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-- arachnidsGrip [AG] began trolling gardenGnostic [GG] --
AG: Ugh.
AG: Hey, you. Dum8 useless human.
AG: I don't know why I'm 8othering to do this.
AG: You're not even aw8ke to read this.
GG: oh noooo
GG: what do you want :(
AG: Wow, what the fuck?
GG: why do you jerks keep bothering me??
AG: Apparently I'm supposed to 8e passing some 8ullshit mysterious message to you. Or something.
GG: ugh, i dont want to hear it
GG: it is just going to be more stupid nonsense like you and your stupid friends are always saying!!
AG: How are you even typing while asleep, anyway?
GG: why do you even care!! just leave me alone
GG: whatever your message is it doesnt matter and i have more important things to do than listen to you!!
AG: Please. What could possi8ly 8e more important than listening to me? ::::)
AG: Oh, I know, may8e you need to go fuck everything up!
AG: And m8ke it imposs8ble for you and your dum8 friends to win your session.
AG: I guess that would 8e pretty important! 8ut don't worry, I'll 8e helping you with that.
GG: bluuhhhhhh whatever i am not listening to this!!
GG: i am leaving, goodbye!!
AG: Go ahead, whatever. 8n't no skin off my 8ack.
GG: fine!!
GG: ugh...
AG: Still here?
AG: It's okay. I understand! I wouldn't 8e a8le to stop talking to me either. ::::)
GG: no, its just...
GG: i dont know
GG: just give me your stupid message i guess
AG: Oh yeah! I just a8out forgot. Didn't think you'd actually listen, haha.
AG: It was... uh, "you did leave."
GG: oh...
AG: Yeah.
GG: wait, i am so confused now
AG: Really? That's gr8, o8viously you are an expert at 8eing confused!
AG: And also at 8eing useless.
AG: Let me guess, you don't even know a8out dream 8u88les, do you?
GG: blah blah, whatever!!
GG: stop calling me useless, you dont even know me
AG: Hey, don't 8lame me. I just call it like I see it.
AG: Want to prove me wrong? Go ahead, try. 8e my guest!
AG: 8ut remem8er, I've seen your entire life.
AG: Spoiler: It's pretty lame!
GG: you act like youre so great, what did you ever do anyway??
AG: Oh man, you have no idea. I did 8asically all the things. All of them!
AG: I had to pick up so much slack for my useless team, I practically 8eat our game session single-handed.
AG: Hell, literally single-handed for the first half of it! Hahahahahahahaha.
AG: And 8ack on Alternia, I was simply the 8est there was at FLARP.
GG: uh huh, whatever you say
GG: that all sounds suspiciously made up if you ask me
AG: Wh8t's that supposed to mean????????
GG: it means i think youre all talk!!
GG: you go on and on and on about how terrible i am
GG: but all i see is someone trying to make themself look better which by the way isnt really working!
AG: Fine. If th8t's how it's gonna go.
AG: Might as well m8ke use of this dum8 8u88le.
GG: i have no idea what you are even talking about
GG: this is so stupid
AG: Hey, I have a gr8 idea! May8e you could stop whining.
AG: And then look around a 8it! Might actually learn something that way.
GG: well i
GG: um...
GG: where am i?

* * * * * * * *

"What's the matter, Harley? Seasick?"

Jade rolls her eyes. "What is this? Why are we on a boat?"

Vriska grins. "Just a taste of what I did for fun back home." She points to an island ahead. "See that? It's an uncharted island, holding the lost hoard of... a legendary pirate, I guess. Some bullshit like that, it doesn't matter. Point is, it's full of monsters, and treasure. We're here for both, of course."

Jade looks Vriska over dubiously. "Is that why you're wearing that goofy pirate outfit?"

"Fuck you, Harley! This is outfit is badass."

"And the point of all this?"

"Right, here's the deal. We'll begin from different sides of the island, and whoever gets to the treasure first wins. And hey, since I'm feeling generous, I won't even cheat."

"Generous, huh." Jade shrugs. "Oh well, might as well."

* * * * * * * *

Jade arrives at the treasure room barely a minute after Vriska does.

Vriska gives her an approving look as they both lean against the wall to catch their breath. "You know, maybe you're not a total loser after all. I'm impressed! Just a bit, but still."

"Don't care!"

"Man. Here I am trying to pay you a compliment, and that's what I get?"

"You're still a jerk," Jade says. "And you suck at compliments."

"Whatever."

"But thanks, I guess," Jade says. "Besides, that was fun."

Vriska grins. "Want to do another one?"

"I'm pretty sure I had something I needed to do..."

Vriska waves her hand. "This is just a dream, remember? Let's have some fun until you wake up or whatever."

"I guess so..."

* * * * * * * *

A few weeks and a great deal of treasure later, they lean against the ship's rail, staring out over the open ocean.

"Hey," Vriska says. "What are you doing here, anyway?"

"Just watching the ocean, what does it look like?"

