The sun is up, and so are the noodle shop workers (though they aren’t all happy about it.)
What’s this? A cat tree? It wasn’t always there, was it? Yeah, it was definately always there. But why?
Huh? Who is this? Is he a stray?
“Nope!” says Amya. “He’s Donburi, the restaurant cat.”
“Just keep doing your jobs, everyone! You’ll get used to him.”
Aaand I didn’t manage to capture it, but Sept just used telepathy on Amya! Good thing she likes aliens.
Almaz is back! But what’s with the evil grin, Jeremy?
This townie is wowed!
Don is pleased.
Amya was getting low on fun, so I had her play with Don…
OHMYGODTHELASERPOINTERCHANGESBASEDONEMOTION!!!!!! (She was confident after “discovering” Sept.)
Almaz and a townie are happy with their food and impressed by wait times!
Well, someone’s happy!
After that little Don session, Amya was feeling Playful… so I had her do it again!
*barely audible squee*
Jeremy was surly at a customer… (though again, I didn’t catch it). He’s Very Dissatisfied with his job.
I decided that the cat tree is going to reflect overall reviews, rounded down- we’re at three stars, so have a new cat tree! (Technically it’s 3.5.)
Two ticked customers against Jeremy… he might just end up leaving! Sept, on the other hand, hasn’t gone off once.
Ooh! A critic! He’s going to be the last customer, though; everyone’s getting tired.
He gave us a 4-star review! That brings our overall up to 4 stars! New cat tree time, Don!
Everyone is unhappy with their jobs… maybe it’s promotion time?
Tell me what you think, and I’ll see you next time!
Somewhere in San Myshuno, just around that corner, there it is behind a welcoming door. Or maybe it’s tucked away in a mall at Magnolia Promenade, or out on the island of Windenburg. It’s That Noodle Place. You know, the one your sim loves, but can’t remember the name of? Where they serve sushi and dango but mostly that really good ramen, the kind that gets all over your shirt? One location, many dimensions; not that anyone would know it.
Well, it’s been hiring. The… eclectic staff consists of:
Jeremy Dunbar, Host
Septemus Sevens, Waiter
Lily Green, Waiter
Renzene Clay, Cook
and Amya Hilliard, Host and Owner (probably)
Everyone is arriving for work:
No, Sept! You have to work, not jog!
Aaaand the food is on fire. Well done!
Sept, are you sure you understand this “waiting” thing?
As dusk fell, our first non-townie guests: Sage Reed and Jeremy’s roommate Teresa Yeager!
Three of them, in fact! Almaz Clay, Renzene’s sister, showed up with Sage!
Sept, this is the third time today!
Everyone thought the decor was very nice, including this random townie.
Sept took their order…
As Lily took theirs!
Just as they were starting to get bored of waiting, the food arrived!
What are you glaring at, Amya? Is it Sept out-of-uniform?
Everyone enjoyed the food, but they enjoyed the price even more.
And that wrapped up the day! We got the Patient Patrons perk (hehe). We also made a little money. So far Lily is our best employee (and Sept is the worst. Sorry, Sept!)
At the end of the sim week, one will be hired… and one will be fired! Who will it be? Tune in next time, but you won’t find out!
The next night, Ingram returned, and she brought chess.
Sylvia pondered what to do. How could she crack the mysterious woman’s facade?
“So, you know Aylin well?”
“You could say that.”
“How long have you known her?”
“A long time. A very long time.”
Sylvia tried a different approach. “Are you two friends?”
“I suppose it depends on your definition of ‘friend.’ Do you consider yourself to be ‘friends’ with Aylin?”
Sylvia wasn’t sure how to parry this attack. Of course, it was her dream to be friends with Aylin, no matter which definition one settled on, but she felt it was presumptuous to declare friendship with the woman who was so much more intelligent, skilled, talented, powerful, knowledgeable, and admirable than she was. In other words, Aylin was peerlessly cool.
“I aspire to be,” replied Sylvia.
Sylvia looked at the board. Her rook was hemmed in, her queen-side bishop was penned, and Ingram was about to capture another pawn.
“Check,” Ingram said.
“Aylin and I are black and white,” Ingram continued, “just like the pieces on this chessboard.”
“Does that mean you are always fighting?”
