The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of Dating A Drug Addict

Ask a crack ho about dating advice. Had me in tears![1:31]

Ask a crack ho about dating advice. Had me in tears![1:31] submitted by modern_zenith to videos [link] [comments]

[Part 3] The Tolstoy Wing

[Part 1] can be found here, the previous entry here.
- - -
After several hours of driving I arrived at a small wooden jetty, unmarked and overgrown as I was told it would be. There were two small rowing boats moored on either side as well as a third on the opposite bank. I paddled across, and after climbing the ridge on the other side I spotted a small brick house nestled on a plateau halfway up the mountain.
The weather was bleak. Grey clouds blotted out the sun and I was pelted by a cold rain that bounced off my head and shoulders like hail. As I reached the plateau I took a moment to catch my breath and turned to drink in the vista spread out behind me. The world was beautifully still in that moment, peaceful in its monochrome misery. As I moved to turn away I spotted a large black car meander along the narrow dirt track I had taken, slowing briefly as it passed my own before speeding away.
I made my way up to the house and pounded on the door, and it was gingerly answered by a squirrelly little fellow with a bushy salt-and-pepper beard. Somehow, he didn't seem particularly surprised to see me.
'Ah,' he said once we were seated in a dim and dirty kitchen. The stone walls were flecked with patches of dark mould. The beams above my head were black with a century of grease. 'I'm surprised it took you so long to find us.'
'Mrs. Taggart got a message to you after all then?'
'Who? Good lord, Beryl? No I haven't spoken to her in years. Wait a minute, are you not... with them?'
'I'm not with anyone sir. I'm uh, looking into my uncle's murder. I thought you might be able to help me find his killer.'
The old man chuckled, apparently relieved.
'I'm a historian not a detective mate.'
I pulled two photographs from my breast pocket, both versions of the druidic symbol.
'What can you tell me about this?'
He sighed, disappointed.
'Did you see anyone else on your way up here?'
'No?' I shrugged. 'Wait, yes, a black car drove by not ten minutes ago.'
'Ho bloody 'ell.'
He wrung his head in his hands for a long moment, then stood and pulled me into an adjacent room towards a bookcase on the far wall. He tweaked a hidden lever and it sprung open to reveal a set of stone steps. He passed me a torch and pointed into the darkness.
'Go,' he said. 'I'll be with you in a moment.'
Figuring I could overpower him if this was some kind of trap, I obeyed and the bookcase clicked shut behind me. I was in a small concrete basement set up like a bomb shelter complete with bunks, a chemical toilet, and stacks of canned food.
I sat down on one of the bunks and waited, thumbing 'record' on the dictaphone in my pocket: the rest of the dialogue in this entry is transcribed verbatim. My eyes were eventually drawn to an open cabinet in the middle of the room. There were guns inside; a couple of shotguns, a WWII era rifle, a small snub-nosed revolver, and boxes of ammunition for all of them. Without thinking I grabbed the revolver and loaded it. As the last bullet slid into the chamber the bookcase popped open once more and the old man returned, his arms around the shoulders of an even older gentleman.
'Bit of help if you wouldn't mind?'
I pocketed the gun and helped ease the older fellow into one of the bunks.
'That symbol of yours. It's rare.'
'I know. What can you tell me about it?'
The historian pulled the bookcase closed, locked it tight, and pulled a curtain across.
'Lower your voice please,' he said. He sat on one of two small chairs and gestured to the other. He lit a few candles and a warm orange glow swelled to fill the room. I turned off my torch.
'Well?' I whispered.
'Myself and Mrs. Taggart wrote a book about ancient cultures and religious sects that have persisted to the present, and this symbol was one of my personal favourites. You see, this particular sect was impenetrable, so secretive nobody had even heard of them. My friend over there was my source, you see he used to be one of them. They've been trying to find him, and myself, for many years now. Unfortunately it looks like you led them right here.'
I began profusely apologising but he raised a silencing hand.
'You weren't to know. Now you do.'
'But why?'
'To keep the secret, and this is why conducting your investigation puts you at risk. They wouldn't have been able to follow you here were they not already watching.'
We sat in silence for a while. I could hear something, a distant rattling and then the crunch of broken glass. At one point there were audible footsteps across the floorboards directly above our heads. I pulled the revolver from my pocket and the historian nodded approvingly. He eased one of the shotguns out of its case and began slowly loading a pair of shells into it.
The next day the noises returned, louder this time as more bodies arrived and began to tear the place apart. All we could do was sit silently in the candlelight and hope we weren't discovered.
Halfway through the third day the historian agreed that it had been long enough since he last heard anything for us to peek our heads out and have a look. I stalked around the house as quietly as I could with my back against the wall, bursting gun-first into each room like I had seen cops do in the movies.
The place was trashed but otherwise empty. They had ripped out everything, even the plaster from the walls and the power cables from their sockets.
'They probably thought we managed to sneak away somehow. We should do that now while they're busy scratching their heads.'
'We could take my car-'
'No, they would have sabotaged it, or put a tracker on it. If they're still watching anything out here it'll be your car I reckon.'
'Not this place?'
'From where? Too dark and cold. Our only way out of here is across the moor. At night.'
I shuddered at the thought but reluctantly agreed. We crept back into the hidden basement and filled two knapsacks with food and camping gear. The historian produced three thick fleecy jackets and we all suited up. I was worried for the older gentleman, worried that at best he might slow us down and at worst could die of exposure.
We set off down the mountain away from the river. We went slow and steady; the historian wouldn't let us use our lights and the ground was most treacherous. I pointed out a little copse of trees as a potential campsite, but both the historian and the old man shook their heads.
'No trees,' said the old man. It was the first time I'd heard him speak.
We eventually pitched a small tent under the eaves of an exposed ridge, huddling together until first light when we continued the journey. It was almost the following nightfall when we reached the nearest town, and after we stashed the guns in a bush outside I paid cash for three rooms at a small inn on the outskirts. We washed, ate, rested up for a few hours, and then met at the bar where I intended to push for more information.
The old man looked distant, staring off into space with a dram of whiskey clutched in his gnarled fingers. The historian was slumped beside him with his head in his hands. His eyes were fixed on his untouched beer.
I bought myself a glass of red wine and joined them.
'Thanks for the room,' said the historian. 'I'll get the money back to you somehow.'
'Don't worry about it. It's my fault we're here at all, right?'
He shrugged his shoulders.
'Mind if I ask you a few questions?' I eventually pushed.
'I called a friend of mine when we first arrived.' He nodded at a pay phone in the corner. 'A car will be arriving for us soon. Me and him I mean, you should make your own arrangements. Speaking of cars, you shouldn't go back to yours. Feign mechanical failure. Get it towed, then sell it. Use a proxy if you can.'
A took a deep gulp of wine and sucked my teeth, struggling to make eye contact.
'Fine, uh, I appreciate the advice. Now I'm sorry, you gotta tell me: who are they?'
The historian sighed and rolled his eyes, then finally took a slow sip of his pint as he considered a response.
'You can't beat them mate, stop this, yeah? I tried and got lucky time after time but I barely scratched the surface. And look at me now! This is all a fool's errand, trust me.'
'They killed my uncle.'
'They kill people sometimes, I'm sorry but that's the way it is.'
'I'm not willing to let this go.'
'Don't you understand? The more you know the more danger you're in, the more rocks you turn over the bigger the target on your back grows.'
Realising we had at this point both considerably raised our voices, I caught a reproachful glare from the barmaid and resolved to shut my mouth. I looked away and finished my drink, and was contemplating another when I witnessed a change come over the old man. He was grinning at me. The glazed look in his rhuemy little eyes was now ablaze with furious focus.
'You're a daft boy ain't you?' he clucked. 'Dunno with what your meddling with son, and all because we killed your uncle? Heh.'
'We?'
The historian must have seen my fists bunch and my shoulders tense up because he raised his palms.
'No-no, it's not what you think. He's not with them anymore, trust me.'
'What do you know about it?' I hissed at the old man. 'What do you know about it?' I turned my glare to the historian.
'Oh for god sake...' The historian wrung his hands and stared at his boots. 'Like I told you he was with them once, back in the 50's through to the 80's, but he managed to get away. Lived on the run ever since. I helped him hide and in exchange he gave me information.'
'Which you then published.'
'His story made its way into some of my books, yes. Rest assured he's not with them, hasn't been for a long time, and has no contact. They want him dead even more than me. Even more than you.'
The bar door swung open and a bald-headed man in a trim black suit and leather driving gloves glanced around. His attention settled on us and the historian gave him a subtle nod.
'Time for us to go,' said the historian. He drained his almost full pint in one swallow and heaved himself onto his feet. 'We won't see each other again but my advice stands; stay away unless you want to disappear.'
The old man was still grinning at me.
'You want my advice?'
'Sure,' I replied.
'Read more books.' He stared at a beer mat on the table and tapped it hard with a long finger. 'Nobody reads anymore. Science Fiction was aways my favourite; dreams of the future.' He spread his arms wide in wonder. 'And of the Uncanny.'
He glared at me with that last word and tapped his temple as he had the beermat. Then they left, and I never saw either of them again. The driver on the other hand, the bald man, we would run into one another again at a later date but that's a story for another day.
I ordered another wine and sat in a booth out of sight where I could enjoy it in quiet solitude. I thought about every word the old man had said, wringing them over and over in my mind until something clicked. I bolted back to the table we had shared and flipped the beermat: Cleckheaton Hall, Room 183 was scrawled in uneven blocky letters.
Some time later I made it home, and taking the historian's advice called to have my car towed and sold at auction as-is. I mailed the keys that afternoon.
Cleckheaton Hall as it turned out was a stately home, now a hotel in the town of the same name. It is also one of several locations visited on my travels that no longer exists. There is no record in books, newspapers or on the internet, nobody in the local community remembers it, and at the site of that huge gothic cuboid is merely an unkempt and overgrown wood frequented only by doggers and fly-tippers.
Cleckheaton Hall was only an hour's drive from my home, so I borrowed my sister's van and crawled around the backroads until I was sure I wasn't being followed before heading straight over. I winced when I saw it, not for its enormous brooding size or imposing black spires, but because it looked so expensive.
'I'd like to book a room please,' I told the smiling receptionist. 'For tonight if that's no trouble.'
'Not at all,' she replied. 'We're pretty quiet this time of year. Have you visited us before?'
'A few times,' I lied.
'Do you have a favourite floor or wing?'
'Is room 183 available?'
She furrowed her brow thoughtfully and consulted the system.
'I'm afraid not sir, 160 through to 190 are all privately-owned rooms.'
'You have permanent residencies here?'
She chewed the inside of her cheek.
'Not exactly,' she said. 'I mean, they're empty as far as I know, but this is a super old house with all kinds of history. Those rooms are all in the Tolstoy Wing.'
'Named after the Russian writer?'
'No sir, after the benefactor who paid to have it built. No relation as far as I know.'
'And when was it purchased may I ask?'
'Oh goodness...' She slowly shook her head, pouted and widened her eyes; unsure. 'At least a hundred years ago, maybe longer. Maybe way longer. You should ask Basil the groundskeeper, he knows all about the history of this place.'
'Okay thank you miss.' I took my key. 'You take care now.'
My room wasn't far from the Tolstoy Wing, on the fourth floor with a narrow balcony overlooking a walled-in courtyard. The corridors were long and winding, and the walls, ceilings and even floors were bowed and warped, twisted by time. The place was largely empty, though I had passed two different maids and their trollies as well as a pair of fellow guests after an afternoon spent pacing around and exploring. I once spotted from a second floor window the groundskeeper tending a vegetable bed, but he was gone by the time I worked my way downstairs and outside.
I chose to walk the grounds and marvelled in the beautiful gardens, topiary, and even a small hedge maze. Did one man really do all this? Looking at the size and relative emptiness of the place it was easy to imagine the estate freezing all but the most essential of expenditures.
Some of the topiary pieces were different from the others; the replica of the Great Sphinx and the train with its 5 carriages, the spheres and the pyramids, all were pristine. However anything that resembled a human form looked neglected; all (and I passed at least a dozen) were trailing a veil of vines and were swollen to the proportions of an astronaut, spacesuit and all.
Circling the hotel so closely I began to gather a feeling of the place. I could see where the oldest core of the building fanned out into spiral arms of increasingly modern architecture. A barn conversion-type event space here, a conservatory there, even a bladed arch of glass that from the faded signs in the front window was a half-finished and long-abandoned restaurant.
Then there was the Tolstoy Wing.
It was leeched onto one corner of the house like some great squat parasite, it's proboscis buried deep into the stonework to no doubt form the singular connecting door I had thus far been unable to locate from the inside. The exterior was almost entirely swaddled in thick ivy and other climbing plants, though I could just about make out an arching churchlike shape to it.
I spent some time wandering around looking for another door or even a window but the entire thing was sealed tight behind foliage. It was like a second skin, and quite beautiful to behold where it flowered into blossoms of red and purple.
After some more searching I discovered an unlocked shed and decided to look for some bolt cutters or perhaps a saw, intending to cut my way through to a window. Before I found anything I heard a cough nearby and managed to straighten up and look casual in time for the groundskeeper to appear. I clicked the 'record' button on the dictaphone in my pocket.
'Are you lost?' he barked at me. I could immediately tell he was suspicious.
'Just having a walk around,' I told him. 'I presume that's allowed?'
'And I presume you're a patron?' he snipped back.
'Of course.'
'Well then.' He sucked his teeth in defeat. 'I'll leave you to it. Lots to do.'
'I'll bet. Before you go, can I ask you something? About the Tolstoy Wing?'
He tensed up and looked away.
'What in the hell would you wanna know about that place for, eh? You some kind of journalist?'
'No.' I widened my eyes slightly and raised my hands in faux shock. 'A friend of mine had stayed here before and recommended a specific room. When I asked the receptionist for it she told me it was private. I guess I remembered the number wrong or something, I'm only curious.'
'Stay away from it, alright?' he told me sternly. 'I've had enough shit with these things as it is.' He jerked a thumb over one shoulder where there stood a trio of of the neglected humanoid topiary pieces.
'What do you mean?'
'Forget it. Just don't go near the place or there'll be trouble.'
'Well,' I began, formulating my response. 'I wasn't going to but you've piqued my interest now. What's so forbidden about it?'
The groundskeeper narrowed his eyes to slits beneath the brim of a battered flat cap. He reluctantly came closer and sighed irritably.
'It was a kind o' safehouse, an 'orrible little bolthole for a group of the creepiest fuckers I ever laid my eyes on. I were a boy at the time, helping my Da' and learning the ropes when I first saw 'em. The wing itself looked the same even in that time, still wrapped up tight in climbing plants. You could see a few windows though. I let 'em grow over.'
'Who were they?'
'Dunno. I thought priests at first, then maybe philosophers. When I got older and learned about the Freemasons I thought maybe I'd cracked it, but me Da' was a Freemason himself and told me those men weren't it. They wouldn't all be there all year round like, but there was always a light on inside even when I thought they'd all cleared out.'
'Even now?'
'Not for a few years but they'll be back. They always are, ever since Tolstoy built the place in 1649.'
'It's that old?'
'Oh aye. You American or somethin'? Everything's that old around here. Thing is I caught a few peeks during those youthful years when I was daft and brave.'
'What did you see?'
'Experiments. Shelves full of jars and chemicals, all those glass tubes and beakers and things.'
'Sounds like a drug lab,' I muttered.
The groundskeeper chuckled and grinned, perhaps warming to me a little.
'Nah nothin' like that. The very first time I scaled the ivy and looked into a window I saw a big wooden table and some of the men in weird medical outfits. They were doing things to plants, just everyday plants like, performing weird autopsies usin' instruments I've never seen before or since.'
'Instruments?'
'Aye, wooden clockwork things, though some had electronics and battery packs strapped to 'em too. I remember one in particular was like a fat pencil, rigid as you'd expect, but when they passed it over the plant it would pulse an' twitch like a fuckin' witchety grub. Horrid it was. They could somehow read its movements which they wrote in this massive leather-bound ledger. Whenever they'd leave en masse they'd take the ledger with 'em. Thing is, they kept it in this thick stone box that took 6 of 'em to lift.'
'Why the box?'
'No idea.'
'This is fascinating,' I admitted. 'And very spooky I have to say.'
The groundskeeper was on a roll now. He even pulled a thin black cigar from his breastpocket and sparked up with a kitchen match.
'You haven't heard the half of it mate.' He took a deep lungful of smoke and exhaled throatily. 'Neither me nor me Da' ever spoke to any of 'em directly, but they left instructions with hotel management which were passed onto him an' then me when I took over. Y'see, the topiary hedges are part of the job an' always have been, but the man-shaped ones aren't my work. They grow like that.'
'Bollocks,' I told him; I couldn't help myself.
'Aye I'll forgive ye for thinkin' such, but no it ain't bollocks I'm afraid. I call 'em 'mimicweed' but thing is, it ain't even the same plant every time. Was a rosebush once.'
'What do you do with them?'
'Kill 'em, dig 'em out, burn 'em. It's not easy though, they don't like being pulled up.'
'What do you mean?'
'They're just dead hard to remove, even the ones formed from plants that should be easy. Big, thick white roots that go deep and wide, and wrap tightly around anythin' they find in the soil, rocks, pipes, other plants you name it. I'm on me own out here and every time I get rid of one two more pop up.'
'Fancy a hand?' I offered without thinking.
His bushy eyebrows perked up at that and he considered his wristwatch.
'You sure? With your help we could do 'em all this afternoon I reckon, but like I say it's hard work.'
'Sure.'
He wasn't kidding. I spent hours breaking my back plunging that spade into the soil over and over, but the experience gave me ample opportunity to examine the so-called 'mimicweed' in more detail. The groundskeeper had clearly been telling the truth; the roots on these plants were like nothing I'd ever seen before, pale rubbery white, some as thick as my wrist, most wrapped in a vicelike deathgrip around every surrounding object.
Above ground their growth was even stranger. Most plants tend to have a thick stem or trunk, and any branches then subdivide over and over smaller and smaller stretching up to the sun until they end in the smallest leafy twigs. The mimicweed was very different. The swollen roots were connected to a short trunk that stretched up into the 'crotch' of the figure where it then branched a little like a five-pointed star to form the limbs and spinal column. From these thickest branches grew only the thinnest of twigs, but they grew in a consistent and extremely dense pattern. It looked to me like a poor imitation of hair or fur.
We dragged them all to a small woodchipper at the back of the hotel and the groundskeeper gleefully fed them in limb-by-limb. Twilight was beginning to descend by the time we finished, and so we built a small fire and shared a few drams of whiskey.
'The last time I looked inside that place was a lot like the first,' he eventually told me. 'Those creepy fuckers all stood in their lab around the big wooden table doing their dissections and their autopsies. Not plants this time though, oh no, this time they were cutting up animals, all kinds of things, ferrets, cats, birds, toads, a goat, a small sheep. All of 'em were carefully spread open, scanned with those weird objects and the results written in that ledger of theirs. There was so much blood I could smell it through the glass.'
He shuddered and looked away.
'I can understand why you'd want me to keep away from it. I appreciate the explanation.'
'Ey you earned it.' He raised his glass and I tapped mine against it. 'I've been here all my life but that place is like a black hole. We don' go near it, none of us. Never have.'
I noticed something catch the firelight, a circular silvery object that hung from a chain around his ruddy jowled neck.
'What's that may I ask, a St. Christopher?'
'Nope, an ancient Roman denarius. Me Da' gave it to me when I were little, said it'd protect me from the worst of the shenanigans that go on around here.'
I pulled my uncle's coin from one pocket and held it up between forefinger and thumb.
'Would you believe it, I carry something similar.'
'Aye well keep it close,' he warned me sagely. 'Keep it very close, especially around these parts.'
I thanked him for the drink and told him I was heading off for some dinner. On my way back to the hotel under the cover of impending darkness I swiped a pair of bolt cutters, resolving to get inside the Tolstoy Wing later that night.

