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“Watch this!” Touya says, leaping from one pile of moss covered rubble to the next, arms sticking out wildly at his sides for balance. He looks strange and familiar all at once, dressed in blue samurai armour with a katana at his waist. He’s never worn anything like it before in his life, but it looks right.

“Oh, be careful!” Minori cries. Her hands are clasped tightly around her Belled Prayer Staff, white knuckled, as though can anchor herself to the here and now through grip alone. She feels strange and familiar — she feels like herself, but every time she looks down at her clothes they’re so wrong. “What if you get hurt?”

Her eyes want to well with tears at the very thought.

“Then you can heal me!” Touya says, undaunted, making another leap as though he were Mario going from platform to platform. He lands neatly and spins, arms held out to the side as a flourish. “Did you see that? I can jump, Minori! I can run!”

Minori nods, head moving jerkily, and finds a rock she can sit down on. She spins so that she’s facing away from him, so that he won’t see the way her eyes do fill with tears after all.

She wants to go home. Touya can stand — he isn’t stuck in a wheelchair, he can run and jump like a dream come true — and all she wants to do is go home. She wants her mom to tell her that it’s going to be okay.

I shouldn’t be so selfish, she thinks. Who knows how long they’ll be here? This might be the only chance, the only time he has.

But who knows is the question. She doesn’t. And it’s frightening. They can’t log out, and everyone in Akihabara was freaking out so she knows it’s not just them that are suddenly here in the game.

If they go back soon, Touya won’t be able to walk anymore. But... if they don’t go back…

What if they can’t?

Her Belled Prayer Staff jingles as it drops to the ground. Minori brings both her hands to her face. She tries to muffle the sobs but she can’t.

Touya’s hands fall onto her shaking shoulders, even though she never heard him approach her. “Oh, Minori,” he says, kindly and cheerfully. “Don’t worry, it’ll be okay, alright? We’ll stick together and we’ll be fine.”

He sounds so certain, as though it’s that easy. But Touya of all people knows that it isn’t — that life isn’t fair and sometimes things just happen that you can’t stop. But he also knows that even if those things do happen, you can’t stop smiling.

Minori has never been able to smile like him. All she can do is cry. But she’ll try. “Do… do you think anyone knows what’s going on?” she asks, timidly.

Touya lets her go and starts stretching, like he’s warming up for soccer practice, maybe testing the limits of this new body or maybe just enjoying the feel of being able to move. “I don’t know,” he says. “It didn’t seem like it before. But we can go back to the marketplace if you want and see!”

Minori hesitates. The marketplace around the cathedral had been busy and crowded but it had been so loud. Everyone had been shouting and crying and demanding answers — she doesn’t really want to go back there. “Maybe not yet,” she says, and slumps back against the stone wall.

Touya goes back to moving, to running around. He’s not worried. He’s enjoying himself.

Minori furrows her brow and brings up the menu, green boxes hovering weirdly in the air like one of those fancy VR games. Hopefully, she jabs at the Logout button, but it remains just as inert as before, flashing a red error message at her when she presses it.

Nothing else seems helpful. She clicks her Friends List and rolls through it — there aren’t many people on it and most of them are offline, anyway. But…

Shiroe

Minori bites her lip, finger hovering over the name. Would it even work? How could she even talk to him without a microphone or speakers? Without a keyboard to type with?

And would he even want to hear from her? If he was here, if this was affecting everyone… then maybe he was busy. Too busy to be bothered with silly requests from them. He hadn’t called them, after all, and he was high levelled and important and they were just kids who didn’t know anything about Elder Tale.

But he’d been so nice. He’d helped them when all that they had wanted was a bit of information; he’d gone into the Teaching System and lowered his level so that he could party up with them.

She really wants to call him.

But her finger lowers itself away from the menu, retreating back to her chest and curling into a loose fist.

She doesn’t even have the courage to press the button. To even try.

Behind her, Touya lets out a sharp gasp of pain.

Minori spins around and sees Touya falling from the rocks, feet having slipped on the moss. Her hand rises as though she can catch him, even though he’s already hit the ground —

And presses Shiroe.

There’s a low tone, not quite a ringtone but unmistakable all the same. Through the transparent menu, Minori and Touya stare at each other, eyes going wide in alarm.

“Minori?” Shiroe’s voice says, echoing a little strangely. There’s no speakers; it just seems to come from Minori’s head.

