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Maybe A Light Spark in Darkness
Feline Worker icon.png
Bean the Infected
RI Operator icon.png
Bitter Root
Feline Worker icon.png
Male Old Kuranta A icon.png
James the Worker
Dossoles Thug B icon.png
Loud-Mouthed Man
Male Kuranta B icon.png
Stone the Infected
Exhausted Woman
Guards Member
Green Spark
Victoria Streets
Village Outskirts
Victoria Streets Night
Susie, an Infected, works at the shop "Green Spark" in the Victorian town of Caladon. Just as her dreams are about to come true, an accident extinguishes all her hope.
Background-Victoria Streets Night.png
The rumble of the Originium boilers has yet to cease. Thick plumes of smog gush out of the towering chimneys.
The workmen take off their worn-out protective gear and hand it off to the next shift.
The day is nearing its end here in Caladon.
<Background 1>
November 16th, 1097, 9:50 P.M.
[A young Feline is looking after the pub.]
Nine in the evening is when the Infected factory nearby changes shifts.
Many of the workmen choose to kill time by paying Miss Quercus's shop a visit.
There is not much the shop has to offer to its patrons.
A crude fried fin cutlet, a bowl of tasteless potato soup, and a mug of fruit-wine-flavored water.
And yet, the shop has garnered a few regulars.
[An Infected worker and a non-Infected worker have a toast.]
James the Worker Cheers!
Stone the Infected Cheers!
James the Worker Hahahaha! Here's to Brande!
Stone the Infected Hey, Sparky! Another pint!
Susie Here you go. Your fruit wine.
So what's going on? Why's everybody so cheery?
James the Worker Mr. Brande just gave us all a bonus along with our payslips for the month!
Stone the Infected They say it's a bonus, but it's just a hundred pence.
And considering they work us to the bone, that's the least they could owe us.
You sure you should be here at this hour, though? Might get a beating from the missus?
James the Worker Jog on! I'm the king of the castle! She wouldn't dare!
Stone the Infected Alright. Here's to the king of the castle!
James the Worker Cheers!
Hey, Sparky! Another pint!
Susie Hahaha... Mr. James, you really should watch your drink, though. We wouldn't want to upset Mrs. James.
Stone the Infected Sparky, I heard from your boss you've got something stronger than this piss?
Get us some of that!
Susie Not! Happening!
Remember what Miss Quercus told you. Strong drink is bad for your condition!
You need to take better care of yourself, Stone.
Stone the Infected Come on, what's the problem?
This disease is a death sentence. Might as well get a taste of the hard stuff before we cark...
Susie Don't say that!
The doctors in the city told us! Oripathy progresses differently depending on the patient's physical condition!
Stone the Infected Lighten up, I'm just...
Susie Stone!
Stone the Infected Um... Yeah?
Susie Take care of yourself and live life to the fullest! Stop saying that word all the time!
Stone the Infected Er... Sorry?
James the Worker Look at you. You got Sparky upset.
Stone the Infected *Sigh*, I didn't mean to...
[Bitter Root, a Rhodes Island personnel, enters the pub.]
Bitter Root Huh? Looks like we've got quite a crowd here today.
Susie Good evening, Mr. Root!
Stone the Infected Oi, if it isn't Bitter Root! Come on, come on! Let's drink!
[Bitter Root joins in the workers and Susie.]
Bitter Root Huh? Something to celebrate today?
Caladon's Infected community is home to many a peculiar man, and Bitter Root counts among them.
Mr. Root works for an organization called Rhodes Island. He's a "professional" hired by the lords of the city council.
But the way Rhodes Island treats the Infected boggles the mind.
"Rhodes Island will assist the Caladon City Council and provide medical assistance to all Infected," said their public address.
Why would anyone willingly help the Infected... especially when they're not even from here?
James the Worker How's work today, Bitt? T'ain't often you get the free time to come for a drink.
Bitter Root It's fine. We hired a few extra pair of hands. Things calmed down quite a bit, thanks to them.
James the Worker Eh? Is it that good working for Rhodes Island? Do they pay well?
Bitter Root What of it? You interested?
James the Worker Nah, forget I said anything. I can't even read... I'd just be making a fool of myself.
