The sun shone bright, high in the sky. The rooves of cookie‐cutter houses bore the last heat of the year, and many were out on their porches to enjoy it before Autumn could remember that it wasn’t Summer anymore. There were distorted waves of visible heat that rose from the asphalt. Someone stepped out from the grass and onto the sidewalk. They wore all black, torn clothes, and heavy boots. They were covered in dirt, dust, assorted filth, and their gaze was forward, up, a thousand miles away. People stared and watched the stranger walk by, as he looked up into the sun. More people pointed as he, oblivious, continued his slow trudge into the street. There was a screech of tires, as someone forced their truck to a stop, right before they hit him.

A red Chia stuck their head out the window. Hey!! Watch where you’re goin!
The dirt‐encrusted Gelert turned their head to look at the motorist. He mumbled something.
Hey, what? Did you say somethin to me?
The Gelert cleared his throat: Sorry… I said… I’m a ghost. You could have just driven through me….
The Gelert walked forward, and the driver stared with his mouth open, then watched as the strange man walked across the road, right into someone’s backyard, then past it, to someone else’s, and then, out of sight.

Internal office stationary. Do not use for public fliers or personal letters. Do not photocopy, fax, transport and/or realay via magic ritual. Please report stolen or misused supplies to Administration.
Date Stationary Printed: Gathering's 9th
Gavin & Grant Stationary Company

d dear warren:

sorry for being absent ill etc   you shouldnt have gone in until i checked it out first   ill give you a taking talking to later   the place is clean as far as i can tell   youll have to bring in your ghost stuff in yourself to do the rest   i couldnt carry it out of your house   it was too heavy   no basement no crawlspaces between walls and the foundations arent large enough for most people to fit into   attic is locked with only one entrance in the upstairs hall   nothing of interest in the attic unless you think a bunch a swords is interesting   i suggest buying a better lock if you plan to put anything there   there are no magical items in the house   i think   no unusual structures but i could only do a preliminary search this time because of the disease   ill be more thorough once im well   i cant find the blueprimt blueprin t of the house or who the previous owner was ill get back to you once i have   also im running out of blank paper so ive been using some spam i keep getting from th college   havent read it   its probably not important

so about the new guy in general
yes   hes good enough
where did you find him   hes in a cult or something   thats too bad but he seems nice enough   he carries a switchblade with a tooth on it on him in his right pocket at all times   minimal wear   its got kind of a weird aura ive got a bad feeling about it   contrivance   misfortune   i think its just for self defence it shouldnt be a problem   he has an absolute shitload of medeval mideval mediaeval mid fuck old as shit clothes in his closet   is he one of those guys who got flung forward in time or something   that could be interesting i guess   actually no hes too young to be that   his parents maybe   we need more members like him   zero tolerance policy on anything demonic is a huge plus   also hes loaded   get him to buy us some snacks maybe   those little palm sized deli sandwiches in the platters   some of those would be good

still sick   will be for a while   im gonna keep doing my background checks   take care of yourselves

 yr best dude

  — lucine

ps   if you need me more urgently ill try to be around   just let me know

Brightvale University of Magic

This is a notice from
Rose Blau
Senior Instructor
Club President
to the recipient
Lucine Cassus
Club President 
Please read upon your earliest convenience.

t is a deeply unfortunate circumstance that forces me to bring a grim finality to our previous discussion. It is with great regret, and, with immense consideration to your feelings, that I must revoke the assigned room of your club, in order to temporarily house the Brightvale University of Magic Theatre 🙲 Performative Arts Collective {also known colloquially as the "drama club" by those unwilling to engage in culture or appreciate my Art}. It will be on the fifteenth of the month of Gathering, at approximately seven thirty, though inclimate weather may delay or hasten our arrival, depending on circumstances oustide of my control. This is the deadline for which you and your fellow club members {should they be present, or exist} must vacate the premises, including any and all paraphernalia associated with superstition or the occult. Please be aware that I have already arranged for this to take place {due to several unanswered queries}, and am no longer accepting changes to the timeline of events, or alterations to the deadline. If you do have any questions, or if you wish to offer assistance, please contact me through Administration.

With greatest sympathies and regards to your health,
ose itzgerald lau🏵︎

Internal office stationary. Do not use for public fliers or personal letters. Do not photocopy, fax, transport and/or realay via magic ritual. Please report stolen or misused supplies to Administration.
Date Stationary Printed: Gathering's 9th
Gavin & Grant Stationary Company

Warren stood next to the bed that Kenji rested on. The fluorescents above and the medical equipment all around them made a constant, low hum. They held the letter up with one hand to read it, and squinted to try and pick out the dark magenta penned handwriting that had been scribbled on top of some other, more official, printed text that they couldn’t quite make out. Warren finished reading it, and their arm flopped down to their side.


Warren paced back and forth until the doctor walked in. She was a water Færie, with cool toned ivory skin, in a white coat, with long dark blue and purple hair tied up high into a ponytail. She held a book, a clipboard, and a pen which dangled from the board by a string.

Aah. Hello there Mr. Grey.
Hey. Just Warren is fine.
I see. Is this your classmate?
No, uh. We’re in the same after school club.
Same as the patient’s other friends?
Not exactly. They were just his roommate. Those two agents, that showed up, those were uh… not his friends.
How did you know about them? Did she tell you?
I uh… yeah. She told me. Sure. At some point. They’re not bothering you are they?
Somewhat, but… it’s more bothering me how common this condition is getting.
Common? How many people are getting affected by this?
Mmm. I suppose there’s no harm in showing you. Follow me.

The Fæ led the way out of Kenij’s room, and Warren followed her. Above several of the doors in the hallway outside, there was a cyan plastic decal with a diamond symbol on it.
In uhm… she gestured, each of these rooms with the little signs on them, there’s a crystallization victim. I’m not allowed to show you the individual persons, of course, but this should give you a rough idea.
Hmmm. And… how long has this been going on?
For… longer than I’m allowed to say, unfortunately. We recently had a specialist on curses and malevolent magic come in from Færieland, and she said she’d never seen anything like it before. Those agents you mentioned questioned the victims, or the people around them, if they themselves can no longer speak. Every one of them. And they still haven’t told me anything. Very frustrating. Something’s definitely going on, but I can only treat what’s already happened.
Of course. I’m… very sorry.
Don’t worry about it. It’s my job. I do have good news for you though Mr. Gr— I mean, Warren. she said, as she walked around them, and back into Kenji’s room.
Oh yeah?
Mm. Your friend is indeed getting better. Quite rapidly in fact. It’s strange, he was afflicted most recently, but he was also the first one to recover. I think he’s extraordinarily fortunate.
Yes. I have absolutely no idea what could have caused that.

