Boiling Gems - Chapter 15 - 616 mcu, HAZZARD_OVERFLOW (2023)

chapter text

Luz finished her piece. "And when we're done, your artistic skills will be just as good." It shows the perfect portrait of all the guys sitting around with Hooty blocking King's face.

“Wow, you perfectly captured a photobomb. That's pretty impressive." Lucci chuckled. It's good to see that Mr. Emo has lightened up a bit. His protagonist's powers were working their magic.

"It's so real... it's like there really is another me... what if there is!?" Hooty started to freak out, hissing like a cat at the creature. "YOU WILL NEVER REPLACE ME-!"

"¡Screeeee!" Centi enveloped her and hissed her venom at the bird demon.

“OHHHHHHH! My beautiful complexion! It's ruined, I'm ruined! Hooty moaned like one of those inflatable dolls in front of parking lots and had only minor burns at best.

"You were right, it is durable." She noticed.

"I told you. I still think you should leave 'Centi' out. At least on the front porch of that cabin in the human world," Lucius told him.

“Hey, pretty much everyone who lives here has been trying to fuck me since I got here, and I don't complain as much as I did the first day, so forgive me if I take this advice with a grain of salt. " She replied. It's not so easy when the shoe was on the other foot.

"Do you believe that?"

"Yes, you can have a salty snack." She threw a Chaapp at them. Such a cute little girl. It made sense that he would end up being a demon from the boiling islands. I think Eda used to leave that door open if Centi was here.

"Damn, all my eyeballs end up really crooked." King groaned as he began doodling his tentative drawing. “I will conquer this medium of artistic expression or die trying!”

“Wow, kid, don't kill your pencils. The simpler you think about art, the easier it will be for you.” She patted him on the head. "Let's start with a simple circle." Luz smiled as she started to draw. "First I'm going to draw a head, then I'm going to erase some details." He went from a photorealistic face to a few lines. "And one two three... a circle!"

"What…uh…how the hell did you…but you already…huh!?" King looked like his own head was splitting for some reason.

"Huh, this is almost like when I learned the f-cord." Lucci agreed. "I it was called...Beet's hoven after hearing it once and getting my fingers used to the position."

"Man, the new generations keep killing the last ones." Light pointed.

"That's why we will be the biggest and strongest." Lucci agreed. "But you'll still have to slow down, not all of us can draw a straight line."

"Fun fact, there is no such thing as a straight line when it comes to drawing." Luz divulged her knowledge. "Even the neatest look has some kinks or curves if you look closely enough, so if you're struggling, don't look at it as a mess, look at it as a new way to draw what you're drawing."

“Okay, let's try something with lines…” He started doodling a bit, all silently, before smiling. "Done." It showed a picture of a Centi doll behind bars. "I think it's a profound representation of what real life should reflect."

"If I weren't a free speech advocate, I would be hiding you a lot harder than I normally would." He turns to his little friend. "So instead I'll let Centi be the judge."

Pantallaeeeeee.” centi melted to page

"Everyone is a critic." The boy rolled his eyes. "You can keep your art, I'll always fall down in the middle of the song."

“In my view, no medium is superior to the other. All forms are valid and unique in their own special way.” Luz explained as she continued to scribble. “We take different tools and explore the world the way we want to.”

"That's great advice and all, Luz, but what are you drawing?" King pointed to the paper.

"Just what I'm seeing…" She trailed off, noticing that there was a sinister-looking black figure in the background of what she was drawing, with small white eyes that seemed to be looking at her. “Huh… I think my imagination got a little off track. I'll fix it, there.

"It got bigger." Lucci pointed, and indeed, the black spot image took up more space on the screen.

" this a Boiling Isles thing?" she asked nervously. "Because paintings don't move on Earth." The light slowly began to move away from the image.

"I don't know, and I'm afraid to find out. Oh, it's changed again!" King yelled, the image now showing a sign saying "behind you". "Put fire!"

"Wait, what would be behind-" He turned around and noticed a huge black demonic shadow looming over them.


"AAAHH!" He threw two glyphs of light at each other, blinding whatever it was.

"AAAHH!" Lucci formed a disk of knives, throwing them wildly.

"¡¡ESCRAAAA!!" Centipeetle started to spit.

“Aaaaah mercy! I just wanted to compare notes! The frightening thing responded as they were bombarded with its combined attacks.

