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Y2 WIP Adventures (come and proof-read!)

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Wherever the...Friend? Or Foe?, stage 9:

Spoiler

Cautiously the girl opens the front door, finally, and through the crack she slowly pokes a shy head out. Inquisitive eyes who've lost their shine and some of their color look you over while you do the same. You referred to her as a ghost before, but you didn't think that when your mind called her a ghost it meant that literally. The girl's short hair is a dull white color that doesn't look healthy. Compared to, say, Amada Kiffer, this girl's hair just looks dead. Her eyes, as noted, also have a dull color to them, more lime than a normal green. Her skin likewise looks pale. Not quite as pale as Aaran Ledale's, but off of the top of your head you'd say it's closer to him than, say, Zoe Melis. When the girl slowly pulls open the front door you can finally see more than just her face as well, and although you didn't mean to it causes you to frown regardless. When the girl stands upright before you it's noticeable that she's not much shorter than you are. How old is she, exactly? And related to that, how old is Madame Angé, again? You recall that she looked to be in her early twenties, but this girl must be in her early teens. You suppose that a woman making herself look younger than she really is is hardly a new concept, but how many years did she shave off of her apparent age? Five? That still wouldn't add up, more like...ten or so? That's either some heavy-duty Glamours, or...

"Eh, p-please, come in," the girl says, stumbling over her words. You quickly compose yourself, politely nod and slowly walk inside. Her home, what you can see of it, is pretty much just that - a home. Living room, kitchen in the back, dinner table and the like...nothing that you can from here see stands out. As for the girl (who's name you really need to catch one of these days), she seems unsure of what to do. There's clearly something on her mind, but she's not sure what to say. Or, perhaps, how. The whole "speaking Merilien" problem you've already solved, so it can't be that. How are you going to get this girl to open up?

-Empathy. Connect with her.
--It's pretty plain to see what's bothering this girl and why. You'd think. In truth, observing this girl for a little bit, you get the impression that she's not shy because of her looks. At least, not just. More than that, she's anxious. Excited. Perhaps even a little rebellious. She's hesitating because she's doing something she knows she shouldn't - let in a stranger, you'd guess - and doing it anyway, because you present an opportunity to her that she doesn't want to lose. She doesn't want to be your friend, primarily, she wants something from you. And you can make a good guess as to why. Calmly you get the girl's attention, which draws her out of her internal debate on what to do in this situation, and ask, "You wanted to ask me something about the Academagia's musicians?"

The girl's eyes light up at the mention of the musicians, despite her surprised look. "Y-yes, y-yes I do. Eh...c-could you put in a good word with them, for me? I-I...I'm hoping to study music, and composing, and magic! Next year, I'm hoping to get accepted into the Academagia."

"Put in a good word"? Someone's taking after her mother. Also, someone is forgetting a few pages of her etiquette manual, but you're not going to give her too much grief for it. "Before you start to ask favors, perhaps introduce yourself?" you ask with a gentle smile.

"O-oh, right, sorry about that," the girl says, briefly looking embarrassed before composing herself and doing a little bow. "My name is Charlotte, pleased to meet you." When you ask about her last name Charlotte's earlier awkwardness returns. "I-I...I don't...have a last name. S-sorry, mother doesn't want me to talk about that. And honestly, neither do I."

No last name...the possibility of Madame Angé having adopted Charlotte runs through you head, and all things considered it ends up sounding like a sensible theory. It's clear that you shouldn't be pressing this subject any further, though. "That's fine, I'll just call you Charlotte," you say, as if you'd actually call her something like "madame Mérel" otherwise. "Anyway, to move to a less touchy subject, you're hoping to get accepted into the Academagia? Do you think you stand a good chance? You know there's lines of children who hope to get accepted every year, right?"

You'd expect someone as young as Charlotte to be more defensive or...well, "snobbish", but she just heartily nods. "I know, that's why I want-sorry, that's why I'd like you to put in a good word. It wouldn't hurt if the musicians knew my name."

Definitely, oh so very much taking after her (adoptive?) mother. To a downright adorable degree, especially with that politician's smile of hers. "Fair enough, but you know the Academagia only accepts the best of the best, right? I can't just recommend someone on words alone, if you want people to remember your name you're going to have to show them something. And something good. Everyone else will also be putting their best foot forward."

That visibly makes Charlotte nervous. Still, after nervously looking at the staircase leading to the second floor and mentally weighing her options, she turns back to you as determined (if less cheerful) as before. "T-that's fair, so...h-how about I give you one of my songs, the best one I composed, all by myself, for you to show to the musicians? I-if it's good enough...you could put in a good word for me, right? Oh, ehm, I mean...please?"

It's a good thing that Charlotte can't bring herself to look at you directly as she makes that request, especially when she stumbles over her attempt at saying "please" in Renaglian (to her credit, "s'il vous plaît" is somewhat different from "please") once she realizes that she forgot to say it. Because that request sends every gear in your head spinning, and not in a good way, because you're feeling faint by the end of it. This song that Charlotte is apparently willing to give you is, in many ways, the leverage you need. Show that to Madame Angé, make it clear that you know about Charlotte's existence, and that's really it. She'll fill in the blanks herself, and even if she doesn't this situation isn't hard to figure out. And speaking of the madame, what in the world is she scheming? How many pawns on this city's chessboard have to move, and by when, before she'll be happy? What path is she trying to clear, because you don't want to believe that Charlotte is just another pawn to her...and as for how to answer to Charlotte's request? Well, you're not exactly chief of authority when it comes to which prospect students get accepted or not, but you could definitely pass along Charlotte's song. Whether anyone'll care is a different matter, but...people will definitely to care. One way, at least, the issue is that that one way isn't the way that Charlotte would want them to care for it. For right now...you'll just go along with this. You don't think you'll end up actually blackmailing Madame Angé in any way, but you need something if not a new lead, and this is all you're getting, so...gotta make do with what you have.

Hopefully this won't end horribly.

"I just want to make clear that either which way I can't promise anything, for better or worse, but if you'd get your best song, I'll see to it that the Academagia's musicians get to see it."

Barely managing to avoid squeeing like a schoolgirl Charlotte nods, repeatedly, and rushes upstairs. It actually takes a few minutes for her to return, which you use to compose yourself (again), but soon enough Charlotte runs back down with three rolls of parchment that she lays out on the living room table before you. You take a seat and start to examine them while Charlotte takes a seat across herself from you. "These are my personal favorites," she slowly explains, nearly twitching at every muscle you so much as think of moving. "To be honest I'm not sure if they're the 'best' by the standards that the Academagia...eh, 'thinks' of songs, but these are my favorites. They're the ones I could really put my heart into, until they were just right."

You nod and continue to look over the songs, actually holding back a few tears by the end of it because seriously, these lyrics. Madame Angé's schedule must be packed from dawn to the morning hours of the next day, because how could she miss how her daughter really feels? Like the middle song in particular, "All I Want To Be Is Happy"? Just...how much more on-point can you get? Well, either way you pick up the middle roll. Charlotte looks like she might have a heart attack as you do so. "Calm down, please. Anyway, If you don't mind I'll take this one and show it to the musicians. I take it you've got another copy?"

"S-sorry. Anyway of course I don't mind, and as for a copy, I don't need one. I know that one's by heart." Of course she does. Like, it wouldn't be difficult to memorize, but still.

"Alright," you say as you carefully roll up your prize and put it in your knapsack. "I've said it before but I'll say it again: I can't promise anything, for better or worse. I'll see to it that the musicians see this, but whatever happens beyond that I don't know." Charlotte nods, trying her best to appear (and be) confident. "So is there anything else, or-"

"N-no, not at all, but have a safe trip!"

Yeah, sure. Just a little too excited, even if she tries to hide it. You don't blame her, of course, but still. In any case, you take your prize and head back to the Academagia.

--A bit of gentle small talk does wonders to try and get the girl out of her shell, but while she's able to respond to some small talk she's not able to actually answer your questions. Unfortunate, but you don't blame her. This'll just take a little longer...

-Confidence. Just talk to her.
--"If there's something you want to say or ask, just do so. I won't get mad if you make a mistake."

That causes the girl to look at you confused for a second, but more than that, it makes her try and get her act together. She's shy, definitely, but she doesn't want to be. It's not in her nature, if that makes sense. "I-I...I want to meet the Academagia's musicians. Practice with them, become part of them, all of it. The works. I want to become a musician myself, you know? A signer. I even write my own songs! So...you know, could you get me in touch with them, maybe even put in a good word?"

