Day 104. 76 pages, 33,838 words.
This was, to my mild shame, the first time I’d actually crossed to the over-the-street neighbours’ place. The last time I’d really noticed them, I think there were removal trucks and an excitable dog. That must have been the people who were leaving, though, because the excitable dog hadn’t been around after that.
Mind you, I didn’t remember the excitable dog from before that, either, so it’s possible that it had just arrived, and Creepy had taken matters into his own hands. Or the excitable dog had fallen victim to one or another of the numerous things in this neighbourhood that were extra-dangerous if you happened to be excitable.
Anyway, after the removalists had been and gone, I’m not sure who lived in the house. I’m only sure it wasn’t a bunch of giant Barbarians and their steeds. I had a foggy mental image of an old lady hobbling around and planting begonias. That was a thing old ladies did, so I hadn’t really questioned it. I think they refer to it as “pottering”.
Yoru was reclining in the front yard, his industrial-grade glutes resting in an inflatable paddling pool that seemed to be filled with yak’s milk. He was drinking from a carved stone drinking horn, or possibly a drinking horn made from the horn of a stone cow. There had been stone cows in Xix, once upon a time – although whether they were still around, given the wonky timelines between our two worlds, I couldn’t say. The very concept didn’t have much meaning, actually. Yoru had evidently gotten here by some less-travelled road, because the last time we’d been to the Xix Federation, it certainly hadn’t been the Loincloth-Clad Barbarian Age anymore. Stone cows were a bastard to milk, I remembered that much.
Torquis in Machina was there too, standing in the garden and looking as unimpressed as always. He was chewing meditatively on a begonia.
“Oh,” Yoru grunted, “it’s you,” he took a slow draught of his mead, or ale, or fermented-milk-based lactic nightmare juice, or whatever it was. “‘Hatboy’,” he concluded, slathering so much sarcasm onto the word that he might as well have said “sarcasm” Hatboyally instead.
“Yoru,” I replied, eyeing the pool of milk and feeling grateful the liquid was opaque and so were my sunglasses, so I couldn’t determine whether or not he was wearing his loincloth, and he couldn’t determine whether or not I was looking at his crotch. “How’s the cobbling business?”
“Pretty much how it sounds,” he shrugged one shoulder. It was like watching a cluster of oily planets orbiting majestically into conjunction. “What brings you here?”
“I … live here.”
“I put that much together,” Yoru said, “when I saw you come out of that house across the road. Not the divine abode of the mythical Hatboy I’d come to expect, if I’m being honest.”
“It’s full of surprises.”
“Oh yes?” he raised a muscular eyebrow. “Does the evil Hatboy also live there?”
“If I say yes, will our house be trodden beneath a truly unwarranted number of sandal’d feet?”
“I’m pretty sure none of the others give a damn,” Yoru replied, “unless you happened to visit their worlds as well.”
“That sort of brings me to why I came over,” I said. “Um, what brings all of you here?”
Yoru shrugged again. “Adventure,” he said.
“What else?” he grinned, and scooped his horn full from the white stuff in the inflatable pool. I turned away with a slight grimace, only to find myself making eye contact with Torquis.
This is my life, the horse’s gaze said to me. You don’t get to look away.
I obediently turned back to Yoru. “Um,” I said again. “You want to tell me about this adventure? Specifically, how long it will require you to, uh, party in my neighbour’s house?”
“We’re on a quest for the lost 1500,” Yoru said. “It’s said that no one adventurer could ever hope to succeed, so we decided,” he raised his stone horn, “to pool our resources.”
I looked across at Torquis again.
Yes, the horse’s weary eyes said, you heard it.
“I don’t suppose you want to tell me anything more about this lost 1500?” I asked.
Yoru laughed. “And risk you embarking on the same quest,” he said, “and either dying or stealing the glory for yourselves?” he paused. “And keep in mind,” he added, “I’m weighting those two outcomes overwhelmingly in favour of the ‘dying’ one.”
I didn’t rise to him, because frankly there wasn’t much point in rising to someone who had so much more rise at his disposal than I did. “We’re not interested in your quest,” I said. “I’m only interested in whether it involves you sitting in a kiddy-pool full of milk for much longer, or if you’ll be leaving ‑ ”
“This isn’t milk,” Yoru said. “It’s nagilabeast blood,” he raised his eyebrow again, only he did the other eyebrow this time so I think it counted as a rep. “You didn’t realise there was a nagilabeast gestating in your neighbour’s basement?”
“I just assumed the rumbling was part of the construction of the new underground telephone … ” I shook my head, sparing a moment of sorrowful reflection for that excitable dog, the mystery disappearance of which was basically now no longer a mystery. “Doesn’t matter. You killed it, I assume?”
“Do you think this much blood can come out of something and leave it alive?” Yoru chuckled.
“Depends whether it was a wingèd nagilabeast or the amphibious kind.”
Yoru drank his nagilablood and eyed me with grudging respect. “It’s dead,” he said. I nodded. “Now, unless there was anything else … ”
“Actually,” I pulled the potentially-handy item I’d carried over with me from my pocket, along with a silver marker pen that would work on its futuristically-pebbled carbon-hybrid surface. “I was wondering if you’d sign my copy of the Book of Yoru? Just right there, under the big PANIC sign … ”
 See Hatboy’s earlier adventure, Torquis in Machina, Issue #26! – Edpool (yay, I always wanted to Comic Book)
 Yoru started life as a humble cobbler, see Torquis in Machina Issue #6! – Edpool
 Oh, yeah, and that was also a thing that happened … Torquis in Machina, Issue #13… – Edpool