Abrupt Familiarity

<< Revenant Faith and Foreign Pilgrimage

“Don’t despair, little one! My hand, it is very keen – and I shall cut you from the beast’s belly. However… I will need your foot as payment.”

-GedGetKroDra the Sword Hand, in The Child Twice Lost

Poking a drunk with a stick was asking for trouble. Walking the rougher streets of Rhaagm without a mesh, such as down Southsea way, while wearing a sign that said “Please sell me into the unregistered flesh trade” was asking for trouble.

What was sprinting and swinging through Eihks’s mind didn’t ask for trouble as much as outright purchase trouble at great expense, and then apply for trouble insurance.

The words of the anti-establishment punk rang through his mind.

“The Kingmaker will show you! The Kingmaker will show you! The Kingmaker will show you!”

Then, the part that was like a terrible game of Grediwe, impossible to watch but impossible to abandon:

“The true king’s judgment comes from the stars!”

Ktsn, rigid as she drew forth words not her own. Was that poetry, or providence, or coincidence?

His inner Eihks started giggling. When digging through the layers of “why,” eventually progress gets stymied by the black box that separates the metaphysical and the concrete. It was all too often an unknowable thing, the arbitrary nature of hyperconnectedness. Apophenia versus design was a topic he could indulge later to his heart’s content. For now, the question of bringing others into his loop of epiphany remained.

It could be coincidence. Likely? About as likely as getting two hostile Yrdkish Lords to resolve a conflict without their play wars. But still technically possible – and that might mean needlessly stirring up worry. What if it’s actually nothing?

Conversely, if it IS a true identifier of prophecy, then what is the consequence of not saying anything? I don’t know… and that’s a very dangerous position to occupy with valuable things to protect. And besides that, there’s the moral angle.

Not to mention… how or if certain libelous charges might be related to current events.

He very specifically avoided looking at the karkshesh as he bent to help one of the injured civilians to his feet. Eihks supported him until his sister or daughter or something arrived to offer her help instead.

One part of his mind wanted him to open up a Monolith connection, and contract a bunch of sociologist eidolons to give their situational analysis on his options. Never before had he needed to worry about compartmentalizing things like this in the Journals of Gem Pioneering. Well, he and Shelilafior decided when bits and pieces of his adventures needed to go on the other side of the wall with “EDITING” painted across it. Hardly the same thing.

But no. There really wasn’t a choice about it. The Way didn’t leave any ambiguity; the crooked paths of his heart were made straight.

After a few minutes of chipping in with the good Samaritan effort, he caught Ktsn’s attention. Through supremely subtle and incredibly sophisticated sign language he managed to tell her he was going back inside. First he had to have words with the representatives of the city (royal?) guard, though. Fonlat also got lapelled by the enforcement crew, since her shop had been the site of the incident literally before she’d finished moving in. Tassy, holding her head high, pranced about with childlike glee.

Now the decision on whether or not to tell her about his quadrupedal associate’s gifts… THAT was going to be complicated.

“You live around here?” asked one guard, looking way up.

“Uh, yes.”

Eihks jerked a thumb at the property whose front still bore official graffiti.


The guard indicated the punk.

“We might need to ask you some more questions about this fellow later.”

“Oh. Well, I’ll try to make myself as available as possible.”


The absence of “good job taking him down” balanced out with the absence of “why precisely did you give him nasal surgery,” so Eihks called it a decent resolution.

The increased attention would be both a blessing and burden, but such always held true for fame.

It didn’t take long to get everything else inside the shop from the wagon. As he finally reentered the building, he trotted over to where Ktsn was waiting in one corner of the unadorned shop, unmoving as an Údanese stele. He halted in the slim-shadowed indoors, then narrowed his eyes over his shoulder at the few who peered in after him. The knives that he’d retrieved from the thug and returned to his person were no sharper than the distaste he initially wore.

Upon seeing the legitimate distress facing him, he softened instead, with a defusing wave thrown in for good measure.

“It’s fine,” he told them, running one hand down the untouched ceramic-tiled cloth he wore under his jacket. “Nothing to fret over.”

Aaaaand there goes the streak of honesty.

He didn’t shut the door, as Fonlat was still outside, but he did move farther away from where he could be easily spied. Dust fled his dread undead posterior when he heavily sat adjacent to the karkshesh, staring out into infinity. A few moments came and went, unremarkable except for the breathing of his companion.

