While it turned out that I could just barely keep from being consumed by ANATHEMA rage, I still turned stupid and childish while keeping it under control and I did not like that at all. Frankly I’d call the whole expedition an unmitigated disaster if it weren’t for the fact that Shayma actually did get that last cube. I nearly lost my head, Shayma nearly got captured by a mage-king, and Annit nearly got depleted to nothing. Nearly. At least I got something out of that mess.
[Merciful] awards 540,000 experience for repelling [Controller: ANATHEMA] Tor Kot.
Apparently Shayma’s trick with the illusion that made Tor Kot back off counted for a lot. As well it should; it was damn impressive. Since Shayma was kinda-sorta part of me meant that I got credit, which was nice. But I should have thought of other things, like giving Shayma that anti-dungeon wardstone or really anything other than being a moron.
Unfortunately I’d panic-purchased the Companion specialization while I was flailing around trying to extract Shayma so I was down all those trait points, though to be fair I had been considering that purchase anyway. I wanted to actually take a good look at it now that I had my faculties back in order, but there were more important things to worry about.
“How’s Annit?” Shayma asked, the moment that she’d recovered from the Companion recall.
“One-twenty out of one-forty Depletion. It hit her all at once so yeah, she’s semiconscious but it’s not like with Yamal. I put her and Keri back in their house.” Cheya was already closeted with Iniri for a debriefing, the five cubes resting on a desk.
“Can I see them?” Then, belatedly, she remembered what the entire journey had been for. “Did Cheya get the cube to Iniri?”
“Yeah they’re talking now. I’ll just put you at Annit and Keri’s front door.” I wanted to remind her that her parents were around too, lodged in one of the manor houses flagged for Iniri’s entourage, but she had enough on her mind. Not that I wasn’t worried about Annit myself, but I couldn’t actually talk to her, or to Keri. Not to mention that the only thing I could offer to help Annit was, to say the least, not exactly suitable for the current mood.
I let Shayma do the comforting, which she was better at anyway, while I skimmed over the other recent entries in my overlay.
Core Specialization: Companion purchased.
Iniri Tarnil Companion level advances to 3.
Iniri Tarnil Companion level advances to 4.
30,000 experience gained for advancing a companion to rank 3.
40,000 experience gained for advancing a companion to rank 4.
Shayma Ell Companion level advances to 7.
Shayma Ell Companion level advances to 8 .
Shayma Ell Companion level advances to 9.
70,000 experience gained for advancing a companion to rank 7.
80,000 experience gained for advancing a companion to rank 8.
90,000 experience gained for advancing a companion to rank 9.
New Companion Options Available.
One of my cores did look sort of different from a mana perspective, if not a physical perspective, making me wish I’d been in my right mind when I’d selected the specialization so I could see what changed. Or been able to select the core properly, not that I could see that it mattered in this case.
Of course I couldn’t transcribe Iniri’s Skills right then and there. Like Shayma, she needed to go to a core, probably the Companion core, for me to do so. I’d have to ask her to do so later, after she finished her in-depth discussion with Cheya and the rest of her council about what to do now that they had the Adamant Fortress pieces.
Poking around under my Companion entries I did find a bunch of new options, which was nice. First of all, and finally, I got the ability to actually turn on and off my input from them. Given my nifty ability to know when someone invoked my name, I could just do that if I wanted to give someone privacy and I’d still know when they wanted my attention. Shayma didn’t really count for this, since my [Genius Loci] followed her around, but it might be more applicable in the future.
There was also a thing labeled Guidance, which, feeling it out, seemed like a much stronger version of the Companion bond. I tried saying something to Iniri through it to no avail, but she did stop her discussion for a moment so she definitely felt something. I left her alone after that. For experimentation I’d need probably both Shayma and Iniri paying attention and they had more important things to do at the moment than fiddle with that.
Most interestingly there was an option to link up dungeon features to Companions. I wasn’t completely certain without experimentation, but it seemed to me that I could let Iniri activate her teleport pad of her own accord, for example. While it might be a bit tricky to use in a way that made either Shayma or Iniri more powerful, it at least had the potential to improve my quality of life. The fewer things I had to pay attention to, the better.
