Aaand... for some reason it doesn't want to embed itself into this post. *shakes fist impotently at sky* Please, then go and see it here. Absolutely gorgeous. Well worth it.
Aaand... for some reason it doesn't want to embed itself into this post. *shakes fist impotently at sky* Please, then go and see it here. Absolutely gorgeous. Well worth it.
I am Canadian, hear me roar.
Anyway, the weather's been so nice lately, right? It's actually been oscillating between about -10C and +5C every day for the past week. It's been surprisingly sunny as well, and there's been little wind to surprise you with the windchill. That sounds great!
...Until you remember that because of that big dump of snow we got in January, we have giant windrows (giant rows/drifts of snow created by snowplows, not a typo of "window") everywhere. That means that when the temperatures reach above zero, basic science tells us that some of that snow will melt. And refreeze at night. Then melt again. Repeat ad nauseam. The sidewalks go from being puddles or streams one day, and ice rinks the next.
And because of the windrows, the ice/water/whatever it decides to be on that particular day has nowhere to go. So it accumulates.
Now, after all that setup, I begin my story.
I spent much of my day doing homework, from about 9:30am until my sister came by to visit at 5:00pm or so. I was pretty productive! However, aside from opening the window every so often, I hadn't gotten any fresh air for the day. So after supper I decided to go for a walk. I would normally go for a jog, but that's just asking for trouble. I don't want to slip and break my writing arm or something, this close to the end of the scholarly season.
Anyway, so I was navigating the ice and puddles just fine. I was on the home stretch. (I walk a sort of circle around my neighbourhood so I approach the house from the opposite direction that I started out on, which is how I got no warning.) I was walking down a hill, and I saw a lady and her small yippy dog, coming from the opposite direction. That's why, when I saw the giant LAKE of melted snow at the bottom, I presumed it to be passable. I mean, that lady and her tiny dog got across, so why can't I?
It was HUBRIS, plain and simple. I'm betting now that the lady just saw the giant pool of water and turned right back around... but didn't bother to warn me. :P Thanks, random lady.
Anyway, I saw that the temporary lake was fairly deep, probably reaching halfway to my knees. But I saw a few footprints on the snowdrift on the side, so I figured it was pretty solid. I didn't want to go all the way back up the hill to pick a different path, so I continued on.
I'm wearing pajama pants now, because damn it if the ice didn't melt off of my trousers and soak them as soon as I stepped inside the house. :P
For some information on the Capitol Theatre project, see here. Long story short: they're building a new theatre on 1920s street at the living history museum, right next to the Hotel Selkirk (which is a functioning hotel, by the way, with gorgeous rooms and delicious food). It's a super-exciting project! They'll be able to use it as a theatre space for dramatic productions, if they want, but during regular hours they'll be able to show 1920s silent films... plus some 1930s Talkies. :) (I put my vote in for "Freaks" and Bela Lugosi's "Dracula".)
They're also making an original film, entitled "Northern Light" or something like that, the plot of which essentially boils down to "10,000 years of Edmonton's history in 10 minutes". ( Cut for long-winded explanation of awesomeness, plus photographs. )
(Note: those things in the foreground aren't tombstones covered in snow. They are in fact ice walls built for the snowball fight competition being held there pretty soon. Can you think of a cooler setting for a snowball fight? :D )
Some of the beaded belts laid out on the table in Clerk's Quarters, ready to be chosen. Adele, the costumer, brought out our bag of "bling", as we call it: belts and chokers and so on so we could deck ourselves out. We laid them out quite nicely and several of us spent time photographing them. For more photographs of these belts (as well as more shots of the Fort in wintertime), see this album here.
Aaand... that's all she wrote!
But HOLY CRAP there was a lot of snow. I should mention that it's still snowing outside, not exactly lightly, but neither is it completely white-out conditions. Marcella had to help me dig my car out of the snowdrift. None of the roads except St. Albert Trail had been plowed yet. The residential areas were murder to get out of; I drive a relatively small car (for Canada, at least: I suppose it's average-size for a European car), and so the ruts in the snow that had been created by other drivers this morning didn't help much because my car is like half a foot or more less wide than most of the pickup trucks on the road. That meant that my car kept getting jerked to the side because only one pair of wheels was ever in a rut at a time. :P Also, the middle mound of snow kept scraping the belly of my car. I could HEAR it. D:
(Mum and I estimate that in our area it snowed 22cm overnight. That's what, nearly a foot of snow? And it keeps coming down. Remember, hardly any roads had been plowed.)
I drove really, really slowly, and had to roll down my window when I wanted to do turns or shoulder checks (I, uh, tended to pick a lane and keep to it) because there was so much ice on my windows and it was impossible to grate all the way off... I did lose control only once, and ended up in the snowdrift on the side of the road. I tried to reverse and wiggle my way out, but since it's only barely below zero, despite the huge dump of snow, it was slippery underneath. I put my hazard lights on, of course, and got out to see if I should get the shovel out of my trunk to dig myself out... When two pickup trucks stopped to help me, parking in front and in behind. The first truck had two burly men in it who were going to help me physically push the car out of the snowdrift (they move pretty easily because snow is quite slippery, despite the immense weight of these vehicles), but the guy in behind actually randomly had a tow rope. So he latched onto my bumper and his and just pulled my car right out! I told all three men that they were acquiring lots of good karma. Apparently the guy with the towrope had been doing this quite a bit: I was the fifth person he had towed out on his way to work! ;) I thanked them all profusely and was on my way.
Canadian winters bring us together, I swear. I mean, I think that's why Canadians have the reputation of being so friendly. It's all of us against the weather. We have to stand united. ;) Perfect strangers who may never have given you the time of day during the summertime or elsewhere will stop and help you out with no expectation of reward. Thank you all!
...and now I'm trapped at home. I'm not leaving the house again until this storm is over. I've made some tea, and now I'm going to do some reading, write fanfic, and possibly work on my thesis.
Also, after this snow stops (according to the weather forecast, not for another couple days?), if anybody's in the Edmonton area, I would love to go snowshoeing with someone! I've got an extra pair if anybody wants to come with! At the very least, we have a lovely amount of snow to trudge around in and observe nature. :) Don't hesitate!
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PIPI LONGSTOCKING COSPLAYS = NOW RIDICULOUSLY EASY.
