In Which Mackenzie Takes A Diplomatic Pause

I was taken aback, at first in surprise that the professor seemed to already know about my problem and then indignation at how he described it. I was grateful that the moment of shock came first, because it gave me a chance to swallow what would have otherwise have been my first reaction and come up with a more diplomatic tack.

After all, if he knew what was going on then my job was that much easier… and maybe he would have a ready-made solution.

“I don’t know if ‘tiff’ is really the right word,” I said.

“I would not endeavor to assign blame without firsthand knowledge of the situation,” he said, swiveling around in his stool and then hopping to the floor. “But most conflicts do have two sides. But please, do have a seat.”

The professor gestured to a corner of his workshop where there are two little couches, one at a height that could serve anyone from gnome to dwarf height without too much discomfort and one that was sized for people in the near-human range. They were upholstered in the same style, though they looked like they originated in different sets. Something about the arms… the scroll design is similar but not quite identical.

“Did you do these?” I asked him, running my fingers over the velvety covering.

“Oh, yes,” he said. “Little hobby of mine… and ultimately cheaper than having a pair custom made at differing sizes. They aren’t quite a matched set, as I think you might have picked out, but very nearly so. But, do tell me about your problem.”

“I’ve never had a problem with Emily, really… I wasn’t exactly aware of her existence before yesterday, but it’s not like I’ve gone around kicking her or drawing on her walls. Before now, there hasn’t been anything you could call a conflict between us.”

“Is that so?” Professor Stone asked. “Because I’ve sensed a… well, I suppose it would be best to describe it as a coldness or distance between the two of you from the first day of class.”

“Like I said, I wasn’t aware of her,” I said.

“I see,” he said, tenting his hands in front of him.

“Did you know that I was having a bigger problem with her yesterday, then?” I asked.

“Not while it was occurring, no,” he said. “But I could tell that Emily was… distraught… over something, and when I received your message… well, it was a bit of a shot in the dark, but I happen to have excellent nightvision.” He chuckled softly. “In any event, it seemed more than possible that the two were connected, especially given what I’d observed of her reactions to you.”

“I don’t think ‘distraught’ is the word I would use,” I said. “She seemed to be more actually afraid than just upset.”

“Oh? It is possible… while I have my own methods of picking up certain cues, I confess I’m not fully in touch with her moods, and I’m not at all certain I’d recognize the signs of fear the first time I saw them,” Professor Stone said. “If I could see them… but the way you spoke before, I was getting the impression you’re not sensitive to them at all?”

“I wasn’t,” I said. “Not before yesterday. I’ve been going through some… changes, lately. You can’t feel what she feels? I was told that’s how she communicates.”

“Empathic resonance, yes,” Professor Stone said. He tapped the side of his head. “The famous dwarven skull keeps out more than arrows, I’m afraid… I would compare it to not being able to see certain colors. I can be looking at the same picture as you, but not see all the same details. It made my first few weeks in the building a little fraught, until I constructed a device to work as a sort of weathervane… the, ah, weather was certainly stormy yesterday afternoon.”

“Do you know if that was because of me, or did something else set her off first?” I asked.

“My dear, I’m afraid I cannot tell you that,” he said. “I have worked out my ways of communicating in broad terms with the spirit of the building, but even getting a yes or no answer to a simple question would be beyond me.”

“I know someone who might be able to communicate better,” I said. “But I thought it might be best to get your advice on that first, since you would probably know more about her.”

“You understand, place spirits are not at all inmy area of study… this particular modern breed is not really anyone’s. Hard facts are very scant when it comes to awakened structures,” Professor Stone said. “They’re fairly rare, and as a result, it’s enormously difficult to predict when one will occur as there isn’t much basis for comparison among the known cases. It’s an intriguing subject, to be sure, but it’s only because of my association with Emily that I’m aware of it in the first place.”

That made me feel a little bit better about being so in the dark about it… Professor Stone, with his little hobbies, had the sort of aura of general learnedness about him that suggested he knew at least a bit about everything.

“So… Emily wasn’t created on purpose, then?” I asked.

“Well, it would be hard to assemble a building by accident,” he said. “But she was not imbued with life and sentience intentionally, no. It’s an unexpected side-effect of the building process. Factors that are thought to go into it include an overuse of certain kinds of magic, too great a degree of reverence among the builders, local geomantic influences…”

“Wait, too much reverence? You mean if they care too much about what they’re doing, the building might wake up when they finish?”

