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Hit or Miss

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        You opened your eyes.

 

        Nothing. Complete and utter darkness. You were very confused. Where exactly was this place? It was as if you were just floating in space, your feet not touching anything that felt like the ground. While your weren't exactly nervous or scared, but things were definitely not right here, especially by the looks of yourself as you examined your body. It seemed like all of your colors were gone and everything on your person was a shade of black, white, or grey. You swiveled around, almost swimming in the air, when a voice suddenly spoke to you. It wasn't male or female, and you couldn't place the age of the speaker, but that didn't bother you. After all, there was no one here. They likely couldn't hurt you, right?

 

        "What is your name?" You paused for a moment, wondering if you should go by your real name or a nickname, but the decision came quickly, and you responded just as fast.

 

        "______."

 

        "Your name is ______, correct?" You nodded. "Are you a boy or a girl?" You answered with the gender you identified with. "Alright. Welcome, ______." Out of nowhere, a man faded into view in front of you. He looked to be some sort of baseball player, the brim of his hat hiding his eyes, although, he didn't seem to notice you were there in the first place. He was just standing there with his head hanging down. Was he okay? "You have been assigned to a being called the Batter. The Batter has an important mission. Be sure that it's accomplished." You tilted your head in curiosity, wondering what that mission was and if the voice would tell you. Sadly, it didn't, and it moved on without letting you speak. "We will let you out in Zone 0. Good luck. For more information, find the one called The Judge." Before you could ask any questions, a bright light flooded the area, successfully blinding you and forcing you to shield your eyes with your arms. A second later, your feet touched the ground, and the light slowly faded. You peeked out from behind your arms and blinked in surprise, your eyes taking in the scenery around you. Everything was a shade of yellow, and there was a vast expanse of water surrounding the small bit of land you were standing on.

        Someone was next to you. You could feel it. When you turned your head to see who it was, you were surprised to find the Batter standing a foot or so away, staring at the area around him just as you were. A second later, he turned to look at you, and you thought you caught a glimpse of his eyes, but you couldn't be sure. Either way, he said nothing. It was kind of weird, actually. Was he able to speak?

 

        "....Hi, there."

 

        "Hello." Oh, he could. Alright. He seemed really stoic, so maybe he was just one of those people who didn't talk much? That was fine. He'd likely have to talk eventually, but you weren't going to force him to do so right now.

 

        "I guess we should head out now." The Batter nodded, and at that, you began walking forward, assuming he would follow. He did, and the two of you proceeded forward for a few feet before a cat rapidly approached you, a slightly creepy grin plastered on its face. It looked kind of unnatural, but you loved cats, and this one reminded you of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, so you would overlook the creepy grin if it was nice and didn't scratch you.

 

            "There cannot be any other living beings in Zone 0, so I must assume that you are only a mere figment of my imagination." Wow. This cat was surprisingly literate. "Nevertheless, I will introduce myself. I am the Judge, and I am aching to know your name, dear elusory interlocutor." The Batter was first to respond, which was okay with you. Introductions were always kind of awkward in their own weird way.

 

        "I am the Batter. I have been assigned to a sacred mission." The Judge nodded, still smiling.

 

        "It is a pleasure. However, it is not the puppet I was addressing, but the Puppeteer controlling it. What is your name, dear Puppeteer?" You smiled down at the cat and ignored the slight scoff from the Batter.

 

        "My name is ______." Once again, the Judge nodded.

 

        "Even though you too are but an inexistent apparition in my eyes, let it be said that I am delighted to me you as well, dear ______."

 

        "I believe we are in need of your services."

 

        "Many people are in need of my services, you know. Everybody loves cats." Your smile widened. "We run ourselves against their legs and purr in the most insistent manner. They adore that."

 

        "Oh my god, yes." The Judge's smile widened just as yours did a moment ago.

 

        "You see? Proof that cats are fantastical beings with immense adorable power." The Batter crossed his arms.

 

        "I'm not talking about that kind of help."

 

        "I see... But what sort of service could I offer to an ectoplasmic entity?"

 

        "I have a sacred mission to fulfill. I must purify the world." Your brows flew up at the Batter's assignment. How the hell were you supposed to make sure something like that was accomplished?? You were just a person!! This wasn't what you had in mind when you agreed to come here!!

 

        "There is no objective more laudable than yours. I accept to serve you as a guide through this area, if it is of any help to you."

 

        "Thank you." You were finally able to get a word in before the Batter, but it didn't seem to matter much, considering how quickly the Judge scampered away. "...Okay.. I guess we should start moving again." But the Batter was already walking ahead of you. With an indifferent shrug, you followed him deeper into the strange area called Zone 0.

        Things went by quickly. The Judge taught you how to use the Batter to fight against the spectres you'd be fighting in the future(it was incredibly cool), the two of you solved a few puzzles together, and you even found some items in a couple chests just laying about. Things were going fairly well, and the Judge was even able to get to a bowl of food he wasn't able to before, simply because of the puzzles you and the Batter had solved had blocked him. It was adorable. However, your so called 'puppet' wanted to move along, so you forced yourself to stop petting the Judge as he ate and followed the Batter through the nearby doorway. Outside lay a short stretch of road with something bright and red at the end of it. The closer you got the more you realized what it was.

 

        "It's...a box."

 

        "Yes." You approached the box and nudged it with your foot.

 

        "Is it an important box?"

 

        "Ah, that it is! This peculiar colored cube will be essential to you on your purifying quest, dear enlightened student and supportive friend." The Judge scampered up to you, completely bypassing the Batter, and sat at your feet with a paw resting on the box. "You will be able to differentiate it from similar ones by the contrast of bad taste it imposes on your view of its clashing color. Aside from rendering you completely of your health and competence points, it is capable of saving your progress and returning you to the nothingness." The Judge went on to explain what the nothingness was, that it was a space outside of all the zones that let you travel between them freely. Sounded pretty neat if you were honest.

 

        "I guess that means we'll have to purify each zone then, right Batter?" The man in question simply nodded, staying true to his quiet and stoic nature.

 

        "Indeed. Now open your wings, my dear companion, and hurry away towards the following zones without hesitation! Your only enemy is the fear that will grab you."

 

        "Thanks. It was nice meeting you. Will we get to see you again?" The Judge smiled up at you, and this time, you weren't the least bit creeped out.

 

        "Do not worry, I too travel a lot through the different zones of the world. We will newly meet one another eventually without a doubt. Here, take this object of a curious name. It will be the key that permits you to enter Zone 1." The cat gave you an odd looking card(because cats could totally grab things with their paws). With a grateful smile, you thanked your new friend and turned back to the box.

 

        "Alright, let's go Batter. This mission won't complete itself." The Batter stepped up next to you, and as soon as you touched the box, a floating text box appeared in front of you, offering the choice to save or go to the nothingness. You opted to save first and then touched the box again, this time choosing to travel to the nothingness.

        "..Oh..." It was literally nothing. Well, save for the strange green patterns off to the side with little red dots in the middle of them. The Batter said nothing, so you decided to approach one of the dots. Turns out, a small text box appeared before you again, and it was asking if you'd like to enter Zone 1. You touched the 'yes' option, and in a flurry of spheres, the two of you were transported into the zone. Everything was green, and something akin to rain was falling steadily over the area. "Ooh, pretty." The Batter gave you a look, to which you raised an eyebrow. "What? I love the rain, okay? And green is an awesome color."

 

        "Eh." He shrugged. "It's a color." You stared at him for a moment, wondering if his friends ever thought of him as a buzzkill before walking ahead. Some sort of tram station was coming up, and you could see a few residents just standing around. You approached one of them and waved, giving them a smile.

 

        "Hey there! We're new to this zone and don't really know where we are. Could you tell us what this place is?" The person didn't respond, just continued to stare off into space. You frowned. "Uh, hello?" Nothing. With a confused face, you turned to The Batter. "Why isn't he responding?" Instead of answering your question, the Batter approached the man himself, who turned to him and wheezed.

 

        "Train #1 is a really useful means of transport to get around Zone 1." Your puppet nodded and walked towards the train instead, stepping on and heading inside. When you didn't follow, he poked his head out of the doorway, the brim of his hat still hiding his eyes.

 

        "Come on." With another frown, you went on the train, where another text box appeared. The only other station was a place called Damien, so you chose that area and sat down next to the Batter. Silence ensued.

 

        ".....That was unfair." Without missing a beat, you were given a response.

 

        "The Elsens can't see or hear you. As a puppeteer, you are invisible to many. Only a select few are able to acknowledge your presence."

 

        "Like the Judge?"

 

        "Yes."

 

        "Oh." Well, that was...something. Unfortunately, there was no more time to ask question, for the train had stopped and the Batter was already getting off. You followed quickly and hopped off the train, noticing another Elsen to your right. It looked as if the Batter was going to pass him up, but you had other plans.

        "What does this guy have to say?" The Batter stopped mid-step and peeked over his shoulder at you. "He could unknowingly give us a hint or something. I don't know." A moment passed before the Batter sighed and turned towards the Elsen.

 

        "Train #2 hasn't been active in a very long time..." Without saying a word, the Batter slowly turned his head towards you, and you were able to pick up on his sarcasm immediately.

 

        "Oh, shut up." He simply shook his head and turned away, starting down the path once more with you following behind him. It was kind of odd, really. If you were the Puppeteer and he was your puppet, shouldn't you be the one walking ahead? Or, wait no. He was the one with the weapon. If a spectre jumped out, it would attack the closest person out of you two, and with that bat of his, the Batter had a higher chance of, for lack of a better phrase, not getting hurt right off the bat. On second thought, maybe it was best that you didn't walk ahead of him.

        The two of you rounded a corner and ran right into another Elsen who was blocking the way. He turned around, looking quite surprised before coughing a bit and clearing his throat.

 

        "Uhm.. Uh.... A visitor?.." Silence. The Elsen wheezed a bit before continuing. "I.. Uhm... Welcome to the smoke mines. Uh.. May I know who you are? Are you an inspector?"

