2.1: In from the Cold
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ATUHOR'S NOSE: *dabs* We're back! Enjoy a chapter a week for the next few weeks! Cat time cat time cat time! Spamton dancing

This chapter went up on Sunday caaaause that's when I was able to get final prep done, but the rest of the arc will be going up on Saturdays.

... I have to admit, I didn't fully expect to reach this point. Like yeah I intended to, but I always intend to. But since you're seeing this, then clearly I somehow did. holy crap lmao

When Eiri woke up, the first thing she noticed was that it was bitterly cold. She was snuggled up with Yui and Pandora, inside a tent Pandora had pulled out of her bag, and under what seemed to be every piece of cloth the trio owned, and while that seemed to keep the cold firmly outside of their little pile, it was still there, and it was so cold.

She shivered, and briefly considered opening a rift to the sun, before realizing that would probably kill her. The sun was all the way out in the sky, after all, and she'd never opened a rift that distance before.

She took a few seconds to work up the strength to put a hand outside the pile. The strange glowing device Pandora had set up was still set in about the middle of the tent, still glowing, and when she put her hand near it she could tell it was still emitting heat, but it seemed to be fighting a losing battle.

Lacking any other ideas for what to do, she snuggled back up to her brother and prepared herself to wait for something to happen.


It didn't seem like much longer til Pandora finally stirred awake. "Brr... it is still hellishly cold out, isn't it?"

"It's so cold..." Eiri muttered.

"Yeah... Sorry, kids, I came woefully underprepared for an environment like this. We'll get to a town with proper buildings as fast as I can manage."

Just outside the tent, their campfire's embers still smoldered, and Pandora dropped a bunch of wood on it and stoked it back into a roaring flame.

While Pandora did that, Eiri noticed that she was muttering something to herself. She leaned in close, trying to hear, but only barely caught some fragments like "not prepared for winter camping" and "feel like I'm doing this all wrong", which Eiri found unsettling for some reason, so she decided to stop listening in and focus on the nice warm fire.

After... some amount of time, Pandora pressed a warm bowl into Eiri's hands, a bowl filled with an unfamiliar light-brown paste with colorful chunks scattered throughout.  And a spoon in it, of course. "Eat up, kid, get some fuel in the tank," Pandora said. "Can't be warm if you're hungry, you know."

Hesitantly, Eiri scooped up some of the unfamiliar substance. The brown stuff turned out to taste slightly sweet, and the colorful chunks were sweeter than that but with a tartness to them that made her mouth pucker up a little. The warmth from the hot food spread throughout Eiri's body.

Eventually the bowl was empty, and Eiri glanced around the camp wondering what to do with it. Conveniently, Pandora finished up her own meal shortly after, and she put her bowl and spoon in a small box. "You two done too?" she asked, and when both twins nodded she collected their dishes, put them in the same box, and put the box back into her backpack. "Let's get going. Sooner we find a path, sooner we find a town, sooner we can get inside and out of this mess of a climate."

After Pandora got everything packed away in her backpack (and Eiri was starting to suspect that it was holding more stuff than was physically possible, somehow), she picked a direction, seemingly at random, and the trio set off.

"First thing we wanna do is find us a path," Pandora said. "... Eiri. Do you know if that portal thing of yours would have cared about where paths are when it picked where to plop us down?"

"Um..." Eiri thought back over the experiments the men in coats had made her do. None of them seemed to have anything to do with paths. "... I have no idea. Sorry."

"Don't sweat it," Pandora said, waving her hand. "... not least cause of the weather, har har har. ... But seriously, if the whatever institute didn't want to look into that — or more likely didn't bother sharing their findings with you — that's their issue, not yours."

Eiri frowned. "... you found us. But you couldn't find any notes about us?"

"The thing about that," Pandora said, "is that it turns out they keep their experimental notes locked up tighter than their experimental subjects. Kinda a pain, but... better than the reverse, considering."

Eiri shivered as she realized just what would have happened in that scenario.

"Yeah, it ain't fun to contemplate," Pandora said. "... You good to keep walking?"

"... I don't want to stop," Eiri said, hoping Pandora wouldn't notice — 

"That doesn't actually answer the question." (Darn it!) "... I get it, though."

Tired, but trying her best to act otherwise, Eiri drifted over to Yui, who looked just as energetic as he had all day. "How come you're not tired?" she groaned.

Yui shrugged. "Stayed active," he muttered. "Much as I could in that little cell, anyway. Which wasn't much, but I guess it was enough."

