“Watch where you’re standing!” Isaac heard the bitter shout as he fought to regain his balance after being forcefully knocked into from behind. He’d been standing around outside the tent that served as the mess hall talking with the other cadets he had become at least friendly towards. Vardan, Ostap, Symon, and now Cosmina. They’d been in a small cluster with their girls, off to the side and out of the way of any foot traffic through the academy camp. Still, the short and stocky cadet had run into him and then excused himself with the defiant accusation.
Isaac was bewildered and overcome with a sense of dejavu until the other four finished processing the ridiculous exchange and responded appropriately, with mocking laughter. The abrasive offending cadet hadn’t really stopped to resolve the conflict, it had essentially been drive-by rudeness. Petty. Isaac wouldn’t try to claim he was never petty, he valued honesty too much, but he liked to think any demonstration from him was born out of a sense of vindication. What offense could he have offered to this other young man standing still with his back turned?
Cosmina’s ice queen mask was back up. “Nerses, remind me to talk to the sergeants about Jurek.”
Isaac turned away from the retreating belligerent to focus on the disciplinarian cadet. “Jurek?”
“That guy that ran into you. He’s a sophomore and he’s a resentful little child. Total Bytebitch complex. Notice how he’s only got pokegirls that are about as tall as Neasa? I have nothing against short guys but he spent his entire freshman year in and out of remedial courses because he’d pick a fight with any guy who was 175 or taller. If I had to guess, he’s pissed off at you for growing into the height he thinks he deserves.”
What the hell? How was Isaac supposed to do anything about the height disparity between him and someone else? It’s not like being tall was all sunshine and roses. Every centimeter taller opened a vast and new catalog of things to smash one’s head against on accident. It made running and jumping more difficult as well because there was just so much more mass to move around, which was only compounded by the principle of lever action. The further from the point of rotation, the more force. Isaac could see that the grass isn't greener on the short side of the fence, but Isaac had become resigned to others not really thinking about these sorts of things before he even wound up in the Sapphire League in the pokegirl universe.
Not like it was resentment for his height that bothered Isaac the most. There was something he valued about himself much more that drew the ire from others, even some of his own family.
“Don’t let it bother you, Isaac.” Vardan put a hand on his shoulder and then gingerly lifted it away after Isaac made eye contact in response to the comfort. There was still some lingering guilt and they hadn’t renegotiated how they behaved towards one another. “Trust me, there will always be guys who hate you because of how they compare themselves to you and find themselves wanting. The only thing you can do is not sink to their level.”
Cosmina sighed, playing up the dreamy exaggeration. “Vardan, you should renounce your vows to Catalina and elope with me. I’m sure my cousin won’t mind.”
Vardan chuckled nervously. “I am sure my fiance would mind greatly and she would find us both no matter where we fled and make us regret crossing her. Me in particular.”
This was something new to Isaac. “Cosmina, you’re related to Vardan’s fiance?”
The senior cadet smiled. “I am. She’s my younger cousin through my mother. I’m a lot more mellow than she is. Probably the pokegirl blood.” Isaac gave Vardan a worrying look. He wouldn’t exactly describe Cosmina as mellow. Disciplined, sure, but her fascination with bondage bled through nearly everything she did. So what sort of person was Catalina for Cosmina to make that claim with such audacious confidence?
“Damn, does that mean you come from money too? What are you doing in the academy?” Symon, ever the financially conscious one.
“Networking,” Cosmina responded matter of factly. “And husband shopping. You can tell a lot about a man by how he treats his pokegirls.” Symon drew himself up proudly, which earned him nothing but a giggle from the senior disciplinarian. “Sorry Symon, you’re too young. There’s also Nerses, she’s paying me quite a bit of money to be her escort until she’s inducted into the Vorona.” Eyes swept over to the Dominatrix who made no readable reaction to their glances. Then it was signaled that academy activities were about to resume so the group dissolved and made their way to their assigned groups.
Symon and his two Ladyba were watching Isaac intently but with the goal of being discreet. The pastel green haired freshman cadet and bug type trainer was investigating a theory. Ofeliya and Olimpiada both had enhanced memory, being Ladyba, and they had shared an interesting observation with their tamer. Symon had been fascinated by this but wanted proof before confronting Isaac on the matter. It was only a matter of waiting for the right time.
