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    Memoirs stories

    False Paradise [The Ambitious Land]

    Do you understand the word "violence"? How about "war"?

    Unlikely, considering you were raised in this country.
    But that's not because this country is peaceful—it's
    because the state brainwashes its citizens so these
    words vanish from their vocabulary. In doing so,
    they have created for themselves a false paradise.

    "A Burnt Indictment"

    Artistic Paradise [The Ambitious Land]

    All language pertaining to war and violence is suppressed
    in this country. Any who speak of war or commit heinous
    acts are secretly executed, their existences erased.
    This is why conflict has vanished from this nation and
    all manner of artistic culture has bloomed in its place.
    But what value does art contain when it is born from a
    foundation of false peace?

    "A Burnt Indictment"

    Violent Paradise [The Ambitious Land]

    Violence is in the human instinct. That concept is eternal.
    The idea of erasing violent expression from people is both
    meaningless and naive.

    Let me give you an example: I know of an artist who awoke
    with a start today. She had dreamt of the act of beating
    someone, and found great artistry in its bloodsplatter.
    But the government will not stand for such. Instead,
    they will execute her and vanish her art from existence.

    "A Burnt Indictment"

    An Afternoon of Ambition [Seafaring Cradle Tales]

    On the way home from the palace, I caught sight of a woman
    in a corner of the courtyard. The retainer guiding me said
    she was the princess, and while I couldn't see her face,
    the way she moved instantly captured my eye.

    I think I'll find the fortune teller again and have her
    divine my future anew. Now that I have more money
    than I'll ever be able to spend, I'll ask how I can find
    a woman as wonderful as that princess.

    "A Braggart Merchant's Autobiography"

    A Night of Meetings [Seafaring Cradle Tales]

    My work eventually took me to this kingdom. As I strolled
    the nighttime city, I came across a wandering fortune teller.
    Even in the dark, I could see she was beautiful, and she
    proceeded to divine all things for me, from love to work.

    Her fortune was this: You will bite off more than you
    can chew, and lead a life well beyond your person.

    Just a silly fortune, of course. I know I shouldn't take it
    as gospel, and yet I can't stop thinking about it.

    "A Braggart Merchant's Autobiography"

    A Morning of Surprise [Seafaring Cradle Tales]

    To my great surprise, the dyes I brought with me sold like
    wildfire. I was invited to the palace, and the person who
    guided me around was none other than the queen herself!
    There was a rough, but cheery atmosphere to the place,
    one unique to a land that now thrives against all odds.

    As I walked the halls, I recalled what the fortune teller
    said. Perhaps it was her words that led me to accomplish
    this most greatest of feats.

    "A Braggart Merchant's Autobiography"

    The Prophet [A Future Retrospective]

    Just before the Flowers came, a man claiming to be
    a prophet appeared online and made this post:

    The world will be covered in brilliant flowers,
    after which humanity will cease to fight.

    It was an excessively peaceful statement for a prophet,
    and since everyone else's predictions were wild and
    nonsensical, no one took much notice of him. Soon,
    his words vanished into an online sea of information.

    "Records of Century's End"

    The Collapse [A Future Retrospective]

    Finally, the man confessed that his post was merely clickbait.
    Some denounced him. Some worshipped him. Anyone with
    an opinion began harassing anyone with a differing opinion.
    In response, the so-called prophet held a live stream and said:

    Humanity is in danger, yet you continue to fight. No wonder
    you idiots turned my meaningless posts into "prophecy."

    With that, the Internet went down for the last time,
    marking the moment humanity lost its civilization.

    "Records of Century's End"

    The Disturbance [A Future Retrospective]

    When the Flowers appeared, one user remembered what
    the prophet said, dug up the post, and shared it far and wide.
    It soon became the largest trending topic in history, considering
    that everything he prophesized was gradually coming true.

    And yes, some meanings had to be twisted or given forced
    interpretations, but everyone now believed he was a true
    prophet, and even governments began searching for him.

    "Records of Century's End"

    One Man's Resolve [A Chance for Conflict]

    The sweep unit said they'd save you. Instead, they scorched
    the earth in an attempt to eradicate the plants. And they're
    so damn smug about it! "We will put our experience fighting
    the dangerous flora to the test," they said. "We'll lead the
    war efforts so we might save the entire world." What a joke.
    You wanna fight those things, go ahead—but the wall that
    protects the border isn't perfect. They can get through even
    the smallest crack, and once they do, we're all going to
    know what hell is really like.

    "A Pollen-Covered Recording"

    One Man's Vow [A Chance for Conflict]

    We've started working with neighboring countries to
    strengthen our defenses. Long-lasting conflicts have now
    been laid to rest in the face of this new, terrifying enemy.
    Ironic, huh? But because of it, the allied sweep unit is
    heading for your country. The unmanned drone scouting
    showed there were handful of survivors, and I'm praying
    with all my heart that you're one of them.

    "A Pollen-Covered Recording"

    One Man's Soliloquy [A Chance for Conflict]

    We were so close to restoring diplomatic relations. We could
    have been together again. I think about this every moment of
    every day. But the government issued a travel ban the moment
    those massive plants appeared, then started building a huge
    wall along the border to prevent them from getting in.
    It's been three days since I last spoke to you, and I wish
    more than anything I could come save you right now.

    "A Pollen-Covered Recording"

    Coin of Another [Desert Tales]

    I saw the lonely thief on patrol again today. Merchants
    have been reporting his thievery on an almost daily basis,
    so he's been our prime target for a while now.

    Recently, I hear he's been focusing on tourists who are
    entranced by his good looks, so I should remind everyone
    to remain alert. Hell, this is the same guy who stole the
    gold right out of my pocket, after all!

    "A Guard Captain's Patrol Diary"

    Unfermented Alcohol [Desert Tales]

    Quiet night tonight. Can't stop thinking about the thief.
    I mean, he's practically a child! I can't imagine how hard
    it must be to survive on your own like that.

