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Metis

Y2 WIP Adventures (come and proof-read!)

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6 hours ago, Metis said:

So there was something I wanted to do with this (and other) stages, but I think that plan fell through. In the process I may have instead accomplished something else I should have done, but didn't plan for because I didn't realize it was a thing I should do until I randomly bumbled into it. So...yay, I guess?

Would you mind explaining?

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I intended to focus more on Matthias, failed to do so (I...think?), and accidentally ended up focussing a bit on Catherine instead. Which I honestly should have done in the first place, so...yay. Maybe Grainne as well, come to think of it. I'll have to keep that in mind.

It's probably not something that stands out outside of context (nor should it, I believe), but if all goes well it'll make itself clear eventually.

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13 minutes ago, Metis said:

I intended to focus more on Matthias, failed to do so (I...think?), and accidentally ended up focussing a bit on Catherine instead. Which I honestly should have done in the first place, so...yay. Maybe Grainne as well, come to think of it. I'll have to keep that in mind.

It's probably not something that stands out outside of context (nor should it, I believe), but if all goes well it'll make itself clear eventually.

Well, Miss Chard and her family are interesting characters.

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With any luck I can add to that. Anyway, A Matter of Honor, stage 9:

After what feels like far too long, and far too much effort, the four of you finally arrive at the Chards' estate. It's a suitably impressive mansion, but for better or worse you won't be seeing any more if it since Matthias' welcoming committee (or whatever he'd call it) has gathered in the front courtyard. You don't see either of Catherine's parents anywhere, but there's certainly enough retainers, other family members and assorted people around. Some of which you even recognise from some manner of important thing-or-another. Only a few, though. "Everyone," Catherine begins as soon as she steps forwards and gets everyone's attention. "Pardon the interruption, but I have good news: These two Classmates have tracked down Matthias Neumann and brought him here. If there's no objections I'd like to use this opportunity to introduce him to everyone here today." Catherine's declaration is met with a wave of polite nods, and within a second the...party? Eh, the gathering resumes...whatever it was doing before.

"...Is it someone's birthday or something?" Matthias quietly asks as he looks around how many people there are. There's a lot of people here, some of them staring at him, so you can imagine that he's at least a little intimidated. "I mean, this entire gathering can't be solely because of me, right? Surely..."

"Of course not," Catherine clarifies with a neutral tone. "There's a reason everyone here has gathered, and as I said, I'd like to use this opportunity to make introductions. First I'd like to start by introducing you to the family caretaker, Diego Rinaldi. He's the person you'll be serving under...eh, should you choose to accept the position, of course."

Matthias lets out what you can only describe as a defeated sigh. "Not liking this impression I'm getting of that being a foregone conclusion, but...you know the situation I'm in. I'm still not sold on this whole idea, but I can't say with a straight face that I have any reasonable alternatives either..."

"I'm sure Rinaldi will be able to put those concerns at ease," Catherine notes as she takes a step forward. "This way, and please, just talk to him. He's a very kind and understanding man, I'm sure you'll be happy to work under him." Matthias laments not sharing Catherine's confidence, but all the same he follows Catherine pretty confidently, from the looks of it.

Catherine, with you and Grainne sort of trailing along at the end, leads Matthias to the man. He looks Matthias over with a serious expression that, on the surface, you'd personally not describe as "kind" or "understanding". Nor does he look at either you or Grainne any differently. Still, you have to assume that there's more to this man than his cover if Catherine Chard gives him such praise. "Good afternoon, Matthias, it's a pleasure to meet you," the man begins as he offers Matthias a seat. "Have you decided yet, whether to accept the Chards' invitation to work under me as a page?"

Matthias slowly shakes his head. "Lamented my lack of real alternatives more so than 'decided'. What exactly would be expected of me, as a page? I know a little about the upper class, but...not much, I'm afraid."

Rinaldi gives a nod you can only describe as "understanding". It's kind of uncanny, really. Magically so, almost. "Your job will be serving and assisting the nobles and notables here with their work, by ensuring that their lesser needs are tended to - a refilled drink or ink bottle, passing along a message that needs delivering, those sorts of tasks. In addition you will attend private tutoring by me, to instruct you on how to properly conduct yourself before Mineta's highest nobility, as well as attend a full officer's course over at the Safaviore Officer's School. The Chards will front the cost of tuition, should you accept the position and perform sufficiently." Matthias, confused, asks what him attending an army school has to do with him being a page. It's a question you're also curious about, so you're kind of happy that Matthias asked about it. "That...one moment. Miss Chard, permission to speak freely, please?"

"Do what you believe is best, Rinaldi. I trust your judgement," Catherine answers. Matthias stares at Catherine with an expression on his face that can only say "he needs permission for that?" Grainne, doing a rather fine job of taking in all of the potentially juicy information while staying relatively unnoticed, can't help but break out in a grin when she hears the exchange. Though that grin goes away when Catherine notices and frowns at her.

"To answer your question than, Matthias: Astrological divinations that some of the nobles here performed suggest that you - or someone like you - would play an important part in some manner of event in the near future." Matthias is stunned silent at that explanation. Not unreasonably, you think. "I understand that it must sound like a shaky thing to base us inviting you to join our court on, but to us it is a clear enough sign to act. To prepare, I should say. Your position as a page here, as well as your tutelage under me and attending of the Safaviore Officer's School, is our attempt to make sure that you are as prepared as you can be for whatever might come. Both as a page, and as a mercenary."

"Make sure that I'm prepared...and in your pockets? In case whatever situation you're talking about has more than one side to it?" Matthias observes. Despite the blunt way he phrased it Rinaldi calmly nods.

"Obviously we'd prefer to phrase it differently, but in essence yes. If our prediction about you or the role you would be placed into is accurate, than we want to make sure you will not make the wrong decision. For yourself, or for us. Understand that there is a great deal about this foreseen situation that we can do no more than guess at right now, but we wish to prepare for it as soon as possible regardless. I'm sure that you understand the value of that." Matthias grimly nods at that. Rinaldi notices, but he doesn't comment on it. "I can assure you, incidentally, that even if these predictions turn out to be completely false than we will not consider your position here as a waste. I do find myself in need of a page to ease my workload, and advancing your education, whether you wish to continue your studies as a noble's retainer or return to being a mercenary, is a fair compensation for the work you will be putting in. The Safaviore Officer's School is one of the best officer schools around, certainly the best you'll find in Mineta. Should you ever desire to follow in your late parents' footsteps, there's no better place you could go to study."

One part of you feels like this guy is pushing the "best deal of your life" angle a little too hard, another part of you feels like if anyone could make such claims with a straight face it would be someone working for the Chards. The Safaviore Officer's School is nowhere near as exclusive as it once was, there was a time you needed parents of Minetan nobility to go there, but you still need some kind of recommendation from someone respectable these days. And the Chards? Yeah, they qualify. Matthias, for his part, lets out a sigh. "How long will my position as a page here last? Until I turn eighteen?" Rinaldi confirms that, barring outside circumstances or Matthias "flunking out", as it were, that is the idea. That's not to say that he can't continue working for the Chards after that point, assuming circumstances allow for it, but at that point he would be expected to commit to a lifetime position working for the Chards as one of their retainers, should he choose to do so. "So...I'd have three years to figure out what I want to do with my life?" Rinaldi nods, and adds that Matthias will of course have more options open to him at that point, just that those two are the most obvious ones. If, after three years, he decides that he wants to become the captain of a cargo ship and haul trade goods for a living, than a well-rounded magical education and training at Mineta's most disciplined military school would be a proper feather in his cap. A captain needs leadership and discipline, after all, and magic is useful no matter your occupation. Matthias does agree on that point, but even so he turns to looks at his Familiar questioningly, as if asking it what he should do.

"So, eh, Catherine," Grainne not-so-innocently asks all of a sudden. "This, eh, 'divination' business. I don't suppose you'd be willing to-"

"I trust you will forget everything you've heard, Grainne. Unless I need to make you forget." is Catherine's response. Grainne seems unsurprised by it, yet no less disappointed. As for Matthias, his snake does in fact whisper what sounds like an answer into his ear. Insofar that "hisss-hisss hisss" sounds like anything to you.

"Alright," Matthias says to his Familiar. You'd ask what his Familiar said to him, but you don't feel like now is the right time to do that. Or the right mood, considering that Catherine and Grainne are having a staring contest right behind you, for that matter. "Mister Rinaldi, I'll accept the position. Though don't expect me to know the difference between a coffee mug and a teacup. I am...or was a mercenary. Not a butler. I do speak Merillian, though don't expect anyone to mistake me for a native speaker."

"Fantastic. And you'll grow into the role just fine, I'm sure. Now, come with me, I should introduce you to the people here. At least the ones you will definitely need to know." Matthias nods and, after saying a quick goodbye and thanks to you, walks off. A bit sudden, but considering the circumstances fair enough, you suppose.

"And why would that be, Catherine? Does your Classmate not have the right to know-"

"Not when you're standing on private property, no. If you're not aware of the city's laws, Grainne, I suggest that you-where did Matthias go? And Rinaldi? Did they walk off already?"

Gods, these two. Going at each other like a pair of old housewives right now. "Yes, in fact. Matthias accepted the position and left with Rinaldi for that meet-and-greet stuff. Just what were you two blathering on about that you completely missed that?"

"I-I do not blather, [PC FIRST NAME], I was informing Grainne about-"

"Oh, what do you know, there he is! And there's an Academagia student as well! Gee, Catherine, are you sure that I have no right to be here?"

"Will you quit arguing a moot point already? Especially a moot point that you're factually wrong about? I'll have you know that that is..."

Grainne is willing to wait a moment after Catherine trails off, but not a second longer. "That is who? Tick-tock, Catherine, inquiring minds wish to know."

"N-none of your business. Now please, if you would return to the Academagia and inform Rikildis of everything that's happened here in some sufficiently backwards way so as to maintain the illusion of plausible deniability?" Grainne, amused, asks if she can take that as an invitation. "N-no, of course not. I'm merely setting realistic expectations. Speaking of expectations, [PC FIRST NAME]?"

"Yeah?"

"You have done a great job today, finding Matthias and bringing him here. Even if he ultimately came here because he chose to, I'm sure that the road to get here wasn't free of obstacles. In fact, I know it wasn't. On behalf of the Chards, you have my thanks. I'll see to it that both Professor [PC REGENT LAST NAME] and Legate Orsi hear of what you've accomplished. And will hopefully overlook whatever laws you probably broke in the process. No offence, but I have to assume. Considering your company."

"Oh, sure, dodge my question by not giving me any credit, I see how it is. I also wasn't born yesterday. You say Academagia students have no right to be here, than pray tell who's miss Academagia student, hmm? [PC FIRST NAME], I don't suppose you recognise her?"

You really do not care to get dragged into this cat fight, but the fastest way to get Grainne off your back now and, more importantly, for the immediate future, is to play along, so...

-Heraldry. Is this student wearing any identifying sigils?
--Any that she would be wearing visibly on her Avila uniform you can't see from where you're standing. You do, however, recall that of the Chards only Catherine is currently attending the Academagia this year. So this girl, who's clearly a student based on the fact that she's wearing a student uniform, must therefore be a member of whatever other family is gathered here. And that you can easily tell just by looking around and seeing what other heraldry there is to see, other than those of the Chards themselves.

A quick look around only reveals sigils of one other family, and long story short you mentally kick yourself for not realizing it earlier. Rinaldi practically spelled it out already with his divination comments: This girl must be a De Simone. You kind of, sort of remember her, but...

--None that you can see from here. Well, there's the usual College Avila stuff but that's obviously not news to you. Or anyone else looking at the girl's very obvious Avila uniform, for that matter.

-Memorisation. Recall if you've seen this girl before.
--You stare intently at the girl, observing whatever you can from this distance, and...she actually does look familiar. Something is tugging the back of your memory when you stare at her. She's in Avila, that's obvious from her Avila robes, and...yeah, she's...not Professor Badcrumble's "favorite", but one of those students she tends to look out for (and at, with a very critical eye). What was her name again? It's at the tip of your-Rebecca? Rebecca De Simone? Was that her name?

"Well, [PC FIRST NAME]? It seems like you got a good look at her."

"I don't-I mean I never met her, but...Rebecca De Simone? Is that her name?"

Grainne shrugs, since obviously she doesn't know. Catherine briefly donates her jaw to a starving family of moles living beneath her family estate's front lawn. "A-are you sure you two never met before? Yes, that is Rebecca. Good eyes, [PC FIRST NAME]. And memory, I suppose."

"So is this girl actually important, does she has a reason to be here? Or was that entire argument an extended victory lap?"

"Please learn something of heraldry one of these days, Grainne, you are seriously embarrassing me right now. Yes, Rebecca...has a reason to be here. Now, please, do you really think that cretins like Joana or Kurt have a right to be here simply because they're Academagia students?" Grainne carefully thinks over her next answer, and slowly admits that, yes, perhaps her earlier theory was...not well thought through. "Thank you. Now, please, I'm sure your respective friends are waiting for you. If there's anything you need of Matthias at a later date, for whatever reason, you know where to find him."

Fair enough, you do have other things to do. Antonio will definitely want to hear about everything that's happened. For better or worse.

--You observe what detail you can from this distance and give your brain a good old wracking...that's what it's called right? In any case you probably shouldn't, it doesn't sound very healthy. Anyway, you do your best to recall and...eh, actually...you kind of vaguely recall seeing this girl before. Like, she's one of those faces that you see in the Great Hall every now and again. Just one face within the crowd, but you do recognize her, for what that's worth. You don't, you know, know her name or anything though.

"Well, [PC FIRST NAME]? You look like you recognize her."

You shrug. "Kind of? I mean I've seen her in the Great Hall before, but that's basically it. She's an Academagia student, but I suspect you probably knew that already."

"Yeah, the uniform kind of gave that away," Grainne notes, dejected. "Fine. It's been a long day, I'm too tired to continue arguing, and I've got a game of twenty guesses to play with Rikildis anyway, so sure. You win this round, Catherine, but next time I'm brining coffee."

"I should appreciate your competitive spirit, but I'm afraid I must inform you that it won't help you. Not in this situation, at least."

You shrug and leave the two housewives behind. If you need anything of Matthias in the future, for whatever reason, you'll know where to find him. For now you think it's high time that you went back to Antonio and informed him of everything that's happened...

Details upon details, this entire adventure chain. But at least part two is rapidly approaching it's end.

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A Matter of Honor, stage 10:

Back at the Academagia you meet up with Antonio and do your first of no doubt multiple retellings of this day's crazy tale. Your audience, such as it is, is overall less than pleased with the crazy adventure you had with Matthias and Grainne. That said you are able to convince Antonio that accepting the offer from the Chards was ultimately Matthias' own choice. Albeit one that didn't have a great deal of competition, but he managed to avoid being treated unfairly as best he could in the end regardless.

"I think you forgot a 'so far' there, [PC FIRST NAME]," Antonio says with something between a disappointed and disapproving frown. "I imagine that Catherine Chard has a different opinion, but I wouldn't trust her family's sincerity as far as I can throw it. Still, I guess I should be happy that Matthias at least got to choose which dice he wanted to roll with. So, did you get a good impression of him? Who really was the mercenary, or the boy or whatever you wish to call him, behind the rumors?"

"Someone else could probably think of a more elegant or profound way to put it, I can't because Gods am I tired after all of that, but from what I could tell he was just that - a boy, and a former mercenary. Nothing more, and nothing less." Antonio gets halfway through asking you if any of the rumors about Mathias had any truth to them (rumors that you still haven't really heard much about, come to think of it) when none other than the queen of said rumors suddenly barges in.

You and Antonio have been discussing this whole thing in the Aranaz Common Room, so not the most secret or restricted of locations admittedly, but still. Seeing Rikildis barge in like this is never a good sign. "[PC FIRST NAME] and Antonio de Long Name! Just the two people I was looking for," Rikildis says with a very fake tone as she jovially walks up to both of you.

"That's Antonio de Reyez e Irizarry-Vargas to you, Rikildis," Antonio snarls out. It doesn't stop Rikildis from sitting down right next to Antonio, though. Unfortunately she's got her unbreakable grin on her, so there's no escaping her. Or correcting her lack of manners, for that matter.

"Hmhm, and my name is Rikildelicious von KeeperMcminetialetta. Or put less long-windedly, I don't care. But I do care about Matthias, and a little bird told me that you two have dug up everything I could ever want to know about Matthias. So, care to share?"

"Not with that attitude," Antonio (reasonably) answers, but of course Rikildis chooses to ignore that.

"No need to take your disappointment out on me, Antonio, I've heard all about that already. Your precious and destined for greatness mercenary was scooped up by the Chards before [PC FIRST NAME]'s attempt to steer him differently could hook a catch?" Antonio furiously denies that accusation, but Rikildis dismisses him. "I'm sure your friends will believe you, Antonio, but I don't think anyone else will. Now that it's been confirmed that Matthias has something special about him no one is safe from accusations of trying to recruit him. Hell, I heard even the Legate got caught up in it. Most likely some people misinterpreting Matthias being escorted to the Chards' estate by a pair of Academagia students, if you ask me."

The Legate caught flak for that? What? And what's this about it being confirmed that Matthias is special in some way? If Rikildis is referring to the divination stuff than she's stretching the truth beyond it's breaking point, you feel like. At least that's not the impression you got from what was his name, Rinaldi? The Chards' family caretaker, he mentioned something along those lines but nothing that you'd call "confirmation". A part of you feels like you should try to set Rikildis straight, another part of you is suspicious that this might be some kind of trap she's trying to capture you in. It wouldn't be the first time. What to do, what to do...

"Anyway," Rikildis continues, "I didn't come here to confirm old stories to you two, I came here for you two to confirm old stories for me. Specifically, the rumors about Matthias. You two seem to know him pretty well, so I'll just ask: Were there any truth to them?" Antonio doesn't answer Rikildis' question, and you're left feeling a bit confused. Also, frustrated. In part because you assumed that Rikildis already got that information from Grainne, but mostly because you still haven't been told exactly what these rumors are! Unable to hold your own questions back anymore you decide to ask Rikildis for an explanation. She quirks an eyebrow, but doesn't let her grin drop. "You mean...didn't Grainne mention them at all? Or Matthias himself, for that matter? I assume that at least one of those two knows the score."

"I'm pretty sure they both do, but we didn't really get any chance to discuss them at any point. Did Grainne forget to mention the part where Matthias was almost kidnapped? Twice? And the part where we all had to deal with that situation and then where to go from there and everything and so we never got to asking him those questions?"

Rikildis doesn't really respond to your question. She takes out a roll of parchment and a quill, but that's not really a "reaction" from her so much as it's just her natural behaviour. You might as well try to read things into people choosing to breathe. "I heard about the kidnapping attempt, but I wasn't aware that situation was so frantic. Nevertheless, you want an explanation?" You nod your head. Antonio actually shakes his, but again Rikildis rudely ignores him. And for once you're happy about that. "Than to give you the short version, Matthias is said to have either been taught magic by some manner or non-human, if not said to outright be non-human. At least, partially. I couldn't tell you if the rumors surrounding him started because of some local folklore legend that his mercenary band took with it wherever they went or whether it was something that they themselves made up and spread to try and feint their enemies, but regardless of the source and intent behind the rumors the word was that Matthias was or was taught by something else. The most common story is that he either is a werewolf, or was taught by some kind of Fey. For what that's worth."

You pieced most of that together already, you recall Grainne mentioning something about Matthias not being entirely human, but it's still nice to just hear it all straight from the horse's mouth. "Well, for what it's worth Matthias denied all those rumors. Not that he couldn't have lied about it, but from what he said and I saw he's just a guy with some sharp wit and a wand. And really uneducated enemies, which, yes, is very much intentional on his part."

Rikildis actually nods casually at that. "As I figured, than. I'm sure the Chards wouldn't have been so desperate to recruit him if Matthias was 'off' in that respect, and the rumors smelled rotten anyway. There's ways to tell  and rest assured, I'm very aware of them." Yeah, you'll bet she is. "Anyway, that should cover those rumors. So on with the next batch - this divination business. Did you manage to catch what they're about? Anything at all?" You consider the question for a second, and shake your head. You genuinely don't think you heard anything about it that Rikildis doesn't already know about. She's a bit disappointed at that answer, but clearly wasn't expecting much either. "Guess that means I've got some homework to do. Anyway, since you two seemed to care about it so much I guess I should mention: That planned newspaper article about Matthias is off the table right now, barring further developments that I can actually report on." Antonio breathes a sigh of relief at that. You shrug your shoulders, not overly concerned about it all things considered. "So...that's that. I'll get in touch if I've got more question to ask or figure out you're hiding things from me. Other than that, if either of you have any ideas about articles for me to publish you know where to find me. I'm going to have an uncomfortable amount of space now that I'm going to have to find a way to fill, so...all ideas are welcome! No promises that I won't laugh at them, though."

Of course. That does beg an important question, though. Part of you feels like there's some loose ends here, things that you could maybe send Rikildis to investigate to keep her busy. Alternatively you could just leave her to her own devices, but...is that really the safest idea? This is Rikildis you're talking about, and the best way to catch (or distract) flies is with deliciously sweet story honey...

-Leave Rikildis to her own devices, you've done nothing you need to worry about.
--Rikildis is certain to look into this whole ordeal further, desperate to find something worth reporting on, but is there any part of it that you shouldn't be proud of? Or at least, not afraid of Rikildis reporting on it? Okay, so finding Matthias and getting him to the Chards' estate wasn't the simplest task, but you managed it well enough, didn't you? And who knows what Rikildis is going to find if you don't send her in some random direction. Who knows, maybe she'll even dig up something interesting.

You tell Rikildis that you'll get in touch if you think of anything. Though, truthfully, you doubt that you will.

-"Actually, there's one or two things..."
--Antonio looks surprised and annoyed at you getting comfortable, as you suspect that you and Rikildis are going to be here a while. Rikildis also looks surprised, but pleasantly surprised. Well, pleasantly surprised like a rabid dog that someone dropped a steak in front of, but you shouldn't end up as the proverbial steak in this situation. "Well alright! If you've got good information, let's hear it. I'm all ears." You'll bet she is. To start with you bring up the matter of the missing invitation that the Chards tried to send to Matthias, who, at the time, was illegally camping out in the Imperial Reserve in a tree that most definitely did not have a mailbox attached to it. You're not 100% on all the details surrounding it, but you did personally see Catherine Chard inquire about that whole situation in the Mercenary Guild House, so there must be something weighty to that situation. Antonio looks surprised when you mention Catherine Chard visiting the Mercenary Guild House personally, as does Rikildis. "I'll have to check a law book and see exactly what legal repercussions could come from a mercenary lying about being able to deliver the Chards' mail. I'm not sure exactly how bad that situation would have been, but I assume bad. This is the Chards we're talking about, after all."

"Matthias didn't know anything about it, for the record," you clarify. Rikildis quickly writes that detail down. "Second, about the mercenaries that tried to kidnap Matthias, I don't suppose you know whether they were acting of their own accord or hired by someone else? It's easy to assume the former, given that everyone and their dog - literally everyone and their dog, by the by, those mercenaries had a tracking hound with them - were after Matthias, but...you know about assuming." Rikildis nods, and at this point even Antonio is listing intently. Not commenting, but listening. "Those guys were anything but complete amateurs, either, despite the fact that we ultimately managed to escape from them. One of them managed to steal or fake an imperial Ranger uniform and tried to pass himself off as one, presumably to 'arrest' Matthias for vagrancy and lure him into a trap. Luckily me and Grainne were with Matthias when that guy showed up, and Matthias was hiding in the trees at the time so the guy didn't try anything, it'd break his cover, but still. It's a lot more than I expected from people trying to 'recruit' a single teenager."

"I'm not sure, but if you want my professional opinion I suspect those guys bought into the rumors surrounding Matthias. They could have been werewolf hunters for all I know, I don't suppose they had silver-coated weapons?" You explain that you never got close enough to any of them to check, thankfully, except the one pretending to be a ranger. But than that guy was pretending to be a ranger, so he probably wouldn't have had such a weapon on him anyway. It's not standard fare for imperial rangers, after all. Rikildis nods at your deductions. "Anything else?"

Eh, nothing that jumps to mind right away...is that it? Unless you're forgetting something that is it, yes. Well, all for you. Rikildis has a number of questions to ask about the Mercenary Guild House, mercenaries in general and other assorted topics now that you've given her some work to do, so you and Antonio spend a while answering. Not that Antonio has forgotten and forgiven Rikildis for her earlier behaviour, mind, but he seems to have convinced himself that trying to set Rikildis straight is the best course of action.

And hey, just perhaps Rikildis might actually publish something that Antonio (or whoever else) doesn't want to set on fire for a change.

I'd like to say that some of the loose ends in this adventure are totally planned hooks, but really, for the most part I didn't realize they were things or just plain forgot about them. Worked out in the end anyway though, since Rikildis might need a distraction depending on how things went during the adventure :rolleyes:.

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Better By Half, stage 0:

Another week, another boring day of going around shopping for supplies in the Admiratio. One thing that'll never cease to amaze you is that no matter how much magic you learn and how much visible progress you can make, like when you suddenly don't have to do laundry as often...you can never escape the shopping trips. More ink, another quill that needs replacement, parchment of course, it never ends. One day you might overcome the need to go shopping for this stuff, as you did laundry. One glorious day, that will make you look back upon your past with disdain and wonder, as you'll no longer remember how you ever managed to live without the grand skills and abilities that you spend so long learning, practising, and yes, perfecting in the first place!

...But that day is not today. Or any day within the foreseeable future. So...shopping.

Rounding one of many corners, trying to quickly navigate the busy streets, your eyes land on a bit of commotion further ahead. Looks like a few guards breaking up a fight between...two people? Nothing you haven't seen before, except that one of the two looks small, like a child or young teen. Normally you'd just cross the street and be on your merry way, but the apparent age of one of the two makes you curious, and you quickly see that the younger one being held back by the guards is an Academagia student. College Hedi, from the looks of it, probably a first year? No, wait, second year, you actually recognize him! Iustus Venture! Severely curious as to what's going on you run up to him, although it seems like the commotion is dying down already.

When you run up Iustus is yelling something you can't make out at a haggard-looking adolescent, mischievous smile on his face and a stack of flyers in his hands. Iustus, being held by the arms by two guards, looks quite agitated, but uninjured. "Yeah, yeah, heard it all before, kid. Still don't care. Just chill if you don't want to make yourself look bad," the man says in response to whatever Iustus yelled at him earlier, sounding slightly bitter. Without giving Iustus a second look the man prepares to walk off, but as soon as he's turned his head his eyes land on you, and a second later he's taking out a flyer from his stack. "New study of werebeasts by the one and only Alfredo Lawson, long time student of Zoology, Revision and Natural Philosophy, reveals previously unknown dangers inherent to shapeshifting magic both new and old. Read all about it and help keep yourself safe and sane," he says like he spend maybe half an hour preparing his speech this morning. Needless to say that the effort doesn't knock you off your feet, but you suppose it gets the job done.

Iustus glares at the guy casually going back to work and giving you a flyer, and then at you when you curiously look it over. The guy, his business with you concluded, walks off and proceeds to walk over to the next victim. As for what the flyer actually says, past the sensationalist headline, attention-grabbing phrasing and general journalistic balony that Rikildis has made you well acquainted with by now...not much, truth by told. Broadly speaking the flyer claims that all forms of shapeshifting, be it through Revision magic or things like lycanthropy, causes lasting damage to a person's mental health and will inevitably turn someone into the beast who's form they assume. There's little of actual substance to be gained from the flyer, though. No spells or Phemes are mentioned, nor any already published studies that would corroborate or refute this story (not that the latter tend to be brought up). Just a piece of paper spouting some words of dubious wisdom.

You suppose Iustus' reaction is...understandable, given that this stuff is thoroughly personal to him, but truthfully these kind of flyers are everywhere in Mineta. This city is thought to have more printing presses per person living here than any other city in the world. Not to mention a ridiculous number of mages capable of incanting or revising these kinds of (admittedly short-lived, in that case) flyers. Supposedly there's an honest-to-goodness underground culture or sorts surrounding this kind of stuff, but it's not something you've ever really dipped your toes into. The Academagia gets it's news either through gossiping students or the Times, not these kinds of things.

"Alright kid, you're getting dragged straight to your regent!" one of the guards holding Iustus says. He doesn't want to let it show, but he's obviously not happy with this current situation. Seems like he could really use some support right now, in fact. Should you go with him to confront Professor Piaxenza, even if you're just there as moral support?

-Go with Iustus.
--"Scared of facing Professor Piaxenza?" you ask Iustus pretty bluntly. He doesn't respond, but from the way he shudders and tenses up it's clear enough to see that, yes, he's scared. "Alright, in that case I'll come along. Don't worry, I can't imagine the regent will be too upset once he sees this." You hold up the flyer, and while Iustus glares at it a bit he also nods.

The guards, for their part, look less amused at your support, but since you're not getting in their way they don't have a reason to shoo you away. Nevertheless it's an awkward trip to the Academagia, where the Academagia's own faculty guards take over for the city guards.

-Bring the flyer to Professor Piaxenza.
--Iustus' predicament you can take or leave, but this flyer just rubs you in the wrong way. It's a load of north-bound goods from a south-bound cow, and while you don't feel personally offended by the whole anti-shifter angle it's frankly an insult to all of the time and effort you spend actually studying magic. You might not be able to debate the topic at the Forum of Naxum, but even so you're sure that you would be able to form a more intelligent argument than all the nothing that the flyer does. Yeah, you're not letting this go unanswered. This is going straight to Professor Piaxenza. He's sure to take notice given Iustus' situation, and if that ends up helping Iustus in the bargain, well, so what? No skin off of your back.

You stow the flyer and silently follow Iustus and the two city guards, and later the two Academagia faculty guards that take over for the city guards once they reach the Great Gate. All the way to Professor Piaxenza's office...

Here's to hoping that Y1 information is considered commonplace in Y2 or at least not a spoiler, 'cause otherwise this adventure is going to really come out of left field.

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Better by Half, stage 1:

Walking into Professor Piaxenza's office with two guards in tow is obviously a less than welcoming sight, but Iustus seems to trust that you'll be able to smooth things over as much as anyone will be able to. Despite his reluctance to face the music Iustus sits down before his regent without being asked, staring at the floor with a weary expression. The Academagia guards quickly inform the regent of what they were told by the city guards, and leave afterwards. Professor Piaxenza nods at the explanation and asks you to take a seat as well, staring curiously at Iustus while you do so. "I know you're not the type to easily get violent, Iustus," Professor Piaxenza slowly begins. "So, what happened? What set you off?" Iustus makes a few attempts at putting his thoughts to words, fails more miserably with every other attempt, and ultimately ends up shaking his head and asking you to fill in the gaps for him. You nod, and with Professor Piaxenza's attention on you you pull out the flyer and show it to the regent. He looks it over once, and frowns deeply. "Where did you get this, [PC FIRST NAME]?"

