You decide to do more science--first, by attempting to spend mana to replicate Cici's powers (specifically, manifesting an arrow).
After several seconds, nothing. You can't even seem to waste mana on trying. Whereas launching fireballs via Kate via the dream ring comes more or less naturally to you, trying to shoot light arrows is like... wiggling your ears? It's a thing you know people can do, but you can't even figure out how to try it.
"Cici," you begin, "can you make fireballs?"
Cici attempts, really gives it her A game, but alas--no fireballs.
"Nope!," she concludes.
You nod. "So spending mana on blocking pain or external damage might be a universal mechanic, while the fire and light powers are... I guess class exclusive, unless a dream ring's involved. Kate might have a third universal thing she does more efficiently than us--unless the pain blocking is actually it, and I'm stealing it from her like I am the fire. I guess I really don't know if the pain discount is a Fool thing or a Devil thing... we need to see how all this mana shield business holds up with Kate."
"The pain discount?!," Cici repeats, far more deliberately than you did.
"Th... that's what it is, though!," you insist. "It reduces the mana cost of being hurt. It's a pain discount!"
The small bird gives you a worried-yet-a-little-judgemental kind of mom look as she repeats, "The pain discount."
After realizing you've been holding a damp dollar bill, Cici holds out her little wings. You give her the dollar; she proceeds to hop up onto the back of the couch, cautiously holding the paper out toward the torch to dry it off.
"You said transforming was like a... a switch, right? And sometimes you could feel it, sometimes you couldn't?"
"Yeah!," Cici confirms.
"Do you still have the switch?," you ask. "Like... is switching back an option, or switching to anything else?"
Cici pauses, and seems to contemplate it.
"Nope," she finally concludes. "No switches now!"
You nod. "Was that the only switch you've felt?"
"I don't think so," she replies, "but I'm not too sure. I had... kind of a weird feeling when I was blocking all that lightning--you know, against the boss?"
"Yeah," you confirm with a nod.
"Right at the end, I had like... a flash o' something, but then the fight was over and the flash was gone. The switch feeling later was a little familiar, but I don't know if they were the SAME feeling or if it was somethin' else altogether. I might've just been hitting the limit on that shield."
Right at the end, when she was defending against all those electrical blasts. ...Or more technically, after a shield she'd manifested had already negated some unknown (but high) quantity of damage from multiple directions.
More advanced accomplice forms may not be based on experience levels or raw stats--they might be based on meeting specific prerequisites, possibly linked to the class or the individual's own role/niche/personal bullshit. Cici in her first form getting separated from her partner lead down one path, but Cici defending against some ridiculous amount of damage with her powers maybe could have lead down a different one. You can't say with any certainty--not even Cici can, at this point--but it feels like as decent a guess as any.
The problem is, if evolving your accomplices does require you to jump through particular hoops to get certain forms, how the SHIT are you supposed to learn all that? You may be falling into goofy trap options and joke forms unknowingly already, just because a system based on totally arbitrary demands and no way to preview what the fuck you're changing into lends itself to absolute god damn bedlam.
You remind yourself to breathe, and not get worked up about a mechanic you're not even confident exists in a game that's also a nightmare trying to kill you (and to reiterate, maybe succeeding). Cici's happy, the obtuse mechanics haven't officially permafucked you yet, you will save your anger for later.
Cici hands you back a dry dollar. You nod, and try not to laugh, as you take the dollar back to the soda machine.
You insert the dollar. You push one of the unlabelled green buttons.
You hear... sloshing,
and very loud cranking.
The pipes shake, and briefly, so does the machine.
Finally, a can comes rolling out of the contraption.
The can hisses as you pop the tab. It sounds carbonated, like a real soda.
It smells like soda.
You dip a little out onto your fingertip.
It is a yellow soda.
"Oh, yeah," you suddenly realize that this might be extremely important information, "did you ever drink any of the yellow stuff?"
"Nope," Cici replies. "I thought about it, 'cuz I AM getting pretty low, but... I still don't like it."
"Don't," you say immediately. "It hurts and it makes you pukey. I thought it was temporary at first, but it turned out I'd just been blocking the pain the whole time. It sucks forever and I would NOT want to deal with this shit if I didn't have--"
you pause, trying not to laugh, "the pain discount. ...Also so far everything is burning yellow mana stuff. The wine, this soda, even the Brainsate I had in my pocket."
"What about the potato?"
Cici reads your confused pause accurately. She clarifies. "You said you brought in a potato before--was THAT yellow? Would it've given you mana back?"