Minori makes some kind of low, helpless sound. She doesn’t know what to say.

“Eh? Minori?” Shiroe repeats, his voice coming through the call a little louder and sounding just a touch alarmed. “Are you okay?”

“Shiroe-nii,” she says, voice wobbling a little. “Something really strange has happened.”


“Sorry, Naotsugu,” Shiroe says, dropping his hand from his ear — the unconscious mimicry of someone taking a phone call. “I need to go.”

His Guardian friend is already lifting his Meteoros Shield back onto his back, preparing to move. “Still helping the new players out, huh?” He asks with a smile. “I remember; you never could say ‘no’ when someone asked. That’s what got you into so much trouble with Kanami, you know.”

Shiroe ducks his face into the oversized collar of his Sacred Robe of the Stars. “Ah,” he says, stalling. It’s not the first time someone has told him that — sometimes he even agrees with it. But this is the kind of situation where someone asking for help seems to be well deserved. “Well. You don’t have to come with me.”

Naotsugu rolls his eyes and claps Shiroe on the shoulder with one of his gauntleted hands. “What else am I going to do?” he asks, sensibly. “You know, I was really glad when you called me, otherwise I probably would have just sat around freaking out like everyone else, too.”

Shiroe flushes for real at that, and looks away. It bothers him, though, that Naotsugu thinks he would be as… passive as the rest of the gamers in Akihabara, just sitting around bemoaning their fate. As if they couldn’t analyse the situation and understand what had happened. Even if the Guardian hasn’t played Elder Tale in nearly two years, he’s too stalwart and sensible for that kind of behaviour.

“So who are they?” Naotsugu prompts, as they fall into step. The empty, abandoned streets of outer Akihabara give a lonely ambience to their hike. “She sounded pretty young.”

Shiroe nods. “Minori and Touya,” he says. “They’re twins. I think they’re fourteen? They only started playing a few days ago. I was using the teaching system to show them the ropes.”

“And you didn’t call them first? Oh, man,” Naotsugu says, rubbing his chin with a gauntleted hand. “They must be super freaked out right now. I’m freaked out and I’m an adult. It must be way worse for all the younger players around here.” There’s real, honest concern in his voice.

“... yeah,” Shiroe agrees, even though it’s weird to think of themselves as adults. Naotsugu has a job, so maybe he counts, but Shiroe is just a university student who plays MMORPGs for a hobby. Hardly anyone's idea of a responsible adult.

He feels even less like one now.

The thing is — he’d seen Minori and Touya’s names on his Friends List, before he’d called Naotsugu. He’d even thought about calling them. But…

He hadn’t.

Why hadn’t he?

I thought they would be okay. It wasn’t my place. I didn’t think they would want to hear from me.

All excuses.

“It’s like you said, isn’t it?” Naotsugu goes on, oblivious to Shiroe’s darkening mood. “This is our reality now; we’ll have to assume we can’t go back and find a way to survive. It won’t be hard for us but… jeez, imagine being a new player now. I’m glad I didn’t decide to roll a new alt to explore the expansion pack with after all.”

Shiroe pauses. “That would have been… a bad choice,” he acknowledges. He’s glad he didn’t play any of his alt characters either — they might be high level, but he doubts any of them would feel as comfortable and familiar as Shiroe.

Even Roe2. Especially Roe2, he amends, when they run into Akatsuki, who demonstrates quite aptly the downside to roleplaying an opposite gender character.


“Shiroe-nii!” Minori cries, forgetting herself and barrelling into his side for a desperate hug. “Do you know what’s going on?”

Shiroe stiffens and takes half a step backwards, but then his hands come down gently on her shoulders. “Ah,” he says, patting her reassuringly if a little awkwardly. “We’ve been talking it over and we have some ideas, but we don’t know for sure.”

Minori cringes, realising too late that there are definitely other people with him. A really tall Guardian in heavy armour and a short ninja that appears out of nowhere.

“I’m sorry,” she squeaks, drawing back and bowing furiously to them both. “Please forgive my rudeness. I’m Minori and this is Touya.”

“Don’t worry about it!” The Guardian says, smiling cheerfully. “It’s been a pretty scary kind of day, right?”

Minori nods quietly and uses the back of her hand to rub at her eyes, even though she hasn’t started crying again. “Yeah,” she agrees but she mostly feels relieved that someone agrees with her. It has been a scary kind of day. “But I feel a lot better now,” she adds.