“It’s a theory,” he said. “One among dozens. Incidents are sufficiently rare that nobody has ever called for a ‘care less about your work’ initiative to prevent them, especially as the results are rarely more than mildly inconvenient and can be considered a net positive in some cases.”

“Does anybody ever… awaken… a building on purpose?”

“To my knowledge, no,” he said. “Whatever advantages a sentient building might possibly offer can be achieved with a greater level of predictability and control through the use of enchantment. Automation and animation are some of the oldest of the enchanter’s arts, after all, and imbuing some semblance of life and intelligence into an edifice and its fixtures was considered an acceptable practice even in times and places where golem-making was taboo. For instance, I believe the half-elven enchanter Philippe du Débrouillard devised a clever series of automated spells to eliminate the need for servants in sensitive areas of the imperial residence.”

“His so-called ‘air golems’,” I said. The thought of Emily being able to pick things up and fling them around alarmed me. Sure, if she threw me into a wall she’d do more damage to herself, but I could be hurt by magical weapons… and there was always one on my belt, even if nobody else happened to be around. “Can Emily…?”

“It may be that this sort of faculty is the sort of thing that one grows into, but thus far she can manipulate only herself,” Professor Stone said.

“She put a kind of barrier at the door,” I said. “It… felt physical. Sort of.”

“Ah, well, the word ‘felt’ is as important to the meaning of that sentence as ‘physical’,” he said. “Were you moved in any fashion that you cannot account for in terms of your own reaction to encountering the barrier?”

“No, I wasn’t moved at all… just stopped, briefly,” I said.

“As you might have stopped yourself if you believed you’d encountered a barrier,” he said. “Did things escalate at all from there?”

“Well, yes and no,” I said. “I mean, things definitely got worse, but there was never anything more physical than that… I kept being looped around the halls and re-routed to an exit, my perception of time and space might have been messed with, and when I left the last time there was the sensation of being shoved or hurried along… but again, nothing I could say was an actual hand on my back.”

“I see,” he said. “Can you tell me the exact order of events?”

“I can try,” I said, and I did.

“Well, that’s a bit more than I knew she was capable of,” he said afterwards. “Still, it’s a bit reassuring that so much of it was or at least could have been a matter of perception. It’s not conclusive, of course, but there’s a strong implication that she couldn’t do more than that, and the possible explanation that there was no physical force at all. That is, either her physical influence is very weak, or what you felt was entirely mental.”

I nodded, agreeing with his logic completely… I’d been nervous about taking a class on aesthetics, since I’d always cared way more about function than form, but Professor Stone cared about both. He loved things that were beautiful, but that wasn’t the same as being shallow.

“So… what can I do about this?” I asked.

“To begin with, I will excuse your absence,” he said. “If it takes more than a day to resolve your difficulties, I will excuse you tomorrow. If the problem cannot be resolved before we meet next week, then… well, at that point you might well consider switching to a different class elsewhere, though if you would like to pursue the matter further I can certainly clear some time for you this weekend where we might tackle it together… though I can’t, obviously, guarantee you anything more than time.”

“You mean I might not be able to attend class at all again?”

“If things cannot be resolved, there is nothing more that can be done,” he said, holding out his hands in front of him. “This isn’t a haunting or something that can be exorcised… the spirit of the building is the building, in much the same way that we are our souls… er, generally speaking.”

“I’m pretty sure I have a soul, but no offense taken either way,” I said.

“I don’t like to presume about the beliefs of students,” he said. “In any event, we cannot move the class or build a new building… if there is some basic incompatibility between you and the venue, then I’m afraid you must look upon it as you would a scheduling conflict, or an intractable conflict between professor and student… though please don’t take that example as a dark hint of anything of that sort. I can sense in you a keen interest of the hows and whys and things, even if you don’t yet have much appreciation for how these questions apply to the outer workings as you do for the inner ones.”

“Do you have any advice for how to approach Emily?” I asked.

“Why don’t you tell me what you have in mind, and I’ll see if I have any advice to offer?” he said.

