Chapter 285: Location Invocation

on February 19, 2015 in Volume 2 Book 8: Elven Holiday, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Mackenzie Goes Through A Dry Spell

As I laid there on the bed with Nicki, I kept waiting for the impact of what I’d done… what I’d let her do… to catch up with me and, I don’t know, overwhelm me or something.

It never did, though.

I didn’t exactly freak out about the fact that I wasn’t freaking out over it, but I did look at it curiously from a distance. It probably wasn’t actually the last vestige of my grandmother’s repressive parenting, but it felt like a big one. Big as it was, though, I didn’t feel like any kind of sense of accomplishment in having finally overcome it or anything like that.

If anything, it felt like it had sort of quietly been shaken loose from my psyche when no one was looking. Amaranth’s careful coaching and gentle encouragement hadn’t been enough to get me over this mental hurdle, but spending the better part of a semester up to my armpits in distraction with no one pushing me seemed to have done the trick, if anything had.

Well, maybe that wasn’t fair… I doubted that without Amaranth’s influence, I’d be having any kind of sex, much less enjoying it without guilt. It was probably more like the seeds she had planted had taken some time to bloom. The strangeness of the current circumstances had doubtlessly accelerated the pace at which I was able to do things that were so strange for me.

Of course, all I’d really done was lie there and accept what was given to me. I supposed maybe the real sign I was over my adolescent conditioning would be when I could return the favor, for Nicki or for anyone… but then, despite my grandmother’s low opinion of her own gender, I’d never regarded other women’s genitals as being as as inherently and inexorably sinful and filthy as my own.

“Is… is everything okay?” Nicki asked me, in a tone of voice that suggested that what she really meant was please tell me that what I did was actually okay and I haven’t ruined everything forever.

“Everything’s great,” I said.

“I just thought something might be wrong… I mean, usually when you go all quiet like that for a long time, it means you’re thinking about something.”

“I don’t only think about things when they go wrong,” I said. “In fact, I was actually thinking about how much better things were than I would have ever expected them to be.”

Well, I had been… sort of. I mean, that was a technically applicable if not particularly precise description of what I had been thinking.

I liked to believe I’d fallen out of the habit of using half-truths to avoid lying, but I had a feeling that if I told Nicki the whole truth, she’d figure that she’d overstepped in a sensitive area and never forgive herself, never mind that I’d been a wholly willing participant and I’d enjoyed the experience very much. We both had our issues. I didn’t need to trigger hers by burdening her with mine.

“Do you think we should get back to the others?” Nicki asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I mean, I’m not sure they’re going to be in the same place we left them, or if they’ll all be together… but I’m pretty sure there’s not any ‘should’ here. I mean, I think Glory would be pretty cranky if she didn’t see me for the rest of the trip, and Grace would probably be at least disappointed if you vanished, but we’re not at their beck and call.”

“Okay… um… do you want to go find them, then?”

“I guess,” I said. “Though if the party has moved on… or broken up… I don’t know how we’re going to catch up to them. If that’s the case, I should probably double back here so that Glory can collect me for dinner.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, well… I know I just said we’re not supposed to be going anywhere or doing anything, but Glory actually does have our meals planned out,” I said. “The higher-demand restaurants apparently tend to book up in advance.”

“But you should be able to find Glory easy,” Nicki said. “You’re booked into the same room.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“It means you can find each other as long as you’re both wearing these,” she said, reaching out and touching the bracelet that was the only thing I was wearing that wasn’t a magically bonded piece of body jewelry.

“Oh, that makes a lot of sense,” I said, as I figured out what she was implying. “That’s a really useful feature… I guess they’d restrict it to bunkmates for privacy and security reasons, but yeah you would totally need a way to find the rest of your party on a ship this size. I don’t remember anybody mentioning that, though.”

“Yeah, well, remember how I said Grace and I spent a lot of time thinking Glory was going to come along and tell us we were in the wrong room? So we hung out in our cabin without much to do except watch all the orientation stuff.”

“Really?” I said. I might have been smirking, though not on purpose. “Alone in a honeymoon suite with Grace and you couldn’t think of anything better to do?”

“Well, we figured… I mean, she’d probably be ticked off about the mistake to begin with, but she couldn’t really blame us, right?” she said. “But we thought.. you know…”

“That if she came to her room and found her sister screwing around on her bed, it would make everything worse.”

“Yeah,” Nicki said. “Exactly.”