And for comparison purposes, here is what it looks like defrosted. SO FLOPPY
Here is a shot of the glorious bonfire I made yesterday, to warm you up wherever you are. :)
We celebrate Thanksgiving, but in October, as Canadians will. I think that the timing really speaks to what it means to the majority of us up here in the frozen white North. It's a harvest festival, a time to celebrate what we have (and be thankful for it) before the long cold winter (and therefore shortages of food) comes.
(In case I didn't make the connection clear: the further North you go, the shorter the growing season, therefore the earlier harvest is. As I think you may have gathered from whining I've done on this blog before about Canadian weather, winter can sometimes come before fall even really seems to start.)
For us, it's a time in which our family (all five of us - my extended family is scattered across North America and Europe) work together to clean the house, cook the meal, eat together and talk for hours. We're not the kind of family to say grace before a meal, but we always go around the table before we eat (even as we stare, hungrily, at our turkey and vegetables and such, having starved ourselves for most of the day since breakfast) and talk about things that we're thankful for: the fact that my little brother is still in remission, the fact that we haven't been as hard-hit by the economy as some (the government will always seem to need nurses and military engineers), the fact that we haven't lost anybody close to us in a while... It's generally a good time.
This year, dad was, unfortunately, away, and as he's the one who normally cooks the turkey, and mum was still mighty busy at work, I took it upon myself to bake the turkey and create a lot of the veggie dishes. I'm proud to report that it was a success! The largest thing I've ever cooked. :) We had delicious leftover sandwiches for days.
Our meal included a turkey with stuffing (I rubbed the skin with butter, pepper and paprika), gravy, scalloped potatoes, broccoli with cheese sauce, and others... plus a pumpkin pie for dessert. We generally only make enough to last us for two or three days in leftovers: most gets eaten.
I know that there are nasty stereotypes associated with Thanksgiving, especially in the states (see: historically inaccurate pilgrims in stove-top hats and buckled shoes being helped by the natives whom they eventually wiped out due to disease), but that meaning is sort of divorced from our current experience. And hey, I celebrate Christmas, thinking of it more as an opportunity to do good by my family and enjoy the winter season than specifically as a celebration of the birth of Christ.
So happy (belated) Thanksgiving out to my American friends!
(... and now I'll throw myself back into homework. :P )
I've already had to drive into Edmonton, to an appointment about half an hour away. It only took me an extra ten minutes to get there, but I also borrowed my mum's car, which has the snow tires on already. Still, some of the roads had been plowed but not all. The backroads were I had to drive through to park were really slippery. It was lucky it was past rush hour because I slid into several small intersections while trying to stop for stop signs. D:
Tip: leave plenty early, and drive as slowly as you have to. I've been re-acquiring all of my good habits from when I was a learner: leaving huge stopping distances, going five under the speed limit at all times... And hey, I didn't crash or even fishtail like I saw some trucks doing! ;)
The other task I had to do this morning was drop off my car to get snow tires installed. $1000 gone: luckily, my mum paid for them. It's only so expensive because we were buying entirely new tires, plus the installation fee for the shop. Now that we have them dad can switch them out in a few hours in the springtime for free. My mum is of the opinion that this is a safety thing and anyways we need to use it for six months of the year... Those "all season" tires that they plug were designed in the States and are pretty useless on winter roads. :P
I am also of the opinion that if it's going to be cold, you may as well have some lovely snow and frost to offset the ugliness of brown trees and dead grass. Here is the view from a top-floor window in Albertan suburbia, so you can get a look at the frosted trees that some Christmas ornaments try to replicate.
Now that the cold weather has arrived, I've also brought out my famous warm knitted scarf, as seen in previous years here.
Here is a truly Canadian blog post. >_>
Yesterday was the first day that it really began to feel like winter, and today it's confirmed. Blizzard. There's supposed to be like 15cm of snow happening this evening, and it's been snowing all day already. We've had snow already, in October, but it melted. This is unusually late in the season for a first snow to be sticking - sometimes we get "winter" beginning in September, before all of the leaves have properly fallen off of the trees. We've gotten snow in every month except August here in Alberta (not that it normally stays in the typical "summer" months).
They say that Canada has two seasons: winter and construction. They are totally on the ball on this one.
At the moment, despite the snow, it's about -8C. That's not bad. Generally we average around -23C, I'd say, in the winter months around here (it's a dry cold), but with windchill it can get nasty. A year or two ago a weather station at the airport actually registered something like -50C, for an instant, at 4 in the morning one blustery day.
It's normally not as bad as all that, and you get used to it (hint: dress in layers and don't go outside if you can't help it), and it certainly gives us bragging rights. I've heard somewhere that because bitching about winter weather is a national pastime in Canada (it's the safest topic of conversation at the bus stop, for instance), we apparently have a very small number of people freezing to death each year, considering our population and Canadian winters. It's because we're not taken by surprise very often. I think they even set up winter shelters for the homeless, too.
I am so glad that I had my practical driving lessons in the middle of the wintertime, though, because it made driving in the summer a breeze. Here are a few things I've noticed that are unique to Canada because of our winters...
We have pretty tall traffic lights and signs. I noticed this in France, which sometimes has traffic lights only a head or so taller than a person would be. Those would be obscured by snowdrifts in Canada. We also frequently have a sign with an arrow that says "stop line" at intersections, because you can't always see the lines painted on the road. There's a lot of "driving in the ruts" going on in the wintertime...
We also really, really like pedways here (AKA "pedestrian walkways"). Essentially, to get from building to building, you don't have to go outside, but can walk through a tunnel, sometimes above ground, sometimes under it. In Montreal, their Metro system is actually attached to a massive underground mall. They're like reverse skyscrapers. It's intense.
In Quebec, where it's much more humid, there's a lot more snow. In many places in Quebec City, they actually set up little temporary tents overtop of driveways and some sidewalks so the snow just lands on top and slides off, so they don't have to shovel their driveways all of the time. They have a ridiculous amount of snow. Example:
This bike was just abandoned in Quebec because a particularly heavy snowfall trapped it.
Anyway, quick tips! Remember, nobody knows how to drive in snow for at least a few days after the first snowfall. They forget that they can't stop on a dime, so don't leap out in front of cars. Seriously, pedestrians may have right of way, but you can't wine about it in court if you're dead. Also, drivers, don't rush up to stop signs or try to rush through yellow lights. Leave yourself long stopping distances. Trust me on this.
