[21:14] <Minaplo> SHOWCASE WEEK SIX: Swords Into Plowshares
[21:19] <Minaplo> Adjusting to life in the Shadow Market would take a period of adjustment. Appropriately, it was as much about changing one's perception as it was behaviour.
[21:26] <Minaplo> The first thing Okuninushi had to learn was that the Shadow Market was not literally just a market in terms of being a place for the exchange of goods, although that was its largest draw. Rather, the Shadow Market was a wide and sprawling domain, with gloomy forests, freezing mountain ranges, hidden valleys with small, rustic villages within, underwater seashell canyons and many more. All of this was arranged like a wheel, with the inner axel being Krishna's palace, and around that, the marketplace.
[21:30] <Minaplo> Being a Shadow often tended to be more a thing of instinct rather than thought. Shadows were, as a rule, loyal to their own natures, and in such a place, knowledge itself could be an instinctual trait. Okuninushi was aware, for example, that Shadows did not necessarily need to eat or drink. That is to say, biologically, as much as the word applied here, there was no direct connection between their ongoing survival and taking in physical foodstuff.
[21:30] <Minaplo> And yet Shadows still ate and drank. Often, in fact.
[21:31] <Minaplo> Why? Because Shadows, whilst not needing food and drink, often needed to need food and drink. A subtle but crucial difference.
[21:33] <Minaplo> Most Shadows exist as pools of emotional energy, pressurised into a metaphysical form by repression. Once pressurised, they then often found a theme- a story or a kind of portrayal that connected with their meta-existential reason.
[21:37] <Minaplo> But this connection between metaphysical existence and theme required maintenance in the form of action. Simply put, Shadows portrayed their forms as actors portray characters. And just as an actor lives or dies on their ability to sell the illusion that they are that character, Shadows needed to embody the role they had been placed in. They had to convince an audience that they really were what they appeared to be, and if they didn't, then their cohesion would be threatened. They would grow weaker, and devolve into ever simpler forms.
[21:38] <Minaplo> Shadows that didn't eat and drink would weaken, not because they were hungry, but because they simply failed to be convincing. Things became hungry. And so, Shadows became hungry too.
[21:40] <Minaplo> Another thing Okuninushi was instinctively aware of was that there was a permanence to their physical bodies. They did not simply 'reset' their bodies periodically. Injuries inflicted on a body would remain until healed. They would even scar. In fact, scarring could literally add character to a Shadow, because how many stories placed importance on scars?
[21:42] <Minaplo> Finally, Shadows had great powers but they were limited by their forms. A Shadow associated with woodworking might be able to craft, say, a wooden duck, but no matter how hard they tried they probably would not manage to turn iron into steel and steel into axes.
[21:43] <Minaplo> What all of this essentially meant was that Shadows, at least Shadows with forms worth a damn, were not self-sufficient.
[21:44] <Minaplo> And where self-sufficiency is lacking, trade emerges. And thus you have the Shadow Market.
[21:46] <Minaplo> When the team formerly known as the Monster with 21 Faces had left Okuninushi in the middle of the Market, he had little understanding of the rules, but he quickly learned.
[21:47] <Minaplo> The first thing he realised was that he had no money, and money in the Shadow Market came in the form of memories. Memories from… Humans. Memories of the Waking World, that strange firmament that existed elsewhere, that formed the Sea of Chaos but was unaware of it. A place that the Shadows stared through from behind one-way windows, so close and yet so yearningly far away.
[21:47] <Minaplo> The essential existence of a Shadow was tied to human perception. Maintaining the cohesion of their forms was all well and good, but Shadows had, intrinsic to their nature, a craving for human attention, to touch the thoughts of a human and make them their own.
[21:49] <Minaplo> But on top of that, not every Shadow was the same. Although all had been made through repression of some kind, the congealed thought and emotion that formed their core existence differed. And ultimately, Shadows sought out things that resonated with that existence.
[21:50] <Minaplo> And so, Shadows sought out human memories that matched their natures.
