Morning arrives in a glaze of soft white light spun in silver strands. As the sky steadily grows brighter and blue begins to flush over the horizon, the muffled sounds of conversation as various shops open their doors for the day brings the once resting nation back to life. Argentum blossoms as the world reawakens once more, time no longer in standstill under a blanket of stars.
Arguing Nopon bicker and bargain over the price of wares; trading and desperately trying to squeeze money out of anything they possibly can. Families begin to arise steadily, mixtures of all different races from all ends of Alrest conversing and laughing and joking with one another.
Yet at Rumbletum Canteen, a man sits alone, head bowed in his hands. He seems to be directly in the middle of an existential crisis, judging from the way the palm of his hands are pressed hard into his eyes - or at least his eye that isn’t hidden by his eyepatch. It looks as if he’s trying to force his thoughts into the back of his head. As if he thinks if he pushes his eyes hard enough whatever problem he’s faced with will miraculously disappear.
He suddenly looks up, singular grey eye manic and burning with something that is only slightly unhinged. He stares around the canteen, eyes flickering backwards and forwards rapidly.
Spotting somebody leaving the inn, he stands up, waving his arms about wildly.
“Rex! Oi, Rex! Come over here!” The person in question looks up, smiling as he makes his way over to Existential Crisis Man. However, his expression falters as he gets nearer. “Zeke? Are you alright? You don’t look too good…” Zeke throws his head back, letting out a strangled sob that seems to echo all around Argentum. Rex cringes, trying in vain to distance himself from the weird eyepatch man who’s just started to weep in the middle of Rumbletum Canteen.
“Oh, Rex!” Zeke suddenly lunges towards him. He grabs Rex’s shouders, shaking him backwards and forwards. So much for the ‘trying to distance himself’. Now everyone on this Titan - and probably all of Alrest if the volume of Zeke’s voice is anything to go by – know that he’s an acquaintance of weirdo eyepatch man. It’s not a good look. Especially when Zeke breathes in, producing a disgustingly wet sniff that probably means he’s snotted all over Rex’s shoulder.
“Of course I’m not alright! Look at me!” He jumps back, dramatically gesturing to himself. Rex takes the opportunity to check his shoulder. Yep. That’s some of the Zekenator’s elusive snot-and-tear-combo right there. Zeke let’s out another sob and Rex feels a sudden surge of pity. He hesitantly moves forward, preparing to place a somewhat comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder.
“You’re looking at a broken man, Rex!” Zeke suddenly howls, throwing his arms to the sky. Rex watches in horror, instantly retracting his hand as he leaps back. He desperately looks for an exit, or just some way to get out of whatever alternate hell dimension he’s stumbled in on. Zeke grabs onto him once more, hanging off his arm like some overgrown man child.
“You’ve got to help me, Rex!”
There’s no escaping this now. Zeke’s holding onto Rex like a lifeline. At this point the only way Rex is ever going to be free is through sudden and instantaneous death, which actually sounds quite nice right about now.
“I… uh, okay?” Rex says eloquently, the true master of speech and perfectly conveyed emotions. “What’s wrong then Zeke?”
Zeke stops. He smiles bright and for a split second Rex doesn’t regret offering his help.
That feeling doesn’t last long.
Zeke pulls Rex along to his table, pushing him down into the opposite seat. He then leaps into his own chair, landing with an oof. Chin resting in the palms of his hands, he stares at Rex with an intensity that Rex never wants to be on the receiving end ever again.
“Well, chum, this is a question that our forefathers have been asking for centuries.” Rex blinks. “And since you’re the Aegis’ driver and all, I suppose you’re the perfect person to ask!” Zeke shoots him a grin that can only be described as shit eating, a description that Rex never really appreciates the irony of when he tries to drown himself later that evening.
“I… uh, Zeke, I don’t know much about the Aegis yet. I’m the most inexperienced driver here, aside from Tora, I guess, but he’s not really a driver so…” He trails off at Zeke’s unamused expression.
