Dreams… those terrible, terrible dreams once more… dreams of a world lost to darkness, of… of trees, and of seeds, and of… eggs? Wh-what…? Oh, well, that's dreams for you– Docent Volkama explained as much to you once, last semester, best not to worry about it overmuch…
It's a new semester starting, so it's little wonder your dreams plague you with worries… well, it's quite alright. It's senior year, and you've grown so much since freshman year…
Birds are singing… the [*******] is shining… your alarms buzz, bringing you to gentle waking in Dorm Boreal… you don't want to be late for Docent Zamrud's homeroom, do you? >>761209
Your alarm has already rung quite some time ago, in your private room in Dorm Docent. Your eggs are cooked, your coffee is brewed, and you've finished reading the [*******]'s newspaper. Your homeroom should be soon… you don't want to be late, do you?
Good rubbed his head as he sluggishly rolled out of bed. He didn't quite want to go to school today but he knew he had to so he sucked it up and got his things. He made his way to class with a piece of toast hanging between his teeth as a light breakfast.
Zamrud lets loose a yawn as he sits in his chair, having put away the newspaper now that he's finished the most interesting parts of this day's events. He munches down on his eggs at a relaxed but steady pace, trying to remember today's itinerary as he gets the rest of his coffee put into his furnace to take with him.
As he leaves his private room in the Docent Dorm, he has a folder full of graded tests under one arm and his furnace in the other hand as he walks through the halls in a high collar sweater and brown leather jacket with elbow patches on them, adjusting his glasses as he makes his way down the familiar path out of the dorm and too his first class on campus. He occasionally says 'Hello' and 'Good Morning' to any acquaintances he meets along the way
Billy is awake up at the dot following his everyday morning ritual of taking care of his physical and spiritual needs. Little effort and even less thought went into the practice.
Qhapaq rolls out of bed rather early as always- the enormous, fluffy griffon isn't one to idle about in bed. He'd want to get up early enough to do some kind of workout- whether it's just stretches and a bit of jogging, or something more intensive- before starting to head for class. He's dressed about as casually as he can be.
On his way to Zamrud's class, he'd poke his head into the Aquatic Studies classroom.
Grutar happily hums an incoherent tune as he mops up which looks to be a sickly slick pile of goop that was likely someone's previous meal, sporting his good ol' janitorial jumpsuit and a memento mining helmet from his old days as a miner.
As the students make their way from Dorm Boreal in the north, and Dorm Docent in the center of the campus, each of you heads for classroom C-108, your assigned homeroom for this [******] semester. You pass through gardens and groves, under arches and over bridges, as you cross the campus. The gentle [******] light rises over the eastern horizon, warming your bones as you shiver off the [******] chill.
When you reach your homeroom, you find the janitor, Grutar, polishing it up and getting all the chalk lined up on the blackboard just as Docent Zamrud likes it.>>761216
Your classroom has fifteen students total… you're looking for Good Intentions, Billy, Qhapaq, Lost Hope, Deadweight, [*****], [*****]…
Funny… there's a long list of [*******]…
>roll for ???, DC 8
Billy is patient as he focuses and tries to tune in on the classroom. Treating this as every other day of being alive.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Zamrud enters the classroom promptly, minutes before the bells ring and signify the start of class. He looks to Grutar polishing the blackboard and nods in gratitude. "It looks spotless, Grutar, thank you. I'm certain you must be busy, I don't know how you find the extra time to even see that the chalkboards are as black as if they were bought new."
He looks through his attendance list in his dossier, looking over names to call once people finish filing into his classroom…
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Good just munched away as he looked around quietly.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
"Don't you worry Mister Zam, workin' is my lifeblood, did you know I have 32 jobs?! This is just my favorite one!" Grutar says as he moves over to the windowsill where he can clean off the erasers and let the chalk fly free.
"By the way, do all yous professors always have to dress like how my pappy did?" Grutar asks with blissful ignorance to style and fashion.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
You recognize a few others from last year's crop of juniors… Good Intentions, Qhapaq… but others in the classroom, you don't recognize… you blink, and yet, their look remains the same… how did you not notice it before…? They seem to you to be sketchy blurs, a graphite smear in the shape of the various races of the world… featureless, and yet going through the same motions as you… has it always been this way…? These other students, whose names escape you, go about their business, getting out notebooks, chatting amongst themselves, yet have no intelligible voices…>>761223
Whoa… your sister's on time to class, from Dorm Austral… her and that mare she's always with… strange rumors have been going around about those two…>>761224
You sense it in the wind… a pay raise is coming just around the corner! Next week for sure… you might even get health insurance one of these days too!>>761222>Mudi the Young>Brewhaha>Colonnade Reprise>Aut…umn… P…et…a…>…>…
The list of names continues… you look up, and behold five students, and ten other… blurs… graphite in color… sketches, outlines… in the shapes of students… yes, yes, they're all here… no, nothing's amiss… all looks to be correct here… perfect attendance on the first day? Yes, most excellent…>>761218
Early birds are there, studying the fish in the wall-sized aquarium made available as both entertainment and study… two other griffons are there, you notice, and one of them, the larger, seems to boast an encyclopedic knowledge of the fish within…
Your secondary alarm buzzes… oh gods, you're going to be late to Docent Zamrud's homeroom…!
>>761225>>761220>roll for ?? [1d10]
Qhapaq hums a little to himself as he's almost late for class- thankfully, he's a big guy, so he can nudge and push his way through other students- very politely, of course- to get to class!>>761225
The aquarium was nice to see, though! While not the most wise on fish, the griffon does enjoy looking at them.Roll #1 10 = 10
Good looked at the other mare accompanying his sister, trying to recall anything he could on her.
Billy goes forward to do something. He tries to go and grab Good to go and leave. Just to escape this world that doesn't make any sense, and hopefully find something that does.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
[1d10] Memory>>761227Roll #1 3 = 3
"Heh, kids these days, probably playing their comps and vidyas and getting too distracted to get good attendance!" Grutar says before one particular puff from the chalk dust sends him into a coughing fit.
"Yes, I do recall you saying that before. And I stand by my earlier response that it is unbelievable, there's simply no way you could be holding down 32 jobs simultaneously."
As he comments on his sense of fashion, Zamrud merely smiles and gives a flourish of his jacket and sweater combo. "It's comfortable and has an air of professionalism, Grutar. If you'd like, I might have a spare to offer.">>761225>>761223>>761221
As Zamrud looks over over the students in the class, seemingly matching up all the names on his list to students in their chairs (he thinks…?), and nods as he takes one of his pristine pieces of chalks and starts to write up the chemistry lesson he had planned today to continue off of yesterday's lecture.
"Good morning everyone, I hope you remembered to read about reagents last evening. It seems we are almost all in attendance…">>761226
As Qhapaq just barely manages to squeak in past the bell, Zamrud turns to look at the griffon as he enters. "And now we're in full. Cutting it awfully close AGAIN this morning, aren't we Qhapaq?"
Good feels like he recognizes that mare from somewhere, but… it's as if… before he can bridge the gap, Billy takes his shoulder, breaking his concentration… something weak, something waking, stirs within Good… trying to get back to that line of questioning… it's… it's been so long since… since you… since you saw her…
Just then, Qhapaq barges into the classroom, sending another student outside flying as he throws open the door. This blocks any attempt Billy might make to take Good out of the classroom.
Another student slides in after Qhapaq, taking his seat in the back. A kirin… he takes out a notebook as if all were normal, and yet Docent Zamrud doesn't notice him.
Docent Zamrud doesn't RECOGNIZE him*
"Ahh. Apologies, Zamrud. I want to be in good shape for the track and field, and wrestling competitios this weekend." Qhapaq remarks, bowing his head a little and slipping in to his seat next to… a person that seems to be talking, but no words are actually being uttered. He frowns a little, and tries gently prodding them. >[1d10] Poke.Roll #1 4 = 4
"Excuse me, we just need to go out!" Billy tries to slip through the side of Qhapaq and take Good with him through the door.
"LOCATION AND TIME MANAGEMENT!" Grutar replies back after finishing his coughing fit. "I rather like my speed suit, feels breezy and easy to move in!"
Good jumped and looked at Billy in surprise
"Billy what are you doing?"
He said as he looked back and tried to recall anything about this mare. Even if it made his skull ache.
[1d10] forceful memory recall attempt.Roll #1 2 = 2
Zamrud shakes his head. "I can respect that, Qhapaq, but then might I suggest you move your clock ahead a little earlier as to make time for your training without having needing to make it into the start of class by a feather." He shakes his head, "No matter, please take your seat and we can begin.">>761232
Zamrud begins to write a few chemical terms on the blackboard, including drawing up the chemical symbols and molecular charts for common reagents like ammonia or hydrochloric acid.
"Alright everyone, please open up your textbooks to Chapter 6 and we can get right into it. As I said yesterday, today we will be covering reagent compounds. Now, can anyone tell me what IS a reagent-"
He pauses as he sees the last minute entry into his class, the Kirin sitting down as though they were always supposed to be there yet is totally unrecognizable to Zamrud. "Excuse me, young man?" He says to the Kirin. "Are you a new student?"
"Hmm? Ah, sorry." Qhapaq remarks, cocking his head to the side and trying to squirm out of the way.
Naught happens… and before long, Qhapaq is back in his own seat, the last few seconds a blur… soon he remembers naught of this interaction, not the poke, not even that the nearby student was speaking, but saying nothing.>>761235>>761236>>761234>>761237>>761238
"Oh, sorry," the kirin says. "I uh… I just got lost around campus. You know. I'm a transfer student. My name's…"
He sighs with sudden exhaustion, and looks around. "My name's Herb. I'm not really from around here…"
His hoof starts to tremble. "I'm not the only one, actually, Docent. So is he," he says, and points to Qhapaq. "And so is he, and him, and even him–" he continues, pointing to each of you in turn.
An extremely cute mare trots into the classroom. "And so is she!" Herb says.
"Que paso?" La Senorita asks, blinking the most stunningly gorgeous eyelashes any stallion on the Diskos ever did see. Two nearby males practically faint upon seeing them.
"All of you are, in fact– because this isn't real!" Herb suddenly snaps.
Oh, dear… a mental breakdown on the first [*******]? Well, it's understandable, given how Agape Academy, nicknamed 'Shikaku Academy', operates.
>roll social to BELIEVE Herb – failure casts you further into doubt of his words
Grutar just idly listens in on the lessons as he begins piece by piece packing away his cleaning supplies.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
Qhapaq shakes his head a little, as everything seems to blur and shift… and he's back in his seat! He looks at the Kirin and cocks his head to the side, momentarily distracted when La Senorita steps into the classroom- hopefully she sits close to him!
"Ah, uhm… hrm. This is not real, you say?">Believe? [1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Billy scratches at his head, attempting to think about his situation. Wondering about if the faceless caricatures coincided with what the student is saying.
[1d10]>BelieveRoll #1 10 = 10
"Herb…" Zamrud says to himself, the name ringing a familiar tone for reasons beyond his comprehension. He eventually shrugs it off, "Well, welcome to the classroom, Herb. If you could take your seat, we can re-commence our lesson…"
As La Senorita passes in through the door as well, Zamrud leans against the wall and raises his brow at the gorgeous young filly to step into the classroom. "Another new transfer student, then? Well, I suppose we can have a quick introduction to the class, then we really must be moving on-"
His eyes look alarmed as Herb starts to have a breakdown in the middle of the classroom, moving from behind his desk to put an arm (gently) on Herb's withers. "Woah, hold on Herb, take deep breathes. What isn't real?"
Good blinked as he looked at Senorita and the rest as he tried to make sense of it all. Between Billy, Herb, and his own headache it all hurt.
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
Wait a moment… you were just fighting this guy… when did you end up in here? You look about, and only now do your surroundings strike you as without explanation – who are these silhouettes with the shape of human souls, and what happened to Ride's team?
Herb sweats as you all look at him. "Come on, tell me at least one of you didn't fall for it!">>761412>>761241
A breakdown on the first [*******] has to be something of a record for Shikaku Academy, but given that this Herb fellow chose to become a senior, and what seniors must endure to earn their graduation, it's not so truly out of the ordinary…
>roll knowledge, DC 5
[1d10] Rolling for Knowledge
Zamrud looks pensively at Herb, rubbing his chin as he puts a hand up to the colt's head, trying to feel for a fever.
"Is anyone familiar with where the Nurse's Office is located?" He asks the classRoll #1 10 = 10
"I do believe you, just tell us what is going on here. Why is this going on?" Billy asks out loud.
Good at this point pulls himself away by force before grunting and stumbling away only to bump into Senorita as he listened to Herb "Your words… they make some sense…" he said before looking at the mare he just bumped into.
"You seem… familiar too…"
Meant to ping you too there))
Waiting for the lecture to start, Deadweight leans back in her seat watching clips of Jackdonkey
"Something is not… hmm. No, you are right. Something here is not as it should be. What is going on?"
As Good bumped into the strangely attractive mare across from her… Lost looked upon him with a strange sense of nostalgia for someone she felt she remembered… but yet she couldn't place it.
"It's just down this nearby promenade to the north, swing a right, third door on the right," Herb answers. "Hey wait! I don't need to go there!"
>Agape Academy prides itself on being the most difficult university on the Diskos to graduate from, and employs two different advancement systems, officially known as the First and Second Enlightenment.
>At Agape Academy, the First Enlightenment operates as such: If a freshman fails even one final exam, they are expelled. If a sophomore fails either a midterm or a final exam, they are expelled. If a junior fails even one test, they are expelled. A junior who reaches the end of their year can choose to graduate as a junior, or advance to become a senior, and be subject to the Second Enlightenment.
>Historically, almost every student who makes it to junior level opts to become a senior, as those who manage to graduate as seniors find almost the entire world opened to them, regardless of their major. Any form of employment, any position in government, any institute of mundane or arcane sciences… one who manages to graduate as a senior from Agape Academy can have essentially whatever they want, thanks to this supreme prestige of graduating from this most exacting of universities.
>Those who opt to graduate as juniors, however, despite being able to claim the prestige of even making it to junior level, come to be regarded as quitters and cowards, who backed down from the ultimate challenge.
>roll further knowledge, DC 4… >>761418>>761419>>761422
"It's 'cause I failed to stop you from crossing the boundary," Herb says, his face darkening as he recalls his failure. "…It… reset… everything reset. The semester… restarted. We have to leave this classroom. Let me lead the way and I'll explain everything!">>761419>>761423>>761421
"H-hey," Herb says. "Look at me. Don't look at her. Just come with me and I can explain it. She's… whatever or whoever you think that is, it just isn't. It… it just isn't."
The silhouette begins to take on the faintest hint of hue… murky details lie just below the surface of the shade, like something underwater.
"Is it bad everything had restarted? What is so special about these semesters?" Billy followed up with more questions as he kept up behind Herb.
"Hrm… very well, then. Let us leave the classroom then, yes? It cannot be too hard, now that more of us know. Right?"
Herb catches Deadweight's attention, and curious/nosy, she follows him.
Good looked at Herb and then looked to Senorita "Are you real? Or are you like he said?" he said as he began to become rather paranoid about this all.
"HOw do we get out of here Herb?" he asked after a moment to calm himself.
Lost seeing Herb and more importantly Dead and Good make a scene similarly began to follow.
[1d10] Rolling for knowledge
Zamrud crosses his arms, looking down at Herb as he suggests, "If you're familiar with where it is, I think you should see your way there for this morning, lad. You don't seem to be feeling well.">>761424>>761426>>761425>>761427>>761428>>761429
As Herb seems set on leading everyone out of the classroom, Zamrud holds up his hands, "Woah there, hold a moment… go where, precisely? You can't just all leave class, this lecture is going to be on your mid-terms. After reagents I was going to begin covering coagulation, we can't skip this."Roll #1 10 = 10
"Out? I do wish to get to the bottom of… whatever exactly is going on here. The more I think of it, the less right this is."
"Wh-what? No way! Vestal Godspeed hasn't even been giving out candy anymore after– agh! Stop that! Snap out of it, would you!?">>761430>The Second Enlightenment consists of a semester-long game.
>Seniors are divided into two teams: Boreal and Austral, each with one hundred students. They attend their own campus separate from the campus used by freshmen, sophomores and juniors. Seniors must earn special tokens, called Stars, in order to graduate, which are given out based on performance on homework, test, and extracurriculars.
>At the end of each month, at precisely 1900 hours, the fifteen students from each team who have the last Stars are expelled. Senior year is actually only one semester, and the semester is six months long. The semester concludes with a duel between the two teams – and the ten seniors left standing at the end of the duel, regardless of which team they began on, graduate.
Your brain flexes and swells like a well-exercised muscle… now, let's explore the many minutiae and rulings about these Stars, shall we…?
>roll further knowledge, DC 3>Any attempts to believe Herb have raised to DC 8.>>761428>"Es verdad – y tu?" La Senorita says in her familiar stilted cadence. You can hear a metal twinge behind her voice, despite her flesh-and-blood form. She is real, albeit transformed.>>761425>>761427>>761426>>761428>>761429
Herb nods and turns to leave, but stops when he sees two silhouettes – Lost and Deadweight – following along. "What the… that's unusual," Herb says. "Guys, the door behind you. Just shoo them away if they follow. Don't talk to them, don't look at them. And if their words start making sense, you need to run from them.">>761429>>761427>>761430
What is this asshole talking about…? He's mentally broken, to be sure, but that's not a reason to make a scene in class, much less talk about other students like that.
Herb gawks at Zamrud. "This guy was with you earlier… you're going to have to be the ones to wake him up. This dream… it's sinking its teeth into him even deeper. I don't think there's much I can do for him."
who have the fewest stars*
"Huh? I can go wherever I want!" Deadweight says, a little offended.
Lost frowned. She was quite real and she didn't like hearing someone insult her or her marefriend Deadweight.
"I'm real you jerk."
Good blinked and poked Senorita a bit before motioning for her to follow the rest of them as he felt like she was as important as the others who believed Herb.
He then looked back to Herb "Well… I think I recognize the one mare… I think I saw her in a dream once and she seemed real there too."
The two silhouette-students who tried to follow you just spoke… but their voices are distorted and muffled, their words unintelligible.
>(Optional) roll to hear them more clearly
"Don't do it–" Herb warns. "Whatever you do, don't listen."
"Are these other students… not real? How can we wake someone else out of this?" Qhapaq asks, frowning a little. "Mental puzzles are not my strength. How did you, ah, become trapped here?">>761430
"Zamrud… does something, ah, not feel off to you?"
Billy's ears flop down against his head in an effort to follow Herb's instructions to not hear the silhouette students.
"You actually believe this guy?" Deadweight exclaims, just getting more offended.
Qhapaq glances between herb and the now… angered shade, folding his ears back. "This is very disorienting… I do not like it."
Zamrud's brain twitches as he listens to Herb speaks, a slight headache that ever so slightly feels like it's tearing his head in twain…
[1d10] Further Knowledge
[1d10] Believing Herb>>761432
Zamrud smiles as Godspeed's name is mentioned, as he always does. "I think you're a little too old for candy after a doctor's visit anyways, don't you agree?">>761432>>761430
As Herb starts to lead several of his students out the door, Zamrud grumbles and hold up his paw. "If you wish to skip class, so be it. But it is only fair to warn all of you, I will be covering items today that you may not understand just from reading the text, and I won't be covering it again up until the mid-terms. Do as you will, but you'll do it at risk to your own grade.">>761438
Zamrud turns to look at Qhapaq, "No, I'd say half of my students leaving class on a whim is very 'off'. I'm half inclined to take Herb to the nurse's office myself… purely for his own well-being, of course."Roll #1 5 = 5
/ Roll #2 6 = 6
"Well what if they are real and they actually want to help us?" Good said trying to believe in the best scenario as he couldn't help but try to discern it.
[1d10] Hear betterRoll #1 8 = 8
Lost for her part seemed genuinely hurt "Cmon man we're real… we don't wanna hurt you or anything…"
"Yeah, I'm just wonderin' what you're going on about," Deadweight says.
She is plush, soft and warm. La Senorita wiggles like an eel as you poke her. "Error. Input not recognized – please try again."
Her true form must have no protocol for being tickled.>>761442>The ownership of Stars is determined by RFID chips in the Stars and in each Student's ID card. A Star is considered owned by whoever scanned their SID over the Star last, regardless if the Star is lost, traded away, stolen or taken in a duel. It is this RFID-backed system which the faculty use when determining who to expel at the end of each month.
>Each student must possess at least one Star to not be expelled at the end of each month. Only one Star is necessary to graduate at the end of the school year.
>Stars can be used in the end-of-semester team duel to purchase various factors that affect the duel, such as weapons, environmental changes, buffs and debuffs, etc.
>Faculty are of course exempt from the Second Enlightenment system, having passed it themselves in a past year, in order to quality for a faculty position at Agape Academy.>>761436>>761438>>761442>>761439>>761444
"Meet me in DB-256," Herb says. "Oh, right – that's Dorm Boreal, Floor 2, Room 56. I'm just going to do more harm than good if I keep making a scene. I'll explain everything there. Add me on Concord too, and call me if there's an emergency."
Herb splits from the classroom at an anxious trot.
"Wait, do we have a concord device?" Billy attempts to check his person for the machine or something resembling it.
>>761443>>761444>>761445>"…we're real… hurt you or…"
>"…wonderin'… on about,"
These two students… are they threatening someone?
>DC to hear the silhouettes has dropped to 5 for Good
"Ah, hmm… a Concord?" He asks, momentarily confused. Does he even currently have one? He'll start to follow after Herb, though he gives Zamrud a concerned look. "Well, ah… come with us, yes? I do not wish to leave my closest friend."
Lost blinked and looked to Deadweight "Should we follow him?"
She looked to Good as she noticed him trying to look and she wondered why she recognized him as much as she did.
You do not have a Concord device, but you discover, in your schoolbag (next to your grimoire), a peculiar rectangle with a glass screen. When you boot it up, it displays all the functions your Magicomp had.
You get a bad feeling about this strange rectangle – somehow, you sense it draws misery and misfortune to itself, and to those who possess it.>>761449
Like Billy, your Magicomp is missing, replaced by a demonic rectangle. On the back is a sticker of a brightly-dressed diamond dog girl with eyes so large you must question the structural integrity of her skull.
You realize most things in your schoolbag have stickers of this diamond dog girl…
You all have smartphones. You feel the blue light toxicity even when the damn things are off.
, and it seems like you guys do need help," Deadweight says with a little sass.>>761450
"I wanna see what they're doing, I already know the material, and I'm bored
Billy quite perplexed decides to add Herb onto his misery brick, unsure if it would help, or even deter their goals by using this horrid device.
Zamrud grouchily crosses his arms as he sees the bulk of his classroom following Herb out of the class, then watches Herbs splits at all due haste. He turns to Qhapaq and answers, "In the interest of looking out for my students, and seeing as how I don't seem to have that many to teach in the actual CLASSROOM, I believe my duty demands I keep with you all to see that nothing comes of this. But only until we put this nonsense to rest."
He follows after Herb in particular, increasing his pace to keep up with him. "Herb! If you wish to head back to the Dormitory, fine, but at least stop by the Nurse's office first, won't you? Just to check on you.">>761449
"Closest friend?" Zamrud says with a brow raised, "You're an excellent student Qhapaq, certainly but, wouldn't that be a bit of an exaggeration?"
Good paused and looked around before hugging the larger mare. He felt bizarrely tempt to do so with how soft she was.
Having sated his needs on that he once again tried to listen to the two shades
[1d10] Listen more
He also went and added Herb on Concord as he didn't want to lost the lead on this too much.Roll #1 10 = 10
>>761451>Don't you guys have phones?
Qhapaq gives the Sticker a curious look, more interested in it than the phone for a moment. He'll try to put in Herb's information, if he can.>>761454
Qhapaq looks actually, slightly hurt by the comment. "Do you… not remember anything of our time together? Outside of this… whatever it is."
Zamrud raises his brow, "Outside of the academy…? Qhapaq, correct me if I'm mistaken but, I don't believe we met until you started classes."
La Senorita gladly returns the gesture.
Then, as you listen in… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v61paNzFcgQYour heart almost stops beating. It's… her. You've– you've seen her, just once before… it's… one of your earliest memories, so often hiding away in the back of your mind. Someone not your mother, nor your father, reclining near you, half-asleep, as you share a couch cushion. You were hungry, but you didn't stir, so as to let her continue resting…
No, a sudden calm quickly returns. Right, right… it's not been overlong since you've seen her at all. She moved to [********] not long ago. It's only been a few [*******] since you've seen her. Funny, she didn't mention she got accepted to the Academy.
>(Optional) roll DC 6 to remain cognizant that something is amiss.>>761452>>761453>>761454>>761455>>761456
Herb continues trotting to Dorm Boreal, following the stone path. Other silhouette students make way as you follow him. He takes a right, and as he crosses past the third door – it flies open!
>roll DC 8 Dodge!
"Ah!" Qhapaq says, flapping his wings and jumping aside to try and avoid the door!Roll #1 7 = 7
Good felt his head feel so fuzzy as he tried his best to remember things, and then to dodge
[1d10] DodgeRoll #1 7 = 7
/ Roll #2 6 = 6
Zamrud looks at Herb from behind as he follows behind the confused young colt, keeping his keen eyes on the rest of his classroom as he makes sure to maintain order on this impromptu field trip of theirs.
As they make it to the next hallway, Zamrud's eyes open wide as he sees the door opening up right before them, quickly side-stepping out of the way smoothly to move out of the way (or at least tries to)
[1d10] DODGE!Roll #1 5 = 5
Billy following along the flow around takes a jump back away in attempt to avoid the oncoming attack.
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
Like laying horizontally in water, one half above the surface, and another below, does your mind feel caught between two dreams. You cling to the surface, to the air, to the vague recollection that what's below can't be real… and yet…>>761703>>761702>>761701>>761700
You try to screech to a halt, but it becomes a six body pileup as you and La Senorita crash into the open door. Yet no matter how many bodies slam into it – even Qhapaq's – the open door does not fall back on the one on the other side, who opened it. After a moment, a face peers around it. You see a zebra mare, her mane – normally kept in a bun – worn down in an elaborate pair of braids that reach her biceps. She is clothed in a similarly elaborate nurse's gown.
Vestal Godspeed shuts the door and proceeds to help each of you up, with a grip so strong she risks flinging you into the air if she wasn't more careful. However, she says not a word, and seems not to look at any of you directly.
"This… none of this seems right…" he groaned as he wanted to make these feelings stop and fix it all. To see which half of his brain is correct and vindicate it.
"Well, hello there." Billy stands up straight while cradling his dizzy head. Soon able to focus on zebra. "Thank you?" Billy says to Godspeed unsure of what happened.
Zamrud grunts as he and the others all slam face first into the door, falling over as he grunts and holds his head in his paw, rubbing off the ache. As Nurse Godspeed pulls him up with effortless strength, Zamrud's attention is turned instead to the attentive zebra assisting them.
"Oh, Nurse Godspeed! Terribly sorry, I didn't see the door open…" he says, quickly checking his sweater and smoothing out any wrinkles as he fixes his appearance, not wanting to seem unsightly in front of her. He clears his throat, "Ah, this is actually good timing though. We have a student who appears to be in need of a check-up, he's…"
He pauses, looking around the door to make sure he still has Herb in sight
[1d10+1] PerceptionRoll #1 3 + 1 = 4
"Hm! What a bizarre door. I wonder why it did no- oh! Godspeed?" He asks, cocking his head to the side- and helping up several members of the group. "It is good to see you again, though perhaps a better place and situation would be better.">>761707
"Ah- she is not a nurse. She was a Vestal that aided us in the Outlands, remember?"
Vestal Godspeed is close to walking away without even pausing to listen to Zamrud, when Qhapaq's words cause her to slow her pace. "Outlands…?" she repeats, then turns and examines you, as if only now recognizing your reality. "You remember…"
"How could – we forget?" La Senorita splices.
"…Prove it," Godspeed says, backing away a step, wearing a suspicious glare. "How did we meet? What did we do? What did we discuss when we parted ways?"
Good began to hit his head a bit as he looked for something, anything he could use to try and break this illusion or confirm what reality was real.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 8 = 8
Zamrud looks to Qhapaq with a confused glare. "Qhapaq, I'm tempted to suggest you could use some medicine too. Of course Godspeed has always been a nurse, least so long as I've been here." Zamrud rubs his chin. "Hmm… failing to remember which of us was here first, though."
As Godspeed seems to echo Qhapaq's sentiments, Zamrud continues to look perplexed at the situation. "Godspeed, is something wrong with you two? I don't understand, is this some sort of joke everyone is in on but myself? What should we 'remember', exactly?"
"Let me think on it a bit." Billy takes a seat in, and rest his head on top of his hand.
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
"Ah, yes- so many seem taken in by the simulation. I fear his mind is deeper in thrall to this land than the rest of us were. He does not remember me, and does not seem to remember anything of our time together." He says, sounding a little hurt.>>761711
"We are not joking, I assure you."
You behold your "sister" again and see that, like the other students in the classroom, this is only a silhouette, a figure comprised of static, as one might see on a broken Comp. This can't be more than an illusion, a trick of this "Tree of Evil", or whatever else might be affecting this zone. Nothing… give no heed to it…
But, that memory… was that too an illusion?>>761711>>761710>>761712>>761713
"Details… I need to hear details," Godspeed insists. "Even the slightest thing. We traveled to certain places, and beheld certain people and things.
Prove to me you can remember any of it. Things I wouldn't know but could confirm…"
Good stared at lost and began to approach her, seeing if something was truly different about this figure as he did so. He held a hoof out towards her as everything else fell from focus.
Lost similarly began to reach towards Good, mirroring his motions as she wanted to try and bring some sense to her wayward brother and his strange actions.
"Do you know something Good, I am honestly not recalling anything over here? Maybe a hint would help?" Billy asks out loud.
Zamrud rubs his temples, growing aggravated with this situation. "This is ridiculous. What is it you are even talking about? Godspeed, we met here at the school a while ago, remember? And Qhapaq, you're a new student, I've never met you before this semester."
"We fought a Dreaded one together, with a balloon that we got from the strange skeleton people." He explains, before humming.
"As. As for things you could confirm, we helped rescue Ride or Die and his team from the hold of a Dreaded One that had taken control of Castle equipment in an outpost. He helped remove the possession from me not long ago."
Thinking on things, he continues with "My mask is in the possession of a Haegyl Outcast. She gave me her… stream card? You could check that out, and ask her."
"I think I remember… skeletons? Did we go to a place with those?"
"There were also mushrooms I think, big mushrooms." Billy holds out his arms wide in demonstrating the size of the fungus.
You are starting to remember something else… but the moment you turn your mind to it, each time, it slips away…>>761717>>761718>>761718>>761719>>761720>>761721
"So you are
real…" Godspeed whispers, the disbelief still quietly present. "I… was beginning to wonder if I was starting to lose myself to the Tree as well. Even if you were figments of my own mind, that you can relay your other missions and tell of the peculiarities of the Outlands beyond what I know proves it."
She stops and sighs with relief.
"So you too have been caught in the influence of the Tree of Evil," she says. "Did you hear Herb's explanation yet?"
Good for his part shook his head and tried so hard to remember it, to make his mind his own once more to the point he began to tear up a bit just wanting to know.
[1d10] If applicableRoll #1 10 = 10
"Good please, don't hurt yourself…" she whispered as she tried to meet his hoof with hers.
"I know it it must sound ridiculous, but I assure you, we speak the truth. Please, search your mind.">>761722
"Some of it- he was wanting to take us elsewhere."
"I have heard some of the explanation, but Herb certainly hasn't said everything as we have rushed through to here. Everything else is looking weird and wrong." Billy speaks up.
Zamrud shakes his head, "Hardly, poor colt was barely making any sense at all last I saw him. I suggested sending him over to your office so he could lay down, Godspeed."
As everyone seems so sure if this other life lived, Zamrud groans, moving over to lean against the wall. "Dreaded Ones, Outlands, Ouctasts… I don't understand where you're all getting this from. I'm a professor, she's a nurse, you're all students, that's what I know."
As Qhapaq asks him to try and search his memory, Zamrud groans and furrows his head deep in thought. "Alright, I'll indulge you. Let's see… yesterday, I was…"
[1d10] RememberingRoll #1 3 = 3
This cannot be the one from your memory. Somehow, you are certain of it. From the corner of your eye, when you looked over to see them sleeping. Some things you cannot forget, no matter how many years pass… The color of their coat was… different. So too, the shape of their ears, the subtle turn of their snout… and, another thing…It was a colt.>>761727
Having a sandwich at the cornerstore deli with Vice-Principal Western Peak, of course. Tuna on rye, peppers and onions, pickles and mustard – the usual.>>761725>>761726>>761723>>761727
"You're the one who needs an examination, Zamrud," the "Vestal" Godspeed says with a sigh. "Maybe sitting down with others from our own reality will aid in jogging your memory. As for myself, I've heard their explanation before, and I don't care to watch reruns. If they all can agree on a plan of action, and stick to it, for once, come and find me again, and I will offer my aid. I don't have much else of a choice, anyway…"
Goods mind shuddered and he backed away from Lost, his mind reeling as he began to hold it tighter. He was lost now as he felt like now his mind was betraying him too. He shuddered and let out a cry of anguish as it all felt so wrong.
"Make it stop!"
"Can't we exchange numbers here for contact, or at least have some other method for maintaining communication better?" Billy brings out his device.
Zamrud groans, "I was having lunch the Vice-Principal, that's it. We went to the deli we usually go to."
As Zamrud insists he needs an examination, Zamrud rubs his head in confusion. "I really don't know where you're all getting this… if you're all so insistent something is wrong, it feels as though I'm the odd one out here. Start with this 'Tree' you mentioned, you mean one of the ones outside?">>761729
As Good starts screaming in pain, Zamrud's ears prick up and he turns towards the source of the colt in anguish. "Good?! What's going on?"
"Good, my friend- please, try to remain calm! What is wrong?" Qhapaq asks, gently setting a hand on his back.>>761728
"Well, we will return soon, I hope."
Lost paused but then tried to embrace her brother trying to help him calm down.
You check your comp and confirm that Godspeed's Concord information is still there from your last meeting. She sends a test message on her own, and you see that you can receive messages from her without issue.
"Good thinking," Godspeed says. "I'll keep an eye for your message after your meeting.">>761732>>761731>>761729>>761733
Godspeed backs away, her eyes narrowed. "He's losing himself to the Tree. If the others' Hypothesis is correct, then you are seeing has come from within your mind – don't give it any credence. The silhouette that's embracing him… it's only making things worse. He will have to be the one to pull himself away from it."
"I look forward to when we all get out of here! We won't lose to some old tree!" Billy announces.
