The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 58: Joana Lio and the Bully’s Dance

Anedius 8-12

Good morning, Iliana. First you surprise me by being later than usual, and now I see you first thing in the morning? Aren’t you supposed to be in school right now?
Yeah, but I got a really busy day today and I wanted to get the rest of the Revision stuff out of the way. So what else is there about Revision Methods you didn’t talk about yesterday?
Yesterday was giving you the grounding to understand advanced Revision Methods. I believe I shall illustrate by using vocal Revisions to change the voice; this makes Mimicry quite simple. And, mm, we shall round things out with some basic Enspell practice. Posture means a lot even in spellcasting, you know…

You are surprised to see Joana Lio y Rossollo waiting for you as you return for lunch, though her look of “I want to beat someone up and steal their lunch money” is quite typical. It’s really her default expression. You only hope you aren’t the target of her ire.

I’ve decided I’m going to the dance on Sunday. And I’m going with Philippe Marchant.

You can’t help but feel worried. Everyone knows Philippe is Joana’s bully crush, the boy who has inspired her to such heights of schoolyard nastiness as threatening to squish Emilia Strolin’s spider unless she did her homework for her (naturally, you and Rui helped her get even for that one; to this day Joana has no idea who filled her pack with self-igniting fireworks that spelled out rather rude comments about her weight).

But Philippe is certainly a prize, even though Joana’s the only one to enter the competition, and she goes on and on about him all the time. You’d say she’s done at least half her bad deeds just to impress him, but you don’t think he’s even noticed. He certainly hasn’t shown any interest in her, and it’s a bit of a shock to hear he’d agree to go to the dance with her—or anyone, really.

Joana, I didn’t know Philippe had asked you to the dance.
Well…he hasn’t. But he will! We’re gonna make him.
We’ll get to that later. First, we need someone to teach me and Philippe how to dance.

Joana isn’t really up on who would make a good dance instructor, for fairly obvious reasons. Still, after some brainstorming, you come up with a couple of viable options.

Option alpha: flee. I like that. Still, we came here to help, so…how about Badcrumble?

If there’s anybody who can get the decidedly unladylike Joana ready for a dance, it’s Professor Kate Badcrumble. She’s a busy woman, what with being the regent of College Avila and all, so you don’t know how willing she’ll be to help, but you think it’s worth a try. You run the idea by Joana.

She agrees to the idea after she finishes stuffing your head into the rubbish bin. Apparently, she didn’t like being called unladylike. Who knew?

Afternoon, Iliana.
Afternoon, Raoul. I don’t see you much back at the college anymore.
No, you wouldn’t. The older kids have made it clear I’m not welcome there anymore. I mean, most of First Year’s been pretty nice to me, you included, but the pranks are getting out of control. That’s why I’m gonna hire a bodyguard.
A—what, really?
Yeah. First tryouts are tomorrow. Basia put an ad in the school paper. I’m not gonna get picked on anymore.
Basia? I’d heard you’d formed a Clique with her a while back. Still, Basia?
She’s actually pretty nice once you get past the whole competition thing. I mean, she knows I can’t study as hard as her, so we get along pretty well. Anyway, I’ll let you know tomorrow how things went.

Now that the invisible ink has been taken care of, Zoe needs to develop a drop-off and delivery system for her product that can’t be tracked. She can’t use single dead drops, because eventually someone will learn where they are and track them back to her. They need to be stealthy, and they need to be mobile. Delivery people are fallible, too; they could get distracted or turn and tattle on you, plus they’ll demand a fee, and that’ll cut into your bottom line.

You need to find a more reliable method. After all, it’s important to avoid getting caught in Zoe’s scheme. Well, it may be your scheme too, but you definitely don’t want anyone hearing you take credit for any of it. Perhaps something zany would be the best way to throw off any investigators?

Passing the Persuasion investigation should make those red options effectively black.

