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File 154601495322.png - (389.00KB , 800x800 , babequest cover card.png )
915305 No. 915305 ID: a68708

Desperate times, desperate measures, desperate weirdos.

This is my first quest and may potentially include NSFW content! Also, I had to delete this thread and remake it because of formatting errors. Sorry about that!
Expand all images
No. 915306 ID: a68708
File 154601499946.png - (279.64KB , 800x800 , panel1.png )

It's rehearsal night at the Lonford Circus, which means that the ringmaster and most of the performers are in the big top with no crowd to supervise them. I'm tempted to make a dramatic entrance, but compared to everyone else here, my chances of making any impact are slim - even if I am the guy who quit by nearly burning the entire circus to the ground. I joined that circus under the name of Noro Bitquoin, and left it as Babe.
No. 915307 ID: a68708
File 154601502414.png - (303.12KB , 800x800 , panel2.png )

I used to work here as a guard, alongside a handful of other rowdy folks who were unsuited to security gigs anywhere outside of a circus. It's been a few years, and I'm much less of a guard and much more of a criminal now, but I could probably make a pretty big entrance here - especially if any of the old crew are still around. Despite the ungainly manner in which I left, I'm reasonably sure that if anyone will listen to me, it'll be them. But the drama of flouncing into the big top, hair billowing behind me as I extend my arms to greet my former colleagues and friends and enemies... it entices me.
No. 915308 ID: c0641d

Well, what's the point of you coming here? Are you hoping to accomplish something by making a grand entrance? If you're just here to apologize, then maybe being over the top ham about it isn't the right move.
No. 915309 ID: 7c746b

Flounce into the big top, hair billowing behind you.
No. 915310 ID: d41fc3

DO IT !!!!!
No. 915311 ID: ded7a1

is there anyone specific you're looking to see again? if you dont know who's around the circus these days it might be a better idea to go looking for them and hold off on that big entrance
No. 915312 ID: d887c0

You know what? Fuck it. It's the circus. Go crazy.
No. 915313 ID: ee3259

See if they are willing to listen to you before doing anything TOO big. If at least a couple people hear you out, then your work here is done, right? But if they aren't very receptive maybe another tent-burning could open their eyes.
No. 915318 ID: 080aaf

Use your familiarity with the circus to avoid your old coworkers, not meet them. At least, not on the way in.
No. 915408 ID: 270774

give in. give in. give in to your basest desire, which is drama
No. 915436 ID: a68708
File 154608014520.png - (267.04KB , 800x800 , panel3.png )

>Well, what's the point of you coming here?
Someone caught me taking something that I shouldn't have. That someone knows a lot of people who really, really enjoy committing a good murder. This is the only place I can trust to keep me hidden from all of that business, at least for a while.

>is there anyone specific you're looking to see again?
There's the old security crew I mentioned. I was pretty close with those guys, and it'll be nice to see them again.
Out of everyone else... The ringmaster would be best if I'm looking for a warm reception, since my departure meant her promotion. But on my way here, I'd been thinking a lot about the acrobats, for whatever reason. Maybe because I'd been looking forward to re-establishing myself as the top dog of the circus when it comes to the art of stirring the shit.
No. 915437 ID: a68708
File 154608017154.png - (264.79KB , 800x800 , panel4.png )

I decide to go for it, bracing myself and tossing my hair back to prepare for my big entrance into the big top I'd once abandoned. I'll show them. They'll be talking about this for generations. In five hundred years, all the baby clowns will learn the name of Babe.

I take a deep breath and stride into -
No. 915438 ID: a68708
File 154608019990.png - (207.14KB , 800x800 , panel5.png )

Choose an action:
(A) Attack lethally.
(B) Attack non-lethally.
(C) Attempt escape.
(D) Scream.
(E) All of the above.
No. 915440 ID: 930d12

Gotta be B. It's probably not a hitperson but you gotta be sure, and subduing them would let you find out.
No. 915443 ID: de8aa6

C -- see if you can be sneaky about it though....
if you get caught then B
No. 915445 ID: 080aaf

Return the hug.
No. 915446 ID: 270774

RETURN THE HUG. “hey you!!!!! <3”
No. 915448 ID: ae9bd9

Soil pants
No. 915451 ID: e4db83

d & then b
No. 915456 ID: d061a6

RETURN HUG.... best case, it’s an old friend, worst case, you just majorly threw off a hitperson??
No. 915480 ID: ded7a1

SCREAM and attempt returned hug
No. 915497 ID: a3dfae

No. 915956 ID: fbdb94
File 154644906174.png - (218.71KB , 800x800 , panel6.png )

My first instinct is to attack. My second is to scream. My attacker lifts me up and grips me around the chest with two arms before I have time to do either of these, and suddenly I'm overwhelmed by a raw, primal urge to just hug somebody. Bewildered, I pull my arms up around theirs and squeeze tightly.
No. 915957 ID: fbdb94
File 154644908167.png - (62.52KB , 800x800 , panel7.png )

No. 915959 ID: fbdb94
File 154644917296.png - (265.25KB , 800x800 , panel8.png )

The silence is broken as howling laughter rings through my ears, and immediately I recognize exactly who's got a hold of me. Irate, I attempt in vain to wriggle out of my old friend's iron grip, smacking his arms as he gleefully chuckles and spins me around.


I bite his arm hard and he cackles as he loosens his grip, allowing me to shove my way out of his grip and tumble to the dirt. My hair, unfortunately, takes most of the hit. I am now covered in the same brown dust that I'd always loathed.
No. 915960 ID: fbdb94
File 154644920914.png - (232.33KB , 800x800 , panel9.png )

I glare viciously up at the massive tabaxi who swings his tail excitedly above me, a big toothy grin lighting up his face.

"Out of everyone here, Bashan," I growl, "I missed you the least."
No. 915961 ID: fbdb94
File 154644924081.png - (268.16KB , 800x800 , panel10.png )

Bashan helps me up, still snorting with laughter as he does so. "BOY, did I GET you just now. I got you SO GOOD. You nearly SOILED YOUR PANTS."

"I did the fuck not. Look what you did to my hair. I hate you so fucking much."

"I LOVE you! I'm so EXCITED! I can't WAIT to show EVERYONE that you're FINALLY HOME! Even though you're BLIND in one eye now! And your HAIR'S longer! And you're SO MEAN!"

I scoff, embarrassed by his flattery. "I go by Babe now. Also, stop yelling. I don't want everyone to know I'm here until I say so."

"But why ARE you here? We've MISSED you! I don't even KNOW why you LEFT!" Bashan looks sad suddenly. "You didn't even say GOODBYE!"
No. 915968 ID: ded7a1

HES KITTY........ BIG PAWS.... idk how much youre willing to tell him but answering his questions doesnt seem like a bad idea
No. 915979 ID: a3dfae

are you gonna make him sad by not answering his questions????
No. 915981 ID: d887c0

WHY did you leave? Was it the fire?
No. 916005 ID: fbdb94
File 154649116792.png - (267.24KB , 800x800 , panel11.png )

>WHY did you leave? Was it the fire?

That, and the fact that I started it. There was a fight. I'm not renowned for my social skills.
No. 916006 ID: fbdb94
File 154649118254.png - (279.76KB , 800x800 , panel12.png )

Bashan had been here for about six months when I'd left, working as the resident strongman. Something about watching a big cat tear himself out of an iron cage within minutes was really appealing to a lot of people. We were close before I disappeared, and I feel a twinge of guilt as I remember that he hadn't really had any other friends in the circus outside of me.

I avoid his eyes as I try and figure out how to handle his questions. Telling anyone about why I'm here might put their lives in danger, and Bashan already looks like he's worried enough about me in the past three or four years. It'd ensure that I could stay here, though, and I know Bashan would rip someone apart for me if he thought I was somehow unable to fend for myself. If I kept it a secret, it would eliminate the chances of anyone in the circus from running their mouth, and I could make Bashan happy by telling him that I actually want to be here. But secrets don't last long here. Someone would eventually find out, and when they did, word would spread like wildfire.

