-tan, time seemed to slow down. She was not built for combat. Sure she could kick out a rowdy drunk with the best of them, but the shotgun was only for show. It was not a weapon she wanted to fire in anger, but with an almost naked man with a crazed look in his eyes coming down on her, the decision to fire was one he finger made itself. At least if it had to be this way, Coryn would be being put out of his mystery by a friend.
        The blast hit the scientist dead in the face. Or at least, that was the idea. What should have happened was Coryn's head exploding in a display of blood and gore that everyone in attendance would need years of therapy to wipe away. What actually happened was that Coryn bounced back head first from the force of the blast into the ceiling, then black to the floor, and then made the trip a few more times like he was a bouncy ball in a pinball machine, before finally crashing to a stop in a collection of empties next to the bathrooms.
        This inhuman display was bad enough, but what came next was worse. As Coryn landed, something let out a scream. I say something because it clearly wasn't human. It was the kind of screech a lesser narrator would describe as coming from one's own head. This is almost certainly that kind of screech, but the truly terrible thing was that it wasn't coming from inside the raider's heads. It was coming from outside, and that made it all the worse.
        This broke what serenity was left in the room. Anyone not willing to throw hands at that exact moment quickly, and in some cases violently, excused themselves from the pub. Almost to the raider they let out their own screams as they ran out the door and encountered whatever it was that was creating that light. Doubtless, many who swore they were heading out to confront whatever was going on reneged on the plan and decided to just call it a night instead. When all was said and done, the only living souls in the pub were Pub-tan, Lego, Mahlua, Vacant, and surprisingly, Coryn.
        The screams had not been enough to deter the four, but seeing that Coryn was not only still breathing, but apparently unharmed (was he always that thin?), left them with some thoughts about the suicidal nature of what they had all just silently agreed to do.
        "Oh my gosh I thought I killed Coryn." Was the first thing out of Pub-tan's mouth. "I don't know how I would have explained that to Mom and Dad."
        "You could always do what I did." Said Lego with a shrug.
        "And what would that be?" Asked Pub-tan.
        Lego replied. "Live five hundred years in a doomed timeline only for him to come back to life and retconn the whole thing."
        Vacant said. "Let's call that plan B, or maybe… plan H. Plan H is better."
        Mahlua meanwhile, had started prodding Coryn's unconscious form with her foot (had he always been so tall?). "Given how long he was unconscious last time, we should have a few minutes before he wakes up again. I don't know what he meant with all that ranting about gods, but let me tell you as someone with experience, it's the ranters who are the most dangerous."
        Vacant asked. "To themselves or others?"
        "Yes." Replied Mahlua.
        "Right… " finished Vacant before turning to the open door if the pub. "So then, out into whatever the hell it was that made everyone run screaming a minute ago?"
        Lego grabbed his guitar and headed for the exit. "Let's."
        The party of would be heroes was feeling decently confident on the way towards the door. We're talking a six, maybe seven out of ten on the ol' confidence-o-meter. But that number dropped significantly after stepping into the night air.
        The moon had been out on their way into the pub that evening. 'Had' being the operable word here. Upon reflection, the moon have still been out, but they sure as hell didn't see it in the sky. What they did see in that starry night was no moon.
        It was a big f*ck off eyeball!
        Up in the sky and as plain as day was an eyeball. It was huge. Dwarfing even the largest of moons the assembled raiders had ever seen. This was the kind of size you see in movies. Blown up to proportions unsupported by all known laws of physics for dramatic effect. Except as mentioned above, this was a giant eyeball. There were barely any whites. It had the same pinwheel as Coryn's eye had. Green and orange and purple, all spinning around the central pupil. The whole thing was also bleeding around the edges, because of course it was. Huge red drops of blood fell from the rim of the eye, but if they were landing somewhere in MangaRaiders, those assembled couldn't tell.
        Everyone stood slightly dumbfounded as the bleeding pinwheel eye hovered above their heads. It was interesting that even though the green, orange, and purple all appeared on the eye in equal amounts, it was the orange light that showed most brilliantly. Such a strange fact. Mesmerizing even. You could just… stare at that big beautiful eye forever… lost in its glorious gaze…
        Wait a minute? Were they just going to keep standing around? They needed to do something about this thing! Lego gripped his guitar tightly, and let fempto-machines flow out across its surface, encasing it in a hard shell. Pub-tan that chambered a fresh round, and Mahlua began building her energy. Lego, as the defacto moderator in charge, was the first to step in the eye's direction. "Alright, we have a problem and we know nothing about it other than there's an eye in the sky and it's made Coryn super strong somehow. Mahlua, you're magic and sh*t. What do you have for me?"
        Mahlua fell in step with the moderator. "Other than the fact this thing is putting out some serious magical energy, not much. Coryn mentioned a whole lot of different categories for gods, but he started with 'new old gods' and worked his way up from there. If I followed his logic correctly, he skipped the 'old old gods', so I'll start there."
        "Great." Said Lego. "Vacant, help her. Pub, think you can help me with our peeping Tom problem?"
        Pub-tan said. "Aside from present company, you mean? I'll do all I can."
        Pub-tan sent Coryn back to sleep with another blast of her shotgun. This time she knew it wouldn't kill him, but equally did she know it wasn't going to stop him. Even though Coryn's limp body pulled the same rubber ball trick it had the first time, the bouncing was less sporadic, and came to a stop much sooner. Either Pub-tan's shotgun was getting weaker, or Coryn was getting stronger (and taller?). The four raiders weren't about to stick around to find out.
        Lego took to the skies with his moderator abilities. The distance between himself and the eye was closed in an instant, but by the time he arrived, Lego had already come to regret the decision. The technique didn't factor actual physical distance into account, so when Lego glanced back to the ground, he found his had come quite a long way from MangaRaiders' surface. This was concerning not for how far it meant Lego might fall, but for how massive the eyeball was. If it could be supposed that the eye looked very large from the ground, even though it was still far away, then you could interpret that the eye itself was very big. This was all true, but that truth meant little when you couldn't look at the blasted thing from a few feet and realize that the eye/moon comparison was surprisingly apt, and that it was easily several times the size of the city itself.
        So much for a quaint evening of drinks and party games.
        Alright then! Too late for thoughts of regret and retreat now! You can't just go crying home to mommy with your tail between your legs just because there's a huge eyeball monster that's possessed your friend bearing down on your city! Lego drew back his guitar, and smacked the giant pinwheel eyeball right in the pupil. The wet surface rippled like a fat man's belly, but there was no penetration, or even the slightest indication that Lego had done any damage. This was going to be harder than he had hoped.
        Lego wound himself up, and went back on the attack with his patented 'just hit it a whole bunch of times!' technique. The moderator was careful to only smack the eye when the force of the new strike would catch the ripple at the right moment and feed into the strength of the combined strikes. Lego played the eye's moist surface like a trampoline, but just when he thought he might be getting somewhere, the ripples shifted their direction all on their own. Before he could stop himself, Lego's next strike hit in exactly wrong spot instead of exactly the right one, and the feedback of his own attacks shot the guitar, and the raider holding onto it, careening back towards ground level.
        Lego shifted his position in space before he could get flattened by the ground however, and found himself back outside the pub. Pub-tan rushed out of the doors with her arms full of the old timey bottles she had replaced the bar's normal collection with. As she went she curb stomped Coryn, who was beginning to regain consciousness. The blonde's hair was absolutely beyond redemption at this point, but Lego figured that would be the least of Coryn's worries once he woke up. Coryn would have done the same for any of them after all, it was only fair they return the favor.
        Pub-tan motioned towards Lego, and he rushed after her until they were both out of Coryn's line of sight, but able to still keep an eye on him from an obscured position behind a tall hedge. The tan dumped her selection of bottles on a bench, and began her work. She dumped out one bottle labeled 'Formaldehyde', refilled it halfway with a pint of 'Virgin Blood' and then started adding things like 'Pancreas Fluid', 'Bone Marrow', and 'Muriatic Acid'. Lego was… let's call it eighty percent sure that it really was all just alcohol, but the way Pub-tan was mixing it all with purpose made him think that A: she was sticking some less than common ingredients, and B: he should never piss her off again. At last, Pub-tan shoved the mixing vessel into Lego's hands, and shoved a cork into it. "Shake well, wait five minutes, then either serve with a sprig of eucalyptus to neutralize the acid, or just smash it into that big dumb eye to hopefully put a hole in it!"
        Lego took a hard look at Pub-tan's concoction through the dingy glass of the bottle. Maybe his eyes were deceiving him, but Lego could see little flashes of light appearing sporadically throughout the cocktail. Well, he hesitated to call it a cocktail at this point, but whatever it was Lego did not feel like playing games with it. He double checked that the cork was firmly in place, and then carefully slid the bottle into the folds of his shirt. "Remind me to audit your receipts if we survive this."

