The Let's Play Archive

Magical Diary: Main Route

by CommissarMega

Part 16: Curiosity Killed The Cat, Satisfaction Brought It Back

Chapter 13: Curiosity Killed The Cat, Satisfaction Brought It Back

"You want to keep secrets? Fine, that's your business," I tell him. "But you won't have anyone as a friend, least of all me, if you don't learn to trust people."

Damien seems taken aback, and I wonder if I was too harsh. "I see... I- I need some time to think. I'll talk to you later, all right?'

"Sure, I ho- I guess," I tell him, and he grins at me wanly.

"Enjoy the dance," he says quietly, before slumping off into the darkness. Alone in the darkness, I guess there's nothing to do, but go to the dance.

By myself.

Not like it matters though.


I smell... pine sap? Evergreen, the scent strong, thick, sweet. I hear the fragile crunch of dried leaves underfoot, and I feel swirling breezes drifting hot and cold autumn mixed with smoke. There are murmurs too- of laughter and voices at the edge of hearing all blending together.

If this is how wizards throw parties, then I have been seriously missing out. That said, it's dark enough that I can't really make out the people around me, but their presence registers as sound and shadow, dancing slowly in the darkness.

"No time like the present," I mutter to myself, and slowly begin dancing myself. Not too fast, of course, don't want to knock someone out, or be knocked out, but it's fun! I don't feel self-conscious at all, and I wonder if that was the whole reason the Dark Dance came about. The music goes on and on, looping into itself without ever reaching an end playing tricks with my mind...

I've been here for almost two months now, but of all the time I've spent here, this dance, this moment... feels the most magical.

But as the dance goes on, and I get into my groove, that familiar sense of curiosity wells up within me- are there really spirits here with us? I know Spirit Sight, but I've never seen a spirit creature before- this could be my only chance! Well, 'only chance' this year, but still!

And this is why I picked up a few points of White Magic. Of all the magics here, it seems White Magic has the most 'out-of-test' applications, which has terrifying implications of you think about it.

When I come to, I find myself lying in the hallway outside the gym. My mind's still woozy, and my eyes are still stinging. I'm also still way too weak to stand up, though I feel myself recovering rapidly. I'm not sure how I got here, but I can hear voices-

"Oh, come now, Heironymous," Professor Potsdam laughs. "Sometimes, experience is the best teacher, don't you know?"

"She could have been killed!" Grabiner shouts, and I wince. "I don't know what you have going on in that class, but of all the things you teach, why didn't you start with warnings!? Why didn't you tell them about-"

"Oh, Hieronymous," Professor Potsdam interrupts sweetly, "if you feel so strongly about it, why don't you take over teaching White Magic?"

And just like that, the bonfires of rage behind his eyes snap into two tiny pinpricks, but burning no less hot for all that- if anything, the heat is much, much more focused. "So help me, Petunia," he says, steady with quiet fury, "if you insult me like that again, I will leave this establishment- notice or no notice."

"My apologies," Potsdam sighs in reply. "I only wish-"

"You wish to meddle," Grabiner hisses. "As you always do."

I love this exchange, as it tells us so much about these two, and also reveals who they are beneath their exteriors. Honestly, I'm on Grabiner's side here; abrasive though he may be, he's definitely got the students' welfare in mind- much moreso than Potsdam, at any rate. It's been noted before just how destructive and dangerous even first-year spells can be- and here we have Potsdam taking Ken Titus's approach to teaching kids.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for letting people learn through experience, and in most everyday matters, I'd actually prefer people be taught that way rather than though manuals or books- but magic's just too dangerous to teach that way. Grabiner gets it. Potsdam can't- or won't.

I think I'd better speak up now. "Uhm, what happened?" I ask, and immediately regret my decision when Grabiner turns the Eyes of Sauron upon me.

"Since you tried to spy on them," Potsdam says as she helps me up, "they punished you. Thankfully, they weren't tied to a formal contract, and you weren't trying to capture them, so they only stunned you."