Also, wear practical shoes, and fashion styles. This thing for tights that's oh so popular in the states? You won't last five minutes if the bus is late. Same goes for high heels. If you need to wear them, change at your destination and leave the clunky boots with your scarf and jacket at the coat check. Practicality trumps fashion this time of year, guys!
Hot drinks are in: tea, hot chocolate, coffee, hot toddies...
But THIS year, I'm volunteering to be one of the actors on the scary street: 1885 street is PG-13. Apparently they used to do the Fort of Fear, which was TERRIFYING (I mean, you hardly have to dress it up in the dark; it's pretty scary as-is). For various safety and legal reasons, we can't do it anymore, but that means that 1885 street, with it's reproduction jail, really old houses, skeletal trees, and empty wagons gets to be the setting for our nights of mayhem.
This year, the theme is zombies. I'm a rover; this means that I'm one of the zombie hoard not assigned to scenarios within the buildings themselves, mostly for atmosphere and to terrify people wandering around/waiting in lines.
We had our dress rehearsal yesterday, which went pretty well overall! Volunteers from the other streets came by to test us out, which was fun... and good practice. It took me like fifteen minutes to learn to keep a straight face properly when someone else is staring at you or laughing or whatever. I've learned to give out a moan whenever I feel the urge to laugh.
Essentially, my "at rest" pose involves me with my upper torso leaning backwards almost enough to make it uncomfortable, with my head to the side, eyes wide and staring. I can do a good wide-eyed face. One of the two lovely volunteer girls who do the makeup gave me a giant slice wound across my face, between my eyes going onto my left cheek. We were thinking: ax to the face. But not enough so that I stayed down! ;) Anyway, if you catch my attention I don't follow you with my eyes or face, but with my torso, moving unnaturally. I will lurch towards you, stop and stare, lurch some more if you catch my attention... I sometimes sneak up on people watching other programs, stand behind them, stare for five or ten seconds, then groan.
We have to be careful to shuffle slowly, so people can get away; we can't technically touch visitors, and it's kind of awkward if you catch them because you can't disembowel and eat them. Seriously, super awkward. ;) One of the guys gets around it by sniffing anyone he's caught, making a disgusted face, and shuffling off.
I need to learn to blink more than I do (wide, glassy-eyed staring freaks people out a LOT) because I actually lost a contact when my eyes dried out too much and I blinked. I had to grab it off of the dirty ground, shuffle off behind a building, and dash to the washroom to clean it off and put it back in. I kind of needed my peripheral vision to drive home. >_>
But still! It's been super fun! I will have more details (and possibly photographs) of the two actual nights, Friday and Saturday. If anybody's in the Edmonton area and wants to attend (and you totally should!) you can get tickets through Ticketmaster... although they're selling out fast! :D
Now, if only the thin layer of snow on the ground would melt in time... I've compensated by literally wearing five layers of turtlenecks and sweaters under my dress shirt and four skirts plus yoga pants (which doubles up as extra padding against zombie hunters), but it won't be a comfortable night if it's like -10C... :P
Okay, so I'm probably unrealistically optimistic, but I've been feeling really positive these last few days. :D Let me share with you what I did yesterday.
Yesterday, I took the bus from University to West Ed (that's the largest mall in the world - yes, the world - for those of you who don't live in Edmonton), which crosses the river valley at one point. The weather was gorgeous and sunny and not all that cold... I think that it was maybe -2C at the lowest.
... And I just felt really happy. Little things that I don't normally notice stood out and were incredibly beautiful to me. There was a crane in a construction zone that we passed by, in which the giant hook on the end of that giant cord thing, was attached by a long band to the base of the machine (probably so it wouldn't swing around in the wind)... and the angles of the thing just looked awesome. I wished I'd had my camera (but then again, I was on a bus, so it wouldn't have turned out anyway).
As we went along that construction site, there was a fence with a black tarp set up to break the wind for the construction workers. As the bus went by, it moved in a rippling motion that was inordinately beautiful to me. I'd never be able to capture that in a still shot - it's like smoke or mist. It doesn't look the same, static.
Previously, as we crossed the bridge across the river, a flock of what must have been forty or fifty pidgeons suddenly flew out from beneath the bridge. They were sillouetted against the blue sky and white snow, and they kind of curved around, like they were of one mind... and it took my breath away.
I'm not sure that anybody else in the bus was looking out the window on these occasions. But oh well - they existed. I saw them. I'll remember them.
What are the most beautiful things that you guys have seen in the last week?
Nanowrimo update: Okay, so I either write really hardcore and go way beyond my novel's wordcount goal each day, or write next to nothing. D: It's really bad. Perhaps it's because I have lots of homework and midterms and now exams to do...? D: 'Tis a flimsy excuse, is it not? But I think that I'm still on track to hit 50k by November 31st... with any luck, anyway. Come to me, my muses! D:
Also, I'm very glad that Cassidy agreed to be my wordcount rival this year. She has kept me afloat. You rock, my dear! :D
Also, I saw Twilight on Friday night. :3 I still maintain my position that the series is far too popular for it's apparent quality, but I admit that I enjoyed the movie. l felt that it was a good adaption, and I actually found myself liking characters that I was neutral to before - I actually like Bella now! That, and her father, Charlie. That scene directly prior to where Bella brought in Edward to introduce himself formally... the click of the shotgun, then "Bring him in"... XD Also, even though Jasper had only a very small role... he was awesome. Just his... pained look. XD I also didn't mind Emmett or Rosalie, whom I actually actively disliked in the books, but were pretty cool in the movie. Plus, everyone, and especially Carisle, was gorgeous. Seriously. Including the bad guys, who were actively hot. Also, Jacob was a sweetie. :) I don't want him to turn into an asshole as in the books! ;_;
Also, if you're following what I'm saying, read these parodies! http://cleolinda.livejournal.com/630150.
On another matter... you know that meteor that was seen a few days ago over Alberta and Saskatchewan? I witnessed it. It was pretty darn cool, I've got to say, although it kind of made me panick at the time. I was driving to the bus station in the evening (I was going to meet some friends in downtown Edmonton, and it's easier to do park'n'ride than try to do transfers), and I was about to turn left when I saw this massive bright light in the distance, kind of angling downwards to the right. It looked really, really close, and I actually thought that something was landing in the field to the right of the road (I've since learned that it was probably much further away). But it was like in flames... you know those shots of rockets taking off, with the flames and smoke billowing out after it? It was like that, only heading downwards. It light up quite a bit of the sky, but only for about five seconds. I nearly caused an accident because I braked in the middle of my turn. I thought "I should call somebody", because I thought that it was a plane going down or something, but I had no idea who I should call. The police? An ambulance? A firetruck? Or what?
