Red frowned as she tallied the results of the latest reports. It was just as she had feared: the Cycle of Faith was crumbling, Travelers kept getting bolder, and her own influence continued to dwindle. The death of Mise’s former owner Rinku had merely been an omen of the storm brewing on the horizon.

/Mistress, we may have a problem. Several, in fact./

“And here we go again,” Red muttered, sighing. But then, she supposed, that’s what she got for running…

One of Those Shops: And Meanwhile, Elsewhere
a demonstration of consequences
first action set off by Farsan de Arnibia
continued by Dot Warner

Weren swung his sword awkwardly through the air, scowling. The intoxicating rush of power, skill, and supreme uberness was completely gone. “What, that’s it?” he asked his Shop. “What happened to your supposedly unbeatable spell?”

/The crisis has passed, hasn’t it?/ The Shop showed him the current balance. /If you’re going to be as wasteful with this as my old Master was, then I’m afraid I’ll have to replace you as well./

“And here I thought Sesamo was the stingy one,” Weren muttered. “No wonder the protection around her was so short-lived.”

/Of course. Shopkeepers may come and go, but I intend to outlive them all./

“Harsh, but practical,” Weren mused. He had thought it was a bit odd that the Shop seemed so unconcerned about its Keeper’s well being, but now it made sense. Instead of wasting an “unnecessary” amount of energy, the Shop merely found a more convenient owner─ namely, himself. Then another thought occurred to him. “Don’t tell me that little three-way arms race in Peaceville was your idea, too.”

/Actually, that was Miss Red’s plan. Too bad it didn’t work out exactly the way she wanted./

“Oh?” Weren raised an eyebrow. “And what did Miss Red want, exactly?”

~ Irasshaimase ~

Reill stood at the edge of the cliff, grinning like─well, like a maniac.

(You’d be a little crazy, too, if you thought you were invincible.)

(Well, okay, not quite invincible. He hadn’t quite worked out all the kinks yet, but he wasn’t about to let anyone in on that little detail.)

In the mean time, he could do all sorts of fun stuff, such as generate his own Dramatic Breeze ™. And if only one piece of what he was seeking could be capable of power beyond his wildest imagination, than he would definitely be unstoppable once he got his hands on the entire thing.

Reill grinned even wider, if such a thing were possible.

Yes, life was good.

~ Irasshaimase ~

Yukiri examined the small package in her hands. It didn’t seem like anything special, but Reill certainly made it sound that way with his repeated injunctions to keep it safe and unopened.

It wouldn’t hurt to just peek, would it…?

Yukiri drew herself back so violently she nearly fell out of her chair. What’s wrong with me? she wondered, keeping her eyes focused on anything other than the object on the table. This is so… so unprofessional of me.

And yet, it was so very tempting.

And there was no address or even a name.

How was she supposed to know who this was intended for?

Maybe she was the one meant to open it…

Yukiri’s hand reached for the brown paper wrapping.

~ Irasshaimase ~

Keha Rou tightened the grip on his weapon as he stepped through the door. The sign outside was the same as before─Sesamo’s Eclectic Collection─but the inside was an awful mess of dust, grime, and dried blood. There was even a large glass vat in the corner and a body floating within it.

Keha’s eyes widened as he realized who the unfortunate person was. “Sesamo!” he cried, running up to the vat.

“Sorry, Kero, I’m afraid that’s not for sale,” Weren remarked dryly as he made himself visible.

Keha whirled around and pointed his sword at Weren. “You─sick, twisted─”

“What, you thought I was just going to kill her? Sure, I didn’t really care much for my parents or my hometown, but what you did was a little harsh, don’t you think?”

“That wasn’t our doing!”

“Yes, yes, I know, that evil bitch Red and her smarmy schemes, and so on and so forth.” Weren glared at Keha. “But can you honestly say you were completely innocent of any wrongdoing?”

Keha glared back. “And so, to get your revenge, you’ve done worse!”

Weren feigned hurt. “Ooh, a cut to the quick. But I don’t mind.” He held up a hand as Keha prepared to attack. “Not so fast, Kero. If you chop me to pieces, I’d only be temporarily inconvenienced, but your darling Sesamo,” and here he gestured carelessly at the vat. “Would be gone forever.”

Keha did not put away his sword, but he also made no move to threaten Weren further. “What the hell do you want, then?”

“Ah, now we’re finally getting somewhere!” Weren looked around the store. “But to make sure nobody’s eavesdropping─” He leaned forward slightly and sent Keha a mental message through the shop.

Keha was so shocked that he nearly dropped his sword. “You─ you’re serious?”

“Absolutely. You seriously thought I’d take over Sesamo’s job permanently?” Weren made a face. “After these last few weeks, I’m almost inclined to feel sorry for her.”

Keha bristled slightly at the mention of Sesamo, but he controlled himself. “And so you think I’d help you, just because of that?”

“Of course I’d give you something much more motivating.” Once again, Weren gestured at the vat. “Once were done, how about I put back what I ‘borrowed’?”

Keha, naturally, had problems believing this. “You’d do that?”

“Like I said: I have no intentions of being a Shopkeeper for the rest of my life. And having someone else’s soul inside of me isn’t exactly the most pleasant experience.” Weren seemed to be on the verge of continuing, but he stopped himself. “Anyway, I may hate your guts, but I also believe in a fair exchange.”

“Fair?” Keha sneered. “I hardly call using my wife as a hostage ‘fair’.”

“Do I really have to bring up Peaceville again, Kero?” Weren paused briefly for a response, and getting none, continued with a touch of annoyance. “So do we have a deal or not?”

~ Irasshaimase ~

Red nodded grimly as her Shop finished filling her in on the recent events. “I see. Thank you.”

/What shall we do Mistress? If we do not restore Balance soon, we won’t be able to prevent the inevitable massacre. And this time, your own life would be in serious danger./

“Yes, I know. It would have all come back to me, eventually.” Red sighed. “But until then, we have to pretend that we have everything under control.”

/Acknowledged. Shall we begin the next phase of the Plan, then?/

“Let’s wait a little first. There are a few variables that need to be dealt with.”


Many thanks to Segev and Smlee for their input.


Keha Rou sweatdropped as he caught sight of the new Shopkeeper, who obviously did not fit very well in Sesamo’s clothes.

“I feel pretty, oh so pretty,” Weren sang in the worst, most awfully off-key voice Keha had ever heard.

“Um…” Keha began, then raised his voice as indignation took over. “Why in the world are you wearing my wife’s dress?”

Weren batted his eyelashes, pouting. “Don’t you think it looks lovely on me, dearest Kero-chan?”