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Y2 WIP Adventures (come and proof-read!)

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Looking for Something to Find, stage 5:

"Demanding little girl, isn't she?" you ask Vettor as he walks over to Ana's bag.

"Maybe, but it's not like her attitude's actually bad. Like, say, Joana. She's just really eager to learn all of these things, and what kind of mentor would I be if I didn't encourage that? It's not like she wouldn't do the same for me if I asked her, anyway. She's done it before."

"So...does that mean that you might grow yourself some fins and flat feet, Vettor?" you playfully ask, since you're pretty sure you know what spell Ana managed to teach Vettor rather than the other way around. Vettor, equally playfully, gives you a vague answer about how he "can neither confirm or deny", but you know what you'll be expecting of him.

It's a good thing you do, too, because what you didn't expect is what happens several minutes later. Out of nowhere Ana comes running out of the water, her face pale and her wand held tightly in her hand. You don't see any wedding rings on her, either. Vettor also notices Ana approach, and draws his own wand as she runs up to the two of you. "I-I found the ring, it fell down into one of the cracks of the Palace. B-but-"

"Ana, please, calm down," Vettor says. Again, there's a clear, visible reaction. Is it because Vettor called Ana by her...name? Where does he get "'Thema" from if-never mind, you'll ask them about that later. Point is, Ana does as Vettor asks, taking a few deep breaths and sitting down in front of him. Vettor, in turn, also sits down. To you this doesn't seem like the first time something like this has happened. "What happened, Ana? Is that monster still in the water, or is there something wrong with the ring?" Vettor calmly asks.

"The latter," Ana slowly answers. "I tried to check it out before picking it up, like you told me to, and...there's something wrong with it. It-it broke my spell before I could finish casting it. I don't know what's wrong but I can't manage to cast a spell on it, every time I try it just keeps breaking it."

Vettor, not unreasonably, looks equal parts confused and disbelieving at this information. He slowly turns to look at you and asks if you have any idea what could be going on here. "The obvious answer...Ana, sorry for asking, but are you sure that you can cast those spells underwater? Have you done so before?"

"Of course I can, and of course I have. It wasn't an issue with me not casting spells correctly, even if I did it wouldn't work. That ring caused the Phemes I traced to tear and dissolve before I could even finish them, no amount of practice could help with that."

...Huh. That is...interesting. "I've no idea what's going on here, but I'm glad you didn't try to pick up that ring," Vettor says. Ana actually nods in agreement. "So what do we do? If this ring...I don't know, breaks magic around it than obviously we can't use magic to 'safely' pick it up, and who knows if we can pick it up safely with our hands. But I don't want to just leave it here either." Ana quickly nods at that last point. You'll admit, it's slightly adorable. "Right. It's our job to get it, I don't think it's safe to just leave behind here, and even if we told Professor Badcrumble about it - and she believed us - I doubt she can swim anyway."

"I've no doubt that Professor Badcrumble knows a spell that could help her with that if push came to shove..." you say, though you start to trail off as you realize a rather large problem with that idea. "Actually, how would she pick up the ring? Could it break whatever spell she used to swim to it?"

Vettor and Ana both shrug, and all three of you realize that it would be best if you guys managed to bring the ring to Professor Badcrumble yourselves. That's literally Ana's job right now, anyway. The question is how you're going to pick up this ring. It might not melt your flesh and bone as soon as you touch it, or it might, you're not sure. Magic certainly won't work, so...what to do?

-Fishing. Catch the ring with a fishing hook.
--"Here's an idea, how about we 'catch' the ring like a fish? If Ana can swim to it she can just drop a line underwater and hook it, right?"

Ana shrugs and says she probably could, but Vettor asks you a rather poignant question regarding that idea. "Do you have a fishing rod on you? Or a line and a hook, at least?"

"Not on me right now, no, but if not me than one of you two should be able to Revise up a temporary...wait..." Vettor slowly nods. This is going to be slightly more tricky than you thought, but you're not giving up that easily. "Well, in that case we can go back to basics. People have been catching fish since before metallurgy was invented, and so shall we! Vettor, grab me a sharp stick. We'll poke that ring into our possession the old-fashioned way if we have to!"

"That...might be difficult, considering where the ring ended up," Ana notes. You will not be brought down by these doubters, though. Your stick plan will save the day!

"Fine, a thin stick with an extra pointy end. I mean an extra end that is pointy, not an end that is extra pointy. You understand, right, Vettor?"

"I understand that there's a reason you went to the Athletics Field this morning, sure," he says cryptically and politely. Not cryptically enough, though. "I'll find your stick, it's not like I can think of a better option anyway."

You and Ana patiently wait for Vettor to return with the stick, and armed with this new tool Ana, with all the confidence of Philippe Marchant during an Arithmetic mid-term, goes back into the water and tries to lodge the ring onto the stick. A few minutes later she returns, stick held triumphantly far away from her. "Vettor, please take this stick off my hands I don't want to hold it anymore," Ana rapidly blurts out as she holds the stick out for Vettor. He takes it, asks her to take a deep breath, and Ana does. You ask her if everything went according to plan. "Eh, it kinda did. Your stick idea was honestly very nice, I managed to poke at the ring from a distance without having to come close to it. You might have noticed that I've got fins right now?" You nod. "Yeah, I thought about what that ring might do to me if I touched it and realized I really didn't want to find out. So thanks for coming up with the stick idea. The more distance I could put between me and that ring, the better."

And so this is how this grand adventure, full of bravery and danger, comes to it's end. Lodged onto a stick with an extra pointy end. You cannot believe this plan not only worked, but worked so well. It's just a shame that it'll limit your ability to retell this story in a way that doesn't make it sound ridiculous, because seriously. Academagia students solving problems with regular, non-magical sticks? How backwards can you get...you suppose you could try and pass it off as a creative solution, though. But you doubt many would fall for that...

In any case, the three of you have retrieved the mysterious ring, and it is not bothering the stick at all, so you've got a means to transport it too. Not a very...elegant, or good-looking transport, but it'll get the job done.

--"Here's an idea, how about we 'catch' the ring like a fish? If Ana can swim to it she can just drop a line underwater and hook it, right?"

Ana shrugs and says she probably could, but Vettor asks you a rather poignant question regarding that idea. "Do you have a fishing rod on you? Or a line and a hook, at least?"

"Not on me right now, no, but if not me than one of you two should be able to Revise up a temporary...wait..." Vettor slowly nods. This is going to be more tricky than you thought, but you're not giving up that easily. "Well, I know this lake at least used to be a place where people fished, so I imagine there's an old hook and line around here somewhere, we just have to find it. Ana can search the water, Vettor and I can search the shore."

"I can look," Ana notes. "But what if we don't find one? I don't remember seeing any lost hooks, I don't know if there is one around here."

"Than we'll think of something else," you say dismissively, eager to get to looking. Ironically it seems that you've swapped places with Ana, who shrugs and heads back into the water.

Fast-forwards what feels like one very fruitless and, ultimately, frustrating hour, and Vettor eventually walks up to you with a wand that looks like it'd be multiple sizes too large for Gorithnak, much less Vettor himself. "I thought of something else," he says as he hands you the, upon closer inspection, stick. Not a magic wand or anything like that, just a stick. "Face it, if there's garbage around here we can't find it. So let's try this stick instead, it's got an extra pointy end so we can definitely hook the ring on it. Well, hopefully Ana can at any rate."

"At this point I'm willing to try anything, having to constantly re-cast my temperature spells is wearing on me and I'm sure that Ana isn't feeling any better. Go get her the stick, I'll prepare a heating zone so Ana can quickly dry off and we can leave shortly after she either fails or hooks herself a golden diamond whopper."

Vettor nods, and not too long after you're done Vettor and Ana walk up to you, Vettor's stick having a new addition to it. Ana, however, is shivering. "Not enough focus to maintain her spells," Vettor says as he pushes Ana into your heating zone. Her slightly battered body definitely appreciates that, even if Ana herself seems more annoyed at the situation than anything. "Let me guess, in diagram and written instructions form?" Vettor asks.

"S-save it for later," Ana slowly says. Vettor nevertheless still takes out a roll of parchment, though, right in time for Ana to add, underneath her breath, "But, yes..."

That could have ended better, but it could have ended worse, too. You've got the ring, you've got a means of transporting it...ridiculous as it looks...but you've got what you needed, and that's what counts.

-Swimming. Check out the ring for yourself.
--"I'd like to check out this ring for myself. Ana, I take it you remember where it is?"

"Of course, but...do you have your swimwear with you?"

You shake your head and say that it doesn't matter, you can jump in with what you've got on underneath your robes and dry yourself off later. It's something that Academagia students learn pretty quickly when they learn to swim, you'd honestly be surprised if Ana hasn't learned it yet.

Gives you a good hint as to what she's going to ask you to teach her next if she hasn't, though.

In any case you take off your robes, prepare your own set of spells, and jump into the water and follow Ana to where she found the ring. Indeed, there is a golden ring with an inset diamond sort of wedged within the cracked stone of the old Drowned Palace. Ana anxiously watches as you carefully poke the ring with your wand a bit and disaster failed to happen. You than try to cast your own detection spell, having a little more trouble with casting underwater than Ana probably has, and indeed, something is causing your spell to tear apart as you cast it. Needless to say that it doesn't do anything. Satisfied you signal for Ana to surface and start to swim up to the surface as well. Ana follow closely behind you. "There's definitely something very strange going on with that ring," you tell Ana after she surfaces as well. "Sorry for doubting you earlier."

"I...a-apologies accepted, but how are we going to get that ring to Professor Badcrumble? It didn't break your wand, so should we risk picking it up, or...?"

You shake your head. "No. You, especially, should not pick that ring up. Remember that you've got spells cast on you right now, who knows what'll happen if that ring break that magic halfway." Ana looks annoyed at first, but after explaining to her why picking up the ring would be a terrible idea her expression changes, and she nods. "The ring definitely isn't hurting the rock, assuming it's been there for a while now, or my wand, though. So I say we grab a stick with an extra pointy end and use that to carry the ring. Not the most elegant of solutions, but it's betting than directly touching it. Ana, go tell Vettor to go find a stick, I'll use it to carry the ring, and keep your distance afterwards. I don't want to know what you'd look like if you cast your spells halfway correctly, and neither do you." Ana nods again, swims off and comes back not long after with a stick with an extra pointy end on it. Of all the wondrous, magical artefact of great and mysterious powers that you've used to solve problems in the past, this stick is...significantly underwhelming.

It gets the job done, though. You swim back down, lodge the ring on the extra pointy end of the stick, and carefully swim back to the surface and back to shore without dropping the ring. Once you're back on land you carefully hand Vettor the stick as you quickly use your wand to dry yourself and what clothes you got soaking wet. "So we're taking this straight to the Academagia, I take it?" Vettor asks, likely rhetorically.

"Of course. Just give me a second to dry off."

--"I'd like to check out this ring for myself. Ana, I take it you remember where it is?"

"Of course, but...do you have your swimwear with you?"

You shake your head and say that it doesn't matter, you can jump in with what you've got on underneath your robes and dry yourself off later. It's something that Academagia students learn pretty quickly when they learn to swim, you'd honestly be surprised if Ana hasn't learned it yet.

Gives you a good hint as to what she's going to ask you to teach her next if she hasn't, though.

In any case you take off your robes, jump into Ten Swans' Lake, and immediately regret every decision you've ever made as you forgot one rather important step - temperature! It's Cheimare, the lake may not be cold enough to freeze over but that doesn't mean it's - pardon the pun - freezing cold! You are so used to swimming laps in the magically heated swimming pool at the Academagia that you completely forgot to prepare a spell to keep your temperature!

Ana, who was obviously prepared and doesn't notice the cold at all, stares bewildered and confused at you suddenly freaking out over the lake's temperature and rushing back to shore in a blind panic, where you proceed to fumble with your wand multiple times before you're finally able to cast a spell that protects you from the cold. Admittedly that'd have been less of a comedy routine if you had taken your soaking wet with freezing cold water clothes off, those were not helping, but not in front of Vettor and Ana. You'll reconsider the importance of modesty after you feel hypothermia set in, not before.

That sure woke you up, though. Not going to need to go for a run on the Athletics Field after this anymore, though an infirmary trip might be called for instead.

"So do you still want to check out that ring, or are you good?" Ana asks, sounding more confused in general than like she's asking a question.

"I-I think I'm good," you answer. "Going to want to get out of these clothes immediately, just because I can't feel the cold doesn't mean it's still there. I'll go ask Vettor to join you instead while I get changed real quick."

Ana nods. Vettor, who heard your freak out and ran over nods at your suggestion, and while those two head down into the lake you take off these soaking wet clothes and put your robes back on. Stupid second year spells that still get the job done, but take time to do it. If you were a senior you could have dried yourself off in a second, but the best you can do is cast a heating spell on your clothes and hang them over a branch. Better not forget about them, too, come to think of it. You've got your robes on, and wouldn't notice the fact that's all you've got on during this time of year because of your temperature spell. You do not want to know what kind of ridiculous rumors Rikildis could make out of someone finding your clothes out here in the middle of nowhere, that's for sure. Gods, that'd end up as such a convoluted mess, you just know it.

...Actually, looking around this tree your eyes spot a fallen branch - twig, really - with an extra pointy end to it. Eh, and extra end that's pointy, not an end that's extra pointy. Could Ana hook the ring with this thing? This stick isn't magical, most trigs on the ground aren't, so the ring shouldn't dispel it? And even if it melts it, for whatever reason, so what? It's a twig you found on the ground, nothing of great, irreplaceable value was lost. Huh. Sounds like it'd be worth a try, at least. You pick up the twig and walk over to the lake, where Vettor and Ana are discussing strategy above where Ana found the ring. "Hey, guys!" you call out. Vettor and Ana both wave and start to swim over.

"You feeling alright?" Vettor asks. You nod and say that you'll be fine, so long as you don't suffer any wardrobe issues right now. Vettor can't help but smirk, but you're sure he's just amused at your blunders, not planning to pull a prank on you. You'll hold his head underwater until he stops struggling if he does, anyway. "So what's with the stick? Did you need so much heat that you figured you'd cast your spells with a bigger stick, hoping it'd generate more heat?"

You shake your head. "No, Vettor, I figured we might be able to use this to hook the ring," you say as you hand him the stick. He immediately hands it over to Ana. "I don't know if that thing will melt whatever it touches, but if it melts a stick, well, nothing lost, right?"

Ana dives underneath the water to grab the ring as Vettor tells you that Ana and him pretty much came to the same conclusion, so you coming over with that stick was very convenient timing. You're kinda bummed out that that means you won't be able to really claim credit for the ingenious solution, of using a regular stick to solve your problem, but...whatever. Not what you care about that much right now. In any case, you and Vettor decide to wait for Ana to return either with the ring or with disappointment. One or the other.

A few minutes later she returns, stick held triumphantly far away from her. "Vettor, please take this stick off my hands I don't want to hold it anymore," Ana rapidly blurts out as she holds the stick out for Vettor. He takes it, asks her to take a deep breath, and Ana does. You ask her if everything went according to plan. More so than your attempt at taking a swim did, at any rate. "Of course it did better than that," Ana answers. You'll admit that is not the answer you wanted to hear, but it's what you set yourself up for. "Your stick idea was honestly very nice. I managed to poke at the ring from a distance without having to come close to it. You might have noticed that I've got fins, in addition to the temperature managing spells I cast?" You nod. "Yeah, I thought about what that ring might do to me if I touched it and realized I really didn't want to find out. So thanks for coming up with the stick idea. The more distance I could put between me and that ring, the better."

And so this is how this grand adventure, full of stupidity and fears of hypothermia, at least that's what it was for you, comes to it's end. Lodged onto a stick with an extra pointy end. You cannot believe this plan not only worked, but worked so well. At the very least you're not concerned about the fact that the whole stick angle will limit your ability to retell this story in a way that doesn't make it sound ridiculous, because seriously, forgetting that heating spell...you're going to have to make a few edits to this story if you're ever going to want to retell it anyway, so might as well write the stick part out of it while you're at it.

In any case, the three of you have retrieved the mysterious ring, and it is not bothering the stick at all, so you've got a means to transport it too. Not a very...elegant, or good-looking transport, but it'll get the job done.

...You get halfway to the Academagia before you realize you forgot to grab your clothes off the tree branch before leaving. Son-of-a-Fish, this has not been your day...

-Puzzles. Solve this puzzle.
--When you approach this problem as you would a puzzle you quickly realize what the "intended" answer would be from whoever posed it: Some manner of mundane solution, as some sort of attempted lesson at not forgetting to hone your own skills in favor of just using magic to solve everything. The problem here is a lack of ability to tell whether the ring is safe to pick up, and that's not something you want to figure out by means of Ana experimenting with it. So you'll have to figure that out some other way, that can simply be observed.

...Observation. Wow, hard to believe the solution was that easy. "Ana, what did this ring end up lodged between? Wooden supports, stone, dirt, something else?"