I'm still not entirely sure how to tell Bashan that the reason I abandoned him and everyone else here was because I plain just felt like wrecking someone's shit and couldn't be bothered dealing with the consequences.
No. 916007 ID: c1eaac

DON'T tell bashan that you set the fire but DO tell him that you're here because someone is after you. be vague about why. we could use his backup, but he'll be mad later if he finds out you outright lied!
No. 916009 ID: ee3259

Got to agree with Marn! Don't say why you left and don't say any details about why you're back. Maybe say you've been having a rough time because someone is chasing you and you wanted to go somewhere familiar to relax.

If you two happen upon someone who can control whether you stay or get kicked out, see if your vague story is enough to convince them of the danger. If not, then give some details.
No. 916011 ID: 2202fb

How do you pronounce your name? Is it babe like 'gonna pick up some babes' or is it 'bobby'?
No. 916017 ID: edfbdc

Just tell him that you don't want to tell him right now. Better than lying, and you can change your mind later without losing trust.
No. 916018 ID: a3dfae

can you give vague details so you're not really lying to him? you don't have to tell him everything right away.
No. 916019 ID: 9d9337

find babe a girlfriend
No. 916064 ID: d887c0

You're a real piece of shit. You know that, Babe?
Tell him whatever you want or don't want. You being at this circus is going to be bad for everyone, you don't care so long as you have some meat shields to put between you and whoever is after you, and I have no sympathy for you.
In all likelihood, this is going to end in disaster.
No. 916169 ID: a3dfae

let's find babe a boyfriend but not right now because there are more important things we need to deal with. maybe tell bashan that you've changed?
No. 916170 ID: 790af0

definitely be vague abt it! it seems that hes missed you quite a bit, so maybe lean on that a little? im not saying to soup it up to get those sweet sympathy points, but..... 👀💦
No. 916187 ID: 094652

For clarification, did you set the ringmaster on fire?

Keep your mouth shut for the moment, and try to stay away from everyone else.

Also, where's your gang of minions?
No. 916289 ID: fbdb94
File 154669910578.png - (298.81KB , 800x800 , panel13.png )

Sighing, I scratch the back of my head in a universally understood display of resigned confession. "Things are pretty rough out there, Bashan," I admit, glancing out at the forest surrounding the showground. "I've done my best to fix the way things are, but there's only so much I can do on my own."

I take a deep breath and look back at him levelly. "And maybe I've gotten into something that I can't fix."
No. 916290 ID: fbdb94
File 154669913516.png - (248.91KB , 800x800 , panel14.png )

Bashan pauses for a moment, his brow furrowing for a moment before he takes a step back. I look on in confusion as he turns his head away.

"So THAT'S why!" he says, his cheerful tone falling flat through his strained smile. "Well, you're ALWAYS welcome here, Babe. But you don't need ME to tell you that."
No. 916291 ID: fbdb94
File 154669915713.png - (291.51KB , 800x800 , panel15.png )

I can feel my ears getting warm with embarrassment and shame. "I don't!" I defensively reply, flipping my hair back. "I don't need anyone to tell me anything."

He still isn't looking at me. The shame isn't going away. I swallow down a little of my pride.

"But... thank you, for telling me. That I'm welcome." I huff out through my nostrils as Bashan looks back at me in surprise, his ears flicking forward to listen to what I have to say through gritted teeth. "I feel safer here. With you. And others."
No. 916292 ID: fbdb94
File 154669918413.png - (333.66KB , 800x800 , panel16.png )

There's a second of dead silence before Bashan bursts into incredulous laughter, and I'm overwhelmed with chagrin as he leans in and gently tweaks my ear. It wiggles reflexively, which helps none and only makes him giggle again.

"Oh, N - Babe Bitquoin isn't INVINCIBLE?" he jeers, and I am reminded vividly that the reason I fit in so well here is because every single individual in the circus is a huge piece of shit. "You feel SAFER here! Babe, the RUTHLESS barbarian, finally back because he couldn't MAKE it out in the REAL WORLD!"

"Fuck off. I'm leaving."

"NO, YOU DON'T!" Bashan exuberantly yells, effortlessly catching me as I walk away and lifting me into the air again, squeezing his arms around me. "Who do you think would LAUGH harder at you? The GUARD, or the PERFORMERS?"
No. 916296 ID: 080aaf

Probably the performers, in a weak attempt to pretend they don't share those insecurities. After all, they holed up here too.
No. 916298 ID: ee3259


Nobody better laugh, you're hardcore and you'll give them the old one-two (1. Light a match, 2. Throw it.)

Ahaha no, maybe they'd be laughing with affection and not totally making fun of you.

You should go talk to some more people depending on who most needs to know you're here and what's coming after you. If you tell the performers you're in danger, will they pry? Will they let the guards know to be Super Serious?
No. 916442 ID: ec59ef

I think its time for Babe to re-apply for his job from the ringmaster! Maybe audition for a part? :))
No. 916443 ID: d10d39

One imagines embarrassment is a small price for safety and comfort, but you could probably also rough it alone if you really can't stand that. Also if this message is relayed incorrectly, it's my first day.
No. 916452 ID: edfbdc

Tell him that of course you could make it in the real world! You just made it too well. You didn't give up, you're just taking a break.

And obviously the performers will laugh harder, because you can shut up the guard just fine.
No. 917066 ID: fbdb94
File 154715143259.png - (221.04KB , 800x800 , panel17.png )

"This isn't even a choice!" I shout, kicking my legs wildly to little avail. "Nobody's gonna laugh at me! They're way weirder than I am!!"

"You sound DEFENSIVE, Babe! Maybe the CLOWNS will CHEER YOU UP! Because you're feeling so DEFENSIVE! And need CHEERING UP!" Bashan delightedly proclaims, adjusting his grip on me and striding toward the big top as though I weigh nothing. In a blind rage, I punch and kick at the air and shout every insult I can throw at Bashan as he carries me beyond the wall of canvas.
No. 917067 ID: fbdb94
File 154715145717.png - (339.80KB , 800x800 , panel18.png )


Bashan's voice booms through the tent as he holds me up high, his words perfectly clear even over the loud voices of all the performers within. I stop shouting in the loaded silence that follows Bashan's brazen announcement, instead opting to clench my jaw as tightly as possible as I weather the shocked stares of the people I've known since I was a scrawny teenager.
No. 917068 ID: fbdb94
File 154715148591.png - (351.74KB , 800x800 , panel19.png )

All at once, several people are running toward me and everyone is shouting. Before I can prepare myself, Bashan drops me like a half-eaten animal carcass at the doorstep of a beloved friend. Like vultures, my old friends and enemies descend upon me to pick me apart.

"You're a real piece of shit, you know that?" The first person to reach me is a tiefling; storming over from the middle of the room with a dancer's grace, their furious voice carrying above the din as they grab me and haul me up while I'm still surprised. I stumble as they shove me, recognizing Juno if not from their unchanged appearance then their open hatred of me. "What the fuck are you doing back here, you rat? You fucking vermin? You-"

"God! Shut up! Move!" someone else yells, and Juno is shoved unceremoniously out of the way by a human woman. She runs toward me at a sprint and promptly bowls me over with a hug, landing me in the dirt once again as she squeezes me tight enough to make me wheeze.

"Get off me, Maggie-" I choke out, shoving her off of me. I earn myself a kick in the shin for my hubris.

"You are so bad," she tells me, audibly thrilled. "I can't believe you're, like, back. You totally killed Ringleader Smith."

"Duh. Let me up."

"Hey. Noro." My attention is drawn to a white-faced clown standing above me as I get to my feet, whose wide painted smile is as menacing as it is unfamiliar. She looks me square in the eye as I straighten up. "Please understand that I will kill you very, very soon."

