Part 22: Promises, Promises: Part 1Chapter 18: Promises, Promises: Part 1
Okay, okay, this isn't so bad, Mary, you can totally get out of this. After all, the professors wouldn't put something dangerous in the tests, right?
Nah, of course they wouldn't! This is obviously a test of my diplomatic abilities! Nothing this dangerous-looking can actually be dangerous! I just need to talk this beastie out of trying to kill me, easy-peasy!
Damage is randomized in this game, but there isn't a lot of variation- the Hodag will always deal 5-7 damage, no more or less. Mary was just unlucky in this instance.
Looks like whoever designed this test didn't read the Big Ladybird Pop-Up Book of Cliches! Okay, beastie, you want a fight, you've got a fight!
I opened up with one of my big guns- a massive blast of energy. It was quite different to what I'd experienced in class- this time the power surged through my arm, coming out of my hand in a spherical burst of invisible heat that detonated against the Hodag's chest. I actually expected a fireball, but an invisble hate ball worked too. When the fur stopped flying and smoke cleared, the stench of burned hair drew my gaze to the Hodag, patches of bare, singed skin showing.
And anger. Anger was definitely showing. It swung its claws down, and caught me a blow across the arm, ripping off my right sleeve. Despite its sharp claws, I only saw bruises forming- it might have been dangerous, but certainly not life-threatening.
As it rose back up from its strike, I threw my hand up in a karate-chopping motion. A brief, jagged red line flashed in between me and the Hodag. A moment later, it was thrown back, a cracking sound echoing through the dungeon. When it looked back up at me, I saw a wicked red welt across every bare patch of its skin that the red line crossed.
We locked gazes then, me fighting to keep mine steady. It wasn't just fear, but my mind was all over the place; unlike Blue Magic, which left my head fuzzy as all get out, it appeared that Red Magic instead filled me with overflowing emotion. Guilt at leaving Ellen open to the Rose and Wasp became sickening shame, annoyance at Virginia's disapproval of Damien bubbles into anger, uncertainty about the blue-skinned Falcon turned into gut-wrenching fear- it's a miracle I can stand upright, nevermind stare down a still visibly-pissed Hodag.
It breaks first, thankfully, and limps off, growling at me in impotent anger. I simply storm off, carried on waves of emotion. It might be a dumb move, turning my back on the beast, but if it tries anything I honestly feel like I can take it on in some kind of berserker rage.
I actually played a long way past this part, but it was only after I exited, having saved over my game AND my backup that I realized that for some reason, Fraps only took the first few pictures of the thread (hence the full health in the last fight screenshot). This necessitated me starting the whole game all over again and playing to this point, doing the exact same things I did, and trying to work up my stats to the exact same levels I did at this point
Anyway, this test! Fighting the beast and winning earns you five merits, but getting past the critter earns you ten. Honestly, it isn't really all that important, unless you're on the verge of being expelled, but if you do want the full ten, you'll need high levels in either Black or Blue Magic. The first allows you to Stoneshape a passageway to the end, but you'll need some meta-knowledge about where the exit is first. The second (at level 100!) let's you Cloak your way past the Hodag. The third method is to use Teleport Other on the Hodag and run out, though this requires at least 30 mana or meta-knowledge about the exit's location again to work fully.
"For succeeding in this test, you earn five merits!" she adds.
"Ngeeeh!" I respond, before bursting into tears and running off.
"Green Magic helps!" Professor Potsdam yells to my retreating back. I do take her advice, studying a little with Minnie the next day, but she seems a little out of it- I'm caught between wondering what's up, and feeling smug at her misery. That'll show her for winning the elections, ha!
In any case, our studies do show that a healthy body can often imitate the effects of very low-level Green Magic, and when I bring this up with Virginia, she just winks and tells me to-
"Come to the Sports Club meeting tomorrow~!" she grins. "I have just the thing!"
"Of course I'll come!" I tell her. "I mean, it's the first Sports Club meeting of the spring semester, why wouldn't I be there?"
"You haven't been coming over lately," she points out. "And don't give me anything about tests- I've had and passed my tests, and I did it all without getting chubby!"
"I am not chubby!" I say, aghast. What? It's true! I'm not chubby!
I'm huggable. "I'm huggable," I tell her.
"Uh-huh, riiiight," Virginia laughs. "See you Monday! We're playing
*That's right, I said it
Come Monday, I can certainly see how it's different.