At first, no one in the Infected community trusted them. There were even rumors that they were here to take the late-stage Infected away for experiments.
But Rhodes Island proved themselves with their actions. They really are here to help.
Be it a regular Oripathy infection checkup, acute Oripathy attack treatment, or even just a normal workplace injury, you just walk into their clinic, and they'll help you.
Even right here, right now, there are those who have doubts about Rhodes Island's true motives. But at the very least, all of the pub's regulars trust them.
Bitter Root By the way, Jim, I saw your wife on my way here.
James the Worker What? What?? You sure?! Oh, bugger...
Er... You carry on with the drinks. I... I just remembered I've got a few errands to run. See you around!
Stone the Infected Hahaha, there goes our "king of the castle!"
James the Worker Yeah, yeah, off I go. We'll do this another time.
Susie Be safe on your way home, Mr. James.
Unlike most of the people in the establishment, Mr. James is not Infected.
In Caladon, it isn't uncommon to find non-Infected working in the Infected community.
Ever since the "New Caladon Infected Act" came into place, a lot of the unemployed poor have been risking themselves working in the Infected factories.
A great majority of them leave the Infected community as soon as they get off work. They also avoid coming into direct contact with the Infected during working hours.
That's understandable. All of us Infected have gotten used to the attitude, and no one blames the non-Infected workmen for it.
Though, still, there are people like Mr. James.
Stone the Infected *Sigh*. There goes my drinking buddy.
Come on, Bean, stop spacing out over there. Have a few pints with me.
Bean the Infected Quiet down. I'm reading the newspaper.
Stone the Infected What's the headlines?
Bean the Infected It's all been big news the last couple of days! The whole town's talking about it. Don't tell me you haven't heard!
Bitter Root The new bill, is it? That's some big news, indeed.
Stone the Infected What new bill?
Bean the Infected The one that's going to improve how us Infected workers are treated! Do you ever do anything except drink? This bill's going to be massive for all of us!
Stone the Infected Peh, and here I thought it was something that actually mattered.
You're naive, you know? I gave up on that hokum long ago.
Bean the Infected What, you don't want them to start treating us better?
Stone the Infected You think the lords actually care about us Infected? On your bike!
I guarantee you, this bill thing's bound to fail. It'll be unanimous, even. And then it'll be like nothing ever happened.
They're doing this just for show, I tell you.
Bean the Infected Aha! Too bad, then! You're wrong.
The bill didn't pass, but it didn't fail either.
It was a tie. The final decision's going to have to wait till next time.
Stone the Infected I'm still not buying it. It won't pass. What does the paper say, though? What's in that bill, specifically?
Bean the Infected One second. Let's see... I remember some bits and pieces of it back when they announced it.
Oh, take a look. It says here that Infected workers cannot work more than fifteen hours a day, that the factories have to give the Infected the same kinds of Originium protective equipment as non-Infected...
Stone the Infected Pfft. Don't make me laugh.
There's a snowball's chance that's true. What's that saying again? There's no pies in the sky?
What would you outlanders even know? Me, I'm a born-and-bred Caladonian. I've seen how they do things my whole life. No one knows the nobles how I do.
You're still counting on those stingy tosspots to do anything for you out of their pockets? Dream on.
Bean the Infected *Sigh*... You want to at least hold out some hope... Keep a positive outlook on things.
Bitter Root There's no need to be so negative. Who could've thought ten years ago that they'd pass that New Caladonian Infected Act, right?
Stone the Infected Now that, that's apples to oranges.
Us Infected can work their factories, and the heads only have to pay us half the money. They get to pocket the other half! Of course they passed that bill!
Bean the Infected That's true. Oftentimes, they don't even pay us with cash, just Wage Tickets.
Bitter Root Things take time. I think you could be more optimistic about this.
Keep in mind that Caladon willingly accepts Infected from all the cities out there, and even offers work. You don't see that anywhere else in Victoria.
Bean the Infected I heard from some of the foremen these policies are... what... "Columbian-style?"
Are all the Columbian cities like this?
Bitter Root Well... It's complicated. There's a tiny bit of difference.
Stone the Infected Whatever, time for a new topic. Any other news?
Bean the Infected Let's see...
"Terror in Caladon! Loud Roars Heard Underground at Night!"