Zamrud continues to look on at Good in distress, Zamrud turns to look at Godspeed as he takes a calming breath, not letting his nerves or stress getting to him. "If you say to leave him alone, I'll take your word for it. But clearly I am in need of some explanations here. Perhaps it'll help me get anywhere close to the same page you are all on. I ask again, what is this 'Tree'?"
"It was a tree we were sent out from Ironcastle to investigate, Zamrud. It was an option we could have done before, but passed up, I believe."
Lost heard her words and, despite everything telling her she had to hug him tighter… she let him go. She couldn't bring herself to force him to stay with her.
Good stopped and looked at his… sibling? He didn't know anymore and frankly he was afraid to inquire, and yet he felt compelled to approach her further. But his body didn't move. Save his head looking to his friends as he was visibly unsure of what to do now.
As the attention turns back to Good, Godspeed and Grutar turn to a silhouette of another student that has approached. Briefly, they explain to you that they need to depart – a diamond dog student from Team Austral needs to be admitted to the nurse's office, for having eaten and subsequently vomited up the homework of a student from Team Boreal. They excuse themselves and are off, leaving you to seek out Herb.
After leaving the nurse's office, Billy checks his depressing communication block to try and contact Herb. Trying to send a message about this recent event.
Good was slow before he began to slowly make his way back to his friends, though not without a parting glance to his sibling
Herb writes back:>"Tell him not to talk to those silhouettes if they start acting like people from his past. It's not as bad to talk to them if they're just strangers, but if you start to recognize them, that's bad news. The Tree's trying to take away his power."
Billy nods to himself and announces to his group "Herb says not to talk to any of the silhouettes. If they start to start to be recognizable, it is a sign of the tree effects."
"I see. And what, per say, is so interesting about this tree? I take it's not of your ordinary variety.">>761789>>761739
Zamrud looks after Godspeed as she tends to the sickly student, watching her go with far more questions unanswered and looking for guidance, but flattens his ears and lowers his whiskers as he determines he's on his own.
He starts off by checking on one of their own first before chasing after Herb. "Good, what was that all about? Are you okay? You sounded like you were in agony."
"I… I could swear she's my sister… but my memories changed to a pony I don't know and… I had to leave her behind."
"It seems to… absorb time. We were sent to kill it before it causes further problems, but we were drawn into this place, instead. Friend, I know this all seems real, but please listen to me. I do not lie to you. You wanted to study it, but Ironcastle preferred it destroyed.">>761789
>>761793>>761794>>761795>>761796>"Bring your own snacks, by the way," Herb texts Billy. "When I told the others that you ended up in the Tree's field of influence, they decided to stop by my dorm too. They ate all my pretzels already! You know what, you owe me pretzels! Don't show up without pretzels!"
"Vending machines – are easily – time to hack in," La Senorita splices.
"Alright, you do that. Hopefully nothing like a security alarm goes off in response to touch a vending machine." Billy acknowledges Senorita.
"Sister…" Zamrud says, straining to remember. "I think I recall you had a sister. A few grades younger though, not yet attending this school or am I thinking of somepony else…?">>761796
Zamrud rubs his forehead, still quite mired in his delusions. "Were not Nurse Godspeed acting so peculiar as well, I'd still insist you should lay your head down, Qhapaq. A tree that 'absorbs time', that's scientifically preposterous. Time is an abstract concept, a tree cannot simply absorb it like sunlight.">>761797>>761798
Zamrud takes notice of Herb sending his text to Billy, rubbing his chin. "Already back at the Boreal dorm, then? In which case, let's move."
He turns to Senorita. "Leave the snacks. I'm certain he'll have plenty of opportunities to munch on something later once we've figured this out."
Good grunted and looked to Senorita "I was almost hoping that you cold talk normally here." He said with a soft laugh trying to forget his trauma.
"Well, many things in the Outlands are anomalous- Dreaded Ones, for instance. Perhaps the idea being so outlandish is why you wanted to investigate it."
La Senorita looks hurt.>>761798>>761799>>761800>>761801
La Senorita, perhaps feeling a bit moody, defies Docent Zamrud's instructions and heads to a vending machine, but instead of pretzels, hacks herself some chocolate candies.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhS681ljKxk
When you reach DB-256, you find that it's almost nothing short of a house party. Lone Star, Origami, Locomotive and Herb are there, clothed in the green garb of Team Boreal. Kirk is the only one missing from their team.
Ride or Die, Assembly, Bet, Gimmel and Dorya are there as well, clothed in the orange garb of Team Austral. Now that you've all shown up, the dorm is pretty much standing room only.
Herb glares at you with disappointment over the visible lack of pretzels.
Qhapaq frowns a little, before softly stroking the top of La Senorita's mane and offering a smile.
When they reach DB-256 and look about the room, Qhapaq spots multiple familiar faces… but, they're not really those people, are they?
Billy decides to quickly get comfy in the crowded dorm, taking a seat on the ground. "So besides pretzels, are we missing anything?"
"Hmm… I'll admit, if such a tree DID exist, I'd be the first to want to study it. It's so outlandish, as you put it, who wouldn't?"
Zamrud seems perplexed by 'Dreaded Ones', but holds up his paw. "Let's focus on one thing at a time. The tree… do we know where it is? There are a lot of trees on campus.">>761802
As Senorita hacks the vending machine, Zamrud raises his brow as he looks at her. "Tampering with campus equipment is prohibited, young filly, but I'll let this slide once. Just don't eat too many, they'll rot your teeth."
Zamrud escorts everyone to the Boreal dorm, looking around perplexed as he crosses his arms. "This is quite a party for school hours… is everyone here under the same impression that I'm tragically failing to grasp?"
They look real enough, but it remains to be seen whether these too are silhouettes, like those which haunted Good until now…>>761803>>761804>>761805
"I see you found the place easily enough," Herb says.
"Despite your directions," Assembly interjects.
"We've been here awhile," Herb retorts. "Like I said, I assumed you knew the campus as much as we did. Anyway… I suppose you're wondering why we're here."
"It's one of life's–" Locomotive begins, but Herb shoots Locomotive a glare so sharp it nearly cuts his hair, and he hits the brakes on the joke.
"If nobody else told you this," Herb says, resuming his introduction. "Welcome to Agape Academy, the most cutthroat university on the Diskos. It's a closed campus, so don't bother trying to leave for lunch… in other words, if you try to cross the boundary of the school grounds, you end up back here, Cycle One, start of the semester all over again. Do NOT leave school grounds, for the love of the gods."
"It's happened to us a couple times," Lone Star adds bitterly. "It's why we started having guard duty after our classes. It doesn't help our grades any, but we're trapped here with the Tree of Evil until we either complete the semester, or find some other way of escaping its influence."
She was older than me though… and I had a dream recently where I met her before this… and it happened before we even got close to the tree.>>761802
"I didn't mean offense Senorita. I was just… well it's a dream is all." he said feeling bad himself now.>>761806
"Perhaps destroying the school?"
"Why would completing a semester change anything? Wouldn't it be something like an entire school year, or even until a graduation?" Billy puts out his concern, avoiding the idea of being there forever.
Zamrud looks before all the students gathered here, crossing his arms as he raises his brow. "I'm well aware of what Agape Academy is, young colt. I happen to be a professor here, you know."
He exhales. "Or so I thought, up until everyone except me seemed to up and lose their minds this morning. I know most of you from my classes, but you all seem to know me from something else I can't place. Can anyone illuminate the situation for me?">>761807
"Older…?" Zamrud asks, scratching his head. "Hm. I'm not sure how much I can trust my memory right now but I would have sworn the one I was thinking of was younger."
"I do have a younger sister but… I think I had… or have? An older one?" he sounded unsure himself.
"So. We have to finish a… 'semester', whatever that means, or find another way to break its influence over us. Has there been any progress on a method of accomplishing such a feat?"
Herb blinks at your responses.
"Docent – remains – unconvinced," La Senorita splices. "Good kid – disturbing scenes – viewer discretion is advised."
"I… see," Herb says. "Look, I warned you back in the classroom. I was pissed, so I didn't bother with the full explanation, but that's what this meeting's for.">>761808>>761809>>761807>>761811
"Well, we aren't entirely sure," Herb continues, in response to Billy's question. "But, the reason we suspect we only have to complete a semester is because of how this university functioned, back when it was up and running in the Time Long Forgotten. This campus only had housed one grade – seniors – and their entire time here only comprised one semester, six months in length. I believe the Docent here can give you the run-down on the details of just how school life went down here, but let's save that for later.
"The point is, we're trapped here because of the power of the Tree of Evil. Let's go over how that seems to be playing out based on our observations.
"Whenever a living soul crosses the boundary of the campus from the Outlands, time inside this zone resets to the beginning of this semester. It's always the same semester, it seems. We've started to recognize the idiosyncrasies of the different silhouette students around campus. It seems like time is 'looping' or 'rewinding' back to this particular point whenever someone enters the campus. In other words, when a 'new student' or 'new faculty member' joins, the semester restarts to accommodate them."
Qhapaq's question inspires another from Bet. "Yeah, what Qhapaq said. We got a stronger payload of poison from Ironcastle when they deployed us. Can't we just go to the tree and destroy it?"
"Well…" Herb says, unsure of how to respond.
"Kirk tried that last time," Origami says. "And now he's dead."
"Origami… we agreed we'd save that for later," Herb says.
"We didn't agree to shit, dude!" Origami snaps. "You're so convinced your theory is the right one that you let him just run off solo, and now he's fucking dead!"
"Origami, calm down," Lone Star interjects. "Kirk panicked and went against orders, just like you are now."
Origami is about to pop off again, you can feel it in the air, ready to ignite with stress. This isn't going to go anywhere productive, not like this…
"I have an idea. We need to complete a semester yes? Well this place much have a place where they keep our grades. Why not simply change all our grades to passing ones and cut out the middle pony?"
"He is dead? I don't mean to offend, but how did he die, it doesn't seem like there is anything here besides the evil tree." Billy gestures around.
"So, threatening the tree outright is out of the question. I apologize for the loss of your companion, but we do gain something of value, at least. Please, try to stay calm- if we fall apart in bickering, his loss is in vain, is it not?"
"Interesting…" Zamrud says, "What triggered your earlier response in the hallway, what suddenly brought this older sister to mind?">>761812
Zamrud looks at Senorita concerning. "Are you alright, Senorita? You're speaking rather peculiarly.">>761812
Zamrud is still trying to process all the information being passed around here, feeling as though he's entered the realm of science fiction as he's torn between humoring everyone here a little longer, or leaving to let them all have their collective delusion.
However, as Origami starts to break down, Zamrud feels at his core something more base than anything, and that is the need as a teacher to provide support for others. He leans over, putting a paw on Origami's shoulders in an attempt to calm him down. "Whatever happened to Kirk, losing your composure won't do anything to help him or others."
He looks to Herb, "Senorita's right, I'm not convinced, but I also don't imagine so many of you would act like this as part of some fantasy or elaborate prank. So allow me to ask a few things: first off, if Kirk tried to destroy the tree, then you DO know where the Tree of Evil is. Would you direct me to it?"
That Silhouette looks just like the sister I saw in my dream."
"Why must – everyone – make fun – of me?" La Senorita mopes.>>761813>>761816>>761814>>761815
"Kirk. Is. Not. Dead," Herb says, fixing Origami with a quieting look. "We haven't confirmed that yet. It's true… the psychological strain of remaining captive here seemed to have been… uniquely difficult on Kirk. Against my orders, he took the payload of toxin we were meant to use on the Tree and went off by himself to destroy it. We lost contact with him shortly afterward. We don't know what happened, but before we could investigate, you all showed up, and the time loop reset to the beginning of the semester – to this Cycle."
"You have my sincerest apologies," Ride says. "But… it sounds like you had been here awhile, for Kirk to resort to such a drastic measure. Did you not try to destroy the Tree from the first upon your arrival here?"
"In fact, we did," Herb says. "However… we ran into… I don't even know how to put it… nothing."
"Nothing?" Assembly repeats.
"The Tree is visible from miles all around," Herb continues. "We thought we'd just walk right towards it, take whatever pathways or bridges or even scale buildings if we had to. But when we approached the area where the base of the tree should have been, it was shrouded in a spatial disturbance that we could not get past. To us, it looked like a sky-high curtain of murky nothingness, positioned behind a high, circular stone wall.
"I consulted the campus map and found that stone wall. There's only one like it on campus: The one surrounding the Bodhi Garden. That Garden is where the Tree of Evil took root."
"Ah, yes," Ride says, and turns to you all. "I saw a little of that in my handbook. To make a long story short, only ten students ever graduate Agape Academy each year – those ten who are left standing after a no-holds-barred duel at the end of the semester. The Bodhi Garden is where that duel takes place. Despite its name, the Bodhi Garden is redesigned every year, its layout and stage hazards kept a tight secret, so that no student can have an unfair advantage when entering the duel. The wall is meant to keep out spying eyes. There are other defensive mechanisms to keep winged students and flying drone cameras away too. But wait… that still doesn't explain the shroud."
"Actually, it does," Herb says. "If we go by the PCH."
"Oh, gawd," Origami sighs. "You people better be taking notes, because you're about to get a fucking lecture."
"PCH… why does that sound familiar?" Assembly asks, doing just that – taking notes.
"I'll gladly explain," Herb says, not-so-subtly amused by Origami's annoyance. "But first, a question:
"Ten minutes before the end of your shift at work; ten minutes on a date with someone you fancy; ten minutes with your hoof on a hot stove. Which of these is the longest period of time, which of these is the shortest period of time, and which of these is somewhere in the middle?"
"It's a trick question. They're all ten minutes."
Billy scratches at his chin. "This sounds awfully like a trick question. I am not quite understanding what is going on here."
"They are… the same time."
Zamrud holds up his paws in defense, "Oh! No, no Senorita I did not mean to imply that. I apologize, it's just… unique to me.">>761817
"Hmm… could she be here then? Someone else along with Herb, Ride, and the others who came to this school from… wherever it is we all came from?">>761818
Zamrud listens carefully as the others explain where the Tree of Evil is, as well as how to get into it. "Ah, the Bodhi Garden. That would seem to make logical sense, if this 'school' you seem convinced is a simulation intends to keep you here for a whole semester. It is, for lack of a better term, the final level for those who make it to graduation."
As Herb starts to explain the PCH, Zamrud raises his ears as he thinks about the question for a bit.
"…The shortest is definitely ten minutes with someone you fancy. Time flies by when you're enjoying someone's company. The longest must be keeping your hoof on a hot stove: the end of work can be excruciating but nothing so intense as burning yourself willingly for that long. Which leaves the shift as the middle."
"I can't rightly say.">>761818
Good gave Senorita a reassuring hug as an apology for his earlier remark.
"Ah- do not let them get you down, La Senorita. It is okay." he says, patting her back a little.
La Senorita squees and honks as she gets all the attention. https://youtu.be/BX-yKlq2Sxo?t=16>>761819>>761820>>761821>>761822https://youtu.be/6CswpY8HCeU
"Correct," Herb says. "Measured objectively, they are all ten minutes, but as the Docent said, they don't feel the same length. The theory of relativity is the typical explanation for why this is. However, there is a competing explanation: The Psy-Chrono Hypothesis."
"Ah," Assembly says. "That's what it was – that old debunked idea."
Herb rolls his eyes. "Yes, it tends not to find much of an audience anymore… In a nutshell, the Psy-Chrono Hypothesis posits the existence of a subtle 'time-energy,' released by change. This time-energy is called 'Chronos,' after the philosopher credited with devising our current system of measuring time in seconds, minutes, hours, et cetera. Like other ideas of subtle universal energies, it tends to get laughed out of academic circles… but this Tree, and in particular that shroud, could very well give it the credence it deserves."
"So the time part gives it the name Chrono, but where's Psy from?" Gimmel asks.
"Per the PCH, the mind plays a role in the release and perception of Chronos," Herb continues. "Basically, if someone is mentally resistant to change, the release of Chronos is slowed. If they accept the change, the release of Chronos can flow normally. This is why unpleasant things like boring jobs or having your hoof on a hot stove feel like they take forever, and pleasant things like nice dates seem to go by in a moment."
"Not that you'd know," Lone Star says.
"You neither," Herb retorts. "But to bring it all together, I believe the Tree of Evil feeds on this Chronos the way normal trees in Ironcastle feed on water and light. That's why it started growing here at Agape Academy – a grueling university run like a giant game, where graduation means the whole world's your oyster… it's bound to be a huge source of Chronos."
The others stop to think.
"Hmm… then, these silhouettes…?" Ride asks.
"Ghosts revived by the Tree's hunger for Chronos," Herb says. "It's also why Zamrud seems to think he's a professor here, and why Good keeps seeing his family… when we say that the Tree of Evil 'feeds on time,' we really mean it's feeding on Chronos, which has traces of psychic energy – memories, in other words. These guys have been infected by memories not their own."
"Oh!" Assembly says. "Then, the fact that you couldn't get into the Bodhi Garden… it's because none of the students knew what it would look like!"
"That seems to be the case," Herb says. "I do have a theory about that… but think about it, we're on the verge of completely upending the theory of relativity and pioneering a whole new age of energetic research!"
Origami is twitching like he wants to fold Herb like laundry right here, right now.
"I feel like getting out of here is more important than studying it. We already have an objective to take the fruit to be studied if possible but the most important thing is destroying the tree my dear distracted sage." He said dismissing him a bit to keep things moving
"Hence We must simply change our grades to be passing ones so we can finish the semester and 'Graduate'.
"Before completing your goals of upending relativity. We should get back on track of destroying or leaving the tree." Billy speaks up. "Not like ideas can spread to outside from here."
Grutar knocks hard enough that the first knock swings the door open. "Skunk Check!" Grutar says as he starts sniffing around the doorway of the room. He's wearing what looks like an old fashioned police hat as well as a janitorial outfit. "What you all doin' in here, Lads? Talkin' about girls, playin' some vidya games? Are ya winnin'?"
"Hmm. Why does it not affect all of us? Are some more susceptible to such things as others are? I do not believe I have seen as much as the others. This… PCH does seem to make sense, at least. Boring things take longer, good things take 'less'."
Zamrud listens carefully as Herb explains the phenomena. Part of him continues to see it as simply science fiction, but the concept of how time, and its perception, could literally be affected by collective consciousness and the mind.
"A remarkable theory…" Zamrud says in agreement with Herb, the scholar in him intrigued by this possibility. "I think I understand… at Agape Academy, time can seem to go agonizingly slow and that's perceived by a multitude of students. The Tree, if it truly absorbs 'time' in the sense of a collective's perceived slowness of events - which, I'll point out, I do only find slightly more plausible than absorbing time itself - that might explain a number of bizarre phenomenon." He laughs, "Regardless of if this is all real or not, I'll have to save this for when I finally write a novel."
As they point out how the Bodhi Garden would thus be unacceptable, he nods, "Under these circumstances, yes. And I suppose the only way to actually 'see' it, is to successfully pass through the curriculum. Which is of course what I set you all about to do in the first place.">>761826
"Forgetting for the moment that what you're recommending is basically cheating, Good…" Zamrud says with a brow raised. "There's still a great deal of time left in the semester. Would you intend to change the grades then simply wait it out?"
"Maybe we change the dates on all the comps and make everyone think it's also the end?"
"Okay who's this now!?" Origami, a fellow diamond dog, snaps at Grutar.
"He's with us, he's cool," Gimmel says. He fidgets a little at the thought of being subject to a drug check, especially in these dire straits.>>761829
"I… don't really have an answer for that," Herb says. "We've been through more than our share of academia here, and every now and then it seems to affect one of us or another, almost like a seasonal cold, but we're able to shake it off after a while."
"Could be why Kirk finally snapped," Lone Star says. "He got 'infected' more than the rest of us."
"Ehhhhh," Locomotive says. "He was always a few screws short of a lightbulb. I think it was just his time to go."
"…Riiiiiiight," Herb says, sighing as he deciphers the cryptic metaphor.>>761830
"It really is," Herb agrees. "I wish it wasn't just a hypothesis, but the dismissal it's been met with has kept it from ever getting enough grant money for proper research. It doesn't help that until now, we've had to means of quantifying Chronos release rates, so we can't even theorize formulas… Currently, my fellow proponents in the Arcanum only have a hoof-ful of terminology borrowed from chronology and psychology. For example, in a hypothetical formula, the event being measured for its Chronos output is called a 'Chrono Trigger,' – like an emotional trigger, get it?">>761827>>761826>>761830>>761828>>761829
"Right, right, I heard you earlier, but the argument over Kirk's status distracted me," Herb says. "Normally, I would be opposed to academic dishonesty, but given the circumstances, it can be excused. It's going to be a little more complex than just changing our grades to remain students here, but now that we have a faculty member on our side, we'll have an easier time making it to the end of the semester. We'll go over the academy's advancement system once we all know we're on the same page."
"I haven't met Kirk," Ride says. "But I am currently of the opinion that we should continue to seek methods of bypassing this academic roleplay altogether. I am a minotaur of action, a Warrior. I've not six months to spare on studies once more, not when Ironcastle is yet in dire need of service."
Herb falls silent, Ride's words bringing him out of his academic high for a moment. "…Look, that's fair. We don't all have to approach this from the same angle, or anything. You can look into that, while we play along with the Tree. Who knows, maybe one of us will find out something the others can't."
"Perhaps that is it? We did learn amongst the Aya, but proper schooling is not something we see. I still do not know what a 'semester' is."
"I mean if we can break into the system of the academy, in theory we could simply falsify all of our records to put us in the final tier and ready to graduate and then set us all for early graduation in the next day for meritous advancement or some other poppycock." he said "It's a safer option than trying to brute force our way out of a hologram, and if it fails we have time to formulate another approach to the matter than just trying to prod at it like a Sage with too much time."
"Wait, wouldn't a member of the faculty possibly have access to that tree zone? Would anything be possible with that?" Billy tilts his head.
"Well, how would you suggest we get past it? We cannot simply leave or attack the tree- we need to bypass it another way, Ride or Die."
"You're investigatin' trees?! Well look no further than good ol' Grutar here! I'm an EXPERT on trees!" Grutar exclaims as he stops searching for anything.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 7 = 7
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 4 = 4
Zamrud rubs his chin, "Chrono Trigger… I rather like the sound of that, has a ring to it. Whatever books you might have on the subject, I think I'd be fascinated to read them.">>761832
As Ride mentions how six months is far too long to spend here, Zamrud points out. "It is possible, given the very nature of the perception altering properties of 'Chronos', if that is indeed what is at work here, that six months to us may simply be a matter of perspective. Six months to us could well be a much shorter amount of time outside of the range of the Tree's effects, if it's already slowing time by the consciousness of a thousand anxious, stressed students."
He crosses his arms, "However, Herb, you do not necessarily have a faculty member 'on your side'. I'm keeping my mind open, but you must realize helping you all to cheat in the most prestigious, difficult school of learning in the land is hardly in my interest as an educator, or your all as students. I cannot abuse my privileges as a teacher to give you all perfect grades based on a theory."
"Perhaps if I could see the Bodhi Garden, see these 'mists' for myself, I might be convinced, but otherwise I require more substantial evidence to take such drastic misconduct. Otherwise, my best recommendation is for you all to simply pass your classes the old fashioned way, and reach the Bodhi Garden on your own merits."
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 1 = 1
Herb is starting to look subtly disappointed as you contemplate methods for bypassing the semester…
"Forgive me, sir Qhapaq," Ride says. "But like you, I just got here. I know not how we can overcome this, for now. My student handbook warned me of the game-like filtering system to which students are subject. But, though we are forced into this game, we can still rig it to our own ends, as we investigate our other options."
"Look," Herb says. "Maybe this is enough theory for now. Why don't we adjourn this. You guys still need to familiarize yourselves with campus, right? Have a walk around, maybe attend class, and we can reconvene at the end of the Cycle… I still need to get some pretzels."
Murmurs from the others suggest they like the sound of that.
"And someone's going to need to help Zamrud here snap out of all this!" Ride says.
"Look, I'll talk to him," Herb says. "Let's not get too worked up here, everyone. It's only the start of the semester, after all."
"Herb this isn't a game. We need to be pragmatic and do what we must to succeed." Good said with a sigh as he rubbed his head.
"I know this campus like the back of my paw, I can escort you kids around wherever you need to go." Grutar offers.
"Do keep in contact, and most of all stay safe." Billy asks o them all. As he gets ready to take his leave.
"Hmm… familiarizing ourself with our surroundings could not hurt- I think it would be wise to do so, regardless of which path we take.">>761846
"Ah… hmm? Grutar, you as well?"
[1d10] Social perceptionRoll #1 8 = 8
Zamrud sighs and shrugs in Ride's direction. "I apologize Ride but while this is all very intriguing, and I'm willing to accept there are things going on beyond my understanding, my gut as a teacher tells me that helping you all to cheat goes against everything I stand for. I'm willing to be pragmatic if it turns out this is truly all a fabrication as you so claim but I cannot commit myself to such conduct yet."
He looks to Herb, "If you have anything that might help jog my memory Herb, I'd be willing to follow along for a while longer." He looks back, "Nurse Godspeed seemed to be aware of all this as well. Perhaps we should find her and see what her thoughts are in regards to this and what we should do."
"I am aware," Herb says, his eyes twitching. "I've only been here eight months now, and now, I am in for as many as fourteen. We've tried a bunch of approaches besides just playing along, only to get reset
when others wander in."
He's barely keeping himself in check here…
"But hey, between all of us now, we should be able to find a solution… finally," he says, with a long, long long sigh.>>761845>>761846>>761847>>761848>>761850
"Where is – registration form – the – chess club?" La Senorita asks.
"At least someone's making the most of things," Herb sighs.
Ride looks to Zamrud and Grutar. "Hmm… our first priority should be getting Zamrud and Grutar back to our own reality, and not that of the memory of the school. We'll hardly be able to fix our grades right now."
"He knew Godspeed before this?" Origami asks.
"Oh yeah~," La Senorita splices.
"Bow chicka– ow! Ow!" Origami shouts as Herb blasts his forehead with small spurts of fire.
"Meeting adjourned, everybody outta my dorm! It's time for class, anyway!" Herb orders.
"Yeah! I've been working here as long as I can remember.">>761851
"C'mon kids, I'll lead you to your classes!" Grutar says before leaving the dorm room to escort the group.
Good cast a wary glance at Herb and moved out with the others.
Zamrud turns to look Origami and Herb as they make their crack at his expense, but they might notice a certain hopeful look in his eyes as they mention something of interest.
"Well, if I knew her in this other life you all mention, all the better. For the sake of clearing all this up, I mean…" he says, quickly covering for himself as he raises up from the floor of the small dorm room. "Now then, as you pointed out, we're well past the starting hour for lessons to begin. We should get to it."
"Hmm… but how to return them to their senses?"
"Can we find our classes on these devices?" Billy pulls up his communication brick for show.
When you make it out of the room, Lone Star stops you, and examines Grutar and Zamrud.
"These two are 'sick,' in the same way that the rest of us have been," Lone Star says. "When Kirk was getting the worst of it, I started sitting in on some psych classes to find out what we can do."
"Repair – possible?" La Senorita asks.
"Don't think of it as repair," Lone Star answers. "It's just like getting sick. You pretty much just gotta let it rock. But, also like getting sick, you can dampen the symptoms. Try not to say anything that directly contradicts their experiences. That can just make it worse. You can't affirm what they're saying as unquestionable truth, either. But… having them encounter a reminder of what's really true can speed up the recovery."
"Explain… explain…!" La Senorita prompts.
"Look, whoa, I'm not a psych, alright," Lone Star says. "Not an expert, a doc, or whatever other disclaimers I gotta throw out there. You're gonna know 'em way better than I do.">>761944
"Yeah," Lone Star says. "You should find an app. Agape Academy Student Handbook. AASH for short. It'll have your classes, your schedule, the rulebook and a map."
"I don't know why, but the name Agape really bothers me. There must be something profane about it all!" Billy nonetheless makes sure that his brick has the app.
Zamrud nods in understanding at Lone Star's suggestion. "I'll see if I can sit in on a few of the psychology evaluation classes in my spare time, perhaps an understanding of it will help my own 'case', if there truly is one."
"A reminder of what is 'really' true would be something I'm very interested in seeing. Outside of our memories, is there a single piece of physical proof that could clear all of this up?"
Good debated taking a long walk around the school, finding anywhere he could to potentially help the group.
"Agape? What a bizarre name for a school of any sort. Perhaps that is some part of this place… ah. Anyways, encountering what is true can speed it up? I am not sure how much else I can make him encounter, but I shall keep my eyes peeled." He remarks, before looking for this 'app' they speak of.
"We looked that up – apparently, it's a word from the Old World," Herb says. "It's not supposed to be 'agape,' as in being open, but rather, a word that means something like 'selflessness.' We don't really get it either."
"How'd you learn that?" Assembly asks.
"History classes," Herb says.>>761947>>761948>>761949
"For Kirk, it was never just any old thing that worked," Lone Star says. "Even stuff that was indisputably from Ironcastle didn't necessarily remind him of the truth… unless he had a personal connection to it."
As you get out your misery-rectangles, you see that you all have the AASH app. Zamrud and Grutar have a special version of it for faculty. None of you are registered for any classes, except for Zamrud, who teaches chemistry at various times in Lecture Hall A, for about 20 hours per week. 10 hours are allotted for office hours, and 10 hours for other various administrative tasks.
Those of you who are "students" see a button for class registration in the sidebar.
"Now I am curious, is this a history made from the tree or a history of our world at large? Though I rather find ourselves safe through all of this." Billy taps at his chin as he speaks to himself.
Good decides to humor this and look over class options.
"Hmm. Well, unfortunate- I thought he and I were quite close friends, but I suppose that is not 'personal' enough."
With a lack of anything better to do, Qhapaq presses the class registration button.
"A personal connection…" Zamrud says, rubbing his chin. "Hmm. Perhaps something in my office or dorm. If this school were an illusion, it'd perhaps transplant memories of my former life into here as mementos, wouldn't it? Something personal to me here could be just as personal outside of this school, to this IronCastle you mentioned. It's worth a try, at least."
He takes a look at his application, checking to see when his next class to teach is scheduled (as he assumes the class he was supposed to teach first this morning is long past the point of being salvaged with this sojourn).
"Soup doesn't make a cold go away instantly," Lone Star says. "But it helps. Hey, maybe the fact that he even 'cut class' to see us could be a good sign.">>761951
"I quite agree!" Assembly gasps. "You can't just throw out a word like 'history' so nonchalantly! This place is from the Old World, the Time Long Forgotten, isn't it? What an invaluable time to learn–"
"It's not exactly the treasure trove you might have been searching for," Herb says. "How should I put it… this whole phenomenon is like a model based on a heatmap."
"More proof for your PCH?" Ride asks.
"Hey, don't jump the gun!" Herb says. "But yes – just like the layout of the school, the content of the classes isn't what you'd expect to find at a university in Ironcastle. Only that which was remembered by the final crop of students seems to have made it in. Otherwise, the textbooks, models, maps, and lecture slides are all just nonsense. Still, there's plenty of history of the Time Long Forgotten to be found here.">>761954>>761953>>761952>>761951
Classes offered include History, Chemistry, Biology, Arcana, Physical Training, and the various electives of Music, Dramaturgy, Painting, etc, etc,, which are grouped together under the catch-all of "Arts." You can register for Morning or Afternoon for each course.
Something is quite odd… the registration system displays the calendar week-by-week. However, it puts seven
Cycles in each week. Five Cycles are available every week for putting in classes, but two Cycles, one on either end of the five-Cycle block, are kept unavailable.
Weeks, as you know, consist of five Cycles in Ironcastle's reckoning. Four are kept for work, and one for rest.
"This campus sure seems to run on a set of logic of its own. Would the knowledge learned here apply outside the tree at all?" Billy felt concern over getting used to the campus.
Zamrud clears his throat, "Well, when half your class leaves abruptly, there isn't much point in sticking around either. I mostly followed because you all didn't offer much alternative. Still, for what it's worth, I am taking everything you've said seriously.">>761955
Zamrud looks to his schedule as he tries to find any Psychology classes he can squeeze time into between office hours, administration, and actually teaching class. Some more insight into how the mind works he feels might help jog his memory if the others are correct (and how to help their psychosis if they're not).
"Mm… some of these do not seem my thing, I suppose. So, we must pick five?"
"Ah, hmm. Why are there Seven cycles? Bizarre."
Good throws Physical and History in the morning and Art as a throwaway in the afternoon.
You teach three mornings out of the week, and your afternoons are booked solid. Two morning slots are open for you to learn more about Psychology, however – "Tuesday," and "Thursday."
The two T-words look back at you as if they were suddenly dropped in from a surprise linguistics quiz. Gears grind in your head. You know they should be familiar, and yet… you can't place them.>>761956
"I have little doubt it would," Assembly says. "The Time Long Forgotten is still such a mystery to us. This college could have been populated by the First Ancestors, to whom we have to credit for the construction of the Castles. This could shed so much light on what has otherwise been a near total dark age in history!">>761960>>761958>>761956>>761957
In order, the Cycles of the school Calendar are displayed:
La Senorita tilts her head with a confused frown. "Error… File corrupted?" she mutters.
And then, the seventh day of the week:
"Sun…day?" Assembly asks, wide-eyed.
"Oh gods, not this shit again!" Origami exclaims.
Herb smirks. "Yep. This campus could have even been from the mythical Kingdom of Day."
"I would assume it's just a renaming of the cycles. A translation or something."
"A kingdom of day? What would all these days represent then?" Billy asks quite curious on what Herb is going on about.
"Well, clearly there is a cycle where you Sit. And a cycle where you Fry food. I like some of these." Qhapaq remarks, smiling to himself.>Qhapaq tries out… Physical Training, something Music-Related if he can, History, and… something cooking related. History seems like it might offer some idea of what might be important here.>>761961
"I think if we are to swim against the current, we must first attempt to understand the current slightly better."
Zamrud takes note of his two remaining slots in the mornings of Thursday and Tuesday, and after he registers for those classes his head starts to throb in pain. Why such two simple words would cause him such a migraine is anyone's guess: possibly the day's odd events finally getting to him.>>761961>>761963>>761962
"Most of them refer to various deities or planets, I believe. As Sunday refers to the Sun, Monday refers to the…" Zamrud pauses, the word on the tip of his tongue but struggling to get it out. "…the Moon? Yes, that's right, isn't it?"
As Herb mentions the Kingdom of Day, Zamrud raises brow in curiosity. "Some lost civilization I take it?"
"Moon and Sun? I recall the Sun and Moon in Mendicant Rudolph's… manifesto, is the word?"
You can put those in wherever you like in your calendar, excluding on Saturday and Sunday.>>761965>>761962>>761963>>761966
The word 'day' calls to mind the alarming manifesto of Mendicant Rudolph, perhaps now still imprisoned in Lux Deorum custody… he was fixated on the legend of the Moon and Sun, the Queen of Night, and the King of Day…
And now, here you are, in what seems to be a little slice of that legendary time… could something here point to one way or another about the legend?
