Greetings, from Dogpatch (Skin Deep #3)

Image result for greetings from dogpatch skin deep book cover

 

This isn’t a mistake. I wasn’t thinking about whether there would be novels for the first two, so I’m beginning my review with the third, but the fact I’ve read this many should warm anyone else who hasn’t heard of this STELLAR online comic, and I may even perhaps go back eventually and review the first two for funsies. The bugbear Myra, Eustace, a fox spirit, Marshall, the raven spirit, and Gabe, the angel are currently driving into Arkansas in May, this being 2005. Myra is quite annoyed by her passengers and complaining about the reason Gabe is even along for the ride when he could fly, Eustace unable to shed light on his reasons, nor why he took the skull which had been given to a demon by Myra (this all being explained, here). Their next conversation has to do with whether Gabe is male or female, until he/she puts a stop to it, and they continue on their ride to Dogpatch.

When parking, Gabe notes how they had to get down there in an odd fashion, Eustace explaining how a tram used to be lowered down to the theme park when it was still open, a dryad currently keeping the place well hidden, even though it was right off the highway. After Myra points out how a Bigfoot was currently watching their movements, Gabe steps up to get the attention of whoever lived there, wanting to speak to the big kahuna, a chickadee, Hank with a shotgun sporting a trucker hat popping out near his feet. Myra’s had enough and states how Bigfoot let them pass, even though Hank was confused by how the group hadn’t been stopped, she then telling of only being there to pick something up and would be out of there quickly, since the place didn’t seem right. Marshall then steps up to vouch for Gabe being cool and they wanting to speak to Old Ivory about the guards.

Hank takes Gabe’s word when showing him the “nightmare” he was attempting to weed out the owner of, so Hank leads them all to where Old Ivory is, Marshall and Eustace then discussing how they agreed with Myra’s instinct about Dogpatch being out of the ordinary. The two then get into the last time Michelle and crew had run into the nightmare which was then related to the demons which were setting them up (Orientations and the One Eyed Bear being reference, the links, above). Hank then can’t stop himself from gabbing at Gabe due to not having ever been in the presence of an angel before and deciding to relate the communities history of where they traveled and how they picked up their guards. Then, before Hank could get into it, Gabe shuts down any questions he may have on religious topics and so Hank instead goes in to inform Ivory, a woodpecker of his visitors.

Gabe then interrupts to toss the nightmare into Ivory’s hands, he not knowing how the skull could’ve gotten to Missouri, nor how the demons picked it up, they having been searching for “her” for some months. Ivory then states how he’d been training some animals to take over his jobs when he was no longer there, Gabe inquiring into how he’d believed spirit animals were incapable of death, but Ivory’s case was due to most of the specific sort of woodpecker he represented had been dying out, and he was on the verge of being done, so he’d been having the other animals take care of the daily tasks whilst he trained them for the long-term workload, and Ivory didn’t have any hard feelings for humans causing the death of his species due to his long lifespan and curiosity of what came next.

After Ivory calls over the two who had been handling the responsibilities, but only one, Ricky arriving since the other, Obi was taking care of some specific sort of task, he apparently not being responsible for her disappearance, and they figuring she’d run away. Gabe asks a few pressing questions which suggested they hadn’t done much to aid the recovery of the nightmare, but Ricky makes clear how they’d been quite worried, and was annoyed when learning Gabe had found the nightmare a little while ago and hadn’t brought her back sooner, they then hearing a scream, Ricky believing Obi was in trouble and hoping the Howler didn’t have him. When they approach his yells, they see Myra looking pissed and relating how Obidiah was the cause of everything being off, and was getting ready to let the Howler out on them all, they thinking she’d gone crazy, but she adamant of Obi’s intentions being ill and making clear, bugbears were impossible to deceive.

Gabe questions further on Obi’s attitudes being odd recently, the critters confirming he’d been acting ill when the nightmare had left, but was working even harder as of lately, Obi agreeing he’d been getting too tired from work and pled to be released from Myra’s grip. Gabe then agrees Obi should be let down, but surprises everyone by bringing out his own weapon, Damien the demon then showing himself and looking pissed. As Gabe attempts to learn more about why Damien was turning up and seemingly trying to get closer to Michelle, Damien’s smart ass answers are getting on Gabe’s nerves, he making him pay for it with more pain. When Damien finally gives him a reason for the “Dark Lord’s” reason for tracking Michelle, Gabe is again thwarted by Damien’s resistance in divulging more. Gabe then tears Damien out of Obi, Gabe turning on the group of creatures to learn whom had figured out their close friend had been infested and no one stepping forward, Gabe properly pissed, and when inquiring if Myra had sensed any other demons about, she confirming there were none.

Then Obi describes how he hadn’t any control over himself and what it had felt like, not recalling much of anything whilst he’d been overtaken. Hank then elaborates about the caves nearby when Gabe considers how quickly the demons seemed to be able to return upon his sending them to hell, and demands Obi show him to this “not much sink” cave. Gabe then explains how hellmouths work and the one in the cave being shut could waylay a demon fairly well. After Obi shows where the cave was, he meekly asks to go, since he didn’t want to tempt another demon with his bod, Gabe agreeing to this, he then divvying out tasks for the other creatures whilst he dealt with what was within the cave, the one for Eustace being hilarious and adorably simple.

Marshall notes his tone to Eustace, but Gabe dismisses him what with not feeling he should have to keep an eye on him for he not being a fighter, Marshall and Myra following him deeper into the cave. Soon they approach an orange oozing mess from their high vantage point, Myra stating of it most likely being part of the cause for the odd senses she’d gotten from the place. Gabe then suggests Myra help him deal with some demons whilst Marshall brought along some buddy birds to draw attention, a view of an oddly shaped hole with what look like teeth coming out of the ground shown, which then reveals why a hellmouth is named as such. Myra is hella happy to do her duty and Gabe encourages her to do so, since some demons were currently taking the opportunity to crawl into the world, Marshall using his birdy friends to distract them as Myra walks up, big bear form ready to do some damage.

As Myra baits one of the creatures, Gabe stabs the other and takes a smoke break, the crows, meanwhile, do their job of flying about, but many also get too close to the teeth and are smushed. Gabe then steps up to attempt another phrase in whatever language which is shown, chopping at the hellmouth head right after another demon comes out, whom apparently was a bunch of other demons’ distractions, but fortunately, Gabe commands Marshall to continue his attack at the mullet demon and Myra informs Gabe of their coming,  so he begins saying some more magic speak. Damien had returned once more, and his buddy Mikhail upon seeing Myra, ditches the crew when one of the others suggest they attack them, but Myra gets up in Mikhail’s face as he explains how he didn’t want to fool around with her or Gabe. As Myra has the demon in a bear hug, another demon is looking irritated about their hellmouth dying, but as Gabe is fighting another, the little demon pushes Gabe into the hellmouth as it makes one last roar of defeat (to be fair, I’m feeling a little badly for the hellmouth, it didn’t do nuffin’ and Gabe takes him out easy as lemon meringue).

This new development pauses Myra and Marshall, but they then see Gabe’s spear pierce through the hellmouth, and when he emerges looking grim, one out of three of the demons have booked it, the other two standing and staring in shock. This definitely doesn’t help the two though, since Gabe lets out his anger and envelops them in holy light, Myra properly impressed. Gabe turns on her and notifies of the demon she’d been cuddling had escaped, Mikhail still sprinting for freedom, and feeling close to success when seeing the outside, but upon climbing the rock face out, realizes his strolling out into the world won’t be so cut and dry. As Gabe, Marshall, and Myra rush off after him, Eustace is looking pleased and gives props for Gabe having thought to give him his coat to hold, this being the item which had recaptured Mikhail (who has a multiple way of spelling his name, apparently), and Eustace not catching the look of surprise on his face. As Mikhail pleads for Gabe to let him stay, the latter gives him the opportunity to make himself useful with the need for information, but Mikhail has none to offer, so Gabe takes him out. He then relates now the hellmouth was closed in the area, the demons would have a more difficult time coming back, and wouldn’t be able to do so anywhere near Dogpatch. Eustace and Marshall also inquire if Michelle was still in danger, Gabe’s answer not a comforting one, and when Myra states she still didn’t understand Gabe, he was cool with it.

Another interesting episode, and onward I go!

 

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The Golden Days (The Story of the Stone, Vol. 1)

Image result for the story of the stone vol 1 book cover

The reader is presented by a question which may arise during the book’s beginnings, it possibly seeming to cross the line of odd, but more happening under the surface. Years previously, Nü-wa, a goddess, fixes the sky, she using a mountain to make “building blocks” and using all, but one which is left near Green-sickness Peak in the Great Fable Mountains. The block, or Stone contains powers, due to having been constructed by the goddess, it able to move and change its size.

The Stone is also self-aware, knowing it hadn’t been wanted in the reparations of the sky and feeling left out. During this bad mood, it notices a monk and Taoist walking quite a ways away, but are approaching the peak the Stone is on, the two chatting whilst resting. The monk sees and picks up the Stone, it having made itself smaller, and speaks to it of knowing it was special and planned on etching on it to show others the same who wouldn’t be able to travel there; the Stone was quite pleased. The monk stows the Stone away, and wouldn’t reveal the destination he planned for it, the Narrator not knowing, either.

An unknown amount of time later, another monk passes the same area and sees a rock with a length of text written on it. Vanitas the monk reads about the rock’s origins and how after he’d been brought to society, he’d lived as a human and achieved nirvana, then came back. The history of his life follows, the one piece of information not shared is the era this occurred, a little poem following, which wonders whom would go about sharing its story.

Vanitas replies to the rock directly of his feelings on how the story would be perceived without certain details and not making much of a hit, the Stone stating how its story put many perspectives uniquely which would separate its story from those already out. Vanitas breaks it down for it, the risque escapades and depravity of females only supplying interest to a certain sort. Most of its stories involved an assortment of differently themed “romances”, Vanitas continuing to explain why the genre wasn’t a strong one, the Stone defending the possibility it had some redeeming qualities, also speaking of how no part was exaggerated.

Vanitas gives in upon a second reading when seeing the Stone’s words were true. Upon returning, Vanitas had begun “in the Void (which is Truth)”, and returns there, deciding to be called “Brother Amor, or the Passionate Monk”, since he’d regained the Truth through Passion, as well as giving the book the new title of “The Tale of Brother Amor”. The book from there receives four more titles through the years, Cao also being mentioned titling it, “The Twelve Beauties of Jinling“, and the title eventually being given its original one back. Regardless of this, the details within, all being based in reality (which is apparently true after having skimmed the introduction), but the characters and occurrences not being vouched for, at the same time.

Many years before, the world angled differently, the city of Soochow had a certain section which was among the richest. Near this area lived a man, Zhen Shi-Yen with his wife, Feng-Shi, the two not high in financial standing, but had respect from those living in the area. Shi-Yen was an unassuming personality with only a daughter, Ying-lian. One day, Shi-Yen falls asleep whilst reading and views a Taoist and monk strolling and chatting. They discuss where the monk planned on placing the Stone to experience life alongside everyone else.

The monk explains how the Stone had gotten as far as it had by chance, and had located a fairy. This fairy housed the Stone temporarily and bequeathed it “the honorary title of Divine Luminescent Stone-in-Waiting in the Court of Sunset Glow” (a mouthful, which is why I’m being picky about what to share). The Stone spent its time near Magic River where he began giving water to Crimson Pearl Flower, she partially heavenly, so with this additive, transforms into a girl (the more I read makes me see how Madeline Bassett would adore this story). Crimson Pearl is soon plagued by how she’d return the favor to the Stone, believing the only way would be to live a life together as humans. So, for this reason, the monk was bringing the Stone to where the fairy planned to send the assortment of entities to experience human living.

Shi-Yen believes he is overhearing a crazy rant, then hears the monk say some words which worry him, Ying-lian being grasped more tightly by him, the Taoist and monk then decide to meet up again later, Shi-Yen wishing he’d spoken up to inquire about the monk’s words, but is interrupted by a student – Jia Yu-cun, as Shi-Yen was now near his own door, some background then given on the young man’s hard times. Yu-cun greets him warmly, Shi-Yen explaining his being outside was to calm Ying-lian from being upset, he then offers Yu-cun to sit inside and chat with him, due to the slowness of the day.

A servant leads the girl inside as Shi-Yen heads for his office with Yu-cun for tea, soon after, having to rush out for a Mr. Yan having dropped in, Yu-cun entertains himself with looking through some of Shi-Yen’s books, until seeing a girl outside picking flowers, she fetching somehow, then by chance, catching sight of him, she also pleased with his looks. When she turns to leave, then glances back twice at him, Yu-cun takes this as a sign of interest, he waiting only a little longer after learning from a servant boy this guest may be staying for supper, he deciding to go, and when Shi-Yen eventually gets his guest out, decides he wouldn’t be asking him to return when noticing Yu-cun had left.

Later, Shi-Yen goes to offer dinner to the young man after the Mid Autumn festival and supper with his family had been finished. Yu-cun was still thinking of Shi-Yen’s servant girl, Shi-Yen walking in on Yu-cun spouting poetry in relation to her, the two reconvening in his office for wine and food. As they drank and ate, the two become more comfortable with each other until Yu-cun bursts out with more poetry, Shi-Yen congratulating his talent with more wine.

Yu-cun then gets serious about his means of acquiring a lucrative career due to travel costs (I feels ya, buddy). Shi-Yen had been hoping this subject would be broached, since he hadn’t wanted to insult him by offering, but now he’s confided in him, he insisted on fronting all cost for his journey and immediately takes care of everything. Yu-cun didn’t make a big deal out of Shi-Yen’s charity, the two having fun until after twelve at night. When they parted, Shi-Yen sleeps in until noon, and upon waking, plans to set up a place for Yu-cun to stay, but learns he’d decided to leave before dawn, so the issue was let go.

Fifteenth Night brought bad tidings when Shi-Yen has a servant take out Ying-lian to look at the lights, and when the man leaves her on a step whilst relieving himself, the child goes missing, the servant searching until dawn and when not recovering her, leaves town in shame without informing Shi-Yen. He and his wife send out a search party, but Ying-lian isn’t found, the two becoming sick after a month or so, doctors looking after them until a monk living in the Temple next door, has an accident with oil and many houses are destroyed, including of course, the Zhens.

Shi-Yen is distraught over this misfortune, and had planned for them to move to their farm in the country, but the area had become dangerous, so Shi-Yen sells his land and they hole up with his wife’s father-in-law, Feng Su, whom whilst not happy with how they’d turned up, was comforted by his finances from his farm, he supposed to locate them a comfortable new place, but taking half and setting them up with a crap hut and unhealthy land. Not knowing how to recover his bad luck, Feng Su didn’t make his life easier by offering crap advice and then talking shit about Shi-Yen behind his back, he hearing of it later, and this helping his health get worse, his older age not aiding his recovery.

At some point in the future, Shi-Yen is taking a walk and hears a Taoist repeating some words, as he approaches closer, he asks for the man to clarify, since only hearing two words repeated, the monk declaring the words to be important ones and so had understood enough, Shi-Yen then offers more verses, the Taoist pleased, and Shi-Yen deciding then to accompany the mad man and informing no one. Well after this, his wife hears by rumor and is broken by the information, Shi-Yen not found when she’d sent for updates of him. She moves in with her parents and contributes by quilting, and one of her two maids was shopping when a bureaucrat is brought past, she recognizing him, but not recalling where. In the night, Feng Su is dumbfounded when learning someone from his house was wanted at the bureaucrat’s headquarters.

Yamen runners outside inform a smiling Feng Su, Shi-Yen was being summoned and when Feng Su shares how Shi-Yen had left a year previously to become a Taoist, the runners take him instead, his family and servants in fear of what could be happening. It was well into the night before Feng Su had gotten back home, everyone having questions, so Feng Su describes how this new mandarin, a Hu-zhou named Jia used to know Shi-Yen way back when, and had deduced he’d moved and was tipped off they would know where he was because of the woman, Lucky selling quilts in the doorway, and when Feng Su explains where Shi-Yen had gone, was unhappy to learn of this, then upon discovering what had occurred to Ying-lian, decides to send his own search party, expecting better results, and after speaking with each other a little more, Feng Su readies to leave, and Jia gives him silver pieces, his wife stunned by his story and the night passing calmly. Early in the day a package from Yu-cun is delivered to Feng-shi, as well as a letter to Feng Su to inquire if Feng-shi would allow him to take Lucky as his second wife (how sweet…), Feng Su pressing how significant it was she should comply, so they immediately ship Lucky off, and Yu-cun is so happy, he showers them with gifts, especially Feng-shi, to keep her occupied until Ying-lian was found.

Lucky apparently caught a good turn, since she bore Yu-cun a son fairly quickly, and was upgraded when Yu-cun’s first wife dies. Yu-cun’s progress after finishing school is followed, he getting the position of magistrate of the district fairly fast, but unfortunately, had a bad habit of out-thinking the higher-ups and making them seem foolish, so he was soon given a bad report of conduct, getting fired, but takes the news well, settling his family in his hometown with the riches he’d accrued and beginning to travel.

Yu-cun was in Yangchow when learning a Lin Ru-hai was also staying in the area, the man’s background being related to royalty, but his family line dying off and his only son having been lost the previous year. He had a daughter though, Dai-yu, she showing promise and so was educated a bit to take their minds off their son dying. Yu-cun had been ill recently and upon recovering for the most part, realized he needed to replenish his funds, so upon running into some buddies who knew the Salt Commissioner, Lin Ru-hai he was able to secure the position as tutor.

Due to it seeming the little girl dictated when she’d be taught, Yu-cun had plenty more time to recuperate, then Dai-yu’s mother falls ill and dies, the young girl’s lessons falling to the wayside in her grief, she also now becoming periodically sick, Yu-cun beginning to take strolls more often to ease his idleness. One day he walks out of town and sees a temple going to ruin, he reading the name of the place and the gate which had a poem written upon it, curious to learn the history of the place, but upon entering, only finding a deaf and half blind monk, whom wasn’t able to answer his inquiries.

So, Yu-cun leaves and heads for a neighboring village inn for some wine, there meeting an acquaintance, Leng Zi-xing, he having a good sense of business and the two admiring the other. Yu-cun asks how he’d come to be there, Zi-xing having been visiting a buddy by chance, the two then sitting and catching up on their lives since they’d last spoken, Yu-cun asking about anything notable happening in the area, Zi-xing recalling a small event in regard to a distant relative of Yu-cun, his family not normally considering themselves a part of the others family, due to their high class. Zi-xing describes how apparently their houses had fallen a bit, the time in which it occurred surprising Yu-cun.

Zi-xing states how the relation of how it happened would take some time, he clarifying how they hadn’t lost everything, but there having been the cinching of the belt, inwardly, the main problem stemming from the male progeny not living up to standards. Yu-cun is shocked to learn the families wouldn’t have continued the degree of education they’d been known for, Zi-xing giving background of the two heads of households, the men being brothers, one, Ning’s grandson becoming a Taoist and uninterested in any other matters, he having a son, whom in turn had a son, whom was currently a teenager, his father not taking responsibility and living a life of debauchery and no one willing to snap the man into shape.

The other side, Rong’s eldest, marrying into a well known family and having two sons, after he passed away, his wife surviving him, and his eldest taking over responsibility in title but not doing what was necessary for the household, his younger brother being urged to continue his education and going up the ranks in his field, he marrying and having a son, this son dying young, but also having a son, his wife then having a daughter after, and another son born with a piece of jade in his mouth twelve years later, this being the odd part Zi-xing was referring, Yu-cun unable to argue.

This youngest son, Bao-yu had been tested with objects of the family mixed in with different sorts of trinkets, he drawn to the items which were female in nature, his father displeased, but his grandmother doting on the boy. It didn’t end there though, Bao-yu now ten and naughtily clever, the boy precocious, Yu-cun saw this boy’s heritage in a certain light, Zi-xing wishing for him to clarify, so Yu-cun lists good men verses the bad ones, and stating their circumstances, as well as how it related to their current state of living in the world, the state of the world currently on the upswing of good tidings, and how pure humor over “perverse humours” tended to dissipate in certain environments, and on the off-chance the two should meet, being in constant opposition, they sometimes made their way into a human host, then upon this person’s upbringing, excelled in certain areas, which regardless of status, showed itself in some way, he again listing good and bad men.

Yu-cun then relates an experience with a small boy he’d been tutoring whom would also be among the bad, and Zi-xing mentions how like the little boy’s female counterparts, the girls in the Jia family were also good and clever. They then discussed how this family named their girls like the boys, which was unusual, Yu-cun learning his current employer’s late wife was named similarly, Zi-xing offering he research his words, but Yu-cun realizing it must be true with how her daughter, Dai-yu wrote and spoke, she also a part of the Jia family on the Rong’s side. They then wonder who the younger generation would be married off to, Sir Zheng having another son after Bao-yu, from one of his concubines.

After which they discuss Sir She’s having a son, as well, and also how this son had already gotten married within the family, to a cousin through marriage, and whilst he helped manage the family estate, his wife overshadowed him in more ways than one. Zi-xing then decides they should continue to drink after their hearty chat, Yu-cun noticing how the hour was getting on and they should walk and talk, so they made it to the city gates before they shut for the night, and right when they’re readying to leave, Yu-cun is recognized and given commendation, as well as being told of this person having fortuitous information for him.

Yu-cun recognizes an associate of his, Zhang Ru-gui, he also having been let go, and this area being his hometown, he sharing how he learned of ex-officials getting rehired, so there being a possibility for himself to get set up with a new position, he sharing this information with Yu-cun and then hastening onward, Zi-xing believing Yu-cun should use his connection to Ru-hai so he could do the same, Yu-cun agreeing, and the two going their separate ways.

When Yu-cun returns he makes certain the news was authentic before asking Ru-hai, but when he does inquire, the man was eager to do him this favor, then sharing with Yu-cun of having written a letter to his brothers-in law, Yu-cun’s distant relatives, Jia She and having addressed it to the younger brother, Jia Zheng. Ru-hai then states how much easier it’d be if Yu-cun accompanied Dai-yu to the capital, she not wanting to leave, but her grandmother and father convincing her what with having more female role-models by moving, she reluctantly going, and when Yu-cun arrives, he gets seen by Jia Zheng in good time, Ru-hai’s recommendation on top of his being impressed by Yu-cun’s scholarly nature, helping him get his job back as magistrate in another city.

Dai-yu, along with her maids are greeted by covered chairs from the mansion when stepping on land, they having traveled by barge. She notices the odd quality of servants and watched herself in case she made a wrong move. They were brought to the Rong Guo House, her maids helping her out of the curtained chair and walk through the grounds until meeting some loitering ladies who mention of Lady Jia having recently inquired about her, the attendant announcing she’d arrived and her grandmother greeting her with emotion, Dai-yu kotowing after they’d calmed. Her grandmother then introduced their female members of the family and sending for the children, two out of three of the girls each having a distinct virtue, the youngest only seeming still a child.

When tea was readied, the subject of choice turned to the events surrounding Dai-yu’s mother’s illness and death, refreshing her grandmother’s upset, she declaring how Dai-yu’s mother had been her favorite, so was understandably broken up. They then ask about Dai-yu’s obvious health issue, she stating no doctor had been able to cure her, so she only taking ginseng, they then hearing someone loudly pleasant approaching and announcing of being late, a lady entering whom was breathtaking and dressed like royalty, Lady Jia introducing her by a nickname of Peppercorn Feng, but a cousin revealing this was Jia Lian’s wife, Wang Xi-feng, Dai-yu using her given name when greeting her, and after Xi-feng gives her a once over, is quite candid about her beauty and she taking after the Jias, she then offering Dai-yu any comfort she desired and to let her know if someone was mean to her, she also commanding servants to be sure rooms were readied for her servants, she also making certain where the platters of food coming in were set.

Meanwhile, Dai-yu overhears her Aunt Wang discuss with Xi-feng there being silks brought so they could make some clothes for her, Xi-feng having taken care of it, and when her grandmother was ordering servants to take Dai-yu to her uncles, Xi-feng offers to accompany her, she taking Dai-yu by the hand and leading her out, they being driven to Xi-feng and She’s residence. Xi-feng has him called when they enter, but he wasn’t feeling well at the moment, but wanting Dai-yu to feel comfortable enough to tell her family if she needed anything to feel even more at ease and at home, Xi-feng then invites her to dine with her, but Dai-yu knew she was still expected by her other uncle, Zheng, she being escorted by the servants, back to the Rong mansion, Dai-yu seeing an ornate side of the home she had yet experienced, the hall within resplendent with beautiful furniture and scripts on the walls.

Dai-yu is brought to her Aunt Wang, in a side room, she sitting in a chair and brought tea, but is requested to move to where Wang was in another part of the room on some cushions, Dai-yu again refused to sit in her uncle’s place of honor, opposite Wang, but she coaxing Dai-yu to sit near her, explaining her uncle wouldn’t be able to see her today, but having to speak with her of the three girls they for the most part being well-behaved, but her son a major nuisance and of whom should be ignored.

Dai-yu then realizes this must be Bai-yu she referred, Wang explaining how due to his grandmother spoiling him, he continued to stay with the girls, so she shouldn’t trust what he says due to his chaotic nature. Wang then receives word it was time for supper, so leads Dai-yu across the grounds, also showing her where Xi-feng lived in case she had any requests, they then going to her grandmother’s quarters, where she resisted the place of honor, but learned it was her because her elder cousins wives wouldn’t be joining them, so Dai-yu goes through the proper etiquette before sitting.

The custom between dishes was certainly new to Dai-yu, they having tea for rinsing their mouths and different tea for drinking. Grandmother Jia then requests to speak to the children alone, everyone leaving, Grandmother Jia inquiring what books Dai-yu was studying (the four books, I presume), the girl asking about what her cousins were reading in return, and Grandmother Jia stating they could barely read and write, Bai-yu then being heard, and when entering, his appearance given (the poetic parts of this story isn’t cumbersome or hard to understand like some, and brings a nice airy description which is pleasant), Dai-yu somehow recognizing him and wondering why, he greeting Grandmother Jia, and she instructing him to visit his mother and return, he off to do as she bid and coming back quickly in different clothes, the boy even getting a song to go with his appearance (Moon on West River as background) and personality, it made quite clear he was a brat.

When his grandmother instructs he say hello to his cousin, he assesses her for some time before voicing her thought of having met her before, he then asking her questions about study and giving her a school name, he then asking if she had a jade, she stating it wasn’t common, which Bai-yu has a fit over, his grandmother attempting to calm him as he explains how his cousin, whom was so angelic didn’t have one and questioned it being of good value, quite upset.

Grandmother Jia comes up with the story of Dai-yu having used to have one, but buried it with her mother, this calming the boy, two servants then asking Grandmother Jia where she wanted Dai-yu to sleep, she deciding Bai-yu would bunk with her and Dai-yu would have his place, but Bai-yu convinces she let him stay with the girls. One of Bai-yu’s nurses hears Dai-yu still up after they’d all settled in the tent and asks what was wrong, her nurse explaining how terribly she felt for setting Bai-yu off and would’ve been responsible if he’d broken the jade.

Aroma, as Bai-yu named her, or Pearl, makes Dai-yu aware of how this was pittance to what Bai-yu could be like, so she should calm herself and sleep, Dai-yu grateful to hear this and doing so. Early next morning, after greeting Grandmother Jia, Dai-yu goes to her Aunt Wang’s and learns from another family member, Xue Pan had killed someone and need the help of the family, it already under investigation and they discussing whether to have him stay with them.

So, Dai-yu walked in to hear Aunt Wang speak with the messengers of her eldest brother and wife about their Aunt’s family in Nanking being a part of this manslaughter case, and due to Wang being busy with this, Dai-yu and the other girls go see Li Wan, her husband, Jia Zhu having died at a young age, but giving her a son, Jia Lan, now five and already starting his education. Li Wan was the daughter of Li Shou-zhong, whom when becoming head of the family, decided the females wouldn’t continue to receive a higher level of education and focus on needlework, what with a big believer of a dumb woman being virtuous or some shit.

Dai-yu is able to easily adjust to life among these ladies, though due to their mild natures. Now, Jia Yu-cun had begun his position as yamen in Ying-tian-fu, the manslaughter case soon becoming a part of his workload, it involving two sides fighting over the payment of a slave, one side getting fatally injured. Yu-cun hears first from the murdered man’s side, a worker of this man, whom relays how his “master” hadn’t known the slave he’d bought had been stolen goods, and the seller supposed to have deposited the slave to him three days later, but the seller instead turning around and selling her to Xue Pan. This man and his master going off to retrieve the slave, and Xue Pan sicking his bodyguards on them, beating his master to death, and Xue Pan along with the other guilty parties going to ground, this man waiting a year for justice, pleading with Yu-cun to locate the guilty parties.

Yu-cun is outraged by nothing being done, but catches the eye of a door-keeper before issuing a summons, he instead clearing the room, save this man, whom speaks of having known Yu-cun for over ten years, and after a hint of having met at the Temple, remembered him as a young monk, this man deciding to change his career after the fire. Yu-cun then asks why he’d halted his duties, the man informing Yu-cun how officials usually had a manual which listed the most powerful people of their district one would be better off not touching toes with.

Yu-cun hadn’t heard of this, and so the man continues why Xue Pan hadn’t been brought in being because of this, the man then showing the pamphlet, after which they hear a ring indicating Mr. Wang had come, Yu-cun dealing with the man, then returning, the door-keeper finishing his chat by stating how many influential people Xue Pan had to help him, Yu-cun confessing how he obviously had to deal with the case somehow, he then presuming this man must know more, which he doesn’t deny and even offers to detail.

The murdered man was called Feng Yuan, and he had no relatives when his parents died, he having been surviving off his minuscule inheritance, only eighteen or nineteen years old and gay, but apparently saw this slave and was ready to make an honest woman of her, which is why he’d decided to wait three days to give the impression it was similar to a wedding, so when both sides discovered what had happened, they caught him before he could get away and beat the crap out of him, but the issue stemming from both sides wanting the slave and not wanting what they’d paid returned to them, so Xue Pan had Feng Yuan assaulted and brought home, he expiring three days later.

Before all of this had occurred, Xue Pan was already planning to go to the capital, so he still left with the slave and his family, acting like a pampered rich man would, and leaving the clean up to his help. The clincher, though is whom the slave was, Yu-cun learning it was Ying-lian, which this door-keeper knew, since he’d been a playmate of hers way back, and also knew the kidnapper had a system of raising girls until old enough to sell them, he also recognizing her birthmark.

The door-keeper had gotten wind of her presence because the kidnapper rented one of his rooms, Ying-lian staying quiet when he confronted her out of fear of repercussions, then breaking down and admitting she recalled nothing, but this young man being certain of her origins. The night the kidnapper had been paid, Ying-lian started talking with him and felt like she would finally have some peace, until she learned of the three day wait, this young man’s wife seeing her to instill optimism, she stating how the future date meant she’d be living like a woman rather than a worker, and how much he paid showing the amount he cared, and not to worry about the time-frame, and her words seeming to have worked, but then Xue Pan getting involved, and he not having considerate intentions for her, beating her until she willingly came with him, this young man not knowing whether she still lived, so the fact Feng Yuan had gone through all of this with plans to settle only to be killed was a terrible fate. Yu-cun thought Feng Yuan’s sudden change of sexual interest must mean it was kismet, and poor Ying-lian, so close to being pardoned by her lot in life, only to have her suffering prolonged intimated the same.

On top of this, Xue Pan is a man whom divided his time with other women, and it being a terrible situation which Yu-cun now had to decide how to handle the next move, legally, the young man reminding him how Xue Pan may be related to the Jias through marriage, but Yu-cun already being on good terms with one of the family, so perhaps he should make himself even more esteemed to them. Yu-cun noted his newly appointed position being in a delicate area, since it was still so new, but the young man making the point of he not doing his job properly, and how would he could show he’s truly grateful for it, but no matter what he decided, it dictated careful consideration.

Yu-cun takes a moment before inquiring the young man’s opinion, he having thought the next day, Yu-cun should go about business as usual, but with a firm hand, bringing in Xue Pan’s family and workers to be questioned, and the young man would be getting Xue Pan’s people to claim he’d died of a sickness which would then be corroborated by their neighbors, Yu-cun would then get a special table to speak with the afterlife and offer anyone being allowed to come, and proceed by stating Feng Yuan had unfinished business with Xue Pan from a previous life, which he dealt with after death by making Xue Pan ill, and due to this whole debacle being started by the kidnapper, he alone would from there on be held accountable and all others free of guilt.

The young man would then get the kidnapper to agree to confession, and then the people would have no reason to question Yu-cun’s claims. He then would give the Fengs reparations for cost of the funeral, and Xue Pan already being rich, wouldn’t bat an eye about the cost. Yu-cun was entertained by the young man’s idea, but would give it a bit more of a ponder to ensure the public wouldn’t gossip. Yu-cun speaks with the Fengs the following day, the young man correct about they only wanting money and bringing the case to court because Xue Pan had denied them, so he had the Fengs agree to an amount and then wrote a couple letters detailing the issue had been handled. Yu-cun then became paranoid by how much the young man knew, and so waited until he caught him in a minor crime and had him sent to the military, this easing his mind.