You hadn't actually thought about it--
"It was... kind of yellowish already? Like a light brown? It ...it's a fucking potato."
"You didn't cut into it or anything?," Cici asks.
"I did not," you confess. "I put it in a sock and beat the evil me with it."
Cici's tiny bird face is very good at giving stern looks. "Plaire."
"I don't just eat raw potatoes in REAL life, I'm not gonna think to do it in the dream!," you argue. "It didn't turn into a golden potato, that's for damn sure."
You consider taking a sip of the soda--but again, it's basically a waste to take even a sip if you're not dangerously low on mana or about to fight something huge, it's going to completely refill you one way or the other. You put the can down on the little table next to the toolbox.
...Which you also think about.
After a moment of consideration, you attempt to shove your old sword into said toolbox.
It does not fit, magically or otherwise.
Feeling Cici's stare upon you, you explain. "I pulled a full sized sword out of a chest that was way too small. I'm trying to see if that's just a property of containers in the dream, or--"
"Oh, yeah, the mimic kinda did that too!," she interjects. "There was a whooole lot of monster stuffed in that little chest! ...I think it might just be the chests."
You give a shallow nod. "Yeah. ...Yeah, I think you're right."
You also use your sword to stab the couch.
...It takes a couple of tries. It's a very dull sword.
"Hasn't this couch been through enough?," Cici jokes. "It's a nice couch for being so ratty."
"I want to see if it resets the cut or not," you inform her with a smile, pulling the rusted sword out of the couch like the shittiest version of Excalibur.
Finally, you take a page out of your notebook, and leave a quick note--just in case, to point out to the Queen of Hearts (?) that you have made this room your current heart room (and respawn point).
You don't know if she already knows, or if it matters if she knows, or if she can even read anything that isn't the original note, but just in case.
...You add a "How can I help you?" to the note. Both because you want an answer, and to test if she can read this note (as in, even if this note doesn't stay and she doesn't reply on it, maybe she'll answer the question on THIS note on her usual note. It's double science). You leave the note on the couch, signed with your little salamander symbol.
You take a deep breath, and put your helmet back on.
"I think it's time to start scouting ahead," you state.
Cici nods. "I can't think of anything else to do in here. It was nice to get a break, though!"
You take the torch in one hand, and your sword in the other. Cici picks up the toolbox.
You head out the door.
The roughly ankle high sludge continues into a sort of L shaped lobby area. There's a door to your left, and a door to right, around the corner. Both doors are shut, and resemble the door you just left (except that the door you just left has a heart painted on it in blood). Otherwise, the new area is fairly unremarkable--just more pipes.
The area is a bit quieter, at least. The chugging of the pipes is much softer here. You hear small drips once in a while, but not nearly as much industrial noise as you did around the pump and gauntlet rooms. ...It also makes you realize how quiet the heart room was; aside from the brief racket from the vending machine, you couldn't hear anything outside that room. It's like stepping into (and out of) an entirely different world. Even the difference in temperature between the heart rooms and the rest of the dungeon is noticeable.
"There's definitely some weird shit going on with those heart rooms," you mutter to Cici, "on top of the base level of weird shit."
Cici gives a small nod, keeping her voice down as well. "They definitely stand out. The rest of the dungeon could learn something from those heart rooms! Place needs to calm down."
The little bird ball grouching in Cici's voice brings you relief and a smile in the midst of an increasingly sewery sewer level.
Cici nods. "Sounds like a plan!"
You head through the left door, into...
an equally unimpressive room.
A smaller room, with three of those chained mechanical pumps trying to keep the room from flooding any harder. More pipes running along the wall, mostly obscuring the same old gray bricks. You and Cici take a moment to examine the pumps and look for anything hiding in the corners, but the room seems mostly here to transition between the previous bigger area, and the giant horizontal pipe exiting the west wall. Unlike the pump room end of the pipe, there's no grating or seal over this one.
You and Cici head on into the pipe.
The pipe itself is clear, which is fine at first--the water outside is pretty much opaque, so it's really no different at a glance from a normal, solid pipe (that happens to be the color of sludge filtered through dirty glass).
every once in a while,
you'll spy a silhouette in the murk beyond your narrow tube.
Long, thin shadows, squirming in the deep.
Shadows that don't precisely match any creature you've ran into thus far.
"I..." have to fill the tense silence with something and the only thing you can think to discuss in this tiny pipe multiple floors beneath the surface of a black-green sea is how you're going to die "...hhhave some concerns," you confess, "about possibly dying when I wake up."