 

        "No. I'm the Batter. I've come to exterminate the impure spirits." And so ensued a fairly long and lengthy conversation between your puppet and the Elsen. What you gathered was that the Elsens breathed smoke rather than oxygen, there were spirits becoming increasingly aggressive in the mines and interrupting their work, and that the southern annex tunnel held something strange in it, possibly the chief of the spectres. Once the Batter had gotten all the information out of that particular Elsen, you pointed him towards the annex tunnel and followed as he went down the stairs. The bottom of the stairs led into a long hallway with two white specks at the end, so you squinted in order to see what they were and gasped.

 

        "Oh my god." Without waiting for the Batter, you ran down the tunnel and immediately crouched down next the to Judge, who just so happened to be in the tunnel as well. With another smile, you have him a scratch behind the ears, and he purred in response as your puppet caught up with you.

 

        "Well well, who do we have here? Is it not ______ and their picturesque jumping jack, The Batter?" You were about to reply, but were cut off before you could form a single word.

 

        "Are you the spectres' leader?"

 

        "Aha, no no, certainly not." You sighed, deciding you'd talk to the Judge later. After all, it seemed like he had something important to tell the Batter. While they were talking, you looked over at the other white thing nearby. It seemed to be some sort of white ring just floating in the air. You pushed yourself up from the crouch you were in and approached the ring, tuning out the background conversation. The ring didn't move, even as you circled around it, examining the weird object. Just a ring. A floating white ring. Maybe you could touch it.

        The Batter had begun tuning out the Judge's words as well when he noticed you standing in front of the ring. Neither of you knew if it was dangerous or not, and as you reached a hand towards it, he rushed around the cat to try and stop you.

 

        "______, don't-" Too late. One of your fingers poked the ring, and as soon as you did, it flashed with a bright light, and a text box appeared before you.

 

        Add-On Alpha has joined you.

 

        "...Huh." A hand grabbed your arm, and the Batter hastily pushed you behind him, readying his bat in case the floating ring was hostile.

 

        "Fear not, Batter. I do believe that peculiar object is a thing called a spherical add-on. It is of no harm to either you or ______."

 

        "It's name is Alpha." The Batter glanced between you and the Judge before lowering his bat, adjusting his hat in what you assumed to be an embarrassed manner, though he would probably never admit it.

 

        "Hmph. Fine."

 

        "Since it has decided to accompany you, I know only to advise you to make the best usage of it possible."

 

        "Got it. I guess the leader of the spectres isn't here then. Maybe it's in the mines?"

 

        "I believe so, dear ______. That's quite a perceptive conjecture you've made."

 

        "Alright then! I guess we go back up and tell that guy we need to get through. Come on, Batter." You led the way this time, turning to see if your companion was following, which he was. Surprisingly, Alpha was floating after you, following closer than the Batter was. It was probably another companion of some kind, which was pretty cool. It could be the mascot of this little ragtag group you were in.

        It didn't take much to convince the Elsen to let the Batter and Alpha through, not knowing he was also letting you into the mines as well, but the three of you quickly made your way into the tunnels in order to really start the mission. Things were quiet. As you entered a medium-sized room and stood in the center, the Batter held out an arm to signal you to stop walking. He paused before turning around and yelling loudly into the mines.

 

        "Show yourselves, corrupted children!! I am the voice of forgiveness that'll eliminate you calamitous forms!" All of a sudden, eight spectres appeared one by one, surrounding the three of you as they faded in from thin air. The Batter was silent as you mimicked his slow head turn from earlier, even tossing in an unamused look as well.

 

        "..Good job." He ignored you, readying his bat instead.

 

        "Prepare to face my judgement." The battle began. A text box popped up in front of you, and another appeared before the Batter. While his contained the option to flee, he simply brushed it out of the air. Yours contained the options 'fight' and 'auto', and you swiped left in order to choose 'fight'. The Judge has explained earlier that 'auto' would let The Batter do what he pleased in the midst of battle, while 'fight'  allowed you to make the decisions instead. All you had to do was pretend you were him, an example being that if you went through the motion of swinging a bat, the Batter would swing his own in turn. Every move you made, the Batter would do, even if it was something like brushing your hair out of your face. It was like you were in one of those immersive virtual reality games, except you really were this time around. However, you didn't have time to think about that. You had a battle to win.

        First things first, Wide Angle. You lifted a hand as if adjusting a hat, the Batter mimicking your action simultaneously, and another box appeared before you containing information about the spectres. You raised a brow in confusion.

 

        "...What kind of name is Common Spectre?" With a shrug, you pushed the thought away and swung. The Batter swung as well, aiming for one of the spectres, and landed a hard hit on the one in the front, the impact making a satisfying CRACK. It fell from the air and disappeared immediately, surprising you with how weak it was. You stared a bit before realizing what this meant, smiling in excitement before taking a batting stance. "Oh, this is gonna be fun."

 

--

 

        Everything went well. You had fun hitting ghosts with an imaginary bat, and it turned out that Alpha would attack if you ordered it to, so that was a bonus. You'd have to watch out for its health, as well as the Batter's, but that shouldn't be too hard.

 

        "This 'Add-On' is fighting by my side..." You glanced at the Batter while gathering the credits and luck tickets left behind by the spectres. "...That's practical."

 

        "And you thought Alpha was dangerous."

 

        "It is. Dangerous to the spectres." You pouted at the Batter, a little miffed that he'd managed to twist your words. "Let's purify the other galleries." With a sigh, you picked up the last of the luck tickets and put them in the inventory space you shared with the Batter, giving him a nod as you stood up. There was a yellow box nearby, and as you touched it, you discovered that it functioned as a regular save point. That was good. It meant you could progress without fear. With a smile, you turned to your puppet, excitement in your eyes. This mission was going to be more fun than you thought, and you ready to start.

 

        "Alright, Batter. Let's go."

Chapter Text

        "So, what's under your hat?" The Batter cast you a quick glance before looking ahead again, still walking through the mines next to you.

 

        "That's none of your business."

 

        "Oh, don't be like that. It can't be that bad, can it? From what I can see, you're a pretty good looking guy. Some might even say you're kind of handsome." The Batter sighed and shook his head, now walking a little faster in order to get further away from you, but you simply scampered back up to his side. "Just show me! I promise I won't laugh."

 

        "I know you won't." That raised a couple eyebrows. If he knew you wouldn't laugh, then what did he think you'd do? Scream? Whatever was under that hat couldn't be so horrifying that he couldn't show you, and now that he'd said that, it only made you want to know more. However, the Batter didn't seem like the kind of person to give into normal annoying requests. If you continuously asked, he'd likely start tuning you out, so you needed to come up with something else to get his attention. And....you had just the thing.

 

        "Then what will I do? Freak out so much, I'll take a swing at you?" The Batter stopped.

 

        "...Did you just-"

 

        "Don't be afraid that I'll home run out of here." He turned his head sharply, sending an invisible glare towards you.

 

        "Stop."

 

        "Show me what's under your hat."

 

        "No." The Batter continued walking and you grinned widely before catching up with him.

 

        "Come on, things are so quiet around here already! With my puns, we can have a ball on this mission. I can pitch quite a few puns, you know." Once again, the Batter stopped and turned to face you, but this time, something was different. He wasn't standing any differently, but you could feel a worse gaze on you than the previous glare he had. This time, the Batter was kind of scary. He actually....intimidated you.

 

        "I said, stop.Your smile fell, and a few seconds passed before he turned around and continued down the corridor. You let go of a breath you didn't know you were holding and ran to catch up with him, awkward silence hanging in the air. You actually felt kind of bad now. Maybe you should apologize.

 

        ".....Hey, I-" A group of specters cut you off, three floating heads coming to attack the two of you. Once again, you chose to attack, using wide angle to get to know your opponent. They were called Magnolias, and if you were completely honest, they were very creepy. However, you had something to think about and couldn't be bothered to fight at the moment, so you swiped right twice in order to choose 'auto'. The Batter have you a momentary glance, but quickly turned back to the battle to attack, leaving you to your thoughts.

        Yikes, that was one way to make an impression. It hadn't even been thirty minutes since you'd been with the Batter, and you had already pissed him off. What was his deal? Did he really not like puns that much? And why was he so adamant about keeping his hat on? This guy, good lord. Sad thing was, no matter how many complaints you could come up with about this guy, you were stuck with him until his mission was complete. Since that was the case, it would be better to keep the peace between the two of you, rather than have him angry and annoyed at you. So yes, you'd have to apologize. Great.

 

        Adversaries purified.

 

        You swiped the text box away and turned back to the Batter, only to notice the amount of health Alpha had left.

 

        "Jesus Christ, dude! Did you not watch out for Alpha??" The man turned to glance at the add-on. 26/100.

 

        "....Oh." With a facepalm, you grabbed the Batter's sleeve and began dragging him back in the direction you'd come from.

 

        "Come on. I'm not gonna waste a Luck Ticket just because you didn't pay attention to Alpha's health." He followed you back to the yellow cube at the beginning of the mines, staying silent as you let go of him to restore everyone's health points. While you were at it, you decided to save just in case, even though you already had a couple Jokers for when someone died. Hopefully you wouldn't have to use them.

        You sighed and turned back to the Batter, who was standing there, looking stoic as ever.

 

        "..Look, I know you want to get this mission done. I do too. But we're not gonna make it if you just let everyone die when I turn you loose, okay?"

 

        "I refuse to flee from-" You held up a hand to stop him.

 

        "That's not what I'm saying. What I mean is that you have to watch out for both yours and Alpha's health when I let you fight. I'm not gonna tell you what to do every single step of the way, and eventually we'll run out of Jokers to revive everyone. We won't be able to finish the mission. Do you want that to happen?"

 

        "No."

 

        "Okay. Neither do I. So when you fight, just try to keep an eye on our buddy here, alright? And yourself. I don't want either of you dying." The Batter nodded.

 

        "Got it."

 

        "And-" He had turned to start walking, but stopped when you spoke again. "I'm...sorry about the whole hat situation. And the puns. I guess you really don't like them, so I'll try not to say them a whole lot. And, uh.. I'll respect your privacy about whatever's under your hat. I'm still very curious about it, but it seems like it's a sensitive subject, so....yeah." Things were quiet for a moment before the Batter said something you were honestly surprised to hear.