"Oh my god, Lars, you're so dramatic. Get a life!" Maggie yells after the clown as she strides out of the big top. Juno trails out behind her, glaring daggers at me as she does so. Finally afforded a moment's peace, I look around at the three other people around me, electing to ignore Bashan who still stands proudly behind me.
No. 917069 ID: fbdb94
File 154715151653.png - (356.93KB , 800x800 , PANEL20.png )

I immediately notice a young, lanky tabaxi with similar colouring to Bashan standing nervously nearby, and realize with a start that this is Silvy, the younger brother of the shittiest strongman in the world. He looks worried that I don't remember him, so I afford him a begrudging nod, still too pissed off at the world to give up anything more. At his side is Aberdeen, a faun who seems almost as nervous as Silvy with the contrast of actually having been my friend before I'd fled the show. Far back, in the VIP seating area, Philine the sword-swallower continues to snooze despite the chaos. Walking up to me with one hand outstretched is the ringmaster herself, Bronwyn Bell, whose welcoming grin is almost more intimidating than any death threat I've received thus far.

"So you're finally back," she enunciates. Bronwyn is the type of person who enunciates, announces, and declares. "I think I may have forgotten to thank you for your services, Noro, m'dear."
No. 917070 ID: b1b4f3

Shake hand(though I would expect a buzzer tbh), ask who Lars is and why they just threatened to kill you?
No. 917107 ID: 158da5

It's important to take care of problems as they pop up.
No. 917111 ID: d887c0

Hey, you may be a piece of shit, but you aren't a hitman (as far as they know). You did what you did for entirely personal reasons.
No. 917286 ID: c4377f

Find a way to surreptitiously (or not) wake Philine. Now that you've finally made your entrance, you're not going to let anyone miss your moment in the spotlight.
No. 917444 ID: 7909a2

is your name fucking bitcoin


also, later, way later, wayway later, when ur alone with bashan, HUG HIM
No. 917521 ID: 158da5

No it's Bitquoin.
No. 917680 ID: fbdb94
File 154748994179.png - (317.16KB , 800x800 , panel21.png )

I reach out to shake her hand, remembering a moment too late that she might have a buzzer in her palm. Before I can do anything, she's grabbed my hand and is shaking it firmly, and I'm relieved to find that I've avoided mild electrocution for now.
"Thank me by giving me my job back," I reply brusquely. Maggie giggles, and Bronwyn shoots me an amused look, drawing her hand back and placing it on the baton at her hip.

"I would, but I'm not sure that there's been anyone due for immolation since you left," she smiles, and though it's well hidden, I can sense some genuine caution underneath her expression.

I'm starting to realize why a few people have had more adverse reactions to seeing me. Maybe I should've expected the whole murder thing to have more of an impact than I thought it would.

"Hey, you know as well as anyone else that I'm a piece of shit. But that was personal. I'm not a hitman."

"Well, as far as we know!" Maggie adds helpfully.

"As far as you know," I agree begrudgingly, glancing at Maggie in annoyance. "But I'm not. So now you know."
No. 917681 ID: fbdb94
File 154748996683.png - (244.00KB , 800x800 , panel22.png )

"Bronwyn," Silvy says, and his voice is both deeper and squeakier than the last time we met. He must be something like fourteen, now. "I think he's cool."

Bashan snickers quietly from behind me, and Silvy's ears twitch as he suddenly becomes flustered. "I mean I think he's telling the truth!" he protests to the room, tail flicking wildly from side to side as he searches frantically for anything to look at but me. "Not that I think he's cool, or anything stupid like that! You're all dumb for thinking that! I don't care! I don't care at all. Stop looking at me like that."

"No one's looking at you any one way, young Silvy," Bronwyn assures him, not unkindly. "I believe you're right. However, I don't think that it's in our dear old friend's nature to come back to something he's abandoned without a very, very good reason."

She nods at me, encouraging me to speak. Everyone else is looking at me, too, waiting for an answer - except for Philine, who has managed to miss the entirety of my grand entrance, as terribly as it's gone. I make a mental note to play up the drama of it when recounting it to her later, and emphasize the fact that everyone was hugely impressed and intimidated by it.
No. 917682 ID: fbdb94
File 154748999772.png - (103.29KB , 800x800 , panel23.png )

Taking a deep breath, I choose my words carefully. "There are... certain forces," I begin. "Ones that don't like me very much, and that I don't like either. They might want to kill me, maybe, a little bit."

At that, Bronwyn grins widely. "This was not the place to come to avoid being murdered, Noro."

"It's BABE now," Bashan butts in, nudging me hard and winking. "He goes by BABE. You HAVE to call him that."

"Cabaret?" Aberdeen quietly pipes up, a slight grin on their face.

"No!" I object, as Maggie and Bashan both stifle their laughter. "No, the name thing is - it's not because of that. Listen, yeah, I came here because you guys are the only people I can sort of trust. Even if that... Lars? Clown? Wants me dead for some reason. And maybe some others. I don't know."

"Oh, don't worry about her. She's fine. Tell me more about the other people you fucked over!" Maggie urges me.

"But why does she want to kill me? How does she know my name? Was she even around when I was here?"

"I stand with Maggie on this point," Bronwyn replies, looking me in the eye. "Please, tell us more about what you're running from."

"Okay, but-"

"Tell us, Babe."
No. 917683 ID: fbdb94
File 154749006066.png - (273.36KB , 800x800 , panel24.png )

Bronwyn's gaze is intense, and for a moment I'm intimidated enough to genuinely consider telling her everything. The Black Dog. The gang that is steadily growing in power and force and taking land, security, and life from those who are unable to defend themselves. The broken legalities they use to justify their actions. The very, very important documents I'd stolen and promptly destroyed. The way I'd intentionally crushed a quarter of their operation in one hit and taken down a good few of their members on my way out, marking me as their number one target. The week-long journey and multiple near-deaths I'd experienced just to throw them off me, and the two-week journey to get here. Part of me just wants to complain to someone about it. I'd nearly had to cut off my hair.

The part of me that has a brain holds me back, but it doesn't do a very good job.

"Bad guys," I helplessly offer up.

Bronwyn stares at me.

"Bad guys who hurt people?"

She blinks.
No. 917684 ID: fbdb94
File 154749010650.png - (160.72KB , 800x800 , panel25.png )

"I suppose you're not the first person to come here for that reason. And I know for a fact that you won't be the last."

I breathe a sigh of relief as Bronwyn relents, pulling some folded papers out of her pocket. She opens them, sifting through them with that same smile on her face that she'd greeted me with. I suddenly feel very nervous. "You've missed out on the last sleeping spot in the security cabins, Babe. You'll have to stay with the sideshow crew. I'll offer you this: you may either continue your work on the security team, doing the same thing you were doing before you left us. Or, you may stay on with the sideshow crew, displaying this new... specialized act that you appear to have developed."

"She's talking about the cabaret thing," Bashan whispers very loudly in my ear.

"I'm talking about the cabaret thing," Bronwyn clarifies. Her wide, toothy grin is impossible to read.
No. 917685 ID: b1b4f3

She's not talking about the cabaret thing. She's gonna ask you to murder people.

Ask to talk to her in private about this. It's an important decision and you want to go over the details.
No. 917751 ID: 158da5

Is there a cabaret thing? Could you pull off a cabaret thing? I guess it could be a euphemism, but I can't read her either, so I'm assuming literal.

You know you can do security, easy. And really, you're just looking for a place to lie low, so easy sounds alright.
No. 917762 ID: 9d9337

He absolutely needs to do the cabaret thing
No. 917791 ID: 304ff8

hey, don't bullshit the caberet thing if there is no caberet thing. but if there is then maybe do it??? but being a guard would be lower profile right? so maybe a guard is safer!
No. 917799 ID: fbdb94
File 154753794231.png - (286.26KB , 800x800 , panel26.png )

>Is there a cabaret thing?

There was a cabaret thing. Not here, but after.