        Meanwhile, Mahlua and Vacant were still on the run. Deep thanks to whoever invented cowboy boots, because the first thing Mahlua did was rip open a sewer grate and pull a reluctant Vacant in behind her. They were now sprinting along the brick highways and byways of MangaRaiders' sewer system, and seemingly getting nowhere.
        "Where are you even taking me Mahlua?!" Cried Vacant.
        Mahlua skidded to a stop, and Vacant had to back peddle not to run into her. The witch seemed to be surveying their surroundings. Finally she turned back to Vacant. "We need to get directly beneath the pub. I stashed some things there in preparation for the costume party tonight.
        Vacant's face lit up with shock and a bit of anger. "Alright then! I had thought you might do something like this! You were planning to have a cheeky little cheat at the costume contest weren't you?!"
        Mahlua shrugged. "Don't think of it as cheating. Think of it as… a little magically assisted costume design. Pub-tan didn't make any rules against magic."
        "That's because…" started Vacant, "that's because the only rule was 'show up in a costume'! It should have been self evident you couldn't use special powers to get a leg up on people!"
        "Oh yeah?" Asked Mahlua. "And what was your ace in the hole that you definitely didn't have planned to sway the judges?"
        Vacant took an afronted step back. "I! Err… I was going to do a sexy little dance?... " He admitted sheepishly.
        "Well," Mahlua sighed, "I guess that makes us even. But in this case, a 'sexy little dance' isn't going to help us take down a pinwheel eyeball God from our Neolithic past."
        Vacant said. "I admit, that is the only fault with my 'sexy little dance' plan."
        The ground shook violently, and the two raiders were forced to brace themselves against the curved brick wall of the sewer tunnel.
        "Wait a minute!" Yelled Vacant over the road of quaking earth. "We started right next to the pub! If we only needed to get right below it, then how haven't we made it there yet?!"
        The shaking subsided, and the pair released their purchase on the brickwork. Mahlua said. "Well… the tunnels. They're not in the right place. They're actively changing, might be the better way to put it."
        Vacant stared blankly for a moment before coming back with "Ah…"
        With that out of the way. Mahlua dropped to the ground, pulled a piece of chalk out from her costume, and began sketching a sigil onto the brick pathway. Vacant couldn't make heads or tails of it, but after a few minutes of drawing with only the occasional rumbling coming from above, it was done. Magical energy built up in Mahlua's right arm, and she discharged it into the sigil. The chalk lines took on the same purple glow as her tattoos, and when it did the air in the space seemed to shift. Vacant hadn't been able to put his finger on it until now. He had been feeling uneasy from the very start of this party vibe ruining event, but that unease had tripled ten fold after going into the sewer system. The unease was passing now, or at least returning to normal levels.
        Mahlua was back on her feet now, and placing the chalk back where it had come from. "That should be strong enough to get us about a third of the way. All I've done was pin down a small area of space. I'll need to do this a few more times to get us all the way to where I set up this morning."
        Vacant rolled his eyes. "Pfft. Yeah, sure, I knew that. Magic circle mumbo jumbo abracadabra. Basic magic one-oh-one. You handle the magic stuff. I'll take care of any creepy raider puppets that come out way." He whipped out the toy revolvers strapped to his hips. "Bang! Bang!"
        Vacant had struck a gunfighter's pose, and now it was Mahlua's turn to roll her eyes. "Sure thing Vacant. I'll trust that your totally misplaced confidence in colorful plastic toy guns won't be your undoing."
        "What was that?" Asked Vacant with a wry smile as he holstered his 'weapons'.
        "Nothing." Replied Mahlua.

        At this moment of rest in our story. It might be a good idea to address the earth quakes. Not all of MangaRaiders was experiencing these earthquakes at the present moment, although all of them were most certainly dealing with the fact that the moon had been replaced by a giant bleeding pinwheel eyeball. Yes there was that, but more concerning to the raiders experiencing them were the earthquakes.
        Earthquakes were a strange enough event on MangaRaiders anyway. The Net was not a place naturally predisposed to natural disasters after all. If your site experienced them, it usually meant one of two things. Either your coding was bad and had some bugs in it, in which case you should petition your administration to fix the problem, or, and this second one was really the more concerning, something or someone was causing said earthquakes.
        This would be the second case in case you weren't following. Except that to call what the people of MangaRaiders were experiencing earthquakes would not quite be accurate. Sure enough the ground was shaking, but it was doing it rhymically almost. Bump. Bump. Bump. Bump. One after the other, getting larger, bit by bit by bit by bit.
        No one realized it yet. But these earthquakes weren't earthquakes. They weren't earthquakes at all. They were footsteps, and they were getting closer to MR Tower.

Manga Writer workshop / Black Friday: 2nd Annual One-Day-One-Shot
« on: November 26, 2019, 12:38:45 PM »
It's that time of year again people! If you weren't around last year, here's the premise: Take a single day (be it actual black Friday if you're American (this Friday, btdubs) or this Saturday if you're from literally everywhere else, to conceive, write, edit, and post a story right here in this very topic! The rules continue to be simple:

The story must be:
  • Self-contained
  • At least 1000 words long
  • Written within 24 hours

Like last year, I will be on the front lines with you (I'm gunning for a 10,000 word short story so I also qualify for that milestone for Operative's nanowrimo topic), but as stated above you only need 1000 for this challenge. Since all stories should be short, I want to encourage everyone to also throw some critiques out there! But remember this is ultimately just for the love of the game and to get people writing as we slide into the long holiday morass. Gotta keep our minds sharp!

Good luck and happy writing!

Manga Creations / MR: War Arc: Coryn: Part 1
« on: June 09, 2019, 08:45:49 PM »
And the War Arc rolls on! We got a series of more personalized stories coming out to continue the story! Each of these will be written by a single one of our authors, so you'll get to see a whole handful of individual styles on display!



A spring day passed on MangaRaiders as many a spring day had passed before. People went about their business. Some of it was personal, some of it was for work. Men and women occupied MR Tower and monitored the city to keep it free from intruders. Others enjoyed a drink during a free moment, or even took their mid-day meal in one of the city’s many parks. All throughout the streets, MangaRaiders’ occupants took the time to enjoy the warming rays of the sun, glad to feel free of the frigid winds of winter. Even the cherry-blossoms blanketed the roads and pathways with their fair colored petals.
   From this description, one might assume that all was as it should be.
   And depending who you asked, that just might be true.
   There was just one problem. That problem was that while people went about their business, while men and women monitored the city’s safety, while others enjoyed a drink or a meal, while the occupants soaked in the sun and the pink petals fell, while all of the good things about spring took place at exactly the right time that they should, the people who were enjoying those things were not the raiders themselves.
   The raiders sat locked up in camps, or huddled in their no longer private homes. They huddled in dark buildings and underground. They scurried past patrols while no one was looking, or bent their heads in reverence, out of fear that they would join their brothers and sisters in the camps if they didn’t. They stood in far away places, looking into the sky, hoping that in all the intricacies of the Net, that they were somehow looking in their true home’s direction, but knowing they may never return.
   The raiders were scattered and quelled by the might of the Lost Chorus. And no matter how warmly the sun might shine, or how gently the petals might fall, none of them could take solace in the beauty that spring brought forth.
   So was the situation that MangaRaiders found itself in during the first spring of 4Kids’ occupation. But for all Bethuw’el and his Lost Chorus had changed, even the vaunted general could not keep night from following the day. As the day waned on, the sun dipped below the horizon, the moon emerged, and the warmth of spring gave way to the chill of night. Jackets and coats emerged from lockers and closets, and both 4Kids and the surviving raiders hunkered down for another cool night.
   All, that was, except for a notable handful.

   At Fuel and Chemical Depot 11, a pair of Lost Chorus soldiers patrolled the catwalks over the hulking vats of vehicle fuel. The white painted containers were covered with sturdy lids, so they did not worry about the possibility of falling into the fume heavy mixture below them. Leaving explosive fuel open to the air would have been foolish, and 4Kids was anything but. No, no stray ember or absent mindedly flicked cigarette could affect them. What the two soldiers worried about was something far more tangible.
   For the first two months of occupation, 4Kids had presided over a quiet city. Any open resistance from the native population had been squashed within a week. Those responsible had been carted off for interrogation and ‘special’ reeducation. And so, the first few months had passed in peace. But in the two and a half months since, a little bit of hell had broken loose. Someone, or a group of someones, had been carrying out attacks against 4Kids installations. They had always struck under cover of darkness, and while not always deadly, they had succeeded in causing headaches among the upper ranks. As a precaution against further strikes, command had doubled the guard at what had been dubbed ‘sensitive locations’. Of course, fuel depots were chief among those.
   One of the soldiers looked down at the enclosed lot that held the two massive fuel containers. A mix of prefabricated buildings and canvas tents filled out the rest of the site. Between them, she could see other patrols, all keeping a sharp eye on the facility. The math was simple to her. There were twice as many guards here than was needed, at least three dozen. The insurgents were estimated to be less than half a dozen in number. In the worst case scenario, they outnumbered them six-to-one. It would have been suicide to attack Depot 11. No matter how brazen the raiders had proven to be in the past, the only answer any reasonable person could be expected to come to was that resistance was futile. The insurgents' only course of action have to submit themselves to the order and unity of 4Kids. Their only other option was death.
   The soldier took in a deep breath through her nose, and let it out through her mouth. The depot was safe, she and her comrades would see to that. 4Kids reigned supreme, the raiders would not last until the end of the month.
   She relaxed, just a little.
   That was the exact moment she felt a knife plunge into her neck.
   The 4Kids guard fell still in the masked raider’s arms. Across the catwalk, he could see as his partner silenced the other guard just a moment later. In unison, they stripped the pair of their helmets and rifles. The bodies were tipped over the catwalks, only to fall a few feet onto the fuel tank lids. A soft ‘thud’ rang out as the dead soldiers landed, but it was not enough to alert the guards below. If anyone had looked up, they would have only seen two figures patrolling at a studious and practiced pace. The quick disguises would not fool anyone taking an close look, but the raiders had placed their faith in the rest of the guards not taking too much interest in them. If two shapes were moving through the darkness five minutes ago, two shapes moving through the darkness now would not raise the alarm.
   That was for the rest of their team to do.

   In the front right corner of the depot, another soldier was walking by on patrol. Just as he turned the corner, an object bounced off his helmet. At first he was only startled, and he looked up to see if there were some obvious explanation for what had hit him. He saw only the top of the high wall surrounding the depot, and heard no movement. So instead, he looked for what had hit him. When he laid eyes on the object, his eyes nearly burst out of his skull. Laying on the ground right next to one of the chemical sheds, he saw a live grenade.
   Years of training kicked in, and the soldier rushed to lay himself over the explosive. He would surely die in the act, but it was his only chance of saving the chemical shed the bomb was threatening to detonate. After all, the life of a single soldier was worth far less than the collateral damage the loss of the important chemicals would cause to the Lost Chorus. His legs pumped hard, and he dove for the grenade. It went off while he was still in the air.

