Chapter 243: Cheap Dates

on August 29, 2014 in Volume 2 Book 7: Courtly Manners, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Mackenzie Is Good Company

Being dated by Glory was… well, it was nice.

Considering that she called herself a queen and probably had personal access to more money than anyone I’d ever been with or even been pursued by, it was surprisingly low-key. Our first date was a quiet walk around the campus just before sunset, the day after I told her that Amaranth had given us her blessing. We’d ended up on west campus, the wilder and more wooded part of the grounds that I’d very rarely had any reason to be on.

It had snowed the night before, not the first snow of the season but the first one to actually stick around. My elemental shielding had second nature to me again before then, so I could appreciate the ice and snow as something pretty, like the stars… twinkly, cold, and completely unable to touch me.

This was an entirely new experience. Possibly before I turned, I might have enjoyed playing in the snow, but in my memory I had never had appreciated winter on an aesthetic level before… no matter how warm I was bundled beneath spells and a thick coat, I’d always hurried from one door to another during the wintry months.

I’d never stopped to look around, never noticed the way that ice could cover the bare limbs of a tree like a layer of crystal glaze, never noticed the way the late sun brought out the fire hidden in the depths of the white snow.

On the way back, Glory kissed me on the crystal-coated wrought iron footbridge that connected it to main campus. She slipped inside my long coat so deftly there wasn’t even a draft as she wrapped herself up within it and me, sliding her hands… her very, very cold hands… down the back of my jeans.

I yelped.

She laughed.

“I’m going to have to get you a pair of gloves,” I said. “Magic gloves.”

Even I knew it would be crass to ask for a receipt, but I’m pretty sure the cost of the entire date… assuming that Glory hadn’t bought the white fur-lined cape she wore for it entirely for that one occasion… was somewhere in the neighborhood of zero silver and zero copper.

I was glad that she hadn’t needed to have a whole big discussion about me not wanting it to be a big production. I guess that shouldn’t have been surprising, given that I’d lamented about that sort of thing more than once before and hobbies included eavesdropping on my conversations, but still… I’d kind of been braced for her to go ridiculously overboard and it hadn’t happened.

There was a bit of a close call the day after that first night out, when she told me that it was necessary to present me to the court. I hadn’t really been expecting that, but it turned out it didn’t require much of a ceremony at all, and absolutely nothing from me. She literally just gathered her people in her throne room and said, “This is my girlfriend.”

After that, I noticed a marked change in the way the other elves of Oberrad House reacted to me.

They’d never treated me badly, before. In fact, with the exceptions of Wisdom and Grace, they’d mostly ignored me. It was like I was outside of their experience… a human and an employee, but not their employee, and they knew that their queen was fond of me. Nobody had wanted to treat me too well for fear of undermining their position, but no one had dared to treat me badly, so they’d just avoided me.

Once I was Glory’s acknowledged girlfriend, people started greeting me by name and giving me a little nod of the head that might have been taken as the slightest of bows.

“You didn’t tell them I’m.. .we’re… I mean, there’s nothing really officially solid between us?” I asked Glory when I noticed this. She’d called me her girlfriend in Pax, but she’d also said something in Elvish that I hadn’t understood. “I mean, not that your relationship with me is shaky, it’s just… I mean, we’re not like… middling-married… now, are we?”

She laughed at that.

“I don’t think there’s a single Pax word that translates what you are to me, Mackenzie Blaise,” she said, taking my hands by the fingers. “In the eyes of the others, I mean. I suppose… casual consort would be the best term.”

“That sounds like a chain clothing store for harem girls,” I said.

“Would you like to be in chains, Mackenzie?”

“…I meant, like, franchised,” I said. “Like, the ones you’d find in the mall.”

“I know what you meant,” she said. “But I do adore your blush. It is no wonder that those who love you find it endearing.”

I thought about that. Steff and Amaranth both similarly gushed over my blush, but Ian didn’t seem to enjoy bringing that response on as much as they did, and commented on it less often when it happened.

“You know, it’s funny… Ian hardly ever mentions my blushing.”

“If you’re in the habit of discussing me while you’re in Ian’s presence, I can understand his misgivings.”

“I’m sorry, my queen,” I said.

“Am I only your queen when you’re sorry?” she said. “It gives me such an unfortunate mixture of motivations.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “You’re always my queen.”

“Is that a thing to be sorry about?”

“You’re teasing me, aren’t you?”

“Always. Anyway, you must know that the main reason I needed to officially acknowledge you was to end the confusion over how you are to be treated,” Glory said. “The sheer amount of avoidance was becoming a bit of a chore for everyone. Better to have everything clear and in the open.”