Vert fast‐walked from down the hall, trying as hard as she could to not look like she was in a hurry or out of breath. Her clothes were ruffled, with tears in her jacket around her shoulders, and her short hair was even more disheveled than usual. Warren turned to look as they heard her shoes against the laminated floor.

Oh, hey. You’re uh, Kenji’s roommate, right? they pretended to not know who she was, Also, wow. You look like hell. Did you fall out of a tree or something?

She just stared at them.

Ah, the doctor made a small motion with her free hand, good to see you again! You’ll be glad to know your friend seems to have recovered!
I uh…. Vert stammered, Good! That’s really good, thank you.
Yes, yes. Additionally, he’s been cleared for discharge. If possible, I want you, or someone similarly close, to keep an eye on him, in case the symptoms return.
Yes ma’am. she nodded.
Good, thank you. If he does relapse, please bring him back in right away. Now that you’re here, I must apologize for my poor timing, but I have another patient I need to get back to.
Oh, yes, sorry, of course.
You all take care of yourselves now! the doctor waved as she turned away, walked back down the hall, then entered a door without a cyan sticker on it.

Warren turned their head to her, and began to say something, but Vert interrupted.
You… are… friggin… lucky… that you’re already in a hospital, mister, considering what I wanna do to you right now.
They frowned and leaned back, What’re you gonna do, huh, stab me?
No, obviously, but you’re pushin’ it.
They sighed, Look, I’m sorry that this turned into a disaster, believe me. Even if, honestly, this was the best it could have turned out.
Did you have to act like you’ve never seen me before?? What the hell was that about?
There’s no reason anyone should know about us helping you, or that you collaborated with us in any way.
She squinted, What the hell? Do you think you’re being watched or something?
That’s not important.
Whatever. What I do know, is, I care even less of a crap about your club now than I ever did before.
Fine, I could not care less about what you think of my club. Your friend is fine. Isn’t that enough for you?
Enough? Look, I just watched somebody get killed by a giant novelty flashlight. You wackos can get bent, Kenji is the only reason I did any of this.
What? Flashlight? What are you talking about? Is that a metaphor or something?
No, it’s not. I guess you’re gonna find out though, aren’t you?

Warren raised an eyebrow and narrowed their eyes at her. Her furious expression didn’t change.
W… whatever. I guess I will.
They sighed again, Alright, well. You got what you came for. He’s fine, though he’s not awake yet, as you can see.
Mmm. Still?
Yeah. Has he not been sleeping?
No, actually, he’d been putting off sleep for your club. He had a whole day of classes that he was just gonna not sleep for, to get those books. Did you know that?
No, I didn’t. That was his decision.
Well, maybe ask him if he has the time, next time, okay?
And who put you in charge of his time? I don’t see inheritor of time stamped on your forehead.
Uhhgg! Stop being a dick, okay? This is my friend we’re talking about.
I’m not being a dick, he needs room to breathe. Let ‘em do whatever he wants, it’s not your problem.

Hgmngh. Kenji stirred, and they both looked down at him.
Oh. Shit. Sorry. Warren said quieter.
We were probably too loud. Vert looked over at them, then back at Kenji, Hey. You doin okay? Don’t you fall back to sleep until you get back to the dorm, alright?
Mmfhg. Hai. he nodded.
Hahaha. Hi to you too. Vert smiled, I… didn’t know if you were…. Anyway. Are you…? Okay to stand up?
Mm… mmhm. Kenji nodded, and tried to heave himself up on the bed.
Warren stepped forward to help him, Easy, easy. Take it slow. You’re good now.
Th… thank you, guys.
No problem.
Kenji looked down at Warren’s watch, then squinted, What… how long…?
Not that long, only a day.
Day…? Oh no… th….
Vert interrupted, Hey, hey. Don’t worry. You were in the hospital, they’ll understand.
She’s right. Don’t worry about it.
Kenji got upright, and rubbed his eyes, What… time is it?
By now? About… Warren looked at their wristwatch, . It’s after dark.
The…? Club?
Don’t worry about it.
Kenji sighed and nodded. Vert looked down, and she noticed that his hand was in a tight fist, and shaking.

Vert jiggled the handle and opened the door. There was no light in their dorm except for the outdoor lamps that shone in through the window blinds, and the dim, night adjusted lights in the hall. Vert flicked on the lightswitch, and both her and Kenji shuffled in. He limped a little, the half of his body that was crystallized still numb.

Heeeere you go. I’m assuming straight to bed?
You got classes tomorrow?
No. I’m… free.
Good, that’s good.

She took her torn jacket, belt, and shoes off and put them on top of a stack of her schoolbooks. You gonna get some water? Anything like that?
No, no. I’m good. he shuffled towards his bed.
Alright, just making sure. she took her shirt and dress slacks off, replaced them with white pajama pants.
Kenji flopped face first into his bed.
Lights off?
Mmfgh. the reply was muffled by his pillow, Yes, thank you.
Hahaha. Goodnight.

She turned the lights off, then walked over and rolled onto her own bed, with enough force to make it squeak for a couple seconds. She’d forgotten to take her hat off, and it flopped off against her pillow. Aside from the occasional sniffle, it was still and quiet for a few moments.

Kenji rolled over, and sighed.
Vert looked over at him, You are gonna sleep, right?
…Maybe. I don’t know.
Kenji… you’re gonna feel even worse tomorrow morning if you don’t get some rest.
I rested. he shrugged, I’m okay.
She sighed and looked away.
He unbuttoned his shirt & trousers, and once he’d gotten them off, he flung them over his desk, his usual fastidiousness ignored.
I… I’m okay. I’m just going to lay down.

They both said nothing for a while. The silence made him restless. Kenji propped himself up with one arm, and looked over at Vert.
So, you ahh… don’t like Warren?
Oh uh, no, not really. Sorry. I’ve seen him a couple times before this. Didn’t really uh, get off on the right foot. I guess you noticed?
Kenji nodded at her.
She continued, Yeah… I don’t wanna make you feel bad, but like… I’m not a huge fan of the guy.
I understand. He’s… very hostile with strangers. Doesn’t like talking to people he isn’t friends with.
Yeah. she nodded, Didn’t have to tell me that.
Kenji chuckled and smiled, I’m sorry if he was rude.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging you for hanging out with him or anything, but like… I don’t get him, man.
He does what he thinks is best.
You’re sure about that?
Kenji nods, I am.
Well. Alright.

