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Name: Sabina Tang

Age: Probably less than you think

Hometown: Montreal, Canada, where it snows in April, 16-yr-olds barhop and big bookstores carry manga in French

Occupation: Mandarin for business, RPG storyboarding, web maintenance

Indulgences: Obscure novels, fics written and read, mp3s, sleeping at odd hours of the day, mooching food off friends

Horoscope: Pisces ascendant Venus + Caged Rooster = nasty chimera-type critter

Fave anime series: Shoujo Kakumei Utena, Cowboy Bebop, Rurouni Kenshin, Slayers, Berserk, Gundam Wing, Card Captor Sakura, CLAMP Gakuen Tanteidan, and Trigun's made its way right up here

Fave anime movies: Perfect Blue, Ghost in the Shell, Endless Waltz, Yuu Yuu Hakusho #2, shin Vampire Hunter D (mita mita! ^_^)

Fave mangas: Angel Sanctuary, Blade of the Immortal, Fushigi Yuugi, Slam Dunk, Zetsuai

Last watched: end of Trigun (then re-watched the third tape), two tapes of GW in the thirtysomething episodes

Fave Japanese pop: Guniw Tools, Utada Hikaru, Gackt, Fantastic Plastic Machine, anything involving Yoko Kanno or Nobuo Uematsu or Tetsuya Komuro

Fave NA pop: Bran Van 3000, Garbage, Cibo Matto, The Tea Party, Melissa Etheridge

Fave Chinese pop: Sammi Cheng, Gigi Leung, Faye Wong

Currently listening: Oliver Haze, "Wandering Trip". Um... only if you don't hate New Wave. :P The production is modern and radio-friendly to a fault, but there's something insistently retro about the whole, and it's not just his cover of "Save A Prayer". You probably have zero chance of finding this if you don't live in Eastern Canada. I'll put up a couple of tracks once I get around to my mini-MP3 page or something.

Currently playing: "Vagrant Story", still...

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Tuesday, June 19, 2001
01:11 p.m.

(Just had my midterm)

(Re-mi, if you are reading this: the much-delayed letter went out, to the addy on the back of the envelope you sent *me*. I expect you'd get it by the end of the week - the only European snail-mail correspondent I ever had lived near Pisa, so the two weeks it regularly took between postage and reception are probably not to be considered an EU norm. No slur on the honour of Italy or anything.)

ObGameRant alert:

For two weeks as I worked on the distribution version of my storyline, they worried that it was going to be too text-y and there were going to be too many instances of control being taken from the player. Not to mention too many characters, too much dialogue... So I cut, and cut, and tried for simple explanations. Now I return from my midterm to find my inbox chock full of clever plotwise suggestions, all of them aimed at making things longer, more twisty, surprising and failproof. Failproof being... you know all the stuff that didn't get explained in FF7? All the times they appeared to pull character motivation out of a hat in FF8? All the dungeons in FF9 that had no point in being on the map except for the sake of being a dungeon?

Yeah, well, none o' that. ^^;

The working title of this game is "RPG That Makes More Sense Than Square".

And with all this?

They want more freedom to explore. *thump*

I'm sorta pissed. It's a benign pissed, because it means I get to write more and put more interesting elements in my story. However, if I hear so much as another peep about this thing being text-y, benign is no longer going to cover it. >.<

In other news, I'm about due to work on the fanfic again. I know this because Crawford has become a sort of low humming angst-hub somewhere in back and left of my temporal lobe. Not that Crawford doesn't handle angst well; in fact, his problem seems to be that he handles angst a little *too* well. It ends up not impacting on his behaviour.

I am seriously considering posting one of the climactic scenes in "Demi 2" out of order, because someone is stuffing my ballot box regarding the next part of said fic. :p OTOH, you may kill me once you see what it is. A case of being careful what you wish for?

Monday, June 18, 2001
01:16 a.m.

Cognominal origins

I'm fresh out of tBD bits to post. (That is, the last half of part 1 is completely written, but posting that sans beginning would be cruel.) So for fun, I'm going to post some original writing. ^_^ This is literally a lost story - I distinctly remember there being much more of it, but I don't know where it's gone. It's also the story that contains the character from whom I took my name. She doesn't really appear in this part, though.

***

Granny Wen first told me about Scirie in the Hall of Maps. I was seven.

“Is there a map of the house?” I asked. I had spent some time there and was surprised not to find one. There were maps of everything, it seemed, tucked away in the bookcases and shelves and chests, though the largest hung on the walls and changed with every visit - sometimes surprisingly. A faded chart of Africa (stating with frightening antique certainty here be monsters) might become a diagram of the Paris metro, or a photo-montage of the far side of the moon. One or twice, it had been the far side of the stars.

Granny Wen lolled on a pile of tattered atlases, regarding me speculatively with her green-gold eyes. “No, Carrie. The house would not fit on a map.”

I thought about this and found it true. “But how do we keep from getting lost, then?”

“How do you?”

I did not. I thought I spent a good deal of my day lost inside the rambling house, and said so. “But the Chancellor is never lost,” I added.

“The Chancellor is lost as often as you.” Granny Wen sat up. “But I have never seen you truly lost. You wander. It is not the same thing. Sometimes you look for something and do not find it, but that is not the same thing either. Lost is when you do not know where you are. If you know where you are, does it matter how far you are from the kitchen, or from the place you slept last?”

I understood, dimly. It was that way with most of Granny Wen’s answers. “But what if I really get lost? Has it ever happened to anyone, Granny Wen?”

“Once I know of. To Scirie.”

The way she said it, so simple as if I should recollect the name, intrigued me.

“Who was Scirie?”

“The Chancellor’s daughter.”

Sabina was the Chancellor’s daughter. But the Chancellor had many children, and I did not know them all.

“What happened to her?”

Granny Wen gathered herself and leapt down from the pile of atlases to be at my feet.

“She never came back to us,” she said.

LORN HOUSE

Granny Wen said, “the house is old and it forgets. But as long as the house knows you, you are a Lorn.”

Lorn House stood outside the City. Whereas in the City rich men built sunny, soaring palaces of glass and steel, Lorn House was stone, a gray hulk hidden by cypresses from the winding road. It looked cold, and forbidding, and even in later years small and unimpressive - but for those of us who had grown up there, leaving was an incomprehensible idea. The house was home; we were the house.

The family was already ancient when I was born into it, powerful for most of its history, and strange. The house had absorbed its loneliness and eccentricity through the centuries, as the Lorns, being natural collectors, filled it with straw masks and hexes and butterflies on pins. There had sometimes been doubt as to whether there was space for anything else to be brought in - even the air seemed cool and heavy with memories in that house - but there was always another closet to be found, another nook or cranny, another forgotten and boarded-up alcove. The house in its secret complicity provided.

