my dream pillows

had a dream last night that the Daleks got wind of the phrase “an apple a day keeps the Doctor away” and, y’know, took it literally. they built this massive fucking fortress out of fucking apples and just like chilled in there and Rose was like “doctor wot r u gonna do” and ten was just like  “i’m not gonna do anything, maybe they’ll just sit quietly in their apple dome”

woke up laughing

when i was seven the sea-witch cursed me.

she cursed my great-grandfather, actually, who had spat on the hands of the ocean and disrespected the beating heart of the earth - for what else are waves but a pulse - who was silly and violent and who tried to rip from the water what was hers by rights. we were wealthy, before that, a family of merchants. my mother says in her youth she recalls white horses, the gleam of candles, early mornings with bread baked fresh by a horde of servants.

he didn’t ask permission to cross her. that’s what my mother tells me while she spoons porridge with no flavor into the wood of my bowl. he had no faith in superstition, rode with boats that were more decoration than strength, the folly of a man who was cruel and vain and proud of his own gold teeth. the sky had been blue, so regardless of what the village witch said, he would sail that day. and when his boat sank; their lives turned blue like the sky that day.

my mother says she thinks the curse on the men of our family, even if they come in when they marry, is that they will forever be violent, too foolish to see the storm on the horizon. she whispers this to me on the eve of my seventh birthday, while father is his own storm, thundering around the house, looking for her. later, when i am cleaning the cut by her cheek, she tells me the curse is on the women to forever be unhappy, to wane until they are shadows, to walk into the deep like a sinking ship. 

we don’t burn candles often, they are too expensive. she tells me this in the silk of a dark room. the moon kisses her hair. 

in three days, my mother will walk into the ocean, and my father will be my own problem. the curse will pass onto me. 

my father does not believe in superstition, no curse to conquer him. when he is gone, and i am heartbroken, i go to the village witch. i ask her to teach me about magic, and other things, and about how the ocean can be coaxed, and how to save my father’s soul. 

and my hands rot too, keeping a house by myself with things i barely knew. i learn the art of a good scrubbing, keep my mind full of white horses while i endlessly clean, dream of candles in dark while i make the bread that he will not allow me to eat. he keeps me from the ocean, from visiting the place that took my mom, from following in her footsteps where the water makes women undone.

i am sixteen when i see her in the water of a bowl. she scares me so completely that i drop it, and my father comes in with his hands, and the curse, and i almost forget all about it. it isn’t until after that i realize she is beautiful, and young, which surprises me. 

i think about it every evening. her face becomes distorted to me. i can no longer remember the exact shape of it, only the impression of beauty. 

i turn seventeen and wait for the high moon. i pin safety to my vest in little witch herbs and runes. i put naked toes on the sand and slip closer, closer, to the avenue of my family’s doom. i find a little private beach, small and surrounded by rocks, hidden from my father in the event he ever thought to come looking. at high tide, it is barely the span of my body. at low, it feels empty.

the witch of the land has given me what i need to call in the witch of the sea, but i do not use it. it feels wrong, somehow, standing here in the wind and the quiet pulse of the world. i put down the incense and sage and i sit just close enough it feels wild, dangerous - but not close enough to get caught up in thrill. 

when nothing happens, i go home and i make bread that i will not eat.

for months i do this. i climb down to my beach. i learn to do it when the moon is half, and then when the moon is empty. i learn to do it so well that sometimes i go to sleep in my own bed and wake up by the water. i take to sleeping with warding runes to keep me from being pulled in the rip out to the waiting hands of a hungry sea-witch.

i don’t know when i start talking. more often i sing, because singing in my house is not allowed, and something about the way the rocks echo my voice feels comforting. the older i get, the more i can pretend i hear my mother’s voice, answering me, harmonizing gently. i sing songs about sadness and lullabies about curses. when i have exhausted every song i know, i write new ones about fathers who have never learned how to be kind, about the house i work in but do not love, about mothers who left, and about a sea witch.

i see her sometimes. in a puddle, in the drop of rain, in the strangest places. i never expect it, although i always hope. i am never able to see her for more than the length of a wave, breaking, and each time, it does something new to my heart.

at eighteen i am too much of my father’s burden. he tries to unload me onto other men. the land witch helps me with this. i rub hemlock, burn wolfsbane. we arrange so these men have other women to marry. the news of my curse is bad enough to scare most away. my father is not happy.

after a particularly savage night, i wonder how bad it could be. i could marry some boy from the village who didn’t quite bother me. i suppose they’re not ugly. timothy had always been gentle to me. i think about a life, and how i am cursed to be unhappy. my father would finally be proud of me.

i walk to the beach and i tell the waves about him and how i could convince myself it was love if i just never wanted from him. how i could be okay, if not content, how i could be free, how i already had learned life down on knees.

but i go home and i write a rune of warding. and the years pass and i find reasons each suitor is wanting. and the sea witch i see, sometimes, peeking out at me, staying long each time in the water, looking, watching. i see her in mirrors when my father storms against me. it is bad because he mistakes the cause of my smiling. it is better when she is there the next morning.