Then I got to the bus stop and asked the other people waiting there if they'd seen it, and one guy said "yeah, I saw a firework going off". I thought, well, it was going downwards, but I guess it could have been a firework... I didn't know what it was until I read the paper the next morning (it was on the front page). Crazy stuff, man....
Now, I really should get back on writing that Canadian History paper... D:
Today is the day that we go to Brugge! .... and its raining! Badly! D: Last night, it was gorgeous out, no clouds whatsoever... and then, I wake up this morning and think "hey, I need some light, let me open the window and illuminate the room with sunlight!" and I raise the blinds and... it's like halfway to Noah's ark outside. ;_;
... Well, it's not as bad as that. It's raining hard, but from what I can see, it's actually almost a sunshower. Sunshowers are nice, right? (I need convincing.) See, I don't mind rain, especially here in Europe, because it's a nice, warm rain. However, it's really difficult to take pictures if you have to wipe rainwater off of the camera lense between photos. ;_;
Anyway, I shall now report on my trip to see "Alice, etc." at the Théatre du Nord! We walked down to the theatre (it's right on La Grande Place square), and demonstrating in front of it were a bunch of people chanting against the possibility of expulsion for the "sans-papiers" (litterally, "without papers", but they're referring to illegal immegrants). They had an epic chant, and they were singing and everything. I have a short video of them from far away, but my camera's microphone isn't terribly good. Again, I'll try to figure out this youtube thing later! D:
(Demonstrations are actually really popular in France, as I'm sure that some of you may know. Since here, I've witnessed... like two or three. I've been here for less than a week and a half, and this isn't a massive city.)
Oh, and there was a firedancer having fun outside the theatre when we left. Just so you know. That square is an awesome place for demonstrations of any kind.
Anyway, the play itself! It was... strange, probably very avant-garde (it's France, right?). There were a lot of sexual jokes, and since that kind of vocabulary just doesn't come up very often in the context of the classroom, some of it was difficult to follow. It started off kind of dark and almost hallucinogenic, as we got these three girls who are dressed like Alice (from Alice in Wonderland), but in different colours, doing things in sync... But most of the play is about this one chick (whose name also begins with "A" but I can't remember the whole thing... it wasn't Alice, though) and her husband. Her husband cheated on her, and she tries to kill herself in various ways when she finds out. The husband then insists that "hey, you can cheat on me too", like, an open relationship... and she goes into various changes in clothing, etc. to try to attract a younger man to prove to herself that she's still attractive. Of course, when she begins succeeding, her old husband gets increasingly jealous, and then he threatens to kill himself... And the play ends with him jumping into a bathtub with a plugged in hairdryer (fireworks!). XD It was very funny (he came out okay, just covered in charcoal).
The two main characters frequently address the audience (commenting on how stupid the other is ;) ), and it gets more and more absurd as things go on. ;) There was also a random interlude with the character of this wife (that you never see again) who runs away from home, ends up returning in the dark and making up with her husband... and then when she gets up in the morning, there are strange children and a strange man sitting at the kitchen table... and she had "made up" with someone who wasn't her husband. D: She leaves, awkwardly, saying that it was just "a little mistake". ;) The cool thing about that entire scene is that it's narrated by that wife, and she acts out the parts of everyone else. Oh, and "she" is played by a male actor. I wasn't sure for the first minute or so, but then s/he took off her wig to play the part of a male lover. He was an epically good actor.
Anyway, if you ever get a chance to see it (even in translation), do so! It's very good. :) Anyway, now I need to get ready for my morning's worth of classes... and then we leave for Brugge! Luckily enough, as I was typing this, the rain seems to be dying down... Now I can only hope that the rain just isn't drifting across the border into Belgium...
It's snowing outside again. ;_; I'm on summer vacation, and yet it looks more like February outside. At least it's sort of melting... kind of, not really. ;_; When will I be able to bike once more...?
Yes, I've finally finished writing the next chapter of Rise of the Jinchuuriki! ... and it's like 6,000 words long. D: My time participating in National Novel Writing Month was not wasted. I wrote most of it in the last week. Speed writing for the win! :D
( Yay, ninja kindergarten! )
Chapter Six: Game Start
It was rainy all day. It was the kind of light rainfall that wouldn’t be bad in short bursts, but instead lasted for incredibly long amounts of time, pervading everything with a persistent and unpleasantly cold dampness. Konoha was a beautiful village in the sunlight, but in the gloom and mist of the rain, the place took on the appearance of a washed-out old photograph.
The weather made things more than five feet away difficult to discern from the greyness of the background. This could make anybody feel depressed. It had the added effect of making the ninja inhabitants of the village feel paranoid.
Naruto, for one, was jealous of Gaara. The bastard was probably sunning himself in the wonderful desert weather. The blond grumbled curses a six-year-old shouldn’t know under his breath to himself as he jogged back towards his apartment under an old umbrella with two tines bent out of shape. At least the thing didn’t have any holes, which was more than he could say about the roof of his apartment...
Naruto wished he could use some chakra to blur to get to his apartment faster, but he knew that Gaara would never let him live it down if he was revealed to be from the future because he didn’t want to get wet. Well, perhaps that was being unfair. Gaara wasn’t the kind of person to gloat. Stare in hidden amusement? Yes. Chuckle in the depths of his mind, where only the Shukaku could hear him? Perhaps. But he would never gloat out loud. It was almost worse, that way: knowing that Gaara may be laughing at you (or not) but being unable to point and go “hey, that was mean!” He couldn’t exactly ask his friend and peer to stop doing nothing.
Finally arriving in his apartment, Naruto shook some persistent raindrops from his pathetic-looking umbrella before placing it in a chipped flower vase that he used as an improvised umbrella stand.
“All right, ramen!” He crowed to himself as he crossed the room to his kitchen corner (one room apartments were useful in that respect, at least: everything was conveniently all together).