Eventually the Lorns noted that things were shifting in the rooms. Bouquets of dahlias were found in the carpentry shed, still gleaming with dew amid the wood shavings; a stuffed lyrebird in the kitchen oven, and racks upon racks of cracked test tubes, their insides still clotted with the remains of some nacreous oil, stacked neatly on the bed of the fleur-de-lys bedroom. Forgotten treasures resurfaced, and clothing taken off an hour before disappeared.

True to character, the Lorns did nothing. “The house is getting old,” they said with indulgence, as if speaking of a favorite great-aunt who is losing her memory. I suspect, however, that the house remembered better than we thought. It seemed to me always that it reshuffled the objects it contained the way a man at the tail end of his life relives his memories, connecting them in his mind, searching for links, for meaning.

By the time I was sent to Lorn House, after a car accident had cut short my minor branch of the family, the rooms themselves had begun to shift. Though nobody ever saw or heard them move, they never stayed in the same place more than a minute at a time. It was, of course, magic - but a word like that had no aura of strangeness in that house.

This was the maze into which Scirie had wandered one day, and lost herself like a petal in a whirlpool. I found that I was afraid of her fate.

Sunday, June 17, 2001
02:57 a.m.

IRC, lah lah lah

I've been on a channel with the rest of my proj team for three hours, discussing the story. With a gin and tonic. I don't think I've had so much fun in my life. ^_^ Sadly we changed channels without logging the discussion on whether we should make the appropriate copyright requests in order to use Pratchett's Death or Nagano's Amaterasu as summons, but I can still copy you guys a sample.

[apsod] dee: anyways, errr, precise what you have in mind maybe?
[apsod] inn fights: lol :)
[Petronia] Bar fights: heck, why not have them in Genufa? Plenty of tribal warriors willing to armwrestle with you. ;)
[Deethelev] I dunno. I was thinking of a fighting circuit.
[abnirunso] s: anyway, i need to know soon about the tsau idea since im making its tileset now.
[apsod] ah. like that. I see.
Deethelev] Like there is a champion in every town
[abnirunso] champian: thats kinda cool actually.
[apsod] ya, not bad at all I believe.
[Petronia] I think it's pretty cool too.
[Deethelev] Besides, we can put a dwarven warrior in there :)
[Petronia] (But then, I can say whatever I like, I'm not the one who has to sweat over the sidequests. :P)
[apsod] dee: ok dee, don't let your fantasies take over! those dwarf ladies you are so found of... ;)
[abnirunso] hah! im not drawing one dwarf are u crazy?! thats too many extra frames. (-O-)
[Deethelev] Nah, if apsod missed the inside there, no one will catch it.
[Petronia] (Winamp just pulled the dwarf village marriage ceremony music in FF9. I swear to god that thing is sentient.)
[apsod] dee: I guess I can't see it. must be cuz it's late ;)
[Deethelev] Think of how you met G's character in the last campaign...
[apsod] sab: yeah, like maya asked, remember that idea for the guardian's grave? Do you want to add that in the story? It'll be the main 'extra' dungeon?
[apsod] Dee: errr. how? dunno. he was crawling somehwere ;)
[Deethelev] Bar fight. It's ALWAYS a bar fight with that guy :)

Saturday, June 16, 2001
02:52 a.m.

Still uber-genki...

Trigun Trigun Trigun. Sankyuu, Ashlea. ^_^ Yet more proof that Hesse was correct in "Damian": ask the universe and you shall receive.

In other news...

You're not going to be offering me Lili Fatale MP3s, are you? *thump*

What *have* they been putting in the water this past year to turn out so many great Montreal albums? o_O The radio plays nothing but local bands like Bran Van, Sky, Oliver Haze, Lili Fatale... I'm spending all my money on CDs. At least this time I can offer you samples and lyrics - see link above. Not that, er, most of you will understand, since they're in French, but it's the thought that counts. Check out "Tomber (Let Go)" and "Mon Nom est Personne (My Name Is Noman)". Heck, this is a *Canadian* band that made a single out of samples from the "Candy Candy" French dub, how cool is that?

Friday, June 15, 2001
11:55 p.m.

I'M DONE!

Wai! Wai! >^_^<

Now I can write fic! I can answer mail! I can work on my websites! I can scan up those .pdfs and earn some money for shoujocon! I can read the rest of Five Star Stories and Yami no Matsuei!

...

I, er, really should go study for my Chinese midterm. *thump*

Friday, June 15, 2001
05:14 a.m.

Demo and b-ball

I got a map demo for the game today.

All we need now is a bleeding Nintendo Seal of Approval. :P Pierre is inordinately proud of his code: the editors, the collision engine, the layers overlap... He writes e-mails like, "See how smoothly the sprite glides." (And 'glide' is indeed the word for this particular ROM, because Maya is just now spending a week learning how to make them walk. ^_^;) Heck, *I'm* inordinately proud of it. Here's a nice little castle with a nice little superdeformed character, looking not unlike a locale out of Chrono Trigger - but dammit, that's my castle and my SD sprite boy. They're only there because *I* called them into existence, BWAHAHAHAHAHA.

This *can't* be healthy. ^^;

I'll be working on some fic-and-site stuff come, er, Monday... and - well - damned if I know if bishink ever reads this, but Tenshi, you are so, so *nice*. I've been reduced to surfing all-Japanese websites for Trigun stuff: there's practically no yaoi in the Western fandom, whereas in Japan they organize all-Wolfwood comikets. (September, Tokyo, IIRC.) Y'all been to Aoki Soh's uebupeeji yet? XD

(She's weird, is Aoki Soh - among other quirks, she doesn't seem to believe that a character being defined as uke or seme should have any impact on his behavior in bed - but I don't think I've actually ever read any publication of hers I didn't like. Well. Okay, yeah, the Coach Anzai x Mitsui at Aestheticism, and if there were any Slam Dunk fans who were broadsided by that and are now whimpering in a corner, I feel your pain. ^_^;

(SD was my first yaoi fandom, believe it or not - I was into slash before - and very nearly my first animanga fandom. I watched half a season during my summer back in the old country, and went into such severe withdrawal when I got back home that I borrowed 200$ from a friend in order to buy the manga. Previously to that the largest amount of money I'd ever spent on a single purchase was something around 10$... ^^; One of these days I'm going to translate some of the *good* Chinese fics on the 'net. It's really a lovely series, you may as well take it from someone who sucked rocks in gym class - that manga taught me more about the game than five years of Phys.Ed. Afterward I was able to watch the NBA on TV and actually *understand* what the players were doing. Hell, afterward I could actually play ball and defend worth a damn. My sister got dragged into SD at a sensitive stage of her development, so she's actually become a basketball fan. _o_ It's against my religion to root for a Toronto sports team, but Lu-chan was Raptors all the way during the conference series against Philly, and then she switched to the '76ers for the finals - I think because Iverson is just *too* damned cool. He's like this teeny little tattooed-and-cornstalked blur streaking into the zone right under all the big lugs waving their arms about, and as soon as they think they've processed the information coming in from their hindbrains he heads off and sinks a 3ptr from way out. *^_^* We spend half our time being impressed and the other half trying to see if he's got the rood inverse on his arm. I've always had a fondness for the guard position; needless to say, Mitsui was my fave in SD too. Maybe I got caught at a sensitive stage myself.