The Guardian grins. “That’s the job of a Guardian,” he says, jabbing a thumb at his chest. “To protect you from all the bad things — and scary ones too.”

Minori laughs and he winks at her.

“Of course, having Shiroe here helps too, right?” he says. “He’s the best tactician I know, so we’ll have a great plan.”

Shiroe adjusts his glasses, looking away. “Right,” he says, belatedly, sounding much less confident. “We’ll be fine. I’m going to make a few more Tele-Chat calls to people I know, and then we’ll see about finding somewhere to stay, okay?”

Minori nods, seriously, and Shiroe drifts a little way away from the group to open his Friends List. Marielle has already called him and meeting up with the Crescent Moon Alliance guild will be a good step to gain more information. And Mari will probably be delighted to help Minori and Touya, even if they don’t join her guild.

But he scrolls through his Friends List again, this time thinking hard about the people behind the names. There are a lot of names, but not many that he really knows things about — most of them are just people he knew met once or twice in the game, people he was in a party with one time, people who are nothing more than characters to him. He has a brief recollection of skills and abilities but knows nothing about the person behind the computer screen.

But there are a few he knows better.

Soujiro Seta. Souji had been part of the Debauchery Tea Party, back when it had still existed. He’d been young when he joined — a real newbie — but everyone had liked him. Even now he’d only be seventeen.

Shiroe hesitates. Nazuna is online too, so Souji is probably with her and the rest of their guild. He’s probably fine — probably handling everything just fine. It would probably be overbearing if Shiroe called him, to ask questions like that.

Shiroe sighs, glances at Minori and Touya, and hits ‘call’ anyway.

“Shiroe?” Soujiro’s voice says, sounding surprised and confused. “You’re calling me?”

“Ah,” Shiroe fumbles. He gives an awkward laugh to try cover it. It sounds terribly fake, even to his own ears. “I saw that you were online, with… all of this happening. Are you with Nazuna?”

“Yeah!” Soujiro says, sounding cheerful again. Nothing ever disturbs him for long. “We’re both in Akihabara. Did you need something?”

“N-no, not really,” Shiroe says. “I just, uh, wanted to make sure…”

This is pretty much exactly why he hadn’t called — it couldn’t be clearer that it’s neither wanted nor needed.

“Were you worried about me?” Soujiro asks, sounding more surprised than teasing. “Ah, that’s really nice of you, Shiroe-senpai! You don’t need to worry, though. Nazuna is keeping me out of trouble.”

There’s an echoing sound, like Nazuna is standing right next to him saying ‘damn right’.

Shiroe gives a blink of confusion. “Ah, that’s good,” he says, a little vaguely. “I’ll, um. I’ll let you go, then.”

“Wait!” Soujiro says, quickly. “If you come to Akihabara, you should come find us.”

Shiroe makes a vague sound of agreement. “That… sounds like a good idea,” he says. “We’re about to go to the Guild Hall to meet up with someone… I can see you there?”

There’s a beat of silence that sounds a little too long. “Did you join a guild, Shiroe?”

Shiroe runs a hand through his hair. “No,” he says, awkwardly. Souji had invited him to join his guild when the Debauchery Tea Party had broken up — had invited most of them to join — but guilds… hadn’t worked well for Shiroe in the past. The Tea Party had been the closest that he’d ever come to the kinds of things he’d wanted from a guild without the long list of draining expectations that turned playing into a chore. “No, I still play solo mostly. But well... We should all exchange information if we have any.”

Souji chuckles. “Always the strategist, Shiroe-senpai,” he says. “That sounds like a plan! We’ll meet you at the Guild Hall!”

They’re not in a hurry, so they stop and buy food at the market in Akihabara. Around the main center and cathedral, people have stopped shouting and crying so much and are just sitting around and waiting.

Waiting for what? Shiroe thinks. Someone to tell them what to do? No one else knows either.

But — he doesn’t know anything about them, either. How many of them might be like Minori and Touya? Young and lost and confused?

That uncomfortable train of thought is thankfully derailed by the People of the Land at the food stalls tentatively hawking their goods — and Shiroe realising that he’s actually hungry. The Homesteading the Noosphere patch had gone live at midnight, but it had been daylight in Akihabara when they’d all… arrived. Maybe midmorning, and then the hours spent traversing the outer suburbs of Akihabara and finding each other mean that it’s late afternoon by now.

