Chapter 3: In Which A Long Conversation Assures the Boy that Something is Wrong
Elena sat down onto the grass and let out a sigh. In the few years that had passed, she had visibly aged. No longer did she appear small and petite. She had grown several inches in the time, and had developed a cold, standoffish air about her that reeked of suspicion and anger. Roland was the only person she did not completely snub – rather, the only confidant she possessed, for every other person she pushed away from her.
She turned around to see him standing there, calm and unconcerned.
"How're you doing, Miss Elena?"
"Drop the "Miss"."
"Yes, Miss!" Roland's gentle mocking was strangely pleasant to her ears, and she beckoned for him to sit.
They sat in silence for several minutes before he spoke.
"I have some transcripts for you, from the courtroom records. I think you need to go through them if we need to decide a plan of action."
"What good does that do anyway? Why would you remind of that thing!" Her voice was even and measured, except for the slight crack at the end.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly, "but you need to look at these. You can't run away forever."
"I'm not running! I – I'm just…" She paused for a moment before suddenly, in a much louder voice, "I – I feel like some sort of fog person!"
"Do you?" Roland said, smiling at the thought, "Why?"
"It's dark and I can't always see ahead of me. It's cold and it's grey."
"Like the fog."
"Do you remember what you ate for breakfast on the one day Rina was summoned to the courtroom?"
"A bagel with cream cheese and orange juice."
"Do you remember what we studied that day?"
"Psychology. We were working on compliance techniques – Burger and Petty – and you wouldn't stop giggling."
"Why are you asking me all this?"
"Do you remember… how you felt that day? I do. I was actually really worried about Rina, so I was being extra hyper during the class. I don't even know why Burger and Petty seemed so funny at the time, but you know, burgers and patties. It seems stupid now, but that's how I remember that class at all. It was pretty unremarkable, all things considered."
"…No I can't recall a thing about how I felt."
"Why you feel like a fog person. You can't see because you're so fixated on blocking out your feelings. You just didn't cry. Rina was weeping during the funeral, and I could hear Richter blowing his nose behind me. I was crying. And you… you just stood there, like a statue. You didn't say a word and you didn't shed a tear. People were saying that you didn't have a heart."
"… I see." She looked away from him, quietly, before softly saying, "I wrote this. Yesterday. When I came up with this bull about fog people."
"Hey, I like the idea. Let's take a look, eh?"
I look out my window, but I can't see. It's cold and grey and dark and there is no sun. It's like Hell, if Hell had permanent air-conditioning. I live in the fog and I'm part of the fog, for I'm a fog person.
There's a house in the distance and there are children playing. I wave. They don't see me. They can't see me.
I raise my hands to the sky and try to catch a bird, but it flies right through me.
"Well. I would say that this sounds a lot like some children's book where there's this depressing thing happening, and then it somehow ends obnoxiously with everyone becoming friends."
"The hell, man?"
"You should make it longer and give it a moral. I'll draw the pictures!"
"Can you even draw?"
"Not even a little." He grinned at her. The sheer bounciness of the expression made her smile.
"Why don't you finish the story?"
"I can? Cool. I'll tell you how I think it should end."
He cleared his throat.
I felt really sad when the bird flew through me, but I also felt determined to catch him and SHINE! I failed however and ran into my little fog house to cry. I turned on the telly, and saw a show about a sunny place where famous people and surfer dudes partayy, and it made me happy because I decided that I'd go there when I grow up. Also, there was a show about a big red dog that I think would have liked to be a fog person because he was literally the size of a house, so I felt better and went outside to take a walk.
"…Nice bro. I'm not even sure where you went with that."
"It's symbolism. Also, I just had to talk about surfer dudes."
"Richter is going surfing with this girl he met the other day, and the thought is slightly creepy."
"Everyone's fitting in, huh?"
"Well, you have to. That's how this stuff works."