It was an inevitability that Isaac would be the one to first identify a feral eventually, the guy’s senses were sharp and the cadets were practicing the sort of large scale feral pushes that they would be engaging in genuinely next year once they were sophomores. Sure enough, Isaac suddenly became alert and brought up his pokedex to scan. “Hound, left flank, 10 o’clock,” Isaac reported.
Symon’s face was taken over by a spreading grin. His girls had been right. While Isaac had performed the scan, he’d known and shared the breed before the analysis was complete and the page was brought up on the display. The Hound wasn’t a breed known for ease of identification on sight either. Something else was going on with Isaac and Symon would keep watching until the exercise was concluded to make even more sure he and his girls weren’t imagining things.
“Okay Markiyan, how do you do it?” Symon dropped to sit across from Isaac. Considering the cadets usually all ate lunch with their harems in isolated little pockets the bug type tamer’s intrusion was a bit aggressive, at least to Isaac.
“Know every single breed on sight, without waiting for your ‘dex to finish scanning. It’s not your eye, Olya and Feliya noticed it last trimester.”
Isaac and all three of his pokegirls were suddenly studying Symon very intently and the cadet and his two Ladyba were put on edge because of it. Isaac broke the silence. “I don’t know and I really don’t want people to know about it. The assumption is it has to do with blood traits but it’s not anything that’s been identified to date.” Well, that’s what Doc was assuming was responsible for all of Isaac’s strange manifestations and Doc was the healthcare professional Isaac went to. The elderly healer pokewoman was well out of her league when treating Isaac though. “I’m not exactly excited about the poking and probing that would probably come with pursuing further knowledge.”
“That’s wild… Are you ever wrong? We never noticed you getting the breed wrong.”
Isaac sighed. “Symon, the more we talk about it the more likely someone else is going to overhear and then that’s more people knowing about it. I don’t know if I’ve been wrong but I was fooled by a Titto when I didn’t look closely enough the first time I met him. I didn’t notice his breed.”
Symon got a very confused expression. “Him? A Titto? Isaac, you know they’re pokegirls, right?”
“Yeah, I know but he goes around as a guy, he plays the part alright, and is friendly enough I just go along with it to be polite.”
Symon scratched his chin. “I didn’t realize you were so liberal. You one of those parity nuts?”
Isaac shook his head. “No. Parity is another word for equality and pokegirls and humans can never be equal, just like you and I can never be equal because ultimate equality means everything has to be the same on every level so there’s no room for uniqueness. I just try to worry about the greatest inequalities I encounter, and that takes a lot more watching and wondering than a lot of people seem willing to invest.”
Symon’s eyes lit up. “That’s right! I’ve never heard it put that way before but that’s exactly why I don’t support those bunch of Farfuck’ds. My older sister fell in with them when she went to university and she just… ugh, it’s insufferable.”
Isaac nodded in understanding. “The thing is though, the sort of people that get caught up in those sorts of movements are right about some of the problems, the suffering they bring up whether or not they’re right about the causes or solutions. I just have never been able to talk with them because they get so wrapped up in the gestalt emotions of their causes the only thing that works to convince them is more pathos.”
“Pathos?” Symon looked confused. Everyone paying attention to the conversation actually looked like they had no idea what Isaac was talking about.
“Oh, pathos is one of the three primary appeals in rhetoric according to the classical Greek tradition. Pathos is an appeal to the emotions of the audience. Ethos is an appeal to the character and authority of the speaker. Logos is appealing to facts and logic. Everyone favors a different sort of appeal. I’ve always been drawn to the logos because… well it’s just how my brain works. I even had my rhetoric instructor call me ‘Logos’ after one of my speeches.”
Symon was mystified. “When did you have a rhetoric instructor? Weren’t you an orphan on a farmstead?”
Isaac’s mind started to race upon realizing his mistake. “Oh, uh… It was through a scholarship I won.”
“Nice. Yeah my sister won some nice scholarships too. Lot of good they did her. Cool, well I’ll do my best to keep your secret but… uh… no promises. I tend to run my mouth faster than my brain sometimes.”
