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November 14, 2012

Spirit Showdown #5: The Hunter

“I've got a story idea for you.”

I turned toward my brother, barely able to hide the disdain on my face.  “Another one?  What happened to your last idea?  You know, the one that was pretty much Cowboy Bebop?”

“Forget that one.  I’ve got a new idea.”  He folded his arms and smirked, nodding to himself at the thought of his idea’s inherent brilliance (as he often did).  “Okay.  So there are these guys…with cybernetic implants…and they’re all bounty hunters…and…”

I tilted my head.  “You sure love pushing that cybernetic implant angle, don’t you?”  I turned back to the computer screen.  “And I’m pretty sure you’ve already pitched this idea before.  Something about cyber ninjas, or assassins, or whatever.”

“It’s a good idea!  You should write that -- forget about all your other stories and write that one!”

I shook my head.  “I’ll tell you what.  If you can give me a better pitch -- one that’s fully thought out, doesn’t just copy Cowboy Bebop or Outlaw Star or any other anime, and DOESN’T have cyber-ninjas -- then I’ll think about it.  But you’ve gotta put in a little work. Give me something to work with.”

“Oh yeah, I’ll give you something good!”  And to this day, I await that “something good.”

To say that my brother and I have divergent tastes is like saying maple syrup is different from wet cement.  We tend to have clashing worldviews, as expected of two brothers; he’s the cynic to my optimist, the pride to my self-deprecation, the Ken to my Ryu (quite literally, across a number of fighting games).  But the one point that we’ve never seen eye-to-eye on is the concept of ninjas.  He’s always been a fan of them, proclaiming that they’re the ultimate badass warriors; I’ve always put more stock in the samurai, and I’ve gone on record explaining why I have such a strong distaste for ninjas in fiction.  And of course, he’s tried dipping his hands into my stories -- trying to make them nastier, more mature tales full of sword-swinging spectacle, without understanding what made the stories he likes (or stories in general) work.  I assume he’s gotten wiser in the years since his pitches…but then I remember that he bought Resident Evil 6 at full price, and I’m filled with near-lethal amounts of shame and apprehension.

But you know what, bro?  You finally got your wish.  You wanted cyber-ninjas?  Then for once, I’ll indulge you. 

All right, before I get ahead of myself I should start by saying…uh…

…What, again?  That’s twice he’s been late.  Not very good for his record -- that’s a forty-percent tardiness rate.  Oh well; better to have him around to bounce ideas off of.  Let’s see if I can wake him up.


…Huh?  Nothing?  Hold on a second.



Okay, now I’m starting to get a little --

You called?
Hey, hey, hey!  Where have you been? 

Surfing the internet, huh?  I think you’ve been diving a bit too deep recently; don’t you know how dangerous it is out there?  Plus, what if Majora’s Mask got to you?  I’m pretty sure it’s out there causing a ruckus as we speak; if we’re not careful, we just might --

Calm down. 
You’re really eager about interrupting me today.  But seriously, man.  You need to watch yourself out there.  I try to keep things nice and safe here on the blog, but outside of that --

Yeah.  I got it.
And there you go interrupting me again…and you’re so glum about it, too.  Are you THAT opposed to these posts?  Or maybe there’s something else eating at you?

Waaaaaaaaaaaait a second.  This isn’t about a girl, is it?

And if it is, what are you going to do about it?
Guess there’s not much I can do, really.  But if I can lend you some support, I’ll do what I can.  Let it be known that I’m no heartless virtual despot.