Next, Xue Pan is followed, his father dying whilst Xue Pan was a boy and his mother spoiling him to the point of damaging his character. Due to his family’s wealth, he loved expensive things and spoke in a snotty manner, and regardless of education, was practically illiterate. He loved gambling and the sights, he also being technically employed by way of his father and grandfather, but only collected a paycheck without doing any work.

Xue Pan’s mother was the younger half sister of Wang Zi-teng and younger sister of Lady Wang, she over fifty years old now, and as for Xue Pan’s sibling, she called Bao-chai, younger and beautiful, was favored by their father, so was educated and smarter than Xue Pan, but upon their father’s death, she gave up continuing her education in order to help her mother.

The “upside” to this was the females of important officials getting the chance to be chosen as educational partners for the younger female royals. Due to this, and Xue Pan wanting to experience the grander life in the capital, he had a few reasons to go, which included having his sister available to be chosen and replenish his allowance. So, all of this had been in motion well before meeting Ying-lian and second-hand murdering her seller. Hence, he going on his merry way, expecting to only need to pay a fine which his servants would handle in his absence. Whilst they were traveling, they learn his Uncle Wang wouldn’t be present due to a promotion, which Xue Pan didn’t share he was happy about, since he felt he could now truly let his freak flag fly.

Xue Pan proceeds in convincing his mother they should have somebody make certain the servants of the houses hadn’t let their friends stay, due to how long they’d been unoccupied, his mother not seeing the point of rushing, since they had plenty of time and room. Xue Pan considers how busy everyone will be in helping his uncle get ready to go as they turn up, but his mother reminds him, this was what the Jias were for, but she sensing what his problem was, and even suggesting he go off to pick a place for himself, whilst she and Bao-chai continued to his Aunt Jia’s, Xue Pan acquiescing to her wishes, since he knew he’d be required to stay regardless of her words.

Meanwhile, Lady Wang was calmed upon learning Xue Pan’s case was being handled by Yu-cun, but was apprehensive by her older brother, Wang Zi-teng leaving. So, the news of her sister having arrived with her kids and servants put her back in high spirits, they reuniting with emotion, visiting Grandmother Jia, giving their presents, and then having a grand family get-together during which Jia Zheng sends a note to Lady Wang offering to have her sister stay in the secluded house with her kids, Wang having wanted to invite them to stay with her, Grandmother Jia wanting the same, so Xue Pan could have an eye kept on him, believing if he had complete freedom, he’d get into more trouble, Xue accepting the offer and beginning to move them all in.

The home was located next to Lady Wang’s, the two sisters chatting daily along with Grandmother Jia, Bao-chai happy to mingle with Dai-yu and the other girls, Xue Pan the only one dissatisfied, to start with at any rate. He still planned on moving elsewhere, but had to agree to stay temporarily whilst his servants prepared another home. Xue Pan’s opinion soon changed upon hanging out with his male family members, they sinking him into worse depths, the patriarch of the family, Zheng too busy to keep everyone in check, he having become the go-to for Zhen, whom was supposed to be the one in charge. So, upon Xue Pan realizing he was in no danger of being reeled in, he and his newfound best buddies came and left when they pleased, their adventures to follow.

Dai-yu had become another favorite of Grandmother Jia, she receiving the same attentiveness as Bao-yu, the other girls holding each other in high esteem and much closer, since they were treated differently. Now Bao-chai had joined them, Dai-yu felt put off by her beauty and how well-liked she’d become with everyone, due to being unaware how personable she was, and Dai-yu setting herself apart because of how serious she acted about being proper. Bao-yu, on the other hand still maintained the attitudes of a child, so had no differentiation between family members unless living more closely to them, like with Dai-yu, he speaking too roughly with her and attempting to make up for it, which she was big enough, or gullible enough to accept.

As this occurs, Zhen’s wife, You-shi invites Grandmother Jia, Lady Xing and Wang to a party, her son, Jia Rong accompanying her, they having an uneventful time, up until Bao-yu decides he’d like a nap, Grandmother Jia preparing the servants to attend to him when Qin-shi, Jia Rong’s wife volunteers to take care of him, Grandmother Jia acquiescing, but Bao-yu immediately offended by the art on the walls of the room she’d led him to, and the phrases on the wall clinching his desire to leave, Qin-shi then offerring her own bedroom, which he agrees to, but the servants shocked by the idea of an uncle sleeping in a nephew’s wife’s bed, but she believing he was too young for the sort of thoughts the servants had in mind, speaking of her brother being around the same age as Bao-yu, he then wishing to meet him, but the boy currently away, and upon getting to her room, is overcome with sleepiness as a pleasant smell assaults his nose, and this room’s art and scripts more to his acceptance, Qin-shi then having some noisy cats on the roof outside attended to as Bao-yu sinks into unconsciousness and feels like Qin-shi is still with him, leading him to a stream near some trees, it looking as if humans had yet set foot there, and Bao-yu completely taken with the place. Then he hears a lady singing out of view, she heading in his direction, the poem which follows showing she was otherworldly, it being the description of the appearance of a lady like herself. Bao-yu knew she was a fairy and smiles warmly at her, requesting she show him around for not knowing where he was, she introducing herself as Disenchantment and she living in the Sea of Sadness, her home being in the Land of Illusion. She also describes her relation to the human world by connection of varying romantic dealings and had gone to this spot for sensing karmic love in the area and was gauging if her services could be given, Bao-yu a candidate. She then invites him to tea at her home, nearby and how she’d written a musical composition called “A Dream of Golden Days”, Bao-yu so overcome by the offer, he’d forgotten to wonder where Qin-shi had gone, he following Disenchantment to her home, Bao-yu curious about the details of her job, which unbeknownst to him, had given access to his body to a demon of Lust, his becoming tainted.

They walk through an area with buildings designated by certain themes, Bao-yu wishing to see inside them, but Disenchantment relaying it wouldn’t be right to have him see the females files regarding their future, but Bao-yu nags her until she allows him a moment to view inside the Department of the Ill-Fated Fair, it lined with cabinets labeled by city, Bao-yu seeing his and inquiring what else the label meant, he learning it contained the twelve best ladies in his area, two more cabinets detailing two dozen more, and all other females remaining unlisted. Bao-yu takes a look at one of the other two, and opens a hard-case folder with a picture and verse on the two pages he viewed before looking at a different cabinet, still confused by the album he chose, and looking at the main cabinet, and unable to understand the words, and knowing Disenchantment wouldn’t explain it, but he continuing looking through the book, filled with pictures on one side and an accompanying poem, which warned and spoke of love, loss, and possibly even danger. As it goes on, the fate of women Bao-yu may know is spoken of in riddles. When Disenchantment believes he was becoming too wise on the information he was reading, she takes the book and decides they should move along, Bao-yu next within the back part of the mansion, he hearing Disenchantment hurriedly coax other fairies out to meet him, but they being unimpressed, having been expecting a reunion with Crimson Pearl, Bao-yu now uncomfortable, and Disenchantment explaining how she’d been going to retrieve Crimson Pearl, but was waylaid by two Dukes asking for her services of which she couldn’t pass, involving Bao-yu and their request to have his virginity taken on the chance it would sober his nature and aid him to navigate life with a clear mind. Disenchantment decided to fulfill their wish, his look at the records not doing the trick, so leading him there so he could experience a good party, she bringing him inside. Bao-yu then inquires the scent he smelled, she sharing it was nothing he’d be able to detect on his world, and giving the name.

After they sit, Bao-yu tastes the tea given him and is again desirous to know what it was called, Disenchantment telling where it came from, as well as what it was called, Maiden’s Tears. He surveys the room they were in before asking the names of the other fairies, they all having odd monikers like Disenchantment. When they sit at the table for wine and food, Bao-yu asks about the wine, it coming from flowers and tree extracts, twelve dancers then entering, Disenchantment requesting they perform her musical. She then informs Bao-yu may want to read about the piece so he could better understand it, the poems of the performance, following. The description has each songs lyrics, telling of past lovers, in twelve songs not including the prelude and epilogue, and by the conclusion, Disenchantment could see Bao-yu had lost interest, he requesting to be allowed to nap, she leading him to a little bedroom where a fairy girl sat, she exuding similarities to both Bao-chai and Dai-yu, Disenchantment stating how lust played into all attraction, regardless of men saying it was beauty they were attracted by, she confessing his lust was the strongest she’d seen which her affection for him stemmed, Bao-yu intimidated. He confides how he didn’t truly understand the meaning and believed he was still too young to be listed as such. Disenchantment clarifies her meaning by defining how many sorts of lust there were, his type being listed as “lust of the mind”, which couldn’t be described. She goes on to confide this is why she’d shared tea and wine with him, as well as the musical, and would also be paired with her sister, Two-in-one or Ke-qing to marry, they being bid to hook up this evening, so he could learn the construct of love and obtain an understanding and following of philosophy for everyone’s benefit.

Before Disenchantment leaves them to it, she advises Bao-yu on some techniques, he implementing them stupefied and baffled, but getting the deed done, Bao-yu by morning, in pure contentment, and the two walking out holding hands and somehow discover themselves surrounded by perils, Disenchantment yelling after them to return the way they’d come, Bao-yu inquiring where they were, and she explaining it was a place which could only be crossed by way of two ferrymen, demons then reaching for him to pull him into the water, he crying for Ke-qing’s help, his servants returning to him in fear, and consoling him, Qin-shi outside and taking care of the noisy cats and dogs, surprised to hear him call out her childhood name, and curious how he could know.

Qin-shi doesn’t look into it, though and Bao-yu is getting helped by Aroma to straighten his pants, she feeling something like jizz, Bao-yu looking embarrassed, and after being returned to looking properly, finishes his meal with Grandmother Jia and then has a moment with Aroma when she supplies him with clean undies, he pleading she not say anything and then coaxed into sharing how it had happened, but she laughing at him when he was about to share the sex part of his dream, Bao-yu then makes advances on Aroma, she allowing this after some playful denial, this being part of the reason she had been given to him, and from then on Bao-yu gives her extra regard, she more loyal to him, as well, and his story now being left.

The next area to be covered is decided on with the arrival of this person happening on the day this was being recorded. The Rong mansion is visited by a local called Wang, this person unknown by most of the family, other than Lady Wang and her brother, Wang Xi-feng’s father. The grandfather, whom had known Xi-feng’s grandfather, the father of Lady Wang, dies and has his son carry on, Wang Chang, he leading a farmer’s life, and when he died, his son, Gou-er continuing this work with his wife and their two kids, Ban-er and Qing-er, Gou-er inviting his wife’s mother, Grannie Liu to live with them and help with the kids. She readily accepts his invitation, but soon has to put her food down when Gou-er is seen to be drunkenly making trouble for her daughter, due to his own stresses of the farm and winter closing in.

Grannie Liu reasons with him to take his stupidity to the city, since he couldn’t stop spending the little money he made, she believing they could still think of a remedy, and leave the details to God, she then remembering his relation to Lady Wang, Gou-er’s wife worried they’d get turned away and look ridiculous for the trip, Gou-er buoyed by the possibility, suggesting Grannie Liu go first to survey for them, but she stating how they wouldn’t know her, until Gou-er suggests she take Ban-er with her and call on Zhou, whom knew his father, Grannie Liu seeing the logic behind his idea and having herself and Ban-er ready in the morning, the four to five year old boy gladly learning some phrases Grannie Liu taught him for the ladies at the mansion. They soon arrive and she leads them through a side entrance and speaks with some men loitering on the grounds, eventually being told to hang about at a certain gate where she’d be met by someone from the house, but an older man advising she see Zhou’s wife, since he was currently away on business, then directing her to where she could be located.

Grannie Liu asks a young boy where Mrs. Zhou lived upon following the directions, he showing them and calling out to her, Zhou Rui coming out and soon recognizing Grannie Liu and inviting her inside. Grannie Liu doesn’t share the true reason she’d come, instead stating how they’d come to see her and see “Her Ladyship”, Zhou Rui’s wife fairly able to deduce Grannie Liu’s real reasons for visiting, but knowing her son-in-law’s father had helped her husband when he’d required and was wanting an excuse to show off her own power, so responds with great charity, explaining her usual job and willing to go against protocol to relay a message to Her Ladyship, she sharing how her niece, Wang Xi-feng managed the place now, Grannie Liu thanking her for her kindness and she dismissing it for it not being an issue. She sends a maid to see how far along Lady Jia’s lunch was, and upon hearing what part they were in, gets Grannie Liu to join her before Mrs. Lian became to busy, she having the two wait whilst she spoke with Xi-feng’s closest servant, Patience whom decided the two could wait inside with her.

Grannie Liu first is overcome by the perfumed room and then its grandeur, Patience deciding to be polite once viewing the old woman and invites her to sit, everyone getting comfortable before proceeding with tea, Grannie Liu noticing a loud ticking and then being surprised by a loud bell sounding, all servants and Mrs. Zhou readying for Xi-feng to appear, the two going to the next room whilst Grannie Liu waited to be called, Zhou Rui’s wife coming in for her and Xi-feng not realizing she’d brought her in already, Grannie Liu showing her respect and Xi-feng requesting she stop for not knowing how they were related, yet and after, Ban-er too intimidated to give respect to his “Auntie”. Xi-feng then has Zhou Rui’s wife see if Her Ladyship, presumably Grandmother Jia, was busy, Zhou Rui’s wife returning to relay Grandmother Jia wouldn’t be seeing them, but to share any message with Xi-feng.

Grannie Liu declines and Zhou Rui’s wife giving a look which spoke of she getting a final chance to confess her thoughts, and so was about to do so when interrupted by the arrival of Xi-feng’s nephew, Jia Rong, whom had come to inquire on the behalf of his father to borrow a little glass screen which she at first pretended had already been borrowed, but soon has Patience get the key, Jia Rong so happy he goes off to gather his own servants to carry the load rather than have hers be put out, but Xi-feng asks he return, so later she could share something with him, and when he leaves once more, Grannie Liu gets into how destitute they were and food being scarce, then attempting to get Ban-er to say his little phrases, but he being too busy eating sweets, Xi-feng mercifully allowing this to pass and states she didn’t have to continue, ordering a guest-sized meal to be brought to them, Zhou Riu’s wife doing so, and the speaking with Xi-feng in private of what Grandmother Jia had said in more detail, it about how Grannie Liu wasn’t a blood relative, but was quite close to the family, so would leave it up to Xi-feng as to how much she chose to help them, Xi-feng then returning to relay how she knew they must be living in hard times and would give them some silver to return home with, Grannie Liu relaying how grateful she was before following Zhou Riu’s wife out, she speaking with her for some time after, before leaving the home.

Zhou Riu’s wife goes to Lady Wang, but discovers she’d gone to see Aunt Xue, so she goes after her, she waiting with Bao-chai, since she’d found her speaking with her sister, Zhou Riu’s wife asking if she’d been well the last few days, since she hadn’t come by, she admitting she’d been ill and explains how it wasn’t dangerous, but also had no cure, a monk relaying it was only an overheating problem and supplied a home remedy which surprisingly worked. Bao-chai then explains why she couldn’t describe the powders used, due to when it’s administered affecting how it worked, and as they speak, Lady Wang calls out to them and Zhou Riu’s wife goes in to share the happenings with Grannie Liu, after which Aunt Xue invites her to stick around and hands off a box of fake flowers for the Jia girls to wear. When Lady Wang suggests she keep them for Bao-chai, Aunt Xue shares how the girl was picky about accouterments to her attire, Zhou Riu’s wife then going back out and speaks with Golden about the young lady Caltrop, learning she was the one involved with the murder trial, and when seeing her up close, notes how her features reminded her of Master Rong’s wife, Golden thinking the same, and upon questioning Caltrop, learns nothing due to the girl’s blocked memories.

Zhou Riu’s wife continues to the girls quarters and delivers the flowers, she staying and speaks with a nun about whether the Mother Superior had gotten the monthly donation and where she was, currently. The nun didn’t know, but relays the woman’s whereabouts, and after a little more conversation, moves along to Xi-feng’s, Patience helping her complete her task and then plans on going to Grandmother Jia’s when she runs into her daughter, whom is full of questions, which Zhou Riu’s wife takes lightly, instead inquiring if she also had any issues, since she sensed it was one of those days, her daughter admitting to this and had hoped she’d be able to help her husband. Zhou Riu’s wife agrees to see to it after delivering the remainder of the flowers, going to Dai-yu’s, whom was with Bao-yu, the girl not pleased with the idea of receiving the leftovers of the flowers, and as Bao-yu sends a maid to deliver a message to Bao-chai, Zhou Riu’s wife exits, it being told her daughter’s husband was Yu-cun’s old friend, Zi-xing, he in trouble over some issues with some ancient items bought, Zhou Riu’s wife certain when she brought it to Xi-feng’s attention the issue would be handled.

As evening came, Xi-feng updates Lady Wang on the day’s events, beginning with gifts sent by the Zhen family and having shipped them gifts in return, also informing of gifts also being ready for the Earl of Lian’s mother, and continuing about how she had been invited by Cousin Zhen’s wife to come over the next day, making sure she was allowed to attend, the night then ending. Bao-yu decides he wants to accompany Xi-feng to visit Cousin Zhen’s wife, You-shi, her son and daughter also present. They sit down for tea, Qin-shi then informing Bao-yu to go see her brother, he quickly doing so, but Xi-feng deciding she also wanted to meet Qin Zhong, the boy arriving and awkwardly greeting her, then having the usual inquiries answered of his studies, etc.

When the ladies move on to a card game, the boys leave to chat, the two each having similar thoughts of envy of the other and how they hated they weren’t the other’s equal, so they could be close buddies, and once initializing conversation, become familiar with each other, Bao-yu learning Qin Zhong was currently tutor-less and waiting to get a new one, Bao-yu offerring a school situation his family had set up and suggesting Qin Zhong ask permission to go with him, the two boys agreeing the idea was a good one, they returning to discover Xi-feng had won the card game and a show would be set up as her winnings in a couple days time, Xi-feng then giving her opinion about an old belligerent worker, Big Jao, whom had been asked to accompany Jia Rong home, but was insulting everyone, the man needing to be sent away, she then leaves with Bao-yu, Jia Rong commanding the servants to restrain Big Jao, since he continued prattling on with his threats, Bao-yu making the mistake of inquiring about one he’d heard and Xi-feng threatening to inform his mother, he pleading for her not to and apologizing. Xi-feng changes her anger to comfort and shares how she’ll be speaking with Grandmother Jia about Qin Zhong joining his school.

When they get back, Bao-yu shares with Grandmother Jia his wishes and why it was a positive choice to allow Qin Zhong to join him in class, Xi-feng also supplying her agreement which Grandmother Jia is affected in a good way, Xi-feng then inviting her to the play which was being set up for her, and Grandmother Jia tagging along on the day with Lady Wang, Dai-yu, and Bao-yu, but Lady Wang and Grandmother Jia leave early, Xi-feng having so much fun, she stays much later. Meanwhile, Bao-yu had wanted to watch more of the plays, but had left with Grandmother Jia and then decided to call on Bao-chai, but is held up by some men his father had belittled, and when they release him, a nurse learns they’d left Sir Zheng before he’d taken his afternoon snooze, Bao-yu glad he didn’t have to avoid his father, now and goes straight to Bao-chai’s, but not before being stopped once more by some men who ask about getting some calligraphy by him due to having seen some of his about town, then finally being greeted with familiarity by Aunt Xue, she sending him in to see Bao-chai, he finding her sewing and when Bao-yu speaks, greets him respectfully, the two sitting over tea and speaking of their other cousins.

Bao-chai then states of how she’d been wanting to see his jade more closely for quite some time, he handing it to her, the Narrator reminding this was the same as the stone mentioned at the start of the tale at the Greensickness Peak, listing a poem about it along with the words the monk scraped onto it. When Bao-chai’s maid notes how she had a similarly written message on her necklace, Bao-yu is intrigued to see it, she agreeing and Bao-yu gleefully agreeing the two sounded like two parts of the same script. Bao-yu then smells something on her clothes, she believing it was the pill she’d taken, Dai-yu then entering and making a joke of having come at the wrong time, since Bao-yu was there, talk then turning to retrieving his cape due to it having begun to snow, after which a Nannie Li tells of how she’d gotten flack for Bao-yu drinking wine a time before, since he’d requested a cup this time to go with some goose-foot preserve.

Aunt Xue eases the woman’s mind by assuring she’d take the blame if it came to it, so Bao-yu gets his wine as Dai-yu gives her maid a hard time when she brings her a hand-warmer, Bao-yu having to plead for more wine and Nannie Li warning him to watch himself, since his father may call him later, this sobering Bao-yu’s good mood, but Dai-yu speaking up for him which in turn amuses Bao-chai, Aunt Xue then supporting Bao-yu’s drinking, he feeling better upon her invitation to dinner. When his Nannie goes off to change with instructions to watch Bao-yu closely, the other maids ignore this and go about their business, Aunt Xue discreetly removing the wine when necessary, and replacing it with tasty soups, along with strong tea, believing this would recover him, Dai-yu then mentioning it was time to go, so Bao-yu tags along, the two greeting Grandmother Jia, whom hadn’t dined, yet, she instructing Bao-yu go sleep it off, but when he returns, he’s told by Skybright to use up the ink she’d mixed for him, he inspecting her job of pasting his characters outside, Dai-yu joining them and praising Bao-yu’s work, he then inquiring whether Skybright had received the dumplings he’d sent her, she agreeing and had planned to save them when Nannie Li had taken them for her grandchildren, and also had drank all of the tea being saved for him, this pissing him off, but Aroma stating how if he got rid of her, all the other maids would go, so he stops complaining as they undress him, he falling to sleep almost immediately.

In the morning, Bao-yu overhears Jia Rong come with Qin Zhong to speak with Grandmother Jia, whom was impressed with him and has the other ladies in the family meet him, the visit keeping them into the evening, she also offerring he stay with them if ever his studies kept him too late. When Qin Zhong returns home, he informs his father, Qin Bang-ye of the day he had, it being told of the position he held and his adoption of two children, the boy dying, and Qin Zhong being his progeny late in his life, he happy to know he now needn’t worry about a tutor. The only issue was in thinking of what he’d have to spend to keep Qin Zhong properly started and supplied, but knew it was for the best, so he gives the teacher his raised tuition, whilst paying respect with his son, they then only waiting for Bao-yu to decide when they’d start, the day they go being an eventful one.

Bao-yu wishes to begin their schooling immediately, so sends word they would go in two days. Bao-yu then gets some advice from Aroma about what she’d packed for him on the morning he’d be going, and for him to stay on top of designating someone keeping the place warm, Bao-yu assuring her he’d be all right, and for the maids to keep themselves busy by staying with his cousin Lin, he then going to see Grandmother Jia, Lady Wang, and his father, Jia Zheng, the last being candid about what he believed his son capable of, and wishing he’d go away, his literary guests attempting to keep the mood light and hurry him on to breakfast, but Jia Zheng calls in Bao-yu’s pages as he waits outside, he asking them to inform him of what Bao-yu was actually doing in class, he choosing Nannie Lin’s son to speak, whom honestly informs how far into a book of poetry he was reading, in fear of repercussion. Jia Zheng instructs they tell the teacher to begin him on the Four Books, his attendants agreeing and walking out, they making certain Bao-yu had heard and instead of making it up to them if he disappointed his father and one of them received a beating, they implored him to obey the rules from time to time. By the time he gets back to Grandmother Jia’s quarters, Qin Zhong was waiting with her, the two then walking out, Bao-yu saying goodbye to Dai-yu and then going off to school.

Description of how the Jia school stayed funded and its location are given, then Bao-yu and Qin Zhong are introduced to their fellows upon arrival and get straight to their assignments. The two boys were joined together from then on, Grandmother Jia even looking after Qin Zhong for her gathered affections bringing about getting him clothes and having him stay for multiple nights. Bao-yu soon decides their formalities of being nephew and uncle would be forgotten and they’d from then on treat each other like buddies and siblings, which at first Qin Zhong hesitated to agree to, until Bao-yu kept insisting and led by example, Qin Zhong eventually complying. Like in any school, there was a variety of personalities and classes within the school, their commonality coming from the relations to the Jias, and due to the two boys being close friends, it gave the other students room to start rumors. Xue Pan took advantage of the school by seemingly using it as a sex service. Xue Pan soon had two ‘regulars’ and Bao-yu and Qin Zhong also were taken in by the pairs charm, which Bao-yu and Qin Zhong were unaware was so obvious. Then, Qin Zhong gets a moment with one of the boys and is rudely interrupted by another student, whom threatens to spread lies and speak with the Jia Rui about this boy harassing then, but due to Xue Pan paying him off, he was biased, and since Xue Pan was currently off of Jia Rui and Darling, the boy Qin Zhong was speaking with, he decides to put Darling down which also shames Qin Zhong by association. Jokey Jin, the bully takes advantage of this by furthering the rumors of the two boys taking the time alone to make out etc.

Jia Qiang, related to Jia Rong was being raised by Cousin Zhen, and the sixteen-year-old stood up for the under-dogs. Jia Qiang, thinks strategically the best way to handle the situation since both sides had an in with his relative, so gets the help of Tealeaf, the youngest and most impressionable of Ba0-yu’s pages, Jia Qiang describing the terror Jokey Jin would be if not taught a lesson, so Tealeaf confronts him, Jokey Jin gets permission to ditch class, since Jia Rui is a pussy, Tealeaf gives him crap and Jia Rui notes Tealeaf’s foul language. Jokey Jin is about to have Bao-yu deal with his servant, when Qin Zhong notes something flying by him from the table of Jia Lan and Jun, related to a second Lan, whom was the son of Li Wan and was Bao-yu’s nephew, and whilst Jia Jun was at first indifferent, he gets hooked in by a water bottle hitting his desk, his buddy, Jia Lan keeping his rage from manifesting to more damage. Jokey Jin though, is furious by this, Jia Lan holding him back from returning fire, but Jokey Jin too incensed, throwing a bag of books instead of the inkwell, but his aim not catching the culprit and instead hits Bao-yu and Qin Zhong’s table, Jokey Jin then launching himself at the original thrower. Jokey Jin, meanwhile had picked up a bamboo pole and was whipping it around, hitting Tealeaf, whom then calls in three more pages to assist.

Some students took cover whilst others joined the fight or hooted and urged others on as they stood on desks, Li Gui entering the hubbub and giving the pages the most crap for not keeping their cool, but Bao-yu having final word as he aids Qin Zhong after sustaining a head wound, he declaring they were leaving and would be informing his great-uncle Dai-ru of the unprofessional behavior they’d suffered. Li Gui suggests he leave Dai-ru out of it and blames Jia Rui for not stepping in, he defending himself, but Li Gui stating plainly why the boys had stopped respecting him, and if he didn’t stop Bao-yu from outing them, he’d go down with the rest. Bao-yu declares nothing would sway his decision to speak with his great-uncle, Qin Zhong speaking for justice in the expelling of Jokey Jin, Bao-yu reasoning it would be in Jokey Jin’s future once he told their story and when Jia Rui asks whom Jokey Jin was, Li Gui decides to refrain sharing so as to spare Jia Rui of the pain. As they hear Tealeaf through the window bad mouthing Jokey Jin’s aunt and her bad conduct, which has Li Gui yelling at him to be quiet and Bao-yu deciding now he knew whom Jokey Jin’s aunt was, he’d instead speak with her, Tealeaf then stating proudly, how he’d bring Lady Jia to him, Li Gui pissed off by this and threatening Tealeaf, finally getting the young man to shut up, and hoping his discretions wouldn’t be brought to light and had fixed the problem by pleading with Bao-yu and Qin Zhong separately, Bao-yu eventually deciding the matter would rest pending Jokey Jin admitting he was sorry, he refusing until Jia Rui and Li Gui convince him to relent, he doing so, and Bao-yu changing the condition to have Jokey Jin kotow to them, which would be shared in the next chapter.

Jokey Jin kotows to Qin Zhong, Bao-yu then agreeing the issue was resolved, but Jokey Jin grudging Qin Zhong his closeness to Bao-yu, but his mother hearing him as he spoke to himself, reminding him how lucky he was to be in this school. So, he does as he’s told and continues with his classes next day. Jokey Jin’s aunt was wife to Jia Huang, they living a humble lifestyle, receiving help from Xi-feng and You-shi when close to inability to pay their bills, His aunt decides to visit her sister-in-law about Jokey Jin’s run-in with Qin Zhong, thinking he was responsible for the negative outcome and see if she could get permission to speak with Qin Zhong’s sister. Her fire subsides though, as she sits with You-shi, the lady explaining how Qin-shi was feeling ill and her little brother, Qin Zhong had informed her of the school fight, You-shi then sending him to Bao-yu’s whilst she calmed Qin-shi and had her eat breakfast. She then inquires of Mrs. Huang if she knew a decent doctor, of which she had no information and decided against mentioning her true reasons for coming by, agreeing she should make certain Qin-shi wasn’t pregnant before giving her any definitive remedies.

After a pleasant visit, she leaves, You-shi then describing to Cousin Zhen of the uneventful visit, and then moving on to what they needed to do for Qin-shi. Fortunately, Zhen knows someone they can contact, believing Zhang will definitely visit them the next day, You-shi pacified, and then inquiring what they should do for their father’s birthday the day after, he revealing how their father wanted no part in any family parties for himself, so You-shi plans a two-day party for the family on his behalf. They receive a message from the doctor, promising to drop by next day and put down his own abilities as a practitioner before agreeing, due to respect, to visit Qin-shi. As promised, Dr. Zhang comes by, Zhen greeting him, the doc again explaining his lack of practice as a medical doctor, Zhen believing him humble, and then sends him to Qin-shi where he takes her pulse for some time before going outside with her husband, Jia Rong. The doctor explains his theory not being the conclusion of pregnancy, and he would prescribe her a treatment which if was responded to positively would give her a better chance of living. The list of herbs are given with how much to include and the doctor states she could make it if surviving the Spring, then leaves, Jia Rong relaying to his parents what he’d been told. The chapter after this supplying Qin-shi’s reaction to the medicine.

On the day of Jia Jing’s birthday, Zhen sent some gifts and instructions for the deliverer to note the man’s pleasure, and received the message of Grandfather would lead the prostration of the family from his home. Then, they learn Grandmother Jia wouldn’t be attending due to some dietary issue, they then touching on Qin-shi’s illness before Zhen goes to greet the recently arrived men-folk. You-shi continues to explain how they’d begun the doctor’s prescription, but nothing much had changed. Xi-feng is touched with emotion when learning Qin-shi had forced herself to get up the last time they’d met because of how much they’d bonded. Jia Rong then comes back with the news of their grandfather being happy with how they were conducting the celebration and would now continue looking after the men, but stating Xi-feng would be able to deduce how unwell Qin-shi was upon seeing her soon. You-shi then states how they should decide whether they’d dine inside or out, what with the show being prepared in the yard.

The decision was made to remain indoors and the table was set quickly. After they’d finished, Jia Rong gives a message to his mother of the men who had left and those who they would see at the show, as well as where all the presents were being stowed and the thank you notes and how the guests were treated before being sent off. Xi-feng then decides to visit Qin-shi before joining the rest, Bao-yu becoming affected by her words and Xi-feng turning it around light-heartedly, the reason they’d come, she then deciding to send Bao-yu back with Jia Rong, whilst she spoke a bit longer to Qin-shi. Xi-feng stayed as long as she could ignore messages from You-shi to come out, but finally readying to go, and still attempting to maintain Qin-shi’s positivity level, she then getting emotional as she agreed to visit as frequently as possible, and as she walked, is startled by Cousin Jia Rui, he obviously eye-balling her, she aware and pretending to enjoy his “charm”, they tentatively setting up some time to chat, she allowing him ample distance to move back toward the family, and thinking how she’d set him straight when the timing was right.

Xi-feng is then approached by one of You-shi’s servants, she informing Xi-feng she was now being sent for, You-shi makes clear how dedicated she was to Qin-shi, she then having her sit and drink with the other ladies, Xi-feng then instructed to choose a couple plays from the bill, since the two aunts had already done so, after which Xi-feng states how those two choices would be the final bit of the program for the players, but You-shi insisting she’d like the company, Xi-feng then seeing the men had left, a servant supplying they’d gone off to drink, and when the play was done, the party ended after the ladies had another course and tea, everyone beginning to leave. Cousin Zhen offers the ladies return the next day, but they choose to decline in favor of a day of rest. The day after brought another celebration, and this point onward, Qin-shi got steady visits from Xi-feng, her state of health fluctuating, Cousin Zhen, You-shi, and Jia Rong stressing more with her instability.

Whenever Xi-feng came over for Qin-shi, Jia Rui inexplicably turns up, and at the start of the final month to mark Qin-shi’s having begun the doctor’s treatment for almost a year, Grandmother Jia and ladies were consistently wanting updates of her health, it still not having normalized. Grandmother Jia decides Xi-feng should see how she was the next day, and to make certain her favorite food was in constant replenishment. Xi-feng saw Qin-shi’s lack of appetite having affected the skin on her face, but she still tried to keep her spirits up, and when she spoke with You-shi after, they wonder about Qin-shi’s surviving, You-shi tentatively having planned for the worst, she then reports to Grandmother Jia, being dismissed, and going home. She is then updated on her home’s calls, Jia Rui one of them, and after informing her servant why she was ready to take him on, the woman agrees with her, Jia Rui’s visit spoken of in the next chapter.

