— Chapter 9 —

“I really couldn’t let you in, not without identification.” A young Aodal said, standing behind a desk equipped with bars, as if to protect the desk clerk from physical harm. This should have given Lupin some hint as to what sort of town Montore was, a place with rules and procedures, something that can drive even the calmest of persons up a wall.

“We don’t have that in Volare!” Lupin said, getting hot in the face.

“I see.” The clerk reached for a pamphlet and handed it over to Lupin through an opening in the bars. The pamphlet read: “So you don’t exist.”

“What is this?”

“If you want to exist in the eyes of Montore you need a piece of identification.”

“A piece of identification that tells others who I am? That’s stupid.”

“It’s the law.” The clerk reached under the desk and pulled up a durdle, a creature with long ears and a spiked shell, it had a tag stuck to one of its spikes with the writing ‘d-126’. “See. Even d-126 here has an ID.”

“Okay. Fine. Say I want to get an ID, where do I get it?”

“You’ll need to visit the next stall Specter. NEXT!” The clerk called, eager to move on to another customer.

"Specter?" Lupin stormed off, looking for that next stall the clerk had mentioned. It was easy to find, it being the one with a long line of people standing in front of it. A long, long line, snaking around Montore’s outer wall and through an amassments of tents. Lupin approached a young Terin who stood in line with a question, “hey, how long you been waiting here?”

The Terin appeared to be in a daze.

“Yuna’s been in line for 5 days,” said a voice behind Lupin, it came from another Terin, also standing in that same line.

“That long? For an ID?”

“Yep, it’s a good job! Pays well.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Someone’s paying us to wait in line for them, they’re staying in one of those tents out there. When I reach the desk we switch places and I get paid! There’s always people willing to pay not to wait. They get what they want, we get what we want, it’s perfect.”

Lupin estimated that it would take at least 1 week to reach the front desk, "7 days... that's too long."

“Yea, it's long long, but it's the only way I can afford kavava root. I just ran out actually, the next couple of days are going to suck.”

“Is that what that other Terin is on?”

“Yuna? Yea. Every surrogate in this line is here for Kavava.”

Lupin turned to Yuna again, the Terin appeared to be in another world, body swaying slowly from side to side, speaking to no one in a slurred speech. “That’s not a life. I had a friend in my village who slept most of the time and this is really no different.”

“Everyone who hasn’t tried kavava says that, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Lupin frowned then and was about to leave but then asked another question. “I was wondering, do you know a Zucca?”

“If I know azucca? What's azucca.”

“Zucca. It's a name. The name of a Terin, like you, friend to me.”

“Oooh I see how it is, we all know each other is that it?”

Lupin frowned, "know one or not?"

“Depends, you got coin?” The Terin said, with a wink.

Lupin hated everything about Montore already, even those living outside its walls. The Verido gave the Terin a rotten look before walking away. The Terin laughed. “Come on now Specter! I was kid-ding. It's a thing called humor, learn about it! Every Terin knows about Zucca. Has something of great value I heard, many go out into the desert to look for it, but it’s dangerous, most never make it. I bet you know that though, being a friend to Zucca! If you know the location and tell the guards I bet you and I could get ahead in line real fast!”

Lupin wouldn’t dream of betraying Zucca, especially not to anyone from Montore, not with a field full of sprouts on the line. "Wait, you and I?"

“There’s a guard right there, see? HEY! Hey YOU! Guard person!”

Lupin wanted to run away, but the Terin gripped the Verido’s collar and kept Lupin in place. The guard, an Aodal, moved towards them, a tall creature, dressed in the greens of Montore. Aodals are the tallest of desert habitants, second only to Uno, Lupin thought. They were strong, brown-skinned with thin eyes and pointed ears. This guard bared these features too, with dark hair combed neatly, to better fit under a green Montore cap.

“I wish you wouldn’t call me guard person Kuzi,” the guard said, offended by this. “I’ve got a name you know, I’m not just some faceless duplicate!” Lupin spied the name on the piece of ID, hanging from the guard’s chest, it read ‘Averet’.

Kuzi smirked, turning to Lupin. “Averet here has a fear of being perceived as ordinary.”