Someone's taking after her mother, you think. Especially with that super serious expression on her...it's so adorable you can't help but crack a slight smile. As for her request, you're not exactly chief of authority there, but you can see how this could end well for you. If the musicians put on a concert using one of her songs you're sure that Madame Angé would get the message that you know her secret, the issue is that you probably wouldn't be able to look at yourself in a mirror afterwards. You have no idea who this girl is or what her story is, but she's got one to tell, you're sure of that. "You wouldn't have a problem with going to the Academagia? Visitors are allowed from dawn to dusk, that's not an issue, but...well, first impressions don't paint you as a very outgoing musician, no offence."

The girl pouts a bit. "I-I'm not scared, just...I get sunburns really easily. But the Academagia has an indoor theatre or conservatory, right?"

"Well, the Spavia has an open roof and a ton of anti-weather enchantments, whereas the Dimmae is an outdoor theatre, actually. If you have trouble with sunlight, though, there's spells to protect you from them."

The girl's eyes suddenly light up - as best they can - and she quickly dashes into the kitchen, taking out a quill and parchment from a drawer. "Sorry, what school do those spells belong to?" the girl asks from the kitchen.

"Negation, preferably," you answer. As the girl starts to write that down you ask, "Incidentally, what's your name?"

With her note written down and secured in the kitchen drawer the girl walks back into the living room. "Charlotte," she answers, doing a little bow as she introduces herself. Of course when you ask for her last name she gets a bit nervous. "I, eh...I don't have a last name, actually."

"Don't have a last name? How's that possible?"

Charlotte just sadly shakes her head. "I-it's...my mother doesn't want me to talk about that. And honestly, I don't want to either."

"Fair enough," you say as reassuringly as possible, while you mind processes the possibility that she could be adopted. In some respects it makes sense, frankly. "To perhaps broach a less sensitive topic, do you plan on studying magic?"

Charlotte heartily nods. "Music and composing is fun, but it isn't enough. I want to learn some magic! I know I can work hard at it, and I've played instruments before (though I prefer to sing), so I'm sure I can do it. My mom even says that, if I'm lucky, next year I'll be accepted into the Academagia itself! Heh, maybe next year we'll be going there together."

You nod at that, but mentally your head feels like it's spinning. Madame Angé...what in the world is she all scheming? How many pieces on this chessboard is she trying to move, and where, in so short a time? You don't think you'll find out from Charlotte, though. But you can get your "leverage", even if you're not sure how or why you might end up using it. "Well, don't assume, or you're liable to get disappointed. And speaking of that, not to make you feel nervous, but you said that you compose songs yourself? I can't promise anything, but show me your best song and I'll forward it to the musicians at the Academagia." Naturally, Charlotte is...excited to hear that. Very excited. "Hey now, remember that I can't promise anything, and the Academagia houses the best of the best, so don't expect to be the only one putting her best foot forward. But if I think your work is good enough I'll do what I can to make sure the musicians at least see it. That's it, though."

Barely managing to avoid squeeing like a schoolgirl Charlotte nods, repeatedly, and rushes upstairs. It actually takes her a few minutes to pick out a few of her best songs for you to choose from, which you take as a good sign. "These are my personal favorites," she explains as she carefully places three rolls of parchment on a table in front of you. "I, eh, I'm honestly not sure if...what's the word, if, like, they're really the best ones, but they're my favorites. They're the ones I really poured my heart into."

"I think the term you're looking for is 'objectively'," you explain as you glance at the three parchments, and slowly start to examine the songs written on them.

"Is that the right term? Well, just so that what I mean is clear, I don't really pay attention to every little rule and fashion that music is supposed to follow. I just sing what I want to sing and work on it until it sounds like I feel like I want it to sound. Sorry if that's not how I should compose, but I don't really care to become world-famous or something. Even if I end up at the Academagia. I just want my music to be heard, mostly."

That humble, but earnest sentiment is honestly more than evident in these song lyrics that are in front of you. Like, seriously, in addition to 'objectively' you can add 'subtlety' to the list of words that this girl hasn't learned. It's not bad, in fact given the right circumstances this could have a powerful impact, but it better when you're throwing around a vocal bag of hammers. "Well, two things," you start to say as you pick up the middle roll of parchment. All I Want To Be Is Happy...it's very simplistic, but it really doesn't get more straightforward than that. "First of all, you'll want to write 'Grammar' below where you wrote 'Negation' on that note from before. Clever wordplay isn't necessary, strictly speaking, but it's something that as a composer you should definitely study and learn to utilize." Charlotte actually quickly gets up and does just that. "And the second thing?" she asks from the kitchen.

"If you don't mind I'll be taking this one to the Academagia. Just to check, though, you do have an extra copy of this lying around somewhere?"

Charlotte shakes her head. "Of course not, and I don't need a copy. I know that song by heart."

Of course she does. Like, it wouldn't be hard to memorize, but still. "In that case I'll be off to the Academagia, unless there's something-"

"Nope, I'm fine! Have a safe trip!"

Yeah, just a little bit excited, huh? Fair enough. Hopefully. Honestly you're feeling a little bad about this since...you might not be able to actually do anything with this, but you've done gone and gotten it, you're going to use it.

And by that you mean you're going to shove it in front of the musicians and have them figure it out. While you figure out where to go from here.

--You're pretty sure you're on the mark when it comes to this girl's desire to not dance around the subjects she wants to discuss, but the cocktail of emotions that she's feeling is too much for her to control. As such, she clams up. Unfortunate, but honestly, you don't blame her. You'll just leave today at getting into her house and come back later, taking this in steps will probably make it easier for her, and she clearly needs that.

There's the lengthy, dialogue-heavy text walls I'm used to.

Frankly I didn't miss them that much <_<. Such a pain to type...

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Wherever the...Friend? Or Foe?, stage 10:

Spoiler

It's been a while since you last met with the musicians, but after finding and informing Katja that you need to speak to them all right now you soon find you doing exactly that. You've got Charlotte's song with you, and after explaining everything that you've figured out and done (leaving out just a few unimportant (and unflattering) details) you give it to one of the senior musicians and ask, bluntly, if it's worth anything more than the parchment it's written on.

"Gods alive, what is that girl's issue?" is the senior's response, after he reads it with ever-widening eyes. You're not sure whether that translates to a "yes" or a "no". The other musicians quickly gather around the senior to take their own look, and after everyone sees what you've brought the mood in the room darkens.

"So, the sum total of your findings is that Madame Angé is sheltering this incredibly lonely teenage girl, and only by blackmailing her with that knowledge are we sure to get her off of Professor Massioti's back?" one of the musicians asks, piecing the awkward silence that fell over everyone.

"In short, yes, that's about the extend of what I have so far," you admit. "I don't suggest that we do that, naturally, but barring using that leverage as a means to get more information I'm honestly not sure what else I could do. I just don't know what Madame Angé's angle is, in any respect, so this is all I have." There's some low murmurs coming from the crowd of musicians, mostly agreements that people aren't willing to stoop to outright blackmail. Also questions as to whether Charlotte's song that you brought could be performed as an outright concert, given some adjustments, which isn't getting many votes of confidence. Some, but not many.

"Are you all still conspiring against Madame Angé?" a familiar, adult voice suddenly rings out. Professor Massioti. When did he get here?

"We're not conspiring, just...collectively deciding on how to respond to a specific situation," one of the musicians insists. It impresses as much as you'd expect.

"Very funny. Regardless, ignoring the rest of you for now, [PC FIRST NAME]? I take it that what I've heard about you digging into other people's affairs is true?"

"I'd say yes, but if you got those rumors from Rikildis you might want to take them with a grain of salt."

Professor Massioti shakes his head. "No, my sources are a bit more trustworthy than that, though of course you didn't hear that from me. In any case I wanted to ask, do you all really think that this little show is necessary? Perhaps you haven't heard, but my position as regent is called into question basically every time the Academagia's Rimbal team loses a match. It's nothing more than coincidental that this time someone was actually serious about it."

"B-but what about the Praetexta Court? I heard that they and the Academagia's alumni were going to meet and-" one of the musicians begins to say.