"I think any wooden support beams probably would have rotten away long ago. But to answer your question, it's stuck between some kind of stone pillar or foundation thing, I'm not an archaeologist and I have no idea what that part of the drowned palace is supposed to be. Why?"

Vettor likewise stares at you a bit curiously and asks if you've figured out a solution. You nod. "We can say for sure that the ring doesn't harm the stone it's resting on, so we'll use that to carry it. Of course carving out part of the palace to bring that crack, ring included, with us is less than practical, I'll admit. So..." Both Ana and Vettor likewise try to think of something more practical, but none of you brought any stone plates or soup ladles or whatever with you, and you're likewise lacking on the stone chisel supplies. That's not to say there are no rocks around to Revise, but to pick up a ring that seems to break nearby magic...

"I've got it!" you suddenly say. Ana and Vettor both are all ears immediately. "We'll use a stick instead of something made of stone. We won't know for use whether it'll work, but we can at least test it, and finding a stick with an extra end or two that we can use to catch the ring is much more likely than stumbling across a stone soup ladle out in the wild. Does that sound like an idea?"

Ana says she's willing to try and, and Vettor says he's tired of standing around uselessly, so he'll go fetch you a stick with an extra pointy end. Truly, never in all of your years at the Academagia so far did a problem not have such a refined and extravagant solution...as a stick with an extra pointy end. Truly, this is setting a new height and record. In some respect, anyway...

You and Ana patiently wait for Vettor to return with the stick, and armed with this new tool Ana, with all the confidence of Philippe Marchant during an Arithmetic mid-term, goes back into the water and tries to lodge the ring onto the stick. A few minutes later she returns, stick held triumphantly far away from her. "Vettor, please take this stick off my hands I don't want to hold it anymore," Ana rapidly blurts out as she holds the stick out for Vettor. He takes it, asks her to take a deep breath, and Ana does. You ask her if everything went according to plan. "Eh, it kinda did. Your stick idea was honestly very nice, I managed to poke at the ring from a distance without having to come close to it. You might have noticed that I've got fins right now?" You nod. "Yeah, I thought about what that ring might do to me if I touched it and realized I really didn't want to find out. So thanks for coming up with the stick idea. The more distance I could put between me and that ring, the better."

And so this is how this grand adventure, full of bravery and danger, comes to it's end. Lodged onto a stick with an extra pointy end. You cannot believe this plan not only worked, but worked so well. It's just a shame that it'll limit your ability to retell this story in a way that doesn't make it sound ridiculous, because seriously. Academagia students solving problems with regular, non-magical sticks? How backwards can you get...you suppose it makes for an interesting puzzle, though. If one that you doubt would impress overly many...

In any case, the three of you have retrieved the mysterious ring, and it is not bothering the stick at all, so you've got a means to transport it too. Not a very elegant or good-looking transport, but it'll get the job done.

--When you approach this problem as you would a puzzle you quickly realize what the "intended" answer would be from whoever posed it: Some manner of mundane solution, as some sort of attempted lesson at not forgetting to hone your own skills in favor of just using magic to solve everything. The problem here is a lack of ability to tell whether the ring is safe to pick up, and that's not something you want to figure out by means of Ana experimenting with it. So you'll have to figure that out some other way, that can simply be observed.

How, though? How does one tell whether a normal-looking ring might melt the skin off your bones if you pick it up, without magic? How does one observe magic without magic? Well, how does one observe it safely. You've got no idea...

You continue to give this monster of a riddle all the thought you can spare, but no matter what situation you imagine you cannot think of a safe way to tell whether the ring is safe to pick up. You just can't. So you're still stumped when, some amount of time later, Vettor suddenly walks up to you with a stick in hand. Not his wand, mind, a regular-looking stick. "If this ring break magic around it than we obviously can't pick it up directly regardless, since I have to assume it'd break whatever spells we cast on us. Like Ana's fins, or more problematically, her temperature keeping spells. I don't think she fancies swimming around Ten Swans' Lake in Cheimare without that." Okay, makes sense. "I don't think there's any way we can make sure the ring is safe ourselves, not without magic, but I figured we can throw a stick at the problem and see if that works. If it does, great, we win. If not, well, I'm down one stick I just picked up off the ground in Elumia Proper. Don't think that's going to break any banks, personally."

...Oh, of course! The stone the ring is lodged between, the ring obviously doesn't damage that if it's been stuck between it for so long. That is how you observe-curses! If only you'd have figured that out sooner you wouldn't have had Vettor one-up your wit. Or your lack thereof...

Regardless, Vettor goes to give Ana the stick and explain his plan. She dives into the lake again, and comes back a few minutes later with the stick held triumphantly far away from her. "Vettor, please take this stick off my hands I don't want to hold it anymore," Ana rapidly blurts out as she holds the stick out for Vettor. He takes it, asks her to take a deep breath, and Ana does. You ask her if everything went according to plan. She nods. "Your stick idea was honestly very nice. I managed to poke at the ring from a distance without having to come close to it. You might have noticed that I've got fins right now?" Vettor nods. "Yeah, I thought about what that ring might do to me if I touched it and realized I really didn't want to find out. So thanks for coming up with the stick idea. The more distance I could put between me and that ring, the better."

...So this is how this grand adventure comes to it's end, huh? Lodged onto a stick with an extra pointy end, same as your confidence and your pride. You cannot believe Vettor's plan not only worked, but worked so well. And that it took Vettor for you to have the same idea. Like, he's not stupid, it's not like you failed an Arithmetic exam harder than Joana and Philippe, but...still. A stick. A stick, that was your grand answer - a stick!

Whatever. The three of you have retrieved the mysterious ring, and it is not bothering it's trusty mount at all, so you've got a means to transport it too. Job done, that's all that matters in the end.

Fun Fact: The prototype adventure that (eventually) lead to this whole adventure chain started with the situation described in the Swimming failure text, although in that reality it involved the PC's (stolen) spare robes being left hanging in the Imperial Reserve, not his/her actual clothes being left at Ten Swans' Lake.

Another one of those stages where I had a hard time imagining how a failure would stall. "They fail to get the ring and Professor Badcrumble doesn't believe their story, forcing them to get it anyway", sure, but there's a few reasons why this wouldn't work.

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Looking for Something to Find, stage 6:

An uneventful, tense and thoroughly ridiculous trip back to the Academagia later and the three of you stand before the door to Professor Badcrumble's office. Ana quickly takes point and knocks on it, barely waiting for the professor to tell her to come in before opening the door. This, you can already tell, is going to go beautifully. "Ah, Anathema, Vettor, come-[PC FIRST NAME]? Did you assist these two with their-" Professor Badcrumble starts, but she interrupts herself first when she sees you walk in, and again when she sees Vettor walk in with the stick. Worse, Vettor doesn't know where to put it so he starts to confusedly wave the stick around as he tries to find a place for it. "S-stop waving that thing around, Vettor, please. Why, unless my eyes deceive me, have you three elected to return a noblewoman's wedding ring on a stick? Could you not treat the woman's personal possessions with a bit more respect?"

"There's something wrong with this ring, professor," Ana(thema? Is that where "Ana" and "'Thema" comes from?) says. "We weren't sure whether the ring was safe to pick up, since we don't know what monster attacked the client, so I tried to check it with a spell, but the ring won't let me cast anything near it. It's cursed or something, but we don't know what's wrong with it."

Professor Badcrumble looks somewhere between disbelieving and perplexed at that explanation. More so the former than the latter, even though Vettor nods when Professor Badcrumble turns to face him. "Vettor, hand me that...stick, please," the professor asks. Vettor dutifully hands it over. She takes out her own wand and, with an expression that clearly says she doesn't believe a word of what Ana just said, tries to cast her own detection spell on it. But, as before, when the professor directs her spell towards the ring it suddenly tears, breaks, and eventually, evaporates. Professor Badcrumble nearly drops the stick out of surprise when she sees that. "Wh-what!? How? Why did...?" the professor exclaims, and a second later she turns her attention back to the three of you. Ana looks nervous, though you're not entirely sure why. She did nothing wrong, as far as you've noticed. "What happened? How did the ring end up like this?"

Ana nervously shakes her head. Vettor shrugs and says, "No clue, we found it like that. Maybe whatever monster attacked the noblewoman did it, but I've got no idea what kind of creature could do that. Or why, for that matter." Professor Badcrumble nods and turns to face you. You shrug and say that Vettor pretty much hit the nail on the head - you've got no idea why that ring breaks magic like that. Or how, for that matter.

"Well...it can't be a Negation," the professor answers for you as she stares curiously at the ring. "Negations don't break spells like this, and the noblewoman said her ring wasn't enchanted anyway." Professor Badcrumble fishes a small box out of her desk and carefully drops the ring inside of it, after which she dutifully hands the stick back to Vettor. It takes him a second to realize and take it back. "I'll investigate the cause behind this before returning the ring to the noblewoman. Worst case we'll have to inform her about the situation and ask for her cooperation in tracking down whatever monster attacked her. I don't believe that'll be a problem, though. Anathema, you've done a great job with both finding the ring and noticing what happened to it, whatever happened to it, and so managing to return it without putting yourself at undue risk. So why the long face? You look like I'm about to send you off to detention."

"That's usually the thanks I get whenever Professor Story talks to me," Anathema mumbles underneath her breath. You're pretty sure Professor Badcrumble still hear it, though.

"Anathema, if you've got problems with your regent - or if he's got problems with you, for that matter - I'd suggest you bring the matter to the Legate. I can assure you that you're not a problem student, and frankly I'd take offence to Professor Storey treating you as such." Anathema first looks surprised at Professor Badcrumble, then weakly nods and she resumes staring at her feet, leaving you wondering what's going on there. Professor Storey is a...difficult professor, for many of his students, but he's not unfair. Strict to a fault and slightly mad from having dealt with Philippe's brothers, but you don't recall him punishing students that don't deserve it...at least from his point of view. Although something's tugging at the back of your mind as that thought crosses it, too. "[PC FIRST NAME], Vettor, is there anything more that either of you two need from me?" Professor Badcrumble asks, snapping you out of your thoughts.

"I'm good," Vettor says. Professor Badcrumble is, visibly, not impressed with Vettor's lack of graceful conduct, but honestly you feel like that's expecting too much of him anyway. It's enough of a miracle that he gets along so well with Ana, you think. As for you...

-There's nothing you need right now.
--You shake your head at the professor's question, and silently leave her office along with Vettor. Anathema stays behind at the professor's request, to discuss what issues she's having with Professor Storey in more detail. What that's all about you've no idea, but you're sure that if you need to know at any point you can ask Vettor about it. It seems like something that Ana would end up sharing with him sooner or later, anyhow.

You don't think it'll ever cease to be uncanny, though. Vettor getting along so well, and with a girl...definitely not what you expected after the impression he left on you last year, that's for sure.

-There's one thing about Professor Storey that comes to mind, actually...
--"Actually, about Professor Storey, this isn't the first time I've heard about him acting really weirdly," you say. Professor Badcrumble doesn't look impressed, though.

"I'm sure most of the students he sends to detention for what they believe are only minor or irrelevant infractions would say such a thing," the professor points out. You're not convinced by that, though.

"True, but I know it isn't that. Sometime during Athonos I dragged Girars de Periarde to see him, because Girars was worrying himself sick over a bunch of stupid rumors and I thought his regent would be able to talk some sense in to him. But the only thing he did was laugh at our faces and threaten to have us both expelled if we ever brought it up again. That goes well beyond us just catching him when he's in a bad mood, if you ask me."

"He seriously did that? Why? What'd you bring up?" Vettor asks with a face that says a few things, but "I believe you" is not one of them. The same can be said for Professor Badcrumble, in fact, who likewise asks you what you mentioned to the regent. Ana, for her part, is silently staring at you with an expression you're not able to read. She's cautious about something, but you're not sure what.

"It was, eh...right, that estate! One of the estates in Frontino got raided by a group of spellcasters during the summer, and there was a rumor...I'm not sure if 'going around' is the right word, but a few older Academagia students were talking about how that the estate was raided by a bunch of animal rights activists trying to put an end to some manner of vague and nefarious animal cruelty that was still taking place there, and Girars overheard. So naturally he was worried about it, I dragged him to his regent, and he threatened to have us both expelled if we ever mentioned that estate to him again."

Vettor's expression doesn't change, and neither does Ana's. Professor Badcrumble, however, looks equal parts perplexed and surprised. "The...wait, are you referring to the De Simones' estate, [PC FIRST NAME]?" You nod, not feeling surprised that Professor Badcrumble knows about it. She, however, looks irate. "I-I want to say that he-wait, that's why Professor Storey has been giving Anathema a hard time? First he leaves Professor Piaxenza and me to deal with his former troublemakers and then he treats Anathema like she's no better than-alright, that's one step further than even my patience is willing to tolerate." Yikes, what monster did you just wake up!? Without pause Professor Badcrumble continues, saying, "[PC FIRST NAME], thank for you that bit of information, but do inform the Legate of these matters next time. I know he might be difficult to find...all the time, but Professors - let stand regents - have no business treating their students like that."

You just nod and hope that you're quickly able to run away from whatever you just unleashed. Seriously, you've got no idea where all of that came from, but, eh...you suppose you can say "case closed" on that whole plot to get revenge on the regent. So that's good...you guess?

In any case that's all you've got to say to Professor Badcrumble, all you dare to say even if you did, so along with Vettor you quickly make your exit and leave. Ana, for better or worse, stays behind at the Professor's request to discuss her Professor Storey situation in more detail. Hopefully that means that Vettor can coax some answers out of Ana later, because you two are both confused as to what you just witnessed, but if not...well, you managed to get that revenge that you wanted. A few months too late, it feels like, but...you did. So hurrah, victory achieved, you suppose?

Until you actually see Professor Storey squirm it won't really feel like a victory, but if Professor Badcrumble ever personally confronts him about this subject, whatever it's about, you'd like to be in a different building if at all possible. Like Alice's Tavern. Yeah, that's a great place to be. In fact let's go there later. Pies to celebrate a victory, that sounds like a great idea!

[PC IS NOT SIGALIS FRIEND]-Tell the professor about Sigalis looking for the ring as well.
--You're not sure if you're really comfortable doing this, all things considered, but either which way you feel like you have to get it off your chest. "There's one thing I'd like to mention, Professor," you say, a bit nervously. Professor Badcrumble nods and politely asks you to speak. "Well, about this job that you passed down to Ana: Sigalis du Sonmeil knew about it. We found her at Ten Swans' Lake looking uselessly for the ring, before Vettor even told Ana about it probably."

Professor Badcrumble looks confused and concerned. Not at all like she knew about Sigalis already and this is all just one great big misunderstanding. "Did she say anything as to why she was looking for this ring, exactly? I was told this request was to be considered a private one, no one except those actually involved with it were supposed to know about it. Of course I assume that Vettor informed you since you were asked to help with it. Vettor, just for the record, you didn't mention this request to Sigalis, did you?"

While Vettor shakes his head and explains that he brought it straight to Ana as soon as he was told about it you take a moment to think. As far as you recall Vettor just blurted out everything right in front of you, and then when he pointed out an issue with the job Ana gave you that look of "you're my solution to this problem" and you kind of volunteered yourself into helping them. Which you did end up doing, admittedly. So, no. Not anywhere close to Vettor doing what he should have. You see no reason to fret over those minor details, though. "As for Sigalis," you start, hoping to change the subject, "I doubt she told us everything she was thinking, you know how she is, but she did tell us her excuse at least: Do you recall the anti-shapeshifting flyers that were being spread around the Admiratio last month?" Professor Badcrumble nods, though frowns at recalling the things. From what you recall she indeed was one of the professors who was pretty outspoken against the flyer, as well as the underhanded actions that Lucas was suspected of. "Sigalis accused the noblewoman, the client, of being the one behind those flyers. As well as something worse that she didn't dare say 'without evidence to back her up', which supposedly that ring is. If anything is."

Professor Badcrumble frowns at this and stares curiously at the box she dropped the ring in. There's no denying there's something unusual about it, so Sigalis' accusation seems to at least have some ground to stand on.

[PC IS SIGALIS' FRIEND]-Carefully consider whether you should say anything more here...
--You actually don't think so. Professor Badcrumble mentioned that she's going to have the ring checked out before returning it, and her reaction to the ring's odd quality (or qualities, you're not sure) seemed genuine. Anything more that you say is just that much more the professor could ask possibly uncomfortable questions about, and you're sure that you if not Sigalis would not want you to be in that position.

So you sake your head at the professor's question, and silently leave her office along with Vettor. Anathema stays behind at the professor's request, to discuss what issues she's having with Professor Storey in more detail. That could have been an opening for you, possibly, but it's just not necessary. You've done your job, Sigalis will be pleased, and if there's anything more for you to say on the subject you'll address that problem if and when that times comes. You're sure that Sigalis will ask you for help, one way or another, if she ends up needing it again.