“I’ve got grand ideas! There are plenty of things I want to do with my life! This is not my forever job you know, I am most definitely NOT going to spend my life making sure kakava addicts like you don’t fall down a ditch.” Averet said, red in the face.

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek,” Lupin said.

Both Averet and Kuzi turned to the Verido then, as if they’d forgotten why they were all here.

“Why is this one speaking in riddles,” Averet asked.

“That quote is a famous Balandrian writer!” Lupin corrected.

“This one knows the whereabouts of Zucca!” Kuzi then said, tugging at Averet’s sleeve.

Lupin tried to deny it all, “I’m just a traveling potter, I make pots! I don’t know anything about anything! Well, I know about pots! But that’s really IT!”

Kuzi knocked on the top of Lupin’s head with a closed fist. "Ow! Stop!" Lupin cried. Kuzi gave another hard knock anyway. “This Verido is hiding something! Not a cave, but an oasis of green and boundless treasure! Isn’t that right?” Whenever Lupin tried to tear away, the Terin found some other limb or piece of clothes to grab onto, then, suddenly a norange fell out of Lupin's vest pocket and rolled onto the ground.

Both the guard and Kuzi froze at the sight of it. “A norange-” the Terin said, releasing Lupin and going to grab the colorful piece of fruit instead. Kuzi held onto it, stroking the bumps on its surface gently, like stroking the soft hairs on the head of a newborn. There was a hint of sadness in Kuzi’s eyes. The Terin put a nose to the fruit, smelling it, and whispering softly into it. Averet reached forward and tore the fruit away, inspecting it from all angles. “A potter huh? Where did you get this?” A question aimed at Lupin, no doubt, although the guard’s eyes were fixed on that fruit.

Kuzi went mad then, leapt at Averet and stole the norange. After getting a hold of it the Terin ran away, grabbing Lupin’s arm and darting into the crowd. The guard rushed after them, but soon lost sight of the two runaways…

Kuzi stopped once they had gone far away enough, breathing hard, the norange in hand.

“You lost your place in line,” Lupin said, shocked. “Weeks of waiting-!”

“Doesn’t matter,” Kuzi replied, eyes on the fruit still. “You really were at the oasis.”

Lupin hesitated at first, but nodded. “Yea, you thought I was kidding? This was a parting gift.”

“Noranges are extinct. You know that right? Thought the plant and seed had gone up in flames with the citadel and the rest. I love the smell of noranges, warmed by the sun. Some have tried to synthesize the smell and taste, but it’s not the same. I forgot how fragrant it was, so sweet, yet so bitter.”

“You can have it,” Lupin then said with a smile. “It’s yours to eat.”

Kuzi frowned. “I love the smell, but I also kind of hate it. Brings back memories I would have preferred to forget. If you know what i mean.”

Lupin knew why. After the Iridi raids the Terins had grown lethargic, abandoning the land. They stopped growing food and lost their connection with the soil. Kuzi’s eyes were set on that fruit, as if having a silent conversation with it. Then the Terin smiled, breaking out of the trance and throwing the fruit up in the air before catching it again in mid-flight. “Why do you want to get into Montore anyway?”

“Bam cake and tea.”

Kuzi laughed. “As good a reason as any. I’ll get you an ID, I’ve got some connections.”

The next day, Lupin and Eka went to wait at the foot of the eastern wall, encircling the city. Kuzi had instructed Lupin to wait here, but now, was past their meeting time and their helper was a no-show. They wandered back over to the town entrance, making sure to avoid any guards, while keeping an eye open for Kuzi. By then, word about their presence and their possession of real noranges had reached the ears of many other Terins. Many of the ones standing in line for ID glanced at them as they walked past. “Hey!” One of them called out. “Is it true that you’ve met Zucca?”

Lupin hushed the Terin. “Yes, yes, but keep your voice low.”

“Got any more of those noranges?”

Eka did have one left, but wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to say so, these Terins looked very eager.

“I’ll get you an ID for one!” One Terin said. “I’ve got coin, you want coin for it?”

“Uh oh—” Eka said, noticing the amount of attention they were getting. Some guards turned, tipped off by the many Terins beginning to encircle them and shouting offers to them.

