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  New Testaments DX: Secret of Mana
Posted by: ClaudeLv250 - 03-21-2016, 06:21 AM - Forum: Claude's House of Pain! - Replies (5)

Years ago, Niko, OnslaughtRM, Dalamar and I decided to write a collaborative story as a sequel to Secret of Mana, one of my favorite games of all time. New Testaments was one of my first attempts at writing prose fiction. Time marched on and we steadily kept the story going, but we've grown as people and writers over the years in ways that weren't reflected in the original chapters. We went back and revamped and revised pieces here and there, but you don't mess with the foundation after you've already built the house. Last year I had the idea that instead of touching up certain aspects, we do a full remake. The first third or so of the chapters already presented have been completely rewritten, and everything following will be heavily revised accordingly. The overall storyline is still here, but everything's been upgraded - more characterization, more detail, altered pacing, less awkwardness in places, etc. But that's enough talk.

For anyone that read NTSoM in its original incarnation, welcome back! For those of you that are completely new to the story, welcome aboard! You're seeing NTSoM in its best form yet!

---

New Testaments DX: Secret of Mana

Ten years past
The legendary warrior and his companions
Routed evil threats in many forms
With the legendary Holy Sword
Evil and Mana faded
And the world sang peacefully again...

Well, they say that time flows like a river
And history often repeats itself
But today...history will not be repeated
It will be created!

Prologue


Bade London

“The village won’t survive,” his raspy voice coughed through the dry air. The voice belonged to Sarak, a weary man, aged tremendously by our recent burdens. He looked directly at me standing by his side, and then quickly looked away in shame. He carried a heaviness I didn’t fully understand. “We have failed you. Failed you all.” As he tapped the stone circle with his toe, he shook his head. “What are we to do?  What… can we do?”
 
Mayor Sarak was the closest thing to a father I had left. I stared down into the arid watering hole, clutching a flute that dwarfed my tiny hands. A series of images flashed in my mind, memories a seven-year-old child should never dwell on.  
 
My father’s hunting party returning from the hunt with less and less. My mother, looking thin and tired, teaching me to play my favorite songs. The drought’s first victim, my father. I could never forget the last time I saw his face. The dry lips, the cracked skin.  He had been the strongest, our greatest hunter, and he went without water so his family could live. And so many followed him, until mother was gone as well. I remembered her words as she lay in her bed, the last time she would ever speak.  “Bade… my son. My flute… was a gift from your father. It was the moment… the first moment I knew real love… Please Bade, treasure it. Keep it close. Let it be a reminder of our love for you.  Be strong.  You will survive this accursed drought. You were meant for… so much more... “  She passed into darkness then and never returned to the light.  I remember little else, save for the rare drips of water the mayor had been able to procure for me and the other orphans of Kakkara.  
 
“Perhaps…” Sarak stared at the sky. “Perhaps there is hope.”  Maybe he was trying to instill that belief in me, even if he didn’t completely believe it himself. He turned to me and, amazingly, a smile crawled across his lips. “Our most recent visitor said he would bring back the tail.  The fabled item, the legend.  He may be capable of it.”  Then he peered back into the sky. “We will simply have to wait, lad.  Wait and hope.”
 
I nodded and joined the mayor in looking up at the sky. I spotted it first, a winged figure in the distance.  I pointed, but there was almost no need. The figure soon grew into a beautiful white dragon, and before anything could be done or any words could be said, it was directly overhead. It touched the ground, with a lightness that seemed impossible for its size, and an unusual trio jumped off and approached Sarak. Though the man, the woman, and the boy (perhaps it was a girl, or perhaps neither) quickly approached the mayor, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the majestic beast. It was only with the triumphant shout of the mayor that I turned my gaze from the dragon and toward its passengers.  
 
Sarak was holding something high above his head, though I could barely see what it was. The crowd around him was smiling, laughing, dancing… things long lost to Kakkara. The mayor threw his hands toward the empty hole, spoke words that nobody understood, and leaped back! The rest of the crowd followed his lead and a massive roar broke out as water suddenly erupted and flowed across the town. I joined the town in celebrating, and drank and drank until that damned thirst that had taken nearly everything from me was quenched.  
 
