433: The Power Of Logical Wishing

on February 24, 2010 in Book 15

In Which Sooni Is Unusually Distant

I had a moment of confusion when I got to logic class and saw an unfamiliar girl sitting in Maliko’s seat, accompanied by a dark-haired man in a crisp-looking suit. Irrationally, I took this to be a sign that the yokai girls really were gone… then I realized that it was Maliko, just dressed much more conservatively in a plain gray frock. The cat ears might have given her away sooner, but I was just so used to seeing Sooni’s crew dolled up in their colorful skirts and blouses.

As soon as I registered that she was there, I looked towards Sooni’s desk, but it was not occupied. The seat wasn’t, anyway. There was a tall oval-shaped mirror in a brass frame sitting on it, the front angled towards the instructor’s desk and the board behind it.

I felt an odd mix of emotions. I was relieved that Sooni was apparently not being pulled out of classes and annoyed that I cared. If she had been there, she would certainly have skipped or swished her way down the aisle to my desk to annoy me with her latest petty complaint, bizarre accusation, or harebrained scheme in the minutes before class began.

So much about Sooni irritated me on so many levels, but I felt like if I didn’t have her around to irritate me, I’d miss her.

I wondered when the last time was that someone other than her paid companions told her that they appreciated having her around… and other than her mother, of course, who was all the way on the other side of the world. Maybe she would just take it in stride, accept it as part of her due as the most important person anywhere she happened to be… or maybe it would mean something to her. Maybe being told that she mattered by someone else would help fill the void that obviously existed inside her.

Or maybe she’d hit me with her shoe. Actually, she would probably do that even if the gesture did touch her.

But it wasn’t as though I had anything to fear from a shoeing. If anybody was equipped to be a friend to Sooni, it was me.

Maliko said something to her handler, in Yokano. I’d never heard her speaking her native tongue alone, only as part of a general babble of voices… it was interesting to notice that the slow, almost sleepy-sounding inflections she had in Pax were still present. I’d assumed it was due to her unfamiliarity with the language. Maliko had always sounded a bit like she was whining, or yowling when she was pissed. The look on her face was deferential, though, and the man she was talking to seemed polite, if cold, in his reply. She nodded at him and carefully stood up.

From the moment she got to her feet, I was pretty sure where she was heading, and I was not wrong. She walked slowly up to me, her furry face utterly unreadable.

“Hello,” she said, very quietly.

“Hi,” I replied in a similarly hushed tone.

“I told him that I needed to ask you about our coursework,” she said. “I am being covered.”

“Um, do you mean ‘covert’, or do you mean you’re covering yourself?” I asked. “Because both would kind of work here, where ‘covered’…”

“If they both work then why do you need to pick at my language now, you… stupid?” she asked, the last word coming out in a hiss as she struggled to control her rising volume. The man in the suit glanced back at us.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “What’s up, Maliko?”

“Sooni’s father wants to bring her home,” she said. “He is worried about her safety.”

“This school’s never been highly ranked for safety,” I said.

“He thought it would.. toughen her up?” she said. “Grow her up?”

I nodded.

“But now that the bird princess was murdered, he thinks maybe it is too dangerous,” Maliko said. “For people like Sooni.”

“How’s Sooni taking this?” I asked.

“She is not worried,” Maliko said. “She thinks she can solve it.”

“Solve… what, the murder? Or her own situation?” I asked.

“Yes,” Maliko said, nodding, and I realized that it made perfect Sooni-sense.

Sooni was the star of the show… a background cast member had died and it was significant only because it affected her. Being the star of the show, she was also the only one who could bring the murderer to justice, which she assumed would make the problem of her father not thinking the school was safe enough go away. Clearly, she hadn’t learned her lesson about such wrap-it-up-by-the-end-of-the-episode solutions when winning the student election didn’t make her father think she was responsible enough to keep receiving boatloads of money to spend as she saw fit.

Either that or she was desperate. Or this was the only way she could grapple with the fact that one of her floormates, even one she’d barely known, was dead.

Why did I keep feeling sympathetic for her? It could be said that I knew what it was like to be lonely… but I’d been lonely and poor, and I hadn’t benefited from trafficked “friends” like she had.

“We don’t have long to speak,” Maliko said. “Please pay attention to me.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“Were you doing a voiceover?”