“Quite on the contrary. Perhaps we are more like Go than chess. Have you played Go?”
“I have played Go,” Sylvia said. “My papa taught me.” She caught a quick memory of attic afternoons, scrunched over the go board, and hustled the memory on its way. Now was not the time to remember home.
In Go, white and black moved together, organically, interconnected, around the board, like pushing hands.
“You’re talking about balance,” she said, and, at once, Ingram no longer seemed so frightening. Formidable, yes, but not quite as scary.
“Well done,” said Ingram.
Then she was gone.
I’ve learned that it’s the little things that count.
The smallest touch can transform something.
Even Mack and I have been transformed by living and working in this house. We’re more loving, more affectionate. Every spare bit of time is Us Time.
We’re working on the nightstands right now. Steaming off the chipped white paint, lacquering them into their original wooden glory with pride. We’re still looking for lamps.
Everything we do, the house watches us. Does it approve? Does it feel joy as we upholster and varnish? Or does it wish to stay unchanged?
I don’t know.
That morning, Sylvia woke up bright and early on Aylin’s instructions. She went upstairs to find an elegant bar set up in the study.
“Good morning, Aylin. You said yesterday that we were going swimming?”
“Yep! Drink this.”
“Powerful stuff, isn’t it? It’ll protect you from the sun for four hours, but we’ll want to start home before that just in case.”
“You had one of these too?”
Aylin winked. “Suffice it to say I have my own methods.”
“Okay, let’s go!”
As soon as she stepped out of the door, Sylvia was awestruck. Sun! Real sun, not burning her skin! The combination of the tangy drink and the warmth on her skin made her feel energized, alive even. With a spring in her step, she followed Aylin down the forest road to her house and through the tourist-filled square of Forgotten Hollow to the rail line.
After a quick train ride, they found themselves at the steps of the Bathe de Rill, Windenburg’s famous public swimming pool. Aylin headed straight up the stairs to the changing rooms.
Sylvia was a little nervous. She’d never really gotten the chance to go swimming before.
Aylin sat calmly by the poolside. “Go on ahead! I’ll join you in a moment.”
Sylvia screwed up her courage, climbed the stairs, and jumped!
As she swam away from the diving stairs, Sylvia rejoiced. Sun! Water! New feelings flooded her mind. Could life really be this fun?
Aylin bubbled up to the surface. Sylvia hadn’t even seen her get in.
Suddenly, Sylvia got an idea.
The ensuing splash fight was a battle to be remembered, but it had to be cut short by the timer running low on Sylvia’s sun protection. Aylin called things to a halt at two and a half hours, to make sure they had time to shower and get back home before Sylvia started sizzling.
As she followed Aylin back to the train station, Sylvia promised that she’d find a way to go swimming again.
Sylvia spent the fourth day in the study.
She found old math workbooks and puzzled out the problems.
She delved into tomes of vampire lore.
She meditated, surrounded by books and the knowledge contained in them.
She practiced the pipe organ.
When all of that was done, Sylvia went outside.
She read the epitaphs on the gravestones in the memorial pavilion.
She tried to figure out who the statue woman watching over the graves was.
She harvested the plasma fruits in the fountain pavilion and put them in the icebox.
She even got out of the garden and went for a jog.
When she exhausted her options outside, she explored her room.
She opened the cosmetics in the bathroom.
She experimented with the perfumes.
She organized the closet and made the bed.
She set the table and had another bowl of Aylin’s plasma fruit salad.
She examined the labels on the strange jars in the cupboards.
When Aylin got home, she brought a gift.
“I got a science kit at the store. I thought it might help make up for what Ingram put you through.”
Together they assembled the kit.
“Wow! Aylin, you’re good at this!”
Aylin chuckled. “I’ve spent a long time fixing things. Little projects like this are a breeze!”
“So, how did you know about Ingram?”
Aylin turned serious. “I asked her to train you. I didn’t anticipate her reaction.”
“You asked her to do that?”
“Not to hurt you, certainly! It’s been so long since she trained anyone, I’d almost forgotten how she worked. She won’t be doing that again, I assure you.”
“Do I have to train with her some more?”
“Only if you feel comfortable doing so. I’m not going to force you to see her again.”
Sylvia took a deep breath.