I’ll be fine on my own.  Just start talking.
Just remember, I made my offer…

Well, anyway, I guess I’ll get this thing going.  So as you can probably guess, Shino here is a ninja.  But as she’s one of my creations, I’m not content with having her be a ninja and leaving it at that.  Generally speaking, the problem I have with ninjas is the same problem I have with the “stoic badass” archetype.  I’ll recognize that there are people that don’t have issues with them, and that’s fine; it all comes down to a matter of opinion.  But my opinion is that in most cases they’re shallow and boring.  More thought is put into what they can do than why they do it, or what they do afterward.  I can buy a character that’s dedicated to the mission, but I need something more than that.  I (and I’d wager plenty of other people) want a character that reacts to the people and circumstances around them; someone who balances practicality with sentimentality; someone who isn’t just a show of flip-de-loops and boosh-boosh-boosh swords and wings.  What I want is a real man…or woman.  If I wanted to see something that existed just to chop things up, I’d stare at a blender for a few hours.

That’s been my MO for as long as I remember -- for as long as I’ve been campaigning to make some smokin’ sick stories.  And Shino was no exception…although back then, she was a he.

Uh, this is usually the part where you react with something endearingly sarcastic, isn’t it?

…I guess it is, isn’t it?  But somehow, I just can’t summon the energy to react to all your antics.
(He really is out of it, isn’t he?)

Uh…well, anyway, Shino Takeuchi used to be Shingo Kisaragi -- a hapless but otherwise friendly and gentle computer nerd who discovers a virtual world…and with it, a desperate search for the codes that will unleash a fearsome force upon the intertwined real and virtual worlds.  It was a serviceable enough story (in theory), and if I’d stuck with it in its older form it’d probably be something at least respectable.  But somewhere along the line, things started to change.

Well, it’s probably easier to assume that I started to change.  I’m not proud to admit it, but I had a pretty intense “anime phase” at one point in my life -- a period where I thought things like Bleach and Naruto and (of course) Dragonball Z were the greatest things ever, only matched by other anime and manga.  If you’ve seen some of my other stuff, it’s obvious that I’ve taken some hints and lessons from Japanese media -- but in the past few years, I’ve started moving away from them.  When you know a medium or series intimately, you’re more likely to be able to point out the faults…and man oh man, did the stuff I like have a lot of faults.  There are a lot of clichés, and as I started distancing myself from them, I started seeing new possibilities.  (Probably for the best; if I hadn’t, I’d probably be turning everyone into Super Saiyans and making all the girls go “AM I KAWAII UGUU”).

And that’s what I love most about writing -- the endless possibilities.  When you free yourself from conventions and use your head rather than the heads of others, magical things start to happen.  You take a good hard look at your story and go, “Wait, what if things went like this?”  Or maybe “Hold on, maybe if I try this…”  And as you consider those possibilities, and think over them as you get older and (marginally) wiser, you start to realize “No, that won’t work.  I need to switch over to this.”  And then you’re in a better place than you’ve ever been…at least until the next round of changes.

So Cobalt before her, Shino and her story have been through some marked transformations.  It’s partly because I opened my mind to new possibilities, and partly because I was willing to explore them.  And as such, it’s clear what the spirit of Shino -- and her story -- should be…


Feel that?  Like the wind, sweeping over the world -- a force unseen, but forever known!  A gentle breeze that shapes one’s mind, or a tearing gale that carves its way into the hearts and minds of all who dare witness it!  The overwhelming power born from within -- that’s Shino’s spirit!

Wow, you know what?  I kind of like you like this -- silent and letting me be as hammy as I want.  Stay like that; this’ll be a lot more expedient.

Okay…so…next is world-building.  Shino’s a cyber-ninja (so to speak), but that’s a hard claim to make without an understanding of what it means to be a cyber-ninja.  So…

Cripes a la mode, still no objections?  I’m about to go into all-out rambling mode, and you’re not even gonna moan about it?

Let’s just say I feel like being a trooper for once.
I’m not just worried now; I’m scared.

Okay, I’ll confess that I’m not an authority on computers or technology, but I have read a bit from those that are.  Ray Kurzweil’s ideas are particularly interesting -- to put it simply, he suggested that computers are going to continue evolving at a rapid rate every ten years or so (fitting, considering how far we’ve come from, say, 2002’s computers).  But more importantly, he proposed that at one point, the line between a computer’s processing power and a human’s brain power will start to blur…and with it, so will the line between man and machine.  If things continue as they are, there’s a good chance that eventually the difference will start to diminish entirely, because we’ll be “upgrading humanity” with tech that’ll make our lives easier and more efficient. 