Cici stops. She squints. "Whaddya mean?"
You also stop.
"So, I'm currently blocking a metric shit ton of pain. Like, a ludicrous amount. I feel a little chunk of whatever killed me when I first wake up. Even a chunk of all this I'm holding back--even a slice of it--might be enough to send me into shock in real life."
"You sure it works that way?," Cici asks. "If you're blocking the pain--"
"If I run out of mana," you point out, "I won't be able to block the pain. It costs mana; at zero mana..."
Cici inflates a bit as she breathes in deep. "And you still feel the pain when you run out of mana?"
You nod. "Yeah. Second night. Potato night. I faded after getting an acid burn on my leg. I was still feeling it when I woke up."
"Huh," mumbles Cici. "But you didn't know HOW to block pain then."
"No," you reply, "but I had to have been doing it a little bit subconsciously. Same with when I fought Dad Wall the first time--I got... fucking electrocuted, and blown across the room. I wasn't blocking ALL of it because I remember the pain pretty damn well, but I had to've been blocking SOME of it on accident. I'm not that big of a badass to get launched across a sanctuary and still be able to run, I can barely run normally when I'm awake."
Cici mulls it over for a moment, tapping the tip of a wing to where her chin would be. The logistics of how she's flying while doing that eludes you; you suspect the puffing up and down have more to do with her current method of flight than her wings actually do. ...Like a hot air balloon. The wings seem to help her steer and make quick movements, but they're not doing fuck all to keep her aloft.
"Wait!," she finally blurts out. "You faded THAT night, too! Right? I'm not misremembering that?"
"...I did," you admit, "but there might have been... uh... extenuating circumstances."
"Plaire," she says simply; you somehow identify the tone to mean both you need to explain and also I don't know what extenuating circumstances mean
Thus, you explain: "The thing I saw when I broke the stained glass window. ...Did you see the shadows towering over the castle when we went outside?"
Cici stares at you, blankly, for a very long second and a half before answering "No, Plaire, I did not."
"They were fucking huge," you remark, "and there was dozens of them. They're like... all over the sky. Anyway, I... kind of saw one when I fought the wall the first time. I saw one and it saw me back."
"I was looking at the castle!," objects Cici, who you guess didn't notice the huge sky gods. "I've SEEN the sky before, I have NEVER been that close to a real castle!"
"You've seen a YELLOW sky before?!"
"Kind of!," she huffs. "The pollution in the evenings can get kind of tannish. It's a very cool castle! Plaire, you're dodgin' the issue--what were the things?"
"I don't know."
"Plaire," she insists, in a tone that says I know you don't know but you wouldn't have mentioned your staring contest with one of the giants if you didn't have some guesses as to what they might do
Thus, you continue: "I... I think they might be bigger than us. Not just physically. Like... above us. On the food chain."
Cici's expression fills with both shock and horror. "Like... apex predators?"
"Like..." you just come out and say it, "great old ones. GODS. Beings from another world, or plane, or... dimension, I don't fucking know. I made eye contact with one during the first dad fight, and... just looking at that one, I felt... presence. Like I was leaving my body, the sanctuary, the whole fucking dungeon, and my whole world was becoming the knowledge of the existence of that one entity. I think I stopped feeling pain because that thing was doing something to me, something that precludes any human concept of pain. It was... fucking... turning me into a black hole, or eating the concept of myself, or transmorphing me into a fucking cheeseburger I don't really know but I woke up
without pain. I had..." You shake your head. You sigh. "I felt something different. Like I just rode a roller coaster back from Hell and it turned my brains upside down. I don't think the way I faded that night proves anything about anything, that was like the opposite of a controlled experiment. There were variables in that incident I never want to fully understand."
There is a very long silence in the big clear pipe.
Though it was dead silent in here earlier, it is now somehow even quieter.
Cici breathes slowly. You can see the focus on her face.
She gives herself a little nod.
"Plaire... I don't mean to rock the boat, but...
I think you're wrong."
Cici continues. "I know this isn't a game. People have died. But it works like a game, doesn't it? Most o' what we know about it is based on games you've played. It... it operates like a game. It's a magic thing, but with game parts. That's more or less the gist of it, right?"