    How did someone so young take up thievery, anyway?
    Does he have some secret past? Almost wish I could bump into
    him at the tavern and hear his tale, but I bet he's still into juice.

    In other news, the wife's started sneaking my booze when I'm
    on patrol. Guess I've got another thief to worry about now!

    "A Guard Captain's Patrol Diary"

    Hooked Fish [Desert Tales]

    I saw the thief fishing on the coast at the outskirts of the
    kingdom. He's got the skills to steal food, so maybe he had
    a change of heart? Anyway, while I don't approve of his
    crimes, I almost wanted to cheer when I saw how determined
    he was to reel something in.

    Speaking of, the fish in this area are deliciously fatty.
    Maybe I'll go catch a couple for myself!

    "A Guard Captain's Patrol Diary"

    Despair [Baal's Letters]

    Let me tell you a little bit more about the unlucky woman.
    Her wealthy husband ultimately passed, and her next partner
    also followed him into death. When I looked into the matter,
    I found the cause to be intercourse. Her husband had been
    so turned off at the sight of the hideous talisman that he
    asked her to remove it, and her following partner met the
    exact same fate for the exact same reason.

    To let go a life-saving ward for momentary pleasure?
    It is all too predictable—and unfortunate.

    "A Decayed Note"

    Hope [Baal's Letters]

    Soon the unlucky woman met a wealthy, kind, and wonderful
    man, and used the talisman exactly as I instructed her.
    Their love deepened through their courtship, and when they
    were finally wed, the man remained alive and in good health.
    So long as she kept the talisman on her, she was free from
    her dreadful fate and could live happily ever after.
    In my delight, I decided to watch over them.

    "A Decayed Note"

    Will [Baal's Letters]

    There was once an unlucky woman whose romantic partners
    always perished, no matter what sort of person she loved.
    There was nothing wrong with her personality, her behavior,
    or her environment—she was simply the subject of a terrible
    fate. "Use this ward," I said as I handed over a talisman.
    "It will protect you and your loved ones. But beware,
    for if it ever leaves your side, even by one millimeter,
    the effects will wear off immediately."

    "A Decayed Note"

    Exposition [Dreams of Colchis]

    All I've ever wanted is to be a good actress.

    No. Not good—extraordinary. The kind of actress
    who sticks in people's minds and leaves her mark on history.
    But I am no fool, and I know that without the best scripts
    in the world, I couldn't put on the best performances.
    So I followed what connections I had, found the greatest
    playwright in the world, and convinced him to give me the
    lead role in his latest work.

    "Novel: The Life of an Actress"

    Climax [Dreams of Colchis]

    It is a rare thing to take part in such a lovely performance,
    which was why I decided to take his life when it was over.
    As the show came to a close, so would his life, and he
    would be forever remembered as a prodigious playwright.

    You see, presenting the play as the final work of a genius
    who left this world too soon would only deepen the
    empathy of those who came into contact with it.

    "Novel: The Life of an Actress"

    Rising Action [Dreams of Colchis]

    The playwright said he wanted to show me the costumes we'd
    be using on stage. Every outfit was splendid—any of them
    would accent my beauty. "Magnificent," I murmured.
    When he took my hand and offered me words of encouragement,
    I knew he was mine. I had tamed him, and he was going to
    write me the perfect script.

    "Novel: The Life of an Actress"

    The Desolate Wastes [The Scientific Apex]

    ・Anything interesting lately? Anything happening? (19:10)
    >Maybe you should volunteer to go be a soldier. (19:13)
    >Oh, we're way past the point of "volunteering."
    I got a draft letter in the mail. (20:15)
    >You've got VR deep dives, yeah?
    Maybe go on a walk or something. (19:21)
    >I've already gone on every good walk there is.
    I guess there just aren't a lot of people
    with the time to make new stuff these days. (20:18)

    "Exported Logs From 'reark' Social Media Network"

    Gunshots in a Ruin [The Scientific Apex]

    ・Wait. Is it true the enemy was trying to
    construct a base in our old capital? (21:15)
    >I'm glad they found them so fast.
    That should keep 'em in check. (21:22)
    >It's sooo difficult to spot small operations like that
    due to advances in infiltration technology.
    Our AI is the only reason we found them in the first place. (21:46)
    >I sure hope they didn't wreck my old house! (23:55)
    >Pretty sure the fires from the day the city fell
    wrecked your house, my dude. (00:02)

    "Exported Logs From 'reark' Social Media Network"

    Signs of Oblivion [The Scientific Apex]

    ・The hell is going on outside? Some kind of party? (18:25)
    >I haven't seen any official announcements anywhere.
    Maybe it's a surprise? (18:25)
    >The government announced it last time there was
    a criminal declaration. Since we heard nothing this time,
    I'm guessing it wasn't planned. (18:26)
    >Oh, this is way bigger than last time.
    Maybe they're just slow to respond. (18:27)
    ・She's been on hiatus for a long time.
    I'm so glad to see her again! (18:25)

    "Exported Logs From 'reark' Social Media Network"

    Confidentiality [The Wanted Man]

    Once the family got their revenge, their name was spoken
    across the underworld of society. But a few days later,
    a young man holding a bloody wanted poster showed up at one
    of the family meetings. He claimed to be the son of the man
    on the poster, and said he wanted to settle the score.
    He then pulled out a secret letter said to have been left
    behind by his father—a letter ordering the first father's
    assassination. Everyone could see it was clearly signed by
    the man who had become the second father..

    "A Family History (Account from an Underworld Gossip)"

    Investigation [The Wanted Man]

    A wanted poster started making the rounds for a guy who
    killed the "father" of this one family. I guess the guy
    moonlighted as a crazy powerful assassin or something?
    Anyway, the second "father" who took over for the first
    was crazy angry, so the family went around with the wanted
    poster asking everyone if they'd seen the guy. Weird thing
    is, no one knew how the family figured out who the killer
    was, or how they got their hands on the poster.