There was another short‐lived pause.
Oh, I forgot! Books! Did I…? Kenji pulled himself up, but wobbled and fell back onto the bed, so chose instead just to prop himself up by the elbows. They both looked over at each other.
Did you what?
Did I check out… the books I was going to get?
N… no? Dude, you went to the hospital. I thought you were gonna die.
I dropped them?
Uh… yeah, half your body was frozen solid. There’s no way you could have gotten them.
Oh… that’s disappointing.
Vert laid back down, and rubbed her temples, Sssshit, dude.
Kenji said nothing.
You really gotta, like, prioritize yourself, you know? I mean… they’re kinda… intense I guess, is a charitable way to put it. Your club friends, I mean. Can… can I ask you a question? About them?

There was another silence.

Vert looked back over at him, and found that he’d passed out between the pauses in the conversation. She chuckled & smiled, shook her head, then rolled over.
Whatever. …Goodnight dude.

The Gelert blended into the darkness because of his clothes, but otherwise made no attempt at stealth. There was a house he recognized, and he stopped, then turned to look at it. There was a light on in an upstairs window. He began to walk towards it.

The TV was on, but both occupants of the bed across from it were asleep. A show called the Midnight Brew was on, and a live band played for the studio audience. A hand rose, outside the window, and it began to push it up by the decorative outer fixtures. It was slow, so there wasn’t enough sound to overcome the noise of the television. The Gelert pushed the window all the way open, and contorted himself and his legs at an unnatural angle to fit himself through it. He stared at the couple.

One of them stirred, woken up by something unrelated in a dream. They opened their eyes, and looked across from them. A stranger’s hand pressed into their husband’s head, and his skin turned solid, crystalline. They tried to get up, or speak, but there was some kind of heavy fog in the room, and it felt like it weighed as much as a sheet of metal. They began to fall asleep again, against their will. They looked up to the stranger, and he held up a handful of the purple colored fog, which seemed to be emanating from him. Their vision blurred, and went black.

The intruder turned his attention to the television. He moved his hand away from the head of the husband, picked up the remote control, and turned the volume down until it was silenced.

Kenji stared at the ground as he walked, his mind empty as he watched the rocks and dimples in Sechson’s driveway go by. He closed his eyes as tight as he could, and shook his head. So tired…. I slept, but I’m still exhausted. Oh well. Can’t be helped. he thought to himself. As he came up to the porch, he started to focus in on the sound of Warren, as they ranted about something. He looked up, and raised an eyebrow. He looked in through the window at the front porch. He could tell no one had noticed him yet. Sechson looked uncomfortable, and Rei, confused. Kenji moved his ear closer to the window so he could hear them.

…Also, you see this shit? Warren waved some yellow and green stationary around next to their head, covered in magenta scribbled writing, This is the kind of shit he makes me put up with. He not only snuck around here, in his house, they pointed at Sechson, but he snuck into my house too!
What?? Rei narrowed her eyes.
He tried to haul out the phasmalogical equipment from my basement.
Th… the ghost stuff?
Yeah, that. Y’all have any idea how heavy that stuff is? And in that state he’s in! I swear. Warren shook their head, I’m gonna kick his ass. I swear to god I’m gonna kick his ass.
I mean, after he gets better, of course.
Sechson piped up, How’d he manage to do all that if he’s so messed up?
I don’t know. I legitimately do not know. This dude is gonna… Warren rubbed his brow, he’s either gonna get himself killed, or kill me first, from how much stress he puts me under. First Kenji, and then you two barely getting out of there, and then this, and fuckin….

Kenji shook his head, and decided that he was done with Warren’s stress‐out. He opened the door. Rei gasped and jumped up from her chair. He noticed that her knuckles were wrapped in cloth bandages.
Ahhh!!! Kenji!! Hey! she almost tackled him as he walked through the door, Oh man I’m so glad you’re okay!! See Warren? It worked!
Warren sighed, Yeah yeah yeah, I know. Great. Congrats. Extremely cool. Look, I’m glad he’s okay too, but that doesn’t change—
Aaaa I can’t wait to show you the stuff Sechson got us!
Oh no, no, please, not now, he doesn’t need all this at once.
Pfff, whatever Warren.
Sechson waved, Hello Kenji! We uh, we saved some cake for you!
Cake? Kenji asked.
Yeah! We uh, we had some cake yesterday, to celebrate, but uh… we didn’t know you were uh….
Oh, thank you.

Warren looked Kenji up and down. They narrowed their eyes.
Kenji… you brought your backpack today?
Mmhm, I did.
What’d you bring?
Oh, the books.

Warren stood there for a second, and Sechson walked into the kitchen.
Rei spoke instead, Kenji… you… the books that you were looking for when you got attacked?
Yeah, why?
You went back in there?
Well… yeah. Why not? It was open, I didn’t have anything else to do today.
I uh… didn’t think you’d wanna go back in there.
It’s fine. Kenji shrugged, I’m fine.

Well, uh. O…kay then. You’re… taking this better than I expected you would. That’s good, I think. Rei nodded.
Mm. Warren grunted, Alright. Good. Now that everyone is here, they raised their arms, I’m gonna give every single one of you a god damned talking to.

Sechson returned, carrying a slice of cake wrapped in plastic. He winced at Warren cursing. Everyone was silent as they turned to look, and wait for Warren to speak.
Their arms flopped back down to their sides, and it made a sound like aluminum foil getting scrunched up. Yeah, I know. All y’all had fun that night. Well, maybe except Kenji and his roommate. But we gotta get something done first.
Oh really? Rei raised her eyebrows at him.
Yes, yes really. I’m not just being some kind of curmudgeon here, and I am not just pissed. All of you scared me shitless last night. Every single one of you came close to dying somehow, yesterday, you realize that right?
What?? Me? No way, dude. Rei scoffed.
Hhhh, look. Let’s just keep any arguing about this to a minimum, okay, I have some shit I gotta show you, and not a lot of time or patience to do it.

