originally posted at https://canmom.tumblr.com/post/742576...

Hoo boy this is a bunch of chapters. It’s time for more Flower.

All together now: no, not that flower.

…yeah, I’m having to reach for flower-related videos to keep up this running gag at this point. But hey, look, hear me out here: Kanae Nozawa is really fucking good at playing the erhu. And it’s called ‘Flower Dance’. I think that’s flowery enough.

…yeah, I will take suggestions for the next one. Send me your favourite flower-related videos. Especially if they’re anime and kinda dark.

Anyway, welcome back to my liveblog of The Flower That Bloomed Nowhere, an ongoing serial web novel by @lurinatftbn. Our arc titles today are The Die Falls and Cut-Out Face.


  1. Mystery solution unlocked (somewhat): who is Su?

And this time around, Umineko intensifies. I won’t say too much more than that above the fold this time, because we’re starting to get some mysteries answered (opening more mysteries, naturally). But if you don’t mind spoilers, the space elevator awaits.

So where we left off last time, Su had discovered the body of (probably) Neferuaten. It’s time to get into that part of Umineko where people are dropping like flies and everyone is desperately trying to figure out who’s doing it before it’s their turn. However, in this case, everyone involved is a wizard, so this makes things a little more complicated.

There was one important mystery missing from my list of mysteries, incidentally - the pantry with the signs of aging and the tally marks.

Someone on the Flower discord helpfully pointed out that I’d misremembered the rule on red text. I edited the previous post, but just in case: the rule is that if you get a description of a body in red, it’s definitely a dead human (and that person is definitely really dead, it’s not a spare body or anything). But which dead person? There’s no rule that Su correctly identifies the deceased. So while Su definitely found a body, there’s no guarantee that it’s Neferuaten’s body. It’s not even guaranteed to be a member of the known cast, since we don’t know how many people were already on the island.

Indeed, in this pair of arcs, we start to see characters question the identity of a corpse. So it’s definitely intended that you keep that kind of question in mind whenever Su finds a body.

To broadly outline the events in this arc (as much to keep it straight in my head as anything):

I think that’s all the main points. Lots of moving around.

Having done what I promised not to do and write a plot summary, let’s get on to the actual substance…

Mystery solution unlocked (somewhat): who is Su?

I feel like I should have been able to predict this one, in retrospect.

In logical terms, maybe not deduce it. But with this reveal, the narrative purpose of a lot of earlier scenes falls into place.

So, Su’s unnamed childhood friend - the nerdy academic one who she met on the beach and encouraged her. Well, that friend is in fact Utsushikome of Fusai, or Shiko to her friends!

Wuh? Isn’t that our dear protagonist? No - the character we’re calling ‘Su’ is the mind of the other girl, our POV in that flashback. Or maybe it’s the other way round, I’m a still little unclear on which POV was which in those flashbacks. I’m fairly sure though that POV girl is Su, and the other girl is Shiko. It’s confusing because multiple flashbacks are narrated in the first person - the memories of the beach probably belong to Su, while the memories of the doctor’s office where she learned about ascension probably belong to Shiko.

Anyway, we’re told in chapter 55 a bit more about the mechanics of how arcanists work. Basically, the Tower of Asphodel, in addition to a few hundred thousand human bodies, also has billions of backup minds in the form of ‘pneuma’, a semi-biological element that interacts with the higher planes and basically amounts to a soul. The pneuma encodes memories (redundantly it seems), as well as preferences and habits - it’s something akin to what Seth Dickinson calls the ‘inner law’. In modern times, egomancy - the kind of magic that fucks with pneuma - is highly forbidden.

When humans are born in this world (perhaps more accurately ‘instantiated’), stage 1 is to block the pneuma in the clone and permit a new one to form. Unfortunately this breaks the Power.

It was found that the new generation, the children born from this process, had no capacity to use the Power. Even though it had no visible effect on consciousness or intellect, this alteration to the nature of their pneumas damaged the ability of their minds to take on an Index, meaning that using the Power was impossible. There were cases where this didn’t happen - where the 'trauma’ healed just so - but they were one in a million. So rare as to be useless.