To generalize, the cybernetic implants my brother so often peddled may not just be our future; they may be a requirement for functioning in society.

It makes sense, doesn’t it?  I remember back in the fifth grade when just lacking Microsoft Word put me behind the rest of the class; nowadays, work is pretty much synonymous with technology.  And while it’s hard to say exactly what’ll happen in the real world, as a writer it’s my job to offer one possible future…or at the very least, one that’s the most entertaining.  So I thought to myself, “In a world where you can do pretty much anything and everything with a single handheld device, what’s the next possible step?”  And the answer seemed obvious: make the people the computers.

So in Shino’s world -- one just a few decades away from our own -- society has integrated and embraced digital augmentation.  Shortly after birth, each child is given an injection of BiOS (Biomechanical Operation Servoroids), nanomachines that grow and multiply and develop along with the person.  Their presence allows any given Joe to do virtually everything a compute can, without even having to carry around a smartphone.  Access the net, send and receive mail, make calls, listen to music, watch videos and TV shows…all that good stuff.  But it goes further than that.  The world has been thoroughly coated in Data Posts, packets of invisible information that are normally invisible to the naked eye -- BUT, all it takes is a quick scanning glance to reveal a wealth of information.  Advertising, special announcements, even nitty-gritty secrets…combined with the fact that even the average person can (willingly or not) be a walking Data Post means that the world has entered a “New Information Age”.  With advents in human ability and holographic projections and augmented reality, it’s quite possible to find volumes of data just by turning your head.

But that’s not all.  The biggest change to the world is one that can’t be seen or touched -- not physically, at least.  Thanks to the BiOS everyone’s sporting (sometimes jokingly referred to as “spiders”), everyone is potentially hooked up to the internet at any time.  And whenever a person goes to sleep, they’re presented with a choice: get a good night’s rest, or -- more commonly -- dive into Mugen.  No, not that Mugen -- we’re talking about a full-on, multi-layered digital world that people can explore and interact in/with as they wish.  It’s a far cry from the real world, of course, but aesthetics aside it may as well be.  It offers a 1:1 use and reproduction of the senses.  A full three-hundred-sixty degree range of motion.  A sprawling world that only gets bigger every day, thanks to the ease of use and development of the World Wide Web afforded by BiOS.    A sprawling amusement park of a dimension, where you’re just as likely to see jetcars racing through tubes as you are a concert done by a full orchestra in the sky.

But…uh…hey, you sure you don’t wanna interject here?  Like, say something mean and snarky? 

I’m all right.
I would feel better if you did something besides let me talk for six hundred words without interruption.  You haven’t even asked me to sell this character in ten words.

Can’t say I care at this point.
Now that’s more like it -- wait, what am I saying?  Damn it, I don’t even…forget it.  Let’s just stay focused. 

There’s a downside to Mugen.  There are two main levels; The Surface is the place I described just now, a conscious, constructive effort on the behalf of the people.  You can think of it as a direct representation of the internet; a blog created by a guy in Alabama is a blog that appears in Mugen, semi-relative to its location and accessible through several modes of transportation (or just warping there, on occasion.)  But there’s also The Undertow -- a melting pot of data, refuse, and unsolvable equations that create an unpredictable, ever-changing, and lawless virtual plane.   Some willingly venture in, hoping to find Data Posts buried like treasure.  Others use it as a base for their operations, campaigning to spread mischief, notoriety, or (more often than not) crime.  The more common use, of course, is a battleground -- a place to test one’s cyber-skills and try to take command of both territories and Mugen -- and the world, perhaps -- at large. 

For the most part, though, the world’s been at peace.  Cyber-crime is just as real a threat as kidnapping or murder, but there are administrators that police the real and virtual worlds…and thanks to their host of skills, are supremely good at their jobs.  Of course, this being a story (where conflict is pretty much a requirement), trouble starts to arise.