So question I'd like to ask of the people reading through this (all quarter of you :rolleyes:), is this overarching story starting to come into view, make sense or whatever, or is this a case of three puzzles worth of jigsaw(?) pieces being scattered over the floor and who knows what's what?

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Looking for Something to Find, stage 7:

"[PC FIRST NAME], please report to the headmaster's office-yes Orso [s/he] does know where it is, this closet isn't that secre-eh...wait, I-I mean [PC FIRST NAME] please report to the headmaster's office immediately!"

You were concerned at first, hearing someone announce your name like that. But now you can't help but smile and shake your head. The more serious and high up the faculty's ranks they are the more hilarious their inevitable mistakes are, and considering that was just broadcast across the entire Academagia, that was a fairly large blunder. Oh, Professor Briardi is going to hear from her students later. And a few other students. And then they will hear from her in turn, no doubt.

The sad irony of the situation? You don't actually know what office closet they're talking about right now, but you're the only one who knows that. It'd have made the joke perfect, but alas. Well, time to run around like a headless chicken looking for-actually, wait, closet office? Well, shoot, you actually do know where they're waiting for you. Shame about the joke but it makes life more convenient, so you'll happily take it.

A quick bit of running through the hallways later and you enter the Legate's current office. You don't even bother to knock, mostly because you forgot to. But really they're expecting you so it doesn't matter. The Legate is here, sitting behind a desk and looking like he's having the most epic staring contest with an invisible ghost ever seen in the history of Elumia. Professor Briardi is leaning against said desk, motioning to you to sit down in a prepared chair, which you do. Also here is Vettor Conta, and another chair that's empty.

"Okay, so...are we all here...?" a confused and slightly unnerved Vettor asks Professor Briardi as you sit down. She nods.

"Legate, if you'd begin?"

The legate looks up from his desk, finally ending his staring contest. "I take it that both of you recall that little odd job both you and Vettor's mentoree performed for the Licentiate of Mineta recently?" You and Vettor both nod, with different levels of mixed feelings. Mostly confused, though. "Good. Now, the faculty has investigated the mystery of miss Matilde Laroche's wedding ring, the ring that refuses to let any spells be cast near it. To keep it short, that ring is some manner of Proscribed artefact. It's exact nature even I can only guess at, at this time." That little revelation leaves you at a loss for words, both internally and externally. Vettor, with a deadpan voice, makes a comment about how quickly that escalated. You can tell from his expression that he's no less confused than you are right now, though. And no less concerned, for that matter. "Yes, 'escalate' is a pretty good word for this whole situation, really," the Legate says with the first hint of humor since the start of this conversation. "As far as I've managed to gather the 'monster' which attacked the woman was directed, by his owner, to steal this ring. But he failed to do so, and in the resulting struggle the ring instead sank into Ten Swans' Lake for this nefarious ne'er-do-well to fail to collect later. As even if most people these days knew how to swim in the first place, the ring ended up hidden away in such an awkward position that even a fish would have a hard time finding it. To say nothing of the ring's more unusual properties, which would prove problematic for anyone trying to grab it despite, and largely because, they found themselves at the bottom of a lake without the ability to swim without the aid of magic." Getting a distinct feeling that the Legate is talking about Sigalis there, even Vettor's got an eyebrow raised. You imagine that he's at least a bit shaken by that, in fact, but all he does is calmly nod. You're still at a loss for words. "That, however, is a part of this mystery that's already been...resolved. Where you three come in, the part of this mystery that I need your help with, is dealing with the remaining members of miss Laroche's group. Though the lady herself steadfastly denies that she works with anyone but herself, we faculty have every reason to believe that a group is involved here. And with that, tracking them down before they flee or otherwise go into hiding, we need your help."

You and Vettor share an odd look, uncomfortably aware of who the Legate is missing but not sure how to address that proverbial elephant that should be in the room, but isn't. Vettor, for better or worse, takes it upon himself to point out to the Legate that he makes it sound like he needs Ana's help as well, but she isn't here. "There's a reason why she's not a part of this meeting, yes, and why she'll ideally never even know about this little incident," Professor Briardi says as reassuringly as she can. Vettor slowly nods, but his expression doesn't change.

The Legate casts a sideways glance at Professor Briardi, sighs, and slowly starts to explain. "To explain why we need Anathema's help, specifically, is that as things stand we cannot access this criminal group's lair. We've already divined it's rough location, through the 'usual' means of the Academagia's faculty. Can I assume that, as second years, both of you have at least a general understanding of Kate's field?" Both you and Vettor nod. "Good. So, the situation is that we need someone who is not only a natural swimmer, but someone who is a natural diver as well. Swimming is part of the first year's Athletics class, but there is a rather large difference between someone who can cross a lake without drowning and someone who can swim laps underneath said lake's surface. Even in a city this large the amount of people that not only have a talent for swimming and diving, but also choose to put as much effort into practising and refining that talent in the manner that Anathema has prior to her attending the Academagia, can be counted on one hand. One hand without any fingers, as far as I've found, at that."

A moment later Professor Briardi speaks up. "Are either of you familiar with the Proscribed branch of Negation magic that, in essence, Negates magic itself?"

[Deed: Negated]-"Are you familiar", she asks...
--Vettor shakes his head. You, in contrast, roll your eyes so hard that it makes Professor Briardi recall who she's talking to. Which would be a feat worth remembering if it didn't sound completely stupid, but that's the life of a wizard sometimes.

"Ah, right, my apologies. I forgot that you were...that familiar with it."

"Well, I'm not," Vettor says, "so what's this all about?" You and Professor Briardi silently stare at each other for a moment, and a second later you explain what you know. Not that you're an expert by any means, and not that it isn't a pretty self-explanatory field to be perfectly honest, but you know enough to make Vettor realize the problem with using the vast array of alternative Academagia-style solutions to this problem.

[!Deed: Negated]-Never heard of it.
--You and Vettor both shake your head. Professor Briardi, who's usually pretty ruthless when it comes to her students not knowing her field as well as they should, simply nods. It makes sense she doesn't expect you know much if anything about a Proscribed branch of Negation magic, but you were nevertheless expecting a frown and a painful demonstration. That's how it these kinds of questions usually go with her, at least.

"I'm surprised that neither of you have even heard about it, but considering the subject I suppose I should be happy about that," Professor Briardi notes. There's a brief moment where you shudder in anticipation of what comes next, but that fear thankfully proves to be unfounded. "To explain, than...well, honestly it's pretty self-explanatory - it's a branch of Negation magic that Negates magic itself. That is what is protecting the one entrance into this lair that we know of, and simply put, I don't know how to dispel or bypass such a thing. If we were dealing with regular Negation magic than yes, even Negation itself is subject to the laws of Negation, I could eventually find some way through...well, truthfully of course it's rather more complicated than just that. But the point is that I could eventually find a way to break it. With what it is, though, we've no choice but to just grit our teeth and go through it the hard way. Which presents us with a significant problem..."

[!Deed: Negated]-Theory of Negation. Um...
--"I've heard a bit about it," you admit a bit hesitantly. Professor Briardi doesn't immediately get on your case, though, which is good. "I mean, not that there's much to say about it, it's pretty self-explanatory. How and why did...what was her name enchant her ring with it, though? Does that act like a layer of protection against hostile spells, or something?"

"Truthfully I've no idea. We're still investigating it's potential uses ourselves," the Legate answers. Professor Briardi frowns at him, but he doesn't let that stop him. "Understand that this branch of Negation magic, while Proscribed, isn't like Gates or Mastery which have been banned and unbanned throughout history. This branch of magic has been banned since at least as early as the Exile, since of course people feared that it could disrupt or outright unmake the spells that lifted the islands into the skies, and no one wanted to see them crash down back to the surface the hard way. As a result we actually know very little about it. That it's even possible to use this magic in Enchanting is news to us, as far as we knew it should be theoretically and practically impossible. Like trying to light a fire underwater, really."

Huh. Very weird indeed...

--Your first (and only) thought turns to the law of Negation magic that (in essence) states that all magic can be negated. But whatever Negation magic exists that allows that "law" to exist is neither proscribed nor the undoing of magic itself, so...as much as you hate to admit it you've got no clue. Though you maybe shouldn't be annoyed at not knowing much - anything, really - about a Proscribed branch of magic. Vettor, for his part, just shakes his head.

"I'm surprised that neither of you have even heard about it, but considering the subject I suppose I should be happy about that," Professor Briardi notes. There's a brief moment where you shudder in anticipation of what comes next, you know Professor Briardi's reputation as a sink-or-swim teacher who's not above tossing her students straight into a lake if that's what it takes to get them to learn, but that fear thankfully proves to be unfounded. "To explain, than...well, honestly it's pretty self-explanatory - it's a branch of Negation magic that Negates magic itself. That is what is protecting the one entrance into this lair that we know of, and simply put, I don't know how to dispel or bypass such a thing. If we were dealing with regular Negation magic than yes, even Negation itself is subject to the laws of Negation, I could eventually find some way through...well, truthfully of course it's rather more complicated than that, but point is that I could eventually find a way to break it. With what it is, though, we've no choice but to just grit our teeth and go through it the hard way. Which presents us with a significant problem..."

Personally I imagined this ring as only having residue on it rather than being directly Enchanted, albeit still enough to have it's magic destroying property, but whichever works better really.

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Looking for Something to Find, stage 8:

Suddenly a light flares up in Vettor's head. "No magic...the same thing as whatever that ring was? And the only entrance is protected by that?" Professor Briardi nods. Vettor sighs and slowly lowers his head. "So...that's why you need 'Thema's help? Because even though you two could easily polymorph yourselves into frogs or something...you can't rely on magic to enter that lair at all?"

"More than likely, yes," the Legate notes. "The full situation is, Kate - Professor Badcrumble, that is - already performed divinations to locate this group's lair. We know it's underground, we know it's somewhere below a nondescript part of the Elumian wilderness, and we know there's a long tunnel leading to it located somewhere upstream of Lake Ardica, before the waterfall. We can't systematically turn up the entire countryside like an oversized pancake hoping to stumble across it, especially because we don't know exactly how deep or far out to look. We can't find it through more direct methods since detection spells get wonky when voids of magic get involved. And while the Academagia has a Class worth of students would could turn themselves into all manner of amphibious shapes and sizes...this tunnel, which is currently our only means of finding this lair, is protected by a void of magic. Not regular Negation spells, a literal void of magic. No spells can exist within that space. As far as I know even a Dragon would be at this tunnel's mercy, unable to cast anything. Not that the tunnel is Dragon-sized to begin with, of course, but..."

"It's not a perfect defence," Professor Briardi interjects, "but it's forcing our hand when it comes to how quickly we act. Spells like these, in addition to being Proscribed, are fragile and difficult to maintain. In short, miss Laroche's continued insistence to the contrary aside, there must be a group involved. A group that certainly will not be around anymore if we wait for these spells to naturally decay, fragile as they are they are not that fragile. As such we want to get on top of this case before any trails leading to potential other co-conspirators and illegal activity grows cold. To do that we have to find and search the group's lair as soon as possible, but our only means of access is through the tunnel. And the only student we have who could possibly accomplish that...is Anathema."

"Okay, so what's the problem with getting 'Thema to help?" Vettor asks almost cheerfully, though you can tell the weight of the situation is why there's only a crooked smile on his face. "You're right, the girl's got a talent for swimming and she's only starting practising magic since Juvenalia. And she's actively looking for opportunities to put her skills to good use, so...why can't you two leave this to her?"

There's a moment of awkward silence before Professor Briardi answers Vettor's question. "Because it's too dangerous. These criminals might have trapped their lair or the tunnel leading to it, they might still be there and angry if they find their lair breached by someone...worse, this 'tunnel' we speak of might very well be a series of long since flooded caves. An underwater labyrinth that, in their haste to escape, one of more of these criminals may have gotten themselves lost in. Searching around frantically for the exit, trying desperately to use their wands to save themselves, only to find themselves unable to cast spells...and drown." Both Vettor and yourself have gotten the memo by now, but either to make sure that it sticks or for some other reason, Professor Briardi finishes the ominous thought. "We can't afford to put Anathema in that much danger, mentally or physically. The last thing we want to do is add a pool to the Retolian Playground."

"I think they've gotten the memo, Polisena," the Legate (thankfully) says.

"All things considered I'm sure you'll forgive me for having the impression that students rarely do."

The Legate gets a chuckle out of that, but both you and Vettor are very much in "not able to be amused" territory right now. "In any case, that's the long and short of it. If either of you two can think of a way to access this criminal's lair relatively safely, I'm all ears. Otherwise, what I want from you two is keeping Anathema from doing something...unfortunate. We're quite aware of how quickly news seems to spread among the students, especially when the faculty wants to keep it quiet, so we decided to inform you two ourselves sooner rather than later. Is that understood?" Both you and Vettor nod. "Good. Than if you two don't have anything else, you're dismissed."

Your head is spinning too much to come up with something right now, and Vettor seems to be in the same shape, so you both shake your heads and decide to sit down in a quiet corner of the Garden Gallery to discuss strategies. Not that you think there's too much to discuss. "Think", key word.

"So...I know you're not going to agree with this," Vettor says with a measure of confidence you usually don't hear from him. "I think we should tell 'Thema about this."

"Well, you are right on one point: I don't agree with that. Why tell Ana anything about this? You should know better than I do how overeager she is at proving herself, and I know pretty well that she is. I also know that she seems to listen you you, but are you sure you can stop her from going off on her own?"

Vettor rolls his eyes. "Of course I do. I know 'Thema better than you think-"

"You say as if you don't know her name," you interject.

"Hey, I already told you why I call her 'Thema. And honestly, despite what she says I think she prefers it that way. If I just did everything she told me to she wouldn't get the chance to...convince me, you know? That, and it's actually helpful. She is too eager to prove herself, you're right about that, but nothing brings her to attention more than me calling her 'Ana'. Nothing that I could do, anyway."

"I do kind of remember that, yeah. Still, why tell her? Even you agree that she might do something stupid if she hears about this."

"I do, but that's exactly it - like the Legate said news among the students spreads fast. She's bound to hear about it sooner or later. Better she hears about the details - and the dangers - from someone I know she'll listen to than someone who might only tell her that the Legate's in a real bind and needs an expert diver to bail him out, right?"

This situation leaves you with mixed feelings. On the one side doing something that two professors specifically told you not to do less than ten minutes ago doesn't sit well with you, and the concept of Vettor being this really good and effective mentor figure - and to a girl, at that - really doesn't mesh with the impression he left you with last year. On the flipside, you know he's right. You know he gets along with Ana well and you've seen how they interact. You know that Ana is actively looking for opportunities to prove herself, and that news of this mess will spread through the student body sooner or later. And probably sooner, at that. You know nothing good will come from leaving Ana to her own devices, but...what to do? Support Vettor, try and convince him otherwise, or...

-Empathy. Go with Vettor to tell Ana.
--You know Vettor is right. You really, really hate to admit it, but...you know he's right. "Fine," you say with a tired sigh. "Let's go talk to Ana. Or, actually, do you want to go talk to her yourself? I don't have anything to say to her myself, really, so I'm not sure if me being there is necessary. Or helpful, for that matter."

Vettor gives you an uncomfortable look, but after you poke him - literally poke him, in fact - he relents. "A-alright, fine. Truth be told, I think it would be best if I went to talk to her alone. I don't think she's got a very high opinion of you right now, she takes some time to warm up to people. Right now I'm sure she just feels like you're trying to compete with her, that you showed her up during that whole ring job business."

You frowns heavily at that. "In what way...what are you even talking about, Vettor? That is not how that went at all and you know it isn't."

"I do, and I don't disagree with you, don't get me wrong. But 'Thema...it's a long story. I'll tell you later if you want, right now I want to get up and go find her. I have to get to her and tell her about this before she hears about it from someone else first..."

Indeed, Vettor is fidgeting pretty heavily. You let out another tired sigh and tell him to run off, although you're going to want an answer later. Whether Vettor actually heard that last part as he ran away you're not sure, but you'll remind him if you have to...

--You know Vettor is right, as much as you hate to admit it, so you agree to come along and tell Ana about the situation. Only problem is that neither of you can find her. She's not in any of her usual hangouts, or at least what Vettor insists are her usual hangouts, and even knocking on her dorm room door gets you no response. Vettor is at a loss. "I...guess she must be with Professor Badcrumble, or something? Dealing with the Professor Storey situation, maybe?" You shrug and say you know one professor who can answer that question for you, and zero professors that you want to answer that question for you. Vettor nods in agreement. "I guess we'll have to look for her later, than. Strange, I was sure that she'd be in her room if nowhere else, that's where she usually goes to hide whenever things go south..."

Maybe she is, maybe she isn't, maybe she just doesn't want to be disturbed right now, who knows. So long as she's not going to get any ideas from the rumor mill you two should be fine to search for her later, so that's just a matter of time.

