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Metis

Y2 WIP Adventures (come and proof-read!)

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I wish I could write that fast! :blink:

 

To be fair, I can be pretty lazy... I'm also more fond of typing the whole thing up and posting it in one go, which makes progress less noticable, but, what can I do ;)

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Oh rest assured, I tend to prefer the "do most of the work ahead of time" method as well. For reference I started typing this adventure 'bout two weeks ago, and by the time the first stage was posted I'd already put five days into it. Still not done with it, either, although by now it's just the last few troublesome exits and clean-up. Those exits, though. Speaking Quietly of Riddles is an awesome skill but typing an exit for it? Yikes. I'm sure it holds the record for most failed attempts to typing it, and I'm still on square one with it :unsure:...

 

Not that I can't type fast if I want/need to, mind. The entirety of Where Death Reigns was done in I think three days, and I rushed like mad to finish the tail end of A Dance In The Dark as well when the Legate mentioned the DLC 17 deadline was coming up. What? It seemed believable at the time!

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Well, I'm going to wait for Y2 and not spoil anything. I'd write for Mr Pebbles but I feel like seeing how Y2 works before actually doing much writing for it. I tried writing but didn't get very far. :rolleyes:

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Definitely know the feeling. I find it's less of a problem when you're not trying to type follow-ups to Y1 adventures, since there's no dancing around "did the player see this?" or "can the game tell that in Y1 the player did that?" and the like. Also, pointed pretending like the exits as presented are at all like how they'll likely appear in Y2. Also a big help :rolleyes:.

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I think I will try sketching some stuff out, but will hold off on the detailed writing until I have a chance to play. I need to have a think about using some of the less-usual skills. I want to see if some of the odd-options stuff I wrote in the clubs adventures (like if 3 successess exit route A, if 7 exit route B ) works though.

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Ah, right, wiki terms. Completely forgot about those :unsure:.

 

 

arguably my terms, I think I started doing it when I added adventures to the wiki - I think I did half the adventures on it (maybe more). So don't feel bad, I may be the only person using them.

 

Which would make the club adventures I wrote for Yr 1 a tad unwieldy posibly as all of them are 3+ phases per stage ;-)

 

Also, caught up on reading. Twice you describe people as 'goating' Yohan, do you mean 'goad'? (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/goad)

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I think I will try sketching some stuff out, but will hold off on the detailed writing until I have a chance to play. I need to have a think about using some of the less-usual skills. I want to see if some of the odd-options stuff I wrote in the clubs adventures (like if 3 successess exit route A, if 7 exit route B ) works though.

arguably my terms, I think I started doing it when I added adventures to the wiki - I think I did half the adventures on it (maybe more). So don't feel bad, I may be the only person using them.

 

Which would make the club adventures I wrote for Yr 1 a tad unwieldy posibly as all of them are 3+ phases per stage ;-)

Sounds like that'd work. And rest assured, a three phase stage is not unwieldy, not by the standards I'm running on :rolleyes:.

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Fire in Mineta, stage 10:

 

Once Yohan is done saying his piece the regent speaks up again. "That's certainly a difficult situation. All the same, however, I believe it would be best for you to...at least visit the Academagia. Just once, to see what Avila's seers have to say about your curious affinity with fire."

"Why? I don't want to learn how to set everything on fire, I..."

"You what, Yohan?"

Yohan looks at you, and after a moment just shakes his head sadly. "I-I don't know."

"All the more reason to visit the Academagia, as much as you might not want to."

Yohan looks at you with a very peculiar expression for a bit, but soon after his head falls again. "Fine. I'll go, just don't expect me to stay there."

You nod, stand up, and look at Devra. "I'm afraid Paola will need my help keeping order here now that this little secret has come out. Or more precisely, the children will need my help to keep Paola in check. So can I trust Yohan over to you two?"

You nod again, and after Devra turns to look at the Regent he nods as well. Yohan, for his part, doesn't react to this. The sombre expression on his face remains. "Well than, let's go," the regent says a bit too enthusiastically for your (and Yohan's) tastes. "Regent Badcrumble was one of the few professors who supported my idea from the start, so I'm sure we won't have to wait long, if at all."

You think Yohan appreciates that news? It's a bit difficult to tell when all he did in response was roll his eyes. All the same Undergate hasn't gotten to be any further away from the Academagia then it was an hour ago, so another short trip later and you're already standing in front of Regent Badcrumble's office. Give it another few minutes and you're standing in front of the Astrology classroom instead, seeing as how the regent's office was rather devoid of what makes it a regent's office. Namely, a regent. Yohan, for his part, has been rolling his eyes rather frequently ever since the three of you left the orphanage, and this brief search for the regent hasn't made him roll his eyes any less. Regent Piaxenza knocks on the door, and without waiting for a response opens it and walks in. Regent Badcrumble is indeed inside along with a few senior students, each having their wands drawn and ready. Practising something you'd guess, but they seem far too much like they were expecting this interruption all the same.

"Good afternoon, Piaxenza. Forgive me for cutting the small talk, but I take it you're here for an Astrological consultation?"

Yeah, Regent Badcrumble definitely sounds like she was expecting this. Not that that's too surprising all things considered, but still. Regent Piaxenza completely ignores it if he even notices. "Indeed. Yohan, this is Regent Badcrumble, she's the authority on Astrology and leader of the College that focusses on it's magic. Badcrumble, this is Yohan. He's an orphan from Undergate who's managed to teach himself the Singing Embers spell from seeing it's Phemes dance in fires, and how to cast the spell with just his fingers. And for someone casting a spell without a wand he can accomplish some impressive feats, from what I'm told."

"Well, yeah, that's what happens when you practice." Yohan drily adds. You think you catch something like bitterness in those words, like he's under the impression that practice isn't something the Academagia students need to lower themselves to, but you're not entirely sure.

Regent Badcrumble, for her part, frowns. "That's certainly a curious thing. Well, speaking of practice my students here could use some, so, Yohan? Please, could you stand right there for a few minutes? You don't have to do anything else."

Yohan raises and eyebrow and looks at you. "I've followed far stranger directions, believe me. Just stand there and be patient, Astrology can be difficult to get just right." Yohan's eyebrow remains raised, but he also shrugs and stand at the spot that Regent Badcrumble indicated. Once he's there the seniors get to work.

"This will take a few minutes," Regent Piaxenza quietly notes after the two of you walk off to one of the corners of the classroom, so as not to get in anyone's way. "What College do you think Yohan would fit best in? I know he said he doesn't feel like he belongs in the Academagia at all, but...well, let's be honest here, normal people don't learn Phemes from kitchen fires, and leaving him to cast his spell without a wand is just asking for trouble. It's that he practised it as much and as carefully as he did, or I'm sure at least one part of that orphanage would have burned."

The regent's blunt words only reminds you that what he says is ultimately the truth. Leaving Yohan to his own devices is just too dangerous, for himself so much as everyone around him. But which College would he fit best in? Based on what he's said you're sure you can rule out College Aranaz outright, and that probably means College Durand as well because he would likely suffer being a part of the whole Aranaz-Durand rivalry. So what would be a good fit...

College Avila.
"It's true normal people don't learn magic from kitchen fires, so he'd probably be better off in the College where he'd learn to interpret situations like that. And hey, Dorm Tower Eight won't be too much of a downgrade in living conditions for him, either."

"I'm afraid what impression the boy is going to get from the Academagia if he ends up stuck in that particular dorm building, though. You've no doubt noticed that his view is already biased and skewed, Dorm Tower Eight would just confuse him further," Regent Piaxenza says with a curious look on his face. "Still, you do have a point, he certainly isn't your average student in any case. Perhaps that would be for the best."

College Godina.
"He definitely needs to study Incantation, if only to make sure he doesn't end up accidentally setting things he cares about on fire. And even if he doesn't turn out fond of playing instruments himself I'm sure a friend that can play one for him will do wonders for his temper."

"True, if only in response to being bullied the boy does seems to have some problems controlling his temper," Regent Piaxenza admits. "I'm just afraid that Massioti will end up setting his sights on the 'Incantation prodigy' and force him into the Rimbal Team. Even if the competitions stay friendly, which they usually don't, I doubt Yohan will enjoy being a forced part of them."

College Vernin.
"If that contraption of his was any indication he could probably grow into a fine crafter, and if his magic is as good he'll no doubt turn into a great enchanter, as well."

"Certainly a creative solution to a problem, despite a lack of materials," regent Piaxenza admits. "I do wonder if College Vernin won't be a problem for him, considering it usually attracts the wealthier students. If not his peers I'm afraid his perception of the Academagia and the people in Mineta would twist irreparably."

The following block of text follows all three of the above exits, I just got tired of having three huge blocks of largely the exact same text. Ergo, I no longer do.

Your discussion with Regent Piaxenza comes to an abrupt stop as you both hear the sound of Regent Badcrumble's heels walking towards you. "We're done," she simply says.

"Ah, good. So, what's the result?" Regent Piaxenza asks. What little enthusiasm he showed goes away when Regent Badcrumble's frown only deepens, though.

"To put it in terms that the both of you would understand I'm afraid the boy was born when Peregrini was at it's height, influencing Eurus and Invidus in ways we're not clear on yet. That's all we've managed to gather so far. It'll take quite a few days of research, at least, to get a clearer picture than that. Most crucially Yohan says he's not sure on what exact day he was born, though I'm sure someone in City Hall will be able to uncover that information for us."

"You're saying...the Wanderers taught him how to conjure fire?"

Regent Badcrumble shrugs. "It's impossible to tell at this point. Eurus, the East Wind, is certainly tied to Incantation, but there's far more to the school than just conjuring flame. Further, I've never seen Peregrini and Invidus interact like this before. I've certainly never heard of the two cooperating, as natural a thing as that might seem for them. At this point my best guess is that they're at odds with each other. One evil trying to snuff out, usurp or protect itself from a greater evil, perhaps. Still...I really cannot say. This is going to require more extensive research, and soon."

"So I take it that Yohan will be, eh, 'transferred' to the Academagia?"

"Immediately," Regent Badcrumble answers just as quickly. "Next school year, assuming everything goes as planned, he'll be joining the first years as well. He might not know his exact date of birth, but I can tell he's at that age. Until then I'll try to make arrangements for him. Incidentally, whether it was truly your doing or not, [PC FIRST NAME], I have to thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. Leaving Yohan with a bad crowd, taking his cues from the inevitable bonfires he'd create would not have ended well, I assure you." You don't have a reaction to that. "It's just unfortunate that, ultimately, Piaxenza's plan was a complete failure. You've done good work, [PC FIRST NAME], but somehow I don't think Yohan's former matron will fondly remember you."

"I...expect as much."

"Well, at least something good came out of this," Regent Piaxenza adds in a failed attempt to make the conversation less...dire.

"We can only hope," Regent Badcrumble says a bit ominously as she glances over at Yohan. Not the abrupt end to your days of community service that you were expecting, but you have to keep in mind that for some this mess is far from over...

--- Pause Adventure ---

This would be the point where half one of the adventure ends, if it does need to be cut in half, by the way.

Edited by Metis

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Fire in Mineta, stage 11:

 

You're quietly eating a meal in the Great Hall, just minding your own business, when all of a sudden an out-of-breath Avila first year runs up to you. "Eh, [PC FIRST NAME]...right? Pro...Professor Badcrumble wants to see you. In her office...immediately."

"Eh, could you catch your breath, first? Why does the Regent want to see me?"

The first year shrugs. "I'unno, she just told me to find you and send you there. She seemed...well, not mad, but...serious? Sorry, you should have a better idea of what trouble you're in than m-oh, eh, wait, I didn't mean to imply that-"

"Basically, 'go there and figure it out yourself'?"

The first year, already embarrassed from her earlier gaff, just looks down at her shoes, pretending to bow in a polite way. "Y-yes, pretty much..."

You shrug and stand up. "Very well, just remember to ask for at least some details next time."

The first year nods one final time and quickly scurries off. So Regent Badcrumble wants you, huh? As sure as you are that it would make this next...however long much easier, you're pretty sure this isn't going to be about your ability to hold a teacup just so. Well, no use delaying it. Time to go.

The Mysterious Request.
Now that you've done it more than a few times before you don't have any problem finding the regent's office, and when you arrive you notice the door is already open. You still knock on it as best you can, of course, but Regent Badcrumble just tells you to sit down. No polite greetings or small talk? Goodness. She is serious.

"I take it you remember Yohan?" the regent asks as you sit down in a chair she prepared beforehand...

"The kid from Undergate? Yeah, I could hardly forget him. Why? Did he run away or something?"

Regent Badcrumble shakes her head. "The Legate, after much poking and prodding on my end, has finally gotten around to filling out the paperwork required for Yohan to be transferred to the Academagia as a 'special case'. As much as he might refuse to take the term seriously."

"I can only imagine," you drily add. "So I take it that your extra research...well, only made his situation worse, to put it bluntly?"

The regent lets out a sigh. "That's one way to look at it. His situation hasn't really changed so far, but the work I've put into it has at least continued to confirm that I'm not in the market for a new group of seniors. That said, my duties as regent are keeping me from personally investigating this further, and while it's good experience for my senior students I don't believe that leaving this up to them is fair for Yohan. As such I've decided to ask you for your help. It might not be the most glamorous work, but if you can take care of some of the errands that don't really require my personal attention I could focus more time on studying Yohan's position." You were hoping for something a little more important than the less important errands, but you are curious as to what Yohan's story really is, and helping out a regent when they ask you to always pays for itself. So you nod and ask Regent Badcrumble what she needs help with. The regent smiles at your answer, of course, but there's a thin line at the end of that smile that you don't entirely trust. "Excellent, thank you. Now, first off..."

--- Proceed with Adventure ---

As you can probably see I was kind of expecting the adventure to be cut in half here. I'm still not sure if it needs to be, though. These stages just aren't the doorstoppers I usually put out.

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And since I'm finally as done with Fire in Mineta as I'm going to be, have the rest of it. Yeah, I only post stages one day at a time to give me time to finish it. Now that it is as finished as I can make it it seems silly to just sit on it for another week and some change.

 

Fire in Mineta, stage 12:

 

So, here you are, back in Undergate, standing in front of the orphanage where Yohan used to live. You should have figured that you'd be coming back here sooner or later, and you did, you just didn't consider that "sooner" would mean "pretty much immediately". And yet, here you are. Regent Badcrumble handed you a letter to give to Paola, the matron of the orphanage, basically explaining that Yohan has been taken in by the Academagia due to his extremely unusual fate and if she has a problem with that she's welcome to shout at a brick wall or do something else ultimately meaningless...only more politely phrased. From what you recall, though, Paola didn't take the news of Yohan's shenanigans very well, and you can only imagine how the rest of the kids have reacted to it. Honestly you're really hoping that Devra is able to pass along the message for you, but...wishful thinking. Well, nothing more you can do about it, time to knock on the door.

A tense few seconds later, and someone opens the door. Thankfully it's not Paola, it's...eh, the one girl who wanted to be a vegetarian, what was her name again...Sherry? You think it was Sherry. Well, she opens the door and looks rather surprised when she sees you. "Eh, hi there, [PC FIRST NAME]. I thought-I mean, do...you want to speak with the matron?"

"With miss Devra, if she's available, actually."

Sherry nods. "She's upstairs in her office, yeah. Do you remember where that is?"

"Take a left turn upstairs, first - well, only - door to the right?"

Sherry nods and steps aside. As you walk upstairs, quickly scurrying past the door leading to the common/living room, you mentally go over the fact that your letter is addressed to matron Paola, and she's the one who needs to get it. Still...Devra will understand, right? Hopefully?

...Maybe?

With a heavy feeling you knock on Devra's door, and she tells you to come in. From her tone it's clear she wasn't expecting you, specifically. "[PC FIRST NAME]? Why are-I thought that Paola, eh, 'had her fill of community service', or however she put it?"

You shrug as you drop the letter on Devra's desk. "I'm sure, but I'm here to deliver this to her. And I would, except, well...you can imagine how she'd react to this."

Devra opens the letter and reads through it. when she's done she puts it down with a sigh and a nervous smile on her face. "Oh gods, why did this have to happen? I mean, you're right, Paola would flip her desk if you just delivered this to her. Still, I...I guess I'll have to deliver this to her myself. I'll make sure she gets it, [PC FIRST NAME], although before you leave, could I ask you about something?"

You shrug. "Depends, what do you want to ask about?"

"It might not sound appropriate, but I'm at a loss with what to do with Yohan's former 'friends', as they insist on calling themselves. They seem to have taken the situation at least as badly as Paola has, and ever since Yohan left they've been difficult to control. I was hoping that maybe some news of how Yohan is doing would calm them down, but...I don't even know what news would, if any."

"Are they just jealous of Yohan being 'special'? Because if so...well, I shouldn't gossip, but Yohan's situation is anything but a bed of roses, to put it politely. And I'm not even talking about him staying in Dorm Tower Eight, either."

Devra shakes her head. "It's not jealously, or at least not just. I'm not entirely sure what it is, which is why I was hoping that you could talk to them. Since you're from the Academagia yourself maybe they're willing to be more open with you, since you might actually be able to give them answers."

A difficult situation, but you feel like you owe Devra at least this much considering that she's taken it upon herself to spare you from an even worse meeting. So, what are you going to do about Yohan's former "friends"?

...Thinking about it, you get the impression that getting some information on them first would be a good idea. That way they're not the one holding all the cards and all that. But how?

Gossip. Ask around.
The terrible trio must not be the only ones who are curious about how Yohan is doing, and you find yourself in need of information, so the next course of action seems obvious. Only problem is, you don't know where Paola is, and she...likely isn't going to react to your presence very well. So what's the most out-of-the-way area in the orphanage where some of the kids will still be, and hopefully in a talkative mood?

...Outside, perhaps? If you recall correctly Sherry did end up getting some support with her whole "farm" idea, so maybe there are some in the backyard. You decide to check, and after doing a rather silly loop in Undergate's streets you indeed see some kids working in the backyard. Sherry looks to be among them, but it's one of the older kids who notices you first. With a confused frown he walks up to you. "Aren't you that community service kid from before? What, did your professors find another Yohan?"

"No, nothing like that, though I am here on Academagia business. Again. I don't suppose you know if Paola is around? Not that I want to find her, I want to not find her. Or not be found by her, I guess I should say."

The older kid smirks. "Last I heard she's patrolling the common room. It's half the reason why we're here attending to the farm, you know."

"Ah. That's...unfortunate. I was hoping to talk to a few of the kids here."

The older kid points to the group working on the farm, who notice and start slowly making their way over. Meanwhile the older kid says, "You'll forgive me if I find it hilarious that someone younger than me is asking if [s/HE] can talk to the 'kids' here."

You shrug. "I suppose, but 'the kids and teenagers around or above my age' is just a mouthful."

The older kid nods, and his friends show up. It's a bit awkward to talk to the lot of them, but careful "gifts" of ultimately innocuous gossip about the Academagia and Yohan get you the information you want to hear. Yohan's former friends, if even he thought of them that way since it didn't sound like he did near the end, are called Naru, Nouv and Nuad. No one else hangs out with them, so no one knows for sure where they could be hanging out (you apparently need the matron's permission if you want to wander outside Undergate, but neither she or Naru has been very...approachable lately). More interestingly, it turns out that Yohan and Naru were, in perhaps an odd sense, effectively brothers. They were both left at the orphanage when they were still newborn babies within one day of each other. Ever since they've been treated as brothers. One of the older kids suspects that's why Naru has had a chip on his shoulder recently, beyond what everyone else thinks of the situation. All in all, good info.

"Thanks, that's-actually, do you remember the exact date that Yohan was dropped off here?"

That suddenly seems to darken the mood a bit, and after you raise an eyebrow at that one of the older kids explains. "Most of us here don't know how or why we ended up here, and the few that do sometimes wish they didn't, so we usually try not to remember stuff like that. If you really want to know stuff like that, you'll have to ask the matron. And not die in the process, of course."

"That's...yeah, I think I'll just not do that. Not by myself, anyway. Thanks for the help, good luck with your farming project."

"Good luck turning every other stone in Undergate looking for a trio of kids that might have it out for you, captain wizard."

Okay, that kind of stings. Still, you are a wizard and you've got a decent idea of why Naru is flying off every other wall, time to start looking for them.

--- Proceed with Adventure ---

 

Your plan to question the orphans for information is foiled when you end up seeing Paola stomp around the orphanage's common room. Thankfully you manage to duck out of the way before she spots you, but...probably a good idea to try and be a little more careful in the future. Especially if Devra goes ahead and relays that message you definitely don't want to even risk getting spotted by her.

