The X Button
Touch Sensitive

by Todd Ciolek, Jun 4th 2014

Ultra Street Fighter IV arrived yesterday, at least as far as the fighting-game crowd is concerned. Sure, you could wait until August and buy Ultra as a self-contained physical release, but I think most players, tournament-goers and casual fans alike, will content themselves with the upgrade patch that runs only fifteen bucks.

Ultra's price tag works out to three dollars per fighter, as the upgrade delivers Hugo, Poison, Elena, Rolento, and the never-before-playable Decapre. One could point out that Decapre is just a redecorated Cammy with a few new moves, and one could add that the other four fighters were already available in the ill-received Street Fighter X Tekken. One could even quibble that CAPCOM went cheap on the new characters' “Fight Your Rival!” encounters, which don't have unique introductions. I want to know why Elena and Sakura are kicking each other, dammit.

On the other hand, CAPCOM's method of upgrading Street Fighter IV stands far above the fighting-game follow-ups that other companies employ. If you want the new characters for BlazBlue or Persona 4 Arena, you'll have to buy the actual games instead of upgrades. If you were among the unfortunate souls who paid for The King of Fighters XII, SNK Playmore didn't cut you a break on the rampantly superior The King of Fighters XIII. And when you buy Guilty Gear Xrd later this year, deep down you'll be thinking of the inevitable upgrade that most likely adds returning characters like Zappa, Bridget, and Kuradoberi Jam. Seriously, they left Jam out of the first-round Xrd roster. Jam, the plucky, chirpy rushdown chef who won't let big government or thrice-damned bioweapons keep her from running a restaurant!

We can gripe about DLC (and we should in most cases), but CAPCOM's current practice is far better than the company's fighting-game stance in 1994. At that point, Street Fighter was the most bloated of fighting games, turning out Super Street Fighter II with only four new characters in a full-priced title. It was there I lost interest in Street Fighter for a few years. But I think Ultra will hold me for a little while.

NEWS

THE HARVEST MOON WARS BEGIN
Harvest Moon is a comforting spot in the mercurial rush of the game industry. It's a humble little series about tending a farm, raising animals, building a town, and starting a family. That's how Natsume sold it on these shores, starting with the original Harvest Moon on the Super NES. And now the gentle pastoral allurel of Harvest Moon is caught in the flames of…well, it's a minor publisher conflict. But it's still the most drastic event in series history, so I feel no journalistic compunction about labeling it The Harvest Moon Wars.

The short of it: Harvest Moon is known as Bokujou Monogatari in Japan. The next 3DS title in that series will come here through XSEED Games instead of Natsume, and it'll be called Story of Seasons. Yet Natsume has a response in the form of their own Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, also for the 3DS.

In the longer view, a split was inevitable. Victor Interactive published Harvest Moon games in Japan at first, but Marvelous Entertainment bought up Victor in 2003 and took over Harvest Moon duties there. This didn't affect the series in North America, where everything from Harvest Moon and its Rune Factory off-shoot went through Natsume, Inc., the American branch of the Natsume Company.

Things changed behind the scenes. Newcomer XSEED Games worked closer and closer with Marvelous as well as AQ Interactive. In fact, AQ Interactive bought XSEED in 2007, and in 2008 XSEED published Rune Factory Frontier in North America. Marvelous and AQ Interactive merged in 2011, and that set up everything for a Harvest Moon elopement. XSEED released Rune Factory 4 last year, and they'll have the next Harvest Moon on the 3DS. Natsume owns the name Harvest Moon, though, so XSEED needed a new equivalent for the Japanese title of Bokujou Monogatari. Story of Seasons it is!

The games remain much the same. Story of Seasons is still a Harvest Moon outing, so players customize a hero or heroine and make the most of a little plot of land in Oak Tree Town. There are crops to cultivate and townsfolk to befriend, and once again it's possible to romance a selection of single men and women. Players are also free to explore farms and towns on friends' 3DS systems.

And what of Natsume's new Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley? It popped up in a distributor's listings in April, so Natsume was clearly prepared. It's being developed internally at Natsume of Japan, and the game's first press release describes “a fully customizable world” and promises to “innovate in a way that no Harvest Moon game ever has.” Natsume's holding off on further details until E3, where the company will debut The Lost Valley and two other games for Nintendo systems. Might one of those mystery games be the work of Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada, whose Hometown Story Natsume published last year?

We don't know how this will influence the most important aspect of Harvest Moon: the stuffed animals. Natsume traditionally gives away a little plush toy with Harvest Moon pre-orders, from the earlier games' cows to a stuffed yak included with A New Beginning in 2012. Will XSEED continue the tradition with a stuffed emu or a stuffed guinea pig for Story of Seasons? Will the Battle of Promo Plush Hill be remembered as the fiercest clash of The Harvest Moon Wars?