Thing is, magic requires both line of sight, and that you to stay still- not very helpful in sports. Heck, you can disrupt a caster just by running wildly past him and pulling silly faces, ensuring a player not only has to watch the ball, but everyone else. Regular tactics also have to be changed, since you can't just go for the ball, but have players running interference on people running interference. And if a ball's not guarded well, the goalie will have an easy time of it even if it's half a field away.
I look around- yep, he's the only one not into it. Even Jacob, the guy who mocked Virginia for not wanting to play with magic, is enjoying himself; ironically, he's been the most physically-oriented one so far, whether it be kicking the ball around the way it's supposed to be in regular football, or distracting the few people actually trying to cast spells.
Before I have time to ask Kyo what's up, however, he simply skulks off right after the game at the exact moment Virginia whaps her hand on my shoulder.
"It's good to be back!" she adds, and I give up on Kyo for the moment. He might not be up to discussing whatever personal matter he's got on his mind, and I hadn't really spent a lot of time the past week with Virginia.
"And it's good to see you not hung up on the whole 'magic in sports' thing too," I tell her. To my surprise, her face grows pained.
"I... I don't know about that," she admits with a sigh. She waves a hand around the gym where we played. "Don't get me wrong, this was fun, but I don't really see a future in it."
"Playing sports is exciting, I don't ever want to stop," she muses.
I scratch my head. "Well..." I begin. "Maybe then it's time we let the playing field open up a bit, at least among us. When you get right down to it, aren't all sports and games about making the most about what you've got? Sure, maybe some people are just naturally good at sports, some are just naturally good at magic, but you're not going to get a lot of overlap- except in games like this."
Virginia grins. "So you can see this getting into the Olympiad Arcane someday?"
"Definitely," I say firmly. "And why not? Sure, sports are fun, but flinging spells is fun too! Two great tastes that taste great together! We've just proven that!"
"You have a very good point there, Mary," Virginia grins. "I mean, flinging spells does have a charm of its own."
And even though my own experience was evidently a little different compared to Virginia's, we share a laugh then. Honestly, I think I needed it.
And the next day, I realized I wasn't the only one.
"What's going on?" I ask him, but he simply shakes his head.
"It's- it's nothing," he tells me, and I sigh.
"Girlfriend problems again?" I ask, and his surprised look tells me all I need to know. "Wild guess, Kyo; you've been moody since yesterday, and considering the last time you were like this, I took the best shot I could."
"Wish my girlfriend had your intuition," he grumbled.
"Excuse me?" I ask incredulously, but he doesn't even seem to notice.
"I mean, what else does she want from me, my life's blood?" he adds, throwing his arms outward dramatically. "I've done everything I could to show her I need her, what else can I do?"
Aaand there goes my meddling gland; someday, I'm going to need surgery for that. As it is though, I feel the need, the need to... help. Maybe I should get my meddling gland replaced by a poetry organ. In any case, I feel the need to help- but how? I don't even know his girlfriend.
I cough. "So... you're saying that she feels unappreciated? Have you considered that maybe she wants something a little more... public?"
He looks at me curiously. "What do you mean?" he asks.
"A lot of girls like grand gestures," I tell him, "and if lots of people can see it, it's more romantic. If there's anything the media gets right, it's that. That being said though," I warn him, "note I said 'most girls'. Your girlfriend might not be 'most girls'."
"She sure isn't," he sighs contentedly, before catching himself. "Uh, kind of not-really what I meant."
"It's okay," I say, "I understand. Anyway, I'll leave you alone to plan- I've got to get back to the dorm," I tell him.
I know I shouldn't eavesdrop, but I couldn't resist. I use a tiny dash of Blue Magic to dampen the sound of my footsteps, then add a little Black Magic to make it stick temporarily, while also helping to 'seal in' its presence- can't be too careful with two magical types around. Mind you, their own magical natures might help block their own magical senses, but it pays to be careful- or at least, that's that I tell myself as I sneak steadily forward.
"- a bit of fun with me, love," she breathes sultrily, leaning against the door in such a way to show off her... features. "Come now, Damien- we both know this dance."
stoppit paranoia he can't sense us
"You have bad timing, little fairy," Damien says flatly. "If this was last year, I'd have happily taken you up on your offer- but as it is, I have my eye on someone else, and I am not going to do anything to ruin what I have. Not this time."
see told you neener neener neener
I shouldn't be hearing this, though- but I can't help but wonder; 'someone else'?
Does he mean me?
