The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's

The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
Will found herself in an empty classroom. It was surely a classroom, possessing many features commonly found in classrooms; a blackboard (still marked with the half-erased lessons of the previous day), a number of old wooden desks and sturdy metal chairs and a teacher’s desk with folders and textbooks and a short pile of marked worksheets. In other ways though it seemed more akin to a dungeon. Those sturdy chairs had worn shackles mounted to the armrests, and there were flecks of blood amongst the chalk marks upon the blackboard. Then there were the jars along the teacher’s desk, heavy jars containing small oily black objects that Will suspected might be moving ever so slightly. This was clearly not the kind of place she wanted to linger.

Will quickly made for the door, it was twice as tall as she was and entirely metal. She fully expected it to be locked. She was surprised when thankfully it pulled easily open, even more surprised and alarmed when doing so revealed something that looked like a nightmare come to life. It was almost exactly the archetype of the harsh old schoolmarm down to the grey hair pulled back into a harsh bun and the beady wire framed spectacles. But there was an obvious wrongness about her. Her features were more sharp than they had anyone’s ought to be, her limbs longer and thinner. Her teeth were like shining white stakes that Will could not understand how they could fit into her mouth.

If she had been carrying her crossbow at that precise second Will would almost certainly have fired it upon instinct alone. In fact, where was her crossbow? She glanced to her belt to discover she was wearing a school uniform (grey, maybe with the tiniest hint of blue) instead of her preferred outfit.

A long finger reached out, touching her beneath the chin and pushing her face up to face the schoolmarm approximation. It was only at this point she realized she had been talking to her. “-your second warning.” She concluded, and then looked expectant, clearly waiting for an answer to a question Will hadn’t heard.

“Sorry could you repeat that?” Will ventured.

The teacher tutted and shook her head sadly. “Sorry, could you repeat that ma’am.” She corrected.

Will bristled. Even though she could not hear it she knew from that exaggerated pronunciation that it was a tone of voice she did not appreciate. She folded her arms and stared down the schoolmarm monstrosity. “I stand by my wording.” she said flatly.

The revulsion in the black pits that served as the creature’s eyes was palpable, but there was also something resembling a smirk around the corners of her mouth. “You, young lady, have just earned yourself a detention.” She was reaching out towards Will with those unnaturally long arms.

Will instantly regretted this course of action. This thing probably did deserve to die (it might be kind of prejudicial to make this assumption based solely on its appearance and apparent ownership of a dungeon but Will was fine with that), but she probably shouldn’t have sought to anger it while she wasn’t sure about the location of her crossbow. Even aside from that there were other things going on right now which might mean it wasn’t worth picking a fight with every living nightmare she stumbled into.

But the creature stopped with its long fingers gripping onto Will’s shoulder and glanced at something behind itself. Will had to crane to the side to see a girl standing behind the schoolmarm creature. She had jet black skin and glittering jewels for eyes and she was wearing the same grey/blue uniform that Will had unexpectedly found herself in.

“-clearly a new girl who doesn’t know any better ma’am.” The girl said. Will wasn’t fond of this description but restrained any outrage she might have felt. The schoolmarm looked back at Will, seeming to scrutinize her this time. Her eyes quickly alighted on the bruises visible at her neck.

“Of course, it would appear that you are correct Ms. Night.” She turned back to face Will entirely. “Welcome to Mademoiselle Primfel’s Ms. Pell. I am Madam Gibarti; Mistress of Remedial Education and Discipline. I will excuse your unruly behaviour this once due to your obvious unfamiliarity with our rules. It is a generosity that you will not receive again.” She narrowed her eyes. “That said, I would still like to know what exactly you are doing down here in the Nocte, in my classroom outside of class hours.”

“I got lost.” Will said, not missing a beat. Madam Gibarti raised an eyebrow. “Ma’am.” Will added with obvious distaste.

“Hm.” Madam Gabarti looked thoughtful. “You must have a spectacularly poor sense of direction to end up all the way down here. Were you not issued with a map?” She paused for a second, not long enough for Will to communicate a yes or no. “I am sure you can pick one up at your assigned dorm.” Increased scrutiny. “You would be… human? Is that correct?” Will nodded. “Ms. Night please escort Ms. Pell to the human dormitory.”

“My pleasure ma’am.”

Madam Gibarti smiled. “It was an experience to meet you Ms Pell. Do try to behave yourself and hopefully our paths need not cross again. Somehow I doubt it though.” Madam Gibarti strode past Will and into her classroom.

“This way Pearls.” Ms Night said, grabbing Will’s hand and hurrying off down the corridor in what appeared to Will to be no different to any other direction.

“Call me Will.” she replied.

“Here’s a little tip, one rebel to another; don’t try to fight them Pearls.” Ms Night lowered her voice as she lead Will through the maze of harshly lit corridors. “ I tried, I hated the subtle ways this place tries to reshape who you are, turns out they’ve got plenty of non-subtle ways to achieve the same ends and you don’t wanna find out what they are. Not everyone here is as quick to anger as The Beast herself, but sooner or later you push hard enough you’re gonna wish that you hadn’t.” She glanced back and Will, giving her her widest smile. “Trust me, the best way to rebel is to play the game; do whatever you have to to get out of here. Don’t give them the satisfaction of breaking you down.”

