Chapter 280: Hair Today

on February 3, 2015 in Volume 2 Book 8: Elven Holiday, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Glory Lights Up

Glory had signed us up for appointments half an hour apart, though when we showed up they had chairs ready for both of us. She asked if it would be okay for me to wait, because she wanted to get my opinion and input.

I don’t know if she was lying completely, but I’m pretty sure the main reason she made that request was so that I could see what was happening with her before I went through it for myself. My experience with hair salons was only slightly more extensive than my experience with spas, and this morning had arguably made that pretty close to a dead heat.

The few haircuts I’d had throughout my freshman year were at the hands of other students. As a very small child, my mother had often cut my hair for reasons of not having any money for barbers. As a teenager, my grandmother had done it, for reasons of thrift, which wasn’t quite the same thing. I know my grandmother did have a fixed income, but her case it was more from a sort of deep-seated belief that paying money for anything relating to a woman’s hair was a form of vanity, even if it was paying to have it shorn off in order to prevent vanity.

I couldn’t blame her that much. While less wrapped up in repressive religious interpretations, my own feelings on the subject were similar. The main reason my hair had slowly turned into an unruly mop was that I had a hard time seeing the stuff growing out of my head as being an appointment-worthy subject.

In the beginning of my independent life it had seemed hard to justify the expense, but now that I had some money and multiple avenues to get more, it still seemed hard to justify the time.

My paralyzing fear of new places and things had also played a part, of course. That had been fading slowly into more of a vague discomfort, but it was still a factor. In fact, I think if I was going to be totally honest, it was probably a factor in how much I felt like the whole thing was a waste of time. It was easier to put off things that made me uncomfortable for irrational reasons if I could wrap them up in rationality.

The simple act of being on vacation did more to overcome that than any amount of thinking about it rationally would have. Sure, I could have felt like taking an hour or so out of the limited time I had on the ship to sit in a chair and have people fuss over my appearance was an even more monumental waste than doing it on a weekend back home, but in the moment, my time didn’t feel limited, and it wasn’t like I had anything else in particular to be doing with it.

I figured could play tourist in a salon chair as easily as I could in a deck chair… and if I had no idea what I was doing and somehow managed to, I don’t know, sit there wrong or something… well, I was a tourist.

Still, it would be better to go second, and see Glory going through the thing.

“Hey, I’m Cherie,” her stylist said. “How long do you want to leave it?”

“Actually, I’m thinking of something completely new,” Glory said. “Cut, color, and style.”

“Oh, really?” Cherie said. “Wow. Most elves who come in with hair like that just want a couple of inches off, straight across.”

“Well, I’m looking for something a little more… distinct,” Glory said. “Something fashionable and modern.”

“Modern how? High glamour?”

“I don’t mind if glamour’s part of it, but I want something that could be natural… on a human,” Glory said. “I’ve been thinking… well, honestly, I’ve been thinking a lot of things. The only thing I know for sure is that I don’t want hair going straight down my back anymore. I don’t want too short. If we go short, it’s going to have to be really feminine-coded or I’m going to be sending a message I don’t want to send.”

“Right,” Cherie said. “Let me just grab something, okay?”

She went and grabbed a binder from under the long counter that ran under the mirror behind the row of chairs.

“This is a book of samples,” she said. She handed it to Glory and then swiveled the chair around to face the mirror, and touched the section of mirror, setting it to shimmer. “It’s linked to the mirror and the chair, so if you touch a picture and invoke it, you’ll get an idea of what it might look like on you.”

“Might look like?”

“Well, it’s not perfect,” she said. “I mean, everyone’s hair and head shape are different, so unless you just want an illusionary shell laid over your head, then we’ll have to work with what we have, you know? There will be some variation, is what I’m saying.”

“Oh, well, I suppose there’s no getting around that,” Glory said, though she sounded genuinely disappointed.

“We do offer a satisfaction guarantee,” Cherie said. “If you aren’t happy, we’ll put everything back the way it was with no charge for anything. Nothing we do here cannot be undone, promise.”