Whilst the two were still discussing Jia Rui, they were told he was now about to enter, and when he arrived, Xi-feng could see the pleasure in his face by her non-formal attire, he wondering why Cousin Lian wasn’t in attendance, hinting it could be due to a lady, he then declaring he wasn’t the sort whom flitted from one love to the next when Xi-feng comments all males were like this. He felt even more special when she’d commented how rare an attribute it was, the conversation progressing until Jia Rui states how he’d wile away the hours with her daily, if allowed. Xi-feng then shows how she believed him by comparing how two other men had proven themselves barbaric. Jia Rui became even more smitten, Xi-feng politely warning his movements were being surveyed by the help, he adjusting his body language accordingly. Xi-feng then decides he should ready to leave, but says he can meet her later in the evening when he protests, she quelling his worry of being noticed by anyone near their appointed meeting place.

Later, he arrives to the total darkness behind the side gate, but as he waits he hears the gate he came through being shut, the realization he was stuck there for the night his only company. He was properly chilled by morning and got lucky when an old woman came to be let in, he sneaking out without any trouble and making it home. His grandfather, Jia Dai-ru, whom had raised him, was certain Jia Rui had gone out carousing, since he’d kept him on a tight leash from the start, so Jia Rui decided to say he’d spent the night at his uncle’s house. His grandfather not buying this, whipping him good, then making him do extra homework all night, and not being allowed to have food, but this foo doesn’t learn.

A couple days go by, and he again goes to Xi-feng, she realizing his stubborn efforts hadn’t diminished, so she offers another task for him. Jia Rui falls for it, hard, he leaving her, as requested, and she informing those necessary to expect the berk later in the evening. Jia Rui had the misfortune of being waylaid by relatives joining his grandfather and he for dinner, then must wait for his grandfather to retire for the night, so when Jia Rui makes it to the agreed spot and sees no one, he wonders if he’d been stood up again. Someone does arrive though, and Jia Rui is so filled with lust he immediately goes after the figure and readies to do some poking, when Jia Qiang walks in with light. Jia Rui gets a glimpse of whom he was about to nail, it Jia Rong, Jia Qiang informing him of being expected by Lady Wang, whom was furious to learn Jia Rui’s obsession. He then decides a bribe was in order, Jia Qiang not needing much convincing, and when Jia Rong feigns a more difficult customer, Jia Rui ups his price and writes them an IOU, Jia Qiang then deducing Jia Rui must wait elsewhere until he located the route which would which would keep him “unnoticed”. Jia Qiang deposits him underneath a stair, the two leaving him, and during his short wait, is drenched in human feces,

Image result for 8 crazy nights whitey and porta potty Jia Qiang then returning to let Jia Rui know he could go through the gate now, he not wasting anymore time, getting a servant to let him in and wash. He thought how whilst Xi-feng had betrayed him, he was still overcome by her beauty, these thoughts not allowing him to drift to sleepy-land.

From then on, Jia Rui stayed away from her home, but Jia Qiang and Jia Rong dropped by often for their agreed upon moolah. Due to this stress, his grandfather’s strict homework assignments, and only the company of his hand, since Xi-feng was out of reach, he was stricken ill before the year was done, no remedies showing relief. By Spring, he’d gotten no better, his grandfather Dai-ru in a state, since no one could cure him. Dai-ru, in the end goes to Lady Wang, whom speaks with Xi-feng about acquiring pure ginseng for him, Xi-feng not going out of her way to comply though, she instead sending a crappy package-worth to Dai-ru, Jia Rui desperate to get better, so takes everything, and one day overhears a Taoist saying he could cure certain illnesses from the door, and when the Taoist states he wouldn’t be able to, but had a trinket which would keep him alive, he handing him an inscribed mirror. The Taoist shares how the fairy Disenchantment made it, and as long as Jia Rui resisted looking at the front, he’d be cure in a few days, the Taoist states he’d return for it then.

The Taoist then quickly exits despite those who’d heard, asked him to tarry. Jia Rui then looks at the mirror, seeing a skull, he covering it, and deciding to look at the front to spite the Taoist giving him a fright, he seeing Xi-feng enticing him to come, and boy does he, going through the mirror a few times before the last one, he getting pulled away before being allowed to reenter the real world once more, and everyone who watched this, seeing Jia Rui picking up and putting down the mirror until he stopped breathing, and as Jia Rui’s grandparents mourned, are ready to chuck the mirror in a bonfire and blamed the Taoist, they hearing a disembodied voice remind of Jia Rui having had a choice to obey the instructions. The mirror biffs off without help from anyone, and Dai-ru sees the Taoist outside catch it, and vanishes. Dai-ru is given contributions so Jia Rui’s funeral would be of good quality. Whilst Jia Rui had been dealing with his issues at the end of the year, Lin Ru-hai was also severely sick and requests a visit from Dai-yu. Grandmother Jia didn’t want to allow the girl to go, but makes the proper reservations for her to go to her father’s bedside. Bao-yu also was stricken, but accepted the girl’s departure, Grandmother Jia also had Jia Lian join her on the journey to Yangchow.

Xi-feng was affected with restlessness when Jia Lian had left with only Patience to converse with, the two considering how far into the trip he could be, Win-shi coming in as Xi-feng was close to sleep and Patience already asleep, she wishing to confide in her, since she also would be leaving soon. Qin-shi begins by speaking of some foretelling sayings about how whilst their family was currently respected, how it could fall from its perch easily. She continues about how Xi-feng could stave off too far a fall for them by preparing whilst they were still stable enough, and how there were a couple areas which Xi-feng could focus to make life easier if trouble should strike. Qin-shi explains the family cemetery and school both needed tending, which could be funded with the purchasing of property around the cemetery and the school moved on to said property to be paid for with the new purchases. The family would then share responsibility of tending to the school, which would keep everyone from complaining of having sole charge of the duties. So, in this way, the property would be safe from being taken to its charitable status, and would allow the young people to continue their education and be useful agriculturally.

Qin-shi then professes of a positive occurrence in the near future which could make them all spend in celebration and to be way of the excess extravagance. Qin-shi reveals a riddle before the hour of death is heard by chiming. When Xi-feng awakes, a servant announces Qin-shi had died, Xi-feng then getting ready to go to Lady Wang’s, and family and servants alike mourning her. Meanwhile, during Dai-yu’s absence, Bao-yu kept to himself and began retiring early in the evening, his reaction to Qin-shi’s death worrying his servants, since he’d thrown up blood, but he refused having a doctor called, believing it had been caused by the surprising news. He prepares to see Grandmother Jia and insists being allowed to go to Qin-shi, she setting up transport and entourage for him, and after seeing her body and grieving, looks in on You-shi, whom was ill with a stomach issue, then goes in search of Cousin Zhen, whom was speaking to other family members who had arrived and were mourning. He lost hope for the family name ending because of Qin-shi’s death, then speaks of plans for the funeral. Arrangements are made for her body before the ceremony and moved to a shrine.

Meanwhile, Cousin Zhen gets a deal for the making of the coffin from Xue Pan, they soon hearing of Qin-shi’s young servant committing suicide upon hearing of her passing, they burying the girl next to her. Cousin Zhen then has the good luck of speaking with a well-respected servant whom would be able to help him get his son, Jia Rong considered for a better position so he’d be able to add it to the needed banner for for Qin-shi’s funeral. The servant makes the arrangements with his secretary, and after he’d left, Cousin Zhen plays host to new arrivals to mourn Qin-shi. The next day, Jia Rong’s rank was promoted and the coffin stated as such. So, whilst most everything was progressing easily, Cousin Zhen still stressed over You-shi still being ill and this reflecting the family badly if it damaged some sort of rule regarding the “female head of household”, his answer coming from Bao-yu, Cousin Zhen completely agreeing with him and setting about the temporary head being Cousin Feng (Xi-feng), so brings Bao-yu to his room where only Xi-feng remained, since the other ladies disappeared for embarrassment, and Xi-feng notes how Cousin Zhen had been over-extending himself, he ignoring this and asking for her assistance on receiving her aid, she instructing him to ask Lady Wang, whom enters, but also puts her opinion of herself being too young, Cousin Zhen maintaining she was the only option and becoming upset, Lady Wang and she eventually consenting, so she accepts (I’m getting annoyed by the formalities basically referring to the same person to different ways, it’s confusing). After Cousin Zhen leaves, Xi-feng puts in order the tasks which she need focus on most once Lady Wang also leaves, she narrowing down how best to deal with the servants, especially.

Chief Steward of the Ning-guo mansions, Lai Sheng gives directions to his men to do as Xi-feng asks, their work hours guaranteed to be a bit longer now. So, as long as they put up with her bitchy, stubborn ways for the month, they could kick back after, she being known to go after anyone who disobeyed. Sunshine, Xi-feng’s servant then turns up for the household list of names, everyone snapping to work accordingly. After recieving said list, Xi-feng goes home. Xi-feng arrives back at Cousin Zhen’s early next morning to discuss Lai Sheng’s wife of almost the same topic of discussion Lai Sheng was going over, and then saw all servants before giving out their duties, she then making plain how everything would now be run. Her hold was immediately felt and order returned after many years of nonsense. After seven times seven days before the funeral, the monks had made it to a serious part of their prayers, as were the Taoists and other holy people all doing their parts to prepare Qin-shi’s journey through the afterlife.

Xi-feng had a late start next morning, and upon arriving, has the servants begin the procedures for their mourning. Xi-feng leads by example, Cousin Zhen and You-shi ending the display and Xi-feng starting the task of meeting with the servants, one woman later today, found and begging forgiveness whilst Xi-feng handled an order for silk-cord, which soon turned into other diverted attention for servants and wives of “important” men. Xi-feng continued her tracking of funds and deciding what would be handled according to her logic. Then, she returns her attention to the lady, informing her how she would normally have her conduct qualify dismissal, but instead would make an example of her, and ordered her whipped by bamboo, the servants taking her look of anger seriously and following orders. Xi-feng afterward, notes the new rules for how tardiness would be handled would be double the whipping number the woman endured, along with some other dissuasive fines, she then allows all to get to work. Xi-feng makes her leadership clear, and no one dared slack off. Bao-yu is then followed, using Xi-feng’s office to speak with Qin Zhong, she greeting them and finishing lunch as she took care of restocking orders and chatting to the boys about their school work, Bao-yu realizing Xi-feng hadn’t put through the request for materials necessary to finish his homework space, she revealing the materials had already been supplied and was only teasing him.

A servant traveling with Dai-yu then comes in to report the news of her father’s death and how long they’d be away for the burial. Later in the evening, she gathers requested coats and gives the servant more tasks whilst he looked after Jia Lian. As the funeral day drew nearer, Cousin Zhen picked out Qin-shi’s plot and the number of monks wanted for the ceremony. Cousin Zhen also stayed over at the head monk’s room overnight so he could finish the readying of the plot and whatnot before the funeral, Xi-feng also finalizing her reservations before and after the funeral, she also dealing with other family-related matters throughout, everyone becoming impressed with her multi-tasking and superb handling of all situations. Then, the night no one was to sleep was upon them, Xi-feng surrounded by shy family members, but she not perturbed and giving assignments to all as people came and left throughout the night, morning bringing the funeral. It beginning with the tradition breaking of the bowl by honorary daughter/servant, Jewel, showing her sadness appropriately. One official, the Prince of Beijing had also attended, asking about wanting to meet Bao-yu to Jia Zheng, his father. He retrieves the boy, Bao-y excited to have been asked for, he admiring the Prince, and their conversation forthcoming.

Bao-yu admired Shui Rong, the Prince of Beijing’s mourning accessories and outfit before attempting to greet him formally, but was prevented by the man, he instead asking about Bao-yu’s jade, and being handed the corded stone immediately for inspection. After, the Prince inquires about Bao-yu’s studies, etc and then states how Bao-yu was sure to surpass his elders, Jia Zheng replying how lucky they’d be if Bao-yu lived up to the affirmation. The Prince then offers Bao-yu an invitation to his home to speak with the cultured writers the Prince had been known to host, this allowing Bao-yu another way to be taught different sorts of intellect. He then gives Bao-yu a bracelet he wore, Bao-yu and his father both thanking him traditionally before Jia She and Cousin Zhen offer he go before the coffin’s procession, but the Prince decides the hearse’s presence to importance, so the funeral party was temporarily separated whilst the Prince left. Bao-yu was preparing to join the other men to go by horseback, when Xi-feng invites him to accompany her by carriage, he accepting and then taking a moment to stop at the midway of their travels.

They get out at a farm, one of Bao-yu’s pages describing the farm tools whilst Xi-feng changed her outfit, they eating and taking tea before continuing their ride and catching up at the Temple, and after staying the day, is offered to return home in the evening, but decides to stay, Xi-feng taking responsibility for him. The two, along with Qin Zhong, since his father was unable to remain, retire at her arranged rooms, she speaking with the lady of the house, Euergesia, whilst Bao-yu and Qin Zhong are met by one of Euergesia’s “disciples”, Sapientia, Bao-yu giving Qin Zhong a hard time for supposedly hugging her privately, he denying knowing anything about it. Sapientia couldn’t deny Bao-yu’s claims though, the two having fallen for each other, but their affections innocent, so far. They had tea, then leave Sapientia for other pastimes.

Meanwhile, back with Xi-feng, Euergesia relates a story where a family wished for her assistance, but she not interested in getting involved, Euergesia warning it would give the wrong impression, so Xi-feng decides to quote a price she’d agree to help, if paid, Euergesia immediately assuming they would and whether she’d be prepared to begin the next day, she not saying yet, but the two chatting on. Qin Zhong soon locates Sapientia, he vowing his love, she wanting him to prove it through getting her out of her servant status, and his agreement, but forcing his unbridled passion upon her, Bao-yu cock-blocking him in a odd way, and he deciding what Qin Zhong would do to keep his secret for him, but the details unknown. Now, Qin Zhong is attempting to figure a reason for them to remain longer, Xi-feng weighing the reasonability, deciding it’d suit her for the task she agreed to do. Xi-feng has a servant send a message to a general Yun Guang, and when they were set to leave the next day, Xi-feng makes sure Euergesia will contact her with Yun Guang’s answer. Qin Zhong and Sapientia’s parting was full of sadness and the details of the departure are to follow.

Everyone’s return home is uneventful, Bao-yu had every intention of using his finished work space, but Qin Zhong became sick, and woe he is made to wait longer before he could study with him. Xi-feng received Guang’s response in affirming his readiness to help her which had him receiving his gifts back and a young lady and man committing suicide in the process, Xi-feng looking like she was content with money made and Lady Wang remaining in the dark, this seemingly the start to her new hobby. Soon, Jia Zheng’s birthday has come, a message from the Emperor coming by Head Eunuch of the Bedchamber, they learning Jia Zheng had been summoned to see the Emperor right then, this having the rest of the family wondering what reason there could be as Zheng readies to leave. A few hours later, Grandmother Jia receives message of she and her female family members were now also being asked to go meet Zheng so they could show gratitude, Grandmother Jia learning privately one of the ladies had been chosen as Imperial Concubine.

When the women found out, they were quite pleased and dressed according to title of power. Bao-yu was the only one whom wasn’t bothered by this good news, Sapientia having followed Qin Zhong and he getting punished when Qin Bang-ye found her, he getting so incensed, an illness which he periodically fought, finally claimed him a few days later, so due to the physical stresses and mental anguish from losing his father, he struggled to get better. This is why Bao-yu’s sister, Yuan chun’s “promotion” didn’t brighten his mood, the family putting it off to being one of his crazy ways. Although, the knowledge of Dai-yu finally returning helped him defrost a bit, and when she arrived, she became swept up with locating space for the new books she’d brought back (I feel that). Meanwhile, Xi-feng and Jia Lian were jokingly speaking formally with each other, and as they had tea, spoke of Xi-feng’s duties and she down-playing her competence at managing households. As she’s inquiring Jia Lian to have Cousin Zhen forgive her terrible management of his home, Jia Lian is reminded of hearing news about Xue getting Caltrop as he’d been wanting. Jia Lian notes how Xue wasn’t suitable for her, so Xi-feng offers to exchange her maid for Caltrop.

When Jia Lian goes to see Zhen, whom had dropped by, Patience admits the reason Caltrop was mentioned was because Brightie’s wife had come to deliver money. Later on, as Xi-feng and Jia Lian have wine, his old nurse comes by to ask about possible work for her sons, Xi-feng willing to take the matter into her own hands. The conversation then moves on to the Emperor’s project of having a place for the concubines to visit with their parents, Jia Lian helping with this. Nannie Zhao speaks of the old Emperor’s ways and is soon interrupted by Jia Rong and Jia Qiang who were delivering the message of where the Visitation spot would be placed and to give comment the next day. Jia Qiang then relays a message about his own task of hiring entertainers and was to accept advice, Jia Lian wonders whether he was experienced enough to choose appropriately, Xi-feng defending Zhen’s choice to have Jia Qiang handle it.

After Jia Lian learns how the money for this task would be handled, he approves of Jia Qiang’s plan so far, and Xi-feng offers a couple helpers to aid him, which he’d been hoping to request. Jia Qiang offers to pick up anything Jia Lian needed in appreciation for his help, and after this, heard a few general household matters before retiring for the night, Xi-feng joining him by midnight. Jia Lian plays a large role in choosing the builders to undertake the project which began the next day, after which they started purchasing supplies and moving a garden to attend to the landscape before building. Due to the family focused on this, Bao-yu wasn’t hassled about his school work, but soon discovers Tealeaf, Qin Zhong’s state turning into a deathly illness. Bao-yu relays this to Grandmother Jia, whom allows he go to him until he passed, but must return directly after. Bao-yu leaves and quickly takes a carriage to Qin Zhong’s where he was being looked after by female relatives.

When Bao-yu sees his friend lying on a bed instead of his kang, he becomes upset, Li Gui reminding Bao-yu the reason behind this could be due to Qin Zhong’s sensitivity to certain levels of hardness of cushion rather than it being about the custom of not being allowed to expire on a kang, hoping this possibility would calm Bao-yu so as not to upset Qin Zhong, but he needn’t have worried, since Qin Zhong was currently dealing with beings ready to drag him into the afterlife, but upon hearing Bao-yu calling, the “demon” leader and bunch put them atwitter as to how to proceed. The lead demon decides to relent in letting Qin Zhong a few more moments to say goodbye to Bao-yu, since he wore his demon repelling jade. Unfortunately, Qin Zhong was unable to speak and could only awake to look at Bao-yu before descending into blackness.

Bao-yu was terribly distraught from this day until quite some time after the funeral. Later still, Cousin Zhen informed Jia Zheng of the garden being done and he would be last to decide if they needed to add anything else, as well as the opinion for certain points of the space to be named, the two agreeing with an idea from a man of words about putting their ideas on lanterns and have Grandmother Jia decide later which would be best. Bao-yu had been prompted by her Ladyship only moments before to go in the garden, so hadn’t been quick enough to retreat before his father approached, Jia Zheng then deciding he’d see how gifted Bao-yu’s couplet skills truly were, since receiving good notes regarding this from his instructor.

Jia Zheng leads them all to the first spot needing to be named, everyone suggesting something, Jia Zheng not disappointed after Bao-yu makes his suggestion, but the area ultimately going to receive a different name. They move to another area and the group again gives opinions, Bao-yu doing well and this time his father acknowledging this in the usual minimalist way, they moving on. this time, the little enclosed area bringing to mind the idea of studying within to Jia Zheng’s attention and Bao-yu showing a look of guilt. After hearing the other men first, Jia Zheng speaks deprecatingly about Bao-yu to Cousin Zhen, since he’d suggested hearing from Bao-yu once more, he again giving a more suitable idea and stating why the others didn’t seem fitting. Jia Zheng hadn’t been impressed with the couplet Bao-yu offered thought, getting the report of what deliveries had been made for the structure thus far. They move on to the next area as they listened, Jia Zheng happy to have reached this particular rest-spot.

Bao-yu doesn’t wait to be asked this time and his father responds heatedly about they only having been inquiring to test him, so when they moved to another building he had Bao-yu attempt a name, Jia Zheng not pleased and putting down both name and couplet before moving on, this time traveling to another area with a stream, Bao-yu still unable to impress his father, the group then climbing to another area over a hill. Jia Zheng’s first impression of another building turned from negative to calm due to the view from the door, plants all about within, Bao-yu mistakenly offering his opinion on the smell form the plants coming from a particularly named rare plant.

When Bao-yu stays silent at the next building as the literary men suggested couplets, Jia Zheng calls on his son again, goading him for his opinion, and again acting surprised when the other men praise Bao-yu, but inwardly agreeable, at the least to the positive feedback. The next place they went was the entrance hall, this place giving Bao-yu deja-vu, the other men having Jia Zheng allow Bao-yu to give his opinion in a day’s time, since he looked so preoccupied with attempting to remember. Jia Zheng does only allow these terms if Bao-yu gives him a perfect suggestion, they then being interrupted by a servant with information Yu-cun having sent a message. They leave with Jia Zheng leading, he again shooting down a suggestion from Bao-yu when they crossed a dam, after which they walk past many other quaint rest areas, Jia Zheng only stopping when he became tired.

Bao-yu still attempts naming the place they were in after his father had the others speak. The idea wasn’t accepted, though and they continued on until reaching where they’d begun, Jia Zheng allows Bao-yu to depart, the boy being stopped by his father’s pages, who took all of his valuables they could see as payment for supplying him with his poems, they then take him to Grandmother Jia, after which he goes back to his quarters, Aroma and then Dai-yu seeing his missing articles, the latter annoyed he’d given away a gift of hers, she collecting and cutting up a bag Bao-yu had requested she make, he showing her how the gift she’d thought had been re-gifted was actually saved, she upset by his reaction of returning it to her and then calming her down when he saw she was going to destroy this purse, as well. When he didn’t let her alone, though, she attempts arguing why he’d insist keeping the little purse when he’d tried to reattach it, the two eventually making peace enough to go to Jia Qiang’s where they learned of a twelve girl act he’d acquired, also 24 nuns also being employed by Lin Zhi-xiao’s wife, the lady informing how they may get an extra nun, Adamantina, whom would fit well and came from a good family, but the young lady having not been convinced, yet. Lady Wang suggests a formal invite of which the results continue presently.

As Xi-feng became busier, Bao-yu decides to move their group to Ying-chun’s quarters. Meanwhile, Lady Wang would be occupied with work for the garden for the next ten months straight. Finally, after Grandmother Jia had given her okay, Jia Zheng puts in request and receives answer for a “Visitation”, in a month’s time. A eunuch made last minute rules and requests on behalf of the concubine and the night before the visit brought rest to no one. The important members of the family were all ready by five next morning and waiting at the entrance until hearing how the concubine wouldn’t be arriving until early evening. Xi-feng prepares small assignments in the meantime, and when night finally falls, the eunuchs soon get wind of the concubine’s approach, the Jia family also reclaim their spots of welcome, and then two sets of ten eunuchs stand in a line before they hear the concubine reaching their estate. First her servants carry her belongings, she bringing up the rear. Yuan-chun descends only for a moment to “‘changing her clothes'” before being brought to the freshly pimped garden, she overwhelmed by the lengths obviously gone to in order to show the excessive make-over. As Yuan-chun was brought further into the garden, it’s explained why Jia Zheng had chosen to use his son’s suggestions being to do with Yuan-chun having been so close with him when he was a small boy. Yuan-chun, not knowing this it seems, spoke her mind, and one title for the entrance to an area was shortened whilst another changed completely. Yuan-chun then sat to be greeted by the family, her lady-in-waiting dismissing each group as they paid respects.

Yuan-chun’s lady-in-waiting went about excusing each group as they paid respects. After this, she again, “changes her clothes” and is carried to her family’s home. Grandmother Jia and Lady Wang both waiting, and Yuan-chun becoming emotional from seeing them after so long. Six other ladies were standing around and watching the scene with tears in their eyes. After everyone calmed, others were brought forward to greet her, and after learning Aunt Xue, Bao-chai, and Dai-yu weren’t present, she had them called on to attend the reunion. Then, when most of the high-positioned servants were led out, Yuan-chun was comfortable enough to lose diplomatic formality, unfortunately, it making certain trouble when wanting to chat with her father, Jia Zheng, they having to speak with a curtain hiding one from the other. He spoke of advising her, and also stating of his wife and he were honored by her royal position and she shouldn’t feel upset for her good fortune including this stipulation of her visit.

Yuan-chun then wonders aloud where Bao-yu was, after which Jia Zheng shared his son’s contribution for the titles in the garden. She calls for him and is overcome with joy once more, until being led to a feast elsewhere, getting the chance to explore the grounds further, and afterward, she and the family sitting down for their meals and she writing down her choice for titles of the lovely garden and changes to the names of some, but not Bao-yu’s inscriptions. After doing a bit more writing, Yuan-chun requests the ladies of the family to attempt writing some poetry, as well as Bao-yu expanding on his inscriptions of her four top favorites. Everyone immediately begins, the ladies poems being read first. Yuan-chun praises two out of the four young ladies, and then Bao-chai helps Bao-yu with his last requested poem. After this, the twelves little girl performers got their chances to show their talents, one girl, Charmante being noticed considerably more. Then, Yuan-chun makes an inspection of the list of gifts which would be given to the family and servants, she agreeing, the time for her visit ending. Grandmother Jia with Lady Wang were both visibly upset, Yuan-chun attempting to reassure them everything would be fine before steeping back into her carriage.

The emperor hears of Yuan-chun’s visit a day later, and Xue-feng along with the rest of the family, were taxed physically and mentally by all the planning they’d done, she continuing to oversee the cleanup of the garden which lasted for the next few days. Bao-yu though, was among those being completely sedentary with his time, he accepting an invitation to attend some plays at the other house. The productions were so loud, people on the streets could hear the cacophony. Bao-yu becomes tired of it fairly quickly and decides to move along, chatting with You-shi first, but leaves her and the maids and concubines shortly after, his attendants all having let him be for believing he’d only mill about until evening. Bao-yu was on his way to see a portrait of a lady hanging in one of Cousin Zhen’s studies, and upon approaching closer, hears questionable sounds from within. He makes a tear in the paper window and witnesses Tealeaf getting off with another girl. Bao-yu was shocked into a yelp and busted in on the two, allowing the one girl to leave and inquiring of Tealeaf to share the girl’s name, which was Swastika (the story behind this, shared), the two then decide to visit Aroma where they are also greeted by her family and before being escorted back home, sits a little while.

Meanwhile, his maids were also taking advantage of Bao-yu being out, Nannie Li dropping in and not being impressed with their behavior. She helps herself to Bao-yu’s gift to Aroma, though and becomes peeved and feels guilty when hearing why the koumiss had been saved. Another maid attempts to make light of Nannie Li’s egotistic perspective by agreeing with her, but she didn’t believe the maid’s genuineness, and after leaving, Bao-yu returns to notice the maid, Skybright lying down, Ripple relating the events with Nannie Li and how Skybright started losing when the old woman arrived. Aroma then comes in, Bao-yu asking for the koumiss and the maids naming the drinker, Aroma stating how Nannie Li would’ve been welcome to it anyways, since she’d made herself sick of the drink before Bao-yu could react.

When Aroma requests Bao-yu peel some chestnuts for her, this distracts him from thinking anymore of Nannie Li and he drifted to the topic of one of Aroma’s younger relatives, the girl catching his interest and confiding his opinion of liking the girl to reside with them, Aroma taking offense over how her family shouldn’t all have to work for his, Bao-yu claiming the possibility he could’ve meant as a bride rather than a maid, Aroma not buying this due to her family’s lower status. She then shares how the girl was already betrothed, Bao-yu showing disappointment, and then shocked and surprised when hearing her family’s plans of buying her freedom to move back home. Bao-yu’s reaction to state how he could keep her there when she’d confessed her wish to return to them, and explaining how his family couldn’t deny her freedom if purchased, Bao-yu distressed over this, but seeing how possible it was, regardless of his hypothetical scenarios to make her stay, he then sharing how he’d rather have not had her employed for him if she’d told him sooner she’d eventually leave, readying for bed.

Then the conversation between Aroma’s mother, brother, and herself is related, she not wanting  them to buy her out, due to how well she was treated and they not having need of the money to sell her off again, they also agreeing with her after seeing Bao-yu. So, Aroma confessing the opposite to him was part one in a complicated plan (maybe?), she’d successfully gotten Bao-yu off his high horse and discovered his true feelings. She then goes to Bao-yu to see he’d been crying, she confiding her change of heart to stay and Bao-yu asking her to think of a way to prove to her how much he truly wanted her to remain with him. Aroma wants him to perform three tasks for her, one being to not go on and on with long drawn out responses, the second to at least pretend to enjoy studying, especially around his father and associates, Bao-yu claiming to already having stopped doing this, the third was to resist taking lipstick and eating it, he agreeing fully, and Aroma stating if he could keep it up and only be careful how reckless he was, she wouldn’t ever leave. Another maid then walks in to share the hour being late, so Bao-yu again goes through his bedtime rituals.

Next morning, Aroma becomes ill, so had to take most of the day off, Bao-yu going to see Dai-yu, whom was attempting to nap, but he insisting her napping after a meal was unhealthy, so she relented staying up and chatting with him. Bao-yu becomes distracted by Dai-yu’s perfume scent as she advised him to be careful being seen helping to make rouge, since the news could read his father. Dai-yu confesses it wasn’t perfume, but perhaps came from her closet, Bao-yu denying this for the smell being different. After some time sniffer her cuff, he attempts to make idle conversation, Dai-yu not participating until Bao-yu pretends hearing of a story about Yangchow and some magic mice, she then relenting to listen. When Dai-yu finally realizes this story involved a character with connotations to herself entering the story, she punishes Bao-yu with a lip-pinch, Bao-chai coming in and asking what had happened, Dai-yu explaining and happy to know Bao-chai could now whip Bao-yu at his own game, they then hearing an angry outburst from the vicinity of Bao-yu’s room.

So, as they’d been having a grand ole time, Bao-yu feels better now Dai-yu wouldn’t get indigestion, she identifying the yelling coming from Nannie Li arguing at Aroma, Bao-chai keeping Bao-yu from breaking it up for Nannie Li’s outburst being small potatoes. Bao-yu agrees with her words before going off and hearing Nannie Li’s insults to Aroma having to do with her not having at least acknowledged her presence when she’d arrived. Aroma kept her cool, but became upset when Nannie Li began suggesting how better off they’d all be with her getting married and leaving, Bao-yu attempts to support Aroma with the allowance of she having been sick, but Nannie Li continues her rampage by believing Aroma had turned all of them against her, she then becoming upset, Bao-chai and Dai-yu attempting to ease her emotion.

Xi-feng’s attention is caught in the front room, she entering and stating to Nannie Li of needing to be quiet, Grandmother Jia was in good spirits and didn’t need to hear her petty b.s. (seriously; It was said in kinder terminology, though). Xi-feng also states how if Nannie Li was being upset by anyone she should report them to her for punishment, she then insisting the old bag come have some stew and drink in her quarters, Nannie Li begrudgingly following, but quietly bitching about how she didn’t regret her actions. Bao-chai and Dai-yu were properly amused by this, Bao-yu wondering why Nannie Li had truly gone off on everyone, Skybright defending the girls due to the culprit should’ve willingly come forward if circumstances warranted, Aroma then stating how Bao-yu shouldn’t have turned the quarrel into a group affair, since she always received the backlash, stopping herself from becoming further distressed for Bao-yu’s sake, he also staying reserved, since he could see she was truly ill.

As a proper lie-down is set up for her, she suggests he sit with Xi-feng and Grandmother Jia for awhile, she assuring him she’d be alright, Bao-yu agreeing with her idea and so joins his grandmother once Aroma was settled, he returning afterward to find all his maids gone except Musk, whom had decided to keep an eye on Aroma and Bao-yu’s quarters. So, before retiring himself, he brushes her hair when he remembers she’d been talking about it earlier, another maid coming in, teasing Bao-yu, he making light of it, fortunately, and then returning to her game. By the following morning Aroma had recovered, so Bao-yu goes to Aunt Xue’s home. Some of his other closely-aged relatives were also there playing games, Bao-yu’s half-brother, Jia Huan playing against Bao-chai, she treating the two brothers equally, so when Jia Huan starts losing the game and attempts to cheat, Bao-chai has the other girl give up her winnings, she annoyed, but Jia Huan breaking down, which Bao-yu then comes in to inquire the reason, but the other too ashamed to confess.

Besides this, there was an odd relationship between the two due to Jia Huan being a concubine’s son and the younger. Bao-yu didn’t bully him, since people were already speaking about him enough as it was, and he also was ruled by his religion teaching respect of blood being of utmost importance, so Bao-yu dealt with Jia Huan as this and the fact he’d grown up with females coloring his reasoning. He made it clear if the game was upsetting him, he should go find something else he’d enjoy. Jia Huan ends up back in his own quarters where his actual mother, “‘Aunt Zhou'” wondered aloud what had happened (Lady Wang was known as his mother only by title). When Jia Huan shares his story of what had occurred, Aunt Zhou bursts with how he shouldn’t have been mixing with them anyways. Xi-feng hears her as she passes by, telling her off through the window and having the boy come with her. She proceeds to berate him about his choice of bad company and being too weak-minded, she then sending him off with more cash for betting with and would make him regret any similar behavior in the future if she heard about it again. Meanwhile Bao-yu and Bao-chai go to visit with Miss Shi when she comes to call.