Will heard none of this good advice, thanks to the fact that Ms Night gave it whilst facing forwards Will remained completely unaware that any advice had even been offered.

Will’s attention was fixed on her surroundings; the heavy metal doors and occasional barred windows they passed. As they made their way through the dingy corridors of the Nocte, they passed only one other person; a slight girl with elfin features and a look of panic upon her face. She appeared to be being dragged forwards by some unseen force.

After a minute or so navigating through the bleak indistinguishable corridors they came to a room containing at its centre a spiral staircase. The staircase both ascended and descended, though glancing down the stairwell there was nothing to be seen but blackness (there was a box with wooden torches, Will presumed, for those unfortunate enough to seek to descend further). Ms Night led her up the stairs to the first floor, where the harsh electronic lighting was replaced with the gentle sunlight of morning. Here they left the stairs, though the stairs themselves continued upwards, leaving the stairway chamber, down a short corridor (which was noticeably more pleasant than the basement had been) and into a courtyard.

There was a plaza area at the centre with a number of benches arrayed around an elaborate fountain spraying some kind of black liquid dotted with what appeared to be stars. The courtyard was filled with exotic plantlife, notably something resembling a willow tree but with pink fluorescent leaves stood on their immediate right. On the far side to the left there was an enormous plinth engraved with the words “Mademoiselle Primfel” in a number of languages at once. Atop this pedestal stood a conspicuous absence.

Ms Night turned to face Will. “Human dorm is just through those doors, past the statue of Primfel.” She pointed past the empty plinth to a set of human sized doors. “Present yourself to reception and they’ll let you know where to go.”

“Thanks.” Will said automatically.

“You’re welcome Pearls.” Ms Night gave her a wink. “Come and find me at Concepts sometime. Ask for Kys.” With that she let go of Will’s hand, and jogged back in the direction that they had come. Will watched her go, reasonably sure she’d missed something but unsure what.

The courtyard was reasonably quiet, busier than the basement had been but barely. A couple of girls in uniform loitered in the plaza whilst others hurried to wherever it was they were due. Will took this moment of relative peace to consider her situation.

Thanks to his erratic movement from one battler to another and his constant glances down at his sheaf of notecards, Will had had a difficult time keeping a line of sight on The Sophisticate’s mouth. As a result she’d missed much of the introductions and explanations, she had however got the gist of the thing; that he expected they would kill one another simply because he told them to. Will was not good at doing what she was told. She resolved to make friends as hard as possible with everyone as soon as possible.

(Though that said there were a couple who had that sort of look to them; that too perfect beauty she’d learned to spot as the sign of a fae in human form, maybe she could acquiesce to The Sophisticate’s demands just a little… for a good cause.)

Will made her way through the courtyard to the plaza, pulled off her backpack and set it down on the nearest unoccupied bench. She opened it up to find her crossbow and quiver of bolts neatly packed alongside her clothes and atop that a map of the Academie. Will started to work out how she could best wear her crossbow and quiver with her uniform when she considered that maybe that might not be the best idea. She’d have to ask what the rules on weaponry were.

Everyone who had been loitering in the plaza started to hurry off, and Will supposed that a bell had probably sounded. She slipped her backpack back on and hurried off in the direction of the Human dorms.
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RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
I simply ask you to combat one another over seven perilous rounds-- maybe more than seven perilous rounds, until one of you stands triumphant, the sole survivor of this battle.

Georgia mulled over his words as she navigated her way to the dormitories, her tail flicking irritably back and forth with every step. She felt like she should be feeling something serious, like a sense of crushing hopelessness or fear for her life or dread about her place as an insignificant mote in a hostile universe, but she just felt annoyed. This was just another unlucky break, and she couldn't mentally categorize it as anything more than another obligation she had to deal with. At least I'm not panicking over this, she thought, sliding past a circle of dour, grey-faced schoolgirls who shot the bright pink catgirl a collective look of momentary confusion.

Her eyes flicked over the map again, double-checking that she was clambering up the right stairway, her athletic shoes tapping out a squeaking, staccato rhythm against the marble steps. Maintaining her balance on the eroded stone was a struggle with her worn-out heels-- an unpleasant reminder to look into better shoes, Georgia noted. She glanced at the map again at the top of the steps, stammered out a half-baked apology to a student she almost ran into, and skirted down a corridor to the relative, temporary safety of her dormitory.

"Okay," Georgia said, affording herself the luxury of thinking out loud now that no one was present to judge her. "Figure out what I'm working with, lay low, find Sorry, raise hell. Shouldn't be hard."

The first thing she noticed was what the Academie had provided, laid out on her bed-- a school uniform, a schedule, and a letter congratulating Kyuume-chan Sakura on her choice of finishing school and extolling the virtues of conformity, discipline, misery, and anorexia. Georgia unceremoniously tossed out the letter and leafed through her schedule, saving the uniform for last. "Yeah, okay, I can work with this," she mumbled, noting that she had twenty minutes to get to her first lesson. "Not going to be pleasant, but I can work with it."