“I’d rather have a guarantee of results, but I suppose that’s the best I can hope for,” Glory said. She opened the binder and touched one of the pictures on the first page almost absent-mindedly. Her image in the mirror shimmered and then became more solid than everything else reflected around it. Her reflection’s hair was now a lot shorter, and framed her face kind of like a pair of parentheses.

I kind of liked it, though it looked very weird on her. I think a big part of the problem was that there was so little difference between her hair and skin color that it lacked definition, but another part of the problem was it was just so different that it looked wrong.

I think it definitely needed someone with darker hair, or at least a greater contrast. The picture was someone with brown hair, almost black.

“Oh, that kind of pageboy cut with the short fringe is super in right now,” Cherie said.

“I should probably stay away from anything called ‘pageboy’, for multiple reasons,” Glory said.

“Oh, that’s just like the name?” Cherie said. “The style that inspired it would not be worn by a boy in modern times.”

“…well, I don’t dislike it, but if it was popular with boys in the past thousand years, I should probably avoid it.”

“No one you know is that old, though,” I said.

“No, but their parents are,” Glory said.

“This is not exactly the historical style, though,” Cherie said. She turned the chair a bit to the side. “The profile in particular is very modern, very distinct. You see how the razor-edge straightness of the side length creates an illusion of tapering where it joins the graduated cut around the back?”

“That’s actually kind of cool,” I said.

Though a bit more what I suspected was chic, it was the kind of hair that was favored by fictional women who had to engage in action-packed battle sequences and also had to be easy to draw and easy to mold toys of. The razor-edge straightness Cherie was talking about probably contributed quite a bit to that impression.

“I’m not sure I like how my ears poke through it,” Glory said. “It kind of breaks it, in my mind? And it also emphasizes that the hairstyle was made for someone with short, round ears.”

“Yes, normally, this style would cover the ears completely,” Cherie said.

“I’d be fine with hair that covers my ears, or that is up and off of them,” Glory said. “It’s the kind of in the middle thing that I’m not sure about?”

“Well, keep flipping. There are a lot of off-the-ears styles to choose from… though if you want something longer, you might have to deal with ears poking through.”

“I guess I don’t mind them poking through so much,” Glory said, turning over the page. “I think it’s just the obvious failed attempt to hide them that… is obvious. I also want to make my hair thicker, and a different color.”

“Not a problem. Were you thinking highlights, or…?”

“Something like this,” she said, pointing to a picture of a woman with hair that was kind of a honey-amber blonde, like Amaranth’s but a shade or two darker. “Something with hues and texture and… you know, layers to it. Not just white gold.”

“Do you know how many human girls come in asking for elven hair in the summer?” Cherie said.

“Find me one and we can swap,” Glory said. “My hair has been the exact same thing for three or four times as long as you’ve been alive, probably. I want something different.”

“Okay, well, let’s do this, then?” Cherie said. “Let me treat your hair for color and add some body and a smidge of curl to it first? Then we’ll have an easier time figuring out what to do with it, because what you’ll see in the mirror will be a lot closer to what you’d actually get.”

“That seems sensible. Okay.”

Cherie led Glory over to a basin, where she had her sit back and lean her hair into it while Cherie washed it and then poured a couple of potions over it. When Glory sat up, her hair was definitely darker and heavier than it had been, though it was hard to tell how much of that was the fact that it was soaking wet. Cherie took a wand out of her apron pocket and passed it all over Glory’s hair at a distance of a couple inches, drawing the water out of it and leaving it dry.

The change was… dramatic. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. It was not the same color as Amaranth’s, but it was close enough to be a little disconcerting.

“I’m going to let you take a look, but in my opinion I think you’ll want to take some of the red tint out,” Cherie said, handing her a hand mirror. “Unless you want a skin treatment as well, I think you’ll find this makes you look a bit too pale.”

“Oh, yeah,” Glory said. “I see what you mean. At first I was thinking about going even darker, but I thought… baby steps. The thing is, I really don’t want to be blonde, you know? I like the waviness, though.”

“Well, the alternative is to go redder instead,” Cherie said. “Gingers and blondes tend to have the same range of skintones, among humans… in fact, there are a lot of pale redheads.”