When arriving at Grandmother Jia’s room, Dai-yu was there giving Bao-yu a hard time about spending time with Bao-chai. She exits, and Bao-yu goes after her wondering why she was mad, she stubborn and Bao-yu getting pulled away by Bao-chai on behalf of Cousin Shi, the two leaving Dai-yu upset, and when Bao-yu returns later, she is more distressed and so he attempts calming her with how close they were compared to Bao-chai, whom was too new to be considered more of a closer cousin. Cousin Shi then comes to say how perfect it was they deserting her the one time she’s actually available to them, the two laughing at her lisp and she quickly exiting after a joke about Dai-yu marrying a lisper. Bao-yu blocks Dai-yu’s attempts at chasing her and Bao-chai tries to diffuse the situation by waving the white flag, Dai-yu having a Nannie Li moment when she sticks to her pursuit and belief there was collusion against her. Bao-yu makes her realize how this nonsense began due to her own tom-foolery, a servant interrupting with news of Grandmother Jia starting supper, after which Bao-yu hangs around with Dai-yu and Xiang-yun until quite late, Aroma asking for him periodically.

The next morning, Bao-yu is up with the light and fussing at Xiang-yun’s blankie, Dai-yu having him leave temporarily whilst they dressed, and after finishing cleaning their faces, Bao-yu requests Xiang-yun style his hair, Aroma sees this and returns to Bao-yu’s room where Bao-chai comes looking for him, she taking a moment to speak with Aroma about herself, liking the girl. When Bao-yu returns, he notes how quickly Bao-chai leaves, Aroma not in a good humor and Bao-yu stating as much, she confessing she’d like to work for Grandmother Jia once more. This worries Bao-yu, but he doesn’t get anything more from her, and when he receives similar attitude from Musk, he lets it go and lays down for a nap. When Aroma covers him and he takes the blanket off, they begin speaking, he stating how she wouldn’t even let him in on why she was mad, and she maintaining he should know already and when he finishes lunch and returns, she has fallen asleep. He goes to his room and reads for awhile until seeing one of his maids, Citronella, standing in the room awaiting instruction, he changing her nickname given to her by Aroma to Number Four due to the number of girls in her family and she being the baby, he growing tired of the flower and fragrance theme.

Aroma and Musk quietly find this amusing, Bao-yu now bored with his uneventful day, Number Four wanting to make a favorable impression on him, and after dinner, Bao-yu now a bit inebriated, he considered how best to bide his time from Aroma, reading and becoming inspired by a passage and adding his own thoughts in the book regarding Aroma, Musk, Dai-yu, and Bao-chai, then retiring. Aroma is asleep next to him when he wakes in the morning, he rousing her so she could go sleep comfortably on her own kang (which everyone seems to lounge and sleep on, so I presumed). When Bao-yu attempts to get her more comfortable, she resists, still playing her game of having him see his wrongful ways. Instead, it seems to be left alone once Bao-yu breaks a hair-pin, they both washing up. Bao-yu leaves and Dai-yu comes looking for him, seeing his open book, and ads her own lines to his. She then goes to Grandmother Jia’s, and after to Lady Wang’s, the doctor having seen her daughter, she being sick with smallpox. The doctor advises the potential for recovery and how to treat it for the little girl’s comfort. A room was then prepared for the girl, doctors, and parents, since it would be a 12 day process.

Jia Lian was affected by this set up because of the forced abstinence it entailed, which would be satiated by a lady known as “the mattress”, the wife of a cook called “Droopy Duo”. Jia Lian soon had her brought to him, she delighted, they meeting in the evening, and upon getting down, her nickname explained as coming from an affectation her body took, and once finished, the two ‘come’ (wink) to an agreement. When the baby’s illness had passed and everything was normal, Patience discovers a lock of hair under Jia Lian’s pillow, she confronting him about what it could be, and when he makes a lunge for it and fails to retrieve it before Xi-feng was heard heading towards them and requesting an item for Grandmother Jia, asks whether anything was found or missing from Jia Lian’s temporary quarters, she knowing the possibility of her hubby’s naughtiness.

Patience keeps his secret and when they’re alone again, was about to negotiate terms when he tricks her into releasing the hair, and her frustration making him ask for her to let him lay her, she leaving whilst the getting was good. He then vows to make Xi-feng realize whom was actually in power in their relationship, it sounding murderous, he claiming she was using the double-standard on him (rightly), Patience defending Xi-feng for not being a cheat. When she mentions how trustworthy she thought of him, he widens his threat to include anyone who thought his conduct unsavory, Xi-feng then happening to return to see Patience conversing through an open window, she giving Xi-feng some attitude when she mentions why she was outside to speak with Jia Lian inside, then exiting, Jia Lian also trying to excuse himself, but Xi-feng having a topic to discuss.

Xi-feng inquires about their plans for Bao-chai’s birthday, since she’d be turning fifteen and Grandmother Jia wanted a nice party for her, so Jia Lian comes up with a simple solution, Xi-feng only making certain he had final say, he not caring as long as she eased up her surveillance of him. Shi Xiang Yun is then followed, she preparing to end her stay, but Grandmother Jia insisting she wait til after the party, she agreeing and sending word back home. Meanwhile, Xi-feng speaks with Grandmother Jia about what her thoughts were for entertainment, she going off on her in a burst when she was offered a meager sum to obtain said festivities, fortunately everyone taking it lightly. Grandmother Jia had caught on to the situation being for her benefit, she enjoying these set up digs on her.

On the day of the party, a different child acting troupe is scheduled. The party stayed a private affair, and Dai-yu was still acting aloof toward Bao-yu, as he’d come to her room to offer choosing her favorite plays for her, she not impressed, but still allowing him to lead her out. After the family had eaten, Bao-chai chooses the first play to be from a piece of Journey to the West, Grandmother Jia happy with her decision. The others also get a choice and everyone sits to watch the set, Bao-yu asking Bao-chai why she kept requesting similarly themed plays, her answer having to do with the music and lyrics, Bao-yu having her share which part she particularly liked, she obliging by quietly singing the section.

Bao-yu agrees with her assessment, Dai-yu voicing her annoyance at his talking, and after everyone had watched the plays into the evening, Grandmother Jia gave extra gifts to two of the girls who stood out, afterward. As the troupe was packing it in, some noted how one of them looking like one of their party, Xiang-yu naming the person, then becoming angry when receiving a look from Bao-yu, which she mistakenly perceived to be a look of insult, and she not caring for his explanation, he then getting pushed out of a room by Dai-yu when he was looking for her. He waits her out and when she opens the door once more to find him still waiting, she allows him entry, alluding to how he seemed to support her being teased, he declaring the statement hadn’t been made by him, and she concluding with a baffling answer, since she supported everyone’s reaction, whilst wasn’t ideal, she thought his staying straight-faced made it worse, like she couldn’t take the joke. Besides this, how he’d reacted to Xiang-yu confused her into thinking it was due to she being on a lower rung-of-importance to Xiang-yu and shouldn’t have been joining with her, for risking a comeback, and so believed his excuse of she being sensitive was to distract from this, Dai-yu not liking he’d stuck in nose in. Bao-yu realizes how his actions had received negative results from both ends and his book reading reminded him of the philosophies saying how unfulfilling the task he’d put on himself was, making him feel worse, so he ditches her in favor of his quarters.

Dai-yu took this even more insulting and declared he stay away from her and not speak with her again. Bao-yu doesn’t respond, and when Aroma sees him, lets it be and talks of different subjects, her attempts being met with indifference. Bao-yu was determined to keep out of any suggestion referring to the ladies and so stayed aloof with all of Aroma’s ideas regarding good spirits toward the women. After quoting a line describing how he felt, he became upset and began writing some verses. When he was satisfied, he goes to bed, Dai-yu wandering in later and Aroma detaining her before she withdrew, after learning Bao-yu had retired, but was amused by Bao-yu’s writing which Aroma gives her, she showing Xiang-yu and Bao-chai, the latter disposing of it, since believing Bao-yu had written it because of what she’d told him of the play, Dai-yu finding her reaction amusing. She states how destroying the paper was unnecessary and could reverse Bao-yu’s reaction by posing a specific question to him, which when he heard, could not find a reply, all who watched on amused and suggesting alternatives to his torn up thoughts, he then realizing his Enlightened moment was false, taking the three’s ribbing lightly, since they also hadn’t obtained Enlightenment, regardless of knowing more than he.

Meanwhile, Yuan-chun had sent a riddle for the family to decipher and return a riddle of their own to her. Everyone took part in answering the riddle and supplying one of their own and the answers along with the riddles were delivered and returned in kind. So, whilst some of Yuan-chun’s guesses were incorrect, those who’d stumped her pretended she’d succeeded in solving them. Jia Huan was the only one whom had given a riddle Yuan-chun admitted she couldn’t solve, the answer being sent to her, Grandmother Jia so taken with the game, she sets up one of her own for everyone, Jia Zheng also taking part, and after Grandmother Jia had Li Wan join them, also noting Bao-yu staying monosyllabic due to his father’s presence, the other ladies were also lacking in conversation, Bao-chai the least affected by whatever was putting the others off, Grandmother Jia considering the cause to be Jia Zheng, she attempting to convince him to turn in, but he wanting to be a part of the fun, Grandmother Jia relenting by offerring him a riddle, the two soon trading riddles, Jia Zheng giving presents when Grandmother Jia’s answers were correct.

After, she suggest he has a go at the kids riddles, getting them with one guess, but becoming depressed by how dark they were. Grandmother Jia could tell something had darkened his mood and didn’t want him bringing down the party anymore and again brings up of he readying to retire for the night, he agreeing this time and doing so after a couple more drinks and conversation with her before making his exit, his mood not improving. At the table, upon Grandmother Jia stating they loosen up, Bao-yu immediately begins critiquing the riddles, Dai-yu and Xi-feng making fun of how animated he’d become and realizing Jia Zheng should stick close to him more often if they wanted peace, he retaliating against Xi-feng’s comment by play-wrestling with her. After some little time, Grandmother Jia becomes tired and breaks up the party so all could settle for bed.

A bit after Yuan-chun’s visit, she has a copy of the poems made about the garden and has the best ones engraved in the family’s honor. Jia Zheng goes about passing the responsibility to have her wishes met and was considering how to proceed with transplanting the nuns and monks elsewhere (this being mentioned way back…), Zhou-shi turning up thinking a job for her son, Jia Qin could be acquired, since the family needed the money, she getting the opportunity to chat with Xi-feng, whom liked her, and after hearing her idea of how to keep the nuns and monks with no problems of separating them, Xi-feng has Jia Zheng informed because it was so clever, she being reminded by her hubby Jia Lian they had to think of Jia Yun first, she already having plans for him, Jia Lian agreeing and asking about a little romp they had the night before, she giving a small laugh and not answering. Later, when Jia Lian relays all of their plans for the boys to Jia Zheng, he allows this quickly for indifference in these matters, Jia Qin being hired and he stating his gratitude to them, Xi-feng also having Jia Lian supply him with an advance, he immediately starting his work after speaking with his mother.

Meanwhile, Yuan-chun was reminiscing  about the beauty of the garden as she worked on the poems it had inspired and thinking how terrible it was knowing they wouldn’t be using it in her absence, so she decides to have the girls and Bao-yu move in there. She writes her wish of this and has it sent to Jia Zheng and Xi-feng, and when Grandmother Jia is informed, they begin setting up for this to happen, Bao-yu quite ready to move in and chatting to Grandmother Jia of his plans of what he wished put there, he then being called by Jia Zheng, his attitude changing obviously, Grandmother Jia comforting him and telling him how to respond to his father during this visit, and when she sends him off with some nannies as “protection”, he makes his way to his father slowly, the nannies awaiting outside the area his father was enjoying seeing him take his time, one making light of his apprehension and letting him know his father was in a decent mood, so he should take advantage whilst he could.

Jia Zheng states what he expected from Boa-yu once he’d moved and the consequences if he got out of line, his mother then reminding him to have Aroma give him his pill each night, Jia Zheng becoming irritated upon hearing the maids nicknames, the two then dismissing him. When he returns to Grandmother Jia’s and sees Dai-yu, they decide which part of the garden they wanted, the two being neighbors and a date set for them all to move in, Bao-yu’s life becoming a thing of idyllic freedom. He’d composed for poems indicated by season of how he fest and had become popular as a source for knocking them out, pleased with the attention: what with being thirteen and liking having people refer to him for his work. One day, though he’d grown unfulfilled and couldn’t get comfortable. Tealeaf realizes Bao-yu had yet to try one thing, he gifting some books the boy hadn’t seen before, and Tealeaf asking he keep them secret.

Bao-yu attempts to, but one day as he’s reading under a tree, Dai-yu walks in on him, explaining what she’d been doing with the fallen tree blossoms, as Bao-yu had been dumping them in the water, she then mentioning the book he’d been reading and disbelieving his reply, so he promises her to secrecy and praises its absorption capacity. Dai-yu soon realizes the truth in his claim she agreeing after reading a bit. When Bao-yu quotes a couplet which Dai-yu takes personally, he quickly apologizes, she brightening and the two burying petals when Aroma announces Uncle She was sick and the two were summoned by Grandmother Jia to attend. After, Dai-yu was walking by herself and heard the girl troupe practicing a song, she concluding how a song could have wonderful pietry and is soon brought to her knees and tears as she listened, someone interrupting.

Caltrop explains why she’d been wandering and then walks Dai-yu back to Naiad’s House. They see a gift sent to Dai-yu, hang out, and after, Caltrop leaves her. Meanwhile, Bao-yu was expected by Grandmother Jia to check on his Uncle She, and as he wait for his change of clothes, essentially wraps himself around Faithful, Grandmother Jia’s servant and wanting to eat her lipstick, Aroma walks in and states how he was becoming a lost cause. Then, before he away’s to She’s, he’s greeted by Jia Lian, the two interrupted by Jia Yun, Bao-yu and Jia Lian’s nephew, a joke being made about Jia Yun not minding if Bao-yu wished to be his father, even though Jia Yun was years older. As they all part ways, Bao-yu invites Jia Yun to visit him the next day, he then riding (by horse) to She’s. After seeing him, and noting he only had a chill, he relates Grandmother Jia’s message, he’s then brought to Lady Xing’s room where they chat, being briefly interrupted by Jia Cong, Jia Huan, and Jia Lan, Lady Xing making an excuse to have them leave, Bao-yu then being invited for dinner with she, Ying-chun, and her nieces before returning to Grandmother Jia, then his quarters.

As this is going on, Jia Yun was after a job from Jia Lian, he conveying an opening when the planting was to be started, then going to his uncle, Bu Shi-ren for a loan of goods, but he hard up not only for the products, but the money from someone else already being owed. Jia Yun puts perspective to his Uncle’s words, noting he could be more trouble, his Uncle mentioning Jia Yun’s other cousin whom had gotten the priests and nuns position (to transport them to different temples), Jia Yun having enough of hearing about why he couldn’t acquire a job like him was ready to leave when his Uncle offered he stay for dinner, but declines. As he’s walking away moodily,he walks into a drunk man, whom turns out being his neighbor, Ni Er, a dirty businessman, he about to knock his clock off until realizing who him was, then telling he’d help him out if need be, Jia Yun accepting if only to keep the man friendly. They part ways after he’s given a message to pass to his wife.

Jia Yun begins his plan the next morning, back to the Rong-guo House and sees Xi-feng, he giving her his purchase of oil scents, pleasing her with his surprise, but not getting anymore information about a job, he remembering his invitation from Bao-yu, and the boy’s pages leaving him to wait, Jia Yun hearing a girl from outside, and Tealeaf returning by then and having her take a message to Bao-yu, Jia Yun fascinated by the maid and taking her advice to return next day. He again speaks with Xi-feng, she having learned his reasoning for his gift, she playing hard to get, but he making clear he’d take whatever she could give, they scheduling a meeting so he could start. After recieving payment, he gives Ni Er his money back, then goes to buy the trees after sharing the news with his mother.

As for Bao-yu, it’s clarified he’d invited Jia Yun flippantly, and so had been away a couple days with the Prince of Beijing, and then returning to note his maids were detained someway or another and when he called, turned away the older maids who answered. A young lady, then comes in to pour his for him, she able to relay Jia Yun having come by, Ripple and Emerald then return and confront Crimson outside, she explaining her presence and Ripple insulting her, they interrupted by an old lady delivering the information about how they conducted themselves when the trees were planted the next day. Crimson soon realizes she had more information then the two bitches. She had been resident in the House of Green Delights before Bao-yu and girls had moved, she retreats to her room, then hears her name being called, discovering it was Jia Yun, and when he attempts to pull her closer, she falls in her attempt to run off. She awakes realizing she’d dreamt it, beginning her chores when dawn comes.

Bao-yu had been thinking of Crimson and wanted to invite her to become a closer attendant, but doesn’t get a chance before his washing. Then, Aroma speaks with Crimson to have her borrow a spittoon from the Naiad’s House, Crimson seeing the tree workers with Jia Yun, but not up to speaking with him, feeling sorry for herself, and instead lies down after she completes her mission. The following day brought Wang Zi-teng’s “lady”‘s birthday, Lady Wang wishing to go, but not since Grandmother Jia wasn’t up for it, but Aunt Xue, Xi-feng, Bao-chai, Bao-yu, and a few other girls accepted the invitation. Jia Huan had returned from school recently and was getting to work on some copying, delegating tasks as he did, Sunset decided to advise him to speak more kindly, since the other maids thought he was a schmuck, he not taking her helpful criticism well, but being interrupted by Bao-yu’s return, his mother suggesting he rest for awhile, since he’d been drinking. So, whilst he lay, Sunset massaged his legs, but not giving her undivided attention, she warning he’d tell on him, since he’d captured her hand, Jia Huan, Sunset’s master, deciding to punish him anyways, dropping a candle brimming with melted wax on his face, Lady Wang and Xi-feng both talking harshly about Jia Huan’s thick-motioned ways, then Lady Wang turning to Jia Huan’s mother, Aunt Zhao (Why must there be a Zhou and Zhao?!), she taking the put-downs and making certain she was seen helping Bao-yu.

Lady Wang knew she’d be hearing about this from Grandmother Jia, and begins applying lotion on her son, Bao-yu. He was prepared to take the blame, but Xi-feng knew there’d be hell, regardless. Bao-yu was returned to his room, Dai-yu visiting once learning of what happened, and he expected to see Grandmother Jia the next day, she blaming his care-takers. Bao-yu’s “Wise Woman”, Mother Ma also visited and did her magic lady words to make certain he healed properly, Grandmother Jia also learning of an incense-related ritual to keep him safe. Mother Ma explains how her other customers would purchase various amounts of oil to keep a light burning of which she herself would upkeep at her home (Bloo), Grandmother Jia considering carefully, so Mother Ma presents a suitable possibility for her in the case of Bao-yu, which she agrees, also making certain his attendants had extra cash for giving to good karmic charitable cases, like monks or various poor they meet on their way with Bao-yu.

After, Mother Ma visits Aunt Zhao for some silk and discusses Jia Huan and her contribution for him, she sharing her frustration about how Bao-yu would always overshadow him, even whilst understanding the reason. Mother Ma then deduces Aunt Zhao’s true problem being with Mrs. Lian, Aunt Zhao checking to be certain there weren’t any prying ears before agreeing and feeling she had to put up with the woman’s will. Mother Ma sees the potential for more money and plays hard-to-get when Aunt Zhao shows interest in the idea of investing in an underhanded way of dealing with the woman whom seemed to be in line to claiming all property and goods leftover in the Jia name, Mother Ma taking her more seriously when Aunt Zhao brings her attention to how she’d be able to name her price if her idea worked.

So, Aunt Zhao bargains with her by giving her a bundle of goods and a little extra cash, as well as an IOU, Mother Ma giving her paper cut-outs of people and demons, she explaining how to use them and placement of them under the targets beds, she then leaving after being summoned by Lady Wang. Meanwhile, Bao-yu had become a homebody since his burn, so Dai-yu would chat with him most of the time in his room, and one day, after getting bored of reading and sewing, walked to Bao-yu’s and found Li Wan, Xi-feng, and Bao-chai having a blast, Xi-feng inquiring about the tea she’d sent her, Bao-yu piping in with his opinion of them being nasty flavored. When Dai-yu states the opposite, Xi-feng gifts her the rest of her supply and would have someone speak of a favor she had in mind for her upon its delivery.

Dai-yu remarks how the gift seemed to be attached to strings and Xi-feng retorts with a phrase which alluded to she being a bride which would attach her to the family, this embarrassing her and she stating how it wasn’t funny, Xi-feng not resisting her jabs and speaks of Bao-yu and she, which had her running out, Bao-chai going after her as Aunts Zhou and Zhao enter, Xi-feng and Dai-yu actively not conversing with them. Then a summons is given for the younger ladies to visit Wang Zi-teng’s wife, so Li Wan and Xi-feng leave, as well as the Z’s, Bao-yu calling for Dai-yu, whom hadn’t gotten very far outside. When she returns, he holds her hand and only smiles at her, making her self-conscious, then he complains of his head before having a fit and scaring the maids and herself, he attempting suicide multiple times before Lady Wang and Grandmother Jia arrive, they soon distraught, many other family members hearing and milling about in bewilderment outside. Xi-feng’s reaction was to start gutting dogs and chickens with a knife and was looking at the crowd with blood-lust until some servants overpowered her and put her in her quarters. Many began suggesting what should be done metaphysically and otherwise, and by sunset Zi-teng’s lady leaves for home and visits again to ask after everyone the following day. Others visited with well-wishing and help from doctors, and the family had resorted to moving “the cousins” into Lady Wang’s room, Jia Yun and pages tasked with watching them at night due to their conditions still on the raving side.

The search for a cure continues and the fourth day Bao-yu requests Grandmother Jia to prepare his belongings and himself to be expelled from the family, Aunt Zhao gleeful, but acting sad, she attempting to convince Grandmother Jia to bide his words so he could die peacefully, her response being to hock a loogie in her face. She berates her and declares she wouldn’t gain anything from his death, along with anyone else, a servant then informing of the coffins having been finished, this putting Grandmother Jia over the edge and ordering the wood-smith to be whipped to death, and then hearing a chanting monk outside. Upon seeing him and his companion, they being a scraggly sight, they are invited in, the monk requesting to pray over Bao-yu’s jade to aid its ability to ward off the evil. When the monk holds it, he speaks familiarly to it of the time they’d met 13 years before on Green-sickness Peak, and once finishing his prayers, instructs Jia Zheng where to place it and the cousins recovery to be expected in 33 days. The two then leave before he could offer sustenance, and his instructions are followed diligently, Bao-yu and cousin regaining sanity and appetite by evening, Dai-yu relieved along with the others.

When Bao-yu’s month of rest is up, his face has healed, as well. This time also allows Jia Yun and Crimson to be around each other more, she noticing, but not remarking on the handkerchief he carried looking like her missing one. Later, a young maid, Melilot comes to her for the favor of looking after some money for her, she advising Crimson to go home and see a doctor, Crimson acting emo and declaring she would be better to die, Melilot warning her to not speak in such a way. They are interrupted by a quite young maid giving Crimson the task of copying patters for Mackerel, but she needing to retrieve a tool from Oriole and meeting Grannie Li, whom had told Jia Yun Bao-yu wished to see him.

Crimson loiters and soon the two eye each other as she speaks with his guide, Trinket. Jia Yun and she continue to Bao-yu’s, he impressed with his uncle’s home. Bao-yu asks after him when he invites him in his bedroom to sit, Bao-yu remarking how long it’d taken for him to remember his long ago invitation, but Jia Yun only glad he’d recovered. Bao-yu makes idle chat and when Jia Yun notes he was growing tired, decides to take his leave, Bao-yu wishing he return sometime. On his way back, Jia Yun asks Trinket a variety of questions about herself and the other maids, soon landing on the handkerchief, she mentioning how Crimson had even offered her a reward if found. Jia Yun had a plan for the item and gives Trinket a different hankie, he having her promise to let him know what she did.

Meanwhile, Bao-yu was being awoken by Aroma to go have a walk, he reluctantly relenting, soon running into Jia Lan, whom was after some deer to shoot with bow, and after allowing the young boy to continue, headed unconsciously to  Naiad’s House. As he approaches closer to the window, he hears a quote from a book he knew, Dai-yu speaking, and when he enters and startles her, she denies having said anything, she dismissing her “guardians of morality”, Bao-yu quoting a line, himself and upsetting her, she walking out and he following in distress, but they being interrupted by Tealeaf with a summons from his father, and so Bao-yu rushes off and is led outside the gate, where he’s met by Xue Pan, he laughing and apologizing, and Bao-yu taking his jest lightly, but readying to return the favor.

Xue Pan then gets to his point, which was in celebration of his birthday next month, some buddies had put together a feast and he wished Bao-yu to join them, the with a singer already in attendance. When they sit, Xue Pan brings up how Bao-yu could draw him something for his birthday present, he seeing some good erotic ones recently. Then another buddy comes in, Feng Zi-ying, Xue Pan asking after his family and how his black eye had come from a hawk’s wing during a hunting trip with his pops. As he finishes with it being good fortune he’d gone rather than stayed home in comfort, he attempts to bow out, but the group refuses him, wanting more deets, he playing at being annoyed, but after agreeing as long as they supplied him with a couple decent-sized drinks, he still keeps his news to himself, but hits it would be shared at a get-together of his own in under two weeks, he then driving his horse away (yes, drive).

The group sticks around for awhile longer and when Bao-yu returns to a worried Aroma and clarifies what had become of him, due to his toasty state, she was a bit perplexed he hadn’t at lease sent word, but Feng Zi-ying was a distracting fellow. Bao-chai joins them, she relating how she’d refused the invitation, taking her tea and speaking of unimportant topics. Before Bao-chai had dropped by, Dai-yu had also planned to visit Bao-yu once learning he’d returned, she even seeing Bao-chai ahead of her, but distracted herself with some beautiful fish, so when she did finally get to his home, she had to knock to be let in the gate. Unfortunately for her, Skybright was in a bad mood and not recognizing her voice, turns her away, Dai-yu debating what to do and feeling bad for herself, she then hearing Bao-yu and Bao-chai inside, her mind going to even further paranoia of what reason could make Bao-yu turn her away, she becoming distraught and sits under a tree, someone eventually exiting from the house, but only to be known upon continuation of the second volume.

I’m hooked, I’ll be quite happy to continue. In the Appendix we learn who Bao-yu had seen the fates for in the fairy’s library, beginning with Skybright’s terrible fate by slanderers. Aroma does marry, Caltrop/Ying-lian is murdered by Xue Pan’s horrible wife, Xin Jin-gui. As for Bao-chai and Dai-yu, they are represented as two halves of a perfect woman and the meaning behind their songs are up for debate as to whether the first or second refer to one or the other, or the first two both, or the first and second about Bao-yu. There are other characters explained, but I’ll only list those I remember, the last being Xi-feng, whom will have an unfulfilled life which may end in divorce.

Castle Waiting (Issue #1, Bone Crossover)

Image result for castle waiting issue #1 book cover

 

I had said in a previous post how I was interested in reading more from this series, and it looks as if I now have the ability, the first issue having been included in the collection of Bone I have, ha ha! Success!

The story follows a princess, whom runs away from home and holes up in a desolate un-remembered castle. This story, called Solicitine Part One, opens with a goose-looking face-masked doctor ordering someone to be still, the person flinching with fear and getting hurt in the process. Then it’s shown the doctor was cutting a boy’s hair and apparently could not make it through the process without the doctor clipping his ears a bit, the doctor not taking the blame and saying the boy had unusually large ears to begin with. His mother attempts to support the boy by suggesting he do his best to stay still, another goose-fellow, Rackham noting how rainy it was, and Jain would now have to wait longer to get her new room, she complacent with this fact. Jain declares how wet days were perfect for haircut scheduling, and the boy, Pin had been requiring one, the two then discussing how similar he was to his father. Jain is then shocked by a woman whom she didn’t notice at first had facial hair, the bearded woman asking her if she planned on getting her haircut next, Jain having a double-take which the lady states how she’d get a kick out of the face she was pulling if she could see it. Jain recovers and laughs at herself, the woman declaring she must not know of the Solicitine nuns, Jain agreeing, having thought bearded women stuck with the circus crowd.

The woman states of having been with a circus, as well, Jain ready to hear a good story about it as the woman readied to get her hair cut, she agreeable to giving her background, and starting with her home village, in a town where the only pub being owned by her father, Tom Warren, she being christened Peaceful Hortense Elaine Warren, and helping him in the pub when she was learned to walk and could carry drinks. As she got older, she stuck with her idea of taking after her father and planned on running the pub, her mother certain she wouldn’t be allowed for eventually getting married and keeping house, Peaceful certain her husband could keep the house whilst she ran the pub. Her father would attempt to calm her mother down, he believing she was fine where she was and working at the pub would put her out there to potential mates, her mother not thinking her daughter’s plan was realistic. Peaceful certainly had plenty of men flocking to the place, and all of them were happy to socialize with her, the only problem was they spoke to her as a buddy of there girl problems, she helping them out with advice and gathering a loyal following of men who took her advice and found success. Then, one day, Peaceful noticed some fuzz on her face, and it would always grow back, her mother distraught of her fate now sealed on remaining single. Fortunately, the new addition to her looks didn’t stay a surprise to the men who came in, they quickly resuming their usual respects to her, until a couple travelers couldn’t get over seeing a bearded woman outside a circus.

Peaceful was shocked to learn bearded ladies worked in other forums, not having gone to a circus before, she attracted to the idea from this point forward, imagining how interesting it would be to travel elsewhere, she keeping it in mind until overhearing from some other travelers of a show setting up in a town not too far away, she taking advantage of the distance and leaving the same night. Jain is shocked how quickly Peaceful did what she’d wanted, the latter agreeing her resolve may have changed if she’d spoken with her father first, but she had visited since then and they were the same as they had been. When Peaceful gets to the circus and a friendly worker allows her to see a show of what bearded lady they had as their show-runner looked like, she views the woman in a Cleopatra get-up and would have been a hard act to over-run, she also being the owner’s wife. Peaceful realizes she didn’t have a chance, she then introducing herself when the worker asks, she inquiring whether there was other work she could get hired for, Reggie Aleman remembering how his wife had been after him to get a girl to help around with their tent, Peace realizing this could be a good situation for all involved. So, ironically she became a barmaid once more, in the circus, but she moving up quickly enough, the interesting side to her work being to check out the gaming tables, she having a good eye for the gamer’s sleight of hand, Reggie having her start training quite abruptly. Peace was quickly brought in to the fold of the close family relationship people had being in the circus, except for the owner Lint and his wife, she having to stay separated from everyone else on Lint’s orders.

One day though, as Peace was sweeping up outside, she’s approached by Lint’s wife, whom was happily surprised to see another bearded woman around, Peace shocked she spoke English because of her act being Egyptian, the woman stating Lint had made it up for her, she introducing herself as Mabel and confessing Peace was the first bearded lady she’d met, Peace saying the same, and then Mabel deciding they should be best friends, Peace agreeing. Lint then walks up, and acting all high and mighty, attempts to quash the friendship, but Mabel wasn’t going to give in quite so easily to this one, he backing off and instead stating she should get inside a half an hour before customers milled about. From then on, Peace and Mabel, whom she called Nessie, a nickname from her stage name, were thick as thieves, Peace now having a confidante, and when confiding to Nessie of how her work wasn’t as satisfying anymore, Nessie certain it’s because she didn’t have a husband, Peace getting an example how wrong she was when a man walked in asking for her advice. Peace wouldn’t have been opposed to a little courting, though, so when she’d seen Reggie turn away a young man whom had been interested in Nessie, Peace got a little hot over how he hadn’t thought to introduce her, Reggie taken aback for a moment, but then explaining how Nessie was a special sort, Peace noting this, as well.

Nessie soon shares the problem she was currently having with Lint, he having promised Nessie and her father his plan to settle down with her and begin a family, but now he wouldn’t even entertain the idea to speak of it with her, she not even getting a chance to talk with him when the circus closed, since they were occupying separate wagons. Peace convinces her she should insist speaking with him one night, Nessie empowered and planning to do so, but overhearing a conversation between Lint and a girl about his true feelings about her and she only being used for lucrative interests. Nessie, upset goes to Peace, whom was on duty, but directs Nessie to meet her in back, concerned by her pain, and was livid when Nessie confides what she’d heard, Peace declaring Nessie shouldn’t be doing her show, but would think of a solid plan, having Nessie pretend everything was fine until she did. Nessie now comforted, goes back to her wagon, a plan soon coming in the form of two men wanting to speak with Peace one night, they thinking she knew of the Abbess at St. Wilgeforte’s, the two explaining what the convent did. Peace brought this good news to a much elated Nessie, the former planning on they making their escape as the circus moved on, she feeling some guilt for planning to leave again without warning Reggie, like how she had with her father, but finishes helping pack up for Reggie on the day she scheduled them to run off. Peace then joins Nessie in her wagon, she having difficulty leaving her pretty dress, Peace lightening her mood so she’d let it go. Nessie pretends to be sick when Lint runs into her, successfully leaving without suspicion, unfortunately, Peace’s escape had been witnessed by Lint’s dumb girlfriend, but she not speaking up quickly, so they not getting any trouble until later on.