and i go to the ocean. when i am too sad to speak, it seems like the ocean is whispering for me. i picture my mother’s voice and tell myself i am happy. i am seven again and we are sewing. i am seven again and the curse has not been given to me. i am seven and she came home after she walked to the sea.

i grow silly, brave, unthinking. i leave behind the herbs and i wade deep. i teach myself the art of swimming. i am bad at it, at first, but something about it feels good to me. like the ocean wants to buoy me. in the day i think of it, guilty. what if there was a rip tide, and the water took me? who would care for my father if i stepped off the beach into a long drop? wasn’t i clever enough to know that the ocean is uncaring?

it is not this that does it. i go out after a rain and i slip on the rocks and suddenly i am in water above my head but without the moon i cannot see the up of it. i kick and i thrash and the water surrounds me. the tide pulls on my body and in the cold i feel my body grow weary. water spills into me. it punches through my body, up my nose and into my lungs and some part of me knows this is what mother felt before she was gone.

i kick ground by accident, reorient, drag myself heaving and spitting into the air. i lie there for a long time, half in and half out of death, enjoying the sensation of breathing and of life.

when i look up, i think i see her, watching me, her brows knit with something like worry. but we make eye contact and my heart leaps and then she is gone and i am left alone with nothing but the dawn breaking.

my father is furious when there is no bread. he finds my hair wet, and the salt of the ocean still smelling on me. and that is it. that day he goes out and pays someone to agree to marry me.

this feels right to me, i think. i’m twenty-one, three times seven, a perfect number for a curse to fully come down on me. i will be wed in three weeks.

the land witch comes to visit me. she looks like she’s sorry for me. she gives me a spell and tells me to put it under my pillow; i’ll dream of love and it will soothe me. instead i dream of the seawitch, and how wonderful she is, and the sight of her, out on the water, worried.

even though it is risky, i go down to the beach. i do not bother with protective spells, i have already seen that the water can kill me. fear alone keeps me from wandering. i sit on the beach and in the sand i draw runes for understanding and i make the small magicks i’ve spent years learning and i close my eyes and i ask the ocean “why do you do this to me.”

i fall asleep. i dream that the sea witch talks to me. i dream she is my age, that she is the great-granddaughter of the first to curse my family. i dream she has spent years watching, learning, finding the truth of me. that she just needs to get the courage to come and speak, that she has fallen in love with my singing, that she knows no curse but the one in her heart that brings her back to a human, to a creature of air and not water, to a mistake in the making.

in the dawn i know it is a dream and no more. i make bread. i pour water out before it can make mirrors. i do not look. i do not like the ache that has filled me, as if i’ve been looking for an answer and the answer only leads to longing.

the man i meet - my husband-to-be - is delighted by the house i keep. he believes a woman should keep in her place, and her place should be clean. he hears from neighbors that sometimes i sneak out to the land witch’s house. laughter barks out of him. not going to allow that behavior, not me. he does not believe in curses. he will pack me up and move me from the ocean to somewhere in the mountains, where i know nobody. and i will, he promises, learn to keep my place, and that place clean.

i tell myself i could love him. he is not ugly. he says i’m pretty enough after whiskey. my father mentions i used to sing. i refuse to perform for these men so instead i make them cookies. they laugh and talk about me, even when i am in the room, as if they cannot even see. they shake hands and talk about how useless a woman is for much else than breeding. it’s very funny. the man meets my eyes and promises he’ll put a baby in me. i look down and pretend the thrill i feel is excitement, not fear brewing in me.

the land witch comes by a week before my wedding. she is smaller these days, aging. her apprentice and i get along wonderfully. the two women stand before me, holding something. 

a small box, so tiny and lovely. “break the curse,” the witch whispers, “learn to be happy.”

i smuggle the box, take it everywhere with me. it is days before i have a moment to slip away, to open it by the sea. i take a candle with me, even though my father will notice and be angry.

by the light of fire i read the spell they have left me inside, and then i am so full of gratitude i cannot stop crying.

it must be a full moon, so i must wait. in the meantime, i walk home, and i bake. 

i do not see the seawitch, even though i look for her. maybe i have wounded her, getting married. my father asks why i keep smiling. i tell him it is because i am finally with a man. he grunts and says to stop looking so silly. 

the man kisses me. i let him. we are married on a night with a full moon, and i poison him and my father in the bread i did not eat. i think of how these men were cursed so they could not see a storm coming. i watch them as they lie there, dying, and then i put all of the things i own into a basket for the land witch. i leave it there with a song i wrote for her, a spell i know will make her happy, will stop the aging of her joints, will give her the kind of relief she gave me. 

i go down to the water. i find myself running, even though i am in no hurry. i know the way so well it is like i wake up there, panting. i ask permission first. i lay out the contents of the box, i organize and practice and when the needle and pain comes, i am ready for it. i am used to pain at night. i breathe into it and walk naked into waters that swallowed my mother.