“I… guess I understand that?” I said. “It seems like it would be easier if you could just say, ‘guys, be kind of generally nice to Mackenzie’… or if they would just do that.”

“Yes, it would be easier,” Glory agreed. “On the subject of the mall, how do you feel about going there?”

“Why… what did you have in mind?” I asked, in the ridiculously little choked voice I made when I was trying to be sultry. “My queen.”

“Sending you to the mall to pick up a few things,” she said.

“Oh,” I said, realizing she meant in my professional capacity. “Yeah, sure.”

Although we’d both said in the past that we didn’t want to screw with what we had going on with the whole agent/assistant thing, I had kind of expected in the back of my mind that the dating would result in some kind of change in the position. If it didn’t mean the end of our professional association, then it seemed like at least it would mean scaling it back.

At the very least, I’d thought there would be a clear enough divide between the two roles that I wouldn’t have to switch horses like that in the middle of a conversation.

Glory had other thoughts. Maybe we should have talked about our respective thoughts, but I found that mine had been more of an unexamined expectation than an actual preference. She’d always danced around intimate contact during our dealings, and I really didn’t mind that she became a lot more free with her touches. She’d do things like rest her hand on my ass while I was showing her the invoices from her contractors, or play with my hair while I read her a-mails aloud to her.

That last bit was one of the jobs I’d really hoped would fall by the wayside as we progressed, as I always felt really awkward doing it. It wasn’t exactly public speaking, but reciting something aloud always felt a bit like that, even if it was just the two of us, or her and her sister and Nicki.

I had showed her that the crystal ball could easily speak them for her, but she hadn’t been interested. I tried reminding her about that again shortly after we started dating.

“I pay you for that,” she said.

“Yes, but I feel silly doing it,” I said.

“I am so delighted that you’ve told me that,” she said. “Read on, please.”

Date number two was the famous sunken gardens of Enwich, which weren’t so famous that I had ever heard of them.

I wouldn’t have picked Enwich as a garden spot, whatever that phrase actually meant, and I wouldn’t have picked the late fall/early winter for the time to visit a garden, but they were actually covered sunken gardens, which I would have thought would simply be a greenhouse.

Glory… didn’t appreciate my running commentary on the topic as much as she appreciated the flowers.

I did make sure I let her know that I appreciated it being indoors, as that was really thoughtful.

In between our outings, Glory acquired the habit of appearing by my side in between some of my classes and walking with me from one place to another. It was not something I had expected, but I supposed it made sense. She didn’t have anywhere to be for ninety percent of the school day. She didn’t say anything, but just fell in step alongside me.

The first time she did it, I asked her if she wanted something once I’d recovered from the surprise.

“Nothing more than I have,” she said.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Your company,” she said.

“Oh,” I said. “I figured you found me because you wanted to talk, or you needed something from me.”

“If I needed something for you, I’d send for you,” she said. “On that subject, if I wanted to speak to you, I would have spoken… don’t you ever like to just enjoy the silence?”

“…I’m honestly not sure if you want me to answer that or not,” I said.

“You are so funny,” she said, laughing.

Our third date was a classical concert in the Lazar Bardic Arts Center. It was students performing for students, free for students. Not at all my usual thing, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Still, I was surprised to realize that this was the third time in a row Glory had taken me out to somewhere free… the gardens had an admission fee, but she had a membership that let her and a guest in without any additional charge.

When the concert was over, I asked her about this.

“Is this a complaint?” she asked.

“No, more like a… question,” I said.

“What is the question, then?”

“…I don’t know, exactly,” I said. “I guess I just… it’s not what I expected.”

“So you are disappointed,” she said, though her tone of voice suggested she knew otherwise.

“I’m confused,” I said. Then something occurred to me. “And maybe a little concerned… I know you’ve poured a lot of resources into the restoration of the house. Are you running low on funds?”

“Oh, stars, no,” she said. “My cash flow is a bit constricted right now, but I’m not spending principal here… and anyway, I have enough income left for something truly extravagant. If I’m being frugal now, it’s because I want any later extravagance to have a greater impact.”

“Okay,” I said. “Just checking.”

“To be quite honest, it’s more or less a coincidence that all three of my dates so far have cost nothing,” she said. “I’ve simply picked things I would have liked to do but would have preferred to have a single companion along for rather than solitude or an entourage… I hope that doesn’t sound too selfish, as I prefer to come off as just selfish enough.”

“No, it really doesn’t,” I said. “It’s… I don’t know what I would have picked, or what exactly I expected, but I’ve been enjoying your time with me. And if anything, I guess I’m kind of glad that you get to do things you want to that you wouldn’t otherwise.”