[Part 4] can be found here.
submitted by OneWhoRemembers to nosleep [link] [comments]

Roommate replaces me while I'm out of state but offers to help me find a new place. I send her to dozens of apartments, and she does indeed find me a new (hellish) residence.

Could be a case of double backfired malicious compliance? You be the judge.
During university I lived in a shared house with 4-8 other students. It was a fun, chill group, we often partied together, cooked together, shared bills and chores easily, etc. I was loving it, having lived with a number of horrible roommates in in the past. I had been in this house about 6 months and planned to finish out my studies there, which would have been another year and a half.
One roommate, Janice, actually held the lease and was kind of the "house boss". That is, she organized cleaning, groceries, bills, and whatnot, including mediating roommate drama extremely well, and as she was extremely kind and fair about it all we were happy to have her in that role. For example once there was a growing tension about the growing number of fruit flies and kitchen moths (?) flying around. Tempers were getting high about who was letting this pestilence grow, but Janice stepped in and solved the problem. In front of everybody, she emptied every single cupboard and drawer and opened every package of food until she found the rotting mango generating the flies, and the larva-infested cereal spawning those awful moths. Instead of being angry at the culprit, she kind of harangued us into forgiving him (for the small price of him buying the house a bag of shrooms, stipulated at half an ounce per roommate).
If Janice had one weakness, it was that she was extremely wealth conscious. She came from a poor background and longed for the trappings of money. This was mostly harmless, like sporting a fake watch and a fake accent in front of certain people, but less harmless was her sucking up to richer people. One day she started dreaming out loud about how cool it would be to get Kevin living in the house - his dad had a sick cottage we could maybe use, he was always buying booze, etc. I saw her sometimes looking thoughtfully at the other roommates when she talked like this, like she was dreaming about who to cut. The problem for her was that we were such a cohesive group that there was nobody who wasn't pulling their weight as roommates. But I was in a weak position.
At this time my huge concern was that Janice knew I had a big field season coming up. I was studying desert ecology at the time, which meant leaving the province for a full 4 months in the summer. I made it totally clear to her that I was keeping my room. My rent was automatically sent to her every month. There was no way I live anywhere else, as I'd be out of town and in that city you need to apply in person. I said several times, clearly, "keep my room free".
Then it hit. I was literally putting on my shoes to leave for the summer when she awkwardly approached, saying, and I'll never forget her exact words, "hey Mike [my name], is your room all set for Kevin? It didn't sound like you were coming back so I told him he could have the room." She was shame faced. I was floored. My mouth slowly opened, I turned the door handle, and I left.
The next day I called her from the bus. I knew that the deal was sealed. But, knowing her, I knew that with a bit of flattery for her organizational abilities I could get her to help me out. I also knew that she was ashamed of herself - I saw it on her face - and had no desire to antagonize her. She answered with a quaver in her voice, asking how the bus ride was going, making some nervous chit-chat. I came right to the point and said something like "holy shit, you'll never believe it, I totally forgot to line up a new place for the fall, now I have no idea how I'm going to work it out." She was audibly relieved. She had been forgiven. She said "Oh that sucks! I can help though, I have lots of time, just send me some ads and I'll check them out for you! I can vouch for you at the same time and put in your applications!"
Now for the malicious compliance. I took her at her word - and then some. Every night, I'd skim the apartment ads and copy any that were in my budget and in the neighborhood I wanted. Then I'd send Janice the links with a cheerful note: "thanks so much for checking these out! I hope we can find a place quickly! Hate to arrive back to and be homeless!" The implied threat here was that if she didn't find me a place I'd tell everybody what she'd done, making her look like a fucking prick.
She fully picked up the threat. I heard from other friends that she was basically working a part time job just to find me a room. Every day she'd head out with a list of places and talk me up to the landlords like she was campaigning to win me a senate seat. She exhausted her whole social network, she praised me to everybody she met, but after a few weeks of this, and I think about 40 apartment viewings, nothing materialized.
I fully intended to milk her offer for the whole summer, but I was starting to get the feeling that she thought her obligations were pretty much met. She had spent weeks publicly declaring how much she liked me and how cool I was, and showing everybody how hard she was working for my sake. I kept getting messages from other people like "wow, janice is desperate to pimp you out". I figured I had nothing left to hold over her and that the jig was nearly up. I broadened my search a bit outside of the student ghetto and into the adjoining slum. Suddenly, success! For Janice, at least.
I sent her to a house advertised as being for young professionals. There were two roommates: the owner (a social worker) and his friend, a wood carver. Despite the pretentious ad, the rent was incredibly cheap, and the neighborhood was an easy bike ride to campus. To be honest it looked like a lot less fun than my past place, but, well, I needed to wrap this up quick before I lost my agent. Janice wrote me: "Looks fine. Your room is furnished. The guys are really into heavy metal I think? They have a skull doorknocker and a lot of weird flags in the basement. They're a bit old maybe (35?) but seem nice. They said you can come!" So I texted the guy and worked it out. We set a date (perfect for my schedule) and a rent (incredibly cheap). The ease of this transaction should have rung my warning bells...
Little did I know, this transaction was Janice's own malicious compliance. I had asked her to look at this place and apply for me. She did indeed do that. In complying with my stated wishes she plunged me into a nightmare.
The summer passed. I got back to the city at about 11:00 one night and showed up to my new home. There was in fact a skull doorknocker, one of those very corny sculptures that often feature dragons, skulls, mushrooms, and other badass imagery. I looked forward to meeting the social-worker / metal head / dragon sculpture collector, who I imagined would be a lot more interesting than the awkward cactus professor I had been tenting with for the last months.
I knocked. No answer. I rang. No answer. I smoked a cigarette and knocked and rang again. Nothing. I tried the door - it was open and the lights were on. I stepped in, loudly scuffing my feet, and kicking over a pile of beer cans. Two guys were sprawled out drunk on the floor lying in their own vomit. There were dozens of empties scattered everywhere. I nudge one guy and he lurches onto his back, hacks up a lung, and yells at the top of his voice "MIKE!! MIIIIIKE! Where were you man?! We were ready to party! You didn't drink your share and we got all fucked up! FUCK!! We passed out!" This was Cal, the landlord.
The house reeked. He showed me the room. It was furnished: it had a dresser and a broken night table, but no bed. Luckily I had a sleeping pad. He showed me the filthy bathroom. The toilet was fully black inside, a state I hadn't seen before and haven't seen since. Cal was fully drunk during this tour, slurring constantly and trailing off into nothing, lurching back and forth in the hall. The place obviously sucked but I was game. I had lived in some shit holes already, and the rent was so low. But the guy! He honestly looked like a late stage cancer patient. His eyes and skin were yellow and he reeked.
While we were talking lease terms he passed out on my floor and I had to drag him out by his feet. This was incredibly awkward. I had been awake and on the road for over 24 hours by this point. I was exhausted. I knew I was moving into a dump - what else could it be for $250 a month - but I did not know that I would be dragging my vomit smeared landlord into the living room, blazing a trail through crushed empties and cigarette butts. I cursed that fucking Janice - had she known!?
I laid him on his side so he wouldn't puke and die. Then I figured I'd better move the other guy too, who was flat on his back and also covered in puke. As soon as I touched him he screamed - howled in terror - and leapt away from me and across the room, crashing into the wall. I'm like "uh, hey..." and he screams again, eyes flashing, cowering against the wall in abject fear... and then kind of comes back to himself. He stands up, wavering a bit. "Oh, hey man. You're Mike? Justin. Too bad we didn't get to party! Sorry for the yelling, I have bad anxiety and I think you woke me out of a nightmare. Cal set you up in your room? Cool. Cool. Well, anyway, think I'll pass out, really nice meeting you man, let's get a beer tomorrow, eh? Goodnight." He lay back down in the vomit, on his side, and instantly started snoring. Cal was snoring too. I went to bed.
Scenes from the house:
  • Cal asks me to party tonight. I agree. We go in the basement, which is 5 feet high, and which is the designated party room. It's completely decorated with skull and wizard statues, and nylon flags of various metal bands. They start to drink beer and play metal. They get fucked up, then extremely fucked up, and all this time the music is too loud to talk. Justin takes out a machete and starts hacking the ceiling, Cal rolling around the tiny burrow, tears streaming down his cheeks from laughing, and I think I'd better go. They're still drinking when I get up for a piss at 3 am, and are still partying in the morning when I leave for class. I wonder about their stamina. Drugs?
  • Cal is an alcoholic, he tells me within the first 2 days, and he hates it. I point out that his eyes are kind of yellow. Liver? He doesn't know but he's worried. Should he go to the doctor? I say yes, and he does. "You're a college guy, right? Biologist? You know this stuff". The next day: results: his liver is inflamed and he needs to lay off the booze. Furthermore he learned why he hadn't been able to breathe through his nose for the last few weeks: his sinuses had filled completely with blood and it had congealed. "Thanks man! Glad I went !"
  • Screaming from the computer room. Terrified shrieks from Justin. Cautiously I poke my head in. Everything ok? "NO man this is not ok at all". Justin visibly shivers. "LOOK". He reloads this youtube video of a ghost sighting. He shudders as his presses play. Reader, I beg you to watch that video. It's only a few seconds. He hits play and after 2 seconds a blue blob appears. I start to laugh but he howls - I see his face - his eyes are bugged - he is terrified of this gas station apparition. "have you EVER seen a ghost mike?". He is staring at me, sweating, his eyes blazing, he is completely earnest. "you KNOW they're real, right?" I say yeah, I guess, they could be... and I notice that his thighs are visibly drenched from where he's been rubbing his sweating hands. His face - I swear to god - is pulsing between beet red and stark white every few seconds. I leave the room and google "what are the signs of a crack head"
  • Cal quit drinking! He can prove it: he has 6 new xbox games, which will take up money and time which he would normally spend on booze. I don't think I've mentioned it till now but neither of these guys had jobs, so they needed a lot of activities to fill out the day. When I get home that night, Cal is drunk.
  • Justin really was a wood carver. He shows me pictures on his phone of extremely ornate and beautiful sculptures, some with him standing proudly beside them. Years later this memory has stuck with me strongly. What happened to him?
  • The noise is getting a bit much. I can't study at home and can only sleep half the nights. These guys can really party! One memorable time they were in the basement without food, drinking, yelling, and blaring music, for over 2 days. By now I'm sure they're on crack or meth or something.
  • As I'm leaving home one morning at 7, a black escalade (rare in this neighborhood) pulls up and drops off Cal. He's wearing a beautiful black suit and is stone cold sober. I start to greet him "where you been?" But he gives his head a tiny shake and walks straight into the house.
  • Cal and I struck up an unlikely friendship. Years later I don't know how to explain it, but although we had nothing in common we enjoyed each other's company. I didn't drink with him again after that first time. We started seeking each other's advice, small things at first, but eventually I was bringing him social and emotional problems (he actually was a licensed therapist) and he was bouncing his own problems off of me. It turned out that he was a voracious reader and we had much the same taste, and we ended up talking books for hours at a stretch.
  • I'm getting extremely strung out. These guys are drunk and yelling all the time. You never know when music will start blasting out of the basement - it could be 4 am. Justin is there and gone and back again, you never know when he's home until he starts shrieking. He makes me extremely nervous. Although he's very well spoken - never slurs - I can't tell what's wrong with him. His pupils are sometimes enormous, sometimes tiny, never normal. His eyes are so fast, he has all these tics, and he involves in in so many incomprehensible conversations. I don't dare humor him, he notices it, but I also can't openly disagree too strongly or he starts breathing very hard and glancing bug eyed all over the room. When I'm at home, I'm on edge, day and night.
  • Thanksgiving! Cal invited me - seemed desperate that I come. I said yes. Justin was somewhere else. Cal and I started cooking early in the morning before the guests arrived. Gradually he hints that there will only be two others there: his elderly parents. He's anxious to make a good impression and begs me not to mention the booze. When they arrive he introduces me as his roommate, "the biologist". His parents are very warm and friendly and seem happy to see Cal meeting new people. After they leave he doesn't drink for over a week.
  • In the mornings, when I leave, I've started packing up my sleeping pad and sleeping bag and taking them with me. I call home about 6, and if there's music in the background I sleep at the University. If they've already started I know for certain that they'll be going all night. I've found three places to sleep: a dusty area under the bottom landing of a concrete staircase, a metal storage cage full of old desks in a basement (the lock is broken), and, boldly, the couch in the grad student lounge, where I sleep fully dressed as though I just accidentally nodded off.
  • They got an old bootleg VHS of a korn concert from like 1996. Do I want to watch? I do actually want to watch, I was hugely into korn as a teenager. We go to the party basement, where I haven't been for a long time, and crack some beers, which I haven't done for a long time. Justin is a bit whiny "you never party with us, how come?" Cal defends me, "he needs to study a lot, and besides, he sometimes has a couple beers in the evening, I guess you just weren't around". To defuse tension I mention that I saw Korn in 1999, the family values tour, and Justin's eyes LOCK onto mine. "ho...ly... shit. On the floor?" Yes. "with rob zombie opening?" No, it was his brother. "Bagpipes?" The stage had a telescoping tower that raised the korn guy and his bagpipes like 50 feet up. "FUCK!!" Cal cranks the volume on the TV, they are air drumming, they're pounding beers, Justin starts chopping the fuck out of the ceiling with his machete, I get the fuck out of there.
  • Justin wonders why I don't ever bring any chicks over to party with them. Do I know some? Yes, I admit I know a few girls, but, you know, they're studying all the time (a lie). I'm a bit antsy because he's kind of rocking back and forth, breathing really hard, sweating. He starts talking rapidly about all the chicks he used to fuck, he used to be such a baller, now they're all so stuck up. He shoots me a piercing look for 3+ seconds and then gets back to glancing rapidly all over the room. "Man I don't know how I'm going to meet somebody again, how the fuck do you do it?" He's been smoking this whole time and I notice now that he's tapping the ash off constantly, his finger hits the cigarette once per second, but every move is completely identical to how he normally taps ash. He doesn't seem to notice what he's doing. tap-tap-tap-tap-tap After his question the conversation lapses and I leave him glancing around, eyes wide, ashing, and sweating.
  • Cal is making a serious effort to stop drinking. He's struggling and seems to be reaching out to me for help. I'm so much younger, I don't know anything about this. I tell him I can hang out some nights to take his mind off it, we're doing that anyway, but other than that I don't know anything. Has he tried AA? He looks up the local and a few days later he goes to a meeting. A few days after that he comes home with a case of beer, yelling "JUSTIN! WOOO! A FUCKIN GHOST HERE MAN!"
  • Two days and nights into a raging bender in the basement I'm awoken by a godless shriek of horror. I start to turn over but Justin's screaming and screaming and I wonder if he's been hurt. I start to get up to check but then I hear Cal, groggy, obviously woken from the basement floor, asking what's wrong. I stay on my sleeping pad but now I'm listening through the floor - the basement TV area is under me. Justin, his voice quavering, says "look... look what I found under the couch". I hear Cal rumble over there and say "a cake knife? so what the fuck are you screaming about?" Justin hisses "That's where Mike was sitting the other night! He brought it down! He thought we'd pass out and he'd fuck us up!" Now I'm fully awake. Am I hearing this right? Adrenaline sours my blood. They start to talk it over, Cal is skeptical but I think I hear him getting convinced. Holy shit. I put my pants on. They start whispering and I hear only snatches of the conversation: "he would have!" .... "too pussy" ... "sleeping now"... "lets do it". They stop talking. I leap out of bed, throw on my shirt, and I'm out the door.
After that I was secretly homeless for three weeks. I slept where I could and kept my stuff in a locker. I already had a few clothes at school so I was able to pass. None of my friends knew. My home life had taken such a sudden turn that I hadn't told anybody that anything was amiss. I brushed off my new roommates - "older, not interesting". Nobody knew about Justin and Cal, and now I couldn't bring myself to broach the topic. I had my gym pass, I had a laundry card. I kept clean.
It took me 3 weeks to find a new room. When I had it secured I went to Cal's to get the rest of my stuff. He was there. I told him I was sorry, but the commute was too long, so I'd been staying with a friend who lived much closer to the university, and now a room opened up and I was taking it. He said that sucked, he'd miss me, but he knew I had to do what it takes for my studies. He offered to give me a ride to the new place. I looked at him closely but saw no hint that he remembered that awful night. I accepted. As we were driving there I realized that the new place was actually significantly further from the university, and when we pulled up I saw that Cal knew it too - that I had lied, that I wanted to leave. He sat for a moment looking at the steering wheel, collecting himself. He said "Well, good luck with the exams! Come by any time - I hope we can still hang out sometimes." He looked at me so sadly and I saw the hurt in his eyes. I never saw him again.
Months later it all came out. I was at a party at my old place (Janice's place), it was late, everybody had left, and it was just me and a few old roommates. Somebody said it was too bad I left, Kevin turned out to be a huge douche who wouldn't even wash his own dishes, never mind contributing to the group dynamic. It all burst out of me. I started telling the whole story, from the first weird night, through my futile efforts at cleaning house, my bizarre relationship with Cal, my... awe (?) of Justin, the nights under staircases, everything.
Janis was stricken. She admitted that she had been annoyed and had deliberately applied to a "dirty, ugly" house, but she had no idea. How could she? Despite her sincere remorse and attempts to heal our friendship it never happened. We drifted apart.
submitted by backgammon_no to MaliciousCompliance [link] [comments]