GUILTY GEAR XRD COMING HERE, PERHAPS WITHOUT SPECIAL STUFF
Other long-running series are staying put. Aksys Games brought the most recent Guilty Gear titles to North America, and they'll have Guilty Gear Xrd out later this year. Even Guilty Gear fans tend to give up on properly sequencing all of the games and spin-offs, but Xrd hopes to give Guilty Gear the Street Fighter IV treatment: a sharp 3-D look atop a traditional two-dimensional fighting engine. In fact, Guilty Gear Xrd really wants to be mistaken for a hand-drawn fighter much of the time.

Like Street Fighter IV, Xrd revives old standards. Most of the characters are Guilty Gear regulars with new outfits, from Ky Kiske's lame little ponytail to Potemkin's mechanized Kaiser Wilhelm overhaul. The original characters are Bedman and playable boss Ramethal Valentine, though fans also speculate that Sin, the son of Ky and former end-boss Dizzy, will join the cast before long.

Guilty Gear Xrd is set for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. There'll be cross-platform play, but Aksys hasn't announced what, if any, advantages the PS4 edition will have. Nor have they announced any elaborate packaging for the game. If BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma deserved a big limited-edition box set, why not Guilty Gear?

DRAKENGARD 3 EXTRA QUESTS REVEAL YET MORE HORRORS
Drakengard 3 came out two weeks ago. I imagine there are those of you who finished it, who made it through the bloody mire of combat and the pure loathing of the final boss battle, and emerged wanting more. Good for you, I say. You can grab six side-quests focusing on the ambitiously murderous Zero and her seldom-better sisters. The side-stories are six bucks each, and you can pay thirty for the whole set.

The downloadable quests suit those players who wanted to see the rival Intoner goddesses beyond their boss fights. There's one story for Zero and her older dragon, but the rest of them center on the other deities. Their tales reveal them to be warped and creepy in one way or another; some of them are just as twisted as the main events of Drakengard 3 suggest, and even the more sympathetic Intoners are dragged through the muck. Of particular note is Two's quest, which shows what she and her disciple Cent were like before…well, Drakengard 3 happened.

IMPORT ROUNDUP: MAY

HYPER GODDESS NOIRE: PLANET DESTROYER BLACK HEART
Developer: Sting/Compile Heart
Publisher: Compile Heart
Platform: PlayStation Vita

The Hyperdimension Neptunia series made a strange choice of heroine. The games transpire in a dimension where goddesses embody game consoles and companies, and to date all of them have appeared on Sony's PlayStation 3 and Vita. But who are the main characters in those games? The avatars of the Sega Neptune and Sega Game Gear, that's who. Well, Compile Heart apparently realized that all of their games weren't exactly running on Sega hardware. Whether for mercenary profit or fan appeasement, they made a spin-off centered on Noire, the emissary of all things PlayStation.

More importantly, Hyper Goddess Noire: Planet Destroyer Black Heart is the work of Sting, the developer behind Yggdra Union, Knights in the Nightmare, and other strategy-RPGs in the Dept. Heaven series. For Planet Destroyer Black Heart, Sting devised a fairly simple battle grid, one where giant-headed versions of the characters march around and attack everything from blobs to angry Tetris blocks. Combat units grow more powerful through the Lily System, which lets the console warriors make friends and boost attack power by kissing each other. And yes, nearly all of the game-industry avatars are female. The only obvious exception is a player-controlled (and seemingly male) character who helps Noire make friends, arrange her apartment, or announce a release date for Gravity Rush 2 go shopping. As though the Neptunia series didn't play to nerd fantasies already.

Indeed, the game starts with a Sony fan's dream: Noire, in her Black Heart persona, is about to defeat her game-console rivals and rule the market. Yet the deities are robbed of their powers and forced to cooperate with a bunch of new character. Planet Destroyer Black Heart introduces over a dozen heroines based on gaming franchises. For example, Estelle symbolizes Dragon Quest with a sword and shield, Ain Al looks like an over-accessorized Final Fantasy character, and the Metal Gear personification sports gray hair and a high-tech eye patch. Even Opoona merits a party member. There's no Bubsy heroine. I'm sure the sequel will see to that.

Import Barrier: You'll encounter plenty of talking, and plenty of it in Japanese. The Vita's region-free, though!

Chances of a Domestic Release: Nothing announced so far, but every major Neptunia game arrived here. Idea Factory International and NIS America are shilling the series hard right now, so they're likely suspects. Indeed, Planet Destroyer Black Heart stands a better chance of coming here than the other two games profiled below, and that says something unflattering about the industry today.

Best Name: Lady Wakku, who represents a certain dot-eating icon of the gaming world.

MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM SIDE STORIES
Developer: B.B. Studio
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Platform: PlayStation 3

Mobile Suit Gundam Side Stories is a small blessing to the fan who wants to experience every last tale Gundam has to offer. Side Stories won't provide that fan with the entire run of Gundam Ace, the missing episode of the original series, or the whole of Gundam game adaptations. Yet it catches up with a bunch of Gundam titles stretching as far back as 1995. Included here are remakes of the Blue Destiny trilogy, Side Story 0079: Rise from the Ashes (which Dreamcast owners may remember), Zeonic Front (which PlayStation 2 owners may remember), Encounters in Space, Lost War Chronicles, the latter chunk of Cross Dimension 0079, and Space, to the End of a Flash. True to its name, Side Stories focuses little on the headlining battles between Char and Amuro, turning instead to lesser-known soldiers like Sophie Fran and Jaike Gunns. The inevitable melodrama and battlefield deaths of the original games are re-framed as modern action titles in the style of Mobile Suit Gundam Side Story: Missing Link.