Then the woth moved out of its glass ball, and reached into Eka’s pack, pulling out the last norange. The woth took off with it, high and above everyone’s head. Eka shouted another UH OH followed by: “Hum hum come back!” The Terins all stared at the brightly colored fruit, jumping into the air to try and grab a hold of it, the guards saw it plainly now, and hurried over, but then they too began to try and take it. The woth just hovered out of their reach, and after a while it took off and flew inside of the city, flying over the main entrance. Many followed, rushing inside, the guards at the entrance too had left their post to get their hands on it. “Norange!” “GET IT GET IT!” It was complete havoc, a horde was following the woth inside the city, even the desk clerk was there!

Eka and Lupin were able to get inside. “That woth is brilliant!” Lupin said, “A first-class instigator of change! A genius!” They’d made their way into the city, without Kuzi’s help and without ID.

“CAKE AND TEA!” Lupin shouted, running inside.

Eka laughed. “You’re going to start a riot!”

“I’m just a follower, the woth is the mastermind!”

The woth landed on top of a high building, setting the norange on a visible and inaccessible place, and it’s there that it waited as the people on the ground gathered round to look at the thought-be-extinct fruit.

Eka and Lupin ran deeper into the city, past buildings and street vendors, until they arrived at the main plaza. The plaza was a flat clear space, encircled with tiny stalls with vendors selling a variety of flavored foodstamps.

“Get your bobonion soup patch here! Best in the city!”

“In the mood for some mapples? Get the patch right here, right now!”

The floor of the city was dusty, with some debris here and there; some younger workers were there to catch every stray item, usually the left-over patches which inevitably found their way to the ground after use. The people of Montore threw them over their shoulders when they were done, mirroring the habit of throwing away remains of fresh fruits and vegetables. For such foods, throwing it on the ground was okay since it would come apart and disappear, the same couldn’t be said of these stamps.

“Where do the used stamps go?” Eka asked one of the younglings, who pointed to a building near the northern end of town, adjoined to the outerwall. “And what happens when it’s full?”

The youngling cocked a head to one side, “I guess they’ll put it in another building.” Then another worker piped up, “maybe we can bury it!”

“There’s no plan?” Eka asked, “why not eat real food instead? Real food doesn’t have packaging.”

The young workers made faces when hearing this, “Real food? But it comes out of the ground!” “It’s so dirty!” Another said.

“You come out of the ground too y’know,” Eka pointed out.

The young ones didn’t know what to say to that, they looked themselves over, as if to make sure they didn’t have dirt on them still.

Every house, or business in this city was square, with thick walls made from a mixture of clay, sand, waterstones and dried grass. They were constructed in a way that they kept the inhabitants cool in the day, and warm at night. A large building sat at one end of the grand plaza, also a square, but with smaller ones ajdjoined to it. A symbol was engraved into the front, the Montore insignia, also present on the face of every coin. This building, was likely the residence of someone important.

A large structure sat in the middle of the plaza, a thick beam with a large wheel around it, spinning slowly. Eka then noticed that the beam and wheel were connected to a much larger cog, built under the plaza. Following one of these long branches Eka arrived into a bakery, inside another of these large beams came out of a hole in the floor, and it, had a series of smaller branches and cogs attached to it leading all the way to a flour mill.

“Whoa-” Eka said, grinning widely. “This is brilliant!” The city was build on top of a huge cog, used to power devices in the businesses of the city.

In the bakery, the ‘beam’ had a movable arm that could be repositioned to another location to power different items like the mill, the flour mixer and the dough beater.

“You shouldn’t mill so much muckwheat!” An old Aodal said to another, likely the owner of the bakery, “we sell so little now, no one wants any! Why waste it?”

The bakery owner sighed at these words, and glanced over at fresh loaf of muckwheat bread, “people in this town need to be reminded of what real food looks like, and smells like!”

“They’re going to shut us down Avril. We need coin to keep this place in operation.”

Eka overheard this conversation, and was rather sad to hear it. This was a direct result of the increasing production of foodstamps. Eka carried these words back to Lupin, who had somehow gotten dragged into a Montore tour group. Leaving it was hard, everyone kept pushing them from one place to another, like a shepard herding sheplings.