"They also left the decision of an appropriate punishment in my hands," Grabiner scowls. "Ten demerits and Saturday detention."

"Yes sir," I reply resignedly.

"But in any case," Potsdam smiles, "we're glad to see you're all right."

"Speak for yourself," Grabiner mutters, before swirling his cape around himself and vanishing into the darkness.

"He does mean well, you know," Potsdam sighs. "Angering Otherworld creatures can be dangerous. Not the ones at the dance, of course!" she hastily adds when she sees the look I'm giving her. "We'd never invite anything or anyone dangerous to attend!"

She smiles lightly, placing a hand on my shoulder. "I want you all to blossom here," she adds. "To reach your full potential, and in order for that to happen, sometimes you must take chances and accept their consequences."

Remember that scene with Big Steve and the bunny? That was an example of Potsdam's philosophy in motion- sure, you got demerits, but you learned of an alternative way to win the bunny. It's interesting, I think, that the 'nice' person is the one with a 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' attitude. That said, I still think she's off.

"I see..." I reply. It's all I can say.

"In any case," Potsdam says cheerily, "you might not have Saturday free, but at least you have tomorrow off! It also won't be a good idea for you to return to the dance, either- off to bed with you, then."

I sigh, and head off to the dorms. Great, I'm barely hanging onto my good record, and I've got a whole Saturday to spend with Grabiner- joy of joys. On the upside, at least i know there really were spirits there- so yay me, I guess.

After lunch, we all head back to our dorms to relax- well, Virginia and I do. Ellen never left our room, instead electing to take a little time to study, but when we come back, her textbook is still in front of her, unopened.

"Okay, now I know something's up," Virginia says, sitting down on the edge of her bed closest to Ellen's seat. "Don't tell me you got detention too!"

"In my defence, you could have warned me," I pout.

"You should've asked, Mary," Virginia points out. "Don't you go pinning the blame on me! Anyway, back to you, Ellen," she says, turning back to the petite blonde. "What's wro- oho..."

"What?" I and Ellen ask in unison.

"Oho...!" Virginia smirks.

"WHAT?" I and Ellen repeat.

"Was it... a date?" Virginia asks, and Ellen reacts near-immediately, though not in the way Virginia expected. "Whoa! Whoa, hey, I'm sorry!" she yelps, immediately handing Ellen a tissue to wipe away the tears. "What's his name? What happened?! I swear, I'm gonna kick his butt-"

"Nothing happened," Ellen sobs, trying to push the wetness back into her eyes and failing. "Nothing will ever happen! He said that... that because of you..."

"What? Me?!" Virginia says. "Okay, look, I'll just go and tell whoever-it-is that I'm just not into him that way- oh God, I hope he's not cute-"

"No! No!" Ellen sobs, shaking her head. "He said that because we're roommates, it's like I'm his sister too!"

"Ellen...?" Virginia asks, her face a mask of shock. "Trust me, you can do a whole lot better than Donald!"

"Uh, Virginia?" I say, leaning down to her. "A little off the mark there- try Option B."

"Oh, OH, I see," Virginia replies as comprehension dawns. "I thought he swore off girls after Angela..."

Even Ellen perks up at this news, so I'm spared a whole lot of guilt as I ask, "Wait, Angela? Red hair, no heart- that Angela?"

"H-he went out with her?!" Ellen sniffs. "She's awful!"

"Why do you think they broke up?" Virginia replies, before sighing. "Look, Ellen, I'm not good with sensitive stuff- don't you dare giggle, Mary- but I know William wouldn't want to hurt you."

"Didn't say he did," Ellen huffs.

"What did William say to you, exactly? Maybe you misinterpreted something, somewhere?" I ask.

"Oh no, he was very obvious," Ellen scowls. "H-he said that... that he was looking out for me, because he was my senior... a-and that I was a nice girl... but he thinks of us like sisters."

"What?" I ask, bewildered. "He thinks of himself as your sister?"

"No!" Ellen replies. "Me and you and Virginia!"

What, seriously?