And what's Missing Link? It's an all-new story set during The One Year War, and it follows the Slave Wraiths, a pack of mobile suit pilots pulled from Federation prisons. Naturally, they're thrown into suicide missions, but they end up working alongside a Zeon Army unit after a pilot switches sides and brings the Pale Rider Gundam with him. That sounds entirely too nice for a Gundam vignette, but there's a conspiracy brewing that'll ensure some tragedy for everyone involved.

Whether that tragedy erupts amid space colonies on in terrestrial battles, Missing Link follows a squad of three chosen mecha. The player can switch between them in the middle of combat, and there's a lineup of machines from the Slave Wraith units to the Pale Rider itself. That's to say nothing of the other side-story adaptations, most of which feel like entirely different games in their new format. They're not as long as the originals, but that might be a plus if you prefer streamlined plots in your harrowing orbital robot firefights.

Import Barrier: It's not all that hard to play once you've figured out the controls. The dialogue remains in Japanese, however, and so do some of the level objectives.

Chances of a Domestic Release: Lamentably slim. We'll get Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn in July, but publishers seem to think that North America can support one Gundam game a year at best.

Best Name: Bork Cry, pilot of the Gundam Pixie in Cross Dimension 0079. Fans seem to think that his name comes from the Russian word for wolf, but I suspect he's named after U.S. Circuit Court Judge and failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. Gundam's got plenty of political references

TOUCH DETECTIVE RISING 3: DOES FUNGHI DREAM OF BANANAS?
Developer: BeeWorks
Publisher: Success
Platform: Nintendo 3DS

See the little mushroom fellow on the cover? His name is Funghi, and he's the reason Touch Detective came back for a third game. In Japan he's called Nameko, and there he enjoys his own line of smartphone apps, stuffed toys, and other merchandise. That alone is a good reason for Success to put together a new Touch Detective, even though Funghi's not really its star. He plays sidekick to MacKenzie, heroine of the series, as she solves various mysteries in her weird little universe. Of course, all of the Touch Detective Rising 3 ads still tout Funghi and his various special-edition goodies.

As befits a series with a mushroom pet, Touch Detective Rising 3 retains its predecessors' slightly off-kilter tone. It's staged in a modern world with traces of Victorian magical realism, and most of the major characters wear constant haunting stares with their large-pupil eyes. This includes Mackenzie (or Rina Ozawa as she's known in Japan), her scatterbrained friend Penelope, and her friendly rival Chloe. A less amicable nemesis emerges in Touch Detective Rising 3 when Shiro Tachi arrives, sporting a Sherlock-ish outfit and a big yellow dog-shaped creature named Minako. Much of the previous games' cast returns, including Mackenzie's butler Cromwell and Inspector Daria. Despite some new 3-D looks, the gameplay sticks to a point-and-click adventure where conversations and puzzles drive everything, but that's all the older Touch Detective titles needed to be charming and strange breaks from the usual fare.

Import Barrier: There's a lot of dialogue, so it's best not to jump in without some understanding of Japanese. And don't forget that the 3DS is region-locked.

Chances of a Domestic Release: Far smaller than they should be. Atlus released the first two Touch Detectives on the DS, and the games even showed up on iOS and Android. It'd be nice if a U.S. publisher nabbed the third game, now that I'm calling it Touch Detective Rising 3 instead of Osawari Tantei Ozawa Rina Rising 3. You don't want me to look stupid, do you? Best Name: The subtitle itself is a weird play on Blade Runner's original novel, but I'd like to see what a good localization might call the game's equally strange banana-themed villain.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

There's not much coming. Shooter fans can check Steam for the very Cave-ish Crimzon Clover WORLD IGNITION, which should be available in a few days. Next week, there's the World War II shooter Enemy Front for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, plus a How to Train Your Dragon 2 game for just about everything (even the Wii). You could pretend it's Drakengard 3. Or you could just read these…

THE DRAKENGARD 3 CONTEST: MORE ENTRIES

Last week's X Button announced the winners in the Drakengard 3 contest, and now it's time for the rest of the entries! Well, it's time for the first chunk of them. I received a lot of stories, so I'll probably need another column or two to fit them.

We'll begin with this story from Camous Moslemi, who delivers astute social commentary.

"Well, Michael, we are off to slaughter those wretched sisters of mine," Zero uttered nonchalantly as she mounted her dragon beast in one swift and effortless motion.

"Murder them?" Michael replied with a start, "but whatever for?"

"Because of this accursed flower here," she pointed to the absurdity sprouting out of her eye, "they are infected by its curse, the contagion known only as 'moe'."

"Mo.. moe?" Michael's dumbfounded face fully betrayed his confusion. "You mean that movement where you idolize budding cartoon girls?"

