Comic 1183 - Enter the bookstore

Posted on 10th Apr 2019, 9:50 PM in Like a Bullet from Behind
Enter the bookstore

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Author Notes:

Morgenstern 10th Apr 2019, 9:50 PM edit delete
You attempt to peek into the windows--however, the glass is too opaque for you to make out much more than shadows.

You... also don't see any kind of Open sign. If it's not suspicious, it's certainly a bad way to draw in customers.

You maneuver your nearby portal, sliding the blood under a nearby dumpster to hide it from any passersby.

You take a breath... and you enter the bookstore.

At first glance, it's... pretty much what you expected from a used bookstore. There's more books than there is room and shelving, and most of the books are old, tattered, and worn. The store has the strong scent of dust and aged paper. It's cramped, but you're not picking up any strange, alien vibes just yet.

"Yo," Caius proclaims loudly, "anybody home?"

You hear some faint shuffling in the back room...

before a small old lady emerges, hobbling about on a wooden cane.

...Followed shortly by two other figures.


The first of her entourage has the build of a tube cop--albeit with bad posture, a more sickly complexion, and... uh... a face best addressed delicately. He looks as though his face was smashed in at some point, leading to bulldog-esque features.

The other is a younger girl in thick framed glasses--much younger, probably in her late teens. They're both dressed pretty casually... save for their matching combat boots. The old lady seems exceedingly calm in their presence, though, leading you to suspect they may be in her employ.

Bodyguards, maybe?

"Oh, hello dears," the old lady begins. "I'm sorry I didn't hear you come in--I was in the back getting ready to close, and my hearing's not quite what it used to be. I like to be out of here before it gets dark--it's getting dangerous out there, these days."

She starts to approach, and the girl in the glasses puts a hand on the older woman's shoulder. The woman lifts one hand, and very lightly shakes her head... and her 'assistant' lets go. The old woman continues, carefully drawing nearer to you.

"I'll stay open as long as you want, though. I don't get too many customers, especially not this late in the evening. Let me know if there's anything I can help you with."

All three of them fix their gazes on you intently, though in very different ways. The two... guards...? Seem to stare straight through you, watching, waiting for you to do something. Possibly wanting you to do something--you don't suspect they see much action, watching over an elderly bookstore owner.

The old woman, on the other hand... it almost feels like she's analyzing you. She squints at your features, adjusting her glasses as she looks over Caius and Pierce. You have trouble reading her expression, though it's... almost as though she's looking for something.

She turns and begins to hobble back toward the counter, giving you room to browse.


5-5-13-6 10th Apr 2019, 10:19 PM edit delete reply
Buy every book in that store

Also, even if it does take forever (and doesn't stop Thale), getting the process started to buy Mine's house back would be a good thing.
Macheman7 10th Apr 2019, 10:19 PM edit delete reply
Do browse. And ask the nice lady if she has any recommendations. Maybe be straightforward and ask after what we want.
Departure_Dave 11th Apr 2019, 7:53 PM edit delete reply

She seems polite, her "help" is not really aggressive or anything, and she's got a good deal of confidence. We like her, let's be up front.
Limrix 10th Apr 2019, 10:29 PM edit delete reply
There's a blue candle on the counter the same as the ones used in the Tradesmen info petitioning ritual. Let's refer to that in a way that only someone familiar with them would understand. We are in kind of a hurry though, so we should get to the point and not dawdle around.
fishbulb 10th Apr 2019, 10:31 PM edit delete reply
And perhaps follow it up with asking whether she has a book about "communications".
Skullrama 10th Apr 2019, 10:42 PM edit delete reply
Gonna agree. Let's give a sly allusion about the candle being great mood lighting for asking questions or some such.
Lunar Waffles 10th Apr 2019, 10:45 PM edit delete reply
Lunar Waffles
+1 also, perhaps Pierce has been to an underground magic shop before? he might know the "secret handshake" as it were.
5-5-13-6 10th Apr 2019, 10:46 PM edit delete reply
+1 on the +1, as it were
SSMike 11th Apr 2019, 1:13 PM edit delete reply
Lapdragon 10th Apr 2019, 10:30 PM edit delete reply
She has a blue candle on the counter!