"Seriously? Come on!" I scoff. "That's ridiculous! Ridonkulous even! What if you're friends with everybody? The school isn't that large!"

"Then you stay single!" Virginia laughs, but I'm way too weirded out.

"This- this is a real thing?" I ask, still trying to wrap my head around it. "I mean, is that really the reason? Because we're roommates?"

"Don't look at me, I don't know!" Virginia says. "I mean, that's really how the guy code works, but it's not a law or anything! That said, it'd be really creepy to watch one of you guys kissing my brother."

"Excuse me?!" Ellen says, looking for all the world like a furious chipmunk.

"Whoa, hey! You're not creepy!" Virginia tells her. "It's just that- he's my brother, you know? I don't want to see him kissing anybody. You have a brother, right? Wouldn't you think it was weird if he started dating one of us?"

I don't exactly know what it it about Ellen's expression that makes me laugh, but it does.

"Okay then! See?" Virginia laughs. "That means nobody here should be touching her! And when William was here, I was only thirteen, so it's kind of the same."

"Whatever," Ellen says, turning back to her book, still in her sour mood.

Of course, I couldn't let that go on. "So, what about you, Virginia?" I ask. "Anyone special in your heart? Someone better than Jacob, maybe?"

"Pfft, nope!" Virginia scowls, unbalanced by my sudden question. "I don't like any boys!"

"Girls then? What?" I ask, seeing the look she's giving me. "It's the 21st century, you're free to like whoever you like!"

"True," Virginia says, "but that still doesn't change the fact that I don't like anyone that way. Maybe I just have high standards, I dunno."

"There must be someone that sparkles just right for you," I say wistfully. "Maybe there is, and you just haven't- or don't want to- realize it yet!"

"That doesn't make a lick of sense," Virginia says, but she's smiling a bit, and so is Ellen.

Time to press my advantage. "I know!" I cry out. "It's Damien, isn't it?"

Now, I've seen people thrown for a loop before, but my statement has just thrown my roomies for a rollercoaster designed during a drug trip. "...Damien?" Virginia says. "But I hate him! You know that better than anyone else!"

"Exactly!" I reply. "That means you're full of pent-up sexual tension!"

"I... don't think that's how it works," Ellen says, and I nod.

"I know," I tell her. "But just work with me here- what if you could, say, tie him up and fingerquote-punish-fingerquote him? He's pretty, right? And what if he's been bad?"

"You're pretty bad yourself, Mary," Virginia laughs, with Ellen joining in.

"Sounds like you've put a lot of thought into this," Ellen smirks, her eyes still puffy, and we while away a very pleasant afternoon, with them teasing me about a nonexistent relationship with Damien, and me just happy Ellen's mind is off William for now.

Ah, if only Saturday was that carefree for me. While my friends are off doing their thing, I'm heading to detention- only to find that Grabby didn't even bother to show up.

A thick blue book, titled "A Compilation of Folklore And Mythology" lies on the table, with a note on it, apparently from Grabby. It looks like he wants me to read a list of selected fairy tales and identify the most common failing of the human heroes. Eithne the Bride, Beauty and the Beast, The Sea Nymph, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, The Gifts of the Mountain Spirits- are all these true, or did he pick them out, or none of the above? I was familiar with a few of them, but they never mentioned 'Jogao' or Dark Dances or anything!

"Who knows?" Donald shrugs when I point that out to him. "Maybe William or my sister do, but they never tell me anything anyway, and I don't see why I should spend my time learning that kind of stuff when there's a lot more I can do!"

"Like what?" I ask. "Play pranks?"

He glares at me, then softens up a tad when he sees I'm genuinely curious. "Mostly," he says, in a tone that doesn't seem to encourage further conversation. "Thanks for the banana, by the way. Urchin even bought me another present, because-"

"Yeah, that's what she told me," I reply.

"So yeah, thanks for the bonus fruit," he grins. "I liked it a lot better than what she did get me- actual clothes. As if the ones I have aren't good enough. Anyway, back to work."