Over something important, I hope.
You know it.  A major idea in the story is “knowing the unknowable” -- and it’s that idea that drives dozens of characters to action.  In spite of the connected and data-saturated future, there is supposedly a certain bit of data that remains unseen by all but a chosen few.  What it entails, no one knows; some say it holds the key to an immense fortune.  Others say it bestows limitless power upon its owner.  Still others suggest it holds the meaning of life.  Whatever the case, people from all over the world campaign to make it their own…but in that search, focus is gained, and the nature of that data becomes increasingly clear.

It exists to answer a certain question: “What is White Gene?”

White Gene, huh?  And I’m guessing it’s the one with all the answers?  Whatever it may be?
Pretty astute of you.  Nobody knows what White Gene is, but they’re going to find out, and reap the benefits therein.  Except the search itself is horrifically perilous; ignoring the fact that it’s causing spikes in crime, revelations of conspiracies and syndicate operations, and fights ranging from streetwide skirmishes to all-out warfare, White Gene seems linked to the “Berserk Virus”.  It’s exactly what it sounds like; those inflicted by it fly into murderous rages, immune to reason and slowly corrupted into nightmarish forms…that is, until they overheat and fall apart.  To say nothing of other people losing their minds and reduced to ranting puppets who tag every wall they come across.

It’s worth noting that if you die in Mugen, you don’t die in real life; you just get jettisoned back to the real world, as if it was all a dream.  At least, that WAS the case -- people are dying in Mugen, and their real bodies are left as comatose husks…if that.

It seems like a search that’s worth the risks.
So you’d risk getting caught up in a globe-spanning conspiracy, virtual wars, insanity, and dying just to find something that may or may not be beneficial?

Wouldn’t you?
I would have figured that my question would give my answer, but I guess not.

You just need to consider the possibilities.
Oh ho…I see what you did there.

But in any case, this is right around the point where Shino starts making her presence known in the story.   Not much is known about her at the outset, and any attempts to scan her don’t reveal anything but the simplest data.  She just drifts into the countryside town of Two Sparrows one day -- almost on a whim -- and thanks to the prodding of a few townsfolk, she ends up staying with a couple of guys and setting up a “base of operations.”  Two Sparrows may be tucked away, but as long as she has Mugen, she doesn’t need much else -- mostly because that’s where she’s the most dangerous.

When she’s in the real world, she’s a nobody.  But online, she’s deadly…hmmm…
Well, to be fair, Shino’s more than talented when it comes to technology; she’s made a pretty penny doing repairs and such, and her intelligence is almost staggering.  But when she’s in Mugen, she’s a cyber-ninja of the highest caliber; she’s not just a worthy member of the “Speed Trio”, but with her two in-universe partners she’s the leader, the aggressor, and the most dangerous among them...just like a certain fiery green-clad troublemaker.

It’s pretty common for Mugen-users to have access to a few unique abilities, but refining them and turning them into something fantastic is something that most people are barely aware of (and are too lazy to bother trying).  But Shino’s different.  She’s “cracked the code” on combat, and as such can move faster and with more agility than a huge percent of the population.  She’s got a multitude of weapons -- a shortsword, kunai, caltrops, knuckledusters, and a giant shuriken just for kicks -- and has the foresight and skill needed to use all of them, often in rapid conjunction with one another.  By moving her hands into certain positions, she can execute commands that let her shoot fire, call down lightning strikes, and (her go-to ability) summon some serious wind storms.  She can cling to walls, zip around and across them, rappel to greater heights, leap and flip and dash, and even alter the environment with some quick hacking.  Abilities you’d expect of any ninja worth her salt.