“Okay,” I said. “Well, I know a nymph… she can communicate on the same level that Emily does, and they’ve already had some friendly interactions. Our thinking is that she could approach Emily… without me… and try to broach the subject. Finding out what’s wrong might not be possible because of the difference in intelligence levels, but she might not need to know exactly what about me bothers Emily to convince her that I’m okay.”

“Sensible,” Professor Stone said. “And sound, as far as I can see… in truth, I’m not sure what else you could do. Sadly, I don’t have a magic wand of building communication or control tucked away somewhere… but as I said, my time is yours.”

“This is the first time this has happened, isn’t it?” I guessed. “When you first started talking, I kind of hoped for a second that the whole thing was going to be familiar territory for you or the school.”

“I’m afraid you’re correct,” he said. “The closest that we’ve come is some few students over the years have declined to attend classes after their first ‘brush’ with the building, but that’s a somewhat different matter. If the building herself routinely rejected students, we wouldn’t be able to use her for classes… but as things stand, well, a lot of resources went into building the design center, and the drawbacks aren’t seen as overwhelming.”

“And obviously my one case isn’t going to be enough to change that,” I said.

“I’m afraid not,” he said. “But by the same token… well, if Emily has never shut anyone out before, it might well be possible to convince her to let you in. I will tell you that we had a rough beginning, her and I, due to my lack of mental sensitivity. Just making the effort to reach out to her did a lot to repair that breach.”

“I think there was something like that with me,” I said. “But I feel like there has to be something more than that… she wasn’t happy when I started to ‘hear’ her, and it seemed like she was starting to panic when she couldn’t get rid of me.”

“That is worrisome,” he said. “But I couldn’t tell you what that might signify… you have my understanding and what aid I can give you, but ultimately it must be your responsibility to solve this problem. I imagine you might understand this better than many undergraduates at the start of their second year, who are used to thinking of their problems as their parents’ problems, or the school’s… you are an adult, though, and your problems are your own to face. That isn’t to say you must face them alone, of course… there is a difference between owning up and being on one’s own.”

I might not have heard the end of his little speech completely correctly, because the fact that he thought I was more than usually capable of facing my own problems momentarily floored me, in a good way. It was pretty much what I’d needed to hear the most after my realizations at last night’s dinner.

“Well, thank you, Professor,” I said. It was a little disappointing that he couldn’t give me more specific aid or advice, but that wasn’t his fault. He wasn’t in charge of the building and if my problem was beyond my power to fix… well, even if I later disagreed that it was solely my responsibility, that didn’t make it his. “I guess that covers everything except for homework and grades?”

“We’ll sort that out when we know how far behind you are,” he said. “If you’re back with us tomorrow, I think you’ll be able to pick things up fairly seamlessly… if you rejoin us within a week I think we’ll be able to catch you up without too much trouble. After that it gets a bit dicier, which is why I think you should be prepared to seek an adjustment to your schedule.”

“Okay,” I said. “I think we’ll try approaching her tomorrow morning, when it’s light out but before the campus gets busy, so hopefully you’ll see me in class after that. If not… I’ll let you know.”

“I have a good deal of hope that I will,” he said. “Emily can be a bit on the immature side, but she is essentially good-natured. An evil building wouldn’t have suited our needs at all.”

“Well, I’ll keep you posted,” I said, and I rose. My inner Two faked a cough, unconvincingly. “Thank you for your understanding, and for the vote of confidence.”

“You’re quite welcome,” he said. “Please, allow me to see you out.”

Tales of MU is now on Patreon! Help keep the story going!

Or if you particularly enjoyed this chapter, leave a tip!

Characters: ,

57 Responses to “Chapter 110: Stone Faced”

  1. Alico says:

    I am quite enjoying the interplay in this situation. I would love to live or take classes in a building with a mind, but maybe that is just me.

    On a second note, could it be that Emily could ignore Mack before, when she did not have strong mental defenses, unlike now, after her training with Mr. Owl Turtle? Or, perhaps, she can feel how Mack Daddy is associated with Mack?

    Makes me wonder…Would a sentient church in this setting put up a divine barrier if it encountered Mack? I am laughing at the moment on the thought of a church building being an ordained cleric of the deity it was built for!

    Current score: 1
    • N. says:

      How about one that officiates weddings? Potentially more seclusive for private ceremonies.