Did I, er, have a point in saying all this? o_o;)

Wednesday, June 13, 2001
02:16 a.m.

Ink-stained wretch

I did say I was going to be disappearing, but I feel as if I should mention the points uppermost on my mind as I'm writing the synopsis today.

1) I am totally impressed by the recent coolness of one of my own girl-characters. She kicks ass more than I ever thought she would.

2) I have too many bishounen villains.

(I know most of you will disbelieve the possibility of point 2, but I feel as if I'm treading perilously close to Sailor Moon territory. o_o I, er, intended for this thing to be slash-free, you know. But apparently you can take the writer out of the yaoi but not the yaoi out of the writer. Or something. Lord, they shouldn't have hired me to do this. ^_^;;)

Tuesday, June 12, 2001
12:53 a.m.

Disappearing off the edge of the earth

The entirety of my game is due on Friday. So you must pardon me. (I told Pierre today that I didn't honestly think he could have found anyone who'd've written it faster. He said, "Well, I honestly think I could have." >_< Which is perhaps true at that; I'm pretty sure there *are* people who're able to plot out a detailed fantasy novel - complete with map, location specs and all speaking characters - within the space of a month. So, abandoning all modesty, I said, well, it's a question of QUALITY now, isn't it, guy? And he said, "Well, that's what I'd like you to prove to me." *smile* *smile* *twitch*

Gods, but I'll never lack for rope to hang myself by, will I...?)

Justin, my next door neighbor who's in psych, told me at lunch he senses I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I told him this was my normal "working" mode, which he never gets to see because I usually don't bother to work at anything. ^^; But this game is nearing flesh-of-my-flesh territory. I've got most of it planned out now... and I want to write a sequel. I swear, if this thing doesn't come through I'll do it myself, I'll follow in Nagano-sensei's footsteps and *draw* it, or something. *weeps* I'm tortured by the idea that *someone* else could have done a better job and made my team happier than they are now with me (not a damned lot). I'm also tortured by the idea that *I* could have done a better job if I had had another month or two. My utterly nonexistent kingdom for another waxing and waning of the moon!

AS #17-18 and all of YamiEi are available for rental now, though. And I have finally gotten through to "Dedicated to Fatima" and Babydoll!Amaterasu's ladybug purse, the one Lisa's been hinting to me about darkly for ages. ^_^; Herr Doktor the younger is actually rather... sexy. (What a weird thought. Ballanche is such a *dad*. He's, like, the "father" of half the recurring female characters in the series.) I like Muse and Ssizz [pronounced 'Shizu'] too, but ever since the Templars in Ivanhoe I've had a weakness for Holy Knights of whatever ethical standard (although, er, Iler would be pushing it a bit... he has a pre-pubescent boy fatima, there's just something Not Right about that...). My total crush on Aisha Codante continues apace. And Douglas Kaine is simply - I think words fail me. That is one fun, fun, *fun* character, not to mention Auxo's chara-design kicks ass. XD

Monday, June 11, 2001
03:03 a.m.

Puzzled

You know what the top-selling english-language album here is? Depeche Mode. And not two weeks ago the city gave a permit and police cordon to a New York artist to have two thousand volunteers strip naked downtown for his photography montage. (An artist the city of *New York* keeps on arresting for inciting public lewdness, I might add.) And when the police intends a crackdown on jaywalkers and speeders, it's reported in the local papers accompanied by a warning to "keep to the limit *this week* [emphasis mine], because the cops are out in force."

It's an odd little city I live in. But I love it. ^^;

No writing today. Have to finish FFS, plus there's the game to consider. Actually reached Traffics I (Both 2989) - gosh darn it, I don't think it's fair how Nagano-sensei manages to make *all* his characters this cool. You'd think he'd run out after a while. But no, he just keeps on chugging along, filling eight thousands years of Joker system history with kick-ass headliners, fatimas, meights and... what are the sorceror people called again? Oh, divers, right. XD It's too late for me to attempt the storyline, so I'll just send you to this nice informative site:

http://www.heika.net/html/fss.htm

There are no spoiler warnings, so take care - but the manga is carefully constructed so you find out the end of every plot thread before the beginning anyway. ^^; The whole timeline is given in a reasonably detailed appendix at the end of each volume. We're all just waiting for Nagano-sensei to write it now, but he's too busy cosplaying Sailor Scouts with Ikuhara-sensei. I am not bitter, but neither - I must point out - am I joking.

Sunday, June 10, 2001
03:42 a.m.

More of the same

I do like it when it goes well. ^_^ I wonder at myself and say, well Sabina, even if it's only two pages per day, still that means you have the *ability* to finish one of these fanfic thingums every two weeks, doesn't it? So why can't you just make yourself sit down and *do* it?

(Part of the reason, of course, is that I can't do anything else when I'm writing. Can't answer e-mail, can't read - and I have four volumes of FFS piled up here, not to mention Susan Cooper - can't study Chinese vocab, can't work on the game. I can upload MP3s to kekkai, but that's about it. And two pages eats five hours. ^^;)

Nevertheless, here's a passage or two for you - Killvern - because you've warmed the cockles of a ficcer's heart. ^_^ I've got to hit the guestbooks of my favorite writers more, myself. It's a resolution.

**********

The man is not very old; nearing forty perhaps. He has a thin, dour face, and fine lines mesh the skin around his mouth from dragging on tens of thousands of cigarettes. The latest cancer stick in the continuing series is propped on the side of a ceramic ashtray before him, the filtered end resting on the tabletop and the other sending loops of heavy smoke into the air. He raises an eyebrow at Crawford.

"And your actions then?"

"I returned there the next morning." He has a headache, an unusual occurrence. A psychic attack? But his shields are solid. He represses the urge to glance into the corner of the room where he knows the woman is standing. "At the time my rank did not extend to having a team on standby, so I took all the measures available to me. I knew the Organization would wish to have the boy taken into custody for observation."

"But you were alone."

"Yes."

"And?"

"They were gone. The house was empty, and further investigation proved them financially untraceable. There were no clues in the building regarding their destination. It seemed to me as if they'd walked out on the spur of the moment and never returned."