So, to set someone up as an arcanist, you download one of these backed up pneumas from the Tower, and install it over the existing pneuma. But the downloaded pneuma is deliberately weakened so that usually the downloaded personality dissolves quickly and reverts back to the identity of the person who became an arcanist. This process is apparently destructive to the backed up pneuma in the Tower.

So when Lilith said that all arcanists are murderers, what she means is that in a ‘proper’ initiation, you devour the soul of someone from a dead universe in order to steal their admin password.

In Shiko’s case, something different happened. Instead of downloading the soul of someone from a dead universe, she’s got the soul of a regular living girl from her own universe.

Here’s how Su recalls the situation:

“One day, I got a letter. It offered me a whole bunch of stuff… My own house, shares in a bunch of local businesses that’d get me a stream of luxury credit.. If I agreed to go along with something for a couple weeks. That was what it said– A couple of weeks.” Under the table, I was having trouble keeping my legs still. “I thought it was some strange prank at first, but when we met, they seemed really serious. They said it would be best if it was someone who knew her.” “Knew who?” “Oh…” I shifted reluctantly in my seat, my voice getting even quieter. “U-Utsushikome, I mean. I’d known her when we were kids… But we hadn’t spoken in years.” I cleared my throat. I felt so anxious about what was happening that I was shivering. “Anyway. They told me that her grandfather was dying, and there was something he’d been trying to do for years and years, but it was too late for it t-to work out. But they wanted to– I dunno, do the next best thing, give him some peace–”

So, agents of Shiko’s grandfather - who was evidently up to his fucking follicles in conspiracies - approached the girl we’re now calling Su (her original name is not given, for reasons we’ll see), operating under false pretenses. It’s not clear how much they told her, just that it would involve Shiko. She agreed. They extracted the soul from her body and implanted it in Shiko at Shiko’s induction. It seems likely that Shiko’s grandfather intended to do this with his own soul, but could not for some reason? Why they did this with some random girl remains unknown. It’s also not clear why Su of all people should have chmod +x for the Power.

Su was presumably supposed to dissolve back into Shiko’s identity, but probably because the induction was far from normal, she retained her previous identity and Shiko was the one suppressed. Su did her best to try and figure out how to pretend to be Shiko, but Ran - not yet an arcanist herself - noticed her sudden personality change and confronted her. Su came clean, and Ran was all ‘kill yourself, bitch’ over it.

Seriously she does not let up. Here’s some quotes:

This time, she did glance at me, a scowl forming on her face. “Don’t try to act compassionate, you perverted fucking body-snatcher. You’re not my friend.”
She grunted. “Just be late next time. I don’t want you messing with how she looks on your own impulse.”
It was strange, us investigating it together like this. Even though I went along with it, acted repentantly, and had explained to her that the way things were weren’t exactly my fault - that I’d been deceived at the premise of what I’d agreed to do - she wasn’t willing to afford me much charity, but in a way, that was comforting. She was like a beacon of sharp reality in the dreamlike, dissociated existence I was now living.

And so on. Even when Su reveals that her original body is now months dead, and there is no body to go back to, Ran will not cut her a break:

“…this isn’t you getting cold feet about trying to save her, is it?” she asked, suddenly suspicious. “Because you can’t–”
Ran must have realized the absurdity of the statement, because a few moments later she spoke up again– Disgust having crept back into her tone, even if that hint of conflict still remained. “Don’t act sorry for yourself,” she said. “It’s your own fault for going along with something so perverse for your own gain. Blame her grandfather for being such a fucking lunatic, if you want, but don’t act like a victim. No one gives a shit about you.”

People in the comments start pulling out the word ‘abuser’ over this kind of thing and yeah, sucks in air through teeth they’re not wrong. No wonder Su has such a complex nowadays.

It’s notable how much Su’s fantastical scenario here has in common with the experience of plurality/DID. Certain friends who are plural talk about how they may be able to recall alters’ memories, but with difficulty, and it feels like they belong to someone else. And of course there’s the process of forming new alters. Manifesting suddenly in a body full of memories of another person seems like a pretty distressing experience all told, but it’s also something that the other people you’re sharing with can make easier.