[21:51] <Minaplo> Which led to the next realisation for Okuninushi: memories were the currency of the Shadow Market, but frustratingly, it was not a standardised currency. How appealing your cash was depended on the nature of the cash and the nature of the Shadow. It was kind of like living in the middle of a marketplace where everyone dealt in different foreign currencies, and each time you wanted to buy anything, you had to stop and work out how much your money was really worth.
[21:52] <Minaplo> You might have a memory that one Shadow would beggar themselves to earn, but the Shadow right next to him would eye with utter disinterest.
[21:52] <Minaplo> Okuninushi, however, had no memories with which to trade.
[21:53] <Minaplo> So, he would have to earn them.
[21:54] <Minaplo> The first thing Okuninushi did to earn his keep was heal.
[21:55] <Minaplo> Healing was always in high demand in the Shadow Market, because life as a Shadow was dangerous, and fights were commonplace. Outside of injecting more memories into the economy, Krishna had a fairly hands-off approach to managing the Shadow Market. Shadows fighting Shadows was not considered a threat to the Market- indeed, it was to be expected, even encouraged considering the natures of some Shadows.
[22:11] <Minaplo> Okuninushi's nature was not especially violent. He did not find memories of violence and fighting especially appealing. Nonetheless, the first client he healed was a furious, resentful tsuchigumo who had pretty convincingly lost a fight to a crusader. Okuninushi healed the tsuchigumo's wounds, reattaching an arm and stemming some bleeding.
[22:11] <Minaplo> In exchange for this, the tsuchigumo gave Okuninushi a memory of two humans in a stadium, wearing absurd foamy padded armour, beating each other off platforms with foamy sticks.
[22:15] <Minaplo> Okuninushi did not enjoy this memory. It did not, as they say, spark joy.
[22:15] <Minaplo> But Okuninushi was well aware enough that whilst he did not value it, someone else did, and that gave it value of its own. He sold the memory to a spiteful little Goblin in exchange for some (presumably stolen) tools. The Goblin grew about fifteen centimetres, ran down the street and punched a Mothman in the back of the head.
[22:16] <Minaplo> Four other Mothmen came out of nowhere and stomped the Goblin into a fine paste. This in turn triggered a furious reaction by three Elven Spearmen down the road, who charged the Mothmen in perfect formation, wounding them and driving them away.
[22:20] <Minaplo> Okuninushi had witnessed all of this with horror. He had not wanted to start a bloodbath in the middle of the street.
[22:20] <Minaplo> It was here that Okuninushi learned another valuable lesson about trading in the Shadow Market: there was another reason Shadows avoided memories they didn't themselves value.
[22:21] <Minaplo> Even if they sold those memories on to Shadows that did appreciate them, they would directly or indirectly enable an event, or action, or Shadow they found disagreeable and contrarian to their nature.
[22:25] <Minaplo> It was here, too, that Okuninushi would see the only form of forceful intervention from Krishna that he was likely to see.
[22:45] <Minaplo> After the altercation, the dead Goblin began to decay. A Zombie found it and devoured the body, leaving its possessions behind. Next came a Gremlin, which perused the Goblin's scant possessions- namely a small bomb of some kind and a hammer- before leaving. Then came a Preta, stroking its distended belly as it greedily snatched up the bomb- which promptly exploded, killing the Preta.
[22:47] <Minaplo> Then came a Kappa, which, ignoring the hammer, picked up the Goblin's memory.
[22:47] <Minaplo> Seemingly out of nowhere, a trio of Naga slithered out of the shadows- snake men armed with shields and spears. They surrounded the Kappa. "Hold! By what right do you claim this abandoned memory?!"
[22:48] <Minaplo> The Kappa stared at the Naga, and made some burbling sounds.
[22:49] <Minaplo> "You are not the next of kin." Said one of the Naga. "You aren't even alike. One of you is a trash-wearing thief and you assault women and prank children who go near water. Those aren't alike!"
[22:50] <Minaplo> The Kappa burbled furiously.
[22:50] <Minaplo> "I'm not about to get into a debate about standing your ground in water, Kappa. Memories must be passed on to a beneficiary, and since this one had no such beneficiary, the memory returns to Lord Krishna's vault."
