Part 31: The Final CountdownsChapter 24: The Final Countdowns
Truth be told? I'm not willing to deal with this right now- it's too much, too fast. Besides, it's about damned time Damien learns just who's in charge- he may think he's the demon wearing the pants in our relationship, but it's about time he got used to a Dragon pulling the strings. If he wants anything from me- well, he's just going to have to try harder.
I write him back, but it's a brief, brusque message. It may sound unfriendly, true, but considering everything that's happened, I think I'm entitled to a little uncivility. I also have to consider everything that may happen as well.
Ellen's snack packs arrive on time, which makes things a little easier, but my stomach still feels like all the butterflies in creation have taken up residence.
Ellen's snack packs reduce Stress by 5, which is okay, I guess, but as long as you're still on your feet come test time, you should be okay.
There is a tension in the air as well; back home, I knew some students who'd slack off all the way through the test, because they couldn't imagine the impact of the stuff they learned. Here though, everyone saw first hand the effects of magic, and understood just how useful it could be- as well as how dangerous.
So despite the snacks, everyone here is on edge- even Virginia and Donald are getting serious. Ellen seems calm enough, but I can still feel a little tight-lipped stress coming from her. Potsdam's arrival on Tuesday morning doesn't help our attitudes much either.
Unfortunately, we were so nervous about the test that it took us a few minutes to gather enough composure to read the schedule, which meant that Potsdam had enough time to run off elsewhere.
Wait a minute, I say, when I finally work up the guts to peer at the schedule. This can't be right! We're all scheduled for the same time!
Didn't you know?Virginia asked. The final exam is a group exam,she says, and our bewildered, annoyed (well, I was) faces are all the reply she needs. Wildseeds, right, I forgot. Sorry.
Ellen being Ellen, she has her mind on more important things. Does this mean if one of us fails, we all fail?she asks.
Virginia only shrugs. Now that I don't know myself,she says.
Well,I say, trying to downplay the tension, let's not try to find out, eh?
Man, I am terrible at this. The final day of studies only serves to confirm how stressed out I am for the upcoming exam.
Miss Sue? Professor Potsdam says as she peeks into the bathroom. Are you quite all right? Your exit was rather sudden.
I'm fine, I say, looking up from the sink where I had been dry heaving, though one look in the mirror says all I need to about how wrong I am. I look pale (well, pale-er), and my hair's frazzled. Oh, and some select blood vessels seem to have turned a very bright shade of green. Or rather Green- every now and then pulses of magical energy flow through them. Must have messed up the spell somewhere.
Exam worries, I take it? Potsdam says kindly as she wriggles her fingers, causing a wave of professionally cast Green magic to wash over me. They must have been- I've never seen a Sicken spell take so quickly! Really, it should be an incentive to cast your spells properly, Mary she adds, but in a sing-song tone. At least you learned something new, and that's what counts! she laughs. Or at least, I'd hope so.
I shake my head and grin- I may have had my reservations about Potsdam (and still do, in fact), but she does have a talent for making people feel better. I did, I say, looking down at my hand. The Green magic spell didn't go as planned (I'd wanted to combine the Strength and Healing spells)- heck, I ended up with the complete opposite of what I'd intended- but I think I can put this new spell to good use.
It was only after Potsdam left with a wink and a nod did I stop in my tracks- 'put a Sicken spell to good use'? Making me sound like a cartoon villain is one thing, but with what I knew, I could actually become one. Was this why the finals were team-based affairs? So that we'd realize that, no matter what, we'd always need to rely on other people? That we have weaknesses along with our strengths?
I wish I had more time to figure it out, but the dinging of the bell told me that the last class was over, and the final exam was about to begin for us.
Wow, don't overwhelm me with your anticipation, I say dryly, before palming my face. Sorry about that, just a little jumpy, I apologise.
Virginia shakes her head. Don't sweat it, Mary, she says. We're all feeling it.
It is nice to see that we're all of one mind about something, though, Ellen adds, and we all smile a little. Besides, we're a team, right? All three of us against the world! Go us! she says, a little unsurely.
I and Virginia look at each other. She's got an eyebrow raised, and so do I, and we respond in the only way we could.
GO US! we yell, grabbing each others' hands and throwing them up in the air, the tension disappearing in an instant.
You are all certainly in high spirits! she exclaims, laughing.
Can't pass a test on an empty spirit, I quip. Is something up? I ask- this is the first time I've seen a teacher in person before a test. I mean, everyone knows they watch us during the test, but showing up in person? Something must be up.
No, no, not really! she laughs. It's simply tradition for teachers to wish their students the best on their finals as well as fill them in on the rules.
We're not complaining, Virginia grins, nudging me in the side. At least we didn't get Grabiner.