"Yes, they are, although a bit of pattern recognition would have told you that they're scheduled to meet on the same day that they have been meeting for the past I don't know how many years now. They do gather together on an annual basis, some of them at least, in order to get a feel for the state of affairs of the Academagia and if anything needs to change. Including any of the College regents, although I have no reason to believe Madame Angé will succeed at getting appointed over me." There's a bit of silence as all the musicians exchange glances, some dubious, some curious, others conflicted. Until you ask the regent what makes him so sure. "Because there's one thing that a college regent needs in order to rise to their position, Professor di Lucca Alazzo notwithstanding. And that's mastery of the college's traditional school of magic, or former school of magic in Aranaz' case, if you want to get technical. Point is that Madame Angé might be a spellcaster, but she doesn't know a lick of Incantation. Nothing, not a single Incantation Pheme of spell at all. She studied Astrology, and even with that I doubt she's on the same level as Professor Badcrumble. The latter attended the Academagia, back in her day. Madame Angé didn't." Oh, snap. That explains...quite a few things, actually. "As for myself I'll freely admit that my knowledge of Incantation overlaps considerably with advanced Rimbal techniques, perhaps more so than some students would like, but for what it's worth that still counts as far as the rules outlined by the Praetexta Court are concerned. So there you have it. Proof positive that despite Madame Angé's exceptional abilities at stirring up a hornet's nest, her chance of replacing me are slim to none. Professor di Lucca Alazzo gets enough flak for not being a grandmaster Enchanter as opposed to 'just' an Enchanter, and that aside he fits College Vernin's paradigm perfectly. Madame Angé can't play five notes right, couldn't conjure a glass of water even if she was on fire, and I'm sure her opinion of Rimbal and mercenaries have been made clear. She could be a fine manager for the music department's finances, perhaps, but nothing more than that. If that. Now forgive the sudden departure but if you'll excuse me, I've got a Rimbal team to attend to."

Professor Massioti leaves, and again silence falls over the room as everyone processes what he said. As for you, you're feeling like it would have been wonderful if someone told you all of that, you know, a bit earlier. Before this whole mess got as bad as it did.

...Why did no one inform you, anyway? If Professor Massioti knew about all that before, why didn't he spread the word? It might have stopped the Rimbal team from flying off the handle before you had to step in. And where did he learn about Madame Angé knowing Astrology? Even you weren't aware of that, and you think you did a great job digging into her affairs. Elisa didn't mention it. You don't recall her knowing why her attempts to track Madame Angé failed, even. Hmm...

"Well, I guess that's that, than," one of the musicians says with a sigh. "So's there any reason for us to still be here and all, or...?"

Is there? You feel like there's a mystery left unexplained here, but is there a reason to look further into it?

-Satyric Revelry. Suggest you all put on a concert anyway.
--"Is there ever not a reason? Ladies and gentleman, what we have here is a politically heated situation, troublesome enough to generate outright riots...well, one riot, put to an early, final grave. Do you know what that situation calls for?" Lots of confused stares all around, even Katja is looking at you with a giant question mark written all over her face. You look at everyone a bit perplexed. "What, were you all planning on doing some homework to celebrate? A party! That's what this situation calls for! Put on a nice show to commemorate the end of the stress, awkwardness, misery, whatever else people felt! And then go back to doing homework! How do you people not know this?"

For someone who just suggested throwing a party to celebrate the end of a bothersome problem the reactions you're getting are far too mixed. "I'm in favor of this plan," one of the seniors says.

"Finally! Any other takers?"

"One thing," another seniors says, pointing at Charlotte's song. "Could we actually use that at all...well, any more than we could to begin with, if that's what we'll be doing? I mean I don't know about the rest of you, I don't need an excuse to throw a concert, but that song...it doesn't really fit a party atmosphere, does it?"

"Nonsense," you say before someone else opens their big mouth. Why you're going out of your way to defend Charlotte's song like this, though...you're not entirely sure. It's a complicated mix of reasons. "We all want to be happy, don't we? Especially after a situation like this? So be happy! Hell, use it as the opening act, connect with both the student and faculty's desire for this nonsense to be put to bed and than let 'er rip."

"Let what rip? Someone's violin? Someone's pants? Either way I don't think that'll go over well," one of the musicians asks while most of the others nod at your suggestion.

"You'll see, ye of little faith. Anyway, all in favor of throwing a party?"

Pretty much everyone in the room, in unison, shouts "Aye!"

"Motion accepted! So, problem the first, how to convert Charlotte's song to a concert worthy piece of music. Any suggestions?"

"Leave that to me," one of the musicians says, finally doing something rather than waiting for you to do everything for a change! Oh, you knew this was going to be a great idea. There'll be more kinks to work out undoubtedly, but for right now, that marks the start of a beautiful plan. Truly, this can only end well.

"[PC FIRST NAME], why are you knocking on wood?" Katja asks as you proceed to do what every sane person would do in your position.

"Never mind that. Everyone? Get ready for Operation: End of This Mess Party!"

--To you it seems only natural to throw a party in light of a reason to throw a party, but the musicians don't seem to agree with your opinion. No matter how many great arguments you throw in their collective faces, like asking them if any plan to celebrate by doing homework. Apparently a few of them have a big test coming, so taking the time to study would be appreciated.

Spoilsports. Those guys are going to throw a party if it's the last thing you do.

-Plot. It's not over until an overweight lady sings.
--"I certainly believe there is. How many of you think that this affair is really over and done with?"

There's a few curious glances exchanged before you're informed that, for the most part, the musicians do think that Professor Massioti's comments pretty much put the final nail in this situation's coffin. "What, do you still think something fishy is going on?"

"You'll recall that I talked to an Avila graduate during the course of my investigation? One who didn't figure out Madame Angé's spellcasting abilities? Yet there the regent was, happily sharing that information with the class. I'd certainly call that fishy."

Some frowns and tilted heads. You're on the right track. "Maybe he just respected the madame's privacy? Like, she's after his seat but it's not like he's really threatened by her, you know?"

"Maybe, but if he told us anyway he could have said as much to the Rimbal team as well, before they nearly flew off the handle. And if anyone was aware of that one boy's hotheadedness it'd be Professor Massioti, right?"

More frowns and dubious glances. Sadly no answers, but it's a step in the right direction regardless. "[S/He]'s making some good points..." one of the musicians silently mumbles.

"Maybe, but what's it all supposed to mean? That that wasn't Professor Massioti just now? Preposterous."

"It means Professor Massioti didn't know himself until recently," you correct.

"Doesn't that just close the lid on this case, though? Professor Massioti learned that the madame's threats are hollow, came here to tell us as much, and...that's pretty much it?"

You shake your head. "He had no way of figuring that out, not that easily. Not if me tracking down an Avila graduate and both of us trying to track down Madame Angé still left us completely in the dark. Madame Angé is doing this. She's slipping the regent information so that he'd tell us off, because we were about to do something she doesn't want us to do." You point to Charlotte's song, that someone pinned to the wall.

"So...you're suggesting that she's admitting that her political pushing is hopeless because she doesn't want us to play her probably-maybe adopted daughter's song? Just...why? Like, what possible reason could she have to-why would anyone ever do that?"

"I don't know, but I'm past the point of believing that what Madame Angé is doing is in Charlotte's best interests. I mean, you all read her song's lyrics, right?" There's some slow, awkward nods, though mostly there's confused stares. Good enough. "So I say we put on a show as planned, for whatever flimsy excuse of a reason one of us can think of, and we bring whatever intricate web of secrets that Madame Angé spun around herself and everyone she comes into contact with down to the ground. I don't know about you all, but I'm tired of being pushed and pulled from the shadows, and she has some things to answer for."

One of the musicians quips that everyone does, but he's largely ignored as the rest nods at your suggestion. There's still some questions as to whether Charlotte's song could really be performed as a full-blown concert song, but a few of the musicians promise that they'll find a way to make it work.

Finally other people are doing something for you for a change! Glorious, just glorious. You're sure that there'll be some kinks to work out before the concert can be put on, but for now you're going to enjoy a much-needed break.

--You're quite sure that there's something more going on here, but the musicians seem content to just let the matter drop at this point. Trying to cheese you out of some sort of admittedly not agreed-upon payment, you think. All that effort and these guys just want to call it a day? Never. They're going to do something before you'll call this quits even if it's the last thing you do.

Those musicians really have been nothing short of useless this entire time, haven't they?

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Wherever the...Friend? Or Foe?, stage 11:

Spoiler

Katja again came running into the Great Hall today, looking for you. Apparently there's something going on with the concert crew, and your input is needed. Needless to say that you go with her straight to the Dimmae theatre. There you see most of the musicians practising their respective parts, preparing instruments, the usual stuff. Nothing looks out of place or on fire, though. "Okay everyone, I've brought [PC FIRST NAME]," Katja announces as the two of you walk in. Everyone stops what they're doing to look at you. This might get ugly.