-Pure Luck. Throw a stone in a random direction.
--You bend over and pick up a random rock, asking yourself several times why you thought that this was a good idea. Nevertheless it feels like it'll work, and if there's one thing you've learned, it's that trusting your instincts either gets you results or gets you some precious extra seconds to think of a better rabbit to pull out of your invisible tophat. Hopefully this won't be an example of the latter. "Uh, do you want to do something with that?" Vettor asks, confused as you toss up and catch the rock in your hand a few times. You're thinking, feeling, trying to figure out where you're supposed to throw it...and with a sudden flash of absolutely nothing you send the rock flying in a completely random direction!

Or so you'd think.

There's a pained yelp coming from the bushes where the rock bounces off of seemingly thin air. As added insult to injury the rock lands on the invisible person's foot, causing it to float above the ground rather conspicuously. Vettor is shocked, but you're not even surprised. Even when you can't explain it you just know these sorts of things sometimes. "C-can't you be more careful where you're throwing random stuff!?" a familiar voice belonging to one Grainne Inneith cries out.

"You're literally invisible," Vettor retorts with a deadpan voice. "Well, were invisible."

Despite the Glamour you can see the seething hatred on Grainne's face. Of course when she dispels the Glamour she just wears an expression of wounded dignity. "Fine," Grainne says, kicking away the rock on her shoe. "You caught me, congrats. Well done, fantastic work, all of that stuff. Now if you'd kindly explain to me why you randomly threw a rock at me!?"

"Probably the same reason why you're randomly eavesdropping on us," you retort. "What's the scoop you're after? The business about the tunnel?"

"Eh, [PC FIRST NAME], I don't think we should tell Grainne about tha-"

"Put a lid on it, Vettor, I already know all about it." Grainne angrily insists. Of course she does. "I was just hoping that you two would, um, indirectly tell me something more about it."

"So...you're eavesdropping on us?" Vettor asks.

"We in the business prefer to call in 'information gathering', thank you."

Vettor suddenly frowns. "Is corpse gathering also something you do in your business? If you've been paying attention you know what'll happen if 'Thema hears about this, right?"

"Oh don't be so dramatic," Grainne waves off. "This little scandal is being talked about in Mineta already because of that noble lady that was arrested - or wasn't, as she claims, but I think we both know better than that." Vettor says he doesn't care and repeats his earlier question. Grainne rolls her eyes, impatiently. "Octavius' sake, Vettor, your little mentoree isn't going to go through that tunnel even if the Legate himself gets on his knees. She's had bad experiences with getting lost underwater and nearly drowning before, it's not something she's ever going to repeat."

"W-wait, what!? 'Thema never told me anything about that!"

"Should she? Just because you look out for her doesn't mean she's going to share all her darkest moments with you," Grainne says in an odd, casual way. Vettor seems bothered by it, though he tries to hide it. Tries and fails, though. "Really though, why did you think she's so crazy focussed on Revising herself a set of functional gills that she'd join a college who's ideals she at best has a second-rate interest in?" After a moment of silence Vettor just shakes his head and shrugs. "Figures. In any case I think I've more than compensated you both for the rock you tossed right in my face thank you very much, so unless there's any juicy details you two want to mention, I'll be taking my leave."

Vettor says he's got nothing, and you don't either, so you both let Grainne walk away. As soon as she's (presumably...) out of earshot Vettor turns to you. "I'm going to find 'Thema and ask her about what Grainne said," he quickly states before you can even think of a good way to tell him that might not be a great idea. "I know, [PC FIRST NAME], but I have my doubts that 'Thema really wouldn't try and push herself to do this. Grainne can talk all she wants, I'm sure I know 'Thema better than she does, and after you showed her up with finding that ring I think...I think she might push herself to do this, if it's a favor straight from the Legate. So I'm going." You try to ask in what way you 'showed her up' since that is not how you remember things happening as Vettor gets up and runs off, but he doesn't listen to a word you say. A part of you wonders if you should chase after him, but that probably wouldn't work out better than not going, so instead you get up yourself and head off to the Great Hall. Whatever Vettor ends up doing you'll hear about it sooner or later, either directly or indirectly.

--You bend over and pick up a random rock, asking yourself several times why you thought that this was a good idea. Nevertheless it feels like it'll work, and if there's one thing you've learned, it's that trusting your instincts either gets you results or gets you some precious extra seconds to think of a better rabbit to pull out of your invisible tophat. Hopefully this won't be an example of the latter. "Uh, do you want to do something with that?" Vettor asks, confused as you toss up and catch the rock in your hand a few times. You're thinking, feeling, trying to figure out where you're supposed to throw it...and with a sudden flash of absolutely nothing you send the rock flying in a completely random direction!

...And absolutely nothing happens.

"What are you doing, [PC FIRST NAME]?" Vettor asks. You shrug and say you've got no idea. About what you're doing or about what to do with Ana. "Well, stop playing with rocks and start thinking. If you don't have a better idea, than-"

Suddenly a cascade of noise comes from the bushes where you tossed the rock, enough for Vettor to stop his lecture and turn his head in the direction of the noise. Looks like you were on to something after all. Unfortunately despite you and Vettor both spending a while looking around and trying to follow every trail you can you don't end up finding any trace of whatever you almost nailed with a rock. If you managed to hit...it'd have been so awesome, you just know it...

Something that might not have been obvious so far is the fact that this used to be a standalone adventure waiting in my REJECTS.txt before being pulled out and reworked into this adventure chain. Now I'm getting to the stages that were less than finished to begin with, but still have a defined end-point, and that makes it a little tricky to come up with reasonable exits. To say nothing of the fact that the next three (initially two) stages needed to be reworked as well and yeah, it's a bit of a mess right now...

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Looking for Something to Find, stage 9:

Spoiler

About a half-hour later both Vettor and Ana approach you while you're eating a quick meal in the Great Hall. They look the same as they usually do, but there's a tension hanging around them that you can feel even from a distance. Vettor puts a hand on Ana's shoulder, who looks at Vettor, nods, and turns to you as she takes a step forward. "I'm not going to swim through that tunnel," she says, confidently. "I...I mean, we've already swung by the Legate's office and explained things. I'll be spending the next few days, really however long it takes, swimming up and down the river to look for the entrance to it. The Legate doesn't know exactly where it is yet. But that's all I'm doing. If you two want to go through it, you'll have to find a way to do that yourselves." Ana looks away and quietly adds, "I...can't help you more than that."

"Finding the tunnel is help enough," you say with a smile, as reassuringly as you can. It doesn't visibly cheer up Ana, but you'd like to think it does make her feel better all the same. "Vettor, I don't suppose you've come up with an idea in the meantime?" Vettor shakes his head. You expected that, but for once something really might be so easy. "Than take a seat. I haven't come up with anything yet either, but you can join the brainstorming session. You can join as well, Ana."

"I'd rather start looking for the tunnel."

You shrug as Vettor sits down next to you. "Fair enough. And good luck!" Ana turns around and walks off without another word said. It obvious that she's weighed down by her failure to swim through a potential deathtrap, but hopefully finding the entrance to it will help cheer her up. As for Vettor, you've got your own questions to ask him. "So you didn't give me the chance to ask earlier - what was all that stuff about me 'showing up' Ana about? I don't recall that at all, for the record."

"'Thema's got a bit of a...what'd you call it? Self-esteem issue," Vettor starts. Already you can tell this is going to get worse before it'll bet better. "The only real talent she has is swimming, and you can imagine that doesn't earn her a lot of prizes from her peers, or professors, or even her parents." You admit that swimming is a bit of a niche skill these days, but you also point out that Ana seems to have a solid head on her shoulders. Someone who's casting what's technically second-year Revision magic during the first half of their first year can't be brushed off as a talentless student as far as you're concerned, no matter how many tries it takes her. Vettor nods at that. "I've told her the same thing and I meant it, but 'Thema's just had a bit of a difficult life until now. Hard time making friends since none of her peers thought anything of swimming, her hobby, parents who tried to push her into a different direction since they didn't see any value in it either...and of course there's the whole episode where she nearly drowned because she was so desperate to prove herself. Things have gotten a lot better for her since she started attending the Academagia, thankfully. Athletics class gave her a few dozen peers that're all in the same pool as her, so to speak, so she gets her chance to stand out, talk to others, share her hobby, and so on. I don't think she's managed to make any real friends yet, she's still awkward around her Classmates, a bit shy too if you noticed, but she's not an outcast either. She gets along well with the Godina kids, those who don't have their heads stuck in a Rimbal anyway, and her college mates in Morvidus don't bother her either. Animals might not really be her thing, but you can probably imagine that there few people in Morvidus who have as good an understanding of fish as 'Thema does. And textbook knowledge, as it turns out. Girl has a good head on her shoulders, like you said."

"So me 'showing her up' meant...what, exactly? What did I do to give her that impression?"

Vettor shrugs. "I'm really not sure, to be honest. Just you being there might have been enough to upset her." You can't help but frown at that, which causes Vettor to let out a sigh. "I know, [PC FIRST NAME], I know. I've been there myself, she didn't trust me either at first, but as good a turn as coming to the Academagia has been for 'Thema is doesn't just wash everything before that point away. The reason she's so sensitive to that kind if stuff is because her parents are still trying to push her into a more...'practical' direction, to the point where they dictated part of her coursework. So that pressure to prove herself is still there, and something she's reminded of every time she checks her textbooks. So when someone that's her senior who she doesn't know orders her around, tells her what to do...no matter how reasonable you are, it rubs her the wrong way. That this had to happen in the middle of mid-terms probably didn't help, either. Her parents are keeping a very close eye on her grades and when they slip even just a little bit, rest assured."

"Are you sure she's not going to try and scout out that tunnel, Vettor? Because from the sound of it..." You trail off, unable to even finish the sentence, but Vettor confidently nods. You guess you'll take his word for it, he does know Ana better than you do, but still. All this talk of pressure and Ana proving herself has you feeling a little doubtful...

"She could never push herself to check out that tunnel, [PC FIRST NAME]," Vettor answers for you. "She's more afraid of drowning than any person could push her, no matter who is involved. It doesn't show when she's, you know, just swimming laps in a pool or diving into an open lake with her Revision spells active, but if you so much as put a branch over her head she freaks out. I wish it's something she didn't try so hard to hide from everyone, since she's afraid that if her parents find out that they'll never let her heard the end of it and what she 'should' be doing, but...that's what it is. Thankfully Professor Briardi specifically forbade her from checking out the tunnel in the first place, so I doubt she's going to have a hard time hiding her fear from her parents in this case."

That's...you're having a very hard time being happy with that news, but it's a weight off of someone's shoulders you suppose. "Right...actually, now that I think about it, out of curiosity: Didn't Ana mention something about having trouble with Professor Storey? And Professor Badcrumble would help her with it, or something? Did anything happen on that front?"

Vettor nods. "Yeah, 'Thema told me about that. Professor Storey, Gods knows why, pegged her as a troublemaker and has been keeping a close eye on her for basically no reason. He said it was on advice of her parents, no clue if that's true or not, but either way Professor Badcrumble chewed him out big time during one of the faculty meetings and went so far as to recommended that 'Thema transfer to Godina next year. Of course she's not taking Incantation or Music this year, so there's a question about how to bring her up to speed, and from what 'Thema told me her parents don't want to see her transfer to a college of people 'beneath her intellectual level', despite the fact that Professor Massioti would happily take her, even though he freely admits that she's not Rimbal material. At least as far as Incantation and Music are concerned I'd happily teach her myself if I could, but I didn't take either of those classes last year...and I'm sure I'd make for a lousy professor anyhow. So that's still a bit up in the air. I doubt anything more will happen with that mess while this whole hideout situation is going on, anyway. Such situations can't be resolved without some kind of input from the Legate, but he's got bigger fish to...cook? Stew, boil? What do you do with fish, again? I know 'Thema told me once before but I completely forgot."

"Fry". You fry fish when you've got more important things to do. In any case that seems to be about the long and short of it: A lot of information and a lot of mess. It's something that you feel like should be addressed sooner rather than later to be perfectly honest, but at the end of the day the big question is still unanswered - how is anyone going to map out this magic void underwater death maze when the Academagia's best and only swimmer with limited magic skill (and dependency) turns out to have a serious drowning phobia? And, you know, has been forbidden from trying it in any case by Professor Briardi. Time is ticking on getting whatever clues can be found within this hideout before every trail goes cold, but...how does one solve a problem like this? Even a Familiar's Bond is magic, in some respect, so who knows what being in a magic void would do to a Familiar. You'd rather not find out, and you're doubtful about trying to train a regular fish to solve and map mazes for you.

You can't think of an alternative solution. Unless you can find someone who can swim through it the old-fashioned way, or you can find some way to convince Ana (and Professor Briardi...) to do it, you don't think anyone is getting through that tunnel. But there must be way to access this lair. Surely there must be a way, something you can do. Or at least suggest. There must be...but what?

-Swimming. Naught ventured...
--It sounds stupid, suicidal, and impossible. But, perhaps, there's a solution to this after all. "Vettor, I know it's going to sound ridiculous, but...I think that the two of us can go through that tunnel ourselves."

"Alright, I'm game - just try to convince me of that one, [PC FIRST NAME]. I dare you."

Heh, challenge accepted. "You remember what Professor Briardi said about these magical voids, right? That they are fragile, and basically require a group to maintain?" Vettor nods, looking assured of his victory a little too early. "How complicated do you think this tunnel really is, can be, if it absolutely takes a group of people just to keep this magic intact? And how long do you think a person could swim, do whatever it takes to maintain the magical void, however that works, and than swim back through the tunnel all before they run out of air?"

That hit home. Vettor visibly has no answer to the questions you've put before him, and you're not even done yet.

"Of course Professor Briardi would put worst case scenarios in front of us, because she's scared of us going off and getting ourselves killed, but really, how long and complicated of a labyrinth can we really be dealing with here? Especially if this tunnel really is the only way into and out of this lair, do you really think that these criminals would be willing to traverse the underwater death labyrinth every single time they wanted to enter or exit their lair? What could they even do with it, in that case? There's a lot of things you can't take underwater, or through a magical void safely."

"Uh..." is all that Vettor has in response to your questions. You'll accept that as an admission of defeat, especially with how perplexed he looks. "I mean, it only takes a quick spell to recharge wards, right? So-"

"Minutes," you clarify. Vettor looks even more confused. "The kind of wards or Enchantments that we underclassmen students create, sure, they're generally so basic and temporary in nature that a single wave of our wand is considered enough to maintain them. But complex Enchantments can take minutes to maintain properly. I don't know about you, or how you'd go about maintaining an anti-magic void of course, but as far as diving is concerned I can tell you that I don't think most people could hold their breath for that long."

"Um..." is, once again, all that Vettor has to say in response. For real this time (hopefully), you'll accept that, along with Vettor's perplexed look, as an admission of defeat. "I...I guess you're right? Professor Briardi-but does that mean...we can swim through that tunnel? Ourselves?" You shrug and say you two could at least give it a try, though you ask Vettor why he'd want to do so. "For 'Thema, obviously. I think that if it's me going through the tunnel that it'll...you know, hurt her less. That whole thing where she can't bring herself to do it. I want to give it a try, [PC FIRST NAME]. If you're sure that that tunnel can't be the underwater death labyrinth that Professor Briardi says it is, I want to go through it myself."

Well, someone's changed his mind completely. You contemplate whether to go with Vettor or not, but you're not sure. You could, maybe even should go just to Keep an eye on him. But than again he says he'd "obviously" do it for Ana, and seriously does that guy have a crush on her or not? You really don't want to be..."in their way", or whatever that's called. Ana does also have a lowered opinion of you right now, not that you deserve it at all and frankly you'd like to chew her out for that, but than again she's got reasons for that and if Vettor and Ana get a chance to really talk about that you don't want to ruin that opportunity by being there and...Gods, whatever. You'll just think about that later. It's not a decision you have to worry about until Ana finds the tunnel, so you'll just decide then.

--You're no brick when it comes to the water yourself, but...underwater death labyrinth? With no magic to help or bail you out when things go south? That's...quite different from taking a swim in Lake Ardica. Honestly? You're not sure if you're up to that. There's temptation to call yourself a coward, but really, where is the line drawn between cowardice and intelligence in this situation? Because "magical void underwater death labyrinth" sounds very much like it got shot out of cannon into the latter's territory.

Maybe you can find someone else willing to do it, you highly doubt it, but unless you see yourself become a much better swimmer you'll just stick to the lakes and the pool.

[PC INFORMED OF Gressel's Medications]-Could Leene or Nhordum help Ana with her phobia?
--By all rights they should be able to, as far as you're aware. The real question is whether Ana, and probably her parents as well, would be willing to try it. You suppose it can't hurt to ask, so you ask Vettor if Ana ever tried to rid herself of her phobia. He shrugs in response.

"As far as I know she's only ever really focussed on hiding it than trying to cure it, however she'd go about doing that. And to tell you the truth I'm not sure whether to call that a bad thing. You know how driven 'Thema is, as much as her being so afraid of drowning poses a problem for her I'd hate to see her hurt herself because she pushes herself too far. Again. That's how she got that phobia in the first place."