……Eh?" They all cocked their heads in bewilderment.

"I didn't do anything wrong!" She screamed the gigantic black creature that glided by holding a paintbrush in its hands. "I just wanted to express my artistic expression!"

“Express your…” Luz looked at the painting. "Don't mess with someone else's painting!" She threw paint at the boy. "At least get my permission before you scribble your work over mine!"

“But you let the Crystal Demon do it, so I thought…”

Lucci started to smile. "Yes, Luz, it seems a bit hypocritical." He got up, went to the boy and held out his hand. "Don't worry big boy, we'll go somewhere where our talents can be appreciated."

"...Are we ignoring the fact that he somehow broke into the HOUSE!?" king shouted.

I knew the password. Hooty shrugged.

"I just said please."

"And you're the first to get it right!" So that was what counted as a normal day at the owl house.

==================================================== ======================

Jacob Hobkins reviewed his disciple's work. “I see, I see… while I can see some small gaps in your connected theory, your evidence-gathering skills have improved greatly over the years under my tutelage. I didn't even know about the lighthouse incident."

His disciple nodded in approval. “My efforts to expose the truth were almost thwarted, but I managed to get it out. Sadly, it looks like the poltergeist is gone, erased or transferred elsewhere." Rhonaldo Fryman, perhaps the only one in Gravesfield willing to pursue the truth.

“It's too much to expect, it's not called unnatural for no reason. He tends to stay away from publicity.” Jacob nodded to the lost ones. “Now it says here that you think the lizardfolk are responsible for this. I know they have connections to extraterrestrial life, but they're not the type to associate with the undead. Unlike those evil witches.

This town has a long history of encounters with the supernatural, but many, many, many of the residents seem perfectly content to forget, dammit, even flaunt the occult and witchcraft. The mayor may have said it was just tourist bait, but Jacob knew better than to believe that lie.

You've seen it before, a witch. Walking in, talking about snails as payment, creating light from his hand, a staff that looked almost alive, and what he could only imagine was a portal to another realm within his tousled hair. The woman came and went around town as she pleased, so he didn't know when she would show up. The only clue Jacob had was that she was hanging around the old cabin in the woods.

"Very well, but I know there's something trying to hollow out the earth, which brings me to my last theory." Rhonaldo distributed a very detailed pamphlet.

"Mud people". He read it aloud. “It makes sense to come to that conclusion. Witches were said to be protected by colorful golems in the old days.

Ronaldo agreed. "My hypothesis at this point is that the radiation from the Lizard People's crystal mines, combined with the magical energy of these golems, broke their molecular bonds into a more unstable liquid state."

"That he would soon develop his own free will and conscience." He followed. It was an interesting concept, already questioning whether witches were adapting to modern technology but combining science and magic... the horrors that it brought to mind. “Did you find anything concrete to support this theory?”

“Just a few pieces here and there. The giant eyeball that almost hit the city three months ago was the first sign. I originally assumed that the snake people had had enough of trying to spy on us all, but it turned out that the pieces destroyed on the beach had a more crystalline design, perhaps the mud people used their powers to drop meteors into orbit to crush their enemies. ”

Jacob thought about this for a few seconds. "I highly doubt it. They're a very new civilization, if that's the case, you got a better angle on the hollow Earth theory."

"Okay, okay, I'm sorry." The boy apologized.

"Okay, you've played a lot." He patted them on the back. “It's more than most people do, Ronaldo. We are the last line of defense if the government is taken over, we are the ones who will assume the threat to our future." He gestured toward the room. "Our investigation will become a story in the making, the conspiracy this world looms over masses for all to see."

"Finally we'll show people the truth of everything that's been missing and we'll finally have our mewtubes accounts verified!" It was important to have funding while searching for the truth. The museum curator and part-time cook in the cafeteria didn't pay very well for it.

“We'll do more than get that big monetary boost for our livelihood, my young friend, we'll be heroes!” He proclaimed proudly, putting one foot up on the table. “Save the world from the strange forces that lurk in the shadows! And I know exactly where to start next." He held up a billboard containing his latest research project.

"Steven?" asked Rhonaldo, intrigued. “You have been spying on Mr. Universe? Yes, he is a little off, but I didn't notice anything strange."

Jacob paused, looking at his disciple in disbelief. "You didn't notice anything? Nothing at all?