   A ball of fire erupted in the corner of the depot as the chemical shed went up. At once, every soldier within the walls was rushing for the flames. After all, if they didn’t put them out, there would be a much bigger explosion to worry about once the fire reached the main fuel tanks.
   Every soldier that was, except for the two on top of the fuel tanks. The two raiders kept the helmets and rifles on. Both for protection and defense, and for the off chance that if another soldier spotted them, that the sight of a 4Kids helmet might be enough to dismiss them at a distance. They slid down the tanks’ ladders, and made straight for a tent on the far side of the storage depot from the exploded chemical shed. Both rifles snapped up as they burst inside the canvas flaps, and prepared to fire on any enemy occupants. To their relief, the found only one living soul inside, and it was the one they were hoping to see. Another raider stood amongst the crates. He wore the same face masks that they did, a simple cloth that hid the everything below the eyes, and a hood which covered the hair. It was a simple affair, but it kept their faces off the cameras. With everything else going on in the city, they needed even the meager advantage anonymity still provided.
   As their rifles went back down, the man in the tent spoke to them. His expression was unreadable, but his intentions were clear through his voice. They needed to hurry.
   “Swift 2, grab everything from your list that you can find. Swift 3, cover the entrance. Let us know if you see anyone coming.”
   Swift 2 nodded and set to work, while Swift 3 slid his back up against the tent’s ‘door’ and peered through the slim opening. With luck, his black clothing would keep any passing soldiers from noticing him through the gap. Behind his back he could hear the other two rustling through the crates, boxes, and cylinders as quietly as possible. There were some noises that could not be avoided, but the inferno raging on the depot’s far side drowned out most of it. As they worked, he shot back a question. “Any word from Swift 4, Swift Leader?”
   The man they had found in the tent, Swift Leader, replied. “She’ll be halfway back to base by now if they haven’t captured her.” He was shoving samples of the stored materials into a backpack. “Swift 4 will be fine. Just concentrate on what’s going on out there. What can you see?”
   “The fire is spreading, it’s nearly halfway to the big tanks.”
   Swift leader opened his mouth to acknowledge the situation, but was cut short as a voice cut through the permeable canvas of the tent. “Hey! Who’s in there?!”
   “*censored*!” swore Swift Leader under his breath. He turned towards Swift 2 and tossed him his backpack. “Get that out of here. The supply run is over. Swift 3, we’re causing a distraction.”
   Swift 2 tossed Swift Leader the stolen rifle in exchange, and made ready to slip out under the back flap of the tent. “Good luck!”
   “Won’t need it, but thanks.” said Swift Leader as he cocked the rifle. He joined Swift 3 at the entrance, and listened. The fire was positively howling in the background now, and the acrid smell of burning chemical stung their noses. But past all of it, they could detect the sound of approaching footsteps as they crunched over the gravel.
   After a countdown on Swift Leader’s fingers, the pair burst out of the tent, rifles raised. Just outside the tent, they found a 4Kids officer flanked by a pair of guards. Normally the members of Swift Team would have had a disadvantage in this match-up, but right now the 4Kids soldiers weren’t prepared for a surprise attack. The raiders were, so they dropped the guards while the officer was still reaching for his sidearm. Swift 3 dropped him before he even had it out of its holster, but now their secret was out. Even the inferno, glowing brightly in multiple colors as it ate through the stored chemicals, was not noisy enough to mask gunshots.
   The smart move for the two remaining members of Swift Team would be to retreat over the wall behind them, but that could inhibit Swift 3’s retreat. So instead, they rushed forward. The first few guards they met were still easy pickings, but as more gunfire filled the night air, the rest came to the correct conclusion about what was happening. The correct move, in the eyes of 4Kids, was to overwhelm the insurgents and put and end to their attacks then and there. Many guards chose that approach, but the towering flames had a way of cutting right into the reptilian brains of even the most hardened and well trained 4Kids soldier. In turn, Swift Leader and Swift 2 had a much easier fight on their hands, but it was still unwinnable. Almost the moment they met organized resistance, they had to start falling back. Their fighting retreat was spurred on as much by the soldiers and their guns as it was by the brilliant flames. The fire had reached the main tanks, and it was steadily climbing up their sides. White paint blackened and peeled off in great ribbons as the flames ascended. There were protections built into the containers for such a situation, but they could only delay the inevitable. At last, the remaining steadfast soldiers decided it was time to make a run for it. Swift Team made the same decision at almost the exact same moment, and together the two groups began sprinting in the opposite direction.
   Because of this maneuver, Swift Team did not notice as one of the fleeing guards decided to throw a grenade of her own. It was a last ditch effort, and she threw it wide, but when it went off, it exploded another storage tent that was yet to catch fire.
   A tent that just happened to be right next to Swift Team.
   Swift 3 was far enough away that the blast only knocked him to the ground, Swift Leader however, was much closer. Although the shockwave and shrapnel did not reach him, he could not evade a flaming mass of chemical goop that was ejected from the tent. The searing chemicals caught him across the face. It latched onto his mask and hood, and sent him to the ground. In shock, he sucked in a breath of superheated air which flooded into his lungs through his facemask. But the shock did not last long, and the materials he wore were resistant to such things. Swift Leader reached up with gloved hands and tore off both garments. Neither were connected directly the the rest of his clothing, so both came away easily. Swift Leader tossed both to the ground, and took in another breath of cool, if foul air to calm the fury in this throat and lungs. The damage would put him out of commision for a few days, but they still had enough medicine that he would not suffer permanent scarring. A minor relief, given the pain he was experiencing in the moment, but a welcome one.
   Swift 3 had recovered before Swift Leader, and his eyes went wide in shock at seeing his compatriot unmasked. “Your mask! The surveillance!”
   “It’s too late now!” shouted back Swift Leader. “The smoke should be covering us by now anyway! Let’s get out before reinforcements show up!”
   With that word, the pair made for the perimeter. They scaled the fence, and dropped into the darkness of the alleyway beyond. They would be far away by the time the big vats went off, although the shockwave still proved to be more than enough to send them to the ground. Thankfully, the local 4Kids presence was more concerned with getting the blaze under control than they were with capturing those who had caused it. The insurgents of Swift Team would live for another day.
   Of course, there were still those who aimed to see they wouldn’t see a third.

   MR Tower still teemed with activity, courtesy of the Lost Chorus’s upper echelons. Military command had taken control of the upper levels, intelligence commanded the middle, and general administration had taken the rest. There were, of course, exceptions to this structure. Some floors were reserved for special reasons. Some served as officer barracks, others were dedicated to studying the raider relics found there. But one in particular, served as a scientific lab for a very unique member of the Lost Chorus leadership. And it just so happened to be the floor that Major Narcissus found himself currently traversing.
   Narcissus strode along the long corridors with a jaunty tune whistling out between his lips. He clasped his hands firmly behind the small of his back. They held something that he found very interesting indeed, and he intended to share it with the class.
   Aides, lower ranking officers all, passed him in the winding corridors. Each came to a halt to give him a sharp salute when their moment came. Maybe a word of acknowledgement would follow, but the major ignored each and every one of them. Narcissus had a much bigger fish he needed to talk to.
   Well, two, technically. But Narcissus thought of the other more like a fighting dog. Caged, but always rearing to be set free. The imagery brought a smile to the man’s face, and Narcissus carried it with him as he passed into the room he was looking for.
   The space took up the central portion of the floor. It was dark inside, lit only by a scant few overhead lights and the light of dozens of computer screens. Each station was occupied by a member of 4Kids’ research division, but Narcissus was not interested in what they were doing. Instead, he concentrated on the far wall, where his targets that morning awated him, even if they did not yet know it.
   “4Kids-tan! R-Kain! It brings a smile to my face and warmth to my heart to see you two getting along so well! May I join you for a moment?” Asked Narcissus with a grin. It was an order disguised as a question, and neither had any choice but to humor him. Not that R-Kain had any other options in that moment. He was held firm and undressed by a contraption which he was placed in the middle of. His forearms and lower legs disappeared into metal bindings which connected him to a floating metal ring that encircled his whole body. Lights flashed along the ring's surface, and Narcissus could trace long tubes of fluid from the bindings, through the ring, and into a bulky computer system which sat adjacent to the circle. Beside this stood 4Kids-tan, who seemed to be monitoring the goings-on with a handheld screen. She looked at him with disdain, but knew better than to assert her own priorities over his.
   “Major Narcissus,” she said with practiced ease. “to what do we owe the pleasure? As you can see I am just performing my weekly examination of R-Kain’s physiology.”
   “Ah, yes,” cooed Narcissus. “more blood from the failed tan to fuel your research on the real ones. How goes that, by the way?”
   4Kids-tan shook her head. “My headway is slow, but I am beginning to glean useful information. It is not often that we have access both to the original sample, and their copy, even if he is corrupted.”
   At this insult, R-Kain sneered at Narcissus. “What is it that you want? I am not here for your amusement!”
   Narcissus made a ‘tut-tut’ noise with his tongue and shook his head. “Of course you aren’t my dear boy! You are here to serve at the pleasure of Bethuw’el! No, I bring you today a piece of information I think you will find interesting. 4Kid-tan, if I may.” The major gestured at an unused computer terminal that stood nearby, and the tan nodded in agreement.
   “It’s yours to use. Just a moment, I will let R-Kain down. I have all that I need for today.”
   A minute later, R-Kain and 4Kids-tan joined Narcissus at the station. R-Kain was yet to put his uniform back on, but Narcissus excused his lack of protocol. He was a man that valued function over form, and it would not serve their purpose to have R-Kain waste time by rerobing. With a small sense of personal satisfaction, Narcissus opened the file he had uploaded to the terminal. On the screen now played a video. Neon flames and thick black smoke was all that the three 4Kids leaders could see. Every once in a while, a small glimpse of the ground beyond could be glimpsed, but they only lasted a moment, and showed nothing. Even still, Narcissus smiled widely. “This, my compatriots, is footage from last night’s attack on FCD 11. Do you notice anything?”
   R-Kain shrugged with a huff. “Just fire and smoke. Cut to the chase. What do you want us to see?”
   “I concur with R-Kain,” said 4Kids-tan. “we do not have time to waste, major.”
   Narcissus sighed, and began sliding his cursor along the video’s timeline. “Neither, of you have any flair for the dramatic do you? Nevertheless, I shall indulge you. Now, see here.” He pointed at a seemingly random point on the screen, which showed only smoke, and set the video to play back at a fraction of normal speed. Then, one frame at a time, the smoke parted, and a face was revealed. A moment later the smoke collapsed once again, but Narcissus placed the cursor back to the time signature in question, and left the video paused.
   There, frozen in digital time, was the face of Swift Leader, he was breathing hard, twisted around for a reason that wasn’t apparent. His hair was mussy, and he had let his usual stubble grow into a short beard in the time since he was last seen, but his visage was unmistakable.
   On the screen in front of them, almost completely obscured by smoke, but very much alive, was Coryn Sken.
   R-Kain took a step back with shock, but did not let it show on his face. Narcissus though, smiled at knowing he had put Azazel’s failed experiment on the backfoot. The major turned to R-Kain. “Indeed, it seems the ex-moderator is not as dead as you lead us to believe, R-Kain. Perhaps you can enlighten us to why you have spread such a destructive lie?”
   R-Kain did not rise to the prompt. “So he’s not dead? So what? I kicked his ass the first time, and I can do it again. You can just-!”
   The fiery experiment was about to go into a tirade, but 4Kids-tan cut him short with her own words. “So I take it Sken has been the cause of this insurgency then? You are implying that, aren’t you major?”
   The tan was perceptive as always, and Narcissus gave her a nod of appreciation. “Indeed, which is where R-Kain comes in.” He turned towards the man, who was still trying to swallow his words from a moment earlier. Narcissus continued without waiting for R-Kain to finish. “You are to hunt down Sken and his insurgents, and to wipe them out for good this time. Am I clear?”
   He had been, but R-Kain felt the need to push for more. “I’m only one being. I’ll need to requisition some things.”
   Narcissus waved the request off casually. “Of course, of course. But you had better do your job right this time. If not, the general may not be so courteous to you.”
   R-Kain narrowed his eyes. “He won’t need to be.”
   The major met the expression with his own equivalent. He accepted R-Kain’s claim with the exact amount of malice he felt necessary. “No, he won’t. Now get dressed. I want you on the hunt by this afternoon. Dismissed!”