[22:51] <Minaplo> The Kappa cradled the memory against its chest. It raised its free hand aggressively. Ice magic began to form around the tips.
[22:53] <Minaplo> "Hold your ice! Don't-"
[22:53] <Minaplo> The Kappa blasted the Naga with a wave of ice, wounding two of them and driving a third into cover.
[22:54] <Minaplo> A moment later, the Kappa was dead, lying face-down in the dirt. It had happened in a moment- the Kappa was there, the next a massive avian shape had plunged from the ground and smashed its claws through the Kappa's back. The shape then flew off, drops of Shadow ichor dripping as it went.
[22:55] <Minaplo> "Lord Garuda! Lord Garuda!" Shouted the Naga, cheering and waving their spears into the air.
[22:55] <Minaplo> It seemed, then, that the authorities of the Shadow Market did not care if you fought, as fighting could be in your nature. Nor did it care if you stole, as stealing could also be in your nature.
[22:55] <Minaplo> So long as you did not steal a memory.
[22:56] <Minaplo> Those, it seemed, were the only thing that provoked a response from Lord Krishna's formidable forces.
[22:57] <Minaplo> Okuninushi earned other memories by healing the Naga and the Mothmen. Memories that were not exactly to his liking, but weren't distasteful either. Neutral memories, essentially.
[22:57] <Minaplo> These he could trade away without provoking distasteful events.
[22:58] <Minaplo> Okuninushi had to take it slow, however. Using magic drained his energy, and using simple medicine-craft was not always appropriate. He had to spend memories to buy food and drink, and tools besides.
[22:58] <Minaplo> Nonetheless, Okuninushi accumulated a small pool of memories.
[22:59] <Minaplo> At some point, Okuninushi departed the urban heart of the Shadow Market, and headed for a rustic, distant area. It was a verdant, calm place, and Okuninushi- the father of Japanese agriculture- could tell that it was rich and fertile. The soil was dark and easily worked and a river existed nearby for him to use.
[23:01] <Minaplo> For some time, Okuninushi worked the area. He did what he could by himself, building some agricultural tools- after all, he likely invented them- and working the land. But he could not do everything by himself.
[23:15] <Minaplo> To build his house, he paid a zoroastrian Deva, a guardian of hearth and home, memories of antique restoration shows to build a home secure and safe. To divert the river, he paid a titan in memories of conquest and accomplishment to dig channels and flood his rice paddies.
[23:21] <Minaplo> Okuninushi knew old ways, magical ways of ensuring the protection of his land. He cultivated butturbur around his property to attract the diminuitive koropokkuru people, who he did not try and see, but knew they were there. This was a more basic, primal trade: he sheltered them, and they would replenish his land.
[23:22] <Minaplo> He paid Arachne memories of competition with a smarter, older sister in exchange for silk sheets and pavilions, with which he decorated his land and attracted prosperity.
[23:23] <Minaplo> Okuninushi flourished. His rice grew and he would soon harvest it, and with it he would eat, and sell fine food on the marketplace, and prosper.
[23:23] <Minaplo>
[23:30] <Minaplo> After one long day, Okuninushi retired to his house and read by candle light.
[23:39] <Minaplo> The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, all of a sudden.
[23:39] <Minaplo> He was being… Watched.
[23:39] <Minaplo> Okuninushi turned sharply toward the window.
[23:39] <Minaplo> He saw it, just for a moment.
[23:40] <Minaplo> A humanoid shape, peering out from between the branches of a tree.
[23:42] <Minaplo> The moment it realised he'd seen, it vanished in a flash of white, blinding light.
[23:44] <Minaplo> It unsettled Okuninushi, although he was unsure why.
[23:45] <Minaplo> The next night, Okuninushi was preparing a meal when he felt that same creeping alarm across his skin. He looked out the window to find another figure, similar to another, staring at him. This time it was behind a silk pavilion, a little closer to his house. It remained a little while longer before it, too, vanished.
[23:45] <Minaplo> Another night passed, and this time it was hiding amongst butturbur, yet closer to his front door.