"The Admiratio. I didn't ask for one, an adolescent guy just took a copy from his stack and handed it to me. And I imagine plenty of other people, too. He said it was the result of a new study or some such, but...well, you've read the flyer and I'm sure you're more familiar with journalistic tricks to grab attention using flair rather than substance than I am. Oh, and for the record, for someone who didn't seem like he put in more than a half hour worth of effort into his prepared speech he certainly seemed to have practised his witty retorts well enough. Sharp tongue, too. That's what got to Iustus, I'm afraid."

"Let me guess, pointed comments about Iustus playing into this stereotype that the man was perpetuating?" The regent asks. Iustus shudders a bit at that question, while you answer it with a nod. The regent lets out a sigh. "That is...very concerning, for this to come up now of all times...right. [PC FIRST NAME]? I know it's a long shot, especially for a student, but I want this publication and it's source investigated. I have my doubts that this 'Alfredo Lawson' figure is merely too cowardly to come forward with his findings, but if he is, I'd say he owes a few people a public appearance. I'd investigate it myself, but I'm afraid my responsibilities have been keeping me too busy to dedicate as much time to this as I'd need to." Ah...that came a bit out of nowhere. Thankfully the regent next turns his attention towards Iustus, giving you some time to think. "As for you, Iustus, I can't ignore a student getting into a physical confrontation out in public. But I assure you that I won't assign any more detention than is merited, either. If you can show that this was merely a fluke incident, rather than something hinting at a deeper issue, I'll see to it that it won't stick on your record either. I know it's hard, more than these people deserve, but I'm afraid that you - that everyone, for that matter - is going to have to be patient with them." Iustus nods as proudly as he can at that, though the idea of detention still doesn't amuse him. Nor should it, really.

As for you, you're thinking this is a golden opportunity to earn some good favor with a professor. The best times to help them is when they really need the help rather than it when it is merely convenient for them, and this is Professor Piaxenza you're talking about. Normally he's against students going off on adventures, so for him to send a student like you to solve this situation must be worth even more...

(Alternatively Professor Piaxenza thinks that playing private detective in Mineta is a safe enough thing to send a student on, since it isn't exactly far from home, so to speak, and so far the most dangerous person it sounds like you might encounter is, by all accounts, a really mean coward. But you choose to ignore that argument.)

So you agree to look more into the matter, and decide to get started with looking more into this Alfredo Lawson character. The guy handing out flyers said he was a "longtime student of Zoology, Revision and Natural Philosophy" or some such, but honestly, any student in Morvidus can be described as such depending on how you choose to interpret things. You just hope it's not a pen name, which...is a distinct possibility. Dang, that'll make this harder. Ah, you'll cross that bridge when you get to it! Right now, research! Where are you going to learn more about this Alfredo Lawson guy?

-Natural Philosophy. Talk shop with some natural philosophers.
--You don't know of any places where people who specialize in the study of lycanthropy would gather to share ideas, but you do know that such individuals would probably be somewhat known over at the Forum of Naxum, so you decide to go there. Even if you can't talk to the philosophers directly you should be able to at least get some idea about how well known this Alfredo character is or isn't based on whether people who frequent the Forum know him.

Nothing of interest happens on the way to the Forum and the people there are sufficiently impressed by the knowledge you can demonstrate of their preferred topics to treat you with respect, so it's no issue to ask around for information. For better or worse no one has heard about Alfredo Lawson before, and the general consensus you get when you mention the flyer is that it's most likely a made up name. A linguist informs you that the name is most likely a corruption of Alfred Lawrence, a distinctly Oncestrian name, though he can't explain why it was corrupted in the way that it was. "Alfredo" seems to invoke a Relaglian or maybe a Merillian feel, but the -son suffix for a last name is a distinctly Oncestrian thing, so it's a bit of a mystery. All the same it does occur to you that it's probably Alfred Lawrence that you're looking, for rather than Alfredo Lawson, but no one recognizes a scholar by the former name either. A few Alfreds here and there, sure, but none that would have anything to say on the subject the flyer was about.

So...you're ultimately left with nothing but more questions, and no new leads. It seems that you've got little choice but to try and track down that adolescent who gave you the flyer and try to trace the flyer back to it's source, so it's time to go looking for him.

--Where would a group of people who specialize in the study of lycanthropy even gather? Thinking about it, you've got no idea. Is there a lycanthropy guild in Mineta? You highly doubt it. Is there a werewolf Forum somewhere in the Imperial Reserve, or somewhere out in Elumia Proper? Seriously doubt that one! With no better place in mind you decide to head off to the Forum of Naxum in Mineta, hoping to at least find someone there who can help you, but most of the people there don't even give you the time of day. Let stand information about Alfredo Lawson.

A grand waste of time that expedition was, ultimately, and honestly, that's a problem. These kind of flyers tend to drop off the face of Elumia just as quickly as they appear, if you're going to do anything you need to do it before the trail goes cold. Perhaps another approach is called for, otherwise you're going to need to find a way to command a bit more respect among these people...

-Gossip. Ask around in Mineta.
--If this Alfredo Lawson person is someone who really studied all of these things for however long than someone in Mineta must have heard about him. Someone must have known about his plan to release this flyer, too. Someone must know...if this guy is real, that is. You decide to head back to the Admiratio and start asking around, try to get a sense of what people think.

It takes careful word choices to get people to actually give you the time of day, but you do manage to get some good information. People generally don't care about the flyer too much, since apparently Academagia students are "close enough to animals regardless" that the average person doesn't notice a difference between a normal student and a lycanthrope (something you would rather not agree with, needless to say). As for Alfredo Lawson, all signs point to the fact that it's a fake name. No one by that name has earned any sort of reputation that would lead to these flyers being made and spread, multiple people who claim to work in a relevant field say they've ever heard of the name before, and the owner of one particular bookstore was able to point you towards the likely origin of the fake name - Alfred Lawrence, both not too rare Oncestrian names.

It's not hard evidence, but it's a compelling argument. At this point you're convinced that the best way to find whoever is behind the flyer, be it Alfredo Lawson, Alfred Lawrence or whoever else, is to track down the guy who's spreading those flyers around and see what all there is to find as you climb back up the grapevine. Now it's just a matter of finding him...

--You hunt around all parts of the Upper City for quite a while, determined to find good information, but unfortunately you weren't able to find any. Not that people aren't talking about the flyer at all, it's that they don't want to talk about it with you. You're getting the impression that it's your Academagia robes, that people don't want to discuss it with you, but you don't feel like breaking the law either, so you suppose that'll just have to be that.

Interesting that this whole mess seems to be focussing on the Academagia, in some respect. Is it just coincidence, like Academagia students are the obvious targets whenever the topic of magic comes up, or is there more to it? More questions you'll need to find answers to, and sooner rather than later. These kinds of flyer fads don't tend to last very long, so you should find out whatever you need to before the trail gets buried under new rumors...

-Research. Check out the Venalicium.
--You head to the Venalicium and spend a, frankly, inordinate amount of time looking through lists of book authors, lists of known book author pen names, lists of books that fit the idea of the flyer and who's authors could theoretically be using Alfredo Lawson as a pen name, you even go through the list of Academagia students searching for the name...but absolutely nothing points you to a person called Alfredo Lawson that fits the stated profession of the one you're looking for, pen name or otherwise.

Desperate for information, and a bit annoyed at all the time you spend going from one end of the Venalicium to the other looking for this guy, you decide to swing by the Linguistic section and see if there's anything you could possibly learn from the name, such as where it's probably from. "Alfredo Lawson" is, to name one example, rather obviously not a Merillian name, so you think there's merit in investigating further. Even further...

Another (albeit shorter) inordinate amount of time later and you leave the Venalicium with more questions than you entered with. Not only did you not find any sort of reference to any philosopher, author or Academagia student going by the name of Alfredo Lawson, but according to your research in the Linguistic section it's not even a regular name. "Alfredo" seems to be a corruption of Alfred, an Oncestrian name, presumably to make it sound more Renaglian. As for "Lawson", again, it seems to be a corruption of an Oncestrian last name, Lawrence. Although this time the change seems to be to make it sound like a more...generic, more commonplace last name. The -son suffix is rather common in Oncestrian last names, based on your research, so you have to assume that's the reason.

It begs so many questions, though. And sadly it doesn't provide any answers. You'll just have to try and track down this adolescent from before, or maybe someone else handing out these flyers, and hope that they can give you a clue as to where these flyers are coming from. Someone must have given that guy his flyer to hand out, after all. Maybe you can follow it back up the grapevine.

--You spend an absolutely unreasonable amount of time going through what feels like random book after random book, but you're not able to find anything. Well, nothing related to what you were looking into at least.

Either you're going to need to think of a better way to look through the Venalicium, or you're going to need to think of another way to approach this problem. Because if you're going to just poke your head around randomly you'll still be here next year, and frankly, you'd be surprised if this flyer situation is going to last more than a month. The ones lacking any sort of substance especially tend to be short-lived, so if you want to get to the bottom of this you better get to it quickly...

As before, the intended deadline for this adventure is the start of next month. And it'd take place during Gelamenus, for the record.

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Better by Half, stage 2:

You were afraid that trying to find this adolescent again was going to be a hard if not impossible task, considering the sheer size of Mineta and the fact that you're looking for one specific guy. And those fears were not unfounded. You've gotten as far as where you met the guy initially, but of course he's no longer around. You were also hoping that maybe, possibly you could follow a line of people with flyers right up to him, but of course they've long since scattered to the four winds as well. Yourself included, come to think of it.

So you're left with one specific guy you need to find and a whole city worth of people to look in. The worst game of hide-and-seek ever, basically. So, clearly, you're going to need some kind of plan. How are you going to find this guy?

-Astrology. Divine his location.
--Thinking that the method of divination you usually use, namely that of receiving and interpreting visions, won't be too effective here unless you luck out with something that you can use to identify a particular street you decide to give something else a try. First you cast a spell that makes your wand function like a dowsing rod, and than quickly track down one of the flyers so that you can tune your wand to it. Finding one is not an issue, nor is making the magic work, so now you've just got to play a game of Hotter/Colder until you find who you're looking for.

You, admittedly, end up running around a fair bit of the Admiratio before closing in on the biggest source of the flyers you're looking for, which of course is the stack of them held by the very adolescent you're looking for, but after some trial and error you do manage to find it. And, in turn, the adolescent.

--You spend a while fiddling with spells and being pulled around most of the Upper City, but despite locating a number of adolescents handing out flyers you're not able to track down the specific one you're looking for. You really underestimated how commonplace these kinds of flyers are. Like you knew they were common and all, but you didn't realize they were this common. At this rate you're going to need more information about the adolescent just to be able to find him, but not being able to get information from him is why you're trying to find him in the first place!

You really don't like being in these kinds of situations, where you need something in order to get something else so that you can get what you were looking for in the first place...

-Diplomacy. Ask other "hybrid" students for help, they probably know.
--Finding the students who can help you is (perhaps ironically) easier now than it's ever been. There's a number of small groups of student glaring annoyedly at the world around them, some of which are actively looking around for people holding one of the flyers and...eh, either "talking to" or "harassing" them, you imagine that answer depends on who you ask. For the record, as far as you can tell most people seem disinterested in the flyer, and annoyed at being asked about it. Though they generally agree that the flyer is a load of hot air. Overall not bad, but...you get the idea that things could be better.

You approach one of the groups actively denouncing the flyer, which initially confuses them as that is not the order of operations they've gotten used to. You briefly explain that you're looking for the adolescent handing out flyers and politely ask whether they know where he is, which initially gets rebuffed because they feel like it's a "personal matter", but you bring up what happened to Iustus as well as the fact that you're looking into things on behalf of Professor Piaxenza. Thankfully it doesn't take much more convincing than that - Iustus' predicament (and your part in it) is well known among the students who feel personally involved in this matter, so they're happy to give you some pointers.

Admittedly "just look around the Admiratio" isn't much of a set of directions, but it does work insofar that you manage to stumble across the adolescent again pretty quickly, so whatever works you suppose.

--It's no problem finding the right people to talk to, just look for the grouped up Academagia students frowning deeply at the world around them, the problem is convincing them to give you a hand. Perhaps you just got unlucky with the groups you found, but everyone you talk to insists that it's "personal". It doesn't get you anywhere, but if that's how they feel about the situation than you have to respect that.

Perhaps a different approach is called for here. Or maybe you could ask Iustus? He obviously wouldn't know where the guy is, he's stuck in detention right now, but maybe he'd be able to convince his "fellows", so to speak? Hmm...it's an option, you suppose? It doesn't sound like a very convincing one, though.

Either way you'll need to think of something...

-Minetan Swagger. Deduce the most likely places for him to be.
--Sure, this guy could be anywhere in Mineta...but where would he be? Thinking about what the flyer said and how you were evidently someone that should have one makes you think that this guy must be distributing his flyers among Academagia students, and possibly other people who look like they might learn the kind of magic that the flyer warns against. So the next question is: Where would you go if you needed to find a bunch of Academagia students and other assorted magical students? Not Frontino, that's for sure, so that's one entire neighbourhood you can write off. Not the Academagia itself, either, as far as you know the faculty frowns on that sort of stuff. Really, the Admiratio itself seems like it's the ideal place. No doubt that's the reason why you first met the guy in the Admiratio, as well. Many Academagia students come here for supplies or pass through on their way elsewhere on a daily basis, and plenty of guilds and the like have store fronts here, so finding other people who'd "qualify" for a flyer can also be found concentrated around here.

So you decide to look around in the Admiratio, thinking that with such a relatively small area to look through you're bound to run into him eventually. And sure enough, pretty quickly you find him again. Not that you recognize the guy's face, but there's no mistaking his stack of flyers.

--You first met the guy in the Admiratio, and that's as good a starting point as any, but if you were tasked with giving a bunch of flyers to Academagia student than you'd set up shop somewhere along the Via Portia. Alternatively the Via Canale, but honestly you'd expect more students to visit the Admiratio than, say, the Imperial Palace, so the Via Portia seems like the better choice.

It sounds like a sensible choice to you, so you spend quite some time walking up and down the Via Portia, even checking out the Via Canale at one point, but you don't run into the guy at all. You don't want to admit it, but there's little you can do but give up for today and hope this guy will still be spreading flyers tomorrow.

On the one side I kind of miss my exceptionally wordy stages. On the other side I really don't miss my exceptionally wordy stages. They'll be back, eventually, but today is not that day.

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Better by Half, stage 3:

You walk up to the adolescent as he simultaneously hands another Academagia student (some first year you don't recognize) a flyer while dispensing pointed, witty insults at a trio of older people looking annoyed at him. Say what you want about this guy for being a trouble magnet, he is a fantastic multi-tasker.

Undaunted by the trio of older guys the adolescent turns around, sees you and walks right up to you. He doesn't deviate from his prepared spiel and task of handing out flyers until you physically push his flyer away and remind him that he's already given you one. "Oh, really?" he asks, looking at you like he doesn't recognize you. Or cares to try, for that matter. "Don't s'ppose you want 'nother to show your friends? 'Less I gave them one already too, o'course."

At first you're not sure how to respond, confused by the fact that this guy's accent doesn't show at all when he's reciting his prepared spiel. Well, whatever. That's a question you can contemplate later. "No, I don't, I want to know who made these flyers. Who gave you that stack of them to hand out?"

"My boss, 'n that's all I should say on that front," the adolescent replies, though with a more playful tone than you'd expect given that answer. "'Course he's also the kinda guy who always says that the only good tips are the ones measured in Pims, an' quite frankly I ain't too fond of the greedy old goat. So if you really wanna know...what's in it for me?"

Of course. But fair enough, you suppose. The problem is how you're going to convince this guy to spill the beans. Because Pims is going to cost more than you'll be willing to pay, that's practically guaranteed. Always is with these greedy types. So...

-Sleight-of-Hand. Than again, if it isn't YOUR money you're offering...
--"Alright, how much?" you ask while covertly looking over the guy's pockets. Only two of them, and they're made to fit his (relatively much larger) hands. Perfect.

"Eh, I'll call it even at three hundred Pims," the boy says, and yeah, no way you're paying that out of your own pocket. "I'm sure an ambitious student like yourself is able to work a part time job for a bit, earn some cash on the side. Or just beg your parents for a handout. You fancy students are all more rich than not, ain't ya?"

More rich like Aaran Ledale, sure. You know what, screw this guy. You don't care if all he has is a pouch full of sentimental rocks, you're putting your skills as a wealth re-distribution officer to work on this guy. He deserves it.

You plainly state you don't have that much cash on you, and with a smirk the guy waves you farewell and walks off. He clearly wasn't expecting a handout, and boy is he not going to get one. Eyeing the older students he left behind fuming gives you an idea, too. He's bound to create his own distraction, so you simply follow behind him and wait. Sooner or later you'll get your chance.

Less than five minutes later you get your chance. The guy hands a flyer to a nervous-looking first year, and the kid runs away as soon as he takes it. Not coincidentally, you'd imagine, five older students suddenly walk out of the crowd immediately afterwards and surround the adolescent. No doubt he can talk his way out of it, but if it leads to a scuffle that'll be your chance. And given the man's prior behaviour you doubt he's going to spontaneously develop a knack for diplomacy. Time to move.

You quickly approach the group as one of the older boys takes a menacing step towards the adolescent, slip through the distracted boys and quickly rob the adolescent. No time for doubt, no time to think. Move, move, move. That's a lesson one should never forget.

While a pair of guards run over to the group before someone can start something for real you inspect what you took. And you're taken aback when you notice what you got: A pouch full of Pims. Full of Pims, there's easily more than a thousand worth in here! How? How could someone working such a thankless job earn this much money unless he's rich, and if he's rich why would he work such a thankless job?

...It's risky, but honestly, it'd be worth it. You don't want this guy's money, you want his information. He wanted three hundred for his boss, maybe four times that amount will buy his secrets. And silence, hopefully. Reluctantly you wait for the adolescent to pass you by, and short afterwards you hail and run up to him "I think you dropped this," you say, holding out his money pouch. Or his portable leather bank, whichever.

The adolescent turns around and looks more than a little surprised, seeing his pouch in your hand, and he quickly checks his pocket to confirm that, yes, his pouch is no longer there. With a somewhat irate look on his face he grabs his pouch and asks, "Did you just rob me?"

"I didn't take a single Pim from that pouch," you answer with the best kind of perfect honesty. Technical honesty. "Go ahead and check it, everything should be in there. You dropped it when that guy down the road started pushing you around. Guess the guards made you miss it?"

The adolescent looks sceptically at your explanation, but as he himself confirms after checking his pouch the full amount is still in there, and returned to him. You did rob him, but he's got no evidence to prove it. After that, somewhat unnervingly, the boy grins. "Alright kid, you won this round. Name's Lucas, who're you looking for?"

"Whoever is behind those flyers," you confidently answer. Lucas actually looks a bit surprised at that.

"Seriously? Whoever you're working for is squandering your talents, kid. Still, if that's who's got your number, sure. I can give you directions."

--You ask the guy how much he wants for his information, and his answer is 300 Pims. Your answer, therefore, is to pay the guy with his own money. That much money for simple direction, geez, talk about a scam artist. Good thing two can play that game, huh?

That two can play that game is the good news. The bad news is that one of you two can play that game better than the other, and unfortunately, the one who does it better is not you. In hindsight you're not exactly sure what even happened, you waited for the guy to get accosted by a large group of lycanthropes or whatever and tried to make you move than, but the end result of your little ploy is that your hands are empty and your pockets suspiciously devoid of what should be there. Namely, your money. How? How did a guy being threatened by five older students find the time to pick your pocket? You weren't even aware that he saw you! Gods, he got you good.

Well, nothing can be done about it now. The, eh, "lively debate" between the five older students and the adolescent drew the attention of the guards, so you don't want to hang around. Time to head back to the Academagia and hang your head in shame...

...You don't have any money on your anymore because you didn't come to the Admiratio to buy supplies, you did that back when you ran into Iustus. You didn't bring any in the first place. The guy didn't rob you, you're just a fool. Wonderful.

Perhaps a different approach is called for here. Perhaps one involving Mastery, so you can use it on yourself to forget this day ever happened afterwards.

-Incantation Methods. Offer to help "spread" his flyers.
--The adolescent looks sceptical, than notices you taking out your wand. "Oh, you got a clever idea to skip out on doing some actual work?" he asks, more jokingly than not.

"If I can manage to control the spell, yes. I don't suppose you'd mind me giving it a test first, or as most people would call it, a demonstration?"

The adolescent shakes his head and watches with interest as you start to encase wind within wind. The idea is that you put a bunch of flyers inside the "shell" of this spell, shoot it up in the sky, and dispel the shell so that the core breaks out and spreads the flyers far and wide. You know at least a few authorities who'd object to that, but hell, if they want to walk up to a lycanthrope and hand them flyers the old-fashioned way for a good cause than you would happily let them do so. If not, wind it is.

The demonstration goes about as well as you can expect it to, this isn't the easiest of magic to cast for a second year, but you manage to pull it off convincingly. The adolescent likewise looks impressed. "You're seriously going to shoot up a bunch of flyers into the air like that?"

"If that'll get me directions, yes."

The adolescent smiles in a way you really shouldn't trust, but you don't exactly have a wealth of alternatives available to you now do you? "Let's get somewhere less public first," the adolescent suggests. "I know a few places that the guards aren't going to come running into, give us a chance to escape the scene." That sounds incredibly shady, and considering your current plan, incredibly useful. You accept and, somewhat reluctantly, follow the adolescent.

He leads you to a place that's pretty much exactly like he suggested, a small garden-like area squished between a few narrow alleys, complete with escape routes both into a few of the nearby buildings and onto the rooftops. You want to ask a few questions about why this guy is so familiar with a place like this, it's pretty well hidden, but you don't want to say (or ask) anything more than is necessary.

The adolescent, who finally introduces himself as Lucas, hands you a few flyers and tells you to work your magic. You do, repeating the spell as you cast it before, and it goes off beautifully. A small ball of flyers take flight, like chickens suddenly launching up into the air, and than are shot out in various directions. The regular noise of the Admiratio is replaces with a mixture of concerned adults and excited children who's curiosities were piqued. You also think you hear a few guards yelling something, but Lucas leads you into one of the hidden hiding spots before they manage to get into the isolated square.

"I like your style, kid," Lucas says as he covertly watches the guards looking around the square and eventually give up on trying to find you. Honestly you'd like to say the same thing back to Lucas - this square of his has style. "So, you want to know who's behind these things, right?" Lucas asks, tapping on one of his flyers. You nod, and lucas grins again. "Whatever floats your airship, kid. I'll give you some directions."

--The adolescent looks sceptical, than notices you taking out your wand. "Oh, you got a clever idea to skip out on doing some actual work?" he asks, more jokingly than not.

"If I can manage to control the spell, yes. I don't suppose you'd mind me giving it a test first, or as most people would call it, a demonstration?"

The adolescent shakes his head and watches with interest as you start to encase wind within wind. The idea is that you put a bunch of flyers inside the "shell" of this spell, shoot it up in the sky, and dispel the shell so that the core breaks out and spreads the flyers far and wide. You know at least a few authorities who'd object to that, but hell, if they want to walk up to a lycanthrope and hand them flyers the old-fashioned way for a good cause than you would happily let them do so. If not, wind it is.

Unfortunately your little demonstration goes a bit awry as you're unable to balance the core and the shell, causing the latter to crack early and blow you clean off your feet. The adolescent, looking at you with a smug smile, advises you to look into "easy employment" as he walks off, laughing to himself.

Well...that didn't succeed. At least you didn't get into any trouble for it. Minus your dignity, of course.

-Courage. Offer to help spread his flyers.
--The adolescent looks sceptical, or at least, tries to. There's a thin smile on his face, and it doesn't go unnoticed. "You really think you can do my job? I ain't just someone handing out flyers, you know. You see those lupes? I wasn't just hired to hand out these flyers, I was hired to not get my head ripped off in the process." For emphasis the adolescent points out five older students, who've been glaring at the adolescent. Right on cue they start glaring at you as well. You don't let it bother you, though. In fact, let's just make this official. Surprising the adolescent you boldly walk right up to the five older students, not showing any fear.

They're obviously curious as to what you think you're doing, but here's the thing - the adolescent is currently out of earshot. So you can, and do, quickly explain your situation to the older students as best you can, namely that you need to get on that guy's good side to figure out who's behind the flyers and unfortunately that's going to require doing him a favor. The older students are obviously less than happy with the situation, which is to say they look no different than they did a minute ago, but they have heard about you working for Professor Piaxenza through Iustus, so they do believe you. And, one of the admits, they have to give you a measure of respect just walking up to them like that, diplomatic explanation in the back of your hand or not.

The older students agree to let you help the adolescent as little as is necessary to convince him to give you a lead, and to spread the word. With that agreed on you turn around and walk back to the adolescent, trying not to look too smug. He, for his part, looks confused at the group of older students dispersing. Don't suppose those guys were friends of yours?" he asks, starting at you questioningly.

"Never met any of them before," you confidently answer. Hey, it's the truth, you've never personally met any of the before, after all.

The adolescent shrugs. "Alright, I guess I misjudged you. Never thought I'd meet an Academagia student at home in my line of work, that's a new one. But, alright. So you want to take a load off my stack in return for me telling you where to find the guy who gave me these flyers?" You confidently nod. The adolescent, who finally introduces himself as Lucas, nods. "You know what, let me give you some directions right now. You can hand out your stack of flyers on the way."

You actually might. Or you'll toss them in a dump, one or the other.

--You take one look at the older students that are glaring at the adolescent, making motions behind his back and quietly drawing their wand, and decide that perhaps discretion is the better part of valor. You quickly make up an excuse and run away, because whatever is about to go down here you want no part of. Maybe the situation will cool down after a bit. And hopefully the adolescent won't get too many of his bones broken in the process...

Or maybe you'll just admit that you need to think of something else if you're not willing to face (rightfully upset!) werewolves and other assorted people...

For the record, this was intended to be one of those smaller stages. Intended. The words called out to me, alright?

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Better by Half, stage 4:

You follow the directions that Lucas gave you to an address located in Undergate. Technically it's one of the Upper City's less reputable neighbourhoods, but it's nowhere near as bad as other places in the city can be and it literally shares a wall with the Academagia. Needless to say, for a second year Academagia student it's no challenge to avoid any and all trouble on the way. Unless you wish to count shady salesmen, but if that's the worst you'll face than you'll be just fine regardless.

In any case, once you reach the right area you give the exact location a careful once-over from a distance before approaching too closely. It appears to be-nay, it is a rundown shack of a house that looks abandoned more than anything else. No signs advertising any (legitimate) businesses, windows boarded up, and nothing but the remains of long dead plants and weeds littering the few neglected planter boxes shoved to one side like whoever moved out of this dump long ago just left them behind. Still, the front door looks clean, maintained and - most importantly - intact, so presumably here's people living here.

So...where to go from here? There's nothing stopping you from just knocking on the front door, at least as far as you can see, but than what? According to Lucas this is the address of the guy who, for whatever reason, decided to print and spread a bunch of anti-shapeshifter flyers. You want to know why they decided to do that, but you doubt that they're going to be as open to conversation as Lucas was on that topic. Insofar that he could be described as such, at any rate. You're going to need something. Something to convince these guys that you're not just some random teen playing investigator, but someone they should listen to. What, though?

-Law. Prove your intelligence.
--You give the question plenty of thought, but at the end of the day there simply is no law, at least that you can recall, that would justify you taking action in any way or that would even brand the person behind the flyer as a criminal. It's not illegal to have those kinds of things printed and distributed, within reason, and unfortunately the law does not consider the anti-shapeshifting "wisdom" that the flyer contained to be beyond reason. Now if the flyer had criticized the Captain, or the Chards, or perhaps the Imperial Temple that'd be a very different story. But shapeshifters are not legally protected like that. So the flyer, at the end of the day, is not illegal.

...You say that, but you can't help but think there's something you're missing here. Some sort of age-old treaty between the Empire of Man and some kind of werewolf tribe that would be violated if the Empire (what's left of it, at any rate) did not come down upon this sort of publication. Or maybe these flyers can be argued to incite people to violence. That could be problematic. False advertising, maybe? Since the name on the flyer doesn't actually exist? Eh...is that really the best you can think of? Sounds really petty, you'd like something...better if you're going to knock on some stranger's door. Unfortunately no matter how much thought you put into it there just isn't a great argument that you can come up with. The best you can think to try is to knock on the door and just present the situation as it is. If that gets you some sympathy, great, otherwise you'll at least you'll have a better idea of who you're dealing with. And what you're going to need to deal with him or her. It's not an ideal solution but you'll just have to go with it. You've got nothing else.

You walk up to the door and reluctantly knock on it, already dreading how this is going to go. Shortly afterwards the door is opened by a shady-looking man who looks down curiously at you. If he's expecting someone it clearly isn't a teenager like yourself. "Good day," you politely say. "[PC FULL NAME] of College [PC COLLEGE], do you mind if I look around the premise? I've been informed that someone here is responsible for an anti-shapeshifter flyer that was recently published and distributed around the Admiratio, and on behalf of Professor Piaxenza I'm trying to find the person behind it. The regent would like a word with him or her, if possible."

The man silently looks you up and down a few times before asking, more curiously than anything, "Who fed you those lines, kid? You sound like a stuck-up prosecutor who's been on the job for one too many decades, and you don't even come up to my shoulder yet."

You resist the urge to roll your eyes. Great start, this. "No one, I'm just...trying. Though don't even bother asking what I'm trying to achieve, because I don't really know myself either." The shady man slowly nods and asks what he can help you with, if anything. "A professor asked me to track down whoever is behind the anti-shapeshifting flyers and inform them that said professor, as well as a number of students for that matter, want a word with him. Alfredo Lawson, basically, whatever his or her real name is."

It actually takes a few seconds for this guy to recognize the name. "Oh, right, that dude. Well, I'm afraid I can't help you with that. I'm just the guy who's job it is to publish flyers, I don't know any philosophers. Self-proclaimed or otherwise."

So this guy is claiming to have published the flyers, but not to know the person who wanted them published? Right, a likely story. "Would you mind if I checked out the press? I might only be a student, but I can find clues where people might not think there exist any."

The man shrugs and looks at you like you'd expect someone to look at a silly kid. "Knock yourself out kid, just don't break anything."

You'd have preferred some more respect, but if you can look around than good enough, right?

--You give the door a few solid knocks and wait until a shady-looking fellow opens it. He looks confused at you, and you use that opportunity to launch into an epic (albeit one-sided) debate on all the reasons why, given your circumstances, you should be allowed to investigate the man's home and the like.

The man's response to your spiel is to continue to stare at you blankly for a few seconds...and than silently close the door in your face.

...Perhaps you should have mentioned something along the lines of "oh by the way, I'm not just here making a fool of myself because my friends dared me to". That might have been helpful, in hindsight.