"Fetishize, is more like it," she sprouted with disgust, "but that is but one small part of the cancer that is moe. Sure, those who adhered to that sick cult in the early days defended its innocence nobly, 'moe means budding,' the freaks said, but look here, Michael", she put her afflicted eye closer to Michaels, "look into what hideous abomination that bud has sprouted."

"It looks kind of pretty to me."

"Philistine!" she roared, "I'll pretend I didn't hear that, Michael, and you might yet live through this. My sisters are all born of this flower, thus each is a conduit of moe, and each represents one of its vulgar archetypes. They must all die so that moe can be erased, freeing the world from its vulgar shackles."

"But, Zero," Michael interrupted excitedly, "Don't most of your sisters answer just to the yandere archetype, most of all you, yourself?"

"Michael..." she responded with eyes narrowed in suspicion, "How are you familiar with the vulgar pandering intricacies of moe? I would henceforth choose my words very carefully, you are treading on very precarious footing."

"But, Zero, why do you find moe so evil? Isn't it just a simple aesthetic?"

"Oh, Michael," she sighed with resignation as she rested her despondent chin upon his head. "How little you understand of the nature of fine art. Moe is evil because it is born of and feeds upon pander, it is vulgar by nature and has no artistic merit. Such movements are like tumors in art, if left to grow unchecked they will consume all higher works in their respective medium and grow into something utterly grotesque. You see, vulgar movements like moe, they grow through pander. In art, pandering is an evolutionary dead end, it only leads to the development of vulgar fetishistic trends, like lolicon and incest, because that is its nature.

"Onii-chaaan, onii-chaan," she said mockingly in a grating falsetto. "That is the kind of shit they would have us eternally stuck with if those moeists are not put a violent end to. I spit upon their base, vulgar tastes! Plebeian scum..."

"But, Zero, that fetish stuff is just a niche, isn't it? Cant we just ignore it, live and let live?"

"How little you know, Michael, that niche has seized control of the entire artistic ecosystem that birthed it screaming, and like a weed infestation it is suffocating all life out of a once beautiful flower garden, twisting everything into its hideous fleshy image.”

Zero began to shake. "Oh gods, I can feel the ero-doujins about me and my sisters being written right now, not to mention those about you and me! Come, Michael, time is of essence!!"

"But Zero, I don't wa..."

"Shut your jaw, philistine!" she yelled with eyes livid with madness. "All moe must die, including me, so I, the prime Intoner, hereby decree, sally forth, and suffer not one diseased bone of moe to go uncrushed in those big beautiful jaws of yours."

This she commanded with authority as she hit Michael upon the head with her sneering head held high, towards the sky.

"Yes, mistress", he acquiesced and off they went towards the cathedral for a jolly bout of righteous slaughter.

THE END

Yet they did not succeed in their quest, as you can tell by looking at any anime release schedule. Now we move on to Christopher Huynh, who brings us a tale of Decadus and Four. Catch 'em Thursday nights on NBC!

DECADUS

“It's…a little big.”

Lady Four holds up the instrument and gives it a look over.

“And it looks fragile. I don't think we could carry this around with us…but try it anyways.”

I take the instrument in my hands and Lady Four helps me hold it properly, resting the awkwardly shaped body on my legs while I grasp the neck with one hand.

“Just try plucking the strings a little. And press down on them there.”

I lightly pluck at the strings and they produce loud, clear tones. It seems like a complicated instrument, but I would learn all of its intricacies if Lady Four requested it of me.

“I know it doesn't immediately sound as good as that harp, but with some time I could see it working. You've already got the callouses on your hands for it too.”

“Callouses?”

Does Lady Four mean to say that this instrument can… that playing on these strings might cause more…nngh…

“Decadus?”

We both pause. Lady Four almost seems to sigh.

“We'll try another one.”

I try to read Lady Four's eyes as she takes the instrument back and goes to choose another one. She still hasn't told me exactly why she wants me to learn to play an instrument. I could ask, but then, the feeling of not knowing - no, the torture of not knowing is…is…!

“How about this?”

Lady Four hands me a flute of sorts. It's rather tiny in my hands. I raise it to my lips and fumble my way through arbitrary notes.

“Well I like the way this one sounds; it's nice and warm. Fairly small and compact, too. We could definitely…er, Decadus? Decadus!”

Lady Four's face begins to fade in and out of vision as I struggle to continue playing. I know that I should breathe but…this burning in my chest…this unbearable pressure building in my face…this new sensation in my body is just…so… so succulent—!

“That's enough!”

And with that, Lady Four snatches my pleasure out of my hands. Breathing in deeply, the feeling leaves almost instantly.

“I…I'm sorry, my lady!”

I bow down before her, panting, with my face to the ground.

“I'm not sure what came over me…Y-you must punish me for—“

“You know I won't do that.”

I look up and our eyes meet for a second. That icy tone, those piercing eyes…ohh…immediately I remember that these games that Lady Four plays with me are so much more satisfying than the physical pain I so often crave. Oh…my benevolent lady!

“Right well, since nothing else will do…”

Lady Four puts back the instrument, and goes to another wall of items. She taps her foot and nibbles her long nail in contemplation. After some thought, she hands me a small metal triangle and rod.