    "A Family History (Account from a Local Youth)"

    Retaliation [The Wanted Man]

    We eventually caught the man from the wanted poster. As our
    second father ordered, we broke his limbs, gagged him, and
    brought him before our father. All of us wanted to torture
    him until he told us who ordered the hit on our first father,
    but the moment our second father saw him, he drew
    his sword and cut him in half. It all happened so fast,
    but one look at the demonic expression on his face told
    all of us just how furious he was.

    "A Family History
    (Account from the Second Father's Sworn Brothers)"

    The Great Forest's Will [Musings of a Hunter]

    At last, I have slain the stag, yet I feel no sense of exaltation.
    It seems the time I spent in the forest has dulled the hunter's
    edge from my heart. And in the gaps where it had been,
    the forest's will now resides. I realize the Divine Beast was
    much the same—that is why the forest chose it to be its
    guardian. One day, I, too, will be hunted like the stag, so that
    hunter might take my place as protector of the forest.

    For we are naught but replaceable pawns that hold fast the wood.

    "Diary Discovered in a Forest Hut"

    The Big Hunt [Musings of a Hunter]

    I wait under cloak of darkness. My quarry this time is special:
    a beautiful, enormous stag known only as the Divine Beast.
    I received a request to rid the woods of the creature so it
    would not harm nearby settlements. With this being a poor,
    remote area, the denizens can offer little in compensation,
    but I did not accept this task for coin. No, I am here for a
    higher purpose: to challenge myself against a being far
    greater than I. For that is the purpose of a hunter.

    "Diary Discovered in a Forest Hut"

    The Divine Beast [Musings of a Hunter]

    All five of an animal's senses are far superior to a human's,
    and most are passingly clever, as well. I believe this hunt will
    last for many a year. I have heard word of people who are
    preparing to chop down the forest. Perhaps the stag is trying
    to prevent that, trying to preserve the balance in life.
    Though animal it may be, the name Divine Beast is well
    and truly earned.

    Perhaps I should observe for just a little longer...

    "Diary Discovered in a Forest Hut"

    Kings & Aspiration [Of Kings and Soldiers]

    When he rose to the rank of officer, he took up arms against
    the royal family and their tyranny—and now he sits on the
    throne as our king. And while the riches he looted from
    other countries feeds our people, we have no freedoms.
    Anyone who defies him is executed. I don't want riches or
    honor anymore; I just want to go back to a time where we
    shared laughter, no matter how poor we were.

    "A Kingdom Soldier's Diary"

    Poverty & Hope [Of Kings and Soldiers]

    In those days, we suffered poverty under the royal family's
    tyranny. Our energy was spent trying to fill our bellies.
    There was no time to dream, and everyone walked around
    with dead eyes, not knowing what to do.

    But he was different. The destitution didn't crush him.
    He collected and studied books from the noble quarter's
    trash, and his eyes burned as he preached patriotism.

    "A Kingdom Soldier's Diary"

    Old Friends & Ambition [Of Kings and Soldiers]

    Politics, economics, sociology... He was a bookworm, and he
    never let his poverty prevent him from learning—which is why
    I was shocked when he entered the military academy to become
    a soldier. But he said it was the only way a poor person like
    him could change the country, and I was so proud of that,
    I decided to do the same so I could support him.

    "A Kingdom Soldier's Diary"

    A Different Path [Ephemeral Memories]

    Eventually, the mouse who escaped became the leader of another
    pack that travels around in search of food. One group lives
    terrified and meager lives, but has a safe place to hide.
    The other lives on the precipice of danger, but has more
    than enough food. I'm not going to debate which is happier,
    but I AM curious to see how the babies of the wild group
    respond to me. Hopefully that's the next thing I'll observe.

    "Urban Environmental Protection Record 12S557"

    A Different Dream [Ephemeral Memories]

    I've been watching the mice ever since I started repairing
    the building, and noticed they only venture out when they
    want food. The others hate the idea so much that I've seen
    mice dragging others back if they try to leave. But today,
    one little guy made it out. It shook off the other mice,
    used agility to escape its predators, and ran for the wild.
    I think it just hated living in fear.

    "Urban Environmental Protection Record 12S557"

    A Different View [Ephemeral Memories]

    The building had essentially snapped in two. I was attempting
    to repair it and prevent further damage when I found the
    critters: Mus musculus, or house mice. They're quivery
    little things that run and hide the second they hear me,
    although who can blame 'em with all the predators in the area.
    I imagine they'll spend their entire lives quaking in fear here
    in the dark.

    "Urban Environmental Protection Record 12S557"

    Song of Avowal [Boundaries Melted in Song]


    It was not too long ago that a singer had her concert
    canceled due to riots. Sadly, we've learned she's now put
    all of her activities on hold, and rumors say she may even
    be contemplating retirement. However, fans are currently
    pouring into her social media accounts with words of
    support, including many brave soldiers who reportedly
    find strength in her melodies. Between this and the riots,
    she seems likely to stay in the spotlight for some time.

    "NEMESIA NEWS - Entertainment"

    Verse of Prayer [Boundaries Melted in Song]


    A riot broke out during a concert by a virtual performer
    last night, which caused the event to be canceled.
    According to attendees, those in opposition to the event
    claimed it was inappropriate to hold a concert during
    a time of war. This incident is sparking a heated online
    debate as to what wartime entertainment should be.

    "NEMESIA NEWS - Current Events"

    Chant of Desire [Boundaries Melted in Song]


    Evacuees recall looking over their shoulders to behold our
    once magnificent capital city shrouded in ash and flame.
    Any reader who lived there at the time should have vivid
    memories of the day it fell. It was a place close to all of our
    hearts, but what has become of it now? Well, with military
    escort, our reporters were able to get the answers,
    and you'll find them here—along with plenty of
    pictures—as we discuss the fate of our beloved city.