And then... "Possible Infected Smuggling Activity Spotted in Abandoned Districts in Caladon Outskirts."
Then there's also this... "Public Safety in Jeopardy, Convicts and Wanted Criminals Have Infiltrated the Infected Community."
Susie Why are all the headlines like that?
Stone the Infected That's the "Caladon Daily" and their rubbish reporting for you. They love their terrorizing headlines, and they take care to add the word "Infected" in there. Just talking about those hack journos makes me want to puke.
Bitter Root It's true, but you should still be careful, Susie. Caladon hasn't been all that safe lately.
Susie Hahaha... I'll watch out. Thanks.
<Background 2>
November 17th, 1097, 8:40 A.M.
[Susie is given some cooking materials by a man.]
Susie Fin fillets, potatoes, green onions... I guess that's about it?
Oh, and the pepper, too!
I just have to deliver these to Mr. Kells, right?
Citizen Yes, please.
Susie On my way!
<Background fades out and in>
Protester Foreigners go home!
Out with the Infected! This is our home!!
[A Perro man is leading the protesters...]
Loud-Mouthed Man Out with the Infected!
It's the Infected's fault us porters lost all our jobs!
[ Susie watches.]
It's not uncommon to find people protesting the Infected community here in Caladon.
When the city council passed the New Caladonian Infected Act four years ago, a large group of Infected migrated to the city for work all at once.
But the hostility between the non-Infected and the Infected didn't improve.
Loud-Mouthed Man Hey, you! The Infected there! Get over here!
Susie I-I'm just walking past...
Loud-Mouthed Man What's that you're holding? Eh?
Susie It's just...
Loud-Mouthed Man What's that in your basket! Let me see it!
Susie These are items I'm delivering to a customer!
Loud-Mouthed Man Shouldn't your lot be working in the factories right now? What are you wandering around here for?!
Susie It's part of my job to deliver things too...
Loud-Mouthed Man Who said you could talk back?!
[The Perro agitator hits Susie...]
Susie Urgh...
[ electric sparks come out from her.]
Susie (Ouch...)
Spark... Arts...
(Bear with it, Susie... Don't fight back...)
(This isn't the first time something like this has happened...)
Loud-Mouthed Man What gives you Infected the right to walk the streets in broad daylight anyway?
It's all your fault the air here has gotten so polluted!
Bunch of pests! Go back to the sewers, where you belong!
Susie (But you're the one who came to the Infected community...)
Loud-Mouthed Man What? What are you looking at me for? Looking for a fight?!
[The agitator beats Susie down until the arrival of an Ursine man interrupted him.]
Red That's enough, mister. Let's not overdo it.
Loud-Mouthed Man And who are you?
The tall, masked man helps the Feline girl up and turns around to face the thug.
Red There's no reason to lay hands on an unarmed lady now. It's not a very honorable thing to do, wouldn't you agree?
Loud-Mouthed Man What? She's just an Infected!
And what's with you? Trying to be a hero?
Well? If you want some, come and get it!
Red ......
Loud-Mouthed Man Coward.
[The agitator attacks Red, the Ursine man.]
Susie Mr. Red!
Red Hmph.
I'm afraid I don't have what it takes to offend you, kind sir.
Though before you continue, I should inform you that I have Originium crystals on my face, and your punch landed right on one.
Loud-Mouthed Man W-What...?
Red Oh, sir, this isn't good. Look, I'm bleeding out of my mouth, and your hand is injured.
Loud-Mouthed Man What?! But...!
Protester Hurry! To the hospital! You can still make it!
Loud-Mouthed Man Damn you, Ursus! You'd better watch your back! You'll regret this!
Protester Enough now! Get to the hospital!
[The protesters disperse and leave.]
Susie Um, thanks... Mr. Red.
A-Are you okay?
Red Don't worry about me. I'm used to taking a beating.
I could ask you the same. Look at your face. It's all swollen.
Susie I-I'm okay... I'll put some ice on it when I get home.
Red There've been more anti-Infected protests here lately. You should avoid this area on your way back.
Where are you headed? I'll go with you.
Susie Thanks, but don't you have work? I wouldn't want to be a bother...
Red Don't worry yourself. I have errands in the area too.