So which one do you want to do, Zoe?
I want your opinion. I don’t want to influence your answer.
Uh huh. But we’re going to need to work together to get this to work. You’ll need to approve whichever we go with if it’s going to succeed.
Well…the animal route seems easier.

She does nevertheless seem pleased that you consulted her. Even if you pick the other option, you think simply letting her voice her opinion will make the mission go more smoothly.

Yeah, yeah, however you want to justify it, game. Clearly the only correct answer is to turn the dorm building into a flying pirate ship.

Avast! Wait, that’s “stop.” Er, go!

Late at night, when all of your classmates are asleep, the two of you sneak up to the observation deck of Hedi’s girl’s dorm spire, lower the coat of arms from the flagpole, and hoist the Jolly Roger. Next, you plant a nautical steering wheel on the balcony. Spiffy! A sprinkle of magical dust and a few extra phemes get her moving; Zoe breaks a bottle of apple cider over the stern for effect [I did not add these details myself]. Within moments, the tower lifts smoothly off its foundation and starts floating off, although you do chip the perimeter wall on your way out.

Flying a dorm spire is harder than you had imagined, but with Zoe at the wheel and you controlling the speed, you are able to float your deliveries of notes, essays, potion samples, and test answers to the various colleges without waking anyone up. And, at the end, you manage to land the tower without trouble—although the door out may be a few inches to the left of where it used to be.

You and Zoe have managed to build a trading empire singlehandedly! …Well, four-handedly.

The first run of Homework Helper Heroine was a stunning success, but the sheer volume of new requests pouring in is starting to overwhelm Zoe, and the professors are getting suspicious. The new requests are also getting more demanding: students want Zoe to write their end-of-term papers for them, and some are even pressing you to develop a potion that would allow Zoe to take a test for them by borrowing their appearance.

I’m good, but I’m not that good. Not only do I have to keep up with every subject and every class now, but I’ve got to watch out for the professors. And I know they’re catching on to me after everyone turned in such good grades today.

You had thought that this business venture would boost Zoe’s confidence, but she’s only looking more tired and pale than ever.

I don’t think I even want to do this anymore.

Each of the three exits gives a different payout, depending on how you handle things. Negotiate gives you half of 500 pims, Conversation pays out 150, and giving up only provides 100. While I’d normally go for Negotiate (using Character Study to get a 50% Success boost), I’d rather give Iliana the point in Charm that comes with giving up. Besides, what’s she need with money at this point?

From the look on Zoe’s face, you know that she wants you to end Homework Helper Heroine. Is the extra income really worth the stress, to Zoe and to you? It’s not like you’re short on other ways to get pims.

Just then, a repeat client walks up to the two of you. Zoe sighs.

I told you before, you’re supposed to write a note, not meet us in person. Just because you know it’s me—
Don’t lead him on, Zoe. Listen, Legate Orsi came to us at lunch. He told us if we get caught again, he’ll expel us both.

“Ah, gotcha,” the older student replies. “That’s a shame.”

HHH is officially over. Spread the word for us, will you?

As the older student nods and leaves, Zoe smiles.

Nice lie. Oh, and thank you. I wasn’t expecting you to be so understanding. I know this business meant a lot to you.
Your friendship means even more.

Zoe blushes.

Well, we did make 200 pims so far. That’s good too, right?

There you are. So how’d it go?
Well, we had this maze set up for the candidates to weed out the weaklings. I thought we could go for dragons and lava and castles, but Basia told me we couldn’t get any on short notice. Still, we spent a long time building a maze full of spiked traps, enchanted statues, and all sorts of booby traps. It was exciting watching them go through all our hard work! Only three of them got through, so I think we did pretty good. After that, Basia gave them a quiz, and then she picked the older girl. She starts tomorrow. I can’t wait! …Mostly because I got picked on four times already today.