But what sets Shino apart from other ninjas -- and I use that term lightly, given the precedent -- is that Shino actually acts like a ninja.  She gets to show off a bit, sure, but she is NOT the type of character designed to create laser-born explosions and gain new power-ups every other month.  She actually uses stealth, both in battle and outside it (especially outside it; she’s out for data, so she’ll rely on espionage more than anything else).  Rather than brute force or the ability to shrug off enemy attacks, Shino relies on skill and tactics.  Her defensive power is low, and her attack power isn’t much higher -- but she’s quick and can outwit enemies with ease, confusing them with a wide array of weapons, ninja magic, and tactics.  Simply put, she’s a character that relies on mix-ups.  And stealth.  Especially stealth; you can’t hit what you can’t see.   

It’s made readily apparent that in terms of skill, Shino’s a cut above the average would-be-fighter.  But there’s an ability that the upper-tiers of “online warriors” share: under the right circumstances, they can rip the data right out of you.  Information, thoughts, plans of attack, even memories -- if one of them manages to shake you up enough, you’ll be left vulnerable to a data-stealing offense.  If you lose your cool, your data can be stolen.  Take a beating in a fight, and your data can be stolen.  Get pinned against a wall, or have one bad day, or anything to throw you off your equilibrium, and you can bet that you’re at risk of losing some very precious information.  And yes, this rule applies to Shino as well.  Who do you think is on the receiving end?

(This is a hard post to make without any feedback -- positive or negative.) 

Hey, did you know Shino’s hair is made out of noodles?

No it isn’t.
…I know.  I was just trying to impress you.

Did it…did it work?

(Guess I should try and save face.  Let’s see how responds to some meatier details.)

I started off this thing by mentioning that in this character’s first incarnation, she (or he, at the time) was a nice guy -- far from badass material, but still a good friend to have around.  That is no longer the case.  Shino is unbelievably taciturn; she’s content with giving people uninterested stares for most conversations, and tending to machines and data.  Her speech pattern is terse and curt, and you’re lucky to get any more than a handful of rushed, monotone words out of her…and even luckier to get anything out of her that isn’t an insult or nonchalant trolling.  In spite of that, she’s still a decent (enough) person deep down, and makes for a good house guest on a semi-regular basis.

But while Shino may seem like a stoic at first glance, she’s far from it.  Remember, just because a character doesn’t speak or act out doesn’t mean that they’ve got nothing going on in their heads.  Shino is no exception; she has a cold air about her and an unfriendly manner of speech (and even feigns a lack of English knowledge at one point, just because), but throughout the story you get to hear Shino’s thoughts -- and ONLY Shino’s thoughts -- parallel to what’s happening in the midst of a scene.  So while one character’s talking to her, she’ll go like

[N.O._Bee: this guy has a hard time reading a situation; if he’s not careful, he may end up missing all the signals -- and we’ll be in trouble because of it]

And she can say something completely different in the same space.  Over time, though, Shino’s character development will have her speech pattern match her thinking pattern; she gives up the taciturn trolling bit because the people that surround her are so weird and prone to calamity that they practically troll themselves…and she grows fond of them.  (She’ll still go terse pretty frequently, though, especially when she’s annoyed -- or when she’s talking to someone she doesn’t respect.)

So she’s transformed by the people around her.
Well, yes and no.  As a highly-credible nerd, I’m all too aware of that well-worn character arc -- a cold and grim loner warms up to the people around her and she learns the power of friendship.  That’s a part of her adventure, but not the reason behind it; she’s an analyzer.  She’s out for data, in whatever form it may take -- and in addition to that, she’s a protector of data.  Information is something precious to her, driving her to gather it and observe it, and allow others to do the same.  She has a very practical view of life, you see; she believes in a certain order that the world should conform to, and as such moves out to defend it.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in one of Shino’s core abilities: she can see how much time people have left before they die.  Normally she sees their “Death Clocks” and knows it’s just their time ticking down; more recently, she sees their Clocks twisting and corrupting.  And with it, she knows that some upcoming event is about to take their lives early -- undoubtedly, as a result of a venture in Mugen.  Two Sparrows is as much of a home base for reversing the corrupted Clocks as it is an epicenter; something or someone is causing the disruption, and she’s determined to find out what.