“Well, go on, then.”

Lady Four looks at me expectantly. Unsure of what to do, I tap the triangle with the rod a few times and it chimes like a small bell. Lady Four breathes deeply and closes her eyes for a moment.

“I'll tell the clerk that we want a few of those. Maybe if we get different sizes we can actually make a song or…”

Lady Four's voice becomes distant as she exits the room. Looking at the triangle more closely, I can see that there are some grooves and marks along the sides. It's remarkably light, like a sword. A sword which slices…and…pierces flesh…aah…and even feels and tastes like—

“Yes, we'll take—er, Decadus? Decadus! WHAT ARE YOU—? GE—IS IT IN YOUR THROAT?!!”

And darkness hits.

What do blithely murderous Intoners dream of? Let's ask Rebecca Koash!

Zero's Story - Remnants of a Distant Dream

I stood before the pile of corpses of my sisters. Five's head was split in two whilst Four's stomach was cut open wide so all of her innards were visible, Three was adorned in cuts as blood gushed out of her newly open wounds and Two, Two was almost unrecognizable. I had killed my sisters like cattle, it was almost humorous. To find the act of sororicide amusing – despite how eccentric my sisters were – how fucked up am I…?

One with her remaining strength held out her hand to push my blade aside, however I plunged my sword through her hand and into her chest; her blood splattered against my face as I smiled blissfully. It's over.

I heard the large footsteps of Michael from behind as his voice slowly resonated through the Sanctuary of the Intoners. “That isn't blood, you know.”

“Wait, what?”

I awoke hesitantly to my face covered in a lukewarm substance. “What the…hell?” The noxious sludge that was saliva dripping from Mikhail's mouth covered my hair and face as he rested peacefully beside me. Goddammit…I always told you to sleep a distance away from me.

The last remnants of the dream began to fade in the morning light as realization took hold. I stood up and stretched. Of course it was a dream, nothing would be that easy. Wringing out my hair the saliva dripped down; its heavy consistency crashing against the ground. The putrid smell of it assaulted my nostrils as I flicked the remnants off my face and onto Mikhail's. I was about to wake him but my body had silenced me before I had the chance. Looking at his dormant face I stopped to think.

I don't know why but his face brought back memories. For that fleeting instant I remembered what life was like before becoming an Intoner, the crushing sensation that even back then I was always alone fighting against the fate that was already carved out before me. I was alone back then just as I am now, I had always accepted that. No…now I have Mikhail.

The sudden realization that I wasn't alone anymore made me almost smile. To feel this comfort, to feel this happiness, knowing you are by my side…knowing it's about to end.

Is this really okay?

Tiffany sent in a story that she rates PG-13 due to some harsh language and floral themes.

The Pink Dragon

Mikhail opened his eyes and blinked a few times. What time was it? He had only fallen asleep for a few minutes, right? Where was Zero? Mikhail looked around, but she was nowhere. Taking the path near the stream, Mikhail had found Zero's clothes, but no Zero! In a flurry of panic, Mikhail started running down the path.

"Zero! ZEROOOO!" he shouted.

"YOU!!" Zero shouted from behind him. Mikhail knew that tone in her voice well. She wasn't happy. "What the HELL are you doing?!" she demanded.

"I...I...I saw your clothes and I thought you disappeared! Your clothes were there…but you weren't," he said softly.

"You are the dumbest dragon ever," she replied, as she started dressing. "I was taking a bath! You could take a lesson. Every day you start smelling more and more like shit."

Zero groaned and stormed off, leaving Mikhail feeling shameful. He didn't smell that bad.... Did he?

It was then when Mikhail knew he had to please Zero. He had to find some way to smell nice for her. Maybe then he could make her happy!

Mikhail thought of something and it was all because of Zero. Her flower! Humans thought flowers smelled nice right?! While the party slept, Mikhail had quietly walked to a clearing in the woods. He lifted himself into the sky and started his search. Surely, a flower wouldn't be so hard to find.

He flew at least twenty miles before he spotted an open field. He lowered himself a little. Yep, flowers!! Lots and lots of flowers.

Mikhail quickly dropped to the ground and happily rolled and rolled himself all over the field. He was so proud of himself. He just knew this would impress Zero and she wouldn't complain anymore about the way he smelled.

When he felt like it was just enough, Mikhail quickly returned to the campsite. Good, he thought to himself when he arrived. Everyone was still asleep. Mikhail laid down, almost too excited for Zero to wake up.

The next morning, Mikhail woke up to lots of loud noise. What was wrong?! Was Zero ok?! He felt something bumping into his tail. He looked around and saw that Zero was there. Her face wrinkled up in her “not so happy” face. Why was she so upset and why was her face so pink? Pink enough to match the flower. He looked at the others. Cent's eyes were watery and his nose was red. Dito was throwing up behind a tree. ...They all looked horrible!

Mikhail then noticed that Zero held a flower in her hand. It certainly didn't look like the flower she had in her eye. "Do you know what this is?!" she shouted. "I found three between your feet, two behind your horns, and this one tucked up in your wings. What did you do?!!!"