"Not that, stupid." Vriska waves a hand dismissively. "In general. What're you doing here on this boat, what's the point?"

"Durr, Vriska, it was your idea. Why are you asking me silly stuff?"

"Because I'm asking, okay? Man, just answer the question."

"Because it's fun! Exploring new places, nothing I have to worry about... it reminds me of when I used to go travelling with Grandpa, I guess. Why?"

"Nothing to worry about? Not even all the fearsome enemies we run into on our awesome adventures?"

"Yeah right, they're all wimps!"

"Damn straight."

"But what I meant was... it's nice to not have any responsibilities or anything. To just relax. It's a--um, is something wrong?"

"Yes!" Vriska pushes away from the railing and throws her hands up in irritation. "What's even the point of this? And hey, I thought you had something really important to do."

"I did?"

"You kept saying that when we first set out."

"I was probably just making excuses," Jade says. "We didn't really get along at first, I think I was trying to avoid you. That was all."

"That sure ain't how I remember it, Jade."

Jade shrugs. "What are you upset about? I thought you enjoyed this."

"I'm fucking bored, that's what," Vriska grumbles. "I mean, sure, sailing around fighting monsters is great! And I'm good at it. We're good at it. Basically the best at it, even, which ain't hard with no competition!"

"It's still fun, though. Isn't it?"

"Gimme a break, Jade. Don't you want to shake things up, make a difference? Go for something that matters, even if it means you might fall short?"

"I'm not sure."

"Bullshit."

Jade bites her lip. "Will you be mad at me if I say no?"

Vriska gives Jade a disgusted look, then turns to leave. She's halfway to the ship's cabin when she stumbles slightly, and feels an odd sensation of being slightly out of place, a faint pressure against the edge of her mind.

"Vriska?"

The tone of Jade's voice seems clearer somehow. Vriska rubs the back of her head absently. "What?"

"What if I said I'd like to try for something that matters?"

"Better. Still kinda weak, but better."

Jade grins. "What if I asked you to show me how?"

"Yessssssss, now we're talking." She beckons Jade over. "Great. Now c'mere, I wanna tell you some stories first."

* * * * * * * *

"By the time anyone noticed what had happened, it was too late. The fleets were deep in combat, each thinking the other was Mindfang's, with all but three ships lost in the end. It was such an embarrassment to the seadwellers that financed the operation that their entire faction fell apart within a few sweeps, haha!"

Jade frowns. "So many people must have been killed, though."

Vriska makes a dismissive noise. "So?"

"So that's terrible! I don't want to hurt anyone if I don't have to."

"Who cares? It's their fault for getting in the way. Or for not being good enough."

"Ugh, Vriska! That's horrible! It's great that you looked up to Mindfang I guess, but she doesn't sound like a very nice person."

"Didn't seem to be a problem for her, did it? Can't argue with success. Feeling guilty is a waste of time." Vriska scowls. "Hey, stop making that face at me. I'm not gonna hurt you, if that's your deal. We're in cahoots now."

Jade shakes her head. "No, it's--Vriska, is that really the way you wanted to live? Being like her?"

"Pf, I dunno. Does that matter? Not like I had much choice."

"Of course it matters!" Jade glares at her indignantly. "And in case you forgot, you have a choice now, stupid."

Vriska blinks. "Yeah," she says. "I guess so."

* * * * * * * *

The sound of canonfire is faintly audible from their vantage point, as a small fleet bombards a coastal village populated by what appear to be anthropomorphic salamanders.

"What a waste of ammunition," Vriska says disapprovingly.

Jade glares. "Vriska!"

Vriska rolls her eyes. "Yeah, yeah. I know. Sucks to be the poor villagers. Not like we can do anything about it until the bastards disembark."

"I know." Jade sighs. "I think they're about ready to, though."

"You ready?"

"Yeah!"

* * * * * * * *

"Oh wow," Jade says. "This ship is so cool!"

Vriska grins at Jade as they walk through their recent acquisition. "I gotta say, that was an awesome stunt you pulled. Watching those guys run around on fire and jump in the ocean? Man, that was hilarious."

"Hey, Vriska," Jade says as they investigate the next room. "Isn't this your symbol?" She points at a wooden chest sitting open in the corner, a familiar symbol painted on the side.

Vriska looks over, surprised. "Yeah. It is."

"Did that chest belong to you, then?"

"No," Vriska said. "I think... it might be Mindfang's. Weird."

Jade's eyes widened. "Wow, she's real?"

Vriska looks offended. "Of course she's real! What the hell, Jade. Why wouldn't she be? Why would I make some dumb imaginary character my role model."

"No, I--" Jade shakes her head. "Ugh, forget it. I don't even remember what I thought."

"Great! Because we have something much more important to talk about."

"What's that?" Jade asks.

"It's that this is the captain's cabin. It is also awesome. Obviously I should get it because I'm in charge here. Got a problem with that?"

Jade pouts. "Oh come on! If it weren't for me we wouldn't have gotten our hands on this ship at all."