Food sounds like an excellent idea.

They split up — Akatsuki goes straight for onigiri and dango and Naotsugu makes a beeline for pizza and fried chicken — and Shiroe wanders up and down the stalls for a moment to make his own choice, noticing Minori and Touya doing the same. He thinks they’re just being particular, before he notices Minori carefully studying the price cards at the front of the stall, one hand on her pocket.

“Here,” he says, passing her a few pieces of gold. “It’s on me.”

A higher level player could buy enough food for them all and barely notice the cost but of course new players don’t have that buffer of built up money — and who knows how they’re going to be able to get more? Who knows what changes have happened to Elder Tale, now that it’s real.

Shiroe adjusts his glasses, no longer focused on the food in front of him. So many questions. So few answers.

“Oh, are you sure, Shiroe-nii?” Minori asks, gold held carefully in her hand like it’s precious. “We can…”

He makes sure to smile at her. “Of course, don’t worry about it. The cake looks good, doesn’t it?”

The worry on her face clears and she darts off, to go and buy the cake that Touya is longingly staring at.

Shiroe absently buys some ice tea and sandwiches and they take their purchase out of the marketplace and towards the Silverleaf Tree where it’s quieter, without the other teeming Adventurers, setting up a small picnic with their accumulated food.

“Itadakimasu!” they all chorus and dig in.

And stop.

“This tastes like—” Akatsuki says, quietly.

“—soggy rice crackers,” Naotsugu finishes, staring down at his pizza in confused despair. “It looks so good and tastes so bad.”

“And all the drinks taste like water,” Shiroe adds, putting the cap back on the bottle of ice tea he’d brought. It looks right but it has no flavour whatsoever.

The rest of the picnic is subdued. They’re hungry enough to eat, but leftovers linger on the plates of food with no one eager to finish them off. Eventually, Shiroe piles them into the cardboard pizza box and stows them in his Dazaneg Magic Bag.

“Let’s get to the Guild Hall,” he suggests, breaking the solemn pall that’s fallen over them all. “We’ll be able to rest there.”

That necessitates heading back through the market and past the cathedral — which is white and majestic and beautiful in a way the graphics of the game had never managed to really convey. The Guild Hall is equally beautiful but more imposing, blocky and dark with gold inlay designs, like some kind of expensive hotel.

“These buildings all look just like I imagined,” Akatsuki says as they enter the Guild Hall. “Just like the game.”

Inside, the main foyer isn’t crowded, but there are a few people. The wary looking cashiers behind the bank counter and a handful of Adventurers waiting for friends.

“Shiroe and…. Naotsugu!” Souji says in surprise, rushing forward a couple of steps to greet them. “I didn’t expect to see you!”

Nazuna follows slowly behind him, approaching at a less excitable pace. “Hey, stranger.”

“Shiroe didn’t say?” Naotsugu says, waving and smiling. He gives Shiroe a shove in the shoulder, like it had been a deliberate oversight.

“No,” Souji responds. “I mean, he kept saying ‘we’ so I knew there was someone… but I thought you’d stopped playing when the Tea Party split up.” He looks past them curiously to see who else makes up the group.

“Yeah, the first time I log in in two years and this happens,” Naotsugu says, good naturedly. “How’s that for luck? But more importantly, how are the girls?” He raises his eyebrows in insinuation.

Souji blithely ignores it, even as Nazuna starts to glare at the Guardian. Her long fox ears give an annoyed flick, and Shiroe tries not to stare at them. They should look stranger than they do — people just… don’t have appendages like that. But they fit her face, her character, like it’s perfectly normal.

“They’re all fine!” Souji says. “Well, some of them are a little freaked out right now, but everyone is having a sleepover in our guild room so they’ll look after each other.”

They go through the introductions, Soujiro easily drawing Minori and Touya into conversation — comparing samurai skills with Touya, asking what they enjoyed about Elder Tales, how they met Shiroe.

Shiroe thinks that if the Crescent Moon Alliance Guild isn’t able to take them in, there’s a good chance that the West Wind Brigade Guild will.

“So, who are you meeting?” Nazuna asks, crossing her arms casually and jutting a hip to the side.