"One gives you gold if you help him and a hunchback if you don't, while another will only give treasures to people who insult him," I sigh.

"That's nothing," Donald scowls. "Look at this stuff- here the hero defeats an army of elves by digging a hole in a hill and sprinkling it with salt, while in this one, a king lost his country and suffered a hundred-year curse for looking at a fairy queen naked! I don't know what Grabby wants from us- none of this makes any sense!"

"Maybe that's the point," I say, leaning back in my chair; it's been a very stressful experience, and I don't know how Donald's able to keep up with it every weekend. "The Fair Folk are totally random; who knows how they act or why, so... don't deal with them, I guess?"

"Yeah, maybe," Donald sighs, then looks at me with a smirk. "You do realize this is all your fault, right? For spying on the Jogao?"

"Ugh, don't remind me," I say, placing a hand over my face before giving Donald a peek between my fingers. "Sorry about this."

"Eh, it's no problem," Donald says with the easy air of a war-hardened veteran. "If it wasn't fairytales, it'd have been weeding or something. Heck, I should be thanking you- at least I get to sit this detention out indoors!"

In any case, I manage to keep myself out of trouble for the next few days, and the next week begins on a high note- literally. I was on my way to Red Magic class, when one of the seniors' spells in a nearby class goes awry, sending a bolt of magical energy screaming in a high C towards me.

Without thinking, I manage to conjure up some Red Magic on the spot, slicing the errant bolt in two (and turning its screaming into a strange soprano/bass duet) and saving myself. Of course, the plants behind me started singing, but honestly, I didn't mind. Grabby being Grabby, he gave me ten merits for inventiveness, and ten demerits for not discussing my inventiveness with him beforehand. Seriously, WHAT.

Black Magic went a little better, though I was still trying to play catch-up to everyone else. TO be honest, I was a little embarrassed; Potsdam went out of her way to tutor me, while the rest of the class was left mostly to their own devices. Manuel seemed grateful for the ability to practice spells on his own, while Raven was a little pouty that Potsdam took so much time to teach me the 'open things' spell.

The next day at White Magic class was no less mortifying.

"Many of you will have learned this from your parents," she added. "Others will know less, or nothing at all," she said, and more than a few looks were directed at me, though none seemed actively malicious. It was still embarrassing , though.

"The nearest such realm is called the Otherworld," Potsdam continued. "You might have also heard it called Elfhame, the Dreaming, or the High Hunting Grounds. There are countless other such worlds, but the Otherworld itself can be said to be a 'shadow' of this one, and like a shadow, it's always connected to this world. With enough White Magic, an adult magician can travel from this world to the Otherworld via a mystic portal called the Spiral Gate."

Her eyes grow stern as she focuses on us. "Please note," she says, "that I mention adult magicians. Can anyone tell me why this is? Yes, Minnie?"

Oh as if it can't get any worse- of wait, it can; it seems Minnie is genuinely trying to be helpful.

"Thank you, dear," Potsdam laughs, while Minnie blushes (yes!). "You may sit down. You are right, though, and I hope the rest of you take note," she adds, scanning the class. "Do not be mistaken, the Otherworld can be a wonderful place. Magic flows freely there, miracles are commonplace, and magicians need not fear outsiders- indeed, many magicians have chosen to make their homes there for precisely those reasons. But humans are not native to that place, and we are nowhere near as resistant to that world's dangers as we are this one's."

"Some of your classmates have otherworldly heritage," she points out, "but what is safe for them is not safe for you. And most importantly of all, if a spirit invites you to the Otherworld, you must not accept, regardless of what you are promised."

"Now, let's move on to brighter subjects!" she says, her mood undergoing a startlingly quick change. "We can talk about the Otherworld a little more later, and I'll bring in some lovely paintings to show you!"

You get this talk after you reach 20 White Magic, or if you cast Spirit Sight during the Dark Dance. All in all, I think Potsdam should have talked about something like this a whole lot earlier, especially with the 'never accept invites' bit, but oh well.