They sighed again, then pulled a silver briefcase out from what seemed to be nowhere, Instead of going completely apeshit on all of you, which, I really have every right to… I’m going to do something I’ve been putting off for a long time. And unfortunately, I think you’re going to like it.
Rei scrunched her brow at their strange statement.
They whipped out the laminated sheet of parchment that the Paranormal Club’s opening statement was written on from their jacket, and they inhaled deep: We nowopenthismeetingofthe Paranormal Club. Luciddreams‐tulpas‐ghouls‐superpowers‐and‐psychicphenomena, thingsthewiderworlddismisses‐as‐fantasy, yadda yadda, they inhaled deep again, they’re real, thisis where‐us‐students‐of BrightvaleUniversityofMagic cometotalk‐learn‐and‐experimentwiththe unknown. Whew. Five members, it’s him. Cool. Now, anyway. The important stuff.

Warren popped open the seals on the case, and let it flop open with a thud onto the table. Printed papers, notebooks & notebook paper, photographs, and what looked like reels of videotape rested in it, and some slid out onto the table.
What… Rei stared at the papers, is all this? What’s this about?
Remember how I said before that we’re not hunters?
Well. Call me a hypocrite all you want. But I’m indulging you all. I’ve… actually known about some of this, for a while now. Ghouls. I’m assuming you knew, they said, and pointed at Sechson, at least something, considering you went to all this trouble to get hunting equipment. Basically… the one you fucking killed, yesterday, with a giant novelty flashlight wasn’t the only one causing problems.
Wait, what? Kenji sat down.
Yeah. If you were thinking that this was over, sorry. When I was in the hospital last night, the doctor there told me that you’re far from the only case. There’s tons of victims there. That’s the part I didn’t know about. And I made a call after I dropped you off.
Yeah. I asked the doctor to do me a favor, and call me if there were any more cases. There were. One came in only a few minutes after we left.
Kenji’s eyes widened again, There’s… more than just them.
Oh yeah. There’re tons more, runnin’ around. It’s honestly a lot worse than I thought. After a bit of… negotiating… and another phone call, I gathered up about as much of this shit as I could find, at least, in the limited time I had before today’s meeting.

Rei leaned in, Then… that’s… good? For us, I mean? Considering we have the knowledge and the tools to save people. she picked up one of the sheets and started reading it, and Sechson did the same to a different one.
Yeah I was afraid you’d take it like that.
Like what, a sensible person?
Oh, yeah, and I’m supposed to sit here and let a bunch of college kids go track down what are basically magic empowered supernatural murderers without any idea of what they’re getting into??
Uh, yeah? Who else is gonna do it? It’s not like the police get paid to do anything important like this.
You know who should be doing this? Qualified adults, that’s who.
Warren, we are adults.
That’s— that’s not good enough for me! You’re all kids to me.
Dude, you’re our age.
Look, I…. they paced back and forth, Fine. Look. I’m not here to scream at you and have you never look at a ghoul again. Even if that’s what I’d rather be doing. But if that was the case… I’d never have brought this stuff.
Alright… so again, what is all this for?
It’s information. Files, documents, surveillance tapes. Almost all the evidence we have about the ghouls in Brightvale. That I have access to, at least.

Sechson’s eyes were wide as he read about attacks, flipped through photos of what looked like corpses sneaking around at the edges of lighted paths, and photos & descriptions of people crystallized, some less fortunate.
This… this is….
Not leaving this friggin room, you got that? If this ends up in a newspaper, it’s gonna be called a hoax, then forgotten in a week. If this winds up at the police station, it’s going to be stored as evidence for a potential trespassing conviction, until somebody important figures out what it actually is, and then it will be incinerated. Either way, it’s useful only to us, and that’s all who’s gonna see it, alright?
Uh… alright.

Rei read over much of the same material, and looked up at Warren, confused, Where…? Where did you get all this stuff? You had this the whole time?
No, I didn’t. Well, some of it, I had, but not much. Where did I get the rest? From some… professional contacts, that I’d rather not disclose. And also Lucine.
Oh. Figures.
Yeah. Sorry if that wasn’t as interesting as, like, me breaking into a facility and stealing files or whatever.
That would have been cool. Where did he get all this, then?
Hey, you know how it is with him. Who fucking knows. Hell, he may have been the one to break in somewhere to steal all this stuff, but… god I hope that’s not what he did. He finds all kinds of weird shit on his stupid demon hunting quest he thinks he’s doing. I couldn’t stop him either. I told him to send me anything ghoul related that he might have. Turns out… it was a lot.

We… we could use this to track them down. Sechson looked up at them.
Yeah. Yeah, I know. Look… I knew that once you all did this, and that none of you got seriously hurt… I knew I’d never be able to stop you. they pointed, and moved their hand back and forth between them, Either of you two. If I said to go home and forget about all this, you’d’ve just done it anyway behind my back. So… instead of wasting everyone’s time trying to stop this cycle of stupidity from starting all over again… delaying the inevitable… I thought I might as well give you the best shot you have.

Now. Warren pointed at Sechson, I know what we, my club, knows about ghouls. I don’t wanna have to repeat myself, so, what do you already know?
Oh, uh, he stammered, not expecting to be put on the spot, Well… they’re uh… undead, but not vampires or ghosts. Even though they have their weaknesses.
Some of their weaknesses. Keep going.
They, uh, usually use magic.
Understatement, but yes.
And they’re, like, not supposed to be natural things. Like, it’s some kind of demonic ritual.
Hmm. Well. Thaumaturgy is involved, but that doesn’t necessarily mean demons are involved. Also, I mentioned this before, but it can happen by accident. What else?
They uh… get hurt by light magic.
That’s… the weaknesses part you already mentioned. Is… that all you knew? Going into this?
Uhh, yeah? What else is there to know?

Warren sighed, God. Damn it. It’s a good thing I’m doing this then. I thought you said you’d been researching this for a while?
To be fair… Rei chimed in, he didn’t have a Lucine to do all his research for him.
Well… yeah. Fine. That being said… that means it’s story time.
Huh? Rei squinted, Story time??
A crash course. I gotta make sure we’re on the same page, here.
Sure, but could you just give him a book or something?
Look, if I had a book full of ghoul facts just laying around, sure, I would’ve given it to him. Hell, that’s kind of what this suitcase is, but it’s not gonna help him if he doesn’t know what they’re capable of.
Rei rolled her eyes, Fine, fine, alright.