“You sound so certain about that,” she said. “Now, would you care to accompany me back to Oberrad House?”

Even though I’d never really done the traditional dating thing, I was aware of the traditional significance of the third one. Coupled with the fact that it wasn’t far at all from the bardic arts building to the cluster of buildings that housed Oberrad House, it seemed pretty obvious where this was heading, but I’d learned not to make assumptions.

“Are you asking me to come home with you tonight?” I asked.

“Of course,” she said.

“Oh, okay,” I said.

“We need to talk about where my relationship is heading.”


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30 Responses to “Chapter 243: Cheap Dates”

  1. Order of Chaos says:

    I’m liking this more than I thought I would, it’s nice to see elf romantic. Mack had an opening to bring up Steffs request when Glory sent her to the mall but that will have to wait.

    Current score: 7
  2. Zathras IX says:

    The wilder and more
    Wooded west campus is too
    Cold for a hot date

    Current score: 6
  3. Glenn says:

    I suppose in years to come, when Mack sees the year’s first snowfall, she’ll think of Glory. This seems to me so much healthier a relationship than Mack and Ian, and of course it’s lightyears away from Jamie and Iason.

    Current score: 7
    • zeel says:

      Iason/Jamie is like a textbook example of how not to do it.

      Current score: 6
      • Cadnawes says:

        Ugh, speaking of relationships where the participants worsen one another…

        Tho somewhat to my surprise, Jamie was the one I wound up hating MORE.

        Current score: 2
        • zeel says:

          That’s a hard call though. I hate Iason, but Jamie is annoying because he puts up with him. I don’t know which I actually dislike more.

          But all the other More characters are awesome.

          Current score: 2
          • Cadnawes says:

            I know, right? I was always very conflicted about that one because Violet and Barley. And Random. Would LOVE to hear from her again.

            Current score: 2
  4. HiEv says:

    Typo:

    “My elemental shielding had second nature to me” -> “had become”

    “in my memory I had never had appreciated winter” -> probably “had never appreciated”

    Not a typo:

    “Date number two was the famous sunken gardens of Enwich, which weren’t so famous that I had ever heard of them.” Love that turn of phrase. It’s sort of, “it’s famous, but in a way that its ‘fame’ has never reached my ears before.” It made me chuckle.

    Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      Which is all the more funny coming from Mackenzie, as one would not really expect her to know about such things unless they were pretty damn famous. And even then she probably wouldn’t care enough to make the connection.

      Current score: 1
    • Lunaroki says:

      Typo Report

      I guess that shouldn’t have been surprising, given that I’d lamented about that sort of thing more than once before and hobbies included eavesdropping on my conversations, but still…

      Whose hobbies included eavesdropping on Mack? Surely not Mack, as the construction of the sentence would imply.

      Current score: 0
  5. zeel says:

    I know the MU wiki died a long time ago, so this is a long shot, but does anyone have the timeline any part of it? With the way this has been moving I feel like a jump back is on its way, I feel like a time line is about to get handy. I would love to try and recreate it on some level, but having something to start with would really simplify the process.

    There is just so much MU that it’s getting hard to keep it all straight in my head.

    Current score: 1
  6. pedestrian says:

    “Talking about our relationship” is much less crass than “Come up and see my etchings”.

    Current score: 1
    • spess imvader says:

      Here is me praying for no more talking relationship and more doing relationship.
      I wonder how much did Glory’s money and social position influence Mackenzie’s feelings for her, acceptance of her dominance and overlook of her flaws…

      Current score: 0
  7. D. D. Webb says:

    Glory continues to creep me out on a subtle level.

    Current score: 2
    • Nocker says:

      Glad I’m not the only one. MU elves always gave me an uncanny valley kind of disturbance(their proportions are just a bit off, they don’t breathe, basically everything “normal” about them is an act). Glory in particular because she tries to push that act way too hard at times(going totally still before a high five and such) and showing she doesn’t fit the viewers definition of normal or natural.

      Current score: 2
  8. Trent Baker aka Zergonapal says:

    This chapter seemed a bit stilted, I miss the playful banter. Mack seems so stiff around Glory, maybe its because she is wearing three hats at once. She is the queen of her little court, Mack’s employer and Mack’s girlfriend now as well. Its no wonder Mack doesn’t seem to know where she is standing in relation to Glory.

    Current score: 0
  9. Seth says:

    I liked this chapter. Mack should really spend time dating all of her significant others.

    For example, the mall comment gave me a mental image of Amaranth having tea in a department store dressing room, while getting off on vicariously trying on clothes and ordering Mack about the store in various states of undress.