“I don’t care, chum! You’re-“ Zeke begins to waggle his eyebrows up and down. “Pretty, uh… close to the Aegis, aren’t you?” The eyebrows waggle more, like two big hairy caterpillars having a seizure across his face.
Rex flushes red. “N-no! Not like that! Pyra is a friend. I love her just like I love Nia o-or Mórag or Tora or-“ Zeke looks entirely unconvinced. “Really! She’s just a girl, who I like, who… hey! This isn’t what we’re talking about!” Rex folds his arms, trying to make his face appear stern – as though he’s ended this conversation and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. It doesn’t really work though, considering his face looks one step away from either melting off or exploding.
“Alright, chum. Whatever you say.” He ignores Rex’s shouts of protest. “Anyway, you’re pretty good friends” Zeke makes speech marks with his fingers. “right? So maybe you’d know… maybe you’ve seen,” Zeke pales at the thought. “The true answer to this eternal mystery.” Rex looks up at him, eyes blank and empty.
“Rex, do blades shit?” He pauses. “Does the Aegis shit?”
Rex actually feels his brain cells die.
“What?” It’s the only thing he can say. How do you answer that question? Of course blades don’t shit. Even if they eat and drink and do the same things that humans do… oh, Architect. Can they shit? If they eat, surely it has to go somewhere? Everything shits, right? Maybe not trees, but everything else pretty much does it.
Rex thinks of Wulfric. Does he shit? Ursula? Does Beary shit as well? Do some blades shit? Do all blades shit? Does… does Pyra shit?
“Oh.” Rex puts his head in his hands. He understands. Fuck, he understands. He wishes he didn’t. He wishes he didn’t have to understand why this stupid question was so awful and mind numbingly shit. Ah, there’s a pun in that somewhere. Rex can’t remember where. His brain’s just collapsed in on itself. Life will never be the same again.
Together, in a synchronised action that had once only been deemed possible by the ultimate duo of Zeke and Pandoria, Zeke and Rex assume the Existential Pose. Hands dug into their eyes as though they can pull out all mental images of every blade they’ve ever met talking a dump, they begin to excrete (because, during an issue such as this, is there any other way?) an aura of something that can only be described as a Loss of Faith in All of Humanity.
“Kill me, Rex.” Zeke chokes out in a sob. “Hide my body in Tantal’s throne room. Even after death, I’ll still be an inconvenience on my old man. It’s the way things should be.” Rex tries to laugh, but then he realises maybe that wasn’t a joke. Rex has been planning his funeral ever since the Existential Dread had decided to come and ruin his life, which hadn’t taken too long. There is a very high chance that Zeke genuinely wasn’t joking.
A beacon of light appears from the inn. Mórag steps out, a glowing halo of gold shimmering bright around her head. She appears like an angel. A slightly irritated, highly unamused angel; but an angel nonetheless.
Zeke and Rex breathe a sigh of relief. Their saviour.
Tora follows just behind, no halo. Sinners don’t get to go to heaven. Tora created Tiger! Tiger!, he doesn’t deserve anything.
“Maybe they know.” Zeke whispers. “Maybe they know the truth.”
Rex waves them over with manic speed, desperation growing as they move too slowly. Don’t they understand the severity of this situation? This is of the utmost importance! There’s no time for anyone to be walking at a decent pace.
But soon they will understand.
Mórag steps forward, cool and composed as ever. Rex envies her. He wishes he could go back to a simpler time. A time where he could truly find happiness. A time where he could look at Blades without wanting to die. “You two seem… unhinged.” Mórag pauses, folding her arms disapprovingly. “I’d expect this sort of behaviour from you, Zeke,” he doesn’t even make a move to protest, tears still streaming down his one eye as he stares up at Morag like she’s going to save the world. “But Rex?” Morag pauses for a moment, slightly put off by the complete lack of reaction from both Zeke and Rex
“Really, what is bothering the two of you?”