[23:45] <Minaplo> Okuninushi began wearing his sword yet again.
[23:46] <Minaplo> The next night, Okuninushi stood by the door and waited. Then as night fell, he threw his door open and ran out into his field. There he saw the shape, now only a short run from his door, hiding behind his toolshed.
[23:46] <Minaplo> "What do you want?" Asked Okuninushi. His tone was harsher than he liked, but he was feeling unusually threatened.
[23:46] <Minaplo> The stranger sung at him.
[23:47] <Minaplo> Strange words. Not a language he understood, yet one that filled him, with some reason he couldn't place, with dread. A far flung, distant yet unavoidable dread.
[23:48] <Minaplo> Then it vanished, too, in a flash of light that forced Okuninushi to turn away. All he glimpsed were sparks of gossamer light stretching outwards from the figure before it was gone.
[23:48] <Minaplo> Okuninushi became afraid.
[23:51] <Minaplo> The next day, he did less work on the farm and more work on defences. He left entreaties to the koropokkuru to protect his lands in case of danger. He paid memories of sporting glory to a valkyrie to protect his homestead. He readied his magical sword in case of need.
[23:51] <Minaplo> That night, however, as the minute arrived, Okuninushi's threatening figure did not appear.
[23:52] <Minaplo> As he tensed and readied his sword and nodded to the valkyrie, he reached out to throw open the door.
[23:52] <Minaplo> He never had the chance. Radiant, dizzying light burst through every window and crack in his house. It was as though a blazing white sun were outside of his house.
[23:53] <Minaplo> The valkyrie's horse screamed, and then went silent. The valkyrie shouted and bolted out of Okuninushi's house. He dared glimpse her as she turned to ash.
[23:54] <Minaplo> Okuninushi slammed the door shut. He cowered in the corner as he felt a great presence move outside of his house. Music in a language that terrified him ripped through the walls and the sound, drowning out his thoughts, turning them to static.
[23:55] <Minaplo> He felt an eye, great and white-gold, emitting the splendid heat of a nuclear weapon, peering through his windows. Trying to see him. Okuninushi was terrified, helpless before it. He trembled helplessly.
[23:55] <Minaplo> And then, all of a sudden, it was gone.
[00:00] <Minaplo> When day came, and Okuninushi finally had the courage to leave his house, he would find that his fields were damaged- great burn marks in the shape of footprints had been branded in the soil in many places, and in places, handprints had been burned like atomic shadows into the outside of his house.
[00:01] <Minaplo> The strange lights and entities never came back, yet the feeling of being watched never went away.
[00:01] <Minaplo> Okuninushi set about repairing his fields.
[00:01] <Minaplo>
[00:01] <Minaplo> "Hail, freeman." Cried the figure at the edge of Okuninushi's farm.
[00:07] <Minaplo> It was a small man with butterfly wings- a faerie, perhaps?- and a sword, riding a kelpie. Behind him were a coterie of individuals- pretty fairy girls and women, some strange cats, and a company of Elven soldiers.
[00:07] <Minaplo> Okuninushi had been tilling the fields, and had eyed the travellers suspiciously as they passed. "Good morning." Said Okuninushi cautiously. "Welcome to my land."
[00:08] <Minaplo> "Thank you. I am Oberon." Said the faerie. "And you are new, I believe. I would like to hear your name."
[00:08] <Minaplo> "Okuninushi." He said. "Pleased to meet you."
[00:08] <Minaplo> Okuninushi bowed, and Oberon, smiling, did the same.
[00:08] <Minaplo> "I was hoping, good sir, that we might rely on your hospitality for an eve." Said Oberon. "We have just returned from a campaign in Thule, and we are famished and tired."
[00:12] <Minaplo> Okuninushi relaxed. "Of course. If you ask my hospitality then you shall have it."
[00:13] <Minaplo> Okuninushi was a god, and a god of peace, agriculture and home. A god of Japan to boot. Beings of his nature were loyal to their natures, and for such entities, hospitality was sacred.