Will she succeed?  She does most of the time -- but not always.  And as those failures start mounting up and people start losing their lives (in both the real and virtual worlds), suddenly she finds herself burdened with guilt and responsibility.  Acting like an ice queen starts to seem inappropriate when people’s deaths are in your hands…and of course, you’re being housed by a pair of goofballs.  One of whom loses his girlfriend because of your screw-up.

But in spite of that, there are certain difficulties that Shino has to face because she opens herself to these people.  For one thing, their Death Clocks continuously fluctuate, as do those of the people she meets soon after.  While she helps them out (and gives them the training needed to start getting as skilled as her), there’s still a lot of pressure on her because she can do things they can’t.  For another thing, she knows there’s an inherent divide between herself and others.  Inevitably, the people around her get roped into the search for the unknowable truth -- White Gene, whatever it may entail -- but that’s the one bit of data Shino has no interest in.  Along with a handful of others, Shino knows exactly what White Gene really is, and she knows what a disaster it’d be if more people did.  It reaches a point where she actively has to lead others off the trail…but doing so regularly whittles away the time left on their Clocks.  It gets to a point where she has to create schedules and algorithms just to keep up with which action affects which person.

Another failure, then.
That’s a little harsh, don’t you think?  Besides, I think it’s pretty praise-worthy to see someone willing to go through so much trouble to protect an increasingly-large network of friends and allies.

But will it help her in the long run?  It seems like a lot of work with no payoff.
Well if that’s how you feel, what would you do instead?

…Something else.
(That’s a surprisingly tame answer…but I guess I’d better not press him on it for now.)

There’s one more thing about Shino that’s worth mentioning: over the course of the story, she starts to fall in love.  Or at least some facsimile of love; as the days pass, she starts becoming more and more fascinated by Jenny -- a point-for-point foil to Shino’s cool nature.  Hot-blooded, always speaking her mind, and consistently getting into trouble, Jenny campaigns day and night to try and figure out what White Gene is, for no other reason than to know the unknowable.  But Shino can’t fault her for it; in fact, it’s her zest for life that pushes Shino to broaden her horizons, and consider things in ways that she hadn’t before.  Shino may have petabytes of knowledge and skill and intelligence, but there are gaps in her life experience that are only now being filled…and because of it, she becomes appreciative of Jenny’s mere presence.

And then something bad happens to Jenny.  Something really bad.  Something that turns them from friends and allies into bitter rivals…and undeniably, enemies.

And then it gets worse.

It always does.

Yeah…hey, stop agreeing with me, damn it!  That’s not how our routine is supposed to go!  Ugh, forget it.  Moving on.  We’re moving on!

Like I said before, Shino knows what White Gene is.  So do a handful of others.  But there are two threads that bind that group together.  The first is that they know a secret that, while tied to White Gene, is even greater in scope and effect on the people than that unknowable truth.  They know exactly what could happen if that knowledge became widespread -- and as such, you can think of them as damage control.  Their mission is to find and eliminate a certain target (in this case, the story’s villain and mastermind behind the fearsome events)…though for whom is a mystery that I’ll keep to myself for now. 

The second thread is that they were chosen to act on their employer’s behalf not just because of their incredible skill (though that’s definitely a part of it), but because they share a similar mindset.  Collectively, they’re known as the “NG Girls” -- a quintet of web-based warrior women who each take issue with the nature of the world.  One of them sees the world as “frightening.”  Another one, “embarrassing.”  As for Shino?  She sees the world as “boring.”

In her eyes, it doesn’t matter what any given person has to offer, or what day-to-day events comprise a person’s life.  All of them are boring -- just a string of happenings that are ultimately unfulfilling and not nearly as unique as a person would claim.  In a nutshell, she’s willing to write off humanity, and find solace not in people but in the wealth of information they leave in every corner on the planet.  She has her reasons for thinking this way, of course, and she does ultimately start to see the flaws in her reasoning -- but for a long time, her view of the world (just like the other NG Girls) is one that refuses to budge.