--- Stop Adventure ---

 

Society. Figure out who their friends are.
It just so happens that you don't know where the troublesome trio is, and it also so happens that there's a small group of kids that you should still be in relatively good graces with, so for no particular reason what-so-ever you decide to sneak around the building and approach the children that are attending to the "farm" they've build in the backyard. Thankfully Sherry is among them, and she's the first to come running when she sees you. "Hi there, [PC FIRST NAME]. Did you forget something?"

"Not quite, I'm looking for Yohan's former friends. Do you know where they hang out, who they hang out with?"

Sherry shakes her head and looks towards one of the older kids. He eyes you rather suspiciously at first, but seeing Sherry's cheerfulness eases that somewhat. "Looking for Nouv, Nuad and Naru? They're out in town, doing whatever it is they feel like doing during their spare time. No idea where you'd find them, but rules are they're not allowed to stray out of Undergate unless the matron is informed beforehand. Of course she hasn't been in a good mood lately, and Naru's been flying off every other wall, if you catch my drift."

You can't help but feel sorry for Devra when you hear that last part. Still, gotta press on. "Eh...thanks, but could you be a bit more specific? I can't exactly turn every stone in Undergate."

"Sure you can, captain wizard," one of the other kids says a bit bitterly, but the older kid tells him to shut it.

"Don't mind him. I don't know where those kids hang out, in fact no one else hangs out with those three now that Yohan is no longer around. And even he didn't 'hang out' so much as he was 'dragged along' lately, either. That said, I don't think you'd want to speak to them. Naru especially has had a chip on his shoulder ever since that debacle with Yohan and everything, and the other two have been causing a lot more trouble as well."

"Any idea why Naru especially has a chip on his shoulder? I talked to Devra, she said it's not just a jealousy thing. Not entirely, at least."

The older boy frowns. "Actually, I may have an idea about that. If I remember right Naru and Yohan were dropped off here at pretty much the same time, both when they were babies. Because of that they grew up as brothers, and I assume Naru's upset that they ended up getting separated. 'Course there's also the part about Yohan 'apparently' being born under the right stars when Naru wasn't, but...as much as he might insist on it, I don't think that's why he's lashing out."

"I...see. Incidentally, do you remember the exact date that Yohan was dropped off here?"

The older boy shakes his head, and the expression on his face darkens a bit. "I was only two years old when he was. Most of us here don't know how or why we ended up here, and the few that do sometimes wish they didn't, so we usually try not to remember stuff like that. If you want to know stuff like that, ask the matron."

Yeah, you're definitely getting the impression you're maybe wearing out your welcome. You've got enough information to work with, though, so you say goodbye to the (nominally...) happy farmers and head off into Undergate, looking for the troublesome trio.

--- Proceed with Adventure ---

 

You carefully question the children at the orphanage, dodging Paola as you do so, but the only thing you get are sneers, shrugs and cold shoulders. The entire atmosphere here is tense, like something is about to explode. You don't know if you've made (and kept) any friends during your brief stay here, but if you want to gather information this way you're going to have to find them.

--- Stop Adventure ---

They're not the most terrible names I've ever come up with. Also, I'll give bonus points to whoever can ID what source all the names reference.

 

Fire in Mineta, stage 13:

 

You spend about an hour walking around Undergate, trying various methods of finding Naru and his two pawns, until finally you find them hiding out on a balcony of what seems to be an abandoned building. It's honestly a pretty nice spot, but you don't see any immediate ways of getting to them.

As it turns out, though, you don't need one.

"The hell are you doing here!?" Naru shouts when he sees you staring at the three of them from the streets below.

If you have any ways of calming them down enough to get them to talk, now would be the time.

Nope, so...discretion is the better part of valor!
This seems like a situation where maybe Naru will calm down on his own, later, when he's alone, and you being here isn't strictly necessary. As such, time to skedaddle.

...You really don't think Naru is ever going to talk to you without fists flying around until you actually stick around and confront him, though...

--- Stop Adventure ---

 

Dialectic. "Devra asked me to talk to you three."
That catches Naru a bit off guard. "Devra asked you to...? Why?"

"Because the three of you have been flying off every other wall since Yohan left, and Devra hopes that having the chance to ask about how he's doing will convince you three to calm down."

The three of them briefly exchange glances, after which Naru nimbly jumps down from his perch. He looks...conflicted, is the best way to put it. "Why'd she ask for your help? And how, for that matter?"

"Why? I think because with Paola tied up with losing her mind Devra's got too much to handle as is. As for how, or when she got the opportunity to ask me, which is what I assume you meant to ask, I was actually send to the orphanage to deliver a letter to Paola, and Devra took it upon herself to pass it along for my sake."

Naru slowly nods, not keeping his eyes off of you for more then a second. "That sounds like Devra. She's always looking out for us, and always there to protect us from Paola whenever we need to be protected from that mad hag. Not sure why she thought you'd need to be protected, though."

"Because that letter basically said 'Yohan is ours now, if you've got a problem with it than have fun shouting at a wall because you're out of luck. Love, the Academagia'. Only more politely phrased, of course."

That briefly breaks Naru out of whatever emotional turmoil he's in. For better or worse. Eyes wide he starts smiling nervously. "Ha, ha-oh man. No amount of politeness is going to make that go over well. Paola's going to flip when she reads that. Thanks for the advance warning about not going back to the orphanage until nightfall, if nothing else."

"You're welcome. That said, do you think you could stop causing so much trouble for Devra? You ought to know by now that she's got her hands full enough as is, and if you three want to know about how Yohan is doing, you can just ask me now."

Naru seems to carefully consider your offer. Meanwhile one of his cronies jumps down from his perch and asks a question of his own. "We heard that Yohan learned his stuff from staring at the fires in the kitchen. 'Sat really true?"

You nod. "As far as I've heard, yes. Not that any of the professors have yet figured out how he's managed that, mind you. Usually wizards don't get their knowledge from bonfires."

Naru just rolls his eyes at that. "Well, on the subject of fire, how'd Yohan cast his spells anyway? I thought you needed a wand in order to cast spells, as well as a...what's it called, palette?"

You slowly shake your head. "That is what it's called, but both are technically optional. I say technically because casting spells without a wand is mostly just a way to blow yourself up from miscasting spells. That's also what a palette is for, or at least primarily why Academagia students use one. It makes sure that our spells don't take our hands off, if we fail to cast them properly. How Yohan managed not to burn the orphanage down is one of the lesser mysteries the professors are scratching their heads over."

"And Peargrin? Any idea what that's supposed to mean?" Naru asks.

"I think you mean Peregrini, which you probably know better by it's modern name: The Wanderers."

Naru...you're not entirely sure how he takes that answer. He seems to contemplate it, but that's all you can tell. Meanwhile his friend that's standing next to him asks, "And Eurus and Invidus? What's their modern names?"

"East Wind and Envious, respectively."

Suddenly the third of Naru's group jumps down from his perch, looking slightly alarmed. "Isn't the Wanderers that really bad sign? And Envious the worst one of all or something?"

"Not...quite. The Wanderers is indeed infamous, so much so that on some islands it's acceptable for parents to 'adjust' the date of their child's birth to avoid being born under the Wanderers. Envious I guess you could say is the worst in some respects, but it's also only a minor constellation. I don't think you'd understand the difference, though."

Naru shrugs. "You're right about that. Still, one last question. Do you think it's possible that Yohan was left at the orphanage because of that? Being born under the wrong sign and all?"

"I...I guess it's possible, at least. I couldn't say for sure, though."

You're not sure how Naru responds to that. Especially because he's definitely hiding how he really feels about it. "Fine. We'll try to give Devra a break and stay out of trouble from now on."

Yeah, you're not betting any money on that. Still, you feel like you're done what you could, so it's time to head back to the Academagia.

--- Proceed with Adventure ---

 

Rhetoric. "I'm here to talk, nothing more."
Naru glares at you like no one has ever glared at you before. You refuse to budge though, and soon enough Naru nimbly jumps down from his perch to street level. His two friends stay up top, continuing to stare down at the two of you. "Fine, you want to talk? Talk than, what d'you got to say for yourself?"

"Devra wanted me to ask you three why you've been flying off every other wall, and seeing as how I know what Yohan's been up to, she figured that maybe there's something you want to ask me about. So, here I am. What's gotten into your three lately?"

That nearly convinces Naru to charge at you, but he stops himself. "Why should we care about you asking us that, even if you're here on her behalf?"

"Other than to make Devra's life easier, now that she's going to have to tell the matron about Yohan having been transferred to the Academagia? To satisfy your own curiosity. If you really don't want to know..." you shrug. "I can just leave the three of you alone, that'll be it."

Naru looks you over with equal parts fire and devastation in his eyes. Not that he's admit that last one. Trying to act cool he suddenly calms down. "Yeah, I guess I'm curious, 'specially if the Academagia decided to step over the matron entirely. She's a bit of a control freak, you know? They'll hear from her, Devra trying to calm her down or not."

As much as Naru is trying to hide his feelings you can't say he's lying. "As little time as I spend with her I got that same impression, honestly. So, ask away. Whatever information will get you three to calm down that I can tell you, within reason, I'll try to explain."

While Naru mulls over your offer one of his cronies jumps down and asks a question of his own. "We heard that Yohan learned his stuff from staring at the fires in the kitchen. 'Sat really true?"

You nod. "As far as I know, yes. As for how that happened, the professors are still trying to figure that out themselves. It's not a common thing as you can imagine. In fact, very little about Yohan's situation is common."

"You don't say," Naru sarcastically remarks. "Speaking of that fire, by the way, how'd he manage to cast spells without a wand anyhow? Last I heard you need one to cast magic, 'less you're a fey or something like that."

You shake your head a bit. "It's not impossible to cast spells without a wand, just...not on the same level. Think of it as trying to climb a ladder instead of a sheer cliff face. How Yohan managed not to burn the orphanage down is one of the smaller mysteries the professors are looking into."

Naru looks a bit surprised at that, and the crony standing next to him asks, "Actually, I don't suppose you know what a 'Peargrin' is? We overheard the matron shouting about it after she got the first message from the Academagia, but...well, you know. The matron..."

"I think you mean Peregrini, in which case you probably know it better by it's modern name: The Wanderers."

"The Wanderers..." Naru mumbles to himself, before suddenly looking right at you. "So I guess that...what was it, Eurus and Invidus are also signs? Eh, constellations, rather?"

"East Wind and Envious in modern Elumian, respectively," you say in answer to Naru's unspoken question.

"Hey, wait a second!" the third and last of Naru's goods suddenly shouts from his balcony perch.

"If you care to ask a question, Nouv, you're more than welcome to come down here and ask!" Naru shouts up in response.

As ordered Nouv jumps down, and looking a little worried at you he sputters out, "Isn't the Wanderers that really shady sign? And Envious even worse than that?"

You shrug. "In some places parents are allowed to adjust the date of a child's birth so they supposedly aren't born under the sign of the Wanderers. Envious is indeed worse in terms of reputation, but it's only a minor constellation, so..."

The color on Nouv's face drains a bit as he looks at his two companions. "Hey, Naru, you think that's why Yohan was left at the orphanage?"

Naru frowns at that, and slowly turns to look at you. The fire that had mostly left his eyes has come back, you've noticed. "What do you think?"

Thinking back, you recall Regent Badcrumble mentioning that Yohan was born when Peregrini was at it's height. And if that means that the date couldn't believably be adjusted...well. "I can't deny it's a possibility," you admit.

The fire in Naru's eyes remain, and although his other emotions don't fade they seem to change a bit. You're not sure. "...Alright," Naru says with anger held in check. "That's all we need to know. Thanks for the info, [PC FIRST NAME]. We'll try not to cause as much trouble from now on."

You're not going to bet money on that promise. Regardless it's clear that you're done here, so you nod and head back to the Academagia.

--- Proceed with Adventure ---

 

And communal failure text. I'm wondering if I should give this an even less respectable name. Like maybe "bulk discount failure text"? Eh, too many words. Anyway:
Naru's basilisk-like stare informs you that your intrusion here is currently not appreciated. Whelp, time to run...

--- Stop Adventure ---

FYI, I've no idea what differentiates a minor from a major constellation in game lore. But I assume it's a thing. Somehow.

 

Fire in Mineta, stage 14:

 

Having delivered Regent Badcrumble's message to Paola (if a bit...indirectly), your next errant is ready and waiting. "Apparently there's some sort of trouble over at City Hall. I've requested a copy of Yohan's birth certificate - however inaccurate it might be - at least three times now, and every time the request just got stuck or vanished somewhere. I really can't continue my research without at least some narrow window, so I've decided to send someone to City Hall and pick up those papers directly. Naturally, that someone will be you."

"I take it you can write a letter or something to give me the right to handle those papers? Otherwise I don't think I could, legally."

"Oh, of course," the regent says as she takes a sealed letter out of her desk and hands it to you. "Show that to one of the clerks and they'll do the rest. And if not they'll be begging for their bread on the streets soon after. So, good luck."

A little nervous, because you're not sure whether that last bit was a joke or not, you put the letter away and start making your way towards City Hall. The trip there is uneventful, just another trip through Mineta. Even City Hall itself seems to be fairly empty today, not too many people around. You don't even have to wait in line for a clerk. As for the clerk, well, you give him the letter, he reads through it and nods to himself. "Be right back," he says in a droning manner, bored of his own job, like nothing in the world could possibly go wrong.

Of course it's never that simple, but you're used to that by now.

"Sorry, but the document you've requested doesn't exist," the clerk says after he comes back, empty-handed.

"Wait, what? What do you mean it 'doesn't exist'? Doesn't Yohan have a birth certificate? How could that happen?"

The clerk shrugs. "Not every child that's born in this city is properly recorded, and security at the docks isn't foolproof either. Not that newborn babies are the usual thing to look for when searching a ship, either. Anyway, if you really need a copy of his certificate I'd suggest your professor get in contact with law enforcement and see if this child is on the records of another island. If he's got no record anywhere he'll need to have a special record made, since otherwise he'd technically be living in this city illegally." That certainly explains what snag Regent Badcrumble's requests kept running into. Well, nothing to do but go back and rapport to her. Although...on a hunch, you ask the clerk about whether it's legal to adjust a child's date of birth, to avoid potential stigma from being born under a bad sign. The clerk shakes his head. "In Mineta any sort of tampering with an individual's birth certificate is a serious crime with harsh punishments, regardless of the situation. If I remember right the minimal punishment for that sort of fraud is ten years imprisonment, and if it's a crime perpetrated by the parents they're likely to lose ownership of their child separate from the fact that they'd be imprisoned for however many years. And if nobility get involved with such fraud, well, suffice to say that it's a crime that'll be forgotten quickly but never forgiven, if you catch my drift."

You're not entirely sure you did catch that last part, but close enough. Either way you thank the clerk for his time and walk out, wondering about what you're going to tell Regent Badcrumble. You don't get far, however, as just a short walk from City Hall you're suddenly approached and surrounded by three familiar figures. "Fancy meeting you here," Naru says, not even trying to hide the fact that he fully intended you to meet here.

"Thought of something you forgot to ask the other day?" you innocently ask, not sure what Naru and his two pawns want from you yet.

"No. In fact, I think that this time maybe we can help you answer a few questions." Naru says with an odd expression on his face. Well, maybe more like a mixed expression. You can't get a good read off of him.

"I'm surprised you know that I'm here for that. Still, it so happens that I'm looking for some information. You think you can help me with that?"

Naru nods, far too confidently and knowing far too much for your liking. "Paola has a copy of Yohan's birth certificate, and if she doesn't she's got a pretend copy that she made herself when he was brought into the orphanage. Remember what I said about her being a bit of a control freak? She needs to have personal copies of everyone's papers, right where she wants them, though why she does I couldn't tell you. Still, that's hardly what you want to know, right?"

Yep, definitely too confident and informed. Far too much. Still, you think it's worth a shot. "And I take it you know of a way to get a copy of it? I don't think Paola will respond to a 'pretty please', whether it's coming from me or one of you."

Naru grins at that. "Oh, Paola has just completely lost it ever since Yohan left. Devra's pretty much running the orphanage by herself these days, but she can't keep an eye on everyone. Nouv and Nuad here can grab a copy for you, easily, but down here there's no such thing as a free lunch. You want our help, you help us out first."

Of course. You also can't help but feel a sense of irony coming from Naru still mimicking Paola's endless pessimism. "Free lunch" indeed. "What do you have in mind?"

"Well, this might sound odd, but...we need you to find a new matron for us." You raise an eyebrow at that, something that Naru pretends not to be bothered by. "If Devra pushes herself too far and collapses, than what? The older kids can't help her, not enough anyway, so if she's out what's going to happen to our orphanage? Where are we going to go? We don't have anywhere else that we call home, you know."

There is definitely, absolutely, most assuredly, undeniably more to this request than Naru is willing to admit up front. You don't feel like now is the right time to pry, though, and however many ulterior motives he might have his stated reason does make sense. "Can't Devra take up that mantle herself and hire a new assistant to fill in her old position, though? If she's practically running the orphanage as is anyway..."

"That's what half the orphanage said as well, but she said she doesn't want to be matron. Apparently it'd mean she'd spend all her time in her office planning and filling paperwork and such instead of actually being with the kids. And she wants to be with them. With us, even." Naru's head falls a bit, and while it's difficult to tell you're sure he's blushing a little. Though just as you've about to ask why he answers your question for you. "We want her to stay with us, to be honest. You can't imagine how many of us think of Devra as our mother. So...we need a new matron."

For as little as you've interacted with Devra you still feel like that's indeed what she'd say. So, finding a new matron...how are you going to find anyone who'd even be interested in the position, and assuming you get that far, convince them to take the position?

Negotiate. Try to sell someone on the positives of the job.
At first you can't think of any positives, but than an idea hits you. "Hey, Naru, about the position of matron being all paperwork and such...how much did Paola actually interact with the orphans, like Devra does?"

Naru shrugs. "Not as much as Devra, that's for sure. Paola...I think she was more of a teacher to us. She did a lot of research and planning for her 'classes', and she definitely made sure that we took to them, but...that's really it. She was our matron and our teacher, but not our mother. Right?" Naru looks at his two pawns for confirmation, and they both nod in agreement.

"Interesting...I think that gives me an idea. I'll go look around and see if I can find a new matron. By the by, where should I send whoever I find, assuming I do find someone? If Paola is still acting as the matron I don't think that meeting will go well."

Naru shakes his head. "Just send her to Devra. Paola's gone so nuts she can't tell Devra from some of the older girls anymore, so I don't think that'll be a problem."

Oh. Oh dear. Eh, time to get to work! You've decided to look for someone who's basically a bureaucrat and a teacher. Someone who normally wouldn't think to work at an orphanage because dealing with the orphans and being a surrogate parent figure or whatever isn't what he or she wants to do. But since Paola's replacement doesn't need to do so much of that, and since Paola in her current state...doesn't exactly set a high bar in terms of quality standards, you think you'll be able to convince at least a decent person to fill the position anyway. Over the course of several hours you swing by a number of libraries, book stores, cram schools, even City Hall and a few record buildings located at the Docks in search for a suitable person who's in the market for a job. Most people end up being happy (or at least content) with the jobs they have, but an assistant in one of the book stores does offer you a nice tip. "If ye wants someone to take that job 'eh yours, ye needs to speak ta'a young bloke o'er at the Forum o' Naxum. 'E's from Pievre, up north, but 'e came runn'n down 'ere when some war or 'nother broke out an' he got scared. Ye ask me 'e's blind, 'cause me's couldn't tells you which war e's talk'n 'bout. 'ere's more than one, but, whate'er. An'ways 'e's look'n fer a job 'n a girlfriend 'n this city, so 'e can all 'settle down' like. Hon'stly 'sa fine choice o' priorities iff'n ye ask me. Ah means yer prob'ly too youngs to git it, but's a sure sign tha's 'e's a grown boy. Heh, I's bet's 'is old man's real proud 'o him. An'ways ye canst prob'ly talks 'em into tak'n yer job, though. Just says it's 'real attractive fer t'e lasses' or someth'n like 'at."

Mind still reeling from how much effort it took to process that tip you make your way to the Forum of Naxum, and after a few minutes of asking around you're directed to the person the assistant was talking about. You would have asked questions such as "why does that assistant know this individual", "what is this individual's name" or even a hot number like "how does this assistant manage to keep his job", but your ears had suffered enough by that point. It doesn't turn out to be necessary, either. The man is friendly enough, and after some small talk you mention the job offer you have available.