“I’ll go back, so long as nothing like that happens again. I want to learn.”
Aylin looked at her for a long moment. “You’re brave.”
“I want to learn. If you’re not going to teach me, I’ll have to learn from Ingram.”
“Very well. The day after tomorrow, you’ll see her again.”
“Tomorrow we go swimming.”
On the third day, Sylvia met the other woman.
She was standing outside of Sylvia’s door when Sylvia woke up.
“Attack me,” she said.
“What? No!” Sylvia exclaimed.
“Then I will attack you.”
The woman didn’t lay a hand on her, but Sylvia doubled over in pain. It was like a thousand sharp needles were pricking at her body, sending waves of agony through her mind.
When the pain subsided, the woman looked at her approvingly. “You rode the pain out. I am impressed. You didn’t even try to fight back.”
Sylvia felt stunned. This woman had appeared out of nowhere and attacked her! Who was she?
“Now,” said the woman, “I will teach you how to fight. I am going to conjure an illusion. You will dispel the illusion. I will not give you instructions. Go.”
Suddenly, Sylvia’s vision blurred. When her eyes cleared, Aylin was standing there and the woman was gone.
“Aylin!” Sylvia exclaimed. “Where were you? Did you chase that woman off? She attacked me? Why did she attack me?”
“She’s devious,” Aylin responded. “Trust nothing, especially not yourself.”
Sylvia shook her head and rubbed her face. A sort of feeling was squirming behind her eyes– a bizarre sensation, like something was wrong with her head… She tried to block out the feeling, to no avail. Focusing, she tried to find the source of the sensation, only to discover that it wasn’t coming from inside at all, but from Aylin herself.
“Aylin? Is something wrong?”
“It’s possible. Stay on your guard.”
Sylvia closed her eyes and concentrated. Go away! she thought. Get out of my head! The feeling of wrongness only intensified. Angrily, she reached for the wellspring of power deep inside, thrusting her inner pool of darkness forward.
“Very well done!” said the woman. “Sloppy, but effective.”
Sylvia opened her eyes to find the woman standing there again and Aylin gone.
“You tricked me!”
“That was the point of the exercise– to see if you could find that out on your own. You did. You have the power to fend off most ordinary assailants as it is, but your technique was unrefined. Focus.”
Sylvia focused. She dug down into the core of her body and reached again for that power, rising into the air.
“Now pull it in. Use only the bare minimum of power to keep yourself there. A single thread, nothing more.”
Sylvia looked at the flow of power through her body, and saw it coursing through her like a river. Pull back, she told it. Slowly, she did, resisting the urge to let it burst free, until there was only a trickle of darkness in her veins.
“Better,” said the woman. “Much better.”
As she began to walk away, Sylvia called out to her.
“Who are you?”
“Ingram,” said the woman.
Then she was gone.
On the second day, Sylvia’s training began.
Aylin took her to the pavilion out back, where two yoga mats were set up.
“Let’s begin,” she said.
“The mind is not a prisoner of the body, nor is the body a slave of the mind.”
“Body and mind are a single whole. Without transcendence in one, there can be no transcendence in the other.”
“Limits are not meant to be broken. They are meant to be discovered. Every time we say a limit is broken, we have merely discovered that it was beyond where we thought it was.”
The dawn found Sylvia exhausted, watching as Aylin bent her body into increasingly more difficult positions.
As she scrubbed her aching body, she pondered Aylin’s words. What did any of this have to do with being a vampire? Count Straud had made her exercise her powers, but Aylin’s training so far had nothing to do with any of that.
Her last thought as she drifted off to sleep was that it would be worth it.
I’ll send the agency’s contact information. I don’t know if I can think of anyone better to take care of one of these toddlers!
How is Jena doing? Has she learned any more words for cat lately? How big is she? How long has it been since you last got one of my letters, in your time?
I’m not directly involved with the project (apart from caring for Kedi, of course) but I’m sure you could volunteer to help with the little ones who haven’t been adopted yet! Someone caring and kind and knowledgeable like you is always helpful in a situation like this!
Kedi is doing so well! She’s really flourishing with us. She’s such a little darling.
I will look around and see if any caregivers could use your help. We have a forum we use to communicate.
Sorry this letter is so short. I have a toddler running around trying to get into the cupboards.