"Yeah," you reply simply. "It's some magic dream bullshit, but it does have the mechanics of a game--a shit ton of game mechanics, to the extent that I'm making blind assumptions based on game theory and it's almost always working. We are speedrunning this bitch, and the fact that save points look like save points and chests act like JRPG chests and everything's SO fucking GAMIFIED...
that's pretty much everything I bring to the table right now. That is what I HAVE, that's my niche, and all my gamification instincts are telling me two things: mana restoration has to have a limit to keep us from doing this forever, and anything that hurts more than getting GOD DAMN ELECTROCUTED is something I shouldn't have done once, let alone multiple times. Oh, three things--and the third thing it's telling me is that I've fucked up. I'm dumb, I had no way of fucking knowing, the dream doesn't explain SHIT--"
"Plaire," Cici says softly. "You're not gamey ficating hard enough."
... What? "What?"
"You're right that it's really game-like!," she announces. "You are SO damn right, you have BEEN right, and even if that expertise really was the only thing you brought to the table--and it's not, shut up, but even if it WAS that's the best thing we got! You're not just the leader because you own the house, you're the leader because you're the only one who knows how the hell anything works! ...And 'cuz you kinda have it together better than me and Kate."
"Now you're bullshitting me," you interject.
Cici resumes, undeterred. "Think about it, Plaire: anyone can block pain, but only the Joker gets the pain discount."
"The Fool," you politely correct. "Not the Joker, but it's a tarot thing, and... cards? They're probably connected, I need to look it up later. ...And there's still a chance the pain discount is exclusive to the Devil, not the Fool. Go on."
"Only the Fool or the Devil gets the pain discount," she goes on. "Imagine if I bought the house instead of you. I'm still Cici. I'm still the Sun. I own the house, so--and I'm going off what you said here!--I'd come into the dream in my own body, and YOU'd be a bird or somethin'."
You nod. "Yeah, and the dungeon would look like your brain instead of mine."
"Right," she agrees. "So, in that scenario, if everything more or less works the same otherwise... that first boss? The one who hurt you so badly, you think it would have killed you if not for divine intervention? My first boss would kill me in real life."
. . . Huh.
You're actually a little stunned--not just because that's an incredibly solid argument, not just because Cici's delivery of the point hit you like a god damn bomb, but also
also because you didn't realize it yourself, sooner.
Assuming you're right, and you've been subconsciously dulling the pain every night (in steadily increasing amounts as you presumably grew better at it, and subconsciously blocked out more and more, until tonight when you were finally blocking so much pain it was impossible not to stumble across the difference), then...
fuck, forcefully having tendrils shoved up into your actual brain, on its own, without any sort of painkillers or equivalent, might actually be enough to put you in shock. It would at minimum knock you out, and you didn't wake up after night one just to fall unconscious again. Either your pain discount was incredibly potent even on your first night...
or dying from the pain isn't a thing that happens.
Otherwise... yeah, if anyone without the cheap pain had monsters half as fucked up as you do, they'd either be fading instantly from blowing all that mana five minutes into the run, or the Fool/Devil would be the only viable class in the entire system (and in this case you mean viable by its biological definition, because everyone else would fucking die).
The system has to account for people that ARE going to feel all that pain.
You felt very confident about waking up dead.
With the knowledge you have, you can't think of much to counter Cici's argument. You suspect she's right--you assumed a worst case scenario, which isn't horrible in and of itself given the situation, but you also theorized without much considering how other people would experience shit.
You felt confident, but you were wrong.
You got a little too
into your own head.
Ha ha ha.
You were wrong.
You won't know for sure until you wake up, obviously, but you're pretty confident now that you were wrong. You should wake up fine. ...Not fine, it's going to suck, but you shouldn't die if there's any sort of balance or reasoning to all this dream game dungeon world garbage.
Knowing the game shit is what you do, and you failed to know the game shit.
God damn, Plaire Stevens, you are fucking useless.
You finally breathe again. You give a small nod. "...Yeah. You're right. I'm stupid."
"No," you blurt out, "I'm not like, mad or anything, I mean it. You're right, I'm glad you're right, I'm probably not going to die and that rules, but fuck, what am I doing here? Cici, I'm--"
You take a moment to fight the stinging in your throat.
"I'm a fucking wreck. I'm... LOOK AT THIS!" You gesture to the everything, the insidious ooze threatening to crush your tiny glass canister, the wandering shadows of horrid monstrosities, the whole dungeon with its furious gods beating on the pissy sky. "This is me, Cici! This is my fucking brain! This is what my world looks like! If shit were sane I wouldn't be in this position! The dream shouldn't be based on me, I shouldn't be in charge of FUCK ALL, let alone in charge of whatever the FUCK nightmare apocalyptic SHIT we're dealing with here! Cici, I--"
You stumble back to lean against the curved glass.