Manga Creations / MR: War Arc: Invasion
« on: January 13, 2019, 07:20:27 PM »
Ladies and gentleman, Raiders all, I am very pleased to present you with the latest MR Canon project.

MangaRaiders: War Arc

War Arc is the creation of Fro, Lego, Mahlua, and myself. We started working on this project back in June when Fro brought up the idea of having a truly large and ambitious MR project. War Arc is what we created out of that concept.

War Arc shouldn't be thought of as a single story, but a family of stories. This is why we are calling it an 'arc', in the sense that you might see one in tv shows or comic books. We have plans for a whole slew of stories that are going to take place under the War Arc banner. Invasion is only the beginning of this ride, and will serve as the jumping off point for what we expect to be a full year of MR Canon goodness.

So without further ado, I give you MR: War Arc: Invasion, a story by Fronomenal, Legomaestro, Mahluaandmilk, and yours truly, Coryn Sken!


In years past, an organization known as 4Kids held the Net in the grip of terror. They wished to rebuild the world in their image, a world in which subversiveness and creativity were distant memories. To create a monoculture which would reign over all that was left of humanity. And so, they launched a holy war in the name of censorship, control, and unity through force.
        Their armies were unrivaled. The loyalty of their soldiers beyond reproach. Like a creeping vine, 4Kids spread its tendrils out amongst the Net. What started as the twisted vision of a few soon expanded beyond the founders’ wildest dreams. 4Kids grew its own legends as site after site fell before it. The Demons of the Censorship Unit. The Last Stand of the 5th Division. The Unbreakable General Bethuw'el. The Mad Technopriest Junia. Azazel the Redeemed. The Burning of the Cherubs. True moments and people, turned into myths for the glorification of 4Kids.
        But despite all this, despite their power, despite their ideals, despite their legends and their heroes, 4Kids still fell.
        They suffered the fate of empires.
        They were destroyed not by an outside force, but from internal weakness. Eventually their reach exceeded their grasp, and they were not strong enough to pull themselves back up before falling off of the edge. They rotted from within, and paid the ultimate price for their negligence.
        Their tyranny was gone. The names of their legends, their heroes, their myths, all passed from common knowledge. What remained of their ranks slunk away into dark corners beyond the sight of the common people, and 4Kids was no more.
        Unfortunately, no one considered that once something becomes a myth, it becomes much harder to kill.

        There was a special place in MangaRaiders, reserved only for a few distinct individuals. They were the former 4Kids agents Akan and Achan. During the fall of 4Kids, they had been engaged in a battle with the Raiders, and were subsequently taken as prisoners. Ever since, they had resided in this special floor of MR Tower.
        Not that the accommodations were unpleasant. On the contrary, the Raiders had furnished a reasonable living space for the two. They had private bedrooms, a vast backlog of books and films, great skyline views, and even the occasional guided walk outside (albeit, one heavily monitored by MR’s administrators). Still, house arrest was house arrest. No matter where they went in the apartment, they could feel eyes on them. Their meals were carefully selected for them. Any technology they could use to contact the outside world was forbidden. Even basic toiletries had to pass inspection. But perhaps all that was still a small price to pay for trying to destroy the world of the Raiders.
        The two were occupied in the living room. Years of physical training under their general, Digamma, had left them with a strict routine that they continued to live by, and so they willed away the mid-morning with mental and physical exercise. All furniture had been cleared away, and they engaged in hand-to-hand training. Achan had always been the fighter of the two. Akan was just a hacker, but neither were the physical type. It was why they pushed themselves so hard in this arena. To them there was no point in overtraining their natural talents. It would have been a waste of time anyway. Achan’s guns had been confiscated, as was anything Akan could had even hoped to use as a computer. They were without the tools of their trade, and so they fell back on what they did have.
        Akan grabbed Achan by the horn and used her leverage. She sent Achan over her head, but the taller woman wasn’t done. Achan’s feet found the floor long before Akan could follow through with the throw, and she reversed the hold. Before Akan knew it, she was on her back, and Achan stood victorious. “Twenty-one to nineteen. It’s my win today.” Achan extended a hand to lift her opponent up, but Akan batted it away.
        “We’re wasting our time.” Akan lowered her head and sulked. Their imprisonment had been weighing heavily on both of them recently. The holidays had just passed, and being forced to watch their wardens go about their lives happily struck a painful blow. It did every year, but now as the sixth year of their captivity began, it was like the knife was being twisted. For a while, they had hung on to a vague hope that 4Kids would rally and come to their rescue, but that hope soon faded to disappointment. That they could handle, but now it was as if a new emotion controlled their lives. It wasn’t just a sense of betrayal, but a sense of powerlessness. They had tried to escape, to bargain, to plead, but the Raiders had remained unmoved. The demons of the former Censorship Unit now believed they would remain there forever, trapped like beautiful birds in a cage.
        Both knew what they were feeling, but Achan was yet to let herself show it so openly. She opened her mouth to say some words of encouragement, even if she didn’t believe them herself. That’s when they heard it.
A knock at the door.
        They both looked to the door to their apartment. Beyond it lay a man-trap, a secured passageway that could only be opened on one end at a time. Usually they could hear the mechanisms concealed within it as soon as someone began to access the far door, but this time there had been nothing. Had they simply not noticed during the match? Possibly, but there was another problem. The knock itself was unusual. It was dull, heavy, and there was only one. One single, impossibly loud knock. Just as they were about to question whether or not they had heard anything at all, a second knock came. Then a third, and finally a fourth. An announcement should have been made. A request to stand back, to put their hands on their heads. Cameras would have been able to tell whoever was there to see the demons whether or not the orders had been complied. But no such orders arrived, and now, the seals were engaged on their door. It was opening, by someone who clearly did not know the procedure. Or, by someone who did not care.
        The door opened slowly, and to their surprise, Akan and Achan were greeted by a single guest specter. The pale gray creatures were common throughout the Net, but one had never come to them in this way. Even more unexpected, it was holding something. An unescorted specter with a mysterious object, and it had come to pay them a visit? This was no action of the Raiders.
        The guest specter took a few paces into the room and stopped. It located the two women, and raised its arm. Its ‘hand’ turned, and it revealed a small, black object. The item almost looked like a yo-yo, but then it began to light up. Soft red light illuminated the device’s circumference, and a red point grew on its side grew into a circle. Finally, the circle flickered, and in the air before the specter, stood they hazy outline of a man in silhouette. It was so generic that it could have been anyone, but when the figure spoke, both Akan and Achan recognized him immediately. Hoarse, light, prideful. Anyone who didn’t know the man would have called it sniveling. Anyone who did wouldn’t dare to call it anything. “Good morning my beautiful demons! How have you been?”
        It was a dead man speaking to them. A specter in his own right, supposed to only survive in memory. But now, in the light of day, a new truth was emerging. Major Narcissus still lived, and he had gone through an awful lot of trouble to pay them a visit.