"Okay, so what's the emergency? Who got killed, what got burned down, what invading army is at our doorstep, what combination thereof?" you ask, dreading what answer you'll be given.

A few of the musicians laugh at that. That's a good thing, right? "Nothing quite so dramatic," one of them explains. "Simply put, we're missing a singer. One of the seniors tried singing Charlotte's song, but it just doesn't fit. We need a young girl to sing these lyrics. You know, get a voice that fits the emotion of the song. And the problem is that we don't have anyone like that."

You glance over at Katja, and before you can even say anything she shakes her head. "I'm on the violin for that song, although I guess I could be a back-up singer if you really want?"

"So Katja brought me here to talent scout, basically?"

"Pretty much. Some suggested recruiting Charlotte to sing the part herself, assuming she's actually good enough to do so of course, but...well, we're not really sure that's a good idea. None of us want to judge a book on her cover, but the way you described her to us before...not really the perfect picture of a concert singer, you know? And let's not even think about what it'd take to convince her mother to go along with that plan..."

Yeah, that's not going to happen without a Mastery textbook in all likelihood. It would be fun to give Charlotte the chance to sing her own song, but...let's not make this needlessly complicated at this stage. A young girl to sing a song...of course you also need one who 'fits the emotion' or some such. One of those art things, huh? You can manage that. Probably. Who to recruit, though?

[FEMALE PC]-Voice. Try signing the part yourself.
--"Any objections to me singing the song?"

There's a few shrugs from the older musicians and a big, goofy grin on Katja, but no one voicing disagreement. "If you think you can, sure."

"Great, let me just grab-does anyone have a copy of the lyrics? Just give me a few minutes to practice and memorise things, and we'll see what I can do."

Someone tosses you a copy of the song lyrics, and you slink off into one of the Dimmae's backstage areas to practice in (relative) peace and quiet. As you thought, signing relatively competently is the easy part. Really putting your heart into it, as Charlotte did when composing the song, is the hard part. You resolve not to let anything get to you, though. You'll do your best, and if that's not enough, so be it.

It only takes a few short minutes before Katja shows up and says the rest are ready for the first full rehearsal. Not is either your time to shine, or come crashing down.

Overall the rehearsal is rocky, rough around multiple edges, but not because of you. Not just. You put your heart into it and manage to sing the part beautifully. So well that no one even calls you out on the fact that you mixed up two lines in the melody!

...You never said that you didn't need practice, but even to untrained ears that's obviously true for everyone here.

You're hired on the spot (sorta), and that's what matters most. Now it's just a matter of getting ready for the big show...and whatever comes next.

--The musicians are more than willing to give you a chance, which is good. What isn't good is that you're having a hell of a time trying to 'fit the emotion' or whatever the musicians said before. You can't put a...well, tone, in this case, on what you're missing or doing wrong, but when Katja gives it a try you can hear that you are definitely missing something.

"Maybe we should have Katja sing, and have [PC FIRST NAME] on the violin?" one of the musicians suggests, but Katja insists that unless there's no other singer in the entire Academagia who can sing the part, she wants to be on the violin. You don't blame her. Her talent is most certainly playing the violin, not singing.

So...looks like you're got some more work ahead of you, either practising or talent scouting...

[MALE PC]-Voice. "Does it HAVE to be sung by a girl?"
--The musicians look at each other questioningly. "It doesn't have to be, necessarily," one of them slowly says to the others. "The key point is that it's a child's voice, right? You know, pure and innocent, that sort of thing?" The rest of the musicians nod at that, although a question is raised about whether your voice will suffice for that purpose.

"Do I sound like an octogenarian chain smoker? Just give it a try. If it works, great. If not at least I'll know I wasn't refused just because a group of musicians didn't think things through."

There's a few disapproving frowns directed your way, but no one can (or at least tries to) refute your point. So with a slightly smug smile plastered all over your face you grab a copy of Charlotte's song lyrics and head off to practice in relative peace and quiet. The lyrics are about as simple as they get, so that's not an issue, the issue is really putting your heart into it like Charlotte did. The fact that you, a boy, is trying to sing a girl's song also keeps circling in your head. "There's no reason I shouldn't be able to do this", you keep telling yourself, "wanting to be happy isn't something gender specific, a guy can want that just as much as a girl". Yet the lyrics just don't click...

"Sorry, [PC FIRST NAME]? The rest are ready for the first full rehearsal," Katja says after peeking a head into your practice room.

"That's great, but I'm not. I swear, these lyrics couldn't be simpler, yet...I don't know. Somehow they don't click."

Katja shakes her head. "You're worrying too much, [PC FIRST NAME]. Just because a girl wrote the lyrics doesn't mean a boy can't sing them. Go out there and let your inner child sing some words, the rest will fall into place."

With a sigh and shrug you slowly nod and follow Katja to the practice stage. "I swear this is all made far too complicated because of...something. I don't even know what."

"It doesn't matter, [PC FIRST NAME]," Katja says with a smile. "Leave art to the artists. You're a singer, so go out there and sing a song."

You figure that you might as well try after you spend those minutes practising, so you decide to just trust Katja on this and sing without thinking about things too much. It takes a few tries before you get it, but afterwards things go perfectly. Or as perfectly as the initial rehearsal can be expected to, anyway. Hell, looking over the lyrics again you realize you actually managed to get two lines mixed up. Good thing no one called you on it.

Most importantly the other musicians are convinced that you're able to pull off the signing aspect, so you're officially added to the team. Now it's just a matter of continuing to practice until the big day...

--The musicians are persuaded to give you a chance easily enough, which is good. What isn't good is that you're having a hell of a time trying to 'fit the emotion' or whatever the musicians said before. You can't put a...well, tone, in this case, on what you're missing or doing wrong, but when Katja gives it a try you can hear that you are definitely missing something.

"Maybe we should have Katja sing, and have [PC FIRST NAME] on the violin?" one of the musicians suggests, but Katja insists that unless there's no other singer in the entire Academagia who can sing the part, she wants to be on the violin. You don't blame her. Her talent is most certainly playing the violin, not singing.

So...looks like you're got some more work ahead of you, either practising or talent scouting...

-Gossip. See if Silke Niederstatter is up for singing a song.
--You mentally go through a list of every Classmate you know of and try to think of someone who'd be able to not just sing decently, but also 'fit the emotion' or some such. That list gets uncomfortably thin by the time you're done, but you think that Silke might be a good student to ask. She's in Godina, but for reasons that you're not entirely aware of, since the traditional focus on grand, flashy magic just isn't her style. Moreover, she despises athletics, yet she's forced to attend Athletics class because, again, she's in Godina. And of course that also means that Professor Massioti puts her through the Rimbal ropes at least once, like he does with everyone. It's impolite to assume, but maybe she can understand Charlotte's desire to fit in, and from there, sing not only decently, but in the proper arts-y form?

With not much in the way of confidence you make your way to Godina's section of campus and look around for Silke. You find her in the mostly empty Common Room, trying to decorate it with nothing more than some colored lines of cloth. Someone likes a challenge, it seems. "Hey, Silke? Can I ask for a favor?" Silke turns around, jumps down from the chair she's standing on and asks with a smile what you want. "You've heard about the project that the Academagia's musicians are working on, right? Katja's part of it as well, and long story short, we're-well, I'm looking for someone. We're missing a singer."

Silke raises an eyebrow at that. "A singer? Really? I thought you wanted me to work on the decorations."

You shrug. "Maybe you can, I honestly don't know who's doing decorative work or even if there's anyone doing decorative work. What I'm looking for, at least what I know I'm looking for, is a singer. Someone who, eh..." Good question you should have answered before entering this conversation, in hindsight: How are you going to explain what kind of singer you need? You know, politely?

"This wouldn't have anything to do with this 'mysterious new composer' that I heard older students whisper about in the common room, would it?" Silke asks with more than just a polite smile. She's curious. That's...a good thing, right? "You can tell your musicians that I'll stop by the Dimmae to audition once I'm done putting these things in place," Silke says, holding up one of her lines of cloth. "Not to alarm you, but I overheard two of the musicians talk about your 'secret' song in the common room, so I have a general idea of what's about. So expect to be hearing from me again. Later."