-Bully. Don't let yourself get pushed around.
--You confident march up to the door, which...in hindsight that probably looks odd after you carefully looked it over from a distance, huh? Well whatever, whoever is in there doesn't know it and you don't care about a few onlookers. You march up to the door and give a solid knock. A moment later it's opened by a shady-looking fellow who scans the street for someone his height, gets confused when he doesn't see anyone, and only than looks down and notices you starting at him. You're trying to keep on a brave face, but frankly you're not sure which audience you're trying to amuse with that attempt. It sure isn't either you or the guy in front of you, though. "Eh...hi," you manage to tell the guy with all the shock and awe you'd expect that to inspire. Which is to say, none at all. "I'm here for Alfredo Lawson, Professor Piaxenza wants a few word with him." Almost as an afterthought you do thankfully remember to amend "Um...please?"

The man continues to look confused at you. "Alfredo...who?" he asks, confused. Genuinely confused, for the record, not "doesn't want to admit he knows everything" confused. Though you're not sure if that's better or worse come to think of it.

"The guy on the anti-shapeshifting flyer, you should know what I'm talking about. I'm here to find the person behind it, basically whoever is trying to hide behind that fake name."

It takes the shady man a second, but with what you just said he does remember. "Oh, right, that guy. And you're looking for who, the guy who published the flyers?" You shake your head and say, again, that you're here to find the person who ordered the flyers made and spread. The mastermind, whatever the guy wants to call it. The shady man shrugs in response to that. "You're not going to find that guy here, I'm afraid. My only job is to publish flyers, I'm not a philosopher. Self-proclaimed or otherwise."

So this guy published the flyers, but doesn't know who wanted them published? Yeah, right. Like you're falling for that one. "I'll be the judge of that. Rest assured, I might only be a student but I can find clues you never even knew existed."

"Knock yourself out, kid. Just don't break anything."

...Well, that was easy. Admittedly it only was because the guy doesn't seem to respect you in the least, but hey, a victory is a victory, right? You'll expose this guy, or whoever he's hiding...

--You give the door a few solid knocks and wait until a shady-looking fellow opens it. He looks confused at you, which you take as an opening to first accuse him of what you know the man has done, and than demand that you be allowed to investigate if he wants any chance to prove his innocence.

The man's response is to stare at you blankly for a few seconds...and than silently close the door in your face.

Whelp, put this house on your list of things to burn down to the ground as soon as you become the unquestioned ruler of the world. Until than maybe a more diplomatic solution is called for here...

-Glamour. Make yourself look important.
--Just a few quick flicks of the old wand and a check-in with your pocket mirror to make sure the spells did what they were supposed to do (a very important yet often forgotten step, sadly) and you're ready to go knock down some doors. Figuratively speaking of course. You might not be Catherine Chard, but who needs to be when you've got the magic of Glamour?

You confidently stride up to the door and give it a good knock. A few seconds later the door is opened by a shady-looking man who completely fails to even notice you until he's confirmed multiple times that there's no one his height waiting on the street. Not the outcome you had wished for, to be honest. In any case the man eventually realizes that he needs to lower his head, and than he finally notices you waiting impatiently. "Good afternoon, sir," you start like you're sure someone important would, "my name is [PC FULL NAME] of college [PC COLLEGE], here on behalf of Professor Piaxenza to request that Alfredo Lawson please come with me to the professor's office at the Academagia. The professor, as well as a number of his students, feel the man owes them an appearance, and a few words."

The shady man stares confused at your little spiel, and doesn't show any recognition when you mention Alfredo Lawson. This, eh, is the right address you're at, right? You're sure it is, so this guy must know who you're talking about. "Alfredo who? No one by that name lives at this address, eh...student? Is there a formal manner of address for a teenager, anyway?"

Brilliant. Truly, years of hard work and study on display here. Admittedly you're only a second year but come on, you should be able to manage better than this. "My name will suffice, thank you. In any case I'm referring to the name on the anti-shapeshifter flyer that was published here. Whoever is behind the flyer, whether they're named Alfredo Lawson or not, the professor wants a word with them."

The shady man, in response to your politely asked and clearly important request...shrugs. "I only publish flyers. I don't know any philosophers, self-proclaimed or otherwise."

...This guy published the flyers, but doesn't know who's behind them? Huh. Interesting story. One you'd like to investigate. "In that case, could you please allow me a chance to look around? I may only be a student, but I can find things that most people don't even know exist, if necessary."

Again the shady man shrugs. "Knock yourself out, kid. Just don't break anything."

You shudder a little when the guy refers to you as a kid. Clearly that Glamour wasn't meant to last. Well, whatever. It got you through the door, and in the end that's all that matters, right?

--You take your your wand, cast the required spells, and check yourself in a pocket mirror before knocking on the door.

When you see the mirror reflect a...creature who can best be described as a "geometrically challenged troll" you decide to break the spells you just cast and instead commit the next few hours to studying rather than trying to put your spellcasting prowess (or lack thereof) into practice.

The magic option being a bit of a trainwreck is honestly intended - you are only a second year, and there's supposed to be three more years of just basic study afterwards. So of course it should frequently go off the rails, even if it does technically "work".

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Better by Half, stage 5:

You reluctantly follow the shady man into his home, keeping a hand on your wand just in case. The inside of his house, as far as you can see, can best be described as a "cozy". There's far more beds scattered around everywhere than this home was clearly designed for, a well-worn and heavily used, albeit clean kitchen in the back has more clutter stacked on top of itself than the Great Hall during mealtime, there's large dinner table with six chairs placed where there was some kind of room left, and there's a large collection of books and other junk stuffing every other available bit of surface that isn't the floor. Overall, you're getting the impression that this is indeed someone's home. In some ways it's more reminiscent of a prison than a home, but you can perfectly imagine a group of old friends living together here.

The basement that the shady man leads you to, located behind a secret passage hidden behind a haphazardly crafted sliding bookcase of all things, is as much a continuation of the mess above, albeit following a different theme. It's more organized, too. What seems to be an old kitchen has been renovated into a publisher's workspace. Bottles of ink and stacks of paper fill the various cupboards on one end, whereas next to a rainbow mess sink there's sealed buckets of, according to the labels on them, different colors of paint. The middle of the basement is dominated by a massive printing press which looks like it's been repaired a hundred times over and build to still work after being repaired a hundred times more. One last thing that catches your attention, other than the four other guys here that are playing a card game right on the printing press for some reason, is one of the flyers hanging from a thin line against the back wall. It looks like a sample, or maybe an attempt that didn't end up being used before being changed at least once more. You can't say for sure, since you don't recall exactly how the flyer looked and exactly what it all said.

"Here boys, I brought dinner!" the shady man, clearly joking, tells his friends. They laugh at it like old friends. If you're in poor company you're at least in poor company that gets along with each other. "Yeah, I know, kids taste horrible, what can I say? Anyway, [s/he]'s here's because [s/he]'s looking for what's-his-name, the name we put on the latest flyer. I figured, show [him/her] around, best way to show that we aren't philosophers."

"Hey, I've got doctor's license in playing cards!" one of the guys playing cards, again jokingly, says.

"Also known as 'cheating' to the higher educated," another playfully retorts. You really are getting the impression that these guys are a jovial group of old friends. Which is odd. Didn't Lucas say his boss was a greedy pig or whatever? You know first impressions can be mistaken, but to make that mistake five times over...

In any case, you decide to leave those guys to their jokes, banter and card game and prepare to take a good look around. If there's some kind of evidence of anything laying around here you'll need to find it. Alternatively, if one of these guys is indeed Lucas' boss you assume that you should be able to suss him out. How to approach this problem?

-Character Study. See if any of these guys are lying to you.
--You take a quick look around this...what would you call this. workshop? It's a renovated basement, "workshop" sound a little...higher class than this is. Regardless, you do take a look around in the hopes of finding something worthwhile. But of course there's nothing obvious lying around that's useful to you. To be expected, really. So instead you turn your attention to these guy's card game, see how they're doing. Lucas mentioned that his boss is greedy and a generally unpleasant guy, so if one of these people fit that description than you've got your man.

You watch every player across multiple games, and despite the large stack of tokens the shady guy amasses within that time you can't help but feel like you're barking up the wrong tree. For one they are only tokens these guys are playing with, not Pims, and they consistently refer to them as such. They're playing a game, not gambling. Further, despite all of the guys (though mostly the shady guy) pulling a few tricks like counting cards or shuffling the deck in his favor it all seems to be part of their game. They'll even form quick betting pools when someone gets called out for "shenanigans", as they call it, and whoever either gets caught or accuses incorrectly has to pay up. The shady guy gets accused the most and pulls the most stunts, but none of the others seem to be bothered by that. He also doesn't seem bothered when called out and having to pay up.

No matter how long you keep staring at the shady guy you just cannot describe as a "generally unpleasant greedy boss". Maybe he's less friendly to those he doesn't count as his friends, but he let you poke your nose into his affairs pretty readily. And he doesn't seem to be too concerned about you either. You're searching through his home looking for evidence of something that, at minimum, some people you generally wouldn't want to annoy would take offence to, and yet he's sitting there happily playing cards with his buddies. You don't want to admit it, but...this guy surely isn't the one you're looking for.

--If these are the guys you're looking for than they wouldn't just leave any evidence around for you to find. So, with that in mind, you decide to focus your attention on their card game. If Lucas told you the truth than you should be able to suss out who his boss is based on how their game goes.

That's the idea, anyway. In practice you observe them playing several games, and you've got no idea what to make of it. They openly try to cheat, seem to have made a game in it's own right out of calling others out on their attempts to do so, and than happily continue along like nothing happened. It's bizarre. Even more questioningly, the shady guy clearly stands out from the others. He easily pulls the most tricks and gets away with them the most, amasses the biggest stack of tokens within a short time, and the cards go his way more times than you think is statistically probable. You're pretty sure he's counting cards, actually. Yet, on the flipside he doesn't act like any of it bothers him at all. Is he just trying to put up an act because he knows you're watching, or...what is going on here?

"Still no clue as to whether I'm the guy you're looking for?" the shady man asks. You have to admit, you're feeling a little annoyed that you don't have a different answer to that question.

"I just don't get it. You guys are playing the least fair game of cards I've ever witnessed, and you're beating the odds to a degree that it makes Astrology look redundant. Yet...why are you guys allowing this? How are you enjoying this? Is this a show you're putting on for my sake?" The shady man, in response, laughs and asks if you don't have any friends. "That's just uncalled for," you say a bit bitterly.

"That's how I learned it," the shady man says, though in answer to what you're not entirely sure. "You want to know why we pull tricks on each other all the time? Because that's what we've been doing since we were kids. It was fun than, and it still fun now. I get that it looks ridiculous to an outsider, but so what? Does that make me a bad person?"

This is not a lecture you feel like you should be getting from this guy. Still, these guys clearly didn't meet less than a month ago. So...

-Memorization. Closely examine the flyer on the wall.
--It looks extremely similar at first glance, in fact you could easily be convinced that it is the same if you didn't get the chance to examine it up close. However there is one difference between this flyer and the ones that Lucas was handing out - the background color has a darker shade. That's definitely not just your eyes playing tricks on you because you're looking at it in a basement either, even with your wand shining light on it there's still a visible difference.

"Find something interesting?" the shady man asks, staring curiously at you intently examining the flyer on the wall. You take a step to the side and point out the difference you noticed. "Oh, right. Good eye," the man compliments, though you're not sure if he's being sincere. "That particular flyer is the sample we were given to copy, but as you noticed we did change the final design. Just a little bit, mind. Brighter colors are better for grabbing younger people's attention, and that's who the flyer was meant for, so we made that change."

...That does sound like correct advice, and that makes you wonder. These guys have a printing press in their basement, supplies and at least some knowledge of their craft. These guys clearly printed the flyer, and it clearly wasn't the only one they printed. But were they the ones who came up with the idea in the first place? Or are they just the hired help? If these guys are the ones who masterminded the flyer, would they have made a faulty sample? Would they have made a mistake when they clearly know better? All questions you can't answer, and no matter how long you stare at the flyer hanging on the wall you doubt it'll ever provide you with answers...

--You look over the flyer again and again, trying to remember the exact words it used and whether the ones on this flyer are the same ones, but no matter how often you look it over you cannot see a difference. Yet you feel like there is one, something you're missing. You don't think you could tell without a sample, though. Example? To check this sample? Whichever, you need something to compare it to.

"You finally find what you're looking for?" the shady man asks. You shake your head in response.

"I keep feeling like this...copy? Sample? Whichever, this flyer here is different than the ones that were being distributed in the Admiratio, but...just can't put my finger on it."

"Maybe you ought to put your wand on it," the shady man suggests in a manner that you're pretty sure wasn't supposed to come across as condescending. It did, though. "Didn't you say something about having spooky investigative magic that can shed light on this kinda stuff or something? You students usually do, at any rate."

You actually follow the man's advice, reluctant as you are to do so, and try to figure out why you're so convinced that this flyer looks different than the other. No matter what spells you cast, though, you get no results.

"Alright, I give up," you say as you stow your wand annoyedly. The guys only briefly pause their card game to acknowledge it, though the shady man seems to care at least. "Just...please, can one of you tell me whether this flyer is actually different than the others? This is going to keep me up at night if I can't figure this out."

The shady man, with a knowing grin, happily takes a small stack of tokens from his friends and adds him to his ever-growing pile before turning to address you. "Well kid, I'll give you two things: First off, you're more persistent than your ability to demonstrate this fanciful magic of yours suggests you should be." Oh, sure, that's a great compliment. "Second off, you've got a good intuition. Spend a long while staring at that thing without knowing what's off about it and sticking to that idea until the end. And I'll put you out of your misery too: You're right. That sample is different from the one you or your friends were handed." Wait...what? You were right? Seeing your surprise the man nods. "I imagine the fact that we're in a basement threw you off, but the background color is different. That sample's got a darker shade, or hue, or tone, or whatever the fancy word is than the ones we printed. The flyer was intended for a younger audience, see, so we made it brighter to make it look more appealing."

You take one more look at the sample on the wall and shine some magical light on it. And yes, now that the man has pointed it out...the background color is, indeed, darker than it was on the actual flyers. It's a subtle difference that you did indeed attribute to just being in the basement, but yes, it's there. It also makes you think, though. If these guys are the ones behind the flyer, not just the ones who published them but the ones that came up with the entire idea in the first place...would they have made a "sample" that had this mistake in it? Did they just misjudge the color, or...no, you don't think they did. These people have clearly done this before, many times, you don't think they'd make that mistake. Or help you notice it, either. So...

Not sure if Y2 can better "balance" stages that don't stall on failure, but I hope it can. Recall that this adventure, as with the previous two, is on a timer. So I'm assuming that it not taking extra time is a good thing.

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Better by Half, stage 6:

"So, are you finally satisfied?" the shady man jovially asks you as soon as you let out a tired sigh.

"Sort of," you answer as you turn around to face him. "Look, I need to know who's behind those flyers. My, eh...my friend's a werewolf. So you can probably imagine why he's upset. Got into a fight over them, and no, that's the first time I've heard of him getting violent. I'd expect as much of anyone if they were insulted like that," you say pointing at the flyer hanging on the wall for emphasis. "So, please, who's behind this? Someone must have paid you to print and than spread these things. Who?"

"Right, your friend..." the man says like he doesn't believe a word you're telling him. You, eh, don't feel any need to correct him right now, though. If he wants to believe that you're a werewolf, well, somehow you don't think that'll be to your detriment. And if it will than you can always correct him later. "In any case, about who placed the order: I don't rat out my clients. I'd have no clients if I did, and I need to put food on my table somehow." Yeah, that's understandable and all, you wouldn't want to rat anyone out yourself if you were in his position, but it really doesn't help you get anywhere. "That said," the man adds, "I can tell you one thing: We were only paid to print those flyers, not spread them. We could have, even offered to for a fair price, but the client didn't need our services in that regard. So we printed the things, handed them over, and done. That's the full extent of our part in those flyers."

...Wait, what? Lucas was the one spreading these things around Mineta, and he directed you here...oh that traitorous rat! Technically the truth, the manipulative swine...well, now what? Are you going to track him down again and really put the screws to him? How? You've got magic, but he's got a half dozen-odd years on you. Little difficult to be intimidating when you only come up to a guy's chest...

"Looks like you just realized that you got swindled," the shady man observes. It figures that he's able to tell. Not that you're trying to hide it, mind. "Let me just guess a name completely at random: Lucas?"

You frown "Yes, actually, that is the guy's name. You know him?"

The shady man shrugs. "Sorta, he's got a reputation. He's from this neighbourhood and words gets around. Guy's a con artist with some really bad connections. The guards can't stick anything to him but damn if the kid can't stick things to other people. Like anti-shapeshifting flyers to werewolves. Look, kid, I don't know what the guy stole from you and frankly I don't care to know, just let it go and stay away from him. He's nothing more than a good actor with a bad stage and a worse script, but the people he works for...you don't want to meet them. And you definitely don't want them to meet you, either." You sceptically look over the shady man, but as far as you can tell he's speaking the truth. Of course he's also got a stack of tokens next to him bigger than all his friends combined, so if anyone here has a a good poker face...though, if he is lying to protect this con artist than he must either work for or be related to this man in some fashion, right? But would said con artist have directed you here, if that were the case? You don't think so. "In any case, that's all I can tell you. And yeah, I know, but here's the thing about my clients: I seriously don't even care to try and figure out who they are, it's neither polite or necessarily healthy in my line of work and I sure don't get paid to do it in any case. So the guy who ordered those flyers? Could have given me a false name, could have used magic to disguise themselves, could have been a middle-man for someone else, could have been anything and anyone. Quite frankly they could have been a magic gorilla and I wouldn't have cared. If they got the cash and a need for a printing press, I got what they need. Just business, nothing more. So even if I do tell you the guy's name and description, as far as I remember, I wouldn't bet on whether it'll actually help you. And as you can plainly see, I'm a good better" The man proudly points to his stack of tokens, which seems to amuse his friends. You obviously don't see the humor in it. "And even if you think it will, don't. If Lucas is involved than you really don't want to find that guy anyway. Everyone he knows is bad news, just stay away from them."

Despite what happened with Lucas earlier, you feel like you can believe this guy. Undergate has a reputation, which fits Lucas' description pretty well. As for these guys not knowing for sure exactly who their client is, you can believe that too. "Alfredo Lawson", the supposed author of the flyer, is a fake name. If this client wanted to be recognized, why hide behind a fake name? And while a Glamour disguise or whatever sounds a bit fat-fetched, searching the entirety of Mineta for this guy is...well, it's a right pain in the backside for starters, but more's the point, it's beyond what Professor Piaxenza would want you to do, you feel like. If this really is the kind of guy who hires a con artists known for having "really bad connections". You could try to track down Lucas again and put the screws to him, but he's sure to see you coming by now. And even if you manage to anyway that also sounds like the kind of stuff that Professor Piaxenza would frown upon, not reward. Darn it. So close to earning some good favor with a cautious professor and than the dream just comes crashing down...

"Hey, no need for the moody face," the shady man (you really should catch his name one of these days) suddenly says. "If you got time to skulk you've got time to act. So this guy managed to pull one over you? Pull one over him than. You want people to respect you as a-oh, sorry, your friend as a werewolf, right?" Right now you don't appreciate the assumption that Iustus is someone you completely made up, but other than that, yes. So you slowly nod. "Well, why not fight fire with fire than? That anti-shapeshifting flyer honestly wasn't worth the Pims I got paid to print them if you know what I mean, so why not use your academic background and access to the Academagia's facilities to come up with a flyer of your own? I'm sure a bright student like yourself could pull some strings if you need to, and you already know where to go if you need someone to publish it!"

...You're not sure whether this guy's suggestion is his attempt to make you feel better or sell you his services, or both. Honestly you're not even sure if he was entirely serious about it. But taking a second to think it over...it genuinely doesn't sound like a bad idea. Professor Piaxenza said that "Alfredo Lawson" owed it to the people like Iustus to argue his findings in a manner that allowed them to civilly debate things, and barring you getting involved with people that Professor Piaxenza doesn't want you to get involved in you can't make that happen. But that doesn't mean that you can't make Iustus' opinion heard anyway, right? If one man has a right to speak another should have a right to respond, and if that response can't be done properly than it at least should be fair to respond in an equal manner. And yes, you do have access to the Academagia, literally the biggest school of magical learning that the former Empire has to offer. Surely you could put together a better argument, as in an actual argument, than a literal con artist? And come to think of it, Vernin even has at least one printing press, so you wouldn't necessarily have to scrounge together enough Pims to pay these guys to print your flyer, either. As for spreading it, well, you can probably ask Iustus and his circle of whatever they call themselves to do that? It sounds like something they wouldn't object to.

Sounds like it'd be a lot of work, especially for something that you don't seem to stand a lot to gain from comparatively, but it sounds like it could work, too. So despite the effort maybe it's worth it anyway? To impress a professor, to put Iustus at ease, and to satisfy your pride as an Academagia student? Hmm...

-Dedication. It's a great plan and you'll get done!
--It's a bunch of effort, sure, but is that not what makes life worth living? Or something else along those lines that a sufficiently pretentious and, depending on one's standards for "effort", thoroughly hypocritical philosopher would say? Regardless, it's a great idea. You thank the shady man for his suggestion, which seems to confuse him, and start to make your way to the Academagia. You don't encounter anything along the way so you've got plenty of time to think over what all you're going to need - a personal account from Iustus definitely, that's just...required. Some manner of literary references also, you can probably find those in the Venalicium. Anything else? Actually yes, what about an opinion of an actual philosopher? An actual, honest-to-goodness name you can put on your flyer rather than a fake one? That should be enough to fill a flyer, surely. As for publishing it, you know the Vernin campus has at least one, and there has got to be at least one student in Vernin who'd be interested in helping you, if not for personal reasons than for some other reason you can convince him or her of. Surely there is. Overall you feel like you've got plenty of ideas, but you're going to need help making them all work together. Just piling things on top of one another isn't going to look good, but who could-actually, you're heading to Professor Piaxenza's office to inform him of your search hitting a dead end, why not ask him? He seems like the regent who would know a few things about flyers and journalism, and surely he wouldn't object to this idea?

Your mind keeps spinning with ideas and possibilities all the way to Professor Piaxenza's office, which you enter with undisguised excitement. "Good afternoon, [PC FIRST NAME]," the Regent says as you don't wait for him to ask you to sit down. "Did your search of Alfredo Lawson end well?"

"That search didn't, I'm afraid," you start, and you summarize what you've learned about where the flyer was published and everything you've been told about "Lucas". You further clarify that barring you finding Lucas again and really putting the screws to him you're at a dead end as far as finding Alfredo Lawson is concerned, or whatever the real name of the person behind the flyer is. And that you figured that you'd put an end to your search here, since you figured that the professor wouldn't want you to investigate further. Professor Piaxenza nods appreciatively.

"Excellent work, [PC FIRST NAME]. Especially with your assessment of the possible danger of the situation. I don't know what connections this 'Lucas' has, but I can only assume that you're better off not knowing any of them." So you've been told and so you honestly would like to believe, but you have to admit to the regent that there's one question that's nagging at you: Why would someone with such...severe criminal connections, if that's what they are, be distributing an anti-shapeshifter flyer? The impression you're getting of whoever Lucas works for is some manner of ruthless pirate captain, but why would someone like that go through all the effort just to spread the flyer? To the point where they send Lucas to do that, ultimately, easy and thankless job? The regent, in response to your question, shrugs. "That I don't know, but with so many people in Mineta and so many connections, criminal and otherwise, we might never know. Ironically enough, considering that someone clearly intended for this...opinion, really, to be heard and reacted to in some capacity. But without understanding what that intent is that part of the message will surely be lost, as well." Irony indeed, if you think about it. "Now if I may ask, what are you so excited over? Are you simply happy that, with this suspicion thrown onto Lucas, Iustus' detention might be reconsidered and rescinded?"

You weren't even aware of that. Good news for him you suppose, but you have an even better plan in mind. "No, I've got an idea that I think Iustus might like even more, something the publishers of the flyer suggested to me - why don't we publish our own flyer? Not to just call out 'Alfredo Lawson' as a fraud I mean, but to give Iustus and his, eh, 'peers'? Whatever the polite term is, what if we give them a chance to say their piece? You said that 'Alfredo Lawson' owed them the chance to debate his points, or lack thereof, and defend themselves, right? Why don't we give them one? A proper, civilized one?"

The regent, as expected, nods at your suggestion. "I'd say that's a fine idea, if done right. What exactly did you have in mind for this flyer, in terms of content?" You explain the ideas you've had so far, and that you assumed they would be enough, and ask the regent if he's got any better ideas or suggestions to make. He shakes his head. "Sounds like you've got the right idea. I'll admit I was worried that your idea would end up being a repeat of the same incident, just from the other side of the debate, but you sound like you've got the right idea. I'm afraid I won't be able to help you with it, but I suspect you can manage. Actually, I'll send word to the professor overseeing Iustus' detention that he can be excused for the purposes of being 'interviewed' for your flyer. Do a good job of it, [PC FIRST NAME]."

Excellent! Time to get a flyer made!

--It does sound like a good idea, but to tell yourself the truth you are kind of worried about whether you can actually pull it off. Being excited is nice and all, but by itself it's not going to get anything done, now is it? You're going to need a plan, directions, something. Anything beyond just "an idea". For starters, what are you actually going to put on this flyer of yours? How will you design it? How are you going to convince someone from Vernin to publish it? Actually that last point is probably the easiest to tackle - with all of the people who've taken offence to this flyer, either personally or less directly, one of them must be in Vernin. Someone within that entire College should be able to help you with that, surely. You're not sure how you'll convince them to help you, but you can't imagine that it'll be an insurmountable obstacle. So what about the flyer itself? The content, the design? Those questions keep running circles in your head all the way to Professor Piaxenza's office, where you're going to report to him that your search for "Alfredo Lawson" has turned up a dead end. Come to think of it though, maybe the professor can give you a few pointers? Surely he wouldn't object to the idea, and he knows a thing or two about the subject, right? Can't hurt to ask, you suppose.

You're still swimming in doubt by the time you enter the regent's office, though you try to not let it show too much. "Good afternoon, [PC FIRST NAME]," the Regent says as you slowly shuffle your way into a seat before the regent. "Did your search of Alfredo Lawson hit a dead end?"

"Something like that," you start, and you summarize what you've learned about where the flyer was published and everything you've been told about "Lucas". You further clarify that barring you finding Lucas again and really putting the screws to him you're at a dead end as far as finding Alfredo Lawson is concerned, or whatever the real name of the person behind the flyer is. And that you figured that you'd put an end to your search here, since you figured that the professor wouldn't want you to investigate further. Professor Piaxenza actually nods appreciatively.

"Excellent work, [PC FIRST NAME]. Especially with your assessment of the possible danger of the situation. I don't know what connections this 'Lucas' has, but I can only assume that you're better off not knowing any of them." So you've been told and so you honestly would like to believe, but you have to admit to the regent that there's one question that's nagging at you: Why would someone with such...severe criminal connections, if that's what they are, be distributing an anti-shapeshifter flyer? The impression you're getting of whoever Lucas works for is some manner of ruthless pirate captain, but why would someone like that go through all the effort just to spread the flyer? To the point where they send Lucas to do that, ultimately, easy and thankless job? The regent, in response to your question, shrugs. "That I don't know, but with so many people in Mineta and so many connections, criminal and otherwise, we might never know. Ironically enough, considering that someone clearly intended for this...opinion, really, to be heard and reacted to in some capacity. But without understanding what that intent is that part of the message will surely be lost, as well." Irony indeed, if you think about it. "Now if I may ask, why the long face? Are you disappointed that you didn't manage to track down the person behind the flyer?"

"Kinda? The long face is because the publishers of the flyer actually gave me a pretty good idea, or what sounded like a pretty good idea, but I'm not sure if I can pull it off - you said that 'Alfredo Lawson' owed Iustus and...whatever the polite term for his group is the chance to debate his points, or lack thereof, and defend themselves, right?" The regent nods, listening intently. "So why don't we publish our own flyer? Give Iustus and the others a chance to say their piece, so the extend that they can? It's not the same as dragging Alfredo out into the open, but it's the next best thing."

"That...isn't a bad idea, necessarily. But what did you have in mind for this flyer, exactly?"

You figured this question was coming, but you're not worried. You might not know where to start but you've definitely got this part covered. "I'm not entirely sure, that's something I'm hoping you could get me started with. But of course it'd have to be a proper flyer. Not a flashy opinion piece printed on a piece of paper, we wouldn't want to make the same mistakes as the other flyer did."

As expected the regent nods approvingly. "Excellent answer, [PC FIRST NAME]. As for a starting point, why not ask Iustus for his opinion? From what I've heard no other student was as...affected, by the flyer, as he was, so he would be the best person for it. That he's your Classmate should make it easier for you to interview him as well, I assume." That's one idea that crossed your mind, you're just not sure if it really works. Iustus is sure to have something to say on the subject, but isn't it just his opinion in the end? You thought that your flyer would have to be made of objective facts, not opinions, for it to be a good flyer. "Right thinking, but wrong conclusion," as the regent puts it. "A flyer made entirely out of opinions isn't worth anything beyond a measure of someone's opinion, which to be fair can still be worth something to the right (or wrong) people. A flyer without opinions, however, is just an extended quote from a textbook. Informing people of how lycanthropy works is only half the story, you'll also need to show them that lycanthropes are, despite their condition, human, if you want people to understand the flyer's message. For that you'll want an account of Iustus' experience, being treated as a monster."

Still sounds a bit sketchy to you, but you have to assume the regent knows what he's talking about. So if he thinks it's a good idea, than...sure? You're going to need to think this one over a bit, you feel like. Only a bit, though. Time's still ticking, and if you want this flyer of yours to have any real impact it's going to have to be spread sometime before everyone forgets about the first one...

Pardon the singular option, but an alternative would needless complicate and/or break the remainder of this adventure chain. And dear word, it's complicated enough as is.

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Better by Half, stage 7:

The first step in your flyer plan involves visiting detention, as all other good plans do. Seriously though, you're going to see Iustus. He's still in detention for getting into a fight in the city...though you imagine that might get rescinded if Professor Piaxenza manages to confirm that Lucas (or whatever he wants to call himself) is a con artist. At least it shouldn't stick on Iustus' record, for what that's worth.

The professor that Iustus is with has, at least according to Professor Piaxenza, already been informed that you're coming and the regent has given his permission for Iustus to take a break, so to speak. So you won't have any trouble on that front. Iustus himself, however...

[PC RIVALS with IUSTUS]-Diplomacy. Convince Iustus to put the past behind him. Though you'll have to do the same.
--It's a tense and rather lengthy discussion you end up having with Iustus, talking over past events and what both of you should do for the sake of the immediate future, as well as convincing him that this flyer idea of yours isn't exclusively for your benefit (or Iustus', for that matter). Thankfully you're able to convince Iustus that you're not just trying to pull a prank on him, and although reluctant he's willing to help you with your flyer - freely admitting that, indeed, it is as much for his benefit as it is yours.