“The town operates on a schedule!” A tour guide to the city said to a group of newly-arrived visitors. “3 times a day, during rush hour, the strongest in the city come to the main beam in the plaza and give the master cog a big boost by spinning it faster manually! Food stamp production increases dramatically during these times, to meet the increase in demand. Outside of rush hour, the cog spins at a continuous and consistent speed, made possible by the outer cog that is built on top of the city wall. The outer cog is equipped with sails, using the power of the wind to keep moving all day everyday! But remember, currently Beobug is trying to build a new system that would remove the need for the cog system entirely! Imagine!”

Lupin and Eka began to tour the city like this, following the guide, they found their way into a factory that makes sweet-tasting foodstamps. On arrival every one was given a sample, the guide gave Eka a ‘bam cake’ patch. “It’s just like having the real thing! Try it!”

Eka smelled the stamp, but did not dare to apply it to the skin, remembering what Zucca had said about them not being a substitute for real food.

“Our grand leader Monty had the idea for this wonderful product! It has saved countless lives, and propelled this city to fame!”

“Monty?” Lupin said, loud enough for others to hear.

The entire group turned to look at the Verido, “you mean to say you don’t know the grand leader’s name?” One of the tourists asked, clearly upset by this.

“Oh. Well I was kidding, of course I know!”

“Smooth.” Eka whispered.

“Yea? Then when’s Monty day hmm?!”

All eyes were on Lupin then, waiting for an answer to this supposedly obvious question.

“Um. Today?” Lupin said, tentatively, tipped off by the decorations in both the town and the factory.

The group then relaxed, all smiles. “That’s right! Today is Monty day, celebrating the Green Day of our grand leader!”

Lupin was eager to get away from this group of zealots. As soon as the tour group made their way to the gift shop the Verido and Eka snuck out.

“I’d like to give this Monty a piece of my mind,” Lupin said, not impressed with the factory.

Just when Lupin said this a horn sounded out, the plaza was filled with people, gathered around a small platform that had been erected over the central beam of the cog, causing it to spin. A short creature climbed up a ladder built into the side of the beam, and went to stand on the platform, because it turned, this enabled the speaker to address everyone from whatever direction at the same time. This, Dot had said, makes everyone feel important.

“Monty! Monty!” Everyone shouted, and this got Lupin’s attention. The character standing on the little platform was a Finiku, bald, and wearing a striped jacket and pants. “Monty loves you all, and thanks you for your hard work! Montore couldn’t be as great as it is without your help!”

The crowd cheered at these words, this Finiku wasn’t Monty, but a representative that everyone around was referring to as ‘Dot’. “Production of foodstamps is at an all-time high!” The crowd cheered again, as Dot began to list their yearly accomplishments aloud; from the amount of methane produced and processed by the Beobug sandfins, to the gradual adoption and acceptance of coin as a token of exchange outside of Montore.

Lupin pulled out one of those ‘coins’ out from a side pocket, Eka spotted the coin then. “How did you get this?”

“Gree gave it to me, don’t know what to do with it though. I can’t say I like the idea of it. My spirit doesn’t feel elevated at all.”

Eka smirked, grabbed the coin from Lupin’s hand and then disappeared into the crowd. “Eka? EKA! What are you - ah, never mind. I’ll just wait here- alone.” Moments after Eka left, Lupin’s eyes found a familiar face in the crowd, Kuzi. The Terin was sitting on a crate. Lupin rushed over. “Kuzi! Hey you forgot to meet us…”, the Verido stopped talking, noticing that like the other Terin’s in the line outside of town yesterday, Kuzi too, was high on kavava.

“Oh hey Loopy!” Kuzi said, smirking.

“You didn’t…” Lupin said, knowing full well that Kuzi had no coin to purchase kavava.

Kuzi looked at the Verido with red eyes, the faint scent of the plant in the air around them. The Terin had been happy, comfortably cocooned into a kavava bubble; but now, seeing Lupin there, disappointed, caused the bubble to burst. Kuzi groaned, head falling forward. “I didn’t even taste it, not one bite. I’m so weak.”

Lupin went to sit down on that same crate, shoulder to shoulder with Kuzi. Both said nothing, sitting together with Dot’s voice in the background. Just then the woth returned, carrying a bit of norange peel around, what it was able to salvage from the rooftop. Lupin grabbed the peel, and handed it over to Kuzi. “You can taste it now.”

The Terin pushed it away. “No. I don’t like how it makes me feel. I’d rather forget.”