[00:16] <Minaplo> The fae decamped on Okuninushi's property, and were treated to bowls of rice and some vegetables, courtesy of his first harvests.
[00:16] <Minaplo> As his guests ate, Okuninushi sat with them and poured them tea. "If you would, I would enjoy hearing of your journeys."
[00:18] <Minaplo> "There is not much to tell." Said Oberon, sipping his tea with his pinky extended. "Our fair realm of Avalon has been at war with another domain, Thule, for as long as we can remember. Once, the war was undecided, but these days Avalon has all but triumphed. Most of Thule has been occupied and soon, we will strike and kill its Baron."
[00:18] <Minaplo> "Why are you at war with these Thule people?" Asked Okuninushi.
[00:18] <Minaplo> Nearby, several Elves were swapping war stories. One was terrorising a hapless pixie with the disembodied head of a troll.
[00:19] <Minaplo> "They are antithetical to us in a way we cannot properly express." Said Oberon. "I suppose you could say that it is in our nature to loathe Thule. Our Queen has deemed them wicked and worthy of destruction."
[00:25] <Minaplo> "Tell me more."
[00:25] <Minaplo> And so Oberon told Okuninushi of Thule, a far-distant island realm in the Sea of Chaos, ruled by an authoritarian government who called themselves 'The Fourth Reich', and who preached a doctrine of supremacy that made less than no sense to someone like Oberon. That they were ruled by crafty, slimy wizards who unleashed horrific monsters on the world, and attempted to exterminate many types of Shadows. And so Thule had been at war with Avalon for all of Thule's existence, for the Fairy Queen of Avalon loved peace and stability and hated such ideologies with a passion that invigorated her armies. Which is not to say that it had been an easy war, for there had been times when Avalon itself had been attacked, and still there were parts that bore the scars of Thule's invasion.
[00:25] <Minaplo> "But the last defences guarding Thule's heart will soon fall to our tricksters and magicians." Said Oberon with satisfaction. "And then Prince Idraceyl will slaughter the Baron and put an end to this threat to order and peace."
[00:26] <Minaplo> "This seems very complicated, yet for some reason it also sounds really familiar in a way that makes me uncomfortable." Said Okuninushi, shifting awkwardly in his seat.
[00:27] <Minaplo> "A curious statement." Said Oberon, eyeing Okuninushi with, if not suspicion, then guided curiosity.
[00:28] <Minaplo> Okuninushi shook his head. "Forgive me. I am new to this sort of politic. Perhaps it is not to my taste."
[00:28] <Minaplo> A moment passed. "Actually, sir, I would ask something of you. Information."
[00:29] <Minaplo> "By all means. Ask."
[00:30] <Minaplo> "Recently, my property has been harassed by strange entities…" Okuninushi recounted the incident with the blinding light and strange stalker in deep detail, leaving nothing out. As he spoke, Oberon's retinue began to abandon their discussions to listen to his story.
[00:30] <Minaplo> When he finished, a deep and heavy silence fell on the group.
[00:31] <Minaplo> "I confess… I do not know what it is that assailed you." Said Oberon. "Humanoid figures that vanish in blasts of light. A great presence, watching you, a presence wreathed in music…"
[00:31] <Minaplo> Oberon shook his head. "I am at a loss. Forgive me."
[00:33] <Minaplo> "Do not worry yourself, sir." said Okuninushi, bowing. "I am sure the answer will reveal itself to me in time."
[00:33] <Minaplo> "My advice, Master Okuninushi, would be to remain safe. There are many dangers, new and old, known to Avalon, but this sounds like nothing I've encountered before. Perhaps I will inquire when I return home and see what I find."
[00:35] <Minaplo> "I would be grateful for any information you could provide." Okuninushi bowed again.
[00:36] <Minaplo> "I will do my best. Until then, it is time that we departed." Oberon turned to the muttering, rumouring throng and made a gesture. "Form up and march! Master Okuninushi, until we meet again, may the Light of the Evening Star protect you."
[00:36] <Minaplo> This meant nothing to Okuninushi, but the sentiment was obvious.