 

        "Thank you, ______." Then he continued walking. You stood and stared after him for a moment, still sort of shell shocked, but quickly snapped out of your stupor and ran to catch up once again, walking side by side with him.

 

        "So...we're cool? No hard feelings?" Without stopping, the Batter reach a hand over and patted your shoulder.

 

        "It's fine." You grinned widely and raised both arms in victory.

 

        "Yes!! Awesome!" Strangely, Alpha seemed to jump up a bit in the air, even going so far as to circle around you as you laughed. It didn't matter to you since you were pretty happy at the moment, but the Batter took great notice of this. He didn't know what to make of it, but it likely didn't matter. Alpha was just an add-on meant to help in his mission. As long as it didn't become a hindrance, everything would be fine. He originally thought you'd be very annoying when you started wanting to talk to nearly every Elsen and cracking those puns, but it seemed that you picked up on the effects your actions had. He may have misjudged you in that regard, and was only slightly surprised when you apologized, but that was fine too. He just needed you to finish his mission. Once everything was done, you'd go back to your world. And him? Well, that wasn't important. Everything would be pure in the end.

        That's all that mattered.

 

--

 

        Getting through the mines wasn't too difficult. Every now and then, some spectres would show up and block you, but you took care of them quickly, enjoying the ability to indirectly hit them through the Batter and picking up the items they dropped. At some point, the two of you had found a secret room where some Elsens had hidden, and The Batter actually took the rest of the meat they had, leaving them with nothing left to eat and essentially forcing them to leave the room once they got hungry. Thankfully, you and the Batter had nearly purified the mines, so the Elsens would probably be fine when they left. Probably.

        As of now, you had reached a ladder leading up to the surface, and having gotten tired of enclosed spaces, you began climbing up it without waiting for the Batter. This didn't phase him, and he climbed up after you, even being respectful and blocking the view from below with his hat. He wasn't indecent enough to do something such as that.

        When you finally reached to top and crawled out of the mines, you couldn't help but stretch and catch the rain on your tongue...

        ...Only to start coughing and sputtering at the disgusting taste of it.

 

        "Jesus- Ack, f-fucking-" You continued to cough as the Batter simply stared at you, not lifting a hand to help.

 

        "Do you not like the taste of plastic?" You would have choked again if you hadn't already gotten the rainwater out of your mouth.

 

        "The rain is plastic??"

 

        "Yes." With a frown, you shuffled over to the edge of the water and dipped your hands in, about to slurp up a handful of it when the Batter spoke again. "That's plastic too." You flailed your hands and dramatically flicked the water- plastic off of them, a disgusted look painting your face.

 

        "This world of yours is weird, man."

 

        "You don't have plastic where you come from?"

 

        "Of course we have plastic, it's just not a freaking liquid! It's a solid! It doesn't make up the ocean or fall from the sky as rain! How the hell do you even have liquified plastic here??"

 

        "...Your world sounds very strange, ______." You simply stared at the Batter before sighing, remembering that your views of the world greatly differed from his.

 

        "Just... come on. We probably have to purify this place too-"

 

        "W-What? Did you come from the smoke mines?" Considering the voice had come out of nowhere, you had actually gotten scared and jumped a couple feet into the air. Thankfully, the Batter didn't react, and the Elsen that had quietly approached couldn't see you anyway. You'd been saved from embarrassment.

 

        "Yes."

 

        "B...B...But there are loads of spectres down there.."

 

        "Yes."

 

        "Are you a spectre?"

 

        "No." God, this guy was the most blunt person ever, wasn't he? Yes, yes, no, whatever. the Batter didn't even have any variation in his voice! He sounded like one of those college professors that does nothing but lecture on and on in a monotone voice that made it incredibly easy to fall asleep.

 

        "Then who are you? Have you been sent by the Queen? Or by Dedan?"

 

        "No."

 

        "Dedan?" You glanced at the Batter. "Who do you think that could be?"

 

       "But...but...but you still know how to fight the spectres? You could destroy them?"

 

        "Yes." You groaned, knowing where this was going. The Elsen proceeded to explain that they had spectres in their big barns and what they did in those barns that was so important. The entire time he talked, your face continued to contort in a mixture of confusion and disgust. Their cows had metal boulders inside their bodies! And they had to stick their hands inside to get them out!! It took quite a bit of willpower for you to not throw up as the Elsen spoke. The Batter had declined to purify the barns at first, saying he hadn't finished with the mines yet, but then the Elsen began saying how it wouldn't take too long and that they really needed the barns to be cleared before the inspector came by. The Batter slightly shifted his gaze in your direction and you just shrugged in response.

 

        "Why not? We could come back."

 

        "...Alright."

 

        "Ah! Ah! Thanks a lot! The barns are directly to the right."

 

        "Mmmmmmm, I really wanna say a pun, but I said that I wouldn't-" The Batter simply walked off, not even waiting for you or the Elsen to finish talking, so you once again ran to catch up. It didn't take long to find the barns, especially since a couple of odd cubes were blocking the only other way to go, and as you passed another Elsen, he too begged the Batter to hurry and purify the barns. They were expecting the Queen's inspector at any moment.

        "Hey, what if this Dedan person is the inspector," you questioned as the two of you entered the barn. There looked to be about five of them, so it shouldn't take too long to clear them out.

 

        "That does not matter. We must purify this area first." You sighed, deciding you think about things yourself and let the Batter deal with the spectres. Once again, he gave you an odd glance before attacking on his own, but you brushed it off and stood off to the side. The Elsens seemed like they were pretty fearful people, and this inspector person seriously intimidated them. They also seemed very serious about their work as well, although that may just be the way they are. It was safe to assume that this inspector person didn't like ghosts, considering how badly the Elsens wanted The Batter to clear the barns, but what would happen if they arrived while you were inside? Would they be mad that you were dealing with the spectres alone? It didn't seem like many people in this world could deal with them, and that raised another question. The Batter could kill the spectres, and he was able to see you. The Judge could as well, but you weren't sure if he could kill the spectres either. So then, would this inspector person be able to see you? They were directly related to the Queen of this world, so it was possible that they would see you, but there was really no way to be sure. The only option was to meet this person after their inspection.

 

        Adversaries purified. Area cleared.

 

        "Wow. That was quick." You took a look at Alpha's health to find that the Batter had kept your words in mind. It's health wasn't completely full, but when checking the inventory you shared, a single luck ticket was missing. This made you smile at the Batter as he stepped back up to your side. "Thanks for remembering."

 

        "It was just a luck ticket." Aaaaand there's the stoicism. Oh well. With a sigh, the two of you headed back to the barn entrance, only for the Batter to stop you before you exited. "...Something's wrong." Before you could ask him what he meant, you could hear approaching footsteps come and stop right outside the door. The two of you stayed quiet as a conversation began outside.

 

        "I...I...I...I am...really-" An aggresive voice cut the Elsen off.

 

        "Shut your trap, you pathetic moron."

 

        "No..I....yes..."

 

        "Has he been in there for long?"

 

        "I..I don't know..." An annoyed sigh.

 

        "Of course. You know nothing. I could've guessed."

 

        "He..He will eliminate... The spectres.."

 

        "And why does he think he's capable of destroying those stupid phantoms? He thinks he's better than you! Better than the Queen!" The Batter shifted a little at the mentioning of the Queen.

 

        "No... No, I don't think that..." The voice raised in volume, becoming increasingly angrier.

 

        "Shut it! I haven't asked you anything. You all think you're smarter than everyone else! But you're all the same." A moment of tense silence passed before the voice continued. "At any case, that's hardly important. The ghosts will erase that prig."

 

        "I...ah... You think he won't succeed?"

 

        "Of course not! Nobody here's capable of fighting the phantoms except the Queen's officers! If you'd only listen to me more often, you would be in so much shit."

 

        "But... But then who's... Going to destroy the phantoms?"

 

        "I could've done it. But you don't deserve it. Too bad for you, you'll just have to take care of your problems yourselves."

 

        "I... I... No.. P... Please..."

 

        "I'll be leaving now. I'll be returning to Alma. At least the people there are polite. They ain't constantly cutting you off." A set of footsteps began walking away, but were suddenly stopped.

 

        "P-Please don't-"

 

        "Piss off."

 

        "No, don't, I-"

 

        "I command you. Get the fuck out of my this instant if you want to keep your job!!" There was a frightened whimper before the other set of footsteps began walking away again, leaving what you still assumed to be an Elsen standing alone outside.

        The two of you finally exited the barn, but the success of clearing the barn had been soured. The Batter had taken notice that the longer that other person kept talking and insulting the Elsen, the darker your demeanor became, to the point where you might've frightened an Elsen simply by being in their general area. To put it simply, you were pissed.

 

        "Who the fuck does that guy think he is??!? He can't just fucking come in to insult this poor guy and threaten him for no God damn reason!!" The Batter coughed roughly, trying not to make the Elsen think he was scolding someone who want there and making it clear he didn't appreciate your use of language, but the Elsen began speaking to him, asking him how he was still alive. The two continued a conversation, the Batter gathering information about the aggressive person while you launched into a full on angry rant.

        "I swear, that guy has got to be the meanest motherfucker I've ever seen, and I haven't even talked to the guy!!! I don't even know his name, and he's already the biggest dick ever!!!! What the hell is his problem?!?"

 

        "T-That was the Queen's advisor, Dedan.."

 

        "What the fuck kind of name is that?! Dedan, fucking change one letter and he becomes a fucking Sedan, like the piece of trash he is!! I swear, if I see this guy again and he doesn't apologize to every single person- Elsen- Whatever- in this zone, I'm going to take a swing at him myself!! Jesus Fucking Christ-" Another cough from the Batter, but this time, you rounded on him without a moment's hesitation.

 

        "You shut the fu-" In an instant, you had clamped a hand over your mouth to stop yourself from finishing that sentence. Your sudden silence seemed to be surprising enough for the Batter to actually turn and look at you, but the Elsen in front of him simply thought he was admiring the scenery. It took a second for him to notice, but...were those tears in your eyes? Were you actually about to cry? Ah, great. Now the Batter had to babysit his Puppeteer while they had a fit. This was not going to be fun.