A quick check of her pockets and book-bag confirmed she still had everything she kept on her person-- wallet, mecha license, student identification card, keys to Sorry, nutrient bars, credit-sticks and food stamps, depression medication, irritant spray, spare contacts, omni-screwdriver and miscellaneous tools, notebooks, pens, cell-phone, data tablet, sewing kit and thread, duct tape, and the acceptance letter she had been forced to decline. The phone didn't have reception-- not that it would do me any good, she realized.

"Okay, so, he's a misogynistic, sophomoric imbecile but at least he didn't touch my stuff. That's-- good, I guess."

"That just leaves-- this," she continued, focusing on the pile of clothing. Georgia's ears flattened against her head and her tail twitched irritably as she dissected the folded uniform. The pleated tartan skirt had a hemline far higher than her liking and lacked accommodation for her tail, the blouse was missing several buttons, the blazer and tie both looked as though they'd gone through countless students before Georgia, and the thigh-length socks were perforated with tears and holes.

"This is so fucking stupid," Georgia bitterly complained to no one, and began to get dressed.


In her normal attire, Georgia could almost pass for being fashionably poor. With her incomplete uniform, considering she was still wearing her beat-up athletic shoes, there was no mistaking her financial state. The catgirl sighed tetchily, as she mentally braced herself for class; her face took on its standard apathetic frown, bitter and cynical enough to deter anyone who would consider talking to her. She quickly brushed her hair with her fingers until it was barely acceptable and walked out of her dormitory, managing a brisk jog down a set of corridors--

--and immediately into the clutches of a gang of loitering upper-class students.

"You look new." The question came out less as a statement of inquiry, and more as a wail of fettered souls and crackle of negative energy. Georgia blinked, then rubbed her eyes and blinked again. Leaning against the wall opposite her was a skeleton, dressed in a somber, all-black school uniform. Tasteful necromantic jewelry of blackened silver and onyx decorated her ivory bones, and her eye-sockets glowed with dull infernal flames. Flanking her were two more schoolgirls-- one human, with a half-feral look in her eye and a dog collar around her neck, and another somewhere halfway between an indistinct, predatory feline and a human.

"Not literally, I mean. Look at those shoes." The two girls accompanying her giggled cruelly. "And the hair-- oh, you poor, poor sap." In an instant a skeletal hand was messing with her hair, two claw-like fingers twisting and pulling its strands-- Georgia couldn't help but shiver slightly with the front of unearthly cold coming off the bones.

"Really? Pink? Did you think that was cool?"

Georgia rolled her eyes. "I need to get to class," she lied.

"Wrong answer," the human said, getting up from the wall and adjusting to a hunched, predatory stance and shifting-- growing patches of spotted fur and claws and sharp, canine teeth. Her transformation was cut short, as the skeleton rested a bone-chilling hand on the werewolf's shoulder. "Now, now, Victoria," she chided. The werewolf growled, but backed down and slowly shifted back to a more human form as she relaxed again. "This isn't your public school in the slums, kitten. We expect a certain standard--" the lich waved a skeletal hand heavy with onyx jewelry to indicate her clique, presumably to indicate the standard Georgia was falling short of, "--here at Mademoiselle Primfel's. Why are you even here?"

Georgia mentally groaned at the prospect of being verbally berated. She had been through this more times than she cared to count. "Look, I really--"

"Up-bup-bup," the lich shushed Georgia, before she could continue. "It's miss Morinaga to you. And even you should know better than to talk back, kitten." Noticing the uncomfortable twitch in Georgia's ears, the lich continued. "Oh, are you for real? The ears?" A bony digit curled back and flicked at one of them, sending a shock of negative energy down her spine. Georgia winced, then swallowed as she suppressed the genetic reflex to raise her hackles and hiss.

"Ohh, I'm so sorry," Mori said, emphasizing the last word with something that sounded less like sarcasm and more like a wraith's hiss; she was savoring the discomfort Georgia was experiencing. "They're real? Really? Were you born with these, or did you just have one surgery too many? You spent all your family's money on them, didn't you?"

Another burst of mocking giggles echoed through the hall from her clique. "And for what, to become a fetish item?" Mori asked, idly twisting Georgia's hair.

Georgia's scowl hardened, in spite of the painful twisting and pulling. She was bored, more than anything-- the pinching and grasping was aggravating, but the verbal abuse was nothing she hadn't heard before.

The feline in Mori's clique finally looked up from her phone-- her eyes darted between the screen and Georgia several times. "You're not one of the-- you are, aren't you?"

For a brief moment, Georgia felt some reprieve as the lich's claws disentangled themselves from her hair. She quickly brushed out some of less comfortable knots with her hand, for the sake of appearances more than anything.

"Mori, Victoria, look at this," she continued, flipping the screen to show the other two-- Georgia only caught a momentary glimpse, but knew immediately what was to come. "Nekomata, made to order. Looks like our little kitten here is someone's mail-order plaything." Tori immediately burst into harsh, hyena-like laughter, which was immediately followed by the hollow sound of bound souls rattling as Mori joined in. "Oh, that is rich-- unlike you, kitten. Genetically engineered to be idiots? Really?" She said, to the accompaniment of derisive titters. "Seriously, why are you even here? Did your owner--"

In retrospect, it was probably the wrong time for Georgia to yawn.