[00:38] <Minaplo>
[00:39] <Minaplo> One day, when Okuninushi was working the fields, a strange sound echoed in the sky above his head. He looked up to find a bizarre, silvery object streaking across the sky, shouting loudly.
[00:39] <Minaplo> "FEMA DID 9/11!" it screeched.
[00:39] <Minaplo> "What the-"
[00:44] <Minaplo> "ELVIS PRESLEY FAKED THE MOON LANDING!!!" It roared as it ripped across the sky like a comet.
[00:45] <Minaplo> "????"
[00:45] <Minaplo> A moment later, a cloud of gaseous fumes dropped from the strange object across Okuninushi's farm, sending him into a coughing fit.
[00:58] <Minaplo> About two days after this, another strange shape was seen in the sky. A black helicopter flew over Okuninushi's field.
[00:58] <Minaplo> "What is it this time?" Asked Okuninushi to himself wonderingly. He fingered his sword hilt as the chopper landed.
[01:00] <Minaplo> The chopper opened, and out leapt a handful of shapes. One was a slightly translucent young blonde man in a matching blonde suit and a slasher smile. Next to him was a leather-clad shape wearing a gas mask, a spray gun, a black cloak and a tank of some strange fluid. A trio of identical men wearing black suits leapt out, guns out. A pair of Mothmen stayed in the chopper and kept watch.
[01:01] <Minaplo> "Pardon me, but who are all of you, and what are you doing in my paddies?" Asked Okuninushi firmly.
[01:02] <Minaplo> The gasmask and the blonde turned to eye him. The blonde licked his lips.
[01:02] <Minaplo> The men in black ignored Okuninushi. "Secure the perimeter." Said one. The other two nodded in unison. They had shades on, and identical haircuts.
[01:02] <Minaplo> "You're being very rude." Said Okuninushi. "Please announce yourselves, or I will take action."
[01:03] <Minaplo> Suddenly one of the men in black spasmed.
[01:05] <Minaplo> His whole body bulged and sagged and splintered and snapped and broke and staticked into a new shape. A tall, gaunt young brown-skinned man with orange-red hair now stood in his place. He adjusted the tie and took off the glasses, revealing eyes that reminded Okuninushi of a fox.
[01:07] <Minaplo> "Mr. Okuninushi-no-kami? Agent Vulpes Crane." He held out a hand.
[01:08] <Minaplo> Okuninushi stared at it in confusion, then just took it and shook it. "That's my name. What is this all about?"
[01:08] <Minaplo> "I'm afraid I need to ask you a few questions, Mr. no-Kami." Said Agent Crane.
[01:08] <Minaplo> "About what?"
[01:08] <Minaplo> "We believe events of a… Paranormal nature have been occurring in the vicinity of your premises, Mr. No-Kami."
[01:08] <Minaplo> Behind Agent Crane, the two Mothmen waved at Okuninushi.
[01:09] <Minaplo> "What? Ah, what kind of… Events do you mean?" Said Okuninushi, who felt deeply wrong-footed and wasn't sure how to reorient himself.
[01:11] <Minaplo> "Strange apparitions. The sensation of being watched. Strange dreams, perhaps events where unusual entities inserted probes into various orifices-"
[01:11] <Minaplo> "What?!-"
[01:12] <Minaplo> "Unusual or unexplained lights." Said Agent Crane. "Unusual shapes burned into your crops. That kind of thing."
[01:12] <Minaplo> "I mean- yes. All of those happened recently, besides the probing."
[01:13] <Minaplo> Agent Crane's eyes widened. Okuninushi took this as an invitation.
[01:13] <Minaplo> "I saw a shape, watching me from a tree-"
[01:13] <Minaplo> "SHHHHHHHHHH. Not outside, you madman!" Said Agent Crane. "They could be watching us even now! Come on! Inside!"
[01:14] <Minaplo> And so Okuninushi sat at his dining table whilst Agent Crane sat opposite him and listened to his story.
[01:15] <Minaplo> When Okuninushi finished, Agent Crane leaned back in his chair. "I don't suppose you have anything to drink?"