“Nicki… have you ever seen Glory actually get that mad about anything?”

“…well, no,” Nicki said. “I mean, she’s had some punishments for Grace, but they always were kind of… like, it seemed like she felt she had to do something for her rep, or whatever. She’s actually really chill about just about everything.”

“I don’t know if ‘chill’ is the word,” I said. In fact, now that I was thinking about it, it seemed like Glory was constantly worrying about one thing or another, even if she masked it better than her sister did. No wonder she’d wanted to start the day with a massage. “But she’s not exactly prone to berserker rages.”

“No, maybe not… but… I mean, anybody can get mad you push them hard enough.”

I wanted to tell her that anybody who took other people’s mistakes out on her wasn’t being pushed into doing anything, that if it wasn’t her fault if somebody in her life had exploded at her in a way that made her feel like someone as even-tempered and charitable… or at least, elven-charitable… as Glory was could be one second away from snapping at her over a misunderstanding… but I didn’t think I could. In the moment, I didn’t know how to begin to put all of that into words.

Even more so, I didn’t how to say them in a way that would make Nicki believe me, that would allow those words, kindly meant, to overrule the powerful if overly broad lessons taught to her by harsh experience.

So instead I just hugged her.

“You’re kind of squishing me,” she said. “By which I mean you are really squishing me… ow, ow…”

“Sorry!” I said, letting her go. “We should, uh, clean up a little and get dressed, and then you can show me how to use the wristy thing.”

“Okay,” she said. She headed for the open bathroom door and turned on the sink. “I’d be surprised if you need my help… I’m kind of surprised you haven’t picked it completely apart by now, though.”

“Well, you know how you and Grace spent most of the trip so far shut up in your room with absolutely nothing to do?”

“Yeah?”

“I didn’t,” I said.

I did start investigating the bracelet now that she had mentioned it. My first attempt was rebuffed… my usual method of getting to know an item was to do some quick-and-dirty manual magic detection, but this thing must have had some seriously proprietary magic because it was heavily warded against divination.

Of course, like most consumer magic, it was designed to be user-friendly, too. You didn’t have to be an enchanter or any kind of wizard at all to use it. The features were there, just waiting to be invoked.

Interfacing with the unit was easier than reaching out and grabbing hold of its magic would have been, if it wasn’t warded… it was more like slipping your hand into a glove that was perfectly made to fit your fingers.

The problem was that the glove was confining. It would only move in the ways its designers had intended it to be moved… boring. Useful, but boring.

I invoked the tracking feature that Nicki had described, and two names popped into the front of my head. One was mine, of course, but the other…

“Who the hell is Cleo?” I said, remembering even as the name tumbled out of my mouth that Glory did not use her legal name. “Oh, right…”

Saying the name aloud was enough of an invocation for the interface in that state, and a directional diamond appeared in the bracelet’s stone. I also got a mental impression of the words “KINGPOSTS COFFEE PRO-137” and a gentle prompt indicating I could send a message to her if I wanted. I didn’t really want to.

“Looks like she’s having coffee,” I said.

“Yeah, mine, too,” Nicki said, coming out of the bathroom. She was still naked, but toweling off her face and chest. “Grace says they’ll wait for us, if we want to join them.”

“Okay, let’s do that,” I said.

“Oh, um…”

“What?”

“I was … you might have to run to my room and grab me a change of clothes,” she said.

“Why?”

“We probably should have been more careful taking our clothes off.”