"I see. Were they warned, do you believe?"

"No." It may be the fault of the smoke; he has left his own pack behind somewhere, and the scent of his debriefer's cheaper brand provokes in him an unsettling combination of nausea and craving. At the look on the man's face he adds, "I stated in my report at the time that they had been, but my understanding now is that I... underestimated the Eikener woman's knowledge of the Organization. It is obvious from the subject's own accounts that she had prepared extensively for such a contingency, although I believe he was kept ignorant of the bulk of her information."

"Indeed." The man makes a notation on the sheet in front of him – is it a facsimile of Crawford's 1988 report, or is it the original? He cannot tell – and lays it aside. "But we shall never know for sure, shall we." He picks up the cigarette between the knuckles of his index and middle finger and raises it to his lips.

"No." Decidedly it is the smoke. Perhaps he should quit; it is too much of a distraction this way. He has never realized.

But then, only in the absence of supply is addiction ever apparent.

The man exhales a blue cloud. "And your next encounter with the subject?"

"Two months ago. In Amsterdam."

***

"You waiting for someone, mister?"

Crawford looked up from the Times' financial section he had folded and laid on the bar between his glass and the ashtray. The glass was more water now than either bourbon or ice (he had tried to make it last, so as not to have to drink more than was necessary); the ashtray was nearly half-filled. He had another half-smoked cigarette between his fingers. At first he had checked every ten minutes, and then every five, but the paths of his immediate future bore a bland resemblance to his present. This bar; this bartender.

No informant.

"Not particularly," he said.

The bartender glanced him up and down, taking in the tailored suit and the Burberry he'd folded over the top of the next barstool with something approaching skepticism in his expression. "Haven't seen you around here much."

"I'm in town on business."

The man grunted, returning to his meticulous polishing of mugs and stemware. He was a great, hulking man, with skin the colour of French-roast coffee; Crawford suspected he served partly as security.

"You American?" the man said after a moment. Crawford looked up again.

"Not many people can tell," he said.

The bartender only grinned, as if Crawford's words had been a particularly pleasing confirmation.

[...]

[This is a strange incarnation for you to take, Tan-chan, I know it full well. I don't understand it myself. Never trust a writer's subconscious, is all I can say. ^^;]

The man set a tumbler in front of the old woman, ice clinking in what could have been vodka or gin or even water, although the latter was unlikely. She reached for it and took a long swig, but her gaze stayed on Crawford and did not falter.

"Cut the deck," she said.

"I'm sorry," said Crawford, straining for politeness. If he allowed himself the knowledge, he would see the position of each card; what each would be, rather, if he reached for it. And following upon that the old woman's words, and then the choice of yet other cards, one by one the swiftly diminishing combinations radiating like forked lightning into a protean infinity of multiplying universes... his talent stirred in the back of his mind, threatening to become a thought-obliterating roar. "I'm not fond of... predictions."

"Come, come, young man. You must be curious; all men are. Here, just pick one." Her hands moved deftly, shuffling the deck. Crawford wrenched his gaze away, but he could still hear the distinctive silkrain sound of well-worn cards rubbing against each other, and he had to grit his teeth against the urge to make a scene. He had a tight enough leash on his visions now, but it would mean a headache later on.

Surely there was some—

The bartender made a sound of fond exasperation. "Goddamn, Baba, you know the house rules. No hustling in here, all right? I let you, I gotta let everyone." Baba tossed down the last of her drink and waved the tumbler at him with one clawed hand.

"Shut your mouth, young one," she said without rancour. "I'm not one of Ritter's fools."

"Yeah?" The man caught the glass from her, dumped the ice into the sink and reached for the dispenser nozzle. "Ritter's dead, Baba, I ain't worried about Ritter *or* his goon parade. It's your baby boy plying his trade as can bring down the tone of this joint."

"He pays his tab."

"He pays yours, Baba, and I swear to God that's what keeps the both of you welcome. One of Old Man Flores'," he added in Crawford's direction, as if that said it all. Crawford set his cigarette down.

"The baby boy?"

The bartender snorted. "His *name*," he said gnomically, "is Schuldich. So he says, anyway. Jesus, Baba, are you going to put it away or not?"

"I'm not sure I understand," said Crawford. That got him a sour look.

"Just our little local fixer-upper is all. You got a hankering, that is, he'll fix you up - street price per gram or hour. I hear there's a preferred customer discount. The regular pretty poison."

"A hustler," Crawford translated. The bartender shrugged.

"Trouble with a fake ID," he said. "Don't know what those kinds see in him, but I've had guys going batshit insane in here, and that's with him sitting there not even *doing* anything. I swear to God if it weren't for Flores—"

"Shut *up*," Baba said too loudly, cutting him off. "Shut your goddamned mouth. You don't know a thing—" She went into a fit of coughing, doubling over her lap. The pool table punks glanced over at the noise and back again, dismissive.

"Not on the floor, Baba," the bartender warned. "Christ, just *look* at this joint. You see her?" he gestured at Baba. "Won't hear a word against him. He could be her grandson if she weren't Russkie."

**********

^_^; Boy, but I'll be happy to get back to one of the more civilized bits, like the Eikener dinner party. The next story happens in a palace, I swear. XD

Saturday, June 9, 2001
05:15 a.m.

Ficwriting with chocolate

"Berlin. Three years ago. You tried to sit in my lap while I was standing." XD

Decidedly I owe Raymond Chandler's ghost a cup or two of chicken blood. I've decided to try and finish the first part of this within the week, because I'm tired of having it drag at my schedule. Want to read a bit of what I have? That was a totally rhetorical question. :P

**************

"The light switch is beside you," Schuldich said, not turning. "You want a drink?"

Crawford's questing fingers met string. He pulled, hearing the click somewhere over his head, and with a warning flicker a fluorescent tube mounted on the wall sprang to life, filling the room with its subdued electric hum. In the abrupt illumination the red of Schuldich's hair showed cruelly over-bright. "No," he said.

"Good. 'Cause I haven't got anything." Schuldich shrugged, rotating the movement into a lazy stretch. Crawford glanced away. Schuldich had a sofa bed, the cheap type that was mostly a folding foam mattress, and no other furniture he could see. A pair of wicker chests gathered shadows in the corner. The walls were bare, painted in a periwinkle-blue dulled by dirt and beige splotches of wallpaper glue. Rust streaked the space under the boarded-up window. He took a step forward and felt something crunch under his shoe. There was water damage all along the ceiling molding, darkening with mildew where the plaster had bubbled up behind. An old poster decorated the opposite wall; Robert Plant gazed out at him with greasy-ink flyer eyes, the turn of his mouth gnomic. What was "Stairway to Heaven" in German?