No, not his companion. His friend.

Two thinking creatures pondered the angular polygon of the threshold leading outside. The view was largely unoccupied until a cluster of people passed, supporting each other in their departure from the scene of quick violence. Hardly two seconds later, a different smaller group moved the other direction across the aperture, wearing official-looking clothing.

“I have been thinking, and I have something to say,” Ktsn eventually confessed.

“By the strangest chance, that state of affairs is mutual.”

She picked out the gravitas in his proclamation, and put whatever she had been about to say on hold. A wrist rotated at him in millwheel fashion; an example of their mannerisms slowly infecting each other.

As a matter of fact, when he stilled the beginnings of his entertained honking, it was with the slightest compulsion to chatter his fingernails across each other.

“I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that Thomas gave you a significantly above-average capability when you received your particular flavor of prophetic talent. The short-term focus on that imbecile, overlapping with your long-term insight concerning him, is very unique.”

One hand clawed like a witch’s talon pointed through the wall.

“The imbecile in question had some very interesting opinions. Specifically about the stars… and the ‘Kingmaker.’”

The body beside him tensed.

“He also spoke of the ‘true king’ in a way that suggests he’s not in favor of Goeyren’s rule. In short, I think we’re on the edge of some real drama. What we’ve gone through thus far is going to make some excellent material. If it hits something in the range of political drama, that’s going to immediately garner top interest on the part of our demographics.”

After a moment’s careless consideration he tossed out, “I think you’re in a very different class of atypicals, you.”

“I am definitely considered atypical, if I understand how rare it is for people’s planets to be suddenly abducted.”

“No; I meant in the sense of ‘qualitatively rare characteristics’ rather than having experienced unusual events. Your prophetic talents seem to qualify. Exhume the most specific definition, please.”

“Oh,” she said after blinking rapidly, following a consultation of her mesh. “That is quite a small proportion.”

“Well, in the relative terms of something the size of – say – Bequast, anything outside one thousand twenty four standard deviations, or a trillionth of any roughly-homogenous subset, still counts for quite a lot of people. As respects your home? Yes, you might be the only atypical Gegaunli karkshesh.”

After a short silence, Ktsn asked, “What precisely did he say?”

Eihks relayed the verbiage of the statements that had put his back up, followed by the literal translation in case she could connect some dots he was missing.

“That is most curious,” she offered in the sort of understatement whose magnitude might – had the understatement carried different content – cause a listener to make signs of warding against bad luck. “The subject of understanding has additional significance to me at this time, as it also happens.”

“Yes? Do tell.”

The Being of Old named Target was perhaps the only one of his class of strange half-deity beings who appeared somewhat regularly in the ranks of extrafacetary society. A creature of surprising openness when he did decide to make an appearance, he left a lasting impression even in beholders who didn’t know who he was. That number was very low, though; even despite the frequent numbers of copycats, something distinguished imitator from genuine article in respect to Olds.

After meeting him, a few things overlapped in the judgment of his person by pretty much any person questioned on the subject. He was quiet. He always appeared in the same scarves-and-stripes outfit. He had a penchant for imagery related to Earth Standard culinary arts.

And perhaps most important, the concentric circle scars around his eye always framed an incomparably severe gaze. Even those beyond human-analogue psychological borders picked up on the unusual biting focus he furnished.

That focus, and its potency, slammed to the front of Eihks’s mind as Ktsn delivered him the full of her attention.

One didn’t disregard the Olds or their chosen.

“I have discovered some facts about myself and yourself and the situation in which we both find ourselves. I am unhappy being at a disadvantage regarding comprehension. What I had not realized until today is how painful it might be to know something of inestimable value, and be incapable of estimating that value.”

Her nostrils flared when an obnoxious voice screeched outside, followed by a delay, then the sound of bamboo splintering with great force. She picked up her line once more as the noise dulled, then resumed at a louder volume.

“I am distracted, forgive me. If I had the grasp of the tongue these people use, then perhaps I could have assessed whether or not to interfere with that hooligan’s desires without your intervention,” she said.

