168: Save Vs. Consequences

on February 29, 2008 in 06: A Period of Conflict

In Which Hijinks Are Found To Have Retroactively Ensued

My eyes flew open and I sat up. Kiersta looked like she’d gone all the way round the bend, and I couldn’t blame her. Her hair was almost as frazzled looking as Suzi’s fur, and she looked like she hadn’t slept in weeks… probably two and a half weeks, to be specific.

The sound of the shattering pane must have been enough to force her out, and this was the sight that greeted her: broken glass, upset television, blood on the floor, Sooni dripping wet, dirty grit everywhere. Maliko and Kai had sheathed their weapons—before or after Kiersta saw them, I didn’t know—but Suzi and Two both still had theirs out, and Suzi still looked like she’d been up close and personal with a lightning bolt.

“Shit, fuck, shit, fucking shit!” the resident advisor swore. “You fucking little nightmares! Fighting in the hallway… do you want to get expelled? Because that’s what’s going to happen! You’re all going to get expelled… and I’m going to get fired for letting this happen! I can’t afford to come here without the RA housing allowance and stipend! Shit! What the hell happened here, anyway?”

Sooni pointed a shaky finger at Hazel. She was still crying, and clinging to Maliko like a lifeline.

“She hurt my leg!” she wailed.

Hazel rolled her eyes.

“You’ve got something like a real talent for summarization,” she said. “All I know is I stuck my head out the door to see what in the world was going on, this one was stomping the living hell out of the other one.” She jerked her thumb at Sooni and then me as she said this. “Er, meaning no offense, Mack.”

“Why were you doing that?” Kiersta asked Sooni.

“It was self-defense,” Sooni said.

You attacked me,” I said.

“Only because you insulted me!” Sooni said.

“When you tried to eat her!” Maliko added. Evidently, she had a better grasp on the concept of “self-defense” than her mistress did.

“Sooni attacked Mack and I tried to help her but she yelled and the nekos came out and stopped me and Suzi ran into my mace…” Two began to recite.

“She ran into your mace?” Kiersta asked, her voice dripping with skepticism.

Two nodded.

“Yes,” she said. “She did.”

“They told her to say that!” Maliko said.

“She hurt me, Kiersta, and I want you to expel her right now!” Sooni whined, pointing at Hazel.

Kiersta put her hand up to the side of her head, winding her curly black hair around her fingers. She looked like she was ready to start pulling chunks out.

“Fuck!” she said. “None of you move. I’m going to go get Gwen and hope she’s in an understanding mood.”

“We will tell her it’s not your fault,” Kai said, hanging her head. She turned her eyes upwards, giving Kiersta sad kitty eyes. “And we’re all very sorry, Kiersta, if our game gets you into trouble, too.”

Everybody turned and stared at her.

“Game?” Kiersta repeated.

Hazel was quicker on the uptake than the rest of us.

“Right, as I was saying before I got interrupted, I stuck my head out and saw the fox girl stomping on Mack, so I came out and ran to her defense. I only found out it was all in fun afterwards, and did I feel a bit of an idiot after that.”

Kiersta didn’t look like she was buying it. I didn’t know whether to be glad or not that she couldn’t see Two shaking her head and frowning. Would we really all be expelled? It seemed likely… it was everybody’s word against everybody’s.

The pressure in my head was killer. I couldn’t decide what, if anything, I could say without making the situation worse. Maybe Kai could actually talk our way out for us, or maybe she’d end up hanging herself.

Either way seemed fine to me.

“You guys were fighting with live weapons right outside my door,” Kiersta said. “I saw you through the peephole.”

“Well, we do not have a mockbox,” Kai said. “So the only one allowed to hit for real was Two with her stun mace. We thought you knew we were playing, since that explains why you did not come out and stop us.”

Kai gave Kiersta a pointed look, and Kiersta paled.

“Yes!” Maliko added. “That’s right!”

“Half the floor is trashed,” Kiersta said. “Two students are lying on the floor injured… one of them bleeding…”

“Um, that’s actually from my period,” I said. Kiersta stared at me in disbelief. “I… used a little bit too much magic.”

“So you’re going to tell me that you were letting her stomp on you as part of a game?” Kiersta asked. “And what about those scratches?”

“She was pretending to be a TV show hero and she got carried away,” I said. Well, that was probably true.

Kiersta started to turn towards Two. I tried to catch Two’s eye, but failed.

“Is any of this true?” Kiersta asked her.

“No,” Two said. “It was a real fight and Sooni started it and she should be in trouble for attacking without provocation and damaging school property.”

“Liar!” Maliko said. She hissed.

“She has this problem sometimes,” Kai said. “We tell her to pretend and she won’t stop, but please do not hold it against her. She cannot help how she is.”

I didn’t know whether to hug Kai or strangle her, but Kiersta shook her head.