    Could be a fun date. 🙂

    Current score: 4
  10. rainbowtoesocks says:

    Read “Would you like to be in chains, Mackenzie?” and my mind immediately jumped to “Is Glory talking to Mercy?!” (I mighthavethrownupinmymouth a little.) Red flag, red flag!
    This is probably (hopefully) not the actual context for Glory’s question. Curious to know though, did anyone else read it this way?

    Current score: 0
    • Mack says:

      No, because I have reading comprehension.

      But really, I get where you were coming from. It’s a startling and red flag sort of thing. Which is why glory said it. She was fucking with Mack, with her dead-pan humor.

      I love glory.

      Current score: 0
  11. Dani says:

    ‘My relationship’? 😕

    Current score: 0
    • PlatypusPrime says:

      You haven’t picked up on Glory’s insistence that every interaction and relationship be expressed as her being the active/dominant/controlling participant and anyone else being the passive/submissive/controlled party? She’s corrected Mack multiple times on this. As far as she’s concerned, it is not a relationship between them. It is her relationship with Mack.

      Current score: 1
    • Silverai says:

      Glory & Mack had a conversation in one of the previous chapters about how Glory would be the one doing all the dating and Mack would be passive because of Glory’s queen status. Hence, it’s Glory’s relationship, not Mack’s, hence Glory saying “my”, not “our”.

      Current score: 3
  12. Glenn says:

    It’s interesting the way AE continues to hint in every chapter about the problems of Mack’s relationship with Ian. In this chapter, we get the following:

    “I know what you meant,” she said. “But I do adore your blush. It is no wonder that those who love you find it endearing.”

    I thought about that. Steff and Amaranth both similarly gushed over my blush, but Ian didn’t seem to enjoy bringing that response on as much as they did, and commented on it less often when it happened.

    “You know, it’s funny… Ian hardly ever mentions my blushing.”

    “If you’re in the habit of discussing me while you’re in Ian’s presence, I can understand his misgivings.”

    Why do Amaranth, Steff and Glory find Mack’s blush so endearing, while Ian does not? If Glory is right, and they like it so much because they love Mack, what does that say about the fact that Ian doesn’t like it as much?

    Current score: 2
    • Anvildude says:

      However, there’s another difference there- Ian’s male, and not supernaturally perceptive. Ian as a whole is kinda, underdeveloped in this story, to be honest. There was talk early on about his ‘hobby’ of (lute?) bardic arts, hints about how he might be using college to get out from under his father’s shadow, a possible elemental affinity to Fire, all sorts of things- but as far as I can remember, those were all introduced pretty much in the first couple of appearances with him, all in the first book. Nothing’s been done about them since, despite characters like Steff and Amaranth and even Two and Two’s Friend Hazel getting all sorts of further development built on top of their initial given traits. Ian’s always sort of… been in the background. He’s talked during conversations, but hasn’t been a real participant.

      It’s kinda funny, but I’ve seen a similar thing happen in another series- Whateley Academy has Team Kimba, which is primarily female (or MtF transgendered), along with a single guy (who happens to be FtM, but that… doesn’t impact things that much.) The guy, Hank, is always there in the background, supporting the team, being a ‘friend’, watching the hijinks with everyone else- but he’s never had a day in the limelight, and has almost nothing in terms of character development. No hobbies, no personal goals or fears given- a bit of a blank slate, ‘genericharacter’ in the middle of a group of highly animated individuals. Granted, he’s something of an NPC in the Party, but the reason he’s remained an NPC is similar, potentially, to why Ian feels so much less ‘interesting’ than anyone else (and no, it’s not _completely_ because the author is female and so can write female characters better, though that is part of it).

      It’s because he’s never been spotlit. We’ve never seen things from either his perspective, or with him alone with the main character or characters. Any time he’s been alone with Mackenzie for any appreciable length of time (even in-story, it seems) it was for sex, or foreplay leading up to sex. Mack’s never walked into the Nexus (name?) for lunch kinda early and found him sitting alone at their table, and had a little discussion with him. She’s never stood around in a doorway watching everyone else playing SS while chatting with him. She’s not worked on homework with him, or discussed her favorite Aether-comics with him.

      In essence, he’s been characterized, largely, as a walking piece of hot meat, there for a quick poke’n’tickle, but not much else.

      Hopefully this arc deals with this properly- either by giving him that development via his and Mackenzie’s efforts to re-kindle their relationship, or by acknowledging that he’s not a ‘PC’ and letting him leave the party gracefully.