"Ugh... you cheat at life so bad. You coulda told me to be active too."

"Mm... I could've, but I don't think it would've worked."

Eiri sighed. "Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh you're right and I hate it." She leaned heavily on her brother. "Why's it gotta be so cold..."

"Hey, use your own feet!" Yui exclaimed. "I'm not big enough to carry you, y'know!"

"I am, though," Pandora said, scooping Eiri up and setting the girl on her shoulder.

"Meep!" Eiri wiggled around a bit until she was able to find her balance. "... How long were you listening?"

"Technically the whole time," Pandora admitted, shrugging her other shoulder. "You know how our ears are. If it helps, I wasn't paying attention until Yui there decided to raise the volume."

"... How our ears are?" Eiri said, tilting her head (and twitching the aforementioned ears) in confusion.

"Huh, you don't know?" Pandora said. "Well, these are the ears of a hunter. (... is my understanding...) So they're sharper than human ears. We can hear pretty damn far, in my experience."

"Oh." Eiri pondered that. She'd never head the word 'human' before meeting Pandora, but she'd only seen one other kind of person, other than cat-eared people like herself, so presumably a 'human' was the other kind of person. "... I could hear the men in the lab coats talking. When they tested me. Now I wonder if they knew that."

"They might not've," Pandora said. "I don't know how common knowledge this is outside our kind."

Eiri tilted her head again. "... did you not meet many humans?"

"I mean, I met loads of humans back home," Pandora said, "but obviously they don't count. Since I got to this place, though, no, not so much. The day I smashed up that lab and saved you two..." She paused for thought. "... think that might've been only the second time I interacted with humans outside my homeland." She gazed off into the distance, lost in thought.

That didn't last long before she brought her attention back to the wintry cold. "Anyway! Now that you're up there, you've got a very important job."

Eiri's eyes widened and she sat up ramrod straight.

"Don't sweat it, it's not a hard job — you are meant to be resting up there after all — but still, important. What I want you to do is keep your eyes out for any signs of a path, or anything else that strikes you as unusual. Your eyes are a good three or four feet higher than mine now, which makes you the first one who can spot anything. Got it?"

Eiri nodded seriously and started scanning the area. This would technically be a much better job for Yui... but if she didn't give it to him, she must not know. If he's not telling her, I won't either.


She wasn't quite sure how long it took (and it was starting to occur to her that she really should figure out how time worked) but eventually Eiri did spot a path. She pointed it out to Pandora and, after not much longer, buildings started to rise into sight in the distance...

Eiri's eyes snapped open. Again.

The first thing she noticed was that it was warm again.

The second thing she noticed was that she was inside. Which made sense. 

At a quick glance around the room (furnished much like the one in the inn from before, but a bit larger) she spotted Pandora dozed off on a chair, her strange oblong device dangling loosely from her hand, but as for Yui, she couldn't find —

oh, there he was, popping back into the room, looking more energetic than Eiri had ever seen him before.

"Eiri! You're awake now, you gotta see this!" She wasn't entirely sure how, but Yui was somehow managing to whisper and shout in the same voice. "This place is so amazing!"

"Anywhere would be amazing compared to the cold outside," Eiri grumbled, yawning.

Yui's face fell briefly. "... Yeah okay technically." And he immediately perked up again. "But this place in particular is particularly amazing! In particular!" He dashed over to her and pulled her out of her bed by the hand.

"Yui, slow down!" Eiri said. "I just woke up and I'd bet you know that! Why's this place so darn great that you can't just wait for me to wake up?"

"Because, Eiri," Yui opened the door and pulled Eiri into the hallway to show her the other guests milling about in the rest of the inn, "it's full of people like us!"

And indeed, most of the guests Eiri could see sported similarly feline ears she had grown accustomed to only seeing on her brother and Pandora.

"Wh... where are we, Yui?!" she exclaimed.

"I dunno!" he declared cheerfully. "But that'll be a good thing to work on finding out, won't it?"

Whoa! More triangle-eared people!
  • I'm as excited as Yui about this! Votes: 3 60.0%
  • Neato I think? Votes: 1 20.0%
  • GIMME ELVES NEXT Votes: 1 20.0%
  • I accidentally looked at the glossary before reading the chapter and spoiled myself OH NOES OOPSIE Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I have literally zero opinion about this but I still want to vote in the poll Votes: 0 0.0%
Total voters: 5