You honestly would have preferred this to go a bit smoother, but that's what happens when you've picked the wrong fights you suppose. In any case you got what you wanted and you doubt Iustus is going to try and sabotage a project of yours that's genuinely in his best interests, so you can at least consider this part of the ordeal over with.

--You consider the possibility of burying old grudges for about a minute, but...how? What are you supposed to say to Iustus? What's he supposed to say to you, for that matter? You try to imagine how that conversation will go in your head but no matter what it just goes absolutely nowhere. To go from this to him letting you publish his feelings put into words, with his name on it...that's just not going to happen.

Dejected, and a little annoyed, you turn tail and run away. You can't face Iustus, not like this, not with what favor you need of him. Maybe you ought to just ask someone else to do this for you.

[PC RIVALS with IUSTUS]-Persuasion. Ask someone else to talk to Iustus for you.
--Part of you is embarrassed, asking someone else to bail you out like this, but you do genuinely think that it'll be better for the flyer ultimately. Thankfully you're not the only one who feels that way, and you're able to convince one of your Classmates to do the interview for you. Not Rikildis, mind, you don't want to give Iustus any reason to jump out a window afterwards.

As much as you feel like a coward right now it will get you what you need, so you can at least consider this part done and move on...

--You go around and ask pretty much everyone that you think could do a decent job of interviewing Iustus, and not make him want to throw himself out a window afterwards, so no asking Rikildis or any of her crew (from what you hear they're busy with something else right now anyway), but the only answers you get are excuses and (less veiled) suggestions to bury the hatchet.

Times like these you feel like you really know who your friends are. Which is to say, no one. Wonderful.

[PC NOT FRIENDS or RIVALS with IUSTUS]- Journalism. Interview Iustus, and properly.
--Iustus, unsurprisingly, approves of your plan to create your own flyer, though he seems hesitant when you mention the part where he would be interviewed for the flyer. And having his name attached to said interview, on top of that. You're going to have to attach a name to it, though. At least you don't believe that anyone is going to believe an anonymous account, and after the whole ordeal with chasing down "Alfredo Lawson" you've frankly have had your fill of false names anyway. It's not enough to convince Iustus to go along with your plan, however, so you suggest an alternative: You'll interview him as you intend, but if afterwards he doesn't feel like having that interview publicized, you'll toss it and look for someone else. Some might call it a waste, but practice is never a waste. That plan Iustus does agree with, so you proceed with the interview.

Noting Iustus' hesitation to publish the interview, and the fact that you'd rather get this done right now if possible, you carefully choose and word your questions in such a way that none of it directly points to Iustus. Which one might call a meaningless effort, considering his name is going to be on it at the end of the day, but if you're not going to make an effort to try and convince him now than he obviously won't change his mind later either. With that in mind you avoid questions about how he, personally, feels about things or how he's experienced the situation. Instead you ask Iustus about how a lycanthrope has experienced the whole ordeal, and how someone Iustus' age feels about it. Slight differences, but they prove to be enough. After the interview Iustus says that he was afraid the interview would be a lot more personal, but what you got from him he doesn't mind being published with his name attached to it. He'd prefer if it wasn't nevertheless, but on the flipside he's also sufficiently annoyed and frustrated with the situation to throw caution to the wind and actually do something. As much as he can while he's still in detention, at any rate.

An admirable, if...reckless attitude, you think. All the same, you don't mind. You got what you wanted and Iustus is fine with you using it, so that's one item crossed off your list.

--Iustus, to the surprise of absolutely no one, approves of your plan and says he'd be happy to help you any way he can. It's a nice sentiment, and you do use that word intentionally, because as it turns out being interviewed and having that interview be published, with his actual name and everything, is a step too far for him. You can understand his hesitation, it's a personal matter and all, but at the same time you're going to need something. Seeing that you do you try to interview him anyway, under the excuse of "practice" for whoever else you could interview instead, but even that doesn't go much of anywhere. Iustus is too shut in to be of any use to you here, but based on what answers he gives you have to assume he could be.

You'll need to think of a way to get Iustus to open up, otherwise you're going to be stuck on this. Well, it's that or finding another lycanthrope to interview, but if you can't get anywhere with your Classmate you don't think you'll get anywhere with an older student. Iustus was the one hit the hardest by the flyer, too, so he's the perfect candidate. You just need him to tell you about it.

[PC FRIENDS WITH IUSTUS]-Go talk with your friend.
--You were worried that Iustus took the situation worse than he seemed, but those fears turn out to be unfounded. He's happy - cheerful, even - when you explain the situation to him, and naturally he's more than happy to help you with the project any way he can. Admittedly there's not a whole lot he can do, still being in detention and all, but you appreciate the moral support. And, of course, his help getting a personal account from an actual lycanthrope. It's not something that's all that special to you, Iustus being your friend and all, but the same isn't true for most people in Mineta, you suspect.

Iustus even told you to go ahead and sign the account with his actual name, which you're pretty sure he'd actually prefer you wouldn't do. He's trying to support your project as best he can, though. You just hope that it's something that the people of Mineta will recognize. And listen to.

Also I'm lazy, but...details :ph34r:.

In case anyone is curious why this stage is a quick narration rather than my usual page-long character ramblings, I really didn't think anything would be said that any player hadn't already figured out since literally stage 1.

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Better by Half, stage 8:

You've got a personal account from Iustus for your flyer, next up is some literary references to corroborate them...or whatever it's called. Point is that you've run into a slight problem with getting those references. You can find books that explain to you what lycanthropy is and what it generally entails easily enough. What you can't find is a detailed account of how it all works, and what research or experiments went into discovering this knowledge. You've got a summary of the answers you're looking for, but you need the questions and path towards the answers, not just the answers themselves. Now, the good news is that Iustus recommended a book for you that, according to him, will have everything you need to know - the Shapeshifter's Almanac. A fairly recently published title, so it should be a good read if nothing else. The bad news is that the Venalicium doesn't have that book, as it turns out. At least not that you can find in the public areas. So you're going to have to either find what you're overlooking, or you're going to have to look for it in the restricted or worse, forbidden sections. And those areas are...well, true to their names. Needless to say that you don't feel like risking detention in the process of trying to get favor with a professor. That just sounds like a great way to pre-emptively waste all of the effort you'll put into this.

So how are you going to get the book you need? Go through the public section with a fine-toothed comb, ask a librarian for help, or ask a professor about accessing the restricted section?

-Research. Thoroughly scour the public area.
--Zoology, Natural Philosophy, Revision, History...you've gone through all of these sections a hundred times over it feels like, but you're still not finding what you're looking for. Where else could what you're looking for ever be? Negation, maybe? That tends to be a decent fallback option for whatever you're looking for, usually, but you're sure it's not going to be helpful in this instance. Lycanthropy isn't something you can Negate, after all. Does the Venalicium really not have what you're looking for? Maybe you should visit the city's Venalicium instead of the Academagia's?

Despite the growing conviction that you're going to have to poke your head around a different library altogether you stubbornly keep looking, and through what can only be an Astrological miracle you actually manage to stumble across what you're looking for: The Shapeshifter's Almanac! Freaking finally, you knew it had to be here somewhere! Not the first time you've had trouble finding something written by an Alesfan author in this library, and part of you wants to say that's fair enough since this is clearly a recent addition to the Venalicium. The other, saner (to a point, you're feeling just ever to slightly frustrated at the moment) side of you, however, would dearly like to know why this book was filed away in the arithmetic section, of all things. Well, whatever. You found it, Gods know why you found it where you did, but you found it. Time to take it to a study cubicle and do some work.

It quickly becomes apparent that the reason this book was filed in the arithmetic section is because it was written by a what's-it-called, Arthmancer? You think that's the right term. Well, written by one of those...and an unashamed math enthusiast to boot. Thankfully the author's obsession doesn't detract from the parts that you're actually interested in, so you're able to get a fair amount of research done.

Honestly, you're just thankful that Malthezar raised such a stink about the lack of Alesfan books in this library. Boy was it boring to listen to, but boy did it pay off, too.

--You go through what feels like the entirety of the Venalicium once more, but you still are not able to find what you're looking for. You found a few books you didn't notice earlier, which is...something, you suppose, but they're not the books you need right now so it doesn't really help you. Maybe you should just ask for help on this. Or at the very least find someone who can help you put back all of these books you've pulled out, because, eh, you kind of went through a lot of them. Where do all of these things go, again?

...This is going to be a very long, very non-productive day, you feel like...

-School Survival. Ask a librarian for help.
--It takes a solid minute before you're able to get the attention of a librarian, since most of them are busy direction students towards various sections of the library and noting when particular textbooks or what have you are expected to be returned. It's the month before mid-terms, so you expected this place to be busy. You didn't expect it to be this busy, tough. Nevertheless, although it takes waiting in a line for a minute you do eventually get your chance. "Book?" the librarian asks without prompt, probably because that's what she's been doing the past few hours.

"The Shapeshifter's Almanac," you plainly answer. The librarian, however, does not mindlessly answer your query, instead she raises an eyebrow and looks at you curiously.

"That is not part of your regular coursework," the librarian observes. Worse, a number of the students around you are staring at you curiously. You don't really appreciate the attention, truth be told.

"I'm aware, it's for an extra-curricular project I'm doing for Professor Piaxenza," you answer. It's not exactly the truth, per sé, but it's a better answer that's also not entirely a lie. Also you wouldn't say it's necessary to do that around this time of year, but it's faster. Otherwise you might be asked pointed questions about whether you've been studying for your classes, and you'd prefer to not be delayed at all.

Thankfully the librarian seems to believe you. And just as well, really - you're not exactly lying to her. "Buttering up your professors before the hammer drops, huh? Alright, fine. You'll want to look through the Arithmetic section for your book. We've only got one copy of it in stock, mind, so if it's not in there you should ask Professor Badcrumble." You quirk an eyebrow at that. Why would a book like that be kept in the Arithmetic section? The librarian, seeing your expression, smiles to herself and adds, "I know, you'll understand when you read the book. Have fun with your project. Next."

The Arithmetic section? For real? that's where it's being kept? Whatever, guess you've got no choice but to poke your head around there and see if you can find it. Or Professor Badcrumble, worst case.

Thankfully you're able to find the copy you're looking for within the section that it totally, definitely, absolutely belongs to, so you're able to get started without any further delays. As for why it's filed there in the first place, turns out the author of the book is a very...enthusiastic follower of the school of Arthmancy, meaning that he's just a little bit obsessed with numbers. It's not to the point where it makes this book useless to you, thankfully, but it certainly makes it a bigger chore than necessary to get the information you want out of it. It does have the information, however, so the literary references you now have covered.

--It takes a solid minute before you're able to get the attention of a librarian, since most of them are busy direction students towards various sections of the library and noting when particular textbooks or what have you are expected to be returned. It's the month before mid-terms, so you expected this place to be busy. You didn't expect it to be this busy, tough. Nevertheless, although it takes waiting in a line for a minute you do eventually get your chance. "Book?" the librarian asks without prompt, probably because that's what she's been doing the past few hours.

"The Shapeshifter's Almanac," you plainly answer. The librarian, however, does not mindlessly answer your query, instead she raises an eyebrow and looks at you curiously.

"That is not part of your regular coursework," the librarian observes. Worse, a number of the students around you are staring at you curiously. You don't really appreciate the attention, truth be told.

"I know, but it's the book I'm looking for right now," you answer a bit nervously. Though why you're feeling nervous you're not entirely sure. You've got a good reason to look for that book and it's not a secret. Not that it matters to the librarian, mind. She nods to herself with a knowing look, and staring disapprovingly at you says that you should be hitting your textbooks. Apparently she thinks you're trying to shrink your studies.

And honestly, there's little point trying to debate it. After you don't know how many examples of first years, and others, not studying as much as they should you doubt anything could convince this librarian otherwise. Rats. Well, mid-terms are coming and there's always more to learn, but you don't want to let this flyer idea sit until after it's become old news, though, and that's going to happen sooner than later. So instead of taking the librarian's advice you give the library another thorough shakedown, but alas, once again you fail to find the book you're looking for.

Where is that damned thing? Maybe Iustus knows? He's still in detention, but could you ask him? Either which way you'll have to figure out something, because at this rate you're going to end up haunting this library before you'll find this book...

-Heraldry. Ask a professor for help.
--You take one look at the reception desk and immediately decide to look for a professor instead. There's enough of them walking around, it's the month before mid-terms after all, and for the same reason the reception tends to be a bit overcrowded with people looking for extra copies of textbooks that other people are already reading somewhere. Like it is now.

You don't see any professors that really scream "information about lycanthropy here" out to you, so you instead politely flag down the nearest one. That turns out to the Professor Badcrumble, nodding her head approvingly at a group of first years taking turns blankly staring at and otherwise doing not much of anything with the Astrology textbook in front of them. "Hmm? Oh, what are you looking for, [PC FIRST NAME]?" Professor Badcrumble curtly, and of course quietly, asks when you approach her.

"The Shapeshifter's Almanac, please," you answer. Professor Badcrumble's eyebrows shoot up in response. That's a good sign, right?

"And why are you looking for that particular book, if I may ask?" You quickly explain your plan regarding the flyer you have in mind, and that Iustus pointed you towards that book as a good source of research references. Unfortunately you're unable to find it anywhere in the Venalicium. Again the professor nods approvingly. "I've got one of the Venalicium's copies in my office right now, so-actually I don't suppose you checked the Arithmetic section for it, have you?"

You want to ask why Professor Badcrumble thinks you'd look for that book in that particular section, but strangely enough no words come out of your mouth. Something to do with "acute dumbfoundedness syndrome", you believe the formal term is.

"I'll take that as a no, than. Go take a look, there might be a copy there. The Venalicium has multiple, I believe. If not I'll make sure to swing by my office and return the copy I borrowed later today, so you'll be able to take a look at it than. Not to cause you needless delays, but mid-terms are set to start next month if you forgot. I'm sure there's some studying you can get done in the meantime." That last line was delivered while looking pointedly at the first years not doing any serious studying, at least until they notice the professor's gaze.

You, for your part, nod and head off to check the Arithmetic section, confused as all hell as to why that book would be kept there, of all places. That feeling doesn't get any better when you actually do find the one copy the Venalicium seems to have left in stock, either, but after taking it to a study cubicle it quickly becomes apparent why it was filed there. The author of this book is someone who's deeply invested into Arthmancy, and as such his research has a slant towards numbers and calculations. Unfortunate, but thankfully his research is no less sound for it, so you're confident this book will serve you well as a literary reference.

--You take one look at the reception desk and immediately decide to look for a professor instead. There's enough of them walking around, it's the month before mid-terms after all, and for the same reason the reception tends to be a bit overcrowded with people looking for extra copies of textbooks that other people are already reading somewhere. Like it is now.

You don't see any professors that really scream "information about lycanthropy here" out to you, so you instead flag down the nearest one. That turns out to the Professor Badcrumble, nodding her head approvingly at a group of first years taking turns blankly staring at and otherwise doing not much of anything with the Astrology textbook in front of them. "Oh, [PC FIRST NAME]? Can I help you with something?" Professor Badcrumble curtly, and of course quietly, asks when you approach her.

"The Shapeshifter's Almanac. It's a book I'm looking for but I can't find it," you answer. Professor Badcrumble's eyebrows shoot up in response. That's a good sign, right?

The professor gives you a few second to fill in whatever it is that you're missing, not that you've got any clue what she's waiting for, and once time's up the professor frowns. This is a really good sign, isn't it? "Perhaps you should spend your time reading an etiquette manual, [PC FIRST NAME]. There's one I can recommend which should be in the Astrology section, The Gentleman's Almanac. I'm sure you'll be able to find it."

No hint as to where to look, but no detention or demerits, either. You guess you'll call that a victory? Also, wait, 'Almanac'? What does that word even mean, anyway? Why is one located Gods-knows-where, and what sounds like an etiquette manual located in the Astrology section? As Almanac short for "sorted wherever"? Weird. You suppose you'll give the Astrology section a once-over, mabye The Shapeshifter's Almanac is in there too, but if not...well, honestly you are curious as to what you forgot, so you guess you'll take a peek at this etiquette book? It doesn't sound like it'd be an interesting read, but it can't hurt to check, right?

Though you don't manage to find the book you're looking for, you do manage to learn two things. First, "almanac" is (usually) used to refer to annual publications of all manner of cultural related things, as well as Astrology and Astrology-related publications. Needless to say that you find a lot of almanacs in the Astrology section, to the point where you're curious why you didn't decide to look for the Shakeshifter's one in here. And to the point where you're both disappointed and a little frustrated that you've looked through the wrong section again.

Second, you learn that you forgot to say "please". Yes, that's it. That's the great mysterious keyword that completely slipped your mind. A rather embarrassing mistake, that one. At least the professor didn't seem too upset, though you're still no closer to finding he book you need. If it's not in the Astrology section either, than...where the hell could it be?

Trust me to scratch my head uselessly whenever subtlety is required.

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13 hours ago, Metis said:

Better by Half, stage 8:

  Reveal hidden contents

You've got a personal account from Iustus for your flyer, next up is some literary references to corroborate them...or whatever it's called. Point is that you've run into a slight problem with getting those references. You can find books that explain to you what lycanthropy is and what it generally entails easily enough. What you can't find is a detailed account of how it all works, and what research or experiments went into discovering this knowledge. You've got a summary of the answers you're looking for, but you need the questions and path towards the answers, not just the answers themselves. Now, the good news is that Iustus recommended a book for you that, according to him, will have everything you need to know - the Shapeshifter's Almanac. A fairly recently published title, so it should be a good read if nothing else. The bad news is that the Venalicium doesn't have that book, as it turns out. At least not that you can find in the public areas. So you're going to have to either find what you're overlooking, or you're going to have to look for it in the restricted or worse, forbidden sections. And those areas are...well, true to their names. Needless to say that you don't feel like risking detention in the process of trying to get favor with a professor. That just sounds like a great way to pre-emptively waste all of the effort you'll put into this.

So how are you going to get the book you need? Go through the public section with a fine-toothed comb, ask a librarian for help, or ask a professor about accessing the restricted section?

-Research. Thoroughly scour the public area.
--Zoology, Natural Philosophy, Revision, History...you've gone through all of these sections a hundred times over it feels like, but you're still not finding what you're looking for. Where else could what you're looking for ever be? Negation, maybe? That tends to be a decent fallback option for whatever you're looking for, usually, but you're sure it's not going to be helpful in this instance. Lycanthropy isn't something you can Negate, after all. Does the Venalicium really not have what you're looking for? Maybe you should visit the city's Venalicium instead of the Academagia's?

Despite the growing conviction that you're going to have to poke your head around a different library altogether you stubbornly keep looking, and through what can only be an Astrological miracle you actually manage to stumble across what you're looking for: The Shapeshifter's Almanac! Freaking finally, you knew it had to be here somewhere! Not the first time you've had trouble finding something written by an Alesfan author in this library, and part of you wants to say that's fair enough since this is clearly a recent addition to the Venalicium. The other, saner (to a point, you're feeling just ever to slightly frustrated at the moment) side of you, however, would dearly like to know why this book was filed away in the arithmetic section, of all things. Well, whatever. You found it, Gods know why you found it where you did, but you found it. Time to take it to a study cubicle and do some work.

It quickly becomes apparent that the reason this book was filed in the arithmetic section is because it was written by a what's-it-called, Arthmancer? You think that's the right term. Well, written by one of those...and an unashamed math enthusiast to boot. Thankfully the author's obsession doesn't detract from the parts that you're actually interested in, so you're able to get a fair amount of research done.

Honestly, you're just thankful that Malthezar raised such a stink about the lack of Alesfan books in this library. Boy was it boring to listen to, but boy did it pay off, too.

--You go through what feels like the entirety of the Venalicium once more, but you still are not able to find what you're looking for. You found a few books you didn't notice earlier, which is...something, you suppose, but they're not the books you need right now so it doesn't really help you. Maybe you should just ask for help on this. Or at the very least find someone who can help you put back all of these books you've pulled out, because, eh, you kind of went through a lot of them. Where do all of these things go, again?

...This is going to be a very long, very non-productive day, you feel like...

-School Survival. Ask a librarian for help.
--It takes a solid minute before you're able to get the attention of a librarian, since most of them are busy direction students towards various sections of the library and noting when particular textbooks or what have you are expected to be returned. It's the month before mid-terms, so you expected this place to be busy. You didn't expect it to be this busy, tough. Nevertheless, although it takes waiting in a line for a minute you do eventually get your chance. "Book?" the librarian asks without prompt, probably because that's what she's been doing the past few hours.

"The Shapeshifter's Almanac," you plainly answer. The librarian, however, does not mindlessly answer your query, instead she raises an eyebrow and looks at you curiously.

"That is not part of your regular coursework," the librarian observes. Worse, a number of the students around you are staring at you curiously. You don't really appreciate the attention, truth be told.

"I'm aware, it's for an extra-curricular project I'm doing for Professor Piaxenza," you answer. It's not exactly the truth, per sé, but it's a better answer that's also not entirely a lie. Also you wouldn't say it's necessary to do that around this time of year, but it's faster. Otherwise you might be asked pointed questions about whether you've been studying for your classes, and you'd prefer to not be delayed at all.

Thankfully the librarian seems to believe you. And just as well, really - you're not exactly lying to her. "Buttering up your professors before the hammer drops, huh? Alright, fine. You'll want to look through the Arithmetic section for your book. We've only got one copy of it in stock, mind, so if it's not in there you should ask Professor Badcrumble." You quirk an eyebrow at that. Why would a book like that be kept in the Arithmetic section? The librarian, seeing your expression, smiles to herself and adds, "I know, you'll understand when you read the book. Have fun with your project. Next."

The Arithmetic section? For real? that's where it's being kept? Whatever, guess you've got no choice but to poke your head around there and see if you can find it. Or Professor Badcrumble, worst case.

Thankfully you're able to find the copy you're looking for within the section that it totally, definitely, absolutely belongs to, so you're able to get started without any further delays. As for why it's filed there in the first place, turns out the author of the book is a very...enthusiastic follower of the school of Arthmancy, meaning that he's just a little bit obsessed with numbers. It's not to the point where it makes this book useless to you, thankfully, but it certainly makes it a bigger chore than necessary to get the information you want out of it. It does have the information, however, so the literary references you now have covered.

--It takes a solid minute before you're able to get the attention of a librarian, since most of them are busy direction students towards various sections of the library and noting when particular textbooks or what have you are expected to be returned. It's the month before mid-terms, so you expected this place to be busy. You didn't expect it to be this busy, tough. Nevertheless, although it takes waiting in a line for a minute you do eventually get your chance. "Book?" the librarian asks without prompt, probably because that's what she's been doing the past few hours.

"The Shapeshifter's Almanac," you plainly answer. The librarian, however, does not mindlessly answer your query, instead she raises an eyebrow and looks at you curiously.

"That is not part of your regular coursework," the librarian observes. Worse, a number of the students around you are staring at you curiously. You don't really appreciate the attention, truth be told.

"I know, but it's the book I'm looking for right now," you answer a bit nervously. Though why you're feeling nervous you're not entirely sure. You've got a good reason to look for that book and it's not a secret. Not that it matters to the librarian, mind. She nods to herself with a knowing look, and staring disapprovingly at you says that you should be hitting your textbooks. Apparently she thinks you're trying to shrink your studies.

And honestly, there's little point trying to debate it. After you don't know how many examples of first years, and others, not studying as much as they should you doubt anything could convince this librarian otherwise. Rats. Well, mid-terms are coming and there's always more to learn, but you don't want to let this flyer idea sit until after it's become old news, though, and that's going to happen sooner than later. So instead of taking the librarian's advice you give the library another thorough shakedown, but alas, once again you fail to find the book you're looking for.

Where is that damned thing? Maybe Iustus knows? He's still in detention, but could you ask him? Either which way you'll have to figure out something, because at this rate you're going to end up haunting this library before you'll find this book...

-Heraldry. Ask a professor for help.
--You take one look at the reception desk and immediately decide to look for a professor instead. There's enough of them walking around, it's the month before mid-terms after all, and for the same reason the reception tends to be a bit overcrowded with people looking for extra copies of textbooks that other people are already reading somewhere. Like it is now.

You don't see any professors that really scream "information about lycanthropy here" out to you, so you instead politely flag down the nearest one. That turns out to the Professor Badcrumble, nodding her head approvingly at a group of first years taking turns blankly staring at and otherwise doing not much of anything with the Astrology textbook in front of them. "Hmm? Oh, what are you looking for, [PC FIRST NAME]?" Professor Badcrumble curtly, and of course quietly, asks when you approach her.

"The Shapeshifter's Almanac, please," you answer. Professor Badcrumble's eyebrows shoot up in response. That's a good sign, right?

"And why are you looking for that particular book, if I may ask?" You quickly explain your plan regarding the flyer you have in mind, and that Iustus pointed you towards that book as a good source of research references. Unfortunately you're unable to find it anywhere in the Venalicium. Again the professor nods approvingly. "I've got one of the Venalicium's copies in my office right now, so-actually I don't suppose you checked the Arithmetic section for it, have you?"

You want to ask why Professor Badcrumble thinks you'd look for that book in that particular section, but strangely enough no words come out of your mouth. Something to do with "acute dumbfoundedness syndrome", you believe the formal term is.

"I'll take that as a no, than. Go take a look, there might be a copy there. The Venalicium has multiple, I believe. If not I'll make sure to swing by my office and return the copy I borrowed later today, so you'll be able to take a look at it than. Not to cause you needless delays, but mid-terms are set to start next month if you forgot. I'm sure there's some studying you can get done in the meantime." That last line was delivered while looking pointedly at the first years not doing any serious studying, at least until they notice the professor's gaze.

You, for your part, nod and head off to check the Arithmetic section, confused as all hell as to why that book would be kept there, of all places. That feeling doesn't get any better when you actually do find the one copy the Venalicium seems to have left in stock, either, but after taking it to a study cubicle it quickly becomes apparent why it was filed there. The author of this book is someone who's deeply invested into Arthmancy, and as such his research has a slant towards numbers and calculations. Unfortunate, but thankfully his research is no less sound for it, so you're confident this book will serve you well as a literary reference.

--You take one look at the reception desk and immediately decide to look for a professor instead. There's enough of them walking around, it's the month before mid-terms after all, and for the same reason the reception tends to be a bit overcrowded with people looking for extra copies of textbooks that other people are already reading somewhere. Like it is now.

You don't see any professors that really scream "information about lycanthropy here" out to you, so you instead flag down the nearest one. That turns out to the Professor Badcrumble, nodding her head approvingly at a group of first years taking turns blankly staring at and otherwise doing not much of anything with the Astrology textbook in front of them. "Oh, [PC FIRST NAME]? Can I help you with something?" Professor Badcrumble curtly, and of course quietly, asks when you approach her.

"The Shapeshifter's Almanac. It's a book I'm looking for but I can't find it," you answer. Professor Badcrumble's eyebrows shoot up in response. That's a good sign, right?

The professor gives you a few second to fill in whatever it is that you're missing, not that you've got any clue what she's waiting for, and once time's up the professor frowns. This is a really good sign, isn't it? "Perhaps you should spend your time reading an etiquette manual, [PC FIRST NAME]. There's one I can recommend which should be in the Astrology section, The Gentleman's Almanac. I'm sure you'll be able to find it."

No hint as to where to look, but no detention or demerits, either. You guess you'll call that a victory? Also, wait, 'Almanac'? What does that word even mean, anyway? Why is one located Gods-knows-where, and what sounds like an etiquette manual located in the Astrology section? As Almanac short for "sorted wherever"? Weird. You suppose you'll give the Astrology section a once-over, mabye The Shapeshifter's Almanac is in there too, but if not...well, honestly you are curious as to what you forgot, so you guess you'll take a peek at this etiquette book? It doesn't sound like it'd be an interesting read, but it can't hurt to check, right?

Though you don't manage to find the book you're looking for, you do manage to learn two things. First, "almanac" is (usually) used to refer to annual publications of all manner of cultural related things, as well as Astrology and Astrology-related publications. Needless to say that you find a lot of almanacs in the Astrology section, to the point where you're curious why you didn't decide to look for the Shakeshifter's one in here. And to the point where you're both disappointed and a little frustrated that you've looked through the wrong section again.

Second, you learn that you forgot to say "please". Yes, that's it. That's the great mysterious keyword that completely slipped your mind. A rather embarrassing mistake, that one. At least the professor didn't seem too upset, though you're still no closer to finding he book you need. If it's not in the Astrology section either, than...where the hell could it be?

Trust me to scratch my head uselessly whenever subtlety is required.

I also find subtlety difficult to write.

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Especially when the characters should, by all rights, know better and have no reason to be vague about stuff. That's going to come back with a vengeance come stage...12, but hey, better present the elephant in the room than pretend it doesn't exist I guess.

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Better by Half, stage 9:

You've managed to gather a healthy supply of notes so far, but you feel like there's something missing from it that your flyer is going to need - a recognized name. This flyer of yours is supposed to be the previous one "done right", and one of the issues the last flyer had is that the name on it was fake. Because of that obviously no one could track down the man and debate his points in proper fashion, and you'd like your flyer to not make the same mistake. Now technically you could sign the flyer with your own name, anyone interested in debating it's points could, in theory, easily track you down through the city's administrative records and request your presence at the Forum of Naxum, but...let's go for something less embarrassing, how about. Especially if there really is some kind of crazy pirate captain out there with a strangely localized and irrational hatred of shapeshifters. Let's not attract that guy's attention, if at all possible.

It shouldn't be all that difficult, anyway. Just someone with some manner of recognized name who's willing to say he or she has your back, someone who's able and willing to debate the points in your flyer at the Forum of Naxum, that's all you need. How to find such a person, though? Obviously the Forum is as good a place as any to begin searching for such a person, but how to convince whoever to actually help you?

-Dialectic. Hold your own in a debate.
--Defending the position your flyer takes is trivial, obviously you wouldn't be trying to create it if you couldn't. But, as one would expect, a trivial task does nothing to impress the debaters and philosophers at the Forum. So to prove that you're not just a student wanting to force [his/her] opinion on others you start to try and debate against your flyer, with the debater and philosophers acting as your opposition. Needless to say that trying to defend that position gives you a much rougher time of it, and going up against actual professional philosophers and debaters does you no favors either, but you still try your best to reasonably put forth what (admittedly few) arguments you can think of. Not that you personally agree with any of them, mind, but understanding the argument of another and agreeing with it are two completely separate things, and for a debater it's important to do the former even (especially) when you don't do the latter.

It takes a while for you to manage to hold your own against actual professionals, at least as well as you can be expected to, but the effort and small measures of success that you do get does manage to impress a few of the people here. One in particular is even taken by the idea of your flyer, and promises to help you with it. To be perfectly honest he seemed to take your mock debate a bit too...personally, for it being a mock debate, but it's not like you're got any other offers. Not to mention, you've got a decent idea as to why he'd take it personally in the first place.

