This is a direct followup to Up to Code and Down to Code. It expects knowledge of the world and characters, so I would strongly recommend reading those stories before this one.

Right to Code

"Mom? Dad? What is it?"

Those were the words I spoke every time, unmistakable. Unfortunately, nothing else was nearly as certain as that.

While I could assume those two figures were my parents, I could never make out anything about them. Nothing about their appearances, their voices, or their words. For that matter, I wasn't sure about my own presence - but I spoke those words, at least.

Even the mood of the conversation was hard to determine. I couldn't tell if they were happy about what they were saying, or sad, or anything else. My own reactions felt similarly mixed.

However, there was one thought I was usually left with right at the end of the dream. Maybe it was my takeaway from what my parents said.

"We're going to be happy there."


My name is Rena Taggart, and I'm a singleton currently attending Chexum University.

Despite what those foggy memories tried to tell me, it was true: I had no parents, nor siblings. Anything to the contrary I "recalled," seemingly from before my initialization around 9 years old, must have been an invention of my own mind - or some kind of glitch. Which felt unlikely, as I was generally in very good health.

That's what I had to keep telling myself, in between trying to focus on the silver linings of being a singleton. That ours was a unique opportunity not given to those initialized with families. No one to influence you, both in childhood development and adult life. The freedom to decide for yourself who you are, and forge your own path. I'm sure it was a singleton themselves who first came up with the term, wanting to think of themselves as a singular, exceptional person rather than a leaf without a tree.

And while I believed those things to an extent, I couldn't deny that those "bright sides" also felt like a lot of extra work, responsibility, and choices for me to agonize over. I couldn't help but feel a little envious of people who had a parent or two to provide for and guide them, and especially those with lots of parents. Honestly, if my memories weren't lying to me and I'd "had" two parents, I think I would've been plenty satisfied with that... but I mean, I could fantasize about having literally any other family situation. It wouldn't change the facts.

So I carried on, finding ways to survive on my own. Momentum took me through high school, but I still felt like my "destination" hadn't come into sight. So I applied to Chexum hoping that it could finally provide some sort of stimulus to figure my future out, or at the very least force me into a choice I could feel okay with the outcome of.

Which it did, if not in the way I expected. And I came to realize that just because idle fantasizing wouldn't change things, it didn't mean they couldn't be changed.


"...So there really aren't any other history courses?"

My teacher shook his head. "Not here, no. Some places have an Advanced History class..."

"Hmm? And what does that cover?", I asked, leaning in with curiosity.

"Pretty much the same material, but with a lot more boring details."

I slumped back in my chair. "Aw, come on..."

The History course at Chexum was one that had caught my interest... well, that's not really accurate. It just sort of ended up there after narrowing down a bunch of non-core classes to fill out my schedule this quarter. But thinking about it more, I did like knowing about how things got to be the way they are, so a rare excitement started to well up inside me.

Yet by the time the quarter was over, I was left feeling a little let down, and decided to talk with the professor. The number of years we covered felt so few, and so uneventful. I wasn't sure where my standard for either of these things had come from, but I felt convinced of them regardless.

The professor shrugged. "What were you expecting? There's only so much history we have."

"Well, what about, er... before that?", I suggested, scratching my head.

"That would be prehistory, of course. We don't have any written records from that early. It's possible that they hadn't developed writing, even. So who knows?"

I folded my arms. "No writing? But the earliest periods we talked about in class still had lots of the technology we have today. You think people just popped into existence knowing what a computer was?"

"...That's a more philosophical question than I'm qualified to comment on," he said with a wry smile. "Look, if there are no records, there are no records. Unless we suddenly dig a whole bunch up, I don't know what to tell you."

"Yeah..." I sighed. "Well, thanks anyway."

I walked out of his office, pondering my own feelings. Had there been something in particular I was hoping to learn from history class? Surely it didn't have something to do with my false memories? Come on, Rena, you've been alive on this planet two decades and haven't been able to let this silly thing go for fully half that time. And talk about self-centered, thinking the history of the very world would contain the clues to figuring out what was probably just an annoying glitch anyhow. You've gotta look at reality, girl.

I looked up just too late to see, well, a girl.

I knocked what seemed to be the only other person in the hallway to the floor, and while it didn't quite knock me off my feet, I decided it would be best to just fall over too. Then I got up and offered her my hand.

"Sorry, sorry, I wasn't paying attention at all..." I looked around. "Did I make you drop anything?"

The girl just stared at me with a curious look; she seemed extremely embarrassed. I'd admitted it was my fault I bumped into her, so I wasn't sure what there was to get so embarrassed about...?

Eventually, she gave a shy answer. "N, no, I wasn't carrying anything, actually... Sorry." She hurried to her feet and dusted off her skirt.

I was about to walk away, but the girl quickly spoke up, as if hastened by the idea that I'd leave if she didn't. "I, um, don't think I've seen you around before...!"

I turned back to her. "Well, I've only been here for one quarter, and I don't come around this part of campus very often. I was just visiting my History professor in his office."

"Oh, uh... History, huh? What's that like?", she asked with interest... albeit probably a little feigned. "I was gonna take that this quarter, but I dropped it at the last minute to take Sourcery 101..."

"Haha, I wasn't sure if I would be taking History until the last minute, either. A spot freed up right before..." I trailed off as I realized. "Wait, did you give me that spot?"

The girl's eyes widened with surprise, and she laughed. "Oh, wow, I... probably did! I was just, uh, up really late one night, and... Huh, were you up that late too?"

"No, uh..." I shook my head. "I was just first on the waiting list, so it put me in automatically. That's how those things work," I had to inform her, even though she had apparently been at this school longer.

"O-Oh! Right! I... I knew that..." She covered her face, looking inordinately torn-up about her mistake. It made me feel kind of bad... though not to the point that I would've rather lied about it.

"Hey, but, thanks for the spot, I guess? It was a pretty interesting class, so..." I stretched the truth a little to help her cheer up. "You know, this sort of thing happens all the time, if you think about it. So it's neat that we actually happened to meet and find it out!"

That seemed effective, as she looked up with a smile. "W-Wow, I was thinking that too... But I felt like it was just a weird thought, so I didn't want to say it."

"Nah, it's not weird at all," I smiled back. "Say, what's your name?"

She answered excitedly, like she'd been just dying to say it. "Lina! Lina Brackett! What's yours?"

I shook her hand. "Rena Taggart."

Lina became totally still all of a sudden. She looked somewhere behind her, then back at me. "Rena Taggart...? It couldn't be... the one Mrs. Meyer just told me about...?"

I felt uneasy again. "Uh... Something the matter?"

Her excitement returned just as quickly as it left, yet seemingly even greater. "That settles it! This is fate! This has to be fate! Because I just now heard about you, and now...!"

"H... Heard about me? Who's been talking about me?"

"Well, I mean, it was you from a bunch of years ago and you probably don't even remember, but the point is...! Rena, can we be friends?!"

After saying that, Lina slowly seemed to realize my discomfort and her overexcitement, and took on an extremely apologetic look. "No, um, I'm really sorry, I don't know why I said that... I understand if you don't want to be..."

"No, that sounds great, really!", I reassured her with all truthfulness. "Just as long as you can slow down a little to explain yourself."

Lina gulped. "Well, I'll try... So, I actually came to talk to my professor too, although I've been doing that all quarter. She's a sourcery teacher, and she used to be an admin, fixing glitches and stuff. So she told me a story about her old job, and you were in it, because she helped you after you fell into a fissure opened by a glitchquake..." She took a breath, then paused. "...Um, actually, I think that covers it?"

It was rather surreal hearing that people had been discussing a perilous event from my own childhood unprompted, but the description was accurate. "Yeah, I guess that would be me... But if I met your professor, I don't really remember her."

"Ah... Well, she's a great teacher these days! And nice when you get to know her," Lina said with a smile.

The conversation seemed to be reaching an end, but something else Lina mentioned had piqued my interest. So having someone who would know right in front of me, I took the opportunity to ask.

"Hey, so what's sourcery all about, anyway?"

"O... Oh! You don't know?", she responded with surprise - and a gleam in her eye. "Sourcery is, well... it's a power that can fix and alter all sorts of things. In the right hands, it can be life-changing!" She blushed and looked away. "Though in my hands, it's a bit more of a struggle..."

"How so?"

"Well, um..." She lowered her head shyly. Then she pinched part of her skirt, pulled it outward, and let go. It stayed up in the air, as if unaffected by gravity.

"I get... a lot of glitches," she sighed, patting her skirt back down. "To the point where it feels like the admins just give up on them sometimes. And it even gets in the way of me using sourcery to fix them, so..." She closed her eyes, shook her head, and re-opened them with a smile. "Well, but I'm doing my best!"

This poor girl, I thought to myself. I felt more grateful than usual that I was fortunate enough to rarely ever be troubled by glitches. Well, but technically...

I shook my head at myself for coming back to that yet again, then worried how that looked to Lina. I also worried about how to express the other thing I was thinking without hurting her feelings.

"Say, Lina... If we're going to be friends, do you want to hang out somewhere? Maybe in your room, assuming you're in the dorms here? My apartment's a bit of a walk."

Lina looked like her little heart was about to burst out of her chest. "S-S-Sure, if you want! I'll just have to let my roommate know first, so, um... s-some other time!"

Oh, phew. So she at least had a roommate. That took a bit of pressure off being her only friend, which is what I'd feared I was.

...Though I suppose I was one to talk, not even having a roommate. An apartment room was different from a dorm room, though - who'd be that eager to move in with me, and live in that cramped place?

Watching Lina nervously write down her phone number and the location of her dorm for me, I resisted the urge to slot in an answer to that question.


Over the next few days of our end-of-quarter break, me and Lina talked to each other via texts a handful of times. Though she'd already informed her roommate about me and everything seemed fine on that front, I suspected she was still psyching herself up to invite me over.

Lina's interest in me was palpable, even through her texts. She'd refer to us as "bunny buddies," and was interested to know all about my interests and stuff, which I sometimes found hard to answer. Needless to say, I didn't feel so strongly about her, but she was nice enough; I could certainly be her friend, and hoped to make that clear later. I could tell she'd been through a lot, and could use whatever companionship she could get.

While her current focus in school was sourcery, she told me she aspired to be an artist. When I asked if there was a particular occupation or subject matter she was interested in, all she could give me was "I dunno" and "cats, maybe?" So we had that in common, for better or worse.

Speaking of cats: her roommate. Evidently she was a cat named Lily, specializing in computer science. Lina seemed to talk about her almost as much as she talked about herself, even when I was specifically asking Lina about herself. I wondered if she was just sort of... like this with everyone.

Meanwhile, when not talking to Lina, I was thinking about next quarter. With History having been not only a disappointment but the only course of its kind, I needed to go back to the list of non-core classes to pick something out. And this time, Sourcery 101 with Professor Meyer stood out more than it had before.

It seemed most students had an easy time with it, and I had Lina's word that the professor was nice... with a vague caveat, at least. But that alone wasn't reason to take a course. What would I be getting out of it? How could it prove useful to my future?

I'd always regarded sourcery as little more than a tool for admins and independent sourcerers to fix glitches. Having fortunately lived a life largely free of them, it seemed needless for someone like me to even think about it.