"Sorry, Zero, sorry!" Mikhail said. "It's a flower. I thought flowers were supposed to smell pretty. You know, not stink. I wanted to smell nice for you!"

Zero groaned. "This is a Demon's Trumpet," she said. "The smell is toxic to humans if they get too close to it, you stupid dragon!!!"

Zero threw the flower she held on the ground. She reached in her bag and pulled out a rectangular shaped thing. "C'mon," she huffed and turned away. "You are getting a bath, even if I have to do it myself," she said.

He followed her into the stream like a dog with its tail between its legs. He felt Zero crawl onto his back and he felt her rubbing him hard. So hard that he was sure she was turning him pink. Mikhail didn't dare say anything though. Zero was already so mad at him. So, Mikhail just lowered his head and closed his eyes.

When it was all over, Mikhail marched back up to the grass with Zero.

"At least, you don't smell like shit now," she said.

Mikhail lifted his head up! She said I smelt nice! Now, he was happy…even, if he was pink dragon instead of a white dragon!

Here's one from Coty Sugg, who worked in a little poetry! And spoilers, for that matter!

As the afternoon begins to fade into evening in Cathedral City, One finds herself browsing the cathedral's library. During a previous visit, Two had inquired about the presence of any rare or exotic cookbooks in the cathedral's collection. Unsure at the time, One promised to look before her sister's next visit.

After a brief search, One comes across a volume that should pique Two's culinary interest. As she pulls the book from the shelf, a thin manuscript slides out and falls to the floor, a plume of dust breathed from the pages within. One picks up the grimy text and begins to wipe away some of the filth from the cover. Her eyes narrow and a scowl forms as she uncovers the title of the piece.

“Epitaph for the Intoners? What nonsense is this?”

Setting the cookbook aside, One opens the cover of the dubious tome and begins to thumb through the first few pages. She stops on a page with an oddly familiar picture. The image in question bears a resemblance to her youngest sister, Five, though drawn as a something of a crude doodle. Beneath the picture are a few lines of text.

She wanted it all, but was left with none.

Felled by the blade of Nothing's Sum.

And now, the tale of Five is done.

One begins to flip through the book in search of similar pictures. After thumbing through a few more pages, she finds a sketch of a very unhappy looking Four.

At the end of a sword she found her defeat.

Her life snuffed out by sisterly deceit.

And now, the story of Four is complete.

As she becomes increasingly flustered, she finds the next image. As expected, a drawing of a very sullen Three is found with an inscription below it.

Devoured whole in but a single bite,

Eaten alive by the beast of Nothing's Flight.

And now, the account of Three is finished outright.

One bites her bottom lip and searches for the next drawing. It doesn't take long until she finds a sketch of a surprisingly morose looking Two.

Still brokenhearted from her encounter prior,

Willingly was she burned away by dragon fire.

And now, the fate of Two has been told in its entire.

Hesitantly, One places her fingers on the corner of the page. Determined to see this Apocrypha to its conclusion, she turns the page. She takes a deep breath, and begins to read the first line.

And now we come to the saddest tale ever to be sung

For here we learn of the last days of…

One shuts the tome before reading any further. With resolute purpose, she exits the library, book still clutched firmly in hand, and makes her way to her chambers. As she turns down the final stretch of hallways, One spies the familiar, perky frame of Two eagerly running towards her. Cheerful as ever, Two greets her sister. A look of concern fixes itself on Two's face as she sees her already pale older sister start to look particularly pallid.

“Evening, One! Everything alright? You look like you've seen a ghost!”

With a slight twitch in her left eye, One walks past her sister without a word and makes for her chamber.

She enters her room and locks the door behind her. One's gaze rests firmly on the nearby fireplace.

Without a second thought, she tosses the book into the flames. She takes a seat and watches as the tome slowly burns black as pitch in the roaring hearth.

“I believe that's enough reading for one day. I've never had much of a taste for fiction anyway…”

Emerich Sziklai breaks from convention with this story that's not about murder!

Zero's Flower

"For you," the child told me as she handed me a white iris, unafraid of the sword in my hand or the blood that covered me. I didn't understand it at all. I mean, I've killed for less and yet, there was an unassuming innocence in her eyes that hurt me. For a moment, all I could think about was if this girl was the me I could have been had I not been robbed of my youth, my purity, and everything I'd ever loved. What would have happened if I didn't experience hell everyday since I was her age?

Regardless, I saw an unmistakable shimmer of hope; the dreams of a future undisturbed despite the world's foundation shaken to its very core with immorality. I AM that immorality. Nothing about me is right; all I know how to do is take and destroy. It's ironic that this flower in my eye has given me life more times than I'd care for it to have. All I ever do is squander it, and for what? To take even more. Something about this girl is different, though. She's seen what I can do and she isn't afraid. How can someone live without fear of dying? Oh yeah, but it's not like I'd call what I do living. I could have ended her life five times over by now, but I doubt she would have changed that optimistic expression even once.