Warren turned to Sechson: Okay. So, I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of things being refered to as ghouls. Different names and different cultures.
Mmhm? Sechson nodded.
These ghouls, they gestured at the suitcase again, what we’re talking about, are… a specific thing. Intelligent undead, powered up by some kind of outside energy source to stop their minds and bodies from degenerating. Well, they start out intelligent, anyway. They still need to feed, which is uh, the main issue we’re all having. They can eat the flesh of the living —or once living—, drink blood, and generally suck the life force out of people for themselves. Like vampires, as you mentioned before, but more diverse in what they can eat. They can also crystallize people. They slowly absorb their energy, from a distance, while disabling them. Keeping them alive so that they can continue siphoning energy from them, for long periods of time.
That's what that ghoul did to Kenji.
Mmm. Tried to, yes. Though once they lose their minds, they’ll eat anything, usually preferring things the same species as they used to be. Alive, or dead. Most of these guys are either sorcerers or thaumaturges, or something like that. And yes, Sechson, that means that one energy source they could draw from could be demonic in nature, which, I’m sure you’re excited about. I know Lucine is.
I… see.
The main point that I want to get across, is that… they think like people, because they are people, and that they are smart. They’ve survived for possibly centuries, using magic that isn’t even taught anymore, and usually all by themselves. This really is like hunting down a master vampire, except in all likelihood they’re all going to be like that. And from my… well, Lucine’s research, it looks like there’s a lot of them.

Kenji and Rei skimmed over the papers as Warren spoke to Sechson. Rei raised her hand, and Warren pointed at her.
Hey, so uh… how many do we think are here? And when did this start?
Well… the answer to the first one is a resounding, uh, I don’t know. At the very least five, maybe ten. There’s a helluva lot of them. The second question, I uh, probably have a more satisfying answer to.
That’s good.
A few years ago, a little after the uh, Florin 12 mission splashed back down, there were a massive number of sightings of ghouls around the UMK. The Meridellian peninsula, Roo Island, that area to the northeast. Seemed to come out of nowhere, and then, stopped as suddenly as it started. Well, now we know why it stopped. They all came here, to Brightvale. I don’t know where they came from before Meridell, but something is drawing them here. It’s started to pick up now, I guess, because some of them lagged behind. As far as I know, we think they’re looking for something, but they don’t seem very organized. They’re all acting individually. There’s even some hints that there may have been ghouls here in Brightvale for a really long time, even before that, like… as if this place was a magnet for them or something.

Sechson narrowed his eyes, and looked to the side. Last afternoon was such a blur to him that his memory of it was hazy. There was something he felt like he’d forgotten, and it had started to bother him.

So… Warren continued, all this info, these papers and photos, are here so you can track them down. I’m… I’m letting you do this. Against my better judgement.
…Wow. Rei looked at them, a mixture of dumbfounded and impressed. You’re really…? Gonna let us stop these guys from hurting any more people?
I don’t want to, but, like I said, I can’t stop you. Like I said, I know that if I strictly forbid it, you two’d just go behind my back. There’s not really an option to throw them in jail, they’d starve and lose their minds, or you’d have to feed them, which is another can of worms entirely. Also… there’s one ghoul in particular that I think we should go after first.
Oh really?
Yeah. This guy.

Warren pulled out a document with a picture on it, and handed it to Rei. There was a Gelert on it, his fur so matted and filthy that whatever color it might have been was indistinguishable. There were chunks missing out of his ears & face, and he had scars & pieces missing over every part of his body that could be seen. He wore all black, his clothes ragged and torn. His hair was black and had an unpleasant oily‐ness to it that made it look like the photograph itself was smudged. There was a blank space for a name, but it hadn’t been filled in, and only listed the date the photo was taken: . A little under a month ago.

Wow. Rei frowned, They look like shit. Are we sure they’re not a zombie or something?
Yeah, we’re sure.
Look how messed up they are. Were they in a motorcycle accident or something?

There was a flash of panic in Warren’s eyes.
Kenji saw this, but wasn’t sure why they would react like that, and no one besides Kenji had noticed their reaction to the question.
Warren cleared their throat and composed themselves, Uh, don’t know. That’s not important. My only guess as to why he’s— they cleared their throat, why they’re being so obvious is that he’s drawing attention to himself on purpose. They’re basically just walking around in this one neighborhood, in broad daylight, and climbing into people’s windows at night to crystalize them.
Oh, that’s awful! Rei threw the paper down, and Sechson looked at it.
Are they… wearing modern clothes? Sechson asked Warren.
Yeah. Black jacket, black jean pants. Fashionable about fifteen to twenty years ago. Used to be, uh, probably used to be shiny, but looks all tore up and beat to hell, by now. I don’t know what their deal is, but I guess we’re gonna find out… because I know where they’re gonna be.

The sun had set. The skyscrapers and bright lights of Modern Brightvale shone from the south; the castle brick and dim lights of Historic Brightvale —Brightvale University, where they’d come from— from the southeast. The only other lights left to see by were the pale street lamps and porchlights of small houses. They all stood on one of those porches, underneath a single green colored lightbulb. Kenji and Sechson each wore a magi‐gun on their backs. Kenji saw fit to sling the head of his over his shoulder, held by the handle with just their four fingers. Sechson gripped the handle of his tight and kept it ready, raised up to hip height. Rei knocked on the door. There were sounds of heavy footsteps.

The door opened, and a tall, muscular green Kyrii looked out, Hey. I’m the uh, guy. That called you earlier.
Warren nodded, Right.
The homeowner held out his hand for Warren to shake it, but they ignored him, R— right. the Kyrii put his hand away, Are you ready to uh, spring the trap I guess?
Mmm. I think so. Ready as we’ll ever be on this short of a notice.
The rest of my family is uh, at a friend’s house. Come, come in.

The Kyrii ducked back into the house, and motioned for everyone to follow, which they did. Sechson was the last to enter; he kept an eye on the outside as he turned to walk in backwards, then closed the door behind him.