i chew bitter herbs. i swallow fire. i feel myself drown as i change from land witch to sea witch. 

when it is done, i open my eyes in the deep of a moonlit ocean. and i see her. 

this time she does not flicker. this time when i reach for her, she is there, and she is pushing my hair out of my eyes, and we are kissing with the ocean rejoicing around us, and i am laughing, and i hear her voice as clear as bell inside me.

and we live like this, a whole world between us where white horses are the size of pinky fingers and swim with their thin snouts, where i need no candles because i was raised lightless, where we have no servants but the water takes care of us. i show her the magic of land and she unfolds the magic of water. together we are unstoppable. when i come up to the air to sing little girls a promise that they can survive the madness, she sings with me, and we make a beautiful harmony.

nostalgicexpatriate  asked:

if you're taking requests; gallya and 38 please :)

“That dress is all wrong,” Illya said sullenly sitting back in his chair and folding his arms over his chest.

Beside him, Napoleon flicked a look at him from the corner of his eye then tilted his head as he looked back at their partner who was flitting about the room acting like a blushing bride to be, along with the daughter of a particularly important mark. They were at some sort of wedding expo, something from personal nightmares, but he was enduring.

“I think she looks quite pretty.”

“That dress is far too… fluffy,” Illya said. “She would not want to wear anything that would get in her way such as this.”

“But, in theory, it is her wedding day,” Napoleon said. “Surely her focus isn’t going to be how fast she can run.”

“It doesn’t matter, she is far too practical and she prefers comfort.” There was a moment of silence from the man beside him as they watched Gaby huff a stray bit of hair out of her face, managing to plaster a smile back on just as the mark ‘s attention returned to her. “Besides she is lost in all that tulle. She needs to be framed in silk – something in an a-line. And not white either, cream, with a slit on the side for a peek of leg. It is a crime to hide her legs.”

“Wow,” Napoleon said, biting back on a wide grin. “You’ve thought about this, haven’t you?”

Illya went very still for a moment and then shifted in his seat before mumbling something about these things being obvious to anyone who knew fashion.

Across the room, Gaby shoves at her full skirt with annoyance.


the others are here if you know, you want…

I had a dream that I worked for Brendon Urie lmao god I wish that were true

(TRANS) Luhan - 如果 (What If I Said)

My hand pauses midair, I can’t press ‘send’
Tossing and turning with unfinished dreams, even my pillow feels lonely
Memories come along, spilling over a thousand sentences
I keep the words I wish to tell you at the bottom of my heart
The text I write and delete, maybe white space explains it best
What if I said, don’t turn away and leave
We were once so happy
If young love is meant to end in parting, should I say it later instead
What if I said, don’t turn away and leave
I’m afraid of losing you, so I doubt you, so I run away
Fear of love after we embrace, you’re not the only one
Memories come along, spilling over a thousand sentences
I keep the words I wish to tell you at the bottom of my heart
The text I write and delete, I’m still not brave enough to say ‘I miss you’
What if I said, don’t turn away and leave
We were once so happy
If young love is meant to end in parting, should I say it later instead
What if I said, don’t turn away and leave
What if I said, don’t turn away and leave
What if I said, don’t turn away and leave
What if I said, don’t turn away and leave
We were once so happy
If our love is too young
What if I said, don’t turn away and leave
We were once so happy
If young love is meant to end in parting, should I say it later instead
What if I said, don’t turn away and leave

Princess Shokora is a fantastic character and everything you need to know about her is right there in Wario Land 4. In this article I’ll go through every appearance she has - as chronologically as possible - and talk about the merits of the character that are evidenced through the game’s content and presentation.


#0 – 14-YEAR-OLD SPOILERS


Before I get started on anything else, something has to be established so that the rest of the article makes sense to those unfamiliar:

These three are the same person. They’re all Princess Shokora, the former two being her in her cursed state, the third being her true form. Just making sure of this now so that the rest of this article is cohesive. The Shopkeeper in the centre there is shown on-screen to turn into the cat, and the cat is shown turning into Shokora. This frees me up to explain the rest.


As for how this happened, I’ll let the game’s instruction manual explain.  This is the only time in this article where I’ll use a source from outside of the game’s content itself:

“Cursed sleep” isn’t exactly correct. Princess Shokora was actually cursed to take on another form, but I take this as inaccuracy on behalf of the newspaper, who must not have known about the exact nature of the spell. Regardless, Princess Shokora was cursed by the Golden Diva. With those details out of the way, let’s proceed.

#1 - SHOKORA THE STRAY

Let’s start with the intro. Here is every shot in the skippable pre-title cutscene.