I can probably do them both equally well. Security would be easier on me, and I'd have more room to wander the showgrounds and keep an eye out for anyone who knows me. It'd also avoid bringing attention to me, although I'd be in more danger of ambush.
On the other hand, cabaret would allow me to get closer with the other performers, whose gossip would inform me if anyone new and mysterious was around. But I'd have a performance schedule, and I still don't know what kind of leader Bronwyn is yet.
No. 917800 ID: 9d9337

Both. Both is good. Double the pay, double the play.
No. 917801 ID: d8720c

being a guard is safer. doing cabaret is more fun + more DRAMATIC though.
No. 917805 ID: daa216

Go guard. The other option sounds like a setup for you. Last thing you need is for people to be paying attention to you if you're running from people who want to kill.
No. 917812 ID: 380cd1

try a change of pace and go with the cabaret! get your bedazzle on, we know babe loveeees bedazzle
No. 917815 ID: c4377f

Do the cabaret thing. The more people you've got on your side against the Black Dog, the better. Besides, what's the point of being back at the circus if you're not going to have a little fun?
No. 917822 ID: 270774

No. 917850 ID: 0f6611

No. 917868 ID: 0e2ebe

I thought guard earlier, and even with the new info, I still think guard.
No. 917928 ID: db508c

guard feels like the better option... but i'm casting my vote towards cabaret anyways bc *outfits*
No. 917940 ID: 0f87da

No. 918315 ID: fbdb94
File 154791573214.png - (243.83KB , 800x800 , panel27.png )

Having to make this decision so quickly with Bronwyn's eyes boring into me is stressing me out. It'd probably be safer to be on the security team again, but if the opportunity's being offered to me...

"I'll make you a deal," I finally respond, doing my best to shake off the residual embarrassment of my name being so unequivocally mocked. "I'll do the cabaret thing. For a while. So long as you let me know as soon as a spot opens up in security. And I don't want to just be dancing all the time. I'll do some security, too, wherever I can."

There's a twinkle in Bronwyn's eye as she nods slowly, pocketing her papers. "We can do that," she accepts. "You'll need to head to the tailor's cabin tomorrow morning, to have a couple of outfits made for you. For now, I'll have someone show you to the sideshow wagons. You'll recall very quickly how tiring this job is. Maggie, would you mind...?"
No. 918316 ID: fbdb94
File 154791576439.png - (302.68KB , 800x800 , panel28.png )

Maggie bows exaggeratedly as Bashan immediately protests. "I was the one who FOUND him!" he says, sounding wounded. "It should be ME taking him there! And I haven't SEEN him in so LONG!"

"You'll be seeing a whole lot of him soon, baby boy," Maggie jeers, grabbing me by the arm. "You losers can catch up with him tomorrow. It's my turn."

"Good luck!" Aberdeen calls, barely audible over Bashan's continued complaints as Maggie drags me stumbling out of the big top. I catch a glimpse of Philine just before we exit, waking up and gazing blearily in my general direction until Maggie pulls me out of sight.
No. 918317 ID: fbdb94
File 154791580962.png - (338.40KB , 800x800 , panel29.png )

"Soooo," Maggie excitedly says, finally releasing her grip on me to lead me around the outside of the big top. "On the run, huh?"

"Do me a favour? Talk to me about anything else."


I realize my mistake too late. "Wait -"

"So when Bronwyn said cabaret, did she mean more murder? Are you gonna kill Lars before she kills you? How many people did you murder out there? Is that why you're on the run now? Where's your gang of minions?"

"I don't have any minions! Who do you think I am?!" I retort, annoyed at the implication. "You think I'd need minions?"

"Well, you're here, aren't you?" Maggie snidely remarks. She's always been the type to push people's buttons, and it's something I've always liked about her, but not when she turns her powers upon me. I glower at her as she continues, "Come crawling right back home the minute you have a problem you can't steal, fuck, or bash your way out of. Maybe you don't need minions, but it kind of looks like you need us right now, Babe."

Too annoyed to reply immediately, I walk with her in silence. She's not entirely wrong. For most of my life, I've believed that there are three very simple ways to resolve a situation. I'd lived on the streets for my entire childhood, then followed some dumb boy I liked to the circus and ended up staying for seven years after he almost immediately departed. I didn't actively try to take down the rich and powerful until after I left, and things are a lot more complicated out there than I might have realized.

"I need people I trust, yeah," I resentfully say, huffing out a sigh. "You're wrong about the minion thing, though. That's dumb, and you're dumb for saying it."

"But is it like a hitman contract?" Maggie inquires, completely ignoring my reply. "Bronwyn seemed pretty happy that you're back. I don't think there's anyone she wants to kill, but-"

"She meant cabaret as in burlesque. Not blood burlesque, just the regular kind," I hastily clarify, as Maggie opens her mouth to argue. "The kind of shit I used to do to get by."
No. 918318 ID: fbdb94
File 154791583502.png - (143.69KB , 800x800 , panel30.png )

We're walking past the cabaret tent as I say this, and Maggie looks over at it curiously. "You'd be the only one doing burlesque right now," she comments as we cross over toward the seating for the animal stage. "Everything else is magic based, or a song-and-dance sort of thing. Where'd you even learn how to do that?"

"Just... around," I reply prudently. I'd learned it from someone else who'd worked here, in several extensive lessons. If Maggie didn't already know, and if they'd already left, then it was trashy gossip that didn't need to make its way around the circus. "I'm okay at it. People seemed to like it, so when there wasn't much to steal..."

"Sex sells," Maggie replies, shrugging. "Bronwyn suggested that I try it, since some of my fire dances tend to people hot and bothered, but I nearly pulled a Noro and burned someone to a crisp for pissing me off. So now I'm banned from the cabaret tent, because those losers can't handle a little bit of heat."

I sigh as we close in on the sideshow cabins, where everyone seems to be either out or asleep. "Are people ever gonna stop talking about that? I did it for a reason. I'm not an arsonist. And everyone hated the dude. I don't get why it's such a problem."
No. 918319 ID: fbdb94
File 154791587831.png - (129.34KB , 800x800 , panel31_1.png )

"Probably cuz you're a murderer, hun," Maggie says simply, slapping me on the back as she walks me to the furthermost of the two cabins. It looks empty. "And that makes you kind of a hot topic. I've gotta say, I'm surprised that the place you chose to hide out was a circus of all things."

"Actually, I was going to ask that you keep the whole lying hiding out thing quiet," I sheepishly ask, my hand already on the door. Maggie stares at me for a moment, then laughs out loud.

"Oh, Babe," she sighs, still chuckling a little as she walks away. "Get some sleep. You're gonna need it."
No. 918320 ID: fbdb94
File 154791591942.png - (267.61KB , 800x800 , panel31.png )

A vague sense of foreboding creeps up on me as I watch her walk away, and it takes me a moment to remember that I should probably get inside the cabin. I open the door - anyone brave enough to try to harm or steal from any of the people working here would be met with force - and observe my temporary home.

There are four bunks, each with compartments hanging below the slats for personal storage. The beds are made up with minimal sheets and a cheap pillow at the head of each one, but I know from experience that when the cold season begins there'll be extra rugs thrown on. As I head toward one of the lower beds, I'm suddenly overwhelmed by how tired I am. Even without the constant questioning and being thrown around by huge catboys, the past three weeks have been incredibly stressful and physically draining. I undress and climb into bed, my body heavy with the small relief that for once I wouldn't have to sleep with one eye open to ensure I wasn't taken unawares.

It doesn't take long for me to fall into a deep sleep, finally relaxed enough to give my body the rest it's needed for so long.

I don't dream of anything, tonight.
No. 918321 ID: fbdb94
File 154791596411.png - (279.80KB , 800x800 , panel32.png )

When I wake up, I'm surprised to find that I'm still alone. I was half-expecting someone to come bursting in while I slept and start yelling at me, but I'm not complaining. I feel rested in a way that isn't entirely pleasant. My body feels fuzzy, like all it wants is to go back to sleep. I do my best to ignore it, roughly rubbing my eyes to get the sleep out.
No. 918323 ID: fbdb94
File 154791609977.png - (264.33KB , 800x800 , panel33.png )

I have a few options, seeing as I probably won't start any cabaret stuff until tomorrow and will only be allowed to tag along with the security team, rather than getting my own work in that department.

(Choose one place to visit first.