Isaac sighed with disappointment and trepidation as he stared at something far off in the distance. This was ultimately because of his mistake and he was impressed on some level that Symon and his two pokegirls had caught it. His blood red eye peeled itself open before returning to a slumber. It would open and close based on something not entirely under his conscious control and when it was gazing out into the world he saw… things. Inexplicable things. Like embroidery on the fabric of the universe, more like the embroidery used to patch holes and tears than something decorative. There were also threads or rivers or paths and these were always shifting more and more the further away from him they stretched. It was a sudden alteration of the course of this phantasmal route that he’d noticed when Isaac considered what Symon’s discovery meant for him.
Isaac would need to be more careful from now on. He’d never been the sort of person that sought public attention anyway.
He also needed to learn more about this eye and the visions it imparted. He went over the facts in his head. He’d been demonstrating supernatural abilities before it manifested, only now he was demonstrating more. It had manifested after what he remembered as an attack. He’d retaliated to the attack with some sort of psionic ability and the wound he received from the attack only responded to Astoreth’s method of healing, not Elena’s. Astoreth’s healing was dark type, she had said. What did that mean compared to celestial or nature based healing? Was it even magical based healing? Psychic type pokegirls could heal and it wasn’t based on magic at all.
Why did the dark typing and psychic typing interact the way they did? It’d all been based on the arbitrary mechanics of a video game, essentially the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with way too many options and relations between the options.
Psychic abilities were born from the conscious portions of the mind. Dark abilities, at least those that were more sophisticated than simple blasts of raw power shaped in various ways, seemed to influence the unconscious mind. It made some sense then that Dark would overpower Psychic since the unconscious portions of the brain were more fundamental than the conscious parts. Everything was piped through the lizard brain, the simpler, more primal structures directly connected to the brain stem. So maybe Psychic and Dark were something complementary to each other.
So his greater, disembodied self could retaliate with psychic powers and the injury Isaac had suffered as a result reacted to anti-psychic, and presumably psychic, healing. Was Isaac psychic? Was that how he could know the breeds of pokegirls? Just the fact that he had a third eye at all suggested that maybe it was something to do with a growing psionic nature. It was a recurring symbol, the psychic third eye. He’d even used it in his writing about pokegirls.
There was some basis in post-modern science for the phenomenon of the third eye. As far as Isaac had come to understand there were traces of some sort of vestigial sensory organ somewhere on the face. Some species, reptiles he could remember, still developed a light sensing cluster of photoreactive tissues. There was also a strange sense people had of objects hovering close to their forehead, even without seeing them. Could this be something to do with this biological legacy? Some primordial perception that humans had forgotten because the rest of their senses had become so potent?
‘There is no spoon…’ Isaac thought to himself as he lifted up the utensil he’d been eating with. He couldn’t remember the lines in their entirety and he remembered feeling like they were rather empty whenever he rewatched the movie. It was all based on a sleight of hand trick anyway.
The basis though came down to a matter of perception and belief. His senses informed him there was a spoon in his hand so he believed it was a spoon because he had learned that is what a spoon was. But what if this was not a spoon, just like it wasn’t a pipe? What if it was only a spoon in reality for as long as it was a spoon in his mind? What could it be if it wasn’t a spoon?
It was metal. Shaped and formed. What if the shape were different? Well it wouldn’t work as well as a small shovel for food. That’s what the concept of a ‘spoon’ was. If it had tines it could be a fork, or a spork at least. There were even greater abominations than the spork but Isaac had a full set of silverware that wasn’t made of silver. Some sort of stainless steel, probably. Chromium and nickel were added to the primarily iron alloy.
“Come on, meal time’s almost up!” Another cadet shouting nearby brought Isaac out of his trance-like introspection. He had to finish eating. He dipped his spoon into the stew and hit the bottom of his dish way too early. Isaac lifted the small tool and saw that it was bent, severely bent. Right at the neck like the charlatans always did. What the hell? Did he do this? If so, what did that mean?
No one else seemed to have noticed. Jin, Neasa, and Oleksandra had finished eating before him and were cleaning their dishes and only Symon had been paying attention to him from among the other cadets. Fortunately he hadn’t been paying attention now.