“Can friends not decide what to get for breakfast?” Tora butts in, chunky little legs jumping up and down. “Tora understands. It very difficult question!”
He waves his wing hand flapper things around. What the hell are they? His arms? Wings? Can Nopon fly? Can blades shit?
See? It’s a curse. Every thought is now doomed to return to the ultimate question. No matter what, the thought will always be there. The niggling sensation of being crushed by your own sense of mortality every time your brain does anything at all.
Does Tora know if blades shit? Can Poppi shit? The mystery just goes deeper and deeper.
“Do blades shit?” Rex and Zeke ask in union.
Three people, one Nopon, now sit tight around a table in Rumbletum Canteen. Heads in their hands, or (in Tora’s case) body flat on the table, they have a group crisis. Together, in synchronisation that Zeke and Pandoria could have once only dreamed of, they all proceed to settle into the Ultimate Existential Crisis position.
Zeke almost thinks of creating a much better, much more cool name for such an organised event. But there are more pressing issues at hand.
It’s the ultimate question.
A question that they should really already know the answer to. Zeke should know, he travelled around all of Alrest with Pandoria. That’s a decade of life together, yet that decade sheds no light on this question of ultimate importance. He’s even held Pandoira’s hand, a status of relationship that Rex and Pyra dream about every night. Zeke should know. He would know if blades shit, right? Surely he would remember a time where Pandoria had snuck off into the woods some time. Or maybe he doesn’t remember because it never happened. Because, maybe, blades don’t shit.
Maybe Brighid’s got it written in her diary somewhere? Something along the lines of ‘to answer the ever burning question of ‘do blades shit’, I will write it in my diary so idiots of a later generation can find peace and happiness in a world where they know the truth.” Heck, it doesn’t even have to be that articulate. Just some form of proof. An answer to this mystery.
Mythra will know. But asking her is basically the equivalent of jumping off a very tall bridge. Into a pile of knives. Naked.
Pyra might know, but if they ask her, they’ll never actually get to Elysium. Rex and Pyra are already a whole damn mess, they don’t need some blade shit embarrassment to ruin them more.
Dromarch? They’d probably get a lecture from him. While it will be, as always, highly informative and only given with the best intentions, it will be mind numbingly dull and, well… a bit shit, to be honest.
But then there’s Nia too! She’s a flesh eater though, so it doesn’t count. But if she still remembers her life as a blade…
No. No! There’s no way they’re going to ask Nia. She’ll claw their eyes out, heal them, then claw them out again.
So… who do they ask?
“What is wrong with everybody? Why is Masterpon lying on table like that?”
The group look up slowly, reluctantly peeling their hands away from their eyes. Poppi stands there in all her four-foot glory. She smiles at them. How Tora got a robot made of old metal and bolts to be the most adorable thing in existence is beyond them. But Poppi is too cute, too pure, for this world.
“Maybe she knows.” Zeke whispers to the group. Gasps of horror instantly follow. “No! We cannot ask her!” Mórag hisses back. “Yeah,” Rex agrees. “What if we break her.”
“You’re right, chum. We can’t ask her.” There’s a short pause. “But what if she knows?” “Zeke! I will kill you with my bare hands if you dare to ask Poppi that question.”
“Poppi! Tora have big question!”
The group look on in horror.
Tora; the true villain of Alrest. They should have been worried about him all along!
“Do blades shit?”
There’s something quite cursed about Tora swearing. There’s something quite cursed about this entire situation, really.
“Well, Masterpon! Poppi does not shit-“
And somehow this alternate dimension just got worse. Poppi? Golden angel girl? Swearing? Not on this holy land.
“Because Poppi is an artificial blade! Poppi just needs tanks refilled every night and then Poppi is good to go!” She nods decisively, taking a seat opposite the rest of the group.
“Why do friends look so sad?” Poppi frowns. “Was that not the answer friends are looking for?” Poppi looks sad. Architect, this is worse than breaking her.