So… how did you know the ghoul would be at this house? Rei asked.
Well, Warren replied, A lot of this recon stuff… I took care of it before I got to the meeting today. Before I talked to you guys. Lucine knew where they were, approximately, and figured out that they just walk in straight lines until they hit something. And it was on course straight for this house.
The Kyrii shuddered, I’ve heard my neighbors talk about them… a couple just last night was sent to the hospital… and, I also heard, the ghoul was almost hit by a truck, but didn’t even flinch. We’ve tried calling the police, but… they haven’t done anything. They said they’d send out a patrol, but the last time there were around, it was just to pick up some drunk.
We just… want this to be over as soon as possible.
Oh, trust me, we feel the same way. Warren glanced at Sechson and then Rei.
Neither of them noticed the look, nor what the comment was meant to suggest.
Everyone followed the Kyrii up the stairs, and Warren continued: Now… from what I’ve —well, from what my associate has gathered— we know that this guy is extremely predictable. They just do the same things over and over again. They’re gonna go in the upstairs bedroom with the darkest lights, preferably with the TV on. Why, I dunno. They just have a thing, I guess. They somehow paralyze their victims, then crystallize them while they can’t fight back.
Eugh. The Kyrii shuddered, Horrible.
Yeah. Doesn’t sound too exciting to me either. Anyway— we need a decoy of some kind, preferably not an actual person. Mannequin, person‐shaped arrangement of pillows, sex doll, I don’t care, so long as it looks like what they’re used to seeing in a bed. As soon as they try to do their thing, or take off the blankets, everybody jumps out and beats the living shit out of them.

That’s… it? The Kyrii asked, We just attack them?
Well, not you. You can watch from a good safe distance, or, hell, drive off and don’t look back for all I care. We’ve got uh, some potent stuff here, apparently.
Oh… okay.
I mean, you can stay if you wa—
No. No that’s fine. Please. I’ll uh… I’ll get in my car. Thank you all, very much. Be careful. the Kyrii said as they ducked out, slid past them, and back down the stairs.
Oh. I uh… okay. Bye then. …Have a good time. Warren shrugged and turned to Rei, Alright. Well, here’s what we’re gonna do. All y’all hide around, in like, the closet, master bathroom, whatever. Not the bed though, you’re not the bait.
Got it. she replied.
Good. One of you teach Kenji how to use the uh, fuckin, flashlight backpacks or whatever.
Sechson held up the nozzle, It’s called the High Intensity Ma—
Yeah I don’t care. Warren interrupted him.
…Why didn’t you get one?
Hah, no. I’m not putting that thing on. Sorry. I’m gonna be on the roof keeping watch for him, in case he changes direction for… whatever reason, I dunno. Or if you guys need backup. I have… and, I really wish I’d’ve had these yesterday… if I’d known it would come to that… but I have something for you.
Me? Rei asked.
Yeah, all of you.

They ruffled in their jacket for something, then handed it to her. It was a huge, maroon, metal brick. There were knobs and buttons all over it, and an antenna that stuck out of the side, none of which could have fit in Warren’s thin, silver, jacket without a severe bulge. They held two in their hands, These… are what the brains back at my work are calling walkie‐talkies. I’ve set them up already. they lifted one up, and pressed a button on the side, Hold down this button to talk to me. and their voice echoed through the speaker of the other brick. They let go of the button and the echo stopped, Do not hold it down, unless you’re talking to me. then raised the other, and pressed the button on that one. Their voice echoed through all the others, If the button isn’t pressed, I can talk to you. Simple.
Dang, Warren, Rei leaned back, impressed, where were you hiding these?
They handed one to Kenji, Up my ass. It’s none of your business.
That’s… Sechson narrowed his eyes, …that’s military equipment. Advanced military equipment.
They fished another out of their jacket, and tossed it at Sechson, Oh, you recognize it? That’s not suspicious at all. Anyway. Try not to talk on them too much. The battery sucks and it doesn’t have the greatest range, but it’s better than us yelling at each other from across the house. I’ll radio you as soon as I see them, and that’s when I want y’all to get to your places.

Rei and Kenji watched television, as Sechson switched on both of the magi‐guns. The backpacks came to life with a quiet hum that was spoken over by the television.

Heyyyy everybody! said the show host, a tall and skinny grey Kyrii, as he stood on stage. He held a grey metal bucket, and spoke at the camera, Welcome to the Midnight Brew, Neopia! Hope you’re havin a goooood night, burnin that midnight oil! Hahaha.
The audience clapped, as the host heaved the contents of the bucket —many individually wrapped candies— into the crowd. Someone shouted as they were hit in the face off‐camera.
We have some special guest stars on tonight’s show, professor Arjun Bhatt, an expert on mythology! Fascinating, fascinating.
The camera panned over to a grey‐bearded Gnorbu, who sat at a table behind the host. He wore an orange turban, a red & orange suit, and thin colorful scarves under his beard & over his shoulders. He smiled and bowed his head at the camera. The audience clapped.
We also have Amy Dupont, one of the engineers that worked on the Florin 12 mission, to put the first neopians on the moon! Impressive stuff, impressive stuff, give her a big round of applause for me.
The audience applauded again, and the view switched to another camera, backstage, pointed at a chair that looked quite comfortable. A blue Ixi woman with round glasses sat in it. She wore a white suit and held a cup of coffee. She had a pained, almost haunted expression, until she realised that the camera was on her, to which she gave a weak smile and wave.

Kenji looked over the nozzle and lever, So… ano… about the… backpacks… what exactly are these? I think I must have misheard earlier.
Oh! Yeah, I forgot! Rei pulled her attention away from the TV, I never explained it to you! This… is a magi‐gun!
Kenji’s eyes widened, This is a gun?
Yep!! It fires concentrated light magic! Like, tons of it! It got rid of the ghoul in like, a few seconds!
That’s… wow. Uh.
Isn’t that cool?
How does it do that? Kenji looked at Sechson.
Uh, he stammered, It uh…. Well, the… thing… he said, and pointed to the yellow viewport on the back of his own pack, the… thing uh….
The crystal. Rei finished for him.
The crystal. Thank you.
No problem. she smiled and giggled.
The crystal uh, stores light magic inside of it, and when we pull the lever, all of it gets funneled through the uh, hose thing. Sechson pushed the lever on it forward, and a small shine of light came out.
Kenji winced.
Oh, don’t worry! It’s harmless to the living, like us, he clarified, but when it comes into contact with the undead, it purifies them.