Green = specific departments. Pink = all staff. Yellow = public area.)
No. 918334 ID: 1fc2c7

stop by the tailor like the ringmaster told you to, and then: ANIMAL PENS!!!! go see some buddies who won't stress you out with talking!! fluffy mane therapy!!
No. 918336 ID: a56751

well, you were supposed to go to the tailors too, so maybe do that first or take bashan to the tailors too but ! absolutely find bashan AND HUG HIM, DAMN IT
No. 918362 ID: b2ef4a

They've got a room full of hands? Things really got weird since you left...
No. 918395 ID: c1eaac

get some breakfast in the dining hall, and see if you can find bashan there (to take him with you to the tailor)!
No. 918396 ID: ae8ec4

Grab breakfast at dining hall
No. 918398 ID: 270774

bringing bashan to the tailor sounds like a fun and solid plan.
No. 918471 ID: db508c

Tailor and then music! Can't do a good cabaret routine without an outfit and some tunes!
No. 918492 ID: daa216

Morning means breakfast. Grab a bite before you do anything else.
No. 918663 ID: edf5c2
File 154826538946.png - (244.53KB , 800x800 , panel34.png )

Clambering out of bed, I cringe as my dirty hair falls against my back. I make a mental note to go to the baths as soon as possible. Can't have people thinking I always look this grotty.

My stomach grumbles, and I'm reminded that I haven't eaten since noon yesterday. I can vaguely recall where the dining hall is, but I'm not entirely sure that I want to be wandering around alone right now. My mind jumps to Bashan; he'd probably be staying in the other sideshow cabin, and he seems pretty excited to hang around me right now anyway, so I can safely bet on him agreeing to at least get breakfast with me. I tie up my hair, pull my clothes on, and head outside.
No. 918664 ID: edf5c2
File 154826544640.png - (273.42KB , 800x800 , panel35.png )

There are only a handful of people out and about. It's about mid-morning, so everyone's probably either eating, warming up for the evening's performances, or still asleep. I head in the direction of the other sideshow cabin, but before I even get there, the door opens and Bashan steps out, shirtless and stretching. He notices me and mercifully decides to wave, instead of tackling me to the floor or throwing me in the air.

"It's YOU!" he cheerfully greets me, walking up to meet me. "Good morning, neighbor!"

"Morning," I reply, a little less enthusiastically. I'm still pretty exhausted. "Come get food with me."

"Alright!" Bashan accepts, falling in stride with me as I wander vaguely foodwards. "Hey, I had a dream about you last night."

"Did I do some really cool shit?"

"No. You just ate ALL my carrots."

I think about it. "That's sort of cool."

"You're WRONG, Babe," Bashan says solemnly. "That's not cool at all. Those were MY carrots."

"You'd better watch out, Bashan. Don't try and eat carrots this morning."

"You BETTER not."
No. 918665 ID: edf5c2
File 154826551960.png - (201.02KB , 800x800 , panel36.png )

Our lighthearted banter carries on like this for the five or so minutes that it takes us to get to the dining hall, and I'm pleasantly surprised to find it so easy to talk to my old friend like I used to. I'm feeling optimistic by the time we reach our destination, and when we get inside the large brick building, I stop for a moment to take it in.

The dining hall hasn't changed at all. It's a wide, slightly intimidating space, with the kitchen and dining areas taking up the lower floor. Above us is the upper floor, full of rooms reserved for important guests, the ringmaster's quarters, and whoever the ringmaster's hired to do all the legal stuff that nobody actually cares about. The tables themselves are crowded enough to fill the place with noise, but not so much that it's overstimulating. No hush of shock falls over the room upon my entry, and hardly anyone appears to notice my entrance, but I find myself thinking that I'm okay with that right now.

I follow Bashan over to the kitchen counter, feeling a rush of affection for my surroundings and that strange feeling of being at home.
No. 918666 ID: edf5c2
File 154826559745.png - (368.90KB , 800x800 , panel37.png )

The person manning the counter is a stranger to me, but they greet us brightly and take our order. Bashan goes first - the system here has changed since I left, and now instead of just having a lot of different food out for people to take from, we have to ask specifically for what we want. I'm a little confused as to what's available, so I just ask for the same thing Bashan's ordered and sit down with him at an empty table nearby.

"Has Perry left?" I ask him, referring to the old chef that used to run things. Bashan shakes his head.

"She's just getting old," he explains. As he speaks, I notice someone sauntering down the stairs from the upper level. They look like the kind of person who'd be more at home in one of the outside cabins, going by their simple but grandiose outfit. "She's mostly in the kitchen yelling at people in there."
No. 918667 ID: edf5c2
File 154826564777.png - (281.31KB , 800x800 , panel38.png )

"You think I could go in there to visit her?" The way this tiefling is walking down towards the counter draws me in. It's almost enchanting, and I'm starting to feel a little distracted.

"Not if you want to live," Bashan warns me, his tail flicking in a subtle show of disapproval. "She said she'd have your guts for garters if you showed up here again. It's probably a good thing she didn't see you, or she'd probably make your food disgusting."

"I could take her in a fight," I say absently, watching as the stranger crosses the floor and starts closing the distance. "Could obliterate her if I wanted."

Bashan doesn't reply, and I barely have a moment to wonder why before he's nudging me hard and giggling quietly in my ear. "Hey, Babe, what're you looking at? What's the big deal? Huh? You thinking about something?"

"Shut up," I growl, elbowing him in the ribs. He just laughs, clearly uninhibited. "Who's the tiefling."

"I think he's the new money guy," Bashan unhelpfully says, and when I glare at him he grins widely and gives in. "Salome, or something like that. He's nice. He works with Bronwyn a lot."
No. 918668 ID: edf5c2
File 154826573264.png - (288.09KB , 800x800 , panel39.png )

"Sounds like salami," I mutter, watching as he gets to the counter. He seems to hear me, and turns his head to look my way, a curious expression on his face.
No. 918669 ID: edf5c2
File 154826575668.png - (274.72KB , 800x800 , panel40.png )

If I don't talk to him right this second, it's an absolute certainty that I will drop dead.
No. 918691 ID: c7683d

talk to him!! cozy up!!! excuse yourself frm ur friend and introduce yourself—and try to stick as close to the truth as you can! that you’ve been gone for a little but now you’re back, and a lot of things (and people) have changed so uhhh who are you, handsome? :3c
No. 918709 ID: 158da5

Ask him about being the new money man. He can practically thank you for being hired.
No. 918738 ID: 3a6b38

No. 919988 ID: 37201a
File 154930867678.png - (295.94KB , 800x800 , panel41.png )

I rise from my seat, sauntering over to Salome with complete confidence despite my less-than-perfect appearance. He watches me with some apparent caution, seeming a little surprised as I lean against the counter next to him.

"You're a handsome new face around here, huh?" I coyly remark, flicking my hair out of my face. "Pity you weren't here a few years ago. I would've made it my mission to get to know you."

A small smile plays at the corners of Salome's lips. "It is a shame," he agrees in a quiet, low voice, before turning to the mildly irritated server. "Coffee, no sugar."

"Got it," they reply, a little too brightly. I glance her way to acknowledge their clear signal for me to stop flirting on their counter, then promptly ignore it.

"Heard your name was Salome. I like it," I say sweetly, enunciating my next words clearly. "Rolls off the tongue."

He laughs, moving away from the counter as the server loudly taps their milk jug against the wood. I follow, standing off to the side of the counter with him. "It's Sadhir," he corrects me, a subtle pride in his tone. "Salome's my surname, though, so you're almost right."
No. 919990 ID: 37201a
File 154930871569.png - (295.57KB , 800x800 , panel42.png )

"Sadhir." I nod, committing it to memory as I give him my hand to shake. "I'm Babe."

"Ah," Sadhir responds, taking my hand. A gentle grip. "So you're the one Bronwyn was talking to me about. A very bright, very beautiful elf rejoining the circus after a few years' lapse." He smiles. "I'm grateful to have the chance to know you now."
No. 919991 ID: 37201a
File 154930874326.png - (322.07KB , 800x800 , panel43.png )

Before I get the chance to respond to what I can clearly recognize as Sadhir returning my flirt, a regretfully familiar face appears next to Sadhir and distracts me from his visage.