Okay, sure, he's been so nice to me lately- but he's always said we were friends. Is he changing his mind? Or is there someone else? I hate to admit it, but 'prettier than me' is quite doable (curse my unfortunate phrasing!), though anyone trying to match Pastel in the looks department is going to need help.
Speaking of which...
Pastel inches forward, rolling her shoulders and sending sparkles up to the ceiling. "Oh, Damien," she says. "Nobody has to know."
He fixes her with the coldest look I've seen on anyone.
I really, really shouldn't be hearing this.
Yyyyup. This game doesn't get outright creepy (though to be fair, I have pretty skewed standards when it comes to that, just look at my rap sheet ), but this raises all kinds of questions- and it won't be the last time something like this happens. And no, the thought that Pastel's mom might be Titania-level hot does not excuse things. Truth be told though, it's also one of Damien's more weirdly touching scenes as well.
I spend the night tossing and turning in bed. I felt horrible- horrible because I wanted to know just who Damien was talking about, horrible because I had sneaking suspicions I didn't want to admit to myself about why I wanted to know who Damien was talking about, horrible because I didn't feel this bad about what I did to Ellen...
It was horribles all the way down, and believe you me, I was way, way down.
Which was why a tired, puffy-eyed me had bathed and gotten dressed the next morning before I remember the date. "We... we don't have classes today, do we?" I groan to a bemused Virginia and Ellen.
"Um, I have to ask..." Ellen began, but Virginia laughed.
"Dr. King wasn't a wizard, if that's what you're thinking," Virginia said, before rubbing the back of her head in slight embarrassment.
"Most of the whole civil rights movement between wizards was... not all that peaceful, and limited to wildseeds," Virginia continued. "Old wizarding families though, they were cool- but only among themselves. See, they had racism and prejudice too, but it was towards non-wizards and wildseeds. The fact that many 'respectable' wizards had to go clean up after wildseeds only made relations worse. Most old families thought that the whole struggle was doomed to fail anyway, and that they were above the whole 'mortal affairs' thing," she said with not a little disgust.
"Nut why?" Ellen asked. "I mean, uhm, there were African and Caucasian wizards, weren't there?"
"Yeah," Virginia went on, "but when you have Sunday lunch with faerie kings and work with goblins the rest of the week, the whole 'race' thing kinda blurs into the background. No, what wizards judges other people by was power, and mortals didn't have that."
"So what changed their minds?" I asked, sitting back down on my bed and rubbing my eyes.
"The fact that it went on even after Dr. King died," Virginia said. "See, back then, most wizards thought that mortals were- well, really dumb, like pack animal dumb, and wildseeds were no better. Everyone thought that after Dr. King died, the movement would fall apart, but when they saw that people were willing to fight on- well, it started changing minds. It's not perfect, mind you- heck, grandpa still doesn't talk to one of my uncles who married a mortal- but it did change things a bit."
Ellen and I nodded, and my blond friend was the first to ask if "-we were supposed to do anything special?"
Virginia shook her head. "No need. It's a holiday for everyone, so let's just, you know, relax."
But even so, it was much harder than I thought to let my emotions go, so while my body managed to get some rest, my mind was as tired as it was the next day.
If you take a gander at the above picture and the one before it, you'll notice that Mary's Stress has only gone down by 10 instead of the 25 that's usually supposed to happen if you rest for a full day. Whether this was intentional, or a remnant of some old game code, I couldn't say. Ah well, -10 stress is better than nothing.
It wasn't a total loss though- as my thoughts echoed in my head, they formed connections I didn't think were possible, and something occurred to me: I could find out what happened in certain places simply by examining the ambient magic for echoes of their own. True, I wouldn't be able to find anything but the strongest emotional records of a place, but it was a start, and a pretty cool application of White Magic. Wonder if anyone thought of doing this before?
It didn't help in Black Magic, though. A slight mental hiccup (and a big physical sneeze) caused a Red Magic surge in one of the spells I was supposed to cast, blasting the magical clay I was supposed to shape with a milisecond-burst of searing flame. It being magical flame, it somehow managed to harden the outside of the earthen ball while leaving the inside soft, like an earthworm's dream biscuit. Thankfully, Professor Potsdam was quite understanding, and even taught us all the art of a new spell, one which helped shatter my mistake's shell.
And speaking of shattering mistakes... I was walking down the hallway that Friday when I felt someone pulling on my hand.
"Oh, sorry, Damien!" I say, flustered despite myself. "I- I didn't see you there. You startled me!"