It was a large yawn, too, a proper cat’s yawn, showing the bizarre combination of human teeth and sharpened fangs inside her mouth. "Are you done yet? I have better things to do than listen to a brittle, decayed corpse with a superiority complex call me a slut."

For a brief moment, Mori was taken aback-- she stumbled a half-step backwards and the flames in her eye-sockets flared slightly, going from dull, smoldering candles to bright pinpricks of light. In short order she recovered-- she adjusted her skirt and straightened out her spine, until she was properly looking down on Georgia.

"Tori, why don't you teach our little kitten a lesson in respect."


"What is going on here? What is the meaning of this?"

The teacher's voice brought Georgia back into focus and out of her blurry, disoriented haze. Stinging pain coursed along her skin while sharp, searing jolts traveled deeper through her arms and legs. She could feel cold, wet rivulets dripping down her legs, and the taste of copper in her mouth-- she must have accidentally bit her tongue. Georgia took a deep breath, desperate for air, and fought her body as she forced herself to stand up. Her nerves were screaming after the pummeling, but the part of her that was furious over the injustice of the situation asserted itself past the agony.

"An accident, Mistress Hangnail. Victoria was close to full moon, and this new student came running into us. Sometimes, we must let nature take its course. If it hadn’t been her, it might have been you, Mistress Hangnail. It’s all I can do to keep Victoria in line." Mori's voice echoed down the hall, the cackling necromantic energy almost-but-not-quite approximating a mix of flattery and insincere obeisance. It was clearly a tone she had not quite perfected.

The teacher looked over Georgia, examining the multitude of bruises and scrapes. Her expression almost seemed to communicate the barest hint of pity, as though she was equally helpless. "Very well. Hurry on to class, I don't need to remind you that loitering in the hallways is forbidden."

"Be seeing you later, kitten," Mori said, leading her clique away.

"Go to hell," Georgia quietly shot back, immersed in too much pain to articulate anything more scathing. She sighed, then growled discontentedly as she gathered her belongings and again made her way to class.
RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
“Where are we?” The Verdant Queen demanded.

The answer to that was: at the very rear of Mademoiselle Primfel's. On one side they saw the ironwrought fence topped with menacing spikes, cutting them off from a young conifer forest. On the other side, the academy rose tall above them — a great gothic edifice of stone and glass, arches and sharp spires, within which young women were, allegedly, educated. (Not that she knew the word “gothic”.)

The Verdant Queen crouched, putting her palm to the concrete. Her other hand rubbed her chest, as if she felt some pain in her heart. “I can’t— I can’t feel my land. How far away are we? Are we even in Cill Mórinis? Völsung, I can’t feel it!” What was she wearing? Some stiff grey outfit made of a material she didn’t recognise. No armour, no cloak. Even her sword was gone. Her sword was gone, and her land was gone, and she was alone and vulnerable and there was a fairy hunter and a demon

So, it can be said that The Verdant Queen was not the contestant taking events the most calmly.

She was ten seconds into trying (and failing) to scrabble up the fence when she felt a firm hand on her wrist. “Stop. Calm yourself, spirit. You must not let fear and panic poison your mind,” The Summoner said sternly. Her voice of authority cut through the flighty dryad’s panic. “We surely are not in Cill Mórinis anymore, not even our own world, but I will see about getting us back home. Just stay calm and watch for trouble.”

The Summoner closed her eyes to concentrate. Okay. She was in a foreign dimension, not entirely sure where her home was, but she could solve this: she was a dimensional mage. Admittedly, she usually summoned other entities to her, rather than transporting herself to anywhere else, but the principles should be the same. Okay… so she had to calculate in the opposite direction, figuratively, with more variables and unknowns, and do it between two different dimensions without knowing where she was. To do this properly, rigorously, would take days, weeks or even months of research. But… maybe she could take some shortcuts. Estimate an equation here, make a few assumptions there, leave ‘destination’ as a free variable and allow her spell to dynamically find her home dimension…

The air around them began to waver. The familiar acrid smell began to tickle her nostrils. She could feel the fiery latticework of magic forming under her control. She had the raw power. Now she just had to smooth it out and find her destination. A wheezing, groaning noise emanated from nowhere, like a man torturing a piano with his keys — and it quickly became angrier, shuddering in the air, a demon’s heart ready to blow.

Something was wrong. She’d expected it to be rough and cantankerous, to require on the fly adjustments to her calculations. But it felt like something was resisting her, a hurricane churning the ocean she was trying to sail. The Sophisticate? This place? Who knew, but it was clear to The Summoner that her portal back home would remain a distant dream for now.

She stopped feeding it power, and siphoned off what was already there. The noise slowly faded away, the air calmed, and they were once again in the silent stone courtyards of whatever this place was.

“Völsung, we haven’t…”

“I know. Stay calm and let me think,” Völsung commanded, a small glint of her former Dark Age self showing through centuries of age.