Herb shrugs. "We measure our months with four weeks, each with five Cycles – Myldedag, Gastdag, Bloddag, Regndag, and Fyrdag, the Cycle of rest.
"This is because the numbers four and five are sacred by Abbean reckoning. Seven may have been a significant number to the First Ancestors. LIke Zamrud said, they could easily be the names of their gods, too."
"A god named… Monday, huh…?" Gimmel asks. He shudders with unknown horror – and hatred.
"And why would they have seven Cycles per week?" Assembly asks. "Wouldn't their years differ in length from… Zamrud? Hey…"
Zamrud's right arm goes limp, and he nearly drops his comp, his eyes misting over…
>Zamrud can optionally roll, DC 8, to start to wake up.
Billy noticing the issue from Assembly speaking being cut glances around. Finding Zamrud he goes and walks over to him to shake him. "You doing okay over there?"
Good threw them the non T days so he would have plenty of time and not end up with too much free time.
Physical Training and History in the morning, Cooking and Music in the afternoons! >>761967
"Bizarre names for deities. Then again, much of our culture might be bizarre to ones outside of it. I know many Castle-Dwellers find my Aya people bizarre."
Zamrud continues thinking over the situation, the talk of the Manifesto of Rudolph, the history and legend of the Kingdom of Day, the nature of Cycles, and Zamrud has to feel the migraine from before intensifyin. His other arm goes limp and he raises the one that still works to cradle his head, trying to find somewhere to sit down in the dorm room.
"Ugh… just… a moment, Assembly, I feel I must be…"
[1d10] Rolling to begin to wake upRoll #1 7 = 7
Zamrud manages to pass off his near-fall as a somewhat dramatic collapse into a nearby chair in the dorm commons. After around a minute, the dizziness and mistiness of mind and body clear away, and he returns to his senses…
The others look on to see which Zamrud will wake up – the Ironcastle explorer, or the Professor.
Billy proceed to boop Zamrud on the nose to check for a reaction. "Are you feeling okay?"
"Zamrud? Friend, please awaken with your senses." Qhapaq asks, catching him rather quickly.
Billy's boop on the nose causes Zamrud to wiggle his whiskers violently, looking towards the young goat with an agitated stare as he pulls himself up to stand. "Yes, fine. Just… dizzy, all of a sudden." He groans, feeling his head still throbbing lightly as he feels conflicting thoughts at war within his mind.
"I… I can't say for certain but, it feels like something just clicked for me a moment ago." He looks at the students in the room, "I DO know you all, from before this school year I mean. I… I am failing to name how, exactly, but that's a sensation I find myself unable to shake now."
Qhapaq pulls the Puros up to his feet and brushes him off, before smiling excitedly. "Yes! We do know each other, yes- we met in the Outlands, remember?"
"…no," Zamrud shakes his head, "No, I remember us meeting but I don't remember it being in any place called the Outlands." He scratches his head, still quite puzzled but starting to come back to it.
"Are you sure it wasn't a school fair or some other sort of event?"
"No. I came across you when you were dispatched by Ironcastle for a mission. You were, ah, not the best at maneuvering throughout the wastes."
Ride shoots you all a quick text in the Concord groupchat:
>"Gong to acquaint ourseflves with the groumbds."
He attempts several times to send corrected words, marked by asterisks, only to give up.
>"Curse these miseable rectangle screen! No care given to those w/ large hamds!"
Thus frustrated so, he and his group excuse themselves from Dorm Boreal.
"Wastes? What would we be doing out in some wastes?">>762037
Zamrud confirms the message from Ride, sighing as he looks at his calendar for the rest of the day.
"Well, first period is beyond salvaging at this point. I imagine I should get back to teach my next class lest I lose it as well. But after that, I will check through my office and dorm to see if there's nothing else I can do to try and jog my memory, if there is indeed anything to jog."
"Do we need to head anywhere ourselves? We do have classes, but I am still unsure about those, and this world in general."
Good for his part decided to see if his companion Trajan had made the jump with them.
Indeed he has. He has a small backpack and a snazzy school uniform too. Boreal, just like you.
"You were exploring ruins, and were stationed at a post near my tribe's bunker. You needed, ah, 'hired muscle'."
"Exploring ruins? How adventurous." He comments, sounding intrigued with this memory he can't recall. "I hadn't taken a career up in archeology, but the idea was quite tempting. Was I some sort of archeologist?"
"I almost don't want to leave for the sake of the uniform."
Likewise, what remains of Herb's group sets out for their afternoon classes.To keep things simple we're only keeping track of "Morning" and "Afternoon" classes. These terms are, like Day and Night, strange and foreign to you. Most of the time, you Ironcastle dwellers speak of the "Waxing Light" (morning), "Waning Light" (evening), and "Dark Hours" ("night" until "dawn").
Good checks what the day is to see which class.
"Indeed," Zamrud says as he pops his sweater-jacket's collars. "They are fashionable, aren't they?">>762045
Zamrud bids the rest of the team farewell as he prepares to head back to teach his next round of Chemistry before he misses another period. However, he can't help but be drawn to the Nurse's Office first, curious if Godspeed has any more possible insight into all this now that his suspension of disbelief has been properly adjusted.
Billy feeling unsure decides to check on Arcana seeing if it meshes well with the understanding of his grimoire through inputting the lessons in writing to gain feedback on feasibility.
The date is Wednesday, the 10th of October, 2010.
>"Error… Question mark?" La Senorita says. "Searching databases…"
As a relic from the Time Long Forgotten, perhaps she may be able to verify some of the supposed history of this location…
"In a way, yes. You explored 'old world' places for the Castle. You are quite smart, but not sturdy. I am quite sturdy."
Zamrud nods, "Yes, I took note of your physique. I had assumed you were on one of the school's many fine sports teams, football or such. Or is it all from getting out in these 'Outlands'?"
Good motioned for her to join him as he had a history class today "Senorita do you know anything about this place?"
Each of you splits off, and, following his own schedule and the campus map, makes his way to the appropriate classrooms.
Grutar heads off solo, using his faculty position to learn more about the campus, alongside his peculiar little bear doll, who has taken on an animated personality of its own.
Along the way, you learn that Lecture Halls A, B and C are reserved for Dorm Boreal students, and E, F and G are likewise reserved for Dorm Austral students, in order to prevent any duels from taking place in the middle of classes.
The afternoon classes themselves are fairly uneventful. You mostly just go over the syllabi and offer introductions. Given that all of your peers are silhouette students, there's not much you can glean… their speech is mostly gibberish to you. They don't really seem to acknowledge you, either. It's something of an isolating experience…>>762050
Except… as you sit in the gymnasium, on a number of soft mats, you see something peculiar, amidst a group of silhouettes, but they are too numerous for you to make them out.>>762048
The first afternoon of Arcana class proves just as difficult to parse as your grimoire in itself, for the instructor and the students' words cannot be deciphered. You recall that Good was able to understand some of the silhouettes before… it may be worth asking him.>>762052>"Checking databases… please stand by."
As you sit down for afternoon history, you notice that the two silhouettes who were speaking to you this morning are there, all the way in the back.>>762051
As for you, you don't have chemistry this afternoon, but office hours. With your freedom as a faculty member, you're able to cancel those in favor of discussing business with Nurse Godspeed, or the Vestal, as she was identified by Herb's team.
When you arrive in the Nurse's office, you see her leaning back in her chair, reading, of all things, a comic book.
Zamrud knocks on the door as he enters the Nurse's office, trying to get Godspeed's attention as he enters. "Miss Godspeed. Sorry, do you have a few moments to talk?" He says, trying to catch a glimpse out of curiosity as to what comic book she's reading ( [1d10] perception )
"I just finished speaking with some of my students and, I was hoping if you might help clear up a few more things." He says, hoping it's enough of a hint that he's starting to catch up.Roll #1 1 = 1
Deadweight says to Lost, "Hey, it's that guy you hugged earlier," pointing a hoof at the other crystal pony, "So what's the deal with him?"
He's my brother… I think."
"I should also ask, what do you think about being flesh and blood my dear friend?">>762056>>762055
Good looked at the two warily.
"Yes. From rigorous combat training to survive the perils of the outlands." He explains, before shrugging "That, any my mutation left me with over-accelerated development when younger.>>762053
Qhapaq tries to spy out anyone
that isn't a silhouette. Is there anyone?
"Your brother?!" Deadweight exclaims at a volume appropriate for a classroom, "I didn't know you had a brother.">>762057
Deadweight squints back at the crystal pony.
Billy goes searching for Good to seek advice on understanding the material, unable to use his grimoire. Meeting Good Intentions he quickly bring up his issues that he had. "Sorry for bothering you about this."
Comic book…? She's reading a medical textbook. You are positive you did not
just see a comic book in her hooves just now. You're also positive that the air around her hooves is not
smoking, certainly not
ignited by some near light-speed movements to surreptitiously hide a comic book inside a medical textbook.
She sets the book down, and smiles softly. "Talk therapy isn't so uncommon among Outlands explorers. Have a seat anywhere. Mint tea, or green?">>762057>"Soft – plushie. Stuffed animals – popular even among adult consumers. I want – lots of friends.">>762058
Between the heads of the silhouettes, you spy a diminutive griffon with peculiar eyes, and an abundance of brown fur, clothed in a poncho over his gym uniform. Before you can go to question him, the silhouettes get up at the behest of the instructor, and start to form circles in the gymnasium to begin stretching routines. >>762055>>762056>>762057>>762060
The history class drones on in the background. To Good, it is nothing but white noise, but to Deadweight and Lost, they understand it. It is nothing they haven't heard before, so it barely registers. Billy slips into the class and takes a seat besides Good.
Good turns to Billy "Whats up Billy?">>762059
He gets a bit nervous at that.
"I can't understand what is being said at all, not even my Grimoire can. Though I also worry that understanding them might be an issue with how this world is." Billy brings up his concerns.
"I only understood the shades who had a tie to me… it was when I focuse super hard."
"I know it was a surprise to me too."
Deadweight rolls her eyes when she hears the same material again.>>762062
After feeling like she's asserted her dominance to a satisfactory degree, she breaks eye contact.>>762065
"Surprise? What do you mean?"
Zamrud's eyes spin when he sees how quickly the comic-book is switched out - if there were ever a comic book at all - and he continues to question his sanity as he sits down in a nearby chair. "Mint, if you'd be so kind."
He smiles back as she mentions the Outlands and exploring again, letting out a sigh. "Good to know I had such healthcare, then." He pauses, thinking about the sheer absurdity of the situation one more time.
"I listened to the others for a long while. I can't say I entirely believe it yet, as far as I'm concerned this school, this job, it's all quite real. But, they also have quite interesting theories, theories I would not anticipate being within the normal curriculum for students their age, and honestly more than one thing they spoke about… well, I'll just say I've had a few more migraines this morning than I'd care for so far."
"You remember it all the same then, this other life we've led?"
Grutar searches the campus in order to find the best tree that the students had mentioned searching for. He always liked doing something nice for the kids!
>Search for best tree
Meanwhile he also goes through the Garden area to make sure nobody is growing anything illegal (Except for his own secret growing spot) and searches for anything wildly out of place. He doesn't know specifically what he's looking for but he does remember someone asking him to look around there.
>Search the Garden for the party
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
/ Roll #2 5 = 5
"I mean I only learned through a dream."
"A dream?" Deadweight asks, looking at Lost like she just grew hands.
Godspeed puts the kettle on, and brings over a porcelain tea set with a pair of cups, and a box of tea leaves.
"I only remember my own life, not your own," Godspeed says. "But, I do remember my first encounter with you, some weeks prior to this. We met when our missions made our paths cross and intwine in such a strange journey."https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGcY2Vr5CKU
"However," she says. "I might caution you against pushing too far back against the version of reality that you know now. Memories are an unreliable and fickle affair. Rarely do they ever match entirely with objective, recordable fact. A camera can record sound and video. Augmented and Virtual Reality systems can also record and simulate taste, scent, and kinetic senses… but none of these can capture how a subject experiences these things in their own mind, their own bodies. The way we recall things is entirely our own experience. Forcing oneself to recall too hard can even engender entirely false, imagined memories, indistinguishable from the so-called 'real thing.'">>762068https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLlNQtkDWLo
There are plenty of good trees under which students could feasibly sit and have nice picnics. Around the library and theatre in particular are some choice spots. Both of these are built atop hills, where a good view of their sides of the campus are best visible.
Then, when your search turns to the Garden, things take a change. The Garden is situated on a high hill, wrought not of earth, but of root. The roots of the colossal Tree of Evil, whose top you cannot see, for it is obscured by clouds, form a small mountain at the center of the college. However, when you step upon it, it does not feel like you are climbing, or even walking at any incline. It is as easy on your feet and legs as walking on a flat plane is. Furthermore, the mountain of roots has "uprooted" several buildings, which now stand at an incline on the roots. However, they do not lean, or fall away. Gravity seems to have no especial effect upon them.
You reach the walls of the Bodhi Garden. Almost like the paper wrapping on a cupcake do they stand, unevenly wrapping around the root-mountain of the Tree of Evil. A great and towering fog lingers behind them, obscuring the trunk for miles around. Every so often, you find a doorway to get through the walls, but they are all locked solid. You try your many keys hanging from your impressive janitorial keyring, but none of them, not even your master key, can make any of the doors budge.
Zamrud waits patiently for his tea to come to a boil before he partakes, listening intently to Godspeed's advice.
"I see… so, there is perhaps a need to my staying ignorant, if such is the case. Assuming I'm not in fact the only one who's still sane among us, I would prefer not to stress my mind too far trying to recall this life. But my position - our position as faculty members - would be of great benefit to the others were I to be assured this was merely an illusion. Though, frankly, for one reason or another the thought of helping students to cheat in any situation causes me distress."
"I won't push too hard, but tell me about this meeting of ours. Were we friends in this 'Ironcastle' they spoke of?"
Unsure what to do with the vague wording, Billy tries his own version of working hard to listen to the materials by the shade by straining his ears and eyes.
Yeah a dream, it was like a cul de sac."
"Uh huh…" Deadweight says, taking another, less chilling, more curious look at Good.
She falls silent, mulling for a long time over what should be a simple enough "Yes" or "No" answer…
am from Zinccastle," she says, placing exceptional emphasis on the "I."
"Quite some distance from Ironcastle, though not so far that travel between them is entirely impractical on foot. It is my understanding that Grutar – currently employed here as a janitor – is also from Zinccastle, though he migrated to Ironcastle some years ago. I didn't know him prior to my meeting with your party.
"Our paths crossed when you and your allies – who you now know as your students – were on a delivery mission to group of Outlander tribals known as the Aya. Your route took you through the territory of a troublesome Necromancer, known as 'Granpaw' to his thralls. I sought him out to recover the souls of my allies, which had fallen into his possession, after he destroyed the soul-devouring Dreaded which had claimed their lives. At first I was preparing for a fight to the death with Granpaw, but you lot instead brokered an exchange. I aided your delivery mission, and you aided me. We parted ways some time afterward after this unexpected good ending."
>Optional roll to remember more is available>>762112>>762114>>762115
The lecture chatters on in the background…
>Optional roll to listen in and gain information available
"Grutar… yes, he seems to be the only one besides me who doesn't seem to remember any of this. Assuming this is all true, I thought perhaps teachers and staff were more susceptible to this school's influence than students, though you would seem to disprove that."
As she explains the background of their meeting, Zamrud listens with rapt attention, finding it pleasing to hear they met, and parted, on such good terms. "Sounds like quite the adventure we had…" he says, pausing to reach up and rub his head. "I… seem to recall…."
[1d10] Remembering any details he can from this excursionRoll #1 9 = 9
>>762061>Also signed up for a computer class- why not?
"Hrm…" Qhapaq moves to say something to the smaller griffon, but he's caught up in the moving sihlouettes. He'll try to slip closer to the other griffon while they form up for stretches.
Good for his part looks around trying to remember where he and Senorita were.
Actually, upon closer inspection, this is most certainly a larger-than-average
griffon. He could not, even by the most uncharitable of onlookers, be described as a griffonlet.
Well, most griffons are diminutive in comparison to you.
As you sidle up to him, his left eye twitches, and he double-takes in your direction. Without a word, he stands, his talons clenching into fists. He lunges straight for you–!
Wait, is this–!?>>762353
You're all in afternoon history class with Billy. The professor drones on, though you are not able to comprehend his words, for having pulled yourself away from the subtle reality of the school. Perhaps, by immersing yourself once more into that other world, you could hear the lecturer… and again, the silhouettes which identified themselves as your sister and her good friend.>>762229
A peculiar sense of rising, of floating, overcomes you, and briefly you drift, until you at last regain a little clarity. Like floating on your side in the sea, one half above, the other below, you feel your mind and memories caught at the border of two worlds –
Noble Zamrud, the esteemed Outlands explorer from House Bahasa, emissary of the Iron King.
Professor Zamrud, the caring chemistry professor of Agape Academy, renowned for his charitability towards students other professors would simply give up for flunkies.
"Seeing anything?" Godspeed asks as she stirs her tea.
Attempting to take the minimum necessary precautions. Billy decides to makes sure that he is under watch by a friend and under their scrutiny when immersing himself.
Good grunted and did her best to do that. Maybe it would reveal some information he could use to escape this place.
[1d10] if neededRoll #1 9 = 9
Qhapaq lets out a mildly confused warble and goes to grab the griffon as he lunges- something about this seems familiar, but he can't place it.
Zamrud winces as flashes of his memories start to etch back at the edge of his mind, eyes closing in concentration as he struggles to sort them out.
"I… I'm not sure. I seem to recall… a castle… the bunker… the Spire…" he says, thinking back to their adventure with the Daemon before arriving at the tree.
He looks expectantly towards her, a small smile curling up at the side of his face. "I remember being disappointed when we had to split paths coming back. I think…" he says, undermining his own confident statement as the years of tutelage and schooling for this academy place themselves at war with his new memories. "It's difficult to parse them out, I see things I don't recall but feel are as real to me as any other experience, but I still remember everything else. Coming to this academy, getting my degree, etcetera."
You grab the griffon by the head, narrowly avoiding taking a flurry of strikes to the face. Gym class continues in the background without you.
The griffon pauses, his onslaught thwarted, and gives you a grave look. "Unhand me, Qhapaq! Or do you not recognize me and my people's methods, for this strange scenery?"
That peculiar accent and manner of speaking… why, it's Peyote!>>762358
"Consider this," Godspeed says. "Staying suspended between realities, personalities, dreams, whatever this may be, cannot
be good for you. Choose one and stick to it. But don't be so convinced that we all need to be unified in how we navigate this world. I am 'awake,' in my mind, because I still see myself as Godspeed, Exarch of Zinccastle, and not Godspeed, the Vestal of Agape Academy. But, you may come across clues that you would only – or could
only notice as Professor Zamrud.
"Besides," she continues, lightly brushing the corner of your jacket's lapels. "That tweed suits you.">>762355>>762356
Bodies and minds like plummet at a dizzying angle. The classroom, and everyone and everything in it, twist in air like a multi-layered kaleidoscope. A cold rushing flows over and rises within you. It is not til some time after that you regain a little clarity.
The silhouettes of your fellow students remain as such, but now, have a little color to them, one color apiece. They now have a semblance of bodily shape to them too, not merely blurs…
The professor can be heard more clearly now, but you're hopelessly lost in his lecture. Lacking context, he might as well still be speaking gibberish.
>roll to catch up! Bonus if you swipe another student's notes!
Good looked over to his sister and motioned for her notes.
Lost blinked at seeing the request but decided to help him as she had been taking some quietly.
Qhapaq blinks in surprise, before letting out another little warble. "Ahh- apologies, Peyote. With recent going-ons, I must have forgotten." He releases the griffon, and nods a little. "Please, let us continue."
Zamrud looks over as she brushes off his lapels, his smile more genuine now as she complements him on his professional teaching attire. "Hmm. Well, on that we must agree. Whichever reality is real to me, I intend to keep this part of my wardrobe. When it works this well, you know?"
He offers a small, awkward chuckle, as he considers his options. "I think you're right. My mind's already feels strained just as it is, I don't envy the idea of persisting in trying to walk a mental tightrope every minute. I think you also bring up a fair point that, should I choose to remain a teacher, there will be things I could do for you - all of you - that are only achievable as a Vestal."
He closes his eyes. "But, speaking truthfully… I'm starting to fear if I let go of these memories I just found now, I might never see them again. It clearly took me more effort than the others just to start to recollect my life of the Outlands."
Once he remembers properly, Qhapaq will engage in the traditional greeting- a short trading of blows!
He took them and did his best to catch up.
[1d10+2] Cram Session
Roll #1 9 + 2 = 11
An mean urge comes upon Billy when immersing himself in the classroom. A competitive spirit as he goes forth and aims for the others notes.
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
Unnoticed by the other students, Peyote proceeds to pound his fists mercilessly across your face, left jabs, right hooks, two-handed slams, uppercuts and the like. He chops your shoulders, then drops to deliver vicious gut punches and worse still to your abdomen–!
Not a one of the licks hurts. At most it's like getting a light massage. Or perhaps acupressure may be the more fitting analogy. For, at every spot that Peyote strikes, a certain weight, previously unnoticed, lifts off of you, leaving you feeling lighter physically, and psychologically.
He abruptly stops, backing away with a slight wince. He shakes his wrists out. "Dear me," Peyote says, proceeding to perform forearm stretches. "Too quick was I to jump into the healing. Let's stretch and limber up before we continue."
Healing? Was that not the traditional Xen greeting?>>762363
"Then don't cling to the reality as the professor," Godspeed says. "There's no way to simply 'cure' immersion in the 'school reality'. Once it sets in, it must be allowed to pass, like a cold. Only, unlike a cold, clinging to that reality causes it to strengthen… and the reverse is also true of clinging to the 'Outlands reality'. I am sure that you heard Herb and company bickering about what befell Kirk.
"What I doubt they told you, however, was that Kirk was experimenting with clinging to the two realities. At times, clinging to the school reality. At other times, the Outlands reality. And, rarely, trying to hold both in equal esteem.">>762365>>762360>>762361>>762366
Unfortunately, the other students are too on guard for Billy to be able to pilfer their notes. Be they team Austral or team Boreal, neither group of students seems willing to drop their guard, even around their own teammates. Such is life at Agape Academy.
Fortunately, Lost is willing to pass Good, Senorita and Billy her notes, which they use to catch up on the lecture. This Cycle's lesson was on the origin of a holy Cycle called "Hearth's Warming." Born from a climate disaster that united three warring tribes of ponies, it is the premier gift-giving (and receiving) holy Cycle. The countries of the world celebrate it in myriad ways, even those not of pony origin (although their traditions differ greatly from those of the ponies).
Class is about to end… this may be your last chance for questions.
Good paused and leaned forward "Countries sir? What are those."
"I, ah… huh." Qhapaq says, at a bit of a loss for words once the other griffon finishes up. He feels… better, in a multitude of ways that he isn't quite able to put into words. "I, ah, was that not the greeting? It was 'healing'?" He asks, stretching out a little bit himself.
"Who were these three warring tribes" Billy thought of the mutants, caste system, and the monsters feeling that they don't fit into the pony tribes being expressed here.
Zamrud nods. "Hmm… again, I agree. Whatever advantages I might have held committing to my role as a Vestal won't mean anything if I lose myself entirely to the part. In which case, I should continue my efforts in trying to regain this other self… and hope it's the right decision and not the onset of some kind of madness, eh?" He says, trying to add some levity to the situation.
As she comments that Kirk was trying to experiment with holding BOTH in equal esteem, this piques Zamrud's attention however. "No, they did not happen to mention that… all they did mention was that Kirk had somewhat of a reckless streak that held consequences when he attempted to access the Gardens too early. I've yet to meet him myself, how is his mental state in trying to hold on to both sides of the story?"
"Oh! Yes, well, while what I did could have, at first, certainly counted for my tribe's greeting, I carried on overlong for concern of what was hanging onto you…">>762371
"Not good," Godspeed says. "Prone to overreaction, confused speech and reasoning, self-isolation, and worse. He kept rigorous notes during his self-experiments, however, or so I am told. He was quite paranoid about them ever being found out, no matter how often Herb tried to bargain with him or pull rank for their donation to the cause. He seemed certain he was always just on the cusp of a great breakthrough in finding out the 'truth of the matter…' or whatever he meant by that.">>762368>>762370
The professor, either not catching or politely overlooking the absurdity of your queries, gives a brief overview of the territories of the Diskos – the historic lands of the Pegasus, Earth Pony and Unicorn Tribes, their supersession by the unified country of Equestria, Griffonstone and the Crystal Empire… and of course, the Shade, the land hidden from the Sun.
That last part is all he says about the Shade, as if you should know the rest.
Good scowled quietly and debated moving to investigate their books or computers for info on this 'Shade'
Billy just stews quietly to himself, attempting to stay immersed to keep up with the present lecture on history.
"I see… not the most ringing of endorsements to follow in his hoof-steps, as it were. I admire his persistence for the truth, and I must admit I'm intrigued by his theories. Being able to see both sides of the mirror offers an entirely different perspective that could unlock the mysteries to the illusion. But even in my current state I'm aware we're in a precarious position, I'm not sure NOW is the best time to be experimenting."
He pauses, tapping his claw against Godspeed's desk nervously. "You mentioned he kept notes? Do you know if they were kept in his dormitory or did his paranoia of Herb finding them lead to hiding them somewhere?"
"Hmm? Ah- I wasn't aware I had so much I was hanging on to… or, that it was so easily detected. I, ah… thank you- that was a relief."
"Such is the nature of the Outlands's influence," Peyote says. "Only once the infection is dire enough to wound, or even kill, can it be noticed by most. Even among the Xen, who boast a greater sensitivity to this plague, I have been noted for my especial perceptivity to it."
Gym class continues, and Peyote leads you to the bleachers to sit. The rest of the class continues heedless of you. "It's been some time since we last met. How have you fared, friend?">>762375
"In the interim between his disappearance and your arrival, Origami and Locomotive ransacked his room in search of his notes. Apparently they recovered the newest of his journals, with only a few pages written. Origami was the worst distressed over Kirk's worsening mental condition, but he might be convinced to turn the record over."
She twirls a bit in her rolling office chair. "I've been playing therapist more than nurse for that lot, through the months…">>762373>>762374
The professor moves on, while Good fishes a book from the back of the class. The cover is blurry, and the text, apparently, written in a different language. But, after a moment or two of looking at the title of the book, it… it's not that you recognize or understand the characters which compose the title. But, rather, you get a peculiar feeling that the words there are "Modern History."
Scanning through the book, you find entries on each of the lands the professor mentioned, in order… including the Shade.
The pages which comprise the entry on the Shade are differently colored, and differently sized. The font is different too, in style and size. It's as if these pages were grafted in from another text…
>roll to decipher, DC 8; further willful immersion into the "college world" can reduce this DC to 6
Billy staring down at the text makes an attempt at deciphering the pages, scratching at his scalp all the while.
[1d10] for 8Roll #1 5 = 5
"Mmm- I am thankful for your talents, Peyote." Qhapaq says, smiling a little bit and gently patting the other griffon's head. He'll follow towards the bleachers, ignoring the gym class and its silhouettes for the moment.
"I am faring well enough- this… tree, situation has proved difficult, but we will overcome it. The last few months have proved harrowing, but a good experience to strengthen the body and hone the resolve. As you can see, I have mutated further from a recent encounter on the way here." He remarks, gesturing to his larger, oddly-colored wings. "There have been strange happenings within the Castle that I have been working out of. I do not… understand all of it, but there is some conspiracy apaw. I have been managing well enough, though. What of you, Peyote? How are you managing? How has your own gift been coming?"
Peyote chirps a little as you pat his head.
He listens well, and nods. "I am grateful for your new blessing. May you and it serve one another well."
Another peculiarity of Xen culture… they speak of each mutation not as an extension of the mutant, as other Tribes do, but as their own entities.
"'Tis a most busying gift, to be sure," Peyote says. "Even as one still in my studies to be an Elder Shaman, I've no end of my Tribesouls coming to me for guidance, healing and other forms of aid… I worry some may be lost with me stuck here. But perhaps it is for the better, lest they become overmuch dependent upon me… I tried many ways of escaping this zone, much to the horror of the Castlefolk also stuck here. They're like to keep me in detention all semester! Haha… not that I can fault them. A few of the temporal resets have been a result of me trying to scheme a way out of this time-loop… and a few have been a result of me wandering about on the far edge of campus some Cycles. Fortunately they have not resorted, nor even threatened, violence upon me. Far more civilized than I had ever heard the Castlefolk be to we Mutants!"
"Hmm- so, you have tried many ways to escape, and it merely resets each time… concerning. How long have you been here, do you think? Does the flow of time hold meaning here?" Qhapaq asks, tilting his head to the side.
"And, Castlefolk are strange. Varied, and strange- I would argue struggling and troubled moreso than we Mutants. But, I've found some that are good people." He offers, before humming. "I was aware your blessing had been potent, but I was not aware it was so great that you'd become such a staple amongst your tribe. Tell me, what does it tell you here? Are there spirits within this… zone? This temporal anomaly?"
"I've little idea, I'm afraid," Peyote admits. "I suspect years may pass within the span of a single Cycle, or vice versa, for all that I know."
He nods. "It tells me much, and I reckon that knowledge may have been the key to earning me the Castlefolk's favor."
He gestures to the silhouettes. "These… are not spirits. Merely echoes… they are akin to the electical ghasts the more technologically-inclined conjure on their devices… 'recordings,' I believe they are called? Well, the metaphor is not precise, for these silhouettes can seem to act, react and respond to one who is fully immersed, one who fully believes themselves a student of this college… perhaps more like a video game's AI, which can 'react' within certain parameters."
He doesn't know recordings, but speaks so easily of video games and AI… he knows more than he lets on…
"What do you mean by that accusation?" he asks, looking up and beyond you. Certainly not in response to anything you said. Maybe he means–
"Spare us the editorializing…" Peyote says. "But that does not mean there are no spirits here. Certainly, since your arrival, I have felt a greater spiritual pressure than before… perhaps your arrival has heralded also the arrival of other spirits."
Billy not feeling well with his luck in the classes decides to go to message his team and the others to see if they understand ant of the coursework he is going through.
Zamrud nods. "For what it's worth, that's probably what they need most. Physical trials, I get the sense most of us are aptly prepared. The mental strain of what we're experiencing… probably less so." He smirks. "Heavens know I'm grateful for the psychiatric help."
He prepares to rise, looking at his clock to see if he has time before class begins to approach Origami. "I think it best I have a look at those notes first before I take my foot out of either pool. Thank you for telling me all of this, Godspeed, truly."
Deadweight furrows her brows looking at the section on the Shade. She tries to make sense of it.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Qhapaq hums in thought. "False people… if they only interact while immersed, it explains how we go unapproached." He remarks, before blinking in surprise. "Ah? Oh- talking with a spirit, I take it. I wonder if they were drawn in as a result of us appearing- I wonder if Dreaded Ones may be in here, as well."
Qhapaq tilts his head to the side after a moment of thought. "…Video-Games? Aye Eye? How do you know so much of such things, Peyote?" He asks.>>762450>Try to help if I can! [1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
You check your watch and see that afternoon classes are nearly over. Time sure does fly for a college student, and the professors are not exempt from this happening. But as there are no classes in the evening, you reason that the students will most likely be in the dormitory cafeterias.
>>>762449 Qhapaq hums in thought. "False people… if they only interact while immersed, it explains how we go unapproached." He remarks, before blinking in surprise. "Ah? Oh- talking with a spirit, I take it. I wonder if they were drawn in as a result of us appearing- I wonder if Dreaded Ones may be in here, as well." Qhapaq tilts his head to the side after a moment of thought. "…Video-Games? Aye Eye? How do you know so much of such things, Peyote?" He asks. >>762450 >Try to help if I can! [1d10]
"I've seen no Dreaded whatsoever," Peyote says with some relief. "It was in flight of the Dreaded that I came upon this campus, actually… as I slipped into unconsciousness, a great force annihilated my pursuers, but spared me… perhaps it was the Tree…?"
He shrugs. Then, as you question him over video games, like Castlefolk on their intranet forums, he blushes. "…the computer consoles here have a simulacrum of communications. Among the many files on them are a series of most peculiar archives… it's best if I show you."
He hops off the bleachers and bids you to follow him.Roll #1 1 = 1
Thinking to himself that he will do better next time, Billy lets out a sigh and heads to the cafeteria to hill out his big frame.
Zamrud nods as he checks his phone, checking to see if he has a number to reach Godspeed on should the need arise. If not, he thinks to ask her for one (purely for emergencies, of course)
After which, he nods his head and begins his march towards the cafeteria, looking intently for Origami who should hopefully be finished with his classes for the day.
"Maybe the tree filters out Dreaded Ones somehow- some aspect of their biology or spirit is not allowed here. And, ah… sure, if you would be willing to show me, that would work." Qhapaq states, following after Peyote.
You already have Godspeed's number saved to your phone, so there is no need to ask for it. After finishing your tea, you bid her farewell (for now) and depart.>>762458>>762459>>762460
A great chime sounds from somewhere in the direction of the Tree – the center of the campus, heralding the end of afternoon classes, seemingly so soon after they begun. Perhaps a reflection of time's distorted passage here.
Most head for the cafeteria for dinner, while Qhapaq and Peyote head for the library.>>762460
The library is quite a tall building, with many floors. It's mostly empty now, save for a few rather studious students ready to sacrifice dinner for extra studying. Acting quickly so you can munch up soon, Peyote sits at the nearest computer terminal, taps at the keyboard and pulls up an archive…
It's rather similar to a VOD of a Prancecast stream. In fact, the websites are nearly identical, this version perhaps being older and somewhat less user-friendly. However, the websites are remarkably similar, despite this VOD being from the Time Long Forgotten… in the VOD, a fast-paced competitive FPS match rages. In the bottom right-hand corner of the screen is a CGI model of a rather cute griffoness. She is, inexplicably, dressed like una cucaracha.
"I admit, much of my 'study time' is accompanied by these VODs," Peyote confesses sheepishly. "Hardly am I to blame, if I may be so bold as to assert – the words of the silhouettes are but gibberish to me, lest I give in to the illusions of the school.">>762458>>762459>>762453
It takes Deadweight some time, but as she and Billy head off for the dorm's cafeteria, she deciphers the text of the book… mostly.
>The […] is in turmoil, the end of not only […] but the rest of the […] drawing closer with each […]. The […] continuously moves closer and closer, slowly enveloping it in uncompromising heat that burns away all the land and […], a burning hell within […]
The lacunae are words that Deadweight speaks, but you cannot understand. To her, they are understandable. Yet, she cannot convey them to you in any way that makes sense, at this moment.
