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See Me

See Me feels ice burn away from his fingertips, his nose, his chest, and he racks his body with choking sobs. Water gouts from his mouth and he claws at the floor, unable to stand or feel the Wish Power. Cold. Terror. There was someone here, someone he had to fight, his sword–his Princess–in danger–

“Just relax for a moment,” croaks an awful voice. “You’re free of the fleshscrub swaddling. You have hibernation sickness.”

“I can’t see,” See Me chokes.

“Your eyesight will return in time.”

“Who are you?”

“Someone who loves you,” coos the Speaker, stroking his face.

See Me

The Born Breathing are too many, too relentless. See Me swings his sword helplessly, but as he blocks one blow, another bamboo staff cracks his shoulders, his knees, his abdomen. Blood in his eyes: the wound of his missing hand is reopened. He sobs.

“You are beaten,” purrs the Speaker. “It is useless to resist. Don’t let yourself be destroyed as Ratio Tile did.”

“Don’t make me destroy you!” See Me roars.

“You do not yet realize your importance,” sniffs the Speaker. The Wish Power is like a breaking wave, and See Me a twig: he tumbles down into the freezing fountain.

Reaching the West Reaches

Reaching the West Reaches pads along bamboo causeways with an ease he could never have managed before. Ahead of him flits a blue shade: The Plum Of, in her ghostly robes. He stalks her like a shark in the shallows.

The Wish Power thrums through him, carrying images. See Me is elsewhere on this cloudbound island, the Speaker elsewhere still, and at the center is the source of the mist, a fount of icy froth. It waits to ensnare a victim.

None of this matters.

Keep looking, whispers The Plum Of, somewhere ahead of him. Keep looking. Our daughters are here.

Rotten Gamble

The basket climbs its endless tether, winding upward into the mist.

“You truly belong here among the clouds,” Rotten Gamble coos to the Princess.

“Aren’t you afraid the Heavens will shut you down?” Dog Shouting says quickly.

Gamble grunts. “No, not actually. We don’t fall into their, uh, jurisdiction. Our operation is small enough not to be noticed… and our customers are anxious to avoid attracting attention to themselves.”

Dog Shouting grins. Gamble catches it, grins back.

“I’ve just made a deal,” he says, “that will keep the Heavens out of here forever.”

The basket opens.

The Speaker is waiting outside.