And they’re exposed. That Fascination spell sounds like something out of Norse Mythology.
Please note that there was a commissioned mini-interlude posted a couple days ago, focusing on Shiori and Avalon telling Choo a story. If you haven’t read that yet, you may wish to use the previous chapter button above.
“Wow, those little guys are warming up to you pretty fast, huh?”
It was late in the evening, the same day that I’d had the little… discussion with the twins earlier. Sean and I were in one of the magic-practice rooms with its sturdy walls and cement floor, ostensibly working on one of the spells that Professor Carfried had assigned for homework.
Turning my head, I looked at the object (or rather, objects) of Sean’s attention. Jaq and Gus, my two little mice cyberforms, were perched on my arm as it was stretched out to my side. The pair were eating a couple of metal bolts that I had painted…
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Leaving aside how intelligent Choo is to grasp some of that, that’s the strangest telling of three little pigs I’ve heard.
“You think it’s going okay out there?” Shiori asked Avalon as the two of them sat by the spot that had been set aside for Choo to live in. The little Jekern (who had grown enough over the past weeks to be about the size of a small puppy) was sniffing eagerly at the bowl that Shiori was holding. The bowl was a treat that the girl had retrieved it from its spot on the beach after she and Avalon left Flick to finish talking to Sands and Scout.
“I think it’s going about as well as it can,” Avalon answered. “Now what did you say you needed me for?”
“Oh, right.” Shiori’s head bobbed. “I need you to voice the big bad wolf.”
“… you need me to what?”…
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Vim & Vigor 9
Until today, I thought that hiding a girl in my room would be exciting. In hindsight, it was just stressful. Very stressful.
Cienna had taken over my bed after eating the food that I heated up, sitting on it in a pair of track-pants. That and a t-shirt that made the outline of her chest pretty evident, for what it was. I wouldn’t say she was flat, but she wasn’t exactly stacked either.
The rest of her clothes, unmentionables and all, were in the washing machine. They needed a thorough washing just to deal with the stench of alcohol alone. Then a heavy-dry to get them back into a state that could reasonably be considered clean.
She wasn’t exactly probing every corner of my room to invade my privacy, but I wasn’t exactly expecting visitors today and didn’t clean it up too well. Not to mention she looked like she was starting to get settled in, which was a problem since I was already hoping that Dad didn’t come home early and Mom didn’t wake for the next two or so hours. I’ve caused them enough problems as it was—Mom especially, who I wanted to check up on after I thought about what I was going to say to her about everything.
I mean, I was technically attacked by members of a gang. Just not the ABB. But that’s not much better, since I went out looking for something to do. Dad would be pissed and Mom would be disappointed, both things I didn’t like dealing with or wanted them to feel.
Granted, if I hadn’t gone looking for trouble, I probably wouldn’t be in this mess… but I just wanted to do something useful with the time and power I had. That’s what a hero does, right?
I’ll have to lay low for a while until things settle down on my end. Make an effort to get home early. Spend some time with Mom and Dad. At least until Taylor finished getting a new power ready for me to test—
“So, how’d it happen?” Cienna asked out of the blue.
“Your trigger,” she clarified. “You’re a Parahuman, but if your parents don’t know then you can’t be like the chick from the family of Blasters that got busted for being a hypocrite.”
“You mean Glory Girl and New Wave? They’re not all Blasters.”
“Either way, since you must’ve gotten your powers some other way if not from them, and you don’t seem like the type who’s gotten a raw deal from your parents, that leaves something going on outside the home. And since you don’t seem like the type to get into trouble with that baby-face of yours, I’m guessing you’re bullied in school?”
I don’t give her an answer. Partly because I was sick of lying more than I had to. And the other part was because it was a reminder that the whole reason I had these powers were because Taylor was bullied instead of me.
I was just… there. Someone people didn’t talk to unless they had to. Taylor was the exception though. She was nice like that and we usually worked together in class because we at least meshed somewhat and got work done.
“I mean, I get it,” Cienna continued. “People tend to be assholes if they can get away. See it every day.”
“Some people, yeah,” I admitted, thinking of Sophia’s gang. “Never really got why they enjoyed that. There’s not much of a point in being mean most times. Much less to people who didn’t do anything to you aside from exist.”
“It’s because it makes them feel bigger than they are.” She stretched out on my bed, shifting the pillow so that it was laying beneath her. “Some people just get off on seeing others lower than them because then they feel that they’re better than someone else.”