“I don’t remember ripping anything off < I don't remember anyone ripping anything off," I said. "No but we kind of threw them all over the bathroom floor," she said. "...I'm sure it's relatively clean," I said. Granted that bathroom floors could be pretty gross, but Nicki had never struck me as being that squeamish. "I mean, there's daily maid service here, just like a hotel." "Yeah, it's clean, it's also... okay, maybe I should have said we should have been more careful wrestling around in the bathtub, because it's really kind of wet in here." I looked past her, and the floor did look pretty damp. It all gently sloped towards a drain, so it wasn't like there was standing water... but the crumpled jeans I saw looked pretty sodden. "Oh, I can dry them real quick," I said. "You have a dryer stashed away somewhere?" "No, but I'm actually pretty good at elemental magic." "I... um... it's not that I wouldn't trust you, but one of the things I learned is that fire magic is suppressed on board." "That's good to know... but I wasn't talking about toasting them over an open flame," I said. "I mean, I could heat without flame but I'd be worried about shrinking them or something… but involving an aspect of the element of fire at all would be kind of like taking the long way around, considering that, you know… water is an element, too." "Oh! Right," Nicki said. "So we don't drip everywhere, why don't you hold them up one at a time and I'll do my thing?" She did, and I did… it felt pretty good to be exercising myself magically. The end of the semester had brought with it a brief flurry of heavy magic use followed by an abrupt cessation. Water had been the hardest element for me to master, for the same reason that elemental magic in general was very easy: my connection to fire. All the solid surfaces in the bathroom were a bit damp from steam, so with nowhere convenient to set the dried garments, we put them on one at a time as they were finished. It was like a reverse strip-tease, and even though we were each handling our own clothes on our own bodies, the fact that we were doing it together made it weirdly intimate. I found myself getting increasingly flushed as we got increasingly dressed, and increasingly close to heading out the door and finding the women whose girlfriends we were. "You know," Nicki said. "I really didn't have any intention or plans or really solid thoughts about doing this once, and I'm still not, you know, thinking of anything in long-term terms, like when we get back to the real world…" "But you kind of hope this happens again?" I guessed. "Well… I wouldn't mind it."


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14 Responses to “Chapter 285: Location Invocation”

  1. zeel says:

    I found the suppression of fire magic on an airship humorous. Even though the real world reasoning is completely irrelevant.

    Current score: 1
  2. Nocker says:

    I wonder if magical exercises are comparable to physical ones. Like, if an undergrad or someone in college prep just did some invocations for a couple of hours straight their mana pool physically grows. Or else, they can access more than 20% of it without risking death, or both.

    We’d never find out from Mackenzie, just because hers is so large exercise would be about as useful as physical weightlifting.

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      If they were, I feel like that would be a thing someone would have mentioned. It’s a reasonable enough concept to be sure, but I would think that in over 700 chapters we would already have learned about something as basic and fundamental as that. Especially after Mackenzie overdraws with her period either one of the healers would have mentioned such exercises or she would have considered them.

      It is mentioned that along with menstruating women, others can learn to overdraw intentionally. Though this sounds like a risky high level technique, rather than the result of “exercising”.

      Current score: 1
      • Mo says:

        What are you lot on about? It’s only been few chapters since Mack ran into exponential spell problems. Sparkles for Glory. Drained her mana good.

        Current score: 1
      • Nocker says:

        I think you’re confusing basic, low level information with something the audience is going to be quickly privy to.

        I don’t think we learned about dominant or receptive hands until vol. 2. We also didn’t learn that elves couldn’t build strength at all for almost 400 chapters, which was something so basic Mackenzie learned it in highschool, but we obviously couldn’t see before that point. Then there’s the subtle arts, which is used by a lot of characters and even with Mackenzie talking about it even the very basics of it are kind of up in the air.

        This is also the exact kind of thing Mackenzie doesn’t care all that much to look into because it never concerned her. She’s basically always been able to operate with huge reserves so even if she could train, she doesn’t bother, similar to building muscles with her strength. There IS a gym on campus mentioned once, but obviously Mack never set foot there. There could be a magic equivalent gym, but she’d never use it for the same reason.

        Medical types recommend exersize in a general sense, but if you suddenly throw out your back they aren’t going to tell you to start doing deadlifts when you get better. It could be the same thing here where since this was a one off or circumstantial issue, there’s no need to recommend exercise that’s redundant.

        Current score: 1
        • Seth says:

          I would imagine that such a thing existed. There’s obviously a such thing as raw talent, but I can’t imagine that’s the only thing it takes to make an epic level arch-mage.

          Current score: 1
  3. Iain says:

    I love how clever your sub-titles are 😀

    Current score: 2
    • N'vill says:

      Yes quite witty at times and will actually use that one as the punch line to a joke at some stage.

      Current score: 0
  4. Zathras IX says:

    If you only think
    About things when they go wrong
    They’ll never go right

    Current score: 6
  5. Zdawg says:

    “Oh no, I accidentally destroyed your panties while drying them out!”

    Current score: 1
    • Seth says:

      It was rather unconfirmed Nikki was wearing any to begin with. 😉

      Current score: 0
  6. Arancaytar says:

    Cleo

    -> kleos (κλέος)

    -> “glory”

    So yeah.

    (Incidentally part of the root of Cleopatra / Glory of the Father.)

    Current score: 1