"Wow," Juno sneers, looking me up and down with open and dramatic disgust. "How many days' worth of dirt are you wearing? So unhygienic. Don't you think that's so unhygienic, Sadhir?"

Sadhir appears bemused. "It's... My coffee, it's here, so..." He smiles awkwardly and walks back over to the counter, taking a tall mug from the disgruntled server and glancing over at me one last time before departing.
No. 919992 ID: 37201a
File 154930877127.png - (145.61KB , 800x800 , panel44.png )

No. 919993 ID: 37201a
File 154930879690.png - (325.97KB , 800x800 , panel45.png )

I glower at Juno before stomping back over to a clearly intrigued Bashan, unfortunate enough to be followed by the tiefling. They sit down with purposeful grace as our food is brought out. A pile of spiced meat is sat before me by a very swift server who's gone by the time I look up. Bashan is already unabashedly tearing into his food, earning himself a look of repulsion from Juno. They sniff contemptuously at it, wrinkling their nose.

"You know that comes from animals, right?"

"I'M animals."

Juno huffs. "Clearly."

"I'm a tabaxi. And we're ALL technically animals. Alive things are animals." Bashan looks contemplatively at Juno. "I thought most people knew that."

I butt in before Juno can argue. "I didn't invite you to sit here. Go away."

Juno rolls their eyes, gazing at their fingernails. "Nobody has to invite me anywhere. I'm a welcome presence everywhere I go. Because I don't ruin everything for everyone."
No. 919994 ID: 37201a
File 154930882780.png - (149.35KB , 800x800 , panel46.png )

Oh. They're pissed off about something specific, and I'm guessing it's the fire. Why won't people leave me alone about it?

"I made shit better around here," I insist, annoyed at their tone. "Look at this. Look how much happier everyone is, except you. I made this happen. What've you ever done? A few flips on a swing?"
"We had to pick up the pieces of what you burned down," Juno says matter-of-factly. "But yeah, things were fantastic when you murdered our ringmaster and left us all for dead. How brave of you to disappear and leave it up to Bronwyn to console everyone, rebuild the entire sideshow, and now demand that she pays you good money to do something you're not even good at." Their gaze bores into me, openly contemptuous. "I don't know who the fuck you think you're fooling by pretending you're into the financier for his looks, but maybe you should try sucking up to him when you don't smell like shit and aren't covered in filth. It's not a good look on anyone, let alone you."
No. 919995 ID: 37201a
File 154930885321.png - (176.38KB , 800x800 , panel47.png )

I don't have a good answer for that, and Juno can tell. They smile thinly at me as they get to their feet, clearly finished with their spiel.

"You're not as smart as you think," Juno remarks simply. "And there are people other than me who know that. Better be pretty fucking careful, Babe." They give me one last haughty stare before leaving the dining hall.
No. 919996 ID: 37201a
File 154930887501.png - (248.93KB , 800x800 , panel48.png )

I scramble for something to grab onto, something to haul myself back up onto my platform of pride and immutable self-confidence, and land clumsily on derision. "God, they're still so fucking petty," I mutter, pushing some meat around my plate and glancing over at Bashan for a reply. He seems embarrassed, almost; he's stopped eating his food with such gusto, and gives me that same expression of forced positivity.

"Yeah, I guess," he concedes weakly. Frustrated, I give up, and we fall into silence as I eat what I can of my food.

I don't want to believe that there are people that didn't already hate me out there thinking that I burned down part of Lonford Circus for my own personal gain. I did it because Ringleader Smith was treating people unfairly, rolling in money while the rest of us starved, carving his castle out of our bones. If I hadn't killed him, they'd all be dead. How could they blame me for saving their lives? Even if they had to rebuild, wasn't that better than being slowly murdered?

I viciously stab a piece of meat and rip it off my fork, chewing angrily. Why doesn't anyone get it? Why is it always me that has to fix their problems? Before I intervened, we were all miserable and hungry and sick. I'd admired Ringleader Smith, seen him as family, feared him as family. It wasn't easy or convenient for me to confront him, and it was harder still to leave everyone behind and have the blame pinned entirely on me should any nearby city's guard get involved. But it didn't matter, because I burned a few things down in the process. It was for them, not me. Why doesn't anyone get that?

I grit my teeth, looking over at Bashan again. He's finishing his plate off, his tail flicking just a little in response to the tension emanating from me. I force myself to try and think about it from his perspective. The fire was probably pretty scary for everyone, especially the newer folks. A hint of guilt curls in my chest as I realize that it was likely terrifying for Silvy, who'd been something like 10 or 11 years old at that point. They'd been trying to get away from that sort of shit when they came to Lonford.
No. 919997 ID: 37201a
File 154930889707.png - (137.12KB , 800x800 , panel49.png )

My irritation is starting to give way to shame. Unwilling to have that conversation right this second, I push my plate away and stand up.

"Sorry for getting in a fight so early," I mumble as Bashan follows my lead. He grins at me, more genuinely this time, and pats my back.

"You've got MANY more to come," he jokes, walking in stride with me as we head out the door. "We should find you a new outfit."

I cringe as I look down at my clothes. Juno wasn't wrong. My shirt used to be a LOT less stained.

"Yeah, alright. Let's go."
No. 919998 ID: 37201a
File 154930895212.png - (336.66KB , 800x800 , panel50.png )

The walk to the tailor's cabin is short and uneventful, and the exterior is a simple brick design. The inside is impeccably organised; garments are hung neatly on long wooden racks to the right of a sewing station, where a half-orc woman is working on something that shimmers strangely in the dim light provided by the ball of light she's casting over her work. She looks up, meets my eyes, and nods.

"Heard about you," she says bluntly, putting her sewing aside. "Bronwyn came by. Said you'd want an outfit. Cabaret?"


She notices Bashan behind me and narrows her eyes. "If you've destroyed one of your leotards again, I swear to Loviatar -"

"I haven't, I haven't! I was just warm!" Bashan hurriedly reassures her. She nods grimly, then turns her gaze back to me.

"Name's Yugo," she explains. "Don't call me tailor, don't call me anything others tell you to. There's nobody else performing burlesque right now, so you have a choice of three options. We can talk about more when you can prove to me that you're worthy of more complex makes, or that you'd benefit from having more than one piece."

"One outfit for every performance?" I skeptically reply, frowning. "They used to give the others three or four outfits at least."

"They aren't here anymore. I am, and I'm better than them, and I can curse your clothes, so don't try it. Understand?"

"Yeah, I - yes," I yield, a little nervous. Circus tailors aren't ordinarily allowed to weave spells into clothes, and I wonder what loophole Yugo's using to get away with it. She nods sharply and a measuring tape comes flying toward me, taking my measurements businesslike as she speaks.

"What would suit your performance style best? Something unpredictable? Something macabre? Or something loose?"
No. 920031 ID: 3ed3c3

Look, this is fascinating and all, but we need to go find Juno and push their shit in. Teach them a fucking lesson.
No. 920035 ID: d0ba68

If you're going to be using the one for all your performances, go with unpredictable.
No. 920037 ID: 2202fb

So, you're gay?