“I don’t think,” Eihks replied after a careful second, “that I appreciate you putting yourself in danger. That’s at the very least against the spirit of my oath, even if I remained in ignorance. I’m not interested in only doing that promise eyeservice, and letting you put yourself in harm’s way the rest of the time. The primary reason I stuck any conditions on that little ill-advised oath is to avoid suffering the most grievous of penalties because of failure to notice you stubbing a…”

He looked down at the long conical phalanges of her feet.

“… finger on something.”

Ktsn was quiet for a few thoughtful breaths.

“That is understandable,” she admitted eventually. “However, even if I did not choose to interfere using the blessing of that knowledge, it would be a boon to simply know.”

Under the sole scrutiny of a very intentional Eihks, she said, “If there is a way for you to instill this people’s language in me, even if it requires the manipulation of a cerv-mesh, please do.”

Eihks’s nails did actually run over each other, then. Fortunately for the people outside, his laughter reduced him to a silently wheezing windbag, rather than an additional raucous disruption of an already disrupted day.

“There is no need to mock me!” the karkshesh abruptly snarled, her lips retreating as she slowly stood and backed away.

“No, no,” he eventually managed when he slipped the reins back over the part of the brain which houses humor. “We have so much in common as thinkers, you and I, but this…”

Grinning, he leaned back just a little. A mental temporal savepoint rolled back in his head. A past misadventure fondly preserved as a warning against hubris-disguised-as-ambition.

“One of the very first times that the Journals featured a meeting with a facetary sentient culture, I acted precisely the opposite way from how you’re currently behaving – namely, willing to understand even without putting that understanding to pragmatic use. I was… dead set on making a difference and getting my fingers into the little stories around me. To be perfectly honest, it was obvious I didn’t need silly things like language to succeed at doing that.”

He grinned.

“Forget that a person can hardly gauge how effective they are at doing a certain task if they have no unambiguously comprehensible feedback. It’s truly amazing that nobody got hurt or defamed thanks to a simple misunderstanding on my part. Almost happened a few times. But most importantly, the belief that I could determine the needs of the community around me thanks to universality of ‘the language of pain’ was caught and eventually excised.”

A single finger rose to point at her, then fell as his smile softened into pulp.

But am I doing any better now, keeping the truth back from you? Not revealing accusations against me even if they hold no weight?

He hissed on the inside.

And yet… what if the fable of Eihks Richard, vector for Tufcich undeath, manages to gain traction? What if I tell you there’s nothing to worry about – and THAT proves to be the lie?

The grin dissolved, and he forced a positive glow into his eyes.

We need to wait and see, at least for now. The Way preserve me, but willful deception by omission is the more comforting option right now. And that fact tells me there’s a problem.

“You’ve gotten the importance of knowing the full truth sorted out, I think,” he said, and his lukewarm heart chilled just a bit more as he forced the words past his lips. “It’s just a question now of figuring out the best way to employ your wisdom.”

Without being too pushy about it, he slid just a bit closer.

“Whenever you want to get it done, we can take care of this little errand.”

Ktsn started to say something, drawing up short when Fonlat’s voice came in through the walls. Only the tail end was legible to the naked human ear, and Eihks wasn’t running any extra-capable sensors. It conveyed annoyance that a new citizen of the capital should have to go through such an experience literally before spending their first night in the city. It contained gratitude for the speed of the guards’ response. It presumably called Tassy to follow her back inside. Quite a lot of implication got shoved into the stuffy smile-voiced phrasing, “… see if she’ll protect me if it happens again!”

Ktsn’s glass-still shape reanimated momentarily.

“Now if you are ready, I think I am as well,” she murmured, after a quick survey of the quiet indoors. The piles of moved-in goods. The door framing. The awkward staircase architecture. “If it is going to be anything like the last time, I would like it to be over and done as fast as the last time as well.”

She winced. No, not painful memories at all.

“Alright. Sending now.”

He compressed the kernel containing the relevant portion of his linguistics. A bunch of directives got slapped on top, so that the mesh of the recipient could setup a guide framework. The framework would school standard biologies in the necessary manipulations, oral or otherwise, to successfully speak it. Each came with the proper substitutions so the mesh could take over if the speaker were impaired or categorically incapable.

“Now, think back to-”

He stopped as Fonlat came inside followed by her faithful hound.

“What’s going on here?” she grouched, though not exactly caustic in her manner.

“We’re going over some basic helpful things,” he replied, with as much innocence in his obliqueness as possible.