You can sort of understand where Vettor is coming from, but you're hesitant to say that you agree with him. Nevertheless you're a bit hesitant to suggest this...but it's for the best that you at least bring it up, you think. "About that, have you ever been to Gressel's Medications, right outside the Admiratio? The people working there have magic that can help people with their fears, so...I'm wondering if we should maybe introduce Ana to them."

Vettor thinks your question over for a second, and then frowns deeply as the gears in his head stop spinning. "You're not just suggesting that so that 'Thema will swim through that tunnel, are you?"

You shake your head in response to that question, and no part of you feels like that's a lie. Either outright or the Queen Hedi kind of 'lie'. "Regardless of whether it would convince her it's not going to convince Professor Briardi that it isn't too dangerous, so I honestly feel like that's a moot point. I just think it'd be better for Ana if she didn't have this phobia looming over her, having to worry about hiding it from her parents and everything. Especially now that it's actively interfering with her ability to do the Legate himself a favor, Professor Briardi forbidding it or not I'm sure that's just eating away at her." Vettor lets out a sigh and nods. He seems to agree with how you think Ana will react to this situation. "So, correct me if I'm wrong, but shouldn't we - and by 'we' I almost certainly mean 'you' - confront her about this before she beats herself up too much? It'll only get worse the more it happens, and if Ana wants to dive for a living, well, I have to assume that it'll happen."

"Yeah, you're right. I'll try to confront her about it the next time I see her," Vettor says, lightly shaking his head. "Actually, maybe I should get Professor Badcrumble involved. She definitely did 'Thema a favor with that whole Professor Storey deal, maybe 'Thema would be willing to listen to her? Ah, don't worry about it, I'll talk to her about it and see where I need to go from there."

Trusting Vettor to look out for a girl like this is a sight that'll never cease to be uncanny after last year, but strange as it is to say, you trust him. Of course even if Ana did agree to try and address her phobia and did her best to try and overcome it you seriously doubt that the issue would get resolved before every trail to this criminal group went cold. So as far as the problem of the tunnel is concerned you've accomplished absolutely nothing so far. But as far as Ana (and Vettor, to a lesser extent) are concerned you feel like putting them on the path of trying to actually confront this issue rather than letting it sit you feel like you've done a good thing. Hopefully.

-Logic. Carefully think this problem though.
--The big question that you keep coming back to it: How does this criminal group enter and exit their own hideout if this magic void underwater death labyrinth is really the only way into and out of this place? That makes no sense, you know for a fact that at least that noblewoman (really ought to memorise her name at some point...) can't swim - if she could she would not have hired the Licentiate to retrieve her ring, she'd have done so herself. So is she a member of this criminal group that has no actual access to their lair? That's...not unreasonable, she could be some kind of outside contact who receives orders to fulfil, but how would these orders get passed onto her? You can't take parchment or paper underwater, so unless these criminal trained a large fish to move around stone tablets...this idea is so ridiculous. But what other option do you have in a hideout that's protected by a magic void? Gates? But even Gates is magic, so could it bypass a space that breaks magic? Eh...well, obviously you're not an expert, but your common sense (for what that's worth in this situation) is telling you "no". The only logical conclusion, based on what information you have, is that there is another entrance into this hideout. There simply must be. It is beyond impractical for this tunnel to be the only entrance, there's just way too many problems with actually using it that makes it a viable hideout if that's the only way in.

You explain as much to Vettor, and he seems to agree with your reasoning. "I'm sure both the Legate and the guards came to the same conclusion...though if they did than why did the Legate still send 'Thema to look for the tunnel?" You explain that it must be to try and narrow down the location of the hideout, since that means less ground to cover looking for the entrance. It could very well be hidden underneath a Glamour of an ordinary-looking rock somewhere out in nowhere, so obviously the less area that Professor Briardi is going to have to bathe in Negation magic the better. Vettor nods at that. "I think after 'Thema finds the tunnel I'll join the search for the real entrance. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I think that if I bring 'Thema along it'll make her feel better. Having still accomplished something useful by finding the tunnel's location and the two of us being able to use that to look for the real entrance and all...I think it'd do well to put her at ease a bit. After, you know, that whole Professor Storey episode."

You'd like to think that it'll help Ana, but you're also not sure. Either way there's nothing you can do now but wait for Ana to find the tunnel and see what, if anything, there is for you to do from there. You think you should go with Vettor and Ana, if only to make sure they've got another person with them in case they actually do manage to find the real entrance, but than there's the whole thing about Ana apparently not having a high opinion of you right now-which you'd very much like to either address or chew her out about, for that matter, but...obviously not the right time to have that discussion with her right now, she's got her own problems to sort through first.

Argh, it's all just theoretical right now anyway. Once Ana finds the metaphorical bridge you'll consider whether or not (and how) to cross over it.

--You think this whole situation over again and again, but even Vettor can't help you grasp whatever it is that you're missing. Surely there's something you can do to spare Ana's feelings, there must be. You know there must be, but you can't grasp it. Your instinct is telling you that there's something off about this case, that there's an angle to exploit, but...just can't grasp it.

Well, sad as it is to say you can't afford to turn yourself into a nervous wreck right in the middle of Cheimare...any more than any given student already is by default during this month, anyhow...so you're going to have to take a step back from this. Give it time to sink in, and you time to carefully think things over again...

Something that's a common issue I run into, especially around this part which had to be completely redone from scratch all of a sudden, is player/PC motivation. The next stage will attempt to address this matter, but let it be known that it is a pain.

Incidentally, spoiler blocks? Still incredibly broken. Fix please.

Edited by Metis

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Looking for Something to Find, stage 10:

Spoiler

You're quietly reading a book in the Venalicium when in the corner of your eye you spot a frantic Vettor almost rushing through the door, but stopping himself just in time for the librarians not to turn into Dragons and eat him. Even so he "walks" over to you more quickly than you've seen some students run. "'Thema's found the entrance, but...we've got a problem," he whispers into your ear, and you unceremoniously close the book your were reading. Replying with an equally low voice, because to do otherwise would invite certain death, you ask what's changed. "It's about that noblewoman, but we can-head to a study cubicle, we can talk there." You nod and, after quickly dropping off the book you were reading, follow Vettor to a study cubicle. He practically collapses in the chair within, and looking him over he seems like he hasn't been getting enough sleep. "Alright. I don't really know how this all works, but the gist of it is that the guards called in some kind of super special fancy...ally investigators, I don't know. Another noble family, to handle that noblewoman's case. And they managed to turn her. As in, she's an informant and 'credible witness' for the guards now. So every criminal she's ever known? They're on the guards' table, if they can get any evidence on them." Oh, damn. That's going to blow that case wide open. You excitedly ask Vettor what all connections that woman has (or had), but he waves it off. "No time to gossip, [PC FIRST NAME], we've got a problem: That hideout of hers, do you remember what Professor Briardi said about it clearly being a group effort and...whatever?" You nod. "Turns out it's not. That woman made and maintained that hideout all by herself. But as far as our understanding of magic is concerned, that's impossible."

"Who's 'our', in this context?" you ask, still feeling excited more than anything else...but there's that creeping feeling of dread crawling up your spine...

"Everyone's," Vettor answers with a shrug. "The Academagia, Pievre's university, Oursouk, Alesfa, name it! As far as I know what that woman did is the magical equivalent of emptying Lake Ardica with a leaky bucket. No one knows how she did it." You frown and point out that surely the woman herself knows how she did it. "Not really. She knows how to cast the spells she used, obviously, and whatever else she used to pull it off, but she doesn't know...well, the nitty-gritty details of it. How they interact and actually work and such. She can give you the answer to an arithmetic question, but she doesn't understand the calculations behind it at all, she only knows the answer. If that makes sense." You suppose it does, but still, if the guards have the woman than can't they just figure out the rest from there? You ask Vettor if he knows about that. He shrugs. "No, but don't bother asking me why, I'm not a philosopher. Please, just listen: Whatever the situation might be with that magic, the important part for us is that the person who sold the woman that magic was arrested by the guards on suspicion of, well, trading in Proscribed magic." That just sounds even more like a solved problem, but you'll let Vettor finish. "The key word here is 'sold', not 'discovered'. He's just the middle-man, the guy who arranged for the deal and oversaw the trade. He's not the guy who discovered or whatevered the spells in question, he got all of that from someone else still. What he did do is still illegal, mind, but the guards don't care about a glorified clerk. They want to turn him too and go after the bigger fish. But without hard evidence of his crimes that's not going to happen. He'd get off with just a light sentence as things stand, no hard evidence, but if he were facing capitol punishment...well, the guards suspect he might be more cooperative, let's just put it that way."

"Alright, that makes sense. But where does the problem for us come in? How do we figure into this?"

Vettor has to take a deep breath before he can mentally sort out, much less tell you, the answer to that question. "The hard evidence that the guards need is in this woman's hideout, if it exists at all. The place we're trying to get into. The problem is that we can't make assumptions about the length of the tunnel based on the magical void anymore, that woman pulled off a literal miracle on that front, and her own means of teleporting herself into her hideout and back - yes, teleporting, turns out she had a registered pre-Ban Gates artefact to allow her to do that - doesn't exist anymore. Someone tried to steal it from her, no doubt to go to the hideout and destroy all the evidence, but instead it was destroyed in the guards' botched attempt to stop the botched theft. And there's no other way into or out of the hideout than the tunnel, at least as far as that woman knows."

"So...but, wait, surely this hideout must connect to a surface entrance somewhere, right? Unless someone started digging this tunnel from the river, but I find it more believable that someone dug up into the river on accident and ended up flooding the place afterwards." Vettor shrugs and says you're probably right, but the woman has no idea whether such a surface entrance still exists, it easily could have collapsed since it was dug out whenever. Worse, the magic void messes with detection spells, both Negation and Astrology, and the woman has no idea what specific cave she set up shop in. So the tunnel is the only way. There's simply no time to overturn the entire Minetan countryside looking for (and, possibly, digging out) the path to one specific underground room, especially in a manner careful enough that no evidence is at risk of getting damaged or destroyed in the process. Unbelievable. There is no reasonable entrance but the underwater tunnel? Which could very well be the underwater death labyrinth and Professor Briardi was afraid of, because neither maintenance or ease of access was a concern here...unbelievable. What a disaster. "Alright, than pardon me for suggesting this, but what about Gates? That's how this woman got into and out of her hideout to begin with, can't anyone replace this artefact that got destroyed? Or just cast a spell, or...something?"

Vettor slowly shakes his head. "Don't bother asking me for the specifics, obviously, but the simple answer is no. Not without some kind of preparation, but setting that up that would require someone to access the hideout in the first place." Well...that goes that idea. "Now here's the problem: The Legate is desperate to get into that woman's hideout before the guards run out of time, since they can't just hold their suspect forever. He's due to be tried right around the turn of the new year, so we have to find the hideout before then. Any later and it'll be too late." You point out that if the contact of this "glorified clerk" has any brains than he would have fled for the hills long ago and not come back until this situation is firmly resolved, one way or another, in his favor. Vettor shrugs and says he had the same thought, but he knows for a fact that the Legate is desperate nevertheless, and if he is than there must be some kind of reason for that.

There's a bit of awkward silence before you finally dare to give words to what you, and probably Vettor, fear. "Desperate enough to pressure Ana, if it comes to that?"

Vettor lets out a long, tired sigh. "I don't know. I doubt the Legate would try to pressure her, but I don't know if he can protect her either. And in either case 'Thema is sure to give herself a right pounding if she hears about this and sees not just this opportunity but this whole situation slip through her fingers. We have to do something. Not even Professor Massioti is a good enough natural swimmer to do this, he relies on magic too much. Everyone relies on magic too much. Even if it means risking out own lives...we have to at least try." You caution Vettor not to be reckless, and he assures you that he's not lost his mind, he's just too worried. About Ana, about the Legate's predicament, about everything. You agree that something must be done as well, but...swimming through that tunnel yourself? You assumed that there'd be a surface entrance you could look for, that this nightmare scenario of the underwater death labyrinth was just something Professor Briardi made up to scare you. But if no other entrance exists, and this tunnel could very well be a death labyrinth, than...

...Than you've got a situation on your hands, don't you? Well...now what?

-You are so not doing this.
--You've got nothing but praise for Vettor courage (if not recklessness), but you're own feet are on the ground, not on the bottom of an underwater death labyrinth, thanks.

...You know that Vettor isn't going to stop just because you're not going with him, mind, but what are you supposed to do? Risk yourself as well? There must be some kind of other solution to this problem. The Legate has to be able to come up with something. He just has to...

-Courage. Into the drink you go.
--Are you seriously doing this?

....Yep, you're seriously doing this. Gods, you'd ask Vettor what's wrong with you but you seriously doubt he knows the answer to that himself, all things considered. At least it feels like the right thing to do, even if you can't explain why.

You ask Vettor if he's ready to go. "Uh-huh, ready when you are. Just, [PC FIRST NAME]? Please, don't mention this whole, eh, what did the Legate call it again? Escalation? Don't mention it to 'Thema. I don't want her to worry any more than she needs to." You nod, and let out a sigh. Not the situation you expected or wanted, necessarily, but...it's what it is. You briefly stop by your dorm room to throw on your swimsuit underneath your clothes, and after that both you and Vettor rush over to where Ana found the tunnel.

--How about "into the drink you don't go"? Underwater death labyrinth? No thanks! Like, you feel for Vettor and Ana, you do, but Gods alive do you not feel for them that much! Besides, can the Legate really not think of any other solution other than Vettor throwing himself into the fire? There has got to be some kind of alternative, right...?

-Creativity. Is there any other way?
--"Okay, I know this is going to sound absurd and don't even bother asking me how you'd do it but maybe the Legate can pull something off. Anything to protect Ana, right?" Vettor nods, ready to hear whatever ridiculous thing you're about to suggest. "What if we find a vampire to go through the tunnel? Vampires are technically dead and don't need to breathe...I think. So they can't drown either, right?"

"First off, full marks for creativity," Vettor says. Somehow you get the feeling that whatever comes next is going to be less pleasant to hear. "Unfortunately, and this is only hearsay so don't quote me on this, but vampires - all undead, really - are animated by some kind of magic. Magic that cannot exist or function within a magical void. If a vampire were to enter that tunnel, as far as I know, they'd die. Or, you know, turn to ashes, whatever vampires do."

Great. Well, good thing you're not yet done. "Alright, plan B: This magic void only exists within the tunnel, so how about we use magic to temporarily re-direct the river away from it and drain out the tunnel? Would that work?"

Vettor shakes his head. Curses, again! "If we were taking about a tunnel that we wanted to go up, sure, that'd work. But we're talking about a tunnel we want to go down, so gravity isn't going to move the water for us. I'm sure the faculty could change the course of the river, but we'd than have to either pump the water out, somehow, or clear it out with buckets. If it was a lake or a well, it'd be a different story, but a twisty tunnel doesn't lend itself to that kind of stuff."

"What about Fey creatures? They're incorporeal, I think, can they safely navigate a magic void?" Vettor shakes his head and says that, as far as he's heard, they can't. Exactly why he's not no idea, but he doesn't really care about it either. "Right, plan 😧 We commandeer an airship, use magic to pin-point the exact location of the tunnel and dig up to it from the bottom of Elumia. We hit the tunnel, the water drains, and we're in, right?"

Vettor shakes his head yet again. "Too dangerous, we don't know enough about exactly where the tunnel and the lair is to do that safely. Remember that detection magic doesn't work properly, so we can only estimate where the tunnel ends and where the lair begins, and of course if we miss and destroy the evidence, well..."

...You're starting to get a bit frustrated here, despite the fact that you've pleasantly surprised yourself with the amount of ideas you can come up with on the spot. There must be an answer to this puzzle, right? Must be. "Um...we commandeer and army of moles and...no, that's not going to work. Eh...oh! What if we build...I think-yeah, it'd have to be. What if we build an airtight suit with a metal tank, fill it with air, and use that? Kind of like a reverse fish bowl."

"Beyond Professor di Lucca Alazzo's lacking Artifice skills, though to be fair that'd be a very difficult thing to make work without any sort of magic in general. I doubt anyone in Mineta could craft such a thing and have it be practical enough to use, honestly. Remember that the magical void also disrupts Enchantments, not just spells, so it'd have to be made out of just whatever physical materials and tools we've got."

You suddenly snap your fingers. Of course, all along the answer was so obvious. "A mermaid. We find a mermaid to do the swimming. How could that go wrong?"

Vettor, yet again, shakes his head. How. Just how. "Mermaids can't drown, sure, but they also can't tolerate cold very well. So funnily enough a human actually has a better chance of getting through the tunnel alive than a mermaid, in this instance." Unbelievable. Like, come on! You're really running out of ideas here!