For his part, Damien doesn't look much better. "N-no, I'm sorry," he begins. "I've been waiting for a chance to talk to you," he adds, before taking a very visible gulp of breath. "C-can we go somewhere private? I know there's nobody else here, but I don't want the chance that someone would come along and overhear us."
"You know, s-some people could get the entirely wrong message from that, ahahahaha," I laugh nervously.
To his credit, Damien plays along, telling me "If anyone's more qualified in this school to kick my scrawny butt, it's you. But please, no more jokes, I am argh why is it so hard to do this being serious here, Mary."
I nod hesitantly. "Classes are over, so I suppose any one of the classrooms would do," I tell him, and he takes me to the nearest classroom, closing the door behind us, but not locking it. "So... what's this all about?" I ask him, but I already have my suspicions, and I don't know whether I want to entertain them.
Whatever I'm experiencing though, Damien evidently has it worse- he's hyperventilating slightly, and his next few words come out in short bursts. "This is- you have no idea how hard it is for me to do this. Damn it, it was so easy before!"
"What-" I begin.
"You!" he yells back. "No, wait, that's not what I mean-" he says, before stopping for another breath to steady himself. "Look, Mary, I don't understand what I feel about you. It's different. It's not- I can't control it."
"I can't take it any more," Damien adds quietly, before looking at me with haunted eyes. "I want you."
There is a short pause, while we both mentally process what he just said, before he resumes with a sad grin. "I know it sounds creepy, and honestly, it is- but it's also the truth. I want to hold your hands in mine, feel your breath on my lips..."
He looks up at me with desperate eyes. "Please, Mary, I know I shouldn't ask, but... will you give me a chance? Give us a chance?"
There was actually a choice over here, and I was going to hold it to a vote- but looking over my earlier updates for a refresher , it seems I apparently already did hold you guys to a vote without telling you what it was actually for, so, uh- go sneaky conniving CommissarMega of last year, I guess
It was a little much to take in, to say the least. "I... I don't know what to say, Damien," I replied. "Apart from how cheesy that was. I don't mean to be insensitive," I assed hastily, "it's just that my brain needs a bit of a reboot."
"Now you know how I feel," he chides me, a wan grin crossing his features. "The question's still there, though."
"No pressure, huh?" I say, giving him a wan smile of my own- one which quickly disappears when i tell him my decision. "I'm not sure if it's a good idea, to be honest you said it yourself, it always goes wrong- and I don't want us to end up hating each other."
He looks at me a moment, and then starts babbling. "M-Mary, the way things are now is killing me! I know it's a risk, but-"
I shush him, holding a finger to my lips before continuing, "I only said I thought it was a bad idea- I never said no."
"-it'll be wonderfwhat did you just say?"
"I'm accepting your confession, you big doofus," I tell him. "See? I can do cheesy too. Don't want this relationship to be one-sided, after all. But," I say, holding up a hand before he can go on. "We're going to take this nice and slow, okay?"
He grins at me. "I can see who'll be wearing the pants in the relationship."
I nod firmly. "Oh, you'll wear the pants, all right. I'll even make sure you keep them on."
He holds up his hands placatingly. "Don't worry, you said you wanted to take it slow, we'll take it slow- and steady," he adds, with a slight note of hopefulness in his voice.
"And steady," I reply, a moment before the implications of what I said hit me. Damn, he's good. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound. "So, how about a short test date tomorrow at the mall- say around 10? I'm free all day."
"A date, tomorrow? Sure," he says, an eyebrow arching. "But I thought you wanted to take things slow."
"A test date," I remind him. "And when I said 'slow', I didn't mean 'wait to evolve into energy beings'," I point out. "We'll go to the mall, chat a bit, stare at each other awkwardly once or twice because we're in this weird area between friendship and relationship, have something to eat because at least then we'd have an excuse for being awkwardly silent, and then hopefully go back home without the rest of our day involving romantic comedy shenanigans."
Damien laughs at my predictive summary, and I admit, I feel really relieved- it's like things were almost back to normal between us. That's a good sign, right? "Damn, but you've got everything figured out, don't you?" he smiles.
"But of course," I tell him breezily. "Just because you wear the pants, doesn't mean you're the one pulling the strings," I tell him as the sound of increasing activity indicated classes were about to start up again. "See you tomorrow!"
But even as I walk out the classroom with a jaunt in my step, I can't quite get over feeling a little foreboding. I mean, I care about him, and he cares about me... but I don't know if that would be enough.
She seems a little more ruffled than usual, and seems a little evasive, responding to my inquiries with a hast 'Yes, yes, I'm all right!" before hurrying off. I want to run after her and ask what's going on, but if i did, I doubt I'd be on time to my date with Damien. Another time perhaps.
I'd quite had my doubts about the wisdom of my decision once I reached the mall, however. "Aaand you better get ready for the first of those awkward silences," I tell Damien when he comes up to me. "I don't really know how to start off a date, sorry."
"Right, hand it is," I tell him. His grip's surprisingly firm, though not to the point of hurting me, and I'm reminded for a moment of initiation, and how we came to get to know each other over the year. The fact that it's only been six months since we met, and that I was wanting to take it slow yesterday hits me. Bit late for that, Mary.
"You say something, Mary?" Damien asks me.
"Just thinking aloud," I assure him. "Now what?"
We spend a rather enjoyable hour together, just window shopping slowly and enjoying each other's company, getting used to the idea of being on A Date.
So of course, things had to go badly.
"My condolences on your impending heartbreak," Angela sneers. "Though if you ask me, you both really deserve each other."
It seems that we have another guest from Initiation. Damien snarls at her, but she doesn't seem to care- if anything, it only seems to encourage her.
"Oh, that's right!" she says. "You don't know about Musette, do you? She was one of Damien's little girlfriends until he got her expelled."
"I had nothing to do with that!" Damien growls, but again, it only seems to encourage her.
"Oh yes," she says sweetly. "You were oh-so-broken-up about it, weren't you? I remember you moping about for *gasp* a whole day before you hooked up with another new toy- oh, what was his name again?"
"Now, now, Angela, don't be jealous," I tell her- I know it's both catty and petty, but if there ever was a time for such things, it was now. Again though, it didn't seem to faze Angela at all.
"Jealous? Of you?" Angela sneered again. "Sweetie, I dumped him! With the entire class watching, and the whole school knowing about it an hour later!" she added, before turning to Damien and giving him a wicked grin dripping with poison. "I guess we both got what we wanted then, didn't we?"
"Is that why you think he hooked up with you?" I retort.
"Perhaps- but then, I managed to grow out of it," she laughs. "Anyway, can't stay, have things to do- just like Damien," she adds. "Ta-ta!"
And then she flounces off, leaving Damien and I just standing there, fuming. I turn to him. "THAT'S your ex-girlfriend?"
"Yeah, I know," he sighs. "It was a mistake."
"No kidding!" I tell him. If she treated Damien half as badly as she did Ellen, then it's no wonder he has issues trusting people. Of course, I wasn't too different either. "So, um, who was Musette?"
"Dare I ask what kind of magic?" I ask Damien.
"You can ask, I just won't answer," Damien grins. "And neither will any of the professors- it's called 'forbidden magic' for a reason. As for the guy I saw after- yeah, I'll admit that was a mistake, and my fault entirely. I was just... I was just looking for someone to make me feel better, and when he realized that- well, let's just say my reputation had to start somewhere."
While the game never says it outright as far as I remember, and the last part of the above bit is never said ingame, I think that all in all, it's kind of pointing to William being Damien's rebound partner after Musette. True, it'd be stretching the boundaries of believability if it happened in real life, but in a story, that kind of thing has to be expected.
I want to reply, tell him that things are going to get better, but before I could, I spot someone else who could make things worse, and I duck behind Damien.
"Is something else the matter, Mary?" he asks, turning his head this way and that. "I don't- ah, Virginia," he says, looking in the distance.
"I'm sorry, Damien," I tell him quietly. "I'm not ashamed of being with you..."
"I just don't want any more fighting today- Angela was enough," I tell him, and he sighs.
"This..." he begins. "You were half-right, this was a bad idea. Not us dating, I mean," he adds hastily. "But coming out here, with you. Where everyone can see us." Even from behind him, it's like I can see his face fall. "Where everyone can see me."
"Damien," I begin softly. "I didn't mean for this to happen."
"And nor should you take the blame," he says firmly, but it's not so much iron in his voice that I hear, but brittle stone. "It's not your fault- it's mine. I... I should go back to the Academy. Sorry for ruining your weekend, Mary."
He walks away, and as he does, I wonder about just how right I was, and how wrong I hope to be.
No choices to vote on here, sorry, nor for the next 2-3 updates since I was a moron who played through a large portion of the subsequent sections. On the upside, I should have at least one more update finished next week, so stay tuned!