      Current score: 0
  2. dm says:

    Awesome. Story

    Current score: 0
  3. Anthony says:

    I find the professor’s insistence that there’s nothing that can be done if Emily proves intractable a little unsettling.

    There are well-understood ways of dealing with unwanted behavior in any being, human or animal, intelligent enough to have a long-term memory. Simply put, you set a consistent standard, then reward good behavior and punish bad behavior.

    Emily exists for a very specific reason: to provide an environment that facilitates learning. Actively driving students away is bad behavior, by definition, and it appears that Emily has a history of it.

    And yet the thought of applying some form of punishment as a corrective action never even appears to cross his mind. He’s a teacher, right? Hasn’t he ever had to deal with discipline problems in class? The concept can’t be foreign to him…

    Current score: 0
    • Maragratia says:

      “Emily exists for a very specific reason: to provide an environment that facilitates learning. Actively driving students away is bad behavior, by definition, and it appears that Emily has a history of it.”

      Emily does not, that I saw, have a history of it. What he said was that some people have refused to take classes at the Emily Center when encountering her presence for the first time. I took that to mean that some were unsettled at the thought of being inside of a being, were uncomfortable, and decided to pass.

      It may be that efforts can be taken to change the way the Emily Center interacts with students, but doing so without understanding why she was so upset with Mackenzie would surely be foolish. We can Pavlov the Emily Center when we know why she behaved as she did.

      And how, I wonder, do you punish (or negatively reinforce) a building?

      Current score: 0
    • Tamina says:

      It’s a fair point, but how on earth would you discipline a building?

      Current score: 0
      • blink says:

        hire amaranth to give her a empathic spanking?

        Current score: 0
        • Zukira Phaera says:

          but what happens if Emily enjoys it?

          Current score: 0
          • Jasamprn says:

            Then it can be the reward instead.

            Current score: 0
            • fka_luddite says:

              … and the punishment could be (threatening) withholding the spankings.

              However reward/punishment would be a long term solution; resolution could not occur within a reasonable period of time.

              Current score: 0
      • Anthony says:

        I wouldn’t know. I’ve never met one. But that doesn’t mean that people who deal with her on a regular basis wouldn’t be able to come up with something…

        Current score: 0
    • Dani says:

      How do you punish a building, assuming you can communicate with enough specificity? “Do what I say or I’ll bring my dog to pee on your wall”?

      Current score: 0
      • qq says:

        or threaten to paint the design center an ugly shade of puce?

        Current score: 0
    • Cadnawes says:

      Even if they tried to work on this problem for a longer period of time than a week, which they might in case it happens again, Mack would have missed too much class to return to it after a certain point. Whatever they do has to be done quickly or not at all for Mack’s purposes.

      I like that he’s showing her out. That may help with her other problem.

      Current score: 0
    • Gordon says:

      As others have pointed out, how do you discipline a building?

      The Professor says only a few students over the years have refused to attend classes in the Emily building. We don’t know the circumstances of those refusals. It could be those students had some sort of (untrained) limited telepathic abilities, and the building gave them the sense they were being watched or made them uncomfortable. Not that Emily did something to make them unwelcome. They could just sense her awareness and they didn’t like it.

      Furthermore, a building costs millions of dollars. An enchanted building costs even more. An awakened building, being a naturally(so to speak) occurring rarity, most likely increases the prestige of the school.

      What’s a handful of inconvenienced students to a multi-million dollar marvel of modern magical and mundane engineering?

      Current score: 0
  4. Zathras IX says:

    Hard facts are very
    Scant when it comes to wakened
    Structures with soft hearts

    Current score: 0
  5. William Carr says:

    I think Mack needs to buy Emily a present.

    Maybe wash her windows, repaint a dingy wall… or hang some wind chimes.

    That would be a nice gesture.

    Current score: 0
  6. Shannon says:

    Oh, he totally knows about prof. Ariadne. Nice subtle warning there.

    Current score: 0
    • Zergonapal says:

      Perhaps professor Ariadne’s intense hatred and fear of Mack is influencing Emily? She is (Emily) empathic after all.