That's cool, just want to get it out in the open as it may change certain choices.
No. 920065 ID: 37201a

Yeah, he's gay! Also, to clear up your earlier question, Babe is pronounced like the cute pig movie (with a "bay" sound at the beginning, not the end). Thank you for asking!
No. 920106 ID: 158da5

Macabre is fun. It'll have a cape, for sure, and that's worth it by itself.
No. 920113 ID: 2202fb

Why tf hasnt anyone given him shit yet for getting called babe? I mean, that is like the lowest of low-hanging fruit.
No. 920215 ID: c00e4e

babe is a fantastic name! i reckon he should go with an unpredictable outfit :>
No. 920217 ID: 270774

let’s do unpredictable. i mostly just want to see what that MEANS
No. 920279 ID: b463f2

unpredictable sounds fun!
No. 920341 ID: 088e2b

well thats a..lot

ok, unpredictable
No. 920347 ID: 2202fb

Whether Babe is a good name or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is that it would be ridiculously easy for someone to give him shit for it regardless of name quality (like a dude named Stacy or Sydney).
No. 920354 ID: 92ad22

They're literally circus people. I don't know where they'd get off, unless they were total jackasses like that one guy.
No. 920404 ID: 6034cd

He is an elf, doing cabaret, who is as gay as a cocunber. What kind of shit can people give him that isnt simply stating the truth of the matter? I am surprised he isnt called cindy or something else you'd find in cheap brothel.

Aaaah, this is going to be fascinating
No. 920411 ID: f1a100

Bashan has been giving Babe shit for things since he got here...
No. 923857 ID: b35aa2
File 155146452286.png - (249.54KB , 800x800 , panel51.png )

"Um." I shift uncomfortably, given no comfort by the shrug Bashan makes when I look to him for assistance. "What about the different fabrics?"

"I've told you your options," Yugo says gruffly. She doesn't clarify any further in the seconds that follow, just looks right back at me. I avert my eyes, caught off-guard by how blunt she is.

When I used to perform, it was purely so that I could eat when there weren't enough jingling pockets to empty. Most of my performances had depended on what was necessary; sometimes it was a hall that wanted something relatively classy and clean, and sometimes it was a bar that happened to have a crowd of rowdy drunkards and a big enough table. I'm used to staying versatile and in control, though it's applied itself more to my more recent career of hunting powerful, evil people that seek to hurt the innocent. I take a moment to consider the situation I'm in right now. If I had to describe that in one word...

"Unpredictable," I finally choose. "Mostly because I want to see what that means."
No. 923858 ID: b35aa2
File 155146456451.png - (377.09KB , 800x800 , panel52.png )

"Come here." Yugo leans down and looks for something in one of her drawers as I walk over, curiously craning my neck to see what she's doing. As soon as I'm within a metre of her, she straightens up. Her hand shoots out toward me, too quickly to dodge, and she grabs hold of my wrist to pull my arm closer to her. I yelp and pull back as she positions a small needle in her right hand.

"What are you doing?!" I shout, trying frantically to yank my arm out of her grip. "Let me go! I'll kill you!"

"You won't," Yugo says exasperatedly, focusing on holding me down. "Stay still. I just need a little blood."

"Fuck off!"
No. 923859 ID: b35aa2
File 155146460239.png - (475.70KB , 800x800 , panel53.png )

Yugo presses my arm hard against her table and jabs the needle into my wrist in one swift motion. Blood blooms from the tiny puncture wound, and I struggle against her iron grip as she closes the wound with a muttered spell and the droplets of crimson circle around the needle for a few moments before seeping into it and staining it red. Distracted now, she lets me go and casts a forcefield over her immediate area as she turns away, preventing me from doing anything to retaliate.

"It won't work without your blood," Bashan pointlessly informs me, smiling apologetically as I turn to glare daggers at him.

"I don't like giving up my blood when I don't have to," I gripe as I walk back over to him, rubbing my wrist as though it hurts. It doesn't. "This is bullshit."
No. 923860 ID: b35aa2
File 155146463975.png - (160.73KB , 800x800 , panel54.png )

"Stop complaining," Yugo says crossly, and I look back over to see that her forcefield is down and she's holding a strip of plain black fabric. A small, survival-oriented part of me urges me to get her now while her shield is down and erase the potential of her killing me, but I force myself to remember that she probably doesn't want to kill me any more than a friend would, and choose to inspect the fabric instead.

It looks like some sort of thick ribbon choker, but I don't see any sort of clasp attached to either end. Yugo holds it out to me, and I take it, glowering at her before taking a closer look at it. It doesn't feel like anything I've felt before. Every time I think I've identified it as a certain fabric, it changes, and it doesn't reflect light like it should.

"Put it around your neck. It's magic. It won't strangle you." Yugo is staring intently at me.

"That's not comforting," I mutter, hesitantly lifting it to my neck. I place the longest section over the front, pulling the sides toward each other at the back of my neck.
No. 923861 ID: b35aa2
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As soon as the two ends of the fabric touch, they knit together beneath my fingers, and suddenly fabric starts to web down my body, my clothes disintegrating beneath the garment forming itself around me. For a moment, it seems formless, like a sheet hanging over my body - but then it shimmers, and it begins to sink, and I can see the fabric turning almost powdery as it becomes a rich black velvet. A collar rises around my neck, and what is now a robe extends down to my feet with a deep V exposing a red bodice. I'm thrown a little off balance as my boots are replaced by red heels, but I'm too shocked by the sheer power of this outfit to really notice.
No. 923862 ID: b35aa2
File 155146470325.png - (433.94KB , 800x800 , panel56.png )

"Good," Yugo says candidly. "Your original clothes will re-materialize once you remove the choker."

I peer at myself in the mirror nearby, unable to hold back a satisfied grin. I look incredible. Better than any outfit I've had before. They'll have to cancel the rest of the show to make room for me.
No. 923863 ID: b35aa2
File 155146473882.png - (310.03KB , 800x800 , panel57.png )

I look over at Bashan, who seems just as starry-eyed as I am. As soon as I look at him, however, the outfit changes. I watch in shock as bright red seeps into the deep black fabric beginning from my choker and quickly dyes the entire outfit, the feathers around my collar turning black. I whip my head around to see Yugo beaming as though she's just seen her child take its first steps.

"What happened?!" I cry, highly offended. "Why'd you change it??"

"I didn't," Yugo says joyfully, sitting back down and crossing her legs. "Bashan did."

"HEY! I didn't!" Bashan defends himself, then catches my eye and agitatedly repeats, "I didn't change it! I would NEVER! Why are you blaming me, Yugo?"

She looks like she's never been so happy in her life as the two of us look to her for answers. "Unpredictable," she says blissfully. "Meaning you don't get to choose how it looks. It's up to your situation and audience."

I frown, turning back to the mirror and assessing the new look. "What, it reads their minds?"

"Something like that."

"I didn't do it," Bashan insists petulantly. "But it looks good this way, too."

"It does," I agree wholeheartedly, turning back around to narrow my eyes at my reflection. The shifting thing could be a problem. I won't be able to plan my dances as well as I could if I'd had just one normal outfit. But the idea of it adapting to the music that's played, or what the audience is excited to see, or even from a new audience member... I have to admit, it'll be pretty entertaining.
No. 923864 ID: b35aa2
File 155146476520.png - (344.96KB , 800x800 , panel58.png )

"Thanks," I eventually tell Yugo, reaching up and undoing the back of the choker. It comes apart easily, and quickly I'm in my old clothes again. "I'll be on tomorrow, if you want to see it in action."

"I've seen enough." Yugo seems to immediately lose all interest once I remove the garment, turning back to her work. "Don't fuck around with it and I won't need to repair it."

"I won't," I say pointedly, annoyed at her rebuff. "And I'll perform beautifully in it. You'll wish you'd have come. Maybe I'll never wear it again."

"Wear what you have now. See how far it gets you."

Once again, I find myself unable to think of a witty response. Chagrined, I turn around and stomp out of the cabin, Bashan following behind me with a quick wave to Yugo before we exit.
No. 923865 ID: b35aa2
File 155146501311.png - (339.27KB , 800x800 , panel59.png )

I'm not truly that annoyed, but I'm desperate to clean up. I mention as such to Bashan as we walk out, and he allows me to borrow some of his clothes so that I can get clean. (He does not volunteer to come to the baths with me, on account of submersion being "a HORRIBLE idea, it's AWFUL, I'll NEVER do it, not even for YOU.")

We walk to the sideshow cabins and back without event, chatting lightly again. While I'm there, I hide my choker inside my pillowcase. There's no real risk of anyone stealing it, but I don't really want anyone to get curious and try it out, either. Bashan bids me farewell once we get to the baths, and I'm finally able to get myself clean and wash my clothes.