At Companion rank seven, Shayma had unlocked the benefit that I gained as much experience as she did, when she gained experience. That sort of made sense, but it also seemed utterly broken when combined with the Companion rank nine benefit — I could spend experience on her Skills. I couldn’t level her directly, it seemed, but I could definitely rank up her Skills. Something I would have done already were it not for the fact that she needed to cash in what she’d already earned.
Shayma Ell has gained combat experience.
Shayma Ell has gained [Trickster] experience.
175,228 experience awarded via Companion: Shayma Ell.
Advancement to level 27 available.
Advancement to second tier available.
It was nice to see that the experience sharing worked, but it also implied I gained a lot more experience than she did. Also I needed a lot more than she did, since that whole chunk was less than it took to boost some of my more esoteric categories. Considering she’d capped out a bunch of her Skills, she’d probably be getting some interesting evolutions when she did advance a tier. I was kind of surprised they didn’t evolve right then and there, considering how potent the Class was, but apparently she still needed to follow some rules.
Continuing the poking around I was doing, I found some new traits available, courtesy of the specialized core.
Empower: Immensely amplify Companion abilities for a short time, at great cost. (1 point)
Companion Concord: Allow Companions to communicate with each other regardless of distance or physiology. (2 points)
Companion Directives: Grants Companions limited access to dungeon senses and build options. Companions may designate goals. (5 points).
Designate ANATHEMA: Companions may adjust the dungeon’s ANATHEMA target. (5 points)
Class Management: Companions may adjust Class and Skill details. (30 points)
Two of those made me a little uncomfortable. ‘Companion Directives’ seemed to imply that Companions could assert some control over me, and not just through words. It made sense for less intelligent dungeons to get input from smarter creatures, though I had to question just how a non-intelligent dungeon could manage to do anything. Then again I knew I was weird for a dungeon; over the scale of years and careful cultivation of the dungeon by Companions it would make more sense.
‘Designate ANATHEMA’ was just weird. Why couldn’t I choose? Where was my ability to point it at something else? I’d just make it purple unicorns or something and wouldn’t have to worry about it when I was trying to do important things. Of course with my luck I could only switch from Red Cores to ordinary mortals or something else that would only make things worse.
Class Management seemed completely, absurdly powerful, but also completely, absurdly expensive. It also was, if my previous experience was any guess, a soul-editing ability which seemed kind of scary. Although my current breeding abilities seemed to be soul-editing so maybe not. Either way that was far too many points to consider saving until I had a better way of getting trait points.
Of all the new options only Companion Concord seemed like it might be worth getting in the near future, since Empower’s talk of a great cost made me think it was a nigh-suicidal option. Just having Shayma and Iniri being able to communicate anywhere and at any time would be incredibly valuable, though it wasn’t like I had any trait points left to spend.
Since I didn’t have anything I could actively do, I watched Shayma comforting Keri while I considered how strange Tor Kot was. He had seemed somewhat flighty, but he was also intelligent and charismatic and, most weirdly, didn’t seem evil at all. We already knew he was more dangerous than Vok Nal, but having an opponent that was smart and not taken with his own superiority was the worst possible option.
“I’m not dead.” Annit grumped from her bed. She was simply laying down with her forearm over her eyes, and out of consideration for her I turned down the lights.
“I know what it’s like to have high Depletion,” Shayma said sympathetically. “It’s pretty awful.”
“When did you— ? Oh right.” Annit groaned and Keri tightened her grip on Annit’s other hand.
“Just lay there and rest for a while,” Keri chided her. “It may not be a physical injury but you’re going to make it worse if you don’t give yourself time to recuperate.”
“I’m not going to recuperate,” Annit snapped. “I’m not stupid. There’s nothing that can fix Depletion except, oh, conveniently going a round with Blue. Who conveniently waited until—” She cut herself off, taking a breath. “Fuck. I’m sorry, Shayma, I don’t mean that. You don’t need to tell Blue about it right?”
“Yeah, I can pretend I didn’t notice.” The accusation did hurt, even if she didn’t mean it. Not only in the specific but also in the general. I didn’t wait to pull Annit out until after she had gotten hit by Tor Kot’s presence; I was trying my best to get them out before he even showed up. I also didn’t want people to get the idea that I might start working with the mage-kings, or at least exploiting them, in order to get people in a position where I was their only option.
“Of course not,” Shayma assured her, though Keri caught Shayma’s ears twitching and gave her a knowing look.