So that that's part done. And by now you have got to have enough material to create your flyer. It's just a matter of putting it all together. Which means a lot of material to go through, but that's fine. The end's in sight, it's just a matter of getting it done.

--You're able to reasonably hold your own in a debate "as well as can be expected of someone your age" (which you're getting the distinct feeling is not as much a compliment as people want you to believe) when you're asked to defend your flyer's points. When you're asked to argue against it, however, you very quickly run out of steam. And for the debators here, that's a problem. It's not that you should be able to defend the position of someone who irrationally hates shapeshifter, necessarily, it's that you're not able to think of any reason as to why such an individual would think they way they do. And that's a problem. It's one thing to agree with an argument, it's another to merely understand it, and the latter part is where you fall short.

On the bright side, you feel like you've learned something about public debating today. On the less bright side you didn't make any progress finding anyone to support your flyer, and while people are still talking about it now that's not necessarily going to be the case a week from now. You have to strike while the iron's hot, and time's ticking.

-Language. Speak their language.
--One might question the use in going out of your way to approach a foreigner with this matter. The answer to that question, however, is simple: This is the city of Mineta, long-time home of the Academagia. If there's any civilized island where a werewolf can just walk through busy streets without drawing too much attention, it's here. The locals are too used to the general weirdness and shenanigans that Academagia students get up to on a day-to-day basis to even be fazed by such "mundane" sights as a werewolf anymore. You imagine, however, that the same cannot be said about other places. So, you're curious how someone from one such place sees this whole question and debate.

It takes some effort to find the right kind of people, they're obviously more rare than local debaters are, but you nevertheless manage to find a few who've had the (mis)fortune of visiting Mineta right as this whole ordeal started. As expected they generally agree that the anti-shapeshifter flyer was just a load of hot air worth not even a single mention, and even better, some are intrigued by your idea of trying to create a flyer that argues the opposite "done right". You manage to get some helpful advice and interesting insights, as well as at least one person who says he'd be happy to have his name put on your flyer, as he seems very knowledgeable on the subject and agrees with your point of view.

Can't help but shake the feeling that man is a shapeshifter himself, truth be told, but you figured it'd be impolite to ask, so you kept your mouth shut. In any case you got what you came here for, so it's time to start putting all these pieces together. That'll undoubtedly take another day's worth of work, you've got a lot of material to go through, but you're near the end. Hopefully you've still got time...

--You try to strike up a conversation with just about every reasonably intelligent-looking adult you see, but it quickly becomes clear that for the most part you don't speak certain languages so much as you butcher certain languages. It's not really a problem in terms of being able to talk to people, most everyone here speaks Renaglian anyway, the problem is that you're making less than the desired amount of progress towards gaining people's actual respect. Which is to say, "any what-so-ever, at all". So, with little but a few lessons in humility and pronunciations, you eventually end up leaving the Forum with what feels like less than you started with.

Well, actually, no, you don't think it's fair to say that. Sure, you're going to need an extra large boom to sweep up what's left of your confidence, but as far as you could tell the debators over at the Forum of Naxum had the anti-shapeshifting flyer fresh in their minds, still, and even those who don't personally like shapeshifters agreed that the flyer was an insult to their profession. There is support out there for you to find, at least for the moment, so it's not hopeless yet. You just need to, you know, not sound like a low-education tourist. That's all.

-Revision. Show off that you're no stranger to shifting, even if only magically.
--Just to be safe you decide to go for a practice round on these spells in your room, where you're in close proximity to people who can Negate whatever mess you make of yourself or, worst case, drag you to the Infirmary. These are not simple spells you're trying to cast, and if something goes wrong you'd prefer not to be in the middle of Mineta.

You review the spell one more time, and after taking a deep breath, prepare to cast it. Worst case you'll need to visit the infirmary. This is why you're casting this here, this isn't going to kill you. Probably.

The magic seems to work, and your form slowly gives way to that of...well, you were aiming for a mouse, but you're not sure if you managed it. Observing your new self with your eyes doesn't reveal anything off, aside from all the usual things because you've suddenly turned into a mouse, so to take a closer look you climb up your own furniture and run up to a mirror. Kind of wish you'd thought ahead to put that on the floor, but whatever.

Giving yourself a critical once-over you can't help but frown, or the mouse equivalent thereof. You know that trying to turn yourself into something too specific is how a Revision student ends up in an early grave, so you were careful not to be too demanding, but even so you have to admit that you're a bit disappointed. You look like a mouse, but your size is more like that of a small rat, your front paws aren't identical to your back paws, and your fur isn't really...right, either. It's hard to tell what's wrong with it without being able to touch it, but looking in the mirror it looks off. Like it's stuck halfway between hair and fur, maybe? You're not sure. Now the question is...is this good enough? You were planning to run all the way to the Forum of Naxum in your shifted form and get someone's attention while still in it, basically as a means to prove that you're not just a kid playing with dangerous magic, but upon reflection that sounds...risky. Many stray cats in Mineta, for starters. Not to mention it sounds like effort, you're going to have to take many steps in this form to cross the same distance you would with just one as a human.

That kind of the idea though, isn't it? That you're stuck like this and whatever problem you encounter, you find some way to deal with it? Iustus is stuck in his wolf form whenever he shifts, he's only got limited control of that, he has to deal with that as well, so...why shouldn't you? Cats? So what, you can still cast magic like this, right? Like a Familiar? A quick test on an old inkwell confirms that yes, you can. It's not as easy as it normally is, but you can manage. Worst case if you get cornered? Shift back. You're pretty sure stray cats aren't going to bother you if you suddenly turn into a human right in front of them. Hell, they might realize you're not a mouse just from your size. You definitely look off, you think...

You know what? Enough doubts. There's only one way to figure out for sure whether or not both your magic and your creativity are up to this task, and that's to head off to the Forum of Naxum! First, how are you going to get down...wait a second, floor, what happened-okay, never mind, you're good. Looking over your floor you don't see any dropped clothes, so you're not going to be stark naked when you shift back into your regular form. Good. Important thing to check, that would have been awkward otherwise. As for making progress getting back down, it's no effort to climb down your furniture and land perfectly safe on the floor. Your paws might not match, but they're still sharp, and that's what matters for climbing. Well, a real mouse would probably find it awkward, but you don't know any better, so hah!

Now for the next obstacle, how are you going to open your door? You can't exactly reach the handle from down here, and you don't think you've got enough weight to push it down even if you climb up to it. And, unlike your dresser, it's a long way up - or down! You're too large to squeeze underneath it, so scratch that idea...and a quick survey of the walls around you don't turn out any sneaky mouse holes you could take advantage of. You look at your window, but that's hardly any easier to get to, open, or get down from. You're rather try the door. It's just a matter of "how can you open this door?" And, honestly...you feel like this might be a long day...

Three and a half hours, an uncountable amount of effort running around and you don't want to know how many hare-brained schemes to get past the most mundane of obstacles later and you finally have reached the Forum of Naxum, from your room, entirely in Rouse form (you also considered "Mat", but you'd rather be mistaken for an enthusiastic party than a doormat). At this point you don't even have the patience to try and get anyone's attention as a Rouse, particularly because you've got no idea who you're looking at or who you're looking for and how to figure out who's what and Gods do you need to sit down right now. Running all the way here was one thing, the cats you had to dodge was another, but the sheer stupidity that it took to get through just the Admiratio without getting squashed. Gods, if you ever see laundry hanging off of a fishing net again it'll be too soon. In any case you finally cancel your spell and revert back to human form. You don't even care who is watching and who's going to raise a stink, you need to have arms again dammit!

The shift back to human form goes well, but when the spell is cancelled your normal weight and general fatigue hits you like a sack of bricks and forces you to your knees. It also leaves you pretty disoriented and just generally light-headed, seeing as how you spend so long as a Rouse. Needless to say that once the light-headedness hits you're not just forced to the knees, but the ground outright. And after all that effort to get here, too. Couldn't even bring it home.

You come back to your senses a few minutes later, on one of the benches in the Forum of Naxum, with three adults and a guard standing next to you. Explaining your situation is a bit difficult, you're still feeling a bit dizzy and just generally lost, but you do your best to make it sound like some grand discovery of knowledge rather than a young teenager miraculously succeeding at doing something stupid. The guard doesn't buy it, as you expected. But the other three, natural philosophers working for one of Mineta's many guilds from the sound of it, are impressed and, ultimately, willing to help you with your flyer. It figures that shapeshifting magic is their chosen field, in hindsight. That's who you'd prefer to get if you were in the guard's shoes.

So, all in all you got what you wanted, and it only cost you...well, you're not entirely sure actually, but it probably cost you something. Something something price...right...eh, something? Your brain is not up to this task right now.

You're going to drag yourself back to the Academagia and fall down on your bed for a bit, you feel like you're done for today. Unless you encounter those cats on the way. In that case boy are they going to learn a thing or two about making the wrong enemies...

--Just to be safe you decide to go for a practice round on these spells in your room, where you're in close proximity to people who can Negate whatever mess you make of yourself or, worst case, drag you to the Infirmary. These are not simple spells you're trying to cast, and if something goes wrong you'd prefer not to be in the middle of Mineta.

Your caution is rewarded when, after one last review of a Revision textbook, you cast your spell and start to shrink uncontrollably as it goes awry. You must have gotten one of the Phemes wrong, otherwise you're not sure why the spell you cast would have this effect.

So...now what? You're standing on your bed, looking across the fabric ocean that is your bedsheet with a dubious expression on you, as you contemplate where to go from here. Your wand shrank with you, so you've got that, but do you really want to try a Negation after that first failure? You're not sure what other options you've got, truth be told. You're not getting off your bed in this state without dying a horrible, painful death, that's for sure.

...Yeah, it's either you wait for someone to notice the you don't even know how small person waiting impatiently on your bed to be rescued or risk a Negation spell. You'll risk the Negation spell, you're not patient enough to wait that long.

Another tense moment of spellcasting later, and the magic slowly gives way to your body returning to it's regular size. Good, that's one disaster averted. Although you clearly need to study Revision more. You don't want to delay getting your flyer done, you've got to get it done before people forget about it and move on, but you also really don't want to risk turning yourself into a tasty snack for a random baby mice, so...studying it is.

At no point do I intend this adventure to be thinly-veiled racism PSA, for the record, so apologies if it ever comes across as such. I'd like to say that it'll all make sense and be clear in time, but :lol: at me being able to just expect that much of myself :rolleyes:.

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13 hours ago, Metis said:

Better by Half, stage 9:

  Reveal hidden contents

You've managed to gather a healthy supply of notes so far, but you feel like there's something missing from it that your flyer is going to need - a recognized name. This flyer of yours is supposed to be the previous one "done right", and one of the issues the last flyer had is that the name on it was fake. Because of that obviously no one could track down the man and debate his points in proper fashion, and you'd like your flyer to not make the same mistake. Now technically you could sign the flyer with your own name, anyone interested in debating it's points could, in theory, easily track you down through the city's administrative records and request your presence at the Forum of Naxum, but...let's go for something less embarrassing, how about. Especially if there really is some kind of crazy pirate captain out there with a strangely localized and irrational hatred of shapeshifters. Let's not attract that guy's attention, if at all possible.

It shouldn't be all that difficult, anyway. Just someone with some manner of recognized name who's willing to say he or she has your back, someone who's able and willing to debate the points in your flyer at the Forum of Naxum, that's all you need. How to find such a person, though? Obviously the Forum is as good a place as any to begin searching for such a person, but how to convince whoever to actually help you?

-Dialectic. Hold your own in a debate.
--Defending the position your flyer takes is trivial, obviously you wouldn't be trying to create it if you couldn't. But, as one would expect, a trivial task does nothing to impress the debaters and philosophers at the Forum. So to prove that you're not just a student wanting to force [his/her] opinion on others you start to try and debate against your flyer, with the debater and philosophers acting as your opposition. Needless to say that trying to defend that position gives you a much rougher time of it, and going up against actual professional philosophers and debaters does you no favors either, but you still try your best to reasonably put forth what (admittedly few) arguments you can think of. Not that you personally agree with any of them, mind, but understanding the argument of another and agreeing with it are two completely separate things, and for a debater it's important to do the former even (especially) when you don't do the latter.

It takes a while for you to manage to hold your own against actual professionals, at least as well as you can be expected to, but the effort and small measures of success that you do get does manage to impress a few of the people here. One in particular is even taken by the idea of your flyer, and promises to help you with it. To be perfectly honest he seemed to take your mock debate a bit too...personally, for it being a mock debate, but it's not like you're got any other offers. Not to mention, you've got a decent idea as to why he'd take it personally in the first place.

So that that's part done. And by now you have got to have enough material to create your flyer. It's just a matter of putting it all together. Which means a lot of material to go through, but that's fine. The end's in sight, it's just a matter of getting it done.

--You're able to reasonably hold your own in a debate "as well as can be expected of someone your age" (which you're getting the distinct feeling is not as much a compliment as people want you to believe) when you're asked to defend your flyer's points. When you're asked to argue against it, however, you very quickly run out of steam. And for the debators here, that's a problem. It's not that you should be able to defend the position of someone who irrationally hates shapeshifter, necessarily, it's that you're not able to think of any reason as to why such an individual would think they way they do. And that's a problem. It's one thing to agree with an argument, it's another to merely understand it, and the latter part is where you fall short.

On the bright side, you feel like you've learned something about public debating today. On the less bright side you didn't make any progress finding anyone to support your flyer, and while people are still talking about it now that's not necessarily going to be the case a week from now. You have to strike while the iron's hot, and time's ticking.

-Language. Speak their language.
--One might question the use in going out of your way to approach a foreigner with this matter. The answer to that question, however, is simple: This is the city of Mineta, long-time home of the Academagia. If there's any civilized island where a werewolf can just walk through busy streets without drawing too much attention, it's here. The locals are too used to the general weirdness and shenanigans that Academagia students get up to on a day-to-day basis to even be fazed by such "mundane" sights as a werewolf anymore. You imagine, however, that the same cannot be said about other places. So, you're curious how someone from one such place sees this whole question and debate.

It takes some effort to find the right kind of people, they're obviously more rare than local debaters are, but you nevertheless manage to find a few who've had the (mis)fortune of visiting Mineta right as this whole ordeal started. As expected they generally agree that the anti-shapeshifter flyer was just a load of hot air worth not even a single mention, and even better, some are intrigued by your idea of trying to create a flyer that argues the opposite "done right". You manage to get some helpful advice and interesting insights, as well as at least one person who says he'd be happy to have his name put on your flyer, as he seems very knowledgeable on the subject and agrees with your point of view.

Can't help but shake the feeling that man is a shapeshifter himself, truth be told, but you figured it'd be impolite to ask, so you kept your mouth shut. In any case you got what you came here for, so it's time to start putting all these pieces together. That'll undoubtedly take another day's worth of work, you've got a lot of material to go through, but you're near the end. Hopefully you've still got time...

--You try to strike up a conversation with just about every reasonably intelligent-looking adult you see, but it quickly becomes clear that for the most part you don't speak certain languages so much as you butcher certain languages. It's not really a problem in terms of being able to talk to people, most everyone here speaks Renaglian anyway, the problem is that you're making less than the desired amount of progress towards gaining people's actual respect. Which is to say, "any what-so-ever, at all". So, with little but a few lessons in humility and pronunciations, you eventually end up leaving the Forum with what feels like less than you started with.

Well, actually, no, you don't think it's fair to say that. Sure, you're going to need an extra large boom to sweep up what's left of your confidence, but as far as you could tell the debators over at the Forum of Naxum had the anti-shapeshifting flyer fresh in their minds, still, and even those who don't personally like shapeshifters agreed that the flyer was an insult to their profession. There is support out there for you to find, at least for the moment, so it's not hopeless yet. You just need to, you know, not sound like a low-education tourist. That's all.

-Revision. Show off that you're no stranger to shifting, even if only magically.
--Just to be safe you decide to go for a practice round on these spells in your room, where you're in close proximity to people who can Negate whatever mess you make of yourself or, worst case, drag you to the Infirmary. These are not simple spells you're trying to cast, and if something goes wrong you'd prefer not to be in the middle of Mineta.

You review the spell one more time, and after taking a deep breath, prepare to cast it. Worst case you'll need to visit the infirmary. This is why you're casting this here, this isn't going to kill you. Probably.

The magic seems to work, and your form slowly gives way to that of...well, you were aiming for a mouse, but you're not sure if you managed it. Observing your new self with your eyes doesn't reveal anything off, aside from all the usual things because you've suddenly turned into a mouse, so to take a closer look you climb up your own furniture and run up to a mirror. Kind of wish you'd thought ahead to put that on the floor, but whatever.

Giving yourself a critical once-over you can't help but frown, or the mouse equivalent thereof. You know that trying to turn yourself into something too specific is how a Revision student ends up in an early grave, so you were careful not to be too demanding, but even so you have to admit that you're a bit disappointed. You look like a mouse, but your size is more like that of a small rat, your front paws aren't identical to your back paws, and your fur isn't really...right, either. It's hard to tell what's wrong with it without being able to touch it, but looking in the mirror it looks off. Like it's stuck halfway between hair and fur, maybe? You're not sure. Now the question is...is this good enough? You were planning to run all the way to the Forum of Naxum in your shifted form and get someone's attention while still in it, basically as a means to prove that you're not just a kid playing with dangerous magic, but upon reflection that sounds...risky. Many stray cats in Mineta, for starters. Not to mention it sounds like effort, you're going to have to take many steps in this form to cross the same distance you would with just one as a human.

That kind of the idea though, isn't it? That you're stuck like this and whatever problem you encounter, you find some way to deal with it? Iustus is stuck in his wolf form whenever he shifts, he's only got limited control of that, he has to deal with that as well, so...why shouldn't you? Cats? So what, you can still cast magic like this, right? Like a Familiar? A quick test on an old inkwell confirms that yes, you can. It's not as easy as it normally is, but you can manage. Worst case if you get cornered? Shift back. You're pretty sure stray cats aren't going to bother you if you suddenly turn into a human right in front of them. Hell, they might realize you're not a mouse just from your size. You definitely look off, you think...

You know what? Enough doubts. There's only one way to figure out for sure whether or not both your magic and your creativity are up to this task, and that's to head off to the Forum of Naxum! First, how are you going to get down...wait a second, floor, what happened-okay, never mind, you're good. Looking over your floor you don't see any dropped clothes, so you're not going to be stark naked when you shift back into your regular form. Good. Important thing to check, that would have been awkward otherwise. As for making progress getting back down, it's no effort to climb down your furniture and land perfectly safe on the floor. Your paws might not match, but they're still sharp, and that's what matters for climbing. Well, a real mouse would probably find it awkward, but you don't know any better, so hah!

Now for the next obstacle, how are you going to open your door? You can't exactly reach the handle from down here, and you don't think you've got enough weight to push it down even if you climb up to it. And, unlike your dresser, it's a long way up - or down! You're too large to squeeze underneath it, so scratch that idea...and a quick survey of the walls around you don't turn out any sneaky mouse holes you could take advantage of. You look at your window, but that's hardly any easier to get to, open, or get down from. You're rather try the door. It's just a matter of "how can you open this door?" And, honestly...you feel like this might be a long day...

Three and a half hours, an uncountable amount of effort running around and you don't want to know how many hare-brained schemes to get past the most mundane of obstacles later and you finally have reached the Forum of Naxum, from your room, entirely in Rouse form (you also considered "Mat", but you'd rather be mistaken for an enthusiastic party than a doormat). At this point you don't even have the patience to try and get anyone's attention as a Rouse, particularly because you've got no idea who you're looking at or who you're looking for and how to figure out who's what and Gods do you need to sit down right now. Running all the way here was one thing, the cats you had to dodge was another, but the sheer stupidity that it took to get through just the Admiratio without getting squashed. Gods, if you ever see laundry hanging off of a fishing net again it'll be too soon. In any case you finally cancel your spell and revert back to human form. You don't even care who is watching and who's going to raise a stink, you need to have arms again dammit!

The shift back to human form goes well, but when the spell is cancelled your normal weight and general fatigue hits you like a sack of bricks and forces you to your knees. It also leaves you pretty disoriented and just generally light-headed, seeing as how you spend so long as a Rouse. Needless to say that once the light-headedness hits you're not just forced to the knees, but the ground outright. And after all that effort to get here, too. Couldn't even bring it home.

You come back to your senses a few minutes later, on one of the benches in the Forum of Naxum, with three adults and a guard standing next to you. Explaining your situation is a bit difficult, you're still feeling a bit dizzy and just generally lost, but you do your best to make it sound like some grand discovery of knowledge rather than a young teenager miraculously succeeding at doing something stupid. The guard doesn't buy it, as you expected. But the other three, natural philosophers working for one of Mineta's many guilds from the sound of it, are impressed and, ultimately, willing to help you with your flyer. It figures that shapeshifting magic is their chosen field, in hindsight. That's who you'd prefer to get if you were in the guard's shoes.

So, all in all you got what you wanted, and it only cost you...well, you're not entirely sure actually, but it probably cost you something. Something something price...right...eh, something? Your brain is not up to this task right now.

You're going to drag yourself back to the Academagia and fall down on your bed for a bit, you feel like you're done for today. Unless you encounter those cats on the way. In that case boy are they going to learn a thing or two about making the wrong enemies...

--Just to be safe you decide to go for a practice round on these spells in your room, where you're in close proximity to people who can Negate whatever mess you make of yourself or, worst case, drag you to the Infirmary. These are not simple spells you're trying to cast, and if something goes wrong you'd prefer not to be in the middle of Mineta.

Your caution is rewarded when, after one last review of a Revision textbook, you cast your spell and start to shrink uncontrollably as it goes awry. You must have gotten one of the Phemes wrong, otherwise you're not sure why the spell you cast would have this effect.

So...now what? You're standing on your bed, looking across the fabric ocean that is your bedsheet with a dubious expression on you, as you contemplate where to go from here. Your wand shrank with you, so you've got that, but do you really want to try a Negation after that first failure? You're not sure what other options you've got, truth be told. You're not getting off your bed in this state without dying a horrible, painful death, that's for sure.

...Yeah, it's either you wait for someone to notice the you don't even know how small person waiting impatiently on your bed to be rescued or risk a Negation spell. You'll risk the Negation spell, you're not patient enough to wait that long.

Another tense moment of spellcasting later, and the magic slowly gives way to your body returning to it's regular size. Good, that's one disaster averted. Although you clearly need to study Revision more. You don't want to delay getting your flyer done, you've got to get it done before people forget about it and move on, but you also really don't want to risk turning yourself into a tasty snack for a random baby mice, so...studying it is.

At no point do I intend this adventure to be thinly-veiled racism PSA, for the record, so apologies if it ever comes across as such. I'd like to say that it'll all make sense and be clear in time, but :lol: at me being able to just expect that much of myself :rolleyes:.

If you were wanting to make such an adventure, I would not mind it - and nor would the team, I hope.

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I doubt they would, but it's just not something I want any adventure of mine to focus on. It'll inevitably be part of the background in this case, and that's perfectly fine, but I can't really imagine any sort of plot or character focussed on that that'll manage to elevate him/herself above the level of a Saturday morning cartoon villain. I'd like to have a bit more depth than that. Whether I can manage to, completely separate question, but I'd like to at least try.

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And since I'm basically done with the adventure, Better by Half, stage 10:

Spoiler

Another slow day in the [PC COLLEGE] Common Room. Especially for you, who's positively drowning in ink and discarded parchment. You've gotten more than enough material for your flyer, but after many hours spend trying to assemble your various notes into a singular intelligent argument you've come to realize a problem: You've got too much material. And too much material to cover, for that matter. You initially assumed that this wouldn't be a problem - the other flyer managed just fine, after all, so why should you? Well, turns out that when you're not forcefully shoving a bunch of similar, but ultimately distinct groups into one giant collection you end up with more stuff to point out. You've spend hours trying to figure out ways to shorten and simplify all of this information without losing anything, but it's just not possible. You'd need multiple flyers to make a point beyond "that other flyer was totally wrong", and if you do that than there's just no point. The entire idea is that you'd actually put forth some intelligent arguments, do what the other flyer should have done, but even if you use both sides of the paper it just isn't enough. You need more space, one way or another...

"You look like you could use some help," a female voice suddenly calls out behind you. You turn around and see Rikildis looming over your back, staring intently at all of the parchment you're surrounded by. Great. Just the person-wait, hang on. Rikildis? You never thought you'd ever say this, but she might just really be the person you needed to see!

"You've got that right," you answer with renewed energy. That is to say, enough to look like you're only halfway asleep. "Do you still need something to fill space in your newspaper, by chance? You mentioned that you had a bunch of space to fill after the whole thing with Matthias fell through."

"Yes and no," Rikildis cryptically answers. That she takes a seat next to you confirms that there's enough "yes" to be worth discussing, though. Or maybe she just wanted to sift through your pile of parchment, one of the two. "I looked into the whole Matthias matter further. You know, things like the missing invitation letter, and that one mercenary group that tried to kidnap him." You nod and eagerly ask Rikildis what she found out. Mostly because if she's willing to just tell you than that means it's not something she's going to run in her newspaper. "The invitation was a complete bust, I honestly don't even want to think about how boring that was. The short version is that the guy the Chards found to deliver that letter was as legit as anyone could be, and he tried to the very end. As in he still delivered the letter, even though Matthias had already heard about it and even accepted the offer and everything. The other matter, well, not much to really say about it. Just a group of surprisingly clever idiots that bought into the rumors about Matthias and thought they were doing the right thing. The ones about him being a werewolf, specifically, which is why I have to admit that I can't help but be curious about what you're doing. Why are you pouring over lycanthropy stuff like it's the latest fashion? Is there something about Matthias that I missed? Something about this supposed destiny, perhaps?"

You hate to disappoint Rikildis...for once...but, in any case, you must sadly disappoint Rikildis. You briefly mention the flyer and start to explain what you're planning, but Rikildis cuts you off midway. "Slow down, [PC FIRST NAME], one step at a time. First off, what flyer are you talking about?"

"You don't know? Didn't you hear about it? They were mostly being given to Academagia students, as far as I could tell."

Rikildis shrugs. "Apparently not. You might not know this, [PC FIRST NAME], but flyers like that are commonplace in Mineta. Unless something actually happens because of one than it isn't worth noticing. They disappear as quickly as they show up, usually."

"Well, a con artist was handing out a bunch of anti-shapeshifter flyers lately. Managed to tick a good number of people off needless to say, he even managed to get Iustus to physically assault him. Didn't you hear? He got send to detention for starting a fight right in Mineta." Rikildis' expression doesn't change, but she nevertheless quirks an eyebrow at that. You've got her attention, which is good. "Professor Piaxenza asked me to track the origin of the flyer down, but I only got as far as that con artist. Apparently he's got some kind of really bad connections that the regent didn't want me to mess with, though nor did I to be fair, so instead I decided to publish my own flyer. To get some favor with the professor, I mean." Rikildis slowly nods, though she seems sceptical.

"Sources, please? How do you know that this guy's a con artist, for starters?"

"Aside from the fact that the rat managed to pull a fast one on me like he wasn't trying, embarrassing as that is to admit? The guys who published the flyer told me. Apparently that guy's from Undergate and has a reputation there. They managed to guess his name literally just like that. Well, the name he gave me at any rate."

Again Rikildis nods. She looks intrigued, but not convinced. "That sounds like it could be interesting, but do you really have nothing to go on but a few guys' word? No offence, but I wouldn't trust you to not get conned a second time, and compared to the Matthias situation it sounds pretty weak. Destiny and fate grabs people's attention, even if it turns out to be nothing in the end. And you'll never convince me that there isn't more to that story anyway. I only came here to check whether what you were doing wasn't related to that, but since it apparently isn't I'll take my leave. Unless you can convince me to drop my story and pick up yours, that is."

That Rikildis is even giving you the opportunity suggests that she doesn't really want to run her article, for whatever reason. Press that point, or convince her some other way, and you're golden. What angle should you go with, though? What would best convince her?

-Blackmail. Remind Rikildis that Catherine Chard will get on her case.
--You open your mouth prepared to say something, but you suddenly grind to a halt before any words come out. It confuses Rikildis, but the gears in your head started to spin a second too late. Matthias was introduced to someone at the Chards' estate, an older Avila student that Catherine didn't want to mention by name (despite Grainne's curiosity). It's sounds all but impossible for this girl to know less about Matthias' situation than Catherine, who's never even studied Astrology. Rikildis undoubtedly figured that out long ago. So in turn she has undoubtedly tracked her down and tried to get answers from her. But an older Astrology student can lead Rikildis astray more easily (and severely) than Catherine, who really isn't any more subtle than Philippe in that regard. More social, sure, but no more subtle. "The older Avila student that Matthias was introduced to at the Chards' estate is giving you a hard time, isn't she?" you ask Rikildis right to her face. She shivers just at the question.

"G-good guess," Rikildis answers, though you can tell it's not just a guess. You're right. What's more, Rikildis was lying to you.

"You know, I seem to recall you having made enemies of the entire shapeshifting population the Academagia has to offer before, last year. Are you sure you don't know anything about this flyer business? Because that seems like something that someone would bring up, maybe to keep you off her trail. Directly or indirectly."

Rikildis can't help but twitch when you say that. You've got her, and she knows it too. "Fine," she says with as much dignity as she can muster. "Don't ask me why or how that witch did it, I'm sure she's responsible for it, but not too long after Iustus' brood, or whatever they want to call themselves, caught wind of that flyer they started to knock my doors down. I figured that flyer would just fade from memory in a week or two, as those things usually do, but for some reason people thought it was my fault. And problem, for that matter."

"Are you sure that older student is behind that? Eh...?"

"Rebecca De Simone," Rikildis fills in for you. "And no, of course I don't have any hard evidence - how could I? I don't study Astrology either and as far as I know it doesn't even work that way anyway - but the timing is just too convenient." You admit that the timing is pretty convenient, but you're not sure if that is enough to point fingers. Rikildis seems convinced that it is, though. "It's not just last year, either. The degree to which people get on my case for investigating Matthias is just obnoxious. You remember the rumors going around about him being a werewolf, right?" You nod, already dreading where this is going. "People are reading way too much into that. Worse, I tried to finally disprove that rumor since I thought it would convince people to leave me alone, but all it did was convince the especially dull among them that I'm trying to 'deny Matthias' true heritage'. Can people not recognize far-fetched rumors anymore?"

"Regardless, it sounds like you giving me a hand with this flyer situation seems like your ticket out of this mess." Rikildis reluctantly agrees with that. Even if it doesn't appease Rebecca herself it'll at least cut her leverage.

"Yeah, you're right," Rikildis says with a sigh. "It's just so frustrating. This flyer situation isn't my problem and it sure isn't my fault, so why do I have to get punished for it?"

"Rikildis, I am nowhere near awake enough to debate philosophical questions right now. Let's just go to your editorial room and get this article hammered out. And me a cup of cappuccino, if you've got any."