 

        "Thank you for the information." The Batter walked away from the Elsen, and you followed him quietly. When he was out of earshot, he turned and crossed his arms. "Alright, what's wrong?" You shook your head and refused to tell him, trying to blink away the tears, but this only made him sigh in annoyance. "Look, if you don't tell me now, you're just going to stay upset and not be ale to focus on the mission, so just spit it out-"

 

        "I yelled at you....and almost acted just like Dedan..." This made him pause. It actually made sense that you were upset about that, given the way you were talking about the advisor, but that was certainly no reason to cry. There was clearly something else bothering you.

 

        "Alright. Now, why are you really crying?" You wiped your eyes, wanting to get rid of the tears.

 

        "My eyes were only watering, I never actually started cryi-"

 

        "______."

 

        "..Okay, fine... Back at home, I knew someone... Who was just like Dedan. They weren't supposed to be like that though. That was definitely no way for them to treat m-" You stopped before continuing on. "...Let's just say... If it wasn't for the way they acted, I wouldn't be in this world. It's largely because of them that I'm here and able to help you on your mission." A moment of silence passed before the Batter tilted his head to the side.

 

        "And?"

 

        "No."

 

        "Excuse me?" You furrowed your brows, casting a slightly miffed look at the ground.

 

        "I don't want to talk about it." Your puppet opened his mouth to speak, but you cut him off before he began. "Look, I said I wouldn't ask about your hat or tell that many puns, the least you can do in return is not ask me how I got here, okay??" Another pause.

 

        ".....Fair enough." You sighed, a partially glum look resting on your face.

 

        "Thank you. Now come on, this zone isn't gonna purify itself." With that, you began walking back towards the exit from the mines, the Batter following you silently. This was an intriguing turn of events. It seemed like the recent encounter with Dedan only hardened your resolve to cleanse Zone 1, and while the Batter certainly wasn't complaining, he found it quite interesting. Here was a being who actually respected his boundaries, even going so far as to set some of their own, and that was certainly something he didn't mind. It meant they wouldn't get attached to each other, for once this world was pure...

 

        Well..

 

        He would just think about that later.

Chapter Text

      You hadn't said a word since the encounter with Dedan. The Batter followed behind as you approached the entrance into the smoke mines, not at all bothered by the silence. He liked silence, after all. For once in his life, he was actually grateful for something, and that was the fact that he was not stuck with a chatterbox for a Puppeteer.

       Meanwhile, you were still thinking about that recent outburst of yours. You were still quite upset, but you reminded yourself that the person who treated you like that was no longer here. You were in a different world, and they couldn't reach you in this place. After years of putting up with them, years that almost turned you into a carbon copy of them, you were finally free. Things would get better. You would help each zone by purifying it and hopefully become friends with the Batter, then everything would be better.

        Now if you could just get your mind off things, that would be great.

 

        "..Sooo....." Damn it, hold on. Another spectre popped up. That was okay, as it gave you time to think about what you'd say next, regardless of how quickly the Batter dealt with it. He was getting stronger, which was made very obvious to you every time a text box popped up saying he had leveled up, and even Alpha was getting stronger. That gave you an idea to talk about.

        "Hey," you began, gathering the items left behind by the spectre. "Do you think all these ghosts can see me or anything?" The Batter shrugged, shaking excess ectoplasm off of his bat.

 

        "Possibly. Although, none of them seem to have attacked you personally up to this point." There. Now the bat was clean again. "Why do you ask?"

 

        "..Well..." You paused a moment, taking a look around the mines before deciding on a direction to go. There weren't that many spectres left, and this way seemed to be the only area the two of you hadn't visited. "You and Alpha have been leveling up a lot, and I was wondering if I could level up in a way, considering I'm here with you guys." The Batter glanced at you, his head tilted in confusion.

 

        "What do you mean by 'leveling up?'" ...Was that not a thing in this world? It seemed like it should be, considering those weird text boxes have popped up in front of the Batter as well. Granted, they only had the option to attack, use competence, use an item, row, or flee when a spectre attacked, but that still counted, right? Oh jeez, you wouldn't have to explain it to him, would you?

 

        "Okay, um.." You squinted a little into the tunnel. Was it getting darker? "You started out needing to take a lot of time to defeat just one spectre, right?" The Batter nodded, but you weren't able to see it clearly enough. "Well, every time you fight, you get better at it. It's like you're gaining experience from fighting. When you get a certain amount of experience, you level up, which makes your attacks better, along with defense and competence points and stuff. Does that make sense?" Yikes, it was getting really dark now.

 

        "Not completely, but I understand enough. You have not been leveling up as well?" You stopped walking. As much as you would have liked to answer his question, you had more important things to worry about.

 

        "Hold on." Good lord, you couldn't even see your own hand in front of you. Had the lamps on the walls gone out? "Damn. Sorry, Batter. It's too dark in here, I can't see anything."

 

        "You can't see in the dark?"

 

        "Uh, no, but you can?? When the hell did you learn to do that??

 

        "I have always been able to do this, but it appears you do not share the same ability." This guy was a complete enigma. You didn't know what was under his hat, so maybe he had a good reason for being able to see, but as far as you knew, you were still human, regardless of the way you were put in this game. Like any human, you couldn't see underground, and now you were stuck. Well, you were stuck unless the Batter was willing to lead you through the mines, but you had a feeling that he wouldn't look around as thoroughly as you would, so that would be a big downside. You sighed. Things just weren't going your way.

        As soon as you had that thought, a glowing light shone from above you. With a look of surprise, you turned to see what the source of the light was, only to find that Alpha was now glowing, and the sheer brightness of it cast a halo around you and the Batter. Essentially, Alpha was shining a light that was just big enough for you and the Batter to stand in.

 

        "...Wow. Good job, Alpha!" The Batter nodded in agreement, and the Add-On flashed in what you assumed to be thanks. How this thing knew what you were saying, you had no idea, but it was incredibly useful, and you were glad that Alpha had joined you on this mission. "Alright, I guess we can keep going now. Come on." You led the way again with the Batter at your side, and Alpha lighting the area from above. Man, if only your dad could see you now. On a sacred mission to help the world with two people- er, characters that were able to defend themselves as well as you, and were actually pretty cool. How awesome was that? Oh look, a chest.

 

        "Back to our previous topic. You say Alpha and I have leveled up, but you have not?" A piece of Abaddon's meat. Seemed pretty helpful once you read the description.

 

        "I don't actually know. I'm not even sure what level I am or if I even have a level, considering I'm supposed to be the Puppeteer.'

 

        "You are. That is your title."

 

        "Yeah, but I still don't know if I have any HP or CP or anything, you know?" The Batter hummed in thought, once again following you as you proceeded. You didn't really know if you counted as a character in this world, but it seemed like nobody in your party really knew either. Oh well. You'd just have to settle and move on with the mission.

        Things went on, and you made small talk with the Batter by telling him how you had a habit of reading a lot and playing a bunch of games back in your world. He listened quietly, rarely ever commenting on anything, and was essentially like an NPC or something, which honestly just made you kind of bored. Yeah, there were some spectres here and there that needed to be purified, but that was pretty much the only thing that kept you entertained during you time in the mines. At some point, there was a switch that you turned off, but you didn't really know what it did, and it was quickly put out of your mind. More time was spent navigating the tunnels, and eventually you found an area that the lamps on the walls lit up well. Alpha stopped glowing and followed behind instead of above, and you thanked it once again for its help before proceeding down a long tunnel headed North. Then you saw the person at the end, standing near a floating yellow box. Before speaking with the person, you tapped the box and saved, not wanting to go back into the darkness of the mines.

 

        "Alright, let's talk to this new guy." The Batter nodded and approached the man, who wore a strange frog mask and sported a decent sized backpack. The man chuckled at your puppet, only making you more curious about who he was.

 

        "The characters are starting to pile up, aren't they?" ......What.

 

        "Pardon?"

 

        "What I'm saying is that the average player doesn't need all complicated and tedious dialogues." Player? "There should be more action and fewer questions." That made you pause. Here was the first person, besides yourself of course, who had acknowledged this situation as a game, and he even said something that a lot of gamers back at home argued about. Who exactly was this guy, and what was he doing here?

 

        "Who are you?" It seems the Batter was wondering the same thing.

 

        "I'm Zacharie, the traditional items merchant that's necessary in every video game." The Batter still seemed confused, but he at least understood the part about being a merchant. "I'll always find myself in places you're going to visit before you arrive."

 

        "..What the hell?" To your surprise, Zacharie glanced in your direction for a split second before looking back at the Batter.

 

        "But enough blather. I'm not one of those protagonists you need to listen to for hours."  Okay, hold up. This guy was making way too much sense for you to ignore, not to mention the fact that he clearly knew you were there. Something weird was going on here.

 

        "Batter, wait. I think he can see me." The Batter only slightly turned his head in your direction, just in case Zacharie couldn't see you, but judging by how his eyes flicked over to you again, he definitely knew you existed. "Hey. Are you really just a merchant? There's nothing more to you?" Instead of answering you, Zacharie offered to sell a couple thing to the Batter, essentially ignoring your question. Without missing a beat, you stepped in front of your puppet and settled a glare on the merchant. "Don't do that. I find it very annoying." And just like that, the joke was over.

 

        "Ah, my apologies! I was simply having a bit of fun, mon chertiseur. Do forgive me if I was being insensitive." You blinked, not expecting the guy to give up the act so easily, and you honestly did not know what the hell he just called you. Was that French?


        "Uh.....Don't...worry about it?"

 

        "Good, good! Water under the bridge, mi amigo!" Before you could react, Zacharie took one of your hands and shook it in greeting. "Now as I said before, I am the items merchant you'll need to get through the rest of this game. Feel free to peruse my wares any time you feel the need to, yes?" He let go of your hand, and you simply stared in mild shock. Spanish and French. This guy could possibly speak Spanish and French. How cool was that??