“Thank the gods,” Annit sighed. “I don’t need him mad at me on top of all this.”
“You know, I do have that [Restful Night] Field. I can put that up and let her, or her and Keri both, get some rest.” Shayma relayed that, and Keri nodded.
“I think that would be for the best. Yes, even if you don’t feel tired, Annie. You need some distance.”
“Fine.” Annit sighed. “Fine! I’ll take a nap.”
“I’m going to stay too,” Keri said, refusing to let go of Annit’s hand. “I’ll talk things over with you later. We did get that cube right?”
“Yes,” Shayma assured her. “Despite everything we got what we wanted.”
“Good,” Keri said firmly, and Shayma backed out to let them rest while I created a [Restful Night] field.
“So, you’ve got some leveling up to do,” I told Shayma as she made her way toward the teleport. I didn’t tell her that she got an entire tier up, because I thought that would be a fun surprise. She could use something positive.
“Oh right!” Shayma made a face. “I guess I might as well.” I transported her to my core room and she stepped over to one of my cores, the Companion core specifically, putting her hands on the crystal to trigger the level-up process. Normally it wasn’t much from my end — it wasn’t like I was giving her any extra energy or anything, it just seemed to be a reorganization process since I could see her mana brighten and swirl without changing much. This time, however, wasn’t entirely normal.
When the levelup process started it wasn’t just her mana I saw. For once, [Soul Perception] registered something outside of Purification as Shayma’s soul shimmered into view. I could see how it touched all her mana at once, euclidean geometries be damned, mana and soulstuff flowing into each other. They clearly weren’t the same but they were integral to each other, and even as I watched the entire thing seemed to condense slightly, becoming more without growing any larger.
[Soul Perception advances to 7].
[Soul Perception advances to 8].
[Shayma Ell forms Skill: Dungeon Weaponry].
[Dungeon Weaponry]: You wield the dungeon’s defenses as your own. Allows integration of dungeon-based abilities and devices into other Skills.
Shayma Ell Class evolves to [Noble Trickster].
[Physical Superiority] 10 evolves to [Eidolon Body]. Regeneration, Corrosion Resistance, Temperature Resistance consumed by [Eidolon Body], setting rank to 3.
[Eidolon Body]: Approaching the pinnacle. Your body is significantly enhanced compared to your species baseline, with improved physical abilities, toughness, resistance, and healing. Each rank improves benefits.
[Illusory Presence] 10 evolves to [Phantom Presence]. [Stealth] consumed by [Phantom Presence], setting rank to 2.
[Phantom Presence]: What you wish to be, you are. Where you wish not to be, you aren’t. You are nearly impossible to detect when you do not wish to be, by means magical or mundane, and you may adjust your appearance and presence at will. Each rank improves the speed of changing disguise and power of stealth benefits.
[Ghost Step] 10 evolves to [Phantasmal Path]. Rank set to 1.
[Phantasmal Path]: You are a conduit for the realm of the phantasmal. You can walk beside the world, letting you teleport short distances or travel very quickly close to reality. If you travel deep into the realm of the phantasmal, you may cross vast distances at the cost of being imprecise about where you emerge. Distance of teleport improves with rank. Path speed improves with rank. Phantasmal realm clarity improves with rank.
[Limited Shapeshifting] 10 evolves to [Lesser Shapeshifting]: Rank set to 1.
[Lesser Shapeshifting] You may change your entire shape, though not quickly. Changing extremities or superficial features takes less time and resources.
[Illusion] 10 evolves to [Liminality]. Rank set to 1.
[Liminality]: Approaching the threshold. Your illusions have come one step closer to reality, to the point where the lines may blur at times.
[Eidolon Body] was an Ability rather than a Skill, constantly active rather than needing to be actively called upon like [Physical Superiority], which made it a hell of an upgrade in my opinion. Actually they were all crazy powerful upgrades. The two that really held my interest were [Phantasmal Path], which seemed vaguely mystical and not just magic, and [Liminality] which was clearly influenced by [Promise].
The actual scope of Shayma’s abilities didn’t change, but clearly the rank up process did some condensing and clarifying. I would bet that as more of her ancillary Skills reached their top ranks they’d merge and amplify the way her core Skills did. A process that would be considerably easier now that I could directly boost them.