It was only later that I learned the man’s name and who he was: Randi, the legendary hero of prophecy, and the bearer of the Sword of Mana.
 
**************************************************
 
Years passed, as they often do, and I grew from the quiet child I had been into my father’s son. It was unusual for one so young to be invited to join the hunt, but the sudden loss of so many men lead to me and the other orphans joining well before the traditional age. I was quickly becoming known for my skills, and was always prepared to go on the hunt. It hadn’t gone unnoticed that I always brought my flute with me on all of his expeditions. I saw the well-being of the village as my duty, and never wished my parents’ fate on anyone. Though it was a vow made only in private, I swore that I would die before I would allow my village to suffer again.
 
I soon mastered navigating the harsh desert, and eventually discovered a mysterious, hidden place. It seemed where the world ended and a vast emptiness full of stars would begin. I often felt called to the place, and often gazed into the abyss, but I never lingered and always returned home with my hunt.  
 
Unfortunately, the day came when my worst fears came to light: Again, the water was drying. The magic of Sea Hare’s Tail that Randi had brought to the village so many years ago was fading.
 
“Sir?”  I approached the mayor. “May we speak?”
 
“Mmm…?” Sarak was certainly healthier than he had been at the worst of the drought, but he did not look very much different.  He was currently bent over his desk, scanning plans and forms lost to me, but knew must be certainly very important.  His eyes glanced up once, and a grin broke across his face, “Ah, Bade, of course, come in my boy.  Please, go on.  Do excuse me while I try to catch up on some work.”  
 
“Sir… it’s about the… tail.”
 
“Tail?  What tail?”  He continued to look at his papers, but his focus was now clearly attuned to me.
 
I stood up straight, either to show respect or authority, I wasn’t sure.  “Mayor.”  
 
“So… you’ve noticed,” Sarak quietly grumbled.
 
“I doubt anyone could have missed that…"
"True, you are not the first to bring it to my attention.”  He put down his papers.  “I suppose if I told you that is the normal process of the tail’s magic and fluctuation is to be expected…”
 
“With all due respect, I would call you a liar… sir.”  I showed no emotion as I said this, but felt a deep sense of pain.
 
“Mmm… and right you would be to do so.  It has satisfied the others, but you have always been a clear headed boy.”  With a sigh, he stood, and circled his office.  “The Sea Hare’s Tail’s magic is indeed fading.  It has been for some time.  The speed of its decline is growing faster than expected I fear.”
 
“Sir, I request permission to find a new Sea Hare's Tail.  Please.”  The “please” was a last minute addition.  I hadn’t intended it when I practiced this speech, but it seemed appropriate.
 
“Absolutely not!  Bade, you are needed for the hunt.  It is my understanding that you will be made chief hunter in the near future.  The youngest ever.  Ah… don’t let the others find out who told you.”
 
I could feel my face begin to turn slightly red.  My father’s position.  Still…
 
“Sir, I respectfully must insist.  There are many capable men that could fill my role.  I know the desert, I can survive there.  Of all of the men in the village, I am the best suited for the task.”
 
Sarak moved to his window and looked out over the village.  “I am no fool Bade.  I know that you are the most capable, and yes, even the most likely to succeed.  But that does not mean that the chances are in your favor lad.  Not at all.  Many men, veterans of battles and wars, have tried to get a Sea Hare’s Tail and died in the attempt.  I cannot risk the life of another child of Kakkara.  No.  I have made other arrangements.”
 
“Sir?”
 
“When the tail started to falter, I sent word across the world.  Massive reward for the first man to bring a Sea Hare’s Tail to Kakkara.  Many will likely die in the attempt, but not our own.  And eventually, one of them will succeed.”
 
“What of the reward?  Unless we have become wealthy in the past several minutes, I do not believe we can provide such a prize.”
 
“We will find a way lad.  For now, go home.  Rest.  You never know when you will be called upon for a hunt.”
 