Mr. Red works at a nearby factory, and he visits the shop sometimes.
He may be from Ursus, but he doesn't like to drink. He prefers to read a book in the shop all by himself.
The other workers seem to really respect him. They all call him "the bossman".
Susie But... Mr. Red, is that man really going to catch Oripathy?
Red Of course not. You don't just get infected like that. I was only scaring him.
Oripathy can spread through blood, but he only had some minor scrapes.
It's pretty effective as a bluff, though.
Susie Hahaha, I see.
<Background 1>
James the Worker Those bastards... What a lot of utter scumbags!
Laying hands on a young lady? Have they no shame?
Susie Don't get yourself all worked up. I'm okay.
Grani So they ran off after they hit you? Did you see where they went?
Red They ran north, so my guess is they headed to the Boil.
Grani The Boil, eh? It won't be easy to find them, then.
In any case, I'll make a note. They've been fairly short staffed at the Guards lately.
Does your face still hurt? Need me to massage it a bit?
Susie Haha... It's okay. Don't worry about me, Officer Grani.
Grani It's true how Caladon hasn't been that safe lately... but I didn't expect you to get attacked, Susie.
Officer Grani isn't with the local Caladon Guards. She's a Mounted Police officer temporarily loaned to the local guards and assigned to the Infected community.
Of course, the Caladon Guards aren't very interested in keeping the Infected safe. This "short staffed" business seems to be an excuse, too.
Which makes Officer Grani one of very few local law enforcement officers willing to help the Infected.
Though just the few of them alone... can't solve all of the community's safety problems.
Grani No loss of property... and that's filed. This is all I can do for you right now.
I'm off now. Come find me if there's any more trouble.
Susie Thank you, Officer Grani.
Stone the Infected The idiots better hope I don't find them first.
Red What if you do find them?
Stone the Infected I'll beat the life out of them!
Red Think, Stone. The moment you lay a finger, everyone around will start screaming and making a fuss.
Then, the next morning, the front page of "Caladon Daily" will read "Infected Batters Innocent Citizen, Security Problems Worse by the Day."
Stone the Infected Well...
Red And I remember that rotten boy and his loud mouth.
A month ago, he was protesting the crowd in overalls, complaining how the factory he worked at was shut down because of the Infected.
Two months ago, he protested with the hawkers and said the Infected stole his merchandise.
So what is he today?
Susie I think he said he was a "porter"?
Stone the Infected What in the world!
Bean the Infected Sounds like something the gangs of the Boil would do. He was probably hired. Now which lord did we offend again?
Red The Infected community's always been a thorn in the side of certain people. As long as the councilors who support the new bill aren't in the majority, these things will keep happening.
We'd better keep our eyes peeled.
Stone the Infected This prick, though... Forget Susie. He even tried to fight you, bossman, and how dare he!
Red Alright, enough. Your pint's getting lonely.
James the Worker *Sigh*... How am I supposed to drink, knowing our little Sparky got harassed?
Susie Hahaha, you're just exaggerating.
Bean the Infected Sparky, take this.
Susie Huh? What is it?
Bean the Infected It's an ointment that helps reduce swelling. Anywhere it hurts, just rub some on there after you wash your face tonight.
Stone the Infected Huh? Now how come you're not giving me some of that?
Bean the Infected This is from Yan! You know how expensive it is? Besides, look how rough you are! What do you need it for?!
Susie Oh... If it's that expensive, I can't take it.
Bean the Infected No, do. Best not work a pub with a swollen face.
Susie Hahaha... This isn't exactly a pub, though...
Thanks, Mr. Bean.
In that case, your drinks are on the house tonight.
Stone the Infected Now that's what I'm talking about!
<Flashback starts here>
<Background 3>
[Susie is talking with her exhausted mother.]
Exhausted Woman Susie, are you sure you have to go?
Susie Yes, Mum... Staying here... isn't going to do any of us any good.
Exhausted Woman No, Susie, listen to me... I found another job this month. Don't worry about the medicine. We'll figure something out!
Susie Please don't... I can't be a burden on the family anymore, not when my baby brother and sister still have school. And when my big brothers are all still healthy.
Exhausted Woman I can't let my daughter go to another city alone!
Susie Don't worry about me. I heard how the Infected working in Caladon get medicine as part of their pay.