With a flourish, Naruto removed one of two dozen cups of instant ramen from his shopping bag and placed it almost reverently on the counter. His haul had been a challenge to acquire, as usual. His success this time had been in part due to three cans of paint, a length of rope, a towering but fragile display of canned nuts, a bunshin to distract the store manager, and a strategic henge. Even so, he had nearly been found out at the end. He would have to be careful not to go to that store again very soon. Luckily, he had managed to purchase a decent amount of ramen – food of gods and future Hokage. Not only was it cheap and delicious, it also kept very well. A long shelf life was very useful, especially when he didn’t know when he would next have a successful shopping trip, which were always few and far between.
As he prepared his supper, he noticed several muted chakra signatures alight on the roof. ANBU, most likely: several of them, trying to mask their chakra. They were probably there to watch him. He continued nonchalantly making his supper, giving no indication that he knew that they were there. He wouldn’t be expected to know. He knew that they were probably there under the orders of the Hokage.
When he had come into office, he had sorted through some of the old paperwork and old files that they had on himself, just to see what the Sandaime and the Godaime had been up to. That had been how he had discovered that he had actually had a rotating guard of ANBU watching over him since he had been very young, even past the point that he had become a genin. Naruto had gathered that they were a compromise, of sorts, between the Hokage and the council of Konoha. The Kyuubi brat wasn’t to be trusted, and so was watched as an enemy would be. It made him sad in a hollow sort of way, the feeling of not being trusted. He had felt it less as he had grown to become a trusted village leader. Now he had to get used to it again.
But back to the issue at hand: what to do about the watching ANBU. Well, Naruto thought, logically, pouring his boiling water over his cup ramen, What would Gaara do in this situation? Besides kill them? Or smother and subdue them with sand? Or go up onto the roof, acting for all the world like he went up there all the time, and stare at them, blankly, like they were crazy, until they went away?
In the end, Naruto decided on just the opposite of such things. Sure, Gaara was his friend, but the guy wasn’t exactly known for his mastery of social niceties.
“So… how come you aren’t in the academy?” Temari asked, apparently uneasy with nothing but the sandwiches, the table and the serious silence between them.
Gaara chewed on his mouthful of sandwich quietly for a moment, swallowed, and replied in his usual monotone, “I’m too young.”
“But you’re six, aren’t you? There are some six-year-olds in the youngest class. Some five-year-olds too.”
Gaara shrugged. He was a demon brat who could already take down any shinobi assassins that they could throw at him. They weren’t about to teach a failed weapon with clearly ambivalent loyalties to Suna how to be more deadly. The first time around, he had learned by instinct, watching others, and later, from a petrified Baki, his jounin “sensei” and handler.
“That’s just silly. You should ask fa- um, somebody to get you in.” She paused, awkwardly, and then added: “It’s really fun! My teacher says that maybe Kankuro and me can graduate soon.” Gaara knew that she had been about to tell him to ask their father, but had then realized that wait, their father didn’t seem to like any of them, and so wouldn’t be doing them any favours anytime soon.
So Gaara shrugged once again.
Temari turned her attention back to her sandwich, and Gaara frowned, internally. Talking to this Temari was more difficult than he would have thought it would have been. What did children talk about, amongst themselves, with no adults present? He couldn’t remember. Maybe he had never known in the first place.
He continued to eat his sandwich in the uneasy silence. Temari avoided his gaze, staring down at her crumb-spotted plate. There was an innocuous smear of peanut butter on her chin. Gaara couldn’t remember ever seeing his sister look so young before. She practically radiated naïveté. It was almost unnerving, to know that this little girl would grow to become one of the strongest and most deadly kunoichi that the Sand had ever known.
But then again, he supposed that he, the demon of Suna, looked just as “cute” at the moment, although he probably looked less naïve, even now. He was certain that the “look” didn’t suit him.
Temari, having finished staring at her empty plate, stood up from the table and took her dishes to the sink.
Gaara could think of nothing to say, so he decided upon a strategic retreat.
His chair scraped against the sandy floor as he stood up (sand pervaded everything in the desert, be it buildings, clothing, or even food). Gaara walked towards the door, and his sand followed. Temari didn’t watch her little brother go.
He paused in the doorway. “Temari.”
His sister looked up all of a sudden, nearly dropping the plate into the sink. “Um, yes?” Wariness was a good thing to cultivate in young ninja. Gaara approved. Cautious shinobi invariably lived longer than bull-headed ones… with the possible exception of a certain blond future Hokage that he knew (but then again, the ability to heal fatal wounds with demonic chakra was always a useful trick.)
Gaara met her eyes. “Thank you for the sandwich.” And then he was gone.
Naruto had peripherally monitored the few movements of his ANBU watchers all throughout his dinner. He didn’t envy them, sitting out there in the cold and the wet, while he ate his hot and awesomely delicious cup ramen.
Naruto had once heard of a custom from a place so far away the country could have just been made up. People believed in little gods or fairies or demons or something, and they would put offerings in little dishes to leave out at night to ask for their protection, or maybe just so they would pass their houses by.
After a moment’s thought that night, Naruto put some of his still warm ramen (leftover from his eleventh bowl) in a sealable container, and put it out on the windowsill. He was careful to lock the window afterwards, even though it would be useless against any ANBU that decided to come looking for more food. Naruto seriously doubted whether any of them would even touch it – they were probably too paranoid and afraid of poisons – but it made him feel better that the ANBU who were forced to watch him had the option of something warm to eat.
Besides, it might be his Kakashi-sensei out there.
He wasn’t surprised when he got up the next morning, though, to find that there was an untouched bowl of cold ramen sitting outside his windowsill, dripping with rainwater.
It was probably for the best. He would have actually been worried if the ANBU watching him had been green enough to accept food from the subject that they were supposed to be monitoring. Still, Naruto supposed if the ANBU grated on his nerves too much, he could always just be really, really irritating, which would make his watchers less likely to pay close attention to him… although, if they were good ANBU, they likely wouldn’t fall for such a simple trick.
The house was quiet. Temari had gone to bed hours ago, and it was still just a little bit too early even for ninja-in-training and their chuunin caretaker to be up. Gaara was always up, though. After Temari had gone back to sleep, Gaara had crept into the kitchen once more and had washed the dishes, just as he had promised himself earlier. This task proved difficult when he realised that, humiliatingly enough, he was actually too short to reach the sink. He had to drag a chair to the counter to get at the water tap.
Washing the dishes took all of ten minutes, which then left him wondering what to do. He normally didn’t have to worry about finding things to occupy himself; there was usually an endless array of things requiring the Kazekage’s attention. It was bizarre to find himself with nothing pressing to attend to.