The view of Shayma’s soul snapped off when the Class evolution finished, which was maybe three seconds total, but considering I’d gotten two advances in [Soul Perception] for that I wasn’t going to complain. The soul seemed to be, if not actually the Class and Skill system, the bedrock for it. Even though I normally couldn’t see it, apparently it also served as the locus for mana within the body. That wasn’t exactly right, as there seemed to be biologically captured mana, something that could be considered stamina, but even that was connected to the soul as well. Either that meant my lack of soul was why I couldn’t cast spells, or I had one – I could manipulate mana, after all – and it was stretched over my entire being, making the spellcasting lock some weird dungeon restriction.
“Oof.” Shayma swayed, leaning against my core crystal. “What a rush!”
“You okay there? I caught a lot of changes and upgrades and stuff.”
“Why didn’t you tell me I was going to evolve my Class?!” She stretched, flexed her fingers, and then did a backflip from a standing start. “I should have expected it, you love surprises,” she added with a grin. “I wonder if Class evolutions always feel like this. I feel like I could take on— well, not Ansae, but maybe some other dragon. A small one.”
“I’m sure that could be arranged. Let me rustle up that status sigil so you can see the new abilities, they’re quite something.” It took me a moment to locate, making me think I really needed to set up some sort of ordered treasury for myself if I was going to start acquiring objects rather than just resources, but I pushed it into Shayma’s hand as soon as I found it.
“Oooh.” Her eyes sparkled as she looked at her new Skills and Abilities.
“Yeah! I’m really curious about that [Phantasmal Path] bit. It sounds like the third ability lets you cross— I dunno, oceans or something?”
“Oh that’d be really amazing, especially since [Promise] lets me bring people along still!”
I took a glance at the Artifact, and found that not only was that true, but the description had changed fairly dramatically.
This ring was gifted to Shayma Ell by the Power known as Blue, the name reflecting both a pledge to her and an indication of her potential. Twice it saved her at pivotal moments, allowing her to shape reality through her illusions.
[Acts as a Primal Source for Kinetic, Illusion, Light, and Shadow Affinities]
[Allows perfect vision under any conditions]
[Bearer represents Authority]
[Cannot be lost or stolen]
[A small portion of Illusion may be rendered temporarily real]
[Bearer may take up to four individuals on her [Phantasmal Path]]
[This Artifact grows with Bearer and Authority]
So now I could see what ‘growing’ meant. Sure, the attuned trait changing made sense, but tangibility and intangibility were not the same as the new ability of just making illusions reality. The weird part to me was that it had somehow recorded its history in its description, making it clear that something, somehow, was paying attention to what was going on.
That made me a little paranoid, but only a little. With Ansae’s talk of mana and intent and seeing that Shayma’s mana cycled through her soul it was entirely possible that it was Shayma who’d written that description, albeit unwittingly. [Promise] was saturated with that mana, after all.
I had occasionally wondered where the descriptions actually came from, and Shayma had told me it was just something the gods did. For myself I doubted that, if they existed, they actually did any of it themselves. Language generation wasn’t that hard a problem. Still, I should really ask Ansae whether the gods existed— no, scratch that, the belief was irrelevant. The question was whether they were active. Surely if anyone had witnessed them in living memory, it would be Ansae.
I also wanted to bring up some of the things Tor Kot had mentioned. It was obvious the man believed that what he was doing was necessary, I just couldn’t see why he thought so. There wasn’t anything I could think of to justify the mage-kings, though Tor Kot had mentioned something about a rift. If I had been in my right mind I might have had Shayma ask more questions, but on the other hand, maybe not. He hadn’t been actually hostile to Shayma but there was no guarantee that would have lasted. Another thing to ask Ansae.
Shayma activated [Phantasmal Path], which put her in a different sort of ghost world than [Ghost Step] had. Instead of a faded, half-ethereal realm, it was filled with brilliant colors, streaming off the pale washed out forms of the surroundings. The world was there, but distorted, and as I watched the world grew more faded, the streamers more intense, the colors blazing up.
“Ah, so that’s how I go deeper,” she said, before the brilliant energy faded and she popped out of [Phantasmal Path]. Only, she appeared outside the cottage, ten feet in the air. The height didn’t bother her, as she landed easily with her tail flicking in excitement, but it did demonstrate that when the description said that leaving the deep path was imprecise, it really meant it. Shayma hadn’t even moved and she’d ended up somewhere else.