Rikildis nods, though you don't entirely trust her thin smile. You probably can, but it nevertheless looks a little...ominous...

--Rikildis actually seems...disappointed? You're not sure, but point is she doesn't seems too impressed with your argument. "Catherine has been on my case this entire time, and if there was anything she could do to stop me she'd have done so already."

"Does the rest of her family not object to what you're doing?" you ask. Rikildis shrugs.

"Not that I've heard. Either they're confident that I won't be able to find anything or they're confident there's nothing too find. Not to demean myself, but I am only an Academagia student. I'm sure the Chards are used to dealing with worse types than me."

Rikildis isn't wrong there. Curses, you do need Rikildis to give you a hand with this flyer mess...maybe you should ask Catherine about it? Get her to put some pressure on Rikildis? Eh...that sounds like a terrible idea in hindsight. Let's not do that.

You'll think of a way to convince Rikildis, and hopefully soon. Time's ticking on her deadline, and yours as well...

-Beguile. Sell your own story.
--You're able to make a reasonable spectacle out of the journey creating this flyer has been so far, which you figured would interest Rikildis, but she only seems to get more and more annoyed. Not with you, mind, but like something is bothering her. You decide to ask her about it.

"Oh, n-nothing, it's nothing. Just...Matthias has-his story, I mean, heit's has been keeping me busy."

You stare blankly at Rikildis for a few seconds to give her the opportunity to say it first. Since she doesn't you decide to do it for her. "That is the worst lie I've heard in I don't know how long and you're usually much better at it, Rikildis. What's going on? Really going on?"

Rikildis looks around, notices that the Common Room is all but abandoned (aside from the two of you, of course), and lets out a sigh. "What's going on is that Iustus' brood, or whatever they want to call themselves, won't leave me alone. I heard about the flyer before, wrote it off as something that would fade from memory in a week or two as these things usually do and spend the next I don't know how long getting harassed and bullied by half-animals that can't find anyone better to try and vent their frustrations out on. I tried to make it clear that someone spreading their opinion, no matter how poorly dressed up, is neither my fault or my problem, but they refuse to believe it."

...Okay, that actually sounds kinda bad. "What have they been doing, exactly?"

Rikildis shrugs. "Nothing yet, really, but I keep getting glared at walking through hallways or have people give me the cold shoulder, and it's always the ones that look like they're on edge. I figured I'd just mind my own business and wait for it to blow over, like these things usually do, but that whole divination business...you remember the rumors flying around about Matthias, right? That he's a werewolf, I mean?" You nod. "I figured trying to disprove that rumor would get people off my back, but all it's gotten me is accusations that I'm try to 'deny his true heritage' or whatever. It's...it's tiresome. How stupid those half-animals are being, mind, not just how they're unfairly treating me like a villain."

You know a few people who'd put it somewhat differently than that, but if that's what Rikildis wants to call it, that's her choice. Good thing she checked that no one was listening first though. "So you're here because you want to help me publish this flyer of mine? To get people off your back?"

"Yeah, you're right," Rikildis answers with a sigh. "It's just so frustrating, though. I mean my deadline is coming up and the Matthias situation I'm not done investigating yet, so it's not like I've got a better idea, but still. This isn't my problem and it sure isn't my fault, so why do I have to get punished for it?"

"Rikildis, I am nowhere near awake enough to debate philosophical questions right now. Let's just go to your editorial room and get this article hammered out. And me a cup of cappuccino, if you've got any."

Rikildis nods, though you don't entirely trust her thin smile. You probably can, but it nevertheless looks a little...ominous...

--You figured that selling the at times less than straightforward and successful time you've had so far, trying to get this flyer idea to work, would be enough to pique Rikildis' interest. It didn't.

"So...you did a bunch of random stuff? That's basically the long and short of it?" Rikildis asks.

"I'd prefer to put it differently, but that's...one way to look at it, I suppose."

Rikildis lets out a sigh. "Well, you tried. Do inform me if something interesting happens, but until then, I'll take my leave."

You're sure that Rikildis is hiding something, but what? Or is she trying to trick you? Does she not believe you, and-argh, this is why Rikildis is so frustrating to deal with sometimes! For someone who drags everything and the kitchen sink out of everyone she's a wand short of a wizard when it comes to admitting her own faults and misadventures.

Regardless, you're sure there's a point you can press here. You just have to figure out which before Rikildis' deadline comes up...

-Gossip. Bring up the anti-shapeshifting articles Rikildis published last year.
--Rikildis' eye twitches when you bring that matter up. "You're lying to me, aren't you?" you ask, staring Rikildis right in the eyes.

She can't meet your gaze. She was lying. "Fine," she quietly admits as she looks around at who else might be listening. Thankfully the common room is all but abandoned right now, save for the two of you. "I knew about that flyer already. I don't know if you noticed but Iustus' breed, or whatever they want to call themselves, have been majorly on edge since the whole thing started. I figured that it'd just fall through in a week or two, as these things usually do, not to mention that it's not my problem and all, so I've just been focussing on the Matthias story. But..."

"But Matthias has those rumors flying around about him being a werewolf, and so they assumed there was some kind of connection between that and the flyer situation?"

Rikildis nods. "Those half animals are impatiently waiting for an opportunity to take their frustration out on someone, and in absence of a cowardly scholar to rip to shreds I'm their next best target." You ask if it's because of the articles from last year, and Rikildis slowly nods. "That, and also because I was supposedly working to 'deny' Matthias' heritage or whatever. It's true that I tried to disprove that rumor about Matthias, I thought it'd convince them to leave me alone, but..."

"They're refusing to believe that that rumor is just that: A rumor," you finish for Rikildis. She slowly nods. As much as a brave face as Rikildis puts on she does look tired. Not as much as you do right now, mind, but still. "Well, regardless of whether the scorn is justified or not, it sounds to me like running this flyer is your ticket out of it." Rikildis nods, though she doesn't look happy about it. You know she'd rather take revenge than take a diplomatic way out, but further antagonizing a group that's already on edge and on her case is a way to make that situation worse, not better. And Rikildis knows it.

"Yeah, you're right," Rikildis answers with a sigh. "It's just so frustrating. This isn't my problem and it sure isn't my fault, so why do I have to get punished for it?"

"Rikildis, I am nowhere near awake enough to debate philosophical questions right now. Let's just go to your editorial room and get this article hammered out. And me a cup of cappuccino, if you've got any."

Rikildis nods, though you don't entirely trust her thin smile. You probably can, but it nevertheless looks a little...ominous...

--You spend a while gossiping with Rikildis and reminiscing about old times (insofar that "last year" qualifies as such), but despite the obvious chance at redemption...or the illusion thereof...you're putting in front of her she just refuses to take it. You know she's smart enough to see it, she just refuses to take it.

Why does Rikildis have to be so difficult, sometimes? Well, whatever. So long as you don't run afoul of her deadline you'll have your chance to convince her, Rikildis will never get tired of rumors, it's just a matter of time...

-Empathy. What's Rikildis really thinking?
--Something beyond what she's saying, that's for sure. She wants you to convince her to run your story, but she's refusing to admit it. Why, though? Does she need you to convince her, for whatever reason? Again, why? Aside from some misguided pride you have no idea why that would be the case...no, actually, wait. You can think of one reason. Thinking back to how often Lucas got harassed by various people (not unreasonably) you remember that Rikildis actually pulled a similar stunt sometime last year, where she published a similar series of articles. That must be why. She's being harassed as well and wants to put an end to it, but at the same time she refuses to admit any possibly fault on her end and so she fails to get anywhere herself. Unless you convince her to bail herself out.

Gods, this girl. Well, maybe you can give her a hand in that regard. For your benefit if nothing else...

--There is something more to what she's saying, but does she genuinely want something form you or is she just trying to bait you into something? It's impossible to tell. Rikildis is a little too good at her craft, sometimes.

The further I get into this adventure chain the more details start popping up that I didn't even know about beforehand. It's interesting to see, but boy does it make things complicated sometimes.

Better by Half, stage 11:

Spoiler

With you wearily following behind her Rikildis stomps into her editorial office. Grainne and Sigalis are both here, working on a few other articles. "Oh, why hello there, [PC FIRST NAME]," Grainne immediately starts as soon as she lands her eyes on you. "More to say about the Matthias story, perhaps?"

"I'm afraid not," Rikildis answers for you. "This is about the flyer. Eh, that anti-shapeshifting thing that made the rounds in Mineta recently." Both Grainne and Sigalis look surprised at that, the latter more so than the former. "Did I never mention that at all? Well, no matter I suppose, it's going to be resolved one way or another with our next edition. Grainne, please fetch [PC FIRST NAME] some cappuccino, [s/he]'s going to need it." Grainne nods and stands up, meanwhile Rikildis continues. "After that we're got a lot of information to go over. Sigalis-"

"I'll interview [PC FIRST NAME]," Sigalis suddenly announces. Rikildis briefly looks questioningly at her, but after that she shrugs and tells Sigalis to "have fun". Why does that sound just ever so slightly ominous to you...?

Sigalis, for her part, rapidly tears a chair out from under a table and orders you to sit down. It, eh, does not put you at ease at all. Needless to say. "Tell me everything," Sigalis says with a murderous glare after you sit down. "Everything you know about this flyer, everything about all the people you know are involved in it, everything. Even if it's just rumors you've heard, I want to know."

Yeah, Sigalis isn't known for her restraint. As for telling her "everything", well, "everything" is a big word. But than again...

-You've got no reason to hide anything.
--You really don't, do you? You don't owe those publishers of the flyer anything, though they were at least polite. Eh, polite-ish, they did publish a clearly...fraudulent? Fake, hollow? An anti-shapeshifter flyer that was all flair and no substance, whatever you wish to call it. And even they admitted as much. All because someone paid them to do so, at that. And that con artist you definitely don't owe anything in any case. So...no reason to hold anything to your chest.

Having concluded that you walk Sigalis through the entire ordeal you got yourself into, starting with you running into Iustus in Mineta and ending with Professor Piaxenza telling you to look no further into the matter because he got spooked by the news that the con artist apparently has "really bad connections". Which, to be fair, you didn't feel like doing either. Not just for some favor with a professor that you quite clearly weren't even going to get, at any rate.

Sigalis, who listens intently to your entire story, agrees that you made the right decision to drop your investigation when you did. And coming from her that feels like real vindication. Not that many people questioned your decision beforehand, in fact no one did, but hearing it from Sigalis nevertheless gives you a measure of confidence that you didn't have before. That, on top of recalling this entire mess reminds you that you really got tossed around more than you'd like, both by yourself and others. But now you feel like you did the right thing. The guy behind the flyers might not have gotten caught, but with Rikildis picking up your story you're sure to outdo him at his own game. If that's not a victory, than what is?

Now it's just a matter of waiting for the newspaper to be published, and seeing the results of that.

Quick filler stage to tie up a loose end or two.

Better by Half, stage 12:

Spoiler

It's lunchtime, and so far it's been one of the busiest lunchtimes you've had at this school. Your "flyer", or as people call it your "joint awareness project" with Rikildis (even though you know you didn't agree to call it that, and you doubt Rikildis did either) hit the presses early this morning and it's spread like wildfire among the students and faculty. Those who felt personally attacked by the flyer responded pretty much as you expected them to, but what you didn't expect was the reaction you got from the rest of the Academagia. Many of the students and faculty feel dejected to insulted by the impact that the "cheap and empty" flyer managed to make, and instead point at your article as an example of how those kind of things should try to make an impact. Not that they necessarily agree with all of it's content, mind, they're arguing that fancy letters and eye-catching designs shouldn't be used to substitute proper research and literary references. The article also spread through Mineta, thanks to a lot of 'hybrid' students trying to spread the message, and word from the city is that people generally dismiss it as just another flyer. Like the other dozen-odd that have sprung up and fallen off the face of Elumia since the anti-shapeshifting flyer did, none of which made any sort of lasing impact. Certainly not to a degree where you so much as heard about any of them. Honestly, you don't feel like anyone will remember your whole situation a week or two from now either. But for right now it feels good to know that all the effort you put it was appreciated.

"Good afternoon, [PC FIRST NAME]," a cheerful Rikildis says as she quickly takes a seat next to you. A regularly cheerful Rikildis, at that, not the kind of cheerful where people are left to wonder who's reputation is about to be thoroughly ruined. "Our article hit the presses this morning. I take it you've noticed?" You nod. It'd be really hard for you not to have noticed, that's for sure. "I've also had a great day so far, thanks to that article. Some of the students who looked at me with accusatory glares and just generally gave me the cold shoulder actually came up to me and apologized for 'misjudging me'. Can you believe that? Most of them still remember the debacle from last year, I doubt any of them would call me their friend, but at least they're no longer looking at me like the next best target to take their frustrations out on. Which means I'm clear to go back to investigating Matthias again! As much as Catherine won't appreciate that."

Gods, this girl. There really is no stopping her sometimes. "You really can't let that go, can you?"

Rikildis shakes her head. "I never let go if there's a story to be told, and I'm not done picking apart this divination business yet." With a thin smile she adds, "I already got something worth reporting on in fact, but you'll have to wait to hear about that until later, I'm afraid." Interesting...is what you might have said last year. This time you're not falling for the tease. You're wise to Rikildis' tricks...

"[PC FIRST NAME]?" a rough voice suddenly asks. Not for the first time today, and not for the last time either you suspect. You look up and see the voice belongs to a rough-looking older student, frustration evident on his face and something like a mad glint in his eyes. Standing behind him on either side are what you presume are his two friends, and they have similar features as the guy taking point. Not that they look related, but that they also look generally frustrated and irritable. All three are wearing Hedi uniforms, third years if you had to guess. "You are [PC FIRST NAME], right? The one who wrote the shapeshifter article from today's school newspaper?" You nod and introduce yourself, redundant as it feels when the guy called you by your name already. Rikildis also briefly introduces herself, though the guy doesn't seem as interested in her. "Right, eh," the big guy awkwardly says as he looks for the right words. "I-I just wanted to say that...y-you did a good job. I know you don't...oh, never mind. Eh, sorry for interrupting." With (most of?) his piece said the awkward boy wordlessly turns around and shuffles off, friends silently following behind him.

"Friend of yours?" Rikildis asks. You shake your head.

"Another 'hybrid' student, no doubt. A few of them have approached me to express their thanks today."

Rikildis slowly nods, but she's clearly thinking about something as she stares at the student's back. "Huh. That guy is a lycanthrope? Do you know who he is?" You shake your head and remind Rikildis that you just said as much. Though, curious, you ask Rikildis if she knows him. "Sort of. He and his two friends got transferred to Hedi this year and no one knows what the story is. Lambert has been going nuts trying to figure it out, but honestly I'm not sure why. The guy's just a troublemaker with a big mouth. I cornered him early during the year, 'asked' him to spill the beans and let me tell you, that guy is not a writer. I don't really remember what he said but it was the stuff legendarily bad rumors are made of." Huh. Not the impression you got from the guy just now, but you suppose that's why they say not to judge a book on it's cover. "In any case, do you have plans right now? I wanted to go around and make sure that me not being people's default target is really a thing, but I don't feel like me walking about by myself would give off quite the right impression for that. Both of us, though, that'll go over much better."

-"I was going to study for exams, actually..."
--Rikildis shudders a little. "Ergh...midterms, right. Those are due to start next month, aren't they?"

"As early as the first of Cheimare, yes. You haven't forgotten to study, have you?"

Rikildis shakes her head, though the rest of her body tenses a bit. "N-no, but...I may have skipped a study session or two looking into-you know what, I should really head to the Venalicium right now. Can't be a target anyway if no one can find me, right?"

That's one way to look at it, you suppose. In any event as much as you'd love to bask in the glory of your article you really ought to head to the Venalicium and get some studying done yourself. And hey, even if you didn't, where else are you going to find a dense concentration of Academagia students right now anyway?

No matter the situation, or the outcome, at the end of the day the only thing that all Academagia students shall do...is study.

-"I'm free, sure."
--You and Rikildis spend a while randomly touring the Academagia, which admittedly would probably mean more if both of you didn't already know practically every corner of it, but it's a fun experience all the same. Rikildis wasn't wrong, either, people do seem more willing to approach and give her credit with you around. Consequence of making a bad first impression, you guess. The two of you even encounter a few professors that have a few encouraging words to share...and some pointed warning about the upcoming mid-terms. Which...yeah, those are a thing. You're fine, though. Probably.

The most interesting (which is to say, only really memorable) encounter comes from Professor Piaxenza, who informs you that Iustus' detention has been rescinded and officially erased from his record. According to him several members of the faculty suspect foul plan on the part of Lucas, the con artist that was spreading the anti-shapeshifter flyers, and that combined with Iustus' otherwise clean history where violent outbursts are concerned means he was given the benefit of the doubt. Though it's all good news for Iustus it does make you wonder: Why would Lucas even do such a thing in the first place? Probably because someone paid him to do it, part of his job spreading the flyers you imagine, but...why? What does anyone stand to gain from that?

You suppose you won't find out, since with exams looming over the horizon you've got more important things to focus on than a potentially problematic con artist who, from the sound of it, already has several members of the faculty on his case. Not to mention that Rikildis will tear the guy's name to shreds if she ever gets a handle on that story, and she will whether the faculty wants her to or not.

Just a matter of time. And until that time...mid-terms...

I'd like to say "bonus point for people who can start to piece the story together", but honestly, that would imply it's some manner of challenge. Subtlety, particularly when all I have to work with are students who don't spontaneously develop bouts of amnesia, is not my strong suit.

EDIT: I would also just like to mention that spoiler blocks are busted beyond belief. It's now utterly impossible to fix broken spoiler blocks after posting, because they will completely cease to function and cause the browser to hang and shoot out in random directions if one tries to manipulate them. In addition it seems that trying to post a sequence of separate spoiler blocks will just result in it merging itself into an abomination because why not.

A+ programming. Would prefer to never have to deal with this kind of incompetence again.

Edited by Metis

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Looking for Something to Find, stage 0:

Blue sky, no clouds in sight, sun high and bright, nice cold breeze brushing past your face as you step outside...yep, today's the day.

The atmosphere in the Academagia has been all but taken over by mid-terms. Students and faculty alike are stressed out, despairing over grades, hopeful that their next test will be a good one, excited yet anxiously waiting for it while everyone tries their best to remain calm despite it all...it's a chaotic mess. As for you? Well, truth be told you're no different in that regard. It's a long way until finals drop in Kaliri, which are the tests that'll really matter, but this early taste of what's to come nevertheless has you on edge. So, seeing as how the weather has taken a turn for the absolute best you've decided that today is the perfect day to go out and get some exercise. You've been stuck inside for too much lately, and you need to get your mind off of things for a bit.

What exactly should you go do, though? Run around the Athletics field? Perhaps a bit of Rimbal practice? Maybe a few wrestling matches instead, assuming that there's a reasonably equal opponent for you to spar with? Swimming laps in the pool? Perhaps a combination of jogging to Lake Ardica, than swimming a few laps and jogging back? Ah, but there's so many other things you could do further out from the Academagia as well - hiking up and down a mountain is but one of many options! With your magic and enough space your creativity is the only limit.

Or it would be if you felt like being creative right now. You feel slow, heavy, yet at the same time you're not tired. You feel like you need to go do something and snap out of it. Trying to think right now would just hurt your brain, and you don't feel like leaving the Grounds is necessary to get some running done, so...that sounds like a trip to the Athletics Field.

-To the Field!
--There's nothing special or interesting about running laps, but you're not in an interesting or special mood right now. Exams have made sure of that, so...here you are. It's not like it really matters, anyway. Once you feel like your chest is on fire you'll forget all about these philosophical quandaries...queries? Questionnaires? There's a fancy word for it, but for the life of you you can't recall what it is. Point is that no doubt you'll forget all about them soon enough.

The Athletics Field is as it usually is, although there's a bit more activity going on than usual. Seems like a number of students had the same idea that you did, and that's fine. There's plenty of space. Two teams of students made up of a mish-mash of years and Colleges are playing a Rimbal game, various people are either casually jogging or racing (against others or themselves), a few other students are just sitting around, talking and eating while enjoying the fresh air, and...uh...and over at the swimming pool people are finding new ways to cause you to stop dead in your tracks and question your perception of reality as you know it. Again. One student in particular, to the visible interest of absolutely no one, is racing from one end of the pool to the other faster than you've seen some fish swim. Magic, clearly, but not the kind you often see. Curious, you decide to walk over and take a closer look.

True to your earlier observation there's only one student using the pool currently, either a first or second year, which means probably a first year given that you don't recognize her(?). It's difficult to tell anything else while she's moving around so quickly, but you do catch the fact that her body doesn't look entirely human. Flat feet with only hints of where toes would be, fins sprouting from her arms, webbing between her fingers...who and what is this girl? This seems really advanced for a first year if it's the work of Revision magic, so...

For the record this adventure is one that was on the cutting board for a while before this whole adventure chain idea started, and it's been re-fitted to, hopefully, fit in as part of the chain. Whether that succeeded, who knows, but if you see an abnormal amount of weirdness you'll know what to blame. Of course I'd prefer if you didn't blame me being a lazy editor, but...:rolleyes:

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Looking for Something to Find, stage 1:

"Hey, you wanna use the pool too?"

Suddenly snapped out of your thoughts you look up and come face to face with the girl in question. She's staring at you with a superior grin and even shifts around a bit to give you a better look at her weird fin-arm and webbed fingers, as if she's challenging you to figure her out. You basically take her up on her silent offer and use the opportunity to confirm your earlier observations, but the silence between the two of you quickly makes you feel awkward. And like you're being rude. You are still curious, though. "Ah, n-no, not right now," you answer a bit meekly, not having given the girl's earlier question too much thought.

She rolls her eyes in response and quickly looks you over with a knowing, familiar grin. "Let me guess, you're curious why I look like this?" the girl asks, pointedly casting a glance at her fins and webbed fingers. You see no reason to lie about it, so you nod. The girl in turn nods as well. "I figured," she says with a smile that's somewhere between smug and superior. "Though surely a...second year? Student like yourself has learned enough to answer that question without my help, right? You are a second year, aren't you?" You confirm that you are indeed a second year and scratch your head again trying to think of an answer to her first question. The girl's gleeful expression at your confusion aside she makes a good point: You are a second year. Surely you've learned enough by now to figure out this mystery on your own?

[Player knows Deep Diver]-"Let me guess, you cast Deep Diver?"
--The girl looks perplexed. "You actually know that spell? I mean, good guess. I've met senior students who've never heard of it, though."

"Spells like Deep diver are a bit...niche," you observe as politely as you can.

"All the more impressive that you know and recognize it. I mean seriously I've had professors ask me why I look like this, and I had to send them to the Venalicium to look up the answer. And here you are just guessing it."

"I'll bet that must have felt good. Sending professors to the Venalicium, I mean."

The girl actually shrugs. "Y-yeah, a little, but honestly it felt more concerning than anything. You'd expect the professors to at least know all the things a first year does, right?"

"To a point, I suppose. Deep Diver is technically second-year material, though. Pretty impressive that you've learned to cast it this early in the year, actually. Did you study Revision before coming to the Academagia?"

The girl shakes her head. "Never touched a wand before coming here, no, and don't think it didn't take me three libraries, two favors with Professor Pachait and a few weeks of study to learn how to cast it. I still can't cast it consistently yet, either. This took me the better part of my morning to manage, and-"

Whatever the girl was about to say next gets interrupted by the sound of a familiar voice hollering over the background noise. You can't make out what it says, but you do spot the girl briefly looking disappointed as she looks over at who's walking up to the both of you. Vettor Conta, if you're not mistaken.

-Theory of Revision. Determine whether magic is in play here.
--You had your doubts at first, but upon closer inspection you conclude that this is undeniably the work of Revision magic that you're looking at. The way the girl's fins are ever so slightly asynchronous, how toes are still visible on her otherwise flat feet, the webbing between her fingers that looks stretched and unnatural...magic, clearly. But it just looks too advanced for a first year. Maybe this girl has a older sibling attending the Academagia? It sounds reasonable enough.

"So, have you figured it out?" the girl asks as you nod to yourself.

"Clearly a Revision spell you're under," you confidently answer. The girl nods, confirming that you got it right. "But, and I mean no offence, this spell you're under seems too advanced for you to have cast yourself. Do you have like an older brother or sister attending the Academagia as well?"

"I can tell you that I've got no relatives at the Academagia," the girl confidently answers. "I cast this spell myself...do you think you can you figure out how?"

Cast this spell herself? Unlikely...though you suppose that you weren't considering the possibility of this girl already having learned a specialised spell in order to achieve this effect, rather than achieving this result with a general one. That would make it easier to cast, perhaps even easy enough that a first year could manage to cast it with enough practice...you want to say that such a specialised spell would be hard to find and hard to learn, but this is the Academagia you're at. If this girl is going to learn such a spell anywhere it would be here, so it makes sense. Unless this girl is lying or trying to trick you you're going to say that's the answer. "You learned a spell specifically designed to change your body into this...more fish-like state, right?"

The girl actually looks impressed. "Right again, though I'd prefer if you didn't refer to it as 'fish-like'. 'Aquatic' has a better ring to it." Fair enough, you suppose. You ask what spell, exactly, the girl learned in order to change her form like this, but whatever answer she tries to give is quickly drowned out by the sound of a familiar voice hollering over the background noise. You don't make it out, but you do spot the girl briefly looking disappointed as she looks over at who's walking up to the both of you. Vettor Conta, if you're not mistaken.

--It takes you a minute to figure out, but...you've got no idea if this girl is under a Revision or not. Not for sure, at least. She looks like she is, but at the same time there's something about that idea that sounds "off" and you can't put your finger on why. You don't want to just guess, either. In part because, as you learned from the flyer debacle last month, one should not assume that just because someone shifts into an odd shape that they're definitely not human - some would even take offence to such a claim. Also in part because come on, you're a full year ahead of this girl! Surely you're not about to get stumped by a first year, are you?

"So, have you figured it our yet?" the girl asks, sounding slightly impatient.

You don't want to guess, as you said, so this seems like the time to call for a "tactical retreat" as the military strategist put it. "Not yet," you say. The girl rolls her eyes on response.

"Would you like a hint?" she asks, but you shake your head.

"No, I can figure this out. Just have to run some laps and give it some thought, mid-terms have really sapped my will to live lately."

The girl actually gives you an understanding nod. You'll admit, you weren't expecting that. "Same here, there's a reason I'm choosing to spend my day swimming when it's, you know, Cheimare and all." As if that's a strong statement to make when you're in the Academagia's magically heated pool, but sure. Makes you wonder what this girl did before she joined the Academagia, though. "If you figure it out just look for me here, chances are I'll be swimming laps until mid-terms are over pretty much. And until then, good luck."

Wasn't expecting her to be so...supportive, of a second year that got stumped by a first year, but hey, happy mistake. As for you, you're making good on your promise and go off to run a few laps. Hopefully it'll get your mind off of things and allow you to think clearly again...

-Fish. Consider what this girl could be, if not under a Revision.
--Silently thankful for all of the hybrid students you got a chance to interact with because of last month's flyer debacle you quickly rule out what this girl isn't, and from there quickly conclude that she must be under a Revision. Simply put, her aquatic features are not natural. They're things that you would see on the right kind of fish, but they are either not in the right place or the right size relative to the rest of her body...it's just a mess, really. It's pretty impressive spellcasting, for a first year, but it's still far from even looking like the real deal. Which is perfectly fair - this girl is only a first year.

"So, have you figured it out?" the girl asks as you nod to yourself.

"You used Revision on yourself, correct?"

The girl rolls her eyes. "Well, obviously," she says with a bit of a smug tone. "Can you guess what spell I used, though?" You shake your head and point out that there's a large number of Revision spells that could allow her to change her shape as she wished, not just specific spells for specific shapes. The girl looks disappointed that you seemingly can't answer her riddle, of sorts, but she does nod at your point. Unfortunately whatever she was about to say next gets interrupted by the sound of a familiar voice hollering over the background noise. You don't make it out, but you do spot the girl briefly looking disappointed as she looks over at who's walking up to the both of you. Vettor Conta, if you're not mistaken.

--It takes you a minute to figure out, but...you've got no idea if this girl is some kind of hybrid student or not, or just a girl with a Revision cast on her for that matter. Not for sure, at least. She doesn't look like she's a hybrid, you think, but at the same time that's usually not obvious, and...there's something about the idea of this being the work of Revision that sounds "off" and you can't put your finger on why. You're at a loss, and you don't want to just guess, either. In part because, as you learned from the flyer debacle last month, one should not assume that just because someone has odd shape that they're definitely not human - to do so would be, to say the least, most rude. Also in part because come on, you're a full year ahead of this girl! Surely you're not about to get stumped by a first year, are you?

"So, have you figured it our yet?" the girl asks, sounding slightly impatient.

You don't want to guess, as you said, so this seems like the time to call for a "tactical retreat" as the military strategist put it. "Not yet," you say. The girl rolls her eyes on response.

"Would you like a hint?" she asks, but you shake your head.

"No, I can figure this out. Just have to run some laps and give it some thought, mid-terms have really sapped my will to live lately."

The girl actually gives you an understanding nod. You'll admit, you weren't expecting that. "Same here, there's a reason I'm choosing to spend my day swimming when it's, you know, Cheimare and all." As if that's a strong statement to make when you're in the Academagia's magically heated pool, but sure. Makes you wonder what this girl did before she joined the Academagia, though. "If you figure it out just look for me here, chances are I'll be swimming laps until mid-terms are over pretty much. And until then, good luck."

Wasn't expecting her to be so...supportive, of a second year that got stumped by a first year, but hey, happy mistake. As for you, you're making good on your promise and go off to run a few laps. Hopefully it'll get your mind off of things and allow you to think clearly again...

Something I'd like to mention for reference: In the initial draft of the adventure this as-of-yet-unnamed girl was, at best, a named background character. Since then I've had to hammer out an attribute spread (4 INT, 3 FIT, 2 STR/FIN/INS, 1 CHA/LCK), a class load (Arithmetic, Athletics, Dialectic, Negation, Revision, Zoology - College Morvidus, obviously) and enough background to more than fill a theoretical Y1 student adventure. Absolutely none of this was planned until later stages. So if you see some patent-able weirdness early on compared to later, well, now you know why.

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Looking for Something to Find, stage 2:

"Oh, hey there [PC FIRST NAME]. You hanging out with 'Thema now?"

"Ana!" the girl, for what sounds like not the first time, corrects. "How many times have I told you that!?"

Vettor shrugs. "About as often as I've told you that it'd just get me confused with Ana Flavia Bessa."

Ana visibly contemplates whether or not to repeat that discussion, again, and with a sigh she decides not to. "Could you please try a little harder? Anyway, what's the score? Are you here to swim too or did you find me a job? Because if you did just give me a minute and I'll be good to go."

