2.2: Catching Up on the Past
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ATUHOR'S NOSE: :thunking: I'm not sure if this chapter title still makes sense, given how things changed in development? Eh, y'all can tell us how much you think this seems to apply or not. It'll be fun! Engagement!

Yui had spent a good long while dragging Eiri around the inn by the hand and showing her the other feline-eared people going about their business, until eventually she put her foot down.

"I get it! There's a lot of people like us here! That's probably good news for us figuring out our heritage or whatever! But we should get back to our room and talk to Pandora about it instead of staring at strangers from behind corners!"

Yui rubbed at the back of his neck, affecting a suitably abashed expression. "Sorry... they're still kinda scary, even though they're like us. But... they might not all be strangers, y'know. Our parents might live here."

Eiri folded her arms. "Our parents aren't gonna be here, and even if they are, I'd rather stay with Pandora than see them again."

Yui looked taken aback for a moment, but then it passed. "W- well, never mind that. You're right, we should talk to Pandora." And without waiting for a response, he turned around and headed back to their room.

When they got back to the room and opened the door, Pandora was right behind it, hand out like she had been just about to open it herself, and all three of them started.

"Oh — there you are, kids. Where'd you go?"

"Just looking around," Yui said vaguely, and Eiri gave him a perturbed look.

"Ah, makes sense," Pandora said, turning around and heading back into the room, confusingly to Eiri. "Well, I'm not gonna say you shouldn't have done that, per se, but in future, it'd help if you left a note clarifying where you're going and how long you expect to be out if you leave while I'm dozed off."

"But... I can't write," Eiri said. 

Pandora froze for a second, completely caught off-guard. "... okay. That would've stopped you, yeah. Can you read?" Eiri shook her head no. "Well. Of course the whatever institute didn't want to teach you basic literacy. All right then. Guess that decides what we're doing first — well, no, what we're doing first is getting proper winter gear. (Can't believe Brooktown didn't have anything.) But after that, we're heading to the library and teaching you your letters."

One hasty and unpleasant jaunt through the snow later, and they were once again at one of those clothing shops, this one run by yet another of the feline-eared people which were rapidly becoming a familiar sight.

She gave the trio a friendly wave and a grin. "Welcome to Araceli's Tailor!" She wore a badge on her shirt, though of course Eiri couldn't read it. Was it a name tag? "I'd heard rumors of a trio of curiously underdressed visitors to Snowfall. Knew you'd be coming here sooner or later. Even us Solea can't casually walk around in mark five under without a proper enchanted coat."

Pandora's brief expression of bafflement immediately vanished upon hearing the word 'enchanted'. "Enchanted, you say?" 

"Yep! Guaranteed to keep you nice and toasty warm down to mark eight under, and might even make it to nine — though nobody's actually tested that far, so probably avoid being the first."

"Mark... eight under," Pandora repeated. "Of course. Obviously. Uh... I haven't actually looked at a thermometer in days, how cold has it been lately?"

"Well, it's mark three under right now, and like I said, it's gotten down to five under a lot lately. Thankfully not six, or you three would definitely be dead, Solea or not."

"Uh-huh..." Pandora said, nodding slowly. "And, uh, remind me what the freezing point of water is..."

"... Mark zero, remember? Come on, you can't seriously have forgotten grade two physics like that."

"I definitely never forgot the freezing point of water, no," Pandora said. "How cold do winters get around here, again?"

The shopkeeper — Araceli? Eiri wondered whether she could safely infer that from context or not — tilted her head briefly in confusion. "Uh... I mean, it does get down to mark six under a few days each month, and seven maybe once or twice a tenmonth. Our coats typically last a hundredmonth if cared for properly, and you're likely to experience at least one mark eight under day in that time, which is why we're required to ensure they work properly at least that far. You're really not from around here, huh?"

"Nope," Pandora said, grinning brightly, "that's why we're not properly equipped, after all. Let's get that fixed, shall we?"

"Oh, of course!" the shopkeeper said, her curiosity about Pandora completely set aside in the face of a potential sale. "Let's just get you three fitted..."


In a surprisingly short amount of time, all three were fitted with thick coats that, as promised, kept them nice and warm even when they opened the front door to test them in the chill.

"That is an impressive enchantment," Pandora said, dropping a bunch of coins on the desk. 