Isaac applied the necessary leverage to align the spoon to its functional orientation. There was a bit of a crimp in it but as long as he didn’t keep bending it back and forth the spoon would still work as a spoon. He focused intently on finishing his meal, concentrating on the scrape of metal on metal, the warmth, texture, and flavor of the food. Anything to keep his mind occupied away from the growing sense of megalomania and urge to shout out, ‘I am a god!’
Jin was supposed to be untying the fabric siding of the yurt, but she could get that done so quickly she had time for some snooping. Isaac had downloaded some information on all of the different healing techniques that existed and the energetic Witch wanted to know if there was a method that wasn’t dangerous to overcharge. She wasn’t sure where Isaac kept the reader though. She dug through his pack and pulled out a small round object wrapped in paper. She almost peeled it open without checking but the slip of paper stuck to the wrapper gave her pause. She read the contents listed on the receipt and reflexively tossed the moonstone away from herself.
A moonstone would evolve her to an Enchantress. Why did Isaac buy a moonstone? Did he want her to be an Enchantress? Jin wanted to be a Sorceress. Sorceresses were much more powerful spell casters, like Jin’s mother. The Witch’s heart was pounding in her chest and her mind swam in worry. No one else could evolve with a moonstone, right?
“Jin, what’s the hold up?” The Witch jumped and then scrambled to put the evolution catalyst back where she found it, or at least as close to where she found it as her panicking mind could manage. She still avoided touching the thing with her bare skin, luckily.
“Ehhhh…” Jin darted over to the wall of the yurt. “This first knot got too tight. It’s hard to work out. I’ve almost got it.” Jin wanted to be a Sorceress. That meant she had to trigger a normal evolution. What did it take to trigger a normal evolution? She had to win fights and have good sex. She’d been doing both of those, hadn’t she? Why hadn’t she evolved yet? She wouldn’t have to worry about this if she could have just evolved already.
The yurt was put away quickly and Jin managed to mask her anxiety before the barricade to her expressions was removed, so Isaac had no idea that she was upset let alone what she was upset about. The academy was going on the first break of the trimester, they’d technically already been dismissed although many cadets were staying on site to hunt over break. The approaching winter meant driving ferals away from the farmland and cities was even more vital than during the bountiful months. Captures were particularly incentivised around this time. Isaac was going to be hunting over break as well, but around Slov’yanka rather than Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia. Many of the other cadets were also returning to their smaller communities to prepare for the harsh months approaching. A team of logistical operatives from the Vorona corps had arrived and were ferrying cadets via teleport to whatever major junction in the league’s roadways led them home.
“You,” a pokegirl called out towards Isaac. “Battle- Battle Bunny Angel… Alexsandra!” Okay, maybe the pokegirl was talking to the steel type standing right next to him.
“Her name is Oleksandra,” Isaac said as he turned. It was the G-Pointdexter Oleksandra had threatened with her templated armaments. What had the G-Pointdexter been named? Cosmina had known what her name was. Isaac studied the individual member of the ‘intellectual pokegirl’ breed. She didn’t have the glasses they were all prescribed to wear, her hair was short and practical, her dress a mix of modest and pragmatic. She was about as fit as any of the humans participating in the academy. A nice enough seeming girl, although she was obviously put out at the moment over something.
“Well, sir, I wish to challenge Oleksandra to a one on one pokegirl match. I have Master Fedot’s permission.” The G-Point gestured towards another cadet breaking down his camp. The young man noticed his pokegirl motioning towards him and made it very obvious through his body language that he approved of what she was doing.
Oleksandra’s ears canted to the side with confusion. “You informed me that a G-Pointdexter would be no threat to me yet Flaviya wishes to engage me in combat.” So that was her name. “Should I accept her challenge?”
“I’ll show you I’m no threat! Er-” Flaviya’s face became bright red and she ground her teeth. “That I am a threat. I am, I’ll teach you!”
Isaac was curious what this non-combat pokegirl thought she could do against such a powerful, yet admittedly unrefined, combatant such as Oleksandra. “It’s up to you, but she seems determined.”
Oleksandra studied the face of her challenger for a moment longer and then nodded, causing her ears to slap their tips together. “I accept her challenge.”
“Okay Flaviya, we’ll make our way over to the practice fields once we finish packing.” The G-Pointdexter nodded. She looked very certain of herself. What was Isaac and therefore Oleksandra missing?