“When Sooni stops talking like that, she gets mad if we interrupt her because she says she’s doing a voiceover,” Maliko said.

Sooni narrated things in her head? That was easily the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard.

“Maliko, that’s easily the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” I said. “Anyway, why are you telling me all this?”

“Sooni told me to,” Maliko said. “Because she’s trapped in town, she cannot do the investigating herself, so she says you have to be her eyes and ears.”

“Sooni wants me to solve Leda’s murder for her?”

“No, she wants you to be her eyes and ears so she can solve the murder,” Maliko said. “But… really… what you said is also true.”

“Maliko… you know there’s no way I can do that, right?” I asked. “I’m just another first year student, I don’t have any special abilities or expertise… at least not ones that are useful for conducting a murder investigation, especially when there is already a well-funded and highly trained imperial agency on the scene.”

“I know,” Maliko said, nodding. “You’re useless. But Sooni told me to tell you, so I did.”

“Okay,” I said. “Would you tell Sooni something for me?”

“Not if it’s anything gross,” she said.

“Would it be gross if I said I hope she doesn’t have to leave?”

“Yes,” she said. “Kind of. But I will tell her.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Do you want to stay here, Maliko?” I asked.

“Things are better here,” she said. “We are more… the same… here. It’s more like when we were young, before Sooni knew that she was better than us.”

If anybody else had said that, I would have told them that nobody was better than them… I was pretty sure that lots of people were better than Maliko, just not in the way that she meant it. I felt a stab of guilt at holding my tongue… the fact that I didn’t like Maliko, or even her actual nastiness as a person, didn’t change the underlying truth of what I was thinking.

“People aren’t ‘better’ than each other,” I said. “Just because she’s valued more by your society doesn’t refect on your actual values as people.”

Maliko gave me the most withering look I’d ever seen, on her face or anyone else’s, and turned and walked back to her desk. At first I took the look to mean something along the lines of shows how much you know, but then I started to wonder if I hadn’t insulted her somehow. I couldn’t figure out how, I’d been being nice… okay, maybe it might have sounded a little condescending, to have someone who didn’t know anything about your culture trying to correct you when you were talking about what life was like for you within it… I mean, whether or not Maliko and Sooni’s lives were intrinsically different values or not, Maliko still had to live with the day to day reality that someone like her could be bought and sold by someone like Sooni.

My words were true, but they were also kind of trite and probably nothing that she hadn’t heard or thought about herself before. Even it was somehow a revelation to her, it didn’t do anything to help her.

So maybe her scorn was somewhat justified.

The flashes of sympathy I was feeling, first for Sooni and then Maliko, were kind of weird. I didn’t think of myself as an unsympathetic person… despite my demonic blood and my own previous insistences that it made me evil, I felt like I was basically good, on some level. But I’d also had the good sense to hate people back when they hated me. I would have rather just rolled my eyes at Maliko’s unwarranted rudeness and then move on.

Though, to be perfectly honest, “moving on” was often kind of a work in progress… I’d always had a tendency to dwell on the people who irritated me. Sooni had even infiltrated my dreams on more than one occasion.

Amaranth would probably be pleased if I told her about this… I supposed it was a kind of personal growth. Well, I’d had enough epiphanies, personal revelations, and life-changing events since coming to MU that I supposed it was inevitable… or was that thinking like Sooni, expecting events to follow narrative form rather than just unfolding in a logical fashion?

Maybe it was a little of both. Either way, I decided then and there that if I ever caught myself narrating events in my head like I was living some kind of story that I would head straight over to the mental healing annex and get myself checked out. That level of self-involvement and sheer disconnection from reality couldn’t be any kind of healthy.

The instructor was already a little late when Maliko went to sit down at her desk, and a good five or ten minutes went by before he showed up. There was very little fidgeting and no jokes about how long we had to wait before class was automatically canceled. I supposed the presence of the seriously official-looking guy standing next to Maliko might have had something to do with that. Also, this was unlikely to be anybody’s first class of the day… probably everybody had encountered some irregularity in their earlier ones, much as Goldman had let us leave early.