Exhausted Woman I'm sorry... It's all my fault, Susie... I'm so sorry.
Susie I'll take care of myself. Don't worry, Mum.
<Flashback ends here>
<Background 1>
November 18th, 1097, 9:20 A.M.
Every now and then, I dream of my family.
I was born in Boschendal, a small town at the northern edge of Victoria.
When I was little, back when my father was still alive, he would take our whole family out to picnics.
When you're up on Mount Shay, gazing out into the distance, you can even see the vast Kazimierzian Plains.
It's been five years since the last time I went home, but my mother still sends me letters.
My family's situation has taken a turn for the better since I left. It was difficult to pay all the expenses an Infected needs with just my mother and my brothers' income.
They're living a better life, and that's more than enough for me.
[Someone opens the door...]
Susie Welcome!
[...who turned out to be Quercus, Susie's employer.]
Quercus Look who's here!
Susie Huh? Hi, boss!
Quercus Li'l~ Susie~
Quercus Let me give your ears a good rub!
Susie Hahaha... boss... that tickles!
Quercus Boss again? Come on, don't be such a stranger!
Susie Hahaha... Miss Quercus.
Quercus Hm?
Susie Quercus...
Quercus That's more like it!
Quercus is a free-spirit, and also the owner of the shop.
Although most people here treat it like a pub, it's actually Quercus's arboretum and lighting shop.
Many have asked us why she would open such a shop in the Infected community.
And her answer has always been a very simple one.
<Flashback starts here>
<Background fades out>
Quercus Why open a lighting shop?
Because I want to.
<Flashback ends here>
<Background fades in>
That said, Quercus actually spends very little time in Caladon.
The shop seems only to be a hobby of hers. In other words, she really meant it when she said she wanted to. She mostly works as a Messenger, spending her time bustling about in the wilderness. Most people call her the "Druid of Gododdin."
By the way, Quercus's Arts are actually very unique. She plants all kinds of strange flora around the shop, and she brewed most of the alcohol we sell here herself.
She even gave me my staff and Arts Unit because they can apparently help me control my own Originium Arts.
Susie Why did you come back this time? Did you need something?
Quercus Oh? I'm not allowed to come see you without a special reason?
Susie Hahaha...
Quercus I have something to take care. What, have you forgotten? It's almost the end of the year!
Susie Oh, right...
This is a defining moment for me.
I've been saving up money for a few years now. I want to buy this place.
I want to have my own shop here in Caladon. No matter what I do, this will be the beginning of my independence.
And Quercus often tells me that the shop's landlord has been thinking about renting to someone else, and that she doesn't have much time to take care of it.
Quercus So you've saved up all this? That's amazing, Susie!
Susie But, Quercus... Are you sure it's okay? Isn't it a bit on the low side for a place like this?
Quercus How many times have you asked me that now? Do you not trust me?
Susie No, I mean... Of course I trust you.
Quercus I'll get you a meeting with the landlord sometime next week for you to work out the details. He's a dependable one.
Susie Next week, huh...?
<Background fades out and in>
November 18th, 1097, 9:56 P.M.
[Susie serves tea to a Feline lady.]
Susie Here's your tea, Miss Mountbelan.
Skyfire Thanks.
Ethelflaed Julie Mountbelan is one of our regulars. She's just Miss Mountbelan to us.
She's another of Rhodes Island's experts. She's in charge of coming up with solutions to solve Infected problems for the council.
Just like Mr. Root, she got along with our other customers straight away.
The Mountbelan name is known far and wide in the country, so I still haven't grown completely used to seeing a lady from such a prestigious family having tea around the Infected community.
Quercus Judging by your look, I suppose the lords did something to make you unhappy?
Miss Mountbelan takes a sip of tea. Both her lips and the blood vessels on her forehead are twitching.
Skyfire Can you believe it? Can you believe it?!
I spent two weeks preparing all that data, and they only read a single page of it!
Just one page!!
How short-sighted can they be?! The issues I raised are urgent to the point they need addressing right now! You can't tell me it doesn't worry them one bit?!
Quercus Oh, they don't worry about the fire until it's started burning them.
Skyfire It this drags on, it'll immolate them completely.