...Wait a minute, cold? "Vettor, what was that about mermaids not tolerating cold? Why..." Vettor answers your question a second after you start to trail off, because you suddenly realize the answer - and problem - yourself: It's Cheimare! It's very much winter right now, and you're talking about swimming through a submerged tunnel wherein no magic can exist. Which, naturally, includes temperature keeping spells. The water in that tunnel is going to be close to freezing if there's any sort of flow, but even if there isn't it's sure not going to be as toasty as the Academagia's magically heated pool. That's why everyone keeps insisting that only Ana could possibly swim through the tunnel, now you get it! She's the only one who's even remotely used to swimming around in cold water, because she always been that driven and determined to swim anyway and only started studying magic recently. And because the faculty pushes students to learn magic so much every older student will have gotten used to only swimming around in comfortably warm water right now, Cheimare or not.

"Now do you understand why swimming through this tunnel is going to be such a challenge?" Vettor asks. And finally someone has a reason to nod.

"Okay...so, wait, is there a way we can solve that problem? The mermaid thing should work if we can, right?" you ask as you mentally go over everything you could possibly think of. But the long and short answer is, no, you can't think of anything that'll work. Neither can Vettor, sadly. You can set up a heating spell outside the tunnel, of course, but nothing is going to spare you from the cold inside the tunnel, which is the real problem here.

Well...that's kind of it, really. You're fresh out of ideas. And not for a lack of trying, let that be known. What an absolutely perfect storm of bad timing this situation turned out to be. If only it happened in Kaliri instead of Cheimare, or any one of a large number of things and this whole situations wouldn't remotely be any sort of issue. But the stars have aligned, and so it is...could you possibly make a metal suit that-no, metal generally conducts heat pretty well. Would be pretty unwieldy to swim in, too, especially through a tunnel. Darn it all, you...you are completely out of ideas. As much as you hate to admit it, there's only one option. Brave the depths yourself, along with Vettor, or...Ana is done for...

--None that you can think of. No surface entrance, not even Gates can bypass the magical void...yikes. Didn't Professor Briardi say something about it "not being a perfect defence"? Whatever happened to those blissful days?

...Sad to say you don't have an answer to that question either. Gods, what to do...

So this is the stage where my entire plan for the adventure basically went up in flames, leading to this stage and the next one being cut into two, a serious refit of the previous stage, and obviously the new exits and stuff for this stage. The reason? I...eh...I don't remember. This is why I used to leave notes everywhere, it's because I don't remember this stuff otherwise. Oh well, so long as the adventure works. Which, eh, yeah. I can only hope it does.

Also, that little revelation at the end of the Creativity success text? Fun Fact: I myself did not realize that until midway through the next stage. Which, for that reason, is also due for a refit. So yeah. Yay for actually being able to think things through, right?

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And since I'm basically done with the adventure, have the rest of it. Looking for Something to Find, stage 11:

Spoiler

To your surprise, when the two of you arrive Ana is actually sitting there on the edge of the river, seemingly waiting for the two of you. "Eh, hi, Ana," you say a bit awkwardly, and she glares at you in response. Though it's not a venomous glare. It's one of disappointment, and from the looks of it, not directed at you.

"You're really going to go through with this?" Ana asks. You nod and slowly turn to look at Vettor. He, too, nods, and asks Ana if she really wants to wait here. When Ana nods at his question he asks her why. "I don't know," she quietly says, staring at the river's surface with a distant look in her eyes. "Maybe to torture myself? Maybe to remind myself that even as a diver, of all things, I'm going to face competition at the Academagia? Competition that isn't as much of a coward as I am?" For a second Ana looks like she's about to break down in tears, but through sheer effort she manages to maintain her focus and composure. Honestly you think that you'd prefer the tears. With a strained voice Ana says she doesn't know anymore, but that's as far as she's able to push herself.

Ana is in a pretty sorry state, but you've got bigger fish to fry right now, and the glare that Vettor is giving you can only be him trying to tell you to get this search over with. You're more than happy to oblige. You and Vettor both toss your robes over a nearby branch and prepare a heating zone outside the tunnel. Gods know you're going to need it. "Wait, what's that for?" Ana asks, her surprise briefly taking her out of her sorry state. "The tunnel voids magic, doesn't it? What are you two casting spells for?"

"Temperature," Vettor answers he he tests the heated water. You personally find it a bit too hot for your liking, but you're not going to complain about that now. Because you know full well that you won't be complaining about it later, that's for sure. "How warm do you think that water is this time of year, 'Thema? We're going to need a place to heat ourselves up or we'll freeze to death."

Ana looks like she hadn't even realized that issue before. It, eh, does not make her feel any better about this whole situation, sadly. Hopefully it will get better if you and Vettor can figure out this tunnel. "If". You're not going to mince words, heating zone or not this is going to hurt.

Shortly after Vettor you jump into the water and take your first good look at the oft-mentioned, and probably more often cursed, tunnel. A pitch-black, completely submerged tunnel where no magic is going to save you. No light, no markers, no magic...nothing but your lungs and your wits are going to save you in there. So how are you and Vettor going to solve this problem? Well, actually, rather obviously that'll be with your wits and lungs, there's not really another option. Either you or Vettor will enter the tunnel to explore it, you won't both go in at the same time since you'd get in each other's way, the other will try to mentally map the place as the first one goes.

What approach should you go with here?

-Endurance. Hold your breath, and your heat. Or else...
--Vettor is the better diver, but you believe that you're better able to endure the cold, which will be important during the later stages of trying to scout out this tunnel. As such you suggest that Vettor begin the exploration, and you'll take over for him once he tires himself out. Vettor nods and starts exploring the early sections of the tunnel. He quickly confirms that it is indeed an underwater labyrinth, with twist and turns that he's only able to make out based on feeling around him, so despite Vettor starting with the diving you're being kept well busy trying to mentally map out the tunnel as he goes.

Eventually Vettor says he's had enough, so you take over from him while he crawls back onto shore and dries himself off. Your turn.

The tunnel does not fail to live up to Vettor's descriptions. The warm-feeling water in the heating zone all too quickly gives way to freezing cold, and it's only through sheer willpower and endurance that you're able to swim through it. Thankfully it doesn't bother you too much, so you're able to trace Vettor's earlier steps and go just a little bit further than he did every time you dive back in. It's a slow, methodical, cold as ice and frankly painful process as you dive into the tunnel just a little bit further than last time, each time, keeping one hand on the wall and freaking out for a second every time the tunnel breaks into the turn because you've no longer got a handle on where you are in this pitch-black darkness, only to thank every God out there that you manage to get finally swim back to the entrance before you either drown or freeze to death. Vettor, meanwhile, is working with Ana to write out what you discover on a proper map, and with each new line that Ana draws you feel renewed hope that you'll eventually reach the exit. With every new dead end you discover you're willing to go through the labyrinth a bit faster than before, too. It's risky, you could miss a turn and end up lost, but you've got a good handle on where the various dead ends are and there are air pockets scattered about, so you've got time if you do get lost. It's just a matter of making it back before you catch your death of cold, but that's not as much of a problem as you thought it would be. Not that your body isn't taking a beating with this constant juggling of freezing cold and outright hot temperatures, but you're able to push through it.

Eventually, however, one last turn suddenly gives way to a massive air pocket. You've got nothing to light up this area and you're still in pitch-black darkness, so you've got no idea where you are, but with some careful feeling around and effort you're able to climb out of the water and onto dry land. This must be it. This must be it! You've done it! You've mapped out the tunnel! Now it's just a question of swimming back, one more time, and marking down the last turn. This is it. The labyrinth has been solved! Finally!

Once you make it back you practically jump out of the river. "I've found the path!" you yell as loudly as your poor, abused lungs can manage. Meaning you let out a shrill shriek that doesn't sound healthy at all, but you don't even care right now. You did it!

"Get back up on land and warm yourself up, [PC FIRST NAME], you sound like you're about to die," Vettor says. You tell him to calm down and do as he asks, but as soon as you leave the river the weight of what you just did suddenly hits you. To say you're sore, and cold, all over is an understatement. Thankfully Vettor and Ana both team up to warm you back up. It's very much appreciated, since you don't think you could even hold your wand steady right now. "So where is it, what's the path?" Vettor asks, and with a shaking hand you point at the final turn.

"Right t-there," you say, stuttering from the cold you feel and pointing at the map with a shaking hand. "T-that turn right there, from t-there it's dry. Y-you can stand on it, t-there's no more water. A-Ana, Vettor, more heat p-please?"

Ana and Vettor nod, and say that as soon as you're warmed up and dried off it's time to bring the map to the Legate. "We can't plunder the hideout ourselves, if only because whatever documents are undoubtedly in there we can't take through the tunnel without destroying them. We'll hand the map to the Legate, that way..." That way Ana won't be pressured into going through the tunnel herself, now that you've proven that you can do it as well (and frankly you're sure that Vettor could as well if he memorizes the path), but Vettor can't bring himself to finish the sentence. Ana, however, seems to realize what he wants to say, since she glares at you with a look that's more cold than the water was.

You'd contemplate whether you should ignore that look of hers since it's actually directed at herself or whatever, but seriously, you are not in any sort of mood for this kind of stuff right now. That girl can just go jump into a lake as far as you're concerned, but of course you're smart enough to bite your tongue. At least until after you three informed the Legate about everything...

--You offer to do the initial diving work. Vettor nods, and wishes you good luck. You, eh, feel like you'll want it, even if you don't need it.

The tunnel does not fail to live up to it's reputation, either. The warm-feeling water in the heating zone all too quickly gives way to freezing cold, and it's only through sheer willpower and endurance that you're able to swim through it. The cold greedily eats away at your body's warmth as you try your best to scout out the tunnel, but you're not able to make much progress. It's pitch-black, you have to keep a hand on the wall to have any idea where you are and where you're going, and the cold keeps bothering you non-stop. It's distracting...

...Wait, what? You just confirmed that the tunnel isn't just a tunnel, there's branching paths as your hand feels a bend in the stone, but you're staring at a small air pocket and solid rock when you thought you swam back to the entrance. Oh no. Oh no. You can't get lost in here! You-you're going to have to dive again and find whatever turn you missed and fast, because you're on a timer with this damned cold even if you keep finding these kind of air pockets! What did you miss!? The entrance has to be close by, you've got to find it!

One frantic, albeit quick, search later and you suddenly swim into an arm. That's got to be Vettor, and that means you've found the right path! You readily take his hand as he helps drag you back to the surface, and not a moment too soon. You were about to run out of air.

Vettor and Ana both help drag your sorry self back to shore, where they quickly set up a heating zone to warm up your cold body. It, eh, takes a few minutes for you to compose yourself after that. Not just warm up, just composing yourself. Damn is that not an experience you ever want to repeat...

Ultimately, Vettor isn't able to scout out the cursed labyrinth of watery doom either. The cold gets to him before he manages, and with Ana looking after you in the meantime he wasn't able to map out the place well enough, or even remember the layout well enough to describe it to either Ana or you afterwards.

In short this is not a one-person job. Vettor can't manage this alone, he needs support. You just hope there's enough time for you to recover from your little episode and try again. Time just keeps on ticking...

-Cartography. Guide Vettor and map out the tunnel as he goes.
--You offer to do the initial diving work, since Vettor is the better diver and as such it's better for you to tire yourself out first exploring the area that's still relatively close to the surface. Vettor nods, and wishes you good luck. You, eh, feel like you'll want it, even if you don't need it.

The tunnel does not fail to live up to it's reputation, either. The warm-feeling water in the heating zone all too quickly gives way to freezing cold, and it's only through sheer willpower and endurance that you're able to swim through it. Thankfully even in freezing water it takes some time for you to go from normal body temperatures to suffering hypothermia, so you're able to make small measures of progress by frequently returning to the heating zone and warming back up again. It's a slow, methodical, cold as ice and frankly painful process as you dive into the tunnel just a little bit further than last time, each time, keeping one hand on the wall and freaking out for a second every time the tunnel breaks into the turn because you've no longer got a handle on where you are in this pitch-black darkness, only to thank every God out there that you manage to get back to the entrance before you either drown or freeze to death. You're not able to accomplish much, but you do manage to confirm one thing: This tunnel, at least the early portions, is sadly not just a tunnel. There's twists and turns that you don't even dare take because if you lose your sense of direction down there...yeah. You don't know if the cold or the lack of air would get to you first, and frankly you don't want to know. On the bright side there do seem to be small air pockets scattered about here and there, but you're not betting money on breathable that air is. Not to mention that air isn't the only issue here - the cold is just as bad, if not worse.

All told you're not really able to get a lot done as the diver. After what feels like barely any progress you're completely out of breath, nerves all but shot, and feeling like you just swam circles underneath Lake Ardica multiple times. Ana, still trying to hold back her emotions, tries to calmly inform you that you'll go through air and energy much faster if you're afraid of being underwater. She has to pause to stifle a few sobs, but obviously you don't call her out on it. If anything you feel for her now more than you ever did, because yikes. You don't even want to imagine what it'd be like trying to swim through that tunnel when you're actively afraid of getting lost underwater and drowning...

"Guess it's my turn," Vettor says as you climb out of the river and sit down on sweet, open-air ground again. You're still worried, though - if that labyrinth of tunnels goes even just "much further" than what you've managed to figure out than swimming through it is straight impossible, unless Vettor knows no fear or cold. You doubt anyone could not just hold their breath but their nerves for that long. "We'll start by confirming what you've found out so far, to make sure we're on the same page and that we can chart a map that others can follow. Even if we reach the hideout I doubt we can or should plunder everything out of it right here and now. So we're going to want to draw a map for future reference. Chances are that at the very least there's going to be documents in there that the guards will want, and we'll need some kind of seal-able container to get those out safely." You nod and take out your wand to start drying yourself off. And, you know, heating yourself up. Too bad that you're shaking so much you can barely hold your wand right now.

Ana thankfully takes pity on you and uses her own wand to heat you up, which is very welcome relief indeed, while Vettor dutifully braves the cold, the darkness, and everything else in an attempt to find this cursed path. Again, it's very slow and methodical work, but Vettor manages it all better than you feel like you ever could. With every turn that Vettor uncovers and Ana helpfully draws out for you on some parchment you all feel like you're getting one step closer each time. Slowly, but surely. Until, finally, after one more tense moment of waiting for Vettor to return, he returns and nearly leaps out of the river as soon as he surfaces. "I found the path!" Vettor yells as loudly as his (no doubt strained) lungs can manage. Ana looks surprised at him, but you're too nervous to not focus right now.

"Get back on land and heat yourself up, Vettor, before you catch your death of cold." He wastes no time following that suggestion, while Ana prepares the best she can in terms of heat. It honestly isn't enough. "Where's the path? What's the final turn?"

Vettor sits down and, shivering, takes a look at the map that you and Ana have been drawing. "R-right there," he says, pointing at one final turn. "T-that tunnel raises above the water level there, from that p-point it's no longer f-flooded. Ana, a b-bit more heat please?" Ana nods and does what she can to turn up the heat, but as skilled with Revision as she is she's but a novice with Incantation. You take out your own wand and complete the spell for her, since you've warmed back up since your last run through the tunnel, which Vettor appreciates.

Now it's just a matter of waiting for Vettor to heat back up and informing the Legate. You've proven that Vettor can traverse the tunnel and you've got a map to prove it. Ana won't be asked or pressured to try and push herself to go through it herself. Part of you feels like it's a meagre reward for what you and especially Vettor had to endure, but he doesn't seem to mind. And honestly? Neither do you.

--You offer to do the initial diving work, since Vettor is the better diver and as such it's better for you to tire yourself out first exploring the area that's still relatively close to the surface. Vettor nods, and wishes you good luck. You, eh, feel like you'll want it, even if you don't need it.

The tunnel does not fail to live up to it's reputation, either. The warm-feeling water in the heating zone all too quickly gives way to freezing cold, and it's only through sheer willpower and endurance that you're able to swim through it. The cold greedily eats away at your body's warmth as you try your best to scout out the tunnel, but you're not able to make much progress. It's pitch-black, you have to keep a hand on the wall to have any idea where you are and where you're going, and the cold keeps bothering you non-stop. It's distracting...

...Wait, what? You just confirmed that the tunnel isn't just a tunnel, there's branching paths as your hand feels a bend in the stone, but you're staring at a small air pocket and solid rock when you thought you swam back to the entrance. Oh no. Oh no. You can't get lost in here! You-you're going to have to dive again and find whatever turn you missed and fast, because you're on a timer with this damned cold even if you keep finding these kind of air pockets! What did you miss!? The entrance has to be close by, you've got to find it!

One frantic, albeit quick, search later and you suddenly swim into an arm. That's got to be Vettor, and that means you've found the right path! You readily take his hand as he helps drag you back to the surface, and not a moment too soon. You were about to run out of air.

Vettor and Ana both help drag your sorry self back to shore, where they quickly set up a heating zone to warm up your cold body. It, eh, takes a few minutes for you to compose yourself after that. Not just warm up, just composing yourself. Damn is that not an experience you ever want to repeat...