        Coryn and Mahlua were bent over a pile of blueprints on a table inside what looked like an abandoned (or never occupied in the first place) shopping mall. They had spent the days between participating in yet another unsuccessfully Great Raid and the annual New Years party drawing them up. That, and recovering from the usual array of life threatening injuries. Each of the plans was created from memory, and they were going through the process of eliminating any inconsistencies between them. “The trebuchets were earlier in the course.” Said Mahlua.
        “I’m certain they weren’t” Replied Coryn.
        “That’s because you lose your memories directly leading up to being knocked unconscious.” Mahlua mimicked getting hit in the head with her index finger.
        Coryn sighed. “Your own memories deceive you I think. I was merely resting my eyes. I knew you guys had it well in hand.”
        Mahlua rolled her eyes. “Suuure you did.”
        The cyborg winked his robot eye at her, while nonchalantly exing out the offending mistake on his drawings. “Sure did.”

        Lego was doing his absolute best to explode the punching bag before him with just his fist. In his defense, he was getting pretty good results. A pile of torn up bags was accumulating in the corner of the expansive room. The only mark against him was that he insisted on using members of the Fighters’ Division to hold the bags steady while he practiced.
        Another punch sent the current bag reeling, and Fortis had to jam his bony feet into the gym floor to keep from being sent flying right along with it. As it settled back down, he poked his head out from around the bag. “L-Lego, I know training is important and all, but isn’t Coach Fro going to be mad that you keep destroying all this equipment? I mean, you aren’t even a member of the division…”
        Lego just smirked at him. “That bastard owes me anyway! He thinks he’s so strong, but he’s never beat me in a fair fight! Not even once!” Without warning, Lego sent another hook flying into the bag, and the canvas finally gave way. Fortis released the bag as its sand poured out onto the wood floor of the gym. Lego just pointed his thumb back at himself. “And don’t think for a second that he has a better afro than I do! Fro may be your coach, but he’s still a thousand years too young to realize that a great afro doesn’t rely on magic to be powerful!”
        Fortis had started hauling the defeated bag off long before Lego had finished his soliloquy. “I’ll never understand those two…”

        Fro, meanwhile, was trying his hand at a new business idea. He was just outside the MR Pub, and had set up a small stand. It was reminiscent of a kid selling lemonade on a hot summer’s day, except he was a fully grown man, and it was a bitingly cold 13th of January. Fro knew this was coming however, and indeed he had been looking for it specifically. For Fro wasn’t selling lemonade like some chump from the 1950’s. No, this was truly an ascended level of curbside refreshment. He proudly served hot orange Kool-Aid, and was hocking it towards anyone looking to enter the pub. His current target was Robin. She was just going in for a second sip, and Fro hoped that it was because it delicious, and not just because it was a good way to warm up. “So? What do you think Robin? I’m open to investors if you’re interested?”
        Robin set down the glass. “It’s not bad! Although...maybe it’s a little too sweet? How much sugar did you put into this stuff anyway?”
        Fro gulped. He had forgotten to account for the fact that warm liquids can hold more dissolved solids than cold ones. Now, Fro knew his orange Kool-Aid, so he had gone beyond simply adding sugar by archaic measurement. Instead, he added sugar until the could tell that the drink was ready by its coloration. In this moment however, it had backfired on him. The afroed man quietly decided not to tell Robin about this fact, and pushed ahead. “Haha! Well, it’s to my own personal tastes, so part of this is adjusting it to a wider pallet!” Fro made his best ‘this is totally what I meant to happen’ face as Robin waved goodbye. He hung his head once she was out of sight however, and for a moment, just for a moment, contemplated calling it quits. “Oh hell no!” Fro leapt from his folding chair. “I’m going until I make everyone a true disciple of the the nectar from the gods!”
        He was about to go into further jubilation, when the Pub’s door swung open, and Pub-tan stepped out. “Hey! I already told you to keep it down out here! You’re going to scare off customers!”
        Fro slumped back into his chair. “Yes ma’am…”

        Narcissus’s crooked form met Akan’s and Achan’s confused faces. It was a terrible connection, but that wasn’t the problem in their minds. Narcissus had been presumed dead for more than a year before 4Kids actually fell. He shouldn’t have been talking to them at all, let alone through such means. Despite the questions that wanted to break forth, Akan and Achan fell back on years of instilled discipline.
        Akan snapped a salute, although it had long ago lost its crispness. “Major! You… I am glad to see you are alive. With all due respect sir, what happened? Why has it taken command so long to contact us?”
        It was a loaded set of questions, but the intent at least was clear. The hologram seemed to rub its chin, and Narcissus spoke. “4Kids command has disappeared, gone dark. For all intents and purposes, they no longer exist.”
        Achan took a nervous step forward. “Then-!”
        Narcissus’ hologram patted the air in front of itself. “Calm down agent. The old men at the top are not important, are they? When was the last time any of them risked their necks for any of us? No my dear girl, I am not coming to you on their behalf. We don’t follow them anymore.”
        A moment of silence passed. The Censorship Unit had been a sword of 4Kids. To believe in serving anyone else? It didn’t make any sense to either of them. Akan spoke. “Sir… I… Please explain.”
        Narcissus seemed to sigh, then again, it could have just been interference. “My poor girl, who did you really follow? It wasn’t Command, was it? No, you followed Digamma! I followed my own general! In the field, the words of men who sat safely at headquarters meant nothing to us! We were soldiers! But to them? We were just numbers on a screen.”
        “I don’t follow.” Was Achan’s reply.
        Narcissus spread out his arms. “We are soldiers! And we must do as soldiers must do! We are bringing war!" He let his arms down. “And we are bringing war to you.”
        An ice cold chill raced down their spines. Narcissus either didn’t notice, or didn’t care. Akan wondered if he could even seen them right now. In either case, Narcissus continued on his own. “I presume you are familiar with the story of the Lost Chorus aren’t you?”
        Achan gulped down her fright at the mention of the name. “When 4Kids was beginning to fall, they marched out into the Net. An army of men made up of only the most devout. But it was a suicide mission. They were destroyed.”
        Narcissus made a ‘tisk’ noise with his tongue, like he was scolding a child. “No my dear, you are quite incorrect.” What followed was a pregnant silence. The hologram continued without the input of the two women however. Narcissus gestured to the sky. He seemed caught up in the moment, generating all of the emotion he needed by himself. “The Lost Chorus is calling for you now! Akan Octa, Achan Heptadelta, you are summoned to serve!”
        Narcissus dropped his hands, and with them the pitch of his voice. Akan and Achan had to strain to hear him, but Narcissus’s words were clear. “MangaRaiders shall burn, and it is by your hands that it shall be done.”

Look out for Chapter 2 next week!

break Room / Happy Birthday Vacant!
« on: November 17, 2018, 08:46:49 AM »
Happy birthday to you, you old codger! He may not make it around much anymore, but he's still a major part of the MR:HH to this day, so why the hell not have a topic about it?

Happy birthday!

Manga Writer workshop / Black Friday: One-Day-One-Shot!
« on: November 11, 2018, 07:09:25 PM »
Hey y'all! So I know November can be intense for writers what with holidays and nanowrimo and all that. I'm feeling the grind myself, but I thought it would be fun to still do an 'of the moment' story, similar to nanowrimo, but on a much smaller scale.

So here's the set-up, and I am admittedly biased here. But Thanksgiving in america is November 22nd, and the day after is black friday, which is a day a lot of us will have free to do basically nothing. Instead of just sleeping off the turkey haze however, I'm proposing something of a mini writing event! The One-Day-One-Shot! (patent pending). Basically we take the day to write a story. The rules are simple and as follows:

The story must be:
  • Self-contained
  • At least 1000 words long
  • Written within 24 hours

Just post your stories here for everyone to enjoy! Since they should all be short little reads, I also want to see people reading and critiquing each others. I'll of course be here to set a good example, so I hope to see some of you along side me!

Happy writing!

FanFics / Bleach MR: Memories Unto The Dawn
« on: April 22, 2018, 05:42:56 PM »
That's right folks! It's the exciting continuation to the Bleach MR universe that literally nobody knew was going to ever happen until the moment I wrote this chapter last December and just now got around to editing and fleshing out what the story was actually going to be about in my head!

But seriously, I'm here to do this little spin off of mine justice this time around, instead of just cobbling together a story before the deadline came like I did last time. So here's the first chapter, enjoy!


Captain Noisey of the 10th Division strolled down the wide avenues of the Seireitei, a gentle puff-puff of water vapor following him wherever he went. He pulled his woolen scarf tighter as he walked, a feeble attempt to keep out the cold. “Those two had better have ordered some tea for when I get there…” The captain murmured to no one in particular. It was just as well, for the streets were nearly free of souls, as anyone without business was keeping indoors to avoid the winter chill. It went without saying that this included his vice-captain, who was perfectly satisfied to stay at headquarters and bury her thoughts in one of the many esoteric books she kept on her person at seemingly all times. ‘I’ll be just fine by myself.’, she had said, 'Although I would prefer if you bring back a few things, since you're going out anyway.’ she had continued, with just enough inflection in her voice to make it clear that she would prefer for her captain to take his time, and not bother her for a few hours.
        In fact, after looking at the list, Noisey wasn't entirely sure it was all legal. But he had been in the game long enough to understand that if you were a captain, you let your vice-captain get away with the little indiscretions, so that they would let you get away with the big ones. It was after all, ultimately within a captain's purview to challenge the chain of command when the chain of command was being daft.
        And that's just the way he liked it.
        Still, he would have preferred if the chain of command was being anything. Life had been quiet in the year and a half since the Night of Maggot’s Dance, and he was beginning to wonder if it would be safe to take a long overdue holiday to the World of the Living. “Maybe someplace warm.” He remarked to himself as he reached his destination.

