The Let's Play Archive

Magical Diary: Main Route

by CommissarMega

Part 26: Of Feline Fulfilment

Chapter 21: Of Feline Fulfilment

Friday had come, and with it, an exam- as well as a somewhat unpleasant surprise.

It’s one thing to have to deal with magical constructs and traps- at least those, the testers can plan for. Throw another student into the mix, and who knows what they’ll do? Unless of course, the other guy’s in on the joke, but-

A slight whooshing sound by my ears alerts me to the fact that whoever my opponent was, he’s just passed me. Mind you, the loud taps of his feet and the cape flowing in front of me are dead giveaways too.

“Hey, wait!” I call out, but despite the crystal clarity of the other sounds I’m hearing, the sound of my voice is muffled to the point where I can barely hear it. My first thought upon realizing this is “Oh come on, Grabiner! Giving us a challenge with a real human guy, and removing our ability to speak!”

Then my first thought is run over by the train of my second thought- “Wait a minute, thoughts!”

This is the only way you can talk to the guy in this exam, but don’t think this means that non-White Magic users are left out! On a related note, does prejudice against White Magic users constitute reverse arcanism? MAKES U THINK

Well I thought it was funny

“Uhm, excuse me?” I ask mentally, my voice echoign in my head as I mouth the words. Sure, not really the best or most forceful of openings, but considering this is my first, actual, intentional mental communication, it doesn’t hurt to be polite.

“Be quiet!” he says, and I feel a wave of magic rippling through my head. “Stop trying to distract me!”

“Do or do not, there is no try,” I quip.

He scowls at me, but at least he’s stopped. “I hate Star Wars; the prequels ruined everything.”

“See?” I shrug. “We have something in common already. Another thing I hope we have in common is an unwillingness to fight.”

“You?” he asks, and I feel prickly all over as his disdain carries over, sending random bits of thread to unravel from my clothes here and there. “You think you can fight me?”

“Yes,” I say simply, and a thin, momentary layer of frost forms over him, and he shudders for a moment. “But again, we don’t have to.”

“If I lose,” I continue, “I surrender and lose the exam, and vice versa.”

I can’t see his eyes under the cloak, but I can practically feel his eyes narrowing. “All right then- a game of Dots and Boxes, then.”

I raise my eyebrow, and that I’m sure he can see that. “Seriously, Tic-Tac-Toe?”

“Dots and Boxes!” he insists.

“What’s the difference?” I ask.

“It’s more magical,” he scowls. “We’re wizards! We can’t play pleb games.”

“Pleb games? Seriously?" I ask. “Okay, one- you visit 4chan’s video games board waaay too much for some kind of wizard supremacist. And two, what’s so ‘pleb’ about O’s and X’s?”

“Oh, OH, you want to do the counting thing? Let’s do the counting thing!” he scowls. “First, /v/ can be a genuinely thought-provoking, insightful place-“

“They have waifu threads!” I interrupt.

“-and second, it’d be- well, weird to play mortal games in a wizard school!” he argues, waving his hands in the air. “You’re like, ruining my immersion!”

“Your ‘immersion’? This is real life, not a video game- you don’t need immersion!” I shout at him in exasperation. “I mean, there isn’t any big difference between Dots-And-Boxes and Tic-Tac-Toe, is there?”

“Yes, there is!” he counters. “You play Dots-And-Boxes with dots and boxes! It’s right there in the description! I don’t see any TicTacs or toes in Tic-Tac-Toe, do I?”

“That’s what you’re hung up on?” I ask, incredulous.

“It’s deceptive advertising!” he snarls back. “And it’s not just that either- there’s a lot more strategic depth to Dots-And-Boxes that Tic-Tac-Toe doesn’t have! Oh sure, you might say they’re the same because they’re both played on 3x3 grids with the objective of getting three different symbols in a row, but there’s a deep and complex strategy game involved!”

“And that’s not counting the mental confusion that a player is forced to undergo because the boxes look so similar to the boxes he’s supposed to fill in, while the dots add a degree of subliminal messaging- if done wrong, they tell their player that he is insignificant and doesn’t deserve to win, but if done right, sends that selfsame message to his opponent!”

“And yet, it’s the dot player who has the advantage, for he goes first, allowing him to take advantage of a key strategy- filling in the centre of the grid, allowing him not one, not two, but eight possible avenues of attack, while also placing any canny opponent on the defensive! Even so however, the fact remains that the Dots player can easily counter any move the Box player makes by virtue of controlling the centre, which means that any of his counters also opens up a whole new world of attack!”

“So when you consider the pitfalls and strategems inherent in playing the game, I’m sure you can… can…?”

I climb up the stairs and into the sunlight, taking a deep breath. That was easier-


-than I thought it’d be! And here comes Professor Potsdam with a big smile on her face. “Congratulations, Mary!” she laughs. “For succeeding in your test, you receive five merits, and an additional five for negotiating your way to victory!”

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have other students to attend to,” she smiles, looking at the dungeon’s exit (from where an increasingly louder steam of invective seems to be growing in volume) indulgently. “Run along now, Mary, and enjoy the rest of your day.”