All at once, everyone responds with variously loud ‘no’s and multiple affirmations of ‘Poppi, you’re doing so great sweetheart. You’re doing the best we could have ever asked for.’
“You see, Poppi,” Zeke continues after everyone else dies down. “Now we know that artificial blades don’t shit, we just need to find out if all blades don’t shit.” The group nods quickly. “Yeah! You’ve been a huge help, Poppi!”
“Indeed, your contribution to this discussion was extremely helpful.”
“Poppi is best artificial blade ever!”
The beaming smile they get in response is almost enough to wipe out any thoughts of shitting blades. Almost.
“Poppi will find out for you!”
They all scramble to try and stop her.
“Please don’t ask Pyra!” Rex shouts, leaping up after her. “Or Mythra, or Nia!”
“Poppi, please don’t ask Brighid. I do not want to be remembered as the driver who wanted to know if blades shit or not.”
“Poppi! Tora think it a bad idea to ask Dromarch. Sometimes Dromarch make Tora sleepy with his big explanations!”
“Oi! Poppi, don’t ask Pandoria. It’s embarrassing. She’ll never let me live it down!”
They all run to catch up with her, knocking over chairs and bumping into tables. This is an emergency.
“Hey! What’s up with you guys?” Pandoria emerges out of the Lemour Inn, hair still ruffled from a good night’s sleep.
Five voices instantly all begin shouting at once. It’s impossible to make out what anyone is actually saying, but words such as ‘don’t’, ‘stop’ and ‘shit’ ring out strong.
“Uh, what? Could you guy try to speak clearly?”
“Don’t listen to a word they say, Pandy!” Zeke shouts before Mórag grabs him, putting her hand flat over his mouth and rendering him speechless.
Pandoria looks utterly lost.
“Pandoria!” Poppi stands forward, saluting. Pandoria hesitantly salutes back, still looking just as confused. “Poppi have big question from friends!”
“Uh… okay?” Pandoria shifts herself further away from Zeke, who’s now started to wave his limbs in every direction like a dying octopus.
“Do blades shit?”
There’s a sudden pause, a sudden silence, that seems to overtake all of Argentum as Pandoria’s face switches between a cluster of different emotions.
There’s the horror – most likely caused by Poppi saying a bad word, why is golden angel girl using naughty words? What has the world come too?
Then there’s the confusion. As if Pandoria has to process the question. Like her brain can’t quite keep up with the utter absurdity of it.
Then, finally, there’s the smile.
And that’s when the trouble began. That smile, that damned smile.
“You-“ Pandoria points to everyone, biting her lip as she tries to stop herself from laughing. “Want to know if blades shit?”
She snorts, raising her eyebrows up high. “Hey! Brighid! Nia! Dromarch!” She shouts, much to everyone’s panic. “Come out here!” There’d another desperate scramble, six hands and two wing things all fighting to cover Pandoria’s mouth. She steps back with a cruel smirk, her eyes behind her glasses glowing bright. “Hurry up! Everyone’s got a question for us Blades!”
There’s a pause as the two, drivers and blades, stand on opposing sides. Pandoria’s grin is so wide it looks as if her face is going to split in half.
“Go on then, guys! What did you want to know?” She chortles at the dumfounded expressions on their drivers’ faces.
“Friends wanted to know,” Poppi speaks first, raising her hand as she steps forward. “If blades shit.”
Time seems to stand still. A silence, oppressive and thick, seems to settle over Argentum like noxious smog.
The world stops. People stop talking, laughing, selling, buying. The Titans stop moving, everything stops breathing. It’s as if life itself has ceased to exist in this one moment.
“You… want to know if blades shit?”
Silence, and then… a squeak; so soft, so quiet, it’s almost impossible to hear.
Like a tidal wave, the silence crashes into a chorus of noise. Pandoria roars with laughter, tears pouring from her eyes as she drops to the floor. Nia let’s loose a metric tonne worth of swear words, Dromarch offering useless words of comfort that simply fall on deaf ears.