“Let’s try that, then.”

Glory leaned back into the sink and Cherie mixed another potion. This time, the results were… still striking, but in a more dramatic and impressive way.

“I said auburn, didn’t I?” she said to me. “I should have known to trust my instincts.”

“It… it looks good,” I said.

“I just have misgivings because, you know… copper,” she said. “But I think it looks good. And maybe it will make things less awkward for Semele? No one can give her shit for being a coppertop if I’ve got this beautiful brushfire going on. And I guess I can’t really give the finger to homogeneous gold/silver elf beauty standards at the same time that I’m afraid of offending them, can I?”

“No, but it still feels scary to realize you’re running afoul of them, I bet,” I said.

“Damn straight it does,” she said. “We didn’t get this kind of uniformity of look by being tolerant and accepting of difference.”

“If you like fiery,” Cherie said, running her fingers through Glory’s hair, “I could add some more color highlights, not strictly natural ones but leaving the auburn shades as the dominant theme. Just get some true reds and oranges in there.”

“I think I’d like that,” Glory said. “Make me a fire elf. That would be something new under the sun.”

“You’ve got it,” Cherie said. She wet her hands with potion and then began finger-combing Glory’s hair seemingly at random. The places where she touched shimmered, then turned a bright glowing red that faded into varying hues of flame.

“That is art,” Glory said, watching in the hand mirror. “It’s not what I came in here thinking, but now that I see it, I don’t think I could want anything else.”

“See? This is why it’s good to keep an open mind towards your options. You want to go back and start looking at cuts?”

“You know? I like your instincts,” Glory said. “Would you be comfortable coming up with something that suits me? My requirements are modern, feminine, and something that could be sustained without glamour.”

“How much maintenance are you willing to put in?”

“…I’d say that’s not an issue, but I’ve never had to worry much about maintaining my hair,” Glory said. “I’m willing to learn, or at least pay someone, but the most elaborate thing I’ve done with it before is wrap a tiara up in it.”

“Okay, I’ll try to keep things moderate.”

“You know, I don’t want huge hair, but I don’t want it to just lay there,” Glory said.

“Let’s do something with layers, then. You know, the advantage of the color treatment we gave you is that it kind of speaks for itself? I don’t think we’ll have to do anything too elaborate to satisfy you. You liked the fire theme. Let’s do something with that, how about?”

“One moment,” Glory said. She turned to me. “I think I’m good now, if you are?”

“I think I am,” I said. I turned to Cherie. “Could I see that sample book, though? I kind of liked that modified pageboy… thing.”

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25 Responses to “Chapter 280: Hair Today”

  1. zeel says:

    My capability to imagine the hair described is failing me. I need visual aids. . .

    On another note:

    As a teenager, my grandmother had done it, for reasons of thrift, which wasn’t quite the same thing.

    That’s a great line.

    Current score: 9
  2. Melki says:

    I wonder if the reason Glory’s finger “absentmindedly” fell on that cut was precisely because she thought Mackenzie might like it.

    Current score: 8
    • Trent Baker says:

      Oh yeah, definitely a touch of the subtle art there 🙂

      Current score: 1
  3. Zathras IX says:

    Fiery red hair
    For the queen of sprites and a
    Heart of gold/silver

    Current score: 5
  4. Glenn says:

    So Mack’s thinking of getting a hairstyle which is:

    “Though a bit more what I suspected was chic, it was the kind of hair that was favored by fictional women who had to engage in action-packed battle sequences and also had to be easy to draw and easy to mold toys of.”

    I know Tales of Mu isn’t epic fantasy, but I do sometimes get the impression that Mack is very, very gradually becoming the sort of character who could be the protagonist in an epic fantasy.

    Current score: 6
    • Cadnawes says:

      I think that’s compatible with her deeper self. She’s going into a practical major but you want to get her attention give her a comic book or show her something she can describe as “cool.”

      Current score: 4
    • Nocker says:

      Thinking about it, I think the real difference between the kind of person Mackenzie is becoming and the kind of person who gets action figures isn’t so much scale as it is FLAIR.