Virginia, be nice, Potsdam smiles. Now, onto the rules!
It will not be easy to find, she warns. Furthermore, you'll face quite a few dangers, so you will need to work together to solve the challenges before you. Good luck! she says, and claps her hands. The world starts to spin- and we emerge in total and complete darkness. For a moment, I wonder if the spell had gone wrong, but the solid feeling under my feet reassures me a little. At the very least, I'm not standing in a void- maybe.
And now we begin the final exam, and one of my favourite scenes in Magical Diary.
Ack! Virginia exclaims. Put that light out, it may attract monsters!
I shake my head. We won't be able to see without it!
I can dim the light a little, Ellen says. We could huddle together than- at the very least, we'd be able to concentrate our magic more easily that way. With a flick of her fingers and some whispered syllables, Ellen dims the light a little. I'm actually quite impressed- she's able to control her magic's subtleties much better than I could, it's amazing. All right, Ellen adds, now we wait for instructions.
A minute later, it finally dawns on us that there will be no booming voice from above to give us directions. Yeah, Virginia says when I mention this, I guess it would be a little dumb to expect that in our finals. Hold on, I'll see which way we have to go. She casts her spell, and the air flows around us faintly. That's strange, Virginia says. That usually helps me find my way.
We'll have to do this the hard way, Ellen says. The crystal must be out there somewhere.
This place is huge, and who knows how much time we have left, Virginia counters. We need an idea.
The two of them nod, and speak at the same time, saying, I have a plan-
We need to find the crystal, Ellen insists. That's the goal, that's how we win.
Virginia shakes her head. No, we should fight the boss monster, she replies. There's bound to be one, and if we don't handle it, it's going to sneak right up on us when we're on the verge of winning.
It would be easier to search the place once we have a reference, I point out. And if things go badly with any boss monsters we meet on the way- well, at least we'd have a place to fall back to.
My two friends look at each other, and shrug. Sounds like a plan, Virginia says.
I suppose it does make sense, Ellen nods.
I nod myself. All right, spread around as far as we can still see each other and search for an edge. This passage can't go on forever.
We should leave a trail too, Ellen says. After all, there are spells that could change your direction.
Those traps only hit one person at a time, Virginia replies. As long as we're watching each other, it should be fine.
Still, Ellen has a point, I muse.
And here we see one of the reasons why I like this section so much- you're not just limited to your own magical skills, but those of Virginia and Ellen as well. That said, I don't think there's a way to pass this test without casting your own spells, so here's to hoping you didn't slack off! Also bear in mind that your friends have their own magic stores, so it's best not to rely on them too much.
I'll do it, Ellen says. Her magic holds true, and while Virginia's predictions do prove right, the few traps we do walk into are no match for the Inscribed tracks Ellen leaves behind, which keep us from getting lost. Eventually, we reach a T-junction with two small piles of rocks in the middle, and passages that seem to extend endlessly into the darkness.
Now what? Virginia asks. I don't think we have enough time to explore both these passages.
I think she's right, Ellen says, stress staring to creep into her voice.
Don't panic, I say hypocritically. Let me think... I've got it!
Good idea, Ellen says. Anyone know Stoneshape? No? Hold on, I'll handle it. She creates two boulders, and I help Push one, while Virginia Pushes the other. The one I Pushed rolls to the left, into the darkness and silence. Virginia's stone on the other hand, impacts on a nearby wall with a thud. Well, relatively close, anyway- the thud was actually quite faint.
It's something, anyway, Ellen says. If we spread out a little again, we should be able to sweep the area easily.
Well, we can't be right all the time. Though we keep an eye out for monsters or treasure, we don't watch the floor properly. I step on a pressure plate, and I feel invisible knives slash at my legs. Mary! Virginia yells, when she hears my cry of pain. Are you all ri- wait, dumb question.
Don't worry, I know what you mean, I groan through clenched teeth. Argh, my leg- how bad is the damage? I can't bear to look.
...I don't see anything, Virginia says, lifting my skirt hem a little. On either leg.
You sure? I ask incredulously. It hurts like crazy- I can barely walk.
Some spells can make you feel phantom pain, Ellen says, looking at my leg. Mostly Green/White combinations- a Heal spell should be able to remove its effects like with a regular wound. I... I don't really know my healing magic, she adds sheepishly.
Me neither, Virginia shrugs. I'm a Red Magic sort of girl.
Don't worry, I know, I say. pouring Green Magic into my leg. Come on, let's-
Virginia's head shoots up. Wait, I think I heard something. We all fall silent, and we realize that Virginia was right- there is a rustling in the air, and it's getting louder. Monsters incoming!