Vettor, distracted by your expression of utter confusion, ends up answering your unspoken question rather than Ana's spoken one. "'Thema here's my mentoree, or whatever that's called," Vettor explains. "She asked me to keep an ear out for local odd jobs that require a moderately skilled swimmer and diver, but take a guess as to how many of those there are."

"I told you to call me Ana...oh why am I even bothering." Ana frowns at Vettor, but he's not intimidated at all. "And just what do you mean by moderately skilled swimmer and diver, anyway? Did you see how quickly I can swim laps in this pool?"

Vettor shrugs, clearly not impressed. "I mean that there's a whole lot of difference between swimming in a pool and swimming straight up a waterfall. Of course give it a few years and you'll probably learn enough magic to actually accomplish the latter. Not yet, though."

You can see Ana imagining herself doing just that. "Okay, fair enough. But if you know those spells already you know I'm more than willing to learn them..." she says with a big smirk on her face.

"Swimming up waterfalls isn't my style, and I didn't come here to teach you any new tricks-or be taught any new tricks as the case ends up being more often than not. I'm here because Professor Badcrumble passed along a request from the Licentiate of Mineta to me. I'll give you a hint, it involves you."

Ana is so excited that she actually leaps halfway out of the pool. "Y-you found work!? Tell, tell!"

"Calm down, Ana. It's not all good news." It's interesting to note how much Vettor telling Ana just that does to get her attention. One second she looks ecstatic, the next she actually sits down (or whatever you'd call the leaning outside a pool equivalent thereof) and stares at Vettor with a cautious, serious expression, listening intently as he slowly explains. Strange. "Some rich noble lady visited the Drowned Palace of Usin recently, and she got attacked by something in the water and lost her wedding ring somewhere down in the drink." Vettor slowly starts to explain. "She can't swim, she doesn't know any spells to help her swim, or to find wherever her ring sank to beneath the water, and all of that stuff. So she's hired the Licentiate to get it back for her. But..."

"But whatever attacked her is still in that lake? Come to think of it, isn't there a monster in that lake? A...Gudafrsra, was it? How do you pronounce that mess of letters anyway?"

Vettor shrugs. "I'unno, but it doesn't really matter. Last I heard that thing got send packing sometime last school year, and as far as I know it hasn't come back either. Something attacked that noble lady, though, so who knows what's in that lake right now. Assuming it's still in there, of course. And that's the problem: Professor Badcrumble isn't willing to send you on that job unless someone can make sure the water is clear. But all I can really do well is spray water on people. That probably isn't going to scare a fish monster that lives in a lake, so..."

You count four seconds before Ana's wandering, looking-for-a-solution eyes land on you. Well...

-"I'm not much for monster hunting..."
--Ana frowns and starts looking around for her next victim immediately. Sadly there's no other people within immediate talking distance. "Maybe we ought to ask Gwendy for help," Vettor suggests. Though a moment later he adds that that's probably a bad idea - Gwendy isn't the biggest fan of Morvidus students, for obvious reasons, and Vettor doesn't necessarily want to see this monster stuffed and mounted on a wall anyway.

He can find whatever help he wants to, as far as you're concerned. Until you're feeling up to a round of monster hunting you're finally getting to what you came to the Athletics Field for in the first place - running laps!

-Ambush. "I'm sure we can set a trap to catch this thing."
--Ana seems more than willing to go along with that plan, insofar that you can call it a plan, and Vettor doesn't care to object more than Ana is willing and ready to go, so...motion passed, attempting to trap this monster it is.

Part of you feels like you should maybe prepare better than just heading off with a bag or two worth of random stuff and three sticks, but when said sticks can be used to conjure everything from fins to jets of fire out of thin air...yeah, you feel pretty prepared as is, honestly.

--Vettor does not look impressed with your suggestion, and despite Ana's clear eagerness to go to Ten Swans' Lake and dive in she also looks little sceptical. You try to sell them on the idea again...and fail.

"I'm thinking we should maybe leave this monster business to the Rangers," Vettor suggests, though it's clear that he's not a fan of that idea either. Ana even less so, for that matter. "We'll still be able to look for the ring afterwards, just...I don't know how we'd handle a monster."

Ana lets out a disappointed sigh and glares at you with a look of "do better next time". Well, you suppose that since she asked so nicely you can consider doing so. Or just forgetting about it. As interesting as it sounds you doubt anyone is going to pay you to help these two, so...

-Explore. "Maybe we can tame it this 'monster', if we can find it..."
--Ana looks confused at your suggestion, Vettor just laughs. Great support, glad you decided to go out of your way to help these two clowns. "I'm not suggesting we capture it and try to train it until it'll let us ride it like a horse, I'm saying that this 'monster' needn't necessarily stay aggressive even if we trespass into it's territory. Say if we manage to distract it with enough food, it might be willing to just let us do our thing for some time."

"I thought feeling wild animals was a bad idea," Ana points out. You nod and confirm that normally it is, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and given a bit of clever thinking the monster need never find out who left it a present anyway. Of course you suspect Professor Pachait might disagree with you on that, but Ana is eager enough to go to Ten Swans' Lake to agree with your idea regardless.

Vettor, for his part, shrugs and says that if you think you've got a brilliant plan he's willing to let you try it. "Though it if goes to hell and we have to run I'm nominating you to be the bait that allows 'Thema and me to run away," he jokingly adds.

...You think that's a joke, anyway...

--Vettor does not look impressed with your suggestion, and despite Ana's clear eagerness to go to Ten Swans' Lake and dive in she also looks little sceptical. You try to sell them on the idea again...and fail.

"I'm thinking we should maybe leave this monster business to the Rangers," Vettor suggests, though it's clear that he's not a fan of that idea either. Ana even less so, for that matter. "We'll still be able to look for the ring afterwards, just...I don't know how we'd handle a monster."

Ana lets out a disappointed sigh and glares at you with a look of "do better next time". Well, you suppose that since she asked so nicely you can consider doing so. Or just forgetting about it. As interesting as it sounds you doubt anyone is going to pay you to help these two, so...

-Patrol. "I can keep an eye out."
--"If you need someone to scout out the lake and keep an eye out, I can do that." Ana is so happy to hear that she raises her arms into the air...and proceeds to unceremoniously sink down into the pool because she was using those arms to hold on to the edge. Vettor, with a wide grin on his face, waits for Ana to surface again and gives her a thumbs-up.

"I meant to do that," Ana insists. You...actually can believe that. Ana didn't hit her chin against the edge of the pool (thankfully), and it kind of looked like fell backwards into the pool. Probably for that very reason, in fact. "Anyway go grab your bow and arrow or whatever you use to hunt down some monsters, I'm going to get dry and get changed."

Yeah, your bow and arrows. That's why you're attending the Academagia, to study archery...

--Vettor does not look impressed with your suggestion, and despite Ana's clear eagerness to go to Ten Swans' Lake and dive in she also looks little sceptical. You try to sell them on the idea again...and fail.

"I'm thinking we should maybe leave this monster business to the Rangers," Vettor suggests, though it's clear that he's not a fan of that idea either. Ana even less so, for that matter. "We'll still be able to look for the ring afterwards, just...I don't know how we'd handle a monster."

Ana lets out a disappointed sigh and glares at you with a look of "do better next time". Well, you suppose that since she asked so nicely you can consider doing so. Or just forgetting about it. As interesting as it sounds you doubt anyone is going to pay you to help these two, so...

-Zoology. What kind of monster are you most likely dealing with, here?
--"Did this noblewoman give any kind of description as to what attacked her? What kind of injuries did she sustain, exactly? Do you know, Vettor?"

Vettor shakes his head and says that the noblewoman wasn't hurt and all, and while she tried to give a description what little she saw wasn't helpful at all. "She got attacked from behind, and the monster fled back into the water before she could get a good look at it, apparently." Interesting information nevertheless. You ask Vettor if the woman had anything on her that would lure an animal to her, at least as far as she knows. Again Vettor shakes his head. "Nothing that she knows of, though it's hard to tell when we don't know what kind of creature we're dealing with."

"Sounds like this creature is territorial," Ana notes. "If that Gudafrsra - or whatever - got send packing recently than something else probably moved in afterwards. I don't know of any fish or amphibians that are so territorial that they'd attack things on the land outside their water, though. If this monster was protecting it's young, maybe, but even than..."

You also don't know of any fish or amphibians that fit that description, but certain reptiles that can definitely be that aggressive - crocodiles, for instance. But putting the oddity of one of those creatures suddenly springing up in Elumia Proper aside, could this noblewoman really have been ambushed by a territorial crocodile and not only escape completely uninjured, but never even realize what attacked her in the first place? That sounds really unlikely...

Strongly starting to suspect that this woman was on a date with her forbidden love or something and she just made up a lame excuse as to why her ring suddenly ended up in the drink. Though in that case why would her ring end up in the lake in the first place? The woman said she can't swim, or is that also a lie? You wouldn't think so, but than again this is such a strange case. You can't make any sense of it.

In any case, if the woman managed to escape uninjured than whatever monster you're dealing with must have more bark than bite. At least unless actively threatened. So it should be reasonably safe to approach the lake and get more information, if nothing else.

--Some kind of fish creature, probably? Ten Swans' Lake isn't in the Imperial Reserve, but that doesn't mean that some kind of crazy beast can't escape the Reserve and end up somewhere in the wild, so you've got no clue what you could possibly be dealing with. Not without something to narrow it down, anyway.

...Actually, could a fish escape the reserve and make it all the way to Ten Swans' Lake? Probably not, right? So you're probably dealing with an amphibian of some kind here. Still doesn't narrow it down enough, but it's a step in the right direction you suppose.

For those worried that this stage looks a little thin on words, don't worry. That trend will not continue...

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Looking for Something to Find, stage 3:

 

After giving Ana a minute to dry herself and grab her stuff (a process that takes about half as long as you think it should, but Ana says insists that she's fine) the three of you are heading out towards Ten Swans' Lake, also known as the Drowned Palace of Usin. It's an uneventful walk overall, minus one conversation sparked by one rather pointed question that Ana decides to ask a bit later than she perhaps should have.

"So, eh...[PC FIRST NAME], was it?" You nod, and look a bit curiously at Ana looking away like she's shy. "I never really introduced myself, did I?"

"No, but I've caught your name already, and the fact that you had fins when I met you is rather telling of your hobbies. Not to mention having Vettor as a mentor. Is there anything you wanted to add?"

"N-no, not really," Ana answers a bit awkwardly. "I just thought that you'd be curious about a few things. Like your friend's inability to remember a simple name."

You can't tell whether Ana was just taking a shot at Vettor there or if there's something she wants to say. Either way you are a bit curious, so you ask Vettor about it. "First time I showed 'Thema around the Academagia we got separated, and when I called out for her I got 'Ana' Flavia Bessa instead. Nothing bad happened right then and there, but I remembered all too well how her curse dropped all manner of things native to the ceiling right on top of people last year, so I got a bit spooked. She took offence, cast a spell behind my back, and I spend far too long looking for 'Thema after that." At this point you turn to look at Ana with a question evidently written on your face.

"I can't honestly say that I noticed her doing anything," she answers, turning her own head to stare up at the sky with a contemplative look. "All I remember is that after getting separated I stumbled my way to the Athletics Field, found the pool and Regent Massioti handing out uniforms to first year students who wanted to try out the 'Field before classes officially started the next day. I got a swimming uniform, got changed, dove into the pool and that's all she wrote."

"Up until I finally found her an hour and a half later," Vettor continues. "I searched the Great Hall, looked up and down Morvidus' dorms, checked the Venalicium, I even looked around Lake Ardica until I finally thought to check the Athletics Field. And I'll say, getting her out of the pool to continue the tour took more effort than finding her."

"Oh, sure, blame me for challenging me to a race," Ana playfully retorts. "I told you that you could just show some magic if you wanted to prove yourself, but no, it had to be a race."

"Ex-cuse me?" Vettor asks with an (awful) attempt at some sort of wealthy lout impersonation. "It was not my request that I prove myself to you, fair lady." Ana, after recovering from laughing, continues to go back and forth with Vettor like two old friends. You'll admit, it's good to see that Vettor has learned something about behaving himself. His track record for that, especially in front of girls...wasn't the best, as you recall.

Once even the slightest hint of the Drowned Palace comes into view Ana suddenly picks up speed and runs off towards it, ahead of you and Vettor. You consider whether you should shout at her not to jump into the water yet, but Vettor does just that before you even make up your mind, so...question answered, you suppose. Ana does respond with a promise that she won't, and Vettor doesn't seem concerned that she'll disobey. You'll admit that it gives you a mixed feeling of confusion and worry at first, but true to Vettor's confidence Ana doesn't jump into the lake before she's told to. That this comes in the form of Ana suddenly tuning around and running back to the two of you, however, is something that Vettor (or you) did not expect. "There's someone pacing around the edge of the lake," Ana says with fire in her eyes, though you're not sure where that fire comes from. "Are you sure that no one else took this job? You didn't tell anyone else about it, right?"

Is that what she cares so much about? Seems like it. In any case Vettor shakes his head and tells Ana to calm down, which she doesn't really do, but she does shift to walk behind Vettor and keeps her mouth shut. You're at a loss as to whether she's willing to let Vettor take point or whether she's only pouting. Regardless, Vettor suggests that the three of you talk to this mysterious individual, and you agree with that plan.

True to Ana's word there is a thin, brown-haired girl in a Hedi uniform pacing irritatedly along the edge of the lake. As you get closer, though, you realize that she's a second year student, and that you recognize her - Sigalis du Sonmeil! What's she doing here? Vettor likewise recognizes her and is as clueless as to what she's doing here, but sees no reason to change his plan of approaching her. Neither do you, really, so a bit more hesitantly than before you both casually walk up to her, Ana silently trailing behind Vettor. Sigalis turns to look annoyedly at both of you as you approach her. "Please find somewhere else to play in the water, Vettor. I hear Lake Ardica is really nice this time of year," she snarls out as soon as you're within earshot.

"Good afternoon to you too, Sigalis," Vettor says, neutrally. "So what are you doing all the way out here? You're not running odd jobs for the Licentiate, are you?"

Sigalis rolls her eyes, though a second later something clicks in her head and she glares, murderously, at Vettor. "Is that why you're here?" Sigalis slowly asks. "Did that witch hire you...three? To retrieve her ring?"

Ana tries to step forward and give Sigalis a piece of her mind, but Vettor (thankfully) stops her. "Indirectly, yes. What do you know about it? Is there a reason why we shouldn't?"

Sigalis slowly nods, though she refuses to say anything more. When Vettor asks why Sigalis stares at him questioningly, like she's trying to judge whether there's any point in telling him everything (or even just "anything"). Ana, meanwhile, is glaring at Sigalis from behind Vettor like she wants to grab Sigalis by the neck and hold her under until she stops struggling. It's a pretty tense situation, all told.

One that looks like you'll need to diffuse, too. How, though?

[PC FRIENDS WITH SIGALIS]-Ask your friend what's going on.
--"Can you two give us a few minutes?" you ask Vettor and Ana a bit out of nowhere. Vettor nods, he knows that Sigalis is your friend (insofar that anyone can be Sigalis' friend at least), Ana frowns at you a bit more disapprovingly than you think she should. If she intended for that look to rattle you, though, than let it be known that she failed miserably - you're used to so much worse. Sigalis, for her part, hesitantly nods and agrees to talk some distance from the other two. You tell vettor not to let Ana in the water until you come back, which obviously displeases Ana, but you don't let her bother you at all. Again, you're used to so much worse, and Vettor gives your suggestion a thumbs-up anyway.

"What's going on here, Sigalis?" you ask pretty directly as soon as Vettor and Ana are out of earshot. Sigalis hesitates for a second, and when you see her prepare herself to bring her usual array of comments rather than actual answers you immediately cut her off. "The truth, Sigalis. If you want to try your hand at batting away Vettor and Ana yourself, go ahead, but if you want me to help you than you're going to have to tell me what's going on. And correct me if I'm wrong, but whatever Vettor and Ana know about this noble lady or this ring or whatever isn't anywhere near the full story, is it? Not if you're here looking for it."

Sigalis stares at Vettor and Ana in the distance, using their wands to look for whatever monster attacked the noblewoman from the edge of the lake, slowly shifts her gaze towards you, and lets out a tired sigh. "Really, [PC FIRST NAME]? Do you really want to help me?" You confidently nod, and ask Sigalis again to tell you the truth. Sigalis lets out another sigh as she stares, almost wistfully, at Vettor and Ana in the distance. "Try as they might they're never going to find that 'monster'," she says, cryptically. Afterwards she turns to face you, silently daring you to prove yourself.

You don't need to wait long for the gears in your head to start spinning, either. You're familiar with Sigalis' ways of making veiled threats...or confessions. And you're pretty used to dealing with her by now. "You attacked that noblewoman yourself, didn't you?" you say. Not to accuse, but to ask a question. Sigalis flashes and untrustworthy smirk when you say that, and since you're the one talking to her she doesn't bother hiding it afterwards. She doesn't need to hide it, she knows it won't change you.

"So you're saying I jumped out of a lake to attack a noblewoman and steal her wedding ring, [PC FIRST NAME]? That's quite the accusation." Sigalis answers, though you can tell she's not just being coy. And what that means.

"Not personally, no. But you know enough Glamour to make Durlindan look like an intimidating, if toothless, 'monster', don't you?" you ask. Sigalis' grin doesn't shift...but she does nod. She than lets out a sigh as a weight seems to lift from her shoulders.

"Fine. You win this round, [PC FIRST NAME]," Sigalis quietly says. Though you're not sure what to really make of that victory, to be honest. So Sigalis ordered her Familiar to attack a noblewoman and steal her wedding ring...why? "You think I've gone crazy, don't you? Attacking a noblewoman like that out of the blue?"

"Just tell me what your reasons are, Sigalis. I don't care to guess when one of my friends needs help and you don't want me to either. Once I know what's going on I'll judge for myself whether you've gone insane or not...and what I can do to help."

Sigalis, with a thin smile on her face, slowly shakes her head. "Always more reckless than I am, saying stuff like that," she quietly tells herself. Though you could still hear her, of course. "That noblewoman is dirty. I need her wedding ring to prove it, it's the only thing she has that she keeps on her all the time. So it's the only thing that's going to be covered in residue." You ask Sigalis to elaborate, and she takes out her wand and taps the tip of it to your forehead. "Mastery," she answers with an odd expression. Not one that makes you worry, but...still. "Gates too, I suspect. She's got something Gates-y on her if not about her, but again, I need her ring to prove it."

"That is quite the accusation, Sigalis. Especially against nobility," you point out. Sigalis actually nods at that. "How and why did you end up getting on her trail? What did she do?"

"Do you recall Lucas?" Sigalis asks. It takes a second, but after a moment you remember - he's the con artist that was spreading the anti-shapeshifting flyers around last month. You nod and ask Sigalis what he has to do with anything. "Lucas, simply put, is that noblewoman's lackey. Very clever, very skilled, very dangerous if he thinks you're a threat. You weren't wrong, he's got connections, but he only does because of his 'master'. And thankfully he's not trained with magic, so...there's ways. That's how I got on the trail of that noblewoman. I was looking for the person behind the anti-shapeshifter flyers. And as far as I can find out, she's the one."

"Pray tell why you care so much. Those flyers were bad, but they were not that bad. And that whole situation pretty much changed course and flew off into the sunset after Rikildis' newspaper article anyway. Or are you telling me that you're...?"

You can't even finish that sentence. Worse, you're not sure how to interpret to smile on Sigalis' face as she tells you, "Favor for a friend, [PC FIRST NAME]. You should be no stranger to that, unless you're not the only person who's misjudged someone they should know better. And speaking of which, if you don't mind picking up your own reason again...I could really use your help with this."

...You can't be sure. Either which way you can't be sure what to make of what Sigalis just said. And honestly? You don't really care too much right now. Tackle that problem later, tackle the problem in front of you right now. "Right. Whatever your reasons are, I'll help. So you need the wedding ring, but are you sure that you can cast those detection spells yourself? If you've got evidence to throw suspicion on this noblewoman wouldn't it be better to give it to Professor Briardi? Or Professor Badcrumble, actually, since she's technically Ana's contact for this job? I'm sure you've heard that the faculty didn't like the anti-shapeshifting flyer either, enough suspicion was thrown on Lucas to have Iustus' name cleared over his fight with him, so if you've got something you can put on the table I'm sure someone will listen."

Sigalis starts to think your idea over, but she doesn't get very far before a light ignites in her head. "Wait, hold on a second, Professor Badcrumble is that first year's contact for this job? You're sure of that?" You nod and explain that that's what Vettor said earlier. You've no reason to believe he's lying, either. That gets the gears in Sigalis' head to start spinning. "I...I'm not sure, that can be good news or it can be bad news. Either way, though, I think this can work out. Get that ring and make sure to deliver it to Professor Badcrumble, she needs to check it out. Or have it checked out by Professor Briardi, whatever, I don't care. Someone needs to check it, that woman can't be allowed to get her hands on it first." You nod and ask Sigalis what you should tell Professor Badcrumble, since you're going to have to tell her something if you want to make sure that she (or another professor) will check the ring regardless. Sigalis nods and suggests that one of you three use Negation to check out the ring yourselves. "After all," she adds with a smug grin, "I doubt the noblewoman could give you an accurate description of what monster attacked her, so who knows what might or might not have happened to that ring, right? And if you just so happen to find some suspicious residue, well..."

It's as good a plan as any, so you nod. Sigalis nods as well and says that she'll be going back to the Academagia, since there isn't anything more that she can do here - she can't swim, none of her spells will allow her to reasonably look for it, her Familiar has tried already and is no less tired of it than Sigalis is, and Vettor and Ana would probably be more at ease if she weren't here breathing down their necks the entire time. You can't help but agree with her last point especially, so with one final grin Sigalis thanks you for your help and starts walking back to the Academagia. You run up to Vettor and Ana, who, unsurprisingly, have made absolutely no progress trying to find the "monster". "Oh, [PC FIST NAME]," Vettor says as you approach. Ana, for her part, continues to stare intently at the water, itching to jump in. "Long talk, huh? Good news, though, I hope?"

"Sort of," you answer a bit cryptically. "The good news is that, according to Sigalis, whatever monster attacked the noblewoman is no longer around. She's send her Familiar into the water already to check it out, and as far as he noticed, it's clear. The-"

As soon as you say that Ana starts to take off her Academagia uniform and pulls out her wand to start casting her usual array of Revision spells, eager to jump into the lake. Thankfully she stops when you tell her that you weren't finished yet.

"As I was trying to say, the bad news is that neither Sigalis - or that noblewoman, from what you've told me - knows exactly what kind of monster attacked her. So that ring she lost? We can't be sure that it's safe." Ana frowns, though you're not sure if that's more disbelief or impatience at you keeping her from starting her search. "I know, Ana, but keep in mind that we're not in the Academagia anymore. There's no telling what kind of thing might have come out of the Imperial Reserve and made it's way here, and what they're capable of. So-"

"I study Negation," Ana suddenly says, her (limited) patience apparently spend. "I'll check the ring for any funny stuff before I pick it up. Don't worry, I'm no stranger to casting spells underwater if that's what I have to do. If there's something weird about it I'll know before I pick it up. Alright?"

"If you know there's something weird about it than don't pick it up!" Vettor corrects. Ana's expression doesn't really change, but you think she got the message. She seems to listen to Vettor more than she does to you, at any rate. "'Thema, I don't see any reason not to send you into the lake, but don't pick up that ring unless you know it's safe, alright? I know you're eager to prove yourself, but being reckless and putting yourself at risk is not how you do that. Ask for help if you need it, alright? I know we're not exactly senior students," Vettor says as he motions to you and himself, "but we're still your seniors, and I'm your mentor. I don't want to see you get into the kind of weird trouble that I can't get you out of. Got that?"

This is a side of Vettor you don't think you've ever seen, honestly. Who knew that he'd be such a serious, (seemingly) effective mentor? Not that you're complaining, of course. In any case, Ana nods, promises that she won't do anything reckless, and resumes casting her usual spells before jumping straight into the lake.

-Reason. Play Sigalis' game. Do it well and it'll put her at ease.
--"Can you two give us a few minutes?" you ask Vettor and Ana a bit out of nowhere. Vettor nods at you with a knowing look on his face. Ana looks more confused than anything, but she doesn't really object either, so she shrugs. Sigalis, for her part, hesitantly nods and agrees to talk some distance from the other two. You tell Vettor not to let Ana in the water until you come back, which obviously displeases Ana, but you don't let her bother you at all. Especially after Vettor gives your suggestion a thumbs-up and says he'll keep an eye on her.

"What's going on, Sigalis?" you ask pretty directly as soon as Vettor and Ana are out of earshot. Sigalis considers how to respond for a second, and when you see her prepare herself to bring her usual array of comments rather than actual answers you immediately cut her off. "Give me a chance, at least. If you want to have no faith in Ana or Vettor, fine, but don't just lump me in with them without even trying."

Sigalis stares at Vettor and Ana in the distance, using their wands to look for whatever monster attacked the noblewoman from the edge of the lake, and slowly shifts her gaze towards you. She looks you over with a curious, inquisitive stare, pretty much judging your worth, and after a moment she asks, "Do you really think you can play that game on my level, [PC FIRST NAME]?" You confidently nod, and ask Sigalis what's going on again. She lets out sigh as she turns her head and stares, almost wistfully, at Vettor and Ana in the distance. "Try as they might they're never going to find that 'monster'," she says, cryptically. Afterwards she turns to face you, silently daring you to prove yourself.

A difficult opener, Sigalis clearly isn't in a mood to play games (despite her calling it just that a moment ago). You're sure you're up to the task, though. To start with this problem, if Sigalis knows that they're never going to find the monster that means she either knows you need something they don't have to find it, or she knows where it is. The latter sounds more reasonable. "You know exactly where that monster is right now, don't you?" you ask. Sigalis nods and says even "that first-year" should be able to figure that out, and dares you to do better. Of course most would mistake that as an insult, as Sigalis asking you to do a better job. But you know better than that. You need to go beyond what you've already accused her of, beyond merely knowing exactly where the monster is. Which...to you sounds like she knows exactly what that monster is. But how could she? Did it attack her too? No, that noblewoman couldn't catch a glimpse of the monster when it ambushed her, Sigalis having seen it that well when it ambushed her makes no sense. What makes sense is that Sigalis was there when the attack happened and she saw the monster herself. But if you're going that route..."do better", Sigalis said. You suppose you'll take her up on that offer. "You attacked that noblewoman yourself, didn't you?" you ask. Not to accuse, but to ask a question. Sigalis flashes an untrustworthy smirk, though only for a moment.

"So you're saying I jumped out of a lake to attack a noblewoman and steal her wedding ring, [PC FIRST NAME]? That's quite the accusation." Sigalis throws back at you with a coy tone. You're sure you're on the right track, though.

"Not personally, no. But you know enough Glamour to conjure up a scary, if toothless, 'monster'. Don't you?" you ask. Sigalis' grin briefly returns...and she nods. She than lets out a sigh as a weight seems to lift from her shoulders.

"Fine. You win this round, [PC FIRST NAME]," Sigalis quietly says. Though you're not sure what to really make of that victory, to be honest. So Sigalis ordered her Familiar to attack a noblewoman and steal her wedding ring...why? "You think I've gone crazy, don't you? Attacking a noblewoman like that out of the blue?" You have to admit that it sounds outlandish, but that aside you have to assume that Sigalis had her reasons. So, once again, you ask her what's going on. Though it sounds like there's a significantly different meaning to that question this time. Sigalis, with a thin smile on her face, explains, "That noblewoman is dirty, and I need her wedding ring to prove it. It's...the only thing I have that could possibly be used as evidence to back me up." You ask Sigalis to elaborate, but she shakes her head. "Not without evidence, [PC FIRST NAME], not until I can back my words up. They're...very serious accusations, what I'm suspecting that witch of."

You suspect that's everything you're going to get out of Sigalis on that topic, so you decide to move on to another question you're dying to ask. "How did you end up getting on her trail? What did she...I mean, why are you after her?"

"Do you recall Lucas?" Sigalis asks. It takes a second, but you remember - he's the con artist that was spreading the anti-shapeshifting flyers around last month. You nod and ask Sigalis what he has to do with anything. "Lucas, simply put, is that noblewoman's lackey. Very clever, very skilled, very dangerous if he thinks you're a threat. You weren't wrong, he's got connections, but he only does because of his 'master'. And thankfully he's not trained with magic, so...there's ways. That's how I got on the trail of that noblewoman, I was looking for the person behind the anti-shapeshifter flyers. And as far as I can find out, she's the one."

"Pray tell why you care so much. Those flyers were bad, but they were not that bad. And that whole situation pretty much changed course and flew off into the sunset after Rikildis' newspaper article anyway. Or are you telling me that you're...?"

You can't even finish that sentence. Worse, you're not sure how to interpret to smile on Sigalis' face as she tells you, "I don't think that's any of your business, [PC FIRST NAME]. And it's impolite to pry. But I'll tell you that it's not a personal matter...not personal to me, anyway."

...You're not sure whether you should read more into what Sigalis just said or take her on her literal word. You should be, but you're not. Regardless, you decide to put that aside for now. "Right. Whatever your reasons are, you need this wedding ring that Ana was hired to retrieve. If you got it, though, what were you going to do with it? Are there detection spells you could use to figure things out, and if so can you cast those spells yourself?" Sigalis nods, though sadly for her you weren't done talking yet. "If you've got evidence to throw suspicion on this noblewoman wouldn't it be better of you brought it to Professor Briardi? Or Professor Badcrumble, actually, since she's the one who gave Ana this job? I'm sure you've heard that the faculty didn't like the anti-shapeshifting flyer either, enough suspicion was thrown on Lucas to have Iustus' name cleared over his fight with him, so if you've got something you can put on the table I'm sure someone will listen."

Sigalis starts to think your idea over, but she doesn't get very far before a light ignites in her head. "Wait, hold on a second, Professor Badcrumble is that first year's contact for this job? You're sure of that?" You nod and explain that that's what Vettor said earlier. You've no reason to believe he's lying, either. That causes the gears in Sigalis' head to start spinning. "I...wait, who's that first year planning to give he ring to if she finds it? That witch, or...?" You shrug and say you're not sure, but since neither her or Vettor ever mentioned this noblewoman by name you have to assume they don't know her, and as such couldn't deliver it straight back to her. If that's the case, you have to assume Professor Badcrumble. Sigalis nods at that reasoning. "It'd make sense for that witch to make up excuses. Alright, I think this can work out. Get that ring and make sure to deliver it to Professor Badcrumble, she needs to check it out. Or have it checked out by Professor Briardi, whatever, I don't care. Someone needs to check it, that witch can't be allowed to get her hands on." You nod and ask Sigalis what you should tell Professor Badcrumble, since you're going to have to tell her something if you want to make sure that she (or another professor) will actually check the ring before returning it. Sigalis nods and suggests that one of you three use Negation to check out the ring yourselves. "After all," she adds with a smug grin, "I doubt that witch could give you an accurate description of what monster attacked her, so who knows what might or might not have happened to that ring, right? You don't know for sure, so it'd be better to play it safe..."