      Current score: 0
      • fka_luddite says:

        It has been suggested that Ariadne may have knowingly influenced Emily. If this is so and were to come out, the situation would then be a problem for the school (I believe the lawsuit is still pending). Given the Prof’s belief in the inviolability of her tenure, this would be a prolem for Vice-Chancellor Embries.

        Current score: 0
        • Zergonapal says:

          I think Embries views inconveniences like cupcakes. The only reason he didn’t eat Mack is likely because she lawyered up so he couldn’t disappear her without generating more problems. Then again maybe half-demons give him gas.

          Current score: 0
          • Zukira Phaera says:

            or heartburn

            Current score: 0
          • Abeo says:

            The law firm that represents her is practically owned by Embries. He would have little trouble influencing things to make her disappearance a non-issue.

            No, the reason he didn’t eat her was simply because she didn’t appeal at the moment. A side-effect of her fertility suppressants is apparently that they also turn off her “demon female deliciousness” that she has theorized exists.

            Current score: 0
    • Erm says:

      Which warning are you referring to?

      Current score: 0
      • Brenda says:

        I’m guessing this:

        “…if there is some basic incompatibility between you and the venue, then I’m afraid you must look upon it as you would a scheduling conflict, or an intractable conflict between professor and student… though please don’t take that example as a dark hint of anything of that sort…”

        Current score: 0
  7. Prospero says:

    The professor GESTURED to a corner of his workshop where there ARE two little couches, one at a height that could serve anyone from gnome to dwarf height without too much discomfort and one that WAS sized for people in the near-human range. They WERE upholstered in the same style, though they looked like they originated in different sets. Something about the arms… the scroll design is similar but not quite identical.

    I dunno it kinda seems a bit of a tense disagreement, not like a typo per se but it squicks my ear.

    Current score: 0
    • anelfgirl says:

      Not at all. The couches ARE present. They WERE upholstered previously.

      Current score: 0
      • Brenda says:

        Mack generally narrates in past tense. This is inconsistent, and since it’s just this one spot it’s reasonable as a possible typo.

        Current score: 0
  8. N'ville says:

    Emily is empathic, it only needs Ariadne to go into or possibly even just near while Ariadne is feeling hate for Mack. It doesn’t actually need Ariadne to have deliberately instructed Emily to force Mack out.

    Current score: 0
    • P says:

      Yeah, and it probably trusts Ariadne more than Mackenzie just in the way that you trust someone you know more than someone you don’t know unless you have some specific reason not to.

      Narratively though, I don’t think there would just be a sentient building that forces Mackenzie out and then Amaranth automatically resolves it and we never hear about it again. I do suspect that it this is part of SOMEONE’s intentional actions and we’re going to hear more about whatever is going on.

      Going around and trying to spread fear of Mackenzie fits Ariadne’s history but there are a lot of people who could have their own motivations. To go further out, Mackenzie’s father could be manipulating Emily with the goal of eventually weakening Mackenzie’s mental defenses. Or one of Mackenzie’s enemies from last year could be purposefully messing with Mackenzie. Hopefully Amaranth can find more out, at least to the extent of if someone was pushing Emily to get scared.

      Current score: 0
      • Erm says:

        I do suspect that it this is part of SOMEONE’s intentional actions

        Could well be Ariadne. (Or Mur-Si, I suppose, though I don’t see how inconveniencing Mack would fit in her plans.)

        I do suspect it’s part of the same campaign that involved taking Callahan’s mockboxes. Someone with a lot of influence is trying to mess up Mack’s academic life, possibly hoping to force her out of the school.

        To go further out, Mackenzie’s father could be manipulating Emily with the goal of eventually weakening Mackenzie’s mental defenses.

        That’s an interesting theory. Mack’s father wouldn’t really have to manipulate much – just entering the building, letting her feel his nature and being generally menacing, would probably have the effect we’ve seen.

        Current score: 0
        • Zergonapal says:

          I really think we are looking at Cherkov’s elf here. Mack seemed surprised at the depth of hatred and fear evidenced by Ariadne.
          Granted the story has a first person perspective and we can’t see what the Man and Merci are up to, but this is still ultimately a story and as such must follow a certain structure.
          By this I mean that the author cannot introduce a new element towards the resolution without it stinking up the whole plot, otherwise you get a situation like the Starchild in Mass Effect 3.
          Also it just makes no sense for either the Man or Merci to mess with Mack on this level. The Man wants, who knows what he wants, maybe a kick arse warrior princess? He needs to drive Macks friends away, work on alienating her from society so his path looks more appealing. Merci wants half demon babies from Mack so she needs to engineer some kind of circumstance that puts Mack in dire financial need where the offer of a cool million gold coins is going to be too good to resist. Ticking off an awakened building…it would be trolling just for the hell of it.