“Good thing I can always pull you back in case you get lost. Still, that’s a pretty crazy looking Skill. We’ll definitely have to test how far the deep paths can get you, but later. Once you’ve finished working out the kinks in the new Skills you should probably go say hi to your parents.”
“Mom and dad!” Shayma’s eyes widened. “I’d completely forgotten!”
“That’s what I’m here for, kitten.”
“Kitten!?” Shayma demanded incredulously. “I’m fox-kin, not cat-kin.”
“So, what, I call you vixen?”
“Please don’t, that’s what dad calls my mom.”
“That...okay I can see that.”
Sienne and Giorn had not been what I expected. Giorn was just a huge guy, not oversized like Ansae but still over six feet and thickly muscled, widely built, and basically just big all over. He also had a truly heroic moustache. Sienne on the other hand was small and slim and lithe, and if she was any indication of how Shayma would age I had a lot to look forward to. They were also hopelessly besotted with each other and were even at that moment holding hands while they talked.
“I can just put you outside their door if you want.”
It was the work of a moment to connect the core room teleport to just outside the suite Iniri had given them, spinning up the Fields to transfer Shayma over to Meil. The moment I did, both Sienne and Giorn looked over in that direction, apparently sensitive enough to notice something like teleport magic in progress. They glanced at each other and Giorn started toward the door as Shayma lifted her hand to knock, took a breath, and hesitated.
“A little! It’s been so long since I saw them and…” Shayma paused for a moment, contemplating the past few months or years. “I mean, things have happened!”
“Honestly they seemed to take it okay when Iniri told them, I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
“I hope so.” Shayma muttered, lifting her hand to knock. Just before she could touch it Giorn opened the door and blinked down at Shayma for half a moment before he swept her up in a crushingly great hug.
“Shayma! My baby girl! You’re safe!”
Shayma answered something, but it was muffled by the fact that she was entirely engulfed by Giorn’s massive arms. Sienne was there in a moment, poking at Giorn’s side.
“Hey. Hey. Come on, give me a turn.”
He stuck his tongue out at her but relinquished Shayma, who barely had time to breathe before being enfolded in the rather less suffocating arms of her mother.
“Hi mom,” Shayma said, her voice a little shaky, though there was nothing shaky about her return hug. If they weren’t all Classers someone would have broken something. After a few more minutes of hugs and even a few tears on Sienne’s part, they stopped blocking the hallway and headed into the suite.
“Queen Iniri told us some things,” Sienne began. “Are…” She gave Shayma a worried look. “Are you happy? I mean, how exactly are you connected to this Blue?”
“Maybe it’d be easiest if you showed them your Status? Also tell them hi.” Shayma giggled.
“Blue says hi. He has a good idea, too,” she added, producing the Status sigil. “This will probably answer a lot of questions, but yes, I’m happy. I’m having a lot of fun.” The two older fox-kin studied the Status with interest and no small amount of surprise. Or perhaps that was shock. Eventually Giorn whistled.
“Now that’s an unusual Status. That [Liminality] sounds closer to third or even fourth tier than second.” Sienne was less sanguine, more interested in her daughter’s new species description than her Skills.
“Iniri said you were married to Blue. According to this you’re practically his slave!”
“Oh jeez. Yeah I’d forgotten about that.” It’d been so long since anyone else had been given the details of Shayma’s real Status that the wording had completely slipped my mind. Fortunately, Shayma was already shaking her head.
“Actually it’s more severe than that,” she told Sienne, which was the exact opposite of what I’d consider reassurance. “But Blue doesn’t want to exercise control over me. We’ve had more than a few arguments and it’s not like he ever forced me to change my mind.” Sienne was still scowling, and Shayma laughed.
“It’s fine, mom. Blue is very sweet, and I don’t have to worry about finding an adventuring boyfriend. Also…” She held out her hand, displaying [Promise]. “What kind of slave gets something like this? I’d say it counts as a wedding band, don’t you?””
“An Artifact?” Sienne stared, agape at the ring. It was worth a stare, in my opinion. I’d made it just on a whim, more or less, but it was proving to be incredibly powerful.
“I know! Plus, it’s thanks to him that I have this Class. I was originally a [Seeker], you know.”