“I don’t see what’s so fun about putting someone else down to put yourself up—it doesn’t change anything, besides making someone else miserable.”
“Misery loves company, and as long as the other person is more miserable than you… well, you get it.”
Despite the fact that she’s getting far more comfortable than she should be on my bed, and I don’t think I’ve washed the sheets for a bit now either, I tried to think of a reason under that logic for Sophia being… herself. I couldn’t really come up with anything. She was a track-star, she didn’t do drugs or get messed with by anyone affiliated with the E88 as far as I knew. Maybe she’s had issues with her parents or I was missing something?
And whatever was going on with Emma and Taylor wasn’t something I was privy to either. Only that whatever bad-blood was between them was largely instigated by the former. And the fact that she targeted Taylor even after she got hurt and the locker thing doesn’t really make me sympathetic to whatever happened to her.
“You seem like a good kid and all, so it must be hard for you to go through things like that and people just watch it happen. They’re just as bad.”
“…Some people want to, but just can’t. The ones who don’t join in or laugh, but have sit there and watch it happen. They want to do something, but they’re afraid they’d make things worse, or they’d get hurt too. So they feel really bad about it afterwards, because they know they should have done something but couldn’t. They’re victims too, in a way.”
I knew that from personal experience. When it happened, you tell yourself that there was nothing you could do to stop it. That you’d try to make it up in some other way, like I was now. Because that was all you could do. People who exploited that were the worse.
Cienna doesn’t see it that way though. “All the guilt and pity in the world doesn’t help when you’re suffering. It just makes you feel worse when the people pitying you could be doing something.”
“It’s easy to say that, but not everyone is like us. They don’t have powers, and when they do they have to keep their heads down because no one will help them if they get into trouble. If the teachers and staff did their jobs and prevented that in the first place, it wouldn’t even be a problem.”
Mister Gladly claimed he knew that some people were giving us a hard time, but if he really did then he wouldn’t have paired us with Julia and the others. He would have been the one to report those three for what they did. Yet he didn’t, so either he was lying or he let it happen.
“In a perfect world, they would,” she said. “But we don’t live in a perfect world. Just one that sucks and you try to get through day-by-day.”
“…Can we drop this now,” I asked. “That stuff isn’t something you talk to others about in the first place and I’m already tense enough.”
She yawned and shifted the pillow again so it was just under her head. “Fine. Just wake me up when my clothes are dry.”
Wait, what? “You’re sleeping here!?”
“It’s not like I can go anywhere with my clothes wet and I can’t think of anything else to talk about with you, so…night.”
I just stared at her as she turned her head and curled up in my sheets. Judging from her breathing it sounded like she was slipping into a deep sleep already, so she was probably already tired. If she stayed up and waited for me to wake up after Circus got me, like Mom did, then it made sense. Everyone’s got limits on how long they can stay awake, and between the food and shower I guess she reached hers…
Still, who sleeps in the bed of the person they were blackmailing?
I wanted her gone, but there was no point in waking her up for no reason and when I couldn’t actually force her to. I…really hoped I was making the right decision here, considering how the last day went between being nearly crushed, set on fire, and stabbed. After which I was blackmailed by a homeless girl, who I was lying about having powers to, while lying to Taylor about the latter’s existence and role in my survival…
There’s no way this is going to end well in the long-run.
Fortunately, a bink sound from my computer distracted me from that train of thought. I had a private message waiting for me now, from GstringGirl. She must’ve just noticed I was logged in again.
GstringGirl: you missed the game last night. what happened?
Right, I was going to get in a quick game with her after I got back from practicing with Telekinesis. She could only get access to her computer for a limited time, so that was probably a hassle on her end too. Better explain so she doesn’t get upset with me too—it was hard to find people on the forums who didn’t have it out for me or accuse me of baiting for attention.
XxVoid_CowboyxX: Ran into some trouble on the way back home last night. Gang dudes.
GstringGirl: Are u ok!?
XxVoid_CowboyxX: Got roughed up a bit. Woke up in alley in morning. On pain-killers but fine.
GstringGirl: it’s getting dangerous there.
XxVoid_CowboyxX: I’ll stay clear of gang territory when I can.
GstringGirl: not just gangs. new uncontrollable trigger happened last night. check uber & leet thread.
I left-clicked a link and opened it into a new tab before browsing over to that thread. Uber and Leet caused a monstrous trigger with one of their stupid pranks again. The video of them actually doing so has been taken down, but apparently Nemean and Heimal worked with the Cyborg of Brockton Bay to stop the trigger before someone could get seriously harmed.