A curious onlooker noticed the norange peel. “NORANGE!” Word of the norange on the rooftop had traveled, everyone in town knew of it. Dot stopped speaking then, words falling on deaf ears as a crowd gathered around Lupin, as if drawn to the word itself. There was no way to run this time, guards arrived, one of them recognizing both Lupin and the Terin from before. “You two!”

The guard gripped Lupin’s arm, then began to search for the piece of ID. “What? No ID either?! We’ve got a Specter here!”

“HEY I’ve got ID! I exist! See? SEE?” Kuzi yelled, fumbling around for it, but the guard didn’t want to hear it and both were dragged away from the crowds, across the plaza and into the square building with the Montore insignia. They were brought into the inner courtyard, and were asked to stay there.

Kuzi gave Lupin a shove. “Why’d you have to get me involved?! 'Bam cake and tea', is that code for something?!”

“I didn’t do anything! Everyone here just gets real crazy whenever there’s mention of norangess! I didn't know that would happen!”

“You can’t just go flaunting extinct fruit around!”

“I was NOT flaunting.”

Kuzi realized something then. “That’s how you got into the city.”

Lupin smirked. “Another accident.”

“They’re going to put us into a mill and grind us into foodstamps! That’s what’s gonna happen!” Kuzi yelled.

“Its your fault! You were supposed to meet us but instead you went on a kavava bender!”

Kuzi began to fight Lupin in the courtyard, although the fight occurred mostly on one side and less so on the other. The Verido didn’t know how to fight, and made a dance of it, avoiding the onslaught of fists with ease as Kuzi was still high on root juices. Their fight was interrupted by Averet, the guard. “HEY stop that!” Averet instructed them to follow, and brought them in front of a large door, made of carved banabo.

“Who does this belong to?” Averet then asked the two, holding the piece of norange peel.

Lupin didn’t put a claim to it, having no desire to get ground up into anything. Kuzi addressed the guard then. “How would I have a norange? I was born here and never left, same as you.”

The guard gripped Lupin’s arm then. “Right. Come with me Specter.”

“I bet the foodstamp version of you will be DISGUSTING!” Kuzi shouted, just as another guard arrived to escort the Terin outside.

Lupin gulped as the large banabo door opened, revealing a thick blind, obscuring both the room and its occupant. “Go,” Averet said, pushing the captive onward. Lupin took a few stepsd forward, stopping a the draping, then hands found an opening in the fabric and the Verido pushed on. A young Terin, dressed in a green robe was on the other side. “You’re the Specter, the norange smuggler?”

“Specter I get, but smuggler? That’s escalating things a bit don’t you think?”

“Follow me,” the young Terin said then, pushing past yet another set of drapings, dividing the entrance to the rest of the room. After traversing the last set of fabric blinders, Lupin stepped into a cluttered, and messy room, filled with objects, most notably, it had plants! There was a gap in the ceiling, with a roof to shield it from the sun, but high enough to bring some light into the room.

“The norange thief is here.”

“Thief? Now wait a minute…” Lupin began.

Another Terin pushed out from under a pile of documents, an older one with greying hair and a thin young face. This was Monty. Monty wore a simple pair of pants with no shirt. This Terin did not bear the look of a grand leader, Lupin thought.

“Where did you get it?” Monty asked, nonchalantly, while checking over the leaves of a nearby plant.

“I think that if I did say, I’d betray a friend and put many other lives in danger.”

Monty’s ears perked at this. “Um, you’re talking about Zucca.”

Lupin nodded.

“Didn’t think that grouch was alive. I’m happy to learn Zucca was able to save some norange seeds though,” Monty said, switching attention to another plant, “norcorn patties just aren’t the same without norange sauce.”

“Hope you don’t me saying but… are you really Monty? The leader of this city?”

Monty’s yellow eyes moved to Lupin then. “Hm. Not what you were expecting?”

“No, not at all… you’ve got all these plants, yet you’re feeding others foodstamps, then there’s the Beobug goons and their sandfins spewing smokestuffs. It’s horrific. Hard to believe it comes from you.”

“You have a problem with innovation sounds like.” Monty said.

“I’ve got a problem with pain, and misery.” Lupin replied.