“Sir.  No.”  The mayor eyed him, puzzled.  “I cannot do that.  Even if… even if someone finds the tail and brings it here, there’s no guarantee they would give it to us without a reward.  And what if nobody succeeds?  What is nobody tries?  I simply will not, can not allow this village to die.  Sir.”
 
The mayor, fell onto his chair, sighing heavily as he did so.  “It… is your choice lad.”
 
Bade felt a surge of relief.  He would have gone without consent, but he would not left happy.  Now… “Thank you mayor.  Thank you.”
 
“Before you go, take supplies.  Rest.  You will be given everything this village has to offer.  Be safe and be careful.  We have suffered too much already, and I do not want one of our strongest to sacrifice himself for nothing.  Know that when you return, you will be welcomed, and your place with us is assured.”
 
“I readily accept this task sir.  I will not let you or the village down.  Thank you again... sir.”  If there were more words to say, Bade didn’t know how to express them.  He exited the room brisky.
 
“I know lad.  I know.  Goddess knows we need this.  Protect him.  Protect our home.”
 
After a day of preparing for my journey, and a farewell party with my fellow hunters, I set off across the desert.  In my hands, I carried a flute.  
 

Niko Brandfaust
 
I think they're trying to talk forever, so I can never leave. Or maybe they think I'll forget. Maybe if I keep saying yes, they'll let me go.
 
"Why don't you stay one more week Niko, just until you are sure this is what you want?"
 
"Y-" That was close, "Mooom, I've stayed here forever! I'm positive by now!"
 
These are all the same things I've heard before. More than a few months ago already, my dad told me over and over; "I know you want to leave. Don't worry, you'll be ready soon."
 
Well now I'm ready. I can't really blame them, I guess. It did get kinda crazy when I was little, but the times of mana and danger and adventure are over. Well, I hope it's not ALL over; every place can't be as boring as the middle of Kakkara desert.
 
I get why it's so hard to convince my mom, she's lived here her whole life. My dad came all the way over here from the Upper Lands though, and he saw so much of the world before settling here. I can't understand why he doesn't want me to go. They're always telling me how there used to be lots of beast races like us. How it was just as normal in any village to see one of us as it was to see a human, but... I know they're not worried about the humans. I never met any who were surprised to see a vulpine. I haven't met many humans though... but then again I also haven't met many other vulpine!
 
"We're just worried; this is a big step and you are still young."
 
Uh oh, was mom talking this whole time? I dunno if she meant that as warning against leaving or as parting advice. Best to just say something responsible sounding.
 
"Mom, the world is different now; not dangerous like it was when I was a kid. Dad was okay through all that... the monsters and the empire... and he was younger than me, too!"
 
"I know Niko, I know." I can tell by that sigh, I think my dad is finally ready to crack! Okay, deep breath; don't want to get all excited and blow it now. They need to know I'm taking this seriously!
 
"It's just..."
 
Oh no, dad, come on! I'm so close!
 
"You'll understand why we're worried when you get older. You're our only son."
 
But... I understand now, dad. How much longer-
 
"That's why your mother and I want you to promise you'll visit every now and then."
 
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. There was no more hiding my excitement now, no matter how hard I tried. I couldn't stop my own tail wagging if I sat on it. By the look on my parents faces, they were playing the whole time. They knew they were going to let me leave today!
 
I couldn't control my own body; I leapt forward into their arms. I don't remember the last time I hugged my parents so hard. I actually had to loosen up so my dad could speak.
 
"I don't suppose you'd also promise to stay safe, to not go running off on any silly 'quests'?"
 
I couldn't try to be clever about that. We all knew that's exactly what I was looking for. Even if there was no more adventure to be had, I could never promise that. But I don't have to say no.
 
"I promise I'll never forget about you guys."
 
-----
 
            I've never been more ready for this; I was so excited, I almost ran out with nothing but my pants and my favorite shirt. Of course they made sure I had plenty of my favorite meals; some hard-boiled Mad Mallard eggs, Pebbler jerky, and even a wrapped slice of my mom's delicious Pumpkin Bomb pie. They gave me a big satchel of water too but they know that I know how to find water. You don't grow up in the middle of the desert without knowing that!
 