>The Shade is only livable […], located within the massive shadow of the immobile […], providing a tolerable environment. Even here however, the dirt is infertile, the air too dry for weather, and civilization […] the shadow provided by […] shrinks by the year, with small pockets of life dwelling in massive protective livable bunkers called–
The next noun that follows is… shifting. Ever-changing, oscillating between two sets of characters, as if caught between them… it eventually solidifies. Deadweight translates it as: Domes. As in:
>Protective livable bunkers called Domes.
Perhaps, a precursor to the Castles…?
In any case, you get in line for Dorm A's cafeteria. It's pasta time. Omnivorous, carnivorous, vegetarian and vegan options abound.
"I am really feeling that any test would be impossible to do here if lectures will all be like that for us." Billy grimaces with his head down.
Qhapaq blinks and looks at the cgi griffoness with a soft chirp of interest. "I see… it is a, ah, griffon. Dressed up, and… well, not an actual griffon, but something else." He remarks, before chuckling a little bit and patting Peyote's head. "Considering how unintelligible the shades are, I cannot blame you. I understand little of what I see, but it looks entertaining. I remember meeting a Diamond Dog that did something similar… perhaps I still have her card."
"Huh," Deadweight says before closing the textbook. "I'm hungry," she announced, walking over to see what vegetarian food they have today. She hopes they have baked potatoes.
Zamrud looks around upon arriving in the cafeteria, his own hunger pangs secondary to his thirst for knowledge. He scans the area for Origami, planning to question him first (and THEN grab the food he's been needing)
[1d10+1] PerceptionRoll #1 7 + 1 = 8
Good grunted and tried to decipher it himself without letting himself fall back into the trap of this world.
[1d10] DecipherRoll #1 10 = 10
Lost followed after before tripping and falling with a groan.
"Dog?" Peyote repeats. "A moment…"
He scrubs forward in the VOD a bit, until he finds the moment he seeks, and clicks play. At this point in the VOD, the cockroach-griffon-gamer-girl has paused for a water break, but brought on a lesser-known streamer to join her. Their avatars sit side-by-side, with the griffon girl's avatar bugging out as a result of her being AFK. The other streamer is dressed in a baroque gown, and beside her is a prop of a cello. She is the image of regality and class… yet, her visage is unmistakable:
This is Shikiki Shishi.>>762462>>762464>>762465>>762466>>762467
You gather your most preferred meals and head for a table with the only students you recognize: Herb and his gang. Ride or Die and his group are most notably not in this cafeteria. You recall them wearing the uniforms of Team Austral; perhaps they are in that Team's dormitory cafeteria.
The mood is dour for Herb's team. They eat in silence, and none have much of an appetite. They barely acknowledge you as you approach.>>762464>>762466
Good tries his hoof at interpreting the book, but his progress is slower than Deadweight's, and he does not grasp what may hide within the lacunae that confront his comprehension…
>Almost all […] are lost, and the Domes face perils […] overrun by desperate bandits, to internal strife, to mutant creatures assaulting the barren landscape. Each Dome […] crops being artificially (magically) forced to grow within and water growing scarce from […]. Computers do a lot of the work to maintain atmosphere and livability in the Domes, but there is no longer […]. Magic has slowly been getting usurped by technology as a practical tool since there are so few magic teachers […].
By all accounts, if this be true history, your Castles fare far better than the Domes of the First Ancestors… yet, by the popular history of your time, the reverse was the case: the First Ancestors, despite their troubles, underwent a golden age to end all golden ages, inventing magic and technology the likes of which the people of this our present age could not hope to comprehend one percent of one percent…
Billy makes sure to clean his plate of any food, practically inhaling it all as he waves hello to Herb and his team.
"Oh!" Deadweight turns back to find Lost on the ground. She chuckles and says as she picks her up, "Got distracted?"
After getting some creamy tomato pasta and a baked potato, Deadweight takes a seat at the table and digs in.
"I tripped on my uniform. It's so long in the legs."
Lost just got some soup and oddly a few bits of meat for some reason even she didn't know. Yet she felt some part of her wanted it.
Zamrud sits down as he looks over Herb's team, deciding to sit down with them. "You gentlecolts aren't too cool to be seen eating with one of your professors, are you?"
As he sits down among them, he crosses his arms as he looks over all their dour expressions. "I realize our earlier conversation was rather grave, but even so you all look more downcast than I'd expected."
Good took a pair of plates, mostly potato and cheese dishes as he needed a big load of carbs and flavor to power his brain.
He made notes on the parallels between these domes and the castles. This world seemed to have some kind of time distortion upon it so perhaps it was another time, or before the castles. He couldn't know for sure.
"I, ah… yes, that is her. Shikiki. We had a, hrm… an encounter, and I believe I angered her- both by mutating, and by accidentally breaking a device of hers when she challenged me. It was a genuine mistake- hence why I gave her my mask in trade, until I fix her music box." He remarks, wiggling his ears. "I do not like being maskless- it makes me uncomfortable- but, it is only fair."
"You aren't a professor," Herb grunts. "We've been over this."
Origami in particular looks incensed by Zamrud's opening. "Maybe we're a little on edge because five months of progress just gone undone by you guys bumbling in, *and* we still can't find Herb!"
"Stand down," Lone Star snaps.
"Stand down?" Origami gawks. "Dude, I'm already sitting! The fuck does 'stand down' even mean?"
"Can we get seconds?" Locomotive asks. "My plate is clean."
"Of course you can get seconds," Herb sighs. "None of this is real… except for the food. Wait, where does this food come from, anyway?"
"Iunno," Origami says. "Been too busy looking for our friend and comrade to obsess over small details like that, Herb."
"It's an important detail!" Lone Star interjects. "Who knows if it's laced with something?"
"Well, for the record, all scans show it's perfectly edible and non-toxic," Herb says.
You get the feeling they could shout at each other for an entire six months… you'll have to interrupt to keep them on point.>>762476
Peyote nods. "I was wondering when an apt time to ask about that would arise. I was worried some social disgrace had befallen you… rare is the Aya who will willingly go about without a mask, especially a Warrior!"
He looks back to the monitor. "You say you have encountered this Shikiki before… but near as I can tell, this VOD predates… well, certainly our births! The Castlefolk are certain this place belongs to the Time Long Forgotten… how could a mutant you met be also here on the VOD?"
Your stomach growls…
"It definitely could be shorter," Deadweight says as she looks at the uniform ambiguously flirtatiously
"What're you all going on about?" Deadweight asks the quarrelsome group in between bites of pasta and potato.
Good simply slammed the book he had taken on the table "Enough, arguing will get us nowhere."
"Will we need to do well on any test or need anything from the classes, I am not thinking it is reasonable with the way this world is, and being hard to look at anything." Billy speaks up as a question for the group.
"I know. Or at least, I'm beginning to think so." Zamrud says to Herb after he points out he isn't a professor.
"I had a small chat with our school nurse. Finally beginning to gain a bit of perspective, though I can't bring myself to believe one side or the other yet. Part of me is starting to remember this other life you all claim to lead, and another just knows my time shaping young minds here at Agape Academy. I'm not sure which one is real, and that is the way I would prefer to keep it for now."
He looks towards Origami, concerned about bringing up a sore subject. "I understand Kirk held a similar outlook?"
Grutar doesn't even seem to notice the roots replacing the earth, walking along it like he has done so a dozen times already. Going through the Bodhi Garden he tests each door, but eventually after the twelth door he stops and lightly kicks it in frustration. He knows at least one key has to work, why else was he given these?
Remembering his time as a youngster, he pulls out his credits card and muses to himself about how much of a rebellious youngster he was to nobody in particular… though it is strange how anytime he remembers, the environment doesn't match anything that he remembers, though he chalks it up to his old age and moving around so much.
>Try to pick a lock using card
[1d10]>Search for a key by asking faculty or searching around campus if lock picking fails
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
/ Roll #2 2 = 2
"Ah- right, I forgot. Most of my allies are not aware of the significance of a maskless Aya. But, yes- it is temporary, provided I can find a way to return her music device to working order… anyways. That is a good question. Perhaps aspects of our world have merged with this one? It could draw things we know of into itself, in a way." He muses, before glancing downwards.
"Hrm… perhaps we ought to eat, while we still have time."
"A sound theory," Peyote says. "If only we can uncover evidence of its veracity…"
His stomach growls too, so he nods and closes the stream. You two depart for the cafeteria.>>762478>>762479>>762480>>762481>>762483
Good's words snap the quarrelsome group out of their bickering long enough for Zamrud to regain control of the conversation. Conveniently, this is also when Peyote and Qhapaq show up.
"Yep," Origami says to Zamrud. The subject drains even him of energy to respond in sarcasm. "Same shit that made him flip out a few times."
"I warned you about that," Lone Star says. "You can't force your way out of it once you fall into it. You have to ride it out. Kirk wouldn't listen to me either, and now… just try not to make it any worse, alright?">>762480>>762481>>762478>>762478>>762483
"That, Billy," Herb says. "Is where our trusty make-believe professor comes in. See, the problem is that so long as we cling to our real selves, we can't really understand what's going on in class. Used to be that, even though we warned Kirk not to play in to the illusion, he would basically be our ticket to good grades. But now, we have Professor Zamrud here for that help."
"Which frees us up to look for Kirk more," Origami says, regaining a little energy.
"And post up more guard shifts," Lone Star says. "To make sure nobody else stumbles into this zone."
"…Or to learn how the youth of the Time Long Forgotten lived," Herb says.
"Dude, just play a fucking dating sim," Origami says. "We're trying to complete our fucking mission and save our comrade over here."
"Uncovering the mysteries of the Time Long Forgotten is, ultimately, the mission of EVERY soldier who steps out from Ironcastle. Hell, from every Castle!" Herb retorts. "Kirk is *fine,* it'll take more than a disappearance to kill him."
"Believe me, I've tried," Lone Star and Locomotive say, simultaneously. They then glance at each other funny.>>762482
You fiddle with the locks using every trick you've known and accumulated over the years, but all fail to make the doors budge. Failing that, you go about to the various faculty of the campus. Silhouettes, every one. None seem to know much about how one might get into the Bodhi Garden illicitly.
You do learn some things, however:
Ordinarily, only a small number of staff are allowed in, so that they can design the arena for the end-of-semester battle royale. These staff are sworn to secrecy, lest the secrets of the battle royale be leaked to the students ahead of time.
Rumor has it that, during prom, a few students always try to sneak into the Bodhi Garden… and some have even succeeded. It's something of an illicit tradition, much like a senior prank.
And, it's unrelated to the Bodhi Garden, but one professor complained of a missing student from his history class. No clue where they could have ended up.
"That is good to hear, though I do worry things would go wrong, as we are living in a unique force I fear things might go awry. Do we have any backup plans such as copying the shades notes?" Billy offers up seeking feedback.
Deadweight's still confused by what they're talking about. Maybe they're roleplaying or something. Roleplayers are weird.
Grutar perks up when he learns of kids sneaking in to the garden as a prank, though when he starts learning bit by bit about the set up he begins doing what he does best around here. Pester the other teachers until he eventually learns more about it. Complaining about how he can't do his job proper if he can't get in ahead of time to clean up from last year and get everything neat before anyone can set anything up, he'll even pester the principle if he has to.
>Pester co-workers into spilling the beans
Eventually he'll work his way to the history class where he can talk to the professor about his missing student, even if he can't find his way into the garden Grutar feels responsible for keeping track of the kids when teachers aren't watching.
>Speak to teacher to begin details for a search for the student (rolling in case needed)
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
/ Roll #2 9 = 9
At the notion of helping them secure good grades, a chill runs up Zamrud's spine. "I still cannot promise that. I admit, I'm starting to think you might all be right, but there's still the side of me that doubts. Can I really compromise my ethics as an educator on this? I can promise to do what I can but cheating on your behalf just feels wrong."
As the topic of Kirk comes up, he raises a finger, "On the subject of Kirk trying to work mentally within both sides, I think he may have been on to something in it being the key to understanding how this may all function. Did he have any notes he left behind regarding his findings?" He says, asking Origami in particular.
"Ahh- it seems as if we've stepped into a rather tense discussion, if body language is to be believed." Qhapaq comments. "Apologies for being late to the gathering, what have I missed?" He asks.
Alongside the maskless griffon is a smaller, brown-colored griffon. His body is nicked and scratched, likely scars from various encounters in the Outlands. The most standout feature of the griffon- aside from the poncho he's decided to wear over his uniform- is his eyes, which are clouded. He almost appears blind, though he moves with too much confidence in his surroundings to not be capable of seeing them.
"Zamrud. Are, ah… you yourself?"
Zamrud looks over at Qhapaq, offering an uneasy grin. "Of a sort. I spoke with Godspeed and she helped me to remember some things. I'm just not certain which life story is the real one, as of yet." He reaches up to rub his head. "I've two different memories of how we met now, and it's like they're at war inside my head. It's not the most pleasant sensation."
"I am glad you remember me at least, even if the story is one of two in your head. It was… concerning, to say the least."
Lost blushed furiously.
When the history professor starts to elaborate about the missing student, something most peculiar happens. >"[…] […] […] of […]. […] and […] […] […] [………………………………………]."Prior to this, Grutar, partly immersed in the illusion of the school as he was, understood not the literal words the professor spoke, but the gist of what he was saying. But now… not a bit of it made any sense. It was pure white noise, akin to the sweeping of a broom, the scrubbing of a dish, the rubbing of an eraser… white noise that cleared away any semblance of meaning beneath. And yet, as with any method of cleaning, there was but a trace below.>>762485>>762486>>762488>>762489
Herb's team tenses as Zamrud turns down the notion of helping them cheat. An awkward silence falls down, until Origami speaks up.
"…He did," Origami says. "It's weird, though. Here."
He shows you a notebook, plain and unadorned. What stands out the most about it is that there are but three pages inside. At first one might imagine the other pages ripped out. However, then Origami opens it, it appears that the notebook only had three pages to begin with.
The binding is undamaged, and there is no sign of pages being removed, however carefully. Obviously, however, none would buy a notebook that only had three sheets inside.
"Actually there weren't any pages in it at all, at first," Origami says. "These ones just kinda… appeared
not long ago."
He makes a good point. The books of this place hold information that may be useful if you look past the layer of lies this place makes.
He glanced at Qhapaq and his companion for a moment before looking back "That being said I recommend we pull all relevant info while trying to shatter the illusion of this place.
"Perhaps the illusion is rewarding us? Or perhaps someone outside is."
"There was a bit about how since one of us is a teacher, we should be able to understand the material better with help." Billy offers.>>762494
"Kind of strikes me like a grimoire, maybe there are more pages there we can't see, or that they come from somewhere?" Billy gives a thought up.
Grutar found it odd but began to once again excuse it with his old age taking over. But whether he remembered or not, he attempted to follow whatever clue he was given and still remains immersed in his surroundings enough to let it guide him rather than guiding himself.
>Use full immersion to guide Grutar to where he would next be needed. After all, he has to help with this year's prank! (rolling if needed)
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
"Hmm… I see. Bizarre, but it makes sense.">>762495
"Speaking of information they hold, my friend Peyote and I have been discussing a few things- it seems that Dreaded Ones never seem to emerge here. Though, other aspects of the Outlands- spirits, information- seem to cross over, to an extent."
Zamrud looks at Kirk's notebook with confusion as Origami presents it. "Only three pages…?"
He pauses as he takes a moment to look at it, noting how there doesn't appear to be any signs of any pages being ripped out. "This doesn't make sense. No notebook has so few pages." As Origami explains further, he looks at him with confusion. "They simply appeared? It could be magical in nature, or perhaps tied to the simulation itself."
He decides to chance a look at the first page to see what clues it might hold.
Deadweight takes a look at the two griffons who joined them. More roleplayers. She thinks the notebook with three pages is cool, though.
Zamrud nods. "I apologize for causing you distress, Qhapaq. At the very least, those memories are returned. It's just a matter of parsing them out…"
"Interesting. From what I've seen they have Domes instead of Castles, but they have gone extremely poorly."
A peculiar rush overwhelms you – like sinking into water, and rising simultaneously… waking up, while drifting off to sleep… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a8T3RHWj6U
>You sit in Professor Nonpareil's office. Afternoon light glitters in through the window. Normally clean-cut and immaculate in garb to a T, the Professor (a towering mastiff diamond dog) has kicked back, and shared with you a dash of bourbon and a cigarette, if you wish to partake.
>"It's odd," he says. "I've never heard of students missing the first day. Almost every junior opts to become a senior instead of just graduating. This girl was no exception. Yet, didn't show to history this morning. I rang up Professor Constancy, too. Didn't show up for her class either. Hope she's alright.">>762500
You flip through the notebook's three pages. The penmanship is quite fine and orderly. However, they only contain a few notes on calculus. Much of each page is blank. >>762501
To you, the notebook's three pages are anything but blank. Glancing over Zamrud's shoulder, you see that the pages are practically full. In addition to the notes on calculus, they also contain… notes on physics. Dense stuff, that. >>762497>>762496>>762495>>762499
"Yeah, maybe," Origami says. "I had the notebook since last Cycle, but it was empty then. It was only after the afternoon classes that it filled up like that. I don't remember exactly when, but it was still empty this morning… think it had anything to do with class?"
"What class did you have?" Peyote asks Origami.
Origami leers a little at Peyote, probably still bitter about Peyote causing a previous reset, but Peyote seems not to notice. "Calculus, I think. Not that I woulda got it even had I understood the professor. Dream or no dream, shit flies right over my head."
"Perhaps the book will fill when the holder takes classes that the owner of the book took… possibly. I cannot say I know what to expect.">>762503
"Really? Strange… did we know any similarities, or differences?">>762502
"I appreciate it, Zamrud." He offers, smiling warmly.>>762501
"Ah, hmm. Who is this? Another member of one of the teams trapped here?"
As Zamrud notes the near blank nature of the pages themselves, his confusion only increases.
"This is it? I don't understand, there's nothing here in regards to the tree or the school, or the nature of either. It's just, calculus notes. Did he write in some sort of code?" Zamrud asks, still trying to puzzle out the book's paradoxical nature
[1d10+1] Perception (to see if any patterns emerge)>>762506
He decides to show the notebook to Qhapaq as well. "Do you see anything here that might be useful? There's so few pages to begin with, and all it seems is written here is simple class notes."Roll #1 9 + 1 = 10
Qhapaq hums in thought, before poking the text cautiously and saying "Perhaps… a map, of sorts. Would the class the notes are from lead us to more details? Or is it simply nothing whatsoever?">>762505
"I am not much of a math expert, either."
Good hummed a bit as he considered his options>>762506
It seems akin to our own castles but magic is a dying art and life is much harder."
"I haven't had much luck understanding either, I also don't think they would be willing to answer any questions they would deem basic from how the school presents itself as highly learned." Billy complains about his recent issue.
The only thing that stands out to you is that Kirk, if the notes are any indication, is quite proficient at calculus. He doesn't seem to have made any errors; nothing is crossed out or erased, nor does the math seem to contain any faulty calculations. This isn't beginner material either; one would expect to find a few troublesome problems even for someone who is very well-studied.>>762506>>762544>>762899>>762900
The bell rings, and the silhouette-students start lining up to put away their trays, breaking off into small groups to idle away their free time before the nightly curfew.
Herb's team looks up with confusion.
"Thought we just sat down for dinner," Lone Star says.
"Was that… faster than before?" Herb asks.
"What the– wait, I didn't even get dessert!" Locomotive complains.
It definitely didn't feel like a whole dinner hour.
What a nerd, she thinks to herself as she looks at the notebook. >>762506>>762901
"Huh? Nah, I'm not part of your game," Deadweight says before putting the last forkful of pasta in her mouth.
Zamrud sighs as he looks over the three pages again. "A map… that would be a clever way to hide it. If it is though, I'm not certain I can decipher. I'm not bad at calculus but Kirk is more skilled than I am, my specialty lies in chemistry. I suppose having them looked over by one more familiar with the subject may be worth a shot, I can see if I can meet with the Calculus teacher and see if he has any insight."
He turns to Herb, "Might I borrow this for a bit?">>762901
As the lunch hour already seems to be completed, Zamrud wiggles his whiskers. "Hmm. We already know our perception of time may be being distorted just by being here. I suppose it is possible we'd feel it in more than one way."
Perhaps out presence has altered things? Or perhaps my gravity magic has some kind of effect on it."
"More entering the place would be stressful, I imagine.">>762903
"Meeting with the teacher could be a good idea, I agree."
Herb is about to speak, but–
"Just be careful with it," Origami interjects. "It's basically the only thing we have of his right now.">>762904>>762903>>762902>>762905
"Hmm…" Herb mutters. "You could be onto something, Qhapaq. I guess that'd track with the PCH… with more live subjects to draw from, the greater the flow of Chronos into the Tree of Evil, maybe."
"Least the semester won't drag out as long as it did before," Lone Star says.
"If nobody else gets inside," Origami says.
"Oh, that reminds me," Herb says. "Since you are
responsible for the latest reset, I think it's fitting that you assist with guard duty during the upcoming Dark Hours."
"Is there any way I can help? I do feel I have been lacking in my efforts here in our goal, or is there anything else I can do?" Billy tilts his head leaning against his hand.
"Ah. Well, I apologize for our resetting. We only came to investigate. What are these Dark Hours?"
Zamrud nods in understanding to Origami and Herb. "Of course. I will treat it with the utmost care, I promise."
"I agree with your assessment. PCH may be wholly theoretical but that would make sense given what we know of it. In which case, we have little time to lose as it were."
Zamrud looks up his contacts on his scheduler to see where he might find whoever teaches 'Calculus' after the lunch periord
"A bit rude to force that on us.">>762905
From what I understand living inside isn't too much better."
"Hmm?" Herb asks. "Oh, you're from the Outlands. The Dark Hours are what we call the time when we turn off the ceiling lights in Ironcastle. It follows 'evening', which is when we dim the lights, and it's followed by 'morning' when we gradually turn the lights back on, after everyone's gotten a good sleep. It's been that way since… well, forever, I guess.">>762907
"Don't be too hard on yourself," Lone Star says. "You all only just got here. There's bound to be an adjustment period. Hell, we've been here a while and we're still trying to figure it out. You can pull some guard duty like Herb suggested, but you might be better off getting some sleep instead.">>762909
You could probably catch the calculus professor during lunch next Cycle without much trouble. You note that their office (for you cannot read their name) is only a few doors down from yours.>>762910>>762909>>762908>>762907
Herb shrugs at Good's protest. "Think of it as a chance to get better acquainted with the campus without having to worry about class."
Lone Star, Origami and Locomotive look a bit conflicted about putting guard duty on you.
"I could help take a shift," Peyote says. "One of Gokay's streams is going to debut later. I think you all might find her performance to be a wondrous release from boredom."
"Very well. If nothing else I could potentially look into finding this places central grading system."
"Thank you, I will take your advice. Maybe I have been too hard on myself and some reflection should help understand my place more." Billy nods to himself scratching at his chin in thought.
After noting down the location of the calculus professor tomorrow, Zamrud takes mental note of when and where to find them as he looks to Good and Billy.
"I think it's a fair request. This is our first day here after all, we can take the guard duty for the night… I mean, Dark hours…" Zamrud fixes himself, still conflicted on which side of his persona is he supposed to be listening too. Both words feel just as odd on his tongue for different reasons.
"I believe teachers are welcome to take shifts watching the halls after dark as well."
"Ahh… I was not aware such things were done. I had sort of noticed it, but I had assumed it was technical problems." He remarks, before looking around here "Is there any danger here during the Dark Hours?">>762911
"Ohh… Gokay, one of the things you showed me earlier?"
"She's the streamer who I showed you," Peyote says. "The one in the, err– gokiburi
costume. Hence the name, Gokay. Or, err… Gokay-chama, as her fans know her.">>762915
"Not that any of us have noticed," Herb says. "Most of our guard duty is to make sure nobody else wanders in here. The Dreaded tend to stay away from the Tree… and in fact, I haven't noticed any Dreaded capable of long-range attacks doing anything beyond the Tree's boundary."
The Aya know that there are a number of Dreaded capable of deploying attacks over a very long range – the longest attack range is 2.3 kilometers, recorded by measurement technology furnished by the Haegyl clan. However, beasts capable of such feats are vanishingly rare. >>762912>>762914>>762913>>762915
Herb's team get up, now that most of the other students have cleared out.
"Well, take care," Herb says. "Call in if you need any backup or find anything noteworthy during the Dark Hours."
"And make sure nothing happens to that notebook," Origami urges Zamrud.
With that, they make their way to the tray collection bin, and head out.
Billy takes care to wave as he heads out. "I don't mind taking any shifts at night, or if anyone else intends to do so instead. Though I am thinking if anything, that would be a likely point the weird time shiftiness would occur."
"I'll return it as soon as I am able. It won't have a scratch." Zamrud assures them as they clear the cafeteria, and he looks to the others as they all dispose of their trays.
"I think I'm working with enough of the teacher side of my mind right now to be familiar with the night patrols. I'll add you all to the schedule and inform the prefects and faculty we'll be managing it this evening. With any luck, we might find some more clues as to explain Kirk's disappearance or find more about the Tree."
"Your presence would be nice to have yes."
He sighed "So where do we go to for this guard?"
"Right! Right. I apologize, some things are difficult to remember at first. It does sound nice to watch, possibly.">>762916
"Well, you have not noticed because Dreaded Ones capable of doing so are rare. Pray that you never meet one, Herb- some can strike from nearly out of sight."
"Oh, I've heard the horror stories," Herb sighs. "Makes you wonder why we even leave the Castles, when you can get dropped or warped or who knows what else, without even seeing your assailant."
His eyes shoot open wide as he realizes the faux pas he just made before an Aya tribesmember. "Agh– I don't mean any offense."
One of the more liberal members of Ironcastle, it seems, more sensitive to the restrictions against tribes members being restricted from Ironcastle.>>762917>>762918>>762919>>762920
"Patrol the outer perimeters of the campus," Herb answers Good. "The boundary of the Tree seems to line up… well, almost identically with the physical wall that surrounds the campus. Don't get within more than fifteen paces of the wall; that seems to be where the boundary is. We put up marker stones after last time to make it easier to see."
Peyote smiles apologetically.
"We'll trust you to divide up the shifts by your own best judgment," Herb says. "Don't take any unnecessary risks; this is still the Outlands we're stuck in."
If there are no more questions, Herb's crew looks like they're fixing to leave.
Ride or Die might be amenable to helping you with the watch duties… they should probably be vacating their own Team cafeteria at this time.
"Thank you for the warning. We'll be certain to give those walls a wide berth then and keep an eye out for your marker stones. Have a good night… and make sure to study." He says with a mixture of cheek and the part of him that's still a teacher here at the Academy genuinely encouraging it.
He looks to the others, "I'll speak with Ride's team and see if there's any volunteers, but won't force it if they're not up for it. I figure our group should be enough for patrols."
>Going to check if Ride's team wants to contribute
Curious about what the others are doing, but not willing to intertupt, Billy decides to go over his own book to see if there is anything different, such as if it had been affected.
"No offense taken. I know the stigma we tribals have, and I do not let it bother me. Not all can survive in the wastes, and those that do are and act different from those that do not live within it." He explains, shrugging his massive shoulders a little.>>762921
Qhapaq gently pats his smaller griffon friend, before saying "Mm. Perhaps you and I could take a shift together, Peyote? It would be good to catch up further."
Good nodded and went out to the wall seeing it as an excuse to snoop.
Grateful for the lenience, Herb gladly drops the subject.>>762924
"Sure," Peyote says. "Oh, let's stay near the buildings during our shift. You see, after this most recent reset, the VODs I had downloaded disappeared from my little rectangle thing. The stream I mentioned is scheduled to air two hours from now, so I can re-download it."
It sounds like some things, but not all things, reset along with the campus.>>762923
Your grimoire has drastically changed; Where before it appeared ancient and arcane, now its cover, back and spine all appear sleek and modern, so much that you almost mistake it for a university textbook.
When you crack it open, you see that the pages that have so far been translated by Key Keeper's translation program are all just the same as they were before.
However, there are new pages that follow. They almost look like the textbooks you saw during your history class.>>762922>"Do you even need to ask?" Ride's reply reads.>>762922>>762923>>762924>>762925
Within a few minutes, Ride's team approach the Boreal cafeteria and wave their greetings, looking quite glad to see you again as well.
>timeskip available when all are ready>You can make two turns' worth of actions during this period for anything you'd like to accomplish during the Dark Hour watch
Billy with something new to focus on takes his time to try and understand the new content, a bit worried about the book's condition, and possibly his own perception being affected alltogether.
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
On his phone, Zamrud types out a swift (if verbose) reply,>"If you did, wouldn't be much of an answer. Night patrols are standard chore of students, since we're new arrivals Herb's team would like to impose the responsibility on us. I saw no reason not to accept, may prove useful for intel. No need to feel obligated, though.">>762926>As the night hour watch proceeds, when Zamrud takes his turn, he looks towards the walls of the garden (but does not dare approach) to see if he's able to perceive the Tree or not, trying to get a sense for how well it obscures itself.
>He also tries to take the time to reflect upon himself: Kirk and Godspeed both seemed to hint that the key to understanding this place would be sitting on the fence between his original persona and the one he's adopted (and he's still not sure which is which), so he tries to think if there's any other elements that line up between the two that might give him a hint as to how the Tree works
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
/ Roll #2 7 = 7
"Huh… I, see. Very well, Peyote.">>762926
Qhapaq gives Ride or Die a friendly pat on the shoulder, smiling.>Ready: Not sure what actions to take! Training, watching streams!
Good decided to go hunting for the central grading computer.
[1d10] If neededRoll #1 4 = 4
You poke around through the faculty offices. Almost all of them are locked, save for the general faculty breakroom and a few personal offices with faulty locks. It seems the faculty use laptops and tablets; you fail to find any desktop terminals you can access.
The text of the new pages is blurry, and moreover written in a character system you cannot read – but you do
recognize it. It is, in fact, the same character system used in the other texts at this university. By submerging yourself into that reality, you may be able to read it.>>762928>>762929
You divide the campus between yourselves and Ride or Die's team, both geographically and temporally, and establish patrols. It's fairly uneventful, as Herb predicted. Much of the downtime is filled by Gokay-chama's streams. She plays a charming creature collection game, though it was obviously rushed out the door by the publisher, for it is rife with glitches. Gokay-chama and her fans make no end of "bug" jokes during these snafus. >>762928
Something stands out to you near the beginning of your watch shift.
The color of the unbound sky. For a time, it is a deep, dark ochre… but only after half an hour of your shift does it become black.
An abrupt protest echoes through the left half of your brain, of the Noble Iron Soul, Zamrud Bahasa. There is no apparent cause to this changing of color. Nothing in heaven or earth could possibly explain it. Is there a great ceiling above you?
The right half, that of Professor Zamrud, is at ease. It barely registers the dimming of the light. The [*******] is going down a bit sooner than before, isn't it? The seasons must be changing. Soon, the [*******] of [*******] will bring about fall, and before you know it, [*******] [*******] [*******].
Cautious, but curious even more so. Billy felt he could take the risk around his team than in any other circumstance as the book is originally his.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
He does indeed try again
[1d10] SearchRoll #1 6 = 6
Qhapaq is decently entertained by Gokay and her gaming stream, even if video games are something he has little to no personal experience with. He finds the bug jokes endearing!
Zamrud's head pulsates as he notices the sudden changing of the sky's color, holding his head slightly as he listens to what the two warring personalities inside his head - Zamrud the Professor and Zamrud the Explorer - are telling him about this phenomena.
"That's not right… or, is it…" he mumbles to himself, registering the information as it comes. "No… that makes sense. The sky can be an entire spectrum of colors depending on when it goes down." He only wishes he know what 'it' was.
Putting the phenomena behind him, certain this will be useful information should he return to the Outlands (IF those really exist), and he continues with his patrol, though he finds it disappointingly uneventful.
He decides to check on his phone and see if anyone else has come across anything in their patrol>Contacting Ride's team to see if anyone's spotted anything of note around the perimeter
Eventually, you locate a nondescript building across from the northeast temple, only one floor tall, and not particularly wide. At first it seems to be an adjunct building of some sort. But, you notice that it is nowhere to be found on your campus map. As you investigate, you find that it has only two doors; both are locked by a keypad and a traditional key-based lock.
You get the sense that you're being watched, for being too close to this building…>>763516>>762943
It's a largely uneventful watch; the perimeters of the school are marked by the patchwork ruins of a great, septagonal wall. Trails through the dirt indicate where Herb's team pushed around shattered chunks of wall, to delimit a more clear boundary of where it is safe to walk.>>762943>>763516>>762934>>762932
All too swift, time moves on. Sleep beckons…
Good makes note of this and beats a hasty retreat back to his dorm/
With a calm mind Billy makes due in relaxing in his dorm. Taking care to not damage the furniture with his claws. Soon sleep quickly takes him.
As the night goes on, Zamrud lets out yawn after yawn until it becomes all to apparent he's needing to get some rest. Noting everything he can from the others, the professor sends everyone a message notifying them to hit the sack.
"Quite alright…" he says to himself. "We'll learn more as we go along."
He remarks internally how he really should have graded those papers earlier…>Good for timeskip
Another [*******] begins at Agape Academy. In the east, the [*******] rises, heralding [*******]. Same as it ever has, same as it ever will be. The sky gently sheds its blanket of deep azure, marked by distant, skyward lights, and dons the warmth of red.
It began with your investigation into the disappearance of an Ironcastle exploratory team, comprised of the kirin Sage Herb, the minotaur Warrior Lone Star, the diamond dog duo Origami (Commoner) and Locomotive (Warrior), and the unicorn Commoner, Kirk. Dispatched to the ruins of an Old World academy to destroy a mysterious tree said to "feed upon time itself," this team failed to return.
When you found the academy, the Tree of Evil they'd sought to exterminate had grown to colossal proportions, piercing even the black sky of the Outlands itself. And, it had established an invisible boundary around the academy. Inadvertently crossing it, you caused a temporal "rewind," in which you, Herb's team, and Ride or Die's team were sent back to the beginning of the semester.
Though this set you and Herb's team on bad initial terms, they resolved to get over it; they'd been reset more than once before – previously, by the wanderings of Peyote, Qhapaq's old Xen tribe friend. However, this time, Kirk was mysteriously absent. Just before your arrival, Kirk's mental state had taken a bad, bad turn, and he resolved to investigate the Tree on his own, despite the mysterious defense mechanisms that the Tree had established.
Herb's hypothesis about the Tree could be simplified as such: It feeds on psychic emanations related to how one spends their time. Thus, it established a temporal loop in order to harvest this energy from those trapped inside. Since they had never reached the end of the temporal loop, Herb believed that an opportunity to attack the Tree awaited near the end of the semester, during a grade-wide tournament held in the Bodhi Garden, where the Tree had initially planted itself.