Now, for specifics…

There she is! Right off the bat, Shokora’s in the first frame in the game,  appearing in an alleyway. In general, it’s worth noting that before Wario Land 4, Wario’s base environments were more fantasy-oriented, living  in castles, burgling pirate islands and flying around in a small biplane. Here though, it establishes that Wario now lives in a city. What this means for Shokora is told in the next shot:

Cardboard boxes, trash cans and other stray animals such as this dog. Shokora’s been living rough! Life as an alley cat has probably worn her down, as we can tell by how angry she looks in the next shot that she’s in, after Wario begins driving his car.

This particular sprite of the black cat isn’t used anywhere else in the game, so it isn’t as if this was the only walk made for her and the expression was more justified in another circumstance. No, the angered look to her implies how she feels as a whole, given that there isn’t anybody or anything for her to interact with. Her typical mood is implied through this scene-exclusive graphic.

I’d say this demonstrates a fear of being run over by a car, but… Well, I think every living being has that, really, let’s move on.

A newspaper then blows into Shokora’s face…

…Which she then reads. If she’s able to and willing to read the article, and stops to do so, this immediately states that despite now having the body of a cat, Shokora still possesses her own human mind, and has perceived the world like that for as long as she’s been a cat, which makes her homelessness all the sadder as she would retain the memories of what her life was like before the curse. That in itself is evidenced here:

She’s shown reading the article, and two pictures are included of relevant characters. Though they aren’t named or given stated occupations, their character designs and the topic of the paper’s article set their roles. The top photograph is of Dr. Arewo Stein, and based on his comically-styled ‘mad scientist’ appearance, you can deduce that he is the man behind the pyramid’s discovery. Any inclinations of this are confirmed when players see him wandering around the Pyramid’s interior and areas with a magnifying glass.

As for the painting at the bottom, obviously coming into this article you know it’s Shokora, but even without that much, given her clothing you can piece together that whoever it is, she’s meant to be the ruler of the Pyramid that the article mentions. The fact that the article talks of the pyramid’s actual discovery tells that it’s been around for a very long time.


When you bear in mind that Shokora was the ruler of this pyramid that was only recently discovered and contains legendary treasure, and that she’s still alive, you realise that she’s spent life as a stray cat for a depressing length of time.

#2 - MS. GAME & WARIO

Here is the game’s prologue, as I suppose it can be called. This is shown after a new save file is created and isn’t skippable.

Wario begins by finding the pyramid in the jungle and celebrates his discovery. He then enters the pyramid and goes through a corridor to find the black cat.

Shokora leads him through to the next room…

…and down this hole, ensuring him that the way is safe. This friendly approach and direction assures the player that the black cat is their ally. If you know and bear in mind her true identity, it becomes apparent that Shokora doesn’t protest Wario’s exploration of the pyramid, most likely in hopes that he will help her overcome the Golden Diva, who is referenced for the first time in-game in the next shot.

Take notice of the kabuki masks on either side of the chute’s entrance. While the player won’t yet know it, these mark the first of the Diva’s recurring appearances.


Here we also get the pleasure of listening to the first of Wario’s many 'WAAAAAAH!’s whenever he’s flung to another location. Wonderful.

This next shot shows a giant wall carving with an open mouth and a large tongue…

…which acts as a safe slide for Wario to enter the pyramid’s depths. This detail is actually pretty important considering who led him here, as you’ll see later.

For now, Wario has made it inside the game’s HUB world and can begin his adventure in the Entry Passage.

So, thus far Shokora has found out that Wario’s heading for the pyramid, and has proactively made her way there to help guide him through it. This assigns her with a role wherein she’s taught Wario as a character by sharing her knowledge, but seeing as this sequence is an automated cutscene and is inevitable, this aspect to her doesn’t really concern the player.


…Except it does.

Look, there she is!


These inscriptions not only give the player instructions on how to play the game, but are also placed as contextual aspects of Wario’s world. This not only serves as an indication of Shokora tutoring Wario, but it’s also relevant to the player as, in the process, Shokora is also tutoring them. She doesn’t do this through dialogue or in any way that interferes with the player’s control over Wario, just simple diagrams to explain certain necessary functions that wouldn’t otherwise be self-explanatory, meaning there’s no typical tutorials in any other level in the game. 


Shokora ensures that the player is armed with the knowledge to fairly step to any challenges the game presents, and this is themed through Wario being able to read messages left to him on the pyramid’s walls. This is simply brilliant. No animation is played to make Wario stop and turn to Shokora’s hieroglyphs, or anything like that. Wario’s learning happens at the same rate as the player, as their very act of interpreting the graphics equates to a character’s action in their story, and it happens seamlessly.


Of course, either from prior knowledge or the note at the start of this article, you know that it’s Shokora’s cursed state that’s conveyed in the inscriptions, but a first time player would be forgiven for it shrugging off as a simplistic character designed solely for easy tutorial conveyance, or a Mr. Game and Watch look-alike as a cute reference to Nintendo’s history. 


It’s when access is granted to the Entry Passage’s boss that this teaching point becomes concrete, and it’s also where it becomes apparent that Shokora wears many hats.