        “Welcome Sir! Please follow me, your table is in the back!” Chimed the waitress, and she beckoned for him to follow.
        As drinking spots went, it was passable for a respectable captain such as himself to be found there. This was, after all, still the Seireitei. But its usual clientele was going to lean closer to your average low ranking soul reaper. Still, he couldn't argue with their prices, and he was a man of his troops. It was good for morale for the captain to be seen associating with his division. Although he wished they would keep their voices to a dull roar. “Excuse me miss, but how many patrons do you have right now?”
        She seemed genuinely surprised. “Just your party sir. They arrived several hours ago.”
        Noisey's heart sank as they reach the door to his room. “In that case, I'd like an order of hot tea for the room.” As the waitress hurried off, Noisey stepped into the reserved space. Inside, Vacant, Captain of the 3rd Division, and Lego, Captain of the 11th Division were creating such a racket that it was hard to believe that only two voices were responsible for it.
        Finally settling down, Noisey was quickly accosted by Lego grabbing his collar. “Hey, hey Noisey! Check this out. Vacant, check this out!” Lego rose about half way up, reached towards where he expected his sword to be, realized he had set it on the floor next to the table, and fell over attempting to pick it up. “That time didn't count…”
        Vacant gently scratched his beard as he watched the farce happening before his eyes. “He tried the same trick half an hour ago. Didn't work then either. Glad you could make it mate. Need a drink?” He gestured at Noisey with a sake bottle, the warm liquid inside sloshing back and forth.
        “I've just ordered tea actually. But what happened to you two? Wasn't the point of this meetup to discuss joint division training?”
        Vacant took a moment to ponder the question before responding. “Well about that, Sken was supposed to be here too, but he got railroaded into giving lessons at the academy today in order to make up for destroying it last year.”
        In fact, they had all been paying a penance for their actions the previous year. Coryn had gotten off relatively lightly compared to Vacant, who had taken out the majority of the 8th Division’s barracks. The 3rd was ordered to house them in their own headquarters until that section of the Seireitei had been rebuilt. Lego had been made to cover the damages to Execution Hill, which came with a high price for restoration of such an ancient site. So all things being equal, a few classes here and there were a light sentence.
        Lego was finally upright again. “Wass they got him teaching? Stupid science it bet! Unethical!”
        “Zanjutsu I think.” Replied Vacant. “Believe it or not, he was the top ranked swordsman in our class. Not that it mattered to us much. Noisey and I were never swordsmen to begin with.” He turned back to Noisey, “So as I was telling Lego then, we should just show up early, have a few bottles, then do a cheeky bite with Coryn when he gets released.”
        “I see.” Was Noisey's only reply. He would have said more, but was interrupted by Lego.
        “Who says he's so good with a sword!”
        “I...I did?” Replied Vacant.
        Kenpachi was not impressed. “He doesn't even use his sword! Keeps it all wrapped up like a mummy! I bet I'm a better swordsman! I bet...I bet it's super small and he's just ashamed! That's why he just throws those magic lights around! I'm the Kenpachi gosh darn it!”
        Noisey was finally getting into it, and nearly busted out laughing. “Lego, mate, I think I you need to slow down.” He pushed forward the tea that had arrived while they talked. “If you got into a fight at the Academy, I'm pretty sure most of the students could take you down right now.”
        Lego smiled belligerently. “Noisey my friend, when man drinks milk, nothing is impossible!”
        “I'm going! Someone pay my tab! I'm gonna kick someone's ass!”

        The other two captains quieted the Kenpachi’s immediate bloodlust, but after a pot of tea, a quick detour to an okonomiyaki stall, and a few hours, the motley crew finally arrived at the Spiritual Arts Academy with Noisey's imposing frame leading them. Vacant was mostly himself again, but Lego was beginning to slip into 'completely useless’ territory. “Why are we here again? And where is here?”
        “It's the Academy. We're here to collect Coryn remember?”
        “Fight Sken?”
        “You know what I said. But you should know where we are, you went here.” Noisey was beginning to look worried.
        “Yesh, yes I did. But they kicked me out for 'social maladjustment’. Shows what they know, I can command people all day!” Lego said it with a degree of enthusiasm that the 10th captain found unnerving.
        “I think I liked it better when you two didn't get along.”
        They eventually found who they were looking for in one of the academy dojos. The doors were open to keep the combatants cool, and they could see Coryn standing at the center of the room, his long hair tied back. Students sat along the back wall, occasionally rising to engage their substitute teacher, only to beaten off with a few strikes, and sent back to signal the next student.
        Coryn had removed his haori, but it was clear that he was yet to break a sweat. It would take more than a few dozen recruits to challenge a captain of the Gotei 13. Noisey scratched at his beard and wondered if any of them had the potential to become captains themselves, or if they were destined to die in some far of place fighting a two-bit hollow.
        They stood and watched with varying degrees of patience. And while Coryn made no mention of them, it was clear that several of the students were growing uneasy at the site of four captains all gathered together. That, and Lego was radiating an aura of killing intent in the general direction of the universe at large, as he began to slip into a well earned hangover. Finally though, the line of students reached its end, and the class was dismissed. Coryn placed his wooden sword on a nearby rack, and donned his haori which he had left hanging besides it. “It warms my heart that you came all the way out here to get me, but it looks like you fell down a flight or three of stairs on the way. What kind of captain gets this drunk in the middle of the day?”
        Vacant replied with sarcasm laced in his voice. “Maybe it's you who has the problem! I remember when the three of us would get drunk during the day all the time!”
        Coryn sighed. “Maybe a few hundred years ago. But now we're the ones doing the fighting and dying when real trouble breaks out.”
        “Amen to that! There hasn't been enough to do around here for months!” Cried Lego, who was somewhat missing the point.
        The 12th Division captain could only shrug at the remark. “Well with that settled, let's find someplace warm and go over the details of this training program.”
        Together the captains set out. But they shared a sense of unease. Noisey had felt it on his way out of his office. Lego had felt it when his drink was first served. Vacant had woken up feeling it. And Coryn could feel it as he sparred with the Academy students. Each had dismissed it as nothing. Each was wrong.
        The captains were being watched.
        The Seireitei was being watched.
        The whole Soul Society was being watched.

Manga Creations / Quest!: A MangaRaiders Story
« on: April 15, 2018, 06:34:26 PM »
Welcome all to the next great MR Canon epic by yours truly!

This whole thing just kind of bubbled up into my mind one day more or less fully formed in it's narrative. I'm intending it to be a fun romp through the MR world which will let me expand into some new territory opened up by others recently (looking at you Fro) and to stretch some of my Snicket muscles (points if you can point out the mannerisms)

I'm also trying to adopt something of a more engaging narrator style that I sort of experimented with during last years Great Raid story. (Although this time without the grandfatherly tale conceit)

So sit back, relax, and have a laugh. It's MR baby~!


CHAPTER 1: In Which Our Heroes Have A Rude Awakening

It is a common misconception that the dwellers of the Net do not require sleep. This misconception is particularly foolish, as there is no one left alive who does not live on the Net, and they should know full well that they do. The myth persists thanks entirely to some people being too proud to admit they sleep, and all the rest being either too polite, or too sheepish to correct them. Alas, the Net’s denizens are just like the rest of us. They do require sleep, and therefore, require a place to live in which to carry out the act.
        That is where things get more complicated, and is also where this story begins.
        The residents of Manga Raiders are generally a savvy bunch, and follow most of the unspoken rules of the Net. Unspoken though they may be, they are nonetheless important. And not least among these strong suggestions, is that you don't tell people where you live. It is a commandment going back to ancient times, and none can claim to know where it originates. Despite this, the reason behind it is well remembered. The Net is dangerous, and if you give away personal information all willy nilly, you're liable to wake up with nothing left but the pajamas on your back. This is especially unfortunate for those who do not wear pajamas to bed.
        So, the unstated rules being what they are, and the Raiders being who they are, it should come as no surprise that almost nobody on Manga Raiders knows where anybody else on Manga Raiders actually lives. If you can easily discover where a Raider lives, then they are either incredibly foolish, or incredibly powerful. You should be cautious around both. But no matter how foolish or powerful they may be, it was well known (or at least heavily rumored), that Coryn Sken slept in a charging pod in the MR Science Division, Legomaestro slept with his eyes open while perched on rooftops, and MahluaandMilk retired to a forbidden temple in the clouds.
        These rumors are patently false, and suit their subjects just fine. They keep people from asking too many questions, and that is a recipe for a good night's sleep.

        Coryn stepped out of his shower into an expansive bathroom. The vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows were obscured with steam, and Coryn was forced to swipe his mirror several times in order to finish shaving. For the thousandth time he made a mental note to install heated mirrors, and for the thousandth time he forgot it as he pulled on a white bathrobe and stepped out into the cool dark of his penthouse hallway.
        It being Coryn though, it was never that simple. As a point of fact, his bathroom resided in the Artists District, while his hallway, and the open floor plan containing the other common spaces of his home resided in Central Administration. Additionally, you could find his bedroom nestled in the Writers District, his library in the outskirts of the Fashion District, and his laundry room in the Manga Sellers District. The idea had struck him after watching his apartment at the time be destroyed in a single spam ninja attack. His previous two domiciles had met similar fates, and ever since that day, he kept his home split up around the city. This made rearranging the layout a snap, and meant his commute home at night was just to whichever door was most convenient at the time. He only connected his home to a door long enough to pass inside, and then it reverted back to just another broom closet, bathroom, or his personal favorite: a few doors he had serendipitously set up which comically led to nowhere but brick walls.
        All in all, it was a great way to keep people from finding where he lived. So, as he dragged his feet down the hallway in the dim, pre-dawn light, it was no surprise that something began to strike him as a little out of place. At first he thought he was imagining it. He was still half asleep after all. There was a slight hint of food cooking in the air. A few light clinks of utensils hitting the bottom of pans. Salty smells from sizzling meats. He swore he heard a toaster going in to action. Coryn was about ready throw out his schedule for the day in order to run a full system diagnostic, when he stepped into the wide space which comprised the lion share of the penthouse. To his left, the first inklings of the day crested over the balcony railing and through his full height windows. He followed the light across his living room, through the dining area, and into his kitchen. There, at his island mounted stove top, surrounded by all the makings of a country breakfast, stood Ecchi-tan. She wore his frilly pink apron, and as Coryn’s now fully awake eyes were quick to bring to his brain's attention, nothing else.
        Coryn’s whole body went into overdrive as well rehearsed scenarios flooded his mind. With a single fluid motion, Coryn drove his hand into the drywall besides him, and whipped out the cutlass hidden within. He pointed the blade at his scantily clad house guest, who finally acknowledged his presence, and smiled up at him. “Good morning darling! Are you hungry?”

