Pesterquest Vol. 4 (The Loneliest Girl in the World): Review and Analysis

hell. fucking. YES!!!!!!

If you’ve been following Homestuck/Hiveswap news in the past month, you’re probably aware of Pesterquest, a visual novel series following up the Hiveswap Friendsim with the MSPA Reader meeting the cast of Homestuck itself. I didn’t write any blog posts about the first few installments (John, Rose, and Dave) because there wasn’t much to say about them: they were decently written but unremarkable aside from a few moments. The most recent installment, however, focuses on Jade Harley and totally blew away my expectations!!! I was excited for Jade’s route the moment I heard someone say it was written by a major fan of her character, especially considering that Jade’s screen time in the epilogues was extremely disappointing, and it was well worth getting hyped for. I’ll go through the route in order of the bad endings, followed by the good ending, in roughly the same style as my numbered Homestuck blog posts. The dialogue has been transcribed by yours truly.

Jade’s route goes off to a strong start the moment we first see her: she’s sporting an angry, determined expression pointing her gun directly at the reader. This moment goes a bit over the top to show us right away that this installment of Pesterquest is going to be a riveting journey through the catacombs of Jade’s character.

JADE: i dont WANT to shoot you but you are clearly a dangerous and unpredictable being and i need to make sure i stay safe
JADE: my grandpa taught me a lot about gun safety and trigger discipline in case something bad ever happened to me
JADE: so i know that good trigger discipline means keeping your finger on the trigger at all times in case you need to blow something to bits!!!

It really shows that this volume was written by a passionate fan of Jade, and I mean that in the best possible way. David Turnbull extrapolated on what we know about Jade’s backstory in ways that rival Hussie’s understanding of his own characters. The only scene with Jade in Homestuck proper that I think is as insightful into her character as this would probably be her conversation with Tavros in Act 5 Act 2 about how her grandpa died, which probably in my top 10 favorite pesterlogs in Homestuck.

JADE: i can put two and two together pretty easily, you know
JADE: youve never shown up in any of my dreams before, and now none of those dreams are coming to pass
JADE: not to mention that i dont even see prospit when i go to sleep anymore!!!!!
JADE: and that can only mean that you have derailed the forces of fate!!
JADE: you destroyed johns copy of sburb and somehow that changed EVERYTHING
JADE: not only could john not begin the game, none of us could! and none of the meteors hit like they were supposed to! it was like the universe changed its very fabric to bend to your evil whims

Jade’s extreme anger at the reader is our first indicator about the deeper insecurities haunting her life that I wholeheartedly accept as canon to Homestuck. I very much appreciate that this volume subverts prior patterns (hehe classic Jade) and goes straight into her being mad at the reader for messing up the timeline she was so excited for. She goes on to explain what is different about this timeline compared to the continuity of Homestuck: John’s birthday was as uneventful as can be and Sburb turned out to be a huge scam.

And then things spiral into absolute hilarity:

JADE: the more i look at you the more i start to think youre like…
JADE: hmm how do i explain this
JADE: okay do you know what a furry is?
Wow, okay. That question is more loaded than her gun. Yes?
JADE: alright! so a lot of artists i follow do ych commissions and you remind me of one of those
JADE: does that make sense?
You have no idea what a YCH is. You cautiously ask her.
JADE: it stands for your character here
JADE: basically, an artist will draw a pose or scenario but instead of putting in an actual character they will leave a blank outline, like a mannequin
JADE: you pay them to put your own character there!
JADE: and when i look at you i feel like im looking into one of those blank spaces

Now THIS is the Jade we know and love. Everyone knows that Jade is a furry, especially after the epilogues came out. But it’s often forgotten that she’s specifically not that kind of furry. The part where she explains YCH commissions is just so… so Jade. Her explanations of nerdy stuff might be even more adorable than John’s, which is saying a LOT.

Bad ending 1: If you pick “Get that gun away from her!”, Jade reveals in a rather uncomfortable way that her grandfather is a stuffed corpse; the reader freaks out and tries to start a fight with Jade, but Bec immediately warps the reader into outer space. Every Hiveswap Friendsim and Pesterquest installment has several bad endings caused by awkward situations, and Jade’s route honors that tradition very well.

If you pick the other option though…

Jade puts her gun down and shows the reader around her house in her usual friendly fashion. The first bit that sticks out to me is Jade’s description of an episode of the Squiddles show:

JADE: this one is inkabelle, shes my favorite
JADE: in one episode she gets lost in the murky brineswallows and spends years completely alone, lost without any of her friends
JADE: but in the end her friend podlight tracks her down and saves her
JADE: it seemed so bleak the first time i watched it that i literally cried but i realized in the end that it was a very poignant tale
Jade smiles wistfully down at the plushie in her hand. She glances from it to another one of the Squiddle dolls and her expression tightens. She squeezes the doll just a little too hard, causing a horrendous pitchy squeak.
JADE: i guess in retrospect that was pretty silly though!! hehe. i mean it was just a kids show
JADE: of course there was going to be a happy ending! thats how those always work right?