"... No?" It seemed more like a confused question than a statement.

"Not even when he turned his hands into puppies playing with children?"

"Obviously he was just a very convincing ventriloquist with very good puppets."

"Not even the fact that every time he's involved, there's a giant monster attack?"

“There are many bears that live in the forest and he likes animals like any normal kid.”

"Didn't he and several women take a van over the horizon when the OCEAN DISAPPEARED!?"

"Climate change and drought-induced hallucinations".

Jacob glared at him. "Okay, I'm going to spend the next few days trying to filter your perception of reality." After all, someone needed a controller.

==================================================== ======================

“And here is Morogan the Screamer. I made sure to gag you with bile and all. The 'Rainbow Devil' laughed as he hit the prisoner in the back.

“Mmmmrrrrrrrrr.” They were unable to use his sonic bard magic scream due to the special metal tag he placed in their mouths. Bismuth still had some doubts about magic after all this time, but he couldn't deny how much it made his job easier.

“This is the tenth reward this week. At this rate, I'm losing more snails packing all the big names." The bounty clerk sighed as he placed

"Hey, you guys are the ones who offer big rewards to easy-to-catch thieves." She laughed. "Only Lady Owl can do justice to the price..." Yes, it wasn't like that...

That last encounter created something of a revelation... Rose was hiding here. Bismuth didn't know why, or how the dog managed to hide for so long, and right under Eda's nose too, but she knew it was going to end in utter disaster. One that would kill them all in the end.

Its very entrance was a mystery. One moment she's being cheated on, the next she wakes up on an island with people who are really funny. At first she was devastated by the loss of her friends and the fate of Earth, but after looking up at the stars, she realized that she literally had nowhere to go because she wasn't in her own universe. SOMEHOW , the gem has learned to live with it. It felt good to do the right thing and help people with what they needed like a crazy hermit... until Belos reared its ugly head.

The only bastard he could say for sure was worse than Rose. He appeared out of nowhere a hundred years ago, claiming to save these poor fools from their own magic, restricting their powers and freedoms for "the greater good". He was almost as bad as Diamonds, and that was a high level in and of itself!

And now he couldn't even complete the castle crushing operation, because now he had to focus on Rose's most prominent threat… maybe he could get it through Eda's head that something was wrong. Show how the stone looked like her and the other...Crystal Devils (Bismuth didn't need to know what the SHIT happened to those gems) and make them realize the kid wasn't a witch.

It was still unclear exactly how she could use magic on her own, but if she could, so could Rose, which probably made that little shapeshifting trick she was doing now that much easier. "So am I going to buy my snails or what?" The gem held out her hand expectantly. "Because I have things to do later."

"Wait, let me get a bag." The clerk walked to the back, leaving her alone with the hooded lady.

"So... not a single spell other than the scream?" They asked to pass the time.


"No need to twist the skirt, just curious." she laughed. “I'm just saying, you're a criminal, you don't HAVE to follow the coven system and be a one-trick snorer your whole life. Have a little variety in your repertoire is all I'm saying. Why do you think I got you so easily?

"Because you are a terror to all witches?" A gruff voice said from behind her.

The gem laughed. "You're right-" She turned around, seeing the face that was laughing at her. "...Raine whispers." Bismuth muttered.

The coven chief assistant smiled. “Rainbow devil. I never thought I would meet you in my life. The Bard summoned that accursed instrument. "From the way everyone seems to fear your name, it's almost hard to remember that you're a mere bounty hunter."

"There's nothing simple about me." Bismuth had turned his arms into hammers, he wasn't in the mood to fight the coven system... at least not today. "Are you here to catch an outlaw, coven boy?" She asked shyly, mentally preparing an escape route. "Do you feel cocky enough to lose some teeth and bones today?"

They looked at her for a moment. "No." They sighed. "I don't want to fight... I just came to confirm the latest batch and see if they've caught any Bards with their own bounties... There's been a lot of paperwork lately since my boss got senile."

Seeing that they would not be going headhunting today, Bismuth chuckled and drew back his weapons. “You would think they would replace him when he started babbling in public. Didn't he destroy a stage in his last public performance? The old idiot lost his place and started shooting at the audience. It was a fun Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, he remains one of the most well-adjusted members of the Coven Heads…" Raine spoke calmly. "Besides, it's not really an option to replace him…he doesn't have much time anyway, so they're just giving me homework for when he finally…bites the dust."