Joana remains a bit skeptical about your choice, but you assure her it’s for the best if she really wants to learn how to dance and conduct herself at the party. As for Professor Badcrumble, she’s as busy as you’d feared, but she is willing to help Joana and Philippe. After all, she’d be doing the school a great favor by civilizing the two biggest bullies in the First Year even a little, plus any time they spend on each other is time not spent terrorizing the school populace.

Between classes, Avila, and my own research, I have a lot of work to do. However, if you can run some errands for me, I should have enough to spare for lessons.

The Professor hands you a long list of needed supplies and books to be returned to various professors and libraries.

Oh, and can you replace the flower arrangement in the common room while you’re at it? The one there now is looking a touch weepy, and we mustn’t have that.

First, let’s Reason this out.

You take a quick look over the list to see if maybe you could get everything in order more quickly or efficiently, but you don’t gleam anything useful from it. It just looks like a lot of work.

Drat. Well, what are friends for?

Whenever there’s something that needs doing, you’re the one your friends go to for advice. You’ve always said you have the makings of a great leader, and you do have something of a following in the school already. You bring together a reasonable selection of friends and minions and divide up the errands between them. They all readily agree once you explain your twin causes: keeping your friends out of the bullies’ firing lines and keeping them occupied with each other.

By the end of the day, all the items on the professor’s list have been marked off. Badcrumble is pleased with your prompt and efficient work.

If you can help me out like this every day until the dance, I think I can squeeze in lessons for Joana and Philippe.

That’s that, then. You hope Joana appreciates all your hard work on her behalf.

You’ve been looking at charms at the back of the shop for some time, but you just can’t find the one you want. Sighing, you decide it’s late enough to head out.

However, to your surprise, when you reach the front of the charm shop you find it blocked by several crates. You’re quite confused, as these crates obviously weren’t here when you arrived and you’re almost certain the shop is still open. You weren’t looking at charms that long!

Lazy teamsters. Iliana obviously can’t lift the heavy crates, so what else is there?

The crates look quite heavy and you don’t want to move them yourself, so you start to look around for the shopkeeper or a clerk to find out what’s going on. Of course, no one is around. However, you did find the “employees only” door at the back of the shop while you were exploring.

Clearly the way to go, then.

Rather than even attempting to move the crates, you decide to sneak out the back door. It winds up leading into an alley, which then leads you back into the street.

Alright, so you came out looking a bit suspicious, but no one noticed you and it was a better idea than waiting for whomever to finish putting away their goods.

So Joana has her dance instructor, but that’s just the beginning. Now it’s time for the part of the plan you’ve been dreading.

Philippe is a master bully. He only respects power.

Joana’s eyes mist up as she describes him. You really don’t get her crush on him.

He won’t go to the dance without a show of power from us. He’s done a lot of stuff the school would probably kick him out for, so I say we find out what all those things are and threaten to rat him out unless he does what we want.

You’re not sure blackmailing the biggest First Year bully is the best idea ever, but Joana isn’t the type to accept a “no.”

So you remember how I said this and Philippe’s adventure were basically the same? In Philippe’s version, you’re helping him fulfill a blackmailer’s demands to get him to learn how to dance and show up at a party. So yeah. The biggest difference is that you don’t get to know it’s Joana until the very end (although it’s obvious if you read the character descriptions). I think I’ll just go with Flawless Timing.

Also, you can expect the choice descriptions to only get longer from here.

You need hard, verifiable evidence, the kind you get from a thorough investigation. You start by watching Philippe make his rounds from afar, taking down names, and listening to the word on campus. It’s dangerous work, considering who you’re following, but it pays off: you get names, dates, and stolen items.

However, your crowning achievement was catching Philippe bragging about his exploits to his older brothers. This could be big, since you doubt Tough Guy Philippe would want everyone knowing he’s still in his older brothers’ shadows.

Joana agrees with your assessment, although she seems a little disappointed in her bad boy.

Still, he’ll have to go to the dance with me now.

Oh no, you’ve overslept again!