“I’m sorry, but this isn’t going to fly, guys,” she said, and she really did sound a bit sorry about not being able to chalk the damage up to hijinks. “Not if Two’s contradicting you. Oh, but, hey… golems can’t lie, right?”

This wasn’t the least bit true, but if Kiersta was willing to take Two’s word… well, I didn’t know what to hope for there, and whether I should correct her or not.

If she listened to Two and blamed the whole thing on Sooni, Sooni would be facing expulsion but her parents would doubtlessly force some kind of inquest or appeal, and Two’s testimony could easily be dismissed on the grounds of her close friendship to me. Even if it was accepted that she was still for all practical purposes bound by orders, it would be easy for somebody to claim that I’d ordered her to support me no matter what.

If Sooni could “prove” she hadn’t attacked first, then I was the aggressor… and honestly, if it was that difficult to untangle, the easiest thing to do would be toss us all out and be done with it. That was what “zero tolerance” policies were for.

On the other hand, if she accepted the cover story, we’d all receive some punishment. It wasn’t fair, but it was safe. I hated the thought that Sooni might get away with having assaulted me, but I also remembered what Professor Bohd had said about how I had to be extra careful; certainly there were people who’d use any excuse at hand to get me kicked out of MU.

In any event, it turned out I wasn’t the only one who was up on her golem lore.

“That’s a myth,” Kai said. “A regular golem will say whatever it’s been ordered to by its master… that is why such testimony is inadmissible except in very specific circumstances. An emancipated golem—which Miss Two is—is as capable of lying as anybody else.”

“But she always does what she’s told,” Kiersta said.

“Maybe she likes to,” Kai said, shrugging. “But her word is not any better than or different from anybody else’s… so if we all say it was a game and she does not, then maybe she is the one who is not correct?”

“But why were you two ‘playing with’ each other in the first place?” Kiersta asked Sooni and me. I got the feeling that she was switching from trying to find holes in the story to making sure it didn’t have any. “You’re running against each other.”

“That does not mean they can’t be friends,” Kai said. “Didn’t you know we all get up on Sunday mornings and watch TV together?”

“Seriously?”

“Yes. Every… every week.” Sooni said, then turned to me in appeal. “Right?”

Fuck. If I said yes, would she hold me to it as a further “promise”?

“Most weeks,” I said. “Some weeks.”

“If you’re such good friends, what was with those campaign posters?”

“We put those up!” Maliko said. “We thought she would think they were funny.”

“After Sooni explained that Miss Mackenzie took them personally, we did not make any more,” Kai said.

Kiersta closed her eyes and shook her head. I was sure she was going to reject the whole thing and turn us in.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll put this down to rough housing. You guys can all consider yourselves on probation. No weapons out inside the dorm. No magic in the halls.” She looked around and said to herself, “Mack, Sooni… all three cats… and… who are you?” she asked Hazel.

“The Empress Vera,” Hazel said, holding out her hand, palm down. “Charmed.”

Kiersta glared at her.

“At home, they call me Hazel Willikins,” Hazel said.

“Are you even on this floor?”

Hazel bent down, lifted up the hem of her house dress, and looked at her feet. Didn’t they have furry feet? Or maybe that was just a stereotype.

“Apparently,” Hazel reported.

“Don’t push me,” Kiersta said.

“She attacked me!” Sooni said, pointing to Hazel. “She wasn’t playing our game and she hit me and I want her expelled!”

“Sooni… that’s not going to happen,” Kiersta said.

“You have to!” Sooni said angrily.

“Sooni… please,” Maliko said in a whiny half-whisper.

“She has to,” Sooni said. She looked at Kiersta. “Do you not remember our talk?”

Fear flooded Kiersta’s face, but she recovered quickly and put on a canny smile. She fished around inside her shirt and pulled out a necklace, a gold character of some sort on a gold chain.

“Yes, and thank you for loaning me this necklace to wear,” Kiersta said, and she handed it to Sooni who glowered but said nothing. “I’m sorry I forgot to give it back until now.”

I thought I understood. The first weekend of class, when Kiersta had tried to intervene when Sooni was disciplining Kai. Sooni had went to talk to her alone, and somehow completely cowed her. That had probably been a tipping point in Kiersta’s descent into fearful isolation. I’d wondered if Sooni had threatened her, but now it seemed like she’d bribed her instead.

It made sense. She bought friends, so why not buy an authority figure too?

I could imagine that Kiersta, already reluctant to get involved in the affairs of “monsters”, would have been eager to accept whatever explanation Sooni gave her… especially if Sooni gave her an incentive in the form of an expensive piece of jewelry.