 

        "Game?" Wait, shit, the Batter was still behind you. Although, now he had his head tilted in confusion as he moved to stand beside you. "What do you mean?"

 

        "Don't worry your pretty little head about it, Batter! It's something only our dear Puppeteer would understand, and it certainly will not impede your mission in any way. Now, do you need anything in particular?" You could feel Batter's eyes on you(did he even have eyes??), but ignored it in favor of the text box that popped up in front of you.

 

        Buy

        Sell

        Leave

 

        "...Huh." Tapping the 'buy' option, a list of items appeared on the text box, complete with descriptions of them, how many you had in your inventory, if they were upgrades or downgrades, and of course, the price. You scrolled through them for a moment, a few of the items catching your eye as you read their descriptions, and finally decided on a few items. "I think.... I'll take a Harold Bat, a Nicholas Tunic, two Auras of Justice, and a Radius Epidermis." Zacharie clapped his hands together.

 

        "Wonderful! That adds up to 490 credits!" Considering you and the Batter had racked up at least 915 credits, that didn't feel like too much of a blow. Sure, it was almost half of everything you had, but with how many spectres appeared in each area, you were sure to win them back quickly. After handing the credits over to Zacharie, he rummaged through his backpack until he found the right items and placed them in your hands..

 

        "There you are, mon amie. Anything else I can do for you?" You gave him a smile.

 

        "Nope, that's it. Thank, Zacharie." The merchant nodded, seemingly satisfied with your business.

 

        "Have fun on your adventure, ______. Don't forget to watch your inventory." Although you didn't really understand what he meant by that, you shrugged it off and pulled up your inventory, equipping the new items for Alpha and the Batter, then saving at the floating yellow box again. The Batter began walking towards the nearby door to the next area, and you were about to follow him when a thought suddenly came to you, and you paused.

 

        "....Actually...." You turned on your heels and faced Zacharie again, a slightly suspicious look on your face. "How did you know my name when neither of us mentioned it at all?" The Batter glanced back, a little curious about that as well. He had obviously caught on before you mentioned it, but just assumed that you weren't bothered by it and instead wanted to move on. Zacharie just laughed.

 

        "The same reason I'm aware of this game. Why? Is there something you wish to know?" He had a cheeky tone of voice that kind of irritated you, but he didn't seem like he was actually taunting you, so you dropped it. That, and he had also just reminded you of the earlier conversation between you and the Batter, which hadn't given you any answers, but Zacharie just might have the answers you were looking for.

 

        "..Yeah. So, Batter and Alpha are both constantly leveling up-"

 

         "Such is the way of a game, yes."

 

        "And I was wondering, are any of the spectres able to see me? Also, I want to know if I can level up too, since I'm technically a character here too." The merchant hummed in thought.

 

        "Those are very good questions indeed, mi caprichoso jugado." The fuck did he just call you? "However, testing out tha I believe our dear Batter can help with that. He and that Add-On are able to use competence and items outside of battle, remember? Why don't you try a Wide Angle? Or perhaps an Eye? I have plenty of them you know, hinthint." ....Wow. That's how he was gonna be then? In that case-

 

        "Actually, I think I'll just sell this old bat." Zacharie visibly withered, but took off his backpack once more after a sigh.

 

        "Alright then, I suppose I could take it off your hands." Apparently the bat was worth only 30 credits, but you felt satisfied after denying Zacharie the reaction he was hoping for. With a smile, you thanked the merchant and headed for the next room, the Batter following behind you once more. However, as soon as the two of you were gone and the door had been shut, you turned to the Batter, still not catching him off guard. Jeez, did this guy ever react to anything(besides the puns because that moment was scary)?

 

        "Hey, could you use Wide Angle on me real quick? I don't want to waste an Eye, and it doesn't really cost that much CP." Without speaking, your puppet did as you asked, and another text box appeared in front of you.

 

        ______ ______

        Puppeteer for the Batter.

        HP: ???/CP: ???

        Assists in purification and navigation.

 

        ...Well, that was helpful. Nice to know that even the game itself didn't have any knowledge on you. With a defeated sigh, you swiped the box away, shaking your head in annoyance.

        "Whatever. I'll find out later." And with that, the Batter approached the nearby Elsen standing behind a desk. As usual, the poor guy looked utterly confused and terrified as your puppet approached him.

 

        "Wha.. How... Where did you come from??"

 

        "From the smoke mines."

 

        "But.... What? B-But.. How?? Not a single lamp works there.. You can't... How could you have..??"

 

        "Faith guides my steps."

 

        "And me. And Alpha. But that's totally not important or anything." The Batter crossed his arms, probably his way of telling you 'whatever'. You simply smiled, glad you could get a reaction out of him.

 

        "..Faith?"

 

        "My mission is to purify the mines. But it seems that the phantoms here are particularly numerous." Suddenly, the Elsen looked a bit more nervous.

 

        "The... The spectres..." The entire time, you had been looking around the rather plain room, honestly not knowing where this place was. Was it like a basement or something? There was an elevator, so maybe it was the basement, and this unlucky guy was stationed here. Or maybe you should ask.

 

        "Hey, where are we?"

 

        "Where am I?"

 

        "Uh... Uh..." Wait a minute. This seemed familiar. Oh god, wait, he wasn't going to- "Hhh... You're at the plastic administrations of Sachihata, the northern part of Zone 1."

 

        "Fuck." Whether the Batter sighed because of your language or because he'd have to sit through another long explanation, you weren't sure, but you were certainly bored already. Lectures like this were for school, but you supposed it wouldn't hurt to listen again. Maybe you might actually learn something that would help with the Batter's mission.

        .............Okay, done. Turns out, this world had solid plastic as well and even made items out of it, but you were still pretty weirded out by just how much liquid plastic there was here. Why did it make up all the oceans and lakes and stuf?? That was just disgusting!

 

        "The... The specters... I know where they all come from..." Both you and the Batter visibly perked up. "T-They come from the postal service..."

 

        "The postal service?"

 

        "That's where we send out all the packaged forms. The problem is that, uh... Nobody can seem to remember what floor it's on..." The Elsen fell silent, nervously mumbling to themself after a moment, so you decided to check the elevator. It looked in working condition, and even had a sign next to it with the various floors labeled.

 

        Basement - 0000

        Ground Floor - 0001

        Postal Service - ????

        Roof - 9999

 

        ".....You've got to be kidding me." The Batter joined you, and sighed once more. Looks like both of you hated this situation. "I guess we can try to check the ground floor first? Then maybe a few more above it, and if that doesn't work, then we'll go to the-...Hold on. I have an idea." You turned and strode back through the door, leaving the Batter in the other room as you approached Zacharie once more. He chuckled at you, tilting his head in a mocking manner.

 

        "Couldn't get enough of me? That's okay, I understand."

 

        "What? No! I just came to ask if you knew what level the postal service was on."

 

        "As a matter of fact, I do. But it'll cost you credits to know the answer." You sighed, already knowing this was coming.

 

        "How much?"

 

        "900." Silence. You knew off the top of your head that you didn't have enough, and this guy very well knew it, yet he shrugged like it was nothing. "The price of information isn't cheap, ______. Come when you have enough- Oh wait, you're already gone." Finding himself alone again, the merchant laughed as he adjusted his backpack. "They'll come back. They always do." Granted, that was because he was the only merchant in the game, but it was nice to joke around.

 

        This run would be very fun, and Zacharie couldn't wait to tease both you and the Batter more.

Chapter Text

        You came back through the door and stepped into the room, where the Batter and Alpha were waiting patiently. They both immediately joined you at your side, and your puppet cast a curious glance towards you.

 

        "What were you attempting to do?" With a sigh, you ran a hand trough your hair and trudged over to the elevator, pressing the call button.

 

        "Zacharie knows what floor the postal service is on, but he wants credits in return, and we don't have enough." The doors opened, and you stepped into the lift. "We'll just have to figure it out ourselves." The Batter nodded and stepped inside with you, Alpha floating in after him. You punched in the numbers for the ground floor, and the doors closed, leaving the Elsen in the room confused as to who the Batter was talking to and how the elevator had called for itself. "I guess we just ask around and see what people say. Maybe the Elsens have hints or something." The lift stopped and opened, and the three of you exited, the Batter leading you to one section of the room as he picked out someone to speak to. This was the beginning of a very long, very tiring attempt to get a hint...

 

        ...And things quickly became very tiring. You slowly felt like you were losing your mind, for everyone only talked about forms and stamps, and each one said something different. Not to mention, there was this constant droning music in the background, and it was really starting to grate on your nerves. The annoyance continued to build for what seemed like hours as you and the Batter spoke to Elsen after Elsen, but finally, you'd had enough.

 

        "Okay, I need to get out of here. This whole thing has been a waste of time, and this fucking music is driving me nuts." The Batter paused in his talking, completely forgetting about the Elsen in front of him and turning to you instead.

 

        "What music? I don't hear anything playing." You sighed and placed a hand on your face, trying to keep from snapping at him again.

 

        "Batter, there's been music playing the entire time. Back in Zone 0, here in Zone 1, the mines, the barns- EVERYWHERE." The Batter simply stared at you for a moment, and it almost annoyed you to tears when a thought formed in your mind. "...Batter.... You really can't hear any music, can you?"

 

        "No, I cannot." Instead of getting angry, you groaned and placed your head in your hands, realizing you were the only one that could hear the music that constantly played. The Batter stared curiously at you, but then turned and started towards the elevator. "...Let's go to the roof." You didn't protest, and instead followed him into the lift as he punched in the numbers for the highest level. It took a few seconds for the two of you to arrive, but when the doors opened, you breathed a sigh of relief as the music changed from the loud and abrasive tone of the offices to the calm and quiet soundtrack you'd heard when first arriving in Zone 1. The Batter gave you a curious look, but didn't say anything. By now, he had gathered that only you could hear this supposed 'music' that played in the background, and seeing as you were his Puppeteer, he didn't question it. Although, he had to admit, he was also getting rather impatient when dealing with all of those Elsens downstairs. He needed to reach the postal service, and not a single Elsen mentioned anything about it. The whole situation was starting to grate on his nerves too.