“My magic is being countered, likely by this being The Sophisticate, given he was powerful enough to pull us and others from our own dimensions. Perhaps he is even as powerful as my mentor, which means we can’t take him on directly in battle. However, he didn’t know much about me, nothing about you, and I am guessing what we got of the other beings and demons was just a tidbit as well. He is not all seeing obviously, and… he was reading off cards. Hmm. He might not be our problem at all. There is another, perhaps a group even, of beings doing this.” It was only then that the dragúnsídhe looked down at her clothing, face creasing in disgust. “I suppose we must play this game of theirs to gain time. Question is, what game are we playing exactly? This doesn’t exactly look like a gladiatorial arena.”

“... Gain time? Nngh.” The Verdant Queen made an animalistic noise of distress. She shook her head and pushed her fingers through her hair. “Völsung, we don’t have time. Our kingdoms are on the brink of war. Every hour we’re gone…”

“The one who rushes into battle is first to be destroyed… Our kingdoms will not fall overnight.” She paused, and the hard, military edge in her eyes softened. “I know being severed from your lands must be painful, but please bear it, for we need to think about the here and now.” Völsung began to search the few pockets her horrid outfit had, finding two pieces of paper. One was a timetable of some sort, listing such things as horse riding and calculus. She handed it to The Verdant Queen before taking a look at the other paper. It was a folded map on thin paper, not meant for long term use. Völsung studied the layout of the academy in earnest, noting the listed locations, hallways that would make for good ambush points, escape routes, and so on.

While the dragúnsídhe continued to look over the map, she thought of the other ‘contestants’. “So, our opposition. That large demon is likely the most dangerous. We are going to need to find weapons that can cause it harm, or convince others to weaken it.”

“The demon hunter,” The Verdant Queen said quickly. “He said that one of them was a demon hunter. ‘Wren’. We need to find her.”

“We should find her. The djinn and prophet as well. The others… we will need to learn more about. Mercenaries make for tenuous allies and the others seem… like barely trained foot soldiers. But remember Verdant, they are allies of convenience. If we are to win this and return home, we must defeat them all.”

The dryad nodded. “I will ask the birds to help us search… as soon as we see any.” She frowned around at the stone and concrete school, deserted of wildlife. “What do we do for now?”

“Well, this is an academy. They gave us the outfits and a schedule, I say we play along.”
Shared account.
RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
It was a cold day outside when the dame walked in. Not quite cold enough for snow, but the sky was more overcast than a sad drunk’s browline and grayer than a depressed koala. If it ever got around to snowing, it looked like a wet, gray one, drifting down from the sky in shaggy, sad clumps…

Cassandra slumped behind her desk, doing her best Rodin impression: one hand on her chin, the other endlessly twitching for a cigarette. She had a pack of cheap smokes in the ratty coat, but the ratty coat was back in her Humans dorm room (there had been a minor confusion as to whether she qualified for Human or Demi-Human, but eventually it was decided that a ‘curse from Apollo’, whatever the fuck that meant, did not disqualify her from her ordinary human parentage), where she’d been advised by her scruffy roommate (the only other occupant in a room for four; evidently Mademoiselle Primfel’s intake rates left something to be desired, or others were on the way) to leave it behind. The fedora, however, perched neatly on her head, resisting all attempts at removal. It smelled faintly of cheese puffs and old hair oil (she’d tried looking at its future to see if it would handily catch on fire or be kidnapped by a rabid indoor eagle, but all she saw was a grim-faced teacher trying to pull it off and falling out a tenth-story window; she filed that one away as a lost cause). The rest of her was clad in a cadet-grey uniform blouse, accentuated with a blue-and-grey tartan skirt and scratchy white kneesocks. Her shiny black mary-janes were a shade too small and she let them dangle.

She felt like a teenager again. Ah, good times, she reminiscenced, and resolved to find the bad crowd as soon as possible; maybe they could glue all the school’s toilet brushes to the front door or something. Maybe this wouldn’t be such a terrible time after all. At least she was out of the city, with Rico’s thugs out for her blood, and rent coming up… some time away would be just the ticket. Provided she survived, of course, but survival was something she was an expert at. She would come out of this battered, bruised, but probably alive.

Aside from her, the classroom loomed in its emptiness. Chalked on its expansive blackboard was one word in various languages: the one she could read said ‘HOMEROOM’. The rest could have said ‘EXTERMINATE’ or ‘GOSSIP’ or ‘BACKSTAB’ for all she knew. Her schedule had directed her here for ‘orientation’ (she cheerfully doodled ‘hella gay’ next to the word) and she’d arrived early, despite the struggle with the hat.

Anyway, where was I? Right, the dame walked in…


The door slammed open. It was kicked open, actually, which accentuated the slam all the more. Unfortunately, its basketball skills were close to nonexistent and it could not be party to get down and jam, and as such had to respectfully decline the shoe that had forced it open.

Behind the shoe (a running shoe, surprisingly, beaten-up and scuffed) was a hole, which eventually gave way to sock, which of course led to leg (adorned with a fresh set of scrapes and bruises), which to Georgia’s disgust-yet-resignation had been the object of various lustful/envious stares. The classroom occupant, she noted, definitely landed in ‘my eyes are up here’ territory, but wait hold on a second

“Where’s your mech?”

Georgia narrowed her feline eyes. “I'm really not in the mood," she said. "I don't have any caffeine in my system and got beaten up on my way to class. That fedora looks awful on you, by the way.”