“This is morbid. Keep forgetting that witches have such a low life expectancy. If only that applied to Belos. It wouldn't be a sight for that bastard to just die one day sitting on the carved gold throne he carved for himself. "Hey, on the bright side, there's a promotion in your future."

“Promotion full of paperwork… and the eyes. the Coven attendant muttered.

"You're in the Bard Coven, isn't your whole problem performing in public?" Bismuth raised an eyebrow. "How the hell do you deal with stage fright?"

“A lot of holding back and keeping my head down. I hate crowds around me, too much pressure."

"Well, it sucks to be you." Bismuth chuckled at the familiar sound of snails. "Contact me when you want to have some fun with Rainbow, I'll go find some parts." He picked up his bag and walked towards the door.

"You know rumors don't help if you make vague statements like that out loud."

“Who says I want to be specific?” Bismuth smiled. “Whatever he's planning is between me and me, and whoever he decides to tear apart. It could be you one of these days, it could be the emperor's throne room, who's to say? The world is too big and too wonderful to make plans.

Now, the one who needed to be crushed the most… against the one who would need the castle crusher if the rest of the gems sided with him… Rose would fall in half a year's time.

==================================================== ======================

Celenen, or Moon Girl as most people knew her, dusted her crystal ball while waiting for customers. Some might say it was weird opening up a spot in the school cafeteria for guessing, others didn't see the potential they could use. It was in Oracle's path, so there was a viable market to tap into.

First of all, money was money, it was just common sense. Second, teenagers were desperate for gossip. Third, messing with people who wore bum futures was hilarious. And four... they needed every waste and advantage they could get to find a way to survive.... he.

The darkness, the agony, your family crumbling to dust like heisland falls into entropy - “Bosch, look! She was pulled out of the nightmare when a familiar voice called out to her. "Guess what! We have to try.

"Really? Are you going to believe any cheesy story nobody tells you?" asked the school bully. "Who says she's competent?"

"She's known to be a pretty reliable source, even for professors." Amelie, the Banshees' plant tracking student, pointed. "Warden Bump is said to have been several times to prepare for Grudgby's matches against Glandus."

Celenen didn't understand why they kept coming to her. She kept learning new things from teachers and other people all the time... if she was good she could have saved more people. "Let's go." Cat, the Banshee student healer, smiled. “We haven't been doing anything interesting lately. School has stopped for a while because the Grudgbey season hasn't started.

"Fiiiiinnnnnnn." Captain Grudgby rolled all three of her eyes as the group entered the store. "These fortunes better be super accurate or so stupid I laugh."

Celenen raised his hand over the ball, summoning his best friend, Casper, as the lone specter rose menacingly. “The future must be paid…”

"Does that mean we're going to pay with our lives!?" Skara screamed.

" the form of four snails per person." Casper continued.

“Four sna-you're just trying to rob us of our money, aren't you!?” Boscha accused.

"I asked Professor Goulócia about the appropriate price, he said as long as it didn't exceed two digits for someone my age." Celenen replied. "We accept replacements in the form of items."

"Will three fairy cakes be enough?" Cat handed out three minisweets.

Well, I wouldn't go to the doomsday bunker, but I would save some money for food. "Of course, that will cover three of you." Celenen once again set the mood. "Now sit back and let your invisible threads of the future become visible."

"Dome!" Skara screamed. "Do it with me, do it with me!"

"Alright, let's take a look at what the future holds for you." She watched the ball, swimming across the vast ocean of the future, watching time split, converge, accumulate, drip, all flowing until a solid image formed... why was she fighting two COVEN HEADS, she didn't fight . Oh, it's going to hurt. "You will be forced to abandon someone you love."

WHAT!?" The bearded girl screamed, tears quickly forming in her eyes. "Who is it? What should I do to avoid this!?"

“You can't avoid the circumstances. It's a choice. Either you risk the life of the person you love to save another, or you leave them behind to save the first one." Family or Friend, the decision was in your hands.

"This is cruel and unusual, especially for a customer." Cat muttered.

"What did you expect? You paid for the fortune telling with cakes." Boscha screamed.

“Fair enough, test me. Let's see if we can get something good out of it today." The girl with the glasses turned to her.