This test doesn’t actually end up this way, of course, but it is true that the only way to communicate with him is via telepathic means. Once you do so, you can challenge him to a contest of smarts if your Smarts is 30 or higher- but you need 36 to win. Of course, if you have $100 or certain items like the sextant or star wand, you can bribe him to drop out. You can also offer a kiss, but apart from getting you 5 cute, it does nothing.
There are other methods to defeat him though- Red Magic users can whack him in a straight up fight, Blue Magicians can teleport him somewhere safe, while Green and Black Magic users have other options:

Black Magic users could Stoneshape the stone basin, while Green Magic users can use the undergrowth to their advantage. That being said, the peaceful path gets you an extra 5 merits, for a total of ten (5 for finishing the test, 5 for the peaceful resolution).

Not that I have much opportunity to do so. Both Virginia and Ellen are exhausted by their own test- there was a clerical error that set them up against each other, and between Ellen’s intelligence and creativity facing off against Virginia’s sheer power, they basically called it a draw.

Or at least that’s what Virginia tells me the following Saturday, after we both wake up to a missing Ellen. “I don’t know where she gets the energy for all her treasurer work from,” Virginia goes on. “She was as tired as I was, I know it!”

“What if she wasn’t?” I tease, but Virginia doesn’t see it as a joke.

“Then I’m getting soft,” Virginia smiles. “Can’t let that happen now, can I? Donald’ll never quit bugging me about it. And on that note, I think I’m gonna go for a jog or something. You wanna come with?”

I shake my head. “Nah, I think I’ll hit the books today, sorry.”

“Your loss,” Virginia shrugs. “See you when I get back, then!”

Things don’t go exactly to plan, though. Minnie’s nowhere to be seen in the library, and so I decide to just do a little light revision. The really interesting reading comes when I return to my dorm, having forgotten some material I wanted to cross-reference. Someone slipped a tiny envelope under the door.


Meet me in the gym after dinner, and keep it a secret. It’s important.

I raise my eyebrow in confusion. Dinner’s usually around 7 or 8- what would he want to do, sneaking out so late? Maybe he wants to go see a movie with me or something; I have to admit, I’m a little giddy at the prospect, and I have to slap myself (read: pat my cheeks firmly) to stop myself from blushing. It’s not like I have to wait for long, anyway.

Still, it feels really spooky- with any luck, I wouldn’t be here long.

“Hello, Mary.”

I turn around at the sound of his voice. “Damien!” I exclaim. My smile falls, however, when I see the look of gloom on his face. “Damien?”

“That’s my name,” he says, pausing for breath between words. “Don’t wear it out… damn, that was a terrible comeback.”

“Yes, well,” I say, unsure, “you don’t have to go that far to tell me something’s wrong,” I say to him, all the while feeling guilty for expecting something nice. I know it’s stupid and irrational, but considering how wan, how pale Damien looks upon closer inspection, I think I’ve got a right to be. “Are you ill? Did someone curse you or something?”

He snorts derisively. “Curse me? Yes… I think you can say that,” he adds quietly, not looking at me.

“Well, who was it?” I ask urgently. “Can we go to the professors, get them to help? I mean, I don’t mind taking them on by myself-” I say, an inadvertent surge of magic flowing through me.

“No, no, none of that,” Damien says, grinning despite his obvious weakness. “It’s just that… Mary, I’ve done some research and I’ve found answers, but- but they’re not so good.”

“What answers?” I ask. “What research?”

He looks at me with the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. “You know I’ve always been suspicious about why people wouldn’t tell me about my heritage, or even who my parents were,” he says. “Well, as it turns out- they might have been doing me a favour,” he adds ruefully.

“Damien…?” I ask quietly. “What’s wrong?” I repeat. “Tell me.”

And then he replies with a statement that chills me to the bone. “My time is running out, Mary.”

I want to believe it’s a joke, that Damien’s finally crossed the bounds of good taste. I want him to burst out laughing about the look on my face, and then I want to thrash him silly, before hugging him to show that I didn’t really mean it, that he shouldn’t hurt me knowing how I felt about him. But there, in the silent dark, alone in that gym?

I knew he was serious.

“H-hey, look on the bright side,” he says, his voice breaking. “I don’t have to worry about what will happen to me after graduation, at least,” he adds.

The sound of my slap echoes through the darkened halls. “Don’t joke about this, Damien,” I command him, though to be honest I think he’s more surprised than hurt. To be even more honest, I surprised myself too. “Don’t you even dare.”

“I… I’m sorry, Mary,” he says, looking away. “I shouldn’t have done that, I know. But how else do you cope with the knowledge that you’re going to die?”

“By refusing to accept it!” I snarl at him. “I know I won’t! There has to be some way to save you! I know you, Damien- you’re handsome, and sensitive, and kind underneath that slick, skeevy shell you’re always showing to the world. Well, guess what- that shell’s something we should both be counting on!”

He looks away again, and I can hear him breathe slightly faster. “Damien?” I ask, walking closer to him. “Damien, you know something, and you’re not telling me. Why?”