    "NEMESIA NEWS - Politics & Social Climate"

    The Young King's Country: 2 [The Young Lord's Studies]

    No matter how much the people asked and begged, the king did not
    lessen their workload. Fearing they would soon perish from
    exhaustion, the people rebelled. When the king was captured,
    he spoke thus: "People of the same land should not kill each
    other over a thing such as this." But despite his words,
    he did not resist as the people dragged him to the guillotine
    and removed his head from his shoulders.

    "Old Man Petro's 26 Kingdom Tales"

    The Young King's Country: 1 [The Young Lord's Studies]

    Long ago and far away, there was a small but peaceful country.
    Though not a rich country, the people still enjoyed their lives.
    One day, their kind king passed away from illness and a younger
    king took his place. But he was a cruel ruler whom everyone hated,
    for he worked his people like slaves.

    "Old Man Petro's 26 Kingdom Tales"

    The Young King's Country: 3 [The Young Lord's Studies]

    The whole country rejoiced at their newfound freedom.
    Yet while they celebrated, a nearby nation launched an attack.
    The people panicked at first, but soon realized their cruel king
    had stockpiled plenty of food and weapons. Additionally, all of
    their work had made them strong, and they easily defeated their
    invading neighbor. Ashamed at the shallow thinking that led them
    to kill their king, the people set about building a statue to
    honor his memory.

    "Old Man Petro's 26 Kingdom Tales"

    The Jurist's Survey [The Worker's Foundation]


    Our survey proves political change and revolution eventually
    comes for every government that has ever existed.
    According to the jurists who filed this report, it is
    imperative that we create a class system which will satisfy
    the people, and in turn stabilize our government.

    "Internal Document Re: Founding a Nation"

    The Jurist's Treatment [The Worker's Foundation]


    To ensure a smooth transition, the jurists who contributed to
    and showed the greatest understanding of this plan will be
    in the first group, after which we will implement reform for
    the rest of the population. The new class will be selected
    from a blind lottery of the Commoners. Finally, the name of
    this new class will provisionally be "Rejected" until the
    cabinet can decide on an official name.

    "Internal Document Re: Founding a Nation"

    The Jurist's Proposal [The Worker's Foundation]


    We will establish a new class below our present Noble and
    Commoner classes. Those in this new class will have few
    basic human rights, and not only they will be stripped of
    the ability to engage in economic activities, they will lack
    even the right to seek any form of recourse.
    Under this system, all citizens in the new class will be
    removed from their jobs, thus drastically lowering the
    unemployment rate among Commoners.

    "Internal Document Re: Founding a Nation"

    Desperate Hunt [Musings of a Hunter]

    Day 7. Cloudy, rainy.
    I'm so hungry. My "skill" with a bow isn't landing any game,
    so I've been living off nuts.

    But God hasn't totally abandoned me—I found a sickly wolf pup
    crouching in the grass earlier.

    When I aimed at it, its mama leapt out with a howl. It was too late
    to back off, so I pointed at her and let fly.

    "Notes of a Novice Hunter in Distress"

    Wandering Hunter [Musings of a Hunter]

    Day 3. Cloudy.
    I'm lost in the woods. Everyone would laugh if they heard a
    hunter got lost in the woods, but I'm too much of a novice to
    call myself a hunter.

    All I can rely on now are my own senses and experience.
    Here it's life or death, eat or be eaten, weak versus strong.
    Even a newcomer like me knows that much.

    "Notes of a Novice Hunter in Distress"

    Traveling Companion [Musings of a Hunter]

    Day 8. Sunny.
    Mama wolf was my first successful hunt, but her pup wailed sadly
    after her death, so I decided to take him with me.

    I'm going to protect this pup until he's just as strong as the other
    animals. It's the least I can do considering how I stole his mother.

    "Notes of a Novice Hunter in Distress"

    Linden Tree [Blighted Flowers]

    It turned out the rumors were spread by enemy
    agents in an attempt to destabilize our town.
    Filled with fury and a desire for revenge on behalf
    of our dead friend, we orphans volunteered for the

    The irony of this was not lost on any of us, for
    despite how hard our guardian had prayed for peace,
    the orphanage ended up becoming a place for raising
    soldiers after all.

    "A Nameless Volunteer Soldier's Diary

    Cranesbill [Blighted Flowers]

    With rumors of child soldiers and secret payments
    running wild, the people of the town eventually
    stormed the orphanage. The girl suffered heavy
    wounds protecting us, and one orphan was so
    outraged that he stood up to the thugs and
    perished as a result.

    But no matter how hard the people looked, they
    didn't find a single misspent dollar or an ounce
    of unaccounted-for food.

    "A Nameless Volunteer Soldier's Diary"

    Wild Rose [Blighted Flowers]

    I was brought up by a young girl in an orphanage
    on the front lines of the war. All of us orphans
    respected her as an older sister, but some of
    the townsfolk gossiped about how she was
    accepting food and money in exchange for
    raising child soldiers.

    But we knew the truth: No one wanted peace
    more than her, and she prayed for it morning
    and night.

    "A Nameless Volunteer Soldier's Diary"

    Spell for the Limbs [Forbidden Tomes of Thaumaturgy]

    For when stubborn grime adheres to the one you love.

    I. Acquire the item or individual you wish to keep from
    the one you love.
    II. Gouge out a portion with a blade and char with flame
    used to burn a pigeon corpse.
    III. Have the one you love inhale the smoke. This will prevent
    them from touching items or individuals involved in the spell.

    "Guide to Acquiring a Partner"

    Spell for the Heart [Forbidden Tomes of Thaumaturgy]

    For when you wish to keep the one you love nearby at all times.

    I. Cast "Spell for the Eyes" upon the one you love.
    II. Cast "Spell for the Limbs" upon the one you love.
    III. Repeat steps one and two until ingredients are depleted.

    The cursed individual will no longer be able to live without
    the help of another.