Jade’s description of an episode of the Squiddles show reminds me of a time two in-story years later when she talks about how she eventually realized that show was a merchandise selling vehicle made by morbid conspiracy theorists and now only enjoys it out of nostalgic value. Jade’s description of a Squiddles episode here is an excellent demonstration of her repressive sides this volume explores, and makes her in-comic discussion on how she now sees the show come off as profound character development in retrospect; I have no doubt Turnbull thought about that scene in Homestuck when writing this volume.

The garden is where Jade starts talking more about her daily loneliness and things get considerably more emotional.

JADE: you know, dave talks a lot about coming to visit me here. i mean, all of my friends do but dave especially
JADE: in his usual davey way of course, which means making lots of jokes and not sounding very serious about it
JADE: “yeah im itching to put on my safari hat and come traipsing down to doomdeath archipelago to get my ass murdered by infinidog the eldritch retriever,” stuff like that
JADE: i know he really means it though! he wants to see me, just like i want to see him
JADE: but its just wishful thinking
JADE: he doesnt know where this island is

Jade’s accurate imitation of Dave and longing for spending time with him in person are both pretty emotional knowing the various directions their relationship goes in all the comic’s timelines. It sort of puts a new light on adult Jade’s extremely exaggerated horny flirting with Dave and Karkat in the epilogues, which I now almost want to interpret as her trying to cover up extreme depression and jealousy. She does sound like herself in the epilogues’ few scenes where she talks to characters other than those two, which further makes her scenes qualify as Sadstuck.

And then Jade’s emotional vent devolves into a full-out Jade rant. Jade rants are a totally different flavor from, say, Karkat rants or Vriska rants, and they always bring a huge amount of insight into her character.

JADE: even i dont know where it is!!
JADE: all deliveries here go through some company po box my grandpa set up before he died, and its not marked on any maps
JADE: because this is a special island with all kinds of important secrets on it, i guess??
JADE: or… it was special
JADE: i was special
JADE: but not anymore!!!! now im just a regular girl stuck alone on this dumb island for the rest of my stupid life!

The reader asks Jade if she’s doing alright and her mood suddenly reverts back to “normal”. She brings up her grandpa’s collections of trophies and implies that it was a very difficult task for her to stuff her grandpa’s body, which, um… let’s tiptoe around this uncomfortable fact. Anyway:

JADE: okay im going to be honest most of grandpas collection stinks
JADE: but i think what is important is what it all represents to him
JADE: hes been on all sorts of incredible amazing adventures and he has this huge array of interesting things to show for it!!
You tell Jade that her grandfather sounds like a hell of a guy.
JADE: he sure is!!!
JADE: back when i was little he used to go on trips all over the world, and come back with so many interesting stories and new souvenirs
JADE: i was so awed, and i guess a little jealous too
JADE: sometimes he would be gone for days or even weeks at a time and it would just be me and bec holding down the fort……
JADE: i was always so happy when he came back, and i listened to his tales without making a single peep
JADE: but
JADE: he never asked me if i wanted to come along for an adventure, no matter how obvious it was that i did
JADE: i guess thats just the way of life for adventuring folk! theres no time to be tied down, even by the people you love. they can stay at home and wait for you to come back

Jade’s thoughts about the days when her grandfather was alive are another thing that puts a new light on something in the epilogues. Early on in either side, Jade is stated to often go on expeditions with Jake; from Jake’s perspective, this is just him showing someone else the joy of adventure, but from Jade’s perspective she probably views it as her grandpa’s redemption arc, which is a term I am using in a completely separate fashion from Gamzee’s stupid pseudo-emotional speech he had the gall to call a “redemption arc”. I am imagining some incredibly warm and fuzzy heart-to-hearts between Jade and Jake that happened offscreen because nothing is pure in this world (except for Jade’s Pesterquest route).