"You should have bought the house," you tell her. "You should have bought it before me. I shouldn't have bought it. I should have... I should've..."
"What?," Cici finally interjects. "Stayed in your old town? Was that better?"
. . .
"No," you mutter.
"You know why I didn't buy the house?"
. . . "No," you repeat. "You mentioned thinking about it, but--"
"I'm a coward," she says.
"I kept puttin' it off. I saw the FOR SALE sign on the front lawn. I had the money. Bebe would LOVE to kick my ass out and have the apartment to herself, those Mondol places are way too small. I had pleeenty of time to buy that house... but I was afraid."
"...Of the Spooky House?"
"Of losing my sisters," she says. "They're the only friends I have, Plaire. Deedee just lives in the apartment next door, but it's still like she's living in another town. ...And, it's like, she gets a little farther every day. I don't--" She pauses, briefly. "I don't know what I'm doing with myself. I wanted to be like Deedee, but now she's miserable and I can see it and I wanna fix it but I don't know how. I don't--"
She pauses a bit longer before seeming to collect herself.
"Point is, I was afraid if I moved out of the apartment, I'd start to lose Bebe and I'd finish losing Deedee. ...And I'm afraid if I lose them I don't know what I'm gonna do. I don't know who I am. I don't know what my dungeon would look like, or who my bosses would be. I don't know where I'm going in life, I don't..."
The longest pause.
"I wanted to be like Deedee, but I don't know who she is anymore. I'm afraid. I'm afraid of being a disappointment, I'm afraid of being a big waste of... of everything. I could've bought the house but I was scared."
"...Your sisters aren't the only friends you have," you state quietly, before adding a less sappy "so you can go ahead and fuck off with that right now." It elicits a small, choked laugh from Cici, so it's worth it. You continue. "Second of all, I know where you're going with this, and you can fuck off with that too. Me leaving Addersfield isn't some symbol of courage, I didn't cowboy up and decide to buy a haunted house, I didn't have a choice. The alternative was the WORSE version of THIS!" you again gesture wildly to the everything. "And third, you don't NEED to know who you are. Fuck, you're in like--what, your 20s? Cici, you have your whole life ahead of you--"
"MPLE," she says suddenly.
MPLE, pronounced like maple, is an acronym that means Mass Produced Life Expectancy. MPLE was the name of a movie about a genetically engineered guy (played by an actor who did admittedly bulk up for the role, but was not a tube man in real life) who is on a rip roaring rampage of revenge after drug dealers killed his boss. The catch is, because the main character is a mass produced "tube cop," he has a limited life expectancy--specifically, he has to kill all the criminals involved in 48 hours, because he himself is going to die from medical complications associated with being a tube cop.
Custom people yelling MAPLE before doing dumb shit briefly became a meme, not reaching the heights of YOLO but technically predating it by over a year. There was some brief discourse online about whether or not you can culturally appropriate something from a custom, but then it was pointed out that the majority of engineered individuals are made to be people of color, which is a pretty WTF statistic on its own but sort of makes it definitely appropriation--
"Wait," you blurt out, "that's bullshit, though. That's just a thing they made up for movies, isn't it? Like, undercover cops don't really HAVE to tell you if they're undercover cops, we don't really use only 10% of our brain--"
"Plaire," she says gently. "The longest a custom's ever lived was 10 years, and he wasn't mass produced. He was a custom custom. He cost like a billion dollars and they made a documentary about him."
"Oh my god, Cici, I am... so fucking sorry-- holy shit, everything I just said is like the dumbest god damn--"
"It's fine," she says, but then kind of stops herself. "--I mean, yeah, I'm not gonna sugarcoat it, you definitely don't know as much about this stuff as you do about games--" fuck, harsh but fair "--but... it's not exactly common knowledge."
"It fucking should be," you point out. "Like... fuck almighty, that's grotesque."
"...Yeah," she admits. "I'm not gonna sugarcoat that, either, it's pretty messed up to give human beings expiration dates! They say it's a science problem, but... you know, since that really expensive custom did live like ten years, it sounds an aaawful lot like it's not a science problem. Maybe it's, dunno--a money problem! Maybe if I lived somewhere else, had a fancier contract, maybe they'd let me live a whole decade. I dunno. I don't get paid enough to know!"