“To the next girl, your future says…” Again, swim, don't drown, keep your head above water so you don't get sucked into infinity. Softly, softly... oh wow, so many Coven Heads in people's visions lately, and they talk about revenge like hell. And only one thing helped... "You will heal one of the best healers in the Isles."

"I'm going to be strong... actually I'm going to be STRONG!?" Cat's eyes widened too and filled with tears, but this time with joy. “I'm not wasting my life, I was right FATHER! I HAVE A FUTURE ON THE CURE TRACK! I'M NOT DISPOSING MY SKILLS!"

"Yes…". Let's not tell her that then she would be an outlaw... for her own happiness.

"Okay, what about me?" asked Amelia.

“Just a second…” Celenen searched… and searched… and searched through the liquid flow of time to see… “Wow…”

"Let me guess, it's awesome or scary." The girl rolled her eyes.

"No… I don't see anything special… actually… I'm having trouble finding anything important." Celenen spoke honestly. "You can have your cake back if you like, it doesn't seem right to predict that your future is just... average and mundane."

"What…?" She pouted as she sadly accepted her cake. "Do I at least get an A in my grades?"

"...You're completely average your entire time at the Hexide." The fortune teller made a face. Well, it would be more accurate to say that it would be average year-round, and then... he it would happen and none of it would matter.

"Then we become bad, good and worldly." Boscha rolled her eyes. “Wow, what an amazing experience this was. And so vague and not specific to ".

"I don't need to see the future to recognize a chicken when I see one." Celenen decided just this once to lay eggs on the bad girl. He saw that a customer was paying today and needed to finance the bunker.

"Do you know who you're talking to, one eye!?" The evil captain got in his face.

Yes, a three-eyed chicken. Casper struck a pose. "Lump. Also Baaawk."

"I don't care if you're a ghost, I'll find a way to rip you to pieces one of these days!" Boscha screamed, reached into his pockets, and slammed the four snails onto the table. "There, happy. I want my fortune!

"Then your luck will be told." Celenen looked at the orb, looking for something juicy and fun to tell. Something hilariously ironic. I examine, looking around. Wow, there was a LOT of music and explosions on this track. Oh, here was an especially powerful one. Ohhh… how the mighty fall. "A pink gem will set your heartbeat." They smiled. "Because it will bring the suffering of everyone but you."

“Wait, is Boscha going to fall in love with someone? Su?” Skara finally managed to wipe the tears from her eyes. Are they?"

"What THAT Is that supposed to mean?" Boscha turned to the bard in disbelief.

"It's just… well…" Cat gave a hesitant laugh. "You and people... you know... mix as well as fire and dynamite."

"Yes, they both go together perfectly and kill people." The girl stared. "What is your TO POINT ?”

"It has to do partly with the 'killing people' part." Ameilia gave a breathless laugh. "If we really saw you like this... really saw you being happy, then the world would break down and all life would cease to exist."

Boscha broke his neck. “Guys, we are extending the practice until sunset. Make sure you bring your ear pads. You will need them. “Ah yes, young love, how adorable and innocent…if only she could experience it before all happiness disappears.

==================================================== ======================

"And it finally revealed to Lisa that the one-eyed man was not behind her, but in her own reflection." Connie read, sitting in the temple room with the lockers and the only friend she had.

"I'm so scared it's not even funny." Steven answered while holding it. “My imagination makes it so scary. Come on, Lisa, you can face it! Seeing the boy so happy after everything that happened was definitely a pleasure to witness.

Connie was worried for a second, apparently after the encounter with the phone shop, Steven didn't remember anything about that day or what had happened. Something weird even happened at the Big Donut, where Lars got trapped in a giant pink bubble that he claims Steven trapped him in. And then there was Sour Cream, who said that Steven smashed his car, claiming it "released it from the metal jaws of a beast."

When she asked if there was anyone running around with her face, he got really nervous and said he would look into it. So far it was just...still worrying anyway. The Crystal Gems took this as a sign that his other gem's power was surging, having some strange mental effect on him that they hadn't reckoned with, proclaiming amnesia or something.