The quickest way to get to the end of the semester, then, was to play the roles of student and faculty.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_3cFrq06_AMonths are comprised of four Weeks of five Cycles. Each Week will have four study Cycles, and one "free" Cycle in which you get to dictate how you approach the situation, such as through Investigation, or Immersing yourself into the "reality" of the Academy, allowing you to question fellow students or staff.The end of each Month will have a special encounter. Others may find you throughout the Months.
>It is the first Week of the first Month. How will you spend it?
Settling into his role as Professor while still retaining at least some of his original persona, Zamrud goes at his week with one hand each on the wheel, in a sense.
He teaches his Chemistry class with all the same fervor as before, not giving anyone (even his or Ride's teams) any special privileges to make their tests easier or grades higher. Though he does make extra time for anyone who needs some instruction on his material.
As he teaches, he has one primary goal set for the week: decipher the mystery of Kirk's oddly thin journal. Seeing as how it's only filled with math equations, a subject he himself is not well versed in, Zamrud seeks out the school's math professors and see if they can provide any insight into Kirk's journal, imagining some of it must be encoded.
Billy makes due in attempting to keep communicating with his grimoire during the week, by following granpaws words in taking notes in the margins.
Throughout the classes, attempts are made to copy and share notes with his team with his troubles of the gaps in communication.
Billy makes do mostly focusing in his chemistry class in hopes that he can communicate with Zamrud better in understanding.
Good moves quickly into computer studies for the school and any classes that may be able to help him sneak, probably pe.
He spends free time socializing and doing his best to scope out the building when possible.
You find a beginner class in electrical engineering, and enroll a bit late. The only thing you missed was the obligatory syllabus-reading. >>763524
On rare occasions, your notes disappear, only to reappear with minor corrections made in another color of ink. In a later instance, there's a bit of witty teasing about the content of your note.
It seems this grimoire has a bit of an attitude– setting aside the fact that it's apparently sapient!>>763526>>763525
Gym consists of varied exercises, for recreation, health, and even combat. Dodgeball is an apparent favorite of the ghostly students. The students may be otherworldly apparitions, but the dodgeballs are physical, and definitely sting.
Qhapaq feels a student keeping an eye on him… but can't tell which.>>763527
Nobody seems to go in or out of that building, neither student nor faculty. But perhaps Zamrud may know more…>>763523
The apparition of a professor studies the journal. You can hear only about half of what they're saying. The rest fades in and out, like a broken radio clinging to a distant signal.
From what you can gather, the professor seems puzzled… the material in the journal is from far down the line in the syllabus. They won't be covering it for quite some time. Apparently, all the math checks out.
Good takes the welts with some pride. Honestly he rather enjoyed the game.>>763523
Having surmised that he may need to talk to staff, he moved to approach Zamrud.
Illusion or no, Qhapaq will try to work as hard as he can on learning about electrical devices- hopefully, he can gleam something of use.>>763528
Qhapaq, his instincts warning him of someone watching, tries to find, well… who.>Perception: [1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
Zamrud struggles to understand the apparition, wondering if any of this would make more sense if he let go of the side of him that remembered Iron Castle and fully committed to the illusion, but he dares not go that far.
Knowing all the math checks out at least, Zamrud instead tries to ask for details on what chapters does the material pull from, thinking perhaps that another clue might lie in the books that Kirk got these equations from.>>763529
Zamrud is busy puzzling over the journal with a bagel and coffee in his office when Good comes to approach him
"Ah, afternnon Good. Studies going well?"
Billy can't help but find some comfort in the sapience of his grimoire, finding it's humor much more appealing after the ordeals of these missions.
When given time Billy does try to make attempts to keep in contact with his team through his electronic brick. Voicing out well wishes for goodluck.
"Well enough but I do have a question about a building I noticed on the campus that doesn't show up on any maps… and no one ever seems to come or go."
Zamrud's interest seems piqued. "Interesting. I'm not completely familiar with the campus, not even the part of me committed to the role. Where is this building?"
Good began to lead him to it.
You learn some basic troubleshooting. A review of the syllabus on your own time reveals that repairs will be taught in future weeks.>>763530
One of the students seems to have their eye on you in every gym class – most of your hits in dodgeball come from them. Bastard aims for the head, too. As a ghastly silhouette, you can't really distinguish their appearance from the others, not unless you submerge yourself.>>763531
The professor hands you a textbook, and points you to a chapter on random number generation and its applications in programming. >>763531>>763535
As Good leads the way, Zamrud recognizes the building from far-off. It's known as the Gradeyard, among the teaching staff. Grades are put into the system on a single terminal inside that building. Nobody is allowed in there without two witnesses, and staff aren't allowed to discuss it with students. With the stakes as high as they are at Agape Academy, grading is treated with as much security as a bank vault. >>763532>>763534>>763533>>763530
Billy sets up a big groupchat with everyone in it. It'll be handy for exchanging information so long as you use enough channels to organize everything. Might want to keep the emoji spam and Trotify playlists separate from the ontological insights, after all.
>timeskip to next week available when ready and RP concluded
"Is there anything of note going on, or anybody that needs help in particular?" Billy leaves his note in the chat. He has been feeling quite settled.
>Ready to move on if everyone else
Good waited patiently for Zamrud to speak.
As Good leads him to the building, Zamrud's eyes open wide with realization as he recalls the building's function.
"Ah. THAT building. I'm not supposed to be sharing this information with students but, given our unique circumstance I think an exception can be made. The faculty calls it the 'Gradeyard'. It's where every student at Agape Academy has their official record update with grades from their classes. Not even a teacher can enter with any fewer than two witnesses for when they're going to update the grades. I assume it's kept off the maps as to avoid any students from being tempted to try and break in and change their grades.">>763536
After Billy sets up the group chat, Zamrud leaves his note for Team Boreal and Team Ride
>"I tried looking into Kirk's journal. A math professor assured me all the math checked out and it's from much farther along in the curriculum than Kirk should be at, but I'm still not sure what significance it holds regarding what he was investigating. All I know is it pertains to random number generation…"
It seems he'll have to go under at least a little to see who it is…
Good nodded and saved that info for later as he began to make notes to watch and see what times it was used if at all. Perhaps he could sabotage an apparition and see if someone came here.
Ready to skip
The world bathes itself in technicolor… the empty ruin of a gym gains new life, as holes in the walls and ceiling patch themselves. Students gain bodies of their own, diverse in shapes and size… with a slight exception for your would-be rival.
A silhouette they remain, but given form now. They are certainly a griffon in form, and wear a school gym uniform, same as you and the others. Their fur and feathers remain shadowy. And as for their face… they are covered in a strange wooden mask.Why the mask…?
seems to ask your brain. What a strange question. You know the answer as any… as any… it's… on the tip of your tongue…>>763541>>763539>>763540>>763537
Ride's team seems to be doing moderately well in their studies. Channels light up here and there with homework questions. Zamrud's academic conduct senses tingle… but so long as everyone shows their work and grasps the theory, it should be alright, right?
"Is everyone making do?" Billy put up a question in the shared chat. It's best to maintain contact, Billy believes. You never know when you might miss your chance to help or just for to balm the mind.
Zamrud has no issues in the team using the Concord to share their work together, provided it's not used during exams it's no different than a study session together, right?
For the following week, Zamrud sees if he can (in his spare time where he is not needed to teach chemistry) researching or even attending a class in random numbers theory / programming. Surely, he thinks, this must have some relation to Herb's theory regarding time dilation in regards to perception, but how?
[1d10] ResearchingRoll #1 2 = 2
One thing Billy makes sure to do throughout the week and his plans for any time in the future weeks is his communication with his grimoire and study's of it.
On the issue of his schooling, Billy takes less time focused in his classes to find any paths through the garden, coinciding with exploring the campus itself.
A mask? It seems familiar enough- didn't he have one, too? It's not here, it's not on him, but… hrm. The griffon attempts to approach the shadowy griffon, reaching up and trying to cautiously poke at his shoulder.
As you approach, the masked student is quick to react. In a deft maneuver, they give you a high-five, a friendly gesture at first, before slapping away your hand with the back of their own. They say nothing, but behind the mask, you can sense them sizing you up, gauging your skill. You do not seem to impress them.
Qhapaq frowns a little at the gesture- they don't seem particularly pleased with him, to say the least. Maybe… it's the mask. He gestures to his face, before retrieving the broken music player. "Traded. Need to fix this."
The student doesn't react much to your explanation… they're eyeing the sporting equipment nearby. But as they do, the chimes ring, signaling the end of the hour, and the end of gym class. The student flicks their head in annoyance, then heads off to the locker rooms to change.
Qhapaq looks back to the sporting equipment- looks like it's a challenge of sorts, then.>>763525>Keeping the same plan! Really want to fix that music player.
Another week unfolds at Agape Academy.>>763576
Unfortunately most of the math lectures you find scheduled this week are on more basic concepts known already to you. Kirk's apparent obsession came from material later in the semester; you might not find out more until then, unless you can find a professor with the time for a private lesson.>>763577
The Bodhi Garden remains as secure as ever. It remains perched as it is all around the Tree of Evil, whose mountainous roots have caused the walls of the Garden to become more like a stone ring.
The grimoire is capricious, often remaining silent until it finds an opportunity for mischief. Perhaps there may be classes available which might pique its interest beyond mere pranks.>>763582
In successive gym classes, the masked student isn't there. None of the other students, nor the faculty, seem to notice, or make much of their absence. With the masked student gone, the number of students in your class is even, permitting balanced team games…
You continue to learn some basic DIY, along with your other introductory lessons.
Good having picked up he was going to need some skills with computers turned to doing them as a class he split with the other 2 he had taken of history and phys ed. Today though was his computer course and he was currently learning all the ways he could break a machine from the inside with coding.
Failing to gleam anything from the math lectures currently on-going at the school, Zamrud decides to (when time allows) see if there is a professor that might be able to provide a private lesson for material much later in the semester.
In the meantime, he seeks to make sure the rest of his compatriots can pass class as well, so he gives extra time to helping any on either team with material for his Chemistry course to see they pass the exams.
Billy willing to be more erratic with his schedule tried to go to more classes deviating from his interest to attempt to listen to the other students and gleam any information from the lectures to hopefully learn to apply his grimoire to the situation at hand.
Qhapaq would slide back into his 'regular' schedule after a time, though he'd consult the other teams, along with Peyote, if any of them had seen a second masked griffon.
Hopefully, he can learn enough to try and fix the walkman.
There is, in fact, an alarming amount of potential ways to mess up a computer, especially when armed with the rather peculiar 'Cee' programming language. How the people of the Time Long Forgotten managed to keep their terminals running with that minefield of a language, scholars have yet to determine.>>763704>>763701
The two of you being enrolled in the same PE section, you're able to compare notes on the masked student. Or rather, Qhapaq is able to ask for the others' notes… strained metaphor aside, it seems that neither Good nor even the spiritually-adept Peyote is able to see the masked student.
For Qhapaq's part, the masked student keeps their distance during class, now. What interest they showed in him before, now seems diminished, or perhaps, is being held in reserve. >>763703
Halfway immersed as you are, you are able to pick up about half of what your fellow students take interest in and talk about. Most of them, it seems, are more oriented toward the mundane rather than the magical fields. Your grimoire and its applications seem almost foreign notions to the students who observe it, though they cannot deny its power. This seems to run contrary to what you have heard told of the Time Long Forgotten, and the stories of their supreme, almost grandiose, feats of magic. >>763702
After shooting a few texts to a dignitary from the math department, you end up getting in touch with someone willing to make time for a crash course on RNG and its applications.
There are, however, two caveats. The first, is that their lecture won't be until the end of the month. The second is that, being halfway immersed as you are, you can only grasp about half of what it is that they're saying. Still… you have until the end of the fourth week to decide whether to submerge yourself deeper, or to remain halfway between, as you are.>>763702>>763703>>763701>>763704
The second week concludes at Agape Academy. Time, whatever the PCH holds, seems always to move faster when you have need of it to remain slow…
It seems the other groups are getting along well enough. They've had to spend more time studying than worrying about Kirk's disappearance, or escaping…
Much of the discussion in the groupchat is about the Schedule of Exams, posted recently by the dean. The first midterms will be held at the end of the second month; a second wave shall commence at the end of the fourth. The final exams, at the end of the fifth, and the no-holds-barred tournament, at the end of the sixth month, one week before graduation.
Qhapaq frowns a little bit as it seems like the other masked griffon is out of his reach without immersing further… though, doing so would be a risk. He'll have to keep a close watch on him, and decide some time soon. Or, simply force the simulation to end, and the other masked griffon would be deposited out as well?
Either way, he thanks Peyote with a soft headpat.>>763705
"Exam schedule? A… test, of sorts? A test of our reflexes? Or, strength? Or is it book knowledge?"
Zamrud contemplates the conundrum before him as he recognizes his sitting on the fence is holding back his ability to contemplate whatever it was that Kirk had written down. However, for the time being at least, he determines if Kirk was able to come across this by only being half-submerged, he could as well.
As he communicates with the others regarding the Schedule of Exams, he checks to make sure if anyone is failing anything that ISN'T his own Chemistry class: with his resources as a teacher, if anyone needs tutelage in other subjects, he feels he should have the pull to get them that help they need.
With any down-time left available while waiting for his tutoring session at the end of the month, Zamrud also tries to see if he can pick up any sign of Kirk's trail to see where he might have disappeared to as well.
"Several such tests, actually." Zamrud clarifies. "Though I doubt any of them will be of a physical nature. They'll cover mathematics, chemistry, physics, history, and the like. You'll have to train your mind rather than your body for this one."
Unsatisfied, Billy continues with his efforts to apply himself in the classes and seeing the other students. He needs to apply himself, to understand what is now and the grimoire before.
I am curious if these exams are physical or purely writing now."
Peyote fits nicely in the palm of your hand.>>763706>>763707>>763709>>763711>"We've been around the block a few times," Herb types in the groupchat. "Exams are tailored to what you've taken as classes. So like Zamrud said, most of them are on the more intellectual stuff, but those of you with PE on your roster will have your share of physical tests.">"Pending the professor's approval, I believe a group study guide is in order," Peyote suggests. All of Ride's team and Herb's flood this message with affirmative emoji reactions.
Zamrud types in the field,>"Group study is an excellent idea, if any of us have any weak areas someone should be able to cover them.">"If by the end of the session anyone should prefer more tutoring, I think I can use my resources as a professor to see some of the others make time in their schedules for you specifically."
"Mmm. So, there will be a test of reflexes. Good. I will do my best to prepare."
"I am honestly not feeling confident in myself, I might have missed my chances to understand as much as I could have." Billy speaks up feeling shameful.
In some useful news, I've learned the systems in this school are terrifyingly easy to break if you put your mind to study."
>>763714>>763713>>763715>"We'll get everyone up to speed on what the tests will cover," Ride says in agreement. "It's natural to feel apprehensive about tests, but teamwork overcomes all obstacles.">>763707
Even when canvassing your other students and fellow faculty, they don't seem to have any other leads as to Kirk's possible presence.>>763709>>763714
You put your nose to the grindstone and get to studying in your chosen classes.>>763716>"For real?" Assembly asks. "How… strange. I had hoped that was a problem exclusive to our modern, degraded computing knowledge, and not the situation of the Time Long Forgotten… maybe some things never really change, after all.">>763713>>763714>>763715>>763716
In the midst of your fourth week studies, Zamrud is contacted by a member of the mathematics team. He doesn't completely recognize them, as they are, as of yet, an apparition to him. But, they're ready to perform a special seminar on RNG. As such, those of you who wish to accompany Zamrud make your way with him to the reserved lecture-room.
As you enter, you see that you have arrived ahead of the lecturer. It's a decent-sized room, with seats for twenty-four more students. Ride's crew and Herb's are both busy, so most of them opted to get your notes after the fact. However, Origami, despite his workload, has opted to join you. This was Kirk's obsession before his disappearance, and the weight of that is obvious upon his brows…
When you have all finished taking your seats…
[25d10]Roll #1 9, 6, 1, 8, 4, 10, 10, 9, 2, 3, 9, 2, 9, 8, 5, 6, 5, 10, 2, 9, 9, 2, 10, 6, 3 = 157
An unseen force flings twenty-five dice into the air. They bounce off of walls and the ceiling and floors and desks and windows, narrowly grazing you from time to time.
One of the seated figures, believed until now to have been a student, stands and starts to examine the dice, taking great care to step over each one so as not to disturb the roll. They too are an apparition, but as they check each die, the apparition slowly gains a semblance of form and color…
After recording each roll, the figure strides to the front of the classroom. You can see the figure is feminine, with a quadrupedal figure. She is practically a silhouette at this point, having become slowly more real over the course of observing the dice. But, without fully immersing yourself, you won't be able to see her true form, you surmise.
With a flourish, the figure picks up a bit of chalk, and gives a small bow in greeting.
>>763717>Poorly thought out programming languages seem to be as old as computers.>>763718
Good decided to focus for now on trying to understand her, dipping a toe into this worlds illusion again.
Zamrud takes his seat on the side wing of the class room, keeping attentive as the mysterious apparition of the teacher walks in and tosses the dice about. Zamrud is taken off guard by the unorthodox introduction, ears propping up and carefully ducking his head lest one of the dice hit him.
As the silhouetted teacher approaches the front, Zamrud's eyes strain to try and recognize her, hoping his sitting on the fence between reality and illusion of the Academy would give him the means to understand or see them better
[1d10+1] PerceptionRoll #1 5 + 1 = 6
Billy follows along in the class scratching at his fuzzy chin unsure where to rest his eyes as his neck swerves to look around the class. "Maybe I can get this right?"
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 1 = 1
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
Frowning a little bit, he tries to get a better look. This is the second time now they've been engaged directly by a sihlouette…>Immerse a little bit more?
You take a seat by the window, fourth row from the front. For some reason, you feel you have seen this in a cartoon from a land, far east of […….]>>763719>>763827>>763828>>763826
Your fellow classmates fade into view as you allow yourselves to soak in the parallel reality of the school… At the head of the class stands a changeling mare. Somewhat larger than others, though not so tall as to be a queen, she has a white mane styled in a bulbous bouffant, and with a set of twintails coming off of the back. "Yeah… hello, hello," the mare says. "Erm… I think this is the correct classroom. I'm told I'm to give a seminar somewhere on RNG and its applications? To be honest, I just sort of picked one…"Her manner of speech is languid, and her eyes are clear, yet relaxed, in spite of her apparent uncertainty and unpreparedness. It conveys the calm of one filled with assurance. Without looking at the blackboard, she telekinetically writes her name in chalk: Truth Dares.
Those not yet immersed cannot hear the figure speak, nor read their scrawl; only vague murmurings.
Zamrud grumbles as he can only make out snippets here and there. Frustratingly, he nervously looks at Kirk's journal once again, and sighs as he realizes this is not going to be enough. With no small amount of trepidation, he speaks a mantra to himself.
"Don't think about the Outlands, there is only the Academy. Don't think about the Outlands, there is only the Academy…"
[1d10] Attempting to immerse more in the illusion of the school in order to understand her lecture.Roll #1 10 = 10
Billy not being able able to understand without the immersion decides that what is next is best and makes do by attempting to copy others notes, and failing that to take them for himself.
Good blinked as he wondered if that was a name he had known before, but he kept listening to her.
"What is the application, if I might ask?"
Zamrud wills himself to hold his head beneath the waters of the other reality, a phenomenon disorienting, yet grounding. That which is water gradually distills into breathable air… that which is gravity collects itself and everything it is to hold together…
As Professor Zamrud feels himself newly righted, he starts to transcribe notes for Billy, who jots down a copy for his own purposes.
"Good, I was hoping someone would have a question," Truth says. "Else I would have had to roll for our starting point."
Other students exchange looks, unsure if the dice-throwing mare was joking or sincere.
"Random number generation has lots of different purposes, from games of chance both analogue and digital, to cryptography and security. Certain ancient cultures practiced divination based on, essentially, the interpretation of dice rolls or card pulls… though, in modern times, you'll find people who still do that.
"I wouldn't say this's an exhaustive list, though. Really, any task which requires the generation of many randomized elements benefits from a robust RNG system. Take gambling, for example. You've probably played games where victory or loss comes down to 'Lady Luck,' as they call her. People get annoyed when they lose, but take out the random element, and they'll get even more annoyed, right? Lots of people subject themselves to that kind of harrowing, and they have plenty of fun doing so – even when money isn't on the line."
She stops to fiddle a bit with a d10 perched upon the table. "Erm… was there something specific I could go on about?"
The Professor, now clear of his senses and able to see the Changeling teacher for the familiar face she was, starts jotting down notes as she explains the history of random systems.
As she asks if there is anything specifically, Zamrud eyes pique in interest at one particular thing she mentioned. "Ah, yes, I might have one Professor."
"This may be something of a tangent but, you mentioned that random number generation had historically been used to practice divination - Tarot cards come to mind, for example. Given their belief in it holding answers to the future, would you say there is any correlation between random systems of numbers and… and 'time'?"
Billy makes sure to follow Zamrud as best as he can, drowning everything else out with the click of his writing utensil to understand what is currently being said.
"Hmm… well, not to editorialize, but there's a bit of a problem with these supposed oracles' thinking.
"If the future is so set in stone as to be readable from a point before it, such as with tarot, then the process of shuffling a tarot deck then drawing from it – the randomization – is totally pointless… But attempt a tarot reading without shuffling, or even, by stacking the deck beforehand, and the practitioners will assert that you didn't do it right, or that you're going to upset whatever supposed force or other spirit – the Daemon
– assists in the divination. One might just think it's irrational superstition, but it raises a serious problem: If the future isn't set in stone, how can it be divined at all?
"The resolution, as you suspect, is found 'just in time.' Logically, divination could only predict the future with a degree of accuracy at the very last point of time before the future is revealed.
Because once you know what's going to happen in the future, any action you take will be colored by that knowledge. As such, that future won't come out exactly as it's been predicted. Whether the change is slight or dramatic, the future will be changed either way. The act of observing the future can only destroy that future.
"A common way of generating random numbers in programming is to invoke time with a certain function. Doing so gives you a randomization seed unique to that point of time. Call that function at a later time, and it'll give you a different seed, and thus, different RNG. But if you were to somehow call it repeatedly, each with the exact same point of time, then you'd have the same randomization seed for each repetition. Thus, the same RNG. Not that that's feasible or practical."
At this point Billy was tilting his head at his own copied notes. Was the teacher telling them there was no randomness, or that predicting the future isn't feasible. Billy hoped that it would become clear to him if not now, then later.
"Cryptography?" He cocks his head to the side, frowning a little bit. "Divination, I suppose, I know more.">>763837
Qhapaq cocks his head to the side… admittedly, he's far from an intelligent, thoughtful griffon, but he can understand part of it. "Maybe a diviner would find a likely outcome, but not a guaranteed one?"
Zamrud's fur stands on end as she mentions the word 'Daemon' - though he can't say for sure *why* - but he continues listening intently as she offers her explanation.
"That makes sense. Knowing the future would ultimately change it in ways you may not even be aware of consciously. Every single little moment, therefore, holds significance of holding one particular possible future from unfolding…"
These words make Zamrud ponder what his students said about the school year repeating… that the 'time' chosen was constantly re-chosen over and over again without fail due to specific seeds chosen from the same moment.
"How difficult, precisely, would it be to game such a system to reproduce the exact same results over and over again? In a completely controlled environment, if you were to time things out exactly with, say, rolling the dice or the precise manner of shuffling the cards, are there any other factors that could prevent the same result from coming about?"
"While luck is an undeniable force, I've never found it to be something someone should rely on."
"What you've just described is similar to the modern theories of divination– that divination is not so different from, say, an advanced weather forecast. According to these theories, divination takes nearly or all of the possible constants and variables in a given situation and charts the most likely outcome of the situation. This could be thought of as being 'at runtime,' in computing terms, as opposed to say, an ancient prophecy of the distant future, which would be a 'compile time' style of divination. The former checks the likely outcome of an event by plugging in the relevant information around the time that the event is about to happen. The latter has predicted the event itself regardless of the relevant information surrounding the event. You might say that in the latter situation, the event is 'fated' to happen – a concept I take particular umbrage with.">>763840>>763841>>763838
"Well, in a word, 'luck' is – sort of – the answer to that question," Truth says. "Think about what a 'completely controlled environment' implies. In that situation, you'd require nothing less than a completely omnipotent and probably omniscient being to roll the dice and dole out the cards, in order to get the same results every time. The only true variable in that case is… well, it's something that even that omnipotent dealer could not control…
"…Well, 'luck' is perhaps not the most precise term, but when people say it, they're referring to this sort of… je ne sais quoi
that makes things work out one way or another, beyond the control or knowledge of anyone or anything. If I had to relate it to computing, the most accurate concept would be a glitch
that enters the system, and throws off the calculations, in the style of 'just in time' compilation."
Truth Dares tosses two dice into the air – a d4 and a d5.
"Anyone here familiar with the concept of quantum mechanics?"Roll #1 4 = 4
/ Roll #2 1 = 1
Billy only grew to be more confused as the lecture went on, very perplexed by the jump to quantum mechanics, whatever it was the study of. It didn't sound like the study of luck or random chance, did it?
"I am aware of the theory of observation changing the effects of quantum phenomena."
"A glitch… yes, I think I see what you're saying. Something that messes with the system itself that forces the same results to occur over and over."
Zamrud considers the implications of this, wondering if the key to this time-loop might be found only at the end right before the school year is over, that connects it to the identical year it is about to replay. As he contemplates this, he follows up her next question.
"Only conceptually. I assume RNG plays a role in quantum mechanics?"
"Mmm, I see. Weather forecasts and Divinations being similar is… interesting. Though, I do not know what "Quantum Mechanics" are…"
"A glitch could do that, or it could be just what you need to prevent
the same result from happening more than once. A glitch is the gateway to countless new outcomes intended by neither the developer nor the user. I mean – what's the name of that one popular game from a few years ago? The one where you catch bugs or whatever they are, and make them fight. It's infamous for glitching out at the slightest provocation. In theory, they'll never document every possible new application of that game's glitches.">>763843>>763844>>763846>>763845
Truth Dares chuckles. "Ya… gomen, gomen. I can already feel the physics students cringing in anticipation. Is this what they call a prophecy? Ha. Haha. Hahaha. Hahahahaha. Well, I won't embarrass myself or frustrate the audience by punching above my weight class at a concept I don't entirely get myself."
She gestures with her chalk at Good. "We've got another oracle in the room. They call it the Observer Effect – at a low enough level, reality is not quite determined, until it is observed. However, observing a system changes the system. Instruments designed to measure quantities necessarily change those quantities. When you open your hand, the coin is either heads or tails, but until that moment, it could be either result. Well, you see, this presents yet another philosophical problem for divination:
"If there is, as some people believe, a singular omniscient observer – a 'God' in other words, then surely that singular, all-powerful observer's observations will overrule those of a common mortal's. The common rebuttal to this idea is that the singular God observes all possible 'realities', and simply permits one reality to exist over another, when his, her or their beloved mortals make their own observations.
"But if there is not one singular God, but rather, a group of gods, say, four, five…"
Perhaps deliberately, or by chance, Truth glances at Qhapaq. "…Or six, of them, then which god's observations would be the 'true' ones? Do gods rule democratically?"
Truth pauses… and leans on the desk. "Okay… gomennasorry. I need a break."
Billy couldn't help but concur with the last statement. He felt poofed out from all the philosophy, and not quite understanding what the point of the deduction is. Best to ask the others in hopes that they can clarify.
"I remember something about a cat with a similar scenario."
"I cannot say I understand, ah… much of this- these are not concepts I understand. It all seems very complicated, but… with multiple gods, would they… compete? Coexist, somehow?"
Zamrud nods as he listens to the lecture. "I see. It sort of reminds me of another lesson involving a box and a certain cat.">>763849
Zamrud smirks at Good as he arrives at the same result.>>763847
As she explains how the observer is, in essence, affecting the system, and that multiple observers can therefore affect it in different ways, the possibilities of what that could mean for this school - this simulation - if perhaps the key to understanding it is something to do with their perceptions combined, much in line with the theory about how the flow of time can be eschewed with perception.
"That's… a very interesting insight, Professor. If a single onlooker changes the outcome, what then of multiple ones?"
"From what I understand, that particular researcher came up with that thought experiment in an attempt to dispute this very concept. What a spoilsport.">>763850>>763851
Truth shrugs. "I dunno. But if that were the case, a pantheon of gods would have to get along, unless they wanted lots of disagreements about basic reality, leading to conflicting, anomalous realities.">>763848>>763849>>763850>>763851
Truth reaches behind her desk and produces a huge cup with a slushy inside. She has a long and noisy sip. "…Did that cover your questions? Or is there anything else you wanted to know?"
Most of the students look like their brains have tripped a breaker… except La Senorita. She's over there drawing in her notebook.
"For the most part." he said as he did his best to see what Senorita was drawing as he sat near her.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 10 = 10
Billy settling down keeping up with his notes scratched at his chin. "I might get it eventually." Billy had mumbled to himself.
Zamrud, thinking now is as best an opportunity as any to see if this expert has any more insight into Kirk's journal.
"If you don't mind looking at something, Professor…" he says as he pulls out Kirk's journal in its brevity. "Another student was working on some advanced material from your course. I was wondering if you can take a look at it and tell me what exactly he was working on specifically?"
Qhapaq is very wholly confused, but he nods. He'll have to think over this more.
[1d10+1] PerceptionRoll #1 7 + 1 = 8
La Senorita is sketching a landscape of a magnificent capital city – built into a mountain, fed by a wondrous waterfall, full of brilliant, gleaming domes, high spires and magical towers… something out of a fairy tale. A strange sphere, with a crescent within, hovers behind the grand capital.>>763857>>763855
Herb and Ride's crew look just as perplexed… perhaps a group study session may yield clarity.>>763856>>763858https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvMJH6ZMtT0
Truth looks over the notebook… and Zamrud can see the faintest of disturbances. A moment of surprise, intrigue– deftly caught with the reflex of one used to concealing their true emotions. But not so swift as to escape the notice of an all-seeing observer.
"This looks like the theory behind cryptographic RNG – salts as they're called," Truth says. "Was he taking an interest in cybersecurity, maybe?"
…Was that… misdirection?
Deadweight thought Truth's entrance was a little extra, but she's been enjoying the seminar so far. Pretty interesting stuff. And she's glad the speaker didn't go on that polytheism tangent.
Zamrud's keen eyes pick up on the slight twitch of the professor's hesitation, interest piqued as he looks to Kirk's journal again.
"Cybersecurity? Hmm… hard to say, but I might have a few thoughts on why he'd be interested in it." He says as he contemplates the nature of the exam scores being hidden tightly behind lock and key in the most secure facility on campus.
"You wouldn't happen to know if we use this sort of cybersecurity on campus, do you? Is it a commonly used algorithm?"
"Maybe, ahm… perhaps he had an interest in random generation because he sought to find out how constant everything here was? Do things play out the same, each time?"
[1d10+1] PerceptionRoll #1 3 + 1 = 4
"Wouldn't the point of random number generation be that the chance of things playing out the same be so small it can't be considered, or am I thinking of something else?" Billy scratches at his chin.
The disturbance subsides; Professor Truth's expression returns to inscrutability.
"…You'd have to ask the IT department," Truth says. "This could just be an example he found online, for all I know. I'd certainly hope one of our students wouldn't be caught in academic dishonesty.">>764006>>764006>>763860>>764008
"…Play out the same?" Truth repeats, slow and uncertain, as if the words were from a foreign language.
"As would I," Zamrud truthfully agrees with his peer, "but given the journal is so oddly specific, I thought it wise to look into what our students might be researching. I'm sure it's nothing nefarious; as you mentioned, this material is advanced even at the conceptual level, surely a young student wouldn't be able to advance it so far as to actually crack any security system in the school. It's most likely just out of curiosity."
"Well, yes. Does everything in this place occur the same way each time it has reset in the past? It sounds as if you have seen it reset at least once, if not more. Maybe he is hoping that…" Qhapaq frowns a little, deep in thought "…I do not know- a favorable thing to occur? The right series of events?"
Deadweight's eyebrows flick when her mind starts to drift to the 20 page paper she still has to write.
"Maybe for just the right conclusion. I don't think one can certainly know the right events, looking for a proper end is easier." Billy attempts to add.
"Hmm… maybe, yes."
Good stared at the city in awe "Wow, you're a really talented artist."
La Senorita gasps. In a single movement, she spins your way and shuts her binder to hide her drawing. She seems to have been so engrossed in the artistry to have not noticed you observing her drawing up until now.>>764010>>764011>>764012>>764013
Truth's eyes widen as Qhapaq talks about things resetting, and she stops breathing as he questions "the right series of events."
"Do you mean to suggest…" she begins, formulating each word as slowly as she can. "…Something is amiss with 'time' at this school?"
Her eyes, previously colored a dull blue shade, as is common to changelings, have begun to take on the faintest of rosy hues.
Good smiled "No need to hide it my friend, I think you're extremely talented."
Lost at some point had fallen asleep on Deadweight and was gently snoring away.
Did Lost even take this class? When was she next to you? Questions most perplexing.
Zamrud takes note of Truth's total change in demeanor as Qhapaq and Billy press her on the nature of time resetting in the school. Being in his current mind-frame of the Professor, Zamrud has to fight the instinct to berate them for continuing to pursue their delusions, but he keeps enough mind to remember there might be truth to it all after all.
"…perhaps that is what they are implying, yes. I don't suppose you'd know if we've had such a problem in the past, Professor?"
"I don't like all this time discussion myself. Way too much theory for me and nothing really for results." Billy settles on a grimace.
Qhapaq blinks for a moment, before leaning in a bit to study Truth's body language before replying- is she… upset? Aggressive?>Perception [1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
Nonetheless, La Senorita puffs out her cheeks and boops your nose. Normally so extroverted, even she has something of which she is sensitive and embarrassed.>>764017>>764018>>764020>>764021>>764022
"…Very well," Truth says.
A newfound curiosity intensifies her gaze, previously lethargic and carefree, now inquisitive and scalpel-sharp.
"Let's dispense with the abstractions – we'll recap the lesson later. I have only one final question for my lecture."
"Hail, Souls," Truth says. "From what Castle have you come?"
Lost's eyes open up a bit and look around before closing her eyes and letting her ears open up.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 1 = 1
Qhapaq blinks for a moment, before taking on a more taut, guarded posture, like a cat about to leap. "I do not hail from a castle."
Deadweight thinks to herself: Is everyone at this school going insane?>>764018
Deadweight then hears the light snoring of Lost next to her. She turns her head to her, and seeing her so peaceful, she smiles. She had dragged her to this seminar cause she thought it'd be interesting (and a good excuse to procrastinate on her paper), but it looks like it's turned into Lost's nap time.