Jade snaps at the reader again and goes to her room, then apologizes and gives a surprisingly emotional explanation for why she’s been in such a bad mood:

JADE: have you ever spent your whole life waiting for something to happen and then… it didnt?
Well, your memory is pretty fuzzy right now, so you can’t say you have. But you think you understand a similar sense of yearning. Good god have you yearned.
JADE: yearning is a good word for it yeah…
JADE: let me try and explain! when i was young i would see this beautiful golden kingdom called prospit, and hang out with the people there
JADE: id wake up with these fuzzy half remembered feelings of happiness, and visions of the future swirling around in my head
JADE: it was nice… it was a good life
JADE: but there was this very lonely feeling that i couldnt make go away no matter what i did
JADE: i would always tell myself soon jade!! soon itll all change
JADE: you will get to travel to prospit in your waking hours, youll meet your friends in person, you will finally begin to LIVE, like REALLY LIVE
JADE: i waited days, months, YEARS for the day to finally arrive and then… it never came
JADE: i was so sure that it would come on johns birthday… all of my dreams told me so, all the signs were there but it just… didnt happen!!
JADE: and now i dont know what to do with myself
JADE: i was able to ignore the lonely feeling because i knew that it would disappear one day but now that day has slipped me by, and its like…
JADE: its like all those years are catching up and crashing down on me at once and i feel so… so small and helpless and sad, like the loneliest girl in the world
JADE: i dont want to put this all on you, that wouldnt be very nice, but… but its just
JADE: its not…

Jade’s secret depression and usage of dreams as a coping mechanism is CANON and nobody can tell me otherwise. It’s ABOUT FUCKING TIME Jade’s childhood got treated under a more serious light, just like Dave’s was in 2015. I was waiting so long for something like this, you don’t even know. Or maybe you do, if your love for Homestuck is anywhere near as fucked up as mine.

After her rant cools off, Jade explains why she can’t just go anywhere she wants and here’s a fun bit that sticks out to me:

JADE: cmon, let me show you something
Jade hops up and shuffles down the staircase, and you follow. She takes you to the teleportation pad in the atrium.
JADE: these transportalizers are all powered by thermal energy and use each other as beacons for the sake of easy short range teleportation
JADE: but if you hook one of them up to a uranium converter and modify the coordinates specified on the logic board, you can theoretically go anywhere in the world!
JADE: which i tried… see?
She twists the top of the pad with her fingertips and pulls it off, and shows you the wiring underneath. It looks messy, like someone haas made multiple attempts to rewire the circuits.
JADE: but when i used it, it only led to the exact same thing that happened just now… bec used his powers to prevent me from leaving the island
JADE: maybe i got the coordinates wrong and i would have ended up stuck underground or something, but i checked and double checked my measurements!
JADE: i think bec just doesnt want me tosc leave the island, he wants me to stay somewhere he can keep me safe at all times

A scientific explanation of how transportalizers work in Homestuck is something I never knew I needed in my life, especially when explained by Jade. Science nerd Jade is best Jade, I’m telling you.

Bad ending 2: If you pick “Challenge Bec for superiority”, the reader executes the obvious Problem Sleuth joke and is beaten the shit out of by Bec, which leads to this:

and then leads to THIS, featuring a surprise cameo from two characters:

SOLLUX: wh0’s this douchebag?
ARADIA: sollux, be nice! this douchebag looks very injured
ARADIA: i think theyre going to have to restart and try again
ARADIA: better luck next time! 0u0

Aradia breaks the fourth wall here, which is interesting because her Pesterquest route is confirmed to be written by James Roach who aggressively and thoroughly broke that wall when he wrote Dave’s route. This little scene makes me interested to find out what Aradia’s whole route will be like; she seems like quite a suitable character for extreme fourth wall breaks, especially in her ghost form who Roach basically confirmed the route will focus on.

If you try again and choose the other option, Jade takes the reader to the frog temple and inadvertently shows us some enticing plot mysteries. The lotus time capsule is stuck flickering at 4:13, the transportalizers to Prospit and Derse under the elevator somehow still work despite this being a timeline in which the kids don’t start Sburb, and the carapacians in Prospit don’t even seem to recognize their human princess and won’t let her see the queen. This leads to the most Sadstuck part of all:

JADE: alright… i think i understand
JADE: i know whats going on now
Great! You offer her your most winning smile. What’s the sitch?
JADE: well… the truth is i was always being very immature about the idea of being a hero and having a destiny. life isnt like in kids cartoons after all
JADE: heroism isnt all rainbows and sunshine and its childish to think that everyone gets a happy ending… that kind of storybook stuff doesnt really exist
JADE: to be a real hero you have to be prepared to suffer horribly!
Uh. Hmmm?
JADE: it makes sense when you think about it! if everything came easy there wouldnt actually be anything heroic about it…
JADE: why else would my grandpa have put me on this island?? why else would bec want to keep me safe here even now that everythings changed??
JADE: its because its my destiny!
JADE: i have to prove that im willing to suffer and willing to sacrifice… that has to be it!!!
JADE: this cant all have been for nothing right??? thats not the way the world works… everything has a purpose even if its not clear at first
JADE: seeing prospit in the flesh reminded me of that!!
JADE: my purpose is to do what ive always done… what my grandpa and bec have helped prepare me for
JADE: i know ill be really lonely
JADE: but in the end it means that everything will continue to play out the way it is meant to
JADE: its a very noble job and ive got to be the one to do it!!
You’re at a loss for words. This really doesn’t feel like the right takeaway from all this, but you don’t know jack about Sburb or destiny or any of that nonsense, so who are you to say otherwise?