Scrubbing my body in the first moment of proper comfort I've experienced in weeks, I find that for once my mind is clear and I can properly think about where I am and what I'm doing. It's a relief to be able to bathe in warm, clean water, for a start; I recall that the water is charmed to be constantly clean and rejuvenating, so I go ahead and dump my clothes in too, pleased to watch the dirt just disappear from them.

I feel less good about how things are going so far.

I hadn't expected to arrive to uproarious applause, but the unabashed loathing I'd received from a few people had come as a surprise. Juno has hated me ever since I'd turned up here when we were both teenagers, but it looks like they hate me even more now, having been given a reason. And that weird clown threatened to kill me. I'm still not sure what to make of that, but if it was related to the Black Dog, I'd be dead already. They're not the kind of people to bother with threats.

I sigh as I remember that if I'm going to be safe here, I'll need to reconnect with people who'd hate the Black Dog as much as I do. There are still a few people I haven't gotten around to announcing my return to. I was eager to make a grand entrance when I first got here, but since that chance got taken from me, the whole thing feels like a chore.

It'd be good to talk to the security crew to see who's still around, but if the wrong people have stayed, it'll probably end in a fight. I could also head to the cabaret tent to scope out my new workspace and note who I'm up against. As I gaze into the magical water, I consider the possibility of going to the Lucky Charm and talking to our resident warlock about some sort of stealth spell he could put on me. Maybe I can show him my new outfit, too.
No. 923867 ID: 78b41d

Visit the warlock! Getting better acquainted with the possibilities of your new outfit should help you to prepare your show.
No. 924002 ID: daa216

Id vote the stage. Need to know what you are working with after all.
No. 924009 ID: c44c29

Warlock! Magical solutions to problems always work out!
No. 924073 ID: f61be5

No. 924264 ID: 270774

stage! there’ll be people to talk to everywhere, so you might as well get down to business.
No. 924265 ID: c1eaac

let's go to the cabaret and meet the new coworkers!
No. 925161 ID: 1a4dd8
File 155216099725.png - (317.45KB , 800x800 , panel60.png )

After some deliberation, I decide to head straight to the stage. I'm not going to let an outfit someone else designed carry the whole show, and besides, I need to figure out how I'm going to use it.

I finish my business and towel myself dry, hanging my wet clothes on a rack nearby. I am not surprised to find that Bashan's clothes don't fit me well.
No. 925162 ID: 1a4dd8
File 155216101370.png - (237.67KB , 800x800 , panel61.png )

This'll do.
No. 925163 ID: 1a4dd8
File 155216104703.png - (259.37KB , 800x800 , panel62.png )

It only takes me a minute to get to the cabaret tent, and as I walk in I remember Maggie saying yesterday that there isn't anyone other than me doing burlesque specifically. It shows. There are only a few people in here right now, including several bards chatting amongst themselves and a couple of stage hands wandering aimlessly around the stage.

I also notice Philine sitting alone, throwing a knife idly up into the air and catching it with precision. She sees me walk in and smiles, waving as her knife spins in the air and then catching it easily in two fingers.
No. 925164 ID: 1a4dd8
File 155216108589.png - (312.71KB , 800x800 , panel63.png )

"Hey," she says as I walk over to her. "Welcome back."

"Thanks." I sit down next to her, grateful for the company of someone who won't immediately overwhelm me with questions or criticism. "Your hair's gotten long."

"Yeah, my girl thinks it looks good," Philine says smugly. "Stopped cutting it a while back. You don't know her, by the way. She's not from around here."

I raise my eyebrows at her. "So she doesn't exist?"

Philine winks and lifts her knife to her mouth. I watch with curiosity, then growing realisation, then abject horror as she bites down on it hard. The shining metal crunches as she chews it with all the casual confidence in the world.
No. 925165 ID: 1a4dd8
File 155216111362.png - (201.32KB , 800x800 , panel64.png )

I can't stop watching. She doesn't break eye contact as she swallows without difficulty, and almost looks surprised at my reaction.

"I'm a sword swallower." She phrases it like it answers any question I could possibly have.

"You... When did you start eating..." I'm struggling to process what she's saying. "I don't think you have to actually eat it."

Philine is looking at me like I'm insane. "I have an iron deficiency."

In a growing state of shock, I reply, "That knife looks like titanium."

She stares at me blankly.
No. 925166 ID: 1a4dd8
File 155216114730.png - (343.83KB , 800x800 , panel65.png )

In a hasty attempt to realign myself with reality again, I change the subject. "I'll be working with you in here, on and off," I tell her, trying not to look at her knife as she tucks it into her pocket. "Bronwyn doesn't have much else for me to do."

"Nice. I heard about the cabaret stuff. Was that what you ran away to do?"

"God, no. I got the vigilante bug. Thought I'd try and even out the playing field a little, kill a few tyrants, that sort of thing."

"Cool." Philine glances over to her left as a middle-aged man holding a strange instrument starts walking over from the group of bards. "You seem way more calm, now. It's nice."

"Thanks. It's fine that you eat knives now."

No. 925167 ID: 1a4dd8
File 155216117897.png - (352.45KB , 800x800 , panel67.png )

The bard has reached us now, and he takes a seat next to me as he speaks. "Are you Babe?" he asks, shifting his instrument so that he can sit comfortably. It looks like a combination between a lute and a piano. "I was told to speak to you."

I take a moment to assess him. Philine doesn't seem uncomfortable with this guy's presence, so he's probably been in the circus for a little while. It's likely that either she or Bronwyn told him who I was, and I figure that he's probably not a threat. "That's me," I confirm, flicking my still-damp hair out of my face. "Who're you?"

"Gavin Gladewalker," he introduces himself, accompanying his name with a short piano melody. "Head of music. I'd like to talk to you about what music you'd like to use for your performance tonight."
No. 925170 ID: 1a4dd8
File 155216127827.png - (253.71KB , 800x800 , panel68.png )

"Nice assumption there," I scoff. "I'm not on until tomorrow."

"Oh?" Gavin tilts his head to the side, regarding me as though he's trying to figure out if I'm joking. "Bronwyn told me that you were quite eager to get started, and to expect you to come by today and speak to me. You're on after the theatre act."

A hint of panic rises in my gut as I realize I never actually asked Bronwyn when I was going to start. "When did she tell you that?"

"Last night," Gavin answers, and I groan. Of course she told him last night. I should've known she'd get me with something like this. She always does.

"Alright," I sigh begrudgingly. I guess I wasn't doing anything tonight anyway. "What've you got?"

We talk for a while about my act, and he seems very excited when I tell him about my magic outfit. Philine listens in as Gavin shows me some of his music - a huge range of pieces, almost all of them channeled magically from other planes or warping sounds that his instrument makes. He calls it a lukey, and after using it to play me a good deal of his own original music, we narrow it down to four songs.

Manic Depression
Get Busy

No. 925251 ID: 9582af

What good cabaret doesn't start off with some Manic Depression? Probably most, but this one will!

Also I'm pretty sure you can't just start eating knives. I guess it's fine unless it's some sort of possession thing.
No. 925274 ID: daa216

Noda. That sounds fun. Freaking keytar...thats going to be interesting.
No. 925308 ID: 0541cc

There is only one choice here. Get busy.

Get busy living~
When it's music that you need, and the rhythm is up to speed!
Put your arms around me when you hear the sound, the sound~
No. 925341 ID: 15a025

Have them play some Noda.
No. 925444 ID: c1eaac

let's get busy!!!
No. 925605 ID: ec59ef

definitely Juggernaut
No. 925608 ID: c91fb5

Some manic depression leading into get busy would be interesting!
No. 925610 ID: 9eaa88

No. 926801 ID: cfe8e9

Hey, folks. Probably won't be another update for a minute. Moving house is a nightmare.

I do, however, have time to talk about Babequest and post my art for it.

Disthread: https://tgchan.org/kusaba/questdis/res/128610.html

Thanks for being patient with me.
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