There was a queue for the practice fields that they had to wait in for close to forty-five minutes. Practice bouts were always popular once leave began but before the cadets had dispersed. The ever present struggle to establish oneself in the greater hierarchy. Sergeant Skvertityi was officiating the field to be used by Oleksandra and Flaviya. The Whoretortle of the Vorona corps seemed a little happier to see Isaac than mere professional courtesy warranted. “Flaviya, ready? Oleksandra ready?” Both participants indicated they were. “Begin!”
Following Isaac’s advice, Oleksandra was only going to engage with her melee weapon, so she was at a range disadvantage when the G-Pointdexter’s hands crackled with a cloud of static. Flaviya threw her hand out as if seeding grass and the electronic nimbus spread like a rolling bank of fog. The Thunder Wave took Oleksandra down instantly, the Battle Battle Angel falling into a paralyzed heap of limbs and metal plates. Flaviya’s face was all smug satisfaction as Sergeant Skvertityi called the match for her within seconds of it starting.
Since the match was over and there hadn’t been any destruction to the field, Isaac ran out to his disabled pokegirl. Oleksandra’s armor was mostly receding but rather than the smooth and nearly instantaneous transition of rolling plates the metal was jerking and clicking against other pieces of itself. The Battle Battle Angel was able to move her limbs and head enough to admirably fail to sit upright. “Mas-ter. I- My… words. I can’t… I can’t- words. Help me. My head… head hurts.”
Isaac dropped down to one knee next to her and helped her upright. She clung to his arm with pitiful but desperate strength. Isaac pulled out a pocket notebook he’d filled with some further healing spells he was working towards mastering and, using one of the colored tabs he’d organized the pages with, quickly flipped to a spell that would purge the electric paralysis Oleksandra had been afflicted by. She was able to sit by her own power in short order but her ears were pulled back tight in fear and the same emotion filled her doe-like steel colored eyes. “Beru is quiet.”
“It helps me. To call it Beru. The template. It was her gift. To me.” Oleksandra’s ears twitched and flipped upright. “Complimentary intelligence rebooted. That was a frightening experience. May I receive reassur-” Isaac hugged her without her needing to finish.
“Yes you can have a hug, Leksya. You can almost always get a hug. I’m sorry I didn’t think about what Flaviya might be able to surprise you with.”
“A hug. Thank you, Isaac. I will attempt to insulate my systems against such a catastrophic failure in the future. This was a valuable lesson.” Oleksandra stood and offered her hand to the G-Pointdexter, who smiled and took it in her own in the spirit of good sportsmanship.
Astoreth fumed silently as she examined the bent spoon in her hands. “I’ve never been able to perform psychokinesis,” she growled before handing the object off to Chandrakanta. “Telepathy I can manage but that seems to be an affinity I’ve retained over the centuries.”
“I too have never practiced psychic attacks involving physical manipulation. I suppose I could learn how but I would need a teacher.” Chandrakanta handed the spoon to Elena.
The Grandelf sighed. “The only psychic trainers I’ve ever encountered are con men exploiting people who don’t understand their own minds. There’s nothing supernatural about what they teach, at least if we assume the human mind is a product of nature.” She restored the spoon to its proper form with a cantrip of mending. “There are no blood traits that have been discovered to enable telekinesis, psychokinesis, whatever this is, either. So seeking training outside of us will mean more risk of exposure.”
Isaac was disappointed but not surprised, once he gave it some thought, to learn that the three veterans of the revenge war would be of limited help for him. It was a big ask for three individuals to collectively have the answer for everything. They were gathered at Elena’s house as usual. Isaac wondered when he’d get to see where the other two lived. Did Chandrakanta even own property? “I guess I’ll keep focusing on magic, then. Not like I don’t have enough to work on trying to keep up with Jin. Did you know she steals my diagrams out of the scratch paper bin?”
“Proper disposal of research material is essential to prevent the theft of your work, Isaac. If they’re in the scratch paper bin then she doesn’t see it as stealing. I wouldn’t either.”
Isaac sighed. “You’re right and I’ve just been putting them in a binder for her from now on. I’m just worried by how brash she is.”