I'll save the water for later, I think. I hope to be out of the desert soon anyway. It will be the first time in my life. I want to see every place I heard stories about, I don't care what order. I think I'll just start walking east until I hit the coast and follow that down. After that, I'll just play it by ear... or nose... whichever tells me the most. Finally, my real adventure begins!


Claude Augario
 
I was so young when we moved to this accursed island of gold that I barely remember life before it. What I can tell you is that I’m not very fond of what life has been like since then.
 
I’m Claude Augario. I live in the world of privilege and the most valuable place in the world, Gold City. I never adopted the elitist views of this place like my parents did. The mainland is considered a hellish, barbaric world. I couldn’t disagree more, and that’s just one of many reasons I don’t fit in here. Only a handful of people here understand how I feel.
 
Maybe one day I’ll actually get off of this island, and see the world...just like the legendary warrior, the Mana Knight! Nah, it doesn’t have to be some grand quest; just exploring on my whims would be good enough.
 
But enough about the future! What I should be talking about is the present. You see, when I woke up today, it was just like any other day. But before I could even leave my room, I heard a commotion. In fact, I can still hear it now.
 
Walking towards the open window of my bedroom, I squint and use my hand to shield my eyes from the morning sun to peer out. I’m greeted with gold, pure gold. The houses, the trees, the grass, even the dirt are all solid, enchanted gold! Believe it or not, you get tired of that color when you’re surrounded by it every single day.
 
From my window over Rodeigo Street, I can see the people of the city bustling about their busy lives along the twisting, weaving roads, but even further beyond that, at the edge of the city, was a large gathering of people.
 
What could they all be looking at?
 
I jumped into my favorite pair of boots and headed out to see for myself what all the fuss was about.

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  E3 2015 thread (June 16th-18th)
Posted by: ClaudeLv250 - 05-19-2015, 06:54 PM - Forum: The Arcade - Replies (10)

It's that time of year again! E3 is a little less than a month out and all the major players have dated their conferences, with a couple of new hats thrown into the ring.

All times are Pacific/Eastern.

June 11th (Thursday)

Oculus VR "Step into the Rift" - Time TBA

June 14th (Sunday)

Nintendo World Championships 2015 - 3/6PM
Bethesda Pre-E3 Showcase - 6:30/9:30PM

June 15th (Monday)

Microsoft Press Conference - 9:30AM/12:30PM
EA Press Conference - 1/4PM
Ubisoft Press Conference - 3/6PM
Sony Press Conference - 6/9PM (if they're on time)

June 16th (Tuesday)

Nintendo Digital Event - 9AM/12PM
Square Enix Conference - 10AM/1PM
Nintendo Treehouse: Live Day 1 - Time TBA
PC Gaming Show - 5/8PM

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  Christmas Loot 2015
Posted by: ClaudeLv250 - 12-25-2014, 07:34 PM - Forum: Niko's Pow-Wow - Replies (6)

You know the drill.

- Chocolate and other candy
- Sephora cologne collection
- Watch
- Binoculars
- Oregon and Bear warrior shirt
- Metal Gear Rising
- Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Collection
- Retron 3 console
- New micro SD card (really needed this)
- Kindle Fire HD 6

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  E3 2014 thread (Everything was 2015)
Posted by: ClaudeLv250 - 06-03-2014, 05:13 AM - Forum: The Arcade - Replies (11)

E3 2014 starts next week, time to get the thread in!

Conference schedule (June 9th):


Microsoft - 9:30/12:30PM
EA - 12/3PM
Ubisoft - 3/6PM
Sony - 6/9PM

Microsoft Events
"Green Carpet" Pre-show - Jun9th, 9-9:30/12-12:30PM
This is a new pre-show right before the conference that's supposed to have "sneak previews" and interviews.

Post Show - 11:15/2:15
Q&A with Microsoft heads

ID@Xbox - Jun10-12th
Twitch streams of Xbone indie games.