...Okay? Like, you'll take mission accomplished, but was there a conversation or two that you weren't present for here? Oh, no matter, you've got someone, and unless you need to find someone else you're happy.

Now it's just a matter of either solving the next problem that comes up, or waiting until the big day...

--You find Silke in one of the art rooms, and long story short is that she's currently too busy to also practice her singing as much as she'd need to if she's going to sing in a concert. It's fair enough, Silke attends Music since she's in Godina, but it never was her focus, so of course she'd need to practice a great deal.

Maybe grabbing a first year would be a better option?

-Society. Grab someone from Professor Chastellain's first year class.
--You head over to Professor Chastellain's office and politely, nervously, explain your situation. Despite the nerves the professor is persuaded into letting you "scout" his first year's class easily enough, and when he holds an impromptu "test" during said class one of the first years in particular stands out as the best choice. When you explain the purpose of your presence (and try to avoid sounding like you're the only reason that the kids got a surprise test...) the girl who stood out says she's more than happy to sing the part, so...yeah. Case closed.

You're honestly not sure why you thought it'd be so difficult to find someone with a specific talent. Normally it would be, but you're in the Academagia. If you're going to find talent anywhere, of course it'd be here. You really expected this little bit of talent scouting to turn into a whole ordeal, mostly because everything else you've done for the musicians so far has been, but in hindsight you didn't have anything to worry about. Setting up for a concert isn't a given, but it's not politics either. Things will be fine, ultimately. It's just a matter of solving problems as they come. Until it's time...

--You spend a good half hour trying to find Professor Chastellain after finding out that he's not in his office, and when you finally find him and explain your situation to him he informs you that he's currently doing some work with one of the conservatories in Mineta, so he can't very well spare his best first year for a concert. Should his business conclude before your concert you'd be more than welcome to talent scout his class (provided you inform him beforehand rather than just barge into his class randomly), but currently, the talents are taken.

You briefly consider if this is Madame Angé's doing, trying to sabotage your every effort in every way she can, but...you're just being paranoid, right? Right? She wouldn't go this far-or, heck, even know how to, right? This isn't some grand ploy to keep everyone busy, or...

Forget it, you clearly need to head off somewhere and take a nap.

There actually was also an army of music-averse pirates hiding in the Imperial Reserve, but those got taken care of off-screen :P.

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End of adventure double feature! Wherever the...Friend? Or Foe?, stage 12:

Spoiler

Tonight's the evening of the big show, and one final time all of the Academagia's musicians have gathered in the Dimmae Theater to perform their music concert. Professor Massioti asked some pointed questions as to why this was still a thing, but he accepted your explanation that it was to celebrate the end of a bunch of turmoil that had a grip on College Godina, and more. Just a few minutes, and it's time to get on stage. The audience is filled mostly with Godina students, ironically minus most of it's musicians, who are obviously part of the concert itself. But including the entire Rimbal team, who (rumor has it) were coerced here by Professor Massioti. Something about them needing a dose of "culture", or something? You're not entirely sure, you were too busy with concert business to focus on the specifics of those rumors.

"Alright everyone, five minutes until we get on stage. Is everyone here and ready?" one of the senior musicians asks. One by one everyone confirms they're here and ready, and a few head off towards the stage early to prepare the instruments. Always great to see something actually running like clockwork. "Excellent, excellent. Now, not to unnerve you all, but I've just got word from the Legate that two special guests will be attending our little concert as well. They requested to meet the backstage crew - that'd be all of us, naturally - and I, eh, kind of already okayed it with the Legate, so...they'll be here in about a minute, maybe less." There's a few complaints about the senior overstepping his bounds, but he stands firm. "I know, I know, my apologies, but I was only asked at the last minute myself and when the Legate personally asks you for a favor you don't say 'no', now do you?" Most people nod, begrudgingly or otherwise, but one person asks why meeting the backstage crew counted as a "favor" to the Legate, of all people. "Yeah, about that-"

"Good evening, students."

Dead silence quickly falls over the room as the two special guests, flanked by the Legate, enter the backstage area. You're not surprised, but as far as everyone else is concerned you don't know if people are more shocked by Madame Angé's appearance or Charlotte's.

"Good evening from me as well, students. I trust that everything is ready and waiting for the clock to hit the top of the hour?" the legate calmly asks.

"Y-yes, we're just waiting for the signal," the senior student tells the Legate, after which he slowly turns towards Madame Angé. "Y-you're, eh...right, Madame Angé, I take it?"

She nods. No words said, just a piercing gaze that leaves you to fill in the blanks.

"Bonjour à tous...j-je veux dire, h-hi? Everyone..." Charlotte, hiding behind her mother, says. She looks like she wants to say more, but she doesn't.

"Shall we leave meet and greets for after the concert?" the Legate suddenly suggests. "Less than two minutes left, everyone. Go and get to the stage, the audience is waiting."

Everyone, likely wanting to escape this awkward situation more so than worried about being late, nods and rushes to the stage. Seeing how many students, staff members, even professors are in the audience makes you nervous, but you're confident that this will work. Charlotte's song isn't a wordplay masterpiece, but it's...hang on, wait a minute, did anyone ever...? You quickly grab one of the fliers for this concert and check...there's mention of a "before unheard song from Mineta's newest composer". No confirmation that that's supposed to be Charlotte. In fact the absolutely horrible phrasing wouldn't suggest that that's likely, if even possible, but whoever made these insisted, so everyone just went with it. So did anyone tell Charlotte that you all decided to go through with playing her song before she came here? To listen to it being performed, as it turns out? She looked pretty anxious, so...uh...well, this might get awkwa-

"Good evening, guests and members of the Academagia!" the senior, now on stage and shouting at the crowd, starts. Oh geez, show's on, gotta go!

[PC IS THE LEAD SINGER]-Onto the stage, and quick!
--Ducking slightly you quickly rush to your spot on the stage. Thankfully your starting position is behind the instruments, it's your end position that's front and centre. A few of the musicians frown at you, but you motion to them to forget about it. With a shrug, they do.

"We could start with our take on a series of classic songs you've all heard before," the announcer continues, "but I'm not one that believes in keeping an audience waiting - not any longer than necessary, at least. So for our opening act, let's hear it for Mineta's newest composer!"

So many things you want to say and do at the point, but there's just no time. That was the cue to start, and vocals start before most of the instruments do. Well, nothing you can do about it now. You just do what you can to forget about it all, for now, and do your best to do Charlotte's song justice. Putting your heart into it, and being confident that all the time you've spend practising hasn't been a waste. More to the point, right now? There's something you'd rather be than within this whirlwind of emotions. So...it fits. "All I want to be..."

Right on cue the instruments kick in, and the concert is off to an energetic start! You make good on your own promise, just singing your heart out and forgetting about the rest, while the rest of the musicians playing their various instruments breathe some much-needed life into Charlotte's otherwise simplistic song. Props to whoever adapted it for a concert situation, because they've done a great job. At least you don't feel yourself get pelted by tomatoes, so someone must have done something right.

"...Is happy."

And just like that, it's already over. Mere minutes, but for you it felt like a lifetime. The crowd is cheering. Charlotte (who, incidentally, was doing a decent job singing along by the time she realized what song was being played) has apparently attracted a small crowd of people, including Professor Chastellain, who are curious about the oddity that she was able to sing along so well. The Legate is staring highly amused at some sort of situation that's going on in the back of the crowd, and upon closer inspection that situation turns out to be Madame Angé, on her knees, begging Professor Massioti for...something. It...looks a bit awkward, particularly for the thoroughly confused professor. Likewise the Rimbal team players who were forced to attend the concert, if their various bewildered expressions are anything to go by. Score one for the musicians, you guess?

In any case that's the extend of your performance, so you'll just head backstage and wait either for someone to explain this to you or for the older students to send you away while they hold their wild and awesome late night after party, so that you can talk yourself into it anyway. Hey, you've worked hard enough to get here, you deserve a share of the glory! You think...

[PC IS NOT THE LEAD SINGER]-Into your audience seat, and fast!
--The rest of the musician crew secured a front row seat for you, so ducking your head a little you quickly rush to your seat. Turns out you're seated between to Professor Valenta and Professor Sido, both of which just give you a nod. Why these two are here you're not entirely sure, to be honest. Professor Valenta you guess might see this as an opportunity to connect with the students, attending a concert and all, and Professor Sido probably picked up some knowledge and perpetual curiosity about different music styles. Or maybe they're just here to take a break from work. It doesn't matter, ultimately.