Good raised a brow as his boop before he grinned and embraced her in a coy hug as a tease back.
He turned and pondered what the lectuerer was saying "Errrrr….Ironcastle"
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 4 = 4
Deadweight catches Lost being absolutely adorable as usual. She is truly hashtag blessed.
Lost seemed to not care too much as she just got comfy on her galpal. Big yawn time.
"I don't remember coming from any castle recently? Is this one of them euphemisms?" Billy returns to scratching at his chin occasionally pulling a hair.
Roll #1 10 = 10
Zamrud's eyes open wide, his mind reflecting back to the thoughts and talks of Castles and Outlands that the young students were mentioning earlier. Knowing he'd have to try and remember a past he's almost gone back to believing was merely a fantasy, he concentrates on trying to shift back to his 'on the fence' mentality.
"If I am not mistaken, 'Iron Castle'… though I am surprised you've apparently heard mention of this as well."
[1d10] Trying to shift back to between mindsets
[1d10+1] PerceptionRoll #1 7 = 7
/ Roll #2 2 + 1 = 3
>>764030Something was quite odd about the way that Truth spoke just now. Her words were audible, and yet, her mouth's movements did not synchronize with the words she said. It was like seeing a film dubbed over in another language. You get a hunch that, whether by a strange skill, or by magic, she was saying something else, besides that stuff about castles. As for why she did that– it remains to be seen.>>764027>>764025>>764030>>764026>>764029>>764031
Truth's gaze runs over each of you, scrutinizing and cold…
…Until she starts clapping.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyDMMFxImrA
"You're from Ironcastle!? Ohmygosh so am Iiiiiiii!" Truth laughs. "Well well well well… well well well well well!"
Herb's and Ride's crews stare at her, frozen and dumbfounded.
"Have you got enough 'wells' there?" Lone Star asks, deadpan.
"You've added one too many, now," Truth says. "I didn't think I'd run into other Iron Souls out here… and as for you two," she adds, turning to Billy and Qhapaq. "I take it you two are… from the Tribes, am I right?"
The seminar is absolutely off the rails. She should probably go work on that paper.>>764029
But she sees Lost still snoozing away, leaning against her, and she also feels very comfortable where she is. She decides to stay for now.
Qhapaq doesn't seem to lose any tension, but he does blink in surprise at the sudden, second change of emotion in just a few moments.
"I am of a tribe, yes. And I… believe he is from a Castle. I do not know for sure- he is not fully, ah, himself. Who are you, really?"
Not comfortable speaking out loud around truth, Billy as he responds attempt to convey what he had seen with the app on his communicator with the team in direct messages. "Yes,though I have taken to spending more time with my team."
Zamrud, his eyes dilating as he manages to push himself back to remembering more of his life as the adventurer he once was, groans as he rubs his head in agitation.
"Ah… well, isn't this quite the coincidence?"
"Zamrud Permata Bahasa, of the Bahasa Nobility. If you're from Iron Castle, then perhaps…">>764035>>764034>>764033>>764032
Zamrud snaps his fingers. "Ah! You are one of the original members of the Team that went missing!"https://mlpg.co/q/res/755503.html#758317
"Before Team Boreal and Team Ride were sent to investigate the Tree of Evil, there was another team of five sent to investigate it around the same time we were headed for the bunker. That was about two weeks ago when it was first posted, if I recall correctly. I take it you were part of that team?"
"Ah, hmm… I remember that now, yes."
Deadweight scrunches her mouth and furrows her brows at the Puros's exclamation. They could at least be insane a little more quietly. There's someone trying to get some rest over here.
Lost scrunched at the clapping but seemed to be able to remain asleep.
Good was rather wary and slid back next to Senorita a bit,
You'd heard this was a dry campus, but maybe that only applies to the students… or it could be a green campus.>>764034>>764035>>764036
Billy sends a message about Truth's strange speaking trick into the groupchat. By the quick responses of confusion that Herb and Ride's teams respond with, it seems they don't quite grasp whatever it was Truth did, either…>>764036>>764035>>764034>>764033>>764039
"…So, they've sent a rescue team after us…" Truth mutters. Her tone remains enthusiastic as ever, and yet now, something about it is forced.
Herb steps forward. "Three teams, actually. My team had heard that others had gone missing around this area, due to the power of the Tree of Evil. We went in to investigate and exterminate the Tree. Only, we've gotten ourselves stuck too. So now, Ironcastle has sent in two more teams to try to get us all out."
Truth smirks. "Hopefully the Observers will learn that throwing more bodies at a problem isn't always the optimal solution."
Herb leers, put off by how flippantly Truth speaks. "Be that as it may, this is the first we've seen of you… what were you doing all this time?"
"…Attempting to learn about the Time Long Forgotten, of course," Truth says. "I take it you understand that the Tree feeds on 'time,' to oversimplify things. Who in their right mind would rush to destroy this ark which has preserved so much of a past we know almost nothing about?"
Ride snorts. "Intellectual stimulation aside, Ironcastle is not so quick to abandon her people as lost to the Outlands. And, we have lost another. One of our teammates has lost his sense in this strange place, and gone missing somewhere in this campus. We would appreciate your cooperation in recovering him."
"Oh, but of course," Truth says. "I have some papers to grade, but I can join your search, as well. It is the end of the first month of the semester, is it not? I can put next month's tests on the backburner while we look, too."
Assembly snorts. "You really are committed to your teacher role," he observes.
"Surely you have experienced for yourself," Truth says. "How immersing yourself into the 'other life' available to you here lets you hear and see more of how these people lived, what they were worried about, what they ate, how they clothed themselves. What, have you never played an RPG?"
"I do find the idea of being forgotten quite a fear of mine. Things do seem more likely to work out with everyone working together at least." Billy posits.
"Ah… is there a griffon on your team, by chance? There was a griffon that threw a ball at me, and I have a feeling they were not a 'normal student', but I could not make out more than a shadowy shape."
The nonsense they're speaking is starting to get to her. Before she goes insane herself, she nudges Lost and whispers to her, "Let's go, I need to work on my paper."
"I did not play many games. What is an Are Pea Gee?"
"Knowledge can be intoxicating. Be careful with how much you intake."
Lost whined but obliged, following her out.
Zamrud nods towards Herb. "Yes, of course. My apologies, wasn't intentionally trying to exclude your team Herb."
He turns towards Truth, sighing. "I actually share your interest in the Time Long Forgotten. This school, if it is based on a reality long past, is a treasure trove of information of what life was like before the Castles. We had our interest piqued by a Spire on the way over here regarding the same subject, in fact."
"And there are other practical applications to the Tree of Evil and its manipulation over time itself as well. That said, it is also a danger that's already taken four teams into its clutches. I do not wish to destroy it but we may not have a choice if it is the only way we may leave.">>764041
"Ah, regarding Kirk however, I had a thought when Truth mentioned his journal seemed involved with cybersecurity… I think he may be hidden somewhere in the Grade Yard."
"No, no griffons," Truth says, with a shrug.>>764045
"Simply put, it's a game whose playable characters can be customized along several different parameters, according to the role they fit," Truth explains. "You might play as an arbalist, a thaumaturge, a knight-brother… or maybe a carpenter, an alchemist, an enchanter, if the game offers such options. They're usually pretty open ended like that… when the publisher doesn't rush the developer with an unreasonable deadline, that is.">>764046
"That and my sugar intake," Truth says. "They have these little ice cream pints in the faculty freezer… oof, keep those under lock and key when I'm around.">>764048>>764047>>764044>>764043>>764042
Truth arches her brow to Zamrud's theory about Kirk's location. "Hmm… perhaps. If we don't find him there, then… I may have another idea.">>764042>>764043>>764044>>764045>>764047>>764048
"Before we go," Truth says. "Let me recap my lesson, as promised."
She begins to write the bullet points down on the board.
"Random number generation has many utilities, ranging from the practical, such as cybersecurity, to the recreational, such as dice-based games. In programming, random numbers are generated with the help of a randomization seed, and, sometimes, a Daemon.
"Reality itself has a peculiar amount of 'natural randomness' to it, which we might call luck.
"At the lowest observable levels, reality and phenomena are not determined until they are observed. Although this is normally only thought of as applying to atomic and subatomic particles, we can scale this up and connect it to the aforementioned randomness of life – luck and bad luck."
The others write down this abridged lesson, thankful that she's finally cut down the verbosity.
"Hrm… who was it that struck me so aggravatedly, then? Bah. Perhaps I will see them again later. But, I see. So, you choose a walk of life, and a profession? That does seem rather interesting at least." He bobs his head, before listening to her trimmed down lecture.
"Why a Daemon? Is it because they can think, or is it something else?"
Zamrud nods in understanding to Truth's abbreviated lesson plan.
"Well, now that we're all aware of our true origins, might I ask for your opinion on two things, Truth?"
"Firstly, regarding how outcomes might become predictable given uniformity, do you think the theory that we could break through the Tree of Evil's simulation if we can convince everyone in it - everyone who's from the outside, at any rate - that it is merely an illusion? Namely, our team, Ride's, Herb's, yours, and anyone else I might be missing?"
"Secondly, when time provides, could you and I take a look inside the Grade Yard? As I recall, all that is needed to enter it would be two teachers accessing it together."
Deadweight pauses when she hears Truth recapping the seminar, looking up at the ceiling. After the lecturer concludes, she stays still for a beat, then nods and heads out the door.
Billy follows the example of Deadweight of making due with recalling the points and relying on the notes by his team for understanding the content of the classes.
Lost climbs atop her moving bed and seems content to resume her nap there.
"I also like those little ice cream pints."
He hummed a bit as he considered the nature of luck and fortune and if they were as intrinsic as other natural forces.
"Whether or not a Daemon can think is a matter of much debate," Truth answers. "How much do you know about the subject?"
>optional: roll knowledge>>764131
"We have already tried the first option," Truth says. "No dice, so to speak. The Tree is an independent entity. And yes, that's what I was planning on doing. The papers can wait to be graded after all.">>764132>>764133>>764134>>764135>>764131>>764050
Truth flips out some business cards to each of you, listing her office number, and office hours. ASCII art of a chibi changeling queen decorates the side of the card.
"You can visit me here if you have further questions or wish to continue our discussions," she adds. "Now, if there's nothing else, Professor Zamrud and I must be off to follow a lead."
Zamrud sighs as he hears the first option had already been tried, and failed. "Unfortunate. If it did not work when there were fewer moving pieces, I doubt it'd work now then. No matter, we'll find another way out."
He takes the card from her and pockets it, making sure to keep it for later. "Indeed. Would there be any issue if anyone cared for a visit to the Grade Yard with us? So long as they're looked after by professors, I hope no one would take issue."
Deadweight supports the sudden weight on her back with ease (as busy as she may get, she never skips a workout). She looks back at what it might be, and smiles seeing the crystal pony there.>>764136
Deadweight takes a business card, looks at it for a couple seconds, then puts it in her bag and walks to the library.
Good took the card and looked it over, making plans to speak on these forces later as he found it somewhat illuminating.
"Huh, that is quite some interesting art, did you find the style here?" Billy wonders, being the uncultured shut in that he is.
Lost snored away atop her private ride.
Like recalling a vivid dream, it all comes to you so swiftly…
First of all, let's get some terminology settled. You see the word 'daemon' written on the board. However, Truth keeps pronouncing the word "Daemon" as "die-mon," even though Daemon is pronounced identically to the word, "Demon." This leads to some confusion. Just what word is she talking about?
A Demon, as you know, is a mythic Thing
in the Aya lore, neither mortal nor Dreaded. Demons linger at crossroads, and appear to those who wander the Outlands by themselves. In Aya jurisprudence, the punishment of exile is far worse than the punishment of execution by combat, for the solitary exile is believed consigned to meet a Demon on the road. None who have met a Demon have lived to tell of it. At times, remains have been found, but… not enough to tell a complete story.
A Daemon, on the other hand, you've heard Aya mechpriests talking about. They are spirits which inhabit the technology of the Before-Times, animating them, regulating their functions. Aya mechs treat with and appease these spirits to restore the technology they inhabit. Because of the homophonous nature of the two words, the word 'Daemon' is rarely used outside of mech circles, being substituted for 'mech spirit' or 'tech spirit' by the layperson. The word 'Daemon' seems to come from the inscriptions used by the people of the Before-Times to bind them, though only mechpriests have much use for such things now.>>764217
Truth nods. "It's a style idiosyncratic to the time period, I believe. The people of the Time Long Forgotten had to make due with precious little, compared to us in our present age."
You recall Offbeaten Path also making use of ASCII art. A fellow art historian, perhaps?>>764215>>764217>>764218>>764160>>764159
"Oh, and, if I may make a suggestion," Truth adds. "The last postscript, I promise."
She rubs her chin. "I propose, with all of us here now, we pull something of a pincer attack on the Tree of Evil. Some of us should immerse ourselves in the dream of the 'school life,' and live fully as students or faculty, whatever the dream may make of us. Others should live in the dream of the 'castle life,' and remain aware of the Tree as a spinner of illusions and a parasite of memories. And if any of us can manage to ride the narrow line between the two dreams, holding the two contradictory dreams in tandem, those few should try that. By taking every approach available to us, that will spread out a wide net by which we can trawl for clues – and the missing student's whereabouts."
"Do we… discuss the same Demons? I know of, ah, two. There is one I have heard of mechanically-inclined amongst my tribe discussing. They are… machine spirits? Ghosts in the shells, I have heard them called. The other is, ah, a being of myth amongst my kind. Things that live at crossroads, preying upon lone wanderers and Aya exiles."
Good hummed and sat back tenting his hooves as he weighed it over.
"Will there be any issues time spent under, or is there possibly issues with the time spent out of it? I would be more comfortable if there was an easy way of just turning it on and off." Billy scratches at his chin.
As Truth suggests dividing the number of people who are immersed in the simulation and those who are detached from it, Zamrud nods in agreement.
"Sensible idea. Though given the difficulty in freeing oneself from the illusion, I'd understand if people were hesitant to re-emerse themselves. I would volunteer for continuing my role as a 'professor', I am getting used to coming in and out of it"
Deadweight furrows her brows and rolls her eyes. Who let someone who's so off her rocker into this school? She walks out with Lost in tow to somewhere where she can work on her schoolwork.
"…Interesting," Truth says. She takes a while to ponder her response… before at last replying.
"Castle historical records suggest that many nations of the Time Long Forgotten blamed unknown phenomena on the workings of spirits. The fae and jinn are but two culturally specific examples – as are Daemons. As scientific and magical knowledge advanced, the nations blamed fewer things on these spirits. However, the concept of the 'governing spirit' found a new home in the field of programming. Early pioneers of the field chose the term 'Daemon' to mean a program that remained dormant, waiting in the background, until such time came for it to execute a single task over which it had domain. Perhaps that is where your tribe learned of the first concept.
"As for the second concept, the Demon… well, originally, Daemons were not thought of in the binary of good and evil, at first. However, later thinkers of the Time Long Forgotten began to speak of Eudaemonia
as explicitly benevolent spirits. Regular Daemons, then, came to be seen as morally apathetic, capricious, and sometimes even malevolent. Combine this with linguistic development, and the concept of Eudaemonia and Daemonia… Recurs
as the concept of Angels and Demons."
She shrugs. "Forgive me, I keep lecturing. Funny how such different people groups end up at the same ideas, isn't it?">>764222
"I wouldn't switch haphazardly between the two," Truth suggests. "Changing one's paradigm of reality, one's entire self-image and self-history, on a Bit (on a dime)
can't be psychologically beneficial. But, in this strange situation, in this strange school, one life may very well be as good as the other. Get your story straight and stick to it, I'd say.">>764220>>764221>>764222>>764223>>764224
With that, Truth looks ready to split. Besides, tomorrow marks the start of the second month of the semester. At the end of that month, you will face your first midterm…
correction: Truth would have said "on a Schilling," not "on a Bit."
Billy can't help but look nervous feeling trapped by the tree and the illusions. "Despite it, I am willing to help out any way I can."
>Timeskip Ok for me
"I shall debate my options."
>Timeskip is fine
Zamrud nods in agreement. "Then, shall we make for the Grade Yard, Professor?"
"Hmm… well, perhaps it all comes from the same original concept?" Qhapaq suggests, stroking his beak. I have not heard of Eudamonia before… are they something akin to an angel?">Does he know anything about Angels? [1d10]>>764225
Ready to skip!Roll #1 7 = 7
The term 'Angel' isn't as plagued by linguistic confusion like 'Demon' and 'Daemon' are, at least to the Aya. An 'Angel' is something of a folk hero archetype, in their reckoning. A stranger coming from afar, who can slay or drive off a particularly virulent Dreaded, or who carries a little vial of medicine, capable of curing some plague that had befallen the tribe. Often they wear the guise of an unremarkable tribesman, but are of more than mortal birth. Some kind of half-god, or half-spirit, come here to make right something that was wrong, and disappear as quick as they'd come… though some tales attest they take time for a tidbit of tomfoolery, and tit-for-tat wordplay, between the good deeds.
Truth shrugs. "Angels are where my knowledge runs thin. That concept isn't as prevalent in Castle culture as the concept of the Daemon. I only learned about the former through studying the latter.">>764227>>764228>>764229>>764230
With that, you set about the tasks for the rest of the Cycle, visiting libraries, patrolling the grounds, and checking off what homework you'll need to turn in.
Zamrud and Truth enter the Gradeyard through their credentials as faculty. The building is nondescript, and yet, inside is a sophisticated laboratory of terminals, extending even a few floors downstairs. Almost all the terminals are the nodes of a distributed, segmented network, with plenty of dummy terminals interspersed as bait to trap cheaters. The two search the laboratory, and access what few terminals they can log into with their credentials, but do not find any sign of Kirk, nor of any cheating, as near as they can tell. He really isn't here…
With that done, then, so begins the second month of the semester. It's going to be a nonstop grind of studying, if you wish to pass your first-round midterms. However, you should still be able to squeeze in a little free time just before the moment of truth.
>Post your activities for the next three weeks, as well as your immersion: Full, half, or None>Full immersion allows you to witness the life of the school as it was in the Time Long Forgotten, at the cost of temporarily forgetting your "true self". You will have an easier time surviving the Midterms.>No immersion keeps you aware of the situation with the Tree of Evil, and your presence in the Outlands, at the cost of missing out on the knowledge which can be gleaned from the school, and a harder time during the Midterms.>Half immersion splits the difference, but may risk unpredictable occurrences as a result of suspending yourself, mentally, physically and spiritually, between two realities.
Zamrud offers to spend this month in Full Immersion, having spent more time in it compared to the others. He divides his time between his lectures and tutoring any one on his/Herb/Rides teams in need of extra study.
He spends his time trying to get to know more of his fellow educators, imaging among them must be more of Truths original team who might offer experience for the others.
Deadweight continues her studies as usual (including finishing that paper she was putting off). Becoming Enlightened'll be a walk in the park, she thinks. As busy as she is with school, though, she doesn't neglect her workouts or spending quality time with Lost Hope.
First, and foremost Billy kept to staying outside the illusion of the tree, wary of its original effects. One thing Billy maintained keeping up with his skills was working with and studying his grimoire and keeping up with his notes by working with the group. Chemistry classes were his second focus int eh hopes to learn, and any other activity that caught his focus remained his third.
"For us, they are… folk heroes? Would be a comparable term for your tongue. Not fully mortal.">>764232>Half Immersion; Gym, Computers, and… maybe history?
Good opted to split the difference, taking a cycle as a rest day before doing alternating in and out days, mostly using his rest day to catch up on any missed reading and the like. He did this mostly as a test for himself to see if he could maintain this balance while also working hard at test prep for the midterms. He went in hard on his computers and physical classes aiming to use those as his ace classes while he worked to bring History up behind them with his catch up and free time.
His days on the outside were mostly focused on familiarizing himself with the layout and patterns of watch, etc. He also began watching the tree, pondering upon just how useful time powers would be to helping his world. Yet he remained wary of the risk regardless.
Herb's team, after some heated debate that ended in an arm-wrestling competition (Lone Star swept), decided join you in Full Immersion. >>764235
Remaining outside the dream spun by the Tree of Evil, you are joined by Ride or Die's team, as well as La Senorita. Despite her agreement to remain "awake," she retains her new flesh-and-blood form, without apparent drawback. She doesn't seem too bothered by it.>>764236>>764237
Taking something of a risk, you meditate upon the competing realities present within these lands. Joined by the meditative Peyote, you focus upon holding both worlds in your mind, seeking not to reconcile contradictions, but to accept them.>>764236>>764233>>764234>>764237
The second month starts on something of a grim note. Fifteen students of Class Boreal, and fifteen students of Class Austral – those thirty students who had earned the fewest Stars – have been expelled from Agape Academy. None of your allies are among that number, but during your classes, you can see empty seats here and there, which had once been filled. The expelled students were mainly those who had burned out early, exhausted by junior year, unable to handle the stress of senior year. Many were quietly relieved to have been set free, but a few among them were truly devastated, as were their instructors. Bright stars, they were, gone dark too quickly. There is nothing more to do but to continue where they did not, but the mood among the other students of the school is dour; any of you could be next, after these midterms.>>764235
It's somewhat difficult studying when alienated from the peculiar language of the books, but between your and La Senorita's efforts, as well as the periodic commentary of your grimoire, you manage to keep up with the others.
"Things seem fine?" Billy tilts his head in thought. Billy turns making a message to everyone and asking if they are holding up despite the classes and threat of expulsion.
Seeing the empty seats, Deadweight can't help but feel a little prideful that she wasn't one of the students who were expelled. Not a chance! It's survival of the fittest at this school, and she never skips leg day. She lets a smirk sneak out.
Zamrud feels no small amount of guilt in the elimination of those in Class Boreal who were eliminated. Regardless of circumstance, and knowing the incredibly high standards Agape Academy holds itself too, Zamrud feels obligated as a professor to ensure his students pass his Chemistry course and move on to the next semester. With this loss in mind, he offers extra office hours to see if any students need any more help.
Though on the side, this week he dips into 'Half Immersion' from full Immersion, now having met several more professors in the course he now tries to use his insight from both perspectives to see which among them (if any) are more of Truth's colleages
"Hmm… truly a horrid atmosphere here. Are these 'mid-terms' truly so terrifying? I have seen those conduct themselves with more cheer when being sentenced to death by dueling."
Good for the most part did his best to keep himself balanced through a regimen to keep busy. He found the emptiness a bit saddening in a way as it seemed so much more empty.
Good opted for now to go see Truth if he could to talk.
Lost squirmed a bit and moved her desk a bit closer, finding the emptiness upsetting herself.
The responses – what few you get – are mixed. The others seem distracted, very much so. A month really is no time at all, and with the hours moving faster than they feel at this academy, every moment is too soon gone, and its replacement is likewise lost. The students scarcely have time to enjoy food, let alone study or sleep.>>764241
You ask around, but it seems that Truth is somewhat of an aloof scholar among her faculty fellows. When asked, the other professors you know don't seem to know much about her, besides that she's always burying herself in one stack of books or another. She doesn't go with them invited, whether to drinks or to pizza, and when others open up about themselves, it is she who keeps them at an arm's distance.>>764243
As for Truth… you realize, as you walk to her office, you never learned which approach she's taking. You knock at her office door, in Class Boreal's faculty office, and her voice invites you in. She's scribbling away at some notes, which she pauses when you enter. Her twintails are tied up neatly behind her so as to avoid getting in the way of her writing.
"Brutal Enlightenment, wasn't it?" she asks by way of greeting.>>764242
Back in gym class, the silhouette student is not quite such a pest as they were before. You do see them taking time to discuss something with the gym instructor… the silhouette student is leading the conversation clearly, so it's not like they're getting lectured for picking on you… what could they be up to…>>764240>>764244
Toward the end of one of your classes, you overhear certain other classmates whispering. The tone of their voices, the posture of their leaning, all has the makings of a rumor.
>"I don't care either way, we'll just sweep them at the end of the year if it's true.">"Who's doing headcounts this early anyway? How do they *know* Austral's down an extra student?">"I'm telling you, I heard both Professor Nonpareil and Constancy talking about it. It's got to be legit…"
Not as much as you might think, my father always kept me up to snuff on conditioning so the physical bits were easy and I like computers and history. Was about playing to my strengths while balancing my activities outside." he said swelling with a bit of pride.
Seeing how none of the original team that originally came here with Truth seem to be among the faculty, Zamrud spends this week to check with Truth herself (still in Half-Immersion) to ask her if she'd be willing to share what became of them, what roles they currently play
Deadweight brows furrow hearing the murmurs. As if they invited her, she goes over to join the group and says, "Damn, did someone not check their work?"
Billy was left from a miserable feeling as the space had exhausted him. Which while he couldn't quite understand it, he had a nagging suspicion it was related to the time relativity that kept being brought up.
Frowning a little in annoyance, the griffon decides he might as well try to figure this out.>Immerse a little further, try to see the silhouette.
Truth nods with approval at Good, as Professor Zamrud walks in with a pertinent question about her team.
"My team ended up with faculty roles," Truth says. "Guess the Tree felt like taking it easy on us old-timers.
"The first member is Clamence. She's currently the leader of the janitorial staff. She's rather crass, but don't take any of it personally, if you please.
"The second member is Meursault. He works in the office mainly, serving as an accountant and something of an informal advisor to the rest of the staff, despite being a rather quiet sort.
"The third member is Rieux. They're the groundskeeper super – super groundskeeper, as I call them. They've apparently had their hooves full with an infestation of vermin, lately, but despite that, I've never caught them in a bad mood. A rather chipper
Truth does a little ba-dum-tss to punctuate her description of Rieux.>>764473
You sink below the division between perspectives, and emerge upon the other side, your lungs feeling tight as if you'd just begun to breathe anew again.
A silhouette the student remains. The gym teacher gives the student a last nod, and the student leaves, making for a bench so they can organize their bag. A rather unusual thing peers out of the top of the bag, as they sort the contents– a wooden face mask. You cannot quite decipher the design from here, yet it's certainly a mask.>>764412>>764413>Lost
Through proximity to Deadweight, you're inducted into the conversation as well.
>"Yeah, it's weird," the first classmate says. "But that's rumors for you.">"I think they're just trying to psych out the Austral students," the second disagrees.>"It's not that far fetched," the first student continues. "Could be they just couldn't handle it and dropped out. At least, I hope it's that innocuous."
Qhapaq frowns a little bit, peering closer at the student- and then, his bag. He tries to study the mask a little closer… what exactly is it? Something is giving him an unsettling, albeit familiar sensation.
Billy took a breath leaning back. He refused to go into the conversation with those inside feeling content to listen. A belief held in that he would only interrupt unecessarily and immerse himself too much.
Zamrud nods as Truth explains what roles her fellow team-members currently play.
"I see. And how many of them are aware of the simulation? Are any of them fully immersed within their roles or are they all equally aware of this being a simulation as us?"
I would like to meet this groundskeeper. He sounds fun."
Lost seemed rather proud she was still here, clapping a bit.
The mask depicts the face of a tiger. It is a face you know well, despite having never encountered it before. Rather, you have dreamed it, one vision among many, of a world blanketed by interminable darkness…
As you study the mask from afar, another gaze meets yours– the silhouette, looking over their shoulder. They gesture to the exit, where the gym teacher is leading the other students out to the fields behind the gym. In the center of the indoor court is a single rubber ball. Not quite as large as a basketball, and a little more cushioned, it seems.
The student turns about, spreading their wings to hover before you. They punch their right hand with their left– an obvious challenge.>>764477>>764478
"After some initial trial and error, we find ourselves alternating our approaches. Throwing it all at the wall to see what sticks, you might say. Myself and Meursault are keeping our heads above water, while Rieux and Clamence are currently playing their roles– until we give them the signal to pause. You might only confuse Rieux if you were to approach them now, but I won't stop you from trying, all the same.">>764479>>764476>Deadweight
With not much more to go on for the rumor of the missing Austral student, the two gossips check their misery-rectangles, and the conversation peters out. In time, the two excuse themselves, citing their studies. Yours too, are paramount, if you wish to escape the culling of next month. Especially with midterms coming up…
Zamrud smiles in approval, "AH, that's clever. Taking shifts between the team, some having fully immersed and others aware and switching off to try and gain more information. Perhaps we should adopt a similar strategy."
He crosses his arms, "I'll introduce myself to Meursault then, no need to confuse the two who are currently playing their roles. The more I think on it, the more I feel like finding Kirk should be a priority. He was clearly on to something with his journal, and though your class provided great insight we still can't be 100% sure what he was intending to do with his research."
"I sometimes wonder if the Tree of Evil itself saw to his disappearance - that he had stumbled onto something that could threaten it and made sure to remove him"
With naught much else to do and being unable to make time with the rest of his group, Billy could only try to review what is needed to avoid the consequences implied by the other students and relying on his grimoire.
"I can probably slip into character for a bit and play along."
"We should probably get to class Weighty."
"It may work, but I'd caution against jumping between perspectives too quickly," Truth says. "If you're going to switch, then linger there awhile. We found out firsthoof that mental whiplash may afflict those who do not commit to one or the other for a time.">>764483>>764481
"Speaking of which," Truth says. "Might I borrow that notebook for awhile? Considering he wrote material relevant to my field, I might be able to crack a few of its secrets."
You recall the expression Truth made when she first saw the notebook– made, and then quickly repressed. Her casual suggestion for the notebook now is clearly understated, compared to the deep intrigue she showed before…
"As for Meursault, I'd suggest not just knocking on his office door. I'll contact him, arrange a meeting– perhaps next week. He's the sort who appreciates a long notice before prolonged social interactions.">>764480>posting for Qhapaq
>What game is this? [1d10]>Qhapaq blinks in realization of who, or what, this silhouette is. It's the being from his dream. How it ended up here he can't fathom- maybe this is all somewhat of a dream? Either way, he won't back down from this.
The silhouette goes over to the ball, rolls it upon one leg, then bunts it with their hip. The reason for the extra cushioning is clear, if the hip is to be the primary implement. You've read of this in history, the method of proving belonging to a culture long since past– that of Cuauht…
Your mind swims for a time…Roll #1 10 = 10
As colors swim before you, they at times swirl into images of the game being played, as if your imagination had been thrown into a great inspiration. Two griffons, a mechanical beetle, a kirin, scoring by launching the ball through a vertical hoop, and blocking others from doing the same… a modified version of the game, for a free-for-all approach…
Billy does his best to attempt to study with the group and any offered materials that can be shared around. All else he can do is to look back at his grimoire in attempts to understanding it in this strange place.
As Truth asks if she may borrow the book, Zamrud takes a moment to notice her change in demeanor. He feels a slight twang of guilt for feeling mistrust for the enthused Changeling, but something about her expression by comparison to before makes him uneasy.
"Of course," Zamrud says, "I left it in my office, however. I can bring it to you later when you have a moment. I'll make the time to arrange a meeting with Meursault as well, I can imagine he's kept very busy and I appreciate a man with a schedule."
>He does mean to give the book to Truth, but before doing so he will copy down every page of the very short journal to keep personally just in case something happens to the original.
Having a better understanding of what exactly this game entails, he's more capable of approaching the game. Being large and athletic, he's probably pretty good at it.
>Game plan for this week; Practice with Tiger Mask, Computers class.
As they practice, Qhapaq thinks on the two griffons he saw in it… has he seen them before, too? Perhaps it's just an odd sense of deja vu, and nothing more.
Deadweight shrugs and says the cliché, "If you can't take the heat.">>764479>>764480>>764484
Deadweight glances at the clock on the wall. "Yeah, let's get goin'," she says before doing just that.
She tailed Dead out, focusing on her classes for the week
Good meanwhile took his time playing half and half, jumping in and out when needed.
Truth accepts the notebook with a light smile and a promise that she'll have it back to you at some point. She carefully avoids defining that exact timeframe.>>764489
Despite being about half your size, the silhouette student completely folds you at the ball game, time and again. Hardly do they afford you a chance to rest between sets, always challenging you again and again, always pressuring each time you get the hang of the technique… each training session ends at the conclusion of gym class, with the teacher permitting you and the student to play solo while the others play other sports.>>764487>>764488>>764489>>764490>>764491>>764492
As the second week passes by, a dour mood falls upon your fellow students. The dread of midterms lingers upon them. It seems only that your immediate peers of Ironcastle, and the silhouette student haunting Qhapaq, are able to maintain some semblance of calm. Of course, that calm recedes or grows, as they remember or forget that they but live for now in a dream…>>764489>>764487>as well as anyone else who wants to attend the meeting with Meursault
Truth gives you the directions to Meursault's office within the labyrinthine Boreal faculty building. You arrive at a door on one of the upper floors of the building, and knock. A curt voice from within orders you to enter.
Inside, a large male kirin sits at a desk, tapping at a computer. His coat is tan, and his long, curly mane a warm orange, and one of his eyes, a watery azure. As for the other eye – much like about half of his face, as well as half his neck, his chest and one of his forelegs – it is comprised of military-grade cybernetics. Despite his otherwise cheery color palette, his countenance is one of utter indifference, save for his eyes– narrow and appraising."Bienvenue,"
Meursault says, as he turns down the little radio playing on his desk. "You must be our fellow Iron Souls."
Good as always keeps a solid grasp on his studies but decided to use his free time not so much studying the ground as moving to interact with the groundskeeper, having been genuinely curious about this strange individual.
"A pleasure" Billy bows down in a greeting. Nervous how the meeting may turn out.
Qhapaq certainly doesn't seem to be ballin', but he at least hopefully improves with every attempt.>>764586
Qhapaq doesn't get too particularly nervous- he's too focused on whatever this shade is, and what its appearance might mean. He does remember the need to visit with Meursault, though, and makes sure to not miss it.>>764586
"Iron Souls? Ah… sort of, yes."
Zamrud nods as he enters Meursault's office with the others.
"Quite so. A pleasure, I don't know if we've yet have the pleasure of meeting as part of the faculty. Zamrud Permata Bahasa," he says, extending his paw for a shake.
"In-between grading tests and assisting with our students studies, I'm taking time to sync with everyone we know is under the Tree's influence. Truth told me you and her were taking shifts keeping your heads above board, as it were?"
Deadweight might've been a little too cocky. She thought she was on top of everything, but when she was reviewing her notes, there were a few things that apparently didn't quite stick. With midterms fast approaching, she's been trying to figure out what the heck these hieroglyphs in math and science mean.