Yet Lina really talked it up, and that got me a bit more curious. Sure, obviously she was biased, having very different experiences than me when it came to glitches. But maybe there was more to it than just fixing glitches. Heck, even if there wasn't, helping others using sourcery didn't sound like the worst job in the world. I could see it being both satisfying and profitable.

...Did I really need to be evaluating my every choice as if it could have a major impact on my future and financial stability?

Whatever. I still had some time to think it over.


Finally, Lina worked up the nerve to invite me to her room. Her excuse for taking so long was that she "needed to clean the place up." Yeah, sure, I thought.

I arrived and knocked on the door. "Hi, Lina! It's me!"

She didn't respond, so I opened it - and was greatly surprised by who I saw.

"Oh, you must be Rena. Lina's told me about you."

"And you're... Lily...? S-Same...", I stammered.

She was dressed fairly casually, yet somehow had a staggering presence. She carried herself like a waiter would carry a fancy dish... despite being in an environment closer to a junk food place. How Lina wasn't downright intimidated by her, I had no idea. She was basically the last thing I would have expected to see in this dorm room, or this school, or... anywhere, really.

I cleared my throat and my thoughts. "Err... yes, I'm Rena. Where's Lina? I thought she'd be here to welcome me in."

She folded her arms and looked away slightly. "Yes... about that. She went out to meet you, but went -"

Right on cue, Lina came running in. "Oh nooooo I went left instead of right but of course you'd come from the right what was I thinking?!"

"...If you were planning to meet me in the hall, why did you tell me it was okay to open the door?", I asked.

Lina looked to Lily, then shrugged meekly at me. "I wasn't sure if I was going to go through with it or not..."

"Aw, don't worry about it," Lily told her, standing up to put an arm around her. "You're here, she's here, and it's not like she's going anywhere, right?"

"Well... yeah..." Lina smiled and blushed, leaning slightly toward Lily.

They kept that position for a while, so I decided to speak up. "So, uh..."

Suddenly, Lina snapped upright. "Oh! I forgot, I need to introduce you two! Rena, this is Lily! Lily, this is Rena!"

"Y-Yes, I'm aware," I said with a nervous nod. "You two are... friendly, huh?"

To my surprise, Lily recoiled more from that comment, looking away bashfully in a way I wouldn't have expected from the self-assured woman I saw when I came in. Her face looked conflicted.

Lina seemed to know just what was going on here, and comforted Lily. "Lily, we talked about this... Rena's my friend, so you don't have to act any different around her than you would around me."

"Easier said than done when she's being so perceptive," she sighed.

"Well, I'm not really trying to hide it, so that would be why," Lina laughed. "I don't care who knows it - I love Lily, and we hug ALL the time!"

"Linaaaaa," Lily whined, nearly crumpling into a ball.

I chuckled, despite feeling bad for Lily. As I suspected, Lina was like this with... well, me and Lily, at the very least. Seeing as Lily seemed to like her back, hopefully Lina wouldn't take it too hard once I told her I wasn't interested in her... hugs?

I scratched my head. Something didn't sound right about that, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out what, so I dropped it.

The three of us sat down and started chatting about whatever, helping to slowly lift the awkward mood. Lina regaled me with various stories from Sourcery class, which Lily nodded along to, clearly having heard them before. Myself, I was unfamiliar with what a Sourcery class even looked like... though as Lina told it, it mainly concerned things like changing the color of pencils and exploding apples, which had me questioning the point of sourcery all over again.

"Lina, what's the most advanced thing you've done with sourcery?", I asked in an attempt to get to the bottom of things. "I know you've only haonly had the 101 class, but I'm curious howuious how far that..."

Lina and Lily looked at me, and I put my hand to my mouth with surprise. What was that about?

"Oh no, did you catch hiccups?", Lina said with a worried look. "I, um... I didn't give you that, did I...?"

So it was some kind of glitch...? I'd never even heard of something like this before, yet Lina seemed entirely familiar with it. Again: poor girl. But also...

"...Lina, do you think you couink you could fix it?"

Her eyes sparkled, but Lily quickly cut in. "Er, Lina, remind me... Have you ever successfully cured hiccups of your own?"

She put a hand to her head and thought. "Uh... sort of? It was a little less noticeable than this..." She looked up at Lily with a bit of a pained smile. "You don't think I can do it, huh...?"

Lily's eyes widened. "I-I didn't mean that, no... Of course you can do anything you put your mind to, Lina."

The unease quickly vanished from Lina's face, but I could tell Lily was still hesitant. The question was, should I be...?

Lina turned to me excitedly. "Okay, Rena, just sit still. Or, uh, maybe that doesn't matter. Um, relax! It's just hiccups! Which I'm going to cure!"

With that, she closed her eyes and began to focus. Though she was usually kind of bouncy, and had been especially so from eagerness, she became noticeably more relaxed as she worked her sourcery. It seemed to me that Lily was impressed to see that.

Finally, Lina opened her eyes, and gulped. "Now, uh... say something!"

Somehow, I could already feel that she'd succeeded. So I smiled and said: "You're really good at this, Lina."

It felt like the room exploded in cheering, even though there were only two girls to do it. Lily looked incredibly relieved, and got up and hugged Lina tight. Come on, it wasn't that big a deal... but of course, I could see why it was to them.

"...You know, I was actually considering taking Sourcery next quarter," I admitted. "I mean, I've always been content to leave glitch-fixing to the admins, so it never had my attention before. But seeing you pull off an instant fix like that after just one course... I think I get the potential now."

"Oh, that's great! I really recommend it!", Lina exclaimed. "Too bad we won't be in the same class... but maybe we can share notes?"

Lily interjected. "Rena, it might be good to set some expectations first. I took SRC 101 and didn't get much out of it... well, not from the class itself, anyway."

I looked down meekly. "O-Oh... is it a slow start? Or just not useful for someone like me...?"

"Let me put it this way. Are there... things about your life you really want to change?"

I pondered. I mean, I wished my life had more direction. But I doubted that was the sort of thing she was asking about, because it felt like fixing that would entail rewriting my whole brain. Even manifesting parents or siblings for myself - which had to be illegal or something anyway - probably wouldn't do much for me at this point...

But that did remind me of one thing I wished I could fix.

"I do have this... persistent glitch," I began, reluctant to even bring it up. "It's like I remember things that didn't really happen. Or at least, I don't see how they could have happened. I remember parents I don't have, and creatures and concepts and things that don't exist, which seem to just fade away when I try to figure out what I'm thinking of..."

"Oh wow..." Lina looked at me worriedly. "You said you didn't get many glitches, but even I've never had anything like that."

I shook my head. "I mean, it might be a glitch. It's probably the most logical explanation. But... I dunno, there's also part of me that's like... what if that was real, somehow? What if those things I'm remembering did happen, or did exist, but it all just vanished for some reason? What if that's, like... the real me?"

All of a sudden, I realized I was opening up to people I'd only just met about nonsense theories I'd been musing over to myself for years, and tried to take it all back. "Uh, but it's not your problem or anything, haha..."

"...Well, you probably weren't expecting it anyway, but anything to do with memories... that's way beyond me," Lina whimpered. "I don't know what level of Sourcery class that'd even be..."

"Yeah... it sounds like a doozy," Lily nodded. "In that case, maybe you just ought to talk to Meyer directly. I'd only trust an expert on her level to go mucking with memory."

"Is that okay?", I wondered. "I'm not her student, and I don't know if I even intend to take her class..."

"Oh, don't worry about that!", Lina assured me. "She's super helpful, and something tells me she'll be surprised to see you."

Lily looked at her. "...I hope you meant pleasantly surprised."


"Yes, who is it -"

Meyer cut herself off and stared at me with surprise. I suppose she'd used sourcery to check my name. "...Rena? Rena Taggart?"

"I seem to be getting that a lot lately," I laughed, somewhat nervously.

She looked to the side, deep in thought. "Yes, well... it's just that you came up in a story I told just the other day." She then realized I was probably confused and hastily explained. "Er, sorry, you probably don't remember me, but many years ago -"

"I know, I know. The glitchquake in Lanville, right?"

"Oh, so you do remember? Hm." She crossed her arms. "Anyway, you can see how I'd find it unusual to see you here, much less in such close proximity to that. In spite of everything, I don't believe in coincidence."

"So you believe in fate?"

"I didn't say that," she sighed. "So what did you want with me?"

"I was advised that you might be able to help me with an issue I've been having," I explained. "I... guess it's a glitch. See, sometimes I remember these things that -"

"What in the world are these permissions...?", Meyer interrupted with surprise and a hint of disgust.

I looked at her wide-eyed, worried I'd offended her somehow. "U-Um...?"

"Sorry, I just took a quick look at you - something's gone wrong here, all right." Noticing my unease, she took on a slightly softer tone. "Likely not your fault, of course. Glitches are... well, they might as well be nobody's fault. That's how I prefer to look at it, anyway."

"I-I understand. So there is something wrong..." Having someone knowledgeable like her confirm it for me gave me a mixture of reassurance and concern. "Can you fix it, professor?"

Her expression turned somewhat more serious, and it was already pretty stern. "Let me just confirm one thing, Miss Taggart - do you know any sourcery at all? This is important."

"No, I don't have the first clue how it's done. Or... much idea what it can do, even." I decided not to mention anything about considering her class - seeing as I might not feel the need to take it once she'd helped me.

"Well, that's a relief," Meyer said with... you know. "Because you're currently very vulnerable. Er... to yourself, to be clear."

"...Um." I cocked my head. "What does THAT mean?"

Meyer folded her hands on top of her desk. "I suppose I can give a quick lesson. "Permissions" basically define how people - or objects, for that matter - are able to interact with other people or objects. Whether they can be seen, touched, examined, or edited. In the course of a normal life, you won't even have to think about it; of course you're able to be seen and interacted with, of course you can see and pick up objects. Regardless, permissions do exist, and they can be set incorrectly for any number of reasons."

I tried to put together what she was saying. "So that would mean my permissions are..."

"You have full write access to your own... everything," Meyer explained with a sigh. "Even basic sourcery would let you easily edit properties that a novice should really not be tampering with." She bowed her head in thought. "The question is, how long has this been the case...?"

A worrying thought crossed my mind, so I spoke up. "You said it's only myself I have to worry about, right? So it's not a problem if someone else recently used sourcery to help me...?"

"It shouldn't be," she nodded, "but just to be safe, I'd like to hear more about that."

"I was hanging out with a friend when I suddenly caught... "hiccups," they called it? Which was unusual, because I rarely get glitches at all. Fortunately, she's a student of yours, and managed to fix it for me right away."

"Ah, I'm very glad I could be of indirect help already," Meyer said with a warm smile. "A student of mine, hm... Who would your friend be?"

"Her name's Lina Brackett."

Meyer's face fell at once.

"Ah. Yes, well, that would explain a lot, wouldn't it."

Though I felt bad for Lina having such a reputation, I could tell what Meyer was thinking. "You think she messed something up with me, don't you?"