[Program Review] F - Russian Squat Routine + Gaining Strength on a Calorie Deficit

GOAL:
Cut and increase strength. Get stronger without giving up HIIT.
RESULT
2 months/7 weeks ish:
+27g/60lbs to low bar squat
-4.5kg/10lbs body weight
STATS
Age Sex Weight Squat
Beginning 31 F 187lbs/84.5kg 295lbs/135kg
Final 31 Still F 177lbs/80kg 355lbs/161kg
HISTORY
Before I started real fitness, I did some Tae Kwon Do as a teen and some fencing. Then I dated someone who loved walking and hiking everywhere. So that’s what I did for some time. Then I backpacked around Australia, and eventually worked on a cattle station for a stint. I then returned to Canada, then I decided to buy a bike and rode it everywhere. I eventually moved in with this bro who did crossfit, he said I should try. I gave it a go. I thought “holy shit I’m really not fit.” And reliably started going multiple times a week for two years, then decided “this barbell shit is lit” and entered a powerlifting meet. After that first meet.... I knew I wanted to see how strong I can get.
TL;DR: Did things, took me a while to decide powerlifting is fun
I ran smolov jr, got some great high bar strength gains. Ran smolov and did too much on top of that, didn't listen to my body, got injured and burnt out. (The barbell got caught on my hair and pulled me down with it during a bail and I twisted my ankle)
I ran some other strength work, but I spent the entirety of last summer doing high intensity cycling + long distance cardio for a fondo event. (a 122km/76mile bike ride up a mountain). My diet was uncoordinated and I lost everything I gained from Smolov. Coming back, a 2 plate squat was rough. After the fondo, I had a month before a provincials powerlifting meet, got back a lot of strength, and qualified for regionals in Canada. I actually came here for advice. I just didn’t want to give up crossfit and cardio.
u/61742 suggested Russian Squat Routine. He seemed strong. My crossfit coach confirmed not only is it a great program, but you can run it alongside cf. Cool. I was in. I switched from high to low bar, did a few weeks of practice of Low Bar, tested a 1RM, hit 295lbs.
Oh, I also started a cut at this time.
PRIOR TO RSR CYCLE
Weight was 85kg (187lbs)
THE PROGRAM
It’s a 3x per week 6 week squat program.
PART 1
Every other day for the first 3 weeks is your 80% for 6x2. The other days are 6 sets of increasing reps until you finish the first part of the cycle at 6x6 @ 80%.
PART 2
After that, every other day is the [email protected]%, the other days are one less set and rep off the 6x6 but adding 5% (15lbs for me). 5x5 80% +15lbs, 4x4 80%+30lbs etc etc until you hit your max for a double (2x2)
So…. I didn’t exactly want to give up crossfit either. So I continued with it up until the testing week.
EXECUTION
On Mondays, Weds, and Fridays, I’d hit a morning session to focus on strength. I’d do RSR first, and then supplement with back and leg accessories, and then follow that with bench + arm accessories. I’d have an alternating week 1 bodyweight/DB focus (pull ups, push ups, dumbbell rows and presses) and a week 2 barbell accessory focus (barbell deadlifts, rows, lunges). This was just to get some traction in self programming. It wasn’t the focus, and was done only for self learning and I don’t mind most accessories.
I’d go to crossfit on those days, as well as on Sundays, Sat, and Tues. I’d rest on Thursdays. The total volume varied a little per week, but it was mostly 15-16ish hours of work per week. Women can typically handle a lot of volume, and since I was on a cut and leaning down, my gymnastics improved….however
Due to the volume, after the 5x5 I actually did an impromptu deload week. In the deload week I aimed for same intensity, just greatly reduced volume. Right up to my 90% for doubles. I worked on handstand walks. It was a fun way to be at the gym and work on something without being taxing. They really started to come along!
I also did this silliness. Because why not?
After the deload, in returning to the program, I reduced the volume for the last three weeks and repeated the 5x5. CF classes were reduced to about 3x per week until the week of testing, where I stopped cf a week before I tested. I did the 2x2 on Monday, 6x2 on Weds, went for a swim on Thurs, and tested the following Sat.
On the suggestion of a friend, I tried these for the first time, I don't know how to describe them (Quarter Squat recoveries?) but they were a fantastic way to introduce the feeling of heavier weight, and gain some confidence with the stimulus. I had attended a seminar held by Chad Wesley Smith who had given the suggestion of walkouts for the same "feel what heavy weight is before your see it on the platform/test" stimulus.
The 6x2s were tough some days, and some days they were such ego boosters. The 5x5 was probably the roughest day. If you're doing this program, yes, some days the 6x2 is hard, but that's what it's for. A recovery day without 0 stimulus. Your body is recovering, even if it feels weak in moving that weight. Don't worry.
Two weeks towards the end of the program I started Mag/Ort deadlift program to time it with a meet, they seem compatible.
DIET
Welp. So, here’s where it got intense. And it's here that made the situation work.
RECOVERY
Really tried to get my sleep, as I was putting the effort into diet and training. Some days were good, occasionally I cracked and got a 4hr sleep night, but most times I was able to get 6-7hrs in.
Epsom salt baths on sore days.
I changed some of the CF workouts - the coaches understood, in order to prevent too much strength overlap that would kill recovery.
STATS AT THE END
WEIGHT
PICS
My original PR of 295lbs
My 355lbs squat complete with me being a happy moron at the end.
CONCLUSIONS AND WHAT NEXT

This was very long, it is my first review. Sorry for all the pictures, I don't have a powerlifting coach, so a lot of my training is video and self analysis and consulting the two awesome bros who spotted my squat. Any feedback or tips are always appreciated from the experienced and helpful people on this sub. (Totally hoping to fix the knee valgus, not hiding it, I would try love some tips on accessories to work on)
submitted by karmaskies to weightroom [link] [comments]

Program Review - Successful run of Russian Squat Routine + Crossfit + Calorie Deficit