During the class, she makes sure we all learn a simple Empathy spell; when she began describing the magical flows and phemes, I thought she was catering to me again, but even the more advanced students seemed to be learning something new, their previous knowledge only making their learning faster. I suppose it gave us all a little practice as they began casting it on us, and teaching us when they felt just how difficult it was for the rest of us.

On Friday evening, I am walking back to my room from evening dinner, when I run into someone.

"I enjoyed it, to be honest," I say, and enjoy the way he's taken aback.

"Really?" he asks. "You actually enjoyed that slop?"

"What can I say, I like bland chili," I admit. "Never was any good with the spicier stuff."

"Damn, and here I thought I had a chance with you," Damien replied. I make to open my mouth, but then I realize that he's got me in a verbal checkmate.

"So what's this all about?" I grumble, trying to ignore his smug grin.

God-DAMN, but I like writing the banter between Mary and Damien.

"What, you mean the mall food court?" I ask incredulously.

He chuckles. "It's near the mall," he says, "but not quite part of it. It's called the Glen, and it's magic-only. Very exclusive. The professors go there when they're too tired to travel, and when parents want to take their student- children somewhere nice."

"I thought parents weren't allowed to attend?" I ask.

"Non-magical parents," he points out. "For fairly obvious reasons. So, would you like to go?"

"Answer me this first, Damien," I say, looking him straight in the eyes and not trying to get distracted. "What you said before, about not trusting anyone- is that still true? Or have you changed your mind? Can we really be friends this time?"

He falls silent for a few long moments. "I... what do you want me to say, Mary?" he asks quietly.

He looks at me uncertainly for a moment, then nods slowly. "R-right, I think I can do that," he says. "I think."

I sigh. What is up with this guy? It's like the possibility of an honest conversation is anathema to him- he looks more afraid of talking straight than a zombie plague! Note to self: Ask around for possibility of zombie plagues.

"Mind you," he says, interrupting my reverie, "I can't promise to answer all of your questions."

"Can you at least tell me when you're not telling me?" I ask.

He nods. "Now that's something I can manage," he says. "So... will you come?"

"I can't say no after all that, and you know it," I smirk.

"Great!" he squeals (seriously, I think I heard a window crack). "I'll see you tomorrow then- try not to peek on any Jogao until than, all right?"

"Argh," I scowl. "Nobody's going to let me go, are they?"

"I certainly won't! Let you forget the Jogao thing, I mean," he says hastily. "I, uh, I'd better go. See you tomorrow at the mall at eleven!" he adds, tilting his head in farewell, and heading off.

I wake up a little later than I usually do on Saturday, but to my surprise I see Ellen still sitting on her bed- she's usually up and about handling treasurer business by now. I'm not the only one wondering what's going on, as a bleary eyed Virginia seems as surprised as I am. Suddenly, Ellen drops back on her bed with a thud, still staring at the paper in her hands.

"Let me guess," Virginia grimaced, "your week just got worse?"

"N-no, it's not like that," Ellen says, trying to smile. "Just a slight change of plans- apparently I'm not going home this Thanksgiving. It's such a long way, you see, for such a short holiday... so it's better if I just stayed here."

"But... isn't that what you want?" Virginia asks, sincerely baffled.

"That doesn't matter," Ellen says, her desperate smile finally giving way to a sad, resigned frown. "Really, it doesn't. It- it's not my decision; I can't go home on my own."

She lies on her bed and turns away from us, but even in that position we can still her whispered "They don't want me there."

"Well, we want you here!" Virginia thunders, with a massive defiant smile on her face. "Don't we, Mary?"

"Yeah! That's right!" I say, pumping my arm in the air.

"Come on then," Virginia says, taking me into her arms. "Let's all do something today!"


Uh-oh indeed, goons! it seems Mary has a conflict of interests this fine day! Should she:

-Go with her friends?
-Say she's meeting someone? And if so, should she tell the truth?

Voting will end 1200 GMT August 23rd, so get those ballots in, and help us untangle this web!