Not a bad beginning, especially upon realizing Castle Waiting follows the progression of a community for about three decades, like One Hundred Years of Solitude, except not as dark and obviously not so many years. This story is based on the Brother’s Grimm story, St. Solicitous. Then, the short of Bone’s and Castle Waiting is next!

The Bones are lost again, Phoney complaining about missing his cash, since all anyone ever used were eggs. Smiley then points out the sign with Castle Waiting on it, Phoney seeing the bright side of royalty of a castle definitely working with more than poultry for bartering. Phoney makes a racket as he insists on speaking with a king, a horse, Sir Chess, the Knight Destrier opening the door and not understanding what he was going on about. Phoney busts in and looks for someone kingly, he asking a beaked fellow, Rackham the Adjutant if he was the one they were looking for and requiring assistance. Rackham allows they could definitely help in some way, then offering tea and snacks, Fone politely grateful, but then getting tickled by polterspritz as Phoney asks for cash so they could return home. Rackham ponders their issue and eventually suggests they could do odd jobs until making enough to get back, Phoney making certain they paid in bills (not of the bird nature, HA! No pun intended), and became quite upset when discovering they also used eggs, since they were in the country. Phoney urges the other two off and running, Rackham wondering if they would have changed their minds if they’d known he was referring to gold eggs, Chess certain it wouldn’t have, they must not liking breakfast-related foods.

Not a bad side-story, at all! I’ll be looking forward to reading more, once finishing my other graphic novel needs. Now to continue with Rose.

Driving Miss Daisy

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The author’s preface begins by stating of Miss Daisy being a real person his grandmother knew in Georgia in the 1940s. Daisy was a spinster and the last of her large clan. There was also a real Hoke, whom was a part-time bartender at a country club, and Boolie was the brother of Uhry’s aunt’s friend, and the characters aren’t like the people, he only used their names. Miss Daisy was partially his grandmother, her four sisters, and his mother. Hoke comes from his grandmother’s driver, but also other black drivers he’d known in his youth, and Boolie is made up of not only Uhry, but many men he couldn’t identify from his past, and Florine’s character’s real-life counterpart is refused to be revealed. As for the play itself, Uhry didn’t realize the hype it would bring, originally given five weeks on stage, a 74-seater, then the play was given an extra five weeks for popularity and moved to a much larger theater. Uhry had been currently writing the screenplay when he’d written this introduction, and had won the Pulitzer, he stating of writing what he knew and people shining to his perspective without seeking publicity.

Daisy, whom is 72-years-old, is heard announcing of going grocery shopping, starting her car, and then noises of a terrible wreck occurring. She is then arguing with Boolie, her 42-year-old son, he noting how lucky she’d been not to have gotten hurt or worse. Daisy stubbornly declares of the car being faulty, her old one not having acted this way, but Boolie stating how it wasn’t the car’s idea to hit their neighbor’s garage. Daisy denies his idea of hiring a driver, he trying to convince her of the likelihood she’ll be able to stay insured after wrecking her car with only two weeks of use so far, he then attempting to ease her mind with knowing he’d work out all the details, but she not wanting to be hassled with someone whom would take advantage by using her things and eating at her home. When he fails to convince her and she defends herself by stating how she was brought up to rely on herself and hiring “them” wasn’t affordable, Boolie gives her a hard time upon hearing her usage of “them”, he sharing he and his wife, Florine had plans for the evening, and Daisy passive-aggressively commenting. Boolie dismisses this, and then relays he’d be interviewing men for the job and would phone the next day, she still resisting, and then sings a song to conclude the argument.

Boolie is found in his office, Hoke walks in, currently around the age of 60, and looking like he needed work, but attempted to look nice. Boolie finishes a bit of work as he invites him to sit, Hoke agreeable to allow him to finish his task, Boolie then asking how long he’d been unemployed and where he’d worked before. Hoke responds of it being about a year, he then sharing how he preferred working for Jews which led into whom he’d worked for before having attempted to rip him off by selling him over-priced shirts, he then driving for a Jewish man whom Boolie knew, Hoke having worked for him for 7 years before he’d died. Hoke inquires who he’d be driving, Boolie relaying whom it was for and the reason he was looking rather than his mother, assuring him since he was hiring, she wouldn’t be able to let him go. Hoke is satisfied and accepts the job after Boolie offers his pay rate at 20 dollars a week.

Daisy is next seen coming into her living room, reading the news and ignoring Hoke, she only replies to his greeting her. She answers smartly to his weather chat, and then states of taking the trolley to the grocer’s when Hoke relays what the housemaid had told him of certain supplies running low, she refusing to let him take her. Hoke attempts an offer at caring for her flowers and when denied, states of being able to start a vegetable garden, but again is refused, Hoke then resigning himself to sit in the kitchen like he had for six days, but upon discussing how she’d been raised, he offers to water her front steps, this being when she gives him permission to drive her, instead. Hoke makes conversation on the car’s new smell, Daisy speaking of how she’d been taught to drive by her husband and she wanted him to drive well below the speed limit, she then freaking out about the route he was taking, but he gets her there, and once relinquishing the keys to her, she gives him a death stare after he reminds her of getting cleanser, then he calls Boolie from a pay phone, he seeing she’d caught him calling from inside the store and expected she’d have a fit.

Daisy is now peeved when Hoke picks her up from temple directly at the front doors, the two arguing why it would be a big deal Daisy’s acquaintances would see her with a driver and looked wealthy, Hoke giving up on talking about it, and next Boolie receiving a call from Daisy, he agreeing to visit her later, she speaking quickly. When he sees her, Daisy is going off on how Hoke had taken a can of her salmon, Boolie not getting what the issue was, he now tired of arguing and stating she do what she wanted, Hoke then arriving and sharing how he’d had the can of salmon and bought a replacement, Daisy attempting nonchalance and going upstairs to change from her robe. Daisy and Hoke are now at a graveyard, she carrying a mini-shovel and Hoke commenting how often they’d come in the past month, she having cleaned her husband’s stone thoroughly, and how she didn’t allow the staff to tend to it, she instructing him to retrieve some flowers from the car to set on a friend’s husband’s grave, she directing where it would be, but Hoke returning and guiltily confessing of not being able to read, Daisy not believing him at first, since she’d seen him look at the paper, he confiding he was looking at the pictures. Daisy then learns he knew the alphabet, and so actually could read and didn’t know it, having him listen to the sound of “B” and “R”, the first and last letter of the last name he was searching for, she declaring he’d locate it, and Hoke sharing how much he was grateful for her help, she dismissing this and sending him off, claiming of getting hot.

It’s now Christmas and Boolie is speaking on the phone and looking festive, he asking Daisy if she had coconut, to bring it along, since Florine needed it for her ambrosia. Daisy and Hoke are leaving, she not caught up with the Christmas spirit (hwhat a surprise…), she giving Florine the most crap for how many decorations she put up, Hoke agreeing, but enjoying himself. He points out how she’d also put a Rudolph up in a tree, Daisy declaring how Florine’s grandfather would’ve responded to viewing this, but then changes the subject to a book she’d given to Hoke, she vehemently denying it being a present, and to tell no one, Hoke assuring her and attempting to hide his feelings, the two then walking up the drive.

Boolie is now in his late 40s, dressed for golf, and waiting for Hoke, whom comes out to share of Daisy not coming, he relating how defensive she’d been with this new car lately, she chasing some man around when he’d set his case on the hood for a moment, and how she disliked using the A/C, he going on to describe of having purchased the old car and allowing Daisy to ride in it once in awhile, he warning Boolie to mind his ashes. Daisy is then shown carrying out a large suitcase, looking around apprehensively, then getting a dress bag and wicker basket, after which she brings out a wrapped present, Hoke then coming out with a small suitcase and fussing about how she’d brought out all the heavy items unnecessarily, she going on about the time, and he assuring they weren’t late, Boolie then coming out with Florine’s gift for his uncle, whom was turning 90, Daisy stating how inconsiderate they were for not attending and instead going to a show, My Fair Lady in New York. Boolie gives Hoke some emergency money, makes sure they’re set with map, and then wishes Hoke well. Hoke is eating deviled eggs with enjoyment whilst he drove, they discussing their first times out of Georgia, Daisy’s being when she was 12, and Hoke’s being right then, she getting agitated when realizing they’d made a wrong turn, she regretting having been driven and getting talked into it by Boolie instead of going by train. As they are still driving, Hoke soon has to relieve himself, Daisy demanding he wait, but Hoke insisting, and declares of taking the keys, after which a few moments pass, and Daisy at first sounding furious, and then scared as she waited in the dark silence. Hoke is then entering Boolie’s office and relating how he’d heard from Boolie’s cousin’s wife about wanting to hire him, Hoke bringing it up, since putting the idea of a raise in his head, Boolie agreeing and offering 75 dollars a week, Hoke accepting this sounded right, and mentions how being in demand was a nice feeling.

Daisy, now in her 80s, is shown in her house, walking by candlelight, the lights having gone out, but phones still working. Boolie called to inform her it was the neighborhood and would update her after checking the car radio. Daisy is then startled when hearing her door open, but then Hoke greets her as usual, telling how he’d learned to drive on ice long ago and had stopped to get her coffee, she pleasantly surprised. They then go through their routine of she stating he clean up the water he’d tracked in and he replying of who she thought he was, she then picking up Boolie’s return call and learning of when the ice would melt, she replying he could stay put, since Hoke had come, Boolie giving her a hard time about she complimenting Hoke for the first time he’d heard. Next, Daisy’s in the car, Hoke returning to inform of the major damage up ahead. Daisy states how it was so late she wouldn’t make it to temple anyways, Hoke replying it had been bombed, so she wouldn’t have been able to, regardless. Daisy is in denial, then hoping no one had been hurt, unable to fathom why a reformed temple would be hit, Hoke describing the sort of people who make such destruction didn’t care, he sharing a childhood story of a buddy’s father getting strung up, Daisy not seeing the relation, and then disbelieving the news he’d heard from the cop being a lie. Hoke decides he’d attempt to return her home, she commanding he end the conversation.

Next, Boolie is in his late 50s, walking in to a room whilst being applauded, carrying a silver bowl, and attending due to being elected man of the year by the Atlanta Business Council and preparing to share his speech of thanks and his one-liner jokes about himself, then sharing his family’s origin of their business having been in alignment with the view of the people in their city, due to the success they had, concluding his speech with humble, gratefulness and mention of the upcoming sport’s event on Sunday, and regarding whom he wished to win (football, most like). Daisy is then shown attempting to make a phone call with effort, she becoming more decrepit. She gets a hold of Boolie’s secretary and only has her relay of having acquired the tickets to the honor banquet for Martin Luther King, Jr, then reassures the lady of how late in life her cousin had married.

Later, Boolie joins Daisy, whom is now 90, he inquiring how she was, Daisy not seeing the question as suitable for someone her age, and they moving on to his receiving her message. Daisy suggests Hoke drive them, but then offers Boolie to do so when he states of they needing to discuss these plans further, he broaching the subject by stating of realizing MLK Jr’s accomplishments and progressive acts being many, Daisy stopping him by announcing he should get to the point of whether he’d rather decline attendance. He explains how the ignorant men he worked with may affect his success if they found out, he suggesting she invite Hoke, Boolie then leaving. After Daisy gets ready, Hoke comes in to collect her and help her into the car. They’re on their way before Daisy starts harping on Hoke for being blind, he denying this accusation, and she stating how he’d almost hit a mailbox, the car thoroughly scratched. Hoke contradicts this, again and she repeats her accusation of him being blind, which was unfortunate, since the new car looked so nice. Hoke then states how it was rounding a couple years of she owning it, she replying he was going the wrong way.

The two compete about their length of time in Atlanta until he trumps (bad choice of word) her on she not having driven for 2 decades, she then changing the subject to Boolie, dancing around how he’d mentioned MLK Jr. and how easy it was for Hoke to see him preach at his church, Boolie believing Hoke wanted her to invite him, he then getting worked up with how she’d brought this up whilst he was driving her, she flustered he was over-reacting to how she’d asked, getting out and walking herself to the entrance. Boolie is now shown on the phone with Hoke, the latter having called to discuss Daisy being aggravated, different than normal, she calling to him, Hoke then describing how she thought she was teaching school and talking nonsense, Boolie assuring he was on his way.

Daisy looks unkempt and inquires where he’d left her school work, he denying there was any at all, she certain she put them in a particular spot after grading them. He tells her she’d lost her mind, she ignoring him to state how popular she was with her students for diligently returning their school work a day later after they’d handed them in. She becomes upset when convinced she had ruined everything, Hoke attempting to calm her and convince her she wasn’t a teacher any longer, how lucky she was for being looked after, and if she wanted to see misery, to visit the “state home”. She still doesn’t register the subject and so Hoke instead resorts to stating how Boolie would sic a doctor on her to admit her into a loony bin instead, if she wasn’t careful. She then sobers her tone and asks after the first car he’d bought which she’d previously owned, Hoke updating it would be in a junkyard by now, and she stating, then insisting he was her “best friend”, he convinced by her conviction.

Boolie is shown browsing around Daisy’s living room, he now 65. He pockets his mother’s address book as Hoke, 85 walks in, greeting Boolie. He asks how Hoke had come by, he stating his granddaughter had taken him, she 37 and teaching Biology at a local college. Boolie then inquires if Hoke wanted anything from the house before Goodwill came to clean it out, he already exhausting what he wished to keep from Daisy’s possessions. Hoke declines, Boolie then confessing how odd it was to put Daisy’s house on the market whilst she was still living, Hoke understanding, and Boolie rationalizing the decision, since she hadn’t been there for over a couple years. He then confides of Hoke’s weekly check indefinitely being sent to him, Hoke relating how he was grateful, and he attempting to see Daisy as much as he could without a bus going to the stop necessary, he resorting to cab it over when he could. Boolie acknowledges Daisy most likely was happy when he could come by, then states of they moving along to visit her now, since they both more than likely had plans later for turkey day, and should let his granddaughter know he’d give him a ride back.

Daisy, 97 is shown moving about with a walker, Boolie and Hoke arriving, the two greeting her, and Boolie helping her sit, the two including her in the conversation of what she’d been up to, but she not speaking, acknowledging them at first with a nod and then seeming distant. Boolie provides general chat until Daisy bursts out with Hoke having come to visit her and not him. Hoke notes she was having one of her better days, she then commanding Boolie to go flirt with the nurses, her son stating how she wanted Hoke to herself and she being “a doodle” before leaving. She snoozes lightly and then sees Hoke, asking if he was still getting paid by Boolie, he admitting this and still wouldn’t divulge the amount, the two agreeing they were living life as well as they could. When Hoke notices she’d left her turkey day pie and sees her struggling with the fork, he offers to accommodate, proceeding to cut easy bite-size pieces for her.

I didn’t expect how sweet the characters were with only my knowledge from the film (which was fine from my recollection), but this being quaint and engaging. Quite enjoyable story, and it’s so short it won’t take any time to read it, so if it’s a nice, lazy story one’s after, this’ll do.

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower 1)

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King’s introduction tells of how prevalent hobbits were when he was nineteen, hippies galore dressed like Lord of the Rings characters at Woodstock and whatnot. He was fond of the novels to the point of certainty he’d be writing his own version when it came to him and then shares how the age of nineteen brought with it a prideful manner of seeing life bending to one’s will, and how one is supposed to think big, so later in life it can be made true. He describes the two types of novelist after this, the “serious” and “popular”, both of which being selfish in nature. He relates of his realization after watching The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, he wanted to marry Tolkien’s quest and magic with this Western sensibility. He couldn’t answer why he wanted to write an epic tome, but believed he mostly succeeded in doing so. Then he alludes to his car accident and how after a fan spoke of if he hadn’t survived, the Tower would forever have remained a mystery, he knowing he had to complete it, and glad he now has.

The Foreword explains why he’d changed The Gunslinger and what he’d added, he comparing this to when he’d expanded The Stand, he then going back to sharing how his accident had spurred him to finish the Tower series, regardless of how many readers had been interested in it (around the halfway mark when it came to those who attended readings). He describes how the start of the series hadn’t matched up with the end, he then sharing his writing process being to get it all out and let it simmer for six months or longer before the first revision, he stating how he’d cleaned up some unnecessary verbosity and attempted to have the story more clearly understood to first time readers.

19, Resumption (which is explained later, I suppose) titles the first two pages before chapter one. The gunslinger is following the running man in black, Walter o’Dim and was currently gauging his fairly full water bag which if he’d been a holy man, may have been able to more closely estimate when drinking was necessary, but didn’t follow Jesus or was a Manni, after which his guns are depicted, and where he’d gotten them. He no longer had his horn or hat, but wished he did, he then noticing a burnt out campfire, which he salvaged the leftover bacon and shared how he had so far only been discovering Walter’s campsites, knowing he’d track the man as long as it took to finally catch up to him, but also sensing he’d gotten a bit closer, regardless of only ever detecting dead camps with no signs of waste. He watches the slowly dimming horizon for a sign of a camp, none being viewed, so sets his own fire atop the old camp and rests for the night.

The gunslinger now had a mule after having passed through a town a few weeks previously, he seeing crazy men and lepers, and acquiring a compass he could make use of until Jesus showed himself; a crazy man’s terms of agreement. The gunslinger is surprised when coming across another hut with a young man attending his corn, the two greeting each other formally, and the young man offering corn to eat, the gunslinger noting the young man sounded like Manni, which he agreed he’d been with, but left, the young man introducing himself as Brown, the gunslinger sharing his own (we not privy, but I’ll be using from here on out).

Brown then shares his raven’s name as Zoltan, noticing Roland as a gunslinger, believing his type were no more, Roland confirming he’d come from In-World some time ago, and then vaguely asking of Walter’s passing by, Brown unable to determine with certainty how long ago it’d been, time being wonky out there. Brown then offers what Walter had spoken of, he having inquired after the weather, his wife, and her origins. Brown asks if he was a wizard, which Roland confirms of and he being more, as well. Brown declares Roland wouldn’t overtake him, but he states otherwise, Brown then going inside to prepare their meal whilst Roland filled his water-skins in the well at the back. When he joins Brown inside and rests whilst the man boils the beans, he thinks of how many hours he’d been traveling without rest, also thinking of how impossible Mid-World’s greenery seemed, Roland not bothered by Walter’s distance since he’d gotten an estimate in the most recent town he’d gone, though he not looking forward to the forthcoming desert.

When Brown wakes him, an hour’s gone by and his mule has died, upside being the food was done. Upon inquiry, Brown estimates the mule had perished due to age, and after setting out the food, prays, Roland learning Brown thought they were already in the hereafter. As the weather became rougher with the dark, Roland hungrily ate the tough corn and beans, he wondering why Brown didn’t eat Zoltan, talking animals being more difficult to decide to consume, apparently. When they’d finished their meal, Roland offers a smoke, he having a moment of paranoia when thinking of Walter having conjured these moments, Roland asking if Brown had been to Tull, he stating the last time he’d been to the town was to sell corn, Roland sharing how Walter had set up a trap for him when he’d passed through, the town now killed by Roland, in his own words. Roland then takes a moment to piss on Brown’s corn, as requested, he deciding whether Brown was Walter, and when he returns back inside, is called out by these thoughts from Brown, Roland debating if he needed to take him out, his morals holding his hand, Brown then offering to listen, if Roland still needed to unload his troubles. Brown makes it easier by plainly asking about Tull, and Roland lets it out.

Roland’s description of where he’d purchased the now dead mule, as well as his cross-country trudge follows, until getting to Tull. As he drew closer, hearing “Hey, Jude” being played, the inhabitants the usual slightly off country-folk, Roland approaches an old man pitching some hay in a barn, getting him to agree to look after his mule once tossing a gold piece in his direction. When Roland then attempts to get one of the boys playing marbles to inform him of whether there was a cafe in town, none answering until the youngest replies, he paying for it after Roland leaves, he views the inside of the bar mentioned before heading in. The people inside stare until he gets to the bar, he then ordering three burgers, attention called back to him as they cooked, he having to dissuade a man with a big knife to end his approach toward him. When he was nearly done eating another man puts a hand on his shoulder, Roland realizing Walter had made the man crazy, he already deceased. Roland, taken aback when he spoke the High Speech to him, gives him a gold piece as requested, from shock, the man returning to his table gladly. The bar quickly empties after this, even the piano player leaving, the bar-maid angry he’d gotten her customers to exit, Roland asking whom the man at the table was, then inquiring of Walter, she agreeing to tell for the price of getting laid. Afterward, she tells of how the man downstairs, Nort had died, then he asking once more about Walter.

Walter had arrived near sundown the same day Nort had passed, a fast wind having risen, people closing down windows, one man whom had seen him enter, not wanting to make his acquaintance. Walter heads for Sheb’s Bar, most within paying him no mind what with the storm and they involved in their own activities, only Alice, the barmaid the only interested eye-witness, he heading for the bar and requesting some good whiskey, Nort’s body lying on tables in the middle of the room. Alice leaves the bar a moment to open a keg, Walter stating of seeing the dead man, and Alice launching into how those in attendance weren’t real mourners, but seemed to mock him, as they had during his life, Walter putting back his shot, showing his money, as requested, she then consenting to pour his second drink. When Alice attempts to ask how long his stay would be, Walter turns the conversation on her, about how she had affection for Nort, she sensing a bad vibe and commanding he leave, but then Walter shows his eyes and she feels drugged, he laughing loudly and the ruckus around them quieting, people watching him.

No one was affected by his laugh to join him, he approaching a lady whom had been singing and whapping her tummy, she forced to laugh a couple times until fleeing and crying, Walter starting his little show with Nort, spitting on him with precision, more people starting to leave, and those still there gathering around, he continuing his resurrection, and as people saw Nort’s first breaths, more heading out, and upon opening his eyes, Alice running upstairs. Walter yells after her of this being for her, it impossible to undo, and its hilarity, she locking her door. Nort goes out for weed, Walter having gone when Alice returns downstairs, Nort taking his table by the door, he greeting her and sharing what Walter had told him, stating of his desire to stop using, but how he was addicted and it giving him tremors, which made him unable to, he saddened by this. She then finishes lighting the bar, only one other patron coming in, Nort then remembering to give her a message from Walter, revealing 19 being the number to say to Nort if she wanted him to reveal the truth of Death and the next world, he certain she wouldn’t be able to resist forever. Alice is sickened by realizing this truth, but by the next day, life already normalized, and by the day after, all the same as usual, Alice still struggling with the word she attempted to keep to herself, she dipping into the whiskey to help her ignore the urge.

This ended her recollection, she believing he’d dozed off, and was doing so herself when he inquires of this being all which had occurred, she agreeing, then he stating he shouldn’t linger there too long, since there was most likely a trap awaiting him, as well. He advises she do her best to forget the number, and if she gets an overwhelming urge, to retreat upstairs and say it as many times as necessary. She is comforted in knowing he wouldn’t leave yet, and next morning when she feeds him, he inquires of whether she had a map of the southeast, she stating of it only being desert, he then going off to see the hostler, Kennerly to see if he knew more, Allie warning him he tended to make up ‘facts’ if he didn’t know, she touched when he thanks her.

When he’d gotten to Kennerly, his daughters were roaming the grounds, his eldest, a horny teen, whom he kept having to threaten to get inside the house. Roland inquires what he knew about the desert and what lay beyond, he uncertain, Roland paying him another coin to continue watching the mule, he deciding he’d remain in town for a little while longer. Four days pass, Roland’s resolve to leave fading, he aware this could be the snare Walter had left him, Sheb busting in with raised knife and sounding nuts, claiming Allie was his, Roland then recognizing him from his past. Allie calms him as he cries and sets his broken wrists. Roland asks if Sheb remembers the time they’d met before, he then commanding him to leave, Sheb then spouting of Roland only having been a kid, but quickly obeying his demand. Allie then attempts to continue where they’d been interrupted, but Roland isn’t interested any longer, she considering the situation Sheb and he must have been in involving a girl he’d cared for, she trying to have him acquiesce to her desire, but failing.

The next evening, the bar is shut, this being a similar day to the Sabbath. Allie cleans shop, Roland walking to the church and watching the congregation sing, the preacher-woman massive and insane. Once the song finishes, the woman begins speaking, Roland getting the feeling he’d been there before, her subject for tonight being “The Interloper”, she describing how she knew most of the characters in the Bible and loved them, the only one she didn’t know, being The Interloper, she afraid because she wasn’t familiar with his inner thoughts, she clearly referring to Satan, warning her followers to be wary, bringing their hysteria to a climax and spouting of the apocalypse, the lady also including a name Roland vaguely had heard of before, realizing Walter had also infected her after witnessing the questions she asked the people, everyone in moaning agony, Roland uneasy. When the preacher-woman singles out a man whom was particularly affected, she gives him solace with Jesus’ forgiveness. She then makes certain they would all attack Satan if they saw him, Roland leaving and noting his time to move on almost arriving.

Allie next states how the preacher-woman wouldn’t entertain his presence, she secluding herself if it wasn’t a Sunday. When Roland asks when she’d come to town, Allie relays it could have been two or twelve year’s, she then being dishonest when he asks which way she’d walked from, she eventually relenting and confessing it was from the desert, where the dwellers made their homes, this news easing Roland a bit, since it was where he was heading, his final question of where she currently resided reluctantly answered. Roland senses his last day had arrived, Allie feeling this moment, as well, she feeding him, and their farewell abrupt. Roland mentions after this, seeing her again one more time before her death. When he’d gotten to the preacher-woman, Sylvia Pittston’s home, everything had become silent, the wind having dissipated, knowing it would come back with force the longer it was away. A strange light was tinting the view, and Roland knocked a few times, busting his way in to see her rocking in a chair, neither of them speaking for a moment, until she declares he wouldn’t get Walter, since Roland was with the dark side, he stating how Walter had gone to her, she admitting she’d slept with him, speaking the High Speech to her.

Roland informs her Walter had fucked her in more ways than one, she continuing to state Roland being on the side of the devil and having seen him lurking in the church. He asks her why Walter had brought back Nort, she stating Walter had informed her he was working with God and how Roland would want to sleep with her, but she wouldn’t allow this since Walter had made her pregnant, telling her it was royalty, Roland sharing what she truly had was a devil and he would be able to get it out of her, she reacting by drawing back. Roland asks what was beyond the desert, her answer being he wouldn’t get Walter, but “burn”, Walter giving her this information. Roland threatens the details out of her by making like he would begin removing her child, she finally relenting and confessing of Walter going to the mountains and stopping on the other end to regain his power, she stating Roland had murdered her child and he’d get his, demanding he leave. He states she didn’t have a baby, demon, or otherwise, then doing as she bid.

When Roland had gotten to Kennerly’s, he could see a dust storm on the way, but hadn’t reached them yet. Kennerly inquires if he was leaving today, Roland agreeing, and Kennerly informing his idea of moving on before the storm not giving him enough of a head start, stating it would be his death if he got caught in it. Kennerly’s eye movement gives away an attack by his daughter, Soobie, Roland missing most of the hit, it barely getting his elbow. Roland again insists for his mule, Kennerly acquiescing, he leaving the two in the barn and walking into the hot air. Roland makes a stop to see Allie, but she wasn’t working, and no one was inside, he getting some provisions and leaving payment, considering whether he’d be able to bypass Walter’s trap, but not holding onto hope. Walter pretended to be divine, spouting of royalty’s spawn, a crimson youth, and it made him wonder if he had been fooling around the whole time, the answer essential.

Then a shriek has townspeople pouring out from behind closed doors, all carrying weapons, Sheb using Allie as a hostage, stepping forward first, she begging to be put out of her misery for having said the number, Roland reacting automatically and putting them both down, all the others being fended off as they came, he locating temporary shelter in the general store/barber’s, reloading and shooting more as they attempted entry, and as he exits through the back, puts down more who meet him there, he backing into the desert, still shooting and yelling, getting them all as they closed in. As they became fewer, he’d only gotten minor scrapes, someone then catching him in the face with the butt of a knife, which puts him on the ground, he now getting stabbed in different spots, the worst one on his leg, Roland catching them all in the end, even those attempting to escape. As he retraces his steps back to where they’d ambushed him, he counts how many were dead, Tull’s fifty-eight residents no more. He saw what had become of Nort, located his mule, and led it back to the stable. After attending to Nort, he goes to Sheb’s bar, eats some burgers with beer, then spends the night in Allie’s bed. By morning, the sky was clear, he finished tending to his cuts, and starts through the desert.

Roland believed Brown had passed out, Zoltan even showing he’d been resting during the story, Roland ready to prepare a place for himself to sleep when Brown inquires if this retelling had helped him get a load off, Roland questioning why he’d feel negatively, and he stating of Roland being human, unless he hadn’t been honest, Roland denying he had misspoken, detecting his favor for Brown, asking whom he actually was, and he responding of being himself, and why Roland thought there was anything hidden. Brown believes Roland is close to catching Walter, he uncertain whether Walter would feel hopeless when Brown asks, and Roland not having reached this point himself, declaring of going and doing what’s necessary, Brown accepting this and rolling over to sleep. In the morning, Brown prepares him a final meal and gets him going, they parting with kind words. When the sun had set, Roland dreamt, the mountains near, but unseen, he having Cort repeatedly returning to his thoughts, the man showing him how to shoot and his morals. When he regains consciousness, he notes of his “romantic” nature only having been known by few, Susan from Mejis being one, and then reminding himself again of Cort and how he now was the last to survive, packing up and continuing his walk.

Roland gets a children’s rhyme stuck in his mind, his mother having sung it to him during nap time. He was now devoid of water and had been walking for a little over two weeks, the mountains not looking any nearer. When he scraped his hands after tripping and had maddened thoughts of the blood as it fell, he became aware of his sanity taking a break. He then notices a couple of buildings which caught his attention earlier upon checking the distance of the mountains, they much closer now. He makes out one as a stable and the other a motel or home, this “a way station” for coaches. There was a person propped against the building Roland recognizing as Walter once walking closer, exhausted he still prompts himself to run as he pulls his gun and declares of having him in his sights, but when the figure gets up, he sees he’s facing a blonde boy, the two staring and Roland not believing his eyes, heading toward the stable, a buzzing persistence in his head. When he reaches the black heat inside, he turns to see the kid had followed, he then falling face-down.

Roland resurfaces with light in his face and straw under his head, the boy having attempted to keep him at ease, the boy also giving him water, then offering food, but Roland taking it slow for knowing he’d gotten sunstroke, the boy then introducing himself as John, preferring to be called Jake Chambers. Roland senses he was ten or eleven, his slight look of intimidation letting Roland know he could rely on him. When Jake returns with more water, Roland admits he’d mistaken Jake for Walter at first, Jake revealing a man in black, a holy man had passed through, Jake not liking him, and when Roland insists he attempt a guess of how long ago he’d left, Jake hesitates between one to two weeks, but certain it was “three poops ago”, then reminded of a film he’d seen in Times Square, Roland not understanding this. When Jake goes off to acquire some meat for him, Roland knows the boy wasn’t from around there, and when he’d returned, Roland inquires into it, Jake no longer knowing, but mentioning someone from his past stating it was due to too much TV.

Roland asks what he’d meant by “Channel 11”, thinking it was a “beam”, Jake then becoming upset with the continued questioning, since he knew his memory was going and he may not remember what his own name was soon, and Roland would be leaving him. Roland essentially tells him to bite the bullet (a phrase I despise), but then requests Jake tell him what he could of his past. Jake only relented when Roland insists so he could decide whether he may be able to puzzle through the leftovers Jake couldn’t put together any longer, the boy describing New York City, the Statue of Liberty, cabs, buses, how he got to, what he brought with him, and what he wore to school, he only using half remembered details. Roland then inquires if Jake would like for him to put him to sleep, to help him regain his memories, he showing Jake what he meant, a similar trick to watching a pendulum swing, Jake quickly lulled, and Roland then thinking of another song his mother had sung to him. Roland disgustedly acknowledges his hands own talents for destruction before inquiring where Jake was. Jake is heading out, detailing what was in his packed lunch the cook had made him and what subjects he had at school, as well as how all the adults treated him cordially, he not experiencing any exceptional warmth from even his parents, and at school, he’s left alone, but has no buddies, girls attracted to him, but his stately manner throwing them off. When he gets to a corner, Walter is there, causing him to get run over by a car, the last he sees is Walter approaching and his own hand.

Roland is troubled by the boy’s story, he not having heard of a place like this before, the closest possibility being Lud, he then giving Jake the option to remember, but he choosing not to, Roland letting him go to sleep. He decides how fond of Jake he was, as he sipped water and looked through the stable, seeing the machine Jake had gotten the water from, Roland then sitting near him and debating whether Walter was allowing him to catch up on purpose. Next, when thinking of the children’s rhyme, Cort comes to mind, as well as others which circle back to Susan, he then entertaining himself with an old tune as he’s comforted in knowing Walter was drawing nearer, Roland then beginning to drowse. He regains consciousness near nightfall, Jake no longer there, Roland locating him outside on the porch of the house, he having made a fire. Roland sits nearby and discusses how he’d be continuing his chase of Walter, uncertain whether he’d end his life or would need him to lead him somewhere, when Jake asks his plan. Roland confides it was whether Walter could lead him to a tower, and then states Jake would need to accompany him, asking about how much food they had, and Jake sharing of a smelly cellar, but not going down, since it seemed unstable. After Jake shares how he was glad he hadn’t murdered Roland in his sleep, he asks if he could share the stable with him when they go to sleep, Roland gives permission, and thinks of his past before calling it a night.

Roland looks in the cellar the next morning, Jake correct in stating the stench being strong from rotten vegetables, he detecting some canned food, but upon the third round, the foundation beginning to creak loudly, Roland calling for Jake to exit, he then hearing Allie’s voice caution him about “the Drawers” and Walter, he then going to the wall he’d heard the voice at and punching through it, grabbing a jaw bone before returning upstairs and out. Jake is hysterical, and hugs him when he sees him exit. Roland realizes Walter may have counted on his affection for Jake, Roland then suggesting they leave, giving a water-bag for him to carry, and Roland taking the last two along with his possessions and the food. After walking a little ways, Jake waves goodbye to the way station, stating how he felt they were being watched and glad to be reassured they wouldn’t return, soon the way station no longer in sight, and they heading for the mountains.

The mountains became more distinct a few days later, Roland able to make out the colors and type of terrain was ahead, Jake watching the lightning ‘show’ which would occur nightly, lulling him to sleep. Roland considers the possibilities of what could be in store for him by Walter, since the boy was an exceptional travel companion, staying out of his way and not slowing him down, no questions being raised on Roland’s actions, he knowing Walter had some reason for putting Jake in his path, and it most likely a doozy if everything was going as well as it was. Walter’s nightly burned campsites were also becoming more recently abandoned, Roland wary upon soon confronting him. At noon on the fourth day, Jake was commanded to stop after he’d stumbled, Roland insisting he drink some water, he then stating from this point forward, they’d be taking breaks daily at this hour, Roland distracting Jake from his guilt by pulling his bullet trick and speaking of where he grew up, as well as Merlin, the boy then going to sleep.

Roland prepares a smoke for himself as he realizes he was no longer urgently desiring to catch up with Walter, thinking of how he may attempt to trick Roland. He imagines men from his past and the varying humors, as well as natures they had, concluding his thoughts of a bird he related to because of its unrelenting nature to kill, Roland affected negatively for a moment before letting the thought go. Another place and time is shown, spring being the season, Cort, David, the falcon, and Cuthbert or Bert were in a spot where a game would soon be started. Roland then makes certain all were prepared, none of them yet allowed to speak the High Speech, Cort letting a dove out of it’s cage, David following soon after, Bert then getting punished for not releasing the dove on time, Roland distracting them by yelling of seeing the dove and David’s progress, the falcon dropping the dove, Roland running at the fallen bird, as David tore into it, he distracting the falcon with a piece of rabbit, and when he tried putting David’s leash back on, was rewarded with a cut to his arm, David resumes consuming the dove until Roland succeeded with getting the falcon leashed, giving him another slice of meat, and hooding him so he’d set upon his arm, Cort regards how Roland had been cut because the falcon didn’t respect him, and wouldn’t ever do so.

Cort releases them for the evening and reminds Bert of his punishment for later and the next morning, but whacking Bert once more for seeing his insolence in the reflection of Roland’s eyes. When they are returning, Roland offers they both eat in a different kitchen which would possibly allow more safety for Bert to get away with eating dinner, Roland regarding how it shouldn’t matter if Cort learned of this or not. The kitchen cook was called Hax, he of mixed origins and a pleasant acquaintance to all of the children he encountered, even the wild ones becoming gunslingers, he giving the two meat scraps as work was quickly done around them. Hax is then approached by a scullery boy leading someone from the Guards to announce the Guard wanted to speak with him. Hax instructs the two to go get some pie and leave after so he didn’t receive backlash, the two eating under the stairs. When they were ready to go, Hax and the Guard make their way near the stairs, making it impossible for the boys to exit undetected, the two hearing something about a get-together for a job in a few weeks and poisoned meat. The men then agree how loyal they were to someone, Hax then inquiring about whether kids would be poisoned in the town and if it’d be painful, the Guard assuring it was mild.

The two speak more of how the Guard planned to make his leaving look normal as Roland notes how he’d had the chance to end the two where they’d stood, Bert and he digesting all they’d heard, Roland seeing Hax’s death in Bert’s eyes. When Roland’s father had returned home, he didn’t waste any time to inform him, the man surprised, wondering about Roland’s reasons for coming forward, he stating it was because they had tricked him, then declaring wanting to be present when he was hanged, his father deciding to allow it. As Roland inquires whether his father knew whom Hax and the Guard had referred to as a “good man”, and why, if caught, it wouldn’t satisfy the public, Roland’s father dismisses him instead of answering. Roland remembers how his mother, father, and Marten, the good man, had been found in the end, and debated how it could technically include himself among them, as well (mysterious).

Roland notes how Bert would’ve found where the gallows were, being quite a suitable relation to the information they’d overheard, the notes from each of their fathers letting them out of Cort’s lessons early, and he instructing the two to set half a loaf of bread under each of Hax’s feet once dead, which he supplied and threatened them to complete correctly. When the boys had arrived a couple hours before everyone else and realized what the bread was for, Bert was chickening out, but Roland saw the value of why they’d been given permission, although not forcing Bert and himself to climb the gallows as Roland had suggested, knowing Cort would’ve forced them both, he discovering how dissatisfied he was with the state of his childhood by this point, then retrieving a splinter of wood from the platform and replying it would be a reminder. They then sit down across the way and view the people as they arrived, Roland hoping there was a good reason behind betraying Hax, he apprehensive and Bert showing no emotion.

Roland was reassured by how the hanging had gone, Hax’s arrival not eliciting too much response from the gathered group, a gunslinger leading Hax to his rope and inquiring if he’d care to make confession, Hax denying the need, Roland planning on speaking with his father about what look he’d seen pass over the crowd as Hax spoke. Right before the deed was done, the gunslinger states his charges and pulls the trap door open as Hax is readying to deny it was true. Roland had stayed impressed with how Hax had continued to attempt speaking after he was hanging, after this everyone made their way off, the two boys approaching the body and Bert discussing how Hax didn’t look himself anymore, Roland disagreeing. The two then spread the bread under Hax’s hanging body, Bert declaring he’d enjoyed the show, Roland not denying this, but replying it was definitely an event. A few years after this, Roland had become a gunslinger, his father was already dead, and he’d killed his mother, his travels then starting.

Jake then brings Roland’s attention to the barely visible figure of Walter climbing high above them supernaturally jumping large areas, it seemed, this being a couple days at the bottom of the mountains for the two. Jake questions Roland of whether this was whom he was searching, whether they’d catch up, and what was beyond the mountains, Roland confirming it was the man he was chasing, believed perhaps they’d reach him on the other side, and couldn’t determine what they’d discover there, he hastening they continue. When they make camp later on, Roland wonders if Jake felt the gravity of their chase and eventual conclusion, however it may involve the Tower, as well, Jake then referred to as a “sacrifice” as Roland covers him as he slept.

Cryptically, Jake discovers “the oracle”, and it had nearly killed him, the days torturous, and Jake’s steadfastness making Roland look on him with pride, despite the crazed look in his eyes, but as they hiked further up, Roland was able to shoot a rabbit, he then ordering Jake to sit whilst he gathered wood, the boy asleep by the time he’d returned. When he’d gone to top off their water-skins, he’s reminded of Allie (King talks like she’d been completely forgotten by now, but possibly putting it like this because of how long it seemed for Roland walking through the desert), he returning to make the rabbit stew with the remainder of their veggies, and after waking Jake, informs him they were staying put the next day, sensing it wouldn’t hurt, but also not having a good feeling about it. As Roland nods off, Jake already back to sleep, he is reminded of Bert again as he throws his cigarette in the campfire, the night pleasant, he dreaming. Next, Susan is about to die, Roland’s love, he being held by a couple of townspeople, but in reality not having witnessed her death. People were chucking corn at her, the husks aflame before even hitting her, the witch, Rhea definitely amused, wherever she was, Roland’s attention then brought to Susan’s window when she’d shrieked about a boy, Roland viewing Jake with a sharp object in his head. Roland wakes when he begins feeling coals from the fire burning his hand, he still hearing a sound he thought had come from his dream, then seeing Jake wasn’t there, he up and after him. Jake had gone further up a ways, Roland smelling his scent, and when entering between some stones, understood what the boy was going through mentally, and physically, the oracle, or succubus emanating a feeling hard to ignore, Roland whipping out the jawbone in his pocket and putting it in front of his face, doing the same for Jake, he having more trouble coming around, but passes out, which allowed Roland to get them both back to the camp, the energy seeming upset, Roland aware now how deeply he cared for Jake, certain he could sense Walter laughing at him.

Roland wakes by Jake yelling at him, he having bound Jake before going back to sleep, he now hungry and angry, Roland explaining he had wandered off, showing him the jawbone, which reminded him, Roland then informing him he was to stay at the camp whilst he took care of something, stating if Jake believed for any reason he had to desert the camp, to look at the jawbone, Jake resisting his ability to do this, due to his revulsion to it. Roland instructs how he should use it when necessary, he relating Jake to another childhood buddy of his, Alain, Jake then relenting with sad resignation, Roland considering how dangerous his task was, but he needing to learn more about the oracle, and attempt to defeat it. Roland then takes out a pill of mescaline, explaining to Jake of what it did, Jake describing its similarity to LSD, which he couldn’t remember the reason for it being similar, Roland then taking the pill and cleaning his weapons whilst he waited. After, he sewed a tear in Jake’s shirt, he then noticing the physical affects of the drug kicking in. Roland announces it was time he go, Jake wishing him luck and safety, Roland rumpling his hair as he walked past him.

Roland heads for the rocks, he taking a moment to sip some water from the stream he would be crossing, looking at his reflection curiously. Roland realized his thoughts were becoming heavier and felt like it was slowing his actions, but  he moved himself onward, fortunately still peaceful in mind, the drug usually irritating him, and as he entered the circle, not feeling the way he had before, he lying on the altar and thinking of a line of Manni poetry, seeing faces in the trees, finally feeling a presence and requesting it to share what needed to be passed on to him. He now was forced to envision Susan, as the oracle mourned and pled for Roland to be warm toward her, since it was already frigid there, the oracle denying of hearing about Jake when Roland brought him up, and continued to go after Roland’s lust with desperation, he negotiating to give what the oracle desired after he received honest information, he withholding and realizing the oracle was moving off sadly, he insisting being told, the oracle then stating he sleep, but when being denied, suggests half sleep, Roland debating this due to the serious nature of what was being asked of him, he also considering its necessity, and then succumbing to half sleep.

The first item he learns is the number three being his fate, another number to show up later, Roland then asking for this to be elaborated, he told of a “young, dark-haired…demon” called, Heroin, the oracle then warning of unfound “doorways”. The second piece of knowledge is brief, a female arriving on “wheels”, and the third about someone else’s end, Roland then inquiring of Walter and learning they’d be chatting of the Tower soon, he afterward insisting to hear about Jake, whom was his ticket to Walter, and in turn he leading him to the three, and this getting him to the Dark Tower, the oracle unable to explain, to Roland’s aggravation. He learns Jake could be saved though, which would have him turn back, he unable for Marten deceiving his father, the oracle stating Walter had consumed Marten’s essence and wasn’t accessible any longer, as Roland was aware, but he not able to give up, the oracle replying of he being cursed in this case, and Roland allowing the oracle then to do as she willed.

The oracle does her ‘bidness’, Roland having to stop her when he’d finished, she persisting, so he being more aggressive to leaving, then considering how long her next wait could last, time being an overpowering hindrance. Jake goes toward him when he approaches the camp, looking worried, Roland clarifying he wasn’t ill, and Jake could leave the jawbone he carried with him, Jake tossing it with loathing, Roland so exhausted he had been ready to share his problems (dan-dinh, also a gamer, apparently), and update him of what he’d experienced, but immediately turns away from the idea, and wondered if he was losing his mind by even having thought to attempt it. He instead shares of their plans for later and right then he would sleep. Jake uses an idiom which confuses Roland until rephrased, and when he’d resurfaced, he designated the task of rekindling the fire to the boy, he shocked to hear a rhyme he hadn’t remembered saying in front of him. Jake is proud of himself when succeeding with using the tools required to restart the fire, Roland walking off to hunt, he returning with three rabbits ready for boiling, and praising Jake on having prepared the water for them, the boy blushing. As the stew boiled, Roland gathers vines as possible rope for later, but sensing “ka” was with them. They break camp at sunrise, their food supply quite light, and as they hiked, Jake and Roland discuss the boy’s views on their upcoming hike up the mountain being strenuous or not, Jake believing the latter.

Jake guesses correctly about the start of their hike up, it not terribly taxing, and when they viewed their progress, Roland was struck by how non-threatening the desert looked from this height, and how it had almost been the end of him. As they continue forward, their path getting steeper, Roland hears the sounds of a storm, but they being safe for now, since it was on the other side of the mountain currently. At sunset, the two set up camp, Roland supplying them a blanket tied up to cover them from wind, Jake being reminded of his mother when remembering a descriptive phrase she used in reference to how deeply he slept, he fighting the urge to get upset. Roland is reminded of a phrase Cort would use when he’d ask useless questions, then Jake wonders how he’d gotten there and the reason for his memory loss, Roland stating it was caused by Walter and the Tower. When Jake confesses confusion, Roland agrees with the sentiment, Jake then asking where he was from, Roland sharing the place was called New Canaan and wasn’t there anymore.

Roland then reminisces to himself of a time when his parents had set him up with a suitable girl for a party, and how the surroundings had begun to lose its luster when he had been about to leave to follow Walter, he saddened by the state of its decline compared to his earlier memories. After he and Jake speak of how the place had turned to ruins, Jake shares how he’d want to have lived there, he then lying down to sleep. Roland considers the unfortunate situation to come for Jake, but this only asserting itself temporarily before he came back to himself and slept. The further on they arose, the more treacherous it became, but Jake stayed useful with his agility in small rock faces, he able to help Roland with a few narrow spots with the ropes they’d brought. The next day, they were trudging through an icy spot of the mountain caused by a cloud, they detecting a footprint in the ice, making camp later upon sunset, and Roland believing Jake may start asking questions, but instead goes to sleep quite quickly. Roland follows suit, but wakes with a similar nightmare as before with Jake and the object in his head, he waking and seeing Jake wasn’t soundly sleeping either, Roland then attempting again to sleep.

One week after the footprint, they were in Walter’s presence for a short moment. Before this happens, they reach a point where they begin going downhill, and when they stop at a stream, they smell Walter on the air and continue on until approaching a bend, Jake wanting to stop and looking terrified, he pleading they turn around, and when Roland refuses, Jake is dazed with the knowledge of he going to be murdered, and this time by Roland, the latter attempting to not straight up lie and only saying he’ll be wary, Jake resigning and holding Roland’s hand as he leads him forward. The two see Walter and the wall of granite he was already climbing, he greeting Roland magnanimously, but with sarcastic quality. Roland fires three shots before controlling himself, Walter amused and inquiring if Roland would deny himself the answers he was chasing. Roland suggests he return to eye level to discuss it, but Walter thinking a good chat on the other side of the mountain a better plan, he regarding Jake and adding he wouldn’t be present, this making him emit a noise of fear. Walter then leaves them through a crack in the face of the granite. Roland watches Jake and thinks how with training he could’ve become a gunslinger, he now able to separate any emotion he’d had for Jake, he bluntly stating of he having the option to join him or not, Jake knowing he’d starve if he stayed, so continued forward, they reaching the point Walter had been and following his route.

Roland next confides to Jake, speaking as if dreaming, of he, Alain, and Bert going somewhere they weren’t supposed to, he having been speaking nonstop since leaving the outside. When night fell, they walk a bit longer before making camp, no longer hearing Walter. Roland had continued his recollection of a particular Ball and how the three had snuck in by balcony, seeing gunslingers with their ladies and elders being entertained, at one point Roland’s mother dancing with Marten until his father motioned for her, everyone by this time knowing his father would become Dinh of Gilead, at the least, but only one person, Gabrielle Veriss not being aware, Jake asking of her being his mother, and Roland confirming. He then tells of Marten having been the gunslingers’ counselor, but soon started repeating himself, so Jake lies down as Roland makes a cigarette, and notes how the memory pained him because of his father’s betrayal. Roland then sleeps, this time Jake looking at him with affection before also sleeping.

Roland’s ability to understand time had been partially effected by the desert’s sameness and completely wiped by the mountain consistently dark. The days which could have been weeks or hours passed, at one point Jake wandering off a ways and Roland hearing him state of having found what felt like a railroad track, Roland following to investigate, and upon seeing for himself by striking a light, couldn’t imagine what the metal conduits could’ve been meant for, but deciding they’d see where they led when waking again, the two bedding down. When Roland woke, Jake was already up and waiting by a rail, they following this for three sleeps, and after the fourth, bump into a car, Jake recognizing it for what it was because of cartoons, he demonstrating how it worked, a strange electronic voice encouraging the continuation of pushing it, Roland then helping.  He locates the button to end the electronic voice, thankfully since it would speak every time it was pushed and they move on in silence.

The river they traveled by was sometimes close and at others almost inaudible, the workout for Roland of mostly pumping the car by himself helped his ability to pass out when they stopped, Jake eventually asking about his fight with his teacher after a long period of no conversation, and this not long before the ambush by the Slow Mutants. Roland explains how an unseen man had been hung for rape, Jake supplying he’d been “invisible”, Roland deciding not to share how the man had been captured right then. He continues with how a couple years later he had ditched a girl which he wished he hadn’t, but Jake knowing his sentiment wasn’t true, Roland fessing up to start his story of how he truly grew up. It took place in Gilead, the seriousness of war beginning, this is a few years after Hax’s death, Roland now fourteen and feeling like a horny teen, passes by his mother’s quarters on his way to the roof for some self-love, Marten calling to him of his mother wishing to speak with him. When he comes in to see she sitting there impassively, asking of his schoolwork and training, he notes Marten next to her seeming to have some control of her, the man stating he could leave, but Roland replying of his mother being the one to give this permission, Marten again excusing him and mentioning knowing where he’d been headed and the reason, Roland leaving and shockingly hearing Marten smack his mother and addressing her inappropriately.

Roland’s other buddy, Jamie was passing by and was deciding whether to update him on the most recent news of war, but upon seeing the look on Roland’s face, instead goes off to grab the other kids, Roland continuing on to Cort’s cabin where he rested and ended his schooling when awaking him, the man giving him a chance to change his mind, speaking of how bright a possibility he’d had if he had patience, but Roland’s mind was set, he being sent away to prepare for his probable expulsion. Roland gets David from the barn, the bird quite old now, but also allowing Roland to take him outside to the area the fight to adulthood would ceremoniously be won or lost, normally the spectators surrounding the spot being with friends and family, but today was only filled with Roland’s fellows, looking on with fear. When Bert mentions where Roland’s weapon was, he confirms he had it with him, Cort then entering and asking the traditional questions. Roland thought of his mother and father, the former somewhere currently inside the castle and the latter away on a hunt. When Roland announces his weapon was David, it only pauses Cort for a moment before they begin. When Roland uncovers David’s eyes, Cort speaks with contempt of Roland’s choice, fortunately David flying true, right at Cort’s face, he doing the first thing which could save the battle, the result leaving David on the ground, Roland attacking whilst the timing was right, but Cort still quick and grabbing at him, which tripped him, his possibility for success dwindling, until he felt David pecking at him, not able to see, so as Cort comes at him, Roland throws the broken bird at Cort, commanding David to “kill”, Cort landing on Roland.

Cort was still fighting him when he landed, Roland fending him off, David still inflicting damage, but he finally freeing himself of the bird, Roland breaking his nose and moving away before Cort could retaliate, grabbing the man’s weapon and standing over him. Cort makes a final play and Roland squarely hits him, Cort then gladly giving in, naming Roland a gunslinger, his recovery including a week in a coma. Before allowing Cort to fully pass out, he requests the key to where his guns would be, Cort leaving him with one final piece of advice, Roland acknowledging his words, stating he’d speak to the whores in town to not expect him for awhile, then designates his buddies to build a stretcher and instruct two nurses to attend to Cort. Roland comes to terms with now being the youngest gunslinger and the first of his group to ‘graduate’. This was also to be the night he lost his virginity, and whilst Roland hadn’t confided every detail, he believed Jake could deduce most of it, the boy’s reaction defensive and arrogant which was making Roland mad, especially when he mentions how the “game” he’d played may have been his foray into adulthood, but wondered if men ever truly matured, stating how he knew Roland was planning on using him as a bargaining “chip”, Roland then telling him to sleep.

When they’d moved on again, Jake saw the Slow Mutant first, they passing unharmed, but the three more ahead of them, standing in the way, Roland not expecting to be attacked, but shoots the first which heads for them. When they’re again lunged at, Jake is being pulled off the car, even after Roland shoots the creature, but after a bit more struggle, gets Jake loose, having him hang on by his belt (this calling back to the day I learned what this meant in prison, ha ha), they moving forward until again halted, this time by rocks on the track, Roland informing Jake he’d have to move them whilst he held them off with his guns, Jake not wanting to, but making a quick job of it, every “mutie” which made for him, Roland shooting. As more headed for them, Roland calls to Jake to return, they barreling over the rest, he keeping their fast pace well after he didn’t need to, they moving on for a few more days without any surprises. On their fourth waking, they approach a light source, Jake thinking the end was close, but Roland sensing otherwise.

As the light gets brighter, they see more stopped train cars of varying sorts, as well as more rail lines, many entrance ways ahead of them, and one of the signs in a language Roland could read, the two eventually getting off the car to walk, Jake reminded of this place looking like a “subway” station, but unable to define it, Roland seeing and taking a bow with arrows from a “weapon shop”. Jake points out a mummified body, the two supposing what had occurred and began seeing a few more as they proceeded. Roland instructs they return to the push car, but Jake deciding to stay, Roland feigning this was fine as Jake shouts after him of he believing Roland had made an agreement about him with someone, Roland then thinking how if he could wait until Jake matured a bit more, they both would be able to deal with Walter more easily, but turned from this idea, knowing they’d both be killed if they turned back, so Roland began moving the car, but Jake comes after him anyways, Roland sensing now the end was near.

Jake pumps the car for awhile so Roland could test the bow and arrows, which weren’t in good shape and couldn’t be repaired. The river becomes louder as they traveled, and after a few sleeps a new light begins to grow, it heading to an eventual crossing over the river. As well as this, natural sunshine was ahead, barely a pinprick, Jake halting them for a moment to inquire whether Roland thought Walter wanted them to cross the river to fall in the middle, Roland knowing this wasn’t probable, but stating ignorance, Roland then after inspecting the drop, suggests they walk across, Jake leading and Roland ready to help him should he stumble, the beams settling audibly as Roland walked across them, Jake almost taking a tumble when losing his balance for a moment before recovering, warning of a pot-hole and speaking of it like the game Simon Says, Roland knowing it as “Mother Says”. Roland feels like the walk was taking much more time than it truly was, also imagining how he’d react if he fell, he attempting to keep his thoughts from wandering to the boy’s future and how close the agreement was to completing.

Jake announces of planning to jump across the remaining distance, he stating Roland’s weight wouldn’t hold where he’d been standing and should head back without him, Roland noticing the underlying terror in his voice despite the attempt to sound calm. Roland takes a large step forward, Jake repeating for Roland to return the way he’d come and not wishing to die by Roland’s hand, the gunslinger demanding Jake continue on so both wouldn’t plummet into the river, and upon walking on, they inclined toward the sunshine, it then blocked by Walter, he greeting them mockingly. Roland reaches for the jawbone, but he no longer had it, and as Walter laughed, Jake lost his footing and hung to the side, Walter stating Roland approach, or not see him again, as Jake requested aid. Walter threatens to go as Roland debated, but he jumps forward with his goal of the Tower in his mind. Jake relents to his fate and speaks of accepting Roland ditching him as he grasped the ledge, the whole railing giving way and falling as he clung to it, Jake not making a sound. Roland knows he would be thinking of Jake and this moment long into the future, and as he approached Walter, the man in black envies his moving to the next step, Roland taking some shots at him, as Walter leads him to where they’d speak.

Walter takes him to an ages old murder circle with different animal skulls surrounding them, Roland noting how Mid-World must be near, if he hadn’t already arrived. Walter suggests Roland gather wood, since the cold would still bite, afterward he building and lighting a fire, he then designating Roland to make their food, he giving him a dead rabbit. Roland cooks it and hands the whole body back to him when done, he taking out the leftover jerky he had, Walter seeming annoyed Roland would think he’d hex the food. Roland states of Walter’s looks being younger than he’d thought, Walter confessing he’d wanted to show his real one, he then bringing Roland’s attention to the sunset which he believed Roland should view for the idea he may feel like he won’t again see it for quite some time, Roland stating his indifference by this point.

Walter prepares to read Roland’s future with his extended Tarot deck, the first card drawn being told of signifying “strength”, and by the second card turned, Walter having mentioned Jake both times, then by the fourth, Roland wanting to know why Walter was having him view the cards at all, he answering by commanding he only sit through it like one would at a religious service, and upon continuing, pulls the reaper and the Tower (it reminding me of the oracle’s prophecy), then upon getting to his seventh card, Walter states of it meaning life, but not in regards to Roland, he sharing how he wasn’t the man he was searching for, he only working for him. Walter then commands Roland sleep, he lunging for Walter, but not connecting, and when next conscious, Walter has light come on when announcing wanting some, and expanding the scenery as he spoke of it.

Roland sees earth made and animals crawling on it, also seeing moons revolve, and other planets. Walter continues to demand “light”, Roland now requesting him to stop, and Walter telling him he’d have to end his quest for the Tower, but when Roland refuses, Walter continues his command for light, and before protecting himself from it, Roland views something highly significant before returning to a safety within. When Roland gets up, Walter isn’t in sight, but speaks from behind him, confessing of being impressed with how he’d handled what he’d shown him, sharing of what he’d seen, and Roland not understanding, then bluntly stating how the Tower would remain beyond his reach. Roland defends himself by stating of Walter not understanding him enough to make such an assumption, Walter becoming serious and relating how he had been Marten, which he knew Roland believed and he’s the farthest traveled servant of the red ruler of the Dark Tower, Roland inquiring about Walter’s words of why he’d mentioned “red”, but he not delving further, only stating how Roland wouldn’t learn anything new and wouldn’t ever do so, then asking him to describe the last thing he’d seen, Roland detailing of it being a single purple “blade of grass”, Walter then requesting Roland listen.

Walter begins with the universe being “the Great All”, going further to explain how a mind couldn’t “grasp the infinite”, and one company “or cabal” had gotten closest, “the North Central Positronics”. When Walter goes on to confess how many accomplishments had been made, regarding disease, space travel, and the closeness of curing old age, Roland interrupts by declaring disbelief, Walter allowing he didn’t need to believe it, but even with all of this headway, no one seeming impressed with the knowledge, nor understood it, the reason he mentioned this was how the universe didn’t offer “life”, but the vastness of everything, claiming there was an “end” to anything would be presumptuous. After giving many examples of what he meant about universes being right out of reach or stacked on, or beside each other, he brings in the idea of the Tower being connected to another place, and rhetorically asks if he’d go to the top and see what was in the “Room”, he believing he wouldn’t do so.

Roland suggests God would go, or Walter’s king, then inquires if the room contained anything, Walter uncertain and wary of what would happen should he look, Roland then napping after stoking the fire. When he notices Walter looking at him, he demands he stop, checking for the dawn, which Walter sees and states of they having more to discuss, as his king had informed him, before the sun was meant to rise again. Walter makes certain, after Roland asks about the king again, whether he truly saw him as an equal, this being the only way honesty could be had, Roland beginning with what Walter had meant when mentioning a “glammer” (which I don’t remember reading…), Walter defining this in how it stayed dark, the king responsible for this. Walter then states their discussion would take quite some time and the specific amount unknown. Roland then is given his chance to ask whatever he wished, Walter stating how he’d not met his king before and Roland would locate “the Ageless Stranger”, and kill him first before he did.

Walter describes how his king visited him through his dreams, he working for him since he was a child, Roland being the end of his tasks. Upon being asked the name of the Stranger, Walter shares it was Legion, Roland inquiring whom was the one which was worse, when Walter mentions this, but he denying to answer, mentioning anything of End-World being the killer of souls. Roland approaches the subject differently, asking whether after Legion was the Tower, Walter confirming, but again knowing this wasn’t what Roland wanted to know. When he asks, Walter states how if he gave him the answer, he’d surely shoot him, Roland agreeing, so instead inquires where he would next need to go, Walter going off tangent about how Marten had not left, and Roland coming to terms with how the man had only changed form, Walter then stating how he’d share stories of Roland so he could learn more, he stating how he knew his mission was to locate the Tower, Walter informing him it was more about his mind, he being an original kind, he then offering Roland tobacco, making sure he was satisfied with it, since it could be the final smoke he had for quite awhile, he then going into the Tower being sought after, since it had come to be, and it had been standing an infinite amount of time.

Roland didn’t absorb much of their long conversation, the important bit being his heading for the ocean, which was twenty miles away and would gain “the power of drawing”. Walter clarifies Roland already had this power and would draw three, Walter readying to leave and before doing so, again brings light, this time Roland glad to see it. He wakes ten years older, Walter now a skeleton, which Roland is suspicious to believe was truly Walter, he taking the jawbone, and making it to the coast. He then waits for the moment of the drawing, imagining the day he’d reach the Tower and the fight which would come.

And immediately I want to know more, but I’ll be continuing with The Eyes of the Dragon before I do. This was a quick and interesting official start into the series, and I’m exhilarated in my foray into King reading. I also wonder if this will be covered in the movie, or if it truly is a continuation after the 7th book… We shall see!

The Little Sisters of Eluria (The Dark Tower 0.5)

Image result for little sisters of eluria book cover

A scorching day has Roland of Gilead approaching a town’s gate in the Desatoya Mountains. His horse was on his last legs and Roland noted decayed flowers attached to the gate, which signified a festival of some kind, and the quiet within erroneous. The few sounds heard coming from a bug which made a deep buzz, a rap on wood, and little bells. Roland dismounts the slowly dying horse, and respectfully grooms him a bit as he notes the sounds and enters through the gate, the only other defining mark being an odd looking cross, he having seen the typical style of this in other towns he’d seen in the ten months he’d been travelling, the norm being a large cross at the entrance, a smaller one upon exiting. He views the usual businesses within, two bars, a motel, a trade shop, town hall, and a metal-smith, he also viewing a church the further into town he got, the god of choice being Jesus, which wan’t a common deity in Mid-World, but still having a following. He then is pulled back into the only sounds described, he wary of the meaning of this involving death. As Roland led his horse through the gates, he saw a forgotten cob pipe in front of the trade shop, and the swinging doors of The Bustling Pig bar were in disrepair, one hanging open, the other leaning on the building, and what looked like blood on the door still attached. A fire had taken out a barn behind a stable, and as he gets ever closer to the church, he estimates the town’s current condition would’ve occurred possibly two weeks ago due to the flowers not being completely dead in front of the church.

Roland learns where the bells he heard came from, the cross on the church door having bells strung up, he then shouting out a greeting to the town, no reply being heard. He sensed he was being monitored though, he continuing his trek to the front of the Sheriff’s office, a billow of trapped heat consuming him upon opening the door. Roland sees a blood stain in the cell, flies getting a snack from the spatter, he discovering a notebook revealing the town’s name of Eluria. He then reads some of the entries, the last leaving him to suppose the criminal may have escaped. Roland continues toward the center of town, he identifying the wooden tapping to a lame dog chewing at the boot upon a dead body in a trough. When the dog notices him and doesn’t move along after Roland shoos him, he fires a warning shot which gets the dog limping away, and mournfully howling as he headed toward the back exit of the town. When he takes a look at the body, it’s of a teenager, he noticing a trinket around the boy’s neck, which he retrieves, the engraving including the name, James. Roland was pleased he’d gotten the necklace since he now could save it on the chance he met anyone knowing the boy, realizing ka could make the possibility more certain. He debated whether to bury the lad when his horse finally drops, he catching a glimpse of eight green-tinged people walking in his direction, their gender uncertain and approaching like zombies. The group carried wooden sticks off of furniture, one of them falling as they got closer.

Roland finally fires a warning shot after another pitches a stick at him, but not far enough, and his verbal warnings go unnoticed; the shot has the desired effect of pausing their progress. As he begins instructing them to keep still as he backs away, another of the green men shoots forward, making odd noises as he came (Roland beginning to identify their sexes as they got closer). Roland shoots him squarely, the man’s reaction being to step backwards at his same quick momentum, scratching at the bullet wound, he finally tripping and staying down. The dead(-er?) bodies reaction to the sun, bullet, or both, has Roland believing there wouldn’t be a corpse to think of an excuse for soon enough. The others stay put, until “Bowler Hat” takes another step after Roland had gotten behind the trough, he blasting a final warning shot, and sharing his plans of leaving unhindered, when another greenie is heard from behind him, this one hidden by a toppled wagon, the man-thing whacking Roland on the shoulder, and he missing his aim at the greenie, the gang he’d kept still, now speeding closer. The greenie whom hit him was a whopper of a fella with two heads, Roland putting him down with a head shot as he was readying to club him again, he now having to deal with the gang finally upon him, more club hits to contend with. Roland is able to send a few back, and hopes he’s able to get the buffer of the wagon so he could finish them off, he wanting to believe ka wouldn’t have his search end so early before locating the Dark Tower. Roland gets whacked hard enough to hit the wagon, he still working on escape, now aware of more greenies coming, perhaps thirty strong. As he’s losing consciousness, he still plans to shoot, but the gun is knocked away from him, he being consumed by darkness as the previously mentioned sounds, plus the dog’s barks, lull him into unconsciousness.

When Roland ascends to wakefulness, which he hadn’t experienced before, he believes he was no longer living, but as his sight came back slowly, he no longer thought he was dead, the singing he heard changing his mind, similar buzzing bugs being heard, he opening his eyes again and being tested whether he was actually living, noting he was hovering in a white, majestic place, thinking he was inside a cloud at first, hearing the buzzing and bells. Then, upon an attempt to turn, he felt straps holding him in place, feeling a hurt sensation climb up his back, another more terrible one in one of his legs. He realizes these pains came from the club with the nails in it, his head feeling terrible, as well. When he tries to call out, he’s having trouble convincing himself he was hearing his own voice, which sounded crow-like. He believed he imagined hearing the dog bark again, and then felt a hand on his face, comforting him at first, before thinking it could be a greenie, but then she spoke, attempting to keep him quiet so he could rest longer, he thinking of how he must be hanging above a bed, too wounded to be lain prostrate.

Roland, soon after this thought, falls into unconsciousness, only this time not as deeply as before. Some time later, he hears the girl angrily protesting to someone seeming to want to acquire something he had. When he awakes again, the “white beauty” place still charmed him, he recognizing it was a long, high, narrow space, he estimating it was about two hundred yards in length, he feeling it was a bit like being inside a large tent, silk above him giving the impression of being inside a cloud, from each section of silk having a rope with little bells attached, wind making them sound pleasantly. Roland saw two rows of forty beds, and two more were in use next to him, one Roland was suspicious in believing was truly the boy in the trough, now alive and sleeping, the necklace Roland had taken from him, on the neck of this one, supporting his disbelieved notion. The other man he saw was further away from the two, and much older, hanging above his bed, and Roland thinking his eyes were tricking him when he viewed the unconscious man’s multiple fractured legs in motion, dark impressions surrounding them, as well as one on his cheek; his back feeling the same, he attempting to ignore his curiosity to learn why. He then notices a cotton cloth on his chest, he recognizing he was wearing the same gown as the old man, and when grabbing and inspecting a chain he wore, realized he had the dead boy’s chain still. When he took a last look at the old man, the black line on the man’s cheek was gone, a wound still healing there, Roland confused by this, but able to fall asleep with the bells chiming and the bugs buzzing.

Roland next wakes and believes he must be having a night terror, seeing the first witch he’d ever met as more than a single woman, but five, and they were dressed in uniform, their faces heavily lined, small bells on the silk upon their heads. When Roland saw the sign of the Dark Tower on the front of their habits, he realized he was actually awake, then they noticing he is conscious, and when they approach, the age of their faces become a bit younger. When he inquires who they are, the one whom had spoken to him first introduces them as the Little Sisters of Eluria, and she was called Sister Mary, she revealing the others as Sister Louise, Sister Michela, and Sister Coquina, the final one sharing her name was Sister Tamra, her face changing quickly into quite an old crone’s, the group moving closer to him, and he bringing pain when cringing away, they curious by his pain, and as Michela readies to touch him, Mary warns of not doing so, Roland thinking it had to do with the medallion which had fallen out. A sixth, Jenna also bids them to go away, the Sisters teasing her of having fallen for him, she ignoring them and insisting they move along so Roland could rest, Jenna easing her tone with Mary’s sober reply of they not ever kidding around, after stating this, she deciding they’d visit the other needy souls.

Jenna attempts to soothe him with the fact of they not wanting to hurt him, but Roland knows this wasn’t the case. He then asks whether they followed Jesus, she amusedly denying this, which prompts him to inquire where the doctors were, Jenna debating sharing and finally warning him not to yell in panic with the boy right next to him, to which he agrees. So, she moves to where the old man hung, Jenna ringing the bells on her head as she leaned over him, the bugs he heard buzzing, going down his legs, Roland realizing this was what he was feeling on his back, securing his wounds. Roland definitely felt the urge to shriek as the bugs jumped off the man on to the floor. When Jenna rejoins him, she informs him how he was discovered, he grateful to her and sharing his name as requested, he sensing she wasn’t being truthful when she shares of not knowing where his weapons were, but didn’t hold this against her, believing she could be declaring this dishonesty for being scared. When she’s called by Sister Mary, she has him promise not to make known she’d shown him the doctors, and before going, has him stick to the story of he being James, the young man next to him his brother, otherwise she’d be in great danger. Roland considers the reason Jenna had moved the medallion to encircle his neck, thinking the Little Sisters may murder Jenna if they learned of this, Roland then drifting to sleep.

Roland is sleepily imagining a bug which could be one of the doctors, irritatingly bumping his face and chuckling whilst he uncoordinatedly attempted to swat it away. When the nightmare turns to a large greenie sneaking up on him, he jolts to consciousness to see Coquina had been happily tapping his face with a wooden spoon, and made her drop the bowl she had been holding with his sudden movement. Roland snatches the bowl before it drops out of reach, which impresses Coquina, he then gesturing for the spoon which she gives him, but he soon realizes isn’t necessary, drinking from the bowl directly, whilst warning Coquina to remember his agility. The two then get into discussing the pull each had on the other: if Roland mentioned Coquina’s teasing to Mary, and she making Jenna’s life difficult if he did. The two agree to stay silent about their exchange, Coquina confiding Jenna was currently on a ‘time out’, she then inquiring if he knew the no-longer-sleeping boy, he watching them, Roland not missing a beat to claim him as his brother, the boy supplying his own name to Coquina and Tamra, whom walked up, John also referring to Roland as Jimmy.

After the two Sisters leave, they speak of James’ fate, Jenna’s uniqueness, the non-mortal state of the nurses, and how John had gotten there, he deducing why James hadn’t been saved. As they spoke, Roland isn’t aware the soup he’d drank had been spiked, he becoming tired, John describing how many beds had been occupied before he’d gotten there, and how they didn’t return when healed, and as Roland became more deeply affected by the drug, John confesses what had happened to Roland to make him feel sluggish, the boy also questioning Roland’s thoughts on his presence when he was pretty much healed now, and his belief neither of them would see daylight again. When Roland wakes up in the night to laughter, he struggles to turn his head to see all of the Sisters except Jenna surrounding the old man, Mary speaking words he didn’t understand. When the room is thrown into pitch black, Roland hears the sounds of slurping, and when they’re done, he moves his head the other way. As they get closer to him and speak of their wanting to kiss him, but the medallion keeping them away, this doesn’t stop one of them from grabbing his boner until he quickly finds release, he seeing two faces bewhiskered with blood, and Roland’s assurance of not ever sleeping again. (Liar.)

When next Roland woke, it is brightly day, John asleep, and the old man removed, Sister Mary soon arrives with Louise, she speaking of not being grateful to him and revealing his ways had brought about Jenna’s revolt, she demanding he show his hand, the bowl of soup they’d brought with them making his stomach growl, Mary annoyed with how well he stuck to his story of being Jim, even after threatening Jenna, Roland stating of ending her if Jenna was harmed. Then, after refusing the soup unless given to him by Jenna, Mary informs whilst she had been released from time-out, she was bound to extra meditation, Roland having no choice, but to acquiesce, Mary’s threat of whipping Jenna keeping him trapped. When he sleeps once more, he believes he’s visited by Jenna, whom advises him to check beneath his pillow later, and when he’s finally able to, sees six stems of reed heads with instructions, and once finishing reading, realizes the importance of following the words carefully. The last time Roland speaks with John, they regret the circumstances they’d met, John unable to move well, and next heard from him, being a shriek. Michela comes with his soup next, along with bread, her words of his leaving soon giving him the impression of this being otherwise, what with her wolfish looks of hunger.

Roland eats another reed upon waking after his dose of soup, believing he’d overdone it with feeling ill, and having to stay still as all the Sisters, except Jenna had another person with them to obtain his and John’s necklaces. When Roland sees Mary with one of his guns, he vows she’ll regret having been so bold. The Sisters bribed Bowler Hat to relieve the two of their protection, he giving the impression he was about to obey their orders with John first, but then taunting them with leaving it on, he knowing their threats didn’t hold much water, other than the firearm, which after another threat from Mary, gives him pause. When he does finally go through with his task, he does a bit extra by killing John quickly after. The Sisters properly preoccupied, Bowler Hat escapes, the Sisters feeding, and when they’d gone, Roland taken over by the soup drug again, a nightmare hitting for the first time since his arrival, it foreboding the spread of the Sisters to surrounding towns, Bowler Hat’s presence in his dream waking him, he seeing John’s bed now empty, Roland being the last man swinging. He had some of the reed before Mary came with porridge, her youthful image strong due to her feast. Roland mentions his idea they’d been drugging him, but Mary denies this gleefully, she then turning to his lie about John being his brother when he asks after him, he then attempting to bribe the truth he kept by seeing Jenna, Mary angered and threatening his willingness to confess would come regardless.

 It ended up being quite a drawn out day, he fitfully napping and maintaining optimism of being able to survive this due to Jenna’s aid. He then bides his time with reminiscences of the past, he periodically chewing some reed, and noting they seemed to be overpowering the Sisters’ drug, and when evening came, Sister Tamra delivers his supper of soup, as well as a desert lily from Jenna, which Tamra asks of the topic being promised to Roland, he making up she’d told him they’d speak again, Tamra getting a kick out of this and sharing how Mary had chosen to deny this possibility already, she then asking why he didn’t take his necklace off, pointing out how John had, and when her words to convince him to do the same fail, she leaves, indifferent. Roland then plans on getting both necklaces to the Norman brothers’ family, as he chews another reed and feels actual endurance in him, he then drowsing easily, he awaking at true nightfall, and hearing the loud bugs, he chewing a reed. He hears a voice which turns out to be Coquina, she revealing herself, then Jenna walks toward them to confess she’d supplied the reeds to Roland, he thrusting the medallion toward Coquina to keep her away from him, Jenna having brought Roland’s firearms as he thought she would, but he still caught in the slings after attempting to break loose.

Jenna then uses the bells around her head to call the bugs, they swarming, and Jenna getting Roland loose, the two walking out of the tent, which is when Roland realizes he’d forgotten John’s necklace with regret, but Jenna revealing she’d picked it up, requesting he take it quickly because it was burning her. Then, three of the four Sisters approach, teasing Jenna as they get closer, she responding by speaking of leaving with Roland, the three surprised into silence, they warning her of what would occur if she tried, but Jenna stating how none of them truly knew whether there were consequences, she then threatening the bugs on them if they didn’t let she and Roland pass, but they standing aside willingly, Jenna leading Roland up a road, away from Eluria, not liking how Mary hadn’t shown herself, yet. They discuss how they were both in agreement in keeping each other company when Mary interrupts, she looking properly death-like. Jenna attempting and failing to summon the bugs, and Mary coming closer, Roland deciding he’d try choking her out, her flesh disgusting to the touch, and she thrusting him away with her power. Jenna then tries her bells again, this time getting a dog to answer the call, it going after Mary with gusto, as Roland pulls Jenna along.

When they stop to catch their breath, Roland considers why the dog had been immune to the Sisters’ powers when Jenna senses he must know something about it, which he responds by relating his theory, and then suggests they cover some ground before daylight. They cover a few miles, but not too many because of Roland still flushing out the Sisters’ drug, they locating a decent spot to spend the day, the two sharing a kiss before he passes out, dreaming of the dog discovering the Dark Tower, he then hearing bells and a scream which doesn’t fade with his dream, he waking to see he was alone, detecting Jenna’s clothes and then hearing the bugs, he ringing the dropped bells and the bugs making a sign which seemed to confirm his thoughts, Roland then tracking Walter once more, he troubled with the imagined ringing bells as he traveled on by himself. I liked this story, but I’m also annoyed I won’t be getting my hands on the comics any time soon, alas. At least I’ll be on to the next soon enough though, which isn’t actually soon enough.

The Silver Linings Playbook

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Pat jumps right in with being visited by his mother and knowing summer had hit by the color of her painted toenails. She meets him outside whilst he was doing some exercising, explaining his reasons for doing so involving Nikki’s preferences, when his mother inquired. She then throws him for a loop when asking if he’d like to go home with her, he surprised by her truthful tone, but only if he didn’t go after Nikki, she and his father agreeing to job-hunt for him and ready him for his own place. Pat continues his push-ups, whilst she attempted to convince him to accept. Pat weighs his options, not wanting to deal with the downer institution he was in anymore, and agreeing to her terms until Nikki and his “apart time” was over. Pat packs his bag and sort of says goodbye to his roomie. When he meets his mother and doctor in the lobby, the doctor seems crestfallen when Pat mentions how much better he’ll feel when Nikki calls off their separation, Pat seeing this as the doctor’s inability to believe in positivity and optimism. When they’re driving, his mother shares of the process she’d gone through for him, and he states his gratefulness of all she’d done to get him out, and confirms his want to heal himself. They reach New Jersey, Pat’s hometown, the changes to the area making him breathe hard, his mother assuring his new therapist would be able to help him get over his anxiety.

When they get home, Pat is greeted by his new workout weights which he thanks his mother profusely for, and immediately puts to use, he mentioning how besides this, he wrote daily activities (of which this book is one) for Nikki’s perusal when she decided to speak to him again. The writing having started because of the drugs given to him whilst being institutionalized affecting his memory, this being his way of knowing what would be favored to share with Nikki, the doctors not returning his first entries, so he starting fresh. His mother then confesses of their house having been burgled and the pictures with he and Nikki having been taken due to the expensive frames they were in, Pat going along with this explanation (leaving me uncertain as to whether he truly believed this). Pat and his father don’t speak for awhile, he needing to accustom himself to Pat living with them, his visit during Pat’s sabbatical only ascertaining his father’s rage at his son’s situation. Pat also began reading literature for Nikki since she had English teacher friends, he beginning with The Great Gatsby. Pat’s firm belief in silver linings colors his irritated reaction with the book, Fitzgerald obviously not the bright-side kind, he instead focusing on being able to impress Nikki with reading her favorite book, and eventually planning on reading her American Literature syllabus, waiting for his moment to burst out a line from Gatsby which also applied to him when Nikki, her friends, and he had another dinner together.

During another workout, Pat’s mother informs him of his appointment with Dr. Patel, which he attempts to postpone until the evening, but is told of the times agreed being court-ordered, so he prepares to go. As he’s waiting to see Patel, a song comes on which agitates him into believing it had been played to set him off, his tantrum bringing out Patel, whom has the secretary shut off the music, as requested, Pat breaking down. Patel has Pat follow him into his office as his mother and the secretary attend to the mess he’d made of the furniture and magazines, Pat immediately warming to the pleasant, but oddly painted and adorned office. Patel offers Pat a recliner and request he call him Cliff, so as to keep sessions light. When Patel asks about his reaction to the song, Pat shows his resistance in answering by humming one note and blocking the memory, Patel moving on to ask about Nikki, Pat realizing his responding question sounded too sensitively protective of the topic, but Patel explaining his motives being to get to know Pat better, and since his goal was to see Nikki again, it being an ideal spot to begin.

Pat opens up about their temporary separation and the reasons she’d given, he also explaining his dedication to his job having over-shadowed his home life and neglecting her, Patel inquiring after how long the separation would last and Pat being told to not make contact with her until further notice which made the estrangement’s length uncertain. Pat then delves further on his reasons he believed she’d return, having to do with happy endings, and life being like a series of films, so his happy ending should be coming up soon. Also, he having sworn off watching movies to dedicate living his own movie until Nikki returned. Patel’s response is what convinces Pat he would get along well with this doctor, he not condemning his optimism. They move on to varying topics after, Pat asking about Patel’s family as a courtesy, and the subject turning to valuing the women in their lives whilst they were there, Patel informing Pat he was changing his medication and to share any issues he had going forward. On the ride home, when Pat mentions his idea of the likelihood Nikki would locate him more easily at his parents’ home rather than the institution, which again prompted him to voice how grateful he was, his mother breaks down, and when they get home, Pat continues his workout. When he prepares for sleep, he thinks of his disappointment of his father still avoiding him, and then of Nikki, in lieu of reading, since his mother hadn’t gone to the library yet, but looked forward to his expected dreams of Nikki.

Pat reiterates his unfailing faith in silver linings, he beginning his run, which tended to happen at sunset to see if there were clouds in the sky to cover the sun, so he could view the actual silver lining which reinforced his hope of seeing Nikki again. Pat had lost so much weight, he was close to the amount he was in high school, this also being the time Nikki first met him, he hoping the change back would aid Nikki’s ease for believing he’d changed for the better. What fuels Pat’s run is imagining he’s jogging to Nikki, helping the notion the amount of time left apart is also decreasing.

Pat’s request for a book when his mother is going to the library was a romance story by Hemingway, so he could learn from it for Nikki, and when she returns with A Farewell to Arms, he enjoys it until getting to the depressing ending (I swear, Quick better not be ruining books I plan on reading), he unable to comprehend why she’d teach this to high schoolers. Pat is now angered with Nikki, vowing to not read Hemingway ever again, and isn’t surprised by his suicide.

When Pat’s next at Patel’s office, the secretary shuts the stereo off when seeing he’s entered, and when seeing Patel, shares how his medication is treating him. Pat hadn’t been taking them regularly, so not actually noticing anything. Patel then makes certain Pat hasn’t had any odd visions and has him promise to report to his mother if he does see anything strange. Pat is certain the combination won’t affect him so drastically due to having good command of his perception.

Later, during a break between sets, he smells crab snacks his mother is cooking, as well as pizza and buffalo wings. He asks why she’d done so, noting this usually meant guests were expected, he then thinking of how Nikki would devour crab snacks and usually he’d react invalidation when she spoke of her guilt of having stuffed herself, Pat now deciding he would do the opposite and state how it would be fine, since she needed more flesh on her bones. His mother instead informs of his brother, Jake coming to watch football with he and their father, Pat stressing a bit since Jake had reacted similarly to how his father had, saying some terrible insults about Nikki. Pat returns to the basement to do another set of push-ups and takes his jog early due to the family get-together.

Ronnie, Pat’s old best friend, recognizes him whilst he’s out, but Pat doesn’t stop due to his tight schedule, Ronnie not ever having visited him whilst he’d been with Nikki, only sending letters about his daughter during his stay in the hospital. When getting back, he sees Jake’s car, he seeming to be doing okay in the money department (I’m getting a bit tired of hearing Danny’s ghetto-like phrases interspersed in Pat’s thoughts), going in for a shower, and after changing, heading in the direction of conversation, Jake surprised by Pat’s physical change, he not pulling away when Jake checks his muscular arm, still a bit pissed about Jake’s comments about Nikki, struggling with also feeling glad to see him. Pat sort of gives Jake a response of forgiveness, which Jake looks impressed by, and seems to Pat, nearly emotionally overwhelmed, but instead gives Pat a gift of an Eagle’s jersey, Jake explaining whom the number belonged and spoke of a stadium Pat hadn’t heard of before in regards to whether he planned on continuing attending games with him and another dude, Scott. Pat also learns Jake plans on spotting him for the tickets since he’d relinquished all finances to Nikki.

Their father doesn’t appear until right before the start of the game, not acknowledging Pat at all, their mother suggesting he attempt some kind of interaction when they were both in the kitchen. Conversation is clipped, but Pat is focused on noticing most of the players he’d rooted for were gone and the Vet stadium they used to go to had been torn down, he disbelieving this the most, even after being shown footage, and when speaking with his mother in the kitchen to suggest the possibility of what he’d seen being in his head, she reluctantly shares what year it was, Pat unable to cope with this and shrieking his disbelief, and then demanding to know how long he’d been away, Jake supplying it had been almost four years, Pat still unable to grasp this and then fainting.

Pat mentions how he’d had the misconception of Kenny G being solely heard in the hospital, he currently readying to sleep in the boiling attic so he could lose more weight, but this night bringing the auditory hallucination of Kenny G, which then manifests to visual. Pat has an irrational fear of the man, hearing a song start and as he’s begging for Kenny G to desist, his yells get louder and he begins banging his hand on his head, his parents now attempting to keep his arms down, which unfortunately brings the fall of his mother. His father kicks him, ending the music, but the punch to the face, bringing him to tears, his father deciding Pat would be put back in the institution, his mother staying to comfort him as he drifted to sleep. He awakes with her still with him, he apologizing profusely and begging to be allowed to stay, his mother reassuring him of he not going anywhere and then making him breakfast, he then getting straight to working out after, due to sleeping late.

Ronnie ends up appearing in the basement, Pat finishing a set of bench presses, and reading into Ronnie’s excuse of not being able to stay long because his wife didn’t know. Pat doesn’t confide the truth when Ronnie takes notice of his facial bruises, but accepts when Ronnie offers to return to workout with him sometime, Pat not holding his breath. Then when Ronnie invites him to dinner the next night, Pat is surprised by his specifying a time frame. Ronnie had figured Pat thought his wife, Veronica didn’t like him, whilst Nikki had despised Veronica, and Pat seemed to adopt her negative view of his best friend and wife.

Pat is over-thinking what he would wear since Veronica was obsessive-compulsive about her fancy dress parties, his mother letting him know to get ready to see Patel. When Pat confesses his anxiety about seeing Veronica and noting Nikki’s opinion of she not being a nice person, Patel then suggests he wear his jersey and new khakis, Pat reassured. When Patel mentions the Kenny G incident, Pat blocks out the name. Patel then brings up how he hadn’t been treating his mother well, and Pat feeling terribly, he breaking down, and agreeing to want to be a better person. Patel then relates to changing his prescription for higher doses to stave his outbursts, which if isn’t remedied, Pat would need to be readmitted, Pat declaring he’d be better.

Once Pat gets ready, his mother confirms he looked fine, but wondered why he couldn’t wear one of his new shirts, Pat sharing how Patel had encouraged he wear his jersey, she then giving him a bouquet and wine to give Veronica and Ronnie. When he arrives, Ronnie is impressed with his jersey, they meet Veronica and Emily, their little girl, in the kitchen, Veronica noticing, but not mentioning his bruise, and greeting him warmly. When Pat officially meets Emily, he understands her cuteness factor, and Ronnie gets him a beer, Pat inquiring whom else was coming, Ronnie revealing Veronica’s sister, Tiffany was the fourth guest, Pat surprised to learn her husband had died, she then coming in before he could learn how. When Tiffany and he waited in the living room whilst Ronnie put Emily to bed and Veronica finished dinner, Tiffany asks about what happened to his face in reply to his compliment of she looking nice, he thinking the makeup was too much, but wanting to practice for Nikki.

Tiffany eventually leaves him alone once he asks about her job and why she’d lost it, he awaiting Ronnie. Dinner is immaculate, but weird due to only Ronnie and Veronica making conversation, they focusing on Tiffany and Pat, one complementing either of them on their accomplishments and pastimes. When dessert is barely finished, Tiffany declares of being weary and asks backwardly if Pat would walk her home, Pat taking the opportunity of practicing his kindness skills. When they reach her parents home, she states of living in a guest house and stating how he could sleep with her if he wanted, she breaking down when he doesn’t answer, Pat surprised into silence. When she hugs him, he’s thinking about how she’s crying makeup onto his shirt, but then begins getting teary himself, eventually the two parting, and when Pat gets home, is told to phone Ronnie, instead he laying down until sunrise.

Pat has a single picture of Nikki, a head-shot he didn’t get to tell her he liked, and had been a birthday present. Pat then remembers his wedding video, and goes to his parents’ room to ask after it, but when his mother doesn’t answer, he announces knowing where they keep them and is off to look, but when he doesn’t locate it, and sees his mother standing behind him, she tries to play off it having gotten lost, Pat losing his temper, but reigning himself in to leave the room and do a bunch of sit-ups, push-ups, and stationary biking, he then going to sleep in the attic, doing his hum-counting due to his uncertainty of Kenny G possibly returning, but makes it through the night in peace.

Pat was now reading The Scarlet Letter and relating how he’d called Hester’s baby daddy by the eighth chapter, he wondering if Nikki played up the risque bits to the class she taught. Pat continues his thoughts on the story and idea of which sin would be greater in God’s eyes: the coveting of another man’s wife or leaving Pearl fatherless. He finds he could sympathize with Chillingworth at first, but gave up when the man continued to mess with Dimmesdale. Instead, Pat shined to Hester’s character overall, due to her outlook on silver linings, and again finds similarities to her story and Patel’s advice to treating women well. Before the moment passes, he considers whether if he’d understood this sooner whether it would’ve changed the outcome of his relationship apart or whether it was one of those lessons which must be learned firsthand. He then hopes for the chance to publicly apologize to Nikki and show her his knowledge of the Old English classic.

When Pat next speaks with Patel, he senses his mother had spoken with him of the dinner party by the way he’d inquired about it, Pat not sweating he knew something about the dinner and instead glad to report of the shirt he’d suggested working well, Patel changes the topic to Tiffany, though and asks whether he’d slept with her after Pat divulged believing she was a slut, Pat irked by Patel’s question at first, until realizing he was only gauging his loyalty to his wife. Then Patel gives insight as to why Tiffany had offered to sleep with him being about obtaining a friend rather than sluttiness, he having Pat go over how the night had ended, Patel stating how kind Pat had been to her, which gets his happy agreement, but has also led to her trailing him on his jogs, even after he told her to stop. Patel asks whether Pat thought Tiffany was sexy and Pat agrees, but states of this not mattering since he was taken, Patel then questioning whether Pat truly believed he hadn’t seen Nikki for only a few months, Pat becoming angry, but apologizing, Patel allowing he should’ve taken Pat’s answer seriously. He then gives an example of going out to do something he didn’t care for with his wife and to possibly allow Tiffany to run with him, date her a few times and perhaps after a little while, she’ll get bored of him, Pat at first dubious, but taking Patel’s word for it.

Pat inquires after his mother’s thoughts on whether dating Tiffany will get her to leave, she posing the idea of he needing all the buddies he could get, which he doesn’t respond to since she seemed to hope he’d take a shine to her, this making him uncomfortable. She was also the single member in his family whom didn’t loathe Nikki, she having remarked to Pat of noticing his “friend” tagging along on his run on days she watched after him, giving her own version of a wink-wink. Later, Pat psyches himself up to ask Tiffany out, but instead only starts his run, with her trailing him. When he gets to a diner, he asks her out, and they make plans to meet there later, Tiffany finally biffing off, to Pat’s surprise, he then running longer and getting the good sign of multiple clouds lined with brightness. When he returns, he informing his mother of his plans, she suppressing her pleasure, and when he’s ready to go, she advises him to wear a belt and tuck his shirt in, which seemed pointless to him with this only being a way to end Tiffany’s attachment, but he reminds himself of being in his mother’s debt, and does as she asks, she then having him put on some casual shoes she’d gotten him.

When Pat meets Tiffany outside her parents’ home, he complements her outfit, she regarding his shoes as she walks off; the two walk in silence for a half hour. After they sit and order drinks of water and tea, Pat is so busy stressing over how much money he’d have so he’d be able to over-tip like Nikki had taught him, he misses Tiffany’s order, and when asked for his own, gets raisin bran, learning Tiffany had only gotten the tea after the waitress left. When the cereal arrives, Pat offers to share, Tiffany taking him up on it, and when they finish, he gives the waitress the forty dollars, the waitress shocked and happy. When the two reach Tiffany’s home, she shares how she didn’t actually want Pat to sleep with her, she walking away. His mother doesn’t believe all he’d had was cereal, but instead of he entertaining this chat further, he goes to his room. He speaks to his picture of Nikki about his night out and hoping they had the chance to do the things he’d done with Tiffany, he crying and muffling the noise with his pillow.

On the day of a game, Pat wakes early to begin his workout, and when he runs, he’s surprised to see Tiffany, since he was doing so in the morning. She refrains from speaking with him and only follows his route, and when he finishes, she jogs home, Pat showering and discovering Ronnie sitting with Jake, everyone taking up the Eagles chant when Pat starts by stating, “Go Birds!”, Jake instigating a singalong of their team’s fight song, afterwards Pat feeling like he was truly at home. When he notices Jake’s new jersey and player, he’s confused by his turnaround, Pat then focusing on being a good cheerleader for the Birds to satisfy his father, he feeling happy being with him, but still holding a grudge for his punching and kicking him. Their father at first is pissed off with the results of the playing, but by halftime is satisfied with the Birds progress, they all throwing around the footyball, and before going back to watch the game, do the chant with their neighbors once more.

When the Eagles win the game, Jake urges their father to join their fight song again, their father surprising Pat by putting his arm around his shoulder, for being so drunkenly happy, his mother tearfully enjoying the scene from the kitchen, and Ronnie having Pat walk him home. As they stop in the park to toss the football around, Ronnie asks about his thoughts on Tiffany, Pat being honest, not regarding her as anything, and Ronnie stating of her weirdness, Pat giving him a bit of a hard time when he states of Tiffany being in therapy, and then he relating Tiffany’s lack of spouse being somehow similar to Pat’s situation, Pat letting this slide. Ronnie then says his peace about what had been reported about Tiffany’s release from her job, Pat deducing this must’ve been the reason he’d been allowed to come to watch the game in the first place, Pat taking offense by the thought they would believe he’d take advantage of Tiffany and believed they didn’t truly relate to her perspective about the situation, so Pat goes to Tiffany’s, and when getting permission to knock on her door from her mother, whom seems shocked by Pat’s reply of being married and only wanting to be her friend after she asks what he wanted with her, but walks away from her door when she doesn’t answer, she turning up when he gets to the park, and finally reveals why she followed him during his jogs. Her answer brings up more questions which she doesn’t plan on sharing until her exploratory survey was complete, they not chatting with each other as Pat follows her until she walks him home, she inquiring after his team winning and then leaving him there.

An interesting occurrence happens on Monday when Pat’s father comes down to the basement whilst he’s working out for the first time. His father relates of having decided to leave his sports papers for him after he’s read them from now on, so Pat could catch up in learning the new players, which surprises him due to how his father normally brought his papers to work with him. When Pat finishes his set and goes up to breakfast, he asks his mother about his father’s odd gift, he debating whether he was going to take all of his pills as she answers, she advising he not think too much about it, and his father only attempting to make an effort, Pat then decides he’ll take all of his required amount of pills. During the week, Pat reads up on the team, but has yet been able to show off his newly acquired knowledge to his father, since he stayed secluded, which he discusses with Patel on his Friday session, but Patel consistently refocusing on Tiffany, which irritates Pat. Patel then inquires about he, Tiffany, and Ronnie’s family going to the beach and asking what Pat thought Tiffany may wear for her swimsuit. Pat’s anger flares until thinking this could be another test, his response being to remind Patel of he not being single. They finish with referencing the Eagles, which has Pat deciding his doctor was the best ever, and on the ride home, his mother agrees with Pat’s idea of his father likely deciding he’d begin speaking to him again if their team won.

Pat is fully supplied with beach accessories when Ronnie picks him up, his mom having packed him an extra outfit, as well as the normal beach accouterments, and despite his not needing any snacks, had made a lunch, regardless of his words being heeded about Ronnie bringing subs; Pat’s contribution to his baggage being a football. When he’d gotten in, Veronica decides to give thanks to Pat’s mom for the gifts he’d brought over the night of the dinner, she having come out to wave goodbye to Pat, this greeting though, giving her a reason to approach the van and launching in with a question about what they thought of the outfit she’d bought for Pat, also taking the opportunity to attempt a closer look at Tiffany, whom turns away from her. When Pat’s mom tries to greet Tiffany and is ignored, Veronica and Ronnie show off Emily to lighten the awkwardness. After a few moments, Tiffany comments on how she thought their plans were to hit the beach, which gets them on their way, Veronica and Ronnie attempting to keep the chatter going until Tiffany suggests silence. They get to a secluded part of the beach and as Veronica fusses with the blanket and Ronnie sets the umbrella, Emily gets sand in her eyes and screams, Tiffany requesting Veronica to shut her up, in so many words, for feeling unable to cope with the noise, which prompts Veronica to advise her in remembering what her therapist suggested, making Tiffany cuss at her and walking off, since she’d said this in front of Pat.

Veronica goes after her and apologizes as they walk, Ronnie and Pat fixing the blanket, the ladies not returning after ten minutes passed. The two eventually take Emily down to the water, and in for a little while, they then doze, Pat wakes first and entertains Emily for a bit, he then taking her out into the water again, but the waves having become much bigger, Pat swimming them over and making Emily giggle which has Pat decide on his resolve to “make a daughter” when Nikki returned, he then hearing Veronica shrieking his name from the shore, so he paddles them in, she upsetting Emily and demanding to know why he’d taken her out, then turning on Ronnie for having allowed this, Ronnie then seeming to think Pat must’ve done something terrible in the process, so due to these stressful circumstances, Pat feels an outburst under the surface, dashing off, upset, and then noticing Tiffany streak past him. They race for awhile, and when they get closer to their umbrella again, Pat follows as she goes into the much calmer ocean, they getting closer to each other for a moment, and Pat being reminded of Nikki, glad Tiffany swims further away for feeling the urge to kiss her. After they float in the ocean for a bit, Tiffany states to Veronica and Ronnie of they being ready to leave, Ronnie and Veronica all smiles now, and making sure they wanted to go before having lunch. Pat agrees with Tiffany, and the group pack up and return home (odd reactions from Veronica and Ronnie, but everyone has their own way of letting go of hysteria).

Pat’s father wakes him with the terrifying screaming start of the Eagles chant, they finishing it, and without another word, he leaving. Pat now has two hours to workout before his brother’s tailgate party, Tiffany meeting him at 8 a.m. for a run, his dad giving him a ride after, he not attending the game due to a bad history with an opposing fan and his resulting assault charge. His father fills the ride with Eagles talk and for Pat to be there for his brother and mom, he then leaving him a little ways from the stadium, ending with the chant once more, a few more fans joining in with them. Pat walks his way through the friendly crowd until seeing Jake, he greeting him buddy-buddy style, Scott doing the same, and letting slip how they hadn’t seen each other in years, backtracking by asking how many months it’d been, and then deciding to introduce him to the boys inside the tent.

Afterward, Scott talks about his family instead of asking Pat about what was new with him, which comforted him, but also again being confronted with the reality of it being a few years since he’d last seen him, and after food and beers, tosses the ball around until Jake notices a Giants fan and starts an “asshole” chant, fifty fans joining in, and when they make the kid with him cry, he goes after Pat once people were dispersing. Scott and Jake defend him and the crowd returns, Jake getting knocked down. Pat goes off on the guy and knocks him out, he fleeing, distressed, and puking a couple times until Jake catches up and calls Scott, whom informs Pat of the guy being fine, but looking for him, so to stay away. Jake leads Pat to the stadium, and when getting to their seats, is impressed with the spot, but the Eagles don’t win this game, Jake and Pat parting near Jake’s apartment, Jake giving him a hug before leaving him, then getting on the subway again, still plagued with thoughts of the little boy crying. When he gets home, his mother tells him of the news of his father having broken the TV, he then going downstairs for a bit of a workout. He has a terrible dream involving Nikki and the memory of the Giants fan, but when waking and seeing the sports pages at the stairs, tries to let it go and prepare to workout again.

Pat and Tiffany go back to the same diner for the same order with tea, the two not having spoken on their walk or as they waited, Pat noting how their friendship didn’t rely on much chat, but he debating whether to confide his obsessive thinking of the crying little boy, since he didn’t see Patel until Friday, and she may relate to his feelings, he deciding to share, even though upon starting, regretting it, and when he begins to digress about how Nikki wouldn’t have approved his conduct, Tiffany dismisses her, and repeatedly says, essentially, she could fuck off, since she wasn’t around anyways, and she must not care for Pat much due to this. She leaves when the server comes to tell her she couldn’t cuss and when Pat goes looking for her, he sees her running off, she not answering him when asked if everything was alright, she going home without saying a word.

Pat attempts reading The Bell Jar in the evening, Nikki’s opinion being all females should be made to read it, he wanting to read it so he could understand the female perspective better and Nikki’s view. It doesn’t take him long to sense it was going to be a bleak story, he revealing his profession as a history teacher helping him realize this by the Narrator mentioning dark points in history, he describing the plot. Pat hadn’t reached the end when he states how he was curious of what the main character would do in order to rise from her mental illness in one piece, but this also spurring his interest due to his want in learning more about mental health. He relates how the Narrator almost dies from losing a lot of blood and how similar to a female character in A Farewell to Arms had suffered the same, making him question why this was popular in American Literature. By the end, Pat gets aggravated by its lack of finalizing and staying open to the Narrator’s fate, but upon reading the short biography in the book of how it was based on Plath’s life, and how she ended hers, he destroys the book, which was borrowed from the library, and proceeds to workout, wondering why people read such books. Tiffany continues to come by for runs over the next couple days, the two still not conversing.

When Pat sees Patel, he has no intention of sharing his bad acts during the week, but spills for guilt, not noticing how upset he’d become until finishing his speech. Patel’s response isn’t what Pat expects since he doesn’t tear him down for being violent toward the Giants fan, and attempts to ignore his statement of the Eagles making it to the Super Bowl two years ago. Patel then explains when he isn’t in his chair, he’s a fellow fan, but when he’s sitting, he’s his therapist, Patel reclining and stating Pat’s actions not having been the correct course of action, inquiring how else he could’ve reacted. Patel suggests Pat trying to use his Kenny G hum, asking where he’d come up with it, Pat almost annoyed Patel had brought him up, until remembering how kindly he’d taken his misstep, sharing how he’d gotten it from Nikki. Patel then asks why he didn’t use it for his moments of rage, Pat not having considered the possibility before. They move on to why Tiffany had reacted as she had, and Plath’s novel, Patel’s daughter also having recently been required to read it, and going on to explain its usefulness as a teaching tool to cope with reality and showed how some people’s minds worked. Patel ends their session by assuring he wasn’t angered by Pat’s fight, and they doing the Eagles chant, Pat knowing Patel was doing it to help him let go of his guilt, and it doing its job.

Pat’s in the basement working out when he hears his father instructing where to place the delivery of his new T.V., his mother coming in half an hour later to argue how they couldn’t afford it, but his father shouting of if they could spend so much on Pat, he could buy himself a new set, his mother leaving for her bedroom, Pat knowing she was upset, and he being the cause. He feels terrible about this, but upon seeing the T.V., is quite excited to watch a game on it. Pat’s father ignores his test question of purchasing the new set, Pat knowing he wouldn’t speak to anyone after fighting with his mother, he going on his run with Tiffany, whom also stays quiet throughout, and when he returns, he sees his mother’s car missing from the driveway.

Pat’s mother is still gone by the time Pat’s sleeping pills were supposed to be administered, he getting nervous by this uncustomary tardiness. After waking his father with his concerns and getting no response, he then locates his medication and takes the one’s he recognized for the hour, wanting to impress his mother by being responsible. He lays down, but is plagued with persistent questions until hearing a car pull up, meeting his mother on the porch, and realizing she’s wasted when informing Pat of Nikki’s mistake in letting him go, as well as her booze-breath, he leading her to the couch where she goes to sleep quickly. Pat moves her to his bed, then retrieves water and Tylenol, waking her briefly to have her take them, he then obsessed with thoughts of partially being the cause of his mother’s drunkenness. He goes to the attic to sleep, but is wakened by Kenny G above him, whom isn’t deterred by his humming, he keeping at it, and finally, Mr. G disappears, he searching the room to make certain, about to be proud of himself when he registers a box with his name on it and becomes uneasy. He takes a look inside, and first removes his high school soccer jacket, he then arranging the attic as it had been before he’d moved boxes around, he going back to his sleeping bag, but returning to the box throughout the night with disbelief of what he’d discovered, it reconfirming his mother’s dishonesty.

When Pat wakes in the morning and checks on his still sleeping mother, he has conflicting feelings of pride for having left the now empty glass next to his mother and peeved by her actions regarding the box in the attic. He goes downstairs and witnesses his father burning a steak, Pat leaving him to it for his morning workout, he hearing the smoke alarm for fifteen minutes, and when it’s the usual time for his pills, gets them himself, checking on his mother with considerable concern, but once again being ignored by his father when he attempts to start a conversation. He continues his workout, his mother ending his anxiety once she comes down to regard his successful pill taking, he giving minimal acknowledgement and asking where she’d gone, she instead speaking of her appreciation he’d taken care of her, and once she mentions how life would be changing for the better for them all due to a conversation she and his father had whilst he’d been out, his concentration about the box is lost. She then informs him of leaving for the day, but would be back, Pat trusting her because of her steady gaze.

When Pat goes upstairs and is again ignored by his father, he takes his run, this time alone, and for once had hoped Tiffany would turn up, he thinking she had become his new best buddy, which unnerved him. When he gets back home, his hope of seeing Jake’s car in the drive is dashed, he sensing he’d be stuck with his father alone. After he gets ready to watch the game, and during the first commercial break, he starts the yell for the Eagles chant, but stops when his father doesn’t join him. As the game progresses though, his father’s attitude changes for the better, he ordering pizza for them, giving Pat a beer, and talking of Baskett keeping up the good work. When the pizza arrives and his father mentions this day being better if Jake were present, Pat inquires where he was, but doesn’t get a reply. Fortunately, the Eagles win, but his father doesn’t stick around to chat, Pat then taking the opportunity to clean up. He detects a balled up piece of paper under the coffee table, and when inspecting it, sees his mother’s writing.

After reading the letter written to his father, he thinks of how nice it would be to have his father sit with them for meals, as his mother had transcribed. Pat locates Jake’s number, it being picked up by a lovely voiced woman. Jake comes on the line talking about the game, Pat inquiring why he hadn’t come and learning about their mother instructing him not to, Pat then reading the letter he’d found and Jake giving her kudos, he confirming they’d get together Monday. Whilst Pat waited for his mother to return, he finishes cleaning up, she asking if his father had commanded he do so when she comes in to see him scrubbing the couch, she informing Pat how they’d be leaving his trash from now on, Pat resisting the urge to bring up the box again, and instead offering his bedroom to her whilst she was on strike. When he poses whether Jake had a girlfriend and she responds insouciantly, he senses she’s sparing him in some way, he wanting to know what it was all about.

Pat has an abbreviated workout and run with Tiffany before riding the train to Philly to meet his brother, and is greeted unexpectedly by a doorman/security guard, then is brought to Jake’s floor by an elevator operator, finally once getting ushered in by Jake, first takes in the expansive view, then Jake’s baby grand piano, he playing a couple songs for him after explaining having taken it up a few years ago. After, Pat applauds enthusiastically and learns Caitlin, Jake’s wife had brought the piano with her when she’d moved in and had helped Jake learn, due to her profession as a classical pianist. Jake then offers he meet Caitlin at the cafe for lunch, as long as Pat was game, and when they all meet up and sit, Jake and she lead the conversation, Pat asking about their wedding and feeling some pressure when realizing they’d been together for some years. Caitlin doesn’t reveal how long, for Pat’s sake, but he not feeling great about this setup his mother seemed to have implemented. They get through the meal in one piece though, Caitlin being dropped off at the apartment, whilst Jake and Pat ride a taxi to City Hall where they catch a train to the stadium.

Pat becomes aware of the current day of the week, which panics him about his being unaware of his brother’s career, Jake not going into it much other than admitting to being an options trader, he playing the stock market which kept him self-employed. Pat feels Jake thought he was inadequate in understanding the finer details, but Jake curious to know his thoughts on his wife, he guessing Pat wasn’t happy he’d kept his marriage from him, but Pat stating it was alright, currently overwhelmed with wanting to share the current events about Tiffany, the box with his name on it, their parents issues, and how he was getting stuck between them, as well as disappointment for missing his brother’s wedding, he deciding to talk of his feelings of nervousness about being confronted by the big Giants fan. Jake assures him their group was setting the tent up elsewhere as a precaution, and the odds of a Giants fan coming to a Green Bay game was slim, he declaring he was looking out for Pat.

When they get to the tent, they see their group in an argument with some men in a bus with The Asian Invasion on the side, Pat hearing Patel before he was in view, attempting to have Scott’s group move for the bus parking in the same spot consecutively as a good luck charm, Pat demanding they agree to move, they shocked, but doing so, Patel leaving him alone to decide whether he wanted to greet him or not, but when Scott asks after Pat’s reason for making them leave, and Jake inquires after whether he knew the small man, Patel had walked up with a platter of kebabs as a peace offering. Pat then decides to introduce Patel to his peeps, everyone at ease, Patel explaining to their group of the game Kubb, which his buddies were setting up currently, the now friendly groups playing the game, and Pat with Patel winning in the end. Jake paid Pat’s entrance fee for him, and he wanted to give his winnings in return, but Jake refused, Pat then making certain with Patel of their socializing being acceptable, he reminding him his chair rule, they all then going inside the stadium. When Pat gets a ride home in the bus, it’s after midnight, and the driver had honked his specially tweaked horn, it blasting the Eagles chant with all of the groups voices, entertaining Pat, regardless of its blaring. When he gets in, his father and he sing the Eagles fight song, Pat going downstairs to workout after his father had gone up to bed without another word to him, and Pat thinking about how hurt he still was by not having been able to go to his brother’s wedding.

Pat asks his mother about Jake’s wedding photos, she pretending to not know what he was talking about until confiding how he’d met Caitlin, so knew she existed, his mother comfortable putting the photos back on the wall again, she returning with an album and whilst he perused, hung pictures, he asking after her father’s profession, the man currently teaching at Julliard. Further inquiries make it clear whilst the two families were friendly, they hadn’t much in common, Pat getting a flashback of their father’s reaction during Pat’s wedding, he in awe of seeing him cry. Pat then asks his mother how she’d replaced the burgled photos, she attempting to hang on to the lie until Pat shows her the photos of he and Nikki he’d discovered, asking whether she disliked his wife, he questioning her with his other pressing thoughts, but none getting answered, since during her starting to try, she breaks down, Pat too angered to practice being nice, instead preparing for his run and seeing Tiffany ready outside.

During Pat’s next session, they start with Patel’s wife’s talent for her painting she’d done for the hood of the bus, Pat going from this topic to his current depression over a player whom had been reported having attempted to commit suicide and the man denying it, which made everyone now question his sanity. Pat also didn’t feel great about not learning this player’s history with the Eagles until recently, he not liking how his father and brother spoke of him as a “pill popper”, and Pat reading of the man maybe dealing with depression, he wondering why his family used this against the player, not truly able to relate his point, so leaving the topic. Pat’s next tailgate party is surrounded by bad vibes for this player, many people showing their hate creatively, and Pat tipping Patel off with his bad game playing. Patel attempts to lighten Pat’s view of the fans, and they not serious about the written abuse about said player, Pat debating Patel’s stance in this defense due to his profession.

Pat decides focusing on Jake and the bus driver’s game of Kubb and ignores the negativity of all the fans around him, and when they were in the stadium and a taunting chant is taken up by the crowd, Pat feels sorry for the player, even if he did seem to take it lightly, Pat putting himself in the man’s shoes. When the Eagle’s luck changes for the better though, Pat forgets about the player and rides the high of Baskett’s success, the game ending in their favor, but Pat still empathizing with the down and out player when he sees him leave the field. When Pat and group get back to the parking lot, Patel and he celebrate as well, everyone regrouping at their parking spots, Pat overjoyed, later on again getting dropped off by the bus. When he investigates inside, he sees an uncomfortable sight in his parents’ room, they no longer on the rocks, and Pat going for a run as his mother suggests, he going to Tiffany’s to inform her of their reunion, she preparing to go, and after their long run/walk, Pat talking her ear off. Tiffany hands him a letter with specific instructions of when to read it when she’s back at her parents home, he apprehensive what could be inside.

Pat finally gets his sit-down conversation-filled meal with his father, he nervous for his mother’s happiness getting crushed when his father back-slid, but trying to live in the present, he and his father talking football. Unfortunately, when his father switches topics unexpectedly to Tiffany, Pat respectfully asks to leave the room for getting the sensation of losing it, going for a workout and run. When he gets home again, he believes he’s turned his attitude around enough to read Tiffany’s letter, she confessing how she’d been conversing with Nikki for two weeks and the news of she having divorced him not long after he’d been admitted due to a crime he’d been in trouble for, Tiffany doesn’t detail, she supposing how Pat had dealt with the memory was to bury it.

Tiffany offered to be their go-between, since Nikki was also eager to communicate with him, but still uncertain by his stability and the fact the two each had a restraining order on the other, Pat’s taken out by his parents. Tiffany also had a condition upon his accepting this proposal, due to what she was risking, she wanted him to agree to dance with her in a contest, thinking it was fate which brought a man with such muscles to her, since she needed someone strong enough for the lifts she had in mind. Nikki even supports this idea, Tiffany then listing what was required if he agreed to her terms, he troubled by some of the information, but noting how parts did add up, seeing the silver-lining, of course being to get Nikki to come back to him in the end. The decision was obvious to Pat, and next morning he goes to Tiffany to inform her, she setting their next meeting for tomorrow afternoon. When they meet, Tiffany has him listen to the song she’d chosen, he agreeing of relating to the lyrics and so much so he was crying by the chorus hit, Tiffany stating how he’d use his pain for the dance.

Pat next decides to spare the monotony of his training sessions, as well since Tiffany was paranoid of being copied before she could open her own dance studio. He then lists the training in clip format: Pat racing Tiffany and winning, workout sessions, Tiffany giving him motivation on how to crawl across the floor and not being impressed, his father worrying when Pat begins humming at him whenever he mentions the Eagles, and his brother getting the same response when Pat returns his call and hears him mention Baskett and the game he missed; Pat uncomfortable when Tiffany rationalizes he touching her in personal spots being acceptable for their dance, he again working out, and Tiffany giving him pointers on how to lift her and supporting her with his hand on her groin.

Pat confuses Patel with his humming when mentioning football, his mother suggesting he give dance training a break to watch football with his father and brother, only getting the humming response. Tiffany gives him advice when she plans on doing her flip and how to give her extra air, his father tells him of Baskett failing because Pat wasn’t attending and he humming through it; Tiffany getting harsh when Pat continues to crawl incorrectly, showing him what she wants, he again repeating why he won at racing her, Ronnie visits to ‘workout’ and warns him of what Tiffany does to get what she wants, Tiffany then describing how Pat’s movements will correspond to one day’s worth of sun; His mother resorts to pleading with him to end his humming when she attempts to have him explain to Tiffany why he needed to watch one game with his father, and Pat then informing Patel why he wanted to be in the dance contest having to do with getting a chance to be the sun, the source of silver-linings.

Jake explains the difference between his wife understanding his football obsession and how Tiffany regarded Pat’s, he also stating how their father would definitely blame Pat if the Eagles lost. Tiffany then shows her part of the routine, Pat properly impressed by the emotion through her moves; His mother updates him of his father no longer being civil due to the Eagles’ loss and wanting Pat to end his humming. Pat then repeats how fast he is when he and Tiffany run, Veronica dropping by with Emily to inquire whether Tiffany and he were truly doing well with rehearsals since Tiffany hadn’t invited family to watch her dance for two years, and if they failed she’d regress into a depression. Pat kisses his photo goodnight with the promise of succeeding soon, he again working out, and Patel attempting to setup a carpool so Pat could get to the home game, and questioning whether he’d truly miss it. Tiffany then advises Pat needing to lock his arms so he wouldn’t shake during the lifts; Pat’s father then shown shouting at him from the top of the basement steps of he causing the Eagles to fail.

Pat works out again, Tiffany giving some props, but questioning whether they could fix everything before the day; She gives him his costume, working them tirelessly until Pat is running on fumes, she continuing as it grows later and starts them from the beginning. Tiffany then shaves his chest, a first for him, he questioning why he can’t wear a shirt, and she rationalizing, the sun didn’t. Again, Pat repeats of running faster than Tiffany, she having them practice the dance twenty five times two days before the contest, and stating how she didn’t feel they had enough people to cheer for them and her acting as go-between rode on their winning. Pat asks Patel to come to the dance contest with his family, he asking for a trade where Pat’d join him at the game after, if he agreed, his buddies also missing him, and Pat unable to declare a definitive answer, yet, so Patel stating the same, Pat feeling let down. He then calls his brother and leaves a too-long message about he coming with Caitlin to the contest, getting interrupted by Caitlin when he calls back, and hanging up. His mother agrees to go, but can’t promise his father would go with her.

Veronica gives them both a ride, dropping them off at the front, Tiffany leading him to the hall where they needed to register, but arriving too early, so the two sitting down to wait, Pat sensing she was nervous and inquiring if she was alright, her response being for him to not speak with her due to it being unlucky, which gives Pat a chance to become bitten by nerves, and when other young dancers start to register, they sign-in and change, an old fat lady approaching them about not wanting her daughter to have to undress in front of Pat, Tiffany and he going to a supply closet to wait, he then having Tiffany check to make sure no one was dancing to Kenny G. When everyone is changed, they get a knock on the door, Pat surprised by all the teenagers in attendance, and when they practice, he realizes they were up against other worrisome talent. After they are introduced on stage, Pat is disheartened by not seeing his family, but convinces himself his mother could be out there somewhere, easing his mind. They are set to perform last, Pat hearing the varying decibels of applause, his nerves kicking in once more when the girl before them gets the loudest response yet.

Pat attempts another look at the crowd as they get into position, but sees no one he recognizes, and then their music starts, his attention on his moves. Bonnie Tyler is playing and Tiffany is killing it, Pat seeing his performance as perfect, as well, but Tiffany doing most of the intricate movement. Pat considers how the dancer before them will most likely win, but due to their performance going so well, believing they could still have a chance. The final, most difficult lift is executed and accomplished, the audience pouring out thunderous applause, Pat then seeing his family and Patel with his buddies, Ronnie and his family with Tiffany’s parents having attended to support them, Tiffany coming clean about the contest not including a trophy, this only a motivational tool. She then informs him she’d help him speak with Nikki, Pat also getting the okay to talk football again, and then being thanked with emotion by Tiffany’s mother. After Pat’s mother shows how happy she is for him, Jake and Patel inform of whisking him in the bus for an overnight tailgate party, they first getting cheese-steaks, then playing Kubb and throwing the football for a bit, Patel reminding Pat to take his sleepy time pills. When Pat wakes the next morning among all the sleeping men, he goes outside to workout and run, he realizing how many buddies he now had, feeling only slight guilt for how he left Tiffany, but then looking forward to writing his first letter, and praying the Eagles turn their game-playing around today.

Then, the second letter from Nikki is shown, she stating the oddness of speaking with him after having been together so long and then a part for almost the same amount of time, she hoping their correspondence provides both sides with closure before she moves on. She also states how impressed she was by the length of his writing (his journal), she suggesting they cap it at five pages for Tiffany’s sake, she then complimenting her, but moving on to mention hearing how well he’d done in the dance contest, then sharing how terrible working at the high school had become, also giving sympathy about his father’s temper, but how great season tickets with Jake must be. She jumps into having gotten married again, she not wanting him to get the wrong idea after hearing certain parts of the diary of he holding out for a future, she confessing how she’d cheated on him. To end, she gives him props for reading her syllabus, he not alone with his view of the stories being downers, but literature attempting to harness both sides of life, she wanting Pat to succeed with implementing his new self and finding peace in his life.

Pat’s return letter jumps straight into his reading Huck Finn, as suggested, and liking it overall, but surprised by the excessive use of “the n-word”, besides this, being impressed how Huck stuck with Jim despite religion dictating hell would await him. He then mentions how distraught he’d become with her news, but also couldn’t help thinking her recommendation was also a way of relating he should follow his gut, he then reminding her of some good memories they’d shared, he hoping she’d keep an open mind at least whilst they wrote to each other, he attempting to show he’d changed and deserved a second chance, regardless of knowing wooing a married woman is sinful and he felt somewhat guilty, but needed to follow this path through.

Nikki’s letter states how proud she was he’d been able to make such a drastic turnaround, regardless the cause, she then making clear she’d offered he read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for entertainment and didn’t plan on secret meanings, she then giving The Catcher in the Rye as a good theme for what Pat was going through, she wondering how stable his current reality-base was, especially with what the future could bring. She then regards the memory he brought up, she stating how she’d continue to treasure it, but they having been too young, and her new hubby making her happy, this exchange only to supposed to be about making the farewell easier for closure.

Pat replies with football updates and how one of his old favorite players had shot and killed himself, he then regarding how terribly he’d been feeling since her last letter, even sharing it with Patel, but not how they’d made contact, Patel maintaining his reasons why being with Tiffany was better for him, but his love for her enduring all. He also mentioning how The Catcher in the Rye gave him the idea of she being the object he couldn’t help, but make a grab for, he hoping she’d agree to one meeting in person, and if he failed, he’d cope.

Her response was to show empathy for his past favorite player’s death, and having sympathy for his mother dealing with his father being a chore, she then reminding him how he’d broken the agreement by sharing the letter with Patel and would have to stop contact due to legal issues, but agreed with Patel’s assessment of their past relationship, and how their writing wasn’t helping him get over her, she ending by wishing him well.

Pat decides to attempt a request he believed she owed him, deciding to try and get her to meet with him on Christmas Day at the place they became engaged, he not able to give up on his happy-ending movie. He next accompanies his mother to Christmas mass, since his father wouldn’t go, he getting flashbacks of going to Christmas mass when Jake and he were kids, and during the priest’s story, prays for Nikki to agree to meet with him tomorrow, and being grateful God would help him get her back, then stating how upset his father was making his mother, but regardless, is happy God had helped him change his ways. When they get home, his mother pours them both some eggnog and reminisces of the ornaments he and Jake had made as children, Pat thinking about how he loved the way his mother unconditionally loved him, unlike Nikki, they then hearing the doorbell, and Pat thinking it could be Nikki, but instead Ronnie, Veronica, Emily, and Tiffany enter, they singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Ronnie and Veronica finish the first verse after Tiffany stops, Pat seeing how happy Ronnie’s family was, and was a bit jealous.

They all sit and his mother suggests he pass out their presents, everyone happy with what they received, Pat then opening theirs to him and seeing an autographed personalized photo of Baskett, the family then readying to leave to put Emily to bed, Pat’s mother thanking them, getting emotional, and Tiffany palming him a piece of paper before leaving, his mother stating how happy she was he was there for her, the two then off to their bedrooms and Pat opening the paper. Nikki’s last letter confirms she wouldn’t be meeting him and stating he needed to move on, his family and Tiffany able to ease this transition, and she not responding again or speaking with Tiffany after this, since she’d been cussing at her in defense of him, then declaring he no longer attempt communication with her, and reminding him of the active restraining order.

Pat gets up early to lift weights, he apprehensive about meeting Nikki, reminding himself how this was like every hopeless part of a movie before the perfect ending occurred, and God wouldn’t ditch him at his hour of pending despair. When he goes upstairs for breakfast, his father eats with them, they then exchanging gifts, Pat preparing for a ‘run’ and going off to see Nikki, happy they’d finally see each other again, and when reaching the spot, sits down and begins his waste of time. After it reaches darkness and he becomes more agitated, Tiffany shows up and apologizes, since she’d been the one writing all the letters, Pat finally understanding his reunion with Nikki would only ever be a dream, he then having violent thoughts and breaking down, Tiffany attempting to confess what parts were true, and then declaring her love for him which has him up and running away from her, he ditching her attempt at following, then angrily praying before he begins getting a beat down from unknown assailants.

When he regains consciousness, all his valuables plus shoes and belt have been stolen, he noting one leg and knee stiff, walking to the one house with Christmas decorations, he realizing he’d gotten mugged because of his angry prayer and immediately repents, he knowing he’d been forgiven when his buddy Danny asks what he’s doing near his Aunt’s nativity scene. Pat then shares how they first met, and how Danny had chosen Pat as his first person he speaks with in the bad place, he doing so after they’d agreed to an experimental treatment, they then becoming friends. When Danny offers Pat join them for Christmas dinner, he learns Danny had been released only the day before, Danny’s aunt calling an ambulance since he looked so messed up, and he learning his leg was so busted, a cast ending right below his hip is set. His mother, Jake, and Caitlin come and let him know Danny and his aunt had left. When Pat is released, he learns they’d found out what Tiffany had done when she’d called them, Jake blaming her for their less than idyllic Christmas, Pat becoming upset and apologizing to Jake as he drove them home.

Pat’s birthday lands on a Friday, the 29th, he taking an awkward shower as his mother protected his cast, he feeling less muscley for not working out, and they then going to his therapy session, Pat sharing all which had happened, he now speaking with Danny a lot to fill his time and writing some, but no longer reading or watching TV. After Pat shares how Danny and he played Parcheesi when he visited, Patel offers to confide why Pat had lost his memory, agreeing with Tiffany about he needing this obsession resolved, but her methods not necessarily helpful, of course. Pat maintains his movie may still have a good ending pending, and when Patel attempts to show life wasn’t film, Pat gets agitated, the both of them feeling concern, Pat’s based off of Patel’s look. When they’re on the ride home, his mother informs him of the party they were preparing and Nikki wouldn’t ever be in attendance when Pat inquires, he not feeling chatty as she cooks the meal. Jake and Caitlin come first and are unable to lift him from his funk, then Ronnie and Veronica come in with Emily, whom sits on his lap, making him feel a bit better, she then drawing on his cast, and after they eat and he opens his presents, one of them being a gym pass which was thoughtful, but Pat not as interested anymore, he asks after Tiffany, his mother having invited her, but she obviously not agreeing to come.

 Pat, Scott, and Jake attend the New Year’s Eve day football game, but Scott has to leave early due to promising his wife he would if the game didn’t matter, the Eagles already certain to be in the NFL East (whatever the fuck that means). Jake is also about to pull out for missing the start of Caitlin’s party, Pat reeling him back with a guilt trip. After the game, they meet Patel and friends at the bus, Jake leaving after a bit, and Pat getting a ride home on the bus, he getting another family dinner, but his father bowing out early with minimal chat. He and his mother watch the New Year’s festivities on TV, she stating how the new year would be a pleasant one, Pat agreeing even though it wasn’t shaping up the way she described, Pat thinking of how grumpy his father was despite the Eagles. When he notices his mother sleeping and looking chilled, he discovers a videotape which he plays after covering her with a blankie, he seeing his wedding reception. When their Kenny G song plays, Pat regains his memory of what happened the night he found Nikki cheating on him, losing consciousness after attacking the man when hitting his own head on the sink, and being drugged after waking at the hospital. He then comes back to himself and leaves a message on Jake’s machine, wanting a favor.

Tiffany writes a letter, she gauging if enough time had passed, and instructing he read it all if he hadn’t destroyed it, yet. She was aware of her ability to write surpassing her communication skills and relates how many people currently loathed her, Jake intimidating her with a death threat, so she having kept away and not making any kind of contact, her parents and therapist also showing their opposition to what she’d done to him, she still supporting her belief she’d done it for his own good, describing how many interests they shared and she hoping he’d give her another chance. Then she decides to share a personal story only her therapist knew, starting with details about her husband, he having been a cop whom spent half his time as a counselor for troubled youth at a local high school.

Tiffany mentions her hubby’s last words being a question regarding how she wanted to slow down their fuck sessions, he not taking this well, since he was used to a multiple amount per day, and when he left their home, he only having been on a lunch break, next Tiffany hears, he’d been injured, the looks on the other officers faces when she’d arrived at the hospital revealing he hadn’t survived the fairly ironic accident. She mentions blaming herself still over how he’d died being because she’d hurt him and after his death, she had begun to seek out men to sleep with so she could pretend it was her husband, which ended with the start of therapy, but she having considered using Pat in the same way when they first met. Not until they’d gotten to know each other did her opinion change, especially after they’d cried together. She then admits how she’d been behind getting his mother smashed, using her to get to him, but she now actually being buddies with her, she having decided to forgive her and deliver this letter. Also she admits she may not deserve Pat, but wrote the letters only once knowing Nikki wouldn’t ever return to him, she now hoping they could at least be buddies.

Danny reads the letter, Pat wanting an unbiased opinion, but he doesn’t respond to this topic, instead setting up the Parcheesi board, and the two playing, Pat deciding he needed to figure what to do on his own, anyways whether Danny had this in mind or had only wanted to focus on the game. He then mentions how good of a player Danny was, he rolling well most of the time, and how he used to be a great artist, as well, but since his second operation, didn’t seem to have this drive anymore.

Pat goes to a park after his cast had been off for one week, he thinking about goldfish in the nearly frozen pond he stood at, he desiring to throw a rock so as to break the ice, and then noticing Tiffany walking toward him, Patel having known she’d meet him as he’d requested. They stand silently for some time, Pat breaking the ice (pun intended) by inquiring why she hadn’t accepted his mother’s invite to his birthday. She reminds him of what Jake had said to her and Ronnie having commanded she leave him alone, they regretting getting them together. Pat had spoken with Jake about his conduct, and knew Tiffany was being honest due to the way she was acting, surprised and impressed Ronnie had stood up for him, even though if Veronica had known, she’d have shut that shit down, knowing Tiffany’s sensitivity.

Tiffany then apologizes profusely, it quiet between them again, Pat deciding he’d confide the ending to his old life’s story, Jake having brought him to his old house, where Nikki still lived with the fool she cheated on him with, he seeing her with him in their front yard with two small children having a snowball fight, the scene so idyllic, Pat was able to let her go and end his story with her there, not even desiring to approach her. Tiffany responds by giving him his belated birthday gift, a chart identifying cloud shapes, she noticing how he stared at them when they ran. The two then watch the single cloud mass, hoping for a break, Tiffany stating after some time of requiring Pat in her life, Pat realizing he did, as well, kissing her on the head and saying so.

One of the easiest books to read, found myself unable to break away after awhile. The story stands well on its own, I having forgotten most of the film, but this one being one helluva ride. Recommended to the mentally unstable and otherwise.