Again, a short pause between the two that was more of an amicable silence. Elena suddenly sighed and lay down with a thud onto the grass. She made a small circle with her finger and thumb, and held it to her eye.
"I can see the sky like this."
"Yeah, I know."
"I'll read them. The transcripts. And whatever other documents you have. I'll read them. I can't stay dead forever."
"You're right about one thing… in that stupid story of yours. If I don't go outside and clear my head, I'll just rot away like that horrible stuffed animal you found."
"I believe it was the miracle of taxidermy, but here you go."
He handed her a large sheaf of papers, each meticulously dated and timed.
"Start with this one. It's my account of what happened after our separation. The worst one to be precise. Also, there are some other documents I think you might want to take a look at. I'm not sure what they're all about, but apparently, Durandal's function is related to these "Sinones""
"I see… I'll just have to make sure I don't cry then."
"I don't know... you should cry. Cry all you want, and let it all out today. That way, you won't be a fog person anymore."
Is this his speech to the House of Commons?
Yep. It's been cut a little – sensitive info – but it'll do as a primer.
I'm the lost princess. What sensitive info am I not allowed to read?
Why ask me? I'm just a little gopher.
…Yeah, sure you are.
[Regarding Events of 14/12/4013 – Author: Lecroix; Richter]
Her Majesty was agitated that day, with some secret deeply weighing her down. It was thus left to me and Rina Mersault to protect Princess Elena to the best of our ability while Roland led the Queen to safety. Only later it transpired that Her Majesty was not to survive, and with her death, the knowledge regarding the activation of the Granseal would be lost forever. In doing so, she hoped to prevent some tragedy of which she spoke often in raving terms, but did not elaborate further. I say this with only hindsight allowing me to speak of these events with the surety I now possess.
Roland this fulfilled his task of failing to protect her admirably, although it caused him immense psychological damage. He described the events in a choked voice, though with precise detail.
"[Heavy breathing] Her body was just a squashed lump of flesh – no, several lumps – stuck to the wall. They didn't respect any of the rules that people follow when they deal with the dead. The killer, he stuck a knife into her eye just because we were defenceless. I failed, Sir Richter. I'm a blot on the honour of the Knights. I failed. I failed. [Screaming sound]" – taken from audio records (as per Mandate 122B of Special Intelligence Charter IV)
I advised him to make amends with the princess, who upon hearing the details of the murder came to the conclusion that he was not in any condition to defend himself, much less another.
Furthermore, we were to experience several more shocks that day, as Gaston and Rasche were nowhere to be found. They were eventually reported as MIA [Missing In Action] with the hope that they had merely been captured. Post the events surrounding the Queen's death, this was but a bleak prospect.
[Update: Sir Gaston was eventually found running an item shop in a small town on the Brennese border. He refused to acknowledge that Lady Sophia had died, and threw out the search party from his shop.]
So, he's alive…
Yeah. Aren't you glad?
Yeah… we can't go back to how it used to be, can we?
I don't know.
Can we meet him or will he freak out at us.
I don't know.
[Telegram sent from Linara Isvell, Soldat Road East. Sender unknown. Date: 12/12/4013]
SITUATION WORSE –STOP- SEND BACKUP –STOP-
ARMY ATTACKED AT SOLDAT RD E –STOP-
ENEMY COMMANDER LARROUSE CROMWELL-STOP-
We had a warning.
Who saw this first?
I don't know. Let's read the next one.
Wait, you wrote this one?
Economics and IR paper. I ended up submitting it to the House of Commons, and it got archived. I'm so boss. It's only a part of the paper though and the first draft no less, as I'm not authorised to give you the whole thing. That's why it's shitty.
Idiot. Show me these things earlier.
You were locked in your room the whole time.