“The Crescent Moon Alliance Guild,” Shiroe says, and starts leading the way through the strange hallways that have doors evenly spaced along the length. Too narrow for there to really be rooms behind each of them, but each guild room is it’s own Zone. Are they really, physically, there? Impossible to say. “Mari — the guild leader — is very social. She’s been getting into touch with a lot of people to try and gather information.”

Nazuna nods. “Good, we need people like that,” she says with a bit of a sigh. “Souji is hard to shake and that reassures the rest of the guild, but everyone is worried about the situation.” Her ears flick again, a tiny nervous tick that seems to declare that she’s no exception, no matter how calm she seems.

Shiroe has no response for that, but they’ve reached the right destination and he knocks on the door to the Crescent Moon Alliance Guild. The Zone has no entry restrictions and the door swings open under his hand, letting him glimpse inside.

It’s very pink.

“Shiroe-bo!” Mari calls and barrels into him, nearly strangling him with her grip.

He’s never met her in person before but somehow he isn’t particularly surprised by the greeting. Mari’s favourite chat command had been /glomp for a reason. It’s almost reassuring, in a way. Almost.

“I thought we were going to share information,” he says weakly, as she drags him into the guild room. The rest file in to the room behind him, and Mari greets them with cheer and enthusiasm, pressing glasses of tea into their hands that taste — disappointingly — just like water.

“Ah, of course you can all stay here with us,” Mari says when Shiroe introduces the twins to her and tentatively asks for her help. “Only half of our guild members are online, so we have plenty of space.” She calls some of her guild members — they don’t look much older than Minori and Touya, though visual character ages don’t necessarily mean anything — and asks them to get the twins settled in upstairs.

“Thank you,” Shiroe says.

“It’s no problem,” Mari assures him, sounding like she really means it. She ushers them to a pair of couches set up around a coffee table in the guild hall and Henrietta joins them, bringing a tray of tea and her steady, calm competence. “In fact… I was going to ask you to stay as a favour.”

“Mari…” Shiroe says, shaking his head.

“Not to join,” she hurries. “I mean, of course I’d love it if you wanted to join. But I know that you’re not a fan of guilds.” She says it like she doesn’t understand it, because Marielle plays mostly for her guild, but she respects his position all the same. “But I need to take my higher level players to Susukino and… well. I worry.”

“To Susukino?” Shiroe repeats with a frown. “Why?”

Mari sighs again and leans forward to pour herself another cup of tea. “How much do you know?” she asks. “About what’s happening?”

Shiroe pushes up his glasses. “The obvious,” he says. “But I haven’t— reached out to anyone to see what they know.”

Mari nods. “Yeah, we’ve been so busy doing that,” she says, sinking into the sofa and taking a drink. She makes a face at it, but cradles the steaming cup in her hands. “I’ve been talking to everyone trying to keep updated. This really is a situation, huh?”

She fills them in on what she’s heard — the way the other guilds have collected their players together and gone into lockdown, the recruitment drives, the way at least one player has already died and been revived. Soujiro and Nazuna have small pieces to add too, more in the loop than Shiroe and Naotsugu who spent the day walking around the outskirts of Akihabara and avoiding people. Henrietta makes notes as they talk, always efficient.

“Player Killing?” Shiroe repeats with a frown. He pushes his glasses up. “Already?”

“People are panicking,” Mari says, twirling a curl of blonde hair around her fingers absently. “And even though you can’t fight in the city, there are other ways to harass players. One of my guild members is stuck in Susukino, that’s why I have to go. Apparently it’s even worse over there because the high level players have gone on a rampage…”

Shiroe frowns harder. “We don’t know how long we’re going to be stuck here,” he murmurs. “We can’t just wait for it to end. We have got to get things under control.”

Mari nods and bites her lip. “I want to arrange a meeting of the small guilds,” she says. “But it will have to be after we help Serara escape.”

It’s not going to work, Shiroe knows immediately. The Crescent Moon Alliance isn’t a combat guild — they have a small handful of level 90 players but he knows Mari herself barely does more in-game fighting than strictly required. She’s there to craft and socialise, not to raid and fight.

“We’ll go,” he says, shaking his head. He looks at Naotsugu and Akatsuki. “The three of us—”

“No,” Souji cuts him off. “We’ll go.”

Shiroe blinks at him.

“Helping people who are being harrassed is what the West Wind Brigade does best,” Soujiro says earnestly. “Once I tell them what’s happening I’ll have dozens of volunteers. And we are a combat guild — we know how to do this, even if we have to fight other adventurers and not bosses.”

