1.3: Until the Dawn
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ATUHOR'S NOSE: Can't think offhand of anything interesting to say here. Here's a chapter, please enjoy it.

Pandora was woken in the night by a gentle tug on her shirt sleeve.

Or, well, several gentle tugs. It took her a bit to realize what was going on.

She cracked her eyes open to see Eiri.

"... mm? Need something?"

"I... need to use the toilet," she muttered.

"You don't know where it is...? ...wait, I don't know where it is." Pandora rubbed at her eyes. "Guess I'd better work that out now rather than later," she said, sitting up.

After a few moments to gather her senses, Pandora rummaged through her bag and retrieved a small oblong object with a colorful circular handle. She tapped at one side, causing it to glow lightly, and with a few more taps a bright light was shining out the other side. "All right, kid, let's find us a restroom."

The two walked out the door of their room and Pandora looked around the inn halls. "Hm... are they expecting us to go outside?" she mumbled, still half-asleep. "That'd fit the apparent tech level, but... awfully inconvenient..."

She led the girl down the corridor, looking for anything that seemed to say 'I am a restroom, please pee in me', but couldn't find such a thing before making it back to the front hall.

Thankfully, the proprietor was still awake, keeping an eye out for... new guests presumably, or perhaps people wanting to order a midnight snack.

"Hey there, guy," she said with a wave. "You got restrooms in here?"

"Not in here, no," he said with an apologetic shrug. "One can find outhouses out back. Just head down that corridor to the rear exit, they're impossible to miss once one is outside."

"Inconvenient, but okay," Pandora muttered. "And no chance of Sir Lebrook lurking around to ambush us?" she added, placing as much disdain as she could physically manage into a single syllable word.

"At this time of the night, he's surely asleep," the proprietor said. "Unless he, too, needed to make a late-night outhouse run just now, one supposes."

"Well, I'll just hope that's not the case, then," Pandora said, leading Eiri out back.

Several minutes later, business finished, Eiri exited the outhouse and returned to —

"Whoa there, kiddo. Wash your hands first."

Eiri paused, frowning in confusion. "They... never told us to wash our hands...?"

"Sure, but they probably didn't care if your hands were disease-ridden and/or stinky," Pandora said. Eiri raised her eyebrows, sniffed at her hands, and winced. "Yeah, you see what I mean. There's a water pump just over there, let's go."

The water pump was only a few meters away, still in sight of the inn's back door. Pandora pumped the handle a few times to get it running, and Eiri wet her hands under the stream. "C- cold!"

"Yeah, that's to be expected, unfortunately," Pandora said, rummaging through her pack and retrieving a bottle. "Soap," she said, squirting a small amount of a goopy substance onto Eiri's wet hands.

"... This is soap?"

"I imagine it more commonly comes in bars around here, but I never got the hang of that form factor, so yeah, liquid soap."

It certainly acted like soap when Eiri rubbed her hands together, so she decided to accept this and tried her best to wash her hands with it while Pandora hummed something to herself. 

After listening to Pandora for a few measures, Eiri's curiosity got the best of her. "What's that song...?"

"Hm? Just something inconsequential from my home... Hand-washing got real important, real suddenly, and a lot of people picked a song they liked and got in the habit of using it as a timer." She hummed four quick notes. "When I get to that part, it's been long enough."

"Ah... did you actually get to that part just now or...?"

"I honestly lost track," Pandora said with a small laugh. "I think you're probably good, though." 

Eiri rinsed the soap off her hands, wincing again at the icy chill of the pump's water. When she was pretty sure the soap was gone, she started patting her hands on her clothes in an attempt to dry them.

"Hm," Pandora hmm'd, retrieving a fluffy cloth from her backpack and handing it to Eiri. "Use a proper towel to dry yourself. And tomorrow I'm getting you two some real clothes that aren't just garbage thrown together by the whatever institute." She started walking towards the inn's rear door.

"W- wait... can I stay out here a little longer?" Eiri said, looking up at the stars.

"Mm? Sure, we can stargaze a bit," Pandora said, sitting down on the ground. "... They really are something, huh?"

"They're the most beautiful things I've ever seen..."

Pandora smiled slightly. "I couldn't usually see 'em like this back home. Cities were too bright, so the sky was always so washed out."

Eiri sat down next to Pandora and leaned against her as she looked at the sky...

and suddenly, her eyes snapped open.

Panicked, Eiri sat up and looked around. 

She was back in the hotel room. Back in her bed. 

Pandora was in the other bed, fast asleep.

Yui was at the little table, holding some trinkets. Presumably he had been fiddling with them a moment ago, but he had just been interrupted by Eiri's sudden awakening. "Hey, Eiri, you're finally awake!" he said.

"Yui, I — what happened? I was outside...?"

"Pandora carried you in. Said you'd fallen asleep while stargazing."

"Oh... that makes sense..." Eiri clutched the blanket, feeling sheepish.

"You finally got to see the stars," he said with a smile.

"I did!" she exclaimed. "They were as beautiful as you said — it was amazing — I wish you could've seen them..."

"I did," he said, pointing to the window. "Plus, I've seen them before."

"Not in person, though — you should come with me next time!"

"I probably will," Yui said. "Pandora said she'd probably be the last one to wake up, so she left us some cards to occupy ourselves while we wait."

"Er, Yui, I don't actually know..."

"Oh, don't worry about that, I can teach you some games," he said, shuffling a deck and handing it to Eiri. "How about a simple one to start with? 'War' is really simple." He picked up a second deck and flipped the top card onto the table. "You just flip the top card, whichever one is higher wins and takes them both. If it's a tie, you put three more face-down, then flip the fourth card to see who takes the whole stack." He picked up the five cards he'd set down as a demonstration and shuffled them back into his deck.

"That sounds easy enough to remember, I suppose..." She flipped down a card, and Yui flipped down his as well.

"Your Queen beats my three, so you take both of those.

"My seven beats your six.

"My King beats your Jack."

The two had gotten about halfway through their decks when Eiri suddenly frowned very loudly. "Hey, wait a minute — since we're just playing cards in order, this game's outcome is determined from the start! You already know who's gonna win!"

Yui smirked. "I admit, I know what it's gonna look like once we get through our decks... but then we're gonna shuffle all the cards we took, so what's gonna happen after that is a complete mystery to me."

"You're just gonna look again then!"

"Promise I won't." He held up a hand. "Hand up to Cenera, I won't look at the cards again til the game is over."

Eiri stared at her brother, eyes narrowed suspiciously. "You better not change your mind!" she said, flipping another card.

"Hey, it's no fun if I already know how it's gonna end," Yui said, flipping over his card.

Anyone who's played War with a sibling will be unsurprised to hear that their game ended undecided when Pandora woke up.

Ooooooh mysterious~
  • Yes! Such intrigue from these hints! Curiosity increases! Votes: 3 42.9%
  • Parts of it are mysterious! Other parts are immediately clear! Votes: 4 57.1%
  • No, I can tell exactly what's going on, so 'mystery' isn't really the word for it... Votes: 0 0.0%
Total voters: 7