Hasn't the Reunion mayhem in Gododdin taught them anything?
Quercus The flames of Reunion Gododdin were stomped out two years ago. Why would it be a problem to these noble lords?
Skyfire Things aren't that simple, though! It's as though they don't even understand the crux of the matter! Reunion isn't just a band of thugs or bandits. There's a reason they started that uprising.
Stone the Infected Oi, is it just me or did it get warmer in here all of a sudden?
James the Worker Yeah, I think it did.
Quercus Not again. Cool it a little. Don't burn my store down.
Skyfire *Sigh*... Never mind.
Susie Hahaha... Calm down, Miss Mountbelan.
You're off work. Try to keep a happier face on, I think.
Here, give these a try.
Skyfire What do you have here... Sweets?
Susie That's right. Quercus made these vanilla mints herself. Let them calm your rage.
Skyfire *Sigh*... Thanks...
I was on a holiday in Siesta just a few months ago... and now I'm starting to miss that place.
Susie It sounds like you've really had it tough, Miss Mountbelan. Loosen up some if you can.
Skyfire At least I have you lot to listen to me grumble here.
Susie You can't do that at Rhodes Island?
Skyfire You think my case is bad? Everyone has it tough there... Kicking up a fuss at work would only hurt morale.
James the Worker Don't worry, we're all a bunch of idiots. By the time you finish a sentence, we've gone and forgotten what you said.
Quercus So, what conclusion did the lords arrive at?
Skyfire Well, halfway through the meeting, they started fixating on all those silly rumors.
Quercus You mean like the "sounds in the city underground" and "criminals have infiltrated the Infected community?"
Bean the Infected In the end, it's all the Infected's fault, eh?
Skyfire Right, it's all just baseless conspiracy theories. It's a mystery to me who's even been spreading them.
Anyway, the meeting devolved into a pointless shouting match after that.
James the Worker It sounds like a lot of the lords support the Infected community, though?
Bean the Infected We do solve a lot of their problems, after all. Some of the lords have made a good bit of dough over the last few years. Likelihood is they're just more amenable to it than most, considering they're directly profiting.
Quercus Besides, the community doesn't only concern the Infected anymore. There's plenty of non-Infected working here now, right?
James the Worker That's true. I'm one of them right here.
Skyfire Right, that's a fair point... but talking about it all here and now won't change a thing. I still have other engagements tomorrow, so if you'll excuse me.
[Skyfire leaves.]
Quercus Be careful out there.
Bean the Infected Now setting that aside...
Why are you working here in our community, James? It's strange for me to say, but isn't it a bit risky, on shift with the Infected?
James the Worker Risky... eh?
Tell you the truth, risks are, in the end, nothing more than an unknown. Putting food on the table, that's the immediate problem.
If worse comes to worst, suppose I actually catch Oripathy, my family are still going to live better than if I didn't have a job.
I've got two little mouths to feed. I can't just leave it to my wife to be the breadwinner. Besides, it's not like she makes much, selling scarves. We wouldn't be able to get by.
My mum's got asthma. It costs an arm and a leg to treat. My dad's got some serious bone disease too. He can't even get out of bed.
I don't have a choice. If only I could find better work...
Bean the Infected *Sigh*... How come it sounds like your life's more of a mess than mine?
Stone the Infected ......
Bean the Infected Why're you so quiet today, Stone? Did something happen?
Stone the Infected *cough*... How old did James say his kids are again?
James the Worker One's eight, the other twelve. Why?
Stone the Infected No... No reason. Just thinking.
Bean the Infected Come on, if you've got something on your mind, just say it. It's not like we're strangers.
Susie Did you run into some kind of trouble, Stone?
Stone the Infected Trouble, huh...? *Sigh*.
I-I got a letter from my wife. She said she'll come pay me a visit with our daughter.
Bean the Infected A daughter? You have a daughter?!
Susie Eh? I didn't know you were married!
Stone the Infected What?! Is it that strange to you?
Bean the Infected No, not like that. Just... an Infected having a kid...
Stone the Infected Oh, don't you worry about that. I caught Oripathy afterwards. My wife and daughter are fine.
Bean the Infected Isn't that a good thing? Why the long face?
James the Worker Right, you got Oripathy, and your wife didn't abandon you. Wish the missus cared about me like that.