"Eh...what?" is the man's response, complete with raised eyebrow and confused expression. This is going to take some effort.

"Yes, I'm looking for someone to take up a position as orphanage matron. Long story short the current matron...kind of lost her mind when it turned out that one of her orphans was, in fact, as special as she believed no one in her orphanage - herself included - would ever be. You're a foreign war refugee, I'm sure that you're more used to 'impossible' situations actually happening and adapting to them."

"I...well, yes, I did emigrate here after I heard my old home would become a battlefield, but we were given a month worth of advance warning. And that was only relevant because some people were too stubborn to pack up and leave the last five times the same thing happened. I didn't even live in that area anymore myself, I just helped my thick-headed uncle finally evacuate and brought him here. My parents emigrated to Mineta years ago, and when I arrived here to drop off my uncle I decided that I'd stay here for a bit. But I do plan on returning home."

...Him not being all you imagined him to be is going to become a recurring theme. You can just feel it. Still, you're not giving up so quickly. "To a literal war zone?" The man frowns, and you get the distinct impression he's trying to sell you a bunch of lies. Thankfully it's not difficult to figure this one out. "Your parents are keeping your here, aren't they?"

The man's frown deepens, but after a few seconds he nods. "Yeah, they're afraid I'm going to run off and get myself killed. It wouldn't be so bad, I mean I'm not that committed to going back to a literal war zone like you said, but my parents are literally keeping me from moving out of their house and getting a place of my own. They're afraid that as soon as I leave their eyesight I'd be packing my bags." You have to raise an eyebrow at that, but the man's expression actually softens. "It's not their fault, really. My uncle was a mercenary, and every time he forgot to write them a letter they thought it was because he'd gotten himself killed somewhere. And after my parents fled to here I was actually living with him, for a time, and they're afraid he rubbed off on me, and so on and so forth..."

"Definitely understandable. That said, if you're so desperate to move out of their house, that matron job is a live-in position. I don't think your parents would object to 'I'm afraid I have to move out, I found a stable job at a local orphanage and it requires me to live there full-time'."

The man is definitely thinking it over now. "That'd definitely do it. I just don't know about committing myself to such a job, though. Do you really think I'd actually be able to act as a surrogate father for...however many orphans or what have you, anyway?"

"About that. The current matron's assistant refused a promotion because she wants to stay close to, as one of the orphans put it, 'her' kids. The current matron is - was, rather - seen as more of a teacher and authority figure, not a parental one. Most of your work would actually involve working with City hall, managing the finances, planning for and overseeing the orphans' 'classes', stuff like that. I won't say you don't have to ever get more personally involved with any of them, because I know that'd be a bold-faced lie, but it wouldn't be the first and last thing people expect from you."

The man continues thinking it over for a tense few minutes. Finally, he nods. "I...guess I'll give it a try. I actually used to work as a librarian back in my home town, so it's not completely new to me, but...it'll take some adjusting, I'm sure."

"If that's the worst of it I'm sure everyone'll be happy. Not to jinx it, but this situation could scarcely get worse, at any rate."

The man nods, and instead of giving him directions to the orphanage you actually decide to go with him. Not that you need to be there, but you do need to meet up with Naru, and you have no idea where he could be at this point other than at the orphanage, so if nothing else that'll be the first place to look. Not coincidentally, you're sure, you encounter Naru and his two pawns cleaning out the front yard of the orphanage.

--- proceed with the rest of the exit text ---

 

You end up going from one end of Mineta to the other, but no one appears to be interested in filling the job opening you're advertising to them. Maybe you need to...stretch the truth a bit more next time? Or maybe just try a different angle. Either way, this going to take longer than you expected it to.

--- Stop Adventure ---

 

Romance. "Group of orphans in need of help" will inevitably attract someone.
"I'll look, but do me a favor and be cute if someone shows up."

Naru looks perplexed at the request. Not offended or anything, just perplexed. "Que?" he asks, slightly tiling his head.

"Since when do you speak Merillien? Well, no matter, the point is I'll try to find someone willing to save your orphanage, so try not to act like a thug when I send him or her...that's a good question, actually, where should I send whoever I find? Isn't Paola still...?"

Naru's expression doesn't change. "Well, yeah, but wouldn't seeing what state she's in be a good thing? Convince them we're really in need of help, and all that?"

"I'm more worried about Paola flipping her desk on them, actually."

"Oh, right. In that case just send them over to Devra. Paola can't tell her from a few of the older kids these days, so that won't be a problem."

...Paola can't...? Oh, dear. You better get to work. Finding someone who'd be willing to take the position of orphanage matron, huh? Well, eh...where are you even going to begin looking for someone like that? You have no idea. You seriously have no idea. So, instead, you decide to swing by places where lots of people gather. It's not the best idea, but in theory more people means a better chance of finding who you're looking for, right?

Several hours later and you've looked up and down what feels like the entire Upper City, minus the Academagia itself, but finally your persistence pays off when an assistant in a bookstore gives you some helpful advice. "If ye wants someone to take that job 'eh yours, ye needs to speak ta'a young bloke o'er at the Forum o' Naxum. 'E's from Pievre, up north, but 'e came runn'n down 'ere when some war or 'nother broke out an' he got scared. Ye ask me 'e's blind, 'cause me's couldn't tells you which war e's talk'n 'bout. 'ere's more than one, but, whate'er. An'ways 'e's look'n fer a job 'n a girlfriend 'n this city, so 'e can all 'settle down' like. Hon'stly 'sa fine choice o' priorities iff'n ye ask me. Ah means yer prob'ly too youngs to git it, but's a sure sign tha's 'e's a grown boy. Heh, I's bet's 'is old man's real proud 'o him. An'ways ye canst prob'ly talks 'em into tak'n yer job, though. Just says it's 'real attractive fer t'e lasses' or someth'n like 'at."

Painful to listen to, but you've got nothing better to suggest and the Forum of Naxum is one of the few places you haven't visited yet, so you decide to go there. After some quick asking around, since you may have (intentionally) forgotten to ask the bookstore assistant for the guy's name, you end up being directed to the person you're looking for. Of course convincing him...you can't seriously expect that you can just walk up to him, explain your situation and even hope that he'll go along with it. It might not be the nicest thing in the world to do, but you're sure you're going to need to play a little trick on him to convince him. So you wait until there's an attractive lady around the man's age within his earshot, and than you start up a conversation with her. A short bit of small talk quickly makes way for you asking for help on the orphanage's behalf, and although the woman says she really can't help you she does hope that "a kind-hearted soul shows up to help you", as she puts it.

"Ah, 'scuse me, sorry but I couldn't help but overhear. You needed some help, miss?"

Hook, line, sinker. That was way too easy. You hope you were just lucky, because otherwise Naru is going to end up eating this guy for breakfast. "Not me, actually," the lady answers, pointing at you. "[s/HE]'s looking for someone to step up as an orphanage matron. Apparently the current matron is close to a mental breakdown, and it's threatening to shut the orphanage down."

The man definitely wasn't expecting that. He also clearly doesn't know how to react to it, yet he tries anyway. "Ah, well...don't hear that every day. I don't know if I can help with that, though, I'm afraid."

You're about to get a word in, but the lady cuts you off. "Oh? Wouldn't it be the perfect job for you, though? You know a thing or two about making due with what you have and self-reliance, from what I've heard, and aren't you looking for a stable job?"

"Eh, well, yes, yes I am in fact, it's just...it's not what I was expecting, you know?"

Again you're cut off by the lady before you can get a word in. Incidentally, you also notice the man starts blushing as she speaks. "Only because you never thought of it, I'm sure. Just think about it, being responsible for an entire group of kids with nowhere else to go. It'd be a lot of work of course, but wouldn't you think it'd be worth it? You've looked over kids who've lost their homes before, haven't you? So I'm sure you're qualified for it."

It's getting difficult to read the man's expression, but you're starting to suspect that he's not the saint he might dress himself up as. "E-eh, y-yes, that's true, I-I mean, I...can't imagine that my parents would object to it. Eh, you've heard about how they insist that I live with them and all, right? After that whole war situation broke out at my uncle's? I'm sure that a live-in job at an orphanage would convince them to finally let me leave."

Yet again the lady speaks up before you can get a word in. Not that you were trying this time, but still. "So it's a win-win for both sides than. Honestly you should have thought about this before, though I guess I can't blame you that you didn't. Still, this sounds like a great time to man up and show your old folk what their son is made of." The man, now thoroughly red in the face, nods and walks off like someone dropped a snake down his trousers. You...may have overestimated him, but than again, compared to Paola he should at least be competent. "I take it that's what you wanted, eh...?"

Huh? Oh, right, you look at the lady and nod. "[PC FIRST NAME], and yes, I...that's what I wanted. You...you knew?"

The lady smirks. "I had a feeling. And I have to say I'm quite flattered that you think I'm attractive enough to be the bait. Don't tell my boyfriend, though. He might get jealous."

Okay, that makes you feel a bit uncomfortable. "Eh...no problem, I guess? I mean sorry for using you and all, but I'm sure that if I just walked up and asked him I'd never convince him."

The lady, still smirking, shrugs. "Oh, I'm sure you wouldn't have given what mister Pievre likes to preach sometimes. And I don't even want to know what kind of crazy situations must have happened to have an Academagia student like yourself scout around Mineta for a replacement for a crazy orphanage matron, of all thing. Honestly I'm just surprised that someone as young as you figured out to use me to persuade him. Oh, don't worry, though. Give it a few years and I'm sure you'll have some nice assets of your own, so you won't have to rely on people like me to do the heavy lifting for you."

...And that would be your cue to leave. So you leave, quickly, and make your way back to the orphanage, hoping that you'll find Naru there. First off, however, you see that the man is actually here, talking to Devra in the doorway. And even better, Naru is here as well, working in the front garden along with his two pawns.

--- proceed with the rest of the exit text ---

 

You end up going from one end of Mineta to the other, but no one appears to be interested in helping the orphanage. Maybe they just don't believe you? Or maybe you need to try a different angle. Either way, this going to take longer than you expected it to.

--- Stop Adventure ---

 

And as before with stage 10, here's the same block of text that goes at the end of both. Maybe the reason these stages seem to short is because I don't copy/past this stuff repeatedly? A theory, perhaps:

Naru walks over to you, and after casting a glance at the man you brought with you he looks you over with a strange grin. He's really trying to hide something, but he's not succeeding at it as much as you perhaps let him believe. "That's...him?"

"Hopefully. I have zero faith that he'll be the perfect replacement, but all things considered I'm sure he'll do a better job than Paola will in the coming weeks, months, however long she'll manage to hold out."

Naru nods, especially at that last bit. "Good job. Now, you've kept your part of the bargain, so..." Naru takes a roll of parchment from his shirt (you...don't want to ask) and hands it to you. Indeed, it's a partially filled in copy of a Minetan-issued birth certificate. "By the by, this is actually the original. Nouv and Nuad were meant to only make a copy, but...well, Devra nearly caught them, so they had to bail. I assume you don't mind, it'd have taken an eternity for them to figure out Paola's handwriting anyhow. S'not like she'll be needing it anymore, either..."

You're sure as hell not going to try and return this to Paola, so good enough. Either way you thank Naru for his help and go on your merry way, thinking about how you're going to explain this to Regent Badcrumble. That, ultimately, took a little longer than she was probably expecting. At least you got results. Ultimately.

Regent Badcrumble isn't entirely happy when she hears how you got those results, though. "Great job nearly further undoing what little you've accomplished from going to that orphanage in the first place, [PC FIRST NAME]. Still, I suppose I should be thankful that you went so far out of your way to grab this...well, this imitation, really. Only half of it is filled in and perhaps a quarter of what is is legible, but this will nevertheless tell me what I need to know. Unfortunately it's also brought up more questions that I'm not sure I want to try and answer, yet have to."

"Eh...sorry, but what do you mean by that?"

Regent Badcrumble frowns. "Don't you think it's odd? That City Hall didn't have anything like this, but the matron, Paola, did? I'm going to have to request for a special birth certificate to be made and filed into City Hall's records before anyone asks questions as to why the school is sheltering someone without any legal papers. And Paola was in the same boat, this should have been done over a decade ago. Yet..." The regent sighs. "Simply put, it's possible that Paola might have known Yohan's parents, and never reported Yohan's birth or his being taken into her orphanage to try to keep his parent's secret hidden. You know what Yohan's stars are, so you know that his parents have a plausible motive for wanting to keep him a secret. Now I have to figure out what happened, where his parents or other relatives are, and if they still live. Not because Yohan asked me to or even because he'd want me to, necessarily, but simply because I'm obligated to see if there's anyone the Academagia can shake down for tutoring money. Worst came to worst we'd go after Paola, if she's indeed guilty of this bit of secrecy, but I don't believe that trying to sponge money off of an orphanage will be either effective or ethical, no matter what Paola might have done."

That conversation became uncomfortable in a hurry. "Does Yohan know of this?" The regent shakes her head. "Well, duties aside, I feel like I should ask: Does he want us to try and track down his parents? I mean, ten years after they abandoned him they show up again, and even then only because the Academagia wants to shake them down for financial support? I...I'm sure he'd start crying if he found out."

"I'm quite sure it wouldn't take even that much to reduce that boy to tears. Never mind the fact that, worst case scenario, his parents could have pretended that he was stillborn in order to cover for themselves. It's difficult to explain why a baby suddenly no longer exists, after all. And if we end up finding Yohan's 'grave', and it turns out to be empty, than I fully expect his parents to hang for it. Paola as well, if she were complicit in these conspiracies. Actually, I can think of even worse scenarios, but let's get into those unless we have to."

You can't help but shudder at that thought. "So...what next? I mean...you - or we, I imagine - are apparently going to have to try and track his parents down sooner or later, but..."

The Regent slowly nods, nothing but solemness to be found in her expression. "You've done enough for one day. More importantly Yohan is with my senior students right now, and for your next errant...I want you to ask him whether he wants us to look for his parents, hopefully without making it clear that we'll be doing so regardless. I know it's not right to lie in situations like these, but...Yohan has been through enough already. And in case he does want us to find them I wouldn't want to bring his hopes up, so to speak. If they still live, than regardless of whether Yohan wants to see them or not I doubt it'll be a happy reunion."

Gods. This is going to be awkward...

--- Pause Adventure ---

The deal with the Romance option is that is was initially supposed to be over-the-top, basically take the whole "help the orphanage" idea and run with it into insanity, and the bit at the end would complete the joke as the entire idea just came crashing down back to reality. Didn't entirely work out the way I'd wanted, but...good enough I guess.

 

Fire in Mineta, stage 15:

 

You've decided that now is the time to ask Yohan about...his parents. And lack thereof. You'll be honest, you have no idea what you're even hoping for here. Do you hope that Yohan doesn't want to see his parents, meaning that Regent Badcrumble's duty to look for them regardless might be a problem? Do you hope Yohan would love to meet them, even after he was dropped off at an orphanage for no clear reason he was ever told for over a decade afterwards? Knowing that the regent may or may not actually find them, in the end? Do you hope that Yohan just doesn't care, even though you don't even want to imagine how he must feel if that's the case? And about those parents, what do you hope their situation is? Do you hope they were just scared of their ominous son, and secretly kept an eye on him the entire time or something? Do you hope they're nowhere to be found, possibly leaving Yohan with unanswered questions forever? Do you hope they're just unapologetically evil, so you can just watch them...get hung by the guards in the public square for their crimes, and...you can't even finish that thought it's so insane. Well, maybe you'll wish they've been dead all this time? You know, like a good person, wishing that an orphan's parents died shortly after he was born, or at least recently enough to not be as much as a problem for you and their abandoned child? Gods. There is no good outcome to this.

And yet, here you are.

Dorm Tower Eight is as lovely as it always is, and you like to believe that it's the only place in Mineta that a literal orphan can transfer to and experience a marked decrease in living conditions. Especially because, unlike the older students and even the few first years, Yohan doesn't really have any magic to make his stay more tolerable. Thankfully the first years have been kind to him, and Yohan can definitely pull his own weight if he needs to, but it's still a miserable situation you wouldn't want to wish on anyone. You've heard he's made great headway with practising his Singing Embers spell on the local goblin population, though. That's the kind of training he shouldn't expect to get anywhere else, so at least that's a plus...maybe? Well, maybe you can ask him about that. After you've asked about the other stuff you're here to ask about. Because you, if not him, are going to need a distraction afterwards.

You knock on Yohan's dorm room door, one of the (many) unused dorm rooms in this tower, and shudder a little as he tells you to come in. You compose yourself before walking in, of course, but still. Yohan is lazily laying on his bed, reading from an Incantation textbook, looking a bit surprised as he sees you walk in. "Oh, hi there [PC FIRST NAME]. Sorry, I was expecting someone else. Do you know Kaine? He's been helping me practice my Singing Embers spell, and I've gotten much better with it."

You shake your head and sit down on Yohan's bed. "I thought you weren't supposed to be taught any spells until you actually joined as a first year?"

Yohan nods, far too cheerfully considering both your reason for being here and his accommodations. Seriously, the window in this room is missing an actual window, it's just a roughly window-shaped hole. How could anyone be so happy with this? "True, but I already know the Singing Embers spell, and I wanted to start practising with casting magic with a wand instead of my fingers. I don't remember who said it, but whoever did was right, trying to cast magic with nothing but your fingers is just not worth it. In hindsight I have no idea how I ever managed to set your robe on fire through that little hole, framed painting or not, but rest assured I won't be trying that again. Besides, someone has to keep the goblin population in check, and guess who doesn't have to go to classes yet! Yep, me. So I can keep watch."

It's noticeable just from how Yohan talks that he's much happier now than he was when you first met him, however much of a biased comparison that might be. Which of course only makes you feel that much more uncomfortable. "Have you thought about which College you'll join? I mean you're staying in Avila for now because of all the Astrology stuff, but have you thought about maybe moving to a dorm building that's less...well, full of holes?"

Yohan just smirks when you say that. "So what if there's a few holes? That's what magic is for, right?" Your blank stare informs Yohan that his joke, whatever it was, has sailed right over your head. "Heh, never mind. Actually I have been thinking about it, and...I'm not sure yet. Godina is obviously the place to go if I want to study Incantation, but I've never played an instrument before and I don't like the regent. He keeps asking me about Rimbal every time I see him, it makes me sick of it and I don't even know what it is! And I'd like to study Astrology, just so that I can maybe figure this stuff out on my own without having to rely on others, but...well, yeah, this dorm is a dump. No offence, of course, it's just the lack of windows and the goblin infestation in the basement. It gives it that run-down charm, you know?" This time you thankfully do get the joke, so you sarcastically nod. "I haven't really given too much thought to the others. The only other one that really spoke out to me was Vernin, since crafting things sounds fun, but...it's...not really a college for people like me, I figured out."

On the one side, that might change if it turns out his parents are rich. On the other side, good Gods the scandal that'll be unleashed if it turns out that his parents indeed are rich! Again, it seems like no matter what, you're not going to end up winning here. "You can be sure that Regent Badcrumble will be keeping an eye on you no matter what College you're in, and Regent Massioti pressures everyone into playing Rimbal, me included. It's his thing. Ultimately it comes down to what you want to study, and later do. Though I guess you never really thought about that, huh?"

Yohan shrugs. "Never thought about it? Up until recently I would never have believed you if you told me that one day you'd be asking me that question."

Fair enough. And speaking of things that Yohan might or might not have ever thought about, it's about time you get to the subject you're here to discuss...

Conversation. Ask him politely.
"Speaking of questions you'd never believe anyone was going to ask you, there is...something else I'd like to ask you about."

Yohan tries to just shrug it off, but he's picking up on your nerves and it's making him nervous. "Sure, what's it about this time?"

Well, here goes nothing. "About your parents, actually. Have you ever thought about them? Who they are, what they're like, that sort of stuff?"

Again Yohan tries not to show it, but you can tell from his expression that it's a sore topic with him. "What brought that up?"

"Talking to one of the kids at the orphanage, I was there on Academagia business recently. I'm sorry to bring it up if you don't want to talk about it, but...I was curious."

Yohan looks away, down at the floor somewhere. "Why? What's it matter to you?"

"Like I said, I'm curious. You...haven't thought about it?"

Yohan shakes his head. "No. Why should I?"

You're not sure if this is going better or worse than you expected it to. You also aren't sure if there's more to what Yohan is feeling than he's letting on. He is prone to doing so, so it's a possibility at least. "Well...they're your parents. You've never thought about trying to find them?"