          Current score: 0
  9. Readaholic says:

    Awesome update. I’m inclined to think that Emily’s fear of Mack is possibly due to Emily sensing general fear of Mack as “evil half-demon”, and possibly due to some reaction to the infernal part of Mack’s mind.
    I don’t think it’s due to Ariadne or anyone else deliberately scaring Emily.

    Current score: 0
  10. Fakir says:

    Could not Emely have found out that mack has hurt a building?

    Current score: 0
  11. pedestrian says:

    Great chapter Alexandra! This displays the difference between sentient and sapient.

    My hypothesis that the Emily is still a {relatively} young entity seems almost correct. Though Professor Stone’s description suggests to me that Emily is at least a tweener, maybe even Mackenzie’s age. And this entire Tale of Tail has been about surviving and evolving the late teen years into young adulthood.

    What would be the similar experience for a feminine building to snatch-hatcher menses?

    Back when that awful “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” hokum was popular, my wife and I came up with a routine as a retort to the drivel.

    I would suggest: “No, Women are from Luna and Men are from Uranus.”

    And my wife would do the punchline: “We Women may be lunatics a few days a month. But you Men are assholes everyday!”

    Current score: 0
  12. Greenwood Goat says:


    place spirits are not at all inmy area of study…

    Missing space.

    I’m reminded of Japanese folklore, where regular household items attain sentience on reaching their hundredth year of existence. There are a number of special examples of these tsukumogami, such as the karakasa – a traditional paper umbrella that grows a single eye and a leg with a sandal-shod foot – and the bura-bura – a paper lantern that gains the ability to stick its tongue out at you. I’m not aware of any common examples of this happening to entire buildings, though, although there are many stories involving entities taking up residence.

    Anyway, back to in-universe practicalities. We’ll have to see how negotiations fare. Vice Chancellor Embries could probably pull rank if he wanted to, but Mack isn’t going to want to ask him. This might be one of the few situations where Callahan would be unable to bring force to bear (not that she would be inclined to pick a fight with an art building anyway). I do wonder whether it would be possible to “kill” such a sentience without damaging the building that created it, and whether anyone has been working towards this, with any success.

    Current score: 0
    • Erm says:

      If Callahan can kill a god, a sentient building is easy.

      Of course, there wouldn’t be much left of it, so that should probably be Plan E or F.

      Current score: 0
  13. LetsSee says:

    Or is the Owl Turtle messing with Emily, and Emily recognizes its influence on Mack, so is accusing Mack for the Owl Turtle’s activities?

    Current score: 0
  14. TheTurnipKing says:

    No. If anything, the Owl Turtle just made some subtle nudges to Mack’s thinking, of which Mack would generally have approved but perhaps might not have been capable of without an outside influence. One offshoot is that she’s a little more alert and on the ball, and another offshoot is that she finally “heard” Emily.

    I’m thinking someone else has set Emily against Mack, who Emily already didn’t like because of her previous close-mindedness. Some horror stories about demons to an impressionable child, and she goes from disliking Mack to actively trying to get rid of her.

    Communication is more than verbal. All it takes is for Emily to see the effect of Mack on someone she actually likes and we have the current situation.

    Current score: 0
  15. Crissa says:

    You’d think Mack would get used to being the first to have a particularly unique complication. Magic allergy and all.

    Current score: 0
  16. Riocaz says:

    I wonder if someone has been spending time in emily telling stories of how terrible half-dmons are and how they burnt down the buildings of the university in the past…
    It would be a terrifying thought for an aware building… And then someone who was resolutely ignoring you making it impossible for you to get a feel of them… Suddenly opens up to you slightly and the feel of them makes you realise they are one of these terrible half-demons…

    Current score: 0
  17. Anne says:

    Actually Mack has been thinking antagonistic thoughts about the building ever since she started attending classes there. Therefore there is no wonder that the building is a bit antagonistic toward her. Also since Mack has a natural affinity for fire she would be very able to damage/destroy Emily.