Stone the Infected *Sigh*, look at me. How am I supposed to face them the way I am now?
Susie What's wrong with the way you are?
Bean the Infected Right, why look down on yourself like that?
Quercus It's true, though. You're not exactly in good shape to see her.
Why don't we get you a haircut? You could at least be a little better groomed?
Susie Alright! If it's a haircut Stone needs...
(Brandishes a pair of scissors and a comb)
Stone the Infected Hold your beasties! You know how to cut hair, Sparky?
Quercus Now, don't underestimate her! My girl Susie's a master hairdresser.
<Background fades out and in>
Susie Ta-dah!
Quercus Well, doesn't that look pretty good?
Stone the Infected I don't usually cut it so short. Feels all breezy...
James the Worker Hey, you're looking fresh.
Susie I think you can do a lot for yourself if you pay just a little more attention to your hair, Stone.
Stone the Infected *Sigh*. Look at me, though. My life's a disaster. How am I supposed to find time to care about my hair?
Susie Don't think like that!
It's because life's so hard that we should find our own ways to live better.
Quercus Right. No one's ever said the Infected have to live in misery.
Chin up. Your wife will be delighted to see you like this.
Bean the Infected Take it slow. You come to my room later.
I've got some clean clothes I've been holding onto. Haven't worn them much. Give them a wash and see if they fit.
Stone the Infected Eh... You sure about that?
Bean the Infected What's to stand on ceremony? Just take them!
Now come on, drink up!
<Background fades out and in>
November 23rd, 1097, 10:35 A.M.
[Susie prepares herself to head somewhere.]
Today's the day.
I'm meeting the landlord.
There's a thick stack of cash in front of me.
Six thousand, five hundred pounds. This amount of money was once unthinkable to me.
When I was little, one of my brothers broke an Originium lamp we had. Mum gave him a really good spanking.
That was the first time I saw her get that angry. She needed that lamp to patrol the mineshaft at night.
The lamp was worth a hundred and fifty pounds. It was almost her entire month's salary. That's what got her so angry.
How many Originium lamps could six thousand and five hundred pounds buy?
I assess the enormity of the heavy, foul-smelling pile of sacrifice before me.
All the meals I've skipped over the years. All the hardships I've suffered through.
Six thousand, five hundred pounds.
These sheets of paper are like a bridge I laid myself, brick by brick. On the other side stands my dreams.
Susie Susie! Get it together!
You're just meeting with the landlord! He's just a landlord!
From tomorrow onwards, you'll be the shop's owner! Your dream is coming true!
You're almost there, Susie!
I look in the mirror and give my cheeks a good slap.
Susie How should I greet him?
"Nice to meet you, sir! I'm very glad to..."
No, the smile's too stiff.
My dream is about to come true, but I don't feel the least bit excited. On the contrary, I'm growing more and more afraid of seeing the man about to walk into the shop.
The landlord... What kind of a person is he?
Is he infected or not? Will he really sell the shop to me?
He's selling it to me so cheap. Could it be a scam?
Is he doing this because, like everyone else, he just wants to make fun of me, to humiliate me?
M-Maybe Quercus isn't Infected either... Maybe they're in on this together, just to...
Susie Ahhh! What am I thinking!
I smack my face hard.
I'm using pain to suppress these shameful, despicable emotions.
Susie Don't be like this, Susie! This is hideous!
I stare into the mirror. The only thing that can be heard inside the quiet shop is the clock's ticking.
It's like torture.
[Quercus enters.]
Quercus Susie! Are you there?
Susie Ehhh?!
Quercus Watch your Arts!
What's the matter with you? What are you so scared of? Did something happen?
Susie No... I'm okay! Good morning, Miss Quercus.
Quercus (Doubtful glare)
Look at those dark circles under your eyes!
What's wrong? Did you not sleep well?
Susie Hahaha... I was a little nervous.
[Bitter Root enters.]
Bitter Root Good morning, Miss Susie.
Susie Oh! Mr. Root! Sorry, I didn't see...
Huh? What time is it?
Oh, sorry, Mr. Root. We aren't open today. Did you need something?
Bitter Root You haven't told her yet, Quercus?
Quercus Oh, you're right. I haven't.