“I hope you’ll forgive my tardiness,” the professor said when he arrived. “We all are of course cooperating fully with the imperial investigation, but I’ve found myself getting something of the runaround regarding who wishes to speak to me and where. There seemed to be some confusion regarding my identity. Now, under the circumstances some concessions have been made to our students from overseas… please do your best to disregard the additions to the classroom. Today we’re going to begin a relatively in-depth study of wishes, as the construction of such will be a major part of your midterm. Now, the question is often asked of any lesson, ‘When will we use this in real life?’ And there is probably no skill you are less likely to use in real life than wishcraft. However, knowledge of the theory and practice involved in wishing is useful as it combines several of the foundational elements of this class. If you can wish well, you can do almost anything.”

He led by example as he got into his lecture, saying nothing more about the mirror or the man and not looking at the man when he addressed the class, though he did make occasional eye contact with the mirror. Participation was so rare in this class that I was surprised they’d bothered with a mirror… an echo would probably have sufficed.

“First, definitions: a true wish is, as I alluded to, a very rare thing,” he said. “What a wish actually is is a subject for another class. A lesser wish, more properly called a boon, is simply a promise from a powerful being to do whatever you ask of it that’s within its power. Most stories involving ‘wishes’ are more in line with that: a djinni, a demon, a faerie spirit, or other being of power offers someone ‘whatever you may wish’ and then uses its not-inconsiderable powers to make that wish a reality. This is the other way around from a true wish, in which reality is altered to resemble the wish. For purposes of our class, we’ll be dealing with both phenomena, as some of the basic principles remain the same, including the first, most basic principle, which might as well be called ‘The Grand Rule of Everything’, when it comes to magic: be careful what you wish for.”

Either this was a favorite topic of his or being harrassed by the imperials seemed to agree with our teacher… he was being far more animated and engaged than he’d ever been before.

“When you’re dealing with a being of power that is offering you a boon,” he said, “there are three basic possibilities: it will do exactly what you ask of it, regardless of whether or that’s in your best interest… it will do something that can be construed as what you have asked of it, but in a way that’s deliberately inimical to you… or it will try to understand your intention and deliver it even if it’s not literally what you asked for. The fourth possibility is that it will do none of the above, in which case the offer is a lie, but for purposes of this class we’ll assume that is not the case.

“A true wish is ‘interpreted’ by something that is beyond the pale of the wisher or the being who is acting as a conduit for it, thus it will tend to resemble the first possibility… however, in any case, the second scenario, in which the worst possible interpretation is used, should always be considered. This is the essence of wishcraft: finding words that mean exactly what you want, and cannot mean anything that you do not want. In a perfectly constructed wish, the worst possible interpretation will be exactly what you wanted and nothing else.

“Of course, when dealing with a being of great power, it is possible that its interpretation of your words will differ from your own, and there is no court of appeals. Well, that’s not strictly true. The djinn have their courts, and so do the sidhe, but a mortal being is unlikely to get a satisfactory resolution from them. With demons? It’s best not to bother in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, demons are not bound to their words… that some of them gain a perverse enjoyment from sticking close enough to their word that can claim to be perfectly honest helps spread the myth of ‘honorable’ demons, but in case studies of demonic bargains it’s more often found that their actions did not fulfill a reasonable person’s interpretation of the deals they made.”

I could hardly blame the professor for finding this topic interesting… it was interesting. It made me realize that Goldman had never passed out our extra credit wish papers, either… of course, that was understandable under the circumstances. I just hoped that the assignment hadn’t been permanently sidetracked. Not only would extra credit in an already easy class help, but it sounded like fun.

“Let’s start by examining a very frequently-wished wish: I wish I had a million gold pieces,” the professor said, writing this on the board as he did. “For most beings we think of as ‘wish-granters’, this is well within their power to achieve… it may even amount to giving the asker what amounts to ‘pocket change’ out of its personal trove. There are three major weaknesses in it, however.

“One, the word ‘pieces’ is ambiguous. The asker may be thinking of standard Imperial weight gold coins, but he says pieces, now getting a million pieces of gold of any size or shape would be a windfall. A million grains of gold dust would still be valuable. But if one means coins, then one should say coins, and should specify the size thereof. Wording matters. There is a giant gold coin on display in the Museum of the Imperium in Palantine City that resulted from a man asking a djinni for ‘two tons of gold, minted as coins’. He ended up with two one ton coins, one of which he melted and sold as precious metal, the other he kept and charged admission to view until some enterprising tax collector thought to fine him for minting coins out of size. This is and always has been a serious charge, but he was able to be absolved of it and gain quite a bit of favor by making a gift of the giant coin to Magisterion IV. The man in this story got what he actually wanted, more or less, which was to be comfortably wealthy for the rest of his life, but it shows well the danger of imprecise language.