      I mean the thing about guys who get action figures is that they have a certain style Mack just hasn’t developed yet. I mean the biggest contrast would be between say, Mackenzie Blaise and Son Goku. They’re both born to a race of bad guys and have hyper extending staves and have super strength. But Mackenzie never developed any kind of style to go with the substance so there’s no real poses you could shift a toy into or techniques for it to copy, if it’s an in universe enaction figure.

      A good example is probably her basic wind spell. She made it into a decent shield against Sooni and something that can smack away Nae, and an ok umbrella, but it’s not a spell she’s practiced with on her own time to become a consistent defense. She also practiced a bit with a lightning bolt and modified it to impress glory, but it’s still a nondescript thing she’s never been able to deploy properly outside a controlled situation, whereas Sooni has this great big flashy bolt she can deploy over and over and over with a good degree of control.

      Current score: 4
  5. pedestrian says:

    Well AE, I am visualizing the portraits(and actresses) of the young Pirate Queen, Elizabeth Tudor, Regina.

    Perhaps Glory is considering the “Long Game”?
    The Imperial Dynasty stumbles, the Mandate of Heaven decays. What opportunities are over the horizon for the ambitious?

    Current score: 1
    • Nocker says:

      The emperor is old and he has no heir. His wife may outlive him, but not by much, and by imperial legal custom her child by anyone else won’t be recognized, due to the emperor alone only holding power formally.

      Though the empires of the world would probably rather die than accept another elvish ruler. They had their day in the spotlight and that cruelty was comparable to what the worst of demons did to humanity in that period. For a society that finds slavery increasingly impalatable a callback to the days of elves stalking and raping en masse would be met with violence, no doubt about it. Not to mention that there are two elf groups, and the other would be justifiably wary of another ethnic purge if another got that kind of dominance.

      Current score: 1
      • Glenn says:

        I don’t think there is any evidence that most humans, or even any humans, think of the period of Elven power as one characterized by “elves stalking and raping en masse”. The reason why Empress Vera’s slight amount of Elven blood is a tiny scandal is not because of anti elven prejudice. Elves are really admired by humans, as for example the mention in this chapter of how many human girls wish they had Elven hair. But the Imperial Republic revolted for an Empire governed by an immortal ruler, and there seems to be a belief in their political culture that immortals, which includes Elves, shouldn’t be allowed to rule them. The fact that if she came to power, she could theoretically rule for centuries or millennia would be the biggest reason most humans wouldn’t want a “Empress Glory”.
        That said though, Glory is certainly ambitious enough to have at least thought of the possibility of taking real power eventually. I wonder if Vera might be related to Glory?

        Current score: 0
        • Glenn says:

          I meant to say, the Republic revolted FROM an empire ruled by an immortal ruler.

          Current score: 1
        • Nocker says:

          I think the thing to consider is exactly what humans are saying what and the number of them saying that compared to elves and part-elves weighing in.

          The only human who’s going into any detail about elves and giving them any kind of superiority is prof. Hart, and he’s doing it less in an “elves are awesome” sense and more an academic “here’s what elves can do” sense. Otherwise when conversation comes up Ian’s reaction is “elves are fucking crazy” and any humans who aren’t having sex with an elf aren’t huge fans. Jimmy for example considers Steff “just another elfblood coasting through life” and Steff took a lot of shit from everyone growing up.

          Not to mention that again, look at folklore. It’s mentioned that The Man’s child molesting out in the woods was just some mistranslation of an elf lord doing more or less the same thing, with implication that elves going around raping human children wasn’t a terribly rare thing, and going by accounts in MoreMu that’s corroborated by actual elves.

          A few human girls might want elven hair, but that’s just a relatively recent trend in a long list of hostilities. It’s also one that won’t count for much if an elfblood tries something and humans start dragging up their dirty laundry. I can guarantee you that if any elves make a more serious bid for power those stories are going to come back to bite them and a million more.

          Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            Don’t forget NENA.

            Racism all around is clearly an issue, whether it’s towards elves or not. However the main issue at hand is that Magesterians would never accept and immortal ruler – it violates the fundamental tenants of their society. A little elvin or dwarf blood that lets them live a bit longer than normal is fine, but anything much past a century is going to be a problem.