"It's going to be okay," her eyes seemed to promise, and for a moment, I'd actually believed it. Maybe I'm just tired or jaded from all of this killing, or maybe I've simply satiated myself for the day; I couldn't be sure until I was out of this moment. If there were more people in this world like her, maybe it was a thing worth saving. Maybe I could bring myself to give a damn. Like all else, though, I had to walk away from this situation. As I brushed by her, I simply stated, "Thanks."

It wasn't just for the flower (in all honesty, I really kind of hate it), but for the perspective, kid. I don't mind giving things some thought every once and awhile; it's a nice change of pace.

Michael “Zyzxx Infinity” Gillette is a huge Drakengard fan—he even has a tattoo of Angelus and Caim's pact symbol! He also recommends listening to this while you read.

"Oh, What An Unusual Tea Party!"

"Five, you are putting too much sugar!" exclaimed Four, precisely gauging just how many cubes delightfully splashed into her Sister's drink.

"You do not want to overindulge! Your body is so wonderful, and it would be a shame to see that change!"

"Ohhh, but the sweet taste is just too irresistible! I love it so much!" cheerfully chirped Five, as she began to splash cream into her cup as well.

Another cube of sugar plopped into the cup, with the precision of Three's shimmering scissors, whom didn't even look up from brushing her doll with her spare hand. "There are exactly 453 calories in your tea now," said Three in a very sullen tone.

Two just smiled gaily at the fuss her Sisters were making over the matter. "You are all too silly! Just please enjoy the scones I made! They are fresh with berries I picked with Cent this morning!"

Cent, who was sitting at a separate table with the other Disciples, adjacent to the Intoners, leaned back and slyly remarked, "Ahhh, Two! I recall myself picking the entirety of those berries!"

"That's true, huh? That's because you are so helpful!" Two said, with a slight blush and bite of her lip.

Meanwhile, One and Zero, sitting at opposite ends, quietly and contemplatively sipped from their cups, occasionally glancing at one another. The air between them was slightly tense. Their respective Dragon companions, in the same manner, quietly rested at opposite ends from behind the table.

The other Sisters could sense an uneasiness between them, but choose to simply ignore it. This was the first time, and perhaps the last, they had all managed to sit down together and enjoy a pleasant moment together. Even if it was just for tea.

Four decided to help brighten the mood, "Two, these scones really are delicious! Perhaps you can teach me how to make them sometime! I'm so happy we can all enjoy them together, too!"

"Yes... Together," Zero's words sternly pierced through the tension, and One's cup of tea, held firmly in her hand, was rather abruptly set back down to its plate, causing a small shard of porcelain to chip off.

For a moment, all of the Intoners glanced at that fragment of ceramic, reflecting on their own existence as a result of Zero. Everyone glanced down for a moment and paused, unsure of what to say.

A soft, warm breeze passed across the table, as if, from somewhere above, the Sisters were being told to savor the time they were spending together.

Just then, Two clasped her hands together and shouted, "Let's do this again sometime, everyone! ...Please!" As Two looked at the table, she noticed her pastries were nearly gone and gasped. "Whoa! What happened to all my treats?"

"Your Sister nearly ate them all. She is now at 4,130 calories," calculated Three, who still continued brushing her doll without looking up.

"I think I know where all those calories are going, huh Five?" jested Four, nudging at Five's breasts with a wink.

Five tried to say something in her defense, but it was not understandable with all of the scones she had stuffed into her mouth!

With that, the Sisters finished the rest of their tea, packed their belongings, and set off to their respective newly acquired kingdoms. They all left with a sense of satisfaction to have been able to spend time together, but little did they know it was, in fact, the last time they would share such a pleasurable afternoon with one another...

Kiel Finger explores Three's pastimes beyond dolls and unspeakable experiments.

Snip Snip

The humidity wasn't something she was used to.

From a place of light and majesty, to this spoiled valley, a tinpot dictator's keep.

Three could never seem to adjust to the constant change in weather. Her hair never seemed to cooperate and her clothes never seemed to fit right. These minor annoyances would normally be beneath her notice, but they stacked, one upon another, until she could feel her frustration build into a child-like rage. It was in those fleeting moments where her ennui dissolved that she found it even easier to enjoy combat.

The well-trodden path to Forest Wraith's fortress was unguarded. Three found herself becoming listless, nothing to entertain her along the kilometer-long road. Straight and narrow, she meandered now and again, stopping to stare at the forest canopy or to cut large swaths of her ever-growing hair off.

As the large wooden structure came into view, she mused over this particular warlord's melodramaticism. The Forest Wraith? She laughed aloud at his title. He was no different than any of the other multitudes that had fallen beneath sword. His affectation of dark cloaks and soft spoken threats gave him nothing in her eyes. His blood would be as red as the next man's. She spotted the guards before they her. Bear skins and pewter buckles, they fancied themselves barbarians.

The first of the two to notice looked confused , then his face quickly took on a lecherous look. He stepped towards her and opened his mouth to speak, most likely something crude and foul. He wouldn't get the chance.