Something I can't quite make out reaches out from the darkness, clawing at me. Then I realize that it didn't reach out from the darkness- it leaped out at me. I lock gazes with my attacker, a tiny, orange-skinned gremlin.
We share that gaze for a moment, before it zips up my head and start clawing at my hair. It's a few frantic moments before I manage to grab it. It tries to squirm out of my grip, and if it has another second, it will- so I don't give it that second. I discharge a Slash spell through my hand and bisect it, the gremlin disappearing a moment after I do so.
Take a look at Mary's health and mana score
Thankfully, Ellen manages to shoot off a spell in time, and Green magic wraps around her assailant, throwing it to the ground.
Got 'em! Virginia laughs, apparently none the worse for wear. Come on, guys! After all that, it can't-
Please don't finish that sentence, Ellen sighs, untangling her hair and straightening her clothes.
For my part, I'm grateful for the dim light. I feel as weak as that night in the gym with Damien, and my mind is a thick fog. It's all I can do to remain coherent and conscious enough to follow my friends, but Ellen's cry brings me to my senses immediately.
I smirk. well, Ellen, I say, looks like we're going along with your plan. Now, how do we make it work...?
Professor Potsdam said to put our energy into it, Ellen says.
All right, I'll go first, Virginia says. She steps closer, and touches the rim of the pedestal. Immediately, the crystal flashes every colour of magic (Black forming a small dark sphere in the middle instead), and a slight glow suffuses the room. Ellen steps up next, and the same thing happens as soon as she touches the rim as well.
My turn now, I walk up to the pedestal, but as I feared, I didn't have enough power to charge the crystal, and I clenched my teeth in despair. To have come so far and fail is one thing, but bringing down my friends with me? Not an option.
Mary, is something wrong? I hear Ellen ask. Do you have enough magical power?
Look, I think we've still got some time left, I hear Virginia add. I've got plenty of magical power left in me- if we find that boss monster, I can kick its butt by myself, just watch me!
I can do this, I whisper, as a sudden insight flashes in my addled mind, light a lighthouse guiding me through fog. The process Damien used to transfer my soul out, the pattern the Green magic of the Sicken spell made on my face- perhaps those were paths magic used to travel through my body, or maybe they were paths Damien carved out to more easily extract my soul. Potsdam did mention the Sicken spell affecting me quickly, after all.
But academic analysis can wait. While I'm not planning to give the thing my soul, I do plan the next best thing. With one last effort, one last spark of will, I transfer part of my life force into the crystal- and collapse. Even as I fall to the ground, even as I hear my friends' footsteps behind me, I feel a familiar clasp of Blue magic around my limbs, and we Teleport out.
And- oh my, are you all right, Mary? she asks, her cheerful demeanour replaced by worry.
And why not? Look at Mary's life total! She's more 'dead' now than she could ever be alive! Apparently, whatever check the game made for life point totals was overidden by the victory flag. Eh, I'm not complaining
I'm... fine, I gasp out, but Potsdam shakes her head.
Well, I'm not going to let some last-minute weakness ruin your post-finals weekend, she says sternly. That would just not do! she adds, and I feel a surge of Green magic wash into me as she waves her hand a little. I instantly feel reinvigorated, and I hear both Virginia and Ellen sigh with relief, as Potsdam gives us all a big smile. Now go on then, you three, she tells us. Five merits to each of you, and my congratulations for passing your final exam!
The three of us walk away, relieved and joyful. The rest of the school is in a good mood as well, with everyone relaxing, readying themselves for the dance, and getting their yearbook pictures taken. It's kind of funny, I tell Virginia, as we three are dining at the mall. Back home, picture day was at the beginning of the year, but here it's almost last minute.
Same here, Ellen adds. It's like everything has to be done overnight.
Virginia shrugs. Well, if there's some weird wizardly reason for it, I'm as in the dark as you guys are, she says. Sometimes things are just things, you know?
I and Ellen nod, and we get back to our meals. I decide to go back from the mall a little early, while Virginia takes Ellen shopping for a dance dress- poor girl didn't have anything remotely suitable. Though to be honest, neither did I, really, but I did have some casual clothes that could pass me off for being a fashionable hipster, we'll see.
Well goons, this is it. The biggest decision of the LP, and I'm not exaggerating. I won't try to be coy, so I'll go ahead and spoil exactly what will happen with the choices below, so that there's no misunderstanding. Does Mary:
-Finish Damien's path?
-Forgo romance, and attend the dance alone?
I'll show you all the potential endings to Damien's path, as well as the other romance paths (though they won't be as involved as this one, sorry), don't worry- but which one shall be our 'canon' path? Voting ends at 1400 GMT November 22nd, so get cracking everyone!