I talked a bit more about this in the Baru article on brains, so I won’t reprise it all here. Broadly speaking, if someone is plural, their mind supports different ‘alters’, which are states of being which typically express distinct senses of identity, access to memory, preferences, stream of consciousness etc. Whether you think of them as distinct ‘people’ or distinct states of ‘one person’ seems like a matter of philosophical speculation, but ’co-consciousness’ of alters is not an unusual thing, and sometimes I’ve witnessed externalised disagreements between alters. Since we don’t have any ability to prove the existence of other minds in general, the only surefire way to know what it’s like to be plural is to be plural already. Unfortunately the main way to inculcate plurality seems to be ‘go through severe child abuse’, so it’s not easy to find out. But maybe tulpamancy is real?

Su’s situation is not so different from the recent recurring ‘lesbians and imperialism’ subgenre device of having someone’s mind inserted into a protagonist’s body through some kind of scifi means. In modern ‘plural system’ terms, the word used is ‘introject’: in brief, an alter derived from another person, who often (but not always) understands themselves to be that person even in another body.

The big difference for Su of course is that the other alter she’d hypothetically be sharing this body with has just disappeared. Su can’t talk to Shiko, Shiko’s gone. It’s not actually uncommon for alters to disappear like that, I’ve known people who very rapidly generate and discard identities in an intense traumatic situation, but the timeline doesn’t really fit that here, and it’s pretty much nonexistent I think for all alters but one to disappear and leave someone a singleton again.

I admit I’m not familiar with all the modern taxonomy of what psychiatry terms ‘dissociative disorders’, so perhaps there are other related categories, that are closer to Su’s situation. Of course, even ignoring all the flaws and limitations of the DSM approach, this is a sci-fantasy world in which souls are real and manifest in a specific organ (ironic given how I declared they definitely aren’t real and ‘the body is all that is’ in the first post on this book), so different rules apply!

What’s not clear to me at this point is whether Samium the egomancer is going to be capable of restoring Shiko’s soul in any meaningful way. It seems like when you shove two pneumas into a body, only one survives.

Anyway, as for Ran, she’s clearly backed off on the ‘perverted fucking body-snatcher’ talk, having spent many years building up a friendship with Su and losing sight of her original zeal to save Shiko. Despite this, she really hasn’t owned up to the fact that she’s a big part of the reason Su is so determined to do a special magic suicide.

We could only suppose that if Shiko was brought back at this point, she would be in the exact same situation Su was - suddenly inhabiting a body filled with memories that are not her own, surrounded by people she does not know, and forced to carry on pretending to be the previous occupant. None of Su’s present classmates know Shiko. Shiko’s context was the school, and that is now in the distant past.

Su, however, is carrying The Mega Traumas and has spent however many years defining her life’s purpose as dying to bring back Shiko. She has fully internalised the idea that she’s a monster and doesn’t deserve to live, that it’s somehow her moral responsibility for the twisted experiment that Su’s grandfather performed on these two girls.

At this point, the ‘healthiest’ outcomes are one of two things. Maybe Samium the egomancer could reactivate Shiko’s identity, but without destroying Su, and Su/Shiko can share the body. Being plural doesn’t seem to be so bad. (I admit I don’t know what it’s like, but if there’s anything I’ve observed from knowing people who are plural, it’s that once that cat’s out of the bag and you recognise that you’re plural, you can’t really just try and suppress it. Trying to just will yourself into not switching is going to fuck you up much worse than coming to terms with it and developing ways to interact comfortably and share embodiment with your new headmate. Apparently ’integration’ or fusion of alters is possible, and was traditionally pursued by therapists, but if it’s rushed it just breaks down. And that would be disagreed with by the modern plural identity movement.)