“The foodstamps helped feed refugees during the Iridi raids.”

“Did you know that Beobug employees sell expired stamps to the hungry for coin?”

“Monty thought about this for a moment. ”And you’re blaming me."

“Yes, yes I am.”

“The misuse of my creations is not my fault, I couldn’t have imagined them using it like this.”

“People in this city aren’t eating real food anymore! Everyone is obssessed with coin, a useless piece of metal! It’s ridiculous!”

“Coin was supposed to be a way to simplify exchanges in the city, Dot had other plans for it. It was really a good idea, but again… others have pushed the concept a bit too far. It’s no one’s fault, everyone is doing their best. Everyone is just trying to survive out here. To be honest, I just decided to stop having ideas.”

Lupin noted the amount of drawings and books scattered about, clearly Monty wasn’t done having ideas. “You mean you decided to stop telling others about them.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right. The giant cog was a good idea. It was my first, my best. Should have stopped there. It doesn’t matter anyway, I heard Dot was planning on removing the entire system to replace it with one powered by natural gas instead of wind… light and power in every home is the goal, the people of Montore have expressed interest in this already. People are willing to pay for energy. Beobug created this need for it, it’s clever, really.”

“D’you ever tell anyone all this? That’s it a bad idea? Maybe if they heard it from you they’d stop?”

Monty didnt seem to agree with this theory. “People have forgotten who I am, what I look like. For instance, if I were to go out there on the plaza right now, shouting my name for all to hear, they wouldn’t believe I was Monty. Especially, as you suggest, if I were out there speaking against my own ideas. Heh, they’d lock me up! Thinking I was there to tarnish the reputation of the ‘great leader’.”

Lupin took note of a painting on the backwall, it resembled the portrait carved on the coin and it was true that it did not look like this real life version of Monty.

“My artist got carried away with the representation, thought I needed to look more imposing, more angular… it’s why I’m here really, and that no one can see me. If they did, they’d throw me out… thinking I was a pretender. Staying here, at least I’m safe and free to think up ideas all day, everyday.”

“Yea. You’re comfortable while people suffer.”

“People have suffered long before your time and mine norange thief. I was wondering, how did you get Zucca to give you that fruit?”

Lupin bore a sad expression, eyes moving to the entrance. “If you want to know the full story you’ll have to walk out of here with me. How about it? Making Monty day synonymous with the day of the grand reveal?”

Monty smirked, “I would have really enjoyed hearing that story… for you to know, and me to wonder I suppose.” Saying this, the grand leader continued to look after the plants in the room, checking the leaves for signs of malnutrition with much love and care, like a leafhound would.

“Why did you ask me in here?”

“Hm, curiosity? A Verido with a norange, a hyroo and a round-eared companion together, very unusual.”

“I’ll add that story to the pile, in exchange for you to tell the truth. It’s a good one.” Lupin teased.

Monty seemed amused by this, but not amused enough. “Goodbye Specter.”

Lupin let out a deep sigh, there was nothing to do then but leave. The Verido glanced at the second hand. “What now? What happens to the ones who don’t exist in the eyes of Montore? Do i get ground up into fodder?”

The green-clad Terin laughed, “that story I made up has really gotten around! Ah well, if it helps keep people in line.” With this, Lupin was escorted out of the building. “You need to leave the city, right this instant.” Monty’s second hand watched as Lupin stepped into the main plaza with a guard, making their way towards the main gate. The guard kept close, to make sure the wrongdoer didn’t decide to take a detour on the way out. Kuzi did see the Verido, but said nothing. There was nothing to say.

Eka stood by Kuzi, chewing loudly, eating chunks of freshly baked bam cake. “D’you know where I can get some meppermint tea around here?”

Kuzi looked over, catching the scent of bread. “No, I don’t know.”

“You want some?” Eka offered, putting a slice of cake under the Terin’s nose. “I could eat it all myself, but that would make me a glutton. You eating a bit would make me feel like less of one. At least I’ll be a generous glutton you know? That sounds better somehow.”

Kuzi was hungry, having forgotten to buy some foodpatches. “Sure, more for you than me though.” Kuzi chewed on the piece of cake, the taste of it was like an explosion of flavor! The effect was so strong that the Terin’s body began to shiver uncontrollably. “There’s gingin in it… I love gingin! Well, I used to.”