GOAL:
Cut and increase strength. Get stronger without giving up HIIT.
RESULT
2 months/7 weeks ish:
+27g/60lbs to low bar squat
-4.5kg/10lbs body weight
STATS
Age Weight Squat
Beginning 31 187lbs/84.5kg 295lbs/135kg
Final 31 177lbs/80kg 355lbs/161kg
HISTORY
Before I started real fitness, I did some Tae Kwon Do as a teen and some fencing. Then I dated someone who loved walking and hiking everywhere. So that’s what I did for some time. Then I backpacked around Australia, and eventually worked on a cattle station for a stint. I then returned to Canada, then I decided to buy a bike and rode it everywhere. I eventually moved in with this bro who did crossfit, he said I should try. I gave it a go. I thought “holy shit I’m really not fit.” And reliably started going multiple times a week for two years, then decided “this barbell shit is lit” and entered a powerlifting meet. After that first meet.... I knew I wanted to see how strong I can get.
TL;DR: Did things, took me a while to decide powerlifting is fun
I ran smolov jr, got some great high bar strength gains. Ran smolov and did too much on top of that, didn't listen to my body, got injured and burnt out. (The barbell got caught on my hair and pulled me down with it during a bail and I twisted my ankle)
I ran some other strength work, but I spent the entirety of last summer doing high intensity cycling + long distance cardio for a fondo event. (a 122km/76mile bike ride up a mountain). My diet was uncoordinated and I lost everything I gained from Smolov. Coming back, a 2 plate squat was rough. After the fondo, I had a month before a provincials powerlifting meet, got back a lot of strength, and qualified for regionals in Canada. I actually came here for advice. I just didn’t want to give up crossfit and cardio.
I asked the weightroom sub for a program suggestion. Russian Squat Routine was suggested. My crossfit coach confirmed not only is it a great program, but you can run it alongside cf. Cool. I was in. I switched from high to low bar, did a few weeks of practice of Low Bar, tested a 1RM, hit 295lbs.
Oh, I also started a cut at this time.
I was successful, but it took a lot of work that I think most people would not have the time for.
PRIOR TO RSR CYCLE
Weight was 85kg (187lbs)
THE PROGRAM
It’s a 3x per week 6 week squat program.
PART 1
Every other day for the first 3 weeks is your 80% for 6x2. The other days are 6 sets of increasing reps until you finish the first part of the cycle at 6x6 @ 80%.
PART 2
After that, every other day is the [email protected]%, the other days are one less set and rep off the 6x6 but adding 5% (15lbs for me). 5x5 80% +15lbs, 4x4 80%+30lbs etc etc until you hit your max for a double (2x2)
So…. I didn’t exactly want to give up crossfit either. So I continued with it up until the testing week.
EXECUTION
On Mondays, Weds, and Fridays, I’d hit a morning session to focus on strength. I’d do RSR first, and then supplement with back and leg accessories, and then follow that with bench + arm accessories. I’d have an alternating week 1 bodyweight/DB focus (pull ups, push ups, dumbbell rows and presses) and a week 2 barbell accessory focus (barbell deadlifts, rows, lunges). This was just to get some traction in self programming. It wasn’t the focus, and was done only for self learning and I don’t mind most accessories.
I’d go to crossfit on those days, as well as on Sundays, Sat, and Tues. I’d rest on Thursdays. The total volume varied a little per week, but it was mostly 15-16ish hours of work per week. Women can typically handle a lot of volume, and since I was on a cut and leaning down, my gymnastics improved….however
Due to the volume, after the 5x5 I actually did an impromptu deload week. In the deload week I aimed for same intensity, just greatly reduced volume. Right up to my 90% for doubles. I worked on handstand walks. It was a fun way to be at the gym and work on something without being taxing. They really started to come along!
I also did this silliness. Because why not?
After the deload, in returning to the program, I reduced the volume for the last three weeks and repeated the 5x5. CF classes were reduced to about 3x per week until the week of testing, where I stopped cf a week before I tested. I did the 2x2 on Monday, 6x2 on Weds, went for a swim on Thurs, and tested the following Sat.
On the suggestion of a friend, I tried these for the first time, I don't know how to describe them (Quarter Squat recoveries?) but they were a fantastic way to introduce the feeling of heavier weight, and gain some confidence with the stimulus. I had attended a seminar held by Chad Wesley Smith who had given the suggestion of walkouts for the same "feel what heavy weight is before your see it on the platform/test" stimulus.
The 6x2s were tough some days, and some days they were such ego boosters. The 5x5 was probably the roughest day. If you're doing this program, yes, some days the 6x2 is hard, but that's what it's for. A recovery day without 0 stimulus. Your body is recovering, even if it feels weak in moving that weight. Don't worry.
Two weeks towards the end of the program I started Mag/Ort deadlift program to time it with a meet, they seem compatible.
DIET
Welp. So, here’s where it got intense. And it's here that made the situation work. This is the hardest part.
RECOVERY
Really tried to get my sleep, as I was putting the effort into diet and training. Some days were good, occasionally I cracked and got a 4hr sleep night, but most times I was able to get 6-7hrs in.
Epsom salt baths on sore days.
I changed some of the CF workouts - the coaches understood, in order to prevent too much strength overlap that would kill recovery.
STATS AT THE END
WEIGHT
PICS
My original PR of 295lbs
My 355lbs squat complete with me being a happy moron at the end.
CONCLUSIONS AND WHAT NEXT
This was very long, it is my first review. Sorry for all the pictures, I don't have a powerlifting coach, so a lot of my training is video and self analysis and consulting the two awesome bros who spotted my squat, as well as studying resources.
submitted by karmaskies to xxfitness [link] [comments]

Remember My Previous Post About Black Clover Related Dreams I've Had? Well Since Then I've Had Some More, And They We're Interesting.......