“The second weakness is that it gives no thought to the placement of the gold. If one wishes for a million gold pieces while conversing with a djinni in the middle of a fiery desert, transportation may become a factor. More sinisterly, any sizable quantity of gold is going to weigh quite a bit. A being could claim it was honoring the wish most directly by placing the gold on the asker’s person, to disastrous effect. So, not only is it best to be precise in what one is asking for, it’s also best to specify where and how one wishes to receive it. I wish for a million solid gold coins of standard Imperial size to be placed in a clear spot in the basement of my home, for instance, would be a better way of wording it.

“The third weakness is also logistical. As I mentioned previously, most ‘wishes’ that people are offered are not true reality-altering wishes. This gold must come from somewhere. If a djinni or faerie creature empties an Imperial reserve on behalf of an unwitting human, the authorities will be far more interested in confronting the human than the primeval power involved in the crime. Current law effectively regards such beings as little more than tools when they are acting out a boon.”

The professor clearly had a different approach to dealing with the shock and trauma of Veil Night than Goldman did, plunging ahead with the class exactly as planned, or as nearly as was possible. I thought that both approaches had their merits. Goldman’s had maybe been more appropriate for a morning class. Tragedy was tragedy, but school and life both marched on.

At a certain point, you had to get back to business as usual, even if it seemed impossible.

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11 Responses to “433: The Power Of Logical Wishing”

  1. Rey d`Tutto says:


    You modded the look. Not too shabby…

    Current score: 0
  2. Drudge says:

    As a DM I love Soonie. She’s exactly like about every player I’ve ever run, assuming everyone she didn’t see as another “major character” had to act like her slave and if she wanted something too high powered or insane now, she’ just have to wait for the story to develop a bit.

    The difference is no one has to actually entertain her ideas or attitudes even the little bit I need to so the story works, so all her efforts fall flat on her face and she winds up looking stupid.

    Current score: 1
  3. Kriss says:

    I prefer the old look personally, because you didn’t have to scroll all the way to the bottom to see if there is a new chapter

    Current score: 0
    • If you mean because there’s no next-previous navigations on the individual chapters above the bottom, that’s not a factor of “the old look” vs. “the new look” so much as one of “after I put links in” and “before I put links in”.

      Current score: 3
      • Drudge says:

        “after I put links in”

        …You have no IDEA how hard I need to try to resist making an incredibly lame pun right now.

        Current score: 1
  4. “Wishcraft.” I like it!

    Current score: 0
  5. pedestrian says:

    “When Sooni stops talking like that, she gets mad if we interrupt her because she says she’s doing a voiceover,” Maliko said.

    Sooni narrated things in her head? That was easily the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard.

    “Maliko, that’s easily the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” I said.


    Maybe it was a little of both. Either way, I decided then and there that if I ever caught myself narrating events in my head like I was living some kind of story that I would head straight over to the mental healing annex and get myself checked out. That level of self-involvement and sheer disconnection from reality couldn’t be any kind of healthy.

    it is really touching that Mackenzie doesn’t realize that she is doing the exact same “internal monologues” as Sooni and most damning of all, for many similar if not exactly the same reasons due to their mirrored lives.

    Current score: 6
  6. Erm says:

    Maybe it was a little of both. Either way, I decided then and there that if I ever caught myself narrating events in my head like I was living some kind of story that I would head straight over to the mental healing annex and get myself checked out. That level of self-involvement and sheer disconnection from reality couldn’t be any kind of healthy.

    No, no it couldn’t.

    Current score: 4
  7. Jechtael says:

    What was the logic professor’s name? It’s not mentioned in this chapter, and I can’t find it with a google search thanks to Book 2 and this chapter filling up the results, and the professor isn’t in the tags on this chapter. My dramatic mind says that the professor is some sort of secrety plot thing, and my logical mind says that A.E. probably just forgot to add the tag because she searched by name.

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      He was never given a name. He wasn’t introduced with one, and after a while his lack of a name became a joke, which has been nodded too a couple of times.

      Current score: 1
  8. Lara says:

    “I’ve found myself getting something of the runaround regarding who wishes to speak to me and where. There seemed to be some confusion regarding my identity.”
    This made me laugh so hard.

    Current score: 2