“You never got a name, so if we’re going to be civil,” Cassandra began, and stopped for a long moment to put her feet up on a chair and to begin cleaning her nails with a penknife, before Georgia realized she was supposed to say something: “Georgia. My name is Georgia.”

“Well, Georgia,” and at this juncture Cassandra gave the eponymous Georgia a sidelong glance from under the fedora brim that straight-up oozed neo-noir, “what’s your damage?”

“I'm sorry?”

“What’s your case? What brings you here, to me?”

”Alright, first off,” Georgia found herself getting pissed off in short order, “this isn’t your office, it’s a homeroom, I have class here, and frankly I would rather be anywhere else besides here,” she drew to a stop, irritated. “Also, we're in a literal battle to the death.”

“Humor me, sweet cheeks. I’m in denial.”

Georgia had to roll her eyes sarcastically before she got her next set of words out. “No, you're not. I'm the one who can't mentally categorize this as being worse than a graveyard shift at Stuffer Shack. You're the one who's dressed perfectly and arriving to class on time.”

“All right, so I was lying. It’s my job.” The fedora tilted again, so she couldn’t see Cassandra’s eyes. “Which brings me back to part one. Where’s your mech?”


It took some convincing, but eventually we came to an agreement. I’d take this one pro bono, in exchange for a promise that when the shit hit the fan, I’d have a mech and driver on my side. On my end of the bargain, I had to find the goddamn thing. Now I’m nothing if not pragmatic, but it seemed to me that I got the better end of that deal. How many places could a twenty-foot mech be? We couldn’t chat much further, other people were coming into earshot -- but we agreed to talk again later and nail down the specifics.

In any case, someone less pleasant walked through the door right then.

Guten morgen, my students. My name is Fräu Doktor Teufelskleinklassenlehrer, and I will be your homeroom teacher for this semester.” Cassandra nearly mistook her for a moving mound of black velvet, until she realized that Fräu Teufelskleinklassenlehrer was pretty much just that. Until, at least, a wet cracking noise marked the protrusion of a rail-thin head, shoulders and torso from the mass, which glared at the class with gimlet eyes. “Please direct your attention to the board. You will note it caters to every major native language across the universe, so you can be sure of understanding our purpose here.” She watched the black-clad homeroom teacher wipe, in one motion, the entire board clean. “Our purpose, my little fräuleins, at Fräu Primfel’s, is to shape you into the perfect ladies: comported and ready to inherit the universe. This requires order and discipline; die ausbildung, ja?” Out the corner of her eye, Cassandra saw several students fumble for phrasebooks; like a whipcrack, velvet tentacles shot from Fräu Teufelskleinklassenlehrer’s bulk and snatched them. “Therefore, at Fräu Primfel’s, we speak one language and one language only: Standard, that which I am speaking now. Those of you who do not know it will take remedial classes with me until you pass to my satisfaction.” Delicately, the tentacles shredded, snapped and absorbed the phrasebooks and translators, retreating back into the black as quickly as they had come. After that display, no one seemed ready to point out the contradiction in Fräu Teufelskleinklasserlehren’s statement of language conformity, and it was painfully obvious to Cassandra that she had planned it this way.


“Fräulein Kyuume-chan Sakura.” Georgia suddenly realized the eldritch teacher was talking to her. “Pink hair is not a regulation color. Twelve demerits, and four more for daydreaming.”

“Listen here-” she began, but a corner of velvet twitched, cutting her off.

“Six demerits for talking back, Fräulein Sakura. Your progress into the ranks of deliquency is remarkable. Furthermore, you will address me by my full title, Fräu Doktor Teufelskleinklassenlehrer. Is this understood? Ja, nein?”

Biting her lip, she forced out a “ja”, and gave a sidelong glare towards her next-desk neighbor, who was stifling giggles.

“And what has brought to you such mirth, Fräulein Devin?” Georgia watched the smile wiped off Cassandra’s face in satisfaction. “Your headwear is also against regulations. Eight demerits. Remove it immediately.”

“It’s a medical condition, Fräu Doktor Teufelskleinklassenlehrer,” Cassandra lied effortlessly. Georgia narrowed her eyes even further. “I chose to arrive at class on time rather than to visit the medical office right away.”

Silence ruled the room for a second before the abomination spoke again. “Proper time management is fundamental to a proper education, Fräulein Devin. But you are excused for today. Bring me the paperwork tomorrow.” You fucking smooth operator, Georgia thought, and wondered if entering into a deal with her was such a wise choice after all.


So now I had a name, and a goal. A job, in other words. It looked like getting around would be easier than I’d thought, if this teacher-thing was such a pushover. Flattery will won’t get you everywhere, they say, but it sure as hell will get you into some people’s… hearts.

But there were more important things Kyuume-chan and I had to talk about.


lol your name is kyuume-chan sakura???? rofl

Georgia tried to see red as she crumpled the note in her hand. As a consequence of her biology, all she could ever see when blindlingly frustrated and angry was pink, which didn’t help one bit.