    "Guide to Acquiring a Partner"

    Spell for the Eyes [Forbidden Tomes of Thaumaturgy]

    For when obstructive vermin threatens to approach
    the one you love.

    I. Pluck hair and nails from vermin—if flesh comes with,
    so much the better.
    II. Add a wasp to the above and grind into paste.
    Boil until venom evaporates.
    III. Have the one you love drink it. The cursed individual will
    no longer acknowledge existence of vermin.

    "Guide to Acquiring a Partner"

    The Holy Fool [The Ambitious Land]

    What is justice? I agonized over this question,
    and finally came to the conclusion that any
    country which launches an endless war in the
    name of justice must be evil.

    This is why I used the gas to contaminate my
    homeland and murder my fellows—that is my
    justice. Because if my country had never started
    this war, my brother would still be alive.

    "A Scientist's Confession"

    The Righteous Fool [The Ambitious Land]

    When my country took up arms against an
    enemy nation that prayed to heretical gods,
    they named the conflict "The War of Justice."

    Though part of a military research institute at the
    time, I felt no passion for weapons development.

    Indeed, the fact my work was being used to kill—
    justified or no— caused me great anguish and
    many sleepless nights.

    "A Scientist's Confession"

    The Pure Fool [The Ambitious Land]

    When my brother died in the war, I cast aside old
    qualms and threw myself into my work—for he
    was a valiant, dedicated soldier who did not
    deserve such an end.

    Eventually, I created an asphyxiating gas that
    I knew would kill thousands. Millions. Perhaps
    even entire countries. But as I told myself at
    the time, sometimes justice requires sacrifice.

    "A Scientist's Confession"

    A Kind Voice [A Future Retrospective]

    He speaks to me every day.

    I love his voice.

    Every day, as the news reports on the giant
    Flowers that attack people,
    he tells me I'll be safe in this room.

    All my worries vanish whenever I'm with him.

    "Records of Hidden Voice"

    An Angry Voice [A Future Retrospective]

    His voice grows weaker by the day.
    Food has run low, and we are reaching
    our limit of how long we can stay this room.

    We argue now, and he says things like
    "I'm telling you, we're safe as long as
    we're in this room!"

    I wish he would never raise his voice like that.

    "Records of Hidden Voices"

    A Repeated Voice [A Future Retrospective]

    He left the room with a woman. I am alone.

    I will never hear his voice in the flesh again.
    He will never turn on the power or play music again.

    I have abandoned taking proper care of this room
    and now replay all the recordings I secretly took
    of his voice, over and over and over again.

    "Records of Hidden Voices"

    Forest of Hope [A Chance for Conflict]

    Though they managed to flee the city,
    the survivors could not escape the enemy threat.
    They could only run, hoping against hope to find
    a place where their pursuers could not follow.

    Finally, they stumbled upon a ray of hope in a deep,
    dark forest—a place where there was no sign of
    the enemy.

    "Records of the 18th Experiment"

    Land of Surrender [A Chance for Conflict]

    Though they seemed to be in a place of respite,
    it was short-lived—for the enemy moved with
    extraordinary speed, and no matter how safe
    their land might be now, they had no way
    to escape if they were ever discovered.

    Overwhelmed by despair, the survivors all
    sat down as one and waited for death.

    "Records of the 18th Experiment"

    City of Lament [A Chance for Conflict]

    As the peaceful city descended into pandemonium,
    it became clear that the alien enemy was targeting
    places with manmade structures—in essence,
    places of gathering. But as most people cried,
    screamed, and died, others did all they could
    to escape.

    "Records of the 18th Experiment"

    Beauty Potion [Magical Pharmacology]

    I. Boil 3 enchanted toad warts in a pot.
    II. Add 3 rotted mucus mushrooms.
    III. Add donkey snot and simmer until thick.
    IV. Lift your head and look into the mirror.
    You are more beautiful than whatever's in the pot.

    "A Great Witch's Guide to Potions"

    Knowledge Potion [Magical Pharmacology]

    I. Make the Magickal Enhancement Potion detailed on page 13.
    II. Make the Infatuation Potion detailed on page 628.
    III. Make the Eternal Youth Potion detailed on page 2574.
    IV. Mix all items together at midnight in the library.
    Oh, if only you'd put this much effort into your studies.

    "A Great Witch's Guide to Potions"

    Love Potion [Magical Pharmacology]

    I. Take a lock of hair from the one you love.
    II. Obtain the ashes of something treasured by the one you love.
    III. Take a teardrop from the one you love.
    IV. Mix all items in a bowl.
    You have no right to be with this person. Just give up.

    "A Great Witch's Guide to Potions"

    Lust [Baal's Letters]

    I decided to visit a certain human—an earnest
    and diligent farmer. I was so moved by his passion
    that I gifted him soil blessed by the god of the harvest.
    Though it is guaranteed to produce a fine crop,
    he must only use one pinch per year.
    And with that word of caution, I departed.

    "From a Weathered Tome"

    Rapacity [Baal's Letters]

    The next year, the farmer's fields withered, and he neglected
    my warning and scattered the soil everywhere.
    Though he was now a ruined man,
    I was satisfied—for this was the outcome I wanted.
    I care not for the dreams of humans,
    and despite his ugliness, I found him more beautiful than any jewel.
    I will never tire of looking at him.

    "From a Weathered Tome"

    Greed [Baal's Letters]

    The farmer heeded my warning and used but a pinch. Overnight,
    the seedlings grew into a magnificent crop many times
    greater than normal. It was regarded as a miracle,
    and a great deal of money soon came to line the farmer's pockets.
    I, of course, was happy so long as the farmer lived a bountiful life.

    "From a Weathered Tome"

    Intermission [Dreams of Colchis]

    I wanted to save the performance of the actress, so on closing night
    I wrapped my hands around her neck as she was still in costume.
    That makes four—four costumes. Yes, I killed the actresses who
    brought my stories to life and hung their costumes on my wall. How
    perfect they are! And now, they will remain the heroines of my
    stories alone for the rest of my days.