"No," Yohan says, still giving his floor a good once-over.

...Are you actually getting somewhere here? You can't tell. "You know, one of the kids at the orphanage told me something that I thought was odd. He said that the kids there try not to think about why they ended up there, or exactly when they did, and so on. I take it you feel the same way?" Yohan just nods at that. He's saying less and less with every question you ask. "Why do you?"

"'S just how I feel..." Yohan quietly answers.

"It's just how you feel. You've never wondered why you feel that way?" Yohan shakes his head. You guess you're making progress with this, but you're hesitant to call it progress. "Don't you want to think about it, or do you just find it difficult to talk about?"

Yohan curls up a bit. "I don't think about it. So...there's nothing to talk about."

"Is that what's so difficult about this kind of talk for you? You don't have anything to say, so when people ask you about it you don't know what to say to them?" Yohan actually nods appreciatively at that. He doesn't say anything, though. "And the same is true right now? You don't know what to say?"

Yohan shrugs, but the expression on his face is anything but indifference. Confusion, sadness perhaps. "What do you want me to say? They're my parents. I never met them, I can't imagine what it'd be like to meet them, I don't know if I want to meet them, I don't know what they're like, what the rest of my family is like, which of them are still alive or not...I don't know. What's so special about something you never had?"

You're about to tell Yohan that he must have parents, but then it hits you he's not talking about that. He's never met them, so of course he doesn't feel connected to them. "You know what? I think I don't know either. The Dialectic professor once told me that understanding means knowing the difference between different sides, and for that you need to have experienced each side. I've never not known my parents, so maybe it's fair to say that I don't know either. Do you think that sounds about right?"

Yohan actually looks happy at that. "Heh. Yeah, I think I get it. Thanks, [PC FIRST NAME]."

You continue to talk to Yohan for a bit, trying to get a better idea of how he feels about his past, present and future (indifferent, powerless and afraid in that order), until it's time for him to practice magic with Kaine.

--- Pause Adventure ---

 

Speaking Quietly of Riddles. Ask him...without ever asking him.

--- Pause Adventure ---

 

And communal failure text:
...You can't. You can't bring yourself to bring it up. So many potential bad endings to this whole idea...this needs more planning. More considerations. More something to strafe off the possible disasters. You don't even know what, just...something.

--- Stop Adventure ---

You might have noticed that the SQoR option is missing it's success text? I cannot, for the life of me, figure that one out. I want it to be there, it's perfect on so many levels, but fast-forwards past at least a dozen attempts and I still got nothing. Complete control over both sides of the discussion and I still got nothing. So, eh...going to have to have the Team fill that one for me :unsure:.

Edited by Metis

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Fire in Mineta, stage 16:

 

Finally you manage to corner Regent Badcrumble in her office. She looks tired, but perks up a bit when she sees you. "[PC FIRST NAME], just who I wanted to see. Come in, take a seat, we've got a few things to discuss."

Should you feel a sense of dread right now? Because you think you should, but in fact you don't. It's curious feeling. Well, anyway, you sit down. "I'm sure. To start off with I asked Yohan about his parents, and...well, the best way to put it is that he doesn't care. I'm not sure how he'd react to meeting them, honestly I wouldn't put money on him reacting well, but...I don't think that never meeting them will be an impossible obstacle for him."

Regent Badcrumble lets out a sigh. "I suppose that's about the best outcome we could have hoped for. Well, regardless, I've got your next errand lined up, and I'd like that done as soon as possible."

"Let me guess, it's time to start the investigation?"

The regent actually shakes her head. "No, actually. I'll probably need you help with it later, of course, but for right now it's taken care of. What I need your help with right now is escorting Yohan into the Imperial Reserve and back. In one piece, of course."

...Okay, that was unexpected. "Eh, why, if I may ask? I mean isn't the Reserve technically off-limits to even regular students, much less prospective students?"

"Normally it just plain is off-limits to students, yes. However, there's an important matter that needs to be addressed and for that I fear that Yohan is going to have to go on a little adventure. I'm sure you've heard that he's started to practice casting spells with a wand, and you should also know what happens when people start casting spells."

It takes you a minute, but you manage to think of the answer. "Ah, right, they're supposed to bond with a Familiar, right? Is...that why you need Yohan to go out into the woods?"

Regent Badcrumble nods, though her face betrays that it's not her preferred option by a large margin. "I'm, frankly, beyond even pretending that a child like Yohan will end up with something as mundane as a dog for a Familiar. I'd be very happy if that does turn out to be the case, mind you, but..."

"As if, right?"

"Yes, 'as if'. So that's your errand. I can't promise that you'll end up actually finding Yohan's Familiar, I'm afraid even my divinations still require some guesswork, but I'm under the impression that you should at least find something of note."

Still not sure if you should be feeling a sense of dread or not, by the by. You're definitely leaning towards "yes", but...still not feeling it. "And if we don't come back with a Familiar, than what?"

The regent shrugs. "Then we'll proceed from there. If that'll be all, good luck."

Yeah, "good luck". This is going to be interesting. You step out of Regent Badcrumble's office and make your way to Dorm Tower Eight, where you expect Yohan to be. Indeed, he's in his room, and he seems ready to go on a trip the second he opens his door. "Hi [PC FIRST NAME], did Regent Badcrumble tell you?"

"About our trip? Yes."

Yohan looks...you're not sure. Something between happy and weary, it's an odd combination. "Well, eh, are you ready?" You nod, and after Yohan steps out you ask him how he feels about this trip. "Eh...a bit n-nervous, I guess? I mean I've heard stories about what you can find even in the Academagia's main building, but...you'll be with me, so we'll be fine, right?"

"The regent would not have let the two of us go if she wasn't under that impression."

Yohan seems to just take that answer as just a "yes". "S-so, let's go! I'm ready, where are we going?"

"Just going for a walk a bit beyond the Academagia's Grounds, nothing too serious," you lie, unable to admit where you're really going.

Yohan doesn't catch your lie, or at least he doesn't call you on it. "Alright, Leader, lead the way!"

You do. A part of you is sure that Yohan is hiding his anxiety behind his enthusiasm, but you don't want to call him out on it. Especially after you just lied to him. So instead you just nod and get started on your trip towards...eh, to where, exactly? Sneaking into the Imperial Reserve isn't a problem, any first year can tell you at least three different ways in, but where are you supposed to go? Regent Badcrumble didn't really give you any directions in that respect. You suppose you'll just walk around randomly. But that might take too long, Yohan might end up asking questions about where you're going, you going to need some sense of direction if you're going to-

"Hey, [PC FIRST NAME]? How long have we been walking?"

"Huh? Oh, eh, ten, maybe fifteen minutes or so? Why do you ask?"

"Eh, well...then, w-why did it suddenly turn to night?"

You stare a bit curiously at Yohan before looking up at the tree branches and leaves blocking your view of the sky. Well, eh...oh, there's a bit of a clearing up ahead, that'll work. You walk into the clearing and look up. Indeed, the sky is dark and stars are visible in the sky. You think you see the outline of a full moon as well, but it's...well, dark. Difficult to see. Unnatural, too.

And just when you thought things couldn't get any worse the chalk-white trees you're surrounded by suddenly darken, a chill wind surrounding you despite no mundane wind blowing in any direction that you can perceive. Now what?

Danger Sense. Did you step into a Glamour or what?
You definitely haven't been walking around long enough for night to fall, and given the myriad of odd places present in the Reserve...not to mention who you're with...you have to conclude that you indeed stepped into some manner of Glamour, or perhaps a heavily Enchanted location. Perhaps someone's home? Either way it's far beyond your capabilities to Negate whatever magic is at work here, so you'll just have to play along.

--- +CoS or something, Try again ---

 

Your professional opinion as a student at the Academagia tells you that...you're absolutely clueless as to what you just stepped into. It also tells you that you should perhaps be more diligent in your studies, but you choose you ignore that.

--- Try again ---

 

Astrology. Hey, stars! You can work with those!
This is definitely starting to seem like a place you're supposed to bring Yohan to. Too bad it's so foreboding and all. Still, nothing to it. You draw your wand and start taking a closer look at the starry night sky above. Interrupting your work is Yohan, who asks if you two shouldn't be running away. "No, this...this is exactly where we're supposed to be, only..."

"O-only what!? C-can't you see the t-trees creeping up on us!?"

You don't see the trees moving, personally. And even if you did you'd still be more interested in what you're getting from reading these stars in the night sky. You're definitely going to have to run this by Regent Badcrumble later, come to think of it. "Well, Yohan, you recall what Regent Badcrumble said, right? About how you were born under Peregrini, influencing Eurus and Invidus?"

"Wh-who cares!? S-shouldn't we get out of here?"

"Calm down, Yohan, the trees aren't moving and if anything was going to jump out and attack us they'd have done so long ago. Now take a look up there, see those two clusters of four stars up there?"

Yohan moves right next to you and takes another look around before he dares to look up. He has to squint his eyes to see it, but he nods. "Is that...Peregrini? Is that what I was born under?"

"Uh-huh, and see...well, actually, let me cast a spell on you first, Invidus is difficult to see without a telescope. But take a look next to Peregrini, see the eight dim stars?"

"Now I see them. And the stars between them, that's Eurus, right?"

"Right. Is this starting to make sense to you now?"

Yohan shrugs. "They're a bunch of stars in a sky that last I checked should still be filled with broad daylight. No, I don't understand this situation at all."

You'd think that Yohan would have learned to not question these things too much by now. "They're referring to you, silly. I think this clearing might have something to do with you."

"L-like what? I've never been here before, I don't even know how I got here! What does it have to do with me?"

It's a shame you didn't think to bring the things necessary to really divine the meaning of these stars, but you're confident you can remember enough off the top of your head to get some idea. Of course that process takes a few minutes, during which Yohan eventually decides to grab your waist as he keeps getting spooked by the shadows around him. For all that you'd say it's worth it, though. "Interesting..."

"M-more interesting than the fact that these shadows keep l-looking at me? What is it?"

"From what I can tell I think you were meant to come here. Only, not now. Not yet. I can't tell exactly, but I think more like...eh, it's really difficult to say without my stuff. I want to say about half a decade or so in the future, maybe more."

Yohan looks perplexed. "Well I'm here now. Is that a problem?"

"I can't say." Although you could say that you've noticed that this appears to be the second time you quite actively interacted, even intervened with what would have been Yohan's fate. You don't, though.

Yohan looks around, wearily, before asking, "What am I supposed to do here, anyway? What even is here?"

"I think, if I've read this right, that it'd be best if I let him explain that himself."

Yohan is about to ask what you're talking about, but a voice coming from the direction of one of the trees causes him to instead just let out a scared squeaky noise and really grab you by your waist. "Hmm. Wizard's friend is not entirely right. Hmm. 'She' would like to explain. Hmm."

You turn to look in the direction where the voice came from. Or as close as you can manage, anyway. "If that's the only mistake I made, than to be honest, I'll be happy. My apologies for getting your gender wrong regardless, though, eh..?"

"Hmm. My name is Umbra, after the old word for 'shadow'. Hmm. I am one of the Shades who have made this forest out home. Hmm. But now the wizard has come, much earlier than we expected. Hmm."

"Wh-what are you? Wh-where are you?" Yohan, who's slightly terrified, asks while seemingly trying to bury his head in your chest.

"Hmm. Where? Hmm. Right here. Hmm."

With that one of the shadows cast over one of the trees shifts and twists, sliding down the trunk of the tree like a snake and across the ground into Yohan's shadow. He kinda freaks out and tries to escape from his shadow, without letting go of you, but thankfully he quickly realizes that all his efforts are futile. "Wh...what...are you?" Yohan might have missed it, or just not know, but you're pretty sure that Umbra just said she's a Shade. Shadows of people that became self-aware, and exist within the shadows. They have a bad reputation for being some degree of inherently evil, and they do to the point where a wizard having a Shade for a Familiar is likely to try and keep it a secret, but it's a reputation that's not entirely deserved. Shades that are Familiars especially tend to stick to their domitor, assuming they maintain a strong Bond. After you explain that to Yohan he sort of calms down, but he's still keeping a close eye on his shadow. "W-well...what do you want from me?"

"Hmm. Wizard has not noticed? Hmm."

"N-noticed...what?"

"I think this shade has become your Familiar, Yohan."

Umbra confirms your idea, but Yohan doesn't seem to fully understand what you mean. "A...Familiar? Kaine told me that I would get one, but...I mean, I've never taken care of a pet before! And...how are you supposed to take care of a...shadow...shade...thing anyway?"

"A Familiar isn't a pet, Yohan. As for taking care of her, why don't we head back to the Academagia and take a look through one of the libraries, see what it has to say about Shades and how they act as Familiars?"

Yohan lowers his head and notices Umbra hanging around one of his hands. He fiddles a bit with his hand, ends up trying to shake hands with Umbra, but ultimately just shrugs. "S-sure, let's do that. But I don't know if I want this..."

"Far too little, far too late" you think to yourself as you head back to the Academagia with Yohan, Umbra coming along while hiding in his shadow.

--- Pause Adventure ---

 

You take a close look at the stars visible in the sky and see if that gets you some information. Eh, see...you recognize that set, not entirely sure what I means off the top of your head, there's another one that's now being covered by some manner of living shadow hanging over your head, can't get a clear look at the rest either...

"So, Yohan, discretion is the better part of valor?"

"The heck does that mean?"

You take a step back, and with a flash of inspiration Yohan turns around and starts running. You run after him. Nothing chases you, at least that you can see, but you also don't think you ended up finding what you needed to here. Well, at least you can't say that Yohan hasn't learned anything today!

--- Stop Adventure ---

 

Diplomacy. Something must be causing this, so discuss and mediate.
These things don't just happen randomly, so you call out to anyone who's nearby and ask for parley. Yohan, for his part, runs close to you when he notices the change in atmosphere, and outright grabs you when you both hear a response to your earlier question.

"Hmm. Wizards want to talk? Hmm. Yes, talk is good. Hmm. Perhaps wizards will learn. Hmm."

The strange humming sound the creature makes is oddly soothing, even pleasant to listen to. It's also relatively quiet, much like the creature's voice, but thankfully there's no other sounds to drown his voice out. "Wh-what are you? Where are you?" Yohan asks, keeping a tight grip on your waist.

In response one of the shadows cast over one of the chalky trees twists and shifts, slithering down the tree like a snake and along the shadows on the ground into Yohan's shadow. It's at this point that you realize what this creature is: A Shade. Shadows of people that became self-aware, and exist within the shadows. They have a bad reputation for being some degree of inherently evil, and they do to the point where a wizard having a Shade for a Familiar is likely to try and keep it a secret, but it's a reputation that's not entirely deserved. Shades that are Familiars especially tend to stick to their domitor, assuming they maintain a strong Bond. As for Yohan, though, he ineffectively dances around you a bit trying to get away from the creature, only to stop when he realises that he can't effectively run away from his own shadow.

"Hmm. Wizard is afraid, yes? Hmm."

Yohan looks up at you, panicked, not sure what to do, and you do your best to calm him down. It takes you explaining what you know about Shades and what they are, but you thankfully do manage to calm Yohan down at least a little. "S-so...what does it want from us?" Yohan asks while carefully peeking at his own shadow with a mixed expression. He's still gripping your waist, too.

"I'm sure he wants something from you more so than me, Yohan. Or 'she'. Sorry, I, eh...don't know how to tell."

Yohan looks surprised at you before turning to his shadow, as if to ask for confirmation. Of course, since his shadow is currently housing a Shade, he gets one.

"Hmm. Yes, the wizard's friend is wise. Hmm. And polite, to ask and find out I am indeed a 'she'. Hmm. My name is Umbra, after the old word for 'shadow'. Hmm."

"Eh...n-nice to meet you?" Yohan tries, and largely fails, to say like he's talking to a normal person.

Sensing that this is going to take far too long unless you nudge it along you decide to speak up. "Nice to meet you too, Umbra. Do you know where, exactly, we are? It wasn't night when we were walking around less than five minutes ago."

While Yohan's curious stare is glued to his shadow the Shade inside it answers. "Hmm. You're in our place within the Forest of Stars, wizards. Hmm. Magics cast by wizards ages ago keeps out the harsh light. Hmm. That is why we've made it our home. Hmm."

A section of the Forest of Stars that was enchanted to show the night sky even during the day, but was overrun by Shades when people stopped visiting? Pretty impressive magic, but you suppose that at some point you'll have learned enough to cast such impressive spells yourself. Hopefully. "And as for Yohan?"

Yohan casts a nervous glance at you as you say that, but his eyes quickly shoot back towards his shadow. "Hmm. We foresaw his arrival in the stars. Hmm. But he's arrived much earlier than we though. Hmm. Fate's chains have been broken. Hmm. This will be most interesting. Hmm."

"Wh-what do you know of me?" Yohan asks, slightly panicked.

"Hmm. Only that the path set out before you has been swallowed by the dark. Hmm. Only that you will now find your own way, for better or worse. Hmm. And only that I will be there with you. Hmm."

Yohan blinks at that last part. "I think she's become your Familiar, Yohan."

Yohan blinks again, looking even more confused than a moment ago. "A...Familiar? I mean, Kaine said I might run into one, but-but I've never taken care of a pet before! I-I don't know if I can do this..."

"A Familiar isn't a pet, Yohan, especially when that Familiar is a Shade. As for taking care of her, well, that's something every wizard gets to figure out. You just get to do so a little early. If worst comes to worst, you can always ask for help."

"But, didn't you say that Shade Familiars should be kept secret? Because of their...reputation, was it?"

You shrug. "All thing considered I think that ship already sailed for you anyway. Now come on, we'll go back to the Academagia, go to the library and read up on Shades and how they act as Familiars, alright?"

Yohan lowers his head and notices Umbra hanging around one of his hands. He fiddles a bit with his hand, ends up trying to shake hands with Umbra, but ultimately just shrugs. "S-sure, let's do that. But I don't know if I want this..."

"Far too little, far too late" you think to yourself as you head back to the Academagia with Yohan, Umbra coming along while hiding in his shadow.

--- Pause Adventure ---

 

You're pretty sure you've stepped into something or someone's territory here, so you call out for parley to whoever is around you.

When you get no response other than a mass of shadows blanketing the area you decide to grab Yohan, turn tail and run. Not quite what you were meant to find, you're sure, but interesting enough to call it a day.

--- Stop Adventure ---

Hope these little titbits of information are interesting ;).

 

Fire in Mineta, stage 17:

 

With Yohan having come to terms that he's now got a Familiar, as well as some idea of what to do with Umbra, you decide to rapport in with Regent Badcrumble. She isn't in her office this time, as it turns out, but you do find her in the Astrology classroom preparing for the next class. "[PC FIRST NAME]? Finally, I've been waiting to hear back from you. I've heard about Yohan and his new Familiar, as well as the area in the Reserve you found. I take it everything is going well between Yohan and Umbra?"

"As well as can be expected. To be honest I get the impression that Yohan is happy to be out of the orphanage, but beyond that his stay in the Academagia hasn't been inside of his comfort zone."

"The initial sense of awe definitely seems to have worn off for him," Regent Badcrumble says as she sits down on the professor's desk. "Still, I've asked Kaine to keep an eye on him, and so far things seem to be going well. I just hope that when he properly joins the student body next year he'll be able to make some real friends. As far as I've heard he, at least for now, has decided to join College Godina. Something about Astrology being 'too scary' for him."

You have to suppress a smirk when you see Regent Badcrumble's expression twitch a bit as she mentions that last part. "I think Godina is a good college for him. He's certainly got a talent for Incantation and Umbra's humming seems to have gotten him interested in playing instruments. It's just a matter of keeping Regent Massioti from trying to forcibly mould him into a Rimbal star. Even discounting Yohan's omens I don't think that'd end well for...well, for anyone involved really."

The regent smirks. "That glorified sports coach certainly has a one-track mind when it comes to Rimbal. And speaking of ill omens, I heard a bit about Yohan's from Umbra. Nothing I can really make use of, but even so it seems entirely possible that your actions at the orphanage were not entirely intended."

You shrug. "I made my choice, and hopefully Yohan will be able to do the same. Anyway, do you have the next errand for me?"

The regent nods, although as she does her expression darkens. "Yes, about that. I've done some investigating into Paola and the time when Yohan was taken into the orphanage. And from that, I've drawn two conclusions. First, whatever we both might have suspected Paola of before, she's innocent as far as tampering with the birth certificate goes. She found Yohan on the orphanage's doorstep, along with a letter basically saying that he was in their hands now, and Paola made the necessary arrangements from there. Including filing for a birth certificate, at least to the extent that she could."