Mind if I talk about ultimate selves for a moment?

Ultimate selves are a concept in Homestuck that wasn’t put much into the spotlight until near the end in some scenes with Jade. She has conversations with god tier Calliope and Davepetasprite^2 about the loneliness and suffering inherent to being a space player and how that ties in with the player’s ultimate self. Those parts read to many as a lackluster meta justification for Jade’s story arc. Some readers have even criticized Hussie for using ultimate selves as a copout for bad character arcs.

What’s different in Jade’s volume of Pesterquest is that her speech about suffering as a hero is directed to the reader rather than any sort of wise exposition god, which makes it come off as extremely nihilist and wrong. I feel that the reader’s reaction is a great counterpoint to god tier Calliope’s words about the often cruel nature of space players’ narrative roles. Both this route and the epilogues suggest to take all that the Muse says with a grain of salt rather than treating it as the story’s ultimate source of meta wisdom—Dirk most certainly feels that way about her as shown in all those humorous narrative fights.

Bad important, heroic ending 3: If you choose to accept Jade’s new destiny, the narration remarks that you are being an absolute jerk and you are treated to this extremely painful shot that screams “denial”:

The other option, though, leads to an incredibly sweet ending featuring all four beta kids. The reader calls Jade out for her resignation to the whims of destiny and she responds as follows:

JADE: youre right… even now i was still being childish
JADE: it was easier to tell myself to be miserable for a noble cause instead of holding on to hope and maybe getting hurt again
JADE: but i have to have hope!!! thats who i am!! im a hoper not a moper!! … hehe
JADE: i will keep trying to convince bec that it will be safe for me to leave the island
JADE: things have changed and maybe he doesnt realize it yet… hes kind of a silly dumb dog at times. but he loves me and i love him and we can work it out
JADE: maybe itll take a while but ill definitely figure it out!
JADE: and while i wait… youll come visit me sometimes, wont you??

Now THAT’S how you do a triumphant inspirational speech. Homestuck has many moments where characters are genuinely inspirational, but some towards the end of the comic that sort of fall flat on their faces; this inspirational moment rivals some of the very best scenes in the epilogues.

Jade’s reconsideration of accepting a boring life gives the reader an idea. The reader grabs John, Rose, and Dave from their homes and takes them all to Jade’s house for a slumber party.

After all those years, we FINALLY have gotten to witness a full four-way meetup between the beta kids—something that we didn’t get in Homestuck itself, not even in the mass dump of reunions in Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 5. John, Rose, and Dave all have speaking parts that easily remind us what sorts of people they are, and all four are excited in their own distinct ways to see each other.

This leads to the good ending and my god does it feel well-earned. It’s sappy friendship stuff done RIGHT, which again often wasn’t done well late in Homestuck’s run. The narration hints that the further installments won’t be so nice to our characters but remarks that it feels more than good enough for the beta kids to finally meet up and have fun, which I absolutely agree with.

Jade’s Pesterquest route was so good, I can’t get over it. It felt like Homestuck in a way that almost no other Homestuck universe media did—the only other such media not written or led by Hussie that felt to me this much like Homestuck would probably be the Paradox Space comic Summerteen Romance, which I highly recomend reading.

At first I thought of Jade’s route as an apology for her epilogue treatment, but after writing this post I now view it both as an explanation for how Jade was treated in the epilogues and an actual, proper exploration of Jade’s story arc just like so many other characters got in the epilogues. I think Jade’s character benefited GREATLY from having a Pesterquest route and I hope the routes for the other characters the epilogues didn’t treat well (Jane or Dirk, for example) are similarly good. It seems very likely that the rest of the routes will be all 12 Alternian trolls plus the alpha kids, which I have mixed expectations about that I might cover in a future post.

I’ll probably get back to my classic Homestuck post series next week or so, at which point I will finally write my fabled/dreaded trickster arc post. For now… fucking Homestuck, man. No matter how much I play it up like I hate it, deep down I just have all the warmest feelings possible about it. Thank you to everyone who took part in Jade’s Pesterquest route—the writing, the revisions and proofreading, the art—for this absolute gift.

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