[URL="http://e3.nintendo.com/"]Nintendo Events
[/URL]Nintendo Digital Event - Jun10th, 9/12PM
Nintendo is skipping their conference again in favor of another stream. This is the equivalent of their conference and will have all the reveals and trailers.

Nintendo Minute: Live @ E3 - Jun10th
Digital Event post-show recap with more information.

Nintendo Treehouse: Live @ E3 - Jun10-12th
Live stream of Nintendo's game booths all through E3.
Treehouse Live will broadcast:
Tuesday, June 10: 11:35 AM PT – 4:00 PM PT
Wednesday, June 11: 9:15 AM PT – 6:00 PM PT
Thursday, June 12: 9:30 AM PT – 5:00 PM PT

Super Smash Bros Invitational - Jun10th, 4/7PM
Twitch stream of SSB Wii U tournament live at the Nokia theater.

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  Meet the newst member of my family :)
Posted by: Cap - 03-24-2014, 09:05 PM - Forum: New Members - Replies (2)

On 03/14 I became the father of this adorable little girl. Big Grin

[ATTACH=CONFIG]19[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]20[/ATTACH]

I'm happy to introduce my daughter, Samus Aran

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  Broken characters?
Posted by: ClaudeLv250 - 02-05-2014, 04:46 AM - Forum: Binhqx's Fix-it shop! - Replies (1)

Formatting for a lot of the fanfiction got demolished. Most of the quotation marks and some other characters get rendered as gibberish like this: ??s

I tried posting something new and instead of that gibberish, it was rendered as question marks, so it's not even possible to go back and "fix" all the stuff that was posted.

What happened?

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  Avatars
Posted by: Nikovich - 02-03-2014, 09:39 AM - Forum: Binhqx's Fix-it shop! - Replies (3)

Has anyone else been able to change their user icon lately? It doesn't seem to want to let you upload one or pick from a URL.

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  Why I am reluctant to go digital? on my consoles
Posted by: Cap - 01-25-2014, 02:56 PM - Forum: The Arcade - No Replies

- A blog entry I did over on IGN -

I have been debating myself on whether to go all digital this generation or not. In 2000 I ditched out my only CDs and made the jump to digital for all my music, in 2006 I made a similar jump with my movie collection. I?ve always been a big advocate of going digital, BUT when it comes to games I?ve very hesitant on making the plunge.

When it comes to going all digital with gaming one big question always makes me take a step back from making the jump? Will I still be able to play them once the console?s life has ended?

35 years later I can still pull out an old Atari 2600 game and play it, BUT will I be able to do the same thing with my Xbox360/XboxOne/PS3/PS4/PSP/VITA/Wii/WiiU/3DS collection?

For this lets just put aside anything dealing with multiplayer servers being shut down, it?s not as big of a deal, yes it sucks but honestly most games once they get really old they lose almost all their online user base for the newer versions, just try and get an online game of Call of Duty 3 going. We?re at the edge of see what will happen with last generation, and the big elephant in the room is, what is going to happen once Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo turn the lights off on their old system? We have seen console services end before, all the online games from the 6th generation (Xbox/PS2/GameCube) have gone off line, but for the first time we?re dealing with a system generation that had a large Online presents, lot of us poured hundreds if not thousands of dollars into XBLA, PSN and WiiWare. And no one has given us a straight answer on what it going to happen to our digital library. I feel a bit foolish having put so much money into my last gen digital library, I went in thinking back then that our current gen systems were going to be backwards compatible. Sadly that turned out to be a false assumption.

Another big question also surfaces, once the systems are discontinued and my console kicks the bucket will I ever be able to play my digital collection again or will I have to scour pawn shops and second hand stores looking for a system that still works. With physical media people have found ways to deal with discontinued hardware, we can still play our old games thanks to emulators and 3rd party hardware. I don?t need my original NES anymore to play my collection of NES games I can go out and buy something like the Retron. And there are a number of emulators out there that have allowed CD/DVD based consoles to live on after the physical systems themselves have die, like PCSX2 which has allowed me to continue to enjoy my PS2 library, but with digital we need access to their servers and without the keys we can never get in.