"Literally?" Schuldich said. He smiled over his shoulder as Crawford centered himself and shielded his thoughts. "There's all kinds of heaven, herr Crawford. You think this is a dive, don't you?"

Crawford was silent a moment. "Why did you bring me here?"

"'Cause it's quiet." Schuldich sat on the edge of the mattress, too-long teenager legs stretched haphazardly before him. "This building's marked for demolition. Water in the foundations - could go any minute. Even squatters leave it alone. There's nobody in any of the apartments except us." He grinned, a flash of pearly white teeth. "All by our lonesome."

"You have electricity."

"I run it in from the main line. I know how."

"I would've thought you'd know better."

He was standing over the boy, overshadowing him without quite knowing how he'd gotten there. Schuldich tilted his head up and gave him a slow smirk. Very deliberately he let himself fall back onto the mattress.

"Maybe I do," he said. "Maybe, you know, hell is other people for me. Maybe I like my beauty sleep, or maybe I'm so loud at night I get my ass evicted all the time. How would you know?" He arched his back a little to emphasize the question.

Crawford could see the taut hardness of his nipples under the thin fabric of his shirt. He knelt, straddling Schuldich's hips, and braced his hands beside his shoulders so he could look into his face.

"I want to know who sent you," he said. "Where's Mara?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"You do. And I think you'd be best advised to tell me."

Schuldich looked at him, his lashes lowered. "You talk too much," he said. His red hair was a halo against the mattress's fabric cover, filling Crawford's peripheral vision.

Perhaps it was the unaccustomed effort of the mental shielding, but he had one of those rare moments when the Knowledge simply came. He held back the unbidden smile and bent his head, bringing his lips to within an inch of Schuldich's. The boy was quiet at this, watchful; Crawford could feel his respiration stir evenly against his skin. He thought if he listened hard enough, he could hear Schuldich's heartbeat.

"Do I?" he whispered, the words melding into the moist warmth of Schuldich's breath. "I don't believe I've ever been told that." And before Schuldich could answer, he lowered his head a little further and completed the incipient caress.

***************

...Yeah, yeah, shoot me. XD Guestbook me if you've got anything to say; NnY averages 60-70 hits a day, but comments-wise it's been kind of... isolated. >.<

In other news, I'm finally reading FFS. (The rental place ripped me off on these books, but that gripe some other time.) Halfway through Destiny Three Fates II my fangirl aspect is still trying to decide whether Amaterasu or Colus III is sexier, and I now want a fatima of my own - but never mind me. I'll post some notes on the actual plot when I haven't been up all night inhaling Cadbury products.

Friday, June 8, 2001
12:14 a.m.

Large modifications have been suggested for my game storyline. I'm actually quite amenable to them at this point - they might get me out of this utterly unwelcome writer's block I've been suffering vis-à-vis the last third of the story, and they'll allow me to postpone the deadline for my next missive. So now I feel as if I might survive after all. Reminds me of what Neil Gaiman said à propos of authorial weblogs: Feb.9 - this sucks. I'm a horrible writer. Feb.10 - this is great. This is the best thing I've ever done. Feb.11 - this sucks. I should just rip it up and start over. Feb.12 - ...and repeat ad infinitum. ^^; You're tired of hearing me blab about this, aren't you? Err... *goes digging in files for something readable that isn't a specification or spoiler or game cheat* Here. This is historical-stuff blurb that I wrote up in five minutes to prove to the head artist that I actually had magic in my story and not just politics.

"In mystic times the world was ruled by spirits of stone and wood and sand and sea, and humans were a race among others. Shrines were built to the spirits of the land, and they were revered. Then, one group of humans found and formed a pact with the greatest of the spirits, taking it as their Guardian. The magic and of the spirit was bound into the very blood of these humans, and the soul of the spirit became one with its people, legend says to be born and reborn as one of them. These humans called themselves the Isa.

"Centuries passed and the Isa grew in wisdom and glory. In order to regulate the wild magic soaked into the land, they created from the essences governed by the Guardian great artifacts: Shiraz, the blade of darkness - the jewel Blood Corruscant - the Undic Chalice, that cures all ills - the Mistral Spear - and the Mirror of the Mortal Earth. The Southern capital Isapolia was a golden wonder. But rifts grew between the Isa who worshipped at the different shrines, until those who belonged to Shiraz's shrine of the North rebelled against the rule of Isapolia, naming themselves "Hagilim" - Descendants of the Dark. They delved in arts forbidden to the people of Isapolia, breeding the race of True Dragons as engines of battle in their service. War raged over the continent until the Hagilim had taken two other shrines, that of the Mirror and the Spear. The leader of the Hagilim, Remiel, used the power sealed in the three artifacts in his possession to create the greatest spell of destruction the world had yet beheld: the Book of Abraxas. When he read the Book, the very roots of the land were shaken, mountains rose steaming out of the sea and Isapolia was lost in a great tide. But Remiel could not leash the power again, and the recoil of the spell left the hosts of the Hagilim in tattered ruins. The remnants of the Isa retook what had been theirs, but the lord of lost Isapolia, Leonus, was heartbroken. Had not legend said that the Guardian, no matter who he was, would come to the aid of his people in their time of need? But no great hero had appeared, and even their homeland had been destroyed. Leonus determined to lead his people to a place where magic would no longer be used for good or ill. He was not able to destroy the Book of Abraxas, but he broke it into pieces that he scattered or sealed. Then he set sail with as many of the Isa as would follow, taking with him the Undic Chalice that was his by birthright. Leonus's ships disappeared beyond the border of the Northern Sea, never to be seen again.

"The few Isa and Hagilim who remained began a slow decline. Never again was a city of the Isa built, and much was forgotten as time passed, until the Hagilim were no more than ragged forest bandits and the Isa lived hidden among the humans, jeered and expelled by suspicious neighbors when they were discovered. Because most artifacts were lost or misplaced and there was no guiding hand, magic gradually became wild again, breeding fey and terrifying beasts.

"But with so few Isa left, in what form will the Guardian be born?"

...All right now, before you Shioul-ers start laughing uproariously, remember that you have probably *also* become an NPC. Especially if you think I'd remember you. I am not very good at character names; the proof is that my team's other members have been misspelling them consistently. ;_; So I steal them when I can.

And *no*, it so happens that you *don't* play the Guardian. Nyeh. :P

Wolfwood *wants* the fic now, but Schuldich is applying the guilt factor. I'd let the two of them sort it out between themselves, but I have a horrible feeling it'll end with them demanding I write a story with them *together*. ^^; And Wufei of all people is being a distraction and a bother. I knew this Business Chinese course was a bad idea.