I wonder if we can engage some low-grade shenanigans with it to let her know that we know some things.
Gigafreak 10th Apr 2019, 10:35 PM edit delete reply
A harmless-looking lady who may be more than she seems, flanked by a burly bruiser and a slim bookworm-looking figure. Amusingly, their group kinda matches ours.

That blue thing looks like a half-melted candle... about the same color as for the Tradesmen's info ritual. If we want to be indirect about asking for magic, we can "angle" our questions around that candle-- and the fine folks that like to do business in their presence.

And we don't want to come across as menacing or threatening. Don't underestimate an old-timer in a profession where many die young... and this city's government is out to seek and destroy magicians.

And we can buy some normal (or even magical) books for Pierce while we're here, of course. Let him browse and point out anything that particularly interests him.
Twyll 10th Apr 2019, 10:56 PM edit delete reply
In addition to attempting to get at the Tradesmen info as other people have suggested... we should also look for some story books for the ghost girls! Preferably with nice pictures and bonus points if they're about cats.

Also, apologize for keeping her, and don't browse for *too* long.
Tych 10th Apr 2019, 11:05 PM edit delete reply
5-5-13-6 10th Apr 2019, 11:22 PM edit delete reply
Lunar Waffles 10th Apr 2019, 11:36 PM edit delete reply
Lunar Waffles
Skullrama 11th Apr 2019, 9:57 AM edit delete reply
This also gets an agree from me. Getting some books for the ghost girls is worth some browsing time.
Limrix 10th Apr 2019, 11:00 PM edit delete reply
This bookstore is decrepit
Hasn't seen a rag in ages
So you know we're gonna step it
Talking to the mystic sages

Gettin' late and you're all hangin'
With nobody at the counter
Could it be that you were waitin'
For a pre-foretold encounter?

(Verse in case they fire back, tempo change)
Now don't be shy, we're not the fuzz
Not coming here to wrangle ya
Just to blow your 'verse with rhymes
'cause Our flow's geoangula'!
Leonette 11th Apr 2019, 12:57 AM edit delete reply
The thought of Mine rapping both amuses and frightens me.
Archon 10th Apr 2019, 11:05 PM edit delete reply
Continue observation of the trio while browsing.
I half expect the old woman would be disappointed if we didn't.
Archon 11th Apr 2019, 12:47 AM edit delete reply
...Additionally, there is something peculiar about the bodyguard fellow.
They look rather... Old, for a tube cop.
Might be on their last legs, an older/less specialized model, or just former military.
Most curious, most curious indeed.
undeadDreamer 11th Apr 2019, 12:24 AM edit delete reply
Let's just straight up ask them about occult books. We could probably even mention the tradesmen.
zophah 11th Apr 2019, 2:04 AM edit delete reply
My first thought is that the tube-cop like guy is actually a zombie brought back to life by the old lady. My second thought is that these three are much like Mine's own original trio: Mine, Michele and Finch. Just something to think about, but not to act on.
As for what to do, I agree with everyone on asking for a book about communication, and for any suggestions. Best to be nice about it, they seem to be as suspicious about us as we are of them.
HoSt. 11th Apr 2019, 2:15 AM edit delete reply
"Hello, my name is Mine Ametsuchi. Some folks know me as the last fragment of the First Womb. I'm looking for the ritual that let's me send messages through the Tradesmen so that I can anonymously send a message to Arvin Carpenter, who is right now the Host for Nil, that I'm about to attack him in a week."
WalkerOfSorrow 11th Apr 2019, 7:33 PM edit delete reply
While I agree we should be up front with her and not lie or deceive, perhaps not THIS forthright. Optimistically, she might not know what the words "First Womb," "Tradesmen," "Arvin Carpenter," or "Nil" even mean. Pessimistically, she might quickly become a dangerous enemy.