Sooni probably wouldn’t have been so crude as to refer to it as a bribe or explicitly say “You can have this if you shut up.” As unskilled as Sooni was in most forms of social interaction, I had a feeling she knew how to handle that sort of deal. If her parents were as rich and powerful as I figured, she probably would have learned from example.

Once Kiersta accepted it, though… and once it sunk in that she’d accepted a very valuable “gift” from a resident… she would have been stuck. The necklace and the knowledge that she could be implicated at any time must have weighed heavily on her.

Now that Kiersta had divested herself of the damning item, it seemed like a weight had lifted off her shoulders. She looked at Sooni and me.

“You two are the ringleaders here,” she said. “So after you get cleaned and get healed, you can come back here and clean up this mess.”

“But there are servants for that!” Sooni said.

“The housekeeping staff aren’t your servants. They sweep the floor and clean the carpets,” Kiersta said. “It’s not their job to clean up broken glass and dirt and mud and blood.”

“I can…” Two started to say.

No,” Kiersta said. “You do enough cleaning already. Nobody helps them. I’ll let you guys into the supply closet, but you’re going to use brooms, mops, and ordinary water.”

She picked her way around the glass into the lounge and picked up the TV. I saw right away that the box was cracked and splintered.

“Shit,” she said. “I’ll get maintenance over here to fix the window and I’ll put in for a replacement TV, but you all are going to have to pay the dorm fund back.”

“But she broke it!” Sooni and I both protested.

“If you guys were playing a game then you’re all responsible,” Kiersta said. “I don’t care how you split the cost. Your lounge privileges are revoked until you come up with the money.” The color drained from Sooni’s face, but she seemed too stunned to protest. “I’ve been an RA for two years and I’ve never had this much destruction, even when I was on a co-ed floor. You guys have busted up the bathroom, you’ve smashed up beds and punched through walls, you’ve splintered the stairwell door and knocked it off its hinges, and now you’ve wrecked the lounge…”

“And you’ve just had your hands full trying to stop all this, then?” Hazel asked.

Kiersta blanched.

“I’ve been adjusting,” she said. “But I’m not going to lose my post because you don’t know how to act like humans.”

Time and place, I thought. If I was going to protest things, I’d start with the fact that Two, Hazel, and I were being lumped in with the yokai girls at all. On a practical level, I knew she was right in saying we’d probably all be expelled for fighting… but it still seemed horribly unfair. Sooni got less punishment than she deserved and we got more.

“Now, I’m going to go fill out the incident report,” Kiersta said. “And if I put down that this is a game that got out of hand, then I’d better not hear a word breathed around the hall that it was anything else, okay?”

We all nodded.

“Do you need help getting to the healer?” she asked Sooni and me.

“I will help Sooni!” Maliko said.

“I think I’m going to just go shower and change for now,” I said, not fancying a stroll with Sooni and company. “I’ll get the scratches healed later. Two… um… can you do something with my clothes?”

She nodded.

“I think so,” she said.

“Thanks,” I said.

I felt a little woozy when I got up, and Two helped support me. As soon as Kiersta headed back for her room, Honey opened up her door and started berating Hazel for getting involved. Hazel said she’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Back in my room, I collapsed onto my desk chair. When I peeled off my jeans, I found that the blood which was dripping from my crotch was blood, with a smell and consistency more like the stuff that oozed from the scratches on my arms than ordinary menstrual leakage. It seemed to have stopped, but I’d have to really watch the heavy magic use around my period.

Two was staring at me open-mouthed.

“What are you looking at?” I asked, a little more snippily than I meant to.

“I think you need to go to the healer,” she said.

“I’m not that badly hurt,” I said.

“That’s a lot of blood.”

“It’s not from an injury,” I said.

Two shook her head.

“I don’t think that matters,” she said. “I think you should go to the healer.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t,” I said. “So that’s that.”

Two did not agree. She squared up her shoulders and glared at me as sternly as she could in imitation of Amaranth’s pointed look. I tried not to laugh.

“Mack… I… I order you to go to the healer,” she said. “Now.”

That was a little harder not to laugh at.

“I order you,” she said again.

“I’m not going anywhere until I have a shower,” I said.

“I’ll… I’ll spank you if you don’t obey.”

“Two, you don’t get to spank me,” I said. “Seriously. I’m fine.”

I stood up to show her just how fine I was. I’m not sure how she took it, because she kind of went splotchy, then sideways, and then dark, along with the rest of the world.


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2 Responses to “168: Save Vs. Consequences”

  1. Psi-Ko says:

    Yeah, I hate it when people get all splotchy and sideways and dark. Don’t they know how to control themselves? There are plenty of ways to prevent that kind of thing, I bet just as many ways as there are to keep from fainting!

    Current score: 11
  2. Jechtael says:

    Kai. ROCKS. And of course, as usual, so does Two.

    Hazel “Empress Vera” Willikins amuses me.

    Current score: 9