So a while back I made a post where I shared some Black Clover related dreams I've had in the past. It was a really weird topic, but it turned out to be pretty interesting and people seemed to really enjoy hearing about them. Well since then I have had a few more Black Clover related dreams. With how excited I am to see where the story goes next, my overactive brain can't stop thinking about Black Clover and ended up causing me to have some really awesome dreams relating to the recent events in the manga over these past few weeks. Most of them were just random nonsense, but I got lucky and had a few with a semblance of a plot to them. Three of the Black Clover dreams I've had since the last post I made on the topic were very intriguing and I wrote them down so as not to forget them, and I want to share them with you all. One involved Asta, Gauche, and Vanessa fighting Vanica of the Dark Triad and seeing what her magic does, in the second I actually got to see what Asta's mom looks like and find out some stuff about her (and by extension Asta’s origin), and in the third and one I played as Asta in some weird nonexistent Black Clover video game that was sort of like a mix between a dating simulator and eroge (I bet the shippers will love this one).
Vanica's Magic: Of the three, this one was the most action packed, starting off right in the middle of an intense battle. In it, Asta is facing off against one of the members of the Dark Triad we were recently introduced to, Vanica, and with him are Gauche and Vanessa. Gauche starts by using his Mirror Magic, prompting Vanica to take off her eye patch and reveal her eye underneath, which was purple and really pretty. As she looks into Gauche's mirrors though, there's a close-up shot of her eye and she says something like Magic Break or Mage Break (I can't remember what she said exactly). Suddenly, all of Gauche's mirrors shatter, and the magic tool in his eye shatters as well. Gauche's eye starts bleeding profusely from the injury and he tries to use his magic again, but finds that he can't. Gauche starts freaking out and wonders why he can't use his magic anymore, and Vanica says that his magic has been "broken" by her demonic eye. According to Vanica, any magic that she looks upon with her demonic eye is permanently destroyed, and the wielder of that magic can no longer use it. The technique is seemingly unavoidable, as even the simple act of Vanica looking upon them or their magic while her eye is uncovered is enough for it to take effect.
Asta and Vanessa are in shock as they learn what happened to Gauche, and Vanica then turns her attention to Vanessa. As Vanessa is standing there, the little red cat made of string sitting on her shoulder starts to hideously swell up and then pops like a balloon. Even though it was not a real living creature, it was still pretty brutal to watch, and with Vanessa's Red Thread of Fate Magic destroyed as well they realize that they are in some really deep shit. As Vanica turns towards Asta, he quickly tries to counter her magic by pulling out his Demon Slayer sword and hiding behind it in an effort to shield himself from her gaze. This seems to work and protects him from the effects of her powers, but it results in a small crack forming on the blade of the Demon Slayer. Seeing that her powers were not able to completely destroy his magic, Vanica tries using the technique again on Asta multiple times. Each time she does, the blade begins to crack more and more. Eventually the Anti-Magic Devil within Asta chimes in tells him to stop and get away from her, saying that if this keeps up the Demon Slayer Sword will break entirely and become unusable. The Anti-Magic Devil says that he is unable to completely nullify Vanica's powers because Megicula's power is above even his, so instead of completely nullifying it he can only partially nullify the effects and lessen them. Heeding his advice, Asta decides that the best course of action would be for them to escape and regroup with the other Black Bulls to come up with a new strategy. Gauche, no longer able to use his magic, then attempts to sacrifice himself to give Asta and Vanessa an opportunity to escape. Asta and Vanessa are able to get away thanks to Gauche, while Vanica uses some type of offensive spell to create some black arrows that appear to be made from the same type of black energy as the kind that emanates from Asta's black form. She fires them at Gauche and they all pierce him and the dream ends there, implying that Gauche dies.
The dream was kind of vague on if Vanica's eye technique just causes you to permanently lose the ability to use whatever spell of yours she looks at, or if you permanently lose all of your magic. From what it seemed with Gauche, it was the latter. Can we take a moment to realize just how freaking terrifying that is? Vanica can permanently destroy your magic just by looking at you with her eye, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. Asta's Anti-Magic swords can nullify just about any magic he cuts, but what Vanica did was at a level beyond even that because it literally destroys your magic altogether, permanently. A magic power like that would definitely be considered Arcane/Dark Tier, just like Asta and Secre's. If Vanica is this OP, then I shudder to think what the other two members of the Dark Triad are capable of. No wonder Luck was so scared of Zeno. Zeno and Dante’s magic are probably Arcane/Dark Tier too. What sort of magic do you guys think could possibly counter a power like Vanica's from this dream? Pretty much the only way I can see to defeat her would be with some other equally powerful Arcane/Dark Tier magic, or to one-shot her with an attack before she can see it coming. There must be some sort of weakness or limit to that ability of hers though. I don’t think she can just spam it indefinitely. I wonder what becomes of the Grimoires of whoever she uses the technique on. Do they just crumble away? If it were just a particular spell that is destroyed and not their entire magic, then I would assume that just the page associated with that spell in the Grimoire crumbles away instead. Either way, that is a very scary ability Vanica has. I would not want to fight her.
Asta's Mom: The events of this dream were a little disjointed and all over the place, because it kept jumping around from one event to the next, but it all centered around a certain character who by the end is revealed to be Asta's mother. I had this dream sometime after the time skip in the manga first occurred, but before the reveal of the Dark Triad and Yuno's origins, so a lot of the stuff in it will likely end up not being the case in the actual series itself, but it was still really interesting that I just have to share it. It starts in what I can only assume is the Spade Kingdom, where several soldiers are gathering under the command of a woman, who seems to be the Spade equivalent of a Magic Knight Captain. At first glance it's very obvious that she and Asta are related in some way. She had the same green eyes as him and spikey grey hair as wall, but hers was much longer and messier, kind of like Mereoleona's. She looked to be about in her 30’s or 40’s, somewhere around Julius’ age, but was still quite the looker. She wore a bunch of skins and furs, which reminded me of a typical barbarian or Viking you would often see in fiction. The part of her outfit that stood out to me the most was her belt buckle, which was shaped like a spade symbol, similar to the one we saw on Zeno's back. As she's putting on her belt, there was a brief glimpse of her lower abdomen, and she had a scar over where her uterus would be (the significance of this comes up later). Personality-wise, she was kind of a mix between Asta and Mereoleona. She was really cheerful and gung-ho about going off to battle, much like Asta would be, and as the soldiers are mobilizing she tells them something like "get a move on you maggots" which seems very Mereoleona-like, but it wasn't in a malicious way, more so just to get them motivated.
As they are marching off to battle, they encounter a group of Clover Kingdom soldiers. Their robes didn't seem to have any visible insignia on them, but they had a green color, so I can only assume they were with the Green Praying Mantises. The shade of green was a bit different though, being more of a puke green color instead. The woman pulls out her Grimoire and starts using her magic, which was some kind of Sword magic that could summon a bunch of different weapons from her Grimoire for her to wield in combat. Most of them were swords, but there were also a few axes and spears in there as well, so it would probably be more accurate to call her magic something like Weapon Magic or Armament Magic. Most of her weapons were pretty generic looking and nothing special, but she favored using one sword in particular that was like a giant cleaver. It was covered in black rust just like Asta's swords, so it too is probably one of Licht's old swords, and this one somehow ended up in the Spade Kingdom. I wonder what sort of powers it would have if Asta were to wield it with his Anti-Magic. It looked a lot like the sword used by Nosferatu Zodd from Berserk, a series which Tabata takes a lot of inspiration from. To give you an idea of its appearance, here's an image I found that someone drew of Zodd's sword. Much like Zodd, she was someone who really enjoyed battle, and ends up defeating most the Clover Kingdom soldiers by herself. I’m not gonna lie, the idea of Black Clover having a female version of Zodd sounds pretty awesome. After the battle is over, she and the Spade Kingdom soldiers move on and continue their march towards the Clover Kingdom. If those Clover Kingdom soldiers she defeated were from the Green Praying Mantises, then Captain Jack will probably hear about it and want to go fight her himself, which would make for an interesting match-up.
From this point on, I'll refer to the woman as Astrid for convenience sake, since that's much easier than having to constantly type "Asta's mom" over and over again. Her real name is never said in the dream, but Astrid sounds like a good name to give her. Not only is it similar to Asta's, but it's Scandinavian in origin, which fits with the whole Viking/barbarian aesthetic she has going on. After this, the dream does some weird flashback thing where it starts jumping around through various portions of Astrid's life. It all sort of zoomed by really fast, so to make sense of it I’ll have to slow it down and go through each thing I saw little by little. It was missing a lot of context too, so I’ll have to make some educated guesses as to what was going on to try and fill in the blanks. I'm not even kidding, it felt like something straight out of the anime with how it does those cheesy and over the top flashbacks to make you feel bad about a character. I could even hear the music playing in my head lol. It starts by showing Astrid as a kid growing up in a snowy village in the Spade Kingdom. She would often play with the other kids, and one of them was a boy she seemed to really like. Much like how Asta does with Sister Lily, Astrid was very forward with her feelings towards her crush, proclaiming that she would marry him someday, and just like Sister Lily he would always reject her, not being into her because she was too much of a tomboy. Astrid eventually gets her own Grimoire and shows off her magic to the other kids, who are greatly impressed by it. Sometime later, a Spade Kingdom official shows up at her house, telling her parents that due to her exceptionally strong magic she will be taken to the capital for training to become part of the Spade Kingdom army. Astrid's parents obviously don't want her to go, but the official tells them that it is the law, and that they should feel honored that their daughter is going to serve her kingdom. From what I can gather, it seems that whenever someone shows any sort of promise or talent in magic in the Spade Kingdom, they get taken away by the government and conscripted into the army, no exceptions. This harsh practice is probably to ensure that the Spade Kingdom will always have an army at the ready, one composed of only the strongest and most talented mages.