[Regarding Iluca Larrouse and House Cromwell; Author: Roland Gallia]
The Carnavan Civil War of 4013 is an event well-known for its extreme brutality and the staggering loss of life initiated by the use of modern weaponry in a country known for its over-reliance on Magetech. It was essentially a sign of things to come, as the Cromwell regime introduced, over a period of three years, much technological advancement that aimed at improving the general lifestyle of the people. The reign has been characterised by extreme social mobility that was unheard of during the monarchy, tempered with harsh laws against crime and corruption. In short, the revolution lived up to its name and brought immense change to a stagnating nation.
As proof of economic progress, the Cromwell government has seen a sharp fall in unemployment, due to a boom in the construction industry, with new roads and buildings appearing almost daily. Furthermore, the disposable income of the average Carnavan has increased substantially, even with heavy taxation on income. This can be attributed to the wide availability and low cost of many basic human rights such as food grains, healthcare and education, all of which is subsidised by the state. Many lifestyle products considered near-necessities in other states are now flooding the Carnavan market, leading to the influx of businesses that aim to innovate in these same industries, leading to increased economic growth.
Low minimum wages and freely available semi-skilled labour has proven to be both a boon and a curse to Carnava, whose fledgling secondary sector has grown almost exponentially due to high FDI [Foreign Direct Investment]. [CUT DUE TO SENSITIVE INFORMATION]
Ripping on Carnava much?
You do it too.
Not any more I don't.
The truth is what it is, and I'm not going to pretend otherwise.
Shut the fuck up.
You told me years ago that you hated how backward Carnava was. If we'd had weapons to match the rebels, all of this wouldn't have happened. What should I think? Tell me.
I said, SHUT UP!
[Information files: Magic Sinones; recovered on 27/2/4017 by Prof. Vikram Rushat]
This is a summary of documentation from the Navillian era recovered from my last archaeological expedition. It appears to have been co-authored by Elicia d'Alliers and Ciaran Hohenheim, both considered the leading mages of the time. This is quite possibly an extension on the research initiated by Lady Alghierie before her death, caused by what is often referred to as the Crystallization.
Lady Alghierie, as she is not very well-known outside Magical archaeology, was responsible for the initiation of research into Magetech that aimed to improve socioeconomic parameters rather than military functions. As a result, much of her work was obscured by the highly militant government under which the Beast Queen Elicia worked.
Sinones are quite possibly the cornerstone of the magic we use today, and it is likely that if we are able to harness them and therefore guide them to do our bidding, we can make magic far more prevalent in this world.
The Sinone phenomenon was first uncovered in the Doetfeld mines, in Northern Cambia. Miners found mysterious stone, which were named by locals as "Lapis", which could be used in various ways, from lighting fires, to extinguishing them. Further research showed that the Lapis caused minute distortions that were picked up only by the most precise equipment available at the time. Herman Ladd was the first person to create instruments that could measure these distortions. It was later discovered that these Sinones operated at slightly different wavelengths from each other, changing the effects slightly.
What we propose therefore is that Sinones can be manipulated such that Magic is usable by even those who are not accustomed to the rituals involved. Our intention therefore is to create accessible magical technology. We anticipate great opposition to this move from certain quarters, but believe that this will benefit society for the better.
One other possible use that we surmise from the Sinone force is that we may break the final frontier so to speak, and create artificial, sentient life. I urge the committee to consider this application in anticipation of war with South Rawston.
The rest of this file regrettably seems to have disintegrated with time. However, we hope that further research on Sinones will lead to immense improvements in Magic technology, while avoiding the cruel mistakes committed by the Navilians that led to their fall.
The Beast Fiends were apparently created by her.
I honestly want to know if there's another side to the story, but she turned into a giant flower and tried to energy beam us to death.
Yeah, pretty much.
No really, what.
I'm not sure how to put it, but it was a very trippy experience.
[Crystallization; Author: Ayano Kashiwazaki]
Crystallization, or Lapis Corrosion, is a phenomenon that occurs mostly amongst mages who exceed their latent Sinone capacity. It has also been reported amongst soldiers fitted with the Runic Engines, and young children who possess great magical power but no means of controlling it.