Angrily, she began to scrawl a note in return, when another one popped onto her desk, as if by magic.

srsly though, pretty sure teufels there will eat our heads if she catches us so we prolly shouldn’t pass notes. we should talk later, i actually have to haul ass across campus i just realized. sorry for making fun of your name

followed by a round blob with a sad face on it.

p.s. please turn over

Georgia turned the note over.

p.p.s you’re cute

And of course the bell rang right at that moment. When the stampede out the door was over, Georgia found herself alone.
RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's


Is the response one would give to something like ‘we’ve run out of peanut butter’ or ‘we’re going to be 5 minutes late’.

It is certainly not an appropriate response to ‘you’ve been forcibly conscripted into an interdimensional fight to the death’, that’s for sure.

But here Wren was, ‘oh okay-ing’ it with the best of them. Like a Grand Battle was naught but a small inconvenience. When you spend your free time hunting down freaks of nature, being jerked around by the ‘omniscient’ was just par for the course. Wouldn't be the first ‘god’ to mess with Wren, and she was going to be damn sure that it wouldn't be the last.

Wren took out her pipe and took a gander at her surroundings. She found herself in a hallway with hundreds of lockers hugging the walls, going straight to the ceiling 100 feet in the air. In between lockers was the occasional door leading to a perilous sheer drop or a billboard advertising various extra curricular activities, nothing fun mind you, just calls for extra revision of subjects. Along the floor a checkered patterned stretched seemingly infinitely, warping and shifting as the hall stretched on.

Wren sighed heavily between puffs of cerulean smoke (Yesterweed, reeks of liquorice, relieves anxiety, stress and mind control), she hated school with a passion. The uniforms, the lessons, the teachers, oh god, especially the teachers. Authority figures were something Wren never took a liking to but teachers in particular really got under her skin. She always ended up being kicked out of classes or being outright suspended from school for talking back to various tutors over the years. Unsurprisingly Wren spent most of her formative years skipping classes to smoke behind the bike sheds, something she still doesn't regret.

Wren glanced down to her left hand. She noticed that she had been clinging to a school uniform this whole time. It was a sickeningly infantile thing, neatly folded and wrapped in a see through plastic bag. Attached was a small postcard adorned with very fancy calligraphy.

‘Please put this on. - S’.

Underneath this was some crude handwriting, written in a purple glitter gel pen.

‘or not! sup to you!’ - T’

More calligraphy, the ink still wet.

‘It is in your best interest (and mine) if you wear this. -S'

And again, more chicken scratch.

‘but that’s not something a delinquent would do! >:) - T'

Wren couldn’t help but to snicker. At least her captors had some amount of personality. Not that this would bestill any amount of unyielding wrath that Wren was going to deliver on those two clowns. Someone was going to get hit very hard at the end of all this, no amount of personality was going to stop that.

At least one of these jackasses knows me too well Wren thought to herself, as she slammed her uniform into a nearby trashcan, delinquent that she was. The hunter picked a direction and started walking, the place that she found herself was labyrinthian in layout, winding hallways with no defining features and no one to talk too. It took a solid ten minutes of aimless meandering before Wren finally found another soul in this wretched maze. A tiny girl, couldn't have been older than six, meekly thumbing through some school books out of an open locker, she was covered with white feathers and had the eyes of an owl.

Wren cleared her throat loudly to get her attention, the young student ignored her, visually shrinking in discomfort. “Hey.” Wren spoke up. The little bird girl turned away from the hunter sharply and started to speedily walk away. “Hey, I need your help!” The student stopped and turned back slowly, fear in her wide eyes.

“It’s against the rules to talk in the halls.”


“It- It’s against the rules to talk and loiter in the halls.” The girl looked around nervously. Wren couldn’t help but frown, it broke her heart to see someone so young so visibly anxious and afraid. She dropped down to her eye level and put on her best ‘I’m someone you can trust!’ face on. “And whose rule is that, then?” The owl girl’s grip tightened onto her books, her gaze affixed to the floor. “The disciplinary department.” Wren glanced around the completely empty halls around her. “Well, I don’t see any ‘disciplinary department’ around here, so maybe you can bend the rules for me?”

The owl girl looked around conflicted. “I can’t don’t need my help. Aren't you a student too?” Wren scoffed a little “Ha, you flatter me, but I’m a little old for a place like this.”

“A girl is made a proper lady not through age but by strict tutelage and proper discipline.”

A voice boomed down from the corridor, followed by light footsteps. In the distance a human teenage girl, wearing a distinct sash over her uniform came into view. “Some girls take much longer to learn this than others. But I’m sure you’re more than aware of that, aren't you?” The owl girl hid behind her books, quivering in fear. Wren rose up to stare down the new student, stoic and unwavering.

“Connie! You know the rules. No talking in the halls.” The student flicked out an electronic device, litle holograms danced in front of her face. “That’s a Demeritt to your record.” Connie bowed down, her face flush with fear. “No! I’m so sorry Prefect Yana! It won’t happen again I’m so sorry!” Yana glanced up from her device coldly, she started down the owl girl for what felt like an eternity, before finally sighing heavily. “You get a verbal warning, this time. Now go to your class, Connie.” Connie continued to bow “Oh thank you Miss! Thank you!” She then darted off, flying up through the corridor, leaving a trail of puffy white feathers.