"I... yes. I'm sorry, I know she's your friend, and I've done my best to be more accepting of her peculiarities. But as you say, you likely caught hiccups just by talking to her; she's very prone to such things. So while I'm sure she did a fine job curing you, and I'm proud she was able to... a glitch must have inadvertently corrupted your permissions while she did so." Meyer shook her head. "As I said myself... glitches are no one's fault."

"But, hold on..." I scratched my head. "I've been having this issue for years. I only met Lina the other day. How could she possibly be responsible for it?"

Meyer raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps there's been a misunderstanding. I assumed your permissions were the issue, but... is there an unrelated issue you're having?"

I explained the deal with my false memories much like I'd explained it to Lina and Lily, though being careful to stick to the facts this time and not go dumping my wild theories on her.

"...Hm. That sounds like a doozy," Meyer remarked once I was done. "I can't make any promises, but if you come in sometime tomorrow, I can take a thorough look. Depending on what I find, it could take a few sessions, but I'll see what I can do. And I'll fix your permissions, too - that much I can promise."

"Th-Thank you so much...!" Even with her uncertainty, I was stunned to get this level of help from someone who wasn't even my teacher. To think, all I had to do was ask...

I went to leave, then had a thought and turned around. "Um... would you recommend I not hang out with Lina for the time being?"

Meyer shook her head. "It would be needlessly cruel to dictate people's relationships for a reason like that. Miss Brackett is a good person. One simply needs to be careful around her."

Her eyes narrowed ever-so-slightly. "So... be careful."


I left Meyer's office feeling optimistic. Sure, it wasn't the only problem in my life, but this memory thing had always been an annoyance. Having real hope it would be resolved soon was exciting.

I did have to wonder about the whole "permissions" thing, though. All I knew of permissions was Meyer's quick explanation, and some of the concepts she mentioned were beyond me. But it did seem unrelated to my memory - I just couldn't draw a connection there, and it seemed Meyer was thinking of them as separate too.

In that case, what issues could be caused by faulty permissions? Even if others couldn't take advantage of it like she said, only myself, was there really no chance I'd accidentally mess something up further? And what if Meyer was wrong about Lina messing up my permissions, and I'd actually been living like this for a long time?

There was no way to know any of that, though. So really, I concluded, I should just leave the thinking to Meyer.

And right after snapping out of my thoughts, I saw something that made me jump.

"Hello, Rena," Lily said.

"L-L-Lily?" I gawked. "Are you here to talk to Professor Meyer?"

She shook her head. "No, I was actually curious what you two talked about. Was she able to fix your issue?"

I puzzled over how to answer that. "Um, not yet... she's going to see what she can figure out tomorrow."

"I see," Lily nodded, and she smiled at me. "Well, I'm here to help too, if I can."

"Th-Thanks..." I felt like I should say more, but I hardly knew how to deal with Lily showing this interest in my problems all of a sudden.

After a considerable pause, during which I thought about leaving, Lily spoke up.

"I wanted to ask you something, away from both Lina and Meyer."

"A-Ask...?" My mind raced to think what it could be.

"I'm afraid it's a very awkward question. I might be completely off the mark here; if I am, I apologize, and hope you don't think anything of it. But in the interest of helping someone who might need it..."

She took a deep breath. "Have you ever thought you don't really see yourself as "female"?"

My once-racing mind went blank. "N... No? Not even a little, really."

Lily's serious expression fell away into a smile. "Okay, well! That's great. Never mind me - you just keep being you, Rena." Looking satisfied, she started to walk away.

"W-Wait, hold on, you can't just leave after that!", I shouted after her. "What even brought on a question like that?!"

She rubbed her neck and sighed. "I suppose that's fair. To put it simply... what you described felt oddly familiar."

"Familiar? What part?", I asked, still totally lost.

"The situation with your memories. That feeling that reality just doesn't feel... right. It seems different from my experience in many other ways, so I'm probably projecting here. But even if I was off the mark, there's one conclusion I personally came to that I think would be good to share with you."


"When your feelings and reality contradict, it's never your feelings that are wrong; it's reality." She closed her eyes. "And that's the true power of sourcery, in my view. You can take control of your own reality to right those wrongs. You can defy whatever narrow-minded destiny the world wanted from you."

I tried to put together what she was saying, then had a realization.

"H-Hold on, you asked me if I didn't see myself as "female." If that reality of my initialization contradicted my feelings." I paused to consider my words. "...Sorry if it's a sensitive subject, Lily, but are you implying you... weren't initialized as a woman?"

Lily's eyes widened, and she seemed to be bracing herself for what I might say next. So I quickly finished my thought to put those fears to rest.

"That... might be the most amazing thing I've ever heard. So that's the full extent of sourcery... making yourself the person you want to be."

She blushed, the relief visible on her face. "I'm afraid I can't take full credit. I needed Meyer's help, particularly with unlocking my permissions... I owe her a lot. So even if you're facing a very different issue, I hope she can help you too."

My ears perked up. "Unlocking your permissions? Like, uh... "full write access"?"

"Where'd you hear a term like that?", Lily asked curiously. "I thought you didn't know sourcery."

"Well, Meyer told me that's what I have right now. "Access to my own everything." Which she intends to fix so I don't mess anything up, but..."

Lily looked at me with a grin. "You don't say. ...Here, let me try something."

"Huh?! Wait, are you going to do sourcery on me...?" I felt my heart pound.

"That's right," she nodded.

She closed her eyes and moved her hands around mystically. Nothing felt different, though.

"W... Well? What'd you do?", I asked nervously.

"I've given you permission to have some fun," Lily giggled.


Moving over to an empty classroom, Lily began teaching me the basics of sourcery. She said she was rusty, but it didn't seem that way at all to me; in fact, I could see her being a good teacher if she had any interest in that (which she didn't).

The basic principles of sourcery were pretty simple. By mentally "executing" some "commands" - referred to as the Exploit - a person could modify things about the world. This was still limited by permissions, however; for instance, I was unable to change anything about Lily, and vice versa. Apparently, someone like an admin would have greater privileges that ignored these restrictions.

The "properties" themselves - the modifiable aspects of people and objects alike - also had different levels of access, meaning some things were more protected than others, and wouldn't be easily editable. But me having full write access meant that nothing, as far as we could tell, was off-limits. Lily had greatly appreciated being temporarily given this level of access by Meyer in the past, so she wanted to share the same opportunity with me.

I had to admit it was fun, having Lily rattle off the names of properties for me to search for and mess around with. Things like height and weight had immediate, obvious effects. I could change all sorts of colors on my body to a surprising degree, down to having separate colors for each eye. Even species was modifiable... though sometimes the results looked very strange, apparently due to properties that were specific to that species and thus hadn't been properly configured for me. Lily did make sure to have me see what I'd look like as a cat, though.

Yes, it was fun to experiment, and quickly satisfy curiosities about what it'd be like if such-and-such. But I found myself changing pretty much everything right back to what it had been. I didn't mind trying things out, but I could quickly tell that beyond the novelty factor, they wouldn't stick.

Well... with one exception. To the "not minding trying it out" part.

Lily didn't bring it up, probably because she'd already asked her question earlier. But there was, naturally, a "sex" property. Set to "female," with only one other option.

And for some reason, just looking at it made me shudder.

"Rena? Something wrong?", Lily asked with concern.

"Sorry, I got distracted. Were you saying something?"

I wasn't sure what it was. Why I had no problem changing around everything else down to my very species - I mean, knowing I could go right back to normal, of course - but felt so repulsed by the very idea of tampering with this. Or maybe what unsettled me was the mere existence of a toggleable, binary option for something that felt so innate and involved?

There's nothing wrong with knowing in advance I wouldn't like something, I told myself. Surely Lily would feel similarly about messing with that property again, having made a clear decision on what she wanted it set to. And at least this meant there was some part of who I was that I could take a firm stance on.

I realized this time I was actually distracted and not paying attention to Lily, so I snapped out of it. And I heard her make another suggestion.

"Oh, I just remembered a fun one. Rena, take a look at "position.""

I did as she told me, and found three numbers with some large, random-seeming values. Position, huh? Like...

"You know coordinates from math, right? It's like that in three dimensions. Try changing the first number by 1. A single unit is about -"

"- one meter... ah, you've got it." Lily turned toward my new position and smiled.

"You're right, that is a fun one," I laughed. "Could save me a lot of commuting time. ...But I'm guessing you can't isolate permissions just for this one property, huh? Or else you'd see people going with teleportation over public transportation."

"Unfortunately," she nodded. "That stuff's pretty all-or-nothing, so it's hard to take advantage of without opening a whole can of worms. But hey, at least you can have fun with it for now."

"I'd like to... but it is a little scary," I admitted timidly. "What happens if I, like... end up inside a wall?"

"Oh, don't worry, you'll get pushed out. It doesn't even hurt or anything. Like this." She demonstrated by repeatedly teleporting a pencil into a desk, causing it to harmlessly pop back up onto the top of the desk.

"Okay, that's cool," I nodded. "Uh, I'd kind of want you to come along, though..."

"Easy." She offered me her hand. "If you're holding onto someone, you move together."

"Really?", I wondered, taking her hand.

"Really," Lily replied.

I chuckled with satisfaction, then started wandering around the room and closing my eyes here and there. I knew Lily was probably looking at me funny, but I paid it no mind; I had an idea for something I hoped would impress her.

Once satisfied, I offered her my hand. "Hang on tight - this is gonna be a bigger one."

"Oh? Where are we going?"

"That's a surprise... but hopefully only for you."

"I do like a good surprise," she remarked with a smile.

I entered the coordinates, and -


Lily looked around with wonder. We were now outside, standing on a hill. I think we'd both lost track of time, surprised to realize how late it now was.

"Where is this, exactly?", Lily asked.

"Right where I was aiming for. It's a place called Brake Point, near where I used to live. I always liked the view, so... I wanted to show it to you," I explained bashfully.

Lily seemed touched, but also confused. "How did you know the coordinates, though? Are you sure you've never done sourcery before?"

"Pretty sure. See, I was walking around the room to get a feel for what direction was what. Between that and knowing the approximate distance from there to here, I could make a pretty good guess at what the coordinates were. And knowing we'd be pushed out, I aimed for inside the ground to give me a bigger margin of error."

"That's... extremely impressive," Lily said with awe. "I'm glad to be in such good hands."

I smiled, blushing. "Haha, well... it's just basic math."

After that, we held hands in silence, looking up at the night sky. If this were the only thing I got out of this foray into sourcery, I thought, I'd be satisfied.

A back view of Lily, an anthropomorphic cat, holding hands with Rena, an anthropomorphic rabbit, standing on a hill and looking up at the moon and stars.

"The moon really does look beautiful from here," Lily remarked.

"Yeah... it's pretty," I agreed. "But kind of weird-looking, too."

She looked at me curiously. "Weird-looking? Well, sure, it's a giant, pale, round rock floating up there..."

"That's actually... not exactly what feels weird to me," I replied, struggling to put my feelings into words. "The surface just looks off."

"The... surface? Like, the craters and all that?" Lily scratched her head. "That's a strange thing to be fixated on. You can't expect our aesthetic sense to apply to patterns that were naturally made."

I realized I was sort of ruining a nice moment here, yet this nagging feeling persisted. "I dunno, for some reason I feel like it should look like something. Like a person. Maybe a rabbit."

"You think there should be... a rabbit on the moon?", Lily repeated.

I felt so embarrassed hearing her say it. I chastised myself for being so weird about this; it was probably just my memory acting up again, come to think of it.

But when I looked over at her, she was just staring at me wide-eyed.

Oh. Oh, I see.

Maybe there could be a rabbit on the moon.

"Do you... want to go up there?", I asked hesitantly.

"It could be quite the experience," Lily replied. "I had my fun with position warping too, but I never tried anything as wild as that. Too worried about putting myself in danger - seeing as I lacked the intuition for coordinates you seem to have."

"N-Now, there's a big difference between knowing the distance from Chexum to here and knowing how far away the moon is," I hastily explained. "I don't have the faintest idea. I mean, how big is the moon, even? Without knowing that, I can't even eyeball it."

"Perhaps you should overshoot and adjust, then?", she suggested. "Just trying large coordinates, then quickly jumping back here. Think of it as the "wandering around the room" of the night sky."

I sighed. "Are you really sure about this...?"

"About what? I'm sure that if you have a dream, I want to see you make it real," she said with a grin.

I felt Lily was wildly misinterpreting my words, but upon further thought, I didn't care. If I got to use my apparent natural talent for teleportation to take Lily to a place I'm pretty no one had ever been before... any hassle would have been worth it.

I held her hand tight and looked up at the sky.

"...Ready? Three, two, one..."

Rena floating in a black void, looking surprised, her hand now reaching toward empty space.


I looked at where she'd been with stunned shock. Everything was so dark, at first I thought I'd blacked out or something, until I saw my own hand. No, she was actually gone.

I hastily put back in the coordinates for Brake Point, hoping I had somehow just let go of her before the jump. But that didn't put me back at Brake Point. It was just more void.

If not for the ability to check my own position, I wouldn't have known I even moved - although I did appear to be falling. I tried changing my position at random in desperation, but it all looked the same. Just to be sure, I went back to the initial coordinates I'd entered. Still not a thing in sight.

As I floated there baffled, trying to process what was going on, a fear suddenly rose from the back of my mind. Could I breathe out here? Yet... I wasn't actually sure why I had that worry. I mean, I had already been breathing as normal, not even conscious of it, before having that thought.

I guess I couldn't blame myself for feeling uncertain about the nature of wherever this was, though. I must have been very, very far up in the sky. Most people just took the things they could see from the ground for granted, never entertaining ideas like going up for a closer look. So to my knowledge, nobody really knew if there was anything special about altitudes like this... or would it be "distances" at this point?

Oh, forget it - I wasn't remotely that curious. I just wanted to find Lily and go home.

Just as I had that thought, I saw what looked like a shooting star in the distance, as if here to answer my wish.

As I followed it with my eyes, however, I realized it was definitely not that. It moved in a strange pattern: shooting along in a line, then reappearing a few seconds later to shoot along a different parallel line.

Slowly, its path brought it closer to me, and I was able to observe that its movement wasn't "smooth," either. It was like it was very rapidly moving forward in choppy increments.

Once close enough, I could tell for sure: this was no shooting star, but a person.

And then that person came to a stop right in front of me.

"Hi there. Been out here long?", they asked, raising their hand in a wave.

They were a wolf with dark hair, a leather jacket, and white fur that probably felt more radiant than it really was on account of us being in a black void. Somehow I felt I could trust them immediately... not that I had much choice in the matter.

"Where is "here," exactly...?"

"Not your planet, that's for sure. This is a no-man's-land, a land of nobodies, and no land at all. A true "anywhere but here." We call it... the Outer Bounds," the wolf said with a smirk.

I blinked. "Was that... a practiced speech?"

"Ouch, eviscerated," they groaned, shoulders drooping. "It's one thing to think it's lame, but can't you keep it to yourself?"

I shook my head and waved my hands. "S-Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that... though I definitely did, huh," I realized, folding my arms. "But still, like... you have a whole speech you give people you find out here?"

The wolf nodded. "Sure do. I do regular scans over a huge area looking for lost people like you. So what's your story?"

"I was... doing sourcery to mess around with my position property with the help of, uh, a friend. One thing led to another, and she egged me on to try going up to the moon." I looked to the side with embarrassment. "But I think I way overshot it..."

"And were you trying to take this friend along with you?"

Being reminded of it had me worried about Lily's disappearance all over again. "Y-Yeah, I was holding her hand, I'm sure of it, but when I made the jump, for some reason she wasn't there..."

"Give me a second," the wolf instructed.

They vanished, and after what may have been exactly one second, they reappeared holding onto Lily.

"Lily!!" I would have run over and hugged her, but I wasn't sure how to move in this void, and I certainly didn't want to mess with position editing right now.

"Rena...!" Lily noticed the person beside her and recoiled. "W-Wait, who are you?!"

"Finally someone asks," they shrugged. "Name's Eda. And I've come to your rescue."

"Hold on, how did you find Lily so fast?!", I questioned as my mind caught up.

"Short answer: she ended up in the same place you did... sort of. The long answer can wait for later."

"Does "later" entail more floating in an empty void?", Lily asked worriedly.

"Doesn't have to, no." Eda offered a hand each to both of us. "There's a place I'd like to take you to."


Eda flew through the empty Outer Bounds, carrying us toward a particular destination.

It wasn't a long trip, but it struck me as odd that it wasn't an incredibly short one either. It sure looked like Eda had the same capability to teleport around instantly that I'd just learned - or, in fact, a much more honed version of it, hence how they were able to scan a huge amount of space in relatively little time.

Yet right now, they seemed to be actually propelling themselves along, rather than doing a simple teleport and saying "we're here." Who knows, maybe it was all part of the theatrics, since that was something they appeared to like. You know, the speech and all.

A possible reason became apparent as our destination actually came into sight. While the Outer Bounds had looked like a whole lot of nothing at first, I did start to notice some dim, distant stars here and there. And then, a noticeably brighter one appeared in front of us. We seemed to be heading right toward it.

Yet the closer we got, the more trouble I had considering it a "star." While it looked normal enough as a tiny speck, once a little larger in our vision, its shape didn't seem quite right. By the time we were close enough to make out details, there was no denying it.

Yeah, that's... that's just a cube. A big, white cube.

"Looks funny, doesn't it?", Eda chuckled, coming to a stop at a distance where we had a full view of the thing. "That's just the way things are this far out. If it looks right to people on the planet, who needs more detail? We're not "supposed" to be out here anyway."

"Pardon me, but what do you mean by "planet"?", Lily asked. "Is that what you call where we live?"

I looked at her curiously. "Huh? Don't we also..." This time, I was quick to catch myself from saying anything silly. "Uh, never mind."

Eda shook their head. "Nah, you're right to think it's weird. Like you should know you live on a planet, and that there are other planets too. Yet you don't, and there aren't. I know a bunch of people who feel like that, Rena - myself included."

"What?", I said in shock, having not expected my memory issues to come up in this context - much less to hear that there were others like me. "You mean, like... people on this... big box here?"

"It's not a "big box"... well, I mean, it is," they sighed. "But it has a name: Undefined. And we've made it our home. Quite literally, because it didn't even have geomet - uh, rather, it wasn't even tangible to begin with."

"Not... tangible?", Lily repeated with confusion. "Why would there just be an illusory white box floating out here, who-knows-how-far from what we call home?"

"Like I said. As long as it looks like a distant star when viewed from the planet, why should anyone care? Just gotta discourage people from taking a closer look."

Lily nodded, starting to understand. "Now I see. So you believe in a higher power, Eda? A creator who designed our world?"

"I'd say creators, plural. But yeah, it's kind of hard to deny once you notice this sort of disparity."

I pondered. "So rather than believing the universe was designed purposefully because of the intricacies of our natural world... you believe it because of the sloppy, unnatural design of things like this?"

Eda sighed. "Listen, I feel as iffy about that as anyone."

"Well, anyway." I shook my head and tried to get back on topic. "Who exactly is coming out here to this Undefined place? Are you just going around the whole Outer Bounds picking up people who get lost to gather them here? ...How often does that even happen? Why would it?"

"Oh, there's all kinds of reasons. Some glitch-related, some accidental, some... not so happy." Their slightly sullen look turned into a smile. "All told, I helped make Undefined so those people could wind up feeling glad they came out here."

Eda took our hands and started moving again, positioning us over one side of the cube, on which I could see a sizable settlement. Then we slowly descended onto it, landing softly on its unnaturally flat surface.

After glancing around at all the different buildings, I turned toward Eda and bowed. "Um, well, thanks for all your help. I think we can take it from here..."

"Wow, are you that eager to go off and be alone?", Eda laughed. "I mean, that's fine if that's what you want. But I really insist you at least stay the night at my place."

"Y-Your place?", I repeated with shock. "No, I couldn't -"

They shook their head. "It's literally not even an imposition; I let everyone stay with me, at least to start. Not to mention Mona loves visitors - don't make her have to go out and find you."


"Eda! You took so looong! I'm hungryyy!"

Just as I asked, a little girl appeared at the door of the large house in front of us, an alligator wearing a pink dress. Eda looked over at her apologetically, looked back to us and waved, then booked it inside.

"What are you hesitating for, Rena?", Lily asked me. "It sounds like Eda would gladly treat us to a meal."

Despite Eda's insistence that it was okay, now I was worried about us further delaying "Mona's" dinner. But at the same time... a meal, huh?

"That... does sound nice," I replied, quieting the odd urge to say "nostalgic."

We went inside and sat on a couch while Eda got the food ready. Mona sat on a stool across from us, kicking her feet in a mix of playfulness and impatience.

Mona, a young anthropomorphic alligator, sitting on a stool across from Rena and Lily on a couch; Lily is smiling, charmed by Mona.

"So what're your names?", she asked us.

"I'm Lily Bryce, and this is Rena Taggart," Lily introduced. I turned to her with a little surprise, realizing I hadn't known her last name until now - nor did I recall telling her mine, but it must have come to her attention somehow.

"Cool! I'm Mona. I don't have a last name 'cause Eda doesn't either. They're my big sibling. I dunno how much they tlod you already, but they're a big nerd. At lesat they've got a big heart to match," Mona giggled.

"We were... definitely glad to see them after ending up in the Outer Bounds, yeah," I remarked. "Sorry for our poor timing, keeping them from coming home for dinner."

"It's fine, Eda forgets when it's mealtime all the time. They didn't used to caer about eating at all until I came along, see. I think I'm slooowly rubbing off on them, though," she said with a grin.

"Oh? Were you not initialized as siblings?", Lily replied curiously.

"Nah, Eda is ooooold. Like thye don't even know how old," Mona snickered. "Lucky for Eda I adopted them, so at least now they know their age relative to that!"

Though that raised new questions, I wanted to backpedal a bit to something else, despite knowing it wasn't all that important. "So you have regular times for meals?"

"Yep, usually three a day. I dunno what it is, but I just kinda enjoy making a habit of it - and eating with Eda espeically. I think they like treating me, too."

I nodded. Naturally, I couldn't help but compare that to my own eating habits... which is to say, hardly eating ever. I knew people found it enjoyable to eat every once in a while, but I always got so busy with other things that it rarely crossed my mind. If only I lived with other people, and could treat it as a chance to socialize, maybe then I'd have been willing to set aside some time for meals instead of considering it unnecessary.

Eda came in from the other room. "Okay, who's hungry?"


And upon sitting down at a table with Lily, Mona, and Eda to have some dinner, I quickly realized just how hungry I'd been.


After a delicious dinner, since it was already pretty late and we were pretty exhausted, me and Lily went right to bed in one of Eda's numerous guest rooms.

I slept deeply, but not very restfully. I had another one of those dreams.

It was sort of like that recurring one I had all the time; I was talking to two figures who felt like my parents. But everything about it seemed even more vague.

I think I asked them something. Something to do with "how I was born." That seemed to lead to a long conversation, which of course I couldn't make out any of. And at the end, I hugged one of the parents tightly - maybe my "mom"?

Ugh, I had no idea. It always just put me in such a lousy mood whenever I had a new one of these. At least with the ones I'd had a million times, the repetition meant they didn't really faze me anymore.

So normally, I would try to forget about it as quickly as possible to restore my mood. But I hadn't forgotten Eda's remark from yesterday, about knowing others who "felt like I do," themselves included.

"We're haivng breakfast," Mona told us from the doorway. "You wanna come?"

Granted, I would've wanted to join them even if I didn't have things to discuss.

After finishing our meal - which was again delicious - Lily and Mona started playing some game with each other, and I turned to Eda.

"So, uh, Eda... I wanted to talk about something you brought up before," I began.

"Sure," they nodded. "Bring up anything anytime."

"You mentioned people who feel this... discrepancy between their memories and reality, and included yourself in that. Do you ever have, um... weird dreams about those memories?"

"Ahh, nah," they said with a shake of their head. I felt immediately embarrassed for asking, which they took notice of. "Sorry, I just meant that I don't - but some other people here, yeah, totally. They tell me about 'em all the time."

"O-Oh, I see," I said with some relief. But rather than pursue that, something else struck me. "Why don't you have them, then? If you have the same sort of memory issue..."

"'Cause I, uh... don't dream," Eda answered, seeming embarrassed for some reason.

Mona took notice of our conversation and spoke up. "You're getting shy about that again? Who's the one always telling me and eveyrone how there's nothing wrong with being different?"

"Yeah, but -"

She folded her arms with pride for her sibling. "I told you Eda's super old, right? That's 'cuase they're a super person who's not like aaanybody else!"

"A super person, huh?", Lily repeated with a smirk.

"Yeah! They didn't used to even have all the properties the rest of us do. But you'd never even guess, right? 'Cause they're just like us, 'cept more amazing!"

"All right, that's enough boasting for today," Eda admonished with a wry smile.

Mona just gave them a funny look, though. "I don't get why you don't wanna tell people about it, big sib. I mean, you told me! Like how nobody could even see you 'til you figured out how to change permissions! How everything you are, you defined for yourself! That's inspiring, you know? I mean... I got inspired."

Eda just sighed with their hand on their face while Mona smiled at them, blushing slightly.

Honestly, I could see it from both their perspectives. To a young girl like Mona, Eda must have seemed like a capable and mature person who was very sure of themselves. And there was nothing wrong with acknowledging they hadn't always been like that. But I could just imagine how much time it'd taken Eda to arrive at that point. How many regrettable decisions they might have made along the way, and how long they had lived as something they'd now moved past, and didn't care to be reminded of.

I decided to speak up for Eda's sake. "Mona, um..."

"Yeah, I know. Sorry if I embararssed you, Eda, I just couldn't help myself," Mona said in sincere apology. "And... I guess I wasn't completely accurate, come to think of it."

Lily looked at her as if to ask "what do you mean?", but stilled her tongue, not wanting to annoy Eda any further.

"Ahh, it's fine - I wouldn't mind telling you that story," Eda interjected, catching on. "See, while it's true I defined a lot about myself, Mona technically gave me the name Eda."

Lily looked at Eda. "Technically...? What did you go by before then, if you don't mind me asking?"

"...Well, as you've probably noticed, Mona's got a slight glitch. A mild case of dyslexia. It used to be worse; I managed to make it better, though it never quite goes away. But even then, she always struggled with my name in particular: it always came out as "Eda." So..." They smiled, glancing toward Mona. "I went ahead and changed it to Eda, and she's never gotten it wrong since."

Mona beamed with pride. "Never underestimate the impact a little sister can have, Dae!" She covered her mouth. "Sorry, I mean, Eda!"

Eda shook their head and chuckled. "Of all the times to get it "right"..."


After our breakfast discussion, Eda told Lily and I we could do whatever we pleased, but did suggest we take a look around Undefined and meet some of the other residents. We decided to take that advice, although I told them I planned to be back for lunch.

But as I went to leave, Eda realized they'd gotten sidetracked earlier and forgot all about the matter of my memories. So they pulled me aside, and handed me a small notebook.

"Rena, do you still remember that "weird dream" you had last night? Do you think you could write it down?"

"...I never said I had a weird dream last night," I replied, technically truthfully. I just didn't want to have to talk about it; I felt like I could barely remember it while I was in it.

"Well, fine," they sighed, likely seeing through my deception. "I imagine you've learned to suppress the "false" ideas and memories you have, since they just get you weird looks. But when people like you come here, I always encourage them to write down any odd thoughts as soon as they have 'em. It can really paint a picture of..." They trailed off. "Well, you never know. It could help you figure some things out."

"I'll try, I guess," I conceded with a sigh. "It might take some getting used to."

Shortly after leaving Eda's place, something occurred to me: it was bright outside. Since we'd arrived in Undefined at night, I hadn't even thought about the matter of, you know, "the sun" until now. Looking up, I did see something bright and round, and strained my eyes to try and determine what exactly it was. ...Wait, why do I feel like I shouldn't be doing that?

I shook my head and jotted that down in the notebook. That was a good start, I guess. Then I decided to ask a deer sitting on a bench nearby, in what looked vaguely like a park, about what the deal with this apparent sun was.

"You're new here, huh? I dunno how it really works myself," they shrugged. "It's sort of a... floating mass of junk. It'd be too hard to have it orbit around like the real sun, so I think they just crank up the luminosity during the day. No clue about the blue sky."

"They? Do you mean Eda?", I inquired. "How much of this place are they responsible for, exactly...?"

The deer shrugged. "I mean, Mx. Eda's got some pretty special capabilities, so they've helped make some stuff possible, for sure. Not to mention all the people they bring in and accommodate for. But besides that? We've got admins out here too, y'know."

"We didn't know that, actually," Lily chimed in. "I'm surprised you'd have formal positions like that here, given... err, how this place is. Sorry, that came out wrong..."

"Nah, we know it's a trash heap. But it's okay, because it's our trash heap," they laughed. "So, it's not really a formal job like it is back on the planet. It's more just... people who step up to the task."

"Really?", Lily asked with surprise. "Isn't adminning difficult, though...?"

"Sure, but lots of people who end up here..." They trailed off and started to think. "Actually, what's your story? How'd you two end up here?"

I explained how my permissions had been - or already were? - all messed up, and how Lily'd taught me basic sourcery to start fiddling with properties, ultimately landing me in the Outer Bounds. The deer looked at me curiously.

"That's... kind of an unusual one," they remarked. "Most people who end up here know lots about sourcery, 'cause you don't usually end up in the Outer Bounds unless you're messing around with advanced stuff. And in the rare instance someone doesn't know sourcery, they tend to start learning it."

"Ah... So admins arise naturally, even without it being a formal, paying job?", Lily surmised.

"Err... why do you say they tend to start learning it?", I asked, feeling a bit lost.

"Isn't that obvious?" The deer gave me a blank look, which then became a look of realization. "Oh, right... maybe not to you. Sorry. Uh, well, because they want to change things."

Lily nodded, as if to say she would have given the same answer. In fact, it occurred to me she had brought that up as a primary reason to learn sourcery before. Being in this strange, unnatural-feeling place, however, put it into new context.

This was a place you generally only ended up if you didn't want to be anywhere on the planet. A place that had barely existed until people built it up. No one seemed to expect anything of you here. Was this not, in fact, the perfect environment to think about yourself and your future? A place to, well... define yourself?

Yet as I had that thought, I felt a pang of guilt, and could think of numerous reasons why. Maybe because I felt so relieved to put away thoughts of school and my career. Maybe because I knew Lily hadn't asked to come here, and may well have had her fill of self-reflection already; maybe she just wanted to go home.

Actually... was it possible to leave this place? Did the people here know how? ...Did I want to ask that?

I felt another pang of guilt. But I told myself that if Lily didn't want to be here, well... surely she'd go ahead and ask that question instead.

As I pondered, I noticed someone else walk up to the deer. She didn't really look like any species I'd ever seen before; my best guess would have been she was a lizard, but given the horns and wings, she was more like a... dra... gon? I jotted that word down before it left my head.

She gave the deer a kiss on the cheek, then looked toward us. "Oh, am I interrupting something?"

"U-Uh, no, sorry, we're new here, so we were just asking some questions," I answered shyly.

"Yeah, they get that a lot, on account of liking to sit in the park near Eda's house," she chuckled. "You're pretty resigned to being welcome wagon #2, huh, Holt?"

"Look, it's a nice park," the deer grumbled.

"To stare at?"

"...When you're sitting next to me, Vern? Then by all means," Holt replied with a blush.

"Very romantic," she said, smirking. "It feels kinda empty to me, though. Wish there were some birds to feed or something." Vern paused, scratched her head, then pulled out a notebook to write something down.

I raised an eyebrow. "Hey, are you..."

"Oh, no, not a lizard," she replied, misunderstanding me to be asking what must have been a very common question. "I'm a "dragon"! I sorta just made it up myself, heh..."

Surprised to hear that word, I showed her my own notebook. "That's not actually what I was asking... and seeing as I knew that word as soon as I saw you, I don't think that's entirely true."

"Oh!" Vern looked at me wide-eyed. "So you're also... huh, we haven't had a new one in a while! Nice to meet you!"

"A new... what, exactly?" As much as it had been a pleasant surprise to learn there were "others like me" here, it was beginning to bug me how no one could really describe what that meant.

She sighed. "I know this isn't what you wanna hear, but I can't really tell you. Not because it's necessarily a secret, but like... the only answer that'll make sense is the one you come to yourself. And it's all tangled up in, like... what you believe, you know?"

"Not to speak for her, but I'm afraid I don't," Lily remarked. I nodded in confirmation.

Holt shrugged. "Well, you can try asking Mx. Eda their view on it later. But they'll probably want you to give it some thought of your own first."

"Personally," said Vern, "the only thing I'm willing to "believe in" is the Exploit. So that's what my interpretation revolves around."

That struck me as an odd thing to believe in, but I didn't want to offend her by saying that. Regardless, I'm sure she saw it on my face.

"I know, I know - you'd expect me to believe in some kind of creator instead. But the thing is, whether there is one or not doesn't matter to me. 'Cause even if there were a creator, if they expected us to live on that planet without the Exploit... I'd kinda hate their guts."

Lily cocked her head. "What makes you so sure the Exploit isn't a natural part of our world?"

"C'mon, no one thinks it's natural, do they? I mean, it's called the freakin'..." Vern shook her head. "Anyway, I just think we can't be grateful enough that it exists, whatever the reason why. None of this would be possible without the Exploit. Absolutely none of it."

"If not for sourcery, I'd have probably gone for that dead-end retail job," Holt remarked.

"It'd be horrible," wailed Vern, as if that would be the worst consequence of all. "And admins use sourcery too, you know? Who knows if the world would have survived this long without it?"

"So surely you can see why I'd like to think it's natural," Lily sighed.

"Yeah, I guess," Vern conceded. "But if I just put my faith in the Exploit, then even if the world, or some creator, would have gladly left me to suffer..." She glanced at Holt. "I can still feel okay about it."

After some more idle chatter, we decided to leave the two of them be. They hadn't seemed that bothered by us or anything, but I felt iffy about coming between them. Honestly, Eda had suggested meeting other residents, but did that mean going up to their houses and knocking on their doors...? Was finding that awkward a me problem, or was that commonplace here in a way it wasn't in most places on the planet?

Before I could be forced into any action there, though, I realized the time.

"Hey, Lily, it's lunch time," I pointed out to her. "We should get back to Eda's."

"Ah, you can go ahead, Rena," Lily replied. "I'd like to keep looking around."

I blinked. "O-Oh, you... aren't going to eat with us?"

"No, I'm more in the mood for this than food right now. I'll be sure to tell you all about my findings later," she said with a smile.

Lily waved goodbye; I limply waved back and turned toward Eda's house.

Probably the only reason I didn't change my mind was that I didn't know how to tell her I'd lost my appetite.


I tried to look cheerful as I entered Eda's house. However, I was caught off guard once more to see only Mona there.

"Sorry, Eda had to go out and do some work," she explained, then without missing a beat, asked "Where's Lily?"

"Oh, uh, she just wanted to explore on her own, and I wanted lunch," I answered sheepishly. "So we split up. For now."

"Oh, okay." She looked down for a brief moment, then her head snapped back up. "Hey are you and Lily girlfriends?"

I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. "Wh-What makes you say that?!"

"Well you've been sticking close to her all the time, and you're acitng weird about her going off on her own now, so I mean, it's pretty obvious, I think..."

I shook my head. "L-Look, we only just met the other day, we haven't even had time to talk about anything like that..."

"But you wanna?"

"I - ! I mean...!" I forcibly stopped myself from saying any more. Besides just the embarrassment - and that was immense - I didn't want to say anything to Mona she might say to Lily, now did I? It was evident how easily she spoke her thoughts...

"Yeah, you wanna, huh," Mona nodded to herself. "I dunno why you're being embarrassed, is it your first time falling in love with someone or something?"

Thankfully, I caught myself from so much as even nodding at that question.

Mona gave an exaggerated sigh and shrug. "You're silly, Rena. Like are you really worried yuor feelings might be "too weird" for us weird people who live on a big cube at the edge of the universe?"

"It's just... it's complicated, okay?", I eventually settled on. "Even I'm not sure how I feel. And I'm especially not sure how she feels..."

Mona looked intrigued. "Ohh, wait, is it more than just bieng girlfriends? Do you wanna reallocate with her?"

"Do I... wha?" I looked at her blankly.

"Don't they have those on the planet too? Reallocation ceremonies. Like where you redefine your family structure. That happens all the time out here. Usually they don't make a whole ceremnoy about it, though, that'd be a lot."

Now that she mentioned it, that did sound familiar. As a singleton, maybe it was odd that I hadn't really given any thought to that sort of thing before. But I mean, that sounded like a huge decision. Choosing to bind yourself to someone else like that... how could anyone commit to it?

"I'm... honestly not sure if I do or don't want that," I admitted with full transparency. "I hadn't considered something like that until you mentioned it just now. So I'd definitely need way more time to think before -"

"But does it feel right, at least?"

Once again, I was taken aback. "I-I don't..."

"It's okay not to know or to change your mind. If you don't like stuff in life, sometimes you just have to try other stuff. Nobody here'll judge you for it, especially not Eda. That'd be hippo... uh, hpyo... I got this... hypocritical!", Mona exclaimed with pride.

I shook my head. "T-That's all well and good, but... it's not just my decision. I'd feel terrible if my selfish proposal made Lily feel obligated to go along with it..."

"I dunno, I think that's a good sign if you're already thikning of her. 'Cause she'll feel like she can tell you her feelings too, and tell you right away if she doesn't wanna do something."

I closed my eyes and sighed. "That sounds... optimistic."

"But that's how easy it can be when people respect each other, you know? Like if I didn't trust Eda, I might've been worired they liked me more as a boy and stopped myself from trying stuff I wanted to try. But since I knew Eda wasn't like that, I knew that'd be silly."

I wouldn't say I was exactly caught off guard this time, but only because she mentioned it so casually that it took me a minute to process.

By all means, I should've known by now how openly and bluntly Mona spoke about everything. But in this instance, I couldn't help but recall just how differently Lily had told me the same fact about herself.

Seeing it dawn on me, Mona said with a smile: "Oh yeah, guess you didn't know about that yet."

I pondered how to respond to her. She clearly had no shame about it, so making some pithy affirming comment would likely just be embarrassing for her, and/or me. She'd volunteered the information herself to someone who didn't need to know, and even if it was sort of accidental, she wasn't treating it like a mistake to have told me.

...Maybe she'd be okay with a question, then.

"Say, Mona... how exactly do you make a decision like that?"

"Like I said, you just follow what feels right," she giggled. "I don't thnik there was some big decision or moment. I guess there's when I started going by Mona, but otherwise, yeah. I just tried different stuff to see what felt most comfortable, and I wound up here. I mean, not liek I think this is some final destination either? There's still lots of time for me to change, and I'm lucky to be in a great place to do it."

"That you are," I nodded. "I'm guessing Eda helped you out with, um... the sex property and everything?"

For once, it was Mona looking confused. "Huh? Well, yeah, but I actually left that one alone. 'Cause we dunno what it does."

I reciprocated her confusion, with added bashfulness. "U-Um, you're joking, right? Doesn't it define your whole... you know..."

"Nah, all that body stuff is separate properties," she informed me, shaking her head. "Even if people tend to tie that stuff to "sex," the property itself doesn't do anything as far as we know. Why, were you curious about that?"

I figured if there was anyone I could be honest about this with, it was Mona. "I just... the other day, I felt downright sick about the thought of changing it for myself, however temporarily. Even as I fiddled with all sorts of other properties no problem... Honestly, even hearing it wouldn't do what I thought it would, I still don't think I like it."

Mona tilted her head. "Huh, really? Well, even if it doesn't actually matter, sometimes you get strong feelings about stuff, and that's okay. If it's nto broken, don't fix it, right? That's sorta why I left mine alone too."

I felt a bit relieved to have her validation, even knowing she was the kind of person who'd accept most anything. But then she gave me an unusually concerned look.

"...You know there's a lot more to a person than properties, right, Rena?"

"I-I mean, sure," I stammered. "Like, um, I'm still a beginner, but I don't think memories are in there...?"

"There's lots more than that. Someone's personality can't be described by a bunch of preset values, right? In fact, it can kind of be the other way around - properties can be one way for people to express who they are." Her serious expression quickly turned into a big smile. "So... don't get too fussed abuot one or two, okay? You're way more than that!"

"Hm? What are we talking about?"

My head quickly swiveled toward the door, where Lily was now standing.

"Did you already have lunch?", she asked us, walking into the room. "I was hoping I could join you, so I made sure not to be out too long."

"W-We didn't, actually!", I answered hastily. "Me and Mona just, uh, got caught up in talking about... nothing in particular..."

"I see," she nodded with an oddly unsuspecting smile, then looked around. "Oh, is it because Eda's not here to make a meal? That's a shame."

"No, uh..." I hesitated, wondering if I should propose making lunch despite having next to no experience preparing food of any kind. ...That was a real indicator of how desperate I was, wasn't it?

Mona stood up. "Eda may be an amazing cook, but did you foregt I'm their little sister? I'd be glad to make you a meal!"

"Weren't you whining for Eda to make you dinner last night, though?", Lily observantly recalled.

"Yeah, 'cause they're an amazing cook! Keep up, okay, Lliy?", Mona laughed. "Besides, you two could use a chance to sit down adn talk, you know?"

"Hmm?" Lily looked at her curiously.

"W-Well, you promised you'd tell me about what you saw and the people you met around town, right?", I rushed to clarify.

"Oh, yes." She smiled. "Thank you, Mona. I'd love that."

Mona rolled her eyes at me and shrugged. Thankfully, it seemed she could keep quiet when it mattered.


The house was flooding.

It felt like just a moment ago, there'd been absolutely nothing wrong. But now water was just pouring in - through the windows, under the doors, from everywhere.

I cried out for mom and dad, but heard nothing. I might've cried out for other people, too. But the water kept rising higher and higher until it completely filled the room, and I started to drown...

Finally, I woke up. Well, that was a weird one.

Oddly, I felt some relief that it seemed to have just been a regular nightmare. After all, how could it be a memory, even one from a false reality? I would've surely died, yet I was still here now. Plus it felt even more unrealistic and improbable than usual.

At the same time, I had to wonder about the elements it shared with my other dreams. The house couldn't have been anywhere I actually remembered living - I'd always lived in apartments, and usually on higher floors at that. For that matter, I'd never lived especially close to the ocean or anything...

I rubbed my eyes and started trying to write something about it in my notebook that made any amount of sense. Luckily, Lily seemed to have already woken up and gone somewhere, so she wouldn't distract me from it. Once I got down as much as I could, I looked over what I had so far, and was shocked to realize just how much I'd written down after roughly a day.

Even if I hadn't been tracking it like this before, this felt like an unusually high rate for weird memories, not to mention the back-to-back dreams. Maybe consciously thinking about it was drawing them out more frequently - though if that were the case, it seemed cruel of Eda to suggest I do this when I mostly just wanted to be rid of them.

The other possible cause, which came to feel more likely as I thought about it, was my exposure to others with this condition. After all, their own memories often seemed to coincide with my own, like Eda's knowledge of "planets," or Vern's of "dragons." Hearing about some of the other residents from Lily yesterday led to quite a few notes as well. But why did they coincide? We hardly seemed to have anything in common otherwise.

Mona walked in on me reading my notebook, and looked over my shoulder with interest. "Whatcha doing, Rena?"

"Just... thinking about all this stuff," I answered, gesturing at the pages. "I kind of wanted to focus and collect my thoughts, actually, so if you could -"

"Oh, Eda's got a good theory about that!", Mona interrupted. "Wanna hear it?"

I rubbed my neck. "Um, I mean, I've been told it's best to think about it for myself..." I paused to consider it. "But I feel like it couldn't hurt to hear someone else's opinion, sure."

"Gotcha!", she nodded with a smile. "You know how Eda beleives there's someone who created our world, right? Or someones, actually?"


"Well, having their own experience building Undefined up from nothing, they think they have sort of an idea how thsoe people might feel. Eda thinks they probably wouldn't have just made a whole world for us and left it at that - they'd wanna put themselves in it, too!"

It sounded so absurd, I had to laugh. "Wait, so Eda thinks we came from some sort of other world? Willingly, even? I can't think of any good reason why none of us would have clear memories of that..."

Mona shrugged. "I think it's a liiittle more complex than that, especially when it comes to Eda. They've forgotten a lot 'cause of bit rot, so that could be part of it. But its' just an idea! You can think whatever you wanna."

"I was hoping to let Rena sit with it for a little longer, Mona," Eda chided from the doorway with a sigh.

"But she looked real confused and I felt bad!", Mona said in her defense. "And it's not like you know your theory's right for sure!"

"Which is why I like to get fresh perspectives... but oh well. Can I see what you've got, Rena?", Eda asked, gesturing at the notebook.

I handed it to them, and they perused it with a series of looks on their face that were difficult to interpret. Eventually, they handed it back to me.

"Good job, keep it up," they said in approval. "And with Mona spilling the beans about my theory, maybe it'd be good to tell you something curious I discovered in the course of having people keep these notebooks."

"Huh? What do you mean, big sib?", Mona inquired.

Eda hesitated a moment. "...One time, there was someone living here who kept a notebook like this, and they made the exact same notes as someone else."

"H... Huh?" I gawked. "Wait, how? Were they siblings or something? Or..."

"No, these two people weren't even alive at the same time. And it's not like it was possible for one to have copied the other's notebook. I'm sure you've already noticed there's the occasional overlap, but I'm talking identical, down to specific personal events. However they ended up with those memories, they must've come from the exact same place."

"Could it be some kind of... reincarnation?", I suggested, reeling from the implications.

"Maybe something like that. Although it might not be in the way you're thinking either." Eda folded their arms. "But here's the really interesting thing, and why I'm telling you. Those people couldn't have been more different."

"But... weren't they the same?", Mona mumbled with confusion.

"Those memories were, but that's where it ended. These two people had different names, species, personalities, and genders. The only other common factors were some of their initialization details, including age. As far as I can tell, they were given the same starting point, but ended up at completely different destinations."

"What does that... mean, then?", I pondered aloud. "What am I supposed to make of these memories...?"

Eda smiled. "An identity of your own, of course. They're just memories, nothing more. Like anything you were initialized with, you don't have to like it; it doesn't have to define you. Where we came from doesn't matter. It's what we've lived through that makes us human."

Noticing Mona's funny look, as opposed to the look of pride they must have expected, they amended with embarrassment: "I mean, people."


After that, Lily and I spent another day exploring Undefined. We met new people, took a quick look at various buildings like a library and a school, and had meals with Eda as well as dinner at a restaurant. It was a more jam-packed day than I'd had in a long time, even compared to everything in the preceding days.

Which is why it felt bad that I couldn't seem to properly enjoy it. I had too much on my mind. As much as I liked doing these things with Lily, it also prompted worries about finding the courage and opportunity to talk with her about our relationship, and worries that she didn't really want to be here.

Sure, she hadn't said or done anything to make me think that; like I pointed out to myself before, she hadn't yet said a word about going home. But that would still be its own problem, because I wasn't sure if I fit in here.

At first, I'd thought it would be a great place for me, and everyone was completely welcoming. And I mean, I was a singleton, with hardly any connections back on the planet. I should've been overjoyed to join such a good community here, right?

But in practice, I felt a different kind of pressure. I felt like I had to think hard about myself, like everyone else here had. Having coasted by thoughtlessly pretty much my whole life up to this point, it seemed improbable that I'd figured everything out about myself - and I mean, career-wise, I obviously hadn't. Yet beyond vague ideas of how I felt about Lily, it felt like I was coming up empty. Unlike everyone else here, I felt I would be just as fine living back on the planet. So then... should I?

I sighed, put those thoughts aside, and tried to get to sleep after a long day. However, my day wasn't over just yet.


I looked around the room. ...What was that sound?

Not seeing anything amiss in the guest room, I wandered out into the hall, then heard something again from Eda's room.


I opened the door and saw them lying in bed, eyes open.

"...Um, was that you, Eda?"

They sat up and looked at me. "Oh, sorry if I woke you up. Just had to respond. It's an innate thing..."

"Respond...? To who?"

"Former admin Cadence Meyer. She does this at night sometimes - I think it's a nervous habit. She goes "ping," I go "pong"... and vice versa." Eda looked at the floor. "She probably likes the reassurance that somebody's listening... though I do wonder who she thinks she's reaching."

"Professor Meyer?", I said with surprise, and something occurred to me that probably should have sooner. "A nervous habit... You don't think she's worried about us going missing...?"

"Huh? Are you her student or something?" Eda looked similarly surprised by that coincidence. "Then yeah, if you disappeared without a word, I'm sure she would be! You didn't call?"

"No, I..." I was about to clarify I wasn't actually her student, then I processed what they'd said. "Call? From out here?"

"Um, yeah? I know this isn't the fanciest place, but there's no reason phones wouldn't work here. ...What, did you have a memory to the contrary?"

Without a word, I ran back to my room to get my phone, turned it on, and got about 50 notifications all at once, most of which were from Lina.

I turned the phone off, put it away for now, and walked back over to Eda. "Never mind that," I sighed. "But... now I'm wondering if I should tell people about Undefined. If they should know this place exists..."

"You're welcome to invite people if you think they'd like it here," Eda replied with a nod. "We're not trying to be exclusive, just not easy to stumble upon."

I averted my gaze. "And... if it turns out they don't like it?"

"Then they can leave, duh."

I almost hadn't realized what I was asking, but there it was. Eda, too, didn't seem to realize until seeing my reaction.

"Ah. ...Uh, sorry you aren't feeling it, Rena," they said apologetically. "I kind of thought you were."

I shook my head. "Don't get me wrong, it's a great place, and I do like it. Everyone I've met has been wonderful. And knowing nothing's final, I might even change my mind someday. But... I can't help but feel I'm keeping Lily here. And I know she, at least, has people to go back to."

Eda solemnly nodded, walked over to our guest room, and shook Lily awake.

"Ready to go home?"

Lily drowsily looked at Eda with confusion, then saw me in the doorway. A smile formed on her face.

She stood up and shook Eda's hand. "Eda, thank you for everything, and give my regards to Mona in the morning." Letting go, she bowed her head. "But... yes, I think I've had my fill."

"I'll show you out, then." Eda took both our hands.

Suddenly, we were in a dark void. It looked no different from where we'd gotten lost when this all began. But this time, thankfully, all three of us were here.

"So here's the thing," Eda began. "There are limits to what people can see with sourcery. Sure, you can see properties - lots of them, if you have the right permissions. But there's more there than it might seem. Even properties you can see might have more to them than you realize. I like to call the ability to identify those things "oversight.""

"Limits to... sourcery?", I repeated. "I'm still just a beginner - how advanced is this ability?"

"Uh, well, I don't know if you can learn it," they clarified. "I just sort of... have it. That said, you can still manipulate these things if you know they're there."

"What does this have to do with us getting home?", Lily wondered, trying to follow.

"Well, first of all, I should tell you where we are. This..." - they gestured toward the empty space behind them - " the negative edge of the universe."

"Y... Yeah?", I replied, looking at it with bafflement and wondering if I was missing something.

"Take a look at the coordinates for this place, Rena. They're all very large negative numbers, right?"

"S-Sure," I affirmed.

Eda got behind me and gave me a little push toward the place they had gestured toward. As I slowly floated forward, they told me to watch my coordinates.

Just as I was wondering what they could possibly mean, I saw one of the numbers flip from a very large negative to a very large positive.

"Wh-What just happened?!", I asked, flailing to try and turn around, to confirm Lily and Eda were still there. "Did I just jump to the other side of the universe?!"

Eda chuckled, and came over to stop my momentum. "That's what might seem to be the case, but obviously it isn't. There's more to the position property than people can see, or edit directly - our view of it through sourcery is truncated from larger numbers. But we can still manipulate the unseen upper digits if we know what we're doing."

"Oh... I think I get it, actually," I nodded. "So even if it looks like our coordinates fit within a certain maximum range, if we go beyond that range, it's like stepping into another square of a larger grid - one comprised of coordinate grids. Afterward, even if we try to warp to particular coordinates, we don't end up where we think we should, because we're actually still over in the new square. Like we moved over into a parallel universe..."

"I, uh... dunno if I'd call that a "parallel universe," because it's really just more universe, but I think you get the concept." Eda shrugged. "So, whatever makes sense to you."

"And I take it Undefined is in a different "parallel universe" from our planet?", Lily surmised. "So a person must cross these edges in the correct way to re-align themselves to either one?"

"Yeah, exactly. This is also why you two got separated when you came out here, by the way."


"Rena, when you tried to go to the moon, sure enough, you way overshot. You must've put in a value far beyond the regular range, which landed you in a different, uh... "square" of your so-called parallel universe grid. But although you were holding onto Lily, due to a quirk in how that works, she wasn't warped in the same way. She went to a truncated position, remaining in the same "square" as the planet." Eda paused, lowered their head, and spoke under their breath. "Actually, wouldn't it be a 3D grid...?"

"Ohh, wait..." I finally put it together. "Is that how you found Lily so fast? Because she ended up at the same place I did, but... not quite?"

"Yep, which is exactly what I told you back then. And that's the long answer," Eda laughed.

Eda proceeded to help us do some arcane warping around and universe-edge-crossing in order to get us back on the same "square" (or cube?) as the planet. That is to say, the one at "(0,0,0)", using my grid-of-grids analogy. Another sign that people had never been "meant" to exist anywhere but on that planet, Eda remarked.

Finally, once we were properly re-aligned, Eda asked us: "So where exactly do you want to go back to?"

I put a hand to my chin. "Um, well... how about a view from the moon, while we're at it?"

They looked away awkwardly. "Err... which side?"

"What do you mean, which side?", Lily asked incredulously. "Any side where we can see the planet."

"Bottom side it is, then."

Suddenly, our planet appeared below us. And the moon was... above us, and moving further away by the second...?

"Wh-What's going on with the gravity here?!", I asked in bewilderment.

Eda shook their head apologetically. "Sorry, but there is none. Not like you'd think, though - gravity just points toward the planet, no matter where you are, and that's all there is to it. See why I'm so convinced our creators just wanted us to stay there?"

"But... the gravity on Undefined...?" Lily seemed puzzled.

"The cube's alignment happens to almost perfectly match with the planet, so we just built on the one side where gravity points "down,"" Eda sighed.

I looked up at the moon shrinking into the distance sadly. I supposed I could ask Eda to take us to the "top side" to actually stand on it, but... with no view of the planet and limited ability to even walk around, what would be the point?

Then I got an idea. I pulled out my phone, grabbed Lily in freefall, and took a selfie of us with the moon in the background.

Then I spun us around, and took a selfie of us with our planet.

I'd never seen it like this before. I wondered how many people had. A big, blue, beautiful, round, intricate world - one made just for us.

Of course, something being "just for you" doesn't mean you have to be happy with it. You might only truly be happy with something you made for yourself, however much work that takes.