        You, on the other hand, were just glad that your ears weren't being assaulted anymore, although the fact that only you could hear the background music was a little odd. Maybe it was because you were the 'player' of this game? It only made sense if the residents of this place couldn't hear it, considering you thought about that from time to time. Games are really fun, and you loved the soundtrack to some of your favorite ones, but you always wondered if the characters in the game could hear the music. Looks like you had your answer.

 

        "....Wait a minute. Is that..?" A small white form on the edge of the roof caught your attention, and you looked closer, only to realize it was the Judge again. Seeing the cat once more made you smile, and you immediately approached him with the Batter following you once more. "Hey!" The Judge turned around and smiled, seemingly happy to see you to as you began to pet him again. Cats were really soft, okay? You just loved petting them!

 

        "Zounds! You again? You are decidedly everywhere! One could believe that you are following me." You raised a brow at the cat, still smiling.

 

        "I could say the same about you, you know." This comment of yours made the Judge chuckle a bit, but he continued speaking.

 

        "Nonetheless, your steps have not deceived you, for you are here in a lieu that could certainly use sacred blows from your holy bat." He glanced at the Batter, who simply stared back at him. "Perhaps you are already aware of this, but it appears the story housing the postal service is overrun by ectoplasm." The smile fell from your face as you sighed, remembering that you had a job to do.

 

        "Right, right, yeah.. We just can't find the floor that it's on. All these Elsens just talk about forms and stamps and stuff. They don't even mention the postal service." The Judge nodded, understanding that you were becoming frustrated.

 

        "In that case, I may be able to provide you with some advice..." You opened your mouth to accept, but to your surprise, the Batter beat you to the punch.

 

        "Some help would be welcome.." This caused you to look back at him in curiosity. This guy never seemed to ask for help, and he was supposed to be following your lead, so it was really weird when he answered for you. However, you guessed that he was getting tired of all this aimless wandering too. It made sense that he wanted to just hurry up and get to the postal service, especially since you wanted to get out of this building already.

 

        "Then open widely your ears and listen, for I will not repeat this twice, not even in the midst of the most pathetic supplication." This got your attention, and you turned back to the Judge to hear what he had to say. "In one of the four rooms on the ground floor, all the employees seem to be trained in a particular set of instructions. Additionally, if there was a choice to be made, I would prefer the latter of the two." This made you furrow your brows in confusion, and you shared a questioning look with the Batter. At least, you assumed it was a questioning look. You still couldn't see well under his hat.

 

        "....That's all, huh?" Finally, you stood up. The only thing those Elsens talked about were forms and stamps, and the Judge said he would prefer the latter over the former, so he could only mean the stamps. But what did he mean by the 'particular set of instructions'? Each Elsen only gave you a set of numbers that corresponded with the forms and stamps, so there was nothing more they could tell you. Unless...

        The Batter watched as you simply stood in one place, mulling over the Judge's words. While he wasn't completely sure what the cat had meant by instructions, but with how much you were thinking about it, he knew you would figure it out in no time. It was a good idea to come to the roof, he concluded. If the two of you hadn't come up here, more time would have been wasted, but now with this hint, he could finally continue his mission. As if on cue, your face lit up as you finally realized what the Judge's hint meant, and once again, the Batter felt the corners of his mouth tilt upwards in a tiiiiny smile, barely noticeable to anyone else. When you ordered for him to follow you, he complied, stepping back into the elevator with you. Finally, the two of you could move on, and he would be able to continue purifying this Zone.

        Since you couldn't speak to the Elsens, you had Batter do it for you again, but there was no noticeable pattern in the first two rooms you checked. However, when you reached the third room, something the Elsens continued to say caught your attention.

 

        "Form 2584, stamp 10258."

 

        "Talk to another one."

 

        "Form 2584, stamp 10258."

 

        "....One more?"

 

        "Form 2584, stamp 10258." You snapped your fingers as the puzzle pieces fell into place(metaphorically speaking, of course), and rushed back over to the elevator.

 

        "10258! That's the floor we need to go to!" As the Batter stepped up beside you, you punched in the numbers, and the two of you once again stepped into the lift. When the doors opened, you were greeted with a wonderful sight. The postal service. You gave the biggest sigh of relief you could, a smile stretching across your face. "Finally.." To your surprise, you felt a hand pat the top of your head.

 

        "Good job." The Batter continued onward, leaving you to stare at him from the lift. Did....he just compliment you again..? ....He did. He did! The Batter actually showed some gratitude! Oh man, you knew this guy couldn't just be grumpy and straightforward all the time! You were making great progress with him! Maybe he might actually smileeventually! With a grin of your own, you hurried into the room and followed the Batter, your mood severely improved by his tiny act of kindness. Not even the annoying music in the background could ruin this moment.

        The two of you looked around for a little, only finding boxes upon boxes blocking various paths in the postal service that you could have taken. At least there was one way left that you could go, but who was supposed to be taking care of all these boxes? With an indifferent shrug, you motioned for the Batter to follow you and stepped around a few boxes towards a set of nearby stairs. Then someone appeared from the higher floor without warning, and you stopped in your tracks. It was an Elsen, sweating nervously and stumbling so badly, he nearly fell down the stairs and could barely stand as he stood before the two of you. There was a moment of silence as the Batter expected him to speak, but the Elsen never said anything. Instead, the Batter spoke up while you stepped just a bit closer to the employee. He really didn't look too good.

 

        "I'm the Batter. Where are the phantoms?" The Elsen shivered and curled in on himself, looking utterly terrified.

 

        "........I'm.......I'm very afraid....." With a frown, you stepped a bit closer to get a good look at him, not noticing that the Batter also took a few steps forward. This guy looked completely petrified, and if he wasn't already pale, then he practically looked like a ghost! He was shaking so badly, he looked like he was going to pass out! 

 

        "Oh my god, you poor thing..." Against your better judgement, you stretched a hand out to the employee in front of you, but didn't touch him, seeing how he couldn't see or hear you anyway. However, what shocked you was when the Elsen reached out and shakily grabbed your hand, looking you dead in the eyes. This had never happened before, and you weren't sure this was such a good idea anymore as a bad feeling settled in the pit of your stomach.

 

        "...Help me." Everything happened so fast. One moment, you were staring uneasily at the man in front of you, trying to gently tug your hand away, and the next, a vice grip was pulling you forward. You stumbled on your feet, and at that exact moment, the Elsen's head just....exploded. Your eyes widened in fear as a thick black substance spurted out from the spot the Elsen's head used to be, and a hand lifted up to swipe at you.

 

        "______!!"

 

        Without thinking, you ducked and fell backwards, using the momentum to try and yank yourself free from the Elsen's grip. It didn't work, and the grip only tightened around your hand, inflicting just a bit of pain from the pressure. However, in the midst of all the commotion, a text box appeared in front of you, and you didn't hesitate to swipe right, enabling the Batter to do whatever he thought was best. The Elsen yanked you upwards and took another swipe at you, only managing to tear up your arm when you blocked the hit. Not even a second later, Alpha shoved you to the side as the Batter stepped in front of you, and the Elsen was sent reeling backwards with a well-timed swing of his bat. Your hand was released, and you immediately backed up to a safe distance as the Batter didn't even give the Elsen time to recover and swung downwards, knocking him to the ground. The Batter swung again, bringing his bat down on the man's chest time and time again with a sickening crunch as the Elsen tried to block the hits and failed. With no time between each swing, and with Alpha attacking him as well, the Elsen quickly stopped putting up a fight until the Batter swung one last time, a loud CRACK echoing through the room.

 

        Adversaries Purified

 

        The employee went still, and after a moment, you thought you heard just a faint whisper from him. "Maybe... Maybe his suit has taken control of his... Of his brain..." With that, the body faded from existence, leaving the Batter standing in the middle of the hallway, panting heavily from the constant attacks. A moment of silence passed, but then the Batter turned his head towards you.

 

        "What were you thinking?? You could have been killed!!!" With a dazed look, you stared back at the Batter, the recent events playing once again in your mind. How the Elsen looked so incredibly afraid, the way his head exploded and he tried to attack you, when Alpha pushed you to safety, and.....when the Batter brutally beat the citizen to his death. But...was he even a citizen anymore when his head exploded? He looked right at you. He grabbed your hand. He knew you were there, unlike all the other Elsens. Something horrible had happened to him, something that caused him to become an enemy and finally be able to see you. Worse yet, he tried to attack you without a showing a shred of remorse. Had you not swiped right in time, you could have been... You would have....

        "...______?" With a shaky breath, you collapsed onto your rear, knocking a few boxes over in the process. The Batter was right. You could have died. From this experience, you now knew that you could be hurt, but what would happen if you died? Would you be kicked out of the game and back into real life? Or would death in this world bepermanent? "______, look at me." You blinked up at the Batter. When had he knelt down in front of you? "You're alright. Everything is fine, okay? It's over. You're safe. Just focus on me right now." It took a bit of effort, and when you looked at him, all you could remember was the sickening crunch of the Elsens body under his bat, but you managed to focus on the Batter's words and just barely keep the bad thoughts at bay. You gave him a small nod and swallowed, still shaken up from the whole thing. "Alright. Let me see your arm." He didn't need to ask twice. You shakily lifted up your arm, and the Batter gently inspected it. From the looks of things, you weren't actually hurt too badly, as you had only been scratched a little bit. It was the shock of the incident that was really affecting you.

        The Batter sighed. He wasn't happy with your actions, but it seemed that you were still stuck on the events that had just happened to really care about what he said. Perhaps he didn't need to reprimand you, as you were probably fully aware that you could have died, and that's likely what was messing with you at the moment. The Batter shook his head, still unhappy with the recent turn of events, but he reached into his inventory and pulled out a Luck Ticket, tearing the item in half over your wound. Within seconds, the scratches on your arm healed, but you were still caught up in your thoughts and staring into nothing. You didn't look as shaken as you did a few moments ago, but there was definitely still something on your mind. With another sigh, the Batter glanced around to make sure there were no spectres nearby, then moved to sit down next to you. Even Alpha floated down to the ground on your other side, and the three of you just sat in silence for a while. Yes, the Batter was still a bit angry about your actions, especially since you put yourself in harms way, but he just couldn't bring himself to yell at you. Maybe he'd just give you a few stern words instead and that could get the point across.