"Bluh, I'm still captain. Captain's cabin is mine."

"Nope!"

"Too bad!"

Twenty minutes of pointless bickering ensues before they compromise on sharing the cabin.

* * * * * * * *

"Dammit, hurry up," Vriska says. "If Mindfang is in the area, we need to get out of here soon."

Jade grumbles. "Yeah, I--oh."

It only takes a few steps for Vriska to realize Jade is no longer following her. "Hey, c'mon," says says, turning to look back. "What's the--" Vriska trails off when she sees Jade frozen in her tracks, eyes wide. "Jade? Hey! Ground control to Harley."

"I'm sorry, Vriska," Jade says.

"Huh? What the hell are you talking about?"

There's no reply, and it takes Vriska a moment to realize that this is because Jade isn't there anymore. Neither is the odd pressure at the edge of her awareness. Instead, there's an uneasy sense that Jade wasn't really there to begin with and that it's silly for her to have thought otherwise. Vriska quashes that notion, and heads back to the ship in hopes of figuring out what happened.

* * * * * * * *

Vriska notices the flickering glow just as she crests the hill. Her ship--their ship, rather, and where the fuck is Jade anyway--is burning, long past the point of salvage. A figure stands at the shore, silhouetted against the flames, dressed in a heavy coat and bearing a very familiar set of horns, identical to Vriska's own.

As Vriska approaches, the woman who must be Mindfang fixes her with a haughty stare. She looks younger than Vriska expected, somehow.

"Sloppy," Mindfang remarks. "Leaving your ship so exposed. An amateur's mistake."

"Fuck you," Vriska replies.

Mindfang laughs. "You're spirited, I'll grant that much. But I expect more from one who'd follow my path."

"Who says I'm following you?"

Mindfang raises an eyebrow wordlessly.

Vriska grits her teeth. "Whatever. I don't have time for this."

"Looking for your pet, are you?" She laughs at Vriska's reaction. "It's not my doing, I'm afraid. But I will ask this--why do you care what happened to her?"

"None of your business," Vriska growls. She walks past Mindfang, scanning the beach for anything important.

"She holds you back, child. You can do better alone."

Vriska ignores her.

"Or is it pehaps that you just don't have what it takes to be the best?" Mindfang says.

Vriska turns to glare at her. "Bullshit! What's the point of being the best if nobody even cares? What's your deal, anyway? Who are you trying to impress?"

Mindfang smirks. "Perhaps I'm trying to impress you."

"Man. Looks like you really blew it, then! Because guess what, I ain't impressed anymore. We've been following around behind you for months now. And hey, know what? I think you're just a self-obsessed blowhard."

Mindfang smiles. "Maybe I need to try harder, then."

"Maybe you need to choke on a slice of grubtack and die!"

"Oh? If you want me dead, you'll have to try a bit harder than that," Mindfang said.

"You think I wouldn't?"

"I know you won't," Mindfang says. "I know you can't. You're soft from the time spent with that human."

Vriska's sword is in her hand. She snarls, lifting the weapon--and then the everything seems to be in two places at once, and Vriska feels the fleeting memory of steel sliding through her heart--and when everything falls back into place she realizes Jade is shouting at her. She stops.

"Vriska, don't do this!" Jade says.

Vriska keeps the sword pointed at Mindfang, and looks over at Jade. "But I--"

"Ugh, but nothing! You're being stupid!" Jade glares at her.

A few tense moments later, Vriska lowers the weapon.

Mindfang laughs. "Giving up? Perhaps I was wrong about who's the pet, here."

"Bluh bluh, whatever. Just ignore her, Vriska."

Mindfang eyes Vriska. "I'll have plenty of time to persuade you later," she says. "You know your fate as well as I. You'll make your choice eventually."

"No she won't," Jade says. "Vriska, she doesn't matter. Come on, let's go."

"No," Vriska says. "She's right. I do know my fate. But I don't have to listen to her about it. Because, if I'm gonna be honest about it..." Vriska sighs. "She's not telling me anything I haven't already chosen."

The island and their surroundings fade away, leaving only Jade and Vriska.

* * * * * * * *

"I am such an idiot," Vriska mutters.

"Don't say that!"

"Oh? So why didn't I ever stop to really think about what I was doing before it was too late?"

Jade grins. "Who says it's too late?"

Vriska gestures to the blue stain on her chest. "Come on, Jade. I'm dead, and I damn well earned it."

"Do you really think so?"

Vriska shrugs.

"I don't think you did. I think you just couldn't decide until now. What do you really think, Vriska? Do you think your death was Just?"

"It was necessary, I guess."

"That's different!"

"It's still too late. I had my chance. That's how the rules work for these things, Jade."

"Durrh, Vriska, I know the rules. Better than you do, even!" Jade crosses her arms. "And personally I say fuck the rules!"

Vriska blinks.

Jade grabs her hand. Green fire dances at the edges of Jade's skin, and rainbow sparks begin to lift from Vriska's. Jade smiles at her. "Trust me, okay?"