You could try to read more into that if you cared, but right now, you don't. It's genuinely not a terrible idea in any case, so you nod. Sigalis nods as well and says that she'll be going back to the Academagia, since there isn't anything more that she can do here - she can't swim, none of her spells will allow her to reasonably look for it, her Familiar has tried already and is no less tired of it than Sigalis is, and Vettor and Ana would probably be more at ease if she weren't here breathing down their necks the entire time. You can't help but agree with her last point especially, so with one final grin Sigalis thanks you for your help and starts walking back to the Academagia. You run up to Vettor and Ana, who, unsurprisingly, have made absolutely no progress trying to find the "monster". "Oh, [PC FIST NAME]," Vettor says as you approach. Ana, for her part, continues to stare intently at the water, itching to jump in. "So, did you manage to beat Sigalis at her own game?"

"Sort of," you answer a bit cryptically. "The good news is that, according to Sigalis, whatever monster attacked the noblewoman is no longer around. She's send her Familiar into the water already to check it out, and as far as it noticed it's clear. The-"

As soon as you say that Ana starts to take off her Academagia uniform and pulls out her wand to start casting her usual array of Revision spells, eager to jump into the lake. Thankfully she stops when you tell her that you weren't finished yet.

"As I was trying to say, the bad news is that neither Sigalis or that noblewoman knows exactly what kind of monster attacked her. So that ring she lost? We can't be sure that it's safe." Ana frowns, though you're not sure if that's more disbelief or impatience at you keeping her from starting her search. "I know, Ana, but keep in mind that we have no idea what kind of thing could have come out of the Imperial Reserve and made it's way here, and what it's capable of. So-"

"I study Negation," Ana suddenly says, her (limited) patience apparently spend. "I'll check the ring for any funny stuff before I pick it up. Don't worry, I'm no stranger to casting spells underwater if that's what I have to do. If there's something weird about it I'll know before I pick it up. Alright?"

"If you know there's something weird about it than don't pick it up!" Vettor corrects. Ana's expression doesn't really change, but you think she got the message. She seems to listen to Vettor more than she does to you, at any rate. "'Thema, I don't see any reason not to send you into the lake, but don't pick up that ring unless you know it's safe, alright? I know you're eager to prove yourself, but being reckless and putting yourself at risk is not how you do that. Ask for help if you need it, please. I know we're not exactly senior students," Vettor says as he motions to you and himself, "but we're still your seniors, and I'm your mentor. I don't want to see you get into the kind of weird trouble that I can't get you out of. Got that?"

This is a side of Vettor you don't think you've ever seen, honestly. Who knew that he'd be such a serious, (seemingly) effective mentor? Not that you're complaining, of course. In any case Ana nods, promises that she won't do anything reckless, and resumes casting her usual spells before jumping straight into the lake.

--"Can you two give us a few minutes?" you ask Vettor and Ana a bit out of nowhere. Vettor nods at you with a knowing look on his face. Ana looks more confused than anything, but she doesn't really object either, so she shrugs. Sigalis, for her part, hesitantly nods and agrees to talk some distance from the other two. You tell Vettor not to let Ana in the water until you come back, which obviously displeases Ana, but you don't let her bother you at all. Especially after Vettor gives your suggestion a thumbs-up and says he'll keep an eye on her.

"What's going on, Sigalis?" you ask pretty directly as soon as Vettor and Ana are out of earshot. Sigalis considers how to respond for a second, and when you see her prepare herself to bring her usual array of comments rather than actual answers you immediately cut her off. "Give me a chance, at least. If you want to have no faith in Ana or Vettor, fine, but don't just lump me in with them without even trying."

Sigalis stares at Vettor and Ana in the distance, using their wands to look for whatever monster attacked the noblewoman from the edge of the lake, and slowly shifts her gaze towards you. She looks you over with a curious, inquisitive stare, pretty much judging your worth, and after a moment she asks, "Do you really think you can play that game on my level, [PC FIRST NAME]?" You confidently nod, and ask Sigalis what's going on again. She lets out sigh as she turns her head and stares, almost wistfully, at Vettor and Ana in the distance. "Try as they might they're never going to find that 'monster'," she says, cryptically. Afterwards she turns to face you, silently daring you to prove yourself.

Well that's an easy start. Apparently even Sigalis likes to start tests with an icebreaker. "Right, so you have been looking for that ring and know that monster isn't around anymore," you confidently assert. Sigalis, however, does not look impressed.

"And how do you figure that?" she asks. You answer that the monster must be territorial to attack people that come near it's nest, so since Sigalis wasn't attacked that means it must no longer be around. Sigalis slowly shakes her head, but why? You couldn't possibly be on the wrong track already, could you? "I can see how you think that sounds reasonable, [PC FIRST NAME], but consider this: The monster didn't injure that witch at all, despite it attacking her, right?" You slowly nod. "So how can you be sure it didn't attack me? I know I'm not injured, but neither was that witch. So how do you know I wasn't ambushed and fought it off myself, sustaining no injuries?"

"Eh..." is all you can say in response to that. Of course you can't be sure, you don't know what monster you're even talking about! Though neither should Sigalis, right? Well, unless she was attacked, you suppose. What Sigalis says does make sense, but is that really it? Obviously you don't get much further than that, so ultimately you're not able to play Sigalis' game better than she can. She wins.

Not forever, though. You'll get your revenge! Just...later. After you've gotten the chance to read a few books. And...stuff.

-Glamour. A bit of magic makes everything better.
--While Sigalis and Vettor, and Ana behind him, continue their silent staring contest you sneakily take out your wand and covertly cast a spell on the others. Slowly but surely the frowns and sneers melt into something much less confrontational, at which point you feel comfortable tapping Vettor's shoulder and stepping next to him and Sigalis. "Calm down, all of you. If there's something you want to say wouldn't it be faster to talk it out?"

"Do you really think I didn't notice that?" Sigalis asks as calmly as you've ever heard Sigalis ask something. Which is so say she glares at you like she doesn't care about you, rather than looking at you like Gwendy does half the Reserve's wildlife.

"Actually, yes," you answer with a shrug. "I honestly expected you to say something if you did, and if you objected to it. But you didn't, so I take it you're interested in talking this out?"

Sigalis continues to glare at you, aside from the time she takes the cast that same glare at Vettor and Ana (neither of which seem to care), until she finally lets out a sigh. "Just tell me this: Did that witch order you to deliver the ring straight back to her, or...what are you planning on doing with it?"

Ana tries to asks Sigalis why she should tell her anything, but Vettor puts a hand on Ana's shoulder and asks her to let him handle this. She seems annoyed at the idea, but nods all the same. "We weren't hired by her directly," Vettor clarifies. "She hired the Licentiate, who passed the request down to Professor Badcrumble, who passed the request down to us. We weren't given any specific order on who to return to ring to, so we're supposed to give it to our contact for the job. Which is to say, Professor Badcrumble. I see no reason not to, either." Sigalis actually looks surprised when Professor Badcrumble's name comes up. You can't tell what she thinks about the rest of what Vettor said, though. "Now, if you don't mind me asking you a few questions, what does it matter to you? Why are you calling that woman a 'witch', what did she ever do to you?"

Sigalis stares at Vettor for a second, lost in thought, before asking, "Do you remember those anti-shapeshifting flyers from last month?" Vettor (and you for that matter) quirks an eyebrow, but nod in answer to Sigalis' question. Ana, for her part, just looks confused. "That witch is the one behind those things. She's the one who paid to have them published and paid that inciteful - not 'insightful', mind - con artist to hand them out in the Admiratio, and start some trouble. You heard about the situation that Iustus got himself in, didn't you?"

"I...did hear some rumors about that, yeah," Vettor says, still more confused than anything else. "But, even assuming you're right about that, what's that got to do with you looking for her wedding ring? I doubt you're here to steal it so she'll never get it back, I know you're not that petty."

Even through your Glamour Sigalis manages to frown deeply at that suggestion. Truly, she's an artist when it comes to scowling. That said as suddenly as it appeared the frown suddenly vanishes, and you swear for a second that the corner of Sigalis' lips curl up into an untrustworthy smirk. "You're right about that. That said you've heard about the 'monster' that attacked that witch, yes?" Sigalis asks. Vettor shrugs and says that he mostly heard people asking questions about it, but if Sigalis thinks that counts, than sure. "Than, consider this - a spellcaster out on her own in the middle of nowhere, suddenly attacked by a monster that defies all logic and explanation, leaving no trace either on the lake or the witch that anyone can see or find...you know where I'm going with this, don't you?"

"Yeah, I do," Vettor answers. Ana likewise picked up on the clue and is staring dubiously at Sigalis, not that she seems to care. You're also staring curiously at her. "Do you plan on accusing her of something?"

"I'd never accuse someone without solid evidence," Sigalis says with what is definitely an untrustworthy smirk. "So for now all I'm saying is: Consider checking out that ring before you pick it up. There's no telling what might have happened if an unknown beast got his hands on it, after all. Oh, I guess I should also add that that monster isn't here anymore. At least I've been here for a while now and didn't see anything unusual, so..." Vettor and Ana share of look of not believing Sigalis on her word. She shrugs in response to that. "I don't care whether you believe me or not, frankly I don't care whether I'm right or not, I'm just saying that you two might want to be careful. Unless either you two can actually tell me what kind of monster you're dealing with, I'd choose to play it safe."

"I study Negation," Ana suddenly says, her (limited) patience apparently spend. "I'll check the ring for any funny stuff before I pick it up. Don't worry, I'm no stranger to casting spells underwater if that's what I have to do. If there's something weird about it I'll know before I pick it up. Alright?"

"If you know there's something weird about it than don't pick it up!" Vettor corrects. Ana's expression doesn't really change, but you think she got the message. She seems to listen to Vettor more than she does to you, certainly more than Sigalis at any rate. "'Thema, I'm sure we can trust Sigalis if she says that monster isn't around anymore, at least right now, but don't pick up that ring unless you know it's safe, alright? I know you're eager to prove yourself, but being reckless and putting yourself at risk is not how you do that. Ask for help if you need it. I know we're not exactly senior students," Vettor says as he motions to the three second-years here. Sigalis does not look amused. "But we're still your seniors, and I'm your mentor. I don't want to see you get into the kind of weird trouble that I can't get you out of. Got that?"

This is a side of Vettor you don't think you've ever seen, honestly. Who knew that he'd be such a serious, (seemingly) effective mentor? Not that you're complaining, of course. In any case Ana nods and promises that she won't do anything reckless. Sigalis, for her part, shrugs and says that she'll leave the three of you to it, since she's more than tired of staring uselessly at a lake that she can't swim around in.

--While the other hold their impromptu-staring contest you sneakily pull out your wand and try to cast a Glamour on the lot of them. You think you manage to cast the spell properly, but even after it's cast the frowns on your audience's faces remain. Maybe it has a delayed effect? You're pretty sure it doesn't, so you're not sure what went wrong here.

"Did you really think I wouldn't notice that?" Sigalis asks. You, slightly embarrassed, consider trying to lie about it, quickly realize it's useless to try, and just admit that you thought you were sneakier than you apparently are. Sigalis actually shakes her head at that. Not that you had much confidence to be shattered right now. "And why, if I may ask, did you use that particular sequence of Phemes? What spell were you trying to cast? Because if was the one I'm thinking of you used the wrong Phemes."

Well, that at least explains that. Unfortunately it doesn't explain how you're able to maintain  sense of dignity in front of your peers and the first year, seeing you mess up something as basic as that.

The good news (in some respect) is that that's as bad as this situation gets, just you making a fool of yourself. The bad news is that no one manages to make any progress whatsoever, so...going to have to try that one again. You just hope this little incident isn't foreshadowing how your practical magical exams will go...

-Diplomacy. Get both sides to talk.
--You quickly step between Vettor and Sigalis, look both in the eyes, and step to the side. "Both of you, calm down. We seem to be on the same side here, as far as I can tell, so why don't we help each other out? Neither of us will get anywhere fighting each other." Vettor, and Sigalis and Ana especially don't really look convinced, but none of them are objecting either. Good enough. "Sigalis, what did this 'witch', as you called her, do? Why are you interested in her ring?"

"Do I really have to be the one to start?" Sigalis asks, which prompts Ana to say something, but you tell her to stay calm and explain that, as far as you can tell, Sigalis' sour mood is due to fatigue more than anything. You theorize that she's been here for a while, staring uselessly at the lake she can't swim in wanting to get that ring, and ask Sigalis if that's correct. She nods, which thankfully is a source of frustration that Ana can relate with.

"Anyway, Sigalis, you're going to have to start because it's an important question for us to know the answer to. We don't know this woman like you do, or at least like you believe you do. We...Vettor, what exactly do we know about her, actually? You've never mentioned her name as far as I recall."

Vettor nods. "That'd be because we don't know her name, as least I don't." Sigalis gives Vettor an odd look, and you'll admit even that you stare dubiously at him before you remember to compose yourself. "To explain, the request was posted anonymously. We don't know the woman's name at all. I'm pretty sure Professor Badcrumble does, she's the one who passed the request that the Licentiate got down to us and let slip that she's a member of the nobility, but we weren't supposed to know that technically. We certainly weren't told the client's name."

Sigalis has a noticeable reaction when Vettor brings up Professor Badcrumble, one that only gets more incomprehensible as he continues to say his piece. "Right," you say, unable to help yourself from staring at bit curiously at Sigalis' expression, trying to figure out what she's feeling. "That's our side of the story. Now, Sigalis, please tell us what do you know about this woman."

Sigalis continues to stare oddly at Vettor for a second, lost in thought. But after that she casts a weary glance at you, takes a deep breath, and starts to explain. "Do you three remember the anti-shapeshifting flyers from last month?" Sigalis asks. Both you and Vettor nod, though you're both looking at Sigalis with an obvious question written on your respective faces. Ana, for her part, just looks confused. "That witch is the one behind those flyers. She's the one who paid a group of publishers to create them, paid that con artist to hand them out to people in the Admiratio, and...and there's more stuff that I suspect she's guilty of. Stuff I don't want to talk about, not until I have actual evidence to back me up."

"A sensible choice," you say before either Ana or Vettor get on Sigalis' case. Neither does, though. "So, as for you searching for her ring, is that why you're looking for it? You think it's evidence of her...what, crimes, wrongdoings? How badly are we talking with these...suspicions, of yours?"

Sigalis tries, but can't bring herself to put into words her answer to that question. That along with the tired, distant look in her eyes tells you all you need to know, though. She's talking serious accusations, like actually illegal stuff. Not the "not illegal" flyers, that's for sure.

"So what do you want us to do about it?" Ana asks. She could stand to put it (and sound) more diplomatic, honestly, but you think she's doing what she can. Trying, at least. Sigalis doesn't take offence to Ana's blunt question, at least.

"I...well, I was afraid that that witch had asked you three to return the ring to her personally, but if she posted her request anonymously than obviously that isn't the case," Sigalis reasons. Vettor, just to confirm, nods his head. "In that case who will you be bringing the ring too, if you find it?" Vettor answers that since they weren't given specific instructions they're to deliver the ring to the Licentiate's contact that gave them the job. Which, for them, would be Professor Badcrumble. Sigalis actually smiles when she hears that. Well, more of an untrustworthy smirk than a smile, but it's Sigalis you're talking about. There's only so much you can expect from her trying to smile. "Then...I can assume you three will be checking out this ring before turning it over to Professor Badcrumble, and telling her if there's anything fishy about it, right?"

"We don't have a reason to believe there's anything wrong with it," Ana suddenly blurts out. You try to scold her since she's being quite rude to Sigalis, but Sigalis actually shakes her head and tells you that she'll answer Ana's question. You're willing to give Sigalis a chance to do so.

"You've heard about the 'monster' that attacked the witch, right?" Sigalis asks Ana. The latter nods. "Do you know exactly what kind of monster it is? What it wanted, why it attacked her, and whether it got his hands on the witch's ring at any point? I might be completely off base with my accusations, but that witch was attacked by some mysterious monster that no one can find any hint or trace of. It's possible that the witch's ring got tainted, trapped, who knows. No one can tell for sure until the monster is caught, so until then you should take care to be more careful."

"Could you still use her ring as evidence if that's the case, though?" Vettor asks. Sigalis nods and assures Vettor that there's ways to suss out such things if you're skilled enough with Negation. Or Astrology, as she suspects Professor Badcrumble might try to use. She also adds that, as far as she knows of the monster, it's not around anymore. She says she's been here for a while, staring uselessly at the lake, and she hasn't spotted anything suspicious.

"I study Negation," Ana suddenly says, her (limited) patience apparently spend. "I'll check the ring for any funny stuff before I pick it up. Don't worry, I'm no stranger to casting spells underwater if that's what I have to do. If there's something weird about it I'll know before I pick it up. Alright?"

"If you know there's something weird about it than don't pick it up!" Vettor corrects. Ana's expression doesn't really change, but you think she got the message. She seems to listen to Vettor more than she does to you. Certainly more than Sigalis at any rate. "'Thema, I think we can trust Sigalis if she says that monster isn't around anymore, at least right now, but don't pick up that ring unless you know it's safe, alright? I know you're eager to prove yourself, but being reckless and putting yourself at risk is not how you do that. Ask for help if you need it. I know we're not exactly senior students," Vettor says as he motions to the three second-years here. Sigalis is not amused. "But we're still your seniors, and I'm your mentor. I don't want to see you get into the kind of weird trouble that I can't get you out of. Got that?"

This is a side of Vettor you don't think you've ever seen, honestly. Who knew that he'd be such a serious, (seemingly) effective mentor? Not that you're complaining, of course. In any case Ana nods and promises that she won't do anything reckless. Sigalis, for her part, shrugs and says that she'll leave the three of you to it, since she's more than tired of staring uselessly at a lake that she can't swim around in.

--You try to mediate between the two, but Sigalis and Ana both are just too stubborn and headstrong to get to talk to each other. Strangely enough, you think they'd be able to get along...well, as fine as any other person can get along with Sigalis, but close enough.

At least the situation didn't come to blows. You just hope that you'll be able to do better next time, because you doubt that Sigalis will leave Ten Swans' Lake alone until either she or Ana find the ring. There's no doubt Sigalis is looking for it, even though she refuses to admit as much, so you're going to have to deal with her one way or another.

So funny story, I was initially concerned that this adventure had, perhaps, too few stages to it. When I started posting them I discovered that this stage was incorrectly numbered as a second stage 2, so...problem solved.

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Looking for Something to Find, stage 4:

You spend a while searching the perimeter...is that what it's called? The area immediately surrounding the lake with Vettor, hoping to find clues as to what monster attacked the noblewoman and where it might have gone (and whether it might return), but your search turns up absolutely nothing. Worse, a while after you and Vettor give up on your search Ana gets out of the water and runs up to both of you. Regardless of what she's about to say, though, how she manages to run on webbed feet is undoubtedly the greatest mystery. "I can't find that ring anywhere," she says, somewhere between annoyed and desperate. "I searched every last place where a ring could possibly be, but I'm just not finding it. The problem is that it's too dark in some spaces to look, so I'm assuming it's there, but I don't know how to cast any light spells. I only study Revision and Negation."

Vettor lets out a sigh. "I did attend Glamour last year, for what it was worth, but the only light spells I remember are general ones. The kind you'd use to light up a room, not the ones that you'd use for searching. And underwater at that." Ana casts Vettor a disapproving glare before turning her attention to you and asking if you can help her.

Interesting how Ana didn't even raise the possibility of just poking her hand into the darkness and seeing if she can strike gold...or a ring, in this case. She really has taken Vettor's warning to heart, it seems like. Good. As for helping her, well, you'd honestly be embarrassed if a second year student couldn't help a first year with something so simple. But...can you?

-Negation. Teach Ana a simple metal detection spell.
--"Are you as good with Negation as you are with Revision, Ana?" you ask. She rolls her eyes in response.

"Oh, I wish. What does Negation have to do with seeing in the dark, though? I thought Negation could only Negate light, not darkness."

Quite a head that Ana has on her shoulders, to be honest. Not that you think it would be wise to openly admit that. "Correct, but Negation can do other stuff. Let me show you how to cast a metal detection spell, maybe that'll help you find the ring."

Ana, with the grin of an excited schoolgi-well, with a fittingly large grin on her face pays rapt attention as you show her how to cast the spell, and afterwards she does her best to replicate it. It takes her a few tries and some pointers to cast it, but after testing it with some Pims she thinks she's got it working. "Alright, thanks, I'll go back to look for the ring. Vettor, I want that spell in diagram and written instructions form. Parchment's in my bag, you know what to do."

With an equally big, goofy grin on his face Vettor nods and reminds Ana to check the ring before actually picking it up, if she finds it. Ana gives him a thumbs-up as she runs back into the lake.

--"Are you as good with Negation as you are with Revision, Ana?" you ask. She rolls her eyes in response.

"Oh, I wish. What does Negation have to do with seeing in the dark, though? I thought Negation could only Negate light, not darkness."

Quite a head that Ana has on her shoulders, to be honest. Not that you think it would be wise to openly admit that. "Correct, but Negation can do other stuff. Let me show you how to cast a metal detection spell, maybe that'll help you find the ring." Ana nods, eager to learn, but when you try to show her how to cast the spell you actually fail to cast it. Thankfully Ana notices your dumbfounded confusion, because that saves you the embarrassment of having to tell her yourself. "Eh...sorry, give me a minute-how'd you cast this again? I swear..."

You continue to fiddle with it for a while, but try as you might the Phemes aren't coming back to you. "You don't remember how to cast it?" Ana eventually asks. At which point you can do nothing but hang your head in shame. "Let me guess, you've been so focussed on trying to cram everything in your head for mid-terms that you can't get anything to come out?" You nod, hopeful that Ana isn't going to make you regret getting up this morning. The way she rolls her eyes does little to sustain that hope, however. "Well, go back to the Academagia and fetch a textbook than. I'm not leaving here until I find that ring, not when others are trying to grab it too."

"We should call it a day, 'Thema," Vettor suddenly says, much to Ana's displeasure. "Don't worry about Sigalis, she's not going to even bother trying anymore, and I highly doubt that anyone else is going to go out of their way to do someone else's odd job while mid-terms are in full swing. If that ring has been there since that woman lost it it'll still be there tomorrow."

Ana tries to stare Vettor down, but he doesn't budge. You've got no reason to suggest otherwise, either. It'd take a while for you to run (which is to say walk) all the way to the Academagia and back, and Ana has been casting temperature spells while thoroughly searching the bottom of a lake this entire time. She doesn't show it, but she has to be tired by now. So it probably is for the best that you three call it a day here, you've got no reason to believe that ring is going anywhere. Eventually Ana relents and agrees to call it a day, and honestly, Vettor made that call not a minute too soon. Ana walks noticeable slower during the trek back to the Academagia and seems a bit out of breath. She was pushing herself, and now that fatigue is showing.

You resolve to head to the Venalicium and dive back into last year's textbooks to figure this mystery out, too. Whatever you forgot you're not going to want to forget it again...

-Incantation. Teach Ana a simple light spell, not ideal but it'll get the job done.
--"You mentioned you study Negation and you're obviously enrolled in Revision, but do you study Incantation at all?" Unfortunately Ana shakes her head, but that's fine. This is not a had spell to cast, even for a complete novice. "Well, the best spell I know to solve this problem is an Incantation, so let's see if you've got a talent for that as well. Not that I know for sure whether this spell will work underwater all that well, but if it does it should at least get the job done."

"Fire works underwater?" Vettor asks, possibly jokingly. Ana, however, seems to have interpreted it as a serious question as she rolls her eyes at Vettor.

"Incantation is about shaping raw magic into other elemental energies, silly, and that includes light. And don't worry about me not having a talent for Incantation, it's the closest school to Revision in Theory so I should be fine."

Quite a head that Ana has on her shoulders, to be honest. Not that you think it would be wise to openly admit that. "Right. In any case, let me show you how to cast Aganathi’s Lamp. Hopefully that'll help you find the ring."

Ana, with the grin of an excited schoolgi-well, with a fittingly large grin on her face pays rapt attention as you show her how to cast the spell, and afterwards she does her best to replicate it. It takes some effort for her to memorize and draw reasonably difficult Phemes she never used much (if at all) before, but after some minutes of practice and pointers she manages to get it working. "Alright, thanks, I'll go back to look for the ring. Vettor, I want that spell in diagram and written instructions form, the Phemes too. Parchment's in my bag, you know what to do."

With an equally big, goofy grin on his face Vettor nods and reminds Ana to check the ring before actually picking it up, if she finds it. Ana gives him a thumbs-up as she runs back into the lake.

--"You mentioned you study Negation and you're obviously enrolled in Revision, but do you study Incantation at all?" Unfortunately Ana shakes her head, but that's fine. This is not a had spell to cast, even for a complete novice. "Well, the best spell I know to solve this problem is an Incantation, so let's see if you've got a talent for that as well. Not that I know for sure whether this spell will work underwater all that well, but if it does it should at least get the job done."

"Fire works underwater?" Vettor asks, possibly jokingly. Ana, however, seems to have interpreted it as a serious question as she rolls her eyes at Vettor.

"Incantation is about shaping raw magic into other elemental energies, silly, and that includes light. And don't worry about me not having a talent for Incantation, it's the closest school to Revision in Theory so I should be fine."

Quite a head that Ana has on her shoulders, to be honest. Not that you think it would be wise to openly admit that. "Right. In any case, let me show you how to cast Aganathi’s Lamp. Hopefully that'll help you find the ring." Ana nods, eager to learn, but when you try to show her how to cast the spell you actually fail to cast it. Thankfully Ana notices your dumbfounded confusion, because that saves you the embarrassment of having to tell her yourself. "Eh...sorry, give me a minute-how'd you cast this again? I swear..."

You continue to fiddle with it for a while, but try as you might the Phemes aren't coming back to you. "You don't remember how to cast it?" Ana eventually asks. At which point you can do nothing but hang your head in shame. "Let me guess, you've been so focussed on trying to cram everything in your head for mid-terms that you can't get anything to come out?" You nod, hopeful that Ana isn't going to make you regret getting up this morning. The way she rolls her eyes does little to sustain that hope, however. "Well, go back to the Academagia and fetch a textbook than. I'm not leaving here until I find that ring, not when others are trying to grab it too."

"We should call it a day, 'Thema," Vettor suddenly says, much to Ana's displeasure. "Don't worry about Sigalis, she's not going to even bother trying anymore, and I highly doubt that anyone else is going to go out of their way to do someone else's odd job while mid-terms are in full swing. If that ring has been there since that woman lost it it'll still be there tomorrow."

Ana tries to stare Vettor down, but he doesn't budge. You've got no reason to suggest otherwise, either. It'd take a while for you to run (which is to say walk) all the way to the Academagia and back, and Ana has been casting temperature spells while thoroughly searching the bottom of a lake this entire time. She doesn't show it, but she has to be tired by now. So it probably is for the best that you three call it a day here, you've got no reason to believe that ring is going anywhere. Eventually Ana relents and agrees to call it a day, and honestly, Vettor made that call not a minute too soon. Ana walks noticeable slower during the trek back to the Academagia and seems a bit out of breath. She was pushing herself, and now that fatigue is showing.

You resolve to head to the Venalicium and dive back into last year's textbooks to figure this mystery out, too. Whatever you forgot you're not going to want to forget it again...

-Glamour. Teach Ana a focussed light spell.
--"You mentioned you study Negation and you're obviously enrolled in Revision, but do you study Glamour at all?" Ana eyes Vettor uncomfortably as she slowly shakes her head. Apparently she's no more a prodigy of Glamour than Vettor is. He does pick up on that, but you're sure the catty grin on his face is nothing more than a friendly tease. Ana also seems to interpret it as such. "Well, the best spell for this situation is a focussed Glamour, but if you don't think you can-"

"I'll at least give it a try!" Ana quickly insists. You see no reason to not give her a chance, so you nod and do your best to teach her. She, for her part, is as good a student as you could ask for. If you're going to fault her on anything it's her excess of eagerness to learn, in fact. Nevertheless it takes a fair amount of effort for Ana to learn every step of the casting, as well as the Phemes, but she eventually manages to cast the spell properly. Of course it takes her a few more attempts to repeat that success, but she does manage it. "Alright, thanks, I'll go back to look for the ring." Ana says, looking a bit tired out. "Vettor, I want that spell in diagram and written instructions form, the Phemes too. Parchment's in my bag, you know what to do."

With a big, goofy grin on his face Vettor nods and reminds Ana to check the ring before actually picking it up, if she finds it. Ana gives him a thumbs-up as she runs back into the lake.

--"You mentioned you study Negation and you're obviously enrolled in Revision, but do you study Glamour at all?" Ana eyes Vettor uncomfortably as she slowly shakes her head. Apparently she's no more a prodigy of Glamour than Vettor is. He does pick up on that, but you're sure the catty grin on his face is nothing more than a friendly tease. Ana also seems to interpret it as such. "Well, the best spell for this situation is a focussed Glamour, but if you don't think you can-"

"I'll at least give it a try!" Ana quickly insists. You see no reason to not give her a chance, so you nod and try to show her how your spell is cast. "Try", key word, because after several attempts on your end you've yet to manage a single successful casting of it. You continue to fiddle with it for a while, but try as you might the Phemes aren't coming back to you. "You don't remember how to cast it?" Ana eventually asks. At which point you can do nothing but hang your head in shame. "Let me guess, you've been so focussed on trying to cram everything in your head for mid-terms that you can't get anything to come out?" You nod, hopeful that Ana isn't going to make you regret getting up this morning. The way she rolls her eyes does little to sustain that hope, however. "Well, go back to the Academagia and fetch a textbook than. I'm not leaving here until I find that ring, not when others are trying to grab it too."

"We should call it a day, 'Thema," Vettor suddenly says, much to Ana's displeasure. "Don't worry about Sigalis, she's not going to even bother trying anymore, and I highly doubt that anyone else is going to go out of their way to do someone else's odd job while mid-terms are in full swing. If that ring has been there since that woman lost it it'll still be there tomorrow."

Ana tries to stare Vettor down, but he doesn't budge. You've got no reason to suggest otherwise, either. It'd take a while for you to run (which is to say walk) all the way to the Academagia and back, and Ana has been casting temperature spells while thoroughly searching the bottom of a lake this entire time. She doesn't show it, but she has to be tired by now. So it probably is for the best that you three call it a day here, you've got no reason to believe that ring is going anywhere. Eventually Ana relents and agrees to call it a day, and honestly, Vettor made that call not a minute too soon. Ana walks noticeable slower during the trek back to the Academagia and seems a bit out of breath. She was pushing herself, and now that fatigue is showing.

You resolve to head to the Venalicium and dive back into last year's textbooks to figure this mystery out, too. Whatever you forgot you're not going to want to forget it again...

Trying to get these adventures to stall on a failure takes some effort sometimes.

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