 

        "....That was a stupid thing you did." You didn't reply at first, but you did glance down at your hand, running a thumb over your palm where the Elsen had grabbed it.

 

        ".....I know......" More silence. Things were a bit awkward, as the Batter didn't really know how to deal with feelings and didn't know how to comfort you, while you were still stuck in your thoughts. This entire thing had just threw you for a loop, and now you were realizing just how dangerous this mission could be for you. That Elsen had become something else, something that could saw you and wanted to hurt you. There was something terrible happening in this Zone if someone so nervous and scared could become something so dangerous. At least you had one of your earlier questions answered, and if you could be attacked by the phantoms, then perhaps you could fight back somehow. Maybe if Zacharie had a new bat for sale, then you could give the better one to the Batter and carry the old one instead of selling it right away. However, you could still hear the sound of that Elsen's body being hit over and over. You never knew how aggressive the Batter could be. That would likely stay with you for a bit. At least you knew he could react quickly enough to keep you safe.

 

        "Are you alright?" Surprisingly, the Batter was asking about your well being. Things were still messing with you a bit, but you managed to look over at him after a moment, a slightly bothered look on your face.

 

        "Yeah, uh... Sorry about all that stuff earlier..." Your puppet shook his head, disagreeing with your statement.

 

        "No, it's  my fault for not reacting quickly enough. It is my job to make sure you're safe as you guide me on my mission, and I let you get hurt. I will do everything in my power to make sure it does not happen again." Oh my god, this guy. You had a sneaking feeling that he was trying to be nice after you had been attacked by that Elsen, but you didn't mind. It was a little comforting, and you actually gave him a smile in return. The Batter was trying to help, and you really appreciated it.

 

        "....Thanks, Batter." He simply nodded and looked back into the emptiness of the postal service. You did the same, and the three of you sat in comfortable silence again for a while. Finally, you stood up and stretched your arms, Alpha and the Batter standing after you. "Alright. We should get moving again."

 

        "Are you certain?" You simply nodded, a little bit of confidence back in your eyes. You had certainly learned from your mistakes, and you would be sticking closer to the Batter now, but you knew that he still needed you to finish his mission, and you couldn't just quit because of one bad experience. If you were going to do this, you weren't going to let anything stop you. It was time to find the reason for all the spectres, and more importantly, the reason for that Elsen suddenly turning into a monster. It was time to find some answers.

 

        "......Let's go. We have a Zone to purify."

Chapter Text

        "You're staying behind or next to me. No more running ahead." Before the two of you proceeded forward, the Batter had told you this, and you opened your mouth to argue, but paused a second later. Memories of the recent event once again played through your head. The tight grip of the Elsen's hand on yours, the sight of his fear-filled eyes before his head exploded, and the sound of the bat hitting his dying body repeatedly-

 

        "Okay." With a nod, you fell into step beside the Batter as he went forward towards the stairs, climbing up them first and waiting for you at the top. It didn't bother you too much that the Batter didn't want you to go very far, for you were still a little stuck on that incident, even as the two of you went through the postal service and looked at various notes scattered about. Following your previous thought process, you couldn't help but feel a lingering kernel of shock at what you saw. That Elsen had transformed right before your eyes, and he was obviously afraid of something. Perhaps he knew he was changing and that's why he reached out for help? Although, you wished it hadn't been you he had grabbed, but at least things turned out alright. You looked up at the Batter, setting down the note in front of you. Yeah... Everything turned out alright.

 

        "...I feel like these notes are important. What do you think, Batter?" The man in question simply shrugged, not even glancing at the paper on the counter.

 

        "If you say they are, then perhaps they are. You are the one in charge here, ______." You simply stared at him for a few seconds, about to reply with a smart-ass comment, but decided against it. Instead, you shook your head and looked back down at the note.

 

        Second version: They are eight, and they have long beards. They watch what is happening from their high silver spheres.

 

        Yikes. That was a mouthful, and this wasn't even the first note you had come across. Who knows how many more there were! How were you expected to remember all of these?

 

        "Uhh.... Batter?"

 

        "Yes?"

 

        "How many things can you remember at a time? Like, how good is your memory?"

 

        "My capacity for memory is very high." Your eyebrows flew upwards.

 

        "...Really?" He nodded. "You're not lying? This isn't a joke?"

 

        "I do not tell jokes." At that, you gave him a deadpan look and slapped the note onto his chest.

 

        "Just memorize this." With a sigh, you leaned against the wall. You were getting tired now, and hadn't been keeping track of how long it had been since you were dropped into this world. The time spent trying to find the postal service was definitely something that had tired you out, but then that Elsen showed up. Unfortunately, you couldn't just plop down anywhere and take a nap with all those spectres running about. You'd just have to keep going.

 

        "Done." The Batter set down the paper, and the two of you continued on, doubling back to look at the first paper again. Turns out, the Batter really did have an excellent memory. He just never spoke up about the things he remembered. When you ran into a few rat-like spectres, you had him use an Eye while you weren't looking and asked him to repeat the stats after they were defeated.

 

        "Tiburce, a ghoul with bad intentions. HP is 45, CP is 10." ...Wow, this guy must have a photographic memory. That was incredible. It certainly made reading all the notes in the postal service much easier, and made you feel better about the situation overall. Perhaps if things went well enough, you could even find a place to lay down and rest for while. Who knows? Things could get better.

        With a positive outlook on things, you led the Batter through the postal service, taking down various spectres that crossed your path, but reality decided to slap you in the face once more. As soon as the Batter had finished descending a flight of stairs, he tensed up and held an arm out to keep you from going forward. Standing in the middle of the hallway, surrounded by a mess of boxes, were two more Elsens, their heads spewing that strange black substance that the one from before had. The smile fell from your face, swiping right when the text box appeared and taking a step back to stay out of the Batter's way as he dealt with them. If you were honest, you couldn’t help but cover your eyes and try not to listen to the sounds of the bat being beaten against their bodies. It took a little longer than last time for the Batter to do away with the Elsens, but when you could no longer hear the sounds, you peeked out from behind your hands and found that they were gone. The Batter and Alpha waited patiently for you, and you checked their HP and CP, which were both still pretty high, and then continued on. Long story short, the postal service felt like a maze with many other papers to be found, and those weren’t the only Elsens that you came across. More appeared over time, and you weren’t happy about the state they were in, but purifying them was the nicest thing you could do. Perhaps they would come back once you found the source of the problem, and although the Elsens weren't the only thing you ran into while in the postal service, the spectres didn't upset you as much. You knew they couldn't see you the way the attacking Elsens did, but unbeknownst to you, as you covered your eyes during the fights, the Batter noticed something very concerning. Every time the Elsens attacked, they tried to go for you instead of him, and he'd be forced to step in the way if an attack came close to hitting you. This was something he would definitely have to tell you about, but you seemed to want to progress as quickly as possible in order to leave. He would just tell you when the two of you reached a stopping point.

        On that note, it seemed that you had finally found your way through the postal service. Rounding a corner, there was a counter in sight with a normal Elsen standing behind it, as well as another piece of paper on the other end. Before approaching the Elsen, you had the Batter memorize the words on the final paper, and only then did you tell him to talk to the other figure.

 

        "Uh... Uh... The access to the secret lift is uh... Forbidden..." The Elsen paused, a few beads of sweat running down his forehead. "Did... Did I say secret?"

 

        "We have to get out of here," you tell the Batter.

 

        "I must pass." This made the Elsen blink in surprise.

 

        "Ah? Uh... Really? No, uh... I think that's... Uh... Impossible..." He paused again, nervously wringing his hands together. "Unless... You uh... You have... The code?" The Batter said nothing, but you had a feeling that the notes left around the postal service had something to do with it.

 

        "Could you repeat those notes I had you read? In order from First Version to Last Version, please." You had glanced at the notes to notice the numbering on them, so hopefully this was the correct thing to do. With a nod, the Batter told you what had been written on the notes while you paid attention for any patterns in the text. Lo and behold, the code had been hidden inside the writing. "It's 681452."

 

        "The code is 681452." Although he had been wondering who the Batter was speaking to before, the Elsen's eyes widened in shock when he heard the code being repeated to him.

 

        "The... The code, it... It is exactly correct..." He grew significantly more pale and glanced back to the elevator door, more sweat beginning to bead on his forehead. "...Ho-...How..?" The poor thing began to breath a little harder as he began to panic, a strange black smoke starting to waft from his mouth. You had a feeling of where this was going. "You... You must not pass! I don't want to die!!" With that, the Elsen's head exploded in a thick, black substance, just as you had predicted. It hurt your heart to know that getting the code right made him panic enough to turn him, but you simply had to get past. You would let yourself focus on the bad feeling it gave you later.

        Once again, you relinquished control to the Batter, who made sure no attacks hit you as you averted your eyes again. It didn't take long to deal with the single Elsen, considering the Batter and Alpha had been getting stronger with each battle in the postal service, so you weren't forced to listen to the sounds of a bat hitting flesh for too long. When it was over, another faint whisper caught your ear.

 

        "I'm going...to Alma... It will be nice..." And with that, the Elsen's body faded from existence, just as the others' had. You didn't give yourself time to dwell on it and instead moved forward to summon the lift, the Batter shaking off his bat behind you. Once the elevator arrived, you stepped into it wordlessly as the Batter followed, and you took the chance to refill his and Alpha's health before the doors could open. Once they did, however, the two of you were greeted with an incredulous sight.

 

        "Miserable morons! Piss off!" Dedan attacked an approaching spectre, erasing it from existence. "This is my zone! You ain't got the right to be here!" Another attack, destroying two spectres. "Get out of my sight, you piece of shit!" Dedan whirled around and hit the last two spectres behind him, purging them from his office. With a few heavy breaths, he turned to make sure all the spectres were gone, but caught sight of the Batter standing in the doorway. Not a second later, his face contorted into even more rage than you thought was possible. "YOU!" The director shouted, frustration clear in his voice. "It's you, you're the source of all my troubles! The ectoplasmic lord who's been eyeing my beloved zone! What do you want? Why've you decided to be a pain in the ass?” Your eyes crinkled in confusion as he spoke. What the heck was he talking about?