But there's a middle ground there, I think. And that's to take this imperfect world, still full of potential, and make it better for everyone. To make the place we were "meant to be" into the place where people feel most comfortable - so they don't have to abandon it entirely to carve out a place of their own.

It might be the most difficult option, but as soon as it occurred to me, I knew it was the right one.

It wasn't just having seen what life was like in Undefined that inspired me, either. I realized there were things I "missed" - things I found myself remembering that I wished were here. My parents were the thing I'd been most preoccupied with all my life, but what really mattered were the little things. The sorts of things that were the first to be cast aside, in the name of stuff that wasn't nearly as important in the long run.

And once I knew I wanted to bring about changes like that, the path ahead of me was clear at last.


"I mean yes they're the two coolest selfies I've seen in my life, but where WERE you?!", Lina shouted at us, uncharacteristically exasperated.

"Sorry, Lina, we had no idea we could - uh, I mean, we couldn't contact you where we were," I hastily corrected.

"We absolutely didn't intend to leave you alone. We just... got a bit wrapped up in things," Lily sighed.

"Give me the whole story," Lina urged. "I feel like I really missed out on something here, so... try to let me live it vicariously?"

"Are you sure? It's long, and it's awfully late," Lily noted, looking at the clock.

"Don't worry about that, because there's no way I'm going to get any sleep unless I hear it!"

So Lily and I told her the whole story, all the way from my talk with Meyer in her office. Lina had an incredulous look for most of it, stunned by many of the same things that stunned us. But a few things actually caught me by surprise, too.

When talking about how we first warped to the Outer Bounds, Lily provided her perspective. She admitted her first thoughts were for my safety, and how she felt responsible for egging me on, only later starting to worry how she might get back home. She also expressed her deep relief when she saw me again thanks to Eda.

Furthermore, at the part where Lily told me she wanted to explore on her own for a bit, she gave a reason for it she hadn't admitted to me at the time. Seeing Holt and Vern had reminded her of her own relationships with Lina and myself, so she wanted time alone to collect her thoughts. Hearing that, I decided it was only fair to at least give Lily the gist of the conversation I had with Mona during that same time.

"You both... feel that way about each other?", Lina asked with surprise.

"Right," Lily confirmed. "Though... we didn't really talk about it until just now. As you know, I can have difficulty properly showing my feelings sometimes. ...And of course, I still care deeply about you too, Lina."

"I'm so glad!", Lina exclaimed, beaming. "I love you two, too!"

"Um, Lina..." I bowed my head. "I don't really know how to say this, but I don't know that I feel that strongly about you in return," I sheepishly admitted, not wanting to lose my chance to say something.

"Huh?" She blinked. "Oh, well, I mean... that's fine! I feel lucky enough that there's this much love going around, you know? Especially if we're still bunny buddies!"

I smiled and nodded, surprised at how well that went over. Maybe I'd been wrong to assume Lina was immature... in fact, maybe I was the one who'd needed to grow up.

We continued on and finished the story. I realized in retrospect that our last tour of Undefined that took up most of today felt a whole lot like a date, and indeed, that's how Lily had been thinking of it deep down. So I felt even worse about being too caught up in my thoughts to enjoy it properly, but she said it was fine, since she'd enjoyed it regardless.

Also, we mentioned how we'd gotten Eda's number to stay in touch. Lina looked like she was about to put two and two together regarding my claim that we "couldn't" have contacted her while there, but thankfully must have had too many other things on her mind to bother.

"By the way, Lina... I kinda lost track of time. Has the school quarter already started?", I asked.

"Yeah," she replied. "Sourcery 102 is kinda kicking my butt... I've been missing having you around extra hard, Lily."

I rubbed my neck. "Well, I still have to bring it up with Professor Meyer, but I might be there soon to help you out."

She looked at me wide-eyed. "Huh? What do you mean?"

"Like I mentioned, Lily gave me a crash course on sourcery, and she thinks I'm a natural. There's a good chance I can convince Meyer to let me take the 101 exam and squeeze me into 102."

"If she's not too furious with us," Lily added as a qualifier.

"R-Really? I mean, that'd be great for me, but..." Lina tilted her head. "Why are you all in on Sourcery all of a sudden? Do you want to solve your memory thing on your own or something...?"

I shook my head. "Nah, nothing to do with that. I want to become an admin."

She was taken aback. "Th-That's even MORE surprising!"

I tried to describe what had led me to the decision. "I realized that even if there's not much I want to change about myself, there's a lot of people I could help from an admin position. I felt pretty lost while we were in Undefined, but... it sort of all hit me at once when I saw home again. Like... I could suddenly visualize the sort of world I want to make real."

"Wow... My girlfriend's girlfriend's going to be an admin...", Lina remarked in disbelief.

"Don't get too ahead of yourself, Lina," Lily chided. "Even if Rena's aiming to get a jump start, it'll be a ways into the future."

I nodded in agreement. Still, it felt good to have a future to think ahead to.

Lina looked like she was about to drift off to sleep, so it seemed about time I leave. But something was still nagging at me. Something that had been left unsaid.

"Hey, Lily... it's and well and good if we're girlfriends, but..."


"Don't you feel like there's... something that should come of that, I guess?"

"...I suppose we haven't really had a good hug in a while," she mused.

"No, like..." I sighed and shook my head. It was a struggle to vocalize what I was thinking. But for the person I loved... shouldn't I try?

"I wish... there was something loving and intimate we could do together. And it'd make us mothers, and instantiate tiny children who... look like us? Or a combination of us?"

I slapped my palm into my face hearing what I was saying. "Sorry, that sounded like total nonsense. Uh... have a good night."

"No, no," Lily consoled. "It's certainly out there, but... kind of a beautiful thought at the same time. I'm touched."

"Really? You're not just saying that?"

She shook her head. "Not at all. It sounds a lot like a reallocation ceremony, save for the last part." She put a hand to her chin in thought. "In fact, I wonder if those might have originated from a desire to replicate the feelings you describe?"

"Seems like a big assumption that anyone else has had these weird feelings," I remarked. "But, uh, wait... would you... want to do that? Reallocate?"

"That sounds like a great idea!", Lina exclaimed. "Our meeting seemed so fated, I always felt like Lily and I should've been initialized together... as what, I'm not sure, but!"

"Yeah, I'm not sure about that part either. We're not exactly "sisters," and "mothers" doesn't sound quite right either, especially if we don't have children..."

"I've actually gotten a bit attached, so I'm open to considering Mona an honorary daughter if that's okay with Eda," Lily chuckled. "But really, what does it matter? We can consider each other friends, or girlfriends, or maybe even wives - but as a whole? We can just say we're family, and leave it at that."

I looked at Lily, then at Lina. ...My family.

"Yeah... that feels right."


The next day, I went with Lily and Lina to visit Professor Meyer and tell her an abridged version of the story. As expected, she was furious with me and Lily, which was half the reason I didn't want to go alone.

Her anger was diverted upon learning about Undefined, however. Even as a former admin, apparently she had no idea such a place existed. And she was appalled by what she perceived as selfishness. There were admins out there who had managed to build a society in a place they were never meant to be? Why weren't they sharing their knowledge with us?

I couldn't really speak for the people of Undefined, but we tried to tell Meyer how it wasn't quite like that. How its residents must have had reasons for wanting to leave this place behind, and couldn't necessarily handle the responsibility of being an admin down here. And how at any rate, I hoped to bridge the gap a little with my future career.

...Incidentally, I decided not to bring up the "ping" thing. On top of it being awkward to reveal a secret habit of hers like that, it felt like it wasn't worth robbing her of its mystique, and the comfort it seemingly brought. That said, I could imagine Eda would be fascinating to her, so I felt like they should still meet someday.

Meyer was surprised by my sudden resolve to become an admin, but welcomed it. She even accepted my proposal for skipping straight to Sourcery 102, though skeptical that I'd actually be able to pass the 101 exam after just a few days of study - a doubt I hoped to prove wrong.

Then she reminded me of her promise from before we went to Undefined, to fix my permissions and memory issues, which I'd almost forgotten about entirely.

Lily seemed to hesitate, but my reply came to me quickly.

"Actually, Professor Meyer, I think I'm good. If it's not broken, don't fix it, right?"

I was back at my apartment at last, for the first time in days. I'd crashed in Lily and Lina's dorm room last night, and we'd discussed possibly making that more permanent, though nothing was final. For now, it just felt good to be home.

While taking off clothes to put on something more casual, in the corner of my eye, I noticed my own reflection in the mirror on my wall.

And for what might have been the first time in my life, something felt off about it.

I walked up to the mirror and stared into it, trying to identify what that thought had been. And as if on its own, my mind started to recall all sorts of random things I had heard, said, or remembered in the past few days. Some more clearly than ever.

"Mom? Dad? How was I born?" "It's what we've lived through that makes us human." "I hate that... I just want to be like you, mom..." "They'd wanna put themselves in it, too!" "Will that happen to our house...?" "Could it be some kind of... reincarnation?"

"We're going to be happy there."

Practically on autopilot, I went into my properties and located the property for "species."

And in the spirit of curiosity, I put in "human."

I opened my eyes to a very strange sight indeed. My fur was no longer fuzzy, almost as if it had been completely shaved to an impossible level of smoothness. My fingers had grown longer and more spindly. My ears had disappeared, but I could still hear. Oddly-shaped protrusions had formed on the side of my head with no clear function. My nose and mouth had taken on strange shapes. And my tail was outright gone.

Strange as it all was, having messed around with the species property just the other day, something stood out to me: nothing appeared "broken." Despite having all these odd features I'd never seen on another person, everything felt like it was about the right size, and not deformed - as little reference as I had for such things. That implied these properties had always been properly configured for me.

As I looked at myself in the mirror with wonder, I realized that wonder wasn't just from my confusion over these unfamiliar sights.

It was because this was the ideal body she had wanted to have.

I felt like I knew the story now - the one that dwelled within me. There was a girl unhappy with her body, her world. Though her home was threatened, if not taken, by disaster, she was given a chance to start anew in this world. And here, I hope, she was happy.

But that story must have been a long time ago. The girl, and anyone like her, was long gone; no records existed anymore of such a time. Now, only an echo remained.

I placed my hand on the mirror, stopping to take in the reflection I saw.

Then, having satisfied my curiosity, I closed my eyes and set my species back to "rabbit."

Some way or another, this girl, this "human," had led to me. But she wasn't me - she couldn't be. I've lived a life all my own, making decisions about who I am, whether I credit myself for them or not. I've searched for happiness from the same starting point, and I've likely taken, and will take, a very different path than she did.

But I still owed something to her. The struggles she had in her world remained as a part of me. The reason I felt like there was a lingering question about myself that I couldn't figure out... was because I didn't realize she'd already answered it. My initialized sex wasn't just the product of random chance; it was the legacy of her choice. I'd known from the start, if only subconsciously, that I had to respect that.

And so I wished, knowing it was immutable ancient history at this point, that she had found happiness. And I hoped, looking toward my own changing future, that I would be making her proud.

Gazing at my regular reflection, I smiled; at last, I could feel perfectly content with my lot in life.

I just had to find the right way of looking at it.

NEXT: Left to Code

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