And I am obsessed with this Oliver Haze album. Which - yes - I bought. Seventeen loons for eleven songs, and I like *all* of them. I can't remember the last time I liked more than half the songs on a given CD. Of course it had to be the first album of some utterly unknown local devotee of Duran Duran. @_@ Every friend who sees me with it does a double take and tells me how insane I was to buy a full-length album just for "Holy Water" (so they assume), said single having spent an improbable two months in top-ten rotation on all the English-language radio stations. Picture your clock radio waking you up to this:

Guide me today
On the path to holy ground
Will I feel the faith
Clear this misery in my mind
Will I find in your eyes
The sacred sign of hope
Will I find in your eyes
The light that shows me wonders
It's pouring on you
It's pouring on me
Holy water

Yahari, Montreal's a culture of lapsed Catholicism. Either that or the city is full of New Wave nostalgists. ^^;

(The music video to this, I must note, is *gorgeous*. They shot it in some Southern France abbey that looked exactly like a sunny chunk of Léa Monde, the abandoned city in VS...)

Monday, June 4, 2001
12:48 p.m.

Pop music joys and tribulations

So is "Moulin Rouge" a fab, *fab* movie or what? ^_^ (I went to see it at the local mall with an audience comprised of 90% little old Jewish ladies, who applauded scatteredly and politely when it was over. Then we left the theatre and one of the little old ladies directly in front of me asked another how she'd liked it. "Oh, it was fab," she said. "Absolutely *fabulous*.") If you had told me previously that they would be reviving La Traviata with soundtrack by Elton John, Madonna and the Police, I don't think my response would have been printable in a family weblog - but the damned thing works like a dream. (An absinthe dream complete with R&B strip-teasin' absinthe fairies.) Nicole and Ewan don't hurt either. Oh no, they don't hurt a bit. XD

On another front, you're not going to be offering me Oliver Haze MP3s, are you?

You won't ever be putting the damned lyrics to "Holy Water" up somewhere google-able, will you?

You're going to *make* me buy this album, aren't you?

...Dammit, I hate falling for local artists. ^^;

Monday, June 4, 2001
01:54 a.m.

More (WK) ficbits

Does anyone read this blog who doesn't read my fanfic? That is, is there anyone out there who doesn't really care for this stuff, and is just here to listen to me blather about the random details of my existence?... I'm worried for the more explicit ficbits, actually, because I'm unsure at this point whether it's good form to stick R-rated stuff up here. But I don't suppose I'll ever know, will I. ^^;

[This is a fragmentary description of what I call the Schwartz Hyperspace Romper Room - veterans of the series will know what I'm talking about. I *could* tell you what the importunate bunny in question actually pretains to, but it'd traumatize 50% of you and give the other 50% unrealistic expectations. Except - Tania, if you are reading this, thank you oh so *very* much for passing me that line about Schuldich dressing like a cross between etc. right after the Trigun marathon. If anything comes of this I will lay it at your doorstep. >_<]

They pinned it on Schuldich, afterward. For opening the door, but mostly for having brought in the recliner to begin with. After all, Nagi would snarl intermittently for the duration of their travails, if he wanted to recline he could have found himself a plastic folding chair or whatnot, something that weighed a couple of pounds and could be grudgingly adjusted for. Or, of course, he could have _told_ Nagi, who would have calibrated the Hyperspacial Lab at the projector interface instead of from the computer inside (a processing feat similar to mapping a projection onto a four-dimensional Moebius strip while standing in the same, requiring several hours of Nagi’s time that he was never going to get back). But no; Schuldich had to go his own way, and he had to overdo things. As always. How had Nagi racked up the bad karma of his continued company?

Not that Schuldich cared. Guilty as charged was not only his middle name, it was his first and his last, and he’d had a lifetime to grow into it.

To describe the Hyperspacial Lab...

They’d gotten it from Estet Headquarters, on a technical inventory request. They’d been travelling a lot during that period, occasionally to Himalayan or Oceanic jumping-off points, and Nagi had wanted to take his files with him. That was the way he’d worded it. What he’d really been looking for, of course, was some sort of souped-up lap-top, which showed how little they’d known about Estet’s resources even then. Not to mention how _alien_ the Elders’ thought processes were when they weren’t paying attention. Nagi wanted a portable, so they gave him better.

It presented as a corridor, three point two meters by two point five meters, extending lengthwise into something Crawford said was expressible only with asymptotic notation. As far as Schuldich was concerned, that meant trying to find the other end was a waste of time. The walls felt like glass, the floor – improbably – like vinyl tile, and there were fluorescent lights in the ceiling that flickered on when the door opened and stayed on until they’d left. Nagi had piled all his equipment a few feet away from the door, around the single electric outlet in the wall – Crawford didn’t even try to explain that one – and they never ventured much beyond that point.

Saturday, June 2, 2001
05:52 p.m.

Perky mood >^_^<

I sent out the first 2/3 of my story synopsis early this morning. They have not killed me yet. The level designer rather likes it; he wishes I wouldn't call the palace Xanadu (said nothing about the country being called Sammarkand! o_o), but he's a Dune fan who doesn't mind that I ripped off Herbert, and I think I've convinced him that my offing a party character two-thirds of the way through is "a great story moment". (I know the programmer *will* have my hide for it, though. ^_^;) Now to see whether I've made the head artist hate me for all the political maneuvres and bizarre architectural demands, or if she's taken the fangirl bait I'm holding out. :P I stuck the printout under my sister's door before going to bed, and got a return note when I woke up to the effect that she will *definitely* be making a shrine to all the cool guys in it when the game's done, and wants the rest of the story quick - "or else, ULTIMA." My sister being afflicted with a far worse case of RPG Villain Fangirlism than I (dude - *she's* the one with the Kuja shrine), at least it lets me know the bait is good. ^_^

My current favorite character? The NPC princess/tragic love interest! ^_^;;; If you'd asked me what part of Angel Sanctuary I'd end up cannibalizing, I'd probably never have said... but never mind.

Friday, June 1, 2001
03:42 a.m.

Can't fault the Bard...

We finished watching Trigun. (Muchos y muchos gracias, D.) If it were earlier in the evening I'd rant a bit about forced ethics situations; if I were a *little* less tired than I am now I'd start in on the ending. The... ending. ^^;

("How often do I have to tell you - you're not supposed to point that end at ME! Dammit Vash, I'm a psychopath, not an arms instructor!")

