Saturday, December 30, 2017

Chapter 116: Two for the Show



So the household is in China now, because Milo's boss is weird.



The countryside is beautiful...



...the architecture is stunning...



...the museums are fascinating...



...the ramen is so-so.



"Hey Acheron, what do you think is more accurate, your visions or this fortune cookie?"

"I think fortune cookies are a sim nation thing, and they're only here because this is a tourist trap."



"Let's see... the cookie says... 'I am a fortune. You have broken my little house. Where will I live now?."

"Wow," Acheron somehow keeps a straight face and a monotone voice. "You're a monster."



Milo trains hard with the sim-fu masters, and earns a new belt.



He takes a break from his training regimen to fish with Fairuza.



Fairuza worries about how disappointed her father would be in her if he knew about what she did.



That night, Milo goes camping. He roasts questionable food over a fire and sleeps in a flimsy tent under the stars.



The Shang Simla wilderness is a good place to be a werewolf for a while.



Werewolves can't be bothered to answer phones.



The rest of the family has more luxurious accommodations.



"Everything smells so different!" Dysen plops down on his bed, grinning. "Monte Vista was one thing, but this is really cool, you have to admit."

"You're just getting a buzz from all the residual magic permeating the place."

"Right, where's that aura coming from?"

"I dunno," Acheron says, unhelpful as usual. "Probably witches. They never stay in one place for long, but sometimes you can just tell they were here."

"This is witches strictly in the past tense, right? As in no witches right now?"

"Right."

"Good then. Okay. So, tomorrow I was thinking we should take a hike up to that cave that looks like a dragon's head. You can take my picture standing between the teeth."

"You're such a tourist."

"Don't make me go by myself. My parents already expressly forbade me going anywhere alone." Dysen rolls his eyes. "And I do not want them to confine me to this room for the remainder of the trip! Do you want that? Huh? Do you want to be responsible for that, Acheron?"

"Take Fairuza."

"The girls have other plans. They're going with your mother to some fancy spa."

"Go with your parents."

"Dude. My parents are treating this like a romantic getaway. I don't even want to think about my parents."

Acheron lets the silence hang in the air for a while before giving in, "Fine. I will go with you, to the 'Dragon's Maw', so you can get a stupid picture."



The trail up to the Dragon's Maw is long and physically grueling. The two boys are tempted to turn back, several times, but stubbornness keeps them going.



Acheron is impressed by the artistry it took to arrange all these rocks to resemble a dragon's head.

"I wish Molly could be here," Dysen comments, posing so his picture can be taken.



There isn't much else to do at the Dragon's Maw other than hang out and try to appreciate that some unknown person in a distant past wanted to make art, so after a few minutes Acheron is ready to leave. Dysen, however, is entranced by a strange smell.

"There's something weird behind the rocks here..." he claims, as he moves to scratch at the cave walls.



Acheron runs his hands over some of the crumbled carvings. "Eh, everything seems normal here to me..."



But then, without warning, the carvings react to Acheron's touch...



...and a massive stone slab slides down in front of them...



...revealing a hidden grove and stairwell.

"Told you so," Dysen says.



The boys briefly considered not going down those stairs, but curiosity quickly won out over reason.



"Maybe it's some kind of abandoned temple?" Dysen theorizes, eyeing up the gold dragon statues on either side of the doorway beyond the stairwell.

"It's not abandoned. It's in pretty good shape," Acheron counters.



They go through several doors, each leading to rooms that are mostly empty. With every step on the floors echoing eerily around them, Dysen begins to feel uneasy. Is this public land, or are they trespassing?



"Well, that's a thing," Acheron announces, finding the path ahead of them blocked by walls of fire.



They spot an obvious pressure plate behind a stone bench. "Oh, no way," Dysen laughs. "No effing way that's real."



"I guess we're doing this now!"

"I can't believe you're standing on that."

"You were about to stand on it."

"Yeah but you're the one actually standing on it."



"Uh... do you hear something?"



Dysen frowns and scratches his head, blinking hard. There are two holes in the wall where a second ago there were none. "No, but I see something."



Dysen sticks his hand in the hole and receives sparkles. "Hey look! Drugs!"

Acheron makes a face. "Is that fairy dust?"

"Oh like I would know."

"Don't just stick your hand in weird holes, Dysen."