Nintendo does allow you to transfer your Wii games over to the WiiU and Sony has made mention that they do have some plans with their Streaming service to allow users to play their old digital games. BUT, what will happen next gen? Will I be able to transfer my Wii and WiiU games to the Wii3? Will Sony continue to offer and support Digital PS, PS2 and PS3 games on the PS5? It?s not a 100% grantee, hosting the content cost money so the odds are not good for everything make it over and in the business world money is everything, they don?t really care if you can continue playing your old copy of Jak and Daxter, in fact it makes more sense to them to re-release classic games in remake editions (e.g. HD Remake and ?Definitive Edition?.)

PC gaming has not faced this problem, STEAM has been going strong for years I?ve been using them since 2005 and the first games I bought there still play on my system today and Valve has come out and told their user based on how they plan to run things. I feel safe buying digital PC games because I know that 30 years from now I will still have access to them and ?should? still be able to play them. Console games on the other hand is a big ?.. IF any of the big 3 really want to make a push for digital they need to come out and re-insure people that their games will ALWAYS be there, they will ALWAYS have access to them and they will ALWAYS have a way to play them. Until then I think I will stick to having a physical disc.

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  Christmas loot 2013
Posted by: ClaudeLv250 - 12-25-2013, 04:01 PM - Forum: Niko's Pow-Wow - Replies (2)

Post your loot!

What I got so far:

- Telescope
- Insignia stereo system
- On Writing (Stephen King)
- Pandora's Tower (Wii)
- Rune Factory Frontier (Wii)
- Spinbrush
- 250GB Xbox 360 Slim bundle (came with Halo 4, Tomb Raider, Darksiders II and Arkham City)
- Star Ocean 4 + Tales of Vesperia to go with the 360
- Cat t-shirt
- Lindt truffles
- Solar Mechanics assembly kit (my brother is an engineer; this is his idea of a good time!)

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  Legacy of Evermore
Posted by: ClaudeLv250 - 09-07-2013, 01:31 AM - Forum: Claude's House of Pain! - Replies (3)

Introduction:  I have always been a fan of the Mana series and when I saw Secret of Evermore back in the day, even though I knew it wasn’t quite a Mana game, I jumped at the opportunity to play it and the game clicked with me. Despite some gameplay similarities, Evermore sets itself apart with its setting and plot...Evermore itself is a dark, alluring world that’s easy to get lost in, and its hokey dialogue keeps its atmosphere from coming on too strongly. I, and many other fans of Secret of Evermore, have to deal with the fact that a sequel isn’t likely to ever happen. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t revisit Evermore on our own terms...
 
Summary: After the passing of Professor Ruffleberg, an adult Elizabeth (Fire Eyes) returns to Evermore with two teens and their cat in tow to find some startling changes and additions in her absence. Curiosity triggers the catapult that will send them hurtling towards the core of Evermore’s deepest, darkest secrets.
 
Disclaimer: Secret of Evermore and all related properties belong to Square Enix; I just whipped up some of the original characters solely for this story.
 

Legacy of Evermore
By ClaudeLv250
 
Prologue – Podunk, 2015
 
Heavy curtains snuffed out the sunlight that attempted to weasel its way through the aged windows of the classroom. The only light in the room was provided by a projector casting the image of a velociraptor lowered into a pouncing position. The class of high school students looked on as their teacher, a woman with fiery red hair and thick coke-bottle glasses, pointed towards the image.
 
“...Modern science now tells us of the close relationship between birds and dinosaurs. So what we once thought of as raptors...”
 
She pressed the clicker and the image switched to an identical picture of the raptor, adorned with tufts of feathers on its head and along its limbs.
 
“...May have looked a little more like this.”
 
Lame!” someone called out from the back of the class. The room filled with giggles.
 
The teacher shut off the projector and sent the curtains receding back to the top of the windows, allowing the sun to filter into the classroom. She glanced at the clock and made her way back to her desk.
 
“Class, I have a small announcement to make,” the teacher began softly.
 
“Surprise test on Monday,” Luke Durant murmured in despair from his desk.
 
“Miss R wouldn’t be that cruel,” his friend, Krista Plunkett, whispered from behind him.
 