“Because…“ he trails off. He takes a deep breath, gulping down the air, before continuing, “because I don’t want to hurt you. And trust me, this will hurt you.”

“And telling me you’re dying didn’t?” I ask him.

“You don’t get what I’m saying, Mary!” he retorts. “I’m not being dramatic! Please, Mary,” he says desperately. “You have to listen to me!” He takes another deep breath, and then locks my gaze with his own. “I-in order to save me,” he stutters, “y-you h-have to give up part of your soul.”

He takes another deep breath. “Doesn’t sound so good now, does it, Mary?” he asks me.

My immediate response surprises us both. “Part of my soul?” I ask him. “Not the whole thing?”

Even in the dark, the look of sheer shock on his face is obvious. “…I really dodged a bullet not sleeping with you,” he mumbles. “Never stick it in the crazy, that’s-“

“Shut up, Damien, I’m being serious,” I tell him. “Just… just part of my soul, right? Not all of it? You’re not going to suck it out like some kind of vampire?”

“No, but-“

“Then what do I have to do?” I ask him, my voice as firm, though my gut is trying to empty itself.

“If… if you’re sure,” Damien replies, looking as unsure as I really feel. I nod in reply, though that’s mostly because every fibre of my being is screaming that this is a bad idea, and I’m afraid that if I open my mouth it’ll all come out.

And then of course, the blood. Damien has a small Swiss Army Knife- man, talk about handy- but the way he explained it, I (he actually said ‘the sacrifice’, but no way am I referring to myself that way) have to make the cut willingly. As I take the knife from him, I hesitate momentarily.

What am I doing?

I’m a sixteen year old girl, I shouldn’t be involved in stuff like this, even if I am a magician! This- this is crazy! Even Damien thinks so, the way he’s looking at me! Surely I could just put the knife down, go find Grabby or Potsdam, and explain everything, leave it all to the experts. Even if Damien only has until graduation, that leaves us all with months to try solve things! Damien’s just one teenager despite his otherworldly traits, after all- he can’t have researched the whole story already! Besides, if it doesn’t work, I’ll undertake the ceremony anyway, the professors’ opinions (and they WILL have opinions) be damned.

But even as those thoughts pass through my mind, I brush them all aside. I want to lie to myself, tell myself that things might not turn out that way, that the authorities would separate us. I want to believe that maybe there isn’t any other answer, that Damien’s done all any mortal can to find out the truth behind his condition.

I want to tell myself that I’m being stupid and hormonal and irrational and that I love Damien too much to be sensible- but even that’s only a half-truth.

The fact of the matter is that, though my love for Damien is a factor… I’m curious. I want to know what this ritual would entail. I want to feel what it’s like, having a part of my soul taken away, if whether or not it could be restored by magic later. I want to know what avenues of knowledge this ritual would open up to me.

Selfish? Stupid? Completely foolhardy? Of course- curiosity killed the cat after all.

“But satisfaction brought it back,” I whisper to myself as I place the knife against my thumb.

“Are you sure about this, Mary?” Damien asks quietly, his voice breaking audibly nonetheless. “It’s not too late to turn back- until you say the words and draw blood, you can turn back.”

“Damien,” I reply, smiling ruefully at him, even though I don’t think he can see it. “It was too late the moment I said ‘yes’ to the Choice.” I grasp the knife tighter, then draw it across my thumb. “I offer you the essence of my spirit, freely, unconditionally,” I recite. “With this blood, let my power give you strength, let my heart’s blood beat in yours.”

I try to speak, to ask for an explanation, but nothing would come out. My tongue has swollen up in my mouth, and I can barely breath. My blood is rushing through my entire body, roaring like a lion a well fed lion a satisfied cat through my ears, and I can barely hear what Damien has to lie say.

God, I lovehate admire despise appreciate this sprite and text combination.

“Everyone tried to warn you,” he went on. “And they played right into my hands, as I knew it would. I was so easy to twist that to my advantage! ‘Poor, innocent Damien, everyone’s so mean to him!’ Ha! I could tell you fire was ice and you’d still believe me.”

He looked at me with scorn, sayinglying, “Everything I’ve said to you was a lie. Every twist and turn, every little insecurity- Every. Single. Word. All of it was meant to make you give up by choice the one thing I could not take by myself- your soul.”

He takes a deep breathmy breath of victorythe last he will ever experience. “And for your sacrifice, for all that you’re going to die slowly, knowing that this was all your fault, I will be a prince.”

But even as they come rushing out of my mouth, I realized that I lied to myself before. Or at least, didn’t know one half-truth from another, because… because d to the depths of my soul, the very one Damien is about to take from me?

It wasn’t curiosity that made me draw the knife. I only told myself that because I was still afraid- embarrassed even- to face the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but.

I drew the knife because I was stupid- stupid enough to trust Damien to believe him above my friends, above all I heard about him.

I drew the knife because I was selfish- too selfish to see him taken away, whether it be by death, or by whatever unknown means it would have taken to have saved him.

Curiosity killed the cat. Satisfaction brought it back. Stupidity and selfishness though?

Those made it fall in love.