Speak of the devil and she shall appear. Jin’s excited shouting could suddenly be heard approaching the four of them. “Isaac Isaac Nel Nel Look Look!” The Witch slowed to a stop enough that Isaac was able to catch her when she nearly knocked into him. “Watch me!” Her eyes were brighter than the sun. “Nel Nel, where’s your plants? I think I’ve got it!”
Elena sighed to mask her chuckle and gracefully rose to place the one of her modified leech seeds on Jin’s outstretched hand. The Witch beamed and then started her demonstration. “Look, I can do shocking grasp and burning hands and ray of frost and mystic bolt!” She cycled through the spells as she rattled them off. The plant stayed healthy and stable and Isaac couldn’t sense the usual spikes in Jin’s power as she cast. Shocking grasp was limited to touching distance so there was no collateral damage from that. The cone of fire that shot from Jin’s palms did scorch a shrub and cause some of the foliage to smoulder and smoke before the thin column of cold played over it. The mystic bolt was fired into the ground and created a spray of dirt and sod.
“That’s great Jin, oof-” Isaac was nearly knocked over again as the joyfully squealing Witch danced in his arms after throwing herself into them.
Elena fought very hard not to click her tongue, wary of expressing displeasure when this was a breakthrough worthy of celebration. “Indeed, Jin. This was well done. However,” Elena paused. “I have no idea how you managed to cast any of those. Where did you learn these versions of the spells from?”
“I just figured them out! It’s like a completely different way to use the energy I just realized was there.” The Witch’s enthusiasm dampened some from the concern on Elena’s face. “What, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing Jin, I’m just berating myself for still failing to anticipate how you’ll develop. Did you take any notes while discovering this new style of magic?” Jin’s sudden discomfort indicated she had not. Everyone else sighed. “Well, run through them again after I set up some spells to monitor you. Isaac, can you set up that old tin bucket as a target?” Isaac did and even after multiple more demonstrations and Astroreth and Chandrakanta joining to evaluate they still had no collective idea how Jin managed to produce this new style of magic.
Then Astoreth mentioned Isaac’s new ability and Jin was adamant that she should get to see it. So Isaac was staring intently at the sheet metal pail and every once in a while the handle would lift and then fall to slap against the bucket wall and produce a rattle and clank. Jin was far less impressed than the big sisters had been. She was studying Isaac’s face. “Come on, Isaac. You’re holding back I can tell. Really let loose, I want to see what you can do.”
Isaac had his reservations but Elena, Chandrakanta, and Astoreth all were looking at him expectantly as well. He was always a cautious experimenter ever since he was given a broken old toaster to disassemble. It was the first thing he couldn’t figure out how to put back together and part of it had been the damage he’d inflicted taking it apart. That experience had defined part of his methodology from that point forward.
Still, he had to understand his limits, if for no other reason than to recognize when he was approaching them. So he indulged his rambunctious pokegirl and focused. All of his senses were directed at the bucket. He studied the light, shadows, and colorful reflections on its surface. He listened to the soft clack when the autumn winds caused it to rock gently. He could feel the sound vibrations in the hairs on his skin. The metallic scent entered his nostrils, even though he was too far from the object to truly detect the chemical signature. Then he repeated the same basic impulse he’d used to knock it around slightly before, but with as much mental force behind it as he felt safe doing. He could apply more of his mind to the task but his instinctive inhibitions stopped him at this particular level.
Metal shrieked as the wall of the pail was sheared. The wreckage of the bucket collapsed in a spiral implosion and the ground around it was rent with arcing arms of distorted space. Isaac had pulled back as soon as the destruction became evident but it was still a zone of effect fifty centimeters across. Far beyond what he’d intended to do and it would have only spread further if he continued to pour psionic energy into the attempt. He had wanted to flip the bucket over while knocking it into the air. Instead it seemed he had torn at the fabric of reality. Snagged a rung in it, at least. He fought with anxiety born from a dreadful premonition. “I think I should keep holding back for a while.”
“I think you should too, and I will seek out a psychic to teach me so I may impart that knowledge to you.” Chandrakanta smiled gently. Astoreth growled. Unlike the Megami, the infernal pokegirl had tried to learn the sorts of techniques they were discussing. Elena wasn’t paying attention, she was attempting to fix her ruined pail. Her mending spell wasn’t functioning though. It was as if the pail had been redefined into scrap and so her cantrip was restoring it to scrap. Chandrakanta continued speaking, heedless of Elena’s endeavors with the ruined bucket. “It is as if Isaac has evolved and it is always prudent to be cautious until the new powers evolution brings are understood.”