    "The Diary of a Genius Playwright"

    Opening Act [Dreams of Colchis]

    I am a playwright, and the people of this world call me a genius.
    My stories have been seen by thousands, and all have praised me.
    But I believe the true geniuses are the actors and actresses who
    express the author's intent to the greatest possible extent. One
    woman in particular—the lead—understood my story and put on a
    performance that surpassed anything I had imagined. Ah, but she
    was exquisite.

    "The Diary of a Genius Playwright"

    Final Act [Dreams of Colchis]

    I met another wonderful actress. As she gazed upon my costumes,
    she remarked how splendid they were. I grasped her hand and
    encouraged her, knowing she would be just as splendid as the rest.
    I hoped she might also understand my story and perform in a way
    that would make my soul shiver. And with opening night only a day
    away, I am certain she will put on a brilliant performance!

    "The Diary of a Genius Playwright"

    My Place [The Worker's Foundation]

    Article III: Choice and Obligation of Labor

    Nobles are excused from labor due to their land assets, but may
    selectively pursue labor. Commoners, classified separately from
    Nobles, must engage in labor from sunrise to sunset.

    Participation in official work is not recognized for Goat People,
    who are classified separately from both.

    "The Revised Lawbook of the Noble Assembly"

    My Heart [The Worker's Foundation]

    Article VIII: Provisions of Suffrage

    All Nobles may stand for the Assembly after coming of age.
    Commoners require the approval of ten Noble Assemblypersons in
    order to stand for Assembly candidacy.

    Goat People are forbidden from entering the Assembly district.

    "The Revised Lawbook of the Noble Assembly"

    My Future [The Worker's Foundation]

    Article V: Tax Revenue and Obligation of Payment

    Nobles earn tax revenue from Commoners who live in their territories.
    Commoners must pay 40% of all wages as tax.

    Goat People, classified separately from both, must pay 40% of
    wages to ruling Nobles and 20% to public projects.

    "The Revised Lawbook of the Noble Assembly"

    Benevolence [The Wanted Man]

    I know I shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But once ya crack it
    open, it just comes back to bother ya anyway. You know why they
    suspected us? 'Cause that bastard stole money and food from the
    high and mighty and started handing it out! People died 'cause of
    him, ya know? Shoulda trusted my gut from the beginning—
    I thought he was a bad guy, and sure enough, he was.

    "Regarding a Criminal's Acts (A Citizen's Complaint)"

    Deliberation [The Wanted Man]

    It seems this criminal commits the same acts over and over wherever
    he goes. Once his crimes are known and he is chased from his
    current location, he moves to a new country with a different ruler
    and seeks out new targets to save.

    While this can be seen as a testament to the ubiquitousness of the
    exploited masses, this criminal is essentially a parasite. But what
    spurred him to action first: a need to provide salvation, or exile?

    "Regarding a Criminal's Acts (A Prison Guard's Note)"

    Roaming [The Wanted Man]

    That guy? Yeah, I saw him. Thought he was angry at first, but then
    I realized he was just in a nervous hurry—like a kid who ran away
    from home after his parents yelled at him, yeah? Or maybe I just saw
    it like that 'cause that's how it was for me. Folks always seem ill at
    ease when they got no place to belong to.

    "Regarding a Criminal's Acts (A Soldier's Testimony)"

    War and Strife [Of Kings and Soldiers]

    Last night, I saw a dream about my husband who died in the civil war.
    Hm? That's right, long ago, a civil war happened right here in our
    country. Upset with the king's ways, the people revolted, and my
    husband was among them. He was in his 30s then, and we had just
    married. Goodness, has it really been over fifty years since then?
    How old I've grown...

    I had hoped he would always remember me as I was when I was
    young, but he appeared to me in my dream and said, "You're every bit
    as beautiful now as you've always been."

    "Dream Diary of an Old Woman in the Kingdom"

    Revolt and Mob Justice [Of Kings and Soldiers]

    I saw another dream about my late husband who I lost in the civil war.
    Oh, have I not talked about this before? He was killed by soldiers of
    the kingdom during the war. He spoke out against the kingdom on
    behalf of the common people, who were fatigued after so many wars.
    That put a target on his back, and he was the first person whose life
    they claimed.

    In my dream he said to me,
    "I wanted to be your hero." How silly... I would have much rather had
    him alive and here by my side.

    "Dream Diary of an Old Woman in the Kingdom"

    Revolution and Dreams [Of Kings and Soldiers]

    I saw yet another dream about my late husband who I lost in the civil
    war. In the dream, he had won against the country. His coup d'état a
    success, he had killed the kingdom's soldiers and its king alike.
    Seeing his victory, I felt like I was freed from a never-ending suffering.

    He turned to me and said,
    "I've finally brought peace to your homeland." My dear, is it not time
    you finally come to take me with you?

    "Dream Diary of an Old Woman in the Kingdom"

    A Fleeting Voice [Ephemeral Memories]

    Dear Mom,

    Well, I'm settling into my new life. Dad says he's sorry he doesn't
    know when I can go home, but I'm sure he can cure me. I really
    want to get better and come see everyone again soon.

    "A Letter to a Mother (2003)"

    A Fleeting Dream [Ephemeral Memories]

    Dear Mom,

    Thanks for the letter. Sorry I couldn't write back last month—I'm
    sure Dad has told you already, but my symptoms aren't good.
    Still, the researchers are all working hard, so don't worry about
    me, okay?

    "A Letter to a Mother (2012)"

    A Fleeting Love [Ephemeral Memories]

    Dear Mom,

    Thanks for the pic of the garden—the kalanchoe look great!
    Your letters really help me enjoy days I can't leave my room.
    Dad works all the time because of me, so it must be rough for
    you alone at home. I'll try to get better as soon as I can. Love you!