Side note: everyone step back from your up-to-date familiarity with our main cast, just for a second, and think about what this old lady sees entering her shop. Minus the way Mine looks (but everything about what she is), consider that we are flanked by a towering hulk of a man by normal standards, dressed in a death metal shirt, and a bald, red-robed cultist with a scarlet visor covering his eyes. We're totally every villain ever, especially since we're some kind of Sephiroth-esque abomination. But hilariously, these two scary m-fers are accompanying a short, cute nurse who likes cats. Can you imagine Final Fantasy doing that with their main villain? Just a lil' QT3.14 who's all smiles and warm hugs?
zophah 12th Apr 2019, 12:12 PM edit delete reply
Oh my god, now I'm imagining Sephiroth surrounded by kittens and asking for hugs...
Chaostraveler 13th Apr 2019, 4:44 PM edit delete reply
Oh my god, you're killing me smalls. Killing me.

In all seriousness, a mildly oblique mention of the Tradesmen and what we are looking for would be a good idea. "Sorry for popping in so late. Some knowledgeable acquaintances of ours were trading ideas and they mentioned your store might have a useful book on communications that we might find useful/enjoy"
fellow 11th Apr 2019, 3:26 AM edit delete reply
So what are the chances that the big guy has space limbs?
Myya 11th Apr 2019, 3:27 AM edit delete reply
Okay, so I know it's a logical leap, but the situation here is really screaming to me that we need to see if these people are the writers of the armor rituals.
I propose that we ask them if they have any hard to find books on benevolent blood gods. We expect it's only a few pages, but the authors seem to have put a lot of effort into them, and we've appreciated their work when we've been able to get a hold of it.
Maybe also ask if they've traded any CDs lately. :3
Caterya 11th Apr 2019, 3:35 AM edit delete reply
+1 I think we should to do that, we might find more about our power
fellow 11th Apr 2019, 3:15 PM edit delete reply
We've heard the voice of the person making the ritual haven't we? We don't need to ask these people about blood gods to realize if it's them, we'll just have to hear their voices.
undeadDreamer 12th Apr 2019, 1:22 PM edit delete reply
It was implied that the CD came from the future.
Duck 11th Apr 2019, 9:32 AM edit delete reply
Until she mentioned getting out before dark, I was thinking they might be vampires, what with the windows being opaque enough to block out direct sunlight. Be on your guard in case she's lying about that part.
Maybe I'm just being paranoid.
Pwzysk 11th Apr 2019, 12:33 PM edit delete reply
Oh hey it's Ranse
Mister 11th Apr 2019, 9:28 PM edit delete reply
+1 to stating you don't intend to put them out (keep them long etc)

I would start by saying you have some ghost friends that you thought you'd get some books for. See where that goes. It's casual, could be laughed off by "Sure thing crazy lady", but it's an opening to more conversations.

Alternately, you ask for recommendations.

Oh! you could go for the amusing angle, and say, "oh hey, this one is about magic, you want to see a magic trick?" (even to one of our troupe - so it doesn't seem antagonistic), and then pull some basic blood related showing off.

But at least stating what you're after would skip the frivolities and get to the point.

!! It may be a good chance to check if they can say Thale's name too.
WalkerOfSorrow 12th Apr 2019, 1:47 AM edit delete reply
This is all excellent. +1 to "we don't mean to put you out."