Ultimately, Vettor isn't able to scout out the cursed labyrinth of watery doom either. The cold gets to him before he manages, and with Ana looking after you in the meantime he wasn't able to map out the place well enough, or even remember the layout well enough to describe it to either Ana or you afterwards.

In short this is not a one-person job. Vettor can't manage this alone, he needs support. You just hope there's enough time for you to recover from your little episode and try again. Time just keeps on ticking...

I'm aware that Y2 has the incredible mechanic of letting the PC actually die, but for this stage that presents two problems. First, there's no way in hell that I ccould type that out in a way that's actually meaningful rather than just an abrupt "thing go south, you die" following by the player reloading, which would make a page-long description of the PC's final moments kinda...redundant? Not a fan, needless to say. Two, allowing death on a stage where, mechanically speaking, you shouldn't be able to get any help from the myriad of spells you have to inflate your stats and ensure success is kinda mean. Topical, poignant, fitting, and all of that jazz...but kind of mean.

Incidentally, this stage should also deal unavoidable Vitality damage, more and with additional stress gain if you fail a roll. It's very much implied by the next stage that it does, but for the record.

Looking for Something to Find, stage 12:

Spoiler

All heated up and with the map of the tunnel in hand the three of you head off towards the Academagia and, expecting a thorough berating by Professor Briardi if not the Legate, head straight to said Legate's office. The good news is that the Legate is in. The better news, maybe, is that Professor Briardi isn't. "Ah, Anathema. You've found the tunnel, I assume?" Ana, suddenly realizing that she disobeyed the Legate's orders by not telling him about that as soon as she found it, tenses up, tears up a bit, and hides behind Vettor. Not to blame him, but to try and hide her shame. The Legate is not sure how to respond to that, but Vettor confidently tells Ana not to worry and sits down before the Legate. He gives you a look of "you're in this too", and frankly you don't deny it. You sit down next to Vettor, ready to take whatever detention you'll be given at this point. Seeing this the Legate frowns. "Am I to understand that you two, specifically, did something you shouldn't have, and dragged Anathema into it?" the Legate asks, frowning deeply.

You think it's only appropriate that Vettor be the one to take point, and he seems to agree. "Yes, Profes-Legate. We, eh...we took it upon ourselves to map out the tunnel, before 'Thema told you that she'd found it. I'm the one who told her not to tell you immediately." The Legate quirks an eyebrow at that. Vettor silently takes out the map and places it on the Legate's desk. After the Legate looks it over his other eyebrow joins in on the skyline fun.

"I...why? You two 'took it upon yourselves' to risk your lives in this underwater, magically voided labyrinth without even informing me about it? Why?"

Vettor gives you what you can only interpret as an apologetic look, but you're not sure why he's being apologetic towards you. If anyone he owes Ana an apology, you knew what you were getting yourself into. "I heard about the situation with the noblewoman getting turned, and all that followed. I was afraid that if news got out about the tunnel having been found that you'd be forced to pressure 'Thema into swimming through it, since we all thought that no one else could. And that if she found out, than even if you'd be able to protect her from that...she wouldn't ever forgive herself. For being unable to help you."

There's a long, awkward silence as the Legate fails to find words for what he wants to say. So, somewhat ironically, the awkward silence is eventually broken by Ana. "Vettor? What's this about...what are you talking about?" Vettor awkwardly explains what he told you before about the situation with the noblewoman being turned and the guards being very desperate to get their hands on whatever is in her hideout, since the woman's own way of teleporting into and back out of it was destroyed in a bungled attempt to steal it from her. Ana slowly nods, but she clearly needs another minute to process it. During which time the Legate thinks of something else to say.

"Vettor, did it never occur to you that I might have alternative solutions to this problem prepared? You-"

"Had no such thing," Vettor suddenly interjects. It takes the Legate by surprise as much as it does you. "Practically everyone attending the Academagia relies on magic too much to be able to scout out the tunnel like we did, and for the same reason whatever possible help Professor Badcrumble has a handle on couldn't do it either. You can't dig out the tunnel magically because of the magical void, and you can't dig it out normally because it'd take too long and risk a cave-in besides, damaging or destroying the evidence you want from the hideout. Many people tried to think of solutions, but nothing could work without either magic or before the contact's trial date came up. You were all out of options, and if push came to shove from the guards...they were going to push 'Thema. I didn't want that, I couldn't allow that, so I went in myself instead."

"As did I," you add, for what it's worth. Vettor nods appreciatively, though.

The Legate lets out a long sigh. "Vettor, where did you get all of this from? You're not wrong, I'll begrudgingly you grant you that, but that just makes me even more curious as to how you got information that, last I checked, was brought to my office in confidence. Where did you learn all of this?"

Vettor shrugs. "I wish I knew, honestly. I just started to have a series of recurring dreams, nightmares really, one day. And from that I managed to piece it all together. I don't have any proof of most of what I said, but since what I did check turned out right I figured the rest was as well. And you did just confirm as much, so..." Dreams, huh? The Legate seems to have the same idea, since he asks Vettor if he believes that those dreams were natural. Vettor shakes his head and says no part about them felt "natural" to him, but regardless of what they are and where they came from he's glad that he got them.

"Vettor?" Ana suddenly asks. Vettor nods and turns to face her, as best be can right now. "These dreams, or nightmares...what were they about, exactly? What convinced you to...to do this?"

"At first they were just...visions, I guess, of the noblewoman being turned, her Gates artefact getting stolen and destroyed, that stuff. Things that already happened. I didn't know what to make of it, didn't know what to do with it, so even though I knew the visions weren't natural I tried to just dismiss them. But than I started having nightmares of the guards pressuring the Legate, pressuring you, and in the face of all of that you pushing yourself to check out the tunnel. Only to..." Vettor shakes his head, unable to finish the thought. Ana likewise shivers at the thought. "At that point I got worried that I might have gone from seeing the past to seeing the future, so I decided to check and confirm whether or not all that stuff about the noblewoman was true. And when I realized that it was, I...had to stop it. I had to do something to prevent that nightmare from coming true." So this is why Vettor was so insistent on doing something? Huh. He really should have said something about that to someone earlier, you think, but...obviously it's a little late to give him that advice.

"I...I don't get it. You pushed yourself to go through all of that...because you were afraid? Like...I-I mean, b-because...for me?" Ana asks while on the verge of tears. Vettor nods.

"I don't want to be left stuck in the cold above water any more than I do below it, 'Thema. I don't want to lose any of my friends because I couldn't help them when they needed it. And you trying to go through that tunnel...I couldn't let that happen. I couldn't lose you, not like that."

Ana does not know what to say to that. Or how to respond to it, for that matter. She runs out the door shortly before she breaks down into tears, and a second later Vettor gets up, asks you to handle the rest and goes off after her. It leaves both you and the Legate stunned in your chairs. "I was not aware that Vettor had...I don't want to say 'matured', not in light of what he did, but that he changed this much since last year," the Legate points out. You shake your head and say he's been this way since last year, he just never had a real chance to since he didn't have anyone he could relate to this well. Not as a mentor-figure, anyway. The Legate shrugs and shakes his head. "In any case, you two-three, whichever, have done more than enough. Rest assured, with this map I'll get someone else through this tunnel even if I have to drag Professor Massioti through it myself. You're done risking your life for this." That's good to hear, honestly. Though you feel kind of bad for Professor Massioti. Really, you wouldn't wish swimming through that tunnel on anyone. "Beyond that, not to leave you 'out in the cold', as Vettor put it, but understand that this whole affair is supposed to be confidential. We don't want news to spread far and wide and people to start skipping town because of it, so I'm afraid you shouldn't expect any official recognition. Not for a very long while, anyway."

"I can't speak for Vettor, but the only recognition I want right now is a warm bed and Professor Briardi not lecturing me for half an hour about personal safety. As much as I might deserve it. I know we both kept harping on the fact that we risked out lives and all, but it's not like we jumped into a lake of fire without any plans or preparations. We were very careful mapping out that place, taking turns and only pushing forwards very slowly and everything. If we found that it was beyond out limit I'm sure even Vettor would have called it quits rather than continue searching." The Legate nods, admitting that the reality of how much danger you put yourself in isn't as straightforward as some might think, but the very fact that you put yourself into such danger in the first place is telling of your willingness to put yourself into even greater danger later. Once you'd gotten used to or lost sight of the fact that you were in danger to begin with. You nod at that, but continue to insist that you don't feel like you only managed to avoid throwing your life away because of sheer chance.

"If Vettor hadn't, and couldn't, grab me by the ears with his comments that I had no alternatives and some very powerful people desperately wanting what is in that hideout I might have scolded you more, or simply waited for Polisena to do so. But as things stand I feel like it'd be hypocritical of me to do that when, at the end of the day, I'm sure that given enough time I'd have either asked Vettor to do exactly what he did, or worse, as he feared. Eventually I'm sure I would have asked Vettor to map the tunnel out himself, despite the fact that he's not as good a...cold water swimmer as Anathema is, and if he couldn't do it...I don't want to think about what I would have done in that situation. Ultimately, you sped up the inevitable on a case where time is of the essence, and so prevented me from being put in a very uncomfortable position. So as much as I'd like to scold you for what you've done, in truth I can do little but thank you two. But if that is all, I've got a very busy day ahead of me. Though I do want to ask: Are you feeling alright? Having swam through an underground tunnel in Cheimare without any magic to help you, and all."

"We set up a heating zone outside the tunnel, so it's not like we spend all our time swimming in the cold. That aside I'm fine. Still a bit chilly, honestly, but I'm sure that'll pass. I don't intend to do anything strenuous for the rest of today anyway. I think I've done enough."

"Swing by the infirmary if you need to," the Legate reminds you. Not that he needed to. "Beyond that, yes, you've certainly done enough. I can't promise that Polisena won't lecture you, or Vettor for that matter, should she mysteriously find the time to do so. But I'll see to it that you're not given any official reprimands for your behaviour. If only because putting the actual reasons for them on record would be...counter-productive, I feel like."

[PC VITALITY <1]-That is all you can ask for.
--You nod, say goodbye to the Legate, and as if nothing happened continue on with the rest of your day. That chill you feel stays with you the entire time, though, and by the time you're eating dinner it's to the point where you feel cold sitting in the Great Hall. Sure, it's Cheimare, but still. You really don't want to admit that you might be coming down with something and head to the infirmary, you know which professor is going to make time for an "extended visit" if you do, so you resolve to just head back to your dorm room and sleep it off. A bit foolish and headstrong, perhaps, but...well, you kind of have to be to swim through a pitch-black flooded tunnel in Cheimare with no magic to help you in the first place, don't you? It's one way to get your mind off of mid-terms, at least. Though in hindsight you think you'd have preferred just running laps. Boring, but so much simpler. And warmer.

Yeah, you basically can't deny that you're coming down with something at this point. Even laying in bed under your covers your body is shaking from the cold, and your window isn't even open. Well, great. Good thing you still have a spare (or, in this case, extra) blanket you can throw on, since repeatedly casting heating spells would just be a pain in the rear. You do appreciate the irony of it, however - can cast spells to help you, won't cast spells to help you because it's less convenient than just throwing on another blanket. The wonders of magic and more practical mundane solutions will never cease to amaze you.

"Hello, [PC FIRST NAME]? Are you asleep already?" a voice suddenly calls out a bit out of nowhere, and soon after your ears pick up the noise of someone knocking on your door. You must have fallen asleep and not heard the knocking earlier. You'd also like to go back to sleep, but that voice...familiar, female, giving you a sense of perpetual irritation and annoyance...Sigalis? Is that Sigalis' voice?

"N-no, I'm awake, sorry. One second," you say as you try to drag yourself out of bed. You quickly realize that that was a mistake, as not only does the outside of your bed feel unbearably cold but your body feels really heavy and slow. You could get up, but when you know you'll spend half your time shivering you'd really rather not. "Oh...forget about it. Door's open," you say as you quickly crawl underneath the covers again. Even the edges of them feel cold, ridiculous.

As you thought Sigalis slowly opens the door and cautiously peeks inside from the hallway, though she steps in and closes the door behind her when she sees you laying in bed. "Are you sick?" she asks, pretty bluntly.

"How do I look?" you ask, rolling your eyes as best you can.

"Well, frankly like you took a bath in tomato sauce and tried to turn yourself into a bed sandwich, only to forget the cheese and the Glamours. It's nothing serious, right? I heard about you going for a swim upstream of Lake Ardica this late in the year...why, too."

You'd be surprised and ask yourself how Sigalis knows about that, but you don't really care right now. Your brain feels like it's missing a few sails, and you know full well that Sigalis has her hands caught up in this mess anyway. "I'll be fine, just a fever I have to wait out," you insist. Sigalis nods, thankfully she doesn't feel any need to question you on that point. "Why are you here, though? Did the Legate cut you off of your information sources, so you're here to ask me some questions?"

You see Sigalis consider whether to try and lie to your face, but thankfully she decides against it. Saves you the effort of having to call her out on it, anyway. "You could say that, as much as I wish it wasn't the case. I just got out of detention, actually," Sigalis says with an annoyed look on her face. Which is to say, no different than how she normally looks. "Not that the faculty could really stick anything to me, they just wanted to give me a warning. Honestly, that seems to be a rather frequent issue as of late..." If you had any clue as to what Sigalis was talking about you might have an opinion on that matter. As is you're just confused. And in no condition to care that much. "I want to know what was found in that woman's hideout. I asked Vettor about it already, but he kept insisting that the Legate didn't ask him to swim through the tunnel again. So I thought he must have asked you to do it, since you already know the path and all, but..."

"I'd have a hard enough time walking to the Common Room, much less swimming through a pitch-black tunnel in freezing cold water, in this state," you fill in. Sigalis nods. "The Legate said he was going to find someone else to go through the tunnel, even if it meant having to drag Professor Massioti through it himself. Vettor doesn't know about that because he ran out the Legate's office before he got to that point. Ana broke down in tears over...everything, so she ran out, and...well, if you talked to Vettor already you probably already know. About what's going on between those two, I mean."

"I'm...not sure if I really do? But I can make an educated guess if I have to," Sigalis slowly says. "In any case, thanks. That's...not what I wanted to hear, exactly, but it's what I needed to hear. Eh...I really should get out of your hair and let you get some rest, but there's one more thing I needed to ask you about: Did he say anything...how do I put this...did he ever say anything about stuff he shouldn't know about, like he knew more than you'd expect him to?"

"Yes, Sigalis, he mentioned his visions," you answer. Getting slightly tired of Sigalis trying to maintain her laughable pretence of secrecy right about now. She nods in response to your question, though there's a deep frown on her face. And maybe it's the fever making you see things, but you're pretty sure that's not a regular Sigalis being able to breathe frown, that's a worried frown. Either way Sigalis, tense expression on her face, mumbles something you can't make out underneath her breath and takes one step towards your door. She then suddenly stops, turning around to look at your sorry self laying in bed. You're not sure what to make of her expression, you don't think it's one that you've ever seen on her before.

"What would you have done, if you were in Vettor's shoes?" You actually don't understand the question at first - you dove into the tunnel yourself, clearly, so obviously you would do the same thing he did. As you did. But after a moment it hits you that Sigalis isn't talking about the tunnel, she's asking what you'd do if you received mysterious visions like he did.

"I don't know," you answer. "I guess it depends on how afraid I'd be of those visions coming true. I know the only visions I'll have tonight are nightmares of me drowning in that cursed tunnel anyway, so...I don't know."

Sigalis takes a second to think over your answer, and with a smile (for Sigalis anyway) she nods and says, "I guess you're right. Thanks, and sweet dreams, [PC FIRST NAME]," with an odd tone you don't think you ever heard on Sigalis before. After that she steps out of your room, quietly closing the door behind her.

...She is totally scheming something, isn't she? She is absolutely going Gods-knows-where right now to pull off some kind of stunt. She so obviously is. Well, not like you're in any condition to do anything about it. The only thing you should (and want) do right now is try to rest. Hopefully you'll be able to get it...

[PC VITALITY >0]-That is all you can ask for.
--You nod, say goodbye to the Legate, and as if nothing happened continue on with the rest of your day. That chill you feel remains with you for a while, but it eventually fades away, and not too long after you forget about it. Even so you're nevertheless reminded of today's activities when, during dinner, you notice Vettor eating alone. Curious about how things ended up between him and Ana you decide to sit down next to him and ask about it. Thankfully you were mistaken about Vettor sitting by himself, as he looks downright cheerful. "Don't worry about 'Thema, she's fine. Shaken by everything that's happened, sure, but she'll get back on her feet in no time," Vettor insists. You're not really convinced that it's all that simple, though.

"What about her phobia? And her security issues? And the fact that you I don't even know what to call what you did-ed her? Eh...never mind, you know what I mean. Probably. Aren't you worried about all of that? I have to assume that she is, so..."