    "A Letter to a Mother (2009)"

    Marigold [Blighted Flowers]

    I can remember the color of the blood as it soaked into
    the ground. The corpse, mouth and eyes open, stared back at me.

    In my nightmares, I am that corpse. Blood flows from my mouth like
    an opened spigot, and soldiers stand bewildered before me.

    I never want to experience that again, but conflict never
    ceases, so here I am again, gun in hand.

    "A Soldier's Words"

    Geranium [Blighted Flowers]

    People who know nothing about war are always the first to ask for
    stories about it. You want to know about war? Have someone try to
    stab your face and get back to me.

    I often wished I'd died in the war, but it gave me more than
    pain—it also gave me trust in those who stand with me.
    Now I fight to protect them.

    "A Soldier's Words"

    Laurel [Blighted Flowers]

    I fought for this country because I believed in our convictions.
    But watching friends die around me tipped the scales, and
    I lost myself.

    And yes, I could have turned my back on the fighting and ran.
    But that would have been its own kind of choice, and I couldn't
    bear to lose anyone else. So I decided to keep fighting.

    "A Soldier's Words"

    The Way of Death [A Future Retrospective]

    I saw this phrase in one of our salvaged human
    records: "The nature of death is what makes us what we are."

    While we cannot understand death, the experience of loss changes
    us irrevocably; this truth contains a special power all its own.

    "Management Office Log"

    Life in Ages Past [A Future Retrospective]

    Our job is to recover lost records of the past. The record salvaged
    today was about a way of life from a certain era, when humans
    existed in small groups known as "families."

    These families lived in structures called "houses," and owned
    transport called "cars." I wonder if this is at all similar to our
    way of life now?

    "Management Office Log"

    The Rallying Beacon [A Chance for Conflict]


    Testing has begun for our great nation's counterweapons.
    As damage from agitators spreads and our country fades, we pray
    these weapons will save us from danger.

    Brave volunteers are now being accepted for the first tests!

    "Malkuth Society Interweb Newsflash"

    Division and Strife [A Chance for Conflict]


    As experts continue researching countermeasures for the attacks
    spreading across our great nation, criticism mounts toward the
    current administration over their weapon-development policy.

    In related news, radical protestors have caught the attention of
    both citizens and police.

    "Malkuth Society Interweb Newsflash"

    An Offering of Flowers [A Chance for Conflict]


    Attacks from foreign enemies are spreading across our great nation,
    their motives and goals yet a mystery.

    Hundreds of residents lost their lives in the most recent attack, and
    survivors gathered at the scene with flowers in hand to mourn the
    youngest victims.

    "Malkuth Society Interweb Newsflash"

    Waking Dreams [Baal's Letters]

    "Hope" is often used similarly to "dreams." It is a foolish thing, little
    more than a wish with a fancy name. Occasionally, however, I see
    a phenomenon where humans' emotional control greatly changes
    their expected ability.

    Though this is hard for us to accept, the truth is that humans with
    "hope" are quite fascinating to observe.

    "A Strange Tattered Document"

    Prophetic Dreams [Baal's Letters]

    I should make mention that there are many types of human dreams,
    all of which seem to have an effect on reality. What humans call
    "prophetic dreams" are certainly not auguries, but they are satisfied
    assuming this is so.

    This emotional act of inventing happy conclusions risks losing
    sight of important truths.

    "A Strange Tattered Document"

    True Dreams [Baal's Letters]

    Why do humans call both a distant future they crave and the
    inconsequential images they see while sleeping "dreams"?
    Is it because the future is also a trivial, elusive mirage?

    I'm not quite certain how humans understand time, but idly
    entrusting their fates to it is simply abandoning destiny.

    "A Strange Tattered Document"

    Hubris [Dreams of Colchis]

    I'm a big, blunt guy, which means people often think I'm stupid—
    but adventurers need a good grasp on all sorts of things.

    Take language, for example. Can't read letters?
    Can't read books. Can't read books?
    Can't prepare for a new journey.
    See, like this book here says... Ummm...

    Well, even books you can't read make for great kindling!

    "The Brawny Adventurer's Travelogue"

    Mythos [Dreams of Colchis]

    My fellow travelers tell a tale of a "snow woman" who lives deep in
    the mountains. She's gorgeous, and if you find her, she'll grant
    your every wish!

    Apparently there's also a weathered shrine at the peak where they
    used to sacrifice folk in the old days. That's likely where the rumors
    come from, 'cause no one can actually grant wishes.


    "The Brawny Adventurer's Travelogue"

    Alpha [Dreams of Colchis]

    I lived like an animal as a kid: Stole what I needed, slept on the
    ground and in alleys, and turned away everyone who tried to help.

    But there was one man who saw past all that and took me in—an
    adventurer. He had a lot of dreams that may or may not have been
    possible, but I wanted to try and see them all the same.

    "The Brawny Adventurer's Travelogue"

    Destiny [The Wanted Man]

    This is fate—I'm sure of it! She MUST have been attracted to me
    when we met at the shop that day! I mean, why else would she
    expose herself to danger and save me from that terrible thug?

    Well, that's it. I'm going back to the shop to wait.
    I just know I'll see her again soon!

    "Regarding a Death (The Dead Man's Diary Entry)"

    Prey [The Wanted Man]

    I know him. I saw the whole thing! A streetside killer moved to
    attack the guy right as some poor woman was passing by.
    But before I could even call for help, the woman had gone and
    cut the killer down!

    She saved that man, sure as I'm standing here.

    "Regarding a Death (A Young Woman's Testimony)"

    Meetings [The Wanted Man]

    Him? Aye, I remember this well—that's the day that lady
    came 'round. Been raining for days, so it had, but he was clearly
    enchanted by her 'cause he started callin' out. 'Course she paid
    him no mind.

    I tell ya, I've been runnin' this shop for an age, but I ain't never seen
    a lady who was so damn beautiful in all my days!