#3 - PRINCESS SHOPORA

Once the Hall of Hieroglyphs is completed, the player moves Wario further into the Entry Passage, where more of the game’s core elements are shown. Here’s where we first get to see how much of a fucking badass Shokora is.

The first thing you come to next is the Mini-Game Shop, which contains three Mini-Games for you to play, as accessed by these… Rocket-robot-arcadey things. You pay coins gathered to the levels to play them, and playing well nets you Frog Medals.

Next along the corridor is the Boss door.

…With this Item Shop just before the boss’ domain, which is there to sell you items to damage the bosses before the clock starts, in exchange for Frog Medals.

Not bad, eh?

As you can see, it’s run by Shokora. This particular one is for Spoiled Rotten only, and features only the weaker four of the Items, which are all weapons with a rainbow pattern. They are the Apple Bomb, Blast Cannon, Vizorman and Bugle.

While you’re in here, Shokora can also give you a free smile.

…Which she’s delighted to do, clearly! I think this speaks for how happy she is to finally have a companion, someone aiding her in her own battle against the Golden Diva. Her enthusiastic dialogue and offer of a smile to him is a good indicator of how grateful she is for his support, which once again backs up how lonely she’s been in the past.

She even seems pretty miffed when you don’t want anything.

Sometimes, before you enter the shop, the black cat will be standing outside, and then run into the shop. Since there’s no trace of the cat once you’re inside, and the only other person in there is the shopkeeper, this is the first clue that they’re one and the same. While we’re here, about that sign…

Believe it or not, this very sign confirms many details about Shokora.


It serves as evidence that Shokora is indeed responsible for the hieroglyphs of the previous level, take note that here she’s demonstrated that she can draw a likeness of her cursed self by way of this sign. Granted, it shows that she’s capable of recreating that likeness, thus giving the hieroglyph observation some backbone.


As well as that, take note of the multiple bright colours this sign has…

…and how much it resembles the rainbow motif on these weapons in the shop. I take this as a sign that Shokora is inventing her own weaponry, as her sign and items have the same decorative theme going on and thus qualifies her as an expert technician. And that she likes rainbows.

In addition, take note of how the sign resembles this unused graphic for another sign:

As you can probably guess, this was supposed to advertise the Mini-Game Shop we saw earlier, but selecting to enter the room on the map brings you straight inside, rather than setting you along a hallway for you to then enter it through a door that this sign would be above. I think this was the only reason that this sign wasn’t used, as it had no place.

Nevertheless, the fact it’s in the exact same style as the other one implies that the Mini-Game Shop, or Game Corner, is also Shokora’s work, which then logically means she’s the creator of the Game-bots as well. In fact, let’s take another look at the room.

Notice how the dialogue box is in a similar style to the speech bubble in the Item Shop, and how the manner of speech is pretty similar to how the shopkeeper speaks. I would say that all of the robotics and inventions in the pyramid’s HUB that are outside of the levels are all Shokora’s own handiwork.

Hell, if you’d been around as long as she has, you’d have time to brush up on your skills, right?

Before we move on, just a quick note that Shokora as the black cat can also randomly appear in the pyramid’s main map HUB. You can’t interact with her when this happens, but it does help the impression along that she’s always in here with you, in the same way as Dr. Arewo Stein is, as mentioned before.

Now, let’s talk about the Shop once it’s expanded.

#4 - ENTER THE BLACK DRAGON

This is the Item Shop for every boss after Spoiled Rotten, featuring four new selections: the Black Dog, Large Lips, Big Fist and Black Dragon. What’s interesting about these is that whereas the other four are weapons, these are  powerful transformations that Shokora takes on to fight the boss. As a demonstration, here’s the Black Dragon up against Cractus, guardian of the Legendary Crown.

All of the bosses have weaknesses to a particular transformation, hence why they’re all given the same price. It’s up to the player to decide which form is likely to fare best against which boss. In this case, for example, Cractus is a plant, so it makes sense that the Black Dragon’s fire breath is most effective against him.

The basic thing to take away as it that, given enough Frog Medals, Shokora can take on lethal forms and absolutely pulverize those bosses. Given that the transformations are not a physical item to be given on her behalf, I deduce that the Frog Medals themselves have magical qualities that give her the ability to shapeshift and build weapons. Frog symbols have certainly demonstrated magical capabilities in this game already, such as every time you enter or exit a level.

Indeed, the Frog statues are what create the warp holes to and from the Golden Pyramid. Based on this, I’d say that Shokora needs those Medals out of necessity rather than greed. Money is literally power in this game, and I’ll elaborate on that later on.

And that actually leads me onto another point about why Shokora is such an effective and important character.

It can’t be denied that she’s a total badass; she copes with living rough, builds and handles weaponry, has experience as a rocket scientist and shapeshifts into extremely powerful.forms. But here’s the distinction and what’s important to the player:

She needs you.

Let’s take a look at another boss fight to examplify this point.