“Enjoy it, this is likely the last cake the bakery will ever bake. It’s closing tomorrow, not enough people buying bread… shame. They make amazing breads too, Avril and Ira I mean, they’re the real deal! Soon they’ll be gone. Extinct, like the noranges.”

Kuzi stopped chewing, saddened by this conversation. This was usually the point where the Terin would start ingesting some mind-numbing kavava.

“Oh! Now i remember—” Eka began, "Avril’s grandmapa Moki was the one making the mepperpint tea! Had a garden outside, it was a popular place back in the day. Some Terin was working there too, name was Azul, i think, was the only one who really understood mepperpint. I miss it, but you know, if you drink too much of it…’

“—It makes your eyes sprout leaves,” Kuzi finished, smiling faintly.

Eka nodded. “Exactly! Alright. Well, have some more cake. I’m going to go for a walk now.”

Kuzi stood there, a giant slice of bam cake in hand, and eyes moving over to that bakery, for some reason, Kuzi had forgotten it existed, lost in a perpetual kavava daze. Now, it’s like the fog had cleared, and the world had much more detail in it. The smells were stronger and the the sound of the world was like music. Without a moment’s hesitation, and drawn by the smell of muckwheat, the Terin walked to the bakery and went inside.

Lupin was outside of the city, sitting in their tent and waiting for Eka’s return. Hush was there, conversing with the woth, listening to a re-telling of today’s events.

Eka arrived before nightfall, finding Lupin in the tent still, but there was something different, something unusual…

“You’ve got a cup on your head, you know that right?” Eka asked, smiling.

“It’s a thinking cup,” Lupin said, with a sigh, knowing all-to-well how ridiculous it was.

“Wow! Is it working? Are you having some great thoughts right now?”

Lupin removed the cup then, staring into it. “No — Maybe it’s because there’s no tea in it.”

Eka presented a slice of bam bread to the downtrodden Verido. “Did not find meppermint tea, but this bread stands well enough on its own. Try it.”

“Mission failed,” Lupin said.

“How so?”

“On getting some Montore bam cake and mepperpint tea.”

“No, I think our excursion into Montore was a success! We learned many things today, made friends too!”

“Friends? Everyone here thinks I’m a fiend. Did you not see my walk of shame?”

“You’ve learned more of the world Lupin, and with this you are wiser.”

“I was hoping we could help somebody…”

Eka went to hug Lupin then, “is that what you think we’re doing? Helping others?”

“Yes? Maybe? I don’t know.”

“We came here for cake and tea Lew.”

“Yea. Yea you’re right,” saying this, Lupin took a bit of the bam cake, “Ooooh wow! This is so good!” The woth moved out of its glass house then, eager to get a bite of this famed pastry, even Hush was intrigued. “I’m not sharing, sorry!” Lupin said, but both creatures approached the Verido then, eager to sample the remaining chunk of cake. Lupin was pinned to the floor, with Hush chewing on the bread and the woth eating stray crumbs off its snout. “This is like the noranges episode all over again!”

The next day, the gang packed up their tent and gear and left the city of Montore. Their experience there wasn’t ideal, but as Eka had said, they had learned a thing, and learning a thing a day is what’s most important.

Unbeknownst to them, a small revolution was going on in the city; Kuzi had sold the last of the kavava in exchange for coin to pay for more bread at the bakery. This sell, helped to convince Ira to keep the bakery open, at least for another day or two.

The Terin went to say hello to Averet that day, they’d grown up together, and while their lives had taken different turns they were still friendly to each other, most times.

“Hey Kuzi, keeping out of trouble today I hope,” Averet said.

“No promises." Kuzu replied.

There was a pause between them then, but the Aodal spoke again, “d’you know where I can get some norcorn patties around here?”

“I’d ask Avril’s bakery.”


Kuzi pointed to it. “Yea, it’s where I got this bread. You want to try some?”

Averet grabbed a slice of bread and started to eat it, “oh OH! This is good…! It’s so moist! Why do I never buy real bread anyway?” The bread disappeared, consummed within seconds. “Thanks for that, I’ll drop by to see Avril later to ask about the norcorn, you see, I kept this piece of norange peel…”

Continue to Chapter 10