"Eh, wait, doesn't that mean...?"

The regent nods again, her expression not moving at all. "Indeed, it means that somewhere between then and now those records got lost. Now, it's not impossible that City Hall made a mistake. Yohan's birth certificate was only a partial one, so it's possible someone filed it away into the wrong place, or thought of it as a mistake that accidentally was added to the actual records and took it out. If these records were maliciously destroyed or covered up, however, especially recently...that'd be a very serious crime." You're definitely starting to feel nervous, but the regent doesn't pause with her explanation. "Even worse, the letter that Yohan was left with has also gone missing. Now I recall that you had your, eh, 'friends' within the orphanage 'borrow' Paola's copy of Yohan's birth certificate, but you didn't mention anything about a letter to me."

"N-neither did Naru, or the others. I don't suppose you know where that letter was stored? Because if it was kept somewhere different than the-"

"Right on top of the birth certificate, or so Paola told me."

...You're starting to break out a cold sweat here, and the regent's cold stare isn't helping. "Eh, in that case I can only imagine that Naru took it. He's...got ulterior motives for doing what he does, not that I've figured those out for sure, but it's pretty clear even when you just talk to him. Something to do with Yohan, I'm sure."

"Just as well that you seem to be at least somewhat informed of it, because you next errand is going to be getting that letter back from whoever has it. Though I doubt it could be used to track down Yohan's parents after all these years I'm nevertheless required to try. And try not to 'borrow' any more things in the process, [PC FIRST NAME]."

You nod and nervously walk out the classroom, going straight towards Undergate before anyone can asks any unnecessary questions. On a hunch you decide to first visit the balcony where Naru and the two others were hanging out before. And you're in luck, because they're here. Naru is the first to spot you approaching, and after giving both his friends a quick signal he jumps down. Last you remember he promised he'd cause less trouble, but judging by the fire in his eyes you think he might not have managed to actually hold himself to that. "[PC FIRST NAME], fancy meeting you here. You here to talk to us?"

"At least, yes. Do you, or rather, your friends remember Paola's copy of Yohan's birth certificate that they, eh...borrowed?"

Naru glances at his two friends, nods, and turns back to look at you. "Sure, what of it?"

"Did you also happen to find a letter, perhaps?"

Naru slowly looks you over with a suspicious glare, carefully considering how to respond to that. Eventually he says, "Maybe, what's it to you?"

"Long story short is that I've been asked to find it, same as the birth certificate."

Again Naru carefully considers his options, but slowly he seems like he's not so weary of you anymore. "Just find it, or do your professors want it?"

"The latter. Well, more like both, really."

That causes Naru's eyes to narrow. "Can't help you with that, I'm afraid." You ask why, and after some hesitation Naru apparently decides to inform you. "Cause I need that letter myself. And since I know you're going to ask, here."

Naru takes out an opened envelope with a letter in it, and shows it to you. It's gone a bit crumbly with age, but you can tell that even a decade age there were no signs of a sender, receiver, or even a writer as the handwriting on it is just...average. Definitely not Paola's, but that's about the only thing you can tell off-hand. As for what's written on it, it's just one short sentence written right in the middle of the letter: "They're in your hands now."

You raise an eyebrow at that. "Wait, 'they'? Who's 'they'? I thought that letter was left along with Yohan, who's this other person?"

Your question causes the fires in Naru's eyes to flare up, though his anger isn't directed at you. Thankfully. "That's the big question, isn't it?"

You want to ask more, but unfortunately you don't want to risk upsetting Naru further. Thankfully it's at this point that one of his friends decides to jump down and enter the conversation. Probably not coincidentally, Naru decides that now is the time to walk off, hopefully to cool off. Nouv (you think this is Nouv, anyway) waits until Naru is out of earshot before talking. "I suspect you already know this, but the other kid is probably Naru. He was also just left at the orphanage when he was still a baby, only a day after Yohan was in fact, though he didn't have a letter on him. People have been saying the two might be brothers, but no one knows for sure. Still, when I showed him this letter after we were done with taking the birth certificate and giving it to you and everything...Naru flipped. He's been stomping around town looking for something ever since, and honestly...we kinda need your help with this."

Nuad jumps down as well at this point. It makes you wonder why they bother climbing up onto that balcony in the first place. The thrill of jumping down, maybe? "Y-yeah, we really need your help with this."

You can already see the obvious path before you. "Sure, favor for a favor", you'd say. "I'll help you in return for the letter," you'd say, with them having practically no way to refuse. What are they going to do with that letter, after all? Stare at it really hard? Regent Badcrumble might not get anything from it, but she can at least make an attempt. Yet...it doesn't feel right. There's something more to be said here, something more to be done, you're sure of it. Well, you said you make your own choices, time to put that into practice. "Need my help with what, exactly?"

Nouv and Nuad share a nervous glance before the former looks at you, not with desperation in his eyes, but something close to it. "Well, we need you to talk to Naru. We don't know why, but he's gotten the idea in his head that he's not the other kid the letter mentioned, and that someone took Yohan's 'actual' brother away before the Matron found him. Eh, 'them', rather."

Of all the silly...well, it's clear that Naru is due a listening ear anyway, so close enough. You don't think he'll be hard to find, but what are you going to do with him?

Befriend. Hear him out.
Finding Naru is indeed not a problem. He's just a bit further up the street, repeatedly climbing a wall as a way to vent his anger. The fact that his impromptu exercise doesn't seem to tire him out much, if at all, says something about how often he's been doing this. Still, you calmly walk up to him and patiently wait for him to start. He just glances at you at first, fire still burning in his eyes, but a few downright violent ascends later he jumps down to the ground and looks at you. "What do you want?" he asks with a tired voice. Not physically tired, though. Despite appearances you'd say that more than anything he's mentally tired.

"Your friends asked me to talk to you. And if I may point it out, you sound like you need a listening ear."

Naru glares at you. Not with anger, but with despair. "Why...why should I care about what you have to say?"

"Because if not me you're going to end up snapping at someone else. I'm not here to lecture you, Naru. I'm here to hear you out."

Naru stares at you for a bit, glances at the street where his friends were a moment ago (they, for whatever reason, seem to have left), and slowly turns back to you. "Fine. Follow me than." Naru shows you how he climbs from street level onto the balcony where he likes to hang out, and you decide to climb up as well rather than just use your wand to levitate. By the time you reach the balcony Naru is sitting down, back leaning against the boarded-up door behind him. You sit down as well and look at Naru as he tries, several times, to keep his pent-up emotions from bursting out.

It doesn't take long before his efforts come to naught, and he starts crying.

Talking to him like this is a bit awkward, but trying his best despite the tears Naru explains that he never wanted to bully Yohan like he ended up doing. Let alone break off their friendship entirely. He was just too curious by what he noticed Yohan was doing (which, you have to admit, is a fair thing to be curious about), and eventually his frustration got the better of him. He thought of Yohan as his brother, seeing as how they grew up together because they were both taken in together at pretty much the same time, and the same age. But now Yohan's gone, taken away before Naru had the chance to apologize, and he's convinced he lost something he can never replace. And it didn't stop there, either. After Yohan was basically taken away by the Academagia Paola rapidly became mentally unhinged, putting too much pressure on Devra and all the children, ultimately threatening to cause the orphanage to collapse in on itself until you went ahead and found a replacement matron. Which is when Naru found the letter, and like Paola before he sort of lost it himself. When he read the letter Naru became convinced that Yohan must have been dropped off along with his "actual" brother, seeing as how Naru himself was nothing to Yohan anymore. Since then he's been stalking the streets, trying to find Yohan's brother and his parents with absolutely no hope of even being able to identify any of them. But he has the letter, and there's nothing else he wants to do but find them.

"Find them...and than what?"

Naru doesn't need to think about that question, but you can tell that it only now occurs to him that he does have to think about his answer. "I-I don't know. I though, maybe if I could find his brother he could...he could tell me how to get Yohan to forgive me. I-I don't even know why I was looking his parents. I don't remember Yohan ever mentioning them, t-that he wants to find them, but...I guess I thought that if I did, I could get revenge for Yohan...for being abandoned and all..."

You slowly shake your head. "I actually asked Yohan about his parents recently, since the Academagia has to try to find them. And Yohan...as far as I could tell, he doesn't care. Maybe he doesn't want to think about his parents, and just leave them in the past."

Naru actually slams a fist on the stone balcony. The stone, despite being (indirectly) tear-soaked, is not moved. "Well where does that leave me!? Am I also just a piece of history he wants to forget!? Hell, if that letter actually refers to me those might even be my parents too! He can't just forget about me, he...he can't..."

"I didn't say anything about him forgetting you, Naru. Just his parents. Have you ever wanted to find your parents before?"

Tears filling his eyes again Naru shakes his head. "If they left me for a reason I don't think I ever want to know that reason. There's no point in dwelling on stuff like that. And if they didn't I don't want to meet them anyway."

"Well, don't you think that maybe Yohan feels the same way?"

Naru can only nod at that, but it does nothing to put him at ease. "So there's nothing I can do? I can't find his brother, I can't find his parents, I just...I'm just going to have to live without him?"

You'd think that Naru would know he could just try to apologize, but maybe he thinks that wouldn't be enough. Or maybe he's just too stubborn and doesn't want to admit how much he really cares about others. "Naru, just apologize to him. It's not that hard, is it?"

Naru bites a lip rather than answer that question. Stubborn boy. "I...I'll apologize to him." Having said that he also takes out the letter and stares at it. You'll admit, it's a curious message. "They're in your hands now". Come to think of it, you don't know if Yohan knows about it. Naru didn't, but maybe Paola told Yohan at some point? Hmm...

"Naru, what do you plan to do with that letter now?" In response Naru puts it back in the envelope and tosses it over to you. He doesn't say anything, but it's clear that he doesn't think he needs it anymore. Well, mission accomplished, and Naru should definitely feel better after this, but you still want to ask. "Now that you know what the letter says, do you still not want to find your parents? Or who wrote the letter, and all that?"

After a few moments Naru shakes his head. "No. I don't care about the people who abandoned me, I...I just want to be friends with Yohan again..."

If that's how he feels, that's how he feels. And yet you and Regent Badcrumble are going to have to look into this, regardless. You'll bring this letter to her later. To be honest you're starting to question whether it's the right thing to do.

--- Pause Adventure ---

 

Command. Bring this to Devra.
It takes you less then a minute to find Naru. He's...eh, he appears to be repeatedly climbing up and down the same wall, again and again. Interesting way to vent his anger, but you suppose if it works, it works. Still, you decided to call out to him. He responds by what you can only describe as "violently jumping down to street level". With fires burning in his eyes and an expression to match he snarls out, "What!? Can't you see I'm busy?"

Busy with...okay, sure. "Don't you think there's a better way to vent your anger than to take it out on a wall?"

Naru frowns. "What, you got a better suggestion? Better yet, you have a reason to care?"

And now you frown, staring down at Naru with an as intimidating and authoritative figure as possible. Considering you're not even three years older then him the effect is a bit lost in the grand scheme of things, but Naru seems to be reacting to it as you wanted, so...good enough. "As a matter a fact, yes. On both counts. Your friends asked me to set you straight, and if you don't want to listen to me I'll bring you to someone who will." Naru isn't sure how to respond to that, other than to not give in to his temptation to start punching you. This seems like a good time to try and diffuse his anger a bit, in fact. "Listen Naru, I'm not here to punish or humiliate you. I'm here because your friends are worried about you so much they're willing to ask me to help you, and I'm worried enough about you to go out of my way to do so. It's good that you're taking your anger out on a wall rather than a person who doesn't deserve it, but all the same that isn't going to solve your problem. So I'll take you to someone who can, if you're not going to let me try to help you myself."

Naru stares at you, shaking his fists not in anger, but from being conflicted. He has no idea how to respond to this situation. Likely, he never saw it coming. Even so he's able to force a response through his throat, if barely. "Why...why should I listen to you? You're the one who took my-who took Yohan away from-"

"Let me just stop you right there, because that's simply not true. By a complete fluke that even the stars didn't predict I found out Yohan's secret and had the Academagia taken away, true, but I'm not the one who goaded him into setting fires or ratted him out to a guard. You did." With that Naru loses it and starts attacking you. It lasts a glorious five seconds, during which he manages to land a single punch on one of your hard-cover books through your knapsack, which you're entirely sure hurt him more than it hurt the book. You're sure he'd have tried more, but you just grabbed one of his wrists and suddenly he stopped. "Enough of this, Naru. If you keep this up you're just going to snap at someone you actually care about, and than what? Is there anyone else your friends would turn to for help? Because if I'm it than they'll inevitably end up getting under your thick-headed skin next." You can tell that Naru knows you're telling the truth, but even so he's shaking his head. He's not saying anything, just shaking his head. You're pretty sure he's close to breaking out in tears, as well, so with his wrist still grabbed you start to drag him back to the orphanage. It doesn't take much effort, Naru is happy to get out of public considering the state he's in. Once at the orphanage you hand him off to Devra and explain what happened, and while Naru tries to play it off even now it's futile. It only takes a minute before he can no longer deny his acts and he starts crying. Devra does her best to comfort him, something that you note Naru is surprisingly accepting of considering how guarded he usually is, and meanwhile you manage to get him to answer a few much needed questions. It's a bit awkward, of course, but even so Naru does his best to fight through his tears and answer your questions. Slowly he explains that he never wanted to bully Yohan like he ended up doing, let alone break off their friendship entirely. He was just too curious by what he noticed Yohan was doing (which, you have to admit, is a fair thing to be curious about), and eventually his frustration got the better of him. He thought of Yohan as his brother, seeing as how they grew up together because they were both taken in together at pretty much the same time, and the same age. But now Yohan's gone, taken away before Naru had the chance to apologize, and he's convinced he lost something he can never replace. And it didn't stop there, either. After Yohan was basically taken away by the Academagia Paola rapidly became mentally unhinged, putting too much pressure on Devra and all the children (something that Devra initially tries to deny, but when a crying Naru calls her out on it she doesn't repeat that claim), ultimately threatening to cause the orphanage to collapse in on itself until you went ahead and found a replacement matron. Which is when Naru found the letter, and like Paola before he sort of lost it himself. When he read the letter Naru became convinced that Yohan must have been dropped off along with his "actual" brother, seeing as how Naru himself was nothing to Yohan anymore. Since then he's been stalking the streets, trying to find Yohan's brother and his parents with absolutely no hope of even being able to even identify any of them. But he has the letter, and there's nothing else he wants to do but find them.

"Find them...and then what?"

Devra's expression tell you she's thought of the same question, but it's clear that Naru doesn't have an answer. He didn't want to admit to himself that his efforts were both empty and futile, and that's the only explanation he has.

"Didn't you want to find them as a way to apologize to Yohan?" Devra asks.

Naru doesn't really visibly react, he's glued to Devra's shoulder right now. "I-I don't know. I...eh. Maybe."

"That seems like the most likely reason to me," you note. "That said, Naru, I actually talked with Yohan about his parents recently. And, to make a long story short, he doesn't really care about finding his parents at all." Having said that Naru turns to look at you, and his tear-soaked expression is something that's going to haunt your nightmares later. Not in the least because of what he says.

"So...that's it? I can't find his parents, I can't...find his brother, if he even has one, I just...I'm just going to have to live without him?"

"You're just going to have to swallow your pride and apologize to him, Naru," Devra says with a bit of a stern voice. "It's up to Yohan whether he'll forgive you."

Though true, that's not something that Naru really wanted to hear. Even so, even now, he tries to act like a bigger kid than he is. Say what you will, but he sure is stubborn. "F-fine, I'll...I'll go and apologize to him." Finally. Of course you take that as your cue to leave, but before you do Naru takes the letter out of his shirt and tosses it over to you. "Here. I...I won't need this anymore."

"Is that...?" Devra slowly says, looking at the letter. Before turning her now disapproving gaze over to Naru. "You're the one who broke into Paola's office!? I was wondering why you got so mad all of a sudden, not to mention looking all over for that letter! Am I to understand you stole Yohan's birth certificate as well?"

Despite you being at least an accomplice to that last one Naru doesn't even so much as point in your direction. "Yeah, that was me. Yohan told me about what the letter says, and when I thought I wasn't his brother anymore I thought the letter might lead me to his actual brother. I...I don't know what I was doing, I just...I was just missing him so much..." Okay now Naru's just straight-up lying to cover for Nouv and Nuad and badly at that, because for one they broke into Paola's office and for another he didn't know what that letter said before his friends showed it to him at all. You don't point that out, of course, but it's interesting to see. Maybe Naru is learning something about how valuable his friends are? Lying to cover for them might not be the best way to express it, though.

"Well you'll get the chance to do some last-minute studying before you'll get to apologize to Yohan, than. And [PC FIRST NAME]? I...actually, did your professors ask you to track down that letter, by chance?"

"Yep. It might be possible to track down Yohan's parents and the like with it, but honestly, the chances of that is slim at best. I wouldn't count on it in any case."

Naru shakes his head. "I don't care about finding my parents either, if that 'they' refers to me. Do whatever you want with it."

Devra again glares at Naru, but afterwards turns to you. "In that care I suppose you ought to take it, but please, simply ask next time you need things like that."

"I would have if Regent Badcrumble didn't inform me ahead of time that the letter wasn't at the orphanage anymore, and I had a sneaking suspicion of who did have it. Also, now that Paola isn't the matron anymore I can actually ask for such things without being murdered."

"Yes, you can. So do so in the future."

"I promise I will," you say as you take your leave. It took a bit longer than was perhaps strictly necessary, but you feel like you did the right thing in the end. Speaking of doing the right thing, though, now even Naru is saying he doesn't care to find his parents. Yet the regent is going to be looking for them regardless. Eh...you're going to have to think about this for a bit.

--- Pause Adventure ---

 

And communal failure text:
Finding Naru is indeed a trivial matter, but when you do find him you notice just how absolutely enraged he seems to be. You definitely think you need to talk to him after he's had a chance to cool off, something that he appears to be in the process of...trying, so you don't want to disturb him. You'll get back to this later.

--- Stop Adventure ---

There's the doorstoppers I was missing :). Only took 17 stages for them to get their cameo appearances.

 

Fire in Mineta, stage 18:

 

You've given some thought to whether you should deliver Yohan and Naru's letter to Regent Badcrumble, and you've come to the conclusion that you're not going to be able to keep it from her no matter what, so it seems best to talk with her about your doubts directly. Even so you knock on the door of the regent's office with a bit of a heavy feeling, and it only gets worse when you're told to come in. A chair has already been prepared, so you sit down. "Good day, [PC FIRST NAME]. Have you found the letter?" You nod and place the letter on the desk. The Regent doesn't immediately take it, though. "Why the long face? Did something go awry?"

"No, not really, it's just...I don't know if it's right for us to try and track down Yohan's parents. Or Naru's, for that matter. I know the Academagia wants to track them down and shake them for tuition, but...neither of them actually want to meet their parents, so..."

The regent seems to be listening intently as you voice your concerns, but more than that she seems confused. "Sorry, did I miss something? Who's Naru and what do his parents have to do with this?" You motion to the letter, which the regent finally picks up and reads. Her eyebrow definitely raises a few levels as she reads the single sentence that's written on it. "...'They' are in your hands now? [PC FIRST NAME], who does 'they' refer to?"

"I don't know. From what I gather Yohan was left on the orphanage's doorstep with that letter on him, just him, and a day later Naru was left in the exact same place. They were both only a few days old at most, too, so everyone assumes that 'they' refers to the two of them. No one knows why or how that happened, but as far as I know, that's what did."

Regent Badcrumble stares dumbfounded at the letter for a full minute before she finally regains her composure and responds to you. "I...okay, I was not expecting that. Still, [PC FIRST NAME], what does this have to do with finding their parents? And who wrote the letter, shouldn't this mystery only encourage you to find them?"

You let out a sigh. "It would, except both of them don't want to know. Yohan made clear he doesn't care about his parents, and the more I think about it the more convinced I am he really doesn't want to meet or ever know them. As for Naru, he said he doesn't want to know why he was abandoned if his parents actually had a good reason to leave him, and if they didn't than he doesn't want to know them anyway. They're the ones who were left as babies on an orphanage's doorstep, and they don't want to know. So is it really right for us to find out anyway? Especially if it's just so the Academagia can maybe shake someone down for some money?"