This is Cuckoo Condor, the boss of the Ruby Passage and guardian of the Legendary Earrings. As you can see, he has two forms in the fight, Form 1 on the left and Form 2 on the right. They are very different from oneanother in how they’re fought and require different skills learned in the game. If one of them was included but not the other, it would make the fight a lot more shallow and a lot less engaging.

Now, if you choose to battle Cuckoo Condor without enlisting Shokora’s help, he turns from Form 1 to Form 2 when seven pegs of his health bar remain. This is exactly halfway through the fight, as he begins with fourteen pegs in total. Now, let’s take a look at what happens when you have Shokora transform into a Big Fist for the battle.

Now, that’s a massive wallop she just gave him, but what exactly did it do?

That’s right! Shokora can lay down an intense amount of hurt, but she’s never quite strong enough to finish them off. That’s your job.

Look at Cuckoo Condor; He’s left with two pegs, and remains in Form 1. Which means you still need to figure out and execute the attack on Form 1…

…before you’re given Form 2 for the final peg! Game design at its finest, ladies and gentlemen.

Regardless of how much more time you have left on that clock upon your victory, everything you learn is exactly the same as you would’ve had you gone without Shokora’s support; You figure out the measures you must take and you put them into practice.

What this means for Shokora is that, despite how powerful she can be, the one to make all the difference is Wario, the avatar of the player.

Now, just before we get to the game’s finale, I think we should discuss the Sound Room.

#5 - DJ CHOCOLAT

Music is a very important part of Wario Land 4. The soundtrack speeds up and slows down, distorts, diverges, it really does tie itself up in knots, proving to be one of the most dynamic and impressive soundtracks in the history of video games. How is it important to Shokora, though? Let’s see…

These music CDs you can find throughout the levels are WL4′s equivalent of hidden treasures from the past games, having the most in common with those of the first Wario Land. As you can probably guess, they actually function based on their form, and will give you a piece of music to listen to as a bonus if you manage to find one. You can do this by going to the game’s Sound Room, on the main map.

First of all, recognise where it’s located? That’s right! This is where Wario fell in from at the beginning of the game, having slid down the wall carving’s tongue. So, this is where Shokora led him in through, and also where you go to listen to the CDs you find… Keep that in mind.

Welcome to the Sound Room! As you can see, all the game’s CDs are lined up here in rows to represent the passages you found them in. You might think the first time around that this must simply be a Sound Test to listen to the level tracks, but you’d be mistaken. In actual fact, they’re short, experimental songs mainly dabbling in everyday sounds, reworked tracks from the game such as the Puzzle Room theme and Shokora’s boss intro, and a variety of genres. Most of them create a sort of narrative, as you listen. If you’ve never heard them before, just imagine if fever dreams were nothing but audio. They’re absolutely terrific to listen to and are one of the best takes on treasure, serving as both a trophy and an unlockable.

When you start listening to one, you are given the song’s title, album art, and a TV in the top right that plays random two-frame GIFs. Each song features its own animation of someone dressed up as Wario clowning about, and all of them share a common pool of other bizarre things.

…Such as this goofy, bobbing dog head. But the real reason I bring this up is the fact that Shokora someitmes appears in that screen…

…mixing the tracks. This detail is amazing, as it consolidates Shokora’s savviness with technology, but also demonstrates another interest of hers: Making music! If you’re to examine the two animations’ implications, and remember that this room is in the way Shokora let Wario into the pyramid, you can deduce that all the CDs are actually her own creations, not even to speak of the relevence some of the tracks hold in particular.

To properly make some points, I’m going to skip around to different parts of the game.

Wario Land 4 keeps track of high scores, in that it’ll keep a record of how many coins you’ve managed to collect on each level. If you manage to collect over 10,000 coins, you’ll earn a Gold Crown for the level.

If you manage to do this with all 18 levels, a new option will open up in the Sound Room.

Yes, Karaoke! This feature allows you to sing along with one of the game’s most memorable music tracks, Medamayaki, or Sunny Side Up. This song is actually the music played in the level, Palm Tree Paradise, and features vocals in both the level and Karaoke (though in the latter it can be switched off).

You can listen to the song and see the Karaoke mode in action here.

As the song plays, all 16 of the Wario cosplayer animations will play at random, and the little cat on the album art will move its mouth to sing, if you have the vocals switched on. The song is in Japanese, but I have a rough translation of it here that has it flow properly in English:

Ukulele echoes,
As we roam our new home.
On barefoot we go,
Searching for the moon in whole,
We find it split in half.

We can sketch out a map on canvas,
With a drop of a rainbow,
Let’s colour it in.
And if we don’t return for sunrise,
Stop the clocks and we’ll leave them together for good.

I want your sighs and worries to dissolve in the sea,
I want your voice forever carved into in a stone.
When the moon comes floating by in your bowl of soup,
Hold your head up, the clouds printed like leopards will smile

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about the lyrics themselves, but once more, consider that Sunny Side Up is in the Sound Room at all…

…and also that one of the CD songs, The Moon’s Lamppost is a remix of it in reverse, with a contrasting title.