The disease manifests itself as rapid and painful conversion of bodily tissues into a crystalline substance that shatters easily. People who contract the illness rarely recover, and it is largely considered incurable.
The only known survivor of Lapis Corrosion is Roland Gallia, who has been placed under careful observation.
When did this happen.
Years ago. I wanted to kill myself right then, literally. Or gouge out the painful part, whatever was faster.
Don't worry. I'm much less emo now.
There's no point in worrying about stuff like that anymore. I saw your sister die in the most horrific way possible. If I let myself brood over that now, I'd go insane. So I'll be happy instead and think about cheerful things.
[Runic Engine Specifications; Author Unknown]
Sinone Frequency compatibily: 10Hz to 20Mhz
Sinone Latency: 1000F
Optimization time: 60s
Optimum operating temperatures: -50C – 8000C
Encard Lapis Crystal
Silicon Controller chip
[CERTAIN PORTIONS OF THIS DOCUMENT, INDICATED BY - DESTROYED IN UNKNOWN CIRCUMSTANCES]
How is this important?
I don't know. They just handed me a bunch of papers and told me to force you to read them.
I see. That sounds fun
Oh yeah, it is. Also, most of the document is gone, so.
"I wonder exactly what causes the crystallisation phenomenon. Sure, sinone capacity or whatever, but what leads to this excess? Most mages can't use magic beyond their capacity to start with."
"It's apparently a manifestation of solidified magic. I guess, if you were mixing something in a bowl, crystallisation occurs when you mix too hard and stuff flies over the edge and onto your clothes."
"So, in theory, you could prevent it."
"In theory, yes. That's one basic function of a witch's Lapistier. It curbs the "overflow" so to speak, or so I've been told. That's why a witch will die if you take away their lapistier. They literally turn into statues ."
"Ugh. That sounds about as bad as it can get."
"Now, shoo. I'm going to sleep."
Roland got up and walked away, feeling both relieved that his liege was less depressed, and disturbed by the implications of their final conversation. Even though the questions themselves were innocent enough, there was an undercurrent of something more desperate.
Just what are you planning?
A/N: For starters, I should apologise profusely for being a terrible person and not updating for months. In my defense, I had a lot to deal with, like my mock exams for the IB, and IA submissions. Again, thank you for your patience (if people are still reading this...?).
Now, for actual notes:
1) Burger and Petty are real people in the field of Psychology, and they did in fact conduct research on Compliance techniques.
2) I used a different style for rendering dialogue in the document part of the chapter, so as to break up the exposition with some dialogue (which I adore writing to be frank). I promise that all of those WORDS are relevant. The change in style was partly inspired by Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which is one of the best books I have ever read till date.
3) I am aware that Roland's "paper" would get him failed in any real university, but I hardly think you want me to write a 4000 word discourse on Economics, even if I can. I ask you to summon your Suspension of Disbelief for that bit, as it's essentially exposition.
4) I was intending to do a long courtroom like chapter initially, with Roland and Richter doing a first person narration. Indeed, I have the initial draft of that particular piece. However, I made a serious overhaul of themes and plot of this story, based on some extra flavour text I had written for my personal reference. I don't really want to write a story that makes war out to be heroic in any way, and the initial plot was somewhat monkey-cheese shonen bullshit that I am somewhat ashamed of in retrospect.
5) Fog People were directly inspired by my English class, where my teacher handed us a handout, the back page of which asked us to write an essay on the "Life of a Fog Person". It seemed relevant in a weird way to Elena, so yeah.
Thanks for putting up with all the extra words from me. This is my way of saying sorry for the delay, but quite frankly, I have no time until the 22nd of May.
I appreciate reviews, especially ones that seriously critique my work. I love praise and I relish the haters as well, but more than anything, I want someone to pick apart my work the way people pick apart shitty writers, because I know I'm not that good, and I want to get better. Thanks!