"It's not just a matter of tuition, [PC FIRST NAME], it's also a matter of figuring out why Yohan - and Naru as well, if this letter is any indication - were abandoned by their parents. As dire as circumstances might be it's not legal to just leave a newborn child at an orphanage, and it certainly isn't right to leave them there without ever offering an explanation as to why."

"And yet neither of them want an explanation. So is it really right for us to look into this, despite that?"

Now it's Regent Badcrumble's turn to sigh. Her expression doesn't change, though. "Even I can't be sure that that is and always will be how Yohan and Naru feel about it, and regardless I'm afraid that I don't have a choice in this matter. If Yohan is to be a student here on my behalf the Praetexta Council has to receive proof that he has no parents, relatives, or other individuals that are capable of covering for his tuition, partially or otherwise. If they don't than I can only keep him here if I take that tuition cost upon myself, and even than only if the majority of the Council and Legate Orsi approve of it. You've seen the state that Dorm Tower Eight is in. I can't afford to lose any of what little funding I can put towards the boys of my College, whether Yohan will ultimately be joining them or not. If they really don't wish to know, than we'll simply have to keep it secret from them. There's nothing else I can do."

...As much as you want to refute that Regent Badcrumble has a point. "Maybe you can, but I don't know if I can keep that secret. Or if I should. What do you plan to do if you do find Yohan's parents and they want to meet their son? What if something happens to Yohan's parents, do we just not tell him that he's lost his chance? What if Yohan does change his mind, but doesn't bring it up until it's too late? I don't want to tell him we've known that entire time."

"I plan to do what I need to do, and beyond that it's Yohan's decision. If that leads to him making a choice he ultimately regrets, than that will simply be what he will have to accept. If that means him never meeting his parents, even if we found them, even if we convince them to support him...than, so be it."

"...I guess. It doesn't feel right, but...I guess that's the best we can do."

The regent nods. Not as confidently as she usually does, but she nods all the same. "For now I think it would be best if we attempted to find his parents and get a better idea of what their situation is. If they're impossible to find, or even dead...there won't be anything to tell Yohan but that, and whatever his feelings are that'll have to be that. If they aren't, than we'll figure out what to do from there. There's also still the matter of what happened to his birth certificate in City Hall. If that was a recent thing, this situation might become even more complicated."

"Please, it's complicated enough."

"I agree, yet we have to look into it regardless. In fact, that's what your next errand will be. I would prefer to investigate it personally, but this letter...I'm going to give it all the attention I can spare. Not just to fulfil my obligations, but in the hopes that I'll be able to give Yohan the option of meeting - or not meeting - with his parents, in case he simply doesn't dare to hope that we could actually find them."

You kinda shudder when you hear that, because it reminds you of Paola. "I guess that would be best, given we have to look for them regardless. Anyway, about City Hall, do you want me to find out what happened to Yohan's birth certificate?"

"That, and also where the line of communication is being cut. I send multiple requests for a copy to City Hall, and I still haven't received a response from them. That the records don't exist anymore I can understand, but it shouldn't have taken a sealed letter and a student to bring that news to me. If it turns out that some element of City Hall is corrupted...be careful. Tampering with people's identification is a serious crime, and anyone who'd dare commit it will be a dangerous person to deal with, even if they seem like nothing but evil paper-pushers."

Personally you think it's more if there was some sort of conspiracy going on that it's more likely that someone would have send Regent Badcrumble a fake copy or something, not just ignore every request outright. Still, you nod and start making your way to City Hall. Someone over there must have heard if a Regent asked for a copy of a non-existent record three times, so it seems like a good place to start. It's a boring trip, like trips to City Hall tend to be, but you're in for a bit of a surprise when you enter the building. Naru is here, talking to one of the clerks. You decide to wait until they're done talking, and Naru spots you on his way out. Unsurprisingly, he walks over to talk to you. "Heh, didn't think I'd see you here [PC FIRST NAME]. Are you here on academy business?"

"Pretty much. Why are you here, if I may ask?"

Naru shrugs. "I thought about some stuff after we, eh, 'talked', and I figured I'd check to see if my own birth certificate was still here. Mine's pretty much the same as Yohan's, so I thought...maybe if mine was, or wasn't gone as well..."

"You...didn't really think this plan through, again, did you?"

For a split second Naru looks like that comment made him mad, but just as soon the flash of anger fades. "Yeah, to be honest? No. Not at all. I just...I just don't know what to tell Yohan, so I'm trying to find something. Anything. I don't care if it's useful or not, just..."

"Naru? Walk up to him, apologize. It's that simple. Well, simple in some respects. I can understand you being afraid, but these hair-brained ideas aren't going to make that any easier."

"...I didn't think a normal guy like me can talk to him, is all."

You can't help but shake your head at that. "Goodness sake, Naru. Yohan hasn't changed that much and visitors are allowed in the Academagia from dawn to dusk. Just go there, ask a guard or professor, maybe even a student if you need directions, and apologize to him. That's what you want to say to him, so go to him and say it."

Naru frowns heavily at that, but you know better than to assume that he's finally learned his lesson. "I'll...think about that. Anyway-actually, are you still investigating Yohan's missing birth certificate?" You frown at Naru's changing the subject...but you also nod. It is why you're here, after all. "Well, for what it's worth, I asked the clerk and he told me my birth certificate is still here, just as Paola filled it in over a decade ago. So...I don't know if that helps you, but given what that letter said and all, about how 'they' were in Paola's care...you should probably keep it in mind."

...That is a point that's possibly worth considering, actually. Well, another mystery to add to the pile. You thank Naru for the information and turn back to the task at hand. Getting information out of City Hall...

What now?

Persuasion. Ask the clerks for information.
It takes a bit of effort to find a clerk that is both willing and able to help you, but eventually you're able to get a hold of someone who recalls having gotten a request from Regent Badcrumble for a copy of Yohan's birth certificate. So that confirms the...what did the regent call it again, "line of communication"? You don't see a line here so much as you see a giant people-shaped hedge maze with infinite turns and twists, and only one path to the exit. Well, regardless, you know it's gotten at least this far. So that means it either got lost here, or on the way back to Regent Badcrumble. You continue to ask questions and investigate, much to the annoyance of the clerks, but you endure their stares until you finally end up in front of someone's supervisor. "Line" of communication, huh? Sure, whatever. The supervisor, after some persuasion, informs you the individuals who processed the separate requests didn't send word back to the Regent. You don't think it's at all likely that three people are part of this theoretical conspiracy, and you definitely don't think it's likely that it just happened to be those three (or however many) that ended up with the requests, so you ask to meet them. Again it takes some persuasion, but you manage to get in touch with one of them. And what he has to say is...not what you expected. "The regent didn't ask us to inform her in case the record she requested didn't exist." You suppose that technically she didn't specifically request that she be informed...but really now! "What are you looking at me for? She asked for a copy of somethin' if we had one, and we didn't, so we figured that'd be it. Ain't she the lady in charge of the college of divinations, anyway?"

For fear of what continued exposure to this level of work ethics will do to you you decide to just leave it at that and head back to the Academagia. "Didn't specifically request she be informed", unbelievable. You suppose City Hall of all places doesn't exactly draw the most passionate and ambitious people to it, but really now...

--- Pause Adventure ---

 

Polite questions end up getting you nowhere other than a circle of frowns and dismissive gestures. Some less polite questions get you...exactly the same thing. Perhaps preparing some spells of mass destruction for next time will change people's attitudes...

--- Stop Adventure ---

 

Law. Insist on an internal investigation.
The possibility of some manner of conspiracy in City Hall is small, and you've got little to no evidence to suggest it exists. But something definitely went wrong, and even if it wasn't done with malice it's a mistake that should be looked in to. At least that's your opinion, and after asking around City Hall for a bit you end up talking to a very important person who thankfully is of the same mind. An old supervisor that, if you had to guess, actually takes pride in his work and isn't shy of trying to force that pride on others no matter how little they care. Well, care they will, because after the supervisor confirms your story he begins stomping around from one end of City Hall to the other, quite rudely interrogating every clerk that was involved until half a department has been forced to hear his droning lectures and rants for far longer then even you could tolerate it. Of course much like the clerks you had to tolerate it, since you weren't going to get results otherwise. And results you did get, if at a price. As it turns out a few of the clerks working in the department here have taken to filling out requests exactly as they are asked, something that you note is an ironic perversion of a bureaucratic 'virtue' the old supervisor harps on frequently if not constantly, and apparently Regent Badcrumble's request was worded such that technically she didn't request to be informed of the state of the document that she requested was in, only that she be given a copy. Which couldn't happen since it didn't exist, so...the clerks who handled the requests just did nothing. You'd honestly suggest that the three clerks in question get fired on the spot, but after you've had to listen to the old supervisor give them and half the department an earful you're quite convinced that there exists no greater punishment than letting them keep their jobs indefinitely. At least until the old supervisor retires, but he seems like the kind of old man who'll outlive someone young enough to be his son if it spites him enough.

Well, you can't say that was the answer you were expecting from this, but at least you got an answer. Time to rapport that to Regent Badcrumble.

--- Pause Adventure ---

 

As you perhaps should have expected, no one really cares to take you seriously and all you get is a non-committal 'I'll look into it' from a guy who's clearly just trying to get rid of you. This is going to take more drastic measures...

--- Stop Adventure ---

After all of the times that City Hall didn't mess everything up I figured it was time for them to do so. Of course...possibilities :).

Edited by Metis

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Fire in Mineta, stage 19:

 

It's taken a bit, but you've finally managed to corner Regent Badcrumble in her office. Outside her classes she's been pretty much tied up lately, a combination of her regular duties and her work with Yohan's letter. You're happy to finally be able to rapport back the news from City Hall, embarrassing as that news is, but the weary expression on the regent makes you pause. "Don't mind me, [PC FIRST NAME]. Please, take a seat." You slowly take a seat and ask the regent if she's really alright. She shakes her head. "A bit sleep deprived, but nothing you need to worry about. Now, I take it you've gotten something from City Hall?"

"Eh, yeah, about that." You explain what you've learned in City Hall, and the regent...well, she doesn't seem like she enjoys the news too much, let's just say that.

"There were worse possible outcomes, but it's still...disappointing to learn that such conduct is tolerated in City Hall. I'll be sure to more carefully word my requests to it next time. Now, putting that aside, I've got some news about the letter. and I'm sure you should hear this." For a second you hesitate, wondering if you really should hear this, but afterwards you nod. You probably should indeed hear this, if that's what the regent thinks. "For better or worse, my divinations have come to a dead end. The letter was the last thing that might have directed me to finding Yohan's parents, as well as possibly Naru's parents, or at least someone related to them, but...simply put, the letter is too old. I can't get any clear information from it, so unless a new avenue shows up my investigation is stuck. And with the City Hall conspiracy possibility closed as well...unless you can think of something, I'm afraid that's it."

You're not sure how to feel about that. On the one side you're happy, since this is kind of the outcome you think Yohan and Naru wanted, but on the other side...it doesn't give them any real options, either. "If that's really it I guess we'll just have to accept it, but...well, if the letter is a bust, maybe you could investigate the orphanage itself? Maybe ask the people who live nearby if they remember something, or...maybe get something out of Naru's birth certificate not having gone missing, somehow?"

The regent just shakes her head as you say that, and you get the distinct feeling of being a wee bit of a hypocrite just then. "I've already explored those possibilities, and the gist of it is: No one remembers anything. As for that last point you mentioned, I think it's safe to say that was also the result of bureaucratic stupidity. Though I'll have to double-check all the same, since there's at least a plausible motive for someone to commit fraud."

"Erasing the record of when Yohan was born, you mean? But wouldn't that be a lost cause anyway? I mean even ignoring Paola's own copy I'm pretty sure someone in that entire orphanage would remember."

"Yes, which is why I'm not overly concerned about it. Yet someone will question it, even if I don't, so..."

You let out a long sigh. "Just doing your duty, huh? Do you need my help with that, than?"

"No, actually, that's something I've got to do on my own. For you, though, I'd like you to bring the news of this to Yohan. And Naru, if you wish. Unless something changes...I can't figure out who their parents are. That's it."

The bearer of...kind of bad news, than. Alright. Time to make your way to Yohan's dorm room. You figure you'll start with him, since he's closer, though you do think you should visit Undergate and tell Naru as well afterwards. Hell, maybe the kid has actually thought of something. That'd be something. For now, though...how are you going to relay this news to Yohan?

Diplomacy. Put it gently.
It's difficult to imagine that Yohan hasn't been shaken by everything that's happened to him recently at all, his meeting with Umbra pretty much proved he was, so you think that you'd do good to choose your words carefully here. With that in mind you slowly walk over to Yohan's dorm room, slightly dreading the conversation you're about to have, until you're standing in front of his door and can stall no longer. Well, time to knock on the door.

"Come in."

You're not sure why you were anticipating something more...dramatic than that. Nerves? Must be. Well, regardless, you open the door and step in. Yohan is...eh, you think playing with Umbra? It's difficult to see, seeing as how the latter's a Shade. You, for your part, sit down on Yohan's bed, next to him. "Hey, Yohan. Listen, there's something we need to talk about."

Yohan rolls his eyes. "Yeah, there's been a lot of that lately. So what's the deal now?"

"The truth is, Regent Badcrumble has been doing some investigating. She's been trying to track down who left you at the orphanage, as well as your parents. But...her investigation has reached a dead end. As things are now, she can't track them down."

You certainly got Yohan's attention with that. "I...I mean, that's fine. I don't want to meet my parents," he says while staring at his feet. Or maybe Umbra? It's really difficult to tell.

"If that's how you feel, that's how you feel. But just to make sure you understand her position, the regent has to - had to, rather - try and track down your parents regardless. It's...part of you becoming a student here. She doesn't have to find them, necessarily, she just had to try since it'd change a few things if she could. Nothing you need to worry about, though. Just some administrative stuff, and it seems like she won't be tracking them down regardless." Yohan doesn't say anything in response to that, he just keeps staring at his feet. You get the impression that even if this is what he wanted...it's still a bit of a shock to him. "Yohan, have you ever thought about your parents? Who they are, why they abandoned you, what it'd be like to meet them, that sort of stuff?"

Yohan slowly shakes his head. You thought as much, and gently ask him how he really feels about this news. It takes him a few tries, but he does answer. "A bit sad, I guess. I mean, I don't want to meet them, they left me without so much as an explanation so I don't care about them, but..."

"It's one thing to not want to meet them, it's another thing to know that you can't meet them?"

Yohan nods. "It's not like I can't guess why they abandoned me, but..."

"You'd still like to hear it from them. Their explanation, excuses perhaps, just so that you won't have any doubts." Yohan nods again. "Alright, that's all I had to talk about. If there's anything more you want to say or get off your chest, I'm sure you know who to ask." Yohan nods, one last time, and you stand up.

Only to be interrupted by another person opening the door to Yohan's room from the outside, nearly smacking you in the face in the process. "Sorry. Hey, Yohan? Someone's here to see you, he's waiting in the Common Room."

"Who?" Yohan asks as you check whether or not that door hit you.

"Eh, damn, what was his name...Naru? Something like that. Anyway, he's in the common room so try not to burn him."

Because what would life be without these interesting instances of timing? Boring, that's what. "Somehow I get the impression that you've already had quite enough of people telling you not to burn something."

"You got that right."

"You'll be glad to know that first year Incantation class doesn't tend to teach too many fire spells, at least it didn't last year, so if all goes well you'll have some new tricks to throw around before you know it...aren't you going to meet up with Naru?"

Yohan looks around his room for a second, then sighs. "He's not going to leave until I do. Sure. Let's get this over with."

--- Proceed with Adventure ---

 

Composure. Just explain it for what it is, Yohan can take it.
However Yohan might feel about this news there's ultimately nothing that he, Regent Badcrumble, Naru, yourself or anyone else can do about it, so it seems to you that just telling him is the best course of action. He might get upset, he might have lied about things or simply not dares get his hopes up openly or what have you, but if he does you'll just have to offer a hand and a shoulder. It's all you can do, so with that in mind you knock on the door.

"Come in."

You'll admit you were expecting something far more dramatic than that. Not that you understand why. Either way you open the door and step in. "Hey, Yohan? I've got some news for you."

Yohan lazily looks in your direction and rolls his eyes. "Bad news or good news?"

You shrug. "Honestly I'm not sure. Regardless, I'm here to tell you that Regent Badcrumble just finished her search for your parents, and possibly whoever left you at the orphanage. Long story short, she couldn't find anything. Whoever they are, unless something changes, the Regent isn't able to find them."

That definitely gets Yohan's attention. "M-my parents? Why was she looking for them anyway? I didn't ask her to do that."

"Yes, your parents. And the regent was looking for them because she had to, as part of you getting into the Academagia. It won't really change anything, that she can't find them I mean, but she had to try. It just changes some administrative stuff you don't need to worry about." Yohan nods, but the expression on his face tells you there's more to it than just that. "Yohan, if you don't mind I do want to ask, how do you really feel about it? Not getting the chance to meet your parents, I mean?"

Yohan stares at you for a bit, and then his expression slowly changes as he actually lets his emotions show. You think it's quite an achievement for him to do so, and a sign of how much he trust you. "Sad, I guess. I mean I didn't want to meet them anyway, they left me after all, but..."

"You still would have liked to have the chance? Rather, the choice? The opportunity to meet them, talk to them, get to know them, ask them why they abandoned you, all that stuff, whether you actually took the opportunity or not?"

Yohan nods. "Yeah, exactly. Heh, thanks for understanding. I honestly wasn't sure how to phrase that, myself."

"Sounds like you ought to enrol in Dialectic when you become a student next year. And until then I assume you know who you can talk to, if you need advice or support."

Yohan nods again, actually looking a lot happier than he normally does, so you take that as your cue to leave. Of course when you try to leave someone opens the door to Yohan's dorm from the other side, nearly slamming it into your face. "Sorry. Hey, Yohan? Someone's here to see you, he's waiting in the Common Room."

"Who?" Yohan asks while you recover from suddenly, a door...

"Eh, damn, what was his name...Naru? Something like that. Anyway, he's in the common room so try not to burn him."

He actually learned? It's one miracle after another today! "Is it just me or are you getting tired of being treated like a one-trick pony?"

Yohan rolls his eyes in an almost painful manner. "Oh Gods you don't know the half of it. I mean I only know a single fire spell, but some people treat me like I'm literally made of fire or something. I really can't wait to get some more spells so people can stop telling me not to burn everything."

"Well, fortunately for you first year Incantation classes actually don't teach many fire spells, so not only will you get some now spells to throw around but you'll also have something that your classmates won't be able to replicate so easily...aren't you going to see Naru?"

Yohan lets out a large sigh. "I guess he won't leave until I do. Fine, let's get this over with."
--- Proceed with Adventure ---

 

And communal failure text:

You raise your hand, but when it comes to actually knocking on the door you hesitate. Are you really right about everything you think and assume of how Yohan will react? Shouldn't you maybe wait for a better time rather than just knock on his door and surprise him? Maybe you should. You don't often see Yohan outside his dorm room, especially because unlike him you've got classes to go to, but he doesn't stay there constantly either. Maybe catching him at a good time is worth a try, and if that fails...well, you know where to find him...

--- Stop Adventure ---

Of course no mystery is going to be solved so easily. However...

 

Fire in Mineta, stage 20:

 

Sensing that this meeting is going to need a mediator you decide to go with Yohan to the Avila Common Room. Honestly, you get the impression that if you weren't here Yohan might not have gone at all, although Umbra might have nagged him into going anyway. You're here, so it doesn't really matter ultimately. When you reach the Common Room you indeed see Naru, standing just outside the door, looking nervously at all the people coming and going. "Can we talk to him here? I mean he's not a student, is he?" Yohan asks you, right before stepping into view.

"In the Common Room? I'm...honestly I'm not exactly sure. We can just find a place to sit down on the way to the Garden Gallery, that'll be fine."

Yohan sighs, and reluctantly starts walking up to Naru. The latter can't hide his surprise when he sees Yohan, or the fact that he's trying not to show his emotions. He's trying, but he's not succeeding. "H-hey there, Yohan. Eh...I-I, eh, I thought...maybe, now that you've settled in and all, we could...talk about how things are going."

You walk up to the two of them yourself, and Naru just lets his head fall. He's out of his element, the deck is stacked against him, and he's got more than enough to lose to be afraid of losing. He's not in a good position, but to his credit, he is here. "I'm not going to teach you how to set fires, Naru," Yohan answers with far more detached tone than you'd expect.