Long story short, there’s plenty to indicate that Shokora is the DJ behind everything in this musical room, but I could still use some evidence linking a song directly to her, and not just her cursed shopkeeper form, if we’re being picky. Once again, bank that for the time being.

For now, with all this talk of music, I’d like to briefly return to the intro cutscene, and the song that I neglected to mention the first time around. It too features vocals, and these lyrics are in English. You can hear the song here.

The important lyrics here are the first ones, as put by the female vocalist:

You wanna test it now?

Your time is over,
I’ve had enough.
Here I come,
Look out, here I come!

Now, what could that be referring to? Well, time to find out!

#6 - THE SHOWDOWN

I’m going to go into a lot of detail about the final part of the game, so buckle up.

The point of beating all of the bosses is to nab the treasure that they guard, each a piece of royal jewellery. Given that I’ve been talking about a princess the whole time, I think you can immediately understand the significance of this, regardless if you’ve played the game or not.

Here’s what happens each time you beat one of the bosses:

The boss’ treasure levitates before you, alongside however many chests you managed to save, based on how quickly you beat the boss. They then fly into the the central pyramid, and light up the corner of the passage you just completed.

When you manage this with all four passage bosses, this will happen:

The central pyramid will rise, and reveal an entrance, leading to the Golden Passage, a final level that puts all of your skills to the test. This helps to further establish that the treasure has some real power behind it, in this case the ability to raise a crypt. This broadens the ‘money is power’ motif that the game has set in place, which is the main reason Wario feels so at-home in the scenario the game presents.

Once the Golden Passage is completed, it’s time to face off against the evil one behind Shokora’s curse, the selfish hoarder of the legendary treasure, the Golden Diva herself.

Right away, with the boss icon the recurring kabuki mask that’s been seen throughout the game on the Jewel chests now makes sense.

It’s also the same that was featured on Shokora’s entrance to the pyramid, too.

Now, for the fight, I’ve enlisted Shokora’s help, having her use the Black Dog transformation, because this will confirm something I’ve seen mislabelled as speculation.

This is it. This is what the intro song was referring to: The Golden Diva’s time is over and Shokora’s had enough. This is the confrontation that could only happen with Wario’s help. Wario was Shokora’s chance to finally make things right.

The Diva enters through a shroud of mist, in a room full of gold, jewels and the treasure chests salvaged from the other boss rooms. She’s wearing all the treasures of the bosses, too.

Shokora strides in and stares her enemy down, as usual.

She becomes the Black Dog…

…and starts chomping away at the Diva’s face. The Golden Diva’s mask changes whenever she takes damage, to explain the change.

However, instead of leaving after her attack, she stands beside Wario, still as the Black Dog.

…But the Diva transforms her back into the much weaker cat.

This is important, as it proves for certain that the shopkeeper, black cat and Shokora are all the same, without any need for theory or interpretation. It might’ve been implied earlier on, but here is where the fact is made concrete. Regardless…

Even when reverted to her powerless form, Shokora’s still up for the fight.

She tries one last attack…

But it proves ineffective, and she’s captured inside the Diva’s lips, after which the fight begins. This scene is genius in how it’s constructed, with the Diva differing from the other bosses by being the only one to harm Shokora. Hell, let alone harm her, she completely imprisons her! Being shown all of this provides a greater incentive to overcome the Golden Diva and serves as fantastic character development for Wario. The story to begin with was that Wario was only in on this adventure for the sake of graverobbing, and up until now, that was the only incentive he had. Each boss gives you treasure, and nobody’s really been threatened. But this scene changes things.

This little black cat has been the player’s guide and partner throughout the game, and now, out of nowhere, they’ve been put in grave danger. Even with the vast amount of treasure that’s at stake, seen in the background, the fact that a friendly character is put at risk gives the player, and Wario by association, much more to fight for. Not only is this gaseous horror in the way of the treasure you’ve fought for, but now they’ve taken your buddy captive.

This change happens to Wario because it happens to you.

The player then battles the Diva and her vast array of tricks. Notice the look of complete worry on the second mask.

…And eventually, her final mask breaks off, revealing her true appearance. This is where her patience evidently begins to wane, as instead of weaponry, the Diva starts slamming into the ground to break it. This illustrates that she’s beginning to comprehend exactly what’s happening. After years and years of reigning over little else than this single, isolated room in the pyramid, all alone with her gold, her time is coming to an end, and in the name of the one she was so desperate to keep held down, no less.

Fantastic storytelling via simple animations. Take notes.

Once the player hits her head enough times, her treasure will float into the air as she bursts, leaving nothing but her lips, where Shokora was held. Wario gives her a final attack, and seals her fate once and for all.