"We could start with our take on a series of classic songs you've all heard before," the announcer continues, causing Professor Sido to break out in a somewhat conspicuous smile. "But I'm not one that believes in keeping an audience waiting - not any longer. So for our opening act, let's hear it for Mineta's newest composer!"

Your entire body twitches a little as you hear that. Right. Charlotte's song is the opening act. But there's nothing you can do about it now. Whatever you'd like to say to her or just in general, there's no time. All you can do is sit in your seat and enjoy the show. And hope that everyone else does likewise.

Right on cue the vocals start, the music picks up, and the concert is off to a good start! Charlotte's song really isn't a masterpiece of wordplay or complexity, but whoever adapted it for this concert situation did a good job, because it sounds great and the audience is eating it up like the tomatoes they aren't throwing on the stage.

And before you know it, it's already over. Mere minutes, yet that moment of listening to Charlotte's song felt like a lifetime. The crowd is cheering, and you decide to look around a bit, see if you can see the "special guests". It's a bit difficult to see from your seat, but you can see Charlotte actually standing up, still singing along and doing a fine job of it. She's drawn a small crowd, including Professor Chastellain, who seems to be listening intently. The Legate, who's also got a front row seat, you noticed staring at something with a very amused grin on his face. And after a quick spell you can finally make out the scene he's staring at, far in the back of the crowd. Madame Angé, literally on her knees, begging Professor Massioti for...something or another. The professor seems thoroughly confused, and embarrassed, just looking around for someone to save him from his predicament. You and the Legate aren't the only ones who've noticed it either, though. The Rimbal team players who were forced to attend the concert? They noticed. And they're just as confused as their professor. You guess that counts as a victory for the musicians, maybe? You've no idea, and you suspect that the Rimbal Team would rather forget it than consider it.

In any case, like the announcer said the rest of the concert is just renditions of songs you've heard before, so you'll slip backstage and wait for either someone to explain this situation to you or for the seniors to start their concert after-party. So that you can talk yourself into it, of course. You've done enough work, you deserve a share of the glory...or something like that.

Who doesn't like a simple stage?

Wherever the...Friend? Or Foe?, Stage 13:

Spoiler

The Dimmnae's backstage is rather empty while most of the other musicians are on stage performing, but at least you're not alone - Katja is here as well, congratulating you on a job well done. And of course, both of you can listen to the muted sound of the music being played in the...foreground? Like, surely the backstage area classifies as the actual background. "Good show, [PC FIRST NAME]," a familiar voice says as the Legate steps into the backstage area. Charlotte is also here, closely following the Legate. "Though, perhaps a slight warning next time you decide to use an up-and-coming talent's material, hmm? As amusing as it was to rescue Professor Massioti from his little 'predicament' it'd be better if such things didn't occur in the future."

"Yeah, sorry. Call that a bit of bad planning," you answer, feeling a bit embarrassed yourself. Just a bit, mind. "I also didn't know that Madame Angé and Charlotte would attend, especially with it technically being past visiting hours. I mean, yes, Charlotte composed the song that some of the musicians adapted for being performed in a concert setting, but..."

"You didn't think I'd actually come all the way out here, with...how I look and all?" Charlotte, after a few attempts at trying to remember how certain things are said in Renaglian, asks pretty bluntly. She's really improving, or maybe she's just feeling more confident? You're not sure. As for her question, you shrug in response.

"I honestly wasn't sure. Like, I could imagine you being afraid of going outside for some reason, be it how your appearance or something else, but...I just wasn't sure. Madame Angé definitely seemed to be sheltering you, so...I figured she probably did because that was your choice. What you needed, if not necessarily what you wanted."

Charlotte isn't sure how to respond to that, which gives Katja time to chime in. "Hey, [PC FIRST NAME]? What's so wrong about how she looks? Have you never seen Aaran Ledale or something? Avila student, in our year, quiet type unless you catch him ranting for fifteen minutes about the concept of destiny? I mean, no offence to him, but I'm sure he's got it worse than she has."

"I'm personally not bothered by it, and I don't think most people in the Academagia would be either. I mean you've heard that one of the students in our year is an honest-to-goodness werewolf, right? I'm not going to judge anyone based on a skin condition, but..."

"If it were just a skin condition, than it stands to reason that there's another reason why Madame Angé sheltered Charlotte as much as she did," the Legate points out. You just nod at that, although Katja stares curiously at Charlotte. She just shakes her head, staring at the ground in front of her. Just what story does that girl have to tell? "All you two need to know," the Legate continues, "is that Madame Angé has given up on her ill-planned attempt at Professor Massioti's seat as regent, and instead is going to work with the Academagia's faculty instead of...whatever you'd call what else she would have done. So unless there's something else you two want to say, I'll leave you to the concert and bring Charlotte back to her mother."

"I'll actually be heading back to Godina's common room," Katja mentions. "That one song was it for me, and I'm feeling a bit tired right now."

Katja only got to play one part of one song? Bit of a waste of her talents, but...sure? You assume that was decided that way for a reason. So what are you going to do?

[PC FOUND MEDICINE BOTTLE]-You've got something to show the Legate, actually...
--You watch silently as Katja leaves, and once you're sure she's out of hearing range you walk up to the Legate. "I don't know if you've already been informed or not, but just in case you haven't there's one thing I should show you, actually. In my dorm room, if I remember right."

Both Charlotte and the Legate raise an eyebrow, the latter more so than the former. "Really? Well, Madame Angé should be with Professor Massioti still, and I assume little Charlotte here wouldn't object to a little tour of the Academagia if that's necessary, but what is so important that you didn't think to show me earlier?"

"Aside from the fact that I wasn't aware that you actually cared? If there's one thing I learned about this whole mess it's that there's more layers to it than most people realize, and it's taken me a lot more effort to adjust to Madame Angé's talent of seeing things in those layers than I thought. Even now I'm sure I'm just scratching the surface of it all. Anyway, I, eh...just, please, follow me, it'll be easier to show than explain." Both the Legate and Charlotte curiously follow you to your dorm room, Charlotte insisting on following anyway after you suggested that she might not want to be a part of this. So you lead both to your dorm room, where from the back of one of your drawers you retrieve what you collected from Madame Angé's garbage before. The empty medicine bottle. Charlotte's eyes widen when you show it to her, although the Legate doesn't seem as surprised. He's surprised, rest assured, but not as surprised. "Wh-where did you get that!?" Charlotte demands, conflicted between wanting to yank the bottle out of your hands and keeping her distance from you. You motion to her to calm down, which honestly probably only works because the Legate is right in front of her. "In your trash, shameful as that is to admit, but than spying isn't always glamorous. Anyway, I already looked up what this bottle used to contain based on it's label - specialized medication for people who ingested a nearly lethal dose of a specific poison at some point. I couldn't reserve-engineer what traces of the medicine remains, but in theory I could have figured out stuff like when you got poisoned from that." Charlotte doesn't say anything in response to that. She's shaking, maybe close to tears, but she's not saying anything.

"I'm impressed that you've managed to figure out that much, [PC FIRST NAME]," the Legate slowly says. "Now, if you don't mind me asking, exactly what do you think that that bottle signifies?"

"A lot of things, but I just don't have enough to put all the pieces together," you start to say as you hand the bottle to the Legate. He carefully examines it as you continue explaining. "Sorry to put it so bluntly, but I can make an educated guess as to why the victim of an assassination attempt was and...had to be adopted by someone who's just far too good at maintaining layers upon layers of deceptions and secrecy. I just can't figure out the exact who's and whys."

The Legate nods. "And Madame Angé's attempt at replacing Professor Massioti, in light of this?"

"A desperate grab for power, I'd imagine. I've heard that she doesn't intend - didn't intend, rather - to remove the current core curriculum of Godina, just push it into the background. Of course with her stance against Rimbal her students of that core curriculum would likely end up becoming the mercenaries of Godina's older days. Beyond that, I'm not sure. Maybe she wanted bodyguards, maybe she wanted to secretly build up a private army...I couldn't say for sure." Charlotte tries to defend her mother, or at least the woman who adopted her, but all that her efforts get her is a number of failed attempts at forming a coherent sentence and a few tears. You don't blame her. The Legate, putting a hand on Charlotte's shoulder, nods and calmly asks, "A desperate grab for power, to gain a personal army of some sort...why?"

"...Because she's afraid of someone trying to finish the job. That or she's the one looking to finish off whoever started the job...and than some, probably."