“More of your strange foreign nonsense? Hiiih. Leave me out of it, then.”

“Just so.”

He tapped on his cerv-mesh as he gestured at Ktsn’s neck. Rhaagmini came flowing out of him once more.

“Back to when Xelat helped you. You remember how that started, correct?”

“I do.”

“Well, hold on tightly to your memory of that event. This one will be similar, if far less traumatic. I’ll be doing the installation in this case.”

He inclined his head.

“Make sure to pay attention, because I’ll be showing you how to do this yourself in the future if you have another instance of want-to-obtain-something as regards your mesh’s faculties.”

The local person-to-person relay that underlay every Monolith-based direct channel connection was… broad in its possible applications. Eihks leapt mindward, and boiled down a canal of data into the abstractions contained in the karkshesh’s little neck-box. He felt a jarring headspace conjoinment. It was the sort of union that meant getting a little more deeply involved with another person’s mind than essential long-distance or private conversation. His personal identifier cleared access to her sanctum sanctorum, and – given he was making the journey himself – he brought the package of his kernel along with him.

{So… here we are,} he explained. To accurately describe their mental association in the context of her cerv-mesh required language that would need some time to fully unpack. As such, if he planned to educate her later in the broader semantics of installation and manipulation instructions, he’d have to ensure she had a proper grasp of system architecture.

Fortunately, he discovered that his commission of Xelat to get Ktsn’s original setup rolling was a very well-spent sum. The eidolon had evidently showed her around her own mental formations and the interfaces connecting them, because his associate – while clumsy – navigated her mind with a sense of direction and orientation.

{Yes, we are.}

He descended upon the expandable array of language buffers that many users tied directly into their eidetics for easier use. She, having not deigned to activate or use her eidetic modules, possessed no such connections. In fact, her cerv-mesh showed an impressively Spartan quality of which his Rhaagmini side approved.

{This portion is what you need to use,} he told her, highlighting the language and diction related elements forming a neatly organized sector, next to the general memory components and wide open plains reserved for Monolith activities. He passed the kernel, and she accepted it. {What do you think should happen now?}

{I should install it,} she replied, bytevoice somewhat timorous. {But I do not know how to do that.}

{Do you not? Give it a try.}

{What if I mess up? What if I accidentally do something that compromises my brain and allows me to be controlled by others?}

Emotions weren’t sent through the connection of person-to-person communication relays in raw form. Even so, he projected calm and control, making sure to recall his own run-ins with alien or inscrutable technologies and protocols in the past. The peace of seeing a black box, and deliberately refusing to be intimidated by the ports and strange dangling wires snaking from its surface.

{I feel like you will not have to worry about messing up, for some reason. Being suborned as you describe is a possibility, under certain circumstances. Someone could theoretically get into your facilities and externally manipulate your stimuli, or the flow of information. Examine your dictionary data on a “big brother attack.”}

{… It is evidently the sort of event that earns the perpetrator a life sentence, if they are lucky. I must confess this kind of thing is what has been worrying me in the past. Not such specific iterations, but… it fits into a cubbyhole of paranoia.}

{Yes. But I promise you that I will not let that happen to you, because I have had more than a couple of people try that with me; if you make mistakes, I will see them corrected. First, though, you do not have as easy of a time screwing up an installation like this as you seem to think. Second, reiterated, is that I have faith in you.}

Ktsn’s digital extension remained silent and inactive for quite some time.

{Very well. I have… will have faith in you as well.}

She promptly and efficiently moved to socket the kernel into the appropriate location. Unfortunately, she tried to mate it with the bones of one of her supporting libraries, rather than an appropriate fixture. It wasn’t embarrassing so much as undignified for someone with a lifetime of cerv-mesh acquaintance. For a relative newcomer to the very idea of information technology, the fact that her syntax was correctly formulated for the most part spoke in her favor.

She realized her mistake.

Rather than moping, or huffily snapping her end of the connection off (which would have been a bit disorienting for him), or doing anything in the heat of the moment, she calmly undid the procedure, and shuffled around the manipulators she used to perform tasks in the lightless ether of her mindscape.

This time, the kernel moved in the proper direction and bound to the proper calls.