Brighid does not say a single thing, but the disappointed expression plastered on her face says more than words ever could.
The group of drivers simply feel a sudden urge to quickly and painlessly stop existing.
“Wait. Wait, okay.” Pandoria splutters out, trying to regulate her breathing as she wipes tears from underneath her eyes.
“You.” She moves to stand, directing one well-manicured finger towards Zeke. He gulps audibly. “You.” She hisses, jabbing said finger against his chest. “You seriously don’t know if I shit or not?”
Zeke takes a step back, raising his hands in a signal of surrender.
“We’ve been together for over ten years and you seriously don’t even know if I shit or not?”
The other blades seem to come to their senses at Pandoria’s steady stream of insults. They, collectively, stare at the group of drivers and shake their heads in disgust.
“Really, Mórag? You’re in on this too?”
Mórag turns her head to the side, lowering her cap over her flushed cheeks.
Arguments break out amongst the team. Well, it’s more Pandoria absolutely taking the piss out of Zeke the rest of the blades just following suit, but… well, it’s quite loud.
Rex, in a sudden spurt of unfathomable bravery, steps forward.
With his voice raised, and his words only shaking slightly, he tries to create order.
“I know it’s stupid, but please can someone tell us if blades shit?”
Instantly, Zeke throws his arms around Rex. He pulls away, his eyepatch suspiciously damp. “Thank you for your sacrifice.” He whispers, before stepping away.
Pandoria laughs again, Nia folds her arms. Brighid just looks disappointed and Dromarch looks like he’d rather be anywhere but here.
“I mean, yeah. Blades shit.”
The confession comes out suddenly. It’s almost…. anticlimactic.
There’s no big explosion. No sudden bolt of lightning or an army of shooting stars. There’s a sense of relief, sure. A feeling that an itch has been scratched, the realisation that they can now rest easy knowing that; indeed, blades do actually shit.
But then, as with all good things, such closure is soon destroyed.
“Blades shit?” Tora pipes up, jumping up and down.
“But then that means… Poppi is no longer true artificial blade! She cannot shit!”
Oh Architect. Oh no. Even though everyone in this ragtag group collectively shares one singular brain cell, they can all see where this is going.
Even Poppi looks terrified. “Masterpon! Poppi does not mind not being perfect artificial blade!” She tries to deflect the whirring of Tora’s deranged, pervert mind.
“No! Poppi! Poppi does not understand! Tora must make the perfect blade if he wants to be as strong as Rex-Rex!”
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
“That means that Tora must make it so Poppi shits like real blade!”
Disaster strikes. This is the worst possible outcome.
“Hey, Hey! Tora!” Nia interjects. She’s an angel in the ever-growing darkness. A beacon of light in the great abyss. “See, the thing is… what about the Aegis?”
There’s a pause.
Because, really, what about the Aegis?
Both Pyra and Mythra have been conveniently absent from this entire shitshow. What a coincidence.
“Oi, furry ears! If all blades can shit, then that surely means that the Aegis can too!” Zeke butts in, squealing as Pandoria stomps on his foot.
“Who’s side are you on, you idiot?” Mórag scowls over at him. Zeke, for once in his life, actually stops talking.
“But think about it!” Nia continues, pausing momentarily to bear her teeth at Zeke. “Pyra was in that big container thing when we found her, right Rex?” Rex nods in affirmation, following this line of thought. “Yeah, she was! She’d been in there for centuries, and I’m pretty sure she didn’t shit once!” See, now that was how to shut Tora down. With indisputable facts and logic. Sure, Pyra was in a sort of stasis thingy, which might have affected some things but… hey, if that stopped Tora from giving Poppi a new shitting function, it was well worth it.
“Well… Tora suppose that makes sense…”
There’s a sigh of relief.
“But now Tora really must know! Does the Aegis shit?”