#7 - SHOKORA IS FREE

Now, the beginning of the ending sequence is something I find very interesting. Just after all the chests are counted in, and Wario poses in celebration, the pyramid begins to fall apart. Arewo Stein drops in from the ceiling and Shokora seems adamant on them getting the hell out. The way that the screen fades to black gives the impression that Wario is faced with a dilemma…

…Being Wario, though, he negotiates the situation through an insane display of power! Given her expression, Shokora here’s either determined to escape, or questioning to herself if he’s out of his mind.

Shokora expresses concern for Wario, and Stein gets his own back before running off. Shokora scolds him for this and keeps waiting for Wario. Just as she did in the beginning, once he catches up to her she leads him right back out.

Wario and Shokora manage to escape the pyramid, just before it crumbles into the ground…

…and together, they share a hearty laugh, probably just happy to still be alive.

This whole scene plays out over a specific piece of music, listen in.

Recognise it? Indeed, Shokora’s theme in her final moments is none other than Sunny Side Up, reworked into a triumphant and beautiful arrangement.

The four boss treasures are returned to the little black cat, and this twist I’ve rumbled throughout the article finally occurs…

…as she begins to take on human form. The black cat and the shopkeeper are both Princess Shokora.

She was with you the whole time.

After she has transformed, Shokora kisses Wario and thanks him, her compassion expressed through a little heart.

To this day, this scene brings a smile to my face.

Probably the most well-known aspect to Shokora is her four different possible forms, one of which she takes on depending on how many chests you managed to recover during the fight with the Golden Diva. Granted, this features works well to reward those who played well and poke fun at those who didn’t, but what’s particularly interesting is what’s her true form. Remember the newspaper article?

This picture (presumably a painting from her own time) features Shokora as she appears in the standard Good ending, the second-best that’s possible. So why then is her true, Best ending form not shown? Well, there’s nothing that can pinpoint the reason other than not spoiling the surprise of the Best ending, but I do have a plausible explanation.

This picture is of Shokora as she was last known, before the curse was placed upon her by the Golden Diva. When you consider the other forms, and the order they’re in, with her as a baby being the Worst ending, I theorise that these forms showcase her appearance at different ages. As for the Best ending’s form, I will explain that shortly, but first…

Moments after expressing her gratitude, Shokora’s spirit ascends into heaven, so that at long last, she may finally rest in peace.

I have talked about this particular aspect to the scene before, as I was once asked a question about it. For an elaboration, read here.

Once Shokora has departed, Wario lays there for a while, in awe of what just happened.

Soon though, he stands up, looking invigorated…

…and leaves, with his treasure in tow.

Shokora’s treasure? No, Wario’s. Not even Wario’s, really… yours.

#8 - MEMORIES

Princess Shokora is not just a damsel in distress, nor is she the means to an excuse plot. She’s not a parody or a joke, and she’s not even the things I mentioned, such as a tutor, a robotician or a musician.

No, Princess Shokora is an incredible character, and far, far more than the sum of her parts.

This is something you can truely realise when you know what’s inside of those chests.

These aren’t treasures because they’re made from gold and jewels, and have a value in currency. These are treasures because, long ago, they held significance in somebody‘s life, and that person is Princess Shokora. The more of these you manage to recover, the more of Shokora’s life can be remembered, hence how progressively grown she is shown to be.

But if the picture in the newspaper shows the latest account of her in life, would that not make her true form?

No.

Through your ability as the player, you become the sum of Shokora’s efforts. The form she takes on in the game’s Best ending, accessed only by recovering every single chest, stands for all the time she’s spent under the Golden Diva’s curse. All the time she’s spent on the city streets as a stray cat, learning to make music from her surroundings and preparing herself to battle her captor alongside you as an ally, that is what makes this version of Shokora the true one. It’s your capability to learn from what she taught in the very first level and succeed where she could not. It’s your ability to master the game.

Wario and the player are what complete her.

Shokora’s memories are sealed inside those golden treasures, so why did she accept a successor so willingly? Why did she allow and even assist Wario in taking every treasure, that she’s only just rightfully gotten back?

Well, it’s because Shokora must understand what a phenomenal video game is bound to do.

It will leave you with memories.

It Truly Is A Good Night When I Know You

I sat in the dark and thought about you. I’m not ashamed of you. I just wanted to see you as clearly as I could. I want to stare at you until my eyes flipped inside out and turned negative to everything but you. Because you’re my honeymoon. If mine were to end, I would miss your sweetness and how you stuck to me. You always did.

I want to rent out a hotel room; eat dinner; joke about how they put my detractor’s hearts in this dish (“they taste like smoke from a gun, spitting out dust and disease…”); pretend to have a semblance of control of myself and sleep early, stay up all night because of you; wonder if your lips taste softer than my pillows or dreams coming into incarnation; run experiments like testing how slowly your heart beats when I tell you that I love you, and be astounded when it runs faster than my thoughts of you; and arise in the morning with red eyes from crying out how beautiful you really are…just not by myself this time. Because you’re my honeymoon. And if mine were to end, I would miss your sweetness and how you stuck with me. You always did.