After some time of searching, you at last find the groundskeeper's maintenance yard. It is surrounded by a gate, though it is open at the moment. You approach the main building of the yard, and try the handle, only to find it locked. A note posted inside a clear plastic screen bolted to the door reads, "Out! BBL" followed by a pair of symbols: Five-pointed geometric designs, made of criss-crossing lines in a rather neat and symmetrical pattern. One points upward; the other, downward. You have not seen such a design before. >>764591>>764491
Pressed by the approach of midterms, you schedule a few study sessions with some of your vague, not-quite-friends-but-classmates-you-speak-to-frequently peers. One of the libraries on campus, built quite curiously into a tall tree, remains open for extended hours, enabling extra time for review.>>764588>>764589
Meursault, seemingly not much of one for conversation, waits in silence, his expression unchanging. After a bit of time in the awkward silence, he offers his mechanical hoof.
"I am Meursault," he states, a one-sentence conversation.
If and when hooves / talons are shaken, he gestures to a bowl on his desk. There are tangerines inside, apparently for guests.>>764590>>764588>>764589"Oui,"
Meursault says. He relaxes a little as he's given a question. Perhaps not so much introversion as anxiety…?
"We switch on a semi-weekly basis," he elaborates. "On the next week, Truth and I shall be 'asleep' again, and Rieux and Clamence will be 'awake'… so to speak. My insights on the Time Long Forgotten gained by this process are… rather dry and mathematical. My role is that of an accountant, as Truth may have shared."
As Meursalt was talking, Billy indulged himself in the tangerines. Eating the whole, peel and all in large bites as he shifted from hoof to hoof "Does the information come to you, or are you actively searching for a question you have in this sleep?"
Deadweight holds her head in her hoof, staring very intensely at the papers spread in front of her. "Do you get this?" she asks Lost for the umpteenth time, pointing at a symbol that looks like a weird E with more symbols on all four of its sides.
Zamrud looks to the bowel as Meursault gestures to it. He's not particularly hungry but doesn't wish to be rude, and takes a tangerine for himself.
"She told me as much, I thought it was ingenious. I've been trying to keep my toes both in and out of the water for as long as possible but it's not been so easy. Give you and your team have been here long than any of ours, I'm willing to try any tricks you've developed. From your perspective, how long would you say you've been here?"
Qhapaq stares at the tangerines for a few moments, before carefully taking one and beginning to peel it with his sharp claws.
"So, when you are asleep are you… a different person, or simply absent from here? Where do you go? Is this a… dream, of sorts" He asks, after a pause.
Good looked both up and down following the symbols, seeing if the enigmatic groundskeeper was around either of those ways
Lost looked at said symbol and pondered upon her noodle to see if she recalled it.
[1d10] KnowledgeRoll #1 1 = 1
"In total, perhaps one year, or a little more," Meursault says. "We have suffered several 'rewinds' owing to the entrance of other figures into the presence of the Tree of Evil. Every arrival prompting the Tree, for some unknown reason, to begin the semester anew.">>764597
You search the grounds, poking around the tool sheds and inspecting the various small carts parked in the stables, but can find neither hide nor hair of them.>>764598>>764594
The inner machinations of Lost's mind are an enigma.>>764593>>764595>>764596
"Tricks…" Meursault repeats. "…I do not force anything. I was not an accountant before now; this has been a trial by fire. Stressful enough without sticking my neck out. Yet at times when I am 'asleep' and performing my role, I seem to spontaneously acquire information as necessary to the job of an accountant. At other times, the specter of another faculty member will inform me of what they need done– and how to force this infernal software to comply."
He casts a baleful gaze at the computer.
"In any case… it seems that the Tree's power seeks to eliminate disturbances that would awaken a sleeper. One immersed in their role is given whatever they need to keep their dream plausible enough to hold its form… I would liken it to being prompted by your partner in an improvisational theater class, whenever you struggle to ad-lib your next line.">>764596
"I used the comparison of theater, and actors, but I believe it to be somewhat more than that. An actor is – usually – not simply thrown before the camera and told to 'act' with no prompting. A character is written for them. A script, a set, and costumes are provided. Likewise, one who is asleep under the Tree's power 'becomes' a character in this theater set it has constructed.
"Conventional dreams are – for the most part – largely random and meaningless. But, under the Tree's power, each time we have fallen asleep, we awaken in the same dream, the same role. And, just as an actor may deviate from the script, and ad-lib lines and actions, so do we stray from the paths the Tree has set before us. This is, of course, expected. The little idiosyncrasies of a practiced actor vivify the character in the way a simple script cannot. Like a director, the Tree is not a tyrant."
"Mmm. I was a little, ah… curious. I have encountered something from one of my dreams here. It seems more aware than I would have expected."
Dead saw actual smoke slowly begin to waft from Losts ears as she struggled to process it.
Good grunted in annoyance and opted to try and look into the windows of the place, to see if he was in there or possibly to sneak in.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 5 = 5
"That's quite good to know. Would that mean the tree would force more asleep if it can or eliminate any who are awake?" Billy takes an exaggerated look around the area.
Deadweight's head falls out of her hoof and onto the table with a thunk. "We're doomed," she says, the symbol-ridden paper muffling her words.
"You have my sympathies. I haven't had such trouble adjusting - rather, I was the last one that had to be convinced of what we were truly in. I occasionally taught back in Iron Castle, the role here came naturally."
As he mentions the Tree seeks to eliminate disturbances, Zamrud rubs his chin. "Have you ever seen the Tree take any drastic steps before? I'm not sure to what control it has over everything that happens in here, but you may have heard one of the others here, a man named Kirk, has suddenly disappeared. At first I thought he was simply conducting his own independent investigation, he seemed to be on to something according to his teammates. But now I wonder if perhaps the Tree itself saw what he was doing as a threat, enough so to dispatch him personally. The school has its own security, correct?"
Maybe your roommate knows, they're pretty smart."
As you climb up on an overturned bucket, to peer into the wind–
The voice, sharp and without prelude, sends a jolt through your body. You turn, and see a lean donkey, grey of coat, blue of eyes, and floppy of ears. They are covered with overalls, a button-up, a large hat, and a dust mask. Poking out of the pants of their overalls are a pair of cybernetic legs – military quality.
"We dinnae allow students back here. Is there summat I can help ye with?">>764606>>764604>>764600
Meursault pauses to consider the new information.
"Much like… a god."
After a moment more of silence, he seems to realize he just threw out a clause without a proper sentence. "Much like a god, the Tree's interventions are exceptionally rare. You will notice that no Dreaded have entered this realm. Those which approach the boundary of the Tree's domain– are annihilated without delay. Yet, the Tree takes no action against living Souls who enter it, apart from restarting the semester.
"Additionally… here we are, discussing all of this without any retribution. Dreamer and awakened alike, we are dissecting plainly the mechanisms of the Tree's power. I am disinclined to think that the Tree will attack us – or attack Kirk – for pursuing this line of inquiry.">>764605>>764601
At a table across from yours, you see three students – a kirin, a rodos and a zawatil – struggling just as plainly as you are. Tensions are high there… the three are debating a problem intensely.
Another problem, as it were: These three wear the uniforms of Dorm Austral – your adversaries.
"attack us – or has attacked Kirk – for pursuing this line of inquiry."
"Oh!" he had to fight to stay up "Well I met your companion Truth and she mentioned you, and honestly I was curious to get to know you. See if you have any interesting info."
Hmm, maybe we can swipe their notes and use them for ourselves?"
"It doesn't sound quite right. Are you saying that it eliminates any problems by restarting? I just don't quite understand." Billy tilts his head while scratching at the hair of his chin.
Deadweight narrows her eyes at the Dorm Austral students. "Hmm…"
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
"Not a bad idea…" Deadweight says. She looks for an opening to do a little snatching.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
"Hmm… you're certainly right about the Dreaded Ones. I had assumed they had some sort of instinct that naturally kept them away from this place, but perhaps some do and the Tree dispatches them."
"You make a fair point about how we're allowed to discuss a way to break through the simulation without retribution. But then, that's all we're doing is discussing - it is not as though any of us yet have a concrete plan of how to break free of it other than completing the semester and hoping for the best."
"But what if Kirk truly stumbled onto something that could disrupt the Tree's simulation significantly? His disappearance is starting to have me more worried for his safety than his sanity."
"Hmm… well, is the thing I encountered living, then? There is a silhouette here- no amount of immersion seems to make it visible."
Lost tried to hide for a moment
[1d10] StealthRoll #1 10 = 10
Rieux catches their profanity at the end of the syllable, and clears their throat. "That crazy teacha? Aye, always runnin' her moufh. It's been a busy week, ya knoo, and Ah'm still all covered with narsty chemicals. Vermin infestation all 'round the campus. Have her gimme a ring and Ah'll meetcha when Ah'm nae so busy, alright?">>764616
"I don't have an easy answer for that. It is possible, just as all your possessions made it into the Tree's domain, that something else accompanied you here without your deliberate effort or knowledge… have you asked them who they are and what they're after?">>764615>>764612>>764616
"The restarting does not seem to be a threat response by the Tree," Meursault says. "Rather, an automatic trigger. In every case, the new entrant to the Tree's realm has woken up inside its dream. If we were to return to the analogy of theater, it is like a rehearsal being taken from the top, every time that a new actor joins the scene."
He frowns, apparently frustrated with the imprecision of the analogy. "…It is only an analogy, after all. Anyway, as to Kirk: It isn't out of the question that the Tree really did lash out at Kirk… but we lack evidence as to his current fate, as far as I am aware."
You recall that Kirk vanished after a mental breakdown, which concluded with him taking the toxic payload in an attempt to destroy the Tree itself.
…However, many weeks prior to that, Herb's team also
attempted to destroy the Tree with that toxic payload. When they got to the Bodhi Garden, however, a barrier of strange, vapor-like nothingness effortlessly thwarted their access to it. Couldn't the Tree have thwarted Kirk just as easily?>>764613>>764614>>764610
As the three students break, the kirin to get coffee, the rodos and zawatil to get more books, Lost and Deadweight slither over to snatch up their notes.
Lost quickly scurried into a secluded spot to look them over without worry.
"Ah, I shall do that then, but I suppose I should still be polite, would you like me to get you something before I go? Something to eat or a drink?" he said offering out of genuine politeness.
Deadweight also takes a look at the notes to hopefully glean something useful from them.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
Zamrud sighs, "I'll have to see if Truth will be able to discern anything from Kirk's journal. I've a few ideas what he was getting at but nothing concrete. We've kept our eyes out for weeks with no sign of him."
"I've a feeling he was on to something before his breakdown, but even if he wasn't I'd be remiss if we didn't find Herb's missing team-member. Would you happen to know if the security used in the Grade Yard is used anywhere else in the school?"
"Maybe it is more so that the tree isn't sapient and relying on automatic responses? Like a flytrap that closes around anything that falls into it. "Billy gestures by clasping his claws togethers.
Roll #1 6 = 6
[1d10] Study if necessaryRoll #1 7 = 7
"Could it remove an actor, then? Suspend them, or something similar?" He asks, cocking his head to the side in a bit of confusion.>>764618
"Uhm… no. I do not know if they can speak. However, I do know that it is something from my people's legends. It appears in your dreams and tempts you towards something more."
"If ye could pick me up one o'them waters from the vending machines, Ah'd appreciate it. Just drop it in me postbox. Ah've got tae get all this cleaned up, so Ah'll be off."
They gesture to a mailbox built into the side of the maintenance shop, not too far from the door. Then, they step around you, fishing in their pockets for keys. You recall that vending machines dispense water bottles for free; at least you won't be out any change.>>764621>>764625
You can feel yourselves getting smarter in real time. But to survive the midterms, you'll have a ways to go.
As the students return, they are in plain dismay over the disappearance of their notes, and begin to look about and argue.>>764626
"Hmm. Then, I'd advise dealing with it in the manner prescribed by your people. Even if the Tree has changed it to better fit the scenario it has devised, it cannot change something's fundamental nature… or at least, so it seems for now.">>764622>>764623>>764626
The Grade Yard is, far and beyond, a special case. Even the safes used for petty cash are not as tightly-guarded as the grading systems are."
Billy's hypothesis sparks a gleam of interest in Meursault's otherwise steely eyes. "I believe that may be the most likely case. Plants are interesting things, and more intelligent than for which we give them credit. But, that intelligence acts differently than ours. They operate primarily on automatic responses to stimuli.
"Assuming the Tree does not possess – or is being used by – an intelligence higher than that which it has already demonstrated, it is likely that Kirk triggered some automatic response. That response, in turn, sent him somewhere from which he cannot return until rescued or released. The Tree can
react violently, but I do not believe it has done so against him, considering the care it has shown to us, his fellow living Souls. Kirk is alive, but trapped."
Meursault pauses, and starts to peel a tangerine. He exhales with a little exhaustion. You sense he is not used to talking so much. He may be nearing his limit.
Zamrud nods in approval, "An astute observation, Billy. You may be right… the Tree of Evil, however powerful, is still a tree. It's 'intelligence' may be based purely on instinct like you said."
As Meursault seems to agree the dissertation that Kirk is alive, but trapped, Zamrud rubs his chin. "The most secured place in the entire campus is by far the Grade Yard, and I could not find him in there. Where else could the Tree possibly keep him…"
A thought occurs to Zamrud. "The spectres around here. Those silhouettes that only appear clearly so long as we give into the delusion of the Academy. Could the Tree have made Kirk into one of them? We would never see him so long as we were detached from the delusion, and we'd never think to look for him so long as we were indulging in it."
Lost feeling the pangs of her own stress, slyly slid it across the floor towards the group.
Good nodded a,d hustled off to the machine, grabbing three and giving the groundskeeper two of them, taking the third from herself.
"I do think it naturally follows with what I understand so far. Though maybe like a flytrap we can figure out how to manually trigger these responses to be used for our benefit?" Billy waves around his claw in the air for a bit. "Though it likely isn't as simple as a flytrap."
"Mmm. I will rise to the challenge offered then. Of the two options, it is the one I feel is appropriate.">>764627
"Are, ah, you well? You seem a little exhausted."
By the time you're back, Rieux is gone, and the door is locked again. You drop the waters into the mailbox.
Not as cheery as you had heard… but perhaps that could be chalked up to the unannounced nature of your visit.>>764699>>764628>>764700
Meursault nods to Zamrud and Billy. "If Kirk is not hidden in a more conventional jail, then a more subtle jail is where he must be. I've heard he had an interest in mathematics. Perhaps it is worth sitting in on a class or two. But, be careful: If we think of these roles the Tree has given us as dreams, there is nothing to stop it from assigning us a dream-terror instead. Whatever it may have seen fit to do to Kirk for his meddling, it may also visit upon any of you."
[Dream-terror, or terror-dream, is the Ironcastle word for nightmare.
Meursault samples a bit of the tangerine's fruit, then sighs. "I am normally not so talkative.">>764629
When the students see their notes once more, a collective sigh knocks them all to the ground. With the heart attack triple kill averted, they retrieve their notes, none the wiser of your intrigue, and return to their studies.
Do they… look familiar…?
Roll #1 1 = 1
Without looking too weird, Deadweight tries to figure out if she knew those students. It feels like it's on the tip of her tongue…
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
"So he has an interest in mathematics, and if he is hidden as one of the shades we would have to recognize him by his alternate identity if we cannot know his features. It is quite troubling this place." Billy rests his chin on his palm.
"Mmm. That would be most concerning indeed. Perhaps he has been… re-cast as something else, something worse. It would do well for us to remain watchful."
"Mmm. I apologize- I can understand being forced into… unusual situations."
"Do you know them?" Deadweight whispers to Lost.
Zamrud nods. "I understand the risk. There is also every chance I may forget the true import of my goal every time I give in to my role, but if Kirk is one of the faceless silhouettes around us, then it must be done."
"It's crude, but if I write myself a few notes insisting I find Kirk no matter what - and some hints as to who we really are - I feel confident I'll be able to find him amid those classes. I've pulled myself out of the simulation a few times now. This time I just need to remember to bring someone back with us."
Good would have to swing by later, for now he had to focus on his studies once more.
Lost narrowed her eyes and looked curious, to see if she did.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 7 = 7
Xu, Deadweight and Huitlapan… the three troublemakers of Dorm Austral. Some of the top students too, despite a somewhat incompetent exterior. Possibly a front…? In any case, Cautaa has taken notice of your gazes, and looks back at you with a bit of suspicion, you being Dorm Boreal students.>>764705>>764704>>764707
Meursault nods. "And I would caution you against being too quick to drag him back to…"
He pauses, searching for words with a neurosis for precision.
reality. The Tree may have put him into a deeper slumber than the one we are accustomed to. Waking him from it may prove more difficult than you anticipate, and he may even fight against you if your approach disturbs him too much."
Xu, Cautaa and Huitlapan*
"Then how about a compromise? Can we get a marker placed on him to keep track of where he is throughout this place for when we are all ready?" Billy asks.
"Ahh… so, if we find him, just study him? Keep an eye on him? hope this is over soon- I worry for what goes on outside this."
"Right, a good idea. I didn't take to the others' suggestions when they realized the truth far sooner than I did. And it may be even more of a struggle under the current circumstances, having been missing for as long as he's been who knows how long he's been cut off."
"I have one more question… I've managed to pull myself out of the simulation a few times but, it is still a struggle. You and your team have been doing it for so long, you seem to have a tight grip on both realities. Is there any trick in particular to always being able to switch on demand, or does it never get easier?"
Lost shot a friendly wave back.
Not quite on the same page as Lost, Deadweight suddenly shifts her gaze to the corner of her eye and can't help but innocently whistle a little, too.
" Meursault says to Zamrud. "In fact, it may only become more difficult. Most of our time here until now has been in study of the Tree and this small world it harbors. Now that Kirk, Herb and the others are determined to destroy the Tree, switching realities may become more difficult, if the Tree retreats into a self-defensive approach."
He glances at the clock on the computer, and then clears his throat. "Was there much else I could advise upon?">>764831>>764832
You see those three troublemakers muttering together, and glancing your way. You may have just made enemies for life.
Deadweight takes another look at the Dorm Austral students, and she sees them still glaring at them. She decides to get up and walk over to them with a friendly smirk. "Hey. I don't got something in my teeth, right?" she says, baring her teeth playfully.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
"Are we considering that more may become like Kirk?" Billy tilts his head as he grimaces.
At that, Zamrud's ears noticeably flatten, his frown more evident. "I see… that is unfortunate, but it makes no difference to what must be done. I'll simply have to hope it won't take too many more attempts to pull myself from one or the other."
Zamrud shakes his head. "I don't think I could ask anything more of you, Meursault. You've been a tremendous help." He sends him his contact information for the private group chat the Teams have set up, "Feel free to chime in here if you want to keep in touch, I think it's important all four teams coordinate as best they can on this."
Lost hustled up and began to try and play nice.
[1d10] Cute mare powers activate (social)Roll #1 3 = 3
"Mmm… I do not think so, no. Though, someone I know in the Outlands appeared here as a… streamer? Do the computers here get outside signals?"
Good continues on to his room. He was unaware if something would happen on his way there.
"Assuming our speculation about Kirk's fate is true, it's not out of the question," Meursault says. "Keep a sharp eye out.">>764838
Meursault shakes his head. "Video and radio programs cannot breach the Tree's domain one way or the other. Those which we experience within the realm are more like recordings, even if they may appear to be live when we experience them. For example, I know that a radio program of which I am fond is due to come on shortly. But, if you're seeing someone you know from the Outlands, then… what you have seen is… well, it may have been a person of similar appearance to your acquaintance. That would be my guess, though I cannot say for sure.">>764835>>764836>>764838
Meursault nods as Zamrud hands over the contact info. "In that case, I will have to bid you bonsoir.
Please feel free to take tangerines to share with the others on the way out.">>764837>>764834
Xu narrows her eyes, then hisses in response. Far from being a mere social faux pas, Huitlapan and Cautaa recoil at the hiss, probably thinking – with good reason – that the threat was genuine. >>764839
You retire to your quarters without incident. If nothing else, it gives you time to coordinate information with the others.
Lost shrunk and did her best to seem like she was not a threat to her.
[1d10] Plz no hurtRoll #1 6 = 6
"Thank you." Billy bows his head as he grabs a few fruits. "Do stay safe."
When the kirin hisses, Deadweight stops walking towards them. "Look, I know we're part of different Dorms, but I feel like, in another life, we're really good friends."
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
"Ah, hmm… curious. Perhaps there is some sort of cycle of rebirth? Ah, but, that is neither here nor there." Qhapaq states, taking a tangerine as he leaves.
Good settled at his desktop and began to message the others>>764838>>764836>>764835
>Met the groundskeeper. Quite the character. Will have to talk to him more later, might be useful on getting the lay of the land and secrets normal staff may miss.
Zamrud looks to the bowl of tangerines as he offers yet more of the snack, to which Zamrud grabs a handful with him in order to appear polite if nothing else. "Bonsoir indeed, sir. Enjoy the rest of your day.">>764842>>764844
As they exit the office, Zamrud turns to look at the others. "I have not been keeping track: have either of you been 'immersing' yourself in the simulation as of late? I have been dabbling trying to obtain more information.">>764845
Zamrud's ears pop-up as he gets a notification from Good, opening up his phone to read it.
>Rieux, correct? We learned about him from Truth, he's yet another member of their team. As I understand it he's currently believing in his role.
"I did, attempting to pursue the silhouette student that threw a ball at me. It turns out, it is the tiger-masked individual from my dream."
Xu snorts, and a wave of fire passes along her body, briefly transforming her into a nirik, then back into a kirin. She packs up her things, and without a word, Cautaa and Huitlapan do the same. Clearly she calls the shots among the three. With her eye still on you, she leads her henchmen out of the library, perhaps to study elsewhere, perhaps to plot your demise.>>764844
"I would not count on such dreadful miracles," Meursault says to your speculation, but does not elaborate.>>764842>>764844>>764845>>764846
The responses from the other two teams are mostly complaints about midterm cramming, mixed with somewhat distant observations about the school's architecture, the state of the utilities, campus store prices, comments on the garden and the weather… it seems that the others have been going in and out of the immersion themselves to try to learn as much as they can, at the cost of splitting their focus.
With midterms coming up… it may be risky to continue without immersing.
>>764848>>764846>That he is.>>764848
Good dove back in and began to immerse and study.
"We really gotta work on your social skills Weighty."
Deadweight's eyes widen and her mouth scrunches. When the trio leave, she turns back to Lost and replies, "Least we didn't get charred, I guess…"
"I have not been immersing myself at all. the weeks fly by and I feel like I have hardly any time to do anything." Billy shakes his head.
She nuzzled into her a bit before going back to her books to study.
When Deadweight returns to her seat, she's welcomed back by Lost. She returns the welcome with a smile, then she, too, resumes studying.
>>764849>That's good. We've recently determined immersing ourselves may be necessary soon. Anything he has to offer, we should use, particularly if it involves searching areas of the campus we wouldn't think to look in before>>764847
"The individual you saw in your dream? He's here?" He pauses to think about this. "Interesting… I see a few possibilities. Either there are STILL more individuals we don't know about trapped in this school. Or perhaps the Tree drew upon your memories to make this silhouette to fill the roster."
"Or… your mystery tiger-masked individual lived in a time far before our own, and it is a memory of the Tree's itself.">>764852>>764848
Zamrud looks to Billy.
"I fear it may become necessary. At present, the only sure chance we seem to have is passing this school's tests genuinely, and that will be easier to do from within than without. What's more, it appears that Kirk - and who knows what other secrets - may only be shown to us if we choose to delve into our roles."
"It will be risky, of course. Pulling yourself out of the simulation is difficult, but not impossible, and if some of us remain aware they can always act as an anchor. I plan to return myself to the simulation fully, not just sitting on the fence as I have been in the coming week. At the very least, I should be able to focus more on helping anyone with studying who needs it if I take my role seriously."
>He summarizes the above for the group-chat as well
>>764845>"Mmm. Thank you for letting us know.">>764848>Qhapaq will immerse for the midterms, and Tiger Mask's Training.>>764855
"Truth mentioned that it could have… followed me, here. This might be like a dream- if so, it is active."
The third week of the second month comes to pass, and you take to your respective tasks as you continue to acclimate to these strange circumstances, under the shade of the Tree of Evil.
Qhapaq trains with the Tiger-Masked student, who continues to be a hard-ass, and an aloof coach, silent as they are. In downtime, he sits through Peyote's expansive knowledge of Goki-chama's streaming career and lore; at times, the strange dog who looks identical to Shikiki appears in Goki-chama's streams, though is not nearly as confident or talkative (or competent at games) as Goki-chama.
The rest of you study for your midterms, with Professor Zamrud – temporarily fully immersed in his role as Professor – taking on as many tutor hours as he can to aid in midterm prep. He'll be looking at a nice paycheck this month.
All the while, despite your looking, even in math classes, Kirk remains unseen, much to Herb's displeasure. He's been caught up on Meursault's theory of Kirk's fate, though this knowledge has only seemed to distress him, given that Kirk's location and fate are yet unconfirmed.
Truth, eventually, gives back Kirk's notebook to Zamrud. She doesn't say much on its contents, citing the extra tutor hours that she has to give to her students, as a justification for her reticence on the topic.
>Only one last week to prepare for midterms… how will you spend it?
Qhapaq spends the last week studying!
Good opts to spend the first day trying to spend some time with the groundskeeper, but all other time is on study.
Lost spends all her time studying
Zamrud remains immersed in the idea of being this school's chemistry professor, thoughts of Iron Castle and their mission slowly becoming more dreamlike fancy as he takes to task his mission of preparing the students of Agape Academy to the best of his abilities to take the midterms, putting in extra office hour work if necessary.
He reminds himself constantly of his search for Kirk however, and is disappointed when he continues to be absent for classes. Being immersed as he is, Zamrud starts to see if desperate measures must be needed to find a missing student - calling his parents to see if he is at home, or otherwise seeing if there are any other resources available that might lead him to their missing friend.
He thanks Truth for returning the notebook, and though she's busy he sees if he has time to ask her again if anything else of note turned up while reading it.
Groundskeeper Rieux is nowhere to be seen whenever you visit; not only that, the gate to the yard is kept locked. >>764908
You obtain Kirk's emergency contact info via the student registry in the front office. But, each time you call his family number, all you get is their answering machine. Even if you choose to leave a message, they don't respond.
Truth [via text message] informs you that the notebook didn't change much after she got her hooves on it. She reports that she'll double check the contents and the relevant programming applications, but doesn't sound very convinced it will turn into much.>>764858>>764859>>764860>>764908
On the eve of the midterms, you all receive an "@" from Herb in the groupchat, suggesting a meetup in the library for one big and exhaustive note-checking extravaganza. You imagine that both study material, and situational material, would be good to review here.
La Senorita responds with eloquent ASCII art of a studying student. Sounds like she'll be in attendance.
Qhapaq nods a little bit, poking out a simple response of 'K.' and gathering up what he has to take with him. He'll head to the library, after grabbing some food.
Billy responds with "I will make sure to be there!" happy to meet up with the rest team and hopeful to hear about any new ideas.
Zamrud heads to the library after receiving Herb's text. He moves his position into his 'on the fence' mindset between his true self and his persona as the professor so he may share notes with what he's uncovered regarding Kirk's disappearance but still able to provide any information regarding studying they may have.
Over time, you make it to one of the library's private study rooms. Lots of them are occupied by frantic students, visible to those still immersed in the dream-world of Agape Academy. If any fail, they'll be at serious risk of being expelled, per the brutal rules of the Second Enlightenment…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7uuIUjb6H8
In attendance are Herb, Lone Star, Origami and Locomotive, of Dorm Boreal; Ride or Die, Assembley, Bet, Gimmel and Dorya, of Dorm Austral; and, all of you, of Dorm Boreal.
La Senorita is the last to arrive – she shows up with Godspeed in tow. Together, the two are carrying a couple trays of sweet bread, as well as horchata. The mood, judging by the faces of your many companions, has been raised quite a bit.
Good was most displeased by this turn of events and began to look around for a way in if need be.
When he got the message he moved to meet the others.
Zamrud sits down at the table in the provided study room, a portfolio containing notes both educational and pertaining to investigation. As he sees Ride or Die, Herb, and their teams he nods as he begins opening his binder.
"Good, I see most of us are in attendance, I feel there's no need to delay this 'study session' of sorts. We all have made our own headway in various ways I'm sure, but let's start with the basics - how is everyone doing in their classes? Assuming we cannot find a way out before the end of the semester, passing grades seem to be our only hope of seeing what lies beyond these walls and so we should make sure no one is lagging behind."
Qhapaq happily takes some of both, settling down next to the group and asking "So… where do we start?"
"Hope everyone is doing well, I am comfortable to go when everybody else is." Billy moves around a bit as he takes a seat. Anxious from the up and coming exams.
"Mmm. I am studying to the best of my ability, but I have been taking time to try and test myself against that shade."
"I am well enough."
You take a look around the area. There's only the one gate in and out, but It'd be possible to hop the fence if you stacked up some boxes, or moved over a decorative rock from the landscaping. There's always lockpicking, or just destroying the lock. A flier might be commissioned to airlift you over, as well. You didn't see any kind of cameras the last time you were here, either.>>764925
Godspeed looks like she's trying to bow out quietly, but… maybe she could be persuaded to stay?>>764927>>764926>>764925>>764924
"Kirk's still missing and we're still trapped," Origami complains. "Shit's fucked."
"Those are… all technically true statements," Herb sighs. "But grow up. We've come a long way in this first month. We've learned a lot about the place, at least. I'll start a quick review.
"We're trapped in a slice of the Old World," Herb begins. "Agape Academy, one of the most difficult universities from the Time Long Forgotten. We've been given the roles of seniors, and faculty, apparently by the Outlands phenomenon called the Tree of Evil. For some reason, the Tree of Evil 'rewinds' the scenario – this six-month second semester – every time someone new enters, and restarts it from Cycle One. The Tree demolishes any Dreaded that try to enter, but accepts any living Soul. We're safe enough from any monsters, it seems."
"If we go by the Psy-Chrono Hypothesis…" Ride or Die continues. "The Tree could be trying to harvest more Psy-Chrono from us. The sturm und drang
of being a college senior comes with much emotional turmoil. If the PCH is true, we and the apparitions surrounding us are ideal sources of nutrients."
"If that's the case…" Lone Star adds. "What the hell happened to Kirk? He vanished after trying to destroy the Tree by himself. But, if the Tree is feeding on us, wouldn't it want to keep him around too?"
Billy speaks up to communicate with Lone star. "What theory I am leaning on after a recent talk, is that Kirk must have happened upon the tree's automatic responses putting him back into a role that we just can't see or don't know about. So it should still be feeding on him." Billy returns to his action of pulling through his own beard.
As Godspeed looks like she's about to step out, Zamrud holds up his paw, "Wait, Godspeed, would you mind joining us for a bit? Your input would be appreciated.">>764930>>764929
Zamrud nods in approval. "Good. Keep up your grades, in a worst case scenario they may be necessary, I would go so far to say as not to jeopardize them even for the sake of the investigation.">>764930
"It's also worth noting that there are four separate teams that have been trapped here - The three we have here, but also the first, original team to have been sent on the original mission. They have extra insight due to being familiar with this system - they've suggested we indulge ourselves in the 'roles' we were given in order to see more that we could not see when we keep our minds free of it. I've started doing this every few weeks, switching between being immersed as the professor of Agape Academy and reminding myself I am an agent of IronCastle. It is a jarring experience, but it does give you a unique perspective on things.">>764931>>764930
Zamrud nods. "I've spent most of my spare time looking for Kirk, or trying to decipher his journal. To no avail, despite our best efforts. Truth may still have something to gleam from it but thus far neither her lectures nor her directly reading it seems to uncover whatever Kirk was working on in regards to probability. The fact that we are having this much difficulty finding him is distressing, I've even tried contacting his emergency contacts since no one in the school's faculty has seen him. However it does lead me to believe that Kirk was truly on to something. To the extent where even the Tree of Evil itself has sought to remove him somehow from the simulation."
He puts Kirk's journal on the table. "I am certain that whatever Kirk was working on, it was important. I just can't understand what he was getting at or why the Tree would think it significant enough to remove him."
"Hrm. Still missing, still trapped, but we may be able to fix both. Do you think harvesting Psy-Chrono could expand its area of influence?"
"Perhaps it wanted to drink more directly from the tap?" he asked curiously in regards to the trees drinking from them.
"Possibly…" Herb muses. "When we were dispatched, the mission briefing said that we were to destroy the Tree quickly, before it could get any larger. I wonder… maybe we'll see more of the area that was around Agape Academy, back during the Time Long Forgotten."
"So, Kirk's just drained dry?" Origami asks. "Like a fucking juice box?"
Locomotive shakes his head. "I doubt it. When you drink something tasty, you want to savor it, like horchata. He's prob'ly fine."
He savors his horchata with a little sip to demonstrate.
Origami sneers like he's about to retort… but the reasoning seems to provide him with a little hope, and he drops it.>>764932
Godspeed's ears twitch ever-so-slightly, with interest she fails to suppress. "Well, I should be watching the nurse's office… but I can spare a few minutes more."
She pulls up a chair next to you.>>764931>>764932>>764933>>764934
"Right, then there was that lecture from that Truth professor," Herb says.
"RNG and programming," Lone Star says. "Kirk really got obsessed with that lately, but the lecture ended up being a lot of abstract theory."
"If I may elaborate," Assembly says. "What Truth outlined to us was, basically, a branch of the so-called 'Copenhooven' interpretation of quantum mechanics. All of that business about the randomness of particles, and the effects of measurement on probability, it's a very speculative model that is highly disputed, especially by the Abbey. The existence of the Five Gods, and their omniscience, raises serious objections to the supposed un-managed randomness of the world. In other words, the Gods do not play dice with the universe."
"We're in the Outlands," Godspeed interjects. "For many, it is hard to feel the love of the Gods, so far away from the Iron Heart."
"Maybe that's what got Kirk so obsessed," Herb says. "Hey, Professor Zamrud, can I see that journal again?"
I intended to pass as a back up plan.">>764935
I've never felt particularly close to the gods myself given my powers… and my mother, but if you knew her you would get why." he said dryly as he rummaged in his pack for a juice pouch, feeling a touch thirsty with the talk of beverages.
"Could have Kirk been done anything related to the RNG theory that got him caught up in the tree, perhaps he has a new role here concerning such?" Billy pushes the question.
Zamrud smiles as she takes a chair up next to him. "I'm sure someone else will be able to cover it, for a little bit.">>764935
The thought of the Tree of Evil 'juicing' Kirk dry is a disturbing one to Zamrud, shaking his head. "I hope you're right. The concept we might be bled dry by this thing hadn't occurred to me before now."
As Assembly explains Truth's lecture again, Zamrud tries to remember what they'd gone over. "I recall her theory that only in a perfect system could the exact same results be reproduced reliably. Rather, if all elements are aware of all other elements. At the time, I took that to mean that if all the Tree's victims could be made aware it was a simulation simultaneously, we could break free that way, but it seems unlikely we'd be able to test that without Kirk present."