"N-no, that's not what-I mean I wasn't going to ask for that, I just...I just want to know how you've been doing."

Yohan, not unreasonably, looks sceptical. This seems like a good point for you to intervene. "There's a fountain nearby where we can sit down, shall we go there?" Both Naru and Yohan nod, the former looking a bit panicked and the latter just having a frown on his face. You still lead both to the fountain you were talking about, nestled nicely in the shadows of a nearby raised walkway. It's interesting to see that Yohan, without really thinking about it, tries to stick to the shadows as much as he can. He's clearly getting the hang of having a Familiar. Naru doesn't notice or comment on it, though. When both have sat down on the rim of the fountain the two just stare at each other awkwardly, so again you decide to step in. "Naru, isn't there something you wish to tell Yohan?"

Naru tries one more time to keep his emotions bottled up, meeting with...limited success, and quite awkwardly he blurts out "I-I...I'm...I'm sorry."

Yohan doesn't seem impressed. "For what?"

"For telling on you. And badgering you, and not...and not respecting you. You...I...I-I miss you, alright!?" Naru looks like he's about to break out in tears again, but Yohan just stares at the whole spectacle like Naru is speaking Montenese. Well, he does for a little bit. You can tell Naru's getting through to him, but Yohan seems reluctant to admit it.

"...I don't live in the orphanage anymore."

"C-can't you? I know you can still stay there during the summer. We got a new matron, so Paola isn't going to bother you anymore a-and besides it's not like the Academagia is going anywhere! You...we can still...hang out, can't we?"

You observe Yohan, but despite him clearly having something to say he's keeping quiet. Naru...doesn't seem to be reacting well to that fact at all, so again you better step in before things get out of hand. "Don't you want to make up and hang out again? I know Naru's been a pain in the rear and a half to you lately, but he's also had time to think about what happened. And his part in it."

"G-gee, thanks, [PC FIRST NAME]. You're a great help."

Naru's sarcastic compliment aside it seems you did, in fact, help, because Yohan appears to be thinking it over. "So you'll admit you were just jealous of me being able to set things on fire?"

"Jealous, curious, surprised, name it. It was just so exciting, you know? We spend years just staring at the Academagia's towers from a distance, hoping to one day make a name for ourselves and suddenly...bam, fire. Weren't you happy that you figured out how to do that? Aren't you, even?"

Yohan raises an eyebrow at that. "I learned that from sticking my hand into the kitchen fire, and I really wasn't excited...well, not excited in a good way when I nearby burned the orphanage down to the ground trying that stuff out. It's not fun to set things on fire, you know. It just burns away everything until it's no longer there."

"Really? So you never dreamed of setting me on fire after I ratted you out over that merchant's stall?"

Yohan's, pardon the pun, burning glare causes Naru to flinch, and again an awkward silence falls over the two. "Yohan, you've been thinking a lot about what you have to do in order not to end up like a bad person, right?"

Yohan just slowly nods. "I...got afraid when you told me about how Shades are said to be evil, so I've tried really hard to make sure we don't end up like that myself. I don't want to be a bad omen of some disaster, I want to be nice to others."

Naru suddenly looks excited. "Wait-wait-wait-wait, 'we'? Who's this 'we'!?" Yohan isn't quite sure how to respond to that outburst. He might not know the reason behind it either, come to think of it...

"Naru, calm down, he's only talking about himself and his Familiar."

"Huh? Eh...oh. Oh. His Familiar, right...I guess he would have one already..."

Now Yohan just looks confused, so you get his attention. "Do you recall-actually, do you even know about the letter? The letter that you had on you when Paola found you, I mean?" Yohan slowly nods. "Well, do you know what the letter says, exactly?"

"Eh...oh, right, 'they're in your hands now'. But what does that have to do with Umbra?"

You look at Naru, in case he wants to explain it, and he actually takes you up on that offer. "You know how everyone said that 'they' must refer to the two of us? Well, people have been thinking about it, and it doesn't really make sense that I was dropped off a day after you and the letter, right?" Yohan shrugs, still confused. "So we've all been wondering who 'they' really refers to. And when you said 'we' I thought...well, maybe..." Yohan, still confused, slowly turns to look at you. It's certainly a mystery, but now that you've gotten to the subject of the letter...

Break the news of the regent's investigation to Naru, and forget about the mystery.
"Speaking of that letter, Naru, I...well, I might have a bit of news for you."

Naru raises an eyebrow. "You 'might'? What is it?"

"If the 'they' in that letter really refers to the two of you, than it stands to reason that whoever wrote it is connected, in some way, to the both of you and your parents, right?" Naru slowly nods. "Well, Regent Badcrumble just finished her investigation into the letter and the people connected to it. Unfortunately she wasn't able to find anyone. I know you said you don't want to meet your parents, Naru, but I still thought I should tell you that, assuming your parents are indeed connected to that letter...you don't really have the option to."

Naru seems to take that news in stride. "Well...sure, whatever. If nothing's changed than I don't care."

"Don't you really, though?"

You can tell that Naru contemplates lying to you, but after you frown he ultimately chooses not to. Thankfully. "...I guess a part of me was curious about it. Who my parents really are and all." Naru sighs. "Still don't want to meet them, though. I don't want to know why I was abandoned if they had a reason to, and if they don't than I really don't want to."

"I kind of feel the same way," Yohan quietly admits.

"Don't you know why your parents...left you, though? With your, what was it, star signs and all?"

"Not for sure," Yohan clarifies. "I don't know how much my parents might have known or cared about the stars above them. No one in the orphanage ever managed to find out, after all."

"Heh...than I guess we're still in the same boat."

Yohan nods, and suddenly his lips contort into a very untrustworthy smirk. "Yeah. Will you promise not to judge me or Umbra for being who she is?"

Naru happily nods...a bit too quickly, you think. "Hey, a friend of yours is a friend of mine, even if she's a girl. Kinda surprised to hear you've made friends with a girl, though. And where is she, anyway?"

"Right here," Yohan says as a figure in his shadow suddenly comes to life and does her best approximation of standing up in front of Naru. Umbra's introduction is sadly lost to the sound of water splashing all over the place and Naru getting his face full of it as he falls backwards into the fountain from surprise.

"What was that about trying to be a nice person, Yohan?" you ask while trying not to laugh as Yohan does help his old friend out of the fountain. Umbra likewise seems amused.

In between bits of spitting water out of his nose Naru asks "Wh-what in Octavius' name is that!?"

"Hmm. Wizard's friend promised not to judge. Hmm."

Naru blinks a few times, until he sees the shape of Umbra against the light of the sun shining down further back. "W...what? I-is that...eh...are you...Umbra?"

"Hmm. That is what I said before you plunged into the fountain. Hmm."

Naru slowly turns to look over at Yohan. "I...eh..."

"That's for ratting me out, and whatever burns you get from me drying you off can make up for the rest. So, friends?"

"If it's all the same to you, Yohan, I'll dry Naru off. He's got enough to explain to Devra as is, the last thing he needs is a cold to go along with being covered in mild burns."

Yohan frowns at you, but also steps aside and lets you get to work. Naru's indeed shaking already, but some quick wand work and that problem is taken care of. "W-what is that...eh, Umbra, though?"

"A Shade, basically someone's shadow that became self-aware. They're cool, but they've got a bad reputation and are a little tricky to take care of."

"Hmm. Sounds like someone else I know. Hmm."

Yohan frowns at that. "Yeah, yeah, I know. I try. When people who've ratted me out aren't involved."

Naru is equal parts amazed, scared and excited. You also note, with some satisfaction, that he doesn't appear to be jealous. "Hey, so...you know, when it's summer...do you want to come back to the orphanage? I know you live here now, kind of, but..."

Yohan shakes his head. After a bit of a pleading look from Naru and an inquisitive stare from you he also explains why. "I don't want to go back. It's not that I think it's beneath me or anything, it's...I'm afraid of how the others will react. To me, to Umbra, to me being here and all that. I can only imagine how much some must hate me for it, and...I don't want to remember what it was like there. Trying to keep my magic hidden, listening to Paola's rants...I don't want to go back."

Finally Naru resigns himself to it. Mostly. "Fine, but promise me you'll at least come visit. Not everyone is jealous of you, and those that are you can just ignore. Or set on fire, if you need to show them they shouldn't bully you."

"Might I suggest not trying to apply pyromania as a universal solvent?" The confused looks on both Yohan and Naru informs you that those words were a little too big for them. "Don't set people on fire."

"You learn some really big words here," Naru comments.

"Heh. When I've learned them I'll teach some to you," Yohan says.

Looks like these two will be alright. Assuming that Yohan manages to stick with the principles he's looking for, but whether he can will only make itself apparent in due time.

--- END ADVENTURE ---

 

Discuss the mystery and inform Naru about the letter later.
"I take it you never considered the possibility that 'they' doesn't actually refer to you and Naru?"

Yohan shakes his head. "Should I have? I mean how else do you explain it?"

"That's the question, isn't it?" Naru says. "I thought it might not be me after...well, after I ratted you out and all, so I've been trying to figure out who your real brother is."

Now Yohan just looks perplexed. "M-my 'real' brother? Wh-what are you talking about?"

"Well if I'm not your brother than 'they' must refer to you and your real brother, right?"

Yohan, again, slowly turns to look at you. "I know it's a silly theory, but doesn't the fact that Naru was dropped off a day after you and the letter were seem unusual to you?"

"After everything I've been through in this crazy school? No, I don't think it's that unusual."

Naru seems to be back to his usual self, as he shifts on the fountain a bit until he's in his proper "I'm the leader" pose. "Come on, you can't seriously think that someone dropping off you and that letter ahead of me isn't unusual. Like what did you even encounter here that makes you think that isn't weird?"

Yohan initially isn't sure how to respond to that...but than his lips curl into a very untrustworthy grin. "Oh, maybe I can just show you. Though, will you promise not to judge me or her for it?"

With a big, frankly naive-looking smile of his own Naru proudly says "A friend of you is a friend of me, even if she's a girl." Afterwards he looks at Yohan a little curiously. "You've made friends with a girl, though? I mean if she's cool she's cool, but you making friends with a girl isn't that unusual, right? Eh, where is she, anyway?"

"Right here," Yohan says as a figure in his shadow suddenly comes to life and does her best approximation of standing up in front of Naru. Umbra's introduction is sadly lost to the sound of water splashing all over the place and Naru getting his face full of it as he falls backwards into the fountain from surprise.

"Be careful not to become the monsters you hunt, Yohan," you try to say, but you can't really scold him effectively when you're also suppressing a fit of laughter.

Naru, for his part, climbs out of the fountain like a fish splashing around on dry land. In between bits of spitting water out of his mouth and nose he looks ahead of him, until he finally sees the shadowy outline of Umbra against the sun's rays shining down behind her. "Wh-what in Octavius' name is that!?"

"Hmm. Wizard's friend promised not to judge. Hmm."

Naru examines Umbra for a bit, poking and prodding her as best he can (which is to say, not very), before he slowly turns his head to look at Yohan. "What...eh, who is this?"

"That's my Familiar, Umbra. She's a Shade, basically someone's shadow that became self-aware. They are indeed cool, but they've got a bad reputation and are a little tricky to take care of."

"Hmm. Sounds like someone else I know. Hmm."

Yohan frowns at that. "Yeah, yeah, I know. I try. When people who've ratted me out aren't involved. Speaking of, that's for ratting me out. Whatever burns you get from my drying you off can count for the rest. So, friends?"

"If it's all the same to you, Yohan, I'll dry Naru off. He's got enough to explain to Devra as is, the last thing he needs is a cold to go along with being covered in mild burns."

Yohan seems to pout a bit as you say that, but he also nods and lets you get to work on the already shaking Naru. He, for his part, is staring at Umbra again. "You're not...Yohan's, eh, sister, are you?"

You can't tell, but you like to believe that Umbra rolled her eyes there. "Hmm. Do I look like wizard's sister? Hmm."

"I don't know, you're a...what was it, a Shade? I can't tell."

And now Yohan visibly rolls his eyes. "We're not related, silly. She's my Familiar, that's all."

You're not entirely sure how Naru responds to that. "Alright, if you say so. Eh, so...you're not coming back to the orphanage? Even just during the summer?" Yohan shakes his head, and finally Naru seems to accept it. "Fine, but promise me you'll at least come visit. Not everyone is jealous of you, and those that are you can just ignore. Or set on fire, if you need to show them they shouldn't bully you."

"Might I suggest not trying to apply pyromania as a universal solvent?" The confused looks on both Yohan and Naru informs you that those words were a little too big for them. "Don't set people on fire."

"You learn some really big words here," Naru comments.

"Heh. When I've learned them I'll teach some to you," Yohan says.

Finally it seems like these two are back on track. Though...aren't you forgetting something? You're pretty sure you are, but...ah, you'll get to it later. It seems like these two have some catching up to do anyway.

--- END ADVENTURE ---

And that, finally, is the end of the adventure. Not the end of the adventure line, mind, but the end of the adventure :P. 'Course Y3 is a long way away, but until than, that's Fire in Mineta :).

Edited by Metis

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History and Diplomacy, stage 4a:

 

Despite the disaster scenarios that were flying through your head Abel is just sitting at a table, looking through some manner of book. None of the mercenaries around appear to be bothering him. Good. You walk up to his table and sit down, with Malthezar right behind you.

"Ah, good to see you again. So can your friend here help me with this language barrier problem?" Abel says to you, which Malthezar quickly translates for you. Needless to say that he then starts talking with Malthezar, and a minute later the two of them explain to you what's going on: Abel is here on a treasure hunt of sorts, following the trail of a very old Alesfan explorer who claimed to have found and buried some manner of important treasure in a far off land - that is, Elumia - way back before the founding of the old Empire of Man. The exact location of this treasure has recently been determined, through the discovery of an old map that the explorer drew and secreted away from prying eyes at the time, and this map claims that this treasure is located on this island, in Elumia Proper. "I've already got permission from the local authorities, through the Elumian embassy in Alesfa, to explore the location, which I've confirmed with the local guard office. No one has had or has made a formal claim on the territory in centuries," Abel adds while Malthezar translates for you. "However, the problem is that there's a reason for that. That location, apparently called Styx' Shore locally, is cursed in some manner. Many outlaws have tried to use the nearby maze-like cavern structure - a failed ore mine, I believe - as a hideout, they've all met untimely and unfortunate ends. Most recently a lich chose the location as his hideout, and from what I've heard, this lich was found dead - final death, I mean - from a completely unknown cause. Even the undead can't survive in that place, it seems."

That's ominous. "And you were hoping to hire mercenaries here to help explore the place?" you ask.

Malthezar translates, and Abel nods. "This curse, whatever it is, has so far always taken years to hit, so I figure a few hours of exploring wouldn't hurt. Unfortunately the mercenaries here don't seem to understand my request. Another translation problem, I suppose."

You can think of another problem it might be, but nevertheless, you stand up and walk up to a nearby mercenary captain. He seen you coming, because everyone has been keeping an eye on Abel. The man asks something in Vilocian, which you imagine is something along the lines of "what do you want?".

"Eh, maybe?" you reply in plain Renaglian. "The man with the 11 foot tiger sitting over there - Abel - is looking to hire a few mercenaries to help him explore a place in Elumia Proper - Styx' Shore, it's apparently called. Do you know anything about that?"

The mercenary captain frowns, clearly unimpressed. In plain Renaglian, if with an accent, he says, "I have, but you're not going to find a single person inside or outside of this building who'll take gold to explore that place."

"That bad?"

The captain nods. "The guard has needed some extra arms and eyes to clear that entire Gods-damned cavern every time someone new moved in since the first days of the old Empire, and us mercenaries filled those roles. As much as the man might offer, some of us have kids waiting for us to come home at night."

You decide not to push your luck here, since you've been told pretty much everything you need to know. Instead you politely thank the captain for his info, or try to at least, and return to Abel, who's chatting with Malthezar. "So, what did the man say?" Abel asks as he notices you sitting down, again translated by Malthezar.

"Basically, that cavern is a dead zone as far as mercenaries go. This guild house assisted with cleaning the place out, so they know the score. I'd suggest contacting the Licentiate of Mineta for escorts, but I don't think you'll have much more luck there."

Malthezar looks especially disappointed when he hears that, and you're quite sure that he's itching to volunteer himself for this job. He's not going to do so alone, though. So...

Nope. No way, no how, not happening.
You sure as hell don't volunteer, and in fact you decide to excuse yourself before someone gets any ideas. Maybe when you ever feel the odd urge to die horribly you'll talk to Malthezar or Abel again.

--- Stop Adventure ---

 

This is a stupid idea, but...volunteer to be an escort.
Despite Malthezar itching to go on an adventure himself he's still surprised to hear you say that. Abel is as well. "No offence, but are you sure a student like yourself can protect yourself?" Abel asks.

"I wouldn't offer if I didn't. If nothing else we can just peek our heads in there and run at the first sign of trouble. With a better idea of what's actually there it'd be easier to convince people it isn't a suicide mission."

Malthezar agrees with your assessment, and uses this time to offer his own services as well. Abel seems weary of the idea, but he's not exactly swimming in other offers either. "Okay, tell you what. I'll check in with the Licentiate of Mineta first, and if they don't have anyone, we'll proceed with your suggested plan. Does that sound good?"

Both you and Malthezar nod. What have you gotten yourself into?

--- Proceed with Adventure ---

 

 

Stage 4b:

 

Despite the disaster scenarios that were flying through your head Abel is just sitting at a table, looking through some manner of book. None of the mercenaries around appear to be bothering him. Good. You walk up to his table and sit down, with Malthezar right behind you.

"Ah, good to see you again. So can your friend here help me with this language barrier problem?" Abel says to you, which Malthezar quickly translates for you. Needless to say that he then starts talking with Malthezar, and a minute later the two of them explain to you what's going on: Abel is here on a treasure hunt of sorts, following the trail of a very old Alesfan explorer who claimed to have found and buried some manner of important treasure in a far off land - that is, Elumia - way back before the founding of the old Empire of Man. The exact location of this treasure has recently been determined, through the discovery of an old map that the explorer drew and secreted away from prying eyes at the time, and this map claims that this treasure is located on this island, in Elumia Proper. "I've already got permission from the local authorities, through the Elumian embassy in Alesfa, to explore the location, which I've confirmed with the local guard office. No one has had or has made a formal claim on the territory in centuries," Abel adds while Malthezar translates for you. "However, the problem is that there's a reason for that. That location, apparently called Styx' Shore locally, is cursed in some manner. Many outlaws have tried to use the nearby maze-like cavern structure - a failed ore mine, I believe - as a hideout, they've all met untimely and unfortunate ends. Most recently a lich chose the location as his hideout, and from what I've heard, this lich was found dead - final death, I mean - from a completely unknown cause. Even the undead can't survive in that place, it seems."

That's ominous. "And you were hoping to hire mercenaries here to help explore the place?" you ask.

Malthezar translates, and Abel nods. "This curse, whatever it is, has so far always taken years to hit, so I figure a few hours of exploring wouldn't hurt. Unfortunately the mercenaries here don't seem to understand my request. Another translation problem, I suppose."

You can think of another problem it might be, but nevertheless, you stand up and walk up to a nearby mercenary captain. He seen you coming, because everyone has been keeping an eye on Abel. "You need me?" the man asks in Vilocian.

"Possibly," you reply in the same language. "The man with the 11 foot tiger sitting over there - Abel - is looking to hire a few mercenaries to help him explore a place in Elumia Proper - Styx' Shore, it's apparently called. Do you know anything about that?"

The mercenary captain nods, seemingly impressed at your ability to speak his language. "I certainly do, and let me tell you for free, you're not going to find a single person inside or outside of this building who'll take gold to explore that place. Certainly no one under my command will."

"That bad?"

Again the captain nods. "The Minetan guard has needed some extra arms and eyes to clear that entire Gods-damned cavern every time someone new moved in since the first days of the old Empire, and whenever the army was out fighting or too busy keeping the peace us mercenaries filled those roles. In fact, this guild house was involved in the most recent debacle there. I don't know if you've heard, but the last inhabitant was a lich who's cause of final death couldn't be confirmed. Even after the Academagia got involved, as I recall. So, yeah. Don't get me wrong, if the guy wants to claim that he's not as helpless as he looks compared to someone with a proper arms and armor that 11 foot tiger he tamed is a fantastic argument to bring on the table, but most of us here don't know the front end of a wand from the back end. And something that even a lich can't survive, or whatever it is they do? It'd be a matter of luck at best and a suicide mission at worst, and as much as the man might offer, some of us have kids waiting for us to come home at night."