Opening with ghosts is good, even if it's laughed off. Checking to see if they can say Thale's name is better. But do we know if he's still keeping up that strategy?
Limrix 12th Apr 2019, 8:33 AM edit delete reply
+1 to ghosts. We don't know if Thale's still enforcing his name rule, but we can see auras now, which is less awkward. I do think we should check theirs. I had forgotten about the whole Thale thing when new books were in sight.
Skullrama 12th Apr 2019, 10:31 AM edit delete reply
Uh, oh yeah. Let's absolutely look at their auras. We should be doing this for everyone we meet - whether they are Thale thralls or not, looking at different auras to learn more about people should be one of our first go-to moves.
zophah 12th Apr 2019, 12:14 PM edit delete reply
I forgot about aura reading! Yes, do this.
Lunar Waffles 12th Apr 2019, 2:20 PM edit delete reply
Lunar Waffles
+1 to aura vision.
WalkerOfSorrrow 12th Apr 2019, 3:25 PM edit delete reply
+1 to Auspex...I mean aura reading
Daniel 11th Apr 2019, 10:16 PM edit delete reply
I...I am surprised I am the first one to say this. We must arrange to hug a member of the other party if at all possible. Not sure when or how/why, but it had to be said :).

More seriously. These people seem Important, for more than just the messaging ritual. They may know other things, or other *people*, that we would be very interested in. Which, like, that's maybe a bit self-serving for Mine? But also see above—my gut reaction was "FRIENDS hughughug", that ought to count for something.
Guest 12th Apr 2019, 5:05 AM edit delete reply
you know what's weird? there isn't any rule 34 of this series.
zophah 12th Apr 2019, 12:15 PM edit delete reply
That requires that someone who is a fan of this story to also be a fan of Rule 34.
WalkerOfSorrow 12th Apr 2019, 3:26 PM edit delete reply
I feel like this story is weirdly too wholesome, and wholesomely too weird, for there to be R34.
Lapdragon 12th Apr 2019, 10:15 PM edit delete reply
MM would be perfectly capable of making his own '34 of the characters if he wanted to - I'm here because of Nast to start with, and that was quite wonderfully porny.

I do hold out hope that we get some porn eventually tho. :-P
WalkerOfSorrow 13th Apr 2019, 6:21 AM edit delete reply
Hey, if there's a demand for it out there, I'll take requests. I have the drawing skill needed. But I wouldn't bother unless there's a decent amount of people who'd appreciate it.

Obviously I wouldn't charge a commission since they're MM's characters, but I'll accept a trade of any other kind of fan work in return. I'm open to options.
Flaninious 12th Apr 2019, 5:55 AM edit delete reply
We don’t know alliances, affiliations or even the knowledge base of these fine folk.
Anything we initially ask has to be at least not a blatant reference to anything completely off standard normal human level.
First, I’m a fan of mentioning the candle. It’s a nice candle, one of your favorite colors! You have a few yourself!
We’re looking for spellbook supplements for our game, books on trading, y’know, like pricing guides for antiques? Books on hematology, especially anything new in the field.
And on side tangent, (seconding) children’s books, especially cat books, or anything else she recommends for parents of foster children.
Flaninious 12th Apr 2019, 6:09 AM edit delete reply
And I forgot. If they bring out what we asked for instead of alluded to, we probably should buy it.
Limrix 12th Apr 2019, 9:12 AM edit delete reply
We should make a todo list of things our allies can work on without us. We spend a lot of time idling around while waiting on things to happen, and we shouldn't be letting this time go to waste.
TerracNova 12th Apr 2019, 8:48 PM edit delete reply
Dangnabbit Pierce is still wearing his cult robes. Between that and the strangness of our group, we're not gonna be able to hide much of anything from definitely-more-than-she-seems Bookstore Grandma. Might as well come clean, and if we get regected, oh well. Oh, and definitely see is she has good cookbooks for sale. It'll show a non-pshyco vigilante side of us, start up at least an association, and we get more recipes for cooking back in the bunker. Also, supporting your local bookstore is always a good thing. :D
TerracNova 12th Apr 2019, 8:50 PM edit delete reply
And cat books. Definitely lots of cat books.