Isaac looked thoughtful. “Speaking of evolving, we’re supposed to think about how our girls could evolve over break. Neasa doesn’t want to be an Elfqueen, I think she’s scared to. I don’t see her being any of the stone evolutions though and since she wants to wear the everstone she’s not going to evolve to a High Elf either. Oleksandra’s only option needs a dawn stone so… that’s not really an option. I also wouldn’t want her to suffer through the Gunnm’s mental issues. So really the only one I have to consider is you, Jin.”
Jin’s face flickered through a dizzying sequence of conflicting emotions. “Oh, right. Evolving. I haven’t really thought about it that much but I guess I think a Sorceress might be more fun?”
Isaac gave a single chuckle. “Yeah, yeah I could see you having more fun as a Sorceress. I think it’s that or Enchantress, right? You don’t seem like you’d want to overly specialize in one type of magic like the Elementalist or Tick-Tock.” Jin grinned in response. She definitely wanted to learn all of the magic.
“I would be extremely cautious about Jin becoming a Sorceress. It could easily magnify her bad habits that we’ve only just started to correct.” Jin winced in response to Elena’s words. “Both breeds have their strengths and weaknesses but the Sorceress is a material cost, in food, while the Enchantress is behavioral. She could learn to behave, she can’t learn to require fewer calories. That will limit your ability to travel long term. An Enchantress also can produce magical items so you two could easily start up some sort of shop to sell to the other cadets. You also already have a very heavy hitter in Oleksandra so the force multiplier of an Enchantress is much more strategically beneficial.”
That was a lot of objective, rational truths from the Grandelf and Isaac was always drawn to the logos. Jin could see that the reasoning appealed to him and while she wanted to be a Sorceress the only argument she could make was that she wanted to be one. How could she argue against all of those points without seeming selfish? “Oh,” Jin did her best to sound agreeable to what Elena had put forth. “Yeah, you’re right. I didn’t think about any of that.”
Isaac could tell Jin wasn’t sure about something but maybe it was just her processing a new perspective. It’s not like they had to act right now anyway. He didn’t consider the one way that being guided by facts and logic could fail him. Emotions, dreams, and wants were not rational, but were still very essential to the individual.
(-[|]-) End 10.3 (-[|]-)
The break was over and once again the academy cadets were practicing their formations for pushing ferals away from civilization and deeper into the wilderness. It was a cold and windy day, a biting preview of winter with every gust. The sky was totally overcast, casting a bleak grey aura over the world. Everything was quiet except for the sounds of the cadets.
There was an undercurrent of threat. Of menace. Isaac wondered if anyone else felt it. They had to, it was so smothering. Neasa seemed to be picking up on the same ambient mood, she was staying close to him and frequently touching her bowstring. “You feel it too,” the Elf asked him.
“Yeah, it’s… familiar.” Isaac searched his memories for any hint about what he was feeling. It was Neasa’s tense scowl that provided the necessary clue. It was the same feeling as when he had first met her, in the woods subdued by the usurper Elfqueen Samodiva. “The woods. Neasa, it’s just like when you warned us about the ambush.”
Neasa’s eyes shot open as she came to be fully alert, a state of physiological arousal that was too taxing to maintain over a long duration. Of course, how could she have not recognized it? She’d been with the huntresses when they were gaming this exact scenario out. They’d watch the Vorona corps run these maneuvers every year, always at this time, always along this route. It was so predictable. It made them such easy prey.
She swept the treeline with her enhanced sight, sought out any sounds with her enhanced ears. The leaves seemed to part way and give her a glimpse, the wind died down so that it wouldn’t mask the sound. Glimpses of camouflaged Elves and the taught pulling of bowstrings. Her heart sank with dread. She knew exactly what was about to happen, only she had imagined herself in the woods among the rest of her kind.
But this was never supposed to happen. It was just a game, something they played at to amuse and assure themselves they were the superior force on these plains.
The twang of a bowstring being released swore an oath to her it was no game and she cried out her warning as loud as her petite body could channel. “AMBUSH!”