A bit of checking around. The connection was clean. The configuration didn’t have any alterations – yet – that allowed external access. All components reliant on mechanisms vulnerable to stochastic analysis were safely tucked behind three layers of abstraction and one layer of metaphysical waffling. Eihks dropped the connection and returned his full focus to his more corporeal self. After a second or two longer of Ktsn maintaining that infinite stare of mesh integration, she breathed deeply several times, then shook herself a bit like a hound or a waterlogged fowl.

“You’ve got it bolted down,” he told her. “How do you feel?”

“I feel… better,” she hesitantly declared in not-Loonmith. “It does not feel like a violation of my sense of self.”

Arms extended, Ktsn examined her own hands and claws with fascination. Eihks remembered once or twice when a new module or utility suddenly made the whole world a different place; as though looking at his reflection would show someone with new hair and eyes and mouth.

Tooth-gnashing dissonance snagged the moment away like a lye-soaked fishhook, when something ceramic committed suicide. Over by one of the sets of folded fabric, Fonlat’s open hand twitched just a bit. She peered backward under her own armpit at Ktsn like – if Eihks were being honest with himself – she’d just seen a rock write down a geometric proof of Pythagoras’s theorem. Her left eye spasmed.

“Excuse me?” she emitted. It was both quiet and very very slow. “Did I just hear…”

When she trailed off, Eihks swung both arms on invisible hinges toward his partner.

“I suppose this is as good a time as any. We’re all on equal terms now. Ktsn, Fonlat; Fonlat, Ktsn. Fortunately you both know each other already so we don’t have to go into really in-depth introductions.”

“I heard ‘I feel better!’” Fonlat declared with a kind of regal offense, spinning to scowl right-side up. “You can’t tell me I didn’t!”

“I don’t, I can’t, and I won’t.”

“Is that… not the correct phrasing?” Ktsn ventured. Her attention divided between the two humans, and Eihks thought it was going to give her a seizure if she kept switching back and forth so quickly. He slid into the angular vicinity of their landlady, so that the karkshesh’s eye could keep both of them in the same field of view without undue effort.

“It is.”

Fonlat’s tough arms folded as she turned back around. When Tassy came over to investigate the detritus of the shattered vessel, she was shooed away. The refuse quickly went into a small cloth or rag, and got moved out of the way.

“I’ll be honest, it seemed you were having a good laugh at me some of the time,” Fonlat berated Eihks, waving in a “look at this big fuzzy six-limbed apparently sapient thing I’m now meeting” way. “Things like that demonstration with your interesting little bow, and other such curiosities – those gave the impression of a person with a very strange, foreign character. But those just added up to an impression!”

She sat down on a low box, staring at Ktsn and supporting her chin with one palm.

“Why didn’t you say anything before?” she asked, at least four times as curious as she was demanding.

A quick exchange of glances.

You’ve got this one, my dear farmer.

“I had some difficulties preventing me,” Ktsn answered, smoothly and without pausing to think. Her accent came across as a sort of guttural fricative-sharpened rasp, thrown here and there between words. Even so, she brandished the torch of speech with an admirable deftness.

“You sound well-spoken enough,” Fonlat replied.

“Why, I thank you, but my problems came from a lack of knowledge rather than inability to form sounds. Eihks has helped me overcome those problems. I hope he has done well.”

She’s a regular artist with omitting the extraneous and unbelievable, Eihks thought. His eyebrows sank back out of his hairline as he squinted at the woodworker. She was on a shelf and he was on the floor, but his height meant he still had to look just a little bit down at her.

“He’s a character, all right.”

He gazed severely at Fonlat’s eyes.

“Now… if you could keep Ktsn’s verbosity to yourself… it would be such a very, very big favor,” he said. It was quiet, and calm, and as dust-dry and crisply carved as a stone monument.

She let the slash of her mouth run wider.

“It would, would it?”

A hand batted at the air as she shook her head, picking up a small bundle from beside her and beginning to unravel it.

“I suppose you’ve got the right to ask such a thing. It’s…”

She glared across the room and its contents with an amiably interrogative expression.

“… a very, very unusual position you’re in.”

Eihks smiled, frowned, glanced at the karkshesh, then sighed. Loudly.

Ktsn blinked. Fonlat kept unwrapping until Tassy bumped against one of her legs, and demanded (and received) pets.

He pointedly shifted back just a little bit, pulled out one of his knives, and started paring some dirt out from under a fingernail. His smile couldn’t have more obviously been aimed at Ktsn if it had a neon arrow dangling from his tongue.