[01:15] <Minaplo> "I have some sake. Made it myself." Said Okuninushi.
[01:15] <Minaplo> Agent Crane waved a hand dismissively. "Don't hold out on me, Mr. no-Kuni. I want something harder."
[01:15] <Minaplo> "Harder than my sake?"
[01:15] <Minaplo> "Yeah. I'm thinking… A glass of fresh, icy-cold water." Said Agent Crane. A strange sheen came to his eyes.
[01:18] <Minaplo> Okuninushi stared. Then simply shrugged and fetched Agent Crane a cup of water. "I'm afraid it's not very cold."
[01:18] <Minaplo> "Not a problem." Agent Crane took the cup. A moment later, lines of ice crept from Agent Crane's fingertips into the water, near-freezing it. Then Agent Crane drained the entire cup in one big gulp.
[01:18] <Minaplo> "Ahhh. There's the fucking good shit." Said Agent Crane. "Fresh, cold water. Nothing gives you a high like it, Mr. No-Kuni. I can feel it getting right into my brain, making my vessels swell with clarity."
[01:18] <Minaplo> He sighed in satisfaction. "You mind if I smoke?"
[01:18] <Minaplo> Okuninushi opened a window. A moment later Agent Crane was smoking away at some foul-smelling cigarettes. "Boss gets real antsy if I smoke at home, you know how it is."
[01:19] <Minaplo> "So. Mr. No-Kami. Or can I call you Okuninushi. I gotta ask. What do you think it is?" Said Agent Crane.
[01:20] <Minaplo> "I haven't a clue. A powerful Shadow would be an obvious answer." Said Okuninushi. "Although why it would be interested in me I am unsure."
[01:20] <Minaplo> "Really, Mr. No-Kami, you're not sure?" Said Agent Crane.
[01:20] <Minaplo> "Is there something about me that ought to provoke such curiosity?" Said Okuninushi.
[01:22] <Minaplo> "Well, Mr. No-Kuni," Drawled Agent Crane, "You gotta see it from their point of view. One day a brand new Shadow waltzes into the Shadow Market, proud as a peacock, in the company of humans. Humans. People are watching, Mr. No-Kuni. They are watching. And that's reason enough."
[01:22] <Minaplo> Agent Crane took a drag on his cigarette. "But there's another thing past that. You're special, aren't you, Mr. No-Kami? You're not just some run-of-the-mill Shadow. You're a shard, made from a single human being. You're a Conductor."
[01:23] <Minaplo> A chill seized Okuninushi's heart. "How do you know?"
[01:23] <Minaplo> "I'm afraid that's classified," Said Agent Crane. "But it's true, obviously. And Conductors… Well, let's just say you're closer to human than the rest of 'em."
[01:25] <Minaplo> "I can't help that." Said Okuninushi.
[01:25] <Minaplo> "I know you can't, Mr. No-Kami." Said Agent Crane. "But regardless, there's plenty of things out there that'd want to take a closer look at what makes you tick."
[01:25] <Minaplo> "I'd rather they didn't." Said Okuninushi.
[01:25] <Minaplo> "In that we agree, Mr. No-Kami. In that, we are riding the same train back to Chicago." Said Agent Crane.
[01:25] <Minaplo> Okuninushi wasn't very sure what that meant.
[01:26] <Minaplo> A lull rose in the conversation. Agent Crane smoked his cigarette and Okuninushi stood by the window. Outside, a man in black was scooping samples of his soil up, whilst the blonde was literally walking through solid objects.
[01:26] <Minaplo> "So what was it, Agent Crane?" Said Okuninushi.
[01:26] <Minaplo> "Aliens." Said Agent Crane.
[01:30] <Minaplo> "Aliens?"
[01:30] <Minaplo> "Yep. Entities from another planet, come to play in our water and pet our cows and turn us all into the goddamned psychic ubermensch." Said Agent Crane. "Little grey bastards get real casual with personal space, but they're not too bad once you get to know 'em."
[01:30] <Minaplo> Outside, the pilot of the black helicopter- who was himself a little grey alien- was leaning out the window, talking to one of the Mothmen.