“Wait, so you evolved that Class from [Seeker]?” Giorn seemed more than willing to discard any talk of my being Shayma’s paramour in favor of Class discussions.
“No, Blue changed my Class to [Trickster]. I just went through the evolution a few minutes ago actually!”
“Wait, he changed your Class?” Giorn’s eyes sparkled and Shayma held up her hand.
“Before you ask anything, it’s not something he can or is willing to do for everyone. In fact the actual Class overhaul was the result of the Bargain, but a lot of the rest of it is only for Companions. Who can only be women.” A strange expression took over Sienne’s face.
“Wait, so you’ve…” Sienne made a highly suggestive gesture with her hands, “with Blue?”
“Um.” Shayma flushed. Sienne’s face twisted further.
“But he’s a dungeon?”
“Honey…” She trailed off, eyes sparkling dangerously. “You know that means he’s had more men inside him than you ever will.”
“Oh my god your mom is amazing.”
“Mom!” Shayma spluttered.
“I’ve got more holes, too.”
“Blue! Don’t encourage her!” Even poor Shayma’s ears were flushed, her face buried in her hands.
“What did he say?” Giorn asked with a smirk. “If he can handle your mother’s humor you might have actually found a keeper.”
“Hey,” Sienne protested. “I’m hilarious.”
Apparently Shayma’s parents weren’t going to be any problem. I wasn’t sure how fine they actually were with Shayma’s relationship, but they hadn’t gone absolutely crazy. Seeing Shayma happy and cheerful and whole probably helped with that. Pragmatically, so did seeing her Status. The fact that I was making her powerful rather than keeping her helpless was a more compelling argument than most I could muster.
After Shayma recovered from Sienne’s humor, she fielded a bunch more questions about what she’d been up to in the years since they’d seen each other. Surprisingly they didn’t have many questions for me, though I imagine that was in part because I was so far from human or demihuman that a lot of the normal inquiry didn’t apply. What was my background? I was a dungeon. What were my skills? Dungeon. Add in the fact that we were in the middle of a war with the mage-kings and there was barely any normalcy to latch on to.
When she related a suitably edited account of our first meeting, Giorn asked something I probably should have a long time ago.
“So why exactly did you take Blue’s offer? I know you weren’t exactly in the best position, but still.”
“It was partly that,” Shayma admitted. “Partly because [Seeker] guided me there and I trusted my Skill. Then there was your advice about taking obligations seriously. And...” She hesitated for a moment, but this time she wasn’t overcome by blushing. “I was a little curious.”
“She’s definitely your daughter,” Giorn rumbled, and Sienne stuck her tongue out at him.
“No matter what the terms actually are, when you get offered a deal by some sort of spirit or power you better be prepared to fulfill your end of it.” Sienne said. “If you accept, at least. One of those things my family teaches because we’ve seen it on occasion ourselves.”
“On occasion,” Giorn agreed. “We have run into a few adventurers with a patron or something. Even more rarely we’ve run into someone who’s broken a deal and survived, and even then they usually didn’t fare so well.”
“Well, I’ve got someone on that list I need to deal with, for sure.” I grumped. Unless she decided to come back after I’d figured out something more potent than what I already had, there wasn’t much I could do to hold The Hurricane accountable.
“Why would The Hurricane do that?” Shayma wondered aloud, before remembering that her audience didn’t know what she was talking about. She briefly sketched out what had happened, as explanation for my grumbling. “Betraying a Power seems incredibly stupid.”
“No offense to Blue, but he’s difficult to really get my head around,” Giorn told her. “It’s easier to believe it’s you instead of an intelligent Power, and I’m afraid a fourth-tier just isn’t going to be very afraid of you. Especially since you weren’t even an actual Classer until today!”
“I guess I’m just going to have to practice being scary.” Shayma mused.
“The new Companion stuff I got ought to help with leveling, too. I can pump experience into your Skills but it does sort of eat into my own pool.”
“Oh, that seems interesting, but that should probably wait until after I’m used to my new Skills.”
“We should go out adventuring together to get you accustomed to your evolved Class,” Giorn suggested. “The family that slays together, stays together!”
“Really?” Sienne groaned. “How long have you been waiting to say that?”
“Since I married you.” Giorn grinned unrepentantly.
“Your parents are good people.” I told Shayma.
“Yeah,” she smiled. “I know.”