As Herb asks for the journal, he slides it over to him. "He was your teammate - does anything else at all come to mind about any messages he might have left behind?">>764937
"That is another possibility - Kirk may not even be 'Kirk' anymore, if he was given a new identity entirely"
"The, ah. Iron Heart?" He asks, a little confused.>>764935
Qhapaq sets a claw on Origami's shoulder, saying "Trees are not known for speed. It would not simply, ah… juice-box Herb. He will be fine.">>764935
Qhapaq gives it a good old college try at understanding what Assembly says, but he's not the best at probability.
You find one, but La Senorita nudges a cup of horchata toward you with very large eyes… she probably hoof-made these.>>764939
"The Iron Heart is the miracle that lays below Ironcastle," Godspeed says. "Just as the Zinc Heart is the miracle below Zinccastle. Each Castle's Heart provides it with the Light Undefiled, generating power and material resources to the inside of the Castle, as well as the protective energy barrier which surrounds the Castle. The Five Gods of the Abbean religion are the creators of the Hearts."
A contradictory creation myth to those of the Outlander tribes, to say the least.>>764939>>764938>>764937>>764936
Kirk takes the journal as he ponders your words.
"Wait… Billy, I think you might be on the right track…" Herb says. He flips through the pages of the journal. Though only a few are filled in, he pores over the contents so far. "Because, here's the thing. The Tree resets the semester to the very start whenever someone new wanders in."
As if on cue, Peyote passes by the private study room. Spotting you all through the window, he waves, enters, and sits down.
"But," Herb continues. "Even though the Tree seemed to remove Kirk altogether, it didn't reset the scenario. At first, I just thought this meant that the Tree had hidden or imprisoned him. But, now I'm thinking back to the lecture, when Professor Truth talked about time, and RNG… In programming, the system time is used to produce a randomization seed, which generates random numbers. And, if you believe in divination, the only way it can make sense is if time serves a similar role, to 'generate' the vision of the future… And– and Kirk would know all of this…"
"So…" Ride says. "The Tree took him to generate its 'randomization seed', just as a computer takes 'time' to generate its own?"
"Or," Herb says. "Kirk gave himself to the tree to force its randomization to go a certain way."
"Could my group coming in messed with that in any way?" Billy's ears fall at the thought. "I hope not."
"Very well, it would be rude to turn it down." he said with a smile as he pulled it to his lips and let it fill his mouth.
He glanced over to the others and pondered their words before swallowing "Loading the deck for us?" he posited.
Qhapaq sets a claw on Peyote's head, and ruggles it softly. "So, you are saying that perhaps we have been given a particular outcome? That could be… good."
As the concept of Kirk having been taken in order to perform the reset for Agape Academy, Zamrud rubs his chin.
"I'm following you, I think… randomization isn't truly random in programming, it pulls from something to generate the result."
"So you're suggesting Kirk gave himself up to perform this reset, perhaps even willingly…">>764943>>764942
Zamrud nods, "I agree: if Kirk did something to give this particular iteration an edge in our favor, we'd be fools to waste it. We just need to know what exactly he might have done, what he would have us exploit."
He sighs, pointing at the journal, "I assume he must have left some other clue in that journal, right? If Kirk DID give himself up to stack the odds in our favor, it's not immediately obvious what it is. There must still be something he'd want us to know to take advantage, correct?"
"Basically, yes," Herb says. "The Tree may be recreating the semester, and the school, with memories from the Time Long Forgotten. Hence, why we can't access the Bodhi Garden in this first month of the semester… but these memories are only 'props', so to speak. We, along with Truth, Meursault, Rieux and Clamence, are the actors. Kirk, in this situation, would be the 'director', manipulating outcomes so that the performance goes off without a hitch."
He turns to Billy. "Not at all. This all happened before you showed up. But now that you're here, you 'extras' could be the key to seeing us through to the curtain call."
"Okay, we get it, you were a theater major," Origami sighs.
"Double major with Electrical Engineering, thank you," Herb deadpans.
"But this is all a huge leap in logic, and doesn't bring us closer to rescuing him," Origami continues.
"Rescuing him may be the very thing Kirk wouldn't want," Ride suggests. "If he's in a position where he can help us from 'Backstage,' so to speak."
"The notebook is all we have to go on," Lone Star says. "It used to be blank, but the first few pages filled themselves in soon after this most recent reset. That could be Kirk's doing… though, I don't know why he wouldn't communicate more directly."
"Things might become more clear as time goes on…" Herb says. "For now, we can think of it as our script."
He looks at the journal again, and frowns. "Although… it's been a month since the reset, and yet, no more pages have filled themselves in. You'd think at least a few more lines would appear…"
"I believe it is best to find out who he is at least as he could have easily lost himself a role, at least it is how I see it. Perhaps he is in a role we have yet to see in the school? Though if he truly doesn't want to be bothered I am assuming he is a part of the faculty that has access to areas that we cannot reach." Billy presents his assumption.
"Perhaps he has writers block?"he said mildly amused and making a joke to lighten things up.
HE looked to Senorita "Very lovely, you are quite the chef."
"Perhaps he is not capable of a more direct communication if he is behind the scenes." He offers, shrugging a little. "Perhaps he has a limit to how much he can communicate with us?"
Zamrud nods in agreement with Ride. "I agree. If Kirk's put himself in a position to help us in this semester, then we have to place our faith in him to know what he's doing. I've searched for him for weeks, as have all of you, we have searched every possibility on campus, in and out of our roles. He simply is not here, or at least not in a place we can reach."
"The journal itself is what we should have focused on. I rather think the idea it may be a 'script' is accurate, it may be the reason it has not filled itself in yet is because we've yet to do the first scene. If you won't mind my overuse of the theater allegory."
He takes the journal again, "This book does have the answers, I'm sure. We've just been looking at it from the wrong angle."
He tries to see what the first solution Kirk wrote down was, and attempting to solve it himself using whatever he's picked up from Truth's class, to see if working on his own solution would turn up any clues, anything the notes would suggest the team should do.
La Senorita squees from the praise.>>764946>>764947>>764948>>764949
Zamrud does some math on a separate sheet of paper, but it doesn't seem to yield any new insights into things.
"If Kirk's going to be rigging the dice in our favor…" Lone Star muses. "You should really do all your gacha pulls in here. Maybe you'll get better luck on the banner this time."
Herb sighs and screws his eyes shut with annoyance. "You've been bragging about this for weeks now."
"You're the one who keeps gambling on JPEGs of snails," Lone laughs.
"Aaaaaaaaaaanyway…" Herb says. "It's getting late. If that's all there is so far about the investigation, we should go over our midterm notes one last time."
"The only thing that comes to mind," Godspeed says. "Is the rumor about the missing student, going around among the apparitions who fill the school's halls. Have the rest of you heard anything?"
"Oh, right," Peyote says. "I've heard that a student has been missing since last week. At first I believed it to be Kirk, but the rumors identified the student as a lady. Could it still be related?"
"Might've just been a real event from the Time Long Forgotten," Assembly suggests. "Replicated now by the Tree for historical accuracy."
"Will we end up reenacting these kinds of historical events? What should we do if one of us goes missing like that or can't communicate with everyone else?" said Billy.
I can't recall if I have met this ghost, I don't think I have. My efforts have been focused on the groundskeeper."
"Another missing person? Hmm… if even the apparitions are commenting on it, it may have been a historical event. I imagine extras like ourselves going missing wouldn't draw so much attention. Very few of the Academy staff outside of us seem as concerned about Kirk's disappearance. Still, if she went missing in the past, finding out where she disappeared TOO may yield clues for where Kirk went. We should keep our ears to the ground and see if there's any developments."
Out of curiosity, when Lone Star mentions Kirk 'rigging the dice', Zamrud is curious just how literally that may be. He takes a coin out of his pocket, and flips it five times to see the results.>>764952
"Right, another member of Truth's team. Have you and him uncovered anything else unusual about the grounds?"
Roll #1 2, 1, 1, 1, 2 = 7
"Hard to say at this point," Ride says. "Little more for it than to face the future with bravery… and regular communication in our groupchat. I've found that speech-to-text lets me compose messages easier than my thumbs.">>764954>>764954
It's a mostly unremarkable spread of results. If Kirk really is able to exercise control over randomness, he might not use it on such ordinary trifles.
Zamrud shakes his head, "I don't know for certain but I assume anyone of us who entered the Tree of Evil are "extras". We did not exist in this long forgotten era, therefore there is nothing scripted to happen to us, least not anything we don't end up creating ourselves. The roles we've been given have been made to help us fit in but I don't think anything significant can happen to us outside of our control, otherwise who knows how that'd effect the rest of the sequence"
"Hrm… anything about this lady, or just a mention of them being a lady? I wonder if it might be one someone here would recognize… but, ah. What do you mean by 'betting on a Snail JPEG?'"
"If there is nothing else I suppose I should duck back out to gardeners one last time."
As the coins show no sign of being stacked by Kirk, Zamrud sighs. "Of course, that'd be too easy…" he says, looking again at the equations in Kirk's journal.
"We need to know the meaning behind Kirk's journal or we'll never get anywhere. We've already had a professor in probabilities and RNG look over it and she's yet to discern anything significant, is there any other expert on campus that comes to mind that might be able to crack it? I don't suppose we'd have anyone skilled in cryptography among our number…?"
The others think it over, but end up shaking their heads as they fail to produce any more expert names in the cryptography biz.>>764957
Herb rolls his eyes at Lone's prodding over his collectathon hobby, and gives you a rundown. It's apparently a snail racing game with a cutthroat competitive scene plagued by gambling.
Zamrud sighs, "That too, would probably have been too easy." Zamrud says, rubbing his chin as he looks over the problems again.
"Hmm… if our theory is correct, Kirk may have offered himself up as some sort of variable that'd determine something in the system. If people are variables…" he says, looking to see how many 'variables' are in the equation to see if that discerns any clues, trying to see them less as parts of a problem and more like individuals, roles in a team
You look it over, but there doesn't seem to be any connection between the number of variables on the page, and the number of "actors" in this scenario. Perhaps you lack enough information at this juncture to solve anything just yet.>>764963
As you lack Rieux's contact information, you instead get in touch with Truth, who agrees to get ahold of the busy groundskeeper. She does so, and gets back to you anon. Rieux will need an hour or so to get cleaned up, but you should be able to sit for a spell with them at that time.
"Should I keep in mind or focus on anything? How can I help in all of this?" Billy asks.
"Ah, hmm. So, this is some sort of… competitive racing video game? Are the snail jaypegs important or useful?"
Good opts to study while he waits, figuring he could never not use more.
Zamrud closes the journal, seeing no more clues to be glimpsed from it with the information they have present.
"I think, Billy, our next course of action - besides keeping up with our studies - is to turn our attention away from looking for Kirk, and instead focusing on Kirk's trail. We need more information if we're going to get anything from his journal. We may not be able to find Kirk, but surely we can find where he's been. See who's spoken to him, what classes he's been too, what rooms he's visited in the Academy. There must be something else tied to him that can help us, and I think we should look for it when time allows."
"Well," Herb says. "People say it's all about the 3-Gem snails, but they're just copying the meta without any thought. See, a lot of the 2- and 1-Gem snails provide crucial support skills which…"
He goes on about the snail racing game for quite some time. Peyote seems intrigued.>>765009>>765010>>765011>>765012
At Billy's prompting, Herb's team exchange troubled glances. Lone Star is the one to break the silence.
"Lemme add something to that, Professor. I'd say… let's keep an eye on Truth."
She keeps her voice low.
"If there's anything I don't really get," she continues. "It's why they didn't make contact with us all this time. I don't even know when they got to the Tree. Did Truth say anything about that when you met with her, Professor?"
"NOt to myself which I am aware. Though her lack of explaining that is somewhat… disconcerting."
"Sounds good to me, do make sure to stay connected. I will be here to help where I can and keep an eye out." Said Billy.
Zamrud's brow rises up in response to Lone Star's suggestion, but after a moment of contemplating he finds himself not entirely opposed to it.
"Yes… you do have a point. I originally chalked it up to them simply not knowing new entrants had entered the simulation, but they would have noticed the resets. And at first, I don't imagine many of us made much effort to play along, they would have noticed something was wrong with the new students."
"They could have still had their reasons, perhaps not wanting to jostle us too much if we were deep in our roles, but you figure they might have made SOME effort." He taps his paw against the table. "At any rate I agree they perhaps warrant a close eye, just to be safe. Being we're both teachers, I can volunteer to try and shadow her a little to see if there's anything we should be aware of."
"Maybe she's one of the Lux. They tend to like secrets and doing unsavory things."
"Ah, hmm? The meta? And, gems? What exactly do you mean by this?" he asks, listening to the explanation intently. He's not much of a gamer, unfortunately.>>765013>>765016
"Perhaps Truth is not who they appear to be? Ironic, given the name."
Zamrud chuckles at Qhapaq's joke. "Yes, that would be a little on the nose, wouldn't it? Someone named Truth who is full of lies and secrets like the Lux. Still, while I do think we should be cautious, let's not jump to conclusions either. Truth and her team are too valuable to make enemies of, they've far more experience than us in dealing with this place."
Herb pulls out his misery-rectangle on cue. "Fortunately this game's got offline play, so maybe I can just show you…">>765018>>765016>>765015>>765014
"It's too early to say definitively…" Lone admits as she ponders your suggestions.
"At the risk of sounding naive," Ride says. "Whatever the case, Truth and her three companions are trapped in the Tree's realm just as we are. Let's not put the maze before the minotaur; so long as we can solve the mystery of the Tree, that should be our focus."
"You're not wrong there," Lone says. "Say, Good, did I overhear you right? You're gonna talk to the groundskeeper? Maybe bring a couple pals."
"Oh!" Locomotive interjects. "And a housewarming gift. I usually bring green tea and scones."
"They're not moving in…" Herb sighs. "If anything they should have brought that to us."
"I suppose a few others around might be a good security just in case something happens.">>765019>>765020
True enough but be mindful not to give away any info you don't need to just in case."
"Well put, Ride or Die- and Zamrud, yes. We should focus on escape from this place. Then we can deal with them if they are not who they say." He remarks, frowning a little. >>765020
Qhapaq cranes his neck over to look.
"Yeah, I do find Ride agreeable quite here as well. I am worried that I can't quite see where our journey ends anytime soon. Do we plan on ending it by the destruction of this place or finding an exit?" Billy slumps a bit.
"Agreed," Zamrud says to Ride as well. "Even if they're not all they seem, we all stand to gain from getting out of here. We just need to make sure we don't reveal every card we have."
As Lone suggests taking someone to meet Rieux, Zamrud nods as well. "Also agreed. Has anyone else met with the Groundskeeper yet besides Good?"
As Zamrud asks about Rieux, nobody speaks up– seems like nobody's really gotten to know the aloof groundskeeper yet.
But before the conversation can continue much further, the school bell rings out, signaling that lunch is about to be served. Rieux should be ready about now as well, with the interruption of the bell coinciding with their lunch hour.
"An army marches on its stomach," La Senorita observes with a prerecorded line.
"I'll swing by the mess and grab something before I see him." he said looking to Senorita "Care to join me in meeting Rieux?"
Zamrud nods as the bell rings. "I'll leave the Groundskeeper to you. I will see if I can interest Truth in having lunch, see if I can perhaps find out if there's anything she may not be sharing with us."
He turns to Godspeed, "Would you be interested, Nurse Godspeed?"
"I will try to figure out what to do while in the the mess. Don't be afraid to ask me for help if anything does come up." Billy bows his head.
"Mmm. Food sounds good, yes." Qhapaq gets to his feet, stretching out like a cat and opening the door for the others.
Peyote leads the way out, followed by all the teams as you go to grab some lunch.
>Post activities, then timeskip to the meeting with Rieux / end of the Cycle is available>>765027
"Why Professor," Godspeed says with a laugh, as the others go ahead. "How long are you going to make my assistant cover my shift? They're a student too, you know."
Good grabbed a bite to eat at the schools cafeteria, along with Senorita if she accompanied, then made his way to meet Rieux asap.
Zamrud smirks. "The extra experience will be good for them, I'm sure. Tell them they'll be earning extra credit, that's what I do."
>Zamrud heads to where the other professors have lunch, talking with her specifically about Iron Castle to try and gleam a little more into her history to see if there's anything to be concerned of
Billy makes due with any notes he can get a handle of and maintaining his writing in the grimoire, sharing his learned experiences.
You head on over to the groundskeeper's yard, with Senorita. This time, the gate is open. Senorita opts to knock at the metal door of the machine shop, and it clicks ajar. At the threshold of the shop is a lop-eared donkey, still clad in a face mask, but with a clean jumpsuit. You can see that their hind legs are both cybernetic, though the rest of their body is flesh and blood.
"Aye, c'mon in, Ah've just poot the kettle on," Rieux says.>>765032
History is a rather dry course. The lecture reviews the material covered so far: The settlement of Ponyville; the development of the railroad to Canterbury; the first contact with the Buffalo; the first treaties between the Minotaur and Griffon territories of Huoli. The exact dates, and the distance between locations, is… something of a blur. Maybe it's just the fatigue of cramming…
Afterward at least, you are free to go to gym. As before, the gym teacher has, for whatever reason, let the shadowy student have the gym to themselves; they await you in the center of the court.>>765033
You and Godspeed have a corner of the staff cafeteria to yourselves. While the rest of the faculty line up for today's special, Godspeed already has a lunch prepared– a hay sandwich laden with many vegetables.
"Oh, sorry for bothering you." Billy bows his head in apology. Meals and snacks were quite sacred.
Qhapaq sits through History paying as much attention as he can manage- it feels worthwhile to do so here, anyways. His real focus is, of course, on Gym- he doesn't know what to expect… but, an open Gym with only he and the shadow griffon in attendance certainly wasn't it. He approaches the shadow griffon at the center of the court, frowning a little as he looks around. "Then… today is a test?"
Good nodded as he walked in taking a seat "Nice to see you again Mr. Rieux"
Zamrud eagerly lines up for the lunch special - hopefully something meaty, as he enjoys - and tries to keep an eye out for Truth to see if he can get her to sit with them as well.
As he sits with Godspeed, he looks at her heavily veggied sandwich. "You always bring your own lunch?" he asks curiously.
Rieux directs you to a break-room at the back of the (surprisingly well-organized) machine shop. The break-room is a bit more eclectic, stuffed with mismatched furniture. Rieux sets some scones before you as you sit, with chipped mugs waiting nearby as the tea-kettle warms.
The near-anonymous Rieux, still wearing their mask and coveralls, sits across from you.
"Nao… is this fer a class or summat?" they ask. "Truth is so scatterbrained Ah barely managed to piece aht that ye wanted tae talk, but not what about.">>765132
The shadow-student just stares you down. Though their face is as unidentifiable as ever, you can see that around their neck, a tiger-mask hangs, held by aged strands. The student holds the mask up, rocking it from side to side such that it covers more or less of their imperceptible face.
A stirring at the back of your mind seems to resonate with the mask; the stirring grows, then wanes, as the mask conceals, then reveals their face…>>765134
You pick up a plate of chicken nuggets in sweet and sour, and a side of rice and broccoli. You don't see Truth anywhere in the cafeteria. But, as a changeling, she wouldn't receive any sustenance from the food served here anyway…
So, then… what *is* she eating…?
Before you can puzzle out that thought, Godspeed nods. "Force of habit, from being a picky eater."
"I was hoping to ask about some things, though they might just cross over in topic if that isn't any trouble." Billy bows down his head.
"I also have questions about things."
Zamrud sits down besides Godspeed with his plate of nuggets, looking around in disappointment as he notices Truth doesn't seem to be here. To Godspeed, he smirks as he starts dipping one of his nuggets into the sauce and takes a bite.
"That's a surprise. I didn't take you for the picky eater type. Though, given it's cafeteria food, I cannot be too judgemental either." He says with a chuckle, looking around one more time. "Truth isn't here, it seems. I wonder if she eats in her own office… to be honest, I'm not sure how she manages her meals being a changeling if you have any suggestions."
"Aye, fire when ready, then," Rieux says as they pour you, and themselves, some tea.>>765139
As with all good quality nuggets, regardless of reality, they are delicious.
"In Zinccastle, Changelings have developed a school of alchemy which transmutes emotions," Godspeed says. "Though, as I understand, it is much more of a ritual magic, than an easy cantrip. There's no way she could be getting food on the fly… Perhaps she has a studio in one of the college buildings?"
"Fascinating…" Zamrud says, "I pride myself on being a bit of a alchemist myself but I'd never heard of such a formula. Being able to transmute intangible emotions into something solid, if Truth knows how to do that I'd be very interested in her sharing the details."
He chomps down on another of his nuggets, savoring the flavor as he looks out towards one of the windows. "I'm sure there's be an opening in one of the supplemental buildings on campus if she desired a lab of some sort. After we finish our meal, would you be interested in helping me look for it, or will you be needing to return to the nurse's office?"
"How about this one. Have you seen any students or staff that seem to be acting… strange? Like they don't quite fit in or are doing odd things?"
Qhapaq frowns a little, a low growl bubbling from his beak. Something about this feels… it's difficult to place, but he grows agitated. He wants to know what's behind the mask.
"Are you allowed to tell students anything about the summit? I heard that things were kept secret." Billy asks with a tilt of his head.
"I really do need to get back to work," Godspeed says. "Whether it's genuine or not, I despise the feeling of slacking. Even in my dreams I'm a busybody. But as for looking for it– why not just ask her where it is?">>765142
"Ach! Why dinnae I just pull up the whole student registrar? All of 'em act strange, and the little cutthroats decide to bully the ones who act even a hair stranger than the rest of 'em."
Rieux sips their tea. "But, Ah will say tha' whole business with the missin' student stands out in me mind. Apparently, she's not been expelled, not dropped out, but she's missin' all the same. And, I'm nae supposed to tell ye this, so ye didn't hear this from me, but, she's still getting Stars registered to 'er name. That's how she's survived the first wave of expulsions.">>765144
"Now tha', I won't say even a word," they say.
Can't, or won't…?>>765143
As you ruminate upon the mask, the dark stirring gnaws at the back of your mind. Like pulling back the curtain to a dark landscape beyond the window. The mere hint of shapes lay beyond… the rubble of a distant memory. Not a memory personal to you, but one you can feel in your blood, in the base of your skull… a memory of your people.
The rest of your body digs in, pulls back from the window. Nothing good can be out there, in that outer darkness. Yet, the mask awaits you, in the memory.
Zamrud blinks in surprise at his own forgetfulness. "Somehow, I tend to entirely forget we have these things for a reason." He says as he takes out his phone, looking up Truth's contact, and sending a message in-between nuggets
>"Might I join you for lunch? I had some questions I wished to ask you."
With that done, he looks to Godspeed and nods, "Understandable, I suppose we should give your assistant a break. The students aren't going to patch themselves up, either. I'll send you a message once I figure out anything from Truth."
"That is fair. Though is there anything against asking around or reasons we shouldn't ask around for information on the summit?" billy asks.
"You are… something that I know. Someone that I know, somehow. Maybe not personally, but in another, deeper way. I… I cannot abandon this memory, I think. If I must look out, I wish to find it."
"Really now? Who would that be?"
The shadow-student nods, and takes the mask from their neck, affixing it to their belt where it will be out of the way. They take the ball from the center of the court. In a twist, it isn't a basketball, like it was in your previous games, but a dodgeball.
They twirl it on their finger and take a posture of silent machismo, a challenge.>>765147
"Contrary to common sense – like just about everything around here – the issue isn't tha' the school will punish ye if ye find out the secrets of the final test beforehand. It's that yer fellow students are more likely to take ye out if ye know. See, the more ye know about the final test goin' in, the bigger the advantage ye have over yer fellow students in the final battle royale. Apparently, it's not been uncommon for students to sabotage each other by findin' out the secrets, givin' 'em to their rivals, then lettin' it be known to the student body at large that their rival knows. Bloody grim business it is!">>765149
"Hmm, Ah know Ah heard 'er name… eh, Leaf Litter, Ah think it was?">>765146>"Roll for it,"
is Truth's response.
Godspeed nods as she finishes her veggie sandwich, and starts to pack up.
"That does sound quite scary, like an info hazard. This school is quite a backwards thing, hope it hasn't taken too much of a toll on you." Billy gives his condolences.
Qhapaq will also take a ball from the center of the court. The game seems simple enough, though his bulk will do him no favors here.
Zamrud looks to Godspeed as she finishes, soon having finished his own meal and starting to get up himself to start looking for Truth. As Godspeed leaves, he turns to the zebra and asks, "I don't suppose your schedule might also allow for dinner, later?"
As he sees Truth's response, he looks down in confusion, typing out a response>"What do I need to roll to find out where you might be?"
He hummed and tried to recall what he knew of her.
"Thank you for that."
>>765153>"Hmm… Maybe Intelligence, and Perception? Or Knowledge. I'll let you use whatever's higher."
Godspeed's eyebrows arch. "I-I had… plans. Study plans. Plans to study."
Does she, now…>>765154
You've not heard of this student before, but perhaps Deadweight and Lost could know.>>765151>>765154
"Ah manage," Rieux says, polishing off their tea. "Did ye have more questions?">>765152
The shadow student circles around the arena at a slow walk, prompting you to circle about in return– a good old-fashioned showdown… You figure, despite their silence, that this shootout will end with best of three.
On a dime they reel back, launching the ball your way!
[1d10+3]Roll #1 10 + 3 = 13
"Given your travels around the grounds, are there any areas that might be… less traveled or little known?"
"Would you like me to help with anything for your time, or grab you anything on the way?" Billy asks of Rieux.
Zamrud smiles, "Is that so? Well, I suppose I do have some studying to do myself. Perhaps, I could reserve a study hall?"
He types on his phone in the meanwhile,>"Very well, I'll roll Perception…."
After which, Zamrud waits a few moments, then continues>"Excellent, I rolled a 17 on a d20. Is that sufficient?"
Qhapaq isn't going to try to dodge- he'll go for a throw in response!>[1d10] (Any Bonuses?)Roll #1 8 = 8
"It's nae really mah responsibility considering Ah'm not a janitor, but… apparently, nae even the janitors go too far into the Theatre department. Superstition, Ah think. Plus, wae too much crap and grime to bother goin' throo it all.">>765157
"Nae, Ah'm alright, thanks. Save yer money! It's tough saving up as a student, ya knoo.">>765158
Godspeed narrows her eyes, as if she might see whether you're too dense for your own good, or too suave for her own good.
"Dinner *inside* a study hall? We'd risk spilling sauce on the books, wouldn't we?">>765158>"The DC was 18," Truth retorts.>>765159
You and the shadow-student exchange fire, and both shots land true. Yet the student turns with the hit, and manages to bunt your ball off toward a corner of the room. The ball they just threw rolls back towards them from the impact, allowing them to scoop it up with ease!
The shadow-student throws again – while you're unarmed.
[1d10+3]Roll #1 2 + 3 = 5
"Hmph… I'd argue we're perfectly capable of avoiding spilling anything, but I suppose that would be irresponsible as a teacher. Studying first, dinner after perhaps?" Fearing he might be pushing too hard, he offers, "Or, we could just reschedule.">>765161>"That seems like an unfairly balanced DC."
>"Seriously though, Truth, might I meet with you for a moment? I had something I wished to discuss."
>>765186>"Perhaps, but it let me stall for long enough that I could clean up my messy office," Truth retorts.
She sends you instructions on how to get to her office in the faculty complex.
"I'll… see when I can carve out some time," Godspeed says, reluctance obvious in her voice. Yet, she stands by what she said.
"We appreciate your help very much, I wish you the best through these troubling times." Billy dips his chin and is ready to leave.
Zamrud messages back>"Of course."
After she sends him the instructions as to find her office, he looks to Godspeed as they both finish their respective lunches.
"Whatever might fit your busy schedule, Nurse Godspeed. Mine is flexible," with that, he gets up and gives her a light bow. "I'm going to speak with Truth for a bit, I'll catch up with you soon."
Qhapaq goes for a catch- it'll give him a chance to throw it back once he gets his paws back under him!>Grab: [1d10+1]Roll #1 8 + 1 = 9
Perception roll [1d10+1]Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8
As you make your way to the office, you realize that you are more familiar with the complex than Truth perhaps assumed, and are able to avail yourself of a few local shortcuts, enabling you to get there faster than you would have if you'd merely followed her directions.
When you get to the office, you find that it's rather on the smaller side. Shelves fill all four walls, and they've been hastily filled with all manner of folders, books and knickknacks, nearly packed to the brim. The floors look to have been hastily cleared, and vacuumed. The cleaning that Truth mentioned was clearly in a haste; thin lines of dust are visible here and there, along with bits of microtrash, missed in her sudden rush to make the place presentable.
In the center of the room is Truth's desk. The drawers are all over the place, sticking out to various lengths, the contents peeking out by just an edge.
Behind the desk is Truth herself, playing with an assortment of dice of various denominations.
"Gotten your students all ready for the midterms next Cycle?" she asks.
"Guys, I will make sure to send a message to everyone about the hidden student and the hazard that is other students about advantages." Billy types up on his brick as they walk.
Zamrud enters the office, taking note of all the packed shelves and the hastily cleaned room. "As ready as they can be, of course. Agape courses aren't going to be easy in even the best of circumstance, but we all know what's at stake. They'll be prepared."
He finds an available chair opposite of Truth. "I apologize for putting you on the spot, I really wouldn't have minded a messy office. But thank you all the same for meeting with me. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind my asking a bit more about your experience with Agape Academy, prior to our coming here that is."
Theatre department eh? Duly noted sir, thank you."
"Very well," Truth says. "Fire away.">>765190
You deftly catch the ball, leaving the silhouette-student unarmed. They lower themselves to the ground in a wide stance, glancing this way and that as they search the gym for where the other ball went. They catch sight of it near the bleachers, and crab-walk toward it, all while keeping you in their field of view for your inevitable shot!>>765275>>765277
"Nao then…" Rieux says. "Mah turn for questions. If'n ye don't mind mah askin', and be brutally honest, noo…"
They gesture to the blueberry scones on the plates before you.
"How did these scones turn out!? Good, or nah!?"
Though they're still clad in their face mask [in fact, they seem capable of both eating and drinking without removing it], Rieux's face is quite intense – this is a question of utmost importance for them.
"They are quite a feast for the eyes, I say." Billy leans forward with an outstretched claw intending to grab a scone.
Qhapaq remains still and watchful as the shadow student moves closer and closer, his eyes drilling a hole into the student's chest… and flings the ball with a mighty shout!
[1d10+1]Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8
Good took one and gave it a proper bite, letting the flavor sit in his mouth a bit, stimulating the tastebuds before he nodded and began to chew, thinking it over quietly.
"Well, for starters," Zamrud starts his questioning, "I had come to the realization that, despite our being here for months, your team never sought us out after our arrival. Even though most of us had come to realize we were in a simulation, in the end we had to come find you."
He shrugs, "I swear I'm not trying to sound like I'm pointing the claw, but I was curious as to why that was. Not just our team but the others' as well, why not seek us out sooner? Surely they had not made themselves hard to spot as outsiders."
"Eheheh…" Truth chuckles, a bit nervous.
"Um… well, if you'll forgive the brutal outlook, your teams' arrival was a bit of an opportunity, as we saw it. A chance for a fresh perspective on the scenario before us. There's only so much ground that Meursault, Rieux, Clamence and I can cover. And, there are places only you can go as students, that we cannot go as faculty. So, we thought we'd just let you try to figure things out before any of us interfered and colored your perspectives. Like watching someone play a game you've already finished, and having to hold back your commentary, lest you spoil it for them."
The scones are sweet, and you can tell, are made with fresh raspberry. There's a hint of another flavor, as well. One you're not used to, and hard to wrap your minds around. The best – perhaps, only – real way to describe this flavor is to liken it to the color maroon…
However, given your Caste backgrounds in Ironcastle, you have, albeit rarely, tasted something similar before. Emotional alchemy, it's called– a technique used by changelings to transmute emotions into an edible form for their trips into the Outlands. Many non-changelings who've tasted such concoctions have likened the flavor to pure color.
Honestly, though, the scones could use just a pinch of salt.>>765280
The student makes a last-second lunge for the bleachers, but your lob is a direct hit! It's 2-1 now! As they hit the ground, they grab the ball and hurl it your way in retaliation!
[1d10+3]Roll #1 6 + 3 = 9
"I quite love them, very sweet and fresh! I find it hard to describe the other flavor though. I feel it could use a little more to complement the sweetness, you know?" Billy cleans off his fingers with a shameless lick.
That was most unusual for someone to be using who wasn't a Changeling which made him stare at it for a moment.
After a pause to swallow "They are quite good though their flavor is… unique." He said glancing at him curiously.
[1d10+1] Rolling Perception
[1d10] Rolling Insight
Zamrud nods in understanding. "I can see the wisdom in such a tactic, I admit. Being trapped here as long as you've been, I would have been looking for a fresh perspective as well. To see what the new teams might try and where that might lead without tainting the experience. And you make an especially good point regarding most of us being students as opposed to teachers."
"In which case," Zamrud nods, "Was the experiment successful? Have we seemed to gleam anything new that you had missed up until now?"Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8
/ Roll #2 4 = 4
Not expecting to dodge it at his size, Qhapaq instead aims to catch the ball!
[1d10+1]Roll #1 2 + 1 = 3
Link cause I'm dumb
"In a sense," Truth says, wearing a thin smile. "It's not a good thing, of course, but… Kirk getting lost is something that none of us had predicted. None of us would have been willing to orchestrate that, either. Wherever he is now, he's in a unique position. He's a wrench in the gears, you might say. Meursault appraised me of your earlier discussion about Kirk. I'm in agreement about rescuing him, but… don't forget that he might just be right where he intends to be."
As Truth lays out her cold, calculating thesis, you notice that one of the drawers on her side of the desk remains ajar, just slightly. The corner of a notebook peeks out from it… a very familiar looking one.>>765284>>765285
"Aye!" Rieux exclaims. "A changeling recipe. Not one meself, a'course. As ye can see, Ah'm donkey. Only on me pa's side. Ma was a robot, clearly."
They wiggle their mechanical hind legs.
"Nae, it's Truth's recipe. Tha' taste ye mentioned is transmuted emotion: Rage. Nothin' tae worry aboot, tho. Yer not gonna flip out from havin' a bite. Good for yer kidneys, in fact, or so Ah hear.">>765287
You try to intercept the ball, but only manage to catch it on your arm, where it rolls to ping off your pecs. But, for what it's worth, both dodgeballs are now just within arm's reach for you and your opponent! The silhouette student wastes no time grabbing one, and at this distance, they're practically about to clobber you with theirs!
[1d10+3]Roll #1 3 + 3 = 6
"I assume she provided said rage?" He said looking at the scene before finishing the one he