Other than that, though, he's much calmer, smiling more. She asked how he felt about... 'that man' but Steven simply said they didn't care about him anymore. The casual layoff was terrifying when explained in detail... but also pretty cool considering it just removed them instead of keeping the hate. Lisa looked at herself in the mirror. Is this her trick? Spying on a woman instead of confronting her? A tactic of worms and cowards. In response, the one-eyed man let out a laugh, sounding like knives and rotting like…

"Hello you two." And here came back one of the annoying new additions to her life. "I brought you hot chocolate Steven." She offered the boy a cup. "Sorry Connie, we're out of powder for two cups, a little water will do."

"Yes I am safe of that." Connie rolled her eyes. He didn't care that Lapis was nice to Steven, or even favored him, the boy deserved it after all with his kindness, and also for saving the world's ocean, but he didn't need to keep meddling. don't worry, Steven and I will read it again.

"I don't care, I'll just sit here and listen too." The water gem landed on the floor and slid closer and shadowed the boy, putting even MORE space between her and her friend.

"Connie, do you know what that means?" Steven asked with twinkling eyes. “We can get another bookmate. And one eighteen or older is allowed to go to the Spirit Morph Saga online forum. The ignorance of childish admiration.

"Yes it seems totally fun and not a bad idea after all. Connie grew up. "However, I was hoping to keep this between us, it was becoming something special that we could do together." Alone and away from everyone.

The boy lowered his head. “We can always do things only with ourselves or with others. After all, the world has infinite options.” He reached out and placed his hand over hers. "It's not like we're ever going to break up... unless your parents find out how crazy my family is."

"Yeah, there's no way for them to find out." Mom wasn't asking many questions. Fortunately, Connie was smart and young, so the "I'm at the library" excuse was still valid and viable. Connie went to get the book, before realizing that Steven's hand was still on top of hers, letting out a slight blush. "O-Okay, where were we?"


Connie felt the water hit her face. "Ooops, I think the kitchen sink is fritzier than I thought." Lapis stated as if it wasn't one hundred percent possible. "Pearl really needs to fix the plumbing around here." As if Pearl let anything deteriorate around her "baby".

"Lapis lazuli". The boy pouted. "I understand you're teasing Amethyst right now, and it's great that you two are teaming up, but please don't be mean to Connie." Steven asked him. "You two can be good friends if you try."

"But that means taking my attention away from you, and I don't want that." Lapis squeezed the boy's puppy dog ​​face hard. "So are you going to start reading Connor or what?"

"My name is Connie."

"That's what I said, Kenny."

Connie sighed and opened the book. “Fuck how they changed. "Do you really think that all art does is watch?" asked the one-eyed one as they took many forms, like a shadow puppet in the moonlight. I invite you to find me, girl. The look of terror when they see my face will be adorable... but I'm pragmatic. They answered."

"So it's a misshapen man in the mirror that sounds super sinister?" asked Lapis Lazuli. "Are you trying to tell me something because I don't like it?"

"That's how it works." Connie rolled her eyes, deciding to explain to the semi-hostile gem. He moves and shifts between forms, shifting and shifting constantly because he doesn't have a form of his own, his whole life is just living someone else's story.

“'Are you taking on some sort of plot?' asked Lisa with a glare. The one-eyed man laughed. 'Do you trust your friends?' I ask you. "Because you have to think twice... I have a partner, hiding among your friends, lying your head off every day while assuming someone else's face."

"Hiding... lying... must be a terrible existence to lead." Steven looked like he was getting a little pale. “Constantly saying one thing when it's not what it seems. What a horrible, horrible fate to meet."

Connie stopped reading. "We can stop if you want, check if the breakfast friends are crying or something." After about three episodes, she had already been sucked into the horrible fandom.

"Its not good." He shook his head, taking a sip of his coconut. “Just talking rubbish and getting in the mood. Continues."

Connie hesitated but continued. Lisa looked at the man. "Never". A simple answer made the magician laugh out loud. You dare accuse me of lying? I am many things, but a man who is not of my word is not one of them. Lisa moved closer to the reflection. 'No. You claim they're lying, but after all we've been through, our bonds will outweigh their malicious conspiracy. I trust my comrades with my life, even if they were once on your side. The one-eyed grin let out a smile that turned into a circle. "Let's see, girl." With a cloud covering the moon, the reflection disappeared, leaving Lisa alone in the dark. Connie reached the end of the chapter. "That's today's segment."

"Wow. You're a great storyteller, Connie." Steven congratulated with that wide, bright smile. Whatever hassles Connie had to deal with, this alone was worth it.

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