    "Regarding a Death (A Shopkeeper's Testimony)"

    Heart to Heart [Of Kings and Soldiers]

    The war is finally over, but it's only a matter of time before our
    king begins a new one.

    There's a rumor floating about that he tossed a soldier who didn't
    prove useful into the castle storehouse. What awful treatment!
    They risked their life for him, and he responds with abandonment?

    Sometimes I wonder if a heart even beats in his chest.

    "Diary of an Old Man in the Kingdom"

    Soldiers and Weapons [Of Kings and Soldiers]

    The king is scheming something for the start of this war. Rumor has
    it he's gathering soldiers that will obey his every command.
    Does he really think such people exist?

    We've already lost so many to these endless wars; any left to fight
    are not humans, but mere weapons.

    Oh, what a mad fool our king is!

    "Diary of an Old Man in the Kingdom"

    A King and His People [Of Kings and Soldiers]

    Today that fool of a king declared war once again.
    He never thinks of the soldiers when he does this—and trust me,
    there can be no war without soldiers.

    But more importantly, what of the people?

    Do the royals understand how we suffer because of
    their selfishness?

    "Diary of an Old Man in the Kingdom"

    The Kingdom's Fate [Musings of a Hunter]

    Mechanical soldiers fetch a pretty penny. They're tough, sure,
    but hate makes the price all that much sweeter.

    See, the kingdom's clockwork men eventually went mad, rampaging
    out of control and slaughtering the smallfolk. Most are long gone
    now, but a few still remain—and my purpose is to hunt them down
    and kill them all.

    "Recollections of a Lone Bounty Hunter"

    Reoccurring Dream [Musings of a Hunter]

    The sound of rain on the window paints a scene of my past: Lumber
    and people alike crackling as a village transforms into a massive

    I crawl in the dirt in search of my sister, but the dream ends when
    I lift a piece of fiery debris.

    Such images plague me nightly; it seems regret lives on in the
    depths of my most secret heart.

    "Recollections of a Lone Bounty Hunter"

    The Hunt Begins [Musings of a Hunter]

    I stopped bemoaning my lot in life after learning of the outside
    world. My experience was common. I accepted my past. So now
    I live as a drifter, hunting prey with my new powers.

    I believe my path will become an offering to all the things I couldn't
    keep safe—and all the things I've lost.

    "Recollections of a Lone Bounty Hunter"

    Honesty [The Young Lord's Studies]

    Trust vassals who offer counsel that is difficult to hear. Honest
    advice requires great courage—far more than saying what a regent
    wishes to hear.

    As for the king, he must not allow emotion to intrude on state
    politics, instead focusing on concrete truths.

    One must not be shackled to personal gain and feelings when it
    comes to national policy.

    "Notes of an Imprisoned Political Thinker"

    Experience [The Young Lord's Studies]

    In order to learn the unchanging fundamental rules and principles of
    the world, one must ask questions of an aged master.

    Much of what our elders say are truths backed by history, and one
    must willingly accept such wisdom.

    For though they may lack physical prowess, the aged master will
    have matured wisdom and years at their disposal.

    "Notes of an Imprisoned Political Thinker"

    Devotion [The Young Lord's Studies]

    The closer a compatriot, the more courtesy they must be treated
    with. A king must treasure vassals above all else; the more this is
    done, the greater the vassal's devotion and eventual patriotism.

    Remember that a king is only as strong as the weakest person who
    serves under his rule.

    "Notes of an Imprisoned Political Thinker"

    Solemnity [The Young Lord's Studies]

    One cannot spur a people to true action on power alone; one
    must never grow so conceited as to think they can sway their
    secret hearts.

    In order to cause a people to act, a king must first lead through his
    own example and will. Only then will a people see fit to follow him.

    "Notes of an Imprisoned Political Thinker"

    Purity [The Young Lord's Studies]

    So long as one sits on the throne, one must be honest;
    to do so is to not make oneself greater than life.

    A king must acknowledge ignorance and shortcomings in his
    abilities, ask for teachings from a wise mentor, and constantly
    seek to reassess himself—for a king that continuously grows
    rules a land that does the same.

    "Notes of an Imprisoned Political Thinker"

    Talent [The Young Lord's Studies]

    Understand there will always be a right person for a job and
    employ that idea for oneself.

    It is impossible for a king to excel in all areas of wisdom and
    wit; one must know and acknowledge what one lacks,
    gather retainers to fill gaps, and rely on them unerringly—for it is a
    waste of energy to attempt to bury one's shortcomings.

    "Notes of an Imprisoned Political Thinker"

    Clouded Thought [The Ambitious Land]

    In a troubling turn of events, many now hate us and have dedicated
    their lives to revenge. How sad that they do not understand our ideals!

    They should be thankful their children will grow up in such wonderful
    environs. Still, I suppose words will never convince those who fail to
    understand—which is why we cannot lose this war.

    "The Account of a Philosopher"

    Ray of Thought [The Ambitious Land]

    Most countries conduct war for money, but we are different.
    For us, war is a necessary sacrifice in order to lead humanity
    along a proper path.

    True, fighting demands sacrifice, but the end result is
    everlasting peace. This is the eternal dream of all humanity,
    and I know it to be true!

    "The Account of a Philosopher"

    Dawn of Thought [The Ambitious Land]

    It is my duty to spread our national ideology across the world,
    but sadly, minds ingrained with prejudice and fallacy seemingly
    cannot accept our brilliance.

    Therefore, I believe our only choice is to educate from a very
    young age. Oh, how I dream of a day when our ideology is
    pervasive throughout all of humanity!

    "The Account of a Philosopher"

    Shopping Malls [A Future Retrospective]

    Today we salvaged records of large complexes known as
    "shopping malls." There, couples would select clothing appropriate
    for the opposite sex, which was considered to be an act of
    great intimacy.

    Though it hardly needs to be said, this is very different from our
    culture of today.

    "Management Office Log"