Tearing yourself from your dreams of digging, you grab the nearest robe and dart out of your dorm room. Run down the corridor, across the road, up the stairs, through the archways, Revision is just down the—BAM!

You bounce off Professor Storey’s chest like a rubber ball.

Well, well, if it isn’t the famous Iliana Ot’Matar! Skipper of classes, avoider of detention, mistress of missing homework! The pleasure of this meeting is all mine, your Majesty!

The professor makes a sarcastic bow, irony dripping from every word.

I think it’s high time you learned some…life and time management, my dear. Allow me to introduce you to your newest friend.

Storey pulls out a small wooden doll from his robe, then waves his wand, muttering a few phrases. Phemes pop out and envelop the doll, changing its shape limb by limb until it becomes a tiny version of you.

It’s clear that you are unable to manage your own life. Maybe seeing it from a different perspective is what you need to chisel away your problems.

He hands you the doppelganger with a smile that sends shivers down your spine.

The doll is programmed to follow verbal commands, so you won’t have to use magic. Your task is to carefully plan its every day for a week; it’s up to your judgment what it does and when it does it. After a week, it will evaluate your performance. If you do manage to use your available time for good, I will not assign you detention. If, however, you waste its time as you typically do your own, it’s detention for the both of you!

Somehow widening his smile (which you now know will grace your nightmares), he pats you on the back and continues his righteous hunt for truants down the corridor.

Being even later for class now and having been caught, you see no further need to go to class, so you go back to your room and set the doll on your desk. It just stands there motionless. Curious, you give it an order:


After a few quiet seconds, the doll bursts out into an uncoordinated mess of limb-flailing. I can dance better than that, you think to yourself. I hope.

Activity for the morning is completed. I have lost 1 point of Confidence and gained 1 point of Endurance. Parental Approval increased by 2.3 points. I have two more activities left for the day.

Ugh. Points of confidence and endurance? Really? Professor Storey gets more obsessive-compulsive by the day.

Yeah, this is exactly what you think it is. And clearly the solution is…to save-scum like a bitch!

The complexity of the doll is beyond anything you’ve ever seen, but you still manage to grasp the basic functionality of the different gears, tubes, and enchanted mechanisms. You go through a few mistakes, but you eventually manage to create a perfect copy. Early field tests show they are in perfect working order, so you create as many as you can, then head back to your room to figure out the best possible combination of actions for a week…

Now that you have the goods on Philippe, you simply have to let him know. He won’t scare easily, and you don’t want him tracing the threat back to you or Joana, so you’ve got your work cut out for you. After pondering the matter, you decide the safest way is an anonymous note. Something suitably cryptic, but still threatening enough to rattle Philippe.

Let’s just skip the investigation and move straight to Blackmail.

Blackmailing a guy like Philippe takes an expert. Fortunately, you happen to know one.

Always did want that big oaf to fear me, one way or another.

Carmine peppers the note with just the right amount of detail to let him know you know what he’s been up to, then adds a few demands: attend dance lessons every afternoon until the big dance, then show up at it dressed like a gentleman, or else the school paper learns every bit of your need for brotherly affection.

Inspecting the note to see if it’s sufficiently menacing and convincing, you nod your approval and slip it under Philippe’s door while everyone is at dinner. You don’t get to see his face, but before the night is through, you spot Philippe speaking with Professor Badcrumble.

Joana couldn’t be happier.

Joana is pleased with the way the dance lessons are going, and she’s grateful (as far as she can show it), but she wants something more. She wants a dance that is choreographed just for her and Philippe. Something special to celebrate the moment.

I want it to be elegant and classy, just like Philippe.

You have several very witty retorts you could have responded with to that, but you’d really like to keep your head where it is. As things are, considering how…big-boned Joana is and how ungraceful Philippe moves, coming up with something appropriate and practical is going to be a tall order.

This is a pretty tough choice, despite being blue, so I think we’ll take the investigation this time.

Surely you and the professor aren’t the only ones who want to see this once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon of two bullies in love; is there any outside help available?