 

        “You’re mistaken.” Seems like the Batter had the same thought. “I’m not a phantom. I’m a purifier. I’ve come to purge the world of those ectoplasmic beings.” Apparently the Director wasn’t expecting a response, and Dedan brought a fist down onto his desk in anger.

 

        “How dare you respond? And how dare you imagine that I'd just put up with this shit...” The guardian paused to grumble a bit, and you noticed his eyes flick from the Batter to you, then back. Could...this guy see you? “Listen good. I'll make this simple. Get outta here and take your goddamn specters with you, or I'm gonna kill you. I hope that's clear enough for ya.” Dedan lowered his voice dangerously and narrowed his eyes at (you) the Batter. “If I see you again... You’re dead...” And with that, the guardian teleported away in a flurry a rings, leaving you standing there terribly confused. As you processed the recent interaction in your mind, the Batter glanced down at you, waiting for the words he felt were coming.

 

        “...He thinks we’re the cause of all this.” The Batter nodded.

 

        “Yes.” You looked up at your puppet, meeting his gaze that was still hidden under his hat.

 

        “Does that mean he’s not? Dedan isn’t the cause of all the spectres?”

 

        “Spectres are impure. They are the embodiment of corruption, and, by extension, are attracted to corruption. Even if Dedan is not the leader of the spectres, he is still the guardian of this zone. His influence is everywhere, and he may be attracting them here without knowing it.” The response caught you off guard. You had only been thinking out loud to help keep everything sorted in your mind. Those questions had been (almost) rhetorical, so it came as a surprise when the Batter answered them without any hesitation.

 

        “Oh, uh...” He had reminded you just how little you actually knew about this world. Ouch.

 

        “______, there is also something I must tell you while we are at a stopping point.” Well that didn’t sound good. You nodded for him to go on, hoping that you were just being nervous for no reason. “When fighting the Elsens, they do not try to attack me, but rather, they try to attack you. They focus primarily on you instead of me, and I find it very concerning. I thought you should know.” Oh jeez, that didn’t make you feel any better. For a moment, you wished that he hadn’t told you this, but then realized how bad of an idea that would be. The Batter was right. It was better that you knew about it.

 

        “Thank you, Batter.” With this newfound information, you now felt even more exhausted just from knowing you’d have to worry about it. The Batter stared down at you, having also noticed that you had been dragging more and more as the two of you had gone through the postal service, and in a brilliant moment of word association, he told you something that would convey exactly what complex thoughts he had in that moment.

 

        “...You look tired.” Had you had the energy, you would have shot him a dirty look and a snarky remark (thanks, captain obvious), but you could only sigh and hang your head.

 

        "Yeah... I think I just need some sleep," you ventured, not really feeling hungry. That was kind of strange, but you weren't going to question it just yet. Maybe you would ask Zacharie, seeing as he knew this whole thing was a game. Hopefully he wouldn't dance around the answer like he did last time.

 

        "Then sleep. This area is safe." You couldn't help but look up at the Batter in surprise.

 

        "...Really?" He nodded, taking a look around the room real quick. Once he was done, he settled his bat on one shoulder and looked back to you.

 

        "Yes. I will keep watch and make sure no spectres come in to attack."

 

        "Don't you need sleep?"

 

        "No." This response caused you to blink at the Batter in confusion.

 

        "...Aren't you human?"

 

        "No. I am a purifier." That was...odd. Did he honestly answer your question, or did he just respond with whatever blatant words he could come up with? Did this really mean he wasn’t human, or...?

 

        “...Okay then... I guess I’ll just...sit against the wall here...” You were too tired to focus on this right now. You'd just deal with it after you got some rest. Surprisingly enough, once you sat down, the Batter simply crouched down next to you. He stared at the door to the elevator that the two of you had come through, probably watching for any intruders. You weren't going to lie, this actually kind of flattered you. It made you feel safe. You could trust the Batter to watch over you while you slept, which wasn't something you could say about many people back home. With a light smile, you settled against the wall and closed your eyes, finally able to get the break you needed.

        For a little while, all was dark. Nothing moved and there was no sound. It was just total darkness, as was usual when one went to sleep. It was quite relaxing, and as you sat against the wall, you felt yourself slip deeper and deeper into sleep. However, in the middle of the darkness, something began to take shape. Slowly at first, then quicker and quicker, with bits of orange and white starting to show through. As the form came together, you began to hear music fading in, a familiar track that you thought you'd heard once before. It sounded so familiar, but what was it?

        ...Ah. It was a menu. The menu. The one that had shown up when you first booted up the game called OFF. That's why the music sounded so familiar; it was the opening track for the game menu in front of you. But why was it here now? Weren't you already in the middle of a game? There was a Continue option, so surely that meant you were still in Dedan's office with the Batter, right? But there was also a New Game option, and even a Quit option. Did that mean you could quit the game whenever you wanted? Could you even bring up this menu again? Why did it come up in the first place? What would happen if you did press Quit..?

        By now, looking at the menu was giving you an uneasy feeling. That, coupled with the music, didn't make you feel any better, and the longer you stared at this menu, the more uneasy you felt. It was time to leave...if you could. Would pressing Continue bring you back to the Batter? That seemed like the only sensible option after all. New Game sounded bad, and Quit sounded even worse. Who knows what would happen if you pressed that one. Instead, you took a breath and reached out for Continue, hoping for the best as your fingers tapped the button.

 

        You opened your eyes.

 

        Dedan's office greeted you, and you discovered that the Batter was looking at you now instead of the door. Your arm had been extended outwards as if you were reaching for something, and although you were confused, it was clear what exactly you had been reaching for. You lowered your arm and blinked at this new information. So that wasn't just a dream, then. You could summon the main menu when you went to sleep, and it seemed to function normally. That meant the hunch you had was right. New Game would likely send you back to the very beginning, and Quit would...

 

        "What were you reaching for, ______?" You looked up to find that the Batter had relaxed and fully sat down once you had woken up. He was staring at you in curiosity (you think), waiting for an answer to his question. There would be no harm in telling him, would there? The Batter wasn't aware this was a game, but he clearly saw his own menu that popped up in battle, so he should be able to comprehend the strange vision. Besides, you could just talk to Zacharie about it later on, go more in-depth about why you could summon it. No harm done.

 

        "I saw a menu," you began, watching the man for any reaction. "It was one I had seen before meeting you, and it had three options: restart, continue, and quit." Still nothing. You decided to go on. "I didn't know I could summon that menu again, so it came as a surprise when I saw it while I was asleep."

 

        "Well, of course you would be able to. You are my Puppeteer. You are capable of many things. That is why I need you to guide me on my mission. You are very powerful, ______." A small blush rose to your cheeks as the Batter spoke. If you didn't know any better, you would think he was trying to flatter you on purpose.

 

        "Aww... Thank you, Batter." You gave him a small smile. "That's why I reached for continue when I saw it. That was the most logical option." Instead of agreeing with you however, the Batter said something that caught you off guard.

 

        "You would never choose quit, would you?" The smile you had fell immediately.

 

        "What? No! Why would you think I would ever do that to you?" The question actually offended you a little bit (what kind of person did he think you were??), but that feeling was overshadowed by the surprise you felt when the Batter frowned and hung his head.

 

        "...I'm sorry. It was wrong of me to think you would do such a thing. Please forgive me, ______." For a moment, you were silent. With how stoic the Batter had been thus far, the last thing you expected was for him to show even a hint of emotion, let alone humility. Yes, the incident with that Elsen had made him angry with you, but that was something you had expected since he had gotten annoyed earlier in the mines. You had yet to see him express any other negative emotion, and... He was asking for forgiveness. Forgiveness. It felt like he was taking this too seriously. Although...didn't it make sense that he would? The Batter had a sacred mission, and he needed you in order to fulfill it. If the two of you didn't like each other, that would make things harder. You had even told him so back in the mines. Maybe he was trying to keep the peace between the two of you. If that was the case, then...

 

        "It's...okay. Really." You were a little hesitant, but you lifted a hand and patted the top of his head. "I forgive you." As soon as you uttered those words, the Batter back looked up at you in what you perceived to be thanks. To make things even more surprising, he gave you the tiiiiiiiniest smile you have ever seen, successfully making you pause again.

 

        "Thank you." As you looked back at him, you thought you saw a glint of eyes under the shadow of his hat, but before you could be sure, the Batter stood up and looked back towards the door. "Come. We should leave this building." He looked down at you and offered you a hand, the smile gone from his face now. Although it was fleeting, you knew what you saw. The Batter was slowly warming up to you. It was taking time, but you knew he would come around eventually, and as long as the two of you worked together, this mission would be over faster than one could say OFF. The two of you would finish this mission, and you would earn a friend by the end of it all. That was it, then. You smiled up at your partner, reassured that you would make it through.

 

        "Yeah. I've gotten tired of looking at boxes." You took the Batter's hand and stood up.

 

        It was time to go.

Chapter Text

I APOLOGIZE, BUT NO, THIS IS NOT AN UPDATE!

However!

This is a Q&A chapter for you guys to ask me questions about your favorite story! I’m currently working on For Science, which is my Undertale story, and seeing as it won’t be done for a while, I thought I would give you all something to do while you wait! I’m posting this to ALL my stories so you can choose whichever one you like to ask questions about! Of course, there are a few simple guidelines...

1. Please be respectful and patient. Everyone has a life outside Quotev, and I am no different, so it will take time for me to respond.
2. Look at what has already been asked before submitting a question. Someone may have already beaten you to the punch!
3. Keep the questions as on topic as possible! I will answer a few personal questions about me if I feel like it, but other than that, try to ask things pertaining to the characters or the story itself! Maybe even my methodology for writing?
4. No spammers, please. That just ruins the fun for everyone.

And there you have it! These are my guidelines for you, and now you are free to go ahead and ask (almost) anything you would like. So go on, go for it!

I’ll be waiting! <3