From the guards point of view, she didn't so much as dash at him, as she simply stopped being there and was now here. He stumbled backwards and feel squarely onto his rear. He partner, reeking of rot gut, began laughing heartily as his compatriot who had been knocked over by a teenaged girl. His laughter died when he noticed the large pair of black shears, jammed up to the rings, protruding from the fellow guard's mouth.

The quizzical look returned to the first guard's face as he completed his fall onto his back and summarily died. Three turned her amused smile to the other man. He dropped his roughly hewn stone sword and began backing away.

“It's all yours, miss! Not worth mah life guarding this dump!”

He turned and ran full tilt into the brush. She considered following after, but she was already bored with him and was more interested in the man who sat on cheap wooden throne he'd had painted black to give the illusion it was ebony. The Forest Wraith would provide entertainment, she'd make sure of it.

Three pushed lightly against the huge wooden doors of the keep. They swung open as if the had been made of rice paper. More guards milling about, a few mangy look dogs and oh my, there he was. All black silk hood and knee high leather boots. The Forest Wraith, milling among his common folk.

She could feel her smile returning with force as the wood doors swung shut behind her.

Who said the defeat of warlords and the liberation of man couldn't be a wonderful lark?

B Jones also wrote about Three and didn't waste any words!

If Three was the Main Character

Unfortunately, Three was unable to complete her mission. Her infatuation with dolls occupied all of her time, and the world was destroyed. Her death was swift and painless because she was oblivious to everything that was happening until the very end.

The End?

Patrick Steenson delivers a fireside chat between Zero and her disciples. There's cussin' and carryin' on, so send the kids out of the room!

“Another night of just us guys again,” Dito sighed, putting his hands behind his head. “And I thought with four disciples, she would be going every night.”

The four disciples of Zero once again sat together around a campfire under the starry night sky. Zero herself was sleeping not far off against a rock where her dragon, Mikhail, slept as well; occasionally making odd snoring noises. It was just another night of Zero sleeping and not one of pleasure.

Cent sighed. “It makes me a bit sad that she sleeps more often now than before.” Normally, Zero had sex with a different disciple almost at least three nights a week. Then it became once a week. Then it was every other week. Now it seemed Zero wanted to sleep more than have sex.

“She's probably just recovering from all our 'joyful' night we had with her,” Octa chuckled, Dito groaning at his poor joke.

Cent gave a soft laugh and turned to other disciple. “What do you think, Decadus?”

Decadus folded his arms across his chest. “Zero has been getting tired as of late,” he stated. “It could be because of the battles she endured finally catching up to her.”

But then a smile appeared on Decadus face. “But her ignoring of our want to pleasure her is just… The denying of Zero's intimacy with us is so…”

Decadus moaned loudly, his body shaking with ecstasy. Dito made a retching sound as he looked at Decadus quiver in delight.

“And here I thought Five was disgusting,” the boy muttered.

“Says the boy who enjoys seeing others' entrails,” Octa quipped. “And was a little boy toy for Five.”

“At least I'm not trying to shove my dick into everything with an orifice!” retorted Dito. “Or was Three too busy screwing around with her dollies to let you put yours in her?”

Dito and Octa glowered at each other, almost trying to kill the other with their stares.

“Now, now”, Cent said. “Let's not begin fighting about each other's time with their former Intoners.”

“Easy for you to say,” Decadus said, giving Cent a hard look. “Given how Two acts, you could almost have been having sex with a child.”

Cent gave Decadus a wide smile, almost failing to hide the evil grin behind his lips. “At least Two had sex with me. Your Four only did it with herself while you listened to her masturbate.”

The four disciples' simple discussion began dissolving into an arguing match about their lives as the former disciples of the deceased Intoners, slowly growing into a shouting match over who would be the better sex partner for Zero. Unknown to the four of them, the woman in question growled at the pathetic debate her men were having and interrupting her sleep. Zero proceeded to get up and marched towards the campfire with the arguing men. None of them even noticed her approaching them.

“Will all of you just SHUT THE FUCK UP?!” Zero screamed.

The four disciples stopped their arguing and looked at a infuriated Zero. There were dark circles around her eyes and a scowl on her lips.

“Do you really want to know why I'm not having sex with any of you anymore?” Zero asked, looking at each man before. None of them answered, not wanting to raise Zero's already boiling anger.

“Because all of you are absolutely SHIT in bed!” Zero yelled at them.

“You!” the woman yelled as she looked at Dito. “I'm not fucking a necro-loving child!”

She then turned to Decadus. “You keep ruining our sex with your damn pleading for me to hit you more!”

Then Octa. “You keep trying to shove your shriveled and wrinkled cock anywhere on my body!”

And finally, Zero glared at Cent. “And you! Learn to grow a fucking pair, you goddamn pillow biting bastard!”

Zero then turned on her heel and stomped back to where she slept, loudly grunting in anger at having to wake up to silence her disciples' idiotic squabble.

Silence filled the air as the men looked at the now sleeping Zero, only Mikhail's occasional snoring breaking it. Finally, Cent broke the silence.

“Do you think Zero could be a lesbian?”

And that's the last entry I can fit for now. We'll have more next week!


Todd Ciolek occasionally updates his website, and you can follow him on Twitter if you want.


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