[01:30] <Minaplo> "That's a good point, Ricky." Said Agent Crane, looking down at his cigarette.
[01:30] <Minaplo> "Who-"
[01:30] <Minaplo> But Agent Crane crushed the cigarette out. "Feeling a bit cold, Mr. No-Kami. Mind closing that window for me?"
[01:31] <Minaplo> Okuninushi frowned and folded his arms, but he sighed and closed the window. "You are my guest here. Please do not make the habit of thinking that hospitality turns me into your servant."
[01:32] <Minaplo> Agent Crane didn't reply. For a few seconds he sat, silent, his expression serious.
[01:32] <Minaplo> "You a god-fearing man, Okuninushi-no-Kami?" He said eventually.
[01:32] <Minaplo> "I am a god." Said Okuninushi. "God of magic, agriculture and healing."
[01:35] <Minaplo> "Yes, of course." Said Agent Crane. "And what do you think about gods, then?"
[01:36] <Minaplo> "We are what we are." Said Okuninushi. "Being a god means being loyal to one's own nature more than anything else. It is a pure existence."
[01:36] <Minaplo> "Ah, but us Shadows, aren't we all loyal to our own nature?" Said Agent Crane. "What separates a godly Shadow from an ungodly one?"
[01:38] <Minaplo> Okuninushi thought. "Perhaps the more loyal you are to yourself, the more godly you are."
[01:38] <Minaplo> Agent Crane nodded slowly. "Tell me, what if you didn't have a nature?"
[01:38] <Minaplo> "Impossible. Everything has a nature." Said Okuninushi quickly.
[01:38] <Minaplo> A silence rose yet again. Agent Crane began scrawling on a scrap of paper Okuninushi had left lying around.
[01:38] <Minaplo> Silence. Silence. A minute or two passed.
[01:39] <Minaplo> "Could be Horus." Said Agent Crane.
[01:40] <Minaplo> "Horus?" Said Okuninushi.
[01:40] <Minaplo> "Big sun bird. You ever talk to the Egyptians? Tend to stick together more these days than they used to. Tends to be a pattern. Good at farming. You'd like 'em, I think."
[01:40] <Minaplo> "Why would a sun bird harass me so?" Said Okuninushi.
[01:41] <Minaplo> "Good question." Said Agent Crane. "Maybe you angered him. Or he's just curious. Who can say? Gods. Mysterious bunch. Especially when they're big and powerful."
[01:42] <Minaplo> Crane sighed, and rose out of his seat. "I need to return to HQ and report my findings to the higher ups. Something strange happened here, Mr. No-Kami. Something real strange."
[01:42] <Minaplo> "Yes. I know. I saw it happen. I live here."
[01:42] <Minaplo> "Other things live here too, Mr. No-Kami." Said Crane. He held his hand out and Okuninushi shook it.
[01:42] <Minaplo> Okuninushi wasn't sure what he meant by that.
[01:43] <Minaplo> "You have yourself a lovely day now, Mr. No-Kami." Said Agent Crane, walking toward the door. "Try and keep everything tidy, routine's important for unsettled nerves. Oh, and Mr. No-Kami?"
[01:43] <Minaplo> "Yes?"
[01:43] <Minaplo> "Nothing is impossible."
[01:43] <Minaplo> And then Agent Crane and his retinue left.
[01:44] <Minaplo> It was only hours after the black helicopter's whop-whop-whop had faded into the background noise that Okuninushi, tired from a long day, returned to his house and began tidying up. As he did so, he picked up Agent Crane's scrap paper and went to throw it away.
[01:44] <Minaplo> The shapes on it were random and illegible. Doodles by a bored individual.
[01:44] <Minaplo> Yet… Okuninushi felt like there was a pattern to them.
[01:45] <Minaplo> Suddenly the ink flowed fluidly into new shapes, rearranging themselves. The page itself seemed to be alive.
[01:45] <Minaplo> It formed a sentence.
[01:45] <Minaplo> Do Not Speak To the Angels.
[01:45] <Minaplo> And then the paper burst into flames and turned to ash.

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