Based on this, bloodline seems to matter much less in the Spade Kingdom than it does in the Clover Kingdom. They don't care if you're a noble or commoner, only if you're strong or useful. In this sense, the Spade Kingdom is kind of like a meritocracy, as even a commoner could technically make their way to the top through the Spade Kingdom army and achieve a high social standing if their magic power is great enough. It's a lot like Julius' ideal, but taken to a twisted extreme. According to the recent manga chapters though, the Spade Kingdom was a peaceful place before the Dark Triad took over, so a system of mandatory military service like this one seems unlikely while the Grinberryall family was in power, if they are as benevolent as Ralph claims, though it's possible that he might have a biased view of them since he serves them. I guess it would depend of what he meant by the Spade Kingdom being a "peaceful" place back then. Was it peaceful in the sense that there was no internal strife, or was it peaceful in the sense that there were no external invaders to worry about? If it's the latter, then one possible reason for that peace could be because the Spade Kingdom army was just so good at its job that it was able to repel most invaders with relative ease. Forcibly conscripting people with strong magic into the army might be something the Grinberryall family viewed as a necessary sacrifice in order to preserve the peace and prosperity of the Spade Kingdom. If that were the case, then a lot of people might not have viewed their rule too favorably, which would explain why a group like the Dark Triad might want to overthrow them. I could see Tabata trying to subvert our expectations by revealing that the Grinberryall family was not as great as we were led to believe, and that neither they or the Dark Triad are saints, just one is less evil than the other. When Astrid is brought to the capital to begin her training, she meets a bunch of other people who were also brought there for the same reason, including a boy about her age who is sitting in the corner crying because he wants to go home. Much like Asta, Astrid tries to maintain a positive attitude and attempts to cheer the boy up, telling him that once they finish their training they might let them go back home to see their families again. Astrid befriends the boy, who looked a bit like Yuno, and there's a time skip as she and the others there spend the next few years training and honing their magic. During this time Astrid receives that special sword I mentioned earlier, finding it in the armory where it had been collecting dust. Astrid and the boy end up working together on the same team, and the two have a similar dynamic to Asta and Noelle. Like Asta, Astrid is the more dense and straightforward of the two, while the boy is more tactical and a bit of a tsundere like Noelle. Astrid’s antics and foolish behavior would often get on the boy's nerves, leading to the two bickering like Asta and Noelle would. At one point there was sort of a funny scene where Astrid is holding her massive sword over her shoulders while standing next to the boy and gets distracted by something. She then turns around while still holding the sword and ends up accidentally smacking him in the back of the head with it. He's obviously not too happy about this and remarks to Astrid about her carelessness that “she's not just a clown, but the entire circus”, which definitely sounds like something Noelle would say to Asta.
Eventually, their training comes to an end and there is another time skip to them as young adults. Astrid is finally allowed an opportunity to go back to her village and see her family again, and she takes the boy with her to show him the place. When she gets there though, she learns that her parents have since passed away, and finds that the boy she once liked and promised to marry has gotten married to someone else and has a family of his own now. All of these changes are a lot for Astrid to take in, and becomes saddened by the fact that she can no longer go back to her old life. She begins to cry, which was pretty sad to see for someone who was always so happy and cheerful like Asta. In a way, watching her cry was like watching Asta cry. The hope of one day being able to return to her village and see her friends and family again was the only thing that kept her going all those years, but that hope is now gone. Seeing how depressed she is, the boy tries to comfort Astrid and cheer her up, much like she did for him when they first met. They leave and go back to the capital, and over time the two start to grow closer, eventually forming a romantic relationship. The boy presumably harbored some hidden feelings for Astrid like Noelle does for Asta, and now that she is no longer crushing after the boy from her village I guess Astrid falls for him too. The years pass and the two get married, all while continuing to serve the Spade Kingdom as its equivalent to Magic Knight Captains. During this time, they fight many different enemies, including some mages from the Clover Kingdom. On several occasions, Astrid and her husband even face off against Noelle's mother Acier Silva and a younger Mereoleona. Astrid becomes like Acier’s nemesis on the battlefield, and Acier hers, the two never being able to beat each other due to their powers being so evenly matched. With Astrid’s Weapon Magic and Acier’s Steel Magic, it was like the ultimate offense versus the ultimate defense.
After one particularly fierce battle between the Clover and Spade Kingdom forces though, Astrid's husband is mortally wounded by Acier when he is stabbed through the chest by her steel lance. I'm not sure whether Acier actually meant to kill him, or if it was an accident, or if she had no choice but to do it since they were enemy combatants, but when Astrid finds him it's too late and he bleeds to death in her arms. Astrid is devastated by his death and refuses to accept this outcome. From the time she had left her home as a young girl and was forced to join the Spade Kingdom army, all of her choices in life had seemingly been taken away from her, but in all that had managed to find some form of happiness that made life bearable, but now even that had been taken away. She begins to despair and a powerful rage fills her heart, wanting nothing more than to kill Acier and make her pay for what she had done. A dark aura which kind of resembled Asta's black form then started to radiate from Astrid’s body and sword, as though some demonic presence were reaching out to her, which I can only assume was Megicula. Feeling her intense despair, Megicula must have decided to lend Astrid some of his power, granting her the strength to kill Acier and enact her vengeance. With her newfound demonic power, Astrid rushes at Acier and shatters her armor with one strike from her sword. Acier is barely able to avoid a fatal blow, in the process receiving a slash on her stomach. Injured and outmatched, Acier decides to flee and escapes, however the slash on her stomach leaves behind a black mark, the sign of a demon’s curse, which we all know ultimately results in her death. After the battle, some time passes and Astrid realizes that she is pregnant, having been in the very early stages when her husband was killed by Acier. Astrid eventually gives birth, but it is a very difficult birth, and the baby has to be cut out from her womb, leaving the scar on her abdomen. The baby, who is very clearly Asta, was quiet and wouldn’t open his eyes at first, seemingly having been stillborn, but in the end he pulls through and starts to show signs of activity. It's kind of the reverse of what happened with Noelle's birth. Acier died giving birth to Noelle, but Noelle was born healthy, while Astrid survived giving birth, but Asta almost didn't make it. Acier probably would have been in the very early stages of her pregnancy with Noelle too when she was cursed, so this serves as sort of a parallel between her and Astrid.
Astrid only has one baby though, Asta, so her husband kind of looking like Yuno was a coincidence I guess, but we know Yuno's true origins now anyway. To her surprise, she finds that Asta does not seem to have any detectable mana in him, which worries her. Perhaps using some of Megicula's power came with a price, and that price was him taking away the magic of her unborn child, or maybe using Megicula's power while pregnant with Asta somehow effected his growth and caused him to develop a mutation to where he does not have any mana. Since Asta had to be cut out of her womb, it’s likely that Astrid probably can’t have children anymore either. Remembering how a lot of her own choices in life had been taken away from her, Astrid wonders if Asta having no mana might actually be a blessing, because it means he won't present any sort of value to the Spade Kingdom and be taken away from her, but on the other hand having no mana means he likely wouldn't survive in the harsh environment of the Spade Kingdom where survival of the fittest reigns supreme, and would almost certainly die an early death. Wanting to avoid this fate for her child, Astrid crosses the border into the Clover Kingdom and leaves him at the church in Hage Village. When she places him on the doorstep though, baby Yuno is not there, which implies that Asta was the first to arrive, and that Yuno came after him. Astrid's motives for leaving Asta at the church seem to have been twofold. The first and most obvious is that she did not think she would be able to properly raise a child while also living the life of a solider, and so thought that Asta would have a much better life living in a place where he would be well taken care of. The second reason, which is probably why she choose to put him in the Clover Kingdom specifically, is because she did it as a way to spite those in the Spade Kingdom who had taken her carefree childhood away from her, denying them the ability to do the same to her child by placing him somewhere far out of their reach.
After this, the dream then randomly cuts over to another scene, one involving Asta, Noelle, Loropechika, and Undine in the present time. What makes it confusing though is that Asta and Noelle are both reacting as though they had somehow just learned about everything involving Asta's mother I just described. How that’s possible I have no idea, but with Loropechika and Undine being there, I can only assume they somehow told them, as evidenced by what Undine soon says. Loropechika did promise that if they help her she would tell them anything they wanted to know, so I guess Asta must have asked her and Undine about his origins, and Noelle being there heard the whole thing. Finding out what Astrid did to her mother, Noelle feels deeply conflicted and her mind starts to implode. On one hand she has feelings for Asta, but on the other hand his mother is basically the reason why Acier got cursed by Megicula and died, resulting in her horrible childhood where she was constantly mistreated by her siblings and made to feel bad about herself. The revelation being too much for her to handle, Noelle runs away, distraught and crying. Asta tries following after her, but Noelle tells him to go away and that she can’t stand to look at him right now. Noelle then flies off, presumably to have some time alone for herself to process all of this, and Asta wonders if this means that Noelle hates him now. Undine then scolds Loropechika for not showing any tact by just causally dropping all of that information regarding Asta’s origins in front of Noelle, without realizing it was likely to cause her a great deal of pain since it involves a sensitive topic like her mother Acier. It's about right here where the dream ends, and I did not want it to. Never before have I wanted to see what happens next in a dream so badly than with this one. The stuff with Asta and Noelle was such juicy drama. I have so many questions. How will this affect their relationship going forward? Will Noelle hold some animosity towards Asta now because of what his mother did to hers? Will she not care? Will it change the way she views him now? Will it cause her to lose her romantic feelings towards Asta? I just have to know! If Asta and Noelle do become a thing, I wonder how Astrid will react when she finds out that her son is dating the daughter of her hated nemesis Acier. Noelle’s father and siblings might not be too thrilled about it either. That’s going to be one really awkward family dinner for them as a couple. I tried going back to sleep in hopes that I would start dreaming again and be able to pick up right where it left off, but unfortunately we all know that never works. When I finally did fall back asleep, the next dream I had was just some random crap that was unrelated to Black Clover. I was so pissed.
Asta's mom Astrid was quiet the interesting character. I hope when we finally do meet Asta's mom in the story (if she’s still alive), that she'll be as cool as Astrid was in this dream, but I doubt it. Someone should try drawing Astrid based on the descriptions I gave. Like many others, I am hoping that Asta turns out to just be a commoner and not some noble, though in this dream he was kind of like a mix of both. He was a commoner in the sense that his mother, and father too probably, were both commoners who were recruited from random villages in the Spade Kingdom, but also a noble in the sense that his mom was able to achieve a high military rank and social standing in the Spade Kingdom due to her strength and magical abilities. Maybe one of the reasons why Asta ended up with Licht's Grimoire, other than having no mana, is because if he had been born with magic, then his magical attribute would have been Sword or Weapon Magic just like his mother's, and since Licht's Grimoire was originally Sword Magic that made it compatible with Asta. Something that Asta and his mom share in common is that they both also have a scar on their abdomens. Asta has that scar on his stomach he got from fighting Mars, and Astrid has that scar over her uterus from when they had to cut Asta out of her womb. With the recent revelation of the Dark Triad and how they appear to have demon marks on their faces, Astrid's scar could be seen as her own equivalent to a demon mark, assuming that she is now serving under Megicula and the Dark Triad. The spade symbol on Vanica's eye patch likely hides her demon mark, so in much the same way, Astrid's spade shaped belt buckle could be seen as corresponding to the scar on her abdomen. What if Megicula was originally sealed away inside her sword, and after being released from it by her despair Megicula is now inhabiting Astrid’s Grimoire, just like the Anti-Magic Devil is with Asta's? Astrid would likely have held some animosity towards the Grinberryall family for being forced into service by their regime, so she might have decided to side with the Dark Triad and help overthrow them. Asta and Yuno’s origins being on opposite sides of the conflict in Spade Kingdom would certainly complicate things between them. Here’s another idea. Some people think that Acier is not really dead and that Megicula is currently possessing her body, but what if it turns out that Megicula is actually possessing the body of Asta’s mother instead? Someone like Astrid would be a perfect host for him due to how similar she is to Asta. Okay, I've spent far too much time rambling and talking about this dream, and this description has gotten way longer than I would have liked, so on to the next one.
I ran out of space in this post and had to post the rest of it in the comments below, so be sure to read that after reading this.
submitted by Morgoth333 to BlackClover [link] [comments]