      Current score: 7
      • Nocker says:

        This is true. Ian’s got a whole lot of stuff of his own going on, and he’ll make it clear he does, but unlike everybody else we never get to SEE his stuff going on. We’re just vaguely told he has a life and classes and a family at this point and then we move on to somebody else.

        Current score: 2
        • Glenn says:

          Does Ian “have a whole lot of stuff of his own going on”? If he does, then the problem isn’t that we never hear about it, it’s that Mack never seems to hear about it.
          A lot of my ideas about Ian’s current circumstance go back to Chapter 204, in which Ian was complaining about the Non Disclosure Agreement Mack had signed with Acantha. Ian was unhappy that Mack couldn’t talk to him about what she was doing with Acantha, and so Mack said:

          “…But what’s going on in your life?”

          “I don’t know,” he said. “School stuff. Nothing really interesting, not compared to…”

          “Not compared to how you’re imagining my life is going,” I said. “And I think that’s the real problem. You’re comparing your actual reality… in all its mundane glory… to what you imagine my life is like right now, and reality can’t compete with imagination.”

          “You say that like I’m mistaken, and yet you call my life mundane,” Ian said.

          “Yeah, well, we’re both going to school to be wizards,” I said.

          “You are,” he said. “You’re learning enchantment, you have a buttload of arcane power, and you’re sporting a new wand. Me? I’m… maybe not officially undeclared, but I don’t think elementalism is going to take me anywhere.”

          “Really? I thought you’d gotten the knack for it,” I said.

          “I figured out how to do it,” he said. “But it’s not a knack. I have to work for it, every single time… and it’s not the kind of work that leaves me with a deep sense of satisfaction or anything. It’s the kind of work that leaves me wondering why I’m putting this much effort into something my dad wants me to be. I haven’t really found a knack for anything yet. I can do some magic, I can fight some… I can play the lute…”

          “Sounds like a classic bard,” I said.

          “Yeah, but you say that because bards are a joke to you, not because you think that’s something I should do with my life,” he said. “We’ve talked about this before, and that’s part of why I’ve never officially switched majors yet.”

          “Ian… bards aren’t a joke to me,” I said. “I can promise you that.”

          “You’re emphasizing ‘to me’ in your head and hoping I won’t pick up on that, aren’t you?” he asked.

          “…yes,” I admitted.

          “This is something that kills me, you know?” he said. “Knowing that if I commit to bardic arts… or martial prowess… that you’d think less of me for it than if I stuck it out with spellcasting.”

          “Oh, Ian,” I said. The words, where did you get that idea from? died in my throat, because I knew where he had: from me, basically saying so. “I… don’t think that way as much as I did when I first got here. It’s not even a thought, really… just a knee-jerk prejudice about things I’d never thought about. It’s a feeling, a feeling that my actual thoughts on the subject have been trying to chase away since the first time I was challenged on it.”

          Until this conversation, neither we nor Mack know that Ian wasn’t enthusiastic about his elementalism classes. Neither we or Mack knew that Ian had considered changing majors, but hadn’t yet found he had a knack for magic, fighting, or music. Neither we nor Mack knew that Ian felt that Mack would look down on him if he left arcane magic. And the reason neither we or Mack knew these things is that Ian doesn’t normally talk about what’s going on in his life. It doesn’t seem that interesting to him, compared to Mack’s life.

          Current score: 5
          • Nocker says:

            Which is usually where Other Tales came in: They gave us a decent view of lives Mackenzie didn’t directly see that much of and showed what was going on with them.

            On Ian personally, I get the feeling he’s just using really inelegant solutions to all his problems. He steps into the ring, but ignores the division with people using cool enchanted gear for battle and goes straight to punching. He doesn’t seem to USE magic to solve any of his day to day issues the way Mackenzie or even Sam did way back when with his stealth spell, or Dan cutting the lock with demon fire(say what you will about half demons, they have a lot of tools to work with an a lot of bad situations to develop them).

            An actual BARD would probably handle issues differently. Like trying to incorporate sound of some kind into his fighting style or trying to at least use magic to make his sword lighter and easier to carry. Heck, I recall Bohd doing work with sound elementals and a bard would probably have been all over that. Whatever his “class” is he clearly isn’t any kind of Bard.

            I just hope we get some actual focus on him except as “the boyfriend” coming up, because as a character he kind of needs it at this point.

            Current score: 3
  13. Arancaytar says:

    probably had personal access to more money than anyone I’d ever been … pursued by

    For values of “pursued” (*cough*Mercy).

    Current score: 0
  14. Moridain says:

    I would take a romantic walk with a person whose company I genuinely enjoyed over an awkward dinner in a lavish restaurant any day.

    Current score: 0