You didn't think that Charlotte's face had any color that could drain from it, but hearing that turns her already pale face into a literal ghost. The Legate, likely in an attempt to calm her down, lightly rubs her shoulder. You can't tell if she even notices. "Anything else you've figured out from your adventures in Madame Angé's garbage?"

"I only had the one adventure, thankfully, but I actually did notice something else interesting - among all of the food remains, there wasn't a trace of meat or anything you'd use to prepare it. So I also suspect that, eh..." After a few seconds of staring at the medicine bottle, which the Legate is still looking over, you add "Well, y-you can figure that out, I'm sure." Charlotte actually nods, though she doesn't say anything.

"I've said it before, but I think it bears repeating: Good show, [PC FIRST NAME]."

"Well, you'll forgive me if I don't feel that way given how the crowd looks," you say, looking at the downright pitiful Charlotte.

"Perhaps not right now, but with this bottle I think I might be able to get Madame Angé to stop playing dumb and actually cooperate with Professor Badcrumble. To undo the webs of obscurity that she's put in place." You protest, asking if doing that wouldn't attract the wrong kind of attention, but the Legate shakes his head. "If there is anyone left who cares, perhaps it would. But the spells and Phemes that Madame Angé discovered and used are better than she gives them credit for. You said that she can keep a perspective on every layer of secrecy she's ever woven, [PC FIRST NAME], but the simple truth is that she can't. Not perfectly. No matter how skilled and talented, in the end she's only human."

"So you mean...whoever is after her and Charlotte is already...I don't know, just...gone?"

"Most likely, yes. As such it's time to raise the curtains and see what remains of the cast, and if that attracts the wrong kind of attention...you didn't hear this from me, but I have it on good authority that Charlotte won't be so easy to get to. Or so helpless, if she indeed can study as hard as she claims."

"W-wait, you mean-!?"

The Legate holds up a hand. "Not for certain. But your mother did put quite a lot of effort into buttering up the folks who have a say in those decisions, and when both the regent of College Avila and the Legate actually support that direction...there's a better chance than your mother had at usurping Professor Massioti's position. Though I'll admit that isn't saying much." Charlotte is naturally excited at that, but the rest of what's been said so far is still weighing on her. As is what she hasn't said, things she could have explained and clarified, but you're not going to ask. Not right now. "As for you, [PC FIRST NAME], when the curtain is finally raised we'll probably need an extra pair of eyes and ears to gather and put together the pieces. Kate Badcrumble and myself, I mean. Worst comes to worst, we'll need an extra pair of hands to...clean up the garbage, as well. Since you've proven yourself to be somewhat capable in that regard, I'll keep your name in mind."

What was it that the senior musician said earlier? "When the Legate personally asks you for a favor, you don't say no"? You don't, of course, but you really hope that clean-up isn't going to turn ugly.

Because if it does...it'll get really ugly...

-Party time!
--You bid goodbye to the Legate, Charlotte and Katja, and wait until one of the musicians walks backstage. Turns out you only have to wait until the end of the song that was playing over your conversation before another senior walks in. Looking slightly confused, he asks why you're loitering in the backstage area.

"Waiting for the concert to end and the party to start. Considering all the effort I put into helping you guys I surely have earned that much, haven't I?"

The senior looks at you even more confused. "What party? Isn't the concert supposed to be the party?"

"Sorry, not buying it. I overheard you talking to the others, I know about the party, you know I've got a knack for those things so don't play coy. Just be honest, have I earned a spot on the invited list or not?"

An awkward silence, minus the muted sound of an upbeat classical piece of music being played on stage that's entirely inappropriate for the tense atmosphere in here, falls over the room until the senior speaks up again. "I suppose it's a futile effort to try and hide it from you. As for whether you've earned an invitation...I can't knowingly allow an underclassmen to hang around with a bunch of upperclassmen throwing a party after your curfew, but don't give people a reason to see you and I'm sure they'll have an...entirely coincidental tendency to miss you." With a smile the senior adds, "It's really rare for a second year to do older students a favor, but honestly? You've earned this one. Just be careful not to waste it."

Finally some recognition. Honestly, that's what you wanted just as much as being at the party. You enjoyed hearing Charlotte's song be played just as much as everyone else, but Gods did it take an unreasonable amount of effort - mostly on your part - to get to that point. And now? Time to mingle with the musicians in ways that Charlotte could only dream of. Complete with free pastries and everything. You'd know - you've seen where they're hidden.

It'll be a late night and you'll probably hate yourself when you have to wake up early the next morning, but for right now, you'll "just be happy"! Or some such poignant thing or'nother.

[MALE PC, mid to high, <11 relationship with Katja]-Call it a night with Katja.
--"Do you mind if I join you?" you ask Katja. She seems a bit surprised, but after a second she shakes her head and smiles. "Actually, no. Not at all."

You and Katja start to walk off together, slowly enough that Charlotte misjudges your hearing range and you both can hear her excitedly ask the Legate if the two of you are boyfriend and girlfriend. Katja can't help but slowly shake her head when she hears that, and she whispers something to you about kids and their silly fascination with such things. The Legate says something dismissive in response, although you can't make out any actual words. Either way, you and Katja walk silently together to Godina's Common Room. Given that the entire Rimbal Team and most of the musicians are still at the Dimmae, it's quite empty. So the two of you have no trouble finding a nice lazy chair or couch to sit on. After Katja sits down you notice that she's more than just tired. She's nervous. She's fidgeting with her fingers, her arms are shaking, and she's hanging her head.

Of course than she suddenly looks up and notices you staring at her. Her anxious expression turns into a nervous smile, but the look of wanting to tell you something doesn't change. "[PC FIRST NAME]..." she mumbles underneath her breath as she shyly looks away from you. "Sorry, but...could you please listen to me? I've...got some thing I really want to get off my chest." You shake your head. A bit casually, perhaps, but that's because you don't know why Katja feels so nervous. Yet. In any case, just that seems to have lifted some weight from her shoulders. "I...honestly, I was kind of hoping that...you'd fail to do this."

You raise an eyebrow at that. "Fail to do what, something with the concert?"

Katja shakes her head. "Save Professor Massioti, although I guess in the end he didn't need saving. It's just...when I overheard the Legate talk to Professor Massioti, when I heard him mention that the Praetexta Court would be meeting to see if he would be replaced as Godina's Regent...I...I felt happy. I thought I could feel happy. I'm not really Godina material, I'm just here because it's the College that the music department is tied to. I'm a musician, a violinist, not a battle-hardened war mage or a flashy, show-off magic performer."

"You're not the only one who feels like that," you say with a bit of a shrug. Really though, the same could probably be said for most of the musicians - the vast majority of them, understandably, are Godina students. Even so, Katja nods appreciatively.

"Y-yes, I know, but I'm still...nervous. Afraid that I won't meet people's expectations, even though I know Professor Massioti doesn't expect much. I'm not a Rimbal player either, after all. Even so, when I heard that he might be replaced, and replaced by someone who would actually focus on the music department, someone who'd recognize the talent I have and really appreciate it...I thought I'd be a good thing. At least for me, I thought it'd make things easier for me."

"Didn't you talk about how Madame Angé would stifle the musician's creative freedom, though? You know, because Professor Massioti doesn't pay any attention to any sort of art department? Weren't you concerned about that?"

Katja weakly nods. "I did, but those weren't my real feelings. Intellectually, sure, I was concerned about it, but in my heart I couldn't care less. I'm worried about falling behind, flunking out, failing because I can't cast magic as well as people want me to. As they expect me to. If I could make people happy by playing my violin, doing what I'm good at on the condition that I play some classical piece or whatever piece of musical fashion of the day it is until I graduate, so be it."

"But the rest of the musicians didn't agree? Didn't feel the same way, I should say?"

Katja sadly shakes her head. "No. If you're wondering why I was working with the musicians, why I got you and asked for help and all of that, the others convinced me. Mostly. At first I tried to argue with them that they couldn't judge Madame Angé on her cover, although we didn't know her name at the time, but the others argued that we couldn't judge a book who's cover we can't even see on it's content, either. So we tentatively agreed to find someone who could answer those questions for us. I looked for you, for someone who could help us all the while feeling like I didn't want anyone to help us. And when you did? The more you found out, the more people started clawing at each others throats because of that woman, the more conflicted I felt." Katja can't help but shake her head recalling that. "It wasn't until you brought back Charlotte's song that I started to sort of accept that I was wrong to think...wrong to hope that she'd be a better regent. Anyone who'd run over everyone else's lives in order to make sure that someone personally important to them can be happy...it's a noble goal, but I hate to admit that it's not a sentiment that makes for a good leader." Under her breath Katja adds, "Which only made me feel even worse, because somewhere deep inside this giant hypocrite's heart I prayed for the same to happen to everyone else in...in this College..."