        Around fifteen minutes before this, while Coryn was washing his hair, and Ecchi-tan was dicing green peppers, Lego was still sleeping peacefully on the other side of town. His home was a mansion, tucked away in a quiet corner of the city. Here he knew he could slip in and out without much bother, and only required a cursory glance through the spyhole to know the coast was clear. However the true genius behind his hiding place is that he always described it as a mansion. This was of course, very much the case. If a Raider were by chance to find themselves inside Lego's home, without any knowledge of how they got inside, 'mansion’ is the word that would spring to mind. Although it was an auster place, filled with minimalist furniture, finishings, and possessions, the precise black and white tile work, the fine craftsmanship of everything within, and the grand scale of it all, would leave you with little doubt to what sort of domicile you stood in.
The inside however, did not tell the whole story.
        From the outside, the mansion was invisible. Not literally, of course. That would throw up more red flags than actually existing out in the open. No, it was mere figurative invisibility. So surrounded and encased by the adjacent architecture was it, that the actual form of the building could only be glimpsed at specific angles. This was how Lego had originally discovered the odd location. A particularly nasty throw down on the city streets had left him with a fleeting impression of the building as he sailed past. It was that fateful, hidden sightline that led him here, and one which he promptly disguised with foliage, along with all the others, in order to keep them that way. It left him with much to be desired in terms of sunlight, but he made do with what he had.
        Of course, not have any lights passing over his windows at night did make getting to sleep easier. This night had been no exception, and as he laid on his simple bed, he slid into a new dream. He found himself in a void, extending out above and below him in all directions. His skin felt like it was being gently caressed in silk, and he had the sensation of being in free fall. A cool breeze swept over him, and he detected a new feeling. Sudden warmth was spreading along his back, and he could feel hands moving over his shoulders and on to his chest. Lego looked down in his dream, but could not see the invisible digits which ran along his skin. For a moment, Lego felt ill at ease, but just as quickly allowed the dream logic to once again take hold. This was far from the most unpleasant dream he had ever had, and he let the surreal moment wash over him as he drank it in. The void, the warmth, the hands, the ticking of his alarm clock….
        That didn't track.
        “Wake up, my lit-tle-kit-ty-cat!” The figure behind him flipped up over Lego's body, slammed him onto his back, and proceeded to take his breath away. Not least because she had situated herself firmly on top of his diaphragm. “Good morning, Lego-kun.” Cooed Lewd-tan’s voice.
        Lego now knew his eyes to be fully open, but he still couldn't see a thing. There was only the slightest hint of silver light in the room. Not enough to see by at the best of times, but without his glasses on, it was absolutely impossible. He couldn't tell of he was actually seeing Lewd’s outline, or if it was just his eyes playing tricks on him. Finally, a few sharp breaths made it into his lungs, and Lego got out a few words. “Can I ask, what you're wearing?”
        Her response came from right next to his ear. “Less than you”. Lego jerked his head to the side, trying to catch sight of her at close range, but Lewd-tan's had already leaned back into the darkness. “I have a task for you, Le-go-maes-tro.”

        Later that morning, although not so much later that this narrative shall diverge from its swapping perspectives, the sun finally created the horizon, and the official dawn began. There was nothing unusual about this. The sun came up in the same location, at the same time, and at the same degree of brightness as it did every other day of the week. The days in which it didn't we're usually calls for alarm, but today no sirens rang out. As such, the thing which awoke Mahlua this morning was having the sun attack her windows at just the perfect angle that it was able to circumvent all the defenses of her curtains and blinds, and shine directly on her eyes.
This was possible, of course, for Mahlua’s residence. The building where she laid her head at night was no great hidden mansion, or spatially separated penthouse. It was just the loft above her studio, so no fantastical architecture protected her from the angry rays of morning light. Her abode was a simple one, packed with books, loose sketches, various esoterica, and a not so limited supply of magical items. Her bed separated the space into halves, and the grumbling witch in turn rested in the middle of the bed.
        So, one might wonder, as to how Mahlua's home has never been discovered by those who were not invited in. After all, it's right above the known location of her studio. Someone must have surely seen her go up one day, or saw her at her windows, you think to yourself. One might also wonder, how many things do or do not happen. Why does the sun rise every morning when Manga Raiders isn't on a planet? Why don't we float away since we live on a flat plane? Why doesn't Pub-tan know how to cook anything that's not deep fried? Why do I keep getting kidnapped for 'experiments’? The Net is full of questions. Most of them are boring, some of them or not. One of these questions is: Why do you keep asking about how Mahlua's home stays hidden?
        The answer is of course: Magic. It's always ‘magic’ with her. And it's because you're asking questions like that that lets her get away with a few warding sigils. Her apartment isn't a place you can find by looking for directly. You have to find it out of the corner of your eye, and then, only if you know the trick to it.
        Because of this, Mahlua did not regularly entertain guests. Neutral territory was the norm for meetings. It helped that MR was 99% neutral territory, but still, it would have been nice if she was closer to a bus stop. Despite that, Mahlua did on occasion have visitors. These were always people she trusted intimately, but she still made sure they could not so easily expose her living situation. That is to say, while it was not strictly impossible, she did not expect to find someone staring at her from the foot of her bed.
        Since you have been reading this tale, you will know that is exactly what happened.
        Mahlua made a futile effort to push the light away with a sleepy wave, by it only momentarily blocked the light so she could crack her eyes open. At first she could not be sure that someone was actually there. Tired eyes and the sandman can play tricks on your brain. But after a few moments, the image clarified, and Mahlua found herself meeting the intense stare of Artist-tan. The little Tan was sitting on a stool she had obviously drug up from the studio below, and had her signature backpack propped up next to it. The young girl was looking on at Mahlua with the kind of intensity only a child on a mission can possess. She was entirely earnest, and as Mahlua blinked at her in confusion, Artist rose her hand. “Artist! Get over here! Now, I want you to remember exactly what I'm saying and repeat it back to Mahlua in the morning. Ahem. Mahluaandmilk, you have been chosen for a great and noble purpose!”

        If you were told that a person kept swords hidden all over their home, and had plans to use them on any uninvited guests, then you would describe them as 'paranoid’. A word which here means: 'a person who believes that anyone besides themselves in their home presents a clear and present danger’. This is a good rule of thumb for most people. Then again, most people didn't fight ninjas and robots for a living, and most house guests aren't demigods. So it was that when Ecchi-tan perfectly flipped an omelette, Coryn kept the tip of his sword pointed at her. “Ecchi-tan, I don't recall inviting you in.”
        She practically chirped in response. “You left your front door unlocked!”
        Coryn knew perfectly well how his front door worked. So instead he took a few purposeful strides towards his kitchen. “Oh, we both know that's not true. And something tells me you're not making me breakfast just for the sake of getting me excited.”
        She smiled at him. “Oh? Am I making you excited Coryn? And here I thought you preferred my sister!”
        He rose his balde higher. “Just your being here is more than enough to get me excited.” Coryn tipped up onto his toes to get a better look at what Ecchi-tan was up to. Aside from the standard cooking utensils, she was unarmed, although that counted little with her.
        Ecchi had begun laying out the breakfast onto a pair of plates. “I hope this isn't how you treat all of your overnight guests. It's very poor manners.” She winked at him and started towards his dining table with the plates. Coryn turned his head away as she passed and let the sword fall to his side.
        “Just so you know, Tan or not, moderator powers will still take you to task. The only reason I'm not using them right now is because I don't want to bust up my apartment.”
        Ecchi said. “Of course dear.” And sat down to her plate.
        Coryn turned back towards her once he was satisfied she would stay put. “What is it you want? You wouldn't go through all this trouble if you didn't have something important.”
        Ecchi-tan tucked a napkin into the apron before responding. “I've got a proposal for you Coryn. If you do me this favor, I promise I'll make it worth your while.” She clapped her hands together, as if in prayer, and waited patiently while Coryn thought it through.
        At first he opened his mouth to utter a quick and definite 'no’, but halfway through the word, stopped to reconsider. He made another attempt, but this time caught himself before any letters could escape. Next he paced back and forth, nimbly twirling the saber around his fingers. Finally, he set it back at rest in its hiding place, and made haste back down the hallway. “You have until I'm done eating to convince me. But first, you're putting on the spare robe.”