Miss R, their teacher, gave a forlorn look to the binder sitting open before her until she closed it. “I have some...family business to take care of,” she continued, her lip quivering ever so slightly, “So you will have a substitute through all of next week. I expect you all to behave, all right?”
 
There were some silent expressions of victory and praise that were cut short by the ringing of the bell. School was over and the weekend was just beginning, and most of the class reacted in kind by attempting to vacate the premises as soon as possible.
 
“I told you she wasn’t that cruel,” Krista said, coming into view as Luke filled his backpack. Her ruby red hair was tied into a simple ponytail. A few bangs curled over a pale face and a smattering of freckles.
 
“Yeah, but...something seemed to be bothering her,” Luke admitted as he pushed his arms through the straps of the pack. Luke’s dark brown hair was cut short and gave full view of his tan face.
 
“I know. She’s been a little weird all day.”
 
“Man, don’t you guys watch the news or something?” their friend Mark interjected suddenly. He pushed his cellphone toward their faces as it displayed a news story. “Sidney Ruffleberg died last night. Of course she’s not herself!”
 
The pair traded shocked expressions before Krista uttered, “Wow, poor Miss R...”
 
“I had no idea.”
 
They left the classroom in a dark mood, but Krista thought she could salvage it.
 
“Do you want to go to the movies and see the Vexx reboot?” she asked.
 
Luke furrowed his brows, “Didn’t the last couple of Vexx movies suck?”
 
“It’s a reboot! They’re supposed to be fixing everything that went wrong in parts four, five and six.”
 
“Sorry but I can’t. I’m taking Domino to the vet tomorrow to get her shots.”
 
Krista sighed. “That shouldn’t take all day.”
 
“I didn’t say we couldn’t hang out. I just wouldn’t hold my breath for the movies.”
 
“Okay, but you know Podunk is boring as hell,” Krista complained. “There’s not a whole lot else to do!”
 
“Yeah, yeah. I know,” Luke found himself in agreement. “We’ll find something to do.”
 
---
 
Under the orange radiance of twilight, Luke navigated the worn sidewalks of downtown Podunk with Krista in tow.  The teens were dressed in casual wear for their Saturday outing: Krista wore a blue denim jacket over a green shirt and blue jeans, while Luke sported a white vest over a black shirt and black and white cargo pants. In Luke’s right hand was the handle to the simple beige carrying case that contained a white domestic short-haired cat. Two patches of black fur marked her forehead, giving her the namesake Domino.
 
As they rounded the corner, Krista stopped and gasped dramatically at the sight of the Bijou theater.
 
“I completely forgot we were heading in this direction!”
 
“What a coincidence!” Luke exclaimed with the rolling of his eyes.
 
Krista ran over to the ticket booth and read the times. “The next showing of Vexx 3D is in five minutes! We can get in before the previews start.”
 
Luke tapped the carrier in his hand and said, “Even if I really wanted to see that movie, I’ve still gotta take Domino home.”
 
Krista gave distressed glances between the cat and the ticket booth. The ticket taker shrugged at her plight. “But...but...they accept pets, right?”
 
“They dropped that policy when they upgraded to a multiplex,” said Luke, and the ticket taker nodded along.
 
Krista sighed, looking down to the cracked pavement and let her shoulders sag in defeat. “Alright, let’s do something else.”
 
“Maybe we can see it next time,” Luke murmured. He hated seeing Krista lose her fire.
 
When they reached the end of the block, the old Ruffleberg mansion loomed in the distance at the top of a hill. A wicked idea crossed Krista’s mind but she quickly dismissed it. She did spot a female figure walking across the premises and squinted to make out any recognizable features.
 
“Luke, look!” she pointed at the figure. “Is that Miss R?”
 
“Yeah, looks like it,” Luke confirmed.  He caught the grin Krista was giving him.
 
“Let’s go over there and cheer her up!”
 
“What if she wants to be alone to grieve?”
 
“In that big, lonely mansion?”
 
“Alright,” Luke caved. “I guess we can go over and see how she’s doing.”

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