This is an intense show, you see. By the end of ep.24 we'd gone right through the recorded degrees of angst and come out on the side where black humour resides. You know, the point at which Legato's "right-hand man" line makes a splash, like one of those puns Shakespeare is forever giving to his charas during deathscenes. I've never realized before now why he did that. Spoony man, y'know? ^_^

Oh, yes. And:
"Would you like some comfort food?"
"I'd rather have comfort sex."
"...Sure, why not." XD

I could go drink some caffeinated cola so I'd have the energy to tell you the story about Wolfwood and a blinding high noon and the dusty children laughing like they never knew the difference, the motorcycle whose sidecar was almost scrapped, no charge in the end you'd think but the double tenner for extra machinery oil could've gotten him a cold beer... And the old blues standards on a saloon piano, there had been lessons so long ago before the very first gun touched those clever fingers and the round of beers the ranchhands buy them - condensation dripping off the sides of the glass and shadows growing in the corners as he found chords unsuited for the occasion, this song was like a hymn wasn't it? But the children liked it so. And Vash's face dozing off at the table, how without the coat he doesn't look like anyone exactly except when the laughter was just fleeing and you're watching from the corner of your eye, and that's when the pain showed and the other things too he noticed. Golden like that it was rare. And the dark descending abruptly in the desert all around, like it always does so no one marks that word any different, 'sunset' - and the cold stars wavering just a little in the strip of blackness showing over the shutters, and there was a journey tomorrow and all the choices could be put off if they have to be made at all.

Or I... well, I *could* have gone to bed. Damn. _o_

Tuesday, May 29, 2001
02:40 a.m.

There but for the grace of God

I'm going to bed, but a super-quick link:

http://www.geocities.co.jp/Bookend-Kenji/1157/ayumi/synonym.htm

(It's a Japanese Trigun site.) The artist notes below that "thank goodness Rem's favorite flowers weren't pink or purple," and truer words there never were. Except, perhaps, "thank goodness Aya-chan wasn't named Keiko-chan."

Sunday, May 27, 2001
01:27 a.m.

In the most immediate news

Go watch Trigun. All of you. Now. Shoo shoo. Completely addictive mix of spasticness and high angst - when it's funny, it's ROFL funny, and when it's sad, it crushes your heart with a lobster cracker and hands it back to you on a platter. The kicker is that it swings from the one to the other about every fifteen seconds, never with any warning, like bipolar disorder viewed in fast forward. I don't think I've seen anything this emotionally intense since RK - and Kenshin's moments are spread out more, whereas Trigun does it all within 20-something episodes. What else what else? Double platinum round of seiyuu spotting (that's Seki Toshihiko, doing an aural impersonation of the kind of dessert that has French words like 'coulis' or 'crème' in the name), not to mention even the cast members I *don't* know do a stellar job. Onosaka-san, we'll be rememberin' ya. I'm stuck at ep.19 with the Pioneer release. Troll net for digital source or hold out for the clear rental copy? Ennhhh choices choices...

I ended up cooking after all, at Tan-chan's place, so this was accompanied by my ratatouille and chives/marinade pork stir-fry, as well as good friends. Better and better. ^_^

Thursday, May 24, 2001
12:29 a.m.

"I don't know how to use a can opener."

Sad, isn't it? ^^; It's twelve thirty at night and I feel like cooking something. I can never cook, because there are no ingredients at home except what my mother uses, and damned if I'm going to spend my pocket money on groceries - but it's actually something I like doing, and I've never found it hard, for the same reason I don't find makeup hard: it's just another kind of paintbox.

...

Maybe I'll go make a batch of chai latte. (Tea, cinnamon, cloves, milk.) It's too late to drink it if I intend to go to bed, but a pre-emptive strike would let me spike it with brandy before I put it in the fridge for tomorrow. And it'd be a hell of an easier time on my stomach, which has been acting up since some suspect salmon soufflé at the Birdcage this weekend.

Wednesday, May 23, 2001
12:14 a.m.

As she finally figures out the protocol

Guestbook replies go *here*. ^^;

Ricin: yes, the "Demi" universe is post-series, though to be precise I'd have to call it A/U - I ignored a number of important canonical plot points in order to make the basic premise work. "After Checkmate..." was essentially my attempt at writing a 13x5 that doesn't hinge on the same assumptions as *all* the others ^^;, and is loosely inspired by a stylish French horror/mystery novel called "Celle qui n'était plus..." by Boileau & Narcejac. (There's a Sharon Stone flick called "Diabolique" which is a bad remake of the French Clouzot film version thereof, but the book is far, far better.) The premise of the book was, what if you were certain someone was *very* dead - killed them for the insurance money, let's say, or saw them go kablooey in a mobile suit - but they insisted on behaving as if they were alive?

Whaddya do? :P

The original book felt like Lain, if Lain had ended in deductive logic. I of course messed with the motivations and changed the POV so you follow a somewhat reverse-Stockholm'd Treize instead of Wufei (i.e. giving away the gig from the start), because to do it the right way around would've been too creepy. Even so, what with Treize and Meiran, messing with Wufei's mind is a terribly easy thing. :P He annoyed me in the show the first time I watched, y'see, and no matter how long it takes I always get payback. It's one of the advantages of being a writer.

And yes, the streets are real. Though they may be a few blocks off from where I placed them, because my mnemonic geography sucks rocks. ^^;;

llamajoy: I love Lupin. He brought out the spiritus naturaliter yaoi instinct I honestly thought I didn't have, and then I felt sacrilegious for mentally corrupting my little sister's reading material but the damage was done. (It's not my fault JKR wrote the exact type of teacher I always developed crushes on in high school...) And yes, bunnies are fun. ^_^ I was actually going to post a Final Fantasy VII bunny tonight, but I find that I do not so much have FF7 bunnies as I have "Dawn..." outtakes. Eleven pages of them, nearly as long as the fic itself. ^^; Not in any kind of logical order though. I was reduced to rooting for teensy Reno snippets through my Independent Redhead Files. No point, just cuteness, it goes a little like this:

[Sometime pre-game continuity after Reno whiles away a boring Shinra-brass meeting by playing footsie under the conference table with a pretty blond teen... I seem to have a Pulp-Fiction-esque fondness for writing Turks in cars...] But of course, it just had to be the one meeting out of possible hundreds where Heidegger’d decided he had to keep it short.

Once in the car, he’d asked Tseng who the boy was.

Well. Not in those words as such.

Tseng had not taken his gaze off the road. “The hot little piece of jailbait ass,” he’d said, “to appropriate your usual felicity of phrase, Reno, just so happens to be Rufus Shinra.” Reno had been the one who’d blinked.

“You mean—”

“Son of President Shinra. As of yesterday, VP in charge of administration and security; Turks report to him on a team-to-man basis. I know it’s too much to ask for you to actually pay attention at these meetings. However.” Tseng had accelerated up the Trans-Midgar ramp just ahead of a barreling mako tanker. “If I’ve said it once, Reno, I’ve said it ’til the chocobos come home—”

“Don’t fuck the boss. Yes, Tseng, I know.” Reno had thrown his seat into recliner position, viciously. It wasn’t as if he’d come close. It was entirely possible to get to third base in Shinra Corp.’s boardroom, but not even Reno could manage it with the board still there.