"I understand if you're jealous."

"I really hope there aren't fairies here."

"So do you think wild fairies exist? Or do they all work for the feds?"

"Just get that stuff off your hand, you don't know what it's for. Most fairies have different abilities so I don't know what it's for either."

Dysen blows on his hand, causing the dust to scatter in a cloud and settle on the floor.



Elsewhere, this is happening.



Acheron and Dysen backtrack through the labyrinthine corridors, eventually reaching what looks like the first room they encountered, except there is no entrance/exit staircase.

"This has to be a different room," Dysen says.

"Really?" Acheron hisses, through clenched teeth.

"Well, yeah. Occam's Razor. No stairs, ergo, different room."

Acheron gives him a look, then begins poking the wall where the stairs were, searching for some kind of illusion spell or anything that would explain their predicament.

"Uhh, not there," Dysen interrupts.

Acheron glances back at him.

Dysen points to a different wall. "Over there."



Dysen is fairly certain there is something behind this wall, but try as he might to move it aside, it only yields for Acheron.



"Why does this place only like you?" Dysen complains.



The werewolf teen approaches the metal coins sitting in a neat pile on the floor. "This is what I've been smelling," he announces, as he bends down and pockets a few.

"What are you doing?!" Acheron yelps.

Dysen shrugs, at a loss for how to explain his attraction to the shinies. He has never been overwhelmed by the hunting and hoarding instinct before.



Unable to find their way back, the pair goes forward.



Supernatural strength comes in handy.



Dysen finds more hidden doors. Acheron opens them.



They encounter piles of coins at a steadily increasing frequency.



Dysen checks inside this strange stone box, but there's no way out through there, either...



...just a bunch more of that stuff Acheron called fairy dust.



Master Biyu Shen invites Milo to her home to spar.



The master's sister is annoyed they choose to spar in the living room, in front of the television.



Shen surprises Milo with her strength. He recoils from the pain of a hit.

She doesn't seem disappointed, though. "Your natural talent is astonishing," she says. "No foreigner has stood up to me so well. If you were to continue your training for long enough, one day you could surpass me and become a master yourself, I'm sure of it."

"Um, thanks," Milo says, not certain how to interpret that.

"The only thing that unsettles me," she continues, "is how your eyes catch the light sometimes."

"It's a, uh, rare genetic condition," Milo stammers.

"My order, the Resolute Fist, was founded to destroy vampires," Shen informs him casually.

"I did not know that."

"No one has seen one in generations though," she admits, apparently disappointed. "I was hoping you were secretly a vampire, but no, you're just some guy."

"Um. Okay."

"A guy with amazing abs, though." Shen flashes a flirtatious smile.

"I, uh, promised I'd have lunch with my daughters." Milo cannot escape this bizarre conversation fast enough.



Dysen and Acheron come across another golden dragon statue.



"This room seems important or something?" Dysen remarks.



"Yeah, but I don't see an exit," Acheron answers from behind him, where he's opened yet another hidden passageway only to find a small closet with a carved jade dragon on a pedestal inside.



It's a cute but ordinary thing. Yet Acheron is unsettled by it. He has the feeling he has seen it before; perhaps in a dream. Genre savviness demands he should leave the dragon alone, and earlier he scolded Dysen for looting the coins, and yet... Acheron finds himself picking up the jade nik-nak.

Its surface ripples in his hand, melting and shifting.

Before he can throw it on the ground in terror, it has already resettled into a new shape.



Acheron squints. It's a toy robot now. Aside from its miniature size, it's identical to ones Acheron played with as a child. The ones Dysen's great-grandfather put together out of scrap metal. Its pentagonal eyes stare at nothing as its tiny suction cup feet kick uselessly back and forth. Acheron frowns. "Huh?"



But what does it mean?



A frightened shriek pierces the air, causing Acheron to instantly forget the toy and spin around.










___________________________________________________
Etc.: I'd scream too, if my wrists suddenly fused together like that!

Anyway, I haven't touched the World Adventures travel destinations in a save game for a long time, so it's been fun to go through the tombs again. Most are locked because of prerequisite factors (as it is intended you should visit Shang Simla several times before seeing it all), but there were a few I could send the boys to explore. I always get a kick out of the "the student has surpassed the master!" quest chain.