Susie Huh?
Quercus I forgot to mention it, but he's the landlord who owns the shop.
Susie Eh?
Mr. Root's the landlord? So the previous owners signed their contracts with Mr. Root?!
Bitter Root It's a long story... Anyway, Rhodes Island actually owns this property.
I've heard the details from Quercus. Miss Susie, you want to buy the store, is that right?
Permit me to ask, then. What kind of business do you want to run here?
Susie Business?
Bitter Root Hairdressing, huh...? For the Infected?
That sounds very nice.
It's a deal, then! Someone will come to sort out the contract later.
Susie Eh? That's it?
Bitter Root We've known each other for a long time, haven't we? You'll be fine, Susie.
Susie My own shop... It feels like... I'm dreaming.
That reminds me. Where will you go now, Miss Quercus? Are you going to leave the city?
Quercus Oh, don't look at me like that. It's not like I won't ever come back.
I'll stop by every now and then. I have lots of friends in town, you know?
Bitter Root Oh, and one last thing.
Susie, Quercus got you a little gift.
Susie A gift? Huh?
Quercus Come, Susie. Everyone's waiting for you.
<Background 2>
[Susie's friends surprise her with confetti.]
Quercus Congratulations!
Grani You did it, Susie!
Susie Officer Grani! Why are you here?!
[Stone whistles at Susie.]
Stone the Infected Alright! Now Sparky's the owner! Make sure you keep the booze we like on the taps!
Red Congratulations, Susie.
Susie Mr. Red! Aren't you supposed to be working?!
Stone the Infected Oh, we took the day off. We weren't going to miss the moment you took over the shop.
James the Worker That's right. I've been coming here every day for the last few years now. I probably know this place better than I do my own home.
Bean the Infected Your wife could give you a good socking for that.
Quercus Alrighty, then. Miss Susie, our new owner, the shop is all yours!
Susie ......
Quercus Oh, why are you tearing up? Don't cry!
James the Worker Yeah, no crying.
Life's been hard for all of us lately. It's not often we get something to celebrate, yeah?
Cheer up!
Bean the Infected Anyway, it doesn't matter what you turn the place into. I'll be here.
Grani Hahaha... What's this? Tears of joy?
Susie (Breaking up) Miss Quercus... I...
Quercus Okay, okay now. No more tears...
My dream—
To the Infected, dreams are distant and unattainable.
My dream has always been to have my own shop, my own life.
So I wouldn't have to be a burden on my family anymore.
And now, my dream is about to come true. It's an unimaginable luxury for an Infected.
Does that make me lucky?
<Background 4>
A thick layer of smoke spreads from a corner of the Infected community, breaking the morning tranquility.
Guards Member Evacuate the nearby residents first!
You there, quit dawdling about! Nothing to see here!
Firefighter Over here! The fire's still going!
Check again for casualties! This is the Infected community!
Look for any traces of Originium, like damaged appliances!
Don't let any activated dust spread!
Guards Member Bloody hell... Why's somebody setting fires around here?!
[Susie looks at her store, which is on fire.]
Susie Why...
Guards Member Evacuate everyone first! Hey, you, Feline over there! What are you doing?!
The smoke and scorched stench fill the air.
The burning leather and timber crack apart in the lingering heat.
Firefighter Don't run in there! Are you daft?!
Guards Member Hold her back!
Susie Why...
The girl is unwilling to believe what she sees before her. She wants to close her eyes.
This has to be a dream.
This has to be a bad dream.
Right. The moment she opens her eyes, she'll be free of this nightmare.
Yes, when she open her eyes, she'll be greeted by the same old ceiling. A new day awaits her. A new day with her own shop.
But the shop before her is nothing but a pile of rubble engulfed in flames.
Of the sign that once read "Green Spark," nothing remains but a few burnt fragments. It matches the walls and ceiling, long since rendered ash.
Before her eyes lies what was once her dreams, her hopes, and her future.
All of it now buried in this burning rubble.
Susie Why...?
The will that once helped the Feline girl through countless tribulations can support her small body no longer.
She falls to her knees.
The scorching ashes burns her hands and legs. The broken fragments cut through her skin.
<Background black>
In the ruins of despair, an Infected lost everything.
And so the blaze is extinguished.