And then the story happens.  Shino’s worldview is tested and challenged not by a slew of diatribes and debates, but by the day-to-day experiences she once scoffed at.  Botching an hour’s worth of cooking.  Running the track and refusing to get last place.  Going out with her roommates to sing (and discovering she’s a natural at it).  Little by little, she understands the zest for life that Jenny embodies.

But more importantly, she starts to realize the possibilities that stand tall around her, and throughout the world itself.  The gaps in her knowledge are filled in, both by the joys and the hardships she encounters over the course of her story; as she explores new possibilities, she becomes a stronger person, and wiser to boot.  The knowledge she holds dear and exemplifies doesn’t just come from data alone well before the story’s end; they’re coming from sources that she never would have expected, daring her to try new things.  Think beyond her limits.  Go wild.  Take those lessons to heart, and try to teach them to others.  Shino already knows one unknowable truth -- but her adventure is about learning about the dozens of other truths that we may take for granted, and accepting them with open arms.

What Shino learns and gains (and loses) isn’t enough to suddenly make everything better, or stop the destructive search for White Gene.  People all over campaign to claim the truth for their own, and stopping that is like trying to steal their free will.  But Shino’s story is just as much a story of personal growth as it is about protecting the people and stopping the villain.  In her basic, prior-to-story state she’s not much better than a sellsword; she’s only helping others for her own gain, and to suit the parameters of her worldview.  But well before the story’s end, she’s fighting for something more important.  She’s not just fighting with her head, but with her heart -- and the power she gains from it makes her a true spectacle.  But most of all, it makes her a true hero.

Flowery as always, I see.
Yeah, I guess it’s a bad habit of…wait.  Who are you?  And where’s --?

Oh, you didn’t notice?  He left a long time ago.  You really should pay more attention; he slipped away just seconds after you started your next round of boasting.  My, I’m starting to wonder if that humility of yours is a sincere effort, or just a ploy at cheap endearment. 
Wait a second…there’s only one guy I know who’d try and screw with me mere seconds after making an appearance.

Very perceptive, I see.  And more than a little refreshing; if you know who I am, I’ll spare you of a long introduction.  You’ll be providing that soon enough, I presume?
It’s not a “Spirit Showdown” unless everybody gets to show up.  Even you.

Is that a bit of hostility I detect?  I suppose you aren’t quite the host I expected you to be.  No grace, no class, no hope…hardly a recipe for success.  But I believe you owe me a few things; I’m more than a bit eager to hear that theme song you’ve selected for us today.
Of course.  Here you go.

But that aside, what are you doing here?  Breaking the fourth wall?  I just fixed that, you know.  And besides, I would’ve figured you had your own affairs to attend to.  You don’t have much of a reason to bother me now, do you?

As a matter of fact, I do.  I’ve been watching you for a fair amount of time, you see -- long enough to know that you’ve set a dangerous event into motion.  I’m here to counteract that, as swiftly and as thoroughly as I can before you meet any harm…oh, and before any others meet harm as well.  Silly me; I always forget to take the safety and well-being of others into consideration.
What do you mean?  Does this have something to do with --?

With him?  Of course it does -- and it’s likely that his very presence could unravel all that you know.  If you wish to stop it, you’d best get a move-on.
What do I have to do?  And just what am I up against?

I’ll gladly tell you…IF you manage to entertain me.
You’re making me jump through hoops?

It seems like a fair punishment, o brave and noble blogger.  Surely you deserve a taste of what you’ve put countless readers through.  Don’t you agree?

Be sure to make my debut nice and interesting, all right?  Because if you don’t…I can’t promise you’ll receive any sympathy.  Though I suppose there won’t be enough left of you to raise an objection.


  1. Off topic: That KH pic just creeps me out.

  2. Nothing wrong with a little love between a fifteen-year-old boy and a pair of forty-ish anthropomorphic animals from a dimension whose technology is powered by smiles.