This is... easily the most angry you have heard Cici. She still sounds like she's smiling, but it's... venomous, a cynicism you didn't think her capable of. Even after the confrontation with Officer Johnson, Cici didn't sound as... bitter as she does about this.
Not that you blame her. Jesus fucking Christ.
She visibly collects herself once more. "What I'm saying is, I need to DO something. I got out of my contract, I have a good job, if I'm not GOING somewhere with that then I'm wasting--"
Cici jumps back as something slams into the glass behind you.
You spin around quickly, but it feels like you're in slow motion.
One of those needly acid worms.
Much, much fucking bigger.
You cannot see the ends of it. It bends and stretches on, fading off into the dark water. You don't know how long it is, only that it's too long.
"Do like you oughta," you practically whisper, "acid to water."
"...What?," Cici asks quietly.
You do not take your eyes off the giant worm currently pressing itself against the glass. "Acid dilutes in water. There's a lot of these worm fuckers in the water, but they have trouble getting through denim until they get into the open air. He shouldn't be able to acid through the glass."
The worm, after several moments of... writhing, and indeed failing to acid its way through the glass,
begins to thrash more violently.
Its soft worm flesh hits the glass.
A second time, a little harder.
"Oh damn," Cici blurts out. "Uh, Plaire?"
A third time. The glass begins to crack.
"Yeah I guess it can do THAT though, FUCKING RUN!"
And thus, with the sound of a massive worm slamming against the glass over and over following you the entire way, you and Cici proceed to book ass.
Her new form, you must admit, is a faster flyer than her egg shape was.
You do not look back, and you don't think Cici is either. You almost tackle the metal grate on the far west end of the tube.
Cici drops the toolbox, procures the junkyard screwdriver, and squeezes between the bars to reach the other side.
You stand there, fidgeting nervously, doing your best to be patient, while she unscrews the screws that you already know are way too many screws because you've seen the other side of this grate and frankly, four screws would have been fine, if having to unscrew seals is going to be a reoccurring gimmick then making it six+ screws just feels like--
Splash. The big metal cap comes off. Cici breathes a sigh of relief.
You glance back, finally--you're not even sure what that glass breaking and the pipe flooding would be like in real life, never mind with dream dungeon physics in tow. Nonetheless, you're back to a familiar location, you know where to find mana from here, and you are no longer stuck in a god damn pipe with THE BIGGEST WORM YOU HAVE EVER SEEN PART OF trying to murder the ever loving shit out of you. ...Also the pipe does not seem to have broken and flooded.
Cici puts the screwdriver back in the toolbox, closes it, then picks the toolbox back up. She flutters out over the water, and--
Cici grows. Bigger than she did in the heart room. Bigger than you.
She lowers herself a little bit into the murk, which would still be up to your chest if you dropped out of the pipe--and she does her best to stabilize herself so you can climb on top of her.
Despite her, uh, roundness, Cici's surprisingly easy to hold onto. You point her in the direction of the stairs, and you ride her like an inflatable raft back to dry land. She shrinks back to her normal size very slowly, giving you ample time to hop off safely as you approach the floor.
Once you are both out of the water and Cici is back to her regular size, she continues, slightly out of breath. "You might not THINK you had a choice, but you did. You left behind everything, Plaire--"
"I'd have died if I stayed," you solemnly interrupt. "They'd have killed me, or I'd have killed myself. I physically could not live in Addersfield any longer than I did, I was fucking drowning. This--" Once more with the gesturing toward the whole dungeon, "This isn't bullshit. This place is, if anything, under selling how much it felt like the entire town was my enemy. I had to move out with nothing or die."
"Plaire," she says delicately, "...you've been expecting to die here, though. You've been pretty open about that!"
. . .
. . .
After another brief silence, you change the subject. "I should definitely go out somewhere that fucks over Evil Plaire, though. Like, fade out or death, I don't care, but if I die it should be in a locked room or way the fuck out in the middle of wherever we're not going next time--I'm pretty sure she spawns wherever I die at. ...The heart room's pretty close to The Triangle, so it might be best to go get killed outside."
"Or I could just fade, whatever."
Cici's tone, at least, suggests she's in better spirits now. "That's your call. You'll be running with Kate next time, so the Scary Plaire's not my problem!"
Pffft. "Touché. I guess you guys are alternating, then...?"
She shrugs her little wings, a feat that still perplexes you in spite of everything. "I ASSUME we are, but I dunno! I'm gettin' preeetty low on mana, though, so we should probably factor that into whatever plans you wanna make. I don't think the wine's really going to kill you, but... I still don't like it."