In the end, Gaara decided to go outside and walk the streets, and watch as his village woke up.
The sun had only barely risen, so it was still chilly. The desert wouldn’t take on its characteristic heat until the sun had been up for a few hours. Already, despite the cold, there were a few people awake. There were ninja on guard duty were just returning from their night shifts, their replacements already up and about. The bakers had already been up for hours, and were only just now taking their wares out of the oven. Gaara passed by one of these bakeries just as an assistant – a middle-aged civilian woman with strong-looking arms – was putting a tray of breakfast muffins in the window. She looked startled to see so young a child out alone, so early in the morning, but she didn’t seem to recognize him. Gaara gave her a short nod, one that would hopefully be interpreted as friendly, and continued on, away from the delicious smell of freshly-baked pastries. He didn’t remember that specific bakery from his time, but then again, civilian businesses came and went often. Some people were more suited to life in a shinobi village than others, after all.
As he wandered the sandy streets, as silent as any slow-moving sand dune, Gaara became aware of the raucous sound of children’s laughter. Then, as he drew closer, he could hear the sound of something hitting pavement, and then, running feet. The former Kazekage slowly rounded the corner of the building closest to the sound of the voices. There, lay a courtyard where four children were playing ball. A lonely swing set was set up to one side. It was to this structure that Gaara made his way. He sat down on the swing, still unnoticed, and observed as the children played their game. After a few minutes of watching the children’s interactions in silence, he was beginning to divine the rules of the game that they were playing. There were no teams; all four seemed to be playing for themselves. The goal of the game didn’t seem to be to simply catch the ball, but to avoid having one of the other three get it. However, it seemed that one wasn’t allowed to hold the ball for longer than three footsteps. Kicking the ball out of reach of the others seemed to be the preferred method of handling. Occasionally, one would be declared “out”, usually after missing a catch, causing the ball to go out of bounds. Being “out” seemed to entail sitting on the side of the playing field for a minute, and being unable to handle the ball. Gaara didn’t know if this was supposed to be a well-known game, or simply one whose rules were made up as these four children played it.
Suddenly, a stray kick caused the ball to go wide. It bounced off of a pillar at an odd angle, and finally came to rest on a ledge a story or so up one of the buildings that composed the square.
“Aww, man!” one of the kids exclaimed in disgust.
“What should we do?” one of the others asked.
Gaara felt strange. There was something… oddly familiar about this situation. He supposed it was just because it was a typical childhood scene, one that he had only ever seen from afar. Just days before he had gone back in time, in fact, he had watched a similar group of kids play a different game of ball, watching from the Kazekage’s tower. That must be it.
Gaara glanced at the children, who were scuffling their feet and each demanding of the others to do something about getting the ball back.
Gaara probably could have just climbed up there, clinging to the wall with chakra. A kid with good chakra control was much less threatening than the Demon of Suna. But Gaara had gotten into the habit of using his sand to handle things out of reach over the years, whether they be dropped objects, a scroll he needed from across the room, or even light taps to get the attention of people. He hardly even thought about it anymore. His sand just moved. Such was the case now. A wisp of sand detached itself from the piles that lay in ever-present drifts in the Hidden Village of Sand, and threaded itself through the air to deftly knock the ball off of the ledge. It fell in a slow arc directly into Gaara’s outstretched hands.‑
The eyes of the children followed the ball’s progress. Gaara stepped forward and gravely deposited the ball into the slack hands of the closest child. This seemed to snap the kid out of his trance.
“It’s Gaara!” That child screamed, dropping the ball and immediately beginning to run away. This, of course, set the rest of them off, and they all scattered away from the demon-child in their midst.
“Wait!” Gaara called out impulsively, and his sand shot out to stop them instinctively. With a sudden jolt of déjà vu, the former Kazekage realized just exactly where this was going: children screaming in pain, a defiant Yashamaru trying to calm he, the out of control demon, down, and the injured children rejecting the demon’s help. With a violent hand gesture, he reigned his sand in before it could do more than graze the ankle of the boy with the funny-looking, spiked black hair. The kid only screamed more loudly as he fled.
Moments later, the courtyard was empty of all but Gaara and his sand. The desert wind whistled, blowing a small plume of sand along the ground in front of the redhead’s feet. He made no noise; he was certain that if he listened hard enough, he would still be able to hear the sounds of screaming and the pounding of running feet as the children fled. He was a kage-level ninja (mentally, anyway), and he probably could have chased them down and forced them to listen – or play – with him, but Gaara doubted that such actions would endear him to them overmuch.
This was definitely going to be harder than anticipated.
…He had never liked children much, anyway.
Gaara let a small sigh escape from his emotionless façade, and turned to walk back to his apartment. He retraced his steps, the early-morning sun shining directly into his eyes, making him next to blind. He passed by the bakery he had seen earlier; the window display was already half-empty of muffins. He walked on.
As his apartment came into view, Gaara came to a sudden realization: he was feeling sorry for himself! This thought was so potent that it stopped him in his tracks for a brief moment. He couldn't walk down the path of self-pity. That would get him nowhere. He remembered distinctly that whenever insults had gotten too vicious, and the assassination attempts had gotten too frequent, Naruto had one thing to say to him: “Feeling sorry for yourself will get you nowhere. Stop it.” And then Naruto would slap him upside the head, and Gaara would let him.
Gaara looked up at his family’s apartment, gaze hardening. He couldn’t let a few screaming children and a murderous uncle get in the way of him achieving his goal. He would just have to try harder, and that was that.
Naruto had rediscovered the fun in being a child. Well, sort of: it was more a case of “discovering” in the first place than “rediscovering”. He was no longer tentative: he refused to back down and go away to play elsewhere under the demanding glares of parents. He used sheer charm to convince children that he was a fun kid to play with. And it worked… and he found that he was enjoying himself. They didn’t seem to care that he didn’t know the rules of their games very well, and were all too happy to teach him. He was also still enjoying the novelty of being young again.