    I don’t discount the possibility that a certain professor may be influencing her but I don’t see the necessity of that for this situation to have occurred.

    Current score: 0
    • TheTurnipKing says:

      It’s debateable whether those antagonistic thoughts are actually entirely Mack’s, though. If they’re communicating by emotion, it’s quite possible the two of them are feeding off each other’s negative reactions without realising it. Negative feedback loop.

      Current score: 0
      • Stonefoot says:

        Actually, though it may seem conter-intuitive, this is a positive feedback loop. As an example, the voltage regulator on the alternator in a car lowers the voltage when it detects a higher than normal voltage and raises the voltage when it is low. So the feedback opposes the original change. This is a negative feedback loop and, properly designed, leads to a stable situation.

        With Mack and Emily, each ones feelings are causing the other’s to increase. This is a positive feedback loop and generally leads to a ‘runaway’ situation where everything ends up at one extreme or the other. So, although the emotions involved are negative, the feedback loop is positive.

        Current score: 1
  18. Brenda says:

    The more speculation I see about what Ariadne did to make Emily hate Mack, the less I think that’s going to be what happened…

    Current score: 0
    • Stonefoot says:

      Really. There seems to be so much in the situation pointing to Ariadne that she’s looking less and less like a ‘Chekov’s elf’ and more like a red herring. On the other hand, she could be ‘The Purloined Letter’ who is ignored because she is just too obvious, and turns out to be hiding in plain sight.

      Current score: 0
      • Zergonapal says:

        Could be, or could be that she is a red herring for this arc and it is setting up for something to come. Or it could be that Mack unintentional snub of Emily, when Professor Stone reminded the students to say hello, rubbed Emily the wrong way and this was aggravated by Aridne’s negative feelings for Mack.

        Current score: 0
      • Brenda says:

        Also, the fact that Ariadne has an office near Professor Stone’s does not have any sort of logical connection with the problems Mack needs to talk to Prof. Stone about!

        It’s only “obvious” because the comments took the possibility up and ran with it. Obvious that Mack has a concern when visiting Prof. Stone, yes; obvious that Ariadne is the cause of the difficulties, not at all!

        Current score: 0
      • Brenda says:

        That is to say, there is NOTHING in the situation “pointing to Ariadne”! The ONLY reference to Ariadne outside of the comments is regarding the location of her office in the Student Center!

        Current score: 0
  19. pedestrian says:

    It just popped into my head to wonder.

    If the Emily Building was not deliberately created,
    how did ‘she’ get her name?

    And, what influenced ‘her’ to manifest as ‘feminine’?

    Current score: 0
    • Erm says:

      The full name is “The Emily Dactyl Center for Design”. Emily Dactyl is presumably either a private sponsor or a famous person honored by the dedication of the building.

      When the building manifested as sentient, it just became a convenient coincidence.

      Current score: 0
      • pedestrian says:

        Thanks Erm for the reminder.

        Since the building was named after a woman, perhaps that influenced the manifestation towards female?

        And please do not fireball me for political incorrectness for offering the following hypothesis.

        ‘Emily’ is acting sentient, i.e. emotional/personable/empathic/sympathetic and hostile. That does not mean ‘she’ is sapient, i.e. intelligent/intellectual/prudent/discriminatory/tolerant/enlightened.

        If ‘Emily’ is still an adolescent female ‘her’ behavior is understandable and requires nurturing and mentoring. The term ‘delicacy of parenting’ comes to mind.

        Especially depending upon the periodicity of ‘her’ catamenia

        Current score: 1
  20. Burnsidhe says:

    There’s also the fact that Mack IS a half-demon, and we know from previous chapters that touching or reading a half-demon’s mind is almost as unpleasant and disturbing as touching or reading a full demon’s mind.

    Durkon’s Hammer. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the actual explanation.

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      I agree with this. It’s not about WHO Mack is, it’s about WHAT she is.

      Current score: 0
  21. Ryzndmon says:

    I can’t believe nobody else commented on the “There and Back Again” phrase Hazel made. It was the name of the book Bilbo Baggins wrote about his adventures *shudder* in the Hobbit.

    Current score: 0