Sure enough, there is! It turns out that Professor Sido has the list of songs to be played during the dance directly from the music teacher, Chastellain. This should help determine the right sort of dance for Joana.

Back at it, then. Society is a much safer bet, so let’s see what comes of it.

You attend dances and parties all the time, and you’ve stocked up on pretty much every fashionable dance there is. One of them, you’re sure, has to be the right fit for Joana and Philippe. You’ll just need Professor Badcrumble to help you modify the steps to account for their personal styles and sizes.

You add a few helpful suggestions yourself, and after some consideration, Badcrumble creates a new dance adapted from several others that will be both easy to pick up, even if taught separately, and elegant to watch. When Joana sees the new moves performed, she almost squeals with delight and redoubles her efforts to learn them.

Your trip to Sido’s office was not without its own perils. When you first knocked on the door, there was no answer, and before you could knock again, you heard a building crescendo of shouts and pounding feet. Turning around, you saw nearly two dozen students charging directly at you. If you don’t do something quick, you’ll be crushed against the professor’s door by a horde of stampeding students!

One real blue option? Not too helpful. Guess we should see if Character Study unlocks something.

Fortunately, you recognize the look on all the students’ faces: it’s the look of desperation. Judging from their arms full of books, scrolls, and texts, they’re worried about grades. Knowing this will make dealing with the charging throng of students much easier.

Maybe, but now we just have Athletics to choose. May as well…

You dive as far away from Professor Sido’s door as you can. Luckily, your leap was more than far enough to avoid the crowd of rushing students. You also manage to slide directly into the legs of Sido himself.

The professor kindly helps you to your feet and explains that he just announced an extra credit assignment—hence the incoming charge.

Sorry if things got a bit dangerous for you there. But of course, you don’t need any extra credit for dialectics, do you? Good job with that, by the way. So what was it you wanted to talk about?
It’s about the dance coming up…

Gains of the Week

Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Revision Methods increased by 1 step.
----Revision Methods maxed!
----Methodology of Change ability learned.
--Mimicry increased by 1 step.
--Enspell Research level increased by 1.
Successful adventure!
--Art Appreciation increased by 1 step.
----Art increased by 2 (?).
------Finesse pheme learned.
------The World as a Stage action learned.
Successful adventure!
--Navigation increased by 2 steps.
----Disorientation pheme learned.
----Raid increased by 1.
------Discover pheme learned.
--Theory of Enchantment increased by 2 steps.
Raoul Leconte used Hang Out inside the College.
--Relationship with Raoul Leconte increased to 5.

Successful adventure!
--Relationship with Zoe Melis increased to 5.
--Relationship max with Zoe Melis increased by 2.
--Money increased by 100.
--Charm increased by 1. :woot:
Successful adventure!
--Merit increased by 2; Aranaz merit now at 417.
--Leadership increased by 1 step.
----Rejection pheme learned.
Aveline used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 420.
Raoul Leconte used Hang Out inside the College.
--Relationship with Raoul Leconte increased to 6.
Successful event!
--Escape Artist increased by 1 step.

Successful adventure!
--Flawless Timing cannot be increased.

Successful adventure!
--Conceal increased by 2 steps.
----Wrist Flick ability learned.
Aveline used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 423.
Successful event!
--Clockwork increased by 1 step.
----Artifice action learned (again).

Successful adventure!
--Willpower increased by 1 step.
----Flawless pheme learned.
Successful event!
--Relationship with Tarvixio Sido increased to 2.

New Abilities

Methodology of Change (Permanent): +1 to Creativity, Flawless Timing, and Stress max.
The World as a Stage: Charm/Theatre v8, Charm/Acting v11 and 15; +25 pims and +1 to Relationship with random friend, then +3 Merit, then +1 to random Relationship, and +1 Stress regardless.
Wrist Flick: +33% Obscurity (chance that Illegal items won’t be confiscated if you’re caught) for 4 days.