That being said, it’s safe to say they’re getting cage’d for that one the moment they stick their heads up again. I’m actually a bit ashamed I used to like their show until that GTA episode. But things… were really getting worse, aren’t they?
The ABB and E88 were reaching a pretty bad tipping point. New Wave’s been discredited somewhat due to Glory Girl. These idiots caused someone to trigger for a stupid prank. The Undersiders got away with knocking over a bank. And then there was that thing with Circus and whoever Trainwreck was working for.
It’d be nice to be able to warn Nemean and Heimal, rather than just not saying anything and then one day reading they ended up dead in an alley somewhere. But they don’t exactly list their contact information or have a visible account. And I can’t do anything right now about the other things beyond stealing money from the Merchants to benefit Taylor, at least until she got back onto her feet and we tag-teamed the issue together.
I glanced over to the sleeping girl in my bed, now splayed out unladylike as she turned in her sleep. Her powers would be useful against bullets and anything non-organic that entered her field of influence, if I had her pegged right. We need more heroes out there, so maybe I could convince her to work with Taylor and me…
Right now, she was treating me like a kid and blackmailing me. And Taylor was probably only reluctantly letting me continue with testing her powers after what Circus did and that screw up with the Merchants. I couldn’t push things with them by trying to bring them together to form our own team.
Realistically, I’d probably be lucky just to be able to go out at night again once Mom woke up and we had a long talk about how this would make twice that I’ve been attacked, if you include the lie I told about how Taylor got injured in the first place. I didn’t want to lie to her face again, but I have to or it’ll all come crumbling down.
This sucks, I couldn’t help but think as I replied back to the private message.
XxVoid_CowboyxX: Depressing stuff with that.
GstringGirl: i know. be careful.
XxVoid_CowboyxX: I will.
GstringGirl: k. have to go now.
After that, I spent some time just trying to get a grasp on everything I’d missed online until the dryer tumbled to a stop a few hours later, and the buzzer that signaled the laundry being done rang out. Crap, I knew I forgot something!
It was loud enough that Cienna shot up in my bed, her head whipping around and eyes wide open in alarm. I held my hands up to stop her before she activated her power and tore my room apart. She exhaled when she noticed me, tension flowing out of her body as she started to lay back down while I got up and went over to the dryer.
Her clothes… well, they were cleaner than before. I guess. I didn’t really look at them as I moved them from the washer into it. She probably does need some new clothes though. I reached down to grab them—
—when Mom’s voice came through her door, soft but clearly. Crap, I woke her up too.
“Y-Yeah, Mom. It’s me!” I shouted as I grabbed the clothes and rushed over to my door, tossing them through it and onto the bed. Cienna glared at me for that, but I pointed to the window and said, “Mom’s up. You gotta go!”
Then I shut the door and rushed over to Mom’s room before she came out to check on me. It was just in time as I heard the sound of her bed’s springs creaking, meaning she was getting out of it. I knocked on the door lightly to let her know that I was outside, not wanting to step in without permission just in case she was indecent.
“Mom, can I come in?”
I stepped inside, closing the door after me, to see that Mom was sitting on the bed. She looked… tired. There were rings around her eyes that were a bit bloodshot from exhaustion, and probably crying too. “Sorry I woke you up.”
She just shook her head and stood up. Then she hugged me against her body tight as though she didn’t want to let me go, sniffling as her voice came out hoarse and soft. “I didn’t know… I didn’t know what happened to you… I thought you…you…”
“…I’m sorry.” It was all I could say to her as I tried to think of a way to get free when she started crying on my shoulder. I still hadn’t thought of everything I was going to say, and if Cienna was still there I’d feel even more guilty after seeing her like this. “I’ll get you some water, okay?”
She nodded and then sat back down on the bed.
I turned away as she started wiping away her tears. It was hard to look at her in that state, a far-cry from when she was happy that I was going out to my ‘gaming-club’ at night. All because of Circus.
Thankfully, when I got back to my room Cienna, her clothes, and her bag were all gone. The window was opened too, so I guessed she climbed back out that way. I hoped no one spotted her, but for now it was a relief that one thing hadn’t blown up in my face today after everything else. I shut the window closed and then went into the kitchen to get Mom some water like I said. Then I spent hours trying to convince her that everything would be okay and I was fine.
All while swearing in my head that if I ever crossed paths with Circus again, I was going to make her pay for everything.