Of course, he had the added challenge of subterfuge, but that just made his “game” all the more engaging. Trying to get around ANBU members was a very nice training exercise, made all the more useful because he couldn’t properly train around them. (His mind was limited by his body. He was still only capable of what a child was capable of, despite his memories of the contrary.) They had probably been informed about his bunshin-making abilities, but Naruto faked being unskilled with them. Oftentimes, if he needed to go places and didn’t want the ANBU to follow (places like, say, forbidden sections of the Hokage’s library, or maybe just to the washroom without having the niggling feeling that someone was watching his every move), he would make a few sloppy bunshins and send those off as decoys for the ANBU, all the while making other bunshins on the sly to run off in secret to the training fields. The ANBU weren’t aware, of course, of his sheer stamina when it came to bunshins. They seemed to think that four or five was his limit (this would already be spectacular for a jounin-level ninja, let alone one with hardly any ninja training), and Naruto was happy to keep it that way. He often sent them off on childish pranks – which were all the more easy to do because of the extra pairs of hands he could create – which again blurred his purpose to his watchers. Naruto wanted them to dismiss him as a child… for now, anyway.
Still, the ANBU weren’t trained to be sloppy, and Naruto had to be careful… which was again a part of the fun. There was something about fooling the elite members of one’s village time and time again that made one feel… proud. In a sinister, giggling madly to oneself kind of way.
It was during the first week of the second month after he had returned to the past when Naruto received his first letter from Gaara, carried by a disgruntled and tired but normal-looking Suna messenger hawk. The boy fed it some leftover bacon and sent it on its way with his thanks. It wouldn’t do to be impolite to their means of communication. He then turned his attention to the missive that Gaara had sent him.
It was a simple message: “Got free sugared bun and a smile from the new baker on Central Street.” Naruto grinned.
The game was on.
The “kyuubi-brat-watch” shift started to become more interesting for the ANBU after that.
If nothing else, the ANBU were kept on their toes – was the demon luring the children of the village to their deaths? Or was he just lulling them into a false sense of security through overly enthusiastic companionship?
Kakashi narrowed his mismatched eyes from behind his masks, watching from a hidden location in the canopy of a tree across the courtyard in which the Kyuubi brat was “playing”. The ANBU agent with the crow mask on the branch beside him flicked his hands to sign out a message to him: ‘What is the beast doing?’ Kakashi conceded the point. What was the kid doing? Especially with all of those children in a circle? And why were they singing gibberish. What was this “stella ella ola?” Was this some sort of demonic trick?
The gray-haired ANBU vowed to watch the brat more closely from now on.
(Sometimes, training children to be killing machines has a downside – without a childhood, how can they discern hidden threats from children’s games? Paranoia must have healthy limits.)
“You seem happier, lately.” The Hokage noted in one of the boy’s regimented visits to his office.
“Yes, well, I figured that there’s really no point in moping and being sad, right? It’s not going to get me anywhere. So I may as well do things to make me happy. Does that make sense?”
The Hokage smiled around his pipe. “It does indeed, Naruto.”
The eighty-seven-year-old boy smiled back.
The boy deliberately shied away from people that he remembered even decades later as being particularly abusive towards him. Naruto made the movements even more obvious when he sensed the muted chakra signatures of his ANBU guards following closely behind him.
He did his best to look like the downtrodden orphan – who still had hope – as he could. He wasn’t above using the “cuteness” of his younger body to good use. He was well aware of how differently people reacted when confronted with such things as women and children in distress. There had been a non-perverted reason for inventing the Sexy no Jutsu, after all. What could be more disarming than a hysterical naked woman? That technique had been incredibly well-known and had been growing in popularity even half a century after its inception. For several decades, it was even taught among ANBU ‑
initiates as a new forbidden technique, to use in battle when all else failed and the operative needed the element of surprise. And the Sexy no Jutsu was incredibly surprising. It had been designed to be so.
Unfortunately, he probably couldn’t reveal his famed (and infamous) technique just yet. It would still be considered much too advanced to have been invented by someone his age. He’d likely have to wait a few more years yet, mores the pity.
He had other things to focus on, at any rate, like his classes. Naruto didn’t realize that he was already enrolled in the academy until an ANBU had dragged him to class after his second day of skipping. He’d thought he was too young to be in class, but then again, he was still kind of unsure of the exact date. Naruto made a mental note to himself to pick up a newspaper. He couldn’t exactly turn to one of his classmates (none of whom he really recognized) and ask them for the day, month and year. He thought it strange that he actually couldn’t name anybody in his class, and he only remembered halfway through his first day back that he had failed the genin exam three times the first time around. This was probably his original “graduating” class.
After two weeks, he was proven wrong when he was transferred into Iruka-sensei’s class.
Naruto was, for lack of a better word, nervous. Currently, he was sitting in the back of the classroom, head on his arms, which were folded and resting on top of his desk. He was waiting for Iruka-sensei to show up. Naruto had arrived early, for once; he didn’t want to make a worse impression than he already had. He was sitting in the back, strategically, so that he could observe his classmates but avoid their attention.
He vaguely remembered his new classmates’ faces… They certainly looked different without wrinkles—or puberty. Sakura’s hair was distinctive enough, and Kiba’s Inuzuka clan face markings weren’t entirely subtle either. It was strange to think of these children as his friends and companions. Well, technically, they weren’t yet. He was going to have to work on that.
Just then, the door to the classroom burst open and in walked Iruka-sensei. Naruto looked up, hoping that this meeting would be different, and it would be the same old Iruka who bought him ramen and listened as he bitched about Kakashi-sensei and Sasuke-teme and gave him advice on how to talk to Sakura and understood when he said that he was going to become Hokage and you better believe it… and his heart plummeted when he saw the stormy expression on the man’s face. He should have known not to be optimistic in this case. Naruto watched as Iruka glanced around the classroom, before the man’s gaze settled on him, in the last row in the back.
Iruka’s eyes narrowed. Naruto gave a small smile. Iruka’s eyes narrowed further. Naruto sank down in his seat, wanting to hide, but knowing that he couldn’t. He had to face this. That didn’t stop him from almost sighing in relief when Iruka turned his attention to the blackboard and began writing down the day’s lesson-plan.
Naruto could see that Iruka’s knuckles were white around his grip on the chalk. His teacher snapped the piece of chalk twice as he wrote.
“Henge!” Iruka barked, turning to face the class and resolutely avoiding looking up into the final row, where a certain demon-child was sitting. “An illusion in which shinobi can take on the appearance of something that they are not.” Naruto caught the emphasis. “As academy students, you will learn the basics of this technique, enough to be able to take on the appearance of one of your classmates, or even me. Some of you will never learn more than this.” Iruka was outright glaring at Naruto, now. Yes, that was most definitely his ‘super-scary angry face’. “To graduate from the academy, you must be able to hold the henge for at least five minutes. More experienced ninja can hold it for days. Some can even make themselves invisible, to an extent.” Naruto wished that he could become invisible. “Any questions?” Iruka-sensei asked.