On the other hand, it seems fairly plausible that it won’t be possible to bring back Shiko. In this case, both Su and Ran need to finally grieve their friend who was effectively murdered at a young age by Su’s grandfather, and move on. Easier said than done, of course. And they’re definitely not going to get there if they can’t have a very honest discussion about it. Which doesn’t seem very likely with all these distracting murders.

Anyway, that resolves a few of my list of mysteries…

what skulduggery happened with Su’s ascension that made it go so badly wrong?: Shiki had the soul of her childhood friend, now known as 'Su’, instead of some rando from the Tower of Asphodel.
why did Ran react so badly to knowing that Su can’t assimilate?: she was not yet an arcanist and did not know about what initiation entails. she sees Su as culpable, even though Su was deceived. Su is a stranger and she will happily let a stranger die to save Shiki, and rationalises this.
what did Su’s grandfather have to do with it?: agents claiming to work on behalf of Shiki’s grandfather deceived Su. it seems it was too late to do it with his own mind. it also opens some brand new mysteries.

Now I’ve gone through all the ins and outs of it - this plot is really cool and spicy. So much drama to be had. Now I understand the point of those flashback scenes to Su’s childhood, and it fits so neatly that I wonder how I couldn’t see it before. Not enough imagination! But if this is the wavelength the story is operating on, I should try and imagine similar payoffs for the other mysteries… Anyway, now that we’ve established that body transfers are possible, we might wonder if anyone else had one done. Let me wrap up this section by saying… body-snatcher is a very specific term! It tickles me to think that Ran might have seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). ## The time loop This was described at the outset as a 'control’ scenario, but we have several apparent divergences. And supposedly thousands of iterations of this experiment have already run with slightly different outcomes. Su’s memory is slightly leaking info from the other loops, but for the most part she remains immersed in the scenario. Balthazar, meanwhile, obviously has history with Su from previous runs. This explains Su’s inexplicable feelings of animosity towards him, his knowledge of the name 'Shiki’, and many of his remarks. As mentioned up above, the pantry is somehow not getting rolled back after each loop. This explains why it’s so old. I had previously been assuming it was some kind of 'hyperbolic time chamber’ type scenario, and the tally marks were the time that someone was stuck in the pantry, but this is way more interesting and cool. We have our equivalent of On the ninth twilight, the witch revives, and none shall be left alive. from Balthazar:
“When I said this is a closed circle, I meant it in every sense,” he explained. “In absolutely every instance, for every marking made on that wall… By the time this is over, there isn’t a single person here left alive.”
Presumably either Balthazar or Su is the mark-maker, and they always end up dead after making this mark. I assume they usually mark the wall fairly early in the loop in order to make sure they don’t die too soon before making it! This actually means I think we have a fairly good suspect for the “who knocked out Yantho” case. If Balthazar came here to mark the wall (although why bother, if it’s the final run), and Yantho was about to see him, maybe he’d have panicked and knocked Yantho out? I don’t think that would extend as far as killing the cook and faking her suicide though! Anyway, Balthazar claims this is the final run. One commenter had a little hissy fit about this not fitting the standard time loop story mold, but I’m more inclined to wait and see. Admittedly, I have the unfair knowledge, compared to when this chapter came out, that the story is hundreds of chapters long and still going strong, and given the murders are now going at a rapid pace, I feel like we’ll surely see at least one more loop. Hard to say though. Just because it’s inspired by Umineko doesn’t mean it’s got the same structure. Anyway, let’s revisit the very first chapter given what we now know…
They were also a woman, though you wouldn’t have been able to tell. Everything beneath the head-area was buried under black fabric, without so much as an inch of flesh visible, and their face was covered with a expressionless, androgynous porcelain mask. Otherwise, the outfit evoked something like a funeral gown, with only subtle frills around the cuffs and hem of the skirt.
We can now recognise this is probably the outfit of a member of the Order, back when they hid their identities. The mask sounds similar to how Neferuaten’s mask is described in chapter 31:
It took me a moment to realize which mask she was pointing out, since it was so unremarkable. It was little more than an oval of silver, with holes cut for the two eyes and mouth, and a little dent to accommodate the nose.