“I wonder whether-” he began.

He noticed Fonlat’s slight appalled stiffening as she caught sight of something, just before Tassy slunk over and started sniffing at him. The knife, it turned out, had a bit of blood that he’d missed on the edge.

The knife rippled into and back out of his clothing. He had to wipe it against the extremely sturdy Morris-weave fabric lining the sleeves and neck a couple of times. Hygiene duties resumed with a CLEAN knife.

“I wonder whether there are any things worth telling our employer and landlady, especially pertaining to what just happened outside.”

The tone was extremely expansive; the way that he temporarily and obviously put the knife aside was merely a request. The message was one he’d given her not too long ago, in different circumstances.

It’s your call.

“There are,” Ktsn said in her native tongue, very quietly.

Both of them, in their small ways, relaxed.

Eihks patted his chin.

“Fonlat, you might be interested to hear that that man outside has… some possible significance to us, as well as you, beyond the fact that he tried to assault people just outside this shop.”

One woman scratched her head with a four-fingered hand, the other with a hand possessing five digits.

“That seems obvious,” Fonlat proclaimed. “Now we’re going to have every person who passes this way looking at this storefront, and remembering ‘that fool who did some monumentally stupid things right here’ as they go by.”

She looked sideways at the still packed collection of many tools-of-the-trade.

“Either very good for business, or very bad for business, depending.”

“No… I mean…”

Ktsn struggled to find a good excuse, euphemism, slantwise drop-off of meaning, sidestep, or any other evasion of the full gory detail that still got the essential points across. She evidently failed to achieve satisfactory results.

“I have a bit of a gift,” she confessed. “It suggested that there is going to be something big possibly involving Rollhir soon, and this man’s presence marks an ominous milestone.”

She proceeded to describe her prophetic talent at length – omitting only the fact that her gift came from a Being of Old. Well, also the peripheral information that would expose her as an extrafacetary alien rather than a facetarily local one.

Fonlat’s mien, over a very small period of time, crystallized into flat incomprehension, fermented into disbelief, decanted a triple draft of concern over whether she was getting a bad or mis-aimed translation, and finally accepted that – barring all else – the karkshesh was telling her the truth as SHE saw it.

“And you think this ‘Kingmaker’ person will do great and terrible things, is that it?” she finally asked.



She got up off her seat, rummaged through the various packages and parcels in one section of the frozen calamity that was the state of the room’s repair, and unearthed a metal-spined box filled with water. Inside the demi-liquid was suspended a collection of several bottles with needlessly complex corks.

One of these treasures, plucked from the well of stored miracles, was decapitated and summarily partially emptied into the woman’s gullet with a large number of swallows.

“I’ve been around the streets a few times,” she said after wiping the back of her hand across her lips. “Did some adventuring when I was a bit younger. That’s the sort of thing that makes you get wise, or get dead. So… either you’re correct, in which case I have a future-seeing something-or-other under my roof and I should forget everything I thought I knew, or the something-or-other is crazy and my woes are probably just starting.”

She nudged the open crate with a leg.

“That calls for either a celebration or a time of mourning. It just so happens that under my roof, those are both things that require the good spirits. Grab a bottle and throw it back.”

“I… wait,” Eihks started after a second. “Let me see that. Ktsn might not be able to drink it.”

“Well, there will be three empty bottles by the end of this evening, and this girl here has a limit of precisely one.”

“I… look. You won’t be getting me drunk this evening no matter how much I imbibe, so…”

He considered.

“You enjoy alcohol?” he demanded of the karkshesh.

“Usually? No. Today? Absolutely.”

He wasn’t a huge fan of debauchery, and didn’t usually endorse loosening-up of one’s inhibitions. In the case of Ktsn, though, the woman letting her guard down this once wouldn’t be the end of the world. Especially not with a stick-in-the-mud like himself to play nanny.

Dæmon cluster analysis came back; the species of alcohol on sample wouldn’t be any more lethal to his partner than it would to a human.

“Ah,” he intoned.

“I can drink it?” Ktsn prodded without enthusiasm or reserve.

“You can drink it.”

They drank it.

It turned out that a Gegaunli karkshesh, when sufficiently intoxicated, could carry frighteningly sober discussions of metaphysical nature with a plant-pot filled with bamboo shoots.

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