        Lego's mind was racing. This was not how he intended to wake up on this, or potentially any morning. Why couldn't have it been Ecchi-tan instead? But then, a second thought struck him. “Whose sheets are these?”
Lewd-tan chuckled in the darkness. “Yours were too rough, so I brought my own. Why, do you not like silk? Have some consideration for the soft skinned among us.”
        “Bull*censored*!” Thought Lego. He had seen Lewd-tan tank whole buildings without a scratch. She was about as tough as they came. Cotton sheets were the least of her worries. There was a zero percent chance that this was merely a social call, although Lego had trouble believing that Lewd would go through the trouble of tracking him down and sneaking in just to annoy him. The mod's tired mind churned its gears, until he remembered what she had first said as he was waking up. “Wait a minute. You said you had a task?”
        Lewd-tan slowly ran her finger along Lego's chest. “I did. Do you remember when I invited you and Hasith around for a bath last year?” Lego did, and nodded in the affirmative. He had been led blindfolded up to EcchiWorld's many open air baths, and was seated next to Hasith. The elder twin had then asked him for a favor down the road, although at the time, he was not enlightened to what that favor would be. Hasith had in turn been asked by the younger twin for the fences surrounding their temple complex to be electrified. He had done so within the week, and Lego was left feeling he had got the short end of the stick.
        Lewd-tan pulled her hand away. “So it's simple. I've come to collect.”
        But in of course in Lego's mind, it was not that simple. The bath was only a way to make him more malleable to the agreement. He had only agreed to a favor, and Lego was feeling pretty confident that what Lewd was about to ask for went beyond the common good turn. “What are you asking for? And what do I get for it?”
        There was a pause in the darkness as she considered her answer. “I need you to bring me something.”
        Lego didn't know how good her night vision was, but he hoped she could see his scowl. “I'm not some errand boy.”
        “Of course not!” Replied Lewd-tan. Her answer sounded sincere and sarcastic all at once. “What I'm asking you to retrieve is a very well protected and potentially dangerous artifact.”
        “Oh, not dangerous to you directly.” Said Lewd. “But there are a lot of people looking for it right now. Strong people.” She clarified, lingering on the last two words.
        Lego grew still as he considered this proposal. On the one hand, he did not like being snuck up on and ordered around. On the other, he did like fighting strong people, and he could use a vacation. “Alright, I'm in. What am I looking for?”
        Lewd-tan smiled in the darkness. “I want you to bring me the Golden Chalice.”

        Still at the foot of Mahlua's bed, Artist-tan continued on from the notes she had taken on her hand. Mahlua quickly decided that the young girl had superbly small lettering. “And so of you do this thing for us, than you shall be granted, I don't know, absolution or something. Tell her that. No, I can't tell her because I'm her type and we don't need her getting distracted. Ecchi can't do it because... because she's busy that morning. Don't worry about it. Wait, are you still writing this down? Stop it, just tell her the important bits.” After a deep breath, Artist put her hand down, and spoke her own thoughts for the first time that morning. “And that's what Lewd-tan asked me to tell you. I made sure to leave everything in just in case.”
        It was a lot to take in, especially before breakfast. Mahlua stared at the girl for a few moments, before pulling herself up into a full sitting position. “So let me get this straight. The twins are asking me to go out by myself, retrieve a mystical item called the Golden Chalice, and in return they will grant me a reward?”
        “That's about what it boils down to.” Said Artist.
        “And it's potentially very dangerous to my person to do so?” Replied Mahlua.
        Artist nodded.
        “And you don't have any leads on where it is?”
        Mahlua took a minute to ponder her situation. On the one hand, it sounded dangerous, on the other, she really liked the idea of Lewd-tan owing her one. Before the minute hand had made a full revolution, she decided. “Alright, I'll do it. But just one question first: Why did you agree to be their messenger? This doesn't seem like something you'd be in to, if you don't mind my saying.”
        Artist-tan dove her hand into her backpack, and rustled around. “Lewd-tan bought me five whole boxes of granola bars. I eat them when I'm hiking around.” She pulled out a foil wrapped bar and pointed it at Mahlua. “Want one for the road.”
        Mahlua smiled and reached out for it. “Thanks, I'm sure it will come in handy.” She read the label, rubbed the sand out of her eyes, and read it again. Unsurprisingly, the flavor advertised on the foil wrapper had not changed, but you could never be too careful on MR. Mahlua set the popsicle flavored granola bar (It's the coldest!) down on her nightstand, and climbed out of bed. “Could you wait for me downstairs Artist-tan? I'm going to get ready.” The little girl acknowledged her with a nod, dismounted, and headed towards the exit to the loft, stool in hand. Once again alone, Mahlua let out a long sigh, and made a mental note to redouble her defensive charms when she got back.

        Coryn finished the last bite of his breakfast as Ecchi-tan finished her proposal. He set down his fork, wiped his mouth with a napkin, and slid the plate towards the table’s center. “So let me see if I missed anything. You want to send me out to find a mystical and dangerous cup which you cannot describe. And, you want me to do it all by my lonesome, without telling anyone where I'm going. Additionally, you have no actual leads on where it is located, how to find it, or what is guarding it. But, if I do this for you, you shall grant me one wish, which may be anything that is in your power to grant.” It wasn't a question.
        Ecchi nodded enthusiastically. “Mhm!”
        Coryn pondered her. “I could send you on an assassination job. I could make you my full time assistant. Maybe I'd turn you to my side during the next Great Raid. Perhaps I'll just put you in a cage, naked, and sell tickets for a look behind the curtain?!”
        “Oh Coryn, I didn't know you were into that kind of thing. But if you really want me too… I'd do it for free!” Ecchi shouted.
        Coryn knew better than to be caught by surprise and comically choke on his OJ, but it didn't help. He applied his napkin to his face, and went back to studying his house guest. On the one hand, he would ruin a few experiments by leaving in the middle of them. On the other, having Ecchi-tan on call was worth its figurative weight in gold. “Alright then. I’ll do it. Now get out of my house” After two beats he added. “Thanks for breakfast.”
   Ecchi smiled at him, “I’m glad to hear that!”, and began to remove her robe.
   Coryn leapt from his chair and skittered halfway back across the room. Ecchi-tan stopped and gave him a curious look as he came up with his response. “Just leave that on will you? Keep it, in fact. The apron too. If anybody finds out this happened I’m a dead man.” She seemed to think about it for a moment before giving him an enthusiastic nod, and leaving her seat.
   “Alright then Coryn. I’ll see you when you get back!” Ecchi-tan sauntered out of the space and towards the foyer. Coryn counted her steps after she passed out of sight, and didn’t let his guard down until he heard the front door close behind her. He turned towards the hall, and after staggering a few steps into it, hit the wall and collapsed down it. There really was no way the events of that morning could go beyond those walls. Above all, he knew if Lego ever found out a about it, things might spiral into full blown civil war.

   Lego still lay in bed as Lewd-tan finished her spiel. She had only confirmed his notion that she wasn’t going to be any help at all moving forward, and that Lego was to keep the whole affair on the down low. Not that Lego considered what was happening right now to be an ‘affair’, but it was an apt term to describe the situation. Lego definitely wasn’t thinking of things in that moment which may potentially sour his chances with Ecchi-tan. There was no indecent thoughts happening whatsoever. But even the truest of men may find their hearts beating quick in such a situation. Lego was sure Lewd sensed this in him, or perhaps she could just tell from his sweat. Either way, she adjusted her positioning and Lego felt her weight leave his torso. The next thing he knew, two soft hands were clasping themselves around his face. She was close now, too close. Lego could feel her breath on his lips. Lewd spoke, low and sultry. “Bring me its sweet, delicious power.” And then, nothing.
   Lewd’s presence vanished in an instant. Lego wasted no time. He simultaneously spun to his side, snatched his glasses to his face, and activated his bedside lamp. The photons it produced scarcely had time to grace the walls of Lego’s cavernous bedroom before his eyes were scanning for any trace of her. Alas, the room showed no signs of her passing. For a moment, Lego pondered if it might have all been a dream after all, but upon looking at the other side of his bed, where an imprint of her form still remained, his path was galvanized.
        Within five minutes Lego had departed bed, laid out his clothes, packed a few sundries into rucksack, and began to freshen himself up. If it was such a highly coveted item, then there was surely a reason Lewd-tan was making her move now. But if she thought it was worth sending Lego to find it with so little to go on, then there must be someone else she thought may find it first.

        Mahlua stepped into her art studio fully dressed, and with a backpack of hastily assembled essentials. Artist-tan was sprawled out on the ground working on a sketch, and didn’t even look up as Mahlua approached her. “So there’s really nothing else you can tell me about this situation.”
        The young girl shrugged. “I’m afraid not. You know what I know. It’s not much to go on, but…” She raised her head to look up at the witch. “If you do happen to find it, I wouldn’t complain if you let me see what it is before you give it to Lewd. After all this work I’m interested in seeing what it looks like.” Mahlua sighed and surveyed her work space. Nothing seemed out of place, and she wondered how Artist-tan got in without disturbing anything. Her mouth opened to question the Tan, but she changed her mind about probing too deeply before the words passed her lips.
        “Will you be fine if I just leave you here?”
        The little Tan nodded. “Mhm. I can lock up after you too, if you want.”
        “Thanks Artist.” Mahlua gave a curt bow to the girl before stepping onto the street. There she stopped, and there she pondered. Lewd had sent Artist in her place for a reason. The Tan was not the kind to make decisions without a good reason behind them. Mahlua suspected that something was being purposely obscured, but she couldn’t place her finger on it. She stopped and she pondered for a full minute, until at last she yelled out at the top of her lungs. Mahlua could not know it, but at that exact moment, two others in the city were also echoing her exact words on their respective street corners, at the top of their respective lungs. “Then where the hell am I supposed to start?!”

        The morning air still retained the night’s chill, but the sun hung in a clear sky, so the mood felt optimistic to most. Spring, it could be said, had that effect on people. Winter, while tolerable, is often cold and harsh. It’s not a forgiving time to be alive. Even if each of us have had years to experience it over and over again, we inevitably find that the warm summer has strippd away our defense against it. So, when spring does raise its head, we can’t help but feel that the good times are on their way. Despite this however, the good times were not on their way for our three intrepid heroes. Before them sat trials unimaginable, har*censored*udes unplumbed, and duties unfulfilled. None of them yet knew it, but before long, each would wish they could be transported back to simpler times, and the morning of their rude awakenings.

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