Yeah, uh, Warren’s voice came through the walkie‐talkies, with a crackle of static, by purify he means it kills them.
Sechson shook his head, and looked up towards the ceiling, They’re already dead. It returns things to the natural order. They will be judged by a higher power than us.
Rei looked up and raised her eyebrows, You can hear us up there??
Yes, I can hear you. Warren’s voice crackled through the speakers, Through the window, a bit through the roof. They must not have very much insulation. Must sound like a hurricane in there whenever it rains.
Hmm. Alright, I guess. Rei shrugged.
And yeah, Sechson. Warren continued, I’m sure glad you’re so blasé about this, extremely normal attitude to have about fucking killing people, that’s healthy.
They’re not people anymore. Sechson put his hands on his hips.
Kenji whispered, Rei what does B‧la‧sei mean?
I’ll uh… I’ll tell ya later, sorry. Look, Warren, I know you’re trying to do your whole voice of reason thing or whatever, but this is a good thing that we’re doing! The less of these guys running around hurting people and causing chaos, the better!
Whatever. Just be ready, alright. I should be able to see him any minute now.

Yes, yes, that’s fascinating. the host nodded. He and the professor sat across from each other at a table, the chairs diagonal so that they faced the audience and cameras a little.
These deities are normally invisible to us mortals, Arjun said, residing in their own worlds, above and below us. But they are still very close. It is said by practitioners, and by their texts, that if only we were to wrest open our third eyes, then we would see them, and they would know we see them.
I see! Uh, would I want to see them?
Hahaha! Maybe, maybe. It depends, really. A distinction must be made between them, he explained, the Peaceful Deities, and the Fierce Deities. The Peaceful Deities lift us up through wisdom, expressions of calm perception. They tell us: Do not become swept up in wonder.

There was a moment, less than a second, where static interference garbled the signal, and red text flashed on the screen. It was gone, and the show continued as though nothing happened. Kenji blinked a few times, the English text gone too fast for him to read it. He looked around the room. No one else had looked at the TV at that moment except for him. He shook his head and ignored it.

Mmhm. And uh, next spring, you’re coming out with the book version of all this? the host lifted up the book, titled Lessons in Dharma and the Protectors of Enlightenment, by Arjun Bhatt. The view switched to a zoomed in angle of the book. The cover was colorful, and had a picture of a being with many arms dancing upon it.
Oh, yes, yes. It is not finished, what you have here is a rough draft. It will be quite a large book, and many of the pages are beautiful illustrations from my culture.
Oooh, that sounds neat. Is it in color?
Oh, of course. he smiled.
Niiiice, nice.
Thank you.
Ahh, uh, you said there were two kinds, right?
Oh, yes, sorry, I got distracted.
Haha, yeah, sorry, that’s probably my fault. Yes! Continue, please.
Yes. The other kind, that I mentioned, were the Fierce Deities. Which, by the way, he lowered his head and smiled, have much more reliable written documentation, here.
Hahaha, really? the host laughed, and the audience chuckled as well.
Yes. People from here seem to find them more interesting for some reason. To us, they are sometimes known as the krodha‐vighnantaka, the wraithful destroyers of obstacles. There are many to their number. But it is important to remember that fierce does not mean evil, even though they may appear frightening. They are righteous, passionate people, and they are protectors.

Kenji stuffed rolls of towels, pillows, and some laundry underneath the blankets on the bed to look somewhat like a person on their side. He was focused on the task so much that he jumped when the handheld radio crackled again.

Innncomin’. I see ‘em. Get your asses in gear down there. He’s heading for the window.

Rei looked up from the TV, and her expression changed to panic, then excitement. She smiled, and pressed down the talk button on her radio. Roger that.

Sechson grabbed a backpack, and put it on himself, then rushed into the master bathroom. He turned off the light, and left the door ajar just enough to be able to peek through. Kenji wobbled, the backpack a little too heavy for him, as he threw the blankets over the decoy. He turned and walked over to the closet, stuffed himself inside, and closed the door. Rei ran over to the door to the hall, hid behind it, and left it ajar as well to stare into the room.

Nothing happened for a time. There was a sound at the window. Rei watched as a hand rose up outside, from below, and started to push the window upward. Kenji could hear, through the closed closet door, the quiet sound of wood slide against wood. A Gelert in a black jacket pulled himself through the window, his lanky body twisted and scrunched up to come through without a sound. Something about the way he moved made Rei cringe, as though he couldn’t feel pain, or that his joints bent in ways they weren’t supposed to, like some kind of puppet. He almost looked like a spider crawling out of a tiny hole, to her. She shuddered. A purple fog started to appear, and it seemed to come from him— his left hand. She stared at the red glow in his palm. That’s some kind of magic. she thought, I can’t tell what it is though. Doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen before.
Kenji watched as the purple fog started to billow in under the gap between the door and the carpet.

The undead walked over, without stealth. He stared at the blankets, and the shape underneath them. He pulled them back, and a styrofoam wig holder wobbled, a brown wig sliding off of it and onto the floor. He looked at it with a passive, unsurprised expression.

NOW! Rei yelled, and all three doors burst open. Rei raised her hand up, and she began to prepare a powerful fire spell. She thought about it, shook her head, then changed her mind. Fire indoors like this would be pretty irresponsible. she opened her hand again, and began to charge an intense burst of light magic. Sechson pulled on the backpack’s lever, and light began to pour out of it, but the ghoul jumped to the side. Sechson and Kenji turned to look where he’d dashed to, surprised at just how fast he was. Kenji jerked and fiddled with the lever, not familiar with it, and pushed it too hard into the floor. The impact of the light magic against the ground knocked him off balance, onto the carpet, and he landed in the fog.

Rei turned, and threw the spell where the ghoul was, and he rolled onto the ground as the spell shot over his head. He held himself up, low to the ground like a quadruped, as he looked back and forth between the Fæ and the Bori. Sechson let out another blast from his backpack, but as soon as he did, the ghoul picked up a wooden chair and flung it at him, knocking Sechson over. The ghoul looked at their own arm. The part of the jacket that had been exposed to the gun’s light had faded, going a dark grey color, and some of the grime on his hand had burned off.

Kenji got back up. He wobbled, then fell back down. Rei looked over at him. Fog started to fill up the room. She ran over to Kenji, and bent down to pull him up. He was limp; asleep. The ghoul watched them as he began to stand back up. He closed the door to the hall. Sechson stood back up, but he faltered. He blinked, then shook his head, as his vision became clouded. Rei turned back towards the ghoul.