A thousand words wasn't enough? Here's five thousand.

List acquired here.
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Travelling SEAsia - my massive review. Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand (Shenzhen, Macau). Motorbike & vegan travel tips

Mammoth post incoming..... I read a lot of posts in this thread and others to help me prepare for my first time backpacking in South East Asia, used mostly reddit and youtube to collect information and in return to all the helpful people who advised me, I want to add a bit to the info out there. This was our first time backpacking in Asia but we have both travelled a decent amount, apologies to those seasoned backpackers who might eye roll at the obvious things I point out! And how long this post is! few linked included where possible.
I travelled with my boyfriend (both in our mid 20s) for 7 weeks from Nov 2019 to Jan 2020 covering 4 countries; Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. We travelled as a couple, not really looking for the typical hostel/partying experience. I had spots/cities we wanted to stop in picked out more so I could check that our return flight back gave us enough time (bf had job to come back for). For those interest I travelled with 40l backpack (Osprey ladies size I recommend for small gals). and 15l day back and boyfriend had 65l backpack. I really reccommend getting up to date on vaccines and/or visiting somewhere like Nomad travel (UK major cities only) for additional shots. We also bought a medical kit from them which came in very handy and I would buy THIS one (works out cheaper than making your own).
Our original plan was to buy a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh and then use that as our main mode of transport to bike across Cambodia and then finally go to Bangkok, so there's a section about bikes at the end.
I am plant based / have a pretty strong dairy intolerance, so I'll add a section about travelling as a 'vegan' as I found it more difficult to get concrete advice on that before I left.
We are from UK so our budget/prices we evaluated against £ GBP
Hong Kong - this was the most built up and relatively similar experience to our lives at home and eased us pretty gently into travel. I would compare Hong Kong to a metropolitan place like London. We stayed in the Wan Chai district and would recommend the are for first timers. Not as expensive as the Central District and gives more local flavour with the street markets which you are likely to explore or pass through on the way to the MTR. Stay on Hong Kong Island over the peninsula as a lot of activities are there and though it is more compact you get a good sense of what HK is really like.
Prices - cost of restaurants was about the same as home - £8-10+ for a meal. Transport - incredibly cheap, routes often less than £1 or 50p Lots of 7/11 and Circle K with reasonable prices for snacks or eating in
Things we did: - Victoria Peak - there are some views more 'within' the city if you take the giant escalator up and walk a bit further as opposed to going straight to the top - Mong Kok area and surrounding markets - Hong Kong museum - quite dated and nothing on history of recent years but it is free - Hong Kong Peninsula night time view of HK island (symphony of lights show) - Temple Street night market - Dragon's Back - this was easy to get to via bus and a nice welcome break from the city. An easy hike. - Ching Chung Koon, Tao temple - really beautiful temple with turtles, easy trip by bus to visit
Shenzhen - We went to Shenzhen as we wanted to see what China was like and had some intrigue about it being a Special Economic Zone. My advice to absolutely everyone, unless you know of something on the other side you want to see, is do not go.
We read that it was free to enter but you would have to get a short stay visa stamp. We ended up stuck in immigration after getting off the MTR for about 2 hours, first you must go and get a photo and a visa put in your passport which includes filling our a form and being asked a few questions about your stay, then you go downstairs and fill our a landing card, get fingerprinted and then pass through to Shenzhen. There isn't a clear explanation as to where these different rooms are to get the whole process done and you're at the mercy of how busy the waiting rooms are for how quick you get out, no visas would be ready and then they would surge in 10 being ready for collection at once.
Shenzhen was a very homogenous city, we couldn't find any historical sites or areas designed for non Chinese to engage with the local fare, though bare in mind Shenzhen is absolutely huge and we were short on time after arriving later. Tube system is cheap and in English and we used cash to pay. When we tried to use bank cards to take out more money I had no luck with Mastercard, Visa and Visa credit card at more than one ATM. The best part of the trip was a small antique shop in the train terminal with genuine trinkets, pottery etc. The guy was quite fair with our haggling too.
Macau - Again we visited this as another special zone outside of HK. Again unfortunately I don't recommend going. To us, Macau was missing all the parts of the Vegas strip that would make a high concentration of casinos together worthwhile; no smoking indoors, no open carry on alcohol on the streets, no street vendors or anything to create an interesting people-watching street, not helped by how spread out all the casinos were from one another. We visited the Venetian which brought us away from the casinos on the ferry side of Macau, so that might have made a difference. The Venetian at Macau had the same feeling as The Trafford Centre if UK readers are familiar with it. If you have been there you'll have your own opinion about it and use that to inform going to Macau.
Hong Kong Protests - Before leaving for HK I'd been keeping up with the protest news. Though by November the 'peak' of protests seemed to have passed a lot in UK news there were still plenty of reports of violent clashes daily. From digging around online I felt that it was still safe to go but just to be mindful of large groups of people collecting or the university area. Whilst we were in HK we didn't see anything that alarmed us or made us feel unsafe. While I don't think the media outlets were incorrectly reporting protest clashes, the actual volume of them appears to be exaggerated (but that's how news makes money, right..). We saw graffiti at most MTR stations and some bus stations that had english text posters and print outs explaining the situation that were even updated overnight to new developments like Trump's treaty. One mall we tried to go to adjacent to some university buildings was closed and the MTR next to it was all smashed up but other than graffiti we felt very safe when wandering round the city both day and night. I would say the university area probably needs the most caution, but if the MTR is stopping there again then there has probably been improvement.
Vietnam - We flew into Ho Chi Minh city, stayed for about 3 days. I'm curious to return to Vietnam in the North of the country, while the South was very interesting to see I was more than ready to move on after about 8 days. Didn't really get a good feeling out of HCMC; extremely loud, sticky, busy place. The best thing we did was go to the War Remnants Museum, things like the old post office were interesting but they don't really take up much of your day. A phone sim for 2 weeks with unlimited data was easy to get and cost less than £10 I think.
HCMC is a good place to take advantage of cheap taxis and cheap food. We could get a good meal and a soft drink/smoothie for £2.50/£3, grab taxi was about £1 anywhere and £1.50 in a grab car, Circle K essentials like a sewing kit were about £2.
Would recommend the Grab app for getting around - though it wasn't my favourite place we visited, I was really able to appreciate the pace and culture of the city zipping through little side streets on the back of the bike from District 1 down to other places in Chinatown area.
There are plenty of markets to visit, but when you've seen the stuff at one the others aren't really much different and people didn't really want to haggle with us.
We did a Mekong Delta day trip, though I'm not always a big fan of a guided tour this was fun and worth going on. Have a look on a site like Klook and pick something that sounds interesting and in budget - we visited temples, honey farm, coconut farm, held some snakes, traditional boat on Mekong and lunch for about £18 each for everything.
Nha Trang - we visited here as somewhere in South Vietnam by the sea before heading westways for the rest of the trip. It was a much calmer and quieter city than HCMC but I'm not sure I would visit again, very windy in November. An unbelievable amount of Russians here, more built up and developed than I was anticipating too. Long Son Pagoda and Ba Ho waterfalls were good to visit, though Ba Ho seemed to be having a very big touristy development built on it which was a weird contrast to the very difficult to climb and almost untouched waterfalls. We biked to Bai Dai beach - just make sure to take the first turn down to the beach before you hit the strip of resorts being built because it goes on forever and they won't let you through for access to the sand. Beautiful views on the way down but can see the whole area and Vietnam in general being swallowed up by package resort tourism which is a shame.
Cambodia - This ended up being my favourite country of the visit. Though there's not really pavements or waste management or sewage and you can't drink the water etc, but there was little rampant tourism, people were kind, the weather was great and we saw some beautiful places. Phone sim will cost you about $5 and you can only top up limited data about $5 for 8GB.
Prices - Cambodia has 2 currency system with USD and riel though most of the time you're using USD (4,000 r = $1). I felt like because of USD prices were rounded up a bit more so it was still cheap, but more expensive than Vietnam. Eating out probably about $5-7 or more if you're not holding back. There aren't many chain stores in Cambodia so you're at the mercy of individual places for a good selection of snacks and then hopefully not grossly inflated prices especially on Western imports ($2.50+ for pringles?). I did find that pharmacies were cheap. Make sure you haggle with tuk tuks or use PassApp, but that app needs some work so it's often easier to take one that's in the street. In PP/SKampot getting around we paid no more than $3. In SR to go to the airport $7.
We took a bus to Phnom Penh from HCMC which made the border crossing quite easy. We had e-visa already printed out etc but it didn't seem to make our waiting time any shorter but saved us having to fill out any forms at border control.
Phnom Penh - felt a lot nicer than HCMC as soon as we got there really. Still hot and dirty and hassled like hell for tuk tuks but I felt more kindness from Cambodians. Compared to HCMC this was a whole lot quieter and more relaxed. Not every building has a formal address so if you're not staying at a hotel (airbnb) bear in mind you might need more visual instructions to find your stay.
We stayed near the Royal Palace and the area round there, though more for expats was chilled out and there were local markets, not far to walk to temples and sites etc. There are a few hotels in this area with pools if you need to cool off. The one we tried we just took the lift up to the roof no problem, but I had messaged another nearby that said it was for residents only.
Siem Reap - though this city is pretty much here for Angkor Wat tourism I enjoyed being here not just to see the temples. We stayed at THIS airbnb which was very reasonable and probably one of our favourite stays. No pool but there were a few places nearby that were happy to let us use theirs, we just bought drinks and food. There are a few temples in the city near the city where you can see fruit bats all in the trees. The river here is nice, big market, lots of cats.
Angkor Wat: we bought a 3 day pass and went on a sunrise tour one morning and then did our own thing on the other days. Doing the tour means you get up and in for sunrise at the right time and it's good to get some history about the places you're seeing. Angkor Wat temple itself wasn't the most interesting to me and there are hundreds if not thousands of people there in the morning that makes it a lot less enjoyable. We also visited:
Ta Phrom - temple from Tomb Raider Angkor Thom city gates Bayon Temple - this was a cool 2 storey temple that is merged with depictions of Hinduism and Buddhism Preah Khan
You can hire a tuk tuk driver for a day around $15 mark or you can hire electric bikes in SR centre and take those around (tourists not allowed to ride motorbikes in temple complex) $5 for 24hrs. Just make sure to give your electric bike a good charge beforehand as the battery doesn't always read right. There is a restaurant in the complex you can swap your battery at - the whole temple area is an extremely large place, you can be 15mins drive in between spots so plan carefully.