Everyone in the classroom was silent. No one dared to ask a question and perhaps have Iruka’s wrath transferred to them.‑
“Recognizing when someone else is using a henge is also an invaluable technique.” Iruka-sensei’s eyes flashed. “Uzumaki.”
Naruto sat up straight as many of the students eyes fell upon the stranger in their midst for the first time. “Yes… sir?” It was best to be polite.
Iruka’s eyes narrowed further. “How would you determine if someone is using a henge?” Naruto knew that academy student weren’t expected to know this. He knew that for sure, because he had overhauled the academy curriculum himself to include it. He knew the signs, of course – little idiosyncrasies, like shadows where there should be light, a slightly different shade of haircolour on a close friend – that helped to determine if something was an illusion – but he couldn’t exactly say so.
He wasn’t supposed to know. He was dead-last Naruto, after all. “I don’t know, sir.”
Iruka made a dismissive noise, as if to say ‘of course the demon wouldn’t want to reveal its secrets.’
“Well, then: what is the exact difference between a henge and lower forms of genjutsu?” Naruto had only learned that distinction after two years in the field as a jounin. It honestly didn’t matter overmuch, as both were dispelled in the same manner. “I don’t know, sir.” Iruka made another dismissive noise.
Naruto could tell by some of the students’ murmurings that his definitely wasn’t normal behaviour from their sensei. Somehow, this didn’t make him feel all that better about his situation. Naruto understood what Iruka was doing; he was trying to demoralize him, make him slip up, or perhaps just get upset enough to leave the academy.
Maybe it was a fluke, last time, that Iruka-sensei liked me… Naruto thought, despondently, slouching further down behind his desk. He could tell that this was only going to be the start of things.
The final school bell at the end of the day had never been a more welcome sound.
Naruto was very sad to have lost his senior discount in many stores. However, he found that a young and cute body was almost as good. If he slapped some mud onto his cheeks and hair, people were hard-pressed to identify him as the demon child, and if he put on the right pathetically hungry face, the kind of face that screamed “I am an orphan! Feed me! Give me a hug!”, sometimes people actually did, if they didn’t realize who he was.
It was nice to feel a little bit loved, or at least not unwanted, for once. Naruto was resolutely avoiding thinking about the academy and its related… tensions.
Today was a beautiful day for a walk. There were many citizens of Konoha who apparently had the same thought as he, as the streets were lively with the bustle of people. Naruto stopped to admire some pastries in the window of a shop, trying to figure out if the shopkeeper liked him enough yet to give him one for free... or at least not sell him one at an extortionary price. In the reflection of the glass, Naruto spotted a pair of dark-haired brothers, the elder carrying the younger. How sweet.
He focussed more of his attention on the pair when he spotted the Uchiha clan symbol emblazoned on the back of the kid’s shirt. With a blink, he realized that it was Sasuke. He almost hadn’t recognized him, as he was both young and happy. He supposed, then, that the one carrying him had to be… Itachi.
The older Uchiha was speaking to the younger with a small smile: a rarity among that family of angst-buckets. In response, the little Sasuke actually laughed. It was… bizarre. Almost surreal.
Sasuke was… actually happy.
Naruto turned to walk on with a smile. It truly was a wonderful day.
Suddenly, a thought struck Naruto, stopping him in his tracks with its intensity.
Oh, shit. What was he going to do about Itachi?
Author’s Note: Yes, what is Naruto going to be doing about Itachi? Find out next time…! :D
“There are some six-year-olds in the youngest class. Some five-year-olds too.” Was I the only one that thought “yay, ninja kindergarten!” at this line? Probably. D: I am such a dork.‑
Oh, and did anybody catch the Harry Potter reference(s)? There was also a “Howl’s Moving Castle” reference, but I myself didn’t realize until my sister pointed it out. Cookies to those who can correctly identify them!
Next Chapter: Changing Tactics
My authentic japanese name is 猿渡 Saruwatari (monkey on a crossing bridge) 真由 Mayu (true significance).
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So yay I've finished exams! :DD Now I can focus on
wasting my time watching anime/Korean dramas, writing fanfiction, and cleaning my room! :D I think that I did fairly well on all of them... I'm just happy that I finally got through that one take home exam (two essays to be written over the course of four days, on the nature of history). But it's all over and done with! :D
Oh, and it snowed for four days straight, as everyone seems to know... but it stopped today! :D yay! ... and then I look out the window, and yep, you've guessed it, it's started up again. D: Isn't it crazy that I'm technically on summer vacation, and yet it looks more like Christmas break outside?
And I'm definitely going to France this summer! :D And the Japan Expo, in Paris! ... which means that I've got to get working on my costume for the anime festival...
-Exert from Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Okay, so I just finished reading the abovementioned book during my spare today... And now I feel the urge to sing it's praises!
It's a wonderful book, and I have no wish to summarize it - it's just over 1,000 pages long (daunting, I know!) but you really should just read it yourself. The author's website is brilliant, and there are some good summaries up there, so here's a link: http://www.jonathanstrange.com/
I just thought that this book was just so brilliant! It's so layered in meaning, so seeped in history, languages, the culture of England (and English magic!); not to forget healthy doses of really realistic fantasy. :D Plus, I really heart Johnathan Strange... and I even get to like Mr.Norrell by the end.
Mr.Norrell's character is really amusing, as he's the first practical magician to show up for centuries in England, and so should be the most interesting thing since the piano-forte was invented... but he's just so boring to speak to! XD But there are many "aww" moments with the two gentleman-like magicians.
And the magic in this novel! It's much more believable than that of Harry Potter (my other magic love). The descriptions of talking stones, of John Uskglass, of "the gentleman with the thistle down hair", of the random several-page long digressional footnotes... :D There's just so much I love about this book!
I also began reading it alongside "Great Expectations" in English class. They're written in delibrately similar writing styles (the author of "J.S. & Mr.N" is brilliant for that, and many other things), but it was much more engaging than Great Expectations! They're even set in similar time periods. ... Woa, and I'm distracted because the sky just threw up outside my window. It's litterally raining buckets! And hail! Holy crap!
Okay I'm going to finish up incase there's a blackout.
Okay, I think I'm done now. But everyone, please read this book! It took the author ten years to write, and it really shows - it's a masterpiece!