Vettor shakes his head. "About that...well, after I caught up with 'Thema after she ran out of the Legate's office she basically broke down and told me how she really feels. About herself, about her parents holding her back, Professor Storey, the Academagia, everything. I'm not going to say it was pretty, the confession or what she had to say about herself, but she finally got it off her shoulders and heard herself say it out loud. That was pretty much the eye-opening moment for her, hearing herself talk like that. From there I took her to Professor Badcrumble, since she helped 'Thema out before with Professor Storey and all, and 'Thema herself told Professor Badcrumble about everything that's bothering her. Everything she knows she needs to change, everything she wants to change, and everything that she's going to need some kind of help and guidance to change. Professor Badcrumble of course was all too happy to help her, and 'Thema has finally had enough of being afraid and everything, so I'm sure she'll be fine. It might take a while, but she'll get herself back on her feet eventually."

Is there a universe in which you do not ask Vettor about what Ana said about her feelings towards him? Does such a possibility exist? Do the laws that form all of creation and bend chaos to it's will allow the for possibility that you don't? One must assume that among the infinite possibilities that all of life's choices allows for that such a possibility, such a reality, could exist...but even if it does than this sure isn't that reality. So gossiping it is! "So...what about you?" you ask with a coy smile.

"Me? I don't think I caught a cold from swimming through the tunnel, s'about it."

This is Vettor you're talking to, but you still don't think that it's possible for him not to know what you're getting at. Still, better to just ask him outright. "I mean what did Ana say about you, silly. You're going to have a very short lifespan if you're willing to risk yourself like you did for just anyone, so...what's going on? What'd she say about you?"

Vettor...shrugs. Such a magnificent gesture really gives your questions a sense of dignity. Not. "You mean during her 'confession'? Not much, honestly. Just that she felt like trash sitting on the bank of a river while I dove into the cold abyss so she wouldn't be pressured to try, both of us knowing full well that she'd fail if she did, and how even then she never let herself be afraid of losing me to the watery depths when she knew she was. Actually, about that last point, she did say that she wants to be more open, with herself as much as with me. You know, let her emotions run free so that fear can actually take hold of her if that's how she feels. Apparently she's hoping to use that fear of losing me to help motivate her to overcome her own fear of the depths, like I did." What? She seriously said that, and...what? "Yeah, tell me about it, I thought it sounded pretty ridiculous too. Couldn't really tell her that it wouldn't work, though, you know? Since it was the same for me, ultimately, being more afraid of losing her than losing myself. She really turned the tables on me, but that's why she's got a good head on her shoulders."

Not what you were confused about, but the information is noted. "Vettor, please tell me that you're not completely missing what...how people are going to interpret that, at least. Please tell me you are not that dense."

"I couldn't swim if I was," Vettor jokingly answers. You'll admit it's fitting, at least. "I don't have a crush on 'Thema, [PC FIRST NAME], and if she's got one on me than she didn't say anything about it. She's a great girl, I'm glad that we're friends and we get along well...rocky moments aside, but what else are friends for? Either way, I don't have a crush on her. I just don't. If she develops a crush on me one day - or hell, me on her for that matter - I'll figure out whatever I need to figure out then. Cross that bridge if and when I get to it, I don't see any point in worrying about it if I never do. Leave the games and pitfalls of romance to the seniors, if I've got a friend who needs support that wants to race me to the other end of Lake Ardica than the only two things I should need to know is a starting time and location. Doesn't need to be any more complicated than that." Innocent, and kind of adorable. Though you're pretty sure Vettor would not appreciate being called such. "So who's your sweetheart anyhow?"

"Who'sawaitawhat?" is your response to that question. It, eh...it was a valiant effort.

"Who's your sweetheart? I'm not the only one who braved that tunnel, [PC FIRST NAME], you did too. If you want to insist that I either couldn't or wouldn't have unless I was crushing on 'Thema, than, well...who's your sweetheart?"

...You liked this conversation better before Vettor turned the tables on you, perhaps Ana is rubbing off on him. That said you suppose it is a fair question to ask. "Uh..." is all you manage to say in terms of answer, though.

"I won't pry if you don't want to share," Vettor says dismissively, but you don't trust the crooked smile on his face. "But...maybe you should be asking yourself a few questions, if you can't answer the ones you ask others."

Someone has been spending too much time with Ana, you think. Or maybe not enough? Eh, either way you'll consider whether to give this some thought. Later. It's getting late, you're tired, you're put in a full day of work. As much as you dread whatever nightmares you're going to have tonight you're feeling like it's time to go to bed...

Vettor is another one of those NPC students that really doesn't have much to say during his Y1 adventure, and who knows what happened to that crush on Amada said adventure was about. All told I think this adventure portrays him...not horribly incorrectly, at least, but only one way to find out I suppose.

Looking for Something to Find, stage 13:

Spoiler

Cold. Dark. No sense of direction, no sense of your surroundings, just cold water and pitch-black tunnels flooded with water. This is how you remember that cursed tunnel, this is how you remember how it was to swim through it. Trying desperately to keep a hand on a wall at all times, freaking out whenever there was a turn and you briefly lost what little hint of direction you had, cold water biting at every part of your body all at once while you had to stay focussed on where you are, which turns to take, and how far you think you're able to go before you run out of air trying to get back.

But this place just isn't right. There's no walls, no entrance or exit, no path, just an endless labyrinth of tunnels that are too big for you to keep track of and too much distance to cover. Cold water freezing you to your core, running out of air, slowly panicking because you can't think of any way out of this one...is this really it? Is this where your dream, your life, your story...ends?

Just as you feel like you're about to drown, however, your arms are suddenly grabbed from behind you by...hands. Human hands, to be sure, but you're not sure who they belong to. You can't see, can't reach out. Your arms won't move, you're out of air. Instead you've pulled up, further and further, until you end up surfacing...somewhere strange. The presence that dragged you up is gone, the hands have let go and there's no signs of who picked you up. It is night, to be fair, and very dark night at that. To the point where there's not a star visible in the sky, but...where are you? You're swimming in either some kind of lake or river, you're not able to tell. Large, wild-looking trees surround you on all sides, covering what little is visible of the night sky. Where it should be, at least. As you noted before, not a star visible in the sky. No visible moon or clouds, either.

You start to look around for a shore to climb up on as your attention is grabbed by the sound of something splashing in the water, and a bit further away you see an impossible to make out shape moving in the distance. Is that your saviour? You'd very much like to thank them if so, whoever they are, but even though you try to swim up to them you can't seem to get any closer to them. There's a current that's pushing you back, and you're not strong enough to fight against it. So, again, your eyes look around for a place to get up on shore, but either this river (or lake) is so gigantic that you can't see it from here or you can't see it from here because of the darkness. You genuinely can't tell, in fact you really wish you had your wand on you. What'd you'd do for a Lantern of Many Hues right now. Or Aganathi's Lamp. Just...something. Anything to see what's going on.

Of course the moment you think that is the moment that the world suddenly changes, and brightens. Bad news is that it slowly fills itself with a dark, red hue. The trees, sky, even the water, everything is covered in a blanket of red. You look up and can now see the moon past a bunch of parting clouds, and it's got the same red hue. This, eh, this doesn't feel like an improvement. You're very much aware that a world slowly turning red beneath what looks like a blood moon is a bad thing, so how about no? How about you find some place else to be and leave. You'd love to thank your savior for saving you, you really would, but you're not like Vettor. You are more afraid of whatever is happening here than you are of being polite to whoever just admittedly saved your life. You'll send them a letter and a big bundle of flowers later, as an apology, if you have to - right now you'd like to get out of here now thank you very much.

Frantically you choose a direction and start swimming for dear life, and your battered, bruised and tired body manages to pull you to the foot of a large bridge. It...frankly looks very familiar, isn't this the Duelling Bridge? It totally is, those big stone face statues and the waterfall off in the distance, there's no way you wouldn't recognize this place. How's you end up in the Imperial Reserve, though? Did your savior carry you up the river?

Questions flying around in your head you grit your teeth and do your best to pick yourself up, trying to get up to the top of the bridge to try and get a better look around. Maybe you can see whoever saved you. Hopefully. Hell, you can shout, maybe they'd hear you? It's worth a try. So you drag yourself up to the bridge, noticing that with every step you take the world seems to get a little brighter, both visibly and in terms of color. The dark red brightens, gives way to orange, than yellow, and finally the light that you're so used to. Indeed, when you look up at the sky you can see that the moon doesn't have it's dark red hue anymore too. Instead it's a nice, familiar distant white. On the downside looking over the river you're not able to see whoever saved you, neither in the water or on the shore. The upside is that the blanket of red wasn't the world turning evil as you feared. It was something else entirely.

-The rising sun...
--You wake up from your nightmare in the middle of the night, covered in cold sweat and feeling more alive than you have since mid-terms started. Well, first things first, quickly grab your wand and deal with this cold sweat problem, because you are not getting out of bed to deal with it. You've had more than enough of things being too cold and not dry enough for probably multiple lifetimes, so if there's a reasonable opportunity to actually use your wand to make it go away you'll take it.

Once you've dried your sheets and nightwear, and heated yourself back up to a comfortable temperature, you fall back down on your pillow and think. You remember every part of that dream, in fact you feel like you remember it better now than you did while dreaming since you're able to make out patterns that you weren't even aware of before. Those hands that grabbed you, for instance, your right arm was taken by someone's left hand, not right hand. And you were grabbed from behind, so...and the way the world looked so vile and evil, and that moon, and...and so many other things you can't even focus on right now. What a dream...or, rather, a vision? That doesn't sound right. Experiencing that vision, in any case. First Vettor, and now you...Sigalis must be behind it. It's not unheard of for spellcasters to experience random visions, even when they're not actively studying Astrology, you know that. But for it to first happen to Vettor, and now to you? No, that's surely not a coincidence. You refuse to believe that's a coincidence. Sigalis must have weaselled some sort of information out of Professor Piaxenza to pull this trick, he's well known for studying dreams, and Sigalis is a Hedi student. This must be her doing.

...Although as you feel your body relax and prepare itself to doze off again, a thought crosses your still active and awake mind. Did Sigalis study Astrology at any point? You don't believe she did. But without Astrology how is she sending you these visions? Glamour doesn't have any range to it, in that regard, for Sigalis to give you these visions with Glamour she'd have to be standing right next to you. You really can't imagine her repeatedly breaking into the Morvidus dorm to give Vettor a bunch to think about every other night, and now you...it'd be really easy to set a trap and catch her in the act if that's the case, too. Did someone else do it for her? Rikildis? Grainne, maybe? You don't think either of those study Astrology either. Does Sigalis have a friend in Avila? Who? She actively despises College Avila last you checked.

Replaying the vision in your head, feeling like you're just looking at all the things you didn't notice before, you suddenly end up on another line of thought. This vision, this level of clarity and ease of remembering, it feels...well, too perfect, for lack of a better term. You don't think a second year could accomplish this, with Astrology or Glamour. You're definitely dealing with an older student, and probably someone heavily invested into studying Astrology at that. Definitely College Avila, you think, but...Sigalis hates College Avila? And isn't heavily invested into Astrology? So what's going on here?

You suppose there's only one way to find out. Keep your eyes open for openings, oddities, opportunities...adventures that weren't there before. For what you saw in this vision, what it all seemed to lead up to. The dawn of a new day...

Unlike the previous four adventures...yes, it has been that many, hasn't it? Well, unlike them the next, final part of this adventure chain is only available on one specific day, hence the...less than subtle hint to keep your eyes open for it. It'd help if I could reasonable work in the actual date, Hionosi 18th, but frankly this whole "vision" thing is...difficult to work with. One must be vague, but not too vague, one must provide information, but not too much, one is contractually obligated to foreshadow things the player isn't meant to be told but cannot do so in a manner that a player is expected to notice the first time through or whatever...bah. Subtlety is for people that don't type with a sledgehammer.

Why yes, I do have a keyboard made out of titanium, how'd you know?

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Dawn of a New Day, stage 0:

Spoiler

It's a nice winter day, the 18th of Hionosi. Snow is falling outside and slowly but surely covering the world in a thicker white blanket than it already is and you, Academagia student that you are, have taken it upon yourself to make the most of it. Today, on this day, you will do naught but appreciate the gift of winter as best you can. Play around in the snow in the most fun and exciting ways you've ever imagined, build a snowman grandiose enough that it would make King Vernin himself proud, slide down all manners of slopes on whatever suitable piece of discarded flooring you can find, and yes, you may even grab a few snowballs and throw...nay, use your wand to throw them at people from a direction they'd never expect! And probably get hit by a few of those yourself, if what you've heard of Philippe's latest bit of magic training is any indication, but that's all just part of the fun. That's right, even that. For today...

...You're stuck in Professor Badcrumble's office while she's holding one of her etiquette lessons. This time focussing on the incredible importance that you hold a teacup just so, as well as the plate it's on, and seriously someone get you out of this hellish prison you didn't even do anything! Philippe used that magic snowball trick of his to bean the regent in the back of her head, making it seem like you were the one who tossed it! Sure, you had a snowball in hand when Professor Badcrumble turned around because you were about to do the same to Philippe, but come on! You don't deserve to be in here! You don't care to be in here! You don't even like the tea that Professor Badcrumble brought, yet she won't tell you how to say that politely! The one thing you could actually learn from this...well, at least you're not alone. There's actually a surprisingly large number of students here, at least for one of Professor Badcrumble's etiquette lessons. Most of them look like they belong here, though. There's only a few people here as detention. Only a few, but at least you're not alone.

"Now that I've covered how to do it right let me show a few common examples of how it's done wrong, and why it's so important that you do this right. Those of you here for detention, pay attention to this part, because I'll be happy to remind you if you forget." Because that's what your bored-out-of-it's-mind mind needs right now - the threat of more boredom. Wait, "bored-out-of-it's-mind mind"? Can your mind be so bored that it's bored out of itself? Eh, Gods, you don't feel like asking philosophical questions right now. You're sure you'd just hurt someone's feelings (if not your own) if you tried. "First, the most common mistake is to take the teacup with your left hand, or for those who are left-handed, your right hand. It might not seem like an important distinction since you don't need your dominant hand to pick up a teacup, but let me demonstrate that-"

You're about to wonder whether this means that someone who's ambidextrous couldn't possibly mess up picking up a teacup, a highly valuable and understated benefit of that trait to be sure, when the regent's monotone droning is cut off by an announcement coming from...somewhere. That's the one annoying thing about these Glamour announcements, your head never knows where to look whenever your ears pick up the sound since it's coming basically from thin air. "Professor Badcrumble, it's time. Please report to the ward immediately," an energetic, perhaps slightly panicked voice says. You don't recognize it, but you'd guess it's a faculty member of some description.

It takes the regent a second, but once she processes this information she rapidly puts her teacup down, dismisses everyone, and runs out of her own office without seeing everyone out first or even locking up. To be fair this is Professor Badcrumble you're talking about, trying to steal something out of her office would definitely not go unnoticed, but yikes. It's not often you see her bolt like that.

Most of the students who actually wanted (well, "wanted" in most cases) to be here don't wait for further invitation, they collectively shrug at the horse that they've been gifted, get up, and leave. A few others start gossiping with each other about what just came up, though they quickly realize that they could do so elsewhere than the regent's empty office, and so they, too, get up and leave.

As for you, you're curious about what just came up. The regent's older students don't know about it based on what you're overhearing and you don't know what this is about either, so...maybe you should make like a sneaky spy and investigate? "Ward" could mean a lot of things, so there's no telling what you might find out. And there's always ways you can use information like that beyond your own personal satisfaction, it could buy you a get-out-of-school-newspaper-free card with Rikildis if it proves interesting enough. Not that she doesn't still have her head all poked up into Catherine's business last you checked with the whole Matthias story, but...

-No, you've got a snowball with Philippe's name on it.
--It'd be interesting to know what got Professor Badcrumble's attention, you won't deny that. But why bother risking the ire of a professor who's already got a...temporarily diminished opinion of you just to look a gifted horse in the mouth? When you could instead take sweet, cold revenge on the person who got you into this mess in the first place? Doesn't the latter idea sound like a much better use of your time? Like a lesson that Philippe needs to learn from...oh who could you frame for this...Rui da Casga? Sure, he'd probably enjoy pulling a fast one over Philippe. A lesson he can learn from Rui da Casga. Doesn't that sound like a much better idea?

Of course it does. Time to head out and start work on serving Philippe that wonderful dish best served cold...with ice on top! He'll love it...
---ADVENTURE PATH A

-Shadow Professor Badcrumble.
--You're just too curious. Why did Professor Badcrumble get delivered a magical message to drop everything she was doing immediately? Where is she even going? What "ward"? There's too many questions flying around in your head for you to ignore, and even thought it might not matter to you at all you want to know.
---ADVENTURE PATH B

These branching paths are just two different ways to get to the same stage 3+, mind. It's not a matter of doing the obviously questionable thing leading to the actual adventure and the saner option being a red herring.

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