Though Nef’s mask is described as silver, not porcelain. We can also get to hear Su’s victory condition.
“Understand this: Your role in the scenario has been elevated from that of bystander to that of the heroine, and your victory condition is thus,” she continued. “You must ascertain the identity of your opponent, the cause of the bloodshed to follow, and prevent it before it comes to pass. In order to accomplish this goal, you must pay close heed to all which transpires, and use deduction, alongside your skills and past experience of the events to follow. Do you understand your role?”
“Should you deviate from your role, the scenario will be compromised, and a grave outcome is forewritten. But should you succeed, then you shall open the path to a brighter future.” She paused for a moment. “That is all. Should we begin?”
It’s not at all clear why this should be the final loop, given that Su seems nowhere near close to 'winning’ at this point. It’s hard to know whether 'the scenario will be compromised’ applies beyond a single loop though. Two more mysteries to put on the list: who is Su’s interlocutor here? And what was Su’s request? One thing I noticed, incidentally, is that chapter 000 was written some time after chapter 1, released 27 July 2020 - the timestamp places it in between chapters 020 (24 July) and 021 (6 August). I don’t think this means anything - the intended version of the story is clearly now the one with the prologue attached - but it’s an interesting example of how a serial novel can evolve with time. Anyway, if the time loop is a challenge for Su to solve, it raises the obvious question of why Balthazar gets to remember the loop. (There’s also incidentally a thing where most of the students’ clocks are mysteriously stopped, with the exception of Ophelia’s and Ran’s.) Anyway, Su (like us) has to solve whodunnit and whydunnit. Though howdunnit is probably also relevant. I’m going to wildly speculate that Su’s identity stuff is somehow connected to the timeloop scenario, just because narrative efficiency. Here are some possibilities to consider: ## Ran’s chapters and the Great Work Ran recounts some of the stuff that happened while Su was out of it. This is later shown to be a diegetic conversation. These chapters are super cool and intriguing. That said, while it starts out fairly believable - Ran’s summaries with her voice - there is something a bit weird about how Ran can quote long conversations verbatim. Admittedly, if Su is telling the story, she is also able to remember everything in incredible detail. But Su has been established to have something like an eidetic memory, at least as far as figures are concerned, so I can sorta handwave that part. Though that said, it’s just a minor stylistic quibble. Putting it in Ran’s mouth is an interesting device. Ran’s inner voice is quite sarcastic, way more so than Su, who is honestly painfully sincere? More importantly, these chapters are not marked with a first purple letter to confirm they are reliable. This is a narrative that Ran is telling Su. We can probably assume the broad details are accurate-ish, but it’s entirely possible that Ran is lying or omitting things according to the rules of the game. Anyway, the students are all taken down to a huge chamber underneath the Everblossom that’s full of fractal cables and complicated magic runes that use a city’s worth of eris to interface with the Ironworker entropy machine. So far it lets them essentially perfectly recover information from the past, allowing them to do stuff like de-age Anna. It’s a little bit handwavey how it all works. Anna’s memories appear to be intact, so her entire body can’t have been rolled back. We could raise all sorts of questions about motion and the interface between brain and body but it’s a nitpicking. What we know is that after Fang brings out a piece of iron and it’s integrated into the machine… Anna goes offscreen with the other members of the Order, and then comes back appearing much younger, and they claim the machine worked as intended. Not much time to celebrate though because shortly after, the murders start. There remains the possibility that the younger individual we’re being told is Anna is… not Anna, but someone else acting as her (perhaps even Neferatuen). Though why the Order would deceive the students in such a way I couldn’t guess, so it’s a pretty dubious theory. ## The murders The murder of Bardiya is fairly extensively discussed by the characters. The two scenarios raised are: Theo attacked Bardiya, then lied about it, or, an unknown party ducked in while the shield was lowered very briefly, then attacked Bardiya through the window. Given the specifity of the window stuff, I’m inclined to believe the second story. Theo definitely has something going on with him (he’s been super cagey about some personal business), but he doesn’t have a murderer vibe, unless he’s an improbably good actor. The capabilities of the adversary remain unclear. It’s also possible that the death somehow involved an adverse interaction with Linos’s shield. This possibility was raised by a commentator. …actually, fine, let me go into Linos’s shield. ## Linos’s shield (or the inevitable nitpicking) The main group of characters rely on Linos’s high level casting of a shielding spell called energy-nullifying-projecting. This takes incoming energy and redirects it back out. We get more details later:
“The base component terminates all motion in anything that comes into contact with it and essentially acts as a brick wall on top of blocking incoming incantations, while the additional one conjures an electromagnetic repelling force, physically damaging any matter that tries to pass through it.”
“Wait, uh, I’m kind of confused,” Ptolema said, scratching her head. “If it works like that, wouldn’t just moving it around damage stuff? Like, when you expanded it to cover the kitchen, shouldn’t it have smashed the wall to bits?” “Mm, well, the energy nullification doesn’t actually apply when I move the barrier, so as long as everything I’m expanding it through is motionless already, then it’ll just pass through harmlessly. I do have to disable the repulsive component for those times, though— There’s an element of the incantation to give me dynamic control over it.”
My nitpicks are two: firstly, Ran mentioned special relativity applies to this universe in an earlier chapter. 'Motionless’ is relative, and in Newtonian physics and relativity, you don’t have a 'preferred’ reference frame in which things can be 'absolutely’ at rest. So I wonder how the spell is able to distinguish between 'thing moving towards Linos’ (block) vs 'Linos moving towards thing’ (don’t block). My second nitpick is thermal motion. Even a solid object is constantly full of random lattice vibrations corresponding to temperature. Negating all motion that touches the barrier would amount to flash-freezing anything that comes into contact. Though perhaps you can 'code’ it to identify macro-scale objects in motion and block them. Neither of these are like important. Anyway here’s how Bardiya’s death is described by Theo…
“I… Bardiya was right up near the window at the far side of the room, when I turned. I only saw him clearly for a moment before the lamp fell over… But the window was open, and he was staring out of– No, rather, it almost looked like he was being pulled by something. One of his arms reached out to try and grab hold of something, but there was nothing.” He shook his head. “When the light was gone, I tried to call out, but I couldn’t hear a sound from my own mouth… Or from anywhere at all. And then, I… I…” He ran his hands urgently through his hair, as if trying to wipe something off them, and gasped urgently. Mehit, who was sitting next to him, stared wide-eyed. “I couldn’t see well, but it looked like something was… Was
feeding on him,” he went on. “He kept being pulled out through the window over and over again, and every time, there was more and more blood when he pulled back. I could even feel some of it splatter on my face, see the light reflecting off the puddle… And more than anything, I could smell it. It was like a butcher’s shop, but sickly sweet.” He shuddered. “E-Eventually, whatever it was let him go, and he slumped down. I’d been too shocked to move up until that point, but realized I needed to help him, so… I tried to step forward. I still couldn’t hear my own voice, so I tried to turn his body around. That’s when I… That close, I could see…”
Getting pulled out of the window by an unseen force and torn to bits definitely sounds kinda like getting caught in a repulsive barrier, right? Then again, there’s no reason Bard would stick his hand out the window unless forced. It’s a shame, I liked Bardiya. Had a good head on his shoulders. But hey, I guess that’s the point! You always kill the fan appeal character first for maximum tragedy points. (By the same token, I expect Ezekiel will last a long time.) Durvasa we have less information to go on, since the corpse was arranged decoratively post killing. As we’ve observed, it might not even be Durvasa. I’m too tired now to try to solve this one, but I might do a followup, to comment on any other stuff that stands out, later. Great story, anyway. I’m so intrigued by all that’s going on. I accidentally posted this instead of sending it to drafts, so I’m gonna unprivate it now, see you next time for more on these chapters or maybe just advancing straight to the next batch! Thanks for reading my liveblog! And if you read this Lurina, great work, this book kicks ass, so many intriguing ideas and moving parts, I have no idea how you keep track of it all lol. Umineko liveblog to pick up after sleep hopefully. We’ll see though.


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