            Current score: 1
            • Nocker says:

              All fair points.

              However I think it still bares noting. Magisterians wouldn’t go for an immortal ruler. Even if they did, it’d have a no elves clause. Elves can be government officials, and in fact they seem to be second only to humans numbers wise there, but positions of authority are all human.

              Current score: 0
          • Glenn says:

            I agree that the idea of an immortal ruler doesn’t fit the Imperial Republic’s culture at all well. But I think that if they absolutely had to have a immortal ruler for some reason, most humans would probably think an elf like Glory would be a preferable choice to most of the alternatives, like the “bag of bones” currently ruling the Old Empire, or a Dragon like Embries, because Elves (I think) would be thought to have more in common with humans than most other types of immortal. I think Glory’s interpretation of how humans see Elves is fairly accurate. In Chapter 219, Mack has been looking into hiring a Dwarven clan to renovate Oberrad House, and Mack says:

            “My impression has been that the enmity between elves and dwarves is overstated in the human cultural imagination,” I said.

            “This is true,” she said. “We’ve never particularly been enemies. Dwarves think elves are largely frivolous assholes who are too capable to be ignored… which isn’t a uniquely dwarven perspective, but humans and many other similarly mortal races are also awed by us at the same time in a way that dwarves aren’t.”

            Current score: 1
            • zeel says:

              You think they would choose an Elf over an immortal human? This is a world where you can obtain immortality through a variety of means – hence BoB. And unless all of humankind became immortal, there will always be an option for a mortal ruler – anyone would be better simply because they would have no more than a single life time to screw things up.

              Current score: 1
            • Nocker says:

              If you NEED an immortal ruler, for some incredibly arbitrary set of circumstances that would realistically never come into play, then there are options beyond those ones.

              Remember, immortals can be MADE. Amaranth, Two, and even Mackenzie herself were built by individuals with specific plans in mind and the craft of building divines and golems is down so much so that they nearly have an excess of both.

              Worst comes to worst, an elf still doesn’t get the job, they wind up bowing to some kind of artificial ruler like everyone else.

              Current score: 0
            • Glenn says:

              You make good points. I guess I was thinking of BoB, for example, not as an immortal human, but as someone who’d been transformed through necromantic magic into a being like a lich, which might be far less like a human than even a fairly mortal elf like Glory.
              Nocker, obviously the future rulers of the empire will be determined by some combination of politics and force. While I agree that the idea that Glory could ever become Empress is a very, very low probability, I don’t see the idea of an elven ruler as inherently impossible, if an elf ever achieved sufficient political success. Elves do have both a significant degree of wealth and power in Mack’s world, and also some significant obstacles to gaining much greater power, such as a fairly high but declining general level of human racism and the fundamental human aversion to immortal rulers. Glory is clearly working to increase her personal power, and with Mack’s help is likely to have some success. She’s not ever likely to have the sort of extraordinary success needed to seriously think of becoming Empress, unless AE decided to gradually transform Tales of Mu into an epic fantasy.

              Current score: 0
          • erianaiel says:

            Hmm. revolting to, from or against?
            Or just a revolting empire?

            Current score: 0
  6. Seth says:

    I’m surprised (and pleased) they are not getting matching hair styles.

    Current score: 3
  7. pedestrian says:

    Unfortunately, due to our hollywooded culture people misunderstand the concept of “Imperium”.

    It is an ignorant abuse of the word to confuse “Imperium” with royalty or inherited nobility.

    It would be more accurate to describe the Emperor of Japan with title of High Priest/Pope/Lama Steward for the Goddess. Amaterasu.

    “Imperium” is dictated by victorious armies. More like Shogun. Khan, or Tyrant.

    And who is now the center of a growing meme of multicultural potential?

    “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!”…indeed. Cause “in deeds” is the fledgling of ambition.

    Current score: 0
    • Nocker says:

      Of course the Imperium has an army they aren’t afraid to use. The Emperor himself, and Empress, have direct authority over generals and is considered absolute. The Emperor thinks this isn’t efficient but he doesn’t refuse the convenience.

      Current score: 0