Tseng had sighed. “A-plus if you remember it, Reno. Fucking A-plus.”

***

Tuesday, May 22, 2001
03:54 a.m.

*thoughtful*

You know, 'hagane' means steel. Wonder why they didn't just call it steel? I mean, they called bronze bronze, and silver silver...

(Or is it that in Real Life steel is not what you get when you combine bronze and iron? ^^; See, I used to know all this stuff when I was a kid, from reading encyclopaedias. Then I got a semblance of a life.)

I wish I could sit down and finish this damned game at one go. *sigh* At least I'm catching up to the other person in my circle of acquaintances who's playing it - he's still slightly ahead of me, but he just got stuck in some forest, nyuk nyuk.

In other news, back to the Birdcage for quail and sparkling Alsace wine today, along with the high-speed connection. The Harry Potter movie trailer looks better than I'd hoped. I'd thought they would go for some sort of bright Disney kiddie look, but they didn't. Instead it's rather musty and ancient British public-school-ish, and the children are made to look like medieval scholars in their black robes. Me like.

Sunday, May 20, 2001
10:35 p.m.

NnY Update

Quick note to let you know, since I'm not changing the weblog colours this time (the next time I tweak the layout here, it's going to be a *real* layout, if you see what I mean). There's also a new poll I believe you *may* find interesting. I have been working hard all weekend, and my stories are finally jelling, so I am content. ^_^ Off to do Chinese homework now...

P.S.: If you have any comments re the ficbunny below, please do sign my guestbook...

Saturday, May 19, 2001
04:21 a.m.

After Checkmate, The Game Begins (ficbit)

I was at bishounenink again today, oohing and meeping at the latest bunnies they posted on their journals, when it occurred to me: hey, why don't I do this? ^_^ So I dug into my directories and came up with the most promising one. It was actually part of my collection of first chapters I was collecting à la Calvino's "Winter's Night", but it seems rather silly to expect to *finish* that, so I might just post what I have in installments right here on the weblog. It's about Treize and Wufei, in the Demi universe no less (see, I can do resurrection fic too! :P).

***

February. The cold was unseasonable.

A rare mist had risen off the Huangpu a hour after sundown, obscuring frosted breath and dimming the lights of the Bund to mere brilliance. A tease of a mist. It crept, hugging the ground – the second-floor façades of the old banks loomed, low-lit like ships rising out of theatrical sea-foam – over paving stone and asphalt to spill into Nanking Street bright with Valentine storefronts. The reaction of the usual press of pedestrians along the waterfront was resignation: stride lengthened, chins tucked in collars and muffled under face-masks against the damp. They paused little. Shanghai never slept, they claimed, but most of the ever-hopeful film- and trinket-sellers had folded their umbrellas for a more propitious evening. The few that remained showed as ghostly shapes in the vapour, loess-tinted by the burn of sodium streetlights.

It was ten o’ clock when the man who still thought of himself as Treize Khrushrenada exited through the old-fashioned revolving doors of the Peace Hotel, heading south. The mist had deepened; the old Eastern Pearl tower was a blur of green and rose on the Pudong shore, dark water invisible. So many centuries, he mused, pausing, arrested by the unexpected chill. He had been here only once before, a youngster on grande tournée, and though Mei pointed out the changes ensuing decades had wrought on the city, he could not perceive them.

So many… lifetimes.

The air smelt of estuary and spilt diesel from the barges. Treize turned away and set off down the Bund, pace brisk enough to banish unwanted darkness. He kept his hands in the pockets of his overcoat. Every once in a while, like a monk ticking off beads in prayer, he ran his fingertips over the hard edge of the manila envelope he had tucked into the inner lining.

He crossed the skywalk and descended into Jinling Street, turning after a couple of blocks onto Lisui. Most of the old-fashioned tongs along this stretch of throughfare had been preserved; self-consciously so. The same greying plaster and tortuous alleys, the same wooden shutters in fading scarlet – but walls had been knocked down behind, fashioning adjoining tenements into modern lofts and club space for the quirky-conscious. It was not Treize’s scene, but it was that of the informant who had provided him the use of his name.

*****somewhat later*****

He checked the door and the lock for wiring first, as Treize knew he would. Efficiency in action. Opened the door, gave a quick glance to make sure he’d missed nothing, scooped up the envelope and made to slip it into the inside pocket of his jacket – and the first pair of photos escaped, as Treize had known they would also, fluttering down to the scuffed tile.

Wufei swore and knelt. One of the five-by-eights had nearly slipped into the crack between lockers and floor, and necessitated a bit of delicacy in retrieving. Of course he had to glance down at them, once they were in his hands.

Wufei froze. On his knees he was a knight of empires long crumbled to nothingness, awaiting judgment, forever, and for a long time he did not even seem to breathe.

“Meiran,” he whispered.

“Meiran…”

Treize felt relief. The resemblance was true. Up to this point he had had only Mei’s word, and the evidence of old surveillance photography, blurred with distance – wanted for dissemination of classified information and terrorism against the state – but judging from Wufei’s reaction, it was enough. The bait was taken. The plan could proceed.

Wufei had loved her.

Disequilibrium took him with sudden force. Intrusion of a dark gaze – Krushrenada! – he quieted his breathing, wary of false memories. The touch hesitant, blind, eyes shuttering in surprised abandon. His doing. Treize, what are you doing?

How strange after all, that it was not hatred that would menace him. Perhaps only those who have died understand, he thought with a point of humor.

Perhaps those who have killed…

Wufei whirled then, head snapping up, and Treize froze. He didn’t remember making a sound. He hadn’t made a sound. Wufei’s eyes met his through the grille, burning.

“Who are you?” Treize stared into the barrel of a handgun, out of nowhere it seemed. “Open that thing and get down. Slowly.”

Treize was silent. Calculating: the layout of the ventilation system, the thickness of the piping, the gauge of Wufei’s weapon, the speed of his trigger.

"Do you hear me? I said now!"

Treize threw himself backward, hearing the first shot echo as it dented the metal beneath him, and the second shot ping as its course was deflected by the grille. The third shot went through his sleeve and grazed his arm, but it hardly registered as he scrambled into the relative safety of the next room.

He will not be aware, he’d told Mei. To him I no longer exist as an enemy…

The bass pounding of the music latched onto his heartbeat. He threw himself into the strobe-lit frenzy as a swimmer would, knowing safety in the press and swirl of bodies, that though the hunt was on the last stroke of the knife would not be for here, not tonight. Knowing where the door was.

He was conscious of elation.

***

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