Good info, and the captain's points are entirely fair. So you politely nod, thank the captain for his info, and return to Abel, who's chatting with Malthezar. "I'll admit, I didn't think you spoke this place's language. So, what did the man say?" Abel asks as he notices you sitting down, again translated by Malthezar.

"Basically, that cavern is a dead zone as far as mercenaries go. This guild house assisted with the recovery of the lich, so they know the details. All none of them, I mean. I'd suggest contacting the Licentiate of Mineta for escorts, but I don't think you'll have much more luck there."

Malthezar looks especially disappointed when he hears that, and you're quite sure that he's itching to volunteer himself for this job. He's not going to do so alone, though. So...

Nope. No way, no how, not happening.
You sure as hell don't volunteer, and in fact you decide to excuse yourself before someone gets any ideas. Maybe when you ever feel the odd urge to die horribly you'll talk to Malthezar or Abel again.

--- Stop Adventure ---

 

This is a stupid idea, but...volunteer to be an escort.
Despite Malthezar itching to go on an adventure himself he's still surprised to hear you say that. Abel is as well. "No offence, but are you sure a student like yourself can protect yourself?" Abel asks.

"I wouldn't offer if I didn't. If nothing else we can just peek our heads in there and run at the first sign of trouble. With a better idea of what's actually there it'd be easier to convince people it isn't a suicide mission."

Malthezar agrees with your assessment, and uses this time to offer his own services as well. Abel seems weary of the idea, but he's not exactly swimming in other offers either. "Okay, tell you what. I'll check in with the Licentiate of Mineta first, and if they don't have anyone, we'll proceed with your suggested plan. Does that sound good?"

Both you and Malthezar nod. What have you gotten yourself into?

--- Proceed with Adventure ---

I said I wasn't done with this one -_-. Just posting this stage for now for the sake of my sanity, though. It'll be a while before you see another stage.

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I was wondering where your 7 posts today came from! :unsure:

 

That's just crazy.

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Is it really, though? I mean 20 stages, sure, but most of those are really small...right?

 

It's at least kindof crazy :rolleyes:

 

Also, and with apologies for pedantry, I think you wrote 'errant' instead of 'errand' a few times, an 'errand' is a chore/task that you need to do. A knight errant was a wandering knight in search of adventure in medieval romance novels - both could arguably be applied to the PC but I think you meant the former.

 

Edit: correcting my own typo ;)

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It's not pedantry if it it's a typo, which that definitely is/would be. One of those situations where I can never recall the exact way a given word is spelled and of course spellcheck doesn't see any problems with it, so...yeah.

 

Also, caught up on reading. Twice you describe people as 'goating' Yohan, do you mean 'goad'? (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/goad)

I distinctly remember double-checking that and being told that "goad" is not a word. Pete's sake, I'll correct that as well.

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History and Diplomacy, stage 5:

 

While you're eating lunch in the Great Hall Malthezar tells you that he's been in contact with Abel. Apparently he checked the Licentiate of Mineta and found a grand total of zero people willing to go with him on his trip. Admittedly he's not exactly weighed down by all the money he has on hand, but even if he was, everyone he talked to said that they could not be paid enough to explore Styx' Shore. So it seems like the two of you are going on a (possibly suicidal) scouting mission, to see exactly what is going on with that place. You'll admit you're not looking forward to this no matter how happy Malthezar looks, but you keep reminding yourself it's only a scouting mission. Get in, take a look, get out. That's it. And Abel with his 11-foot tiger is coming with you, so whatever threat is there the three of you are definitely not going to look defenceless if nothing else.

None of that changes the fact that it's a bit of a walk, though.

"According to my map the entrance should be just up ahead," Abel says, with Malthezar translating for him as usual. You all have cast translation spells, but Malthezar insisted that he translate anyway just to make sure nothing is lost or mistranslated. Which, much to your chagrin, is something to be concerned about. You're still just a student, Malthezar isn't taking the right classes for translation magic, and Abel didn't put as much work into translation spells as he perhaps should have. It's inconvenient to have Malthezar translate everything, though. Well, more importantly, the mine's entrance is just coming into view. Only...it doesn't look like much of an entrance from this distance.

"Did something happen to it? It looks like the entrance collapsed." Malthezar says, squinting his eyes. Abel orders his Familiar to check it out, which indeed is a sight to see, and soon enough he comes running back.

"Moornaar says the entrance indeed collapsed, and it doesn't look like there's a hole big enough for any of us to squeeze through."

That's the tiger's name? You ask Malthezar if it means anything. A bit nervously he replies "I think it means 'don't upset him'."

"Wasn't planning to. So about the blocked entrance, I take it we open it back up with our wands?"

"I'd actually like to investigate it first. Maybe we can find out what caused it to collapse," Abel suggests, and you do agree. Of course the collapsed entrance is just a pile of rocks stacked on top another pile of rocks. How are you going to "investigate" this?

Negation. Look for signs of magic.
You take out your wand and examine the pile of rocks for traces of magic. You're glad Abel suggested the idea in hindsight, because there's definitely some magic still in the air here. "This wasn't a natural cave in. Someone blasted this place, likely with Incantation."

"So our mysterious creature, or...whatever is said to be lurking in this cave is a spellcaster of some sort?" Malthezar asks.

"I don't think anything would want to risk trapping itself inside, though..." Abel speculates, thinking about it. "Maybe someone blocked the entrance to try and keep it in? Or us out?"

"I doubt anything tough enough to take out band after band of outlaws and a lich would be left completely stumped by just a pile of rocks, much less to the point that it starved to death."

 

Your point hangs in the air a bit before Abel speaks up again.

--- Proceed with Adventure ---

 

Archaeology. Look for signs of natural wear and tear on the rocks.
A close examination of the rocks shows that this cave-in likely wasn't natural, actually. There are parts of the rocks where you can see natural erosion, even a few small cracks caused by the odd islequake or what have you. Given time such cracks could get worse over time until a relatively small amount of force caused a cave-in. But here, mostly you see the edges of these rocks having just been smashed to pieces. Someone caused this cave-in, and whoever did didn't care about finessing it. This was the work of brute force, or brute magic. You point this out to Malthezar and Abel, and ask if either of them have any input.

"I couldn't tell you who or what did this, but you're right, it doesn't look like a natural cave-in." Malthezar says.

Abel looks at it a bit more carefully, and also pulls out his wand. "Hm...I don't see any signs of tool use or something like claw marks, but I do think that there's a trace of magic left on these rocks. As such I'd say that who- or whatever did this used magic. Incantation magic most likely, though possibly Revision."

"Why, though?"

Abel shrugs. "Good question. I don't think whatever lurks here would cause their own cave to collapse, so my guess is that this is either an attempt to keep it out or to keep people like us from going in."

"Could a pile of rocks really stop something that can bring a lich to final death without leaving a trace as to it's nature and methods, though?" Malthezar, very reasonably, asks. Both Abel and yourself quickly agree that, no, it very likely wouldn't stop it. There's a bit of silence in the air as the three of you consider that point before Abel speaks up again.

--- Proceed with Adventure ---

 

And communal failure text:
No one can say for sure whether this was a natural occurrence or not, and Abel seems unwilling to try and open up this entrance without knowing whether it was just a natural cave-in or someone's deliberate work. It's a shame, especially after walking all the way here, but you can't honestly say you don't care for the risk of getting caught in another potential cave-in or the trap of some manner of creature or...what have you. Places with reputations like this one tend to deserve those reputations more often than not...

--- Stop Adventure ---

Haven't given up on this one yet, just got stuck on it for a bit and than I got sidetracked. Again, really. Still, I've got a new idea, maybe it'll work this time.

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So did you write them under some soprt of understanding that they would be accepted, or did you just write them in hope that Black Chicken Studios would like them and accept them?

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The latter. As far as I know the only confirmation anyone gets as to whether something got accepted is seeing it ingame.

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So remember when I said I hadn't give up on History and Diplomacy yet? I haven't, but it's going the way of Y2. Have something else entirely instead. Dying Wish, stage 0/stage 1:

Spoiler

Stage 0:
You're walking through Mineta, not paying any attention to the usual bustle of activity that is Mineta's busy streets, when all of a sudden someone runs into you from behind and knocks you over. You're able to catch yourself, thankfully, but less thankfully your knapsack (and everything in it...) goes flying and crash-lands a bit further down the road. Instinctively you look out for any street urchins or other ne'er-do-wells who'd use this opportunity to plunder what they can, but it seems like there's no one in position to take advantage. And the other people walking along the street just don't seem to care - they all just cast a single glance over at either you or your mess of things and walk off, uninterested.

"O-oh sorry, sorry, but I-I gotta-gotta go!" a high-pitched shriek of a voice call out from on top of you, and a second later you see a child haphazardly run off towards your stuff. Yeah, no, you're not getting robbed here today, no sir. You quickly shift yourself into a position to start sprinting, prepare, and take off ready to tackle whoever if she(?) thinks of taking your-

"'Ey, Margrate, what do you think y'er doing!?"

The odd sight before you puts an sudden end to your sprint. A small group of Ometti worm out from behind a line of passing humans and enter the scene. Most respectively keep their distance from your belongings that are still scattered about, except for one that you assume is a child, who starts to pick it all up. One of the adults takes notice and follows the child, though. Meanwhile the one who knocked you over runs into the approaching band of adults, like she's running away from something. You ignore them and quickly walk over to the child who's picking up your stuff, seeing as how you're rather more interested in getting that back right now than anything else. By the time you get close the child's picked everything up and stuffed it back in your knapsack as best he could, and he actually runs over to you. Holding out your knapsack he says, with a big, goofy grin, "Here you go, miss."

You take your knapsack and mouth a silent thanks as you look through it. Call it paranoia, but you've learned to always double-check your belongings after something happens to them in Mineta's streets. "Sorry for the trouble, student," the adult Ometti says as she puts a hand on the kid's shoulder. "I'm afraid this one hasn't yet learned how to differentiate humans and Ometti. Or respect for other people's property."

"No problem, but..." you say as you look over at the one who knocked you over before. She's franticly moving about like she's hysterical, although there's no obvious reason as to her distress. Pointing in her direction your ask, "What's her deal?"

"Possession," the adult Ometti answers. And yes, that does cause you to raise an eyebrow. "We're just on our way to the Temple of Octavius to ask for help, but amid all these humans I'm afraid she must have gotten separated. And speaking for myself, I've got my hands full with this little guy," she says while ruffling the kid's hair. Based on his proud, almost pompous grin you figure he must have mistaken her words for some manner of compliment. Truth be told? You feel no need to correct or educate him.

Looking back at Margrate it seems like her fellow Ometti have her under control...if you're willing to call a mob of people practically dogpiling a hysteric madwoman "having her under control", at any rate. They seem like they could use some help, and you're not a student at the Academagia to add to the background decor, but possession...eh, sounds dangerous. Even so, just casting a quick Glamour on her to soothe her nerves couldn't harm you...right?

-Glamour Margrate into a less hysteric state.
--Yeah, this looks like it's getting out of hand. Not that the guards see fit to help, of course. Or anyone else who's just walking past and moving on without a word said. Fine. You'll do what no one else here is willing to do. Drawing your wand you slash out a quick Glamour and throw it at Margrate. For an instant your feel your wand hand freeze over, like you just touched a block of the coldest ice ever seen on Choris, but as soon as you feel the cold burn your skin as painfully as any open flame could it all just goes away. Hopefully that was just you getting complacent with your spellcasting, but...probably not. As for Margrate she responds to the Glamour as you intended, and soon her fellow Ometti don't have to cosplay as rope and chains to keep the poor woman restrained. With a heartfelt word of thanks they start walking off, and a second later the adult Ometti next to you does the same. Or at least, she tries to. It takes a few attempts because the kid keeps gushing over your spellcasting and your wand. It'd be flattering if the child was more aware of a concept called "personal space", but at least he means well.

Once the group has disappeared into the crowd you take a look at your wand hand. Nothing appears to be wrong with it. Stroking it with a finger your skin feels fine. No unusual colors, either. Testing the same spell again it seems to go off perfectly fine. Seems like nothing is wrong, but you resolve to keep a close eye on things for at least the rest of the day anyway.

-Wish the Ometti the best of luck, but otherwise stay out of this.
--On the other hand it could do great harm, and without at least a better idea of what's going on here you're not feeling confident. Yeah, better not.

You wish the group good luck and continue on your way.

Stage 1:
Okay, let's go down the list of chores again. Admiratio supply run? Check. Confirmed the special delivery schedules at the docks? Check. Letter delivered to Professor Massioti's visiting friend? Check, although if you never hear the word "Rimbal" again it'll still be too soon. Good drinks at the place he was staying at, though. Speaking of which, written directions to the inn in question and a copy of their menu? Check and-yep, there it is, check. You keep thinking you're missing something because of that little incident with you getting run over and your knapsack going flying earlier, but no matter how often you look everything is still there. Not that that's a bad thing of course, but...paranoia. It happens when you live in such a packed city for too long. So...anything else? No, you're pretty sure that was that. So, time to head back to the Academagia. That shouldn't take long.

It doesn't, and having finished your chores for today it's time to spend the next few hours relaxing. And you would, but strange things just keep happening and it's distracting you from what you're trying to do. Everywhere you look you see the same shape(s?) drawn into the walls, the grounds outside and even the clouds up above. Your hand feels like it's giving off an unnatural coldness, and from time to time you hear the sound of a horse neighing behind you, even though there's obviously no horse shadowing you through the various hallways. Above all else, you're feeling an odd pull. Like something is trying to draw you towards something, but you don't know what.

Given that this is the Academagia you wouldn't entirely rule out being followed by an invisible horse, or someone cursing your hand or your vision. But all of it happening at once means that something is just plain amiss, and you've got a good guess as to what. Question is, what are you going to do about it?

-Art. Draw the shape you keep seeing.
--As you take out your drawing tools you take a closer look around you, and carefully examine every surface on which you can see the shape. A cold chill rises from your spine when you realize that, yes, you really can see it everywhere - walls, furniture, clouds...scary. At least that gives you the option of what surface to use for your drawing. And honestly that's a fair question. Looking at the clouds above your trained eye can see that this shape you're seeing isn't a flat painting, it's more akin to a scale model of something. There has to be a way to paint that effectively, though...

You eventually decide to head to one of the Academagia's theatres, and approach this problem as you would a stage prop. Trying to create the illusion of depth on a flat surface is the exact problem you're facing, and stage props are exactly what you should be looking at for a solution. Within minutes you're commandeered one of the empty rooms in the theatre, and are working on your stage prop. You can see the shape you want projected onto the prop whenever you look at it from a distance, it's just a matter of making it real. It's weird, definitely not what you usually do, but you manage. A bit of trail and error, a fair bit of paint and a healthy investment of time later and you can look at your prop from a distance, seeing exactly what is in front of you. So this is what you keep seeing, a ruined building housing a surprising number of flowers. The question now is, what is it? Rather, where is it? To you it just looks like an old ruin in a grassy field, hardly a unique backdrop. The multitude of flowers present are probably a hint, but a hint of what? As you continue to contemplate this mystery the neigh of the phantom horse gives you a good idea - ask Beatrix von Wetgen if she recognizes it.

...How did you get that idea from the sound of a phant-no, never mind. Don't look a gifted phantom horse in his invisible mouth, just go with it.

Great, and now you hate yourself just a little bit more.

In any case, when you show Beatrix the prop, she looks it over with recognition. "That's the Unmarked Temple, right? I can't say I've been there recently, but it looks good to me."

"Do you know anything about that place? Like, directions?"

Beatrix shakes her head. "I don't really know anything about it, but I can write you directions to it if you want...although why do you need directions to a place you've already been?"

You make up a lame excuse that Beatrix doesn't care to question and thank her for the directions. Next stop: The Unmarked Temple.

--You try to draw the shape, but it seems like every surface you look at has the shape be just slightly different than the last, and ultimate you end up with a number of sketches that are similar, but not similar enough to clearly be the same thing. You see the same thing, but...maybe you weren't paying attention to the finer details? Or maybe you approached this entirely the wrong way. In any case, after hours of futile effort you have to admit that it just isn't working. At least you learned that asking a librarian if she could please silence the phantom horse that keeps neighing from behind the library's reception desk isn't an intelligent decision.

You probably could have figured that out on your own, truth be told, but, eh, something something practical experience, right?

-Pure Luck. Ask a professor for advice.
--What you need here is some powerful Negation magic, so this seems like something you should bring to Professor Briardi. You get up, reluctantly, and head off towards her office. A knock on her door gets you a familiar-sounding response to come in, so naturally you're a little bit surprised when instead of Professor Briardi you see Legate Orsi sitting behind her desk. With a grin the Legate invites you to take a seat and says, "Come in, come in, no need to be shy." With a shrug you walk in and take a seat, and ask the Legate where Professor Briardi is. "Looking for me, I'd wager. I'm supposed to be meeting with a group of bored housewives who are here to file their monthly complaint about the students' lack of discipline. Needless to say that I'd rather not sit through hearing it. Polisena caught me the last three times, but this time I've decided to hide where I'm sure she'd never think to look - her own office. Rather brilliant plan, don't you think?"

"Clever and not a little bit ballsy, I'll admit. Anyway, could you help me? Ever since an Ometti who claimed to be suffering from possession ran into me earlier today I've been seeing and hearing odd things, even feeling like something is trying to pull me towards somewhere. I'd very much like for that to end."

The Legate actually puts the papers he was reading (or pretending to read) aside. "Again? You're actually not the first one who's encountered something very similar like this recently. These things do happen, but a second case in so short a time...tell me, would you be up to quietly investigating this for me a bit further?" You can't help but nod. Not just because you're curious, but because doing a favor for the Legate is always a good idea. "Good. Now, about that odd pull you mentioned, if memory serves me the first case felt like he was being pulled to the Unmarked Temple - it's a location out in Elumia Proper, though I don't know more about it than that. So go to it, explore it, see everything there is to see, and come back if and when you find something worth reporting. Though you'll probably have to inform Polisena, because by the time you've gone to the Unmarked Temple and back she'll definitely be back in her office and I'll hopefully have found a more...available hiding place. Is that clear?"

You nod again.

"Excellent, just give me a minute and I'll have some directions to the Unmarked Temple for you."

--You briefly wonder whether you should take this straight to a professor or to the infirmary, but you decide that this is something you should bring to a professor. Specifically, Professor Briardi. She seems like she could probably help out in this situation. With that in mind you end up walking to her office, only to see a rather odd sight. Her office door is open, but there's a sign placed on the floor in front of it that says "being cleaned". Not something you've ever seen before, as far as you recall. You call out for anyone inside the office, but get no response. So is someone actually cleaning it or not? Although if not, who put this sign here, and why? As a prank? That's...well, you're heard of worse, but...you're heard of better pranks, also. Either way this is just confusing, and the phantom noise of a horse coming from inside the office doesn't help your already strained concentration. Forget it, you decide to head to the infirmary instead.

The nurse at the infirmary looks a bit perplexed as you describe your symptoms, and ultimately she shrugs. "I'll give you something that should at least address the phantom noises you're hearing," she says, looking at you with a shifty expression. "That said, once Professor Briardi is available I'd suggest you seek her out immediately. Whatever this is, if it isn't gone by tomorrow I'm sure that you'll need someone to Negate it."

"I don't suppose you know where the professor is right now, or what invisible janitor - or horse, even - is cleaning her office?" you ask, earning you another weird look from the nurse.

"I don't know, if she's not in her office I think she might be meeting someone? I don't know every professor's day-to-day schedule, you'll just have to find her at a later date."

You don't really feel like looking up and down the entire Academagia to find one person who, if you manage to find her within a reasonable amount of time, might or might not have the time to actually help you. If the nurse's temporary measure works you'll just postpone this until later, you've got other things to do.

Since the forum decided that being able to select different fonts - not post, mind you, just select - and colors that aren't much too light (case in point: "strong blue") is just not cool I won't bother with the usual formatting. Stuff should be clear enough from context anyway, and if not, well, not like there's a Y2 around to make the confusion relevant. Just think of it as motivation for the Team - the faster they get out Y2 and Y2 modding tools the faster they can get stuff in a format other than Pyramid of Dashes.txt :P.

Anyway, as to the adventure itself...eh...I wouldn't say it's the craziest thing I've come up with (that'd probably be A Dance in the Dark), but, eh...it's up there...you'll see.

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