Wait a minute. Rei’s eyes widened, Wait a minute! That’s what the fog does! Guys don’t breathe it in!
The ghoul looked at her as he made his way to the window, and nodded. It works by touch, not breath. It’s already done.
Sechson ran over, switching places with Rei, as she dragged Kenji over to the bed. She tried to put him onto it, but she missed, and Kenji rolled onto the floor. Rei stumbled. Sechson looked over to her, back to the ghoul, and back to Rei. Sechson tried to rush over to her, but the Gelert kicked at his shins, and he fell face first into the fog. He pushed himself back up onto one knee, tried to pull the lever, but fell back down. Rei was already on the floor by the time the ghoul looked over to her.

The Gelert was the only one who still stood. The room had gone quiet, except for the television. He walked over to the nightstand, picked up the remote control, and began to turn the volume all the way down, until there was no sound in the room. He heard something. He looked up towards the door. Heavy footsteps came from the stairs, and soon, down the hall. He didn’t move, as he listened to them approach. The door handle turned, and Warren stepped into the room. They looked around. The fog was thick, by now, so much so that the carpet was no longer visible, but they could still see three shapes down on the floor.

Well. they looked up at the ghoul, What the hell happened in here, huh buddy?

They stared at each other, and waited for each other to make the first move. Warren crossed their arms.

Well? You gonna say somethin? Do somethin?
…I don’t need to.
Hmm. Right. You’re gonna wait for me to fall over, aren’t you. That’s what you’re doing.

They both stood and watched each other. Warren moved their arms, put their thumbs in their pockets, and let their hands rest there.

You’re still awake.
Hmm. This is new. the ghoul looked them over again, It doesn’t work on you. It should work on any kind of organic matter. Why isn’t it working.
So this is… some kind of sleeping gas, then, not paralysis? Okay.
It ought to work on you. I don’t like that. Ghosts don’t like change, new things.
Uh… okay? I mean, you’re not a ghost or anything. Why did you mention that?
He didn’t change his expression, No. I am a ghost. I was dead… but I’m not anymore. That’s what ghosts are.
Uhm… you’re… you’re joking, right? …Do you recognize me? they pointed at themselves, Do you know who I am?
The ghoul blinked, No. Should I?
Uhm. they looked to the side, No. then back to him, You have no idea who I am. Do you rememeber your name at least?
It is only Silence, now.
What? You think you don’t have one?
No. Silence.

Warren tried to suppress a chuckle, but failed, You’re…. Are… are you serious? You decided to change your name to Silence? That is… most goofy teenage shit I’ve heard in years. C’mon, man, you’re like 20! Hell, you’d be what, 40 by now? With how long it’s been? Wait. No, forget I said that. they shook their head, How the hell did you manage to turn yourself into a ghoul? Did your family do this to you?
No. I am a ghost. Don’t talk like that to me.
Whatever. You… you don’t know how you became a ghoul??
I returned, from the land of the dead. The dark, far side. Fallen back from the heavens to the ground. It was… his eyes stared into the wall behind Warren for a moment, as he searched for the right word, disorienting. I don’t remember most of it. It must not matter anymore.
Yeah. That’s what happens to ghouls when they don’t eat for a long time. They forget things. Like who they are, events in their lives. You’re telling me you just fucking forgot how you became a ghoul?
No. I am a ghost. You aren’t listening to me.
This is why you’re doing this, then, to these people… you’re feeding so you can get your memories back.
No. I am a ghost. This is just what I want to do, now. You ought to be respectful to me.
Warren stood, dumbfounded, You’re… uh… you’re not very good at this, are you?
The Gelert frowned, Hey. Fuck you.

He contorted himself downward, and kept his gaze on Warren as he pulled a huge knife from his boot. It was rusted and dull on the flat end, but the side with the edge, the blade, was shining and sharp.

Warren didn’t move, Oh? You think you’re gonna stab me, huh? Good luck with that.
You’ll respect me.
Oh yeah?
You think you can punch a ghost? Idiot. But I can stab you just fine. That means you’re dead.
Wow. Wow, okay. You’re fuckin useless when people are awake, aren’t you?
His eyes got wide, and he gripped the knife tighter, Don’t fucking talk to me like that! his voice was now loud and fevered, Nobody but family talks to me like that!
Uh‐huh? Yeah? What’re you gonna do about it? I can say whatever the hell I want.
Anybody who disrespects me, my family, they get it.
And what happens to them? they gestured at their friends on the floor, After you kill me?
Mm. I dunno. Maybe kill them, if I’m not satisfied with you. Maybe just leave them frozen.
Yeah, alright. That’s not happening. Warren chuckled, but their smile faded, You know I don’t want to do this. But I will if I have to.
Do what? You don’t have your friends to help you. They can’t see you, and they can’t get between us.
Yeah, I know. That’s what I wanted.

Sechson stirred, and he made a small, muffled sound. He’d been woken up by the sound of a combination radio & alarm clock on the nightstand, and it played a familiar song. Warren sat on the end of the bed, as they looked out the window and into the morning light. All the lights in the room were off except the muted television, but it was still bright inside from the incoming sun. The Bori felt weak, but managed to pull himself up. Warren didn’t turn to look at him, even though Sechson expected them to.

Sechson looked around. The entire room looked as though a tornado had blown through. Furniture was knocked over, a couple of broken light bulbs were on the floor, bedding was torn, and there were holes in a couple of the walls. A crystal from inside one of the backpacks had been taken out, and was pale, spent, now an unflattering dark yellow. One of the pointed ends were cracked, and it rested on what looked like a black smudge on the carpet. He looked around, and saw Rei and Kenji —unharmed, he was relieved to see— still where they’d passed out last night. Kenji in particular was far less serene than Rei was, his breathing just a bit more labored than someone asleep ought to be.

He looked up at Warren. It’s… over?
Yeah. I took care of him.
He looked over at the crystal again, and back to Warren.
They didn’t say anything for a moment. After a glance at Sechson, they continued, It was the fog he had. Warren said, but still didn’t turn around, It forces your body to sleep against your will.
I can tell. Sechson nodded.
Thaumaturgy of some kind. Potentially interesting. Lucine is gonna wanna know about that.
He continued to stare at Warren, You’re… fine, though?
Yeah. I had… something over my mouth. I used a uh, small pillow.
Sechson narrowed his eyes, That worked? That’s what happened, then?
Warren turned their head, just enough to side‐eye him. That’s all you need to know. Warren turned back to look at the sunrise, This was my problem, and I took care of it.
Sechson didn’t reply.
Oh, and another thing…. When we all get back to your house… I’m gonna have to talk to you. Specifically. In private. For now, though… don’t worry about it. Just enjoy the morning. It’s a beautiful day on the outside.