Koh Rong Island - we took a flight from SR down to Sihanoukville to then get the ferry across to Koh Rong. Our flight ended up being delayed by 12 hours (welcome to Cambodia) so we had to stay a night in Sihanoukville and go across the following day. Travelling from Sihanouk airport to Sihanouk we had to wear bandanas over our faces to stop breathing in the dust, even though only one window in the car was cracked, it's hella dirty. If you are travelling from the airport to town I highly discourage taking a tuk tuk or rickshaw; the roads are not well surfaced in a more extreme manner than what I saw in PP and SR, there are a lot of freight trucks which will need to be over or undertaken in order for the journey to not take hours. Taxis are unfortunately the most expensive here and the journey cost $20.
Sihanoukville - I'm told recent infiltration and development of Sihanouk by the Chinese has completely transformed the city in the last 2/3 years at an incredible rate with no care for the local Khmer population. It was possibly the worst place I've ever visited. Dusty and dirty on another level, open building sites and construction absolutely everywhere. Very young looking boy in a digger pulling up the pavement less than 5ft from a busy restaurant. I had to climb up a 3ft pile of loose rubble to get to an ATM because the whole side of the road had been obliterated.
If you are waiting for the ferry on Beach Road and you need an ATM but they're all broken like they were when I was there in December, there is an ATM on the actual pier. I was stressing about taking money out for Koh Rong as I heard there was no way to get cash on the island but when I was there I saw a few places that offered cash out (but I didn't try them).
I reccommend reading THIS reddit thread and the LINKED article by a Chinese blogger about Sihanouk.
I read THIS travelfish article about Koh Rong which was very helpful too. I had an impression from the article that the island is quite under developed, which in some ways was definitely true, however it was easy to do what we wanted and we didn't struggle for places to eat etc. We stayed on the main pier (though really this is still a small strip of restaurants and shops, no resorts) and spent most of our time on White Sand Beach. Koh Rong could not be any more different than Sihanouk and it was a great place to spend Christmas and unwind. We didn't do much other than swim and lie on the beach and it was great! There were boat tours to take but a lot seemed to end with 'free drink and party' and we weren't interested in that. Prices on the island were the same as PP/SR. The only things that were a lot more expensive were activities - someone had a jetski you could rent for $100.. and there was some tree top zip line you could do for about $20.
We visited 4k beach next door which was a lot more remote, beautiful as well but only one option to eat. We came past Coconut Beach when we left on the speedboat and that looked to a bit less than the main pier but still stocked with a good few options. Overall the food we had on Koh Rong was some of the best!
Kampot - A small town/city on the river. Very chilled with a nice central part of town with good places to eat. There are hardly any big hotels or buildings over 3 stories - it felt like a more real Khmer place than somewhere like Siem Reap. From Kampot you can visit Bokor Mountain, Kep, salt fields, a lot of natural escapes. Unfortunately we both got very sudden aggressive gastro-bug or food poisoning so we spent 5 days pretty much inside doing nothing (was going to happen at some point). Kampot was a quiet place and we were able to recover well here though.
Kampot to Koh Chang - From Kampot we travelled to Koh Chang, Thailand. I'd seen some speculation online that it wasn't possible to do this trip in one day, but having done it I can say yes it is but it is a long day. Almost every bus trip we took on our adventure meant that we lost all of the day (no motorways in Viet/Cambodia) however the quality of transport means it can take even longer. Vietnam was good with sleeper or semi sleeper buses, however in Cambodia our 6.5 hour trip from Kampot to the Thai border at Trat was 16 people in a 12 seater minibus plus a baby.. so bear in mind long distance trips in Cambodia can be testing! From Trat border we got a minibus to the bus station, then a songalew/thai taxi to the ferry and then a minibus took us to our hotel on the other side [12 hour trip].
Thailand - Much more infastructure and felt more modern than Cambodia and Vietnam, but I couldn't really get a vibe for the place and felt like a lot had been lost to the prevalent tourism. I would maybe visit again but staying away from coastal areas - if felt like the Spain of South East Asia.
Prices could be a little more on top of Cambodian prices but you could find cheap places to eat. About £5 for a meal. Taxis cost about £3 through Grab. 7/11 and Family Mart very cheap snacks for pennies.
Bangkok - as this was our last stop we didn't travel to many temples or big spots outside the city because money haha... we stayed away from the expat areas, the Museum of Art & Culture had a cool free exhibition, the malls Siam Discovery, Siam Paragon are worth visiting for the food halls and just to see. Where we stayed had a pool so we took it pretty easy. Went to Chatachuk but too much tourist and sweat..
Bikes:
We bought a bike in HCMC via facebook marketplace - I would suggest if you know anyone Viet to get them to help you get the true price because as a tourist you're probably seeing an inflated price tag. If not that it might be possible to get one from another backpacker, but then you may be at the mercy of any damages or issues with the bike they're not aware of as they aren't familiar with bikes.
We took our bike (Honda Cub c 50) to Nha Trang with us stowed in our sleeper bus - we visited a few bus trip/tourist places and one was happy to do it for us. I think for 2 people and the bike was about £23 one way, so not bad at all. You'll have to empty the fuel before it goes in the bus so just remember that at the other end you might have to give your bike a min to run the fuel through it again. We sold it in Nha Trang because it wasn't quite powerful enough to get us around with any bags (i was not in charge of buying bike haha...). Bikes are more than easy to rent in every country we went to for probably £5 a day max. We had a bike in Koh Chang but I know in Thailand there are more rules about tourist rental so I would swerve riding on the mainland. The most hectic place we rode was HCMC so I would just suggest avoiding that if you can, even if you ride in your home country.
We sold our bike in Nha Trang via facebook marketplace. We took a loss but it was more about cutting our dead weight before the rest of our trip so to speak. If you really want to ride a lot in SEAsia, Cambodia has no restrictions on tourists having bikes up to 125cc if you want to play the legal legal route (not that I saw any police in Cambodia over 3 weeks!). A bike is also a responsibility and if you're wanting to feel completely free while travelling it might not be right to buy one. Do thorough research! I travelled with a full face helmet and I was grateful for it on windy rides and hectic places likes HCMC. If you're not planning on riding a lot then this is definitely not essential but finding a full face helmet, that fits, that isn't too bootleg to break on you might be some things to consider (bare in mind I was planning on doing long rides when planning this trip initially).
Veganism / plant based / special diets: As mentioned I have strong intolerance to all dairy products and am generally vegan; I still eat eggs maybe once a week and might have fish and chips a few times a year.
With the exception to intolerances and allergies I think the best approach to eating in South East Asia or travelling in general is be willing to be flexible. I only like to eat plant based, but I'm happy to eat eggs and at a push will eat fish or chicken. This is obviously not what I want to do for every meal but consider that you might be getting places late at night, options that are clearly described in English as not containing your allergens may only have meat in them etc.
When I travelled to Japan and also for all these countries, I wrote 'I cannot eat dairy etc' in English on Google translate and then screenshotted the response in the desired language if I needed to show someone to confirm ingredients. For Japan I looked up pre made examples as I know the kanji can sometimes not translate directly, but here I just had the google translate page as a back up.
Hong Kong - a lot of English spoken here and a lot of specifically vegan places however they are more expensive. At 7/11 they sell the 'Kind' granola bars which are vegan and yummy! and I also ate the ready made egg and rice sushi balls. Some ingredients were listed in English but I don't remember finding any other easy go-to's. At bakeries, of which there are a lot, almost everything appears to be cream filled, buttered, flaky pastry. I found I could eat walnut and raisin breads without any noticeable issues, but I didn't have an ingredients list to check.
Vietnam - in HCMC I was very lucky to be staying down the road from a fully vegan restaurant that had ice cream, vegan banh mi, smoothies etc (Healthy World in District 1, there is another somewhere else in the city). Tofu was on menus and on an English menu in a Viet place I could safely pick something veggie. Asking for a dish to be 'chay' means veggie and that works too. Because everything is so cheap, it seemed to be easy enough to eat here. Desserts were limited with the exception of a vegan shop.
They do have Oreos, in general for all these countries, I hope you like Oreos because they're the only dessert option most place !
Cambodia - Sometimes easy and sometimes not. Tofu did appear on menus, I would recommend trying Tofu Lok Lak as a veggie Khmer dish (it will probably come with a fried egg) and I was able to ask for curries just veggie or with tofu. I ate mostly eggs and toast of some kind for breakfast because that was a filling option. Every city I was in there was at least one vegan cafe or restaurant that was not too much more ££ than a normal meal so I knew at least I could get myself something nice and safely vegan every other day while keeping a budget. I was concerned about Koh Rong being a remote island that I would struggle to eat but this was one of the best places! There is a purely veggie/vegan restaurant on the main pier, as well as other restaurants offering vegan pizza, veggie pad thai, tofu curries etc. I also found a second kind of chocolate biscuit that wasn't an Oreo here!
Koh Chang/Thailand - though we were back to having access to 7/11 the options seemed more limited and Thailand was my least favourite place to eat. In 7/11 I did find a few different kinds of Almond milk (& oreos!) but ingredients were rarely in English. Some options at the food halls were inari sushi, Subway (hash browns) and a few other (but more pricey) dedicated vegan restaurants in the central district.
You deserve a medal if you made it this far - any questions please ask me, thanks :-)
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Patrice O'Neal Dating Advice - Stop Being Romantic Crack head gives dating advice Why Are They So Needy? Tik Tok Dating Advice Compilation He's Not Meeting Your Needs? How To Tell Him What You Want

“Advice Sister Alison” is a lifestyles, beauty, fashion, and relationships expert, and co-creator of The Advice Sisters® online publications. Alison is also the Co founder and relationship expert for Leather and Lace Advice and Leather and Lace Spice where she offers a unique perspective on life and relationships. Dating in itself is already stressful. The problems that typically plague standard relationships, from forgetting an anniversary to cheating, create an almost impenetrable barrier in the relationship. Free dating sites like Flirthut can help make things a little easier for you by giving you an opportunity to meet someone online without having to pay for subscriptions or create complex accounts. We're back to basics. Fixed or not, it’s frustrating, and unless you’re a crack Marine Corps sniper, you will often go home empty handed. Online dating is a pain in the ass. As a “veteran” of over 60 internet dates and nearly 10 years of negotiating my way through the many, many websites out there, I know firsthand how arduous and frustrating it can be. Build healthy relationships and learn to show more affection with the help of wikiHow's Relationships category. Get expert-reviewed advice on moving from dating to a relationship, fighting for a relationship, and more. Whether you want to be an expert at cuddling or just want to know when someone likes you romantically, we've got advice for you!

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Patrice O'Neal Dating Advice - Stop Being Romantic

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