Goodness gracious. All this time sleuthing around and you never even noticed. If only Katja had asked you'd have gladly lend her a listening ear, too. "Well, you should be happy to know I don't blame you for feeling like that, and if you're not, please, be happy anyway. You can feel guilty all you want, but it isn't going to make anyone happy, Katja."

Maybe that wasn't the best thing to say, but it was the honest truth, so you'll stick with it. Katja, for her part, seems conflicted (which is to say, no different from the past few minutes). "You know, that guilt is why I'm here right now. I didn't want to be part of the concert, I didn't feel like I deserved it. But Charlotte's song...I just had to. I just had to play that part. Not to show off, not because I wanted to make up for anything, but because I wanted to. I...all I wanted, out of all of this, no matter what happened, all I wanted was to feel happy. So that song...I just had to put my heart into it."

"You and everyone else, as far as I remember. Katja, do you really think that you're the only one who was conflicted about this whole situation? That you alone were holding out hope that Madame Angé might, just might, end up becoming a better regent until the bitter end?" Slowly, Katja nods. She quietly mentions that she knows it's not true, but all the same, that's how she feels. A part of you understands, but at the same time you can't help but shake your head. "Katja, as difficult as the curriculum of College Godina is for you, and don't even try to tell me with a straight face that you think you're the only one who has a hard time studying and practising their College's magic, aren't you happy? Happy that you're in the Academagia?"

It takes Katja a surprisingly long time to think of that question, during which the expression on her face doesn't get any better than "mixed". Finally, she shrugs. "I should be. Being here, sharing my experiences with everyone, I should be happy, and don't get me wrong, I appreciate it a great deal. But when I overheard the Legate and Professor Massioti talk, I felt excited. Eager. Like I might find something that was long missing. I just...am not sure what that is."

"So whatever this is about runs deeper than even you have ever noticed. That's...well, Katja? If you ever need help figuring it out or if you need someone to rescue yourself from it, please, next time fine me, or...someone else you can trust and get it off your chest before it starts to pile up, alright? You know that I can help you, if I have time, so...just ask."

It's taken long enough, but finally Katja can look at you again. With what'll soon be a tear-soaked smile she nods and says, "Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, [PC FIRST NAME]. I'll be sure to do that."

[MALE PC, 11+ relationship with Katja]-Call it a night with Katja.
--"Do you mind if I join you?" you ask Katja. She seems surprised, but after a second she shakes her head and smiles. "N-no, not at all."

You and Katja start to walk off together, slowly enough that Charlotte misjudges your hearing range and you both can hear her excitedly ask the Legate if the two of you are boyfriend and girlfriend. Katja can't help but giggle when she hears that, and she whispers something to you about kids and their fascination with such things. The Legate says something dismissive in response, although you can't make out any actual words. Either way, you and Katja walk silently together to Godina's Common Room. Given that the entire Rimbal Team and most of the musicians are still at the Dimmae, it's quite empty. So the two of you have no trouble finding a nice lazy chair or couch to sit on. After Katja sits down you notice that she's more than just tired. She's nervous. She's fidgeting with her fingers, her arms are shaking, and she's hanging her head.

Of course than she suddenly looks up and notices you staring at her. It's a bit embarrassing, but despite it all her anxious expression turns into a nervous smile. "[PC FIRST NAME]..." she mumbles underneath her breath as she shyly looks away from you. "Sorry, but...could you please listen to me? I've...got some thing I really want to get off my chest."

"Of course." Those words come out before you even think about it, you're not sure why. It wasn't what you were planning, you know that much. You suppose it doesn't matter, ultimately. You're curious why Katja looks so...conflicted, although just hearing you say that seems to have lifted a weight from her shoulders already. "I...honestly, I was kind of hoping that...you'd fail to do this."

"W-what? Fail to do what?"

"Save Professor Massioti, although I guess in the end he didn't need saving. It's just...when I overheard the Legate talk to Professor Massioti, when I heard him mention that the Praetexta Court would be meeting to see if he would be replaced as Godina's Regent...I...I felt happy. I thought I could feel happy. I'm not really Godina material, I'm just here because it's the College that the music department is tied to. I'm a musician, a violinist, not a battle-hardened war mage or a flashy, show-off magic performer."

"You're not the only one who feels like that." Again those words come out before you can give any thought to them. At this point you figure that you ought to just go with whatever unseen force is providing these words, though - they seems to work, after all. As for Katja, she nods appreciatively.

"Y-yes, I know, but I'm still...nervous. Afraid that I won't meet people's expectations, even though I know Professor Massioti doesn't expect much. I'm not a Rimbal player either, after all. Even so, when I heard that he might be replaced, and replaced by someone who would actually focus on the music department, someone who'd recognize the talent I have and really appreciate it...I thought I'd be a good thing. At least for me, I thought it'd make things easier for me."

"I appreciate it." When your brain processes this latest gift of words you quickly amend that lots of other people do to, if the concert audience was anything to go by. Katja mostly seems amused by your hasty addition, although you notice that once she's done internally laughing at your mysterious vocabulary misadventures she no longer looks away from you. And instead of a nervous smile, she's smiling gratefully.

"I'm really glad to hear that, [PC FIRST NAME]." Yeah, you'd gathered. "Eh...as for why I was working with the musicians, why I got you and asked for help and all of that, the others convinced me. Mostly. At first I tried to argue with them that they couldn't judge Madame Angé on her cover, although we didn't know her name at the time, but the others argued that we couldn't judge a book who's cover we can't even see on it's content, either. So we agreed to find someone who could answer those questions for us. I looked for you, for someone who could help us all the while feeling like I didn't want anyone to help us. And when you did, the more you found out, the more people started clawing at each others throats because of that woman, the more conflicted I felt." Katja can't help but shake her head recalling that. "It wasn't until you brought back Charlotte's song that I started to sort of accept that I was wrong to think...wrong to hope that she'd be a better regent. Anyone who'd run over everyone else's lives in order to make sure that someone close to them can be happy...it's a noble goal, but it's not a sentiment that makes for a good leader." Under her breath Katja adds, "Which only made me feel even worse, because somewhere deep inside this giant hypocrite's heart I prayed for the same to happen to everyone else in...in this College..."

You stand up. It kind of feels like an extension of your mysterious word fairy or whatever, since again you didn't really...think about doing this, but at least this time you don't have to. You walk over to Katja's couch, sit down next to her and throw...actually more like "slide" an arm around her shoulders. She blushes, but at the same time also slides a bit closer. More significantly, she doesn't look away from you, and her grateful smile slowly melts into something...honestly into something more drowsy. She wasn't lying when she said she was tired earlier.

...You're supposed to say something to her right around this point, aren't you? Something soothing, poignant, something...eh...probably one or two other things your mind can't think of right now? Blast, why did that mysterious word fairy decide to fly off right now, it worked so well before! Eh, quick, gotta think of something...and not make a fool of yourself, ideally, eh...

"Now that it's all said and done, with how things turned out, are you happy?"

Katja stares at you for a second, then quietly admits that she does feel happy when she feels that someone appreciates her. It makes you think your own wordsmithing skills did a good job...and then suddenly the corners of Katja's lips curl up into a mischievous smile. Katja leans in a bit closer, resting her head on your shoulder like she wants to, well, rest her head. Instead she sneakily reaches over and plants a quick kiss on your cheek.

"Please do me a favor, and forgive me for all of this," she whispers into your ear. You just nod in response, a bit meekly. You, eh, weren't prepared for that. Kinda took you by surprise...not an unwanted surprise, though...

The two of you silently stay like this, for a while, knowing that while the concert is going on basically every other Godina student is going to be coming through here. It's funny that after all that effort of getting to the concert, the part of the night you end up appreciating the most is this silent moment...

[FEMALE PC, mid+ relationship with Katja]-Call it a night with Katja.
--(pretty much the same as the mid-high relationship male text, just cut out Charlotte's "boyfriend and girlfriend" remark, maybe replace it with something utterly mundane)

And you guys thought the "Friend...or Foe?" part referred to Madame Angé :P. I, eh, I assume that's what people thought, at least :huh:? I mean it fits, so...

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