He’s not wrong. West Wind Brigade might have a joking reputation as a harem guild, because of the huge number of female players in the guild and because of the fondness everyone holds for Souji, but they are one of the most effective combat guilds in Elder Tale despite being a tenth of the size of guilds like DDD.

“With the transport gates offline, it’ll take… nearly twenty one days to get to Susukino,” Shiroe says slowly. “It’s too long.”

“Nazuna and I have griffon whistles too,” Soujiro says, unperturbed. “That’s what you and Naotsugu were going to use, right? We can go ahead and let the rest catch up to us, if we need to.”

Shiroe shouldn’t be so surprised that Souji guessed. He’s no strategist like Shiroe — not in the long term planning kind of way — but he’s an excellent Elder Tale player and familiar with the game and equipment from long experience. He probably is more than capable of dealing with whatever situation is happening in Susukino.

Nazuna smirks faintly. “We have a few aces up our sleeves to deal with the distance,” she says. “Getting everyone to a raid zone together is always the first challenge of a raid. It’ll be a little different now that everything is real but… I think we can handle it.”

“Anyway,” Souji says. “You need to be here for your plan, don’t you?” He shrugs at their surprised looks and smiles. “I don’t know what the plan is,” he says, “but… you’re already thinking ahead, aren’t you Shiroe-senpai?”

Shiroe steeples his fingers together. “There’s no plan yet,” he denies. “Just… things that need to happen. Somehow.”

Soujiro nods, like that’s enough for him. He tilts his head to the side, smiling softly. “If someone can call Serara, I can ask her more details about the situation and let her know that help is coming,” he says, standing up. “And we can all add each other to our friends lists so we can keep in touch the whole time.”

Henrietta adjusts her glasses, like she’s been caught off guard. “Yes, of course,” she says quickly. “That’s an excellent suggestion. Shouryuu can help you… unless you’d like to wait until after the meeting?”

Souji shakes his head. “I never really understand Shiroe-senpai’s plans,” he admits. “I know he’ll manage it just fine, though. And if you need us to do something… just call.”

Shiroe blinks, taken aback by the blunt honest trust. It’s not that he thought Soujiro didn’t trust him it just… seems more real now. Everything is more real now. “I— of course,” he says. “Thank you.”

Nazuna smirks at him, like she’s amused at his flustered state, but only waves as she follows Souji back through the guild hall to find Shouryuu and call Serara.

“What a nice, polite young man,” Mari says, watching them with soft eyes. “I know Serara will be just fine.”

“Not you too,” Naotsugu groans, leaning back and thunking his head onto the back of the couch. “How does he even do that?”

“Maybe by being nice and polite,” Akatsuki says in a level tone of voice that does nothing to hide the implication that Naotsugu is neither.

Shiroe sighs at them, but isn’t really in the mood to mediate between them. “Mari,” he says, ignoring them. “How old are the members of your guild?”

Mari grimaces immediately. “A lot of them are in highschool,” she says quietly, like she gets his point. “Not all of them. We have enough adults but… there are a lot of kids, huh?”

Shiroe nods. “Minori and Touya made me realise,” he says, just as quiet. “And if people are going around PK-ing… they’re in danger.”

If people still revived at the cathedral and death wasn’t permanent… that didn’t mean it was meaningless. That didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. That you wouldn’t be afraid or scared.

“Lower level players too,” he says. “And players who aren’t combat focused. But…”

“It’s worse for the kids,” Mari finishes. “We need to look after them.” She stares into her cup of tea. “But how?”

Shiroe grimaces. “That’s… where we’ll need a plan, probably,” he says and runs his hands through his hair. “Something to make everyone stop panicking and turning on each other.”

There’s a long moment of silence as they all think about what kind of gargantuan task that is.

It’s broken when Marielle yawns and stretches extravagantly. “But we can talk more about it tomorrow,” she says. “We’ve all made it through the first day. We should celebrate and have a party! That’s just what we need!”

Shiroe expects Henrietta to protest, but she doesn’t. “It will make everyone feel better,” she agrees, stowing away her notepad.

Even with the bland tasting food, he has to agree that the warmth and music and laughter of the Crescent Moon Alliance guild party does help.

If they can still have moments like this… then everything will be fine.