"The best part about it," the shopkeeper said, "and this is an Araceli exclusive, is that it'll keep your ears warm even if you've put the hood down. You'll need that feature if you wanna travel on high-umbra nights like tonight."

"Oh, of course, obviously," Pandora said. "Gotta be prepared for those high-umbra nights. Can't have your vision restricted at all on a high-umbra night, oh no."

The shopkeeper — was she Araceli or not, why couldn't Pandora say her name or something already — tilted her head curiously. "You all right there, ma'am?"

"Oh yeah, totally good," Pandora said. "Just, uh, haven't actually kept track of the umbra levels lately, didn't realize tonight was a high one. Anyway, now that we've got our coats we're gonna leave bye —"

Pandora quickly rushed out the door. Eiri followed, bewildered, and Yui followed behind her.


Eiri had intended to ask Pandora what the heck was up with that, but by the time Pandora had slowed down enough that Eiri could talk to her, the group had already reached... well, Pandora had used the word 'library' earlier, so Eiri figured that's probably what this was.

Library or something else, it was definitely a massive building, with bookshelves lining every wall and filling up most of the floor space as well. Without slowing down, Pandora tore off for a particular corner —

"Pandora, slow down, will you?" Eiri said, starting to get out of breath.

Pandora halted in her tracks. "... Ah, heck, I just bolted without thinking, didn't I? Um..." She looked around. "There, a table. You two can sit down there while I grab the books we're gonna need. I'll be back in just a few minutes." And she nyoomed again.

Eiri gave her brother a look of shock. "What the heck is up with her right now? What is umbra? What's a Solea? Was Araceli the shopkeeper or not‽"

Yui patted his sister on the head. "Hey, take a breath, Eiri," he said with a grin. "Yes, the shopkeeper was Araceli, it said so on her nametag."

"Okay, good wait hang on — " Eiri's look of shock increased. "When did you get a chance to learn to read‽ We were —" locked up in that lab together, and no way did the men in the lab coats teach you to read " — I guess I shouldn't just say that anywhere, but you know what I was gonna say!"

Yui gave a sheepish grin. "Yeah, I know, but... I used my sight to listen in on other kids learning to read. I'd have taught you too, but with how rarely they let us see each other, I couldn't really figure out how..."

Eiri sighed. "All right, that makes sense, but you're gonna help me learn now!"

"Of course I am. Soon as Pandora gets back with the books."


When Pandora did get back with the books, she spent some time going over some thin books with Eiri, ones with brightly-colored pictures and only a handful of words on each page. Pandora didn't seem to fully understand how this would translate into Eiri being able to read, but once she noticed that Yui already could and seemed to be much better at directing Eiri, she backed off and left it mostly to him while she flipped through some much thicker books she had brought at the same time.

"... All right, so Solea is us cat-eared people. That tracks." Pandora nodded. 

"Wait, but you grew up with our kind, didn't you?" Eiri asked. "Shouldn't you know that already?"

Pandora gave a sheepish grin. "I miiiiight've been exact-wordsing a bit around that subject. But if we're gonna be traveling together, I s'pose I owe you two a more complete explanation."

"I bet I can guess how it'll start," said a familiar voice from behind a nearby shelf.

Pandora raised an eyebrow as Araceli stepped out from where she had been eavesdropping. "Do you habitually follow your customers around after they leave your store?"

"Only the ones that look completely out of their depth," Araceli said with a grin. "When you said you weren't from around here, you didn't mean just Snowfall, did you?"

Pandora shook her head, though she looked more amused than anything. "Yes, I suppose that is what I was about to explain to the kids. What do you think, kids, should we let the random nosy tailor in on our secrets?"

Eiri just looked completely overwhelmed, but Yui spoke up. "Yes, I think we can trust her." Eiri cautiously considered his words, and then nodded her agreement.

"Well, all right then," Pandora said, closing up her book and leaning forward on the table. "Take a seat, Araceli, cause this is gonna be a long one..."

Whose backstory do you have the most questions about right now?
  • Eiri Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Yui Votes: 1 20.0%
  • Araceli Votes: 1 20.0%
  • Pandora Votes: 3 60.0%
  • Lebrook (wait, seriously? he's not even in this chapter!) Votes: 0 0.0%
Total voters: 5