“Now you. Oh man, where do I even begin?” Yana began to close the gap between her and Wren, flicking a stray wisp of white hair from her face as she went. ”Loitering in the halls is one Demerit, lack of school uniform is fifteen Demerits, discussion of breaking the rules is seven Demerits and smoking contraband is twenty.” The prefect looked up from her device smugly, “It takes twenty-five to net you a trip down to Madam Gibarti’s office, and you just got forty-three in the space ten seconds, I do believe that’s a new record.”

Yana flashed a condescending smile towards the hunter, Wren smiled back, nonplussed by anything this girl had to say. “You can take those Demerits...” And shove them up your AAAAAAAASSSSSSSS “And put them on your own record, prefect. As a member of the faculty I will not abide such disrespect in my school.” Yana scoffed, “Yeah, okay, that one’s new. First of all you get another six Demerits for lying to a prefect. Second, I know every teacher in this school and you are not one of them.”

Wren puffed on her pipe and played with a feather in her hand. “That’s because I’m a substitute, bright eyes.” She blew smoke right into the student's face, who angrily wafted it away. “Oh yeah?” Yana retorted, not to be outdone by this rule breaker, she had one more card up her sleeve. “Then why do you have a student ID?”

Uggggghhhh. Why have you got to make this difficult for me?
Whatever. Work with it. Roll with it.

“ID number 910034. Student Wren…”
Yana trailed off in confusion, presumably at the lack of a surname on this student's record. Wren took this moment to offer her explanation. “As a temporary member of the faculty there is little point in registering me into the teachers record. Naturally I can’t go through Mademoiselle Primfel's without being on any system at all so they elected to simply register me into the student identification system to expedite the process.” The prefect looked dumbfounded at Wren, who showed no signs of stress and anxiety at all (Yesterweed working its wonders). “Look, if you are still suspicious, simply check on your little Kindle for classes in need of a substitution.”

Yana squinted at the tall smoking woman before reluctantly going to her ‘kindle’ to check if everything was legit. A keen eye would of noticed Wren tensing up, lowering her body and holding her breath. She mentally prepared herself for the worst case scenario, I’m a seriously prepared to punch this child in the face if everything goes tits up? The tension was palpable.

Yana’s eyes widened and a bead of sweat slowly trickled down the side of her head. Sure enough, there was one class in need of a substitute. Her demeanor and body language changed on a dime as she realised her ‘mistake’. “I’ sorry miss, I apologise for my suspicion.” Wren smiled calmly, completely unfazed by the students allegations. Of course on the inside she was flipping the fuck out holy Christ I cannot believe this worked. “That’s alright prefect, how about you show me to my class and we can just chalk this up to a simple misunderstanding.”

“Certainly miss! You’re in room 102b teaching Calculus, follow me.” Yana turned sharply, her face flush with embarrassment. Wren followed lackadaisically, a trail of smoke and the scent of liquorice wafting behind her.
RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
Alex popped back into existence five feet above a bunk, which held up surprisingly well against her best impression of a defenestrated anvil. Most furniture wasn’t usually so gracious. After pulling herself out of the—reinforced steel, interesting—'bed' into the room proper, she took stock.

Second fuckin’ crime wizard of the day? Check.

Gear? Nope.

Team? Nope.

Situation? FUBAR.

… School… uniform…… check…?

She rummaged through her new outfit’s pockets to find a lightly crushed schedule labelled ‘Althyr Almael – Constructs Dorm’. Deliberately ignoring the untoward name, her vision was immediately drawn to the last class: Marksmanship with a ‘Madam Puska’. Most of a day away, if the clock on the wall was correct. She’d probably have to play along until then.

As for now… calculus? Literary analysis? Ugh.

She quickly appropriated the schedule sitting on the undisturbed bunk opposite her own. Now this was more like it. Horsemanship, geology…

Diplomacy? Can’t all be winners.

Whoever Retrowirx Studio-waytoolongname was, they surely wouldn’t mind Alex skillfully acquiring their schedule for the day. Grabbing the backpack lying by her bunk Alex dashed out into the hallway—and straight into a decidedly flinty ten-foot tall golem.

“Eager to get to class, are we?”

“Uh, well…”

“Just what I like to see from my dorm’s freshers” the voice rumbled on heedlessly, “but remember, running between classes is five demerits. Please keep it to a light jog.”

“Roger, uh…”

“Oh, apologies. I am Savta, Construct’s prefect. You are… Alex? Part of the late intake this week?”

Alex, still stunned by the intimidating-yet-polite figure, defaulted to nodding in response.

“I would give you a tour of the dorm, but first bell is in a few minutes. If you would like, come to me during lunch break for one. You will find me in the common room. Now, I won’t keep you any longer – tardiness is a demerit for every minute you’re late, after all.”

“Right. Sounds good. Thanks.” Alex turned and ra— jogged towards the exit. Had she just signed up for a dorm tour? She had better things to be doing, damn it. Golems just… ugh, no point dredging that up now. Back on track. Horsemanship. She headed out of the nigh-empty building into the Academie grounds proper and caught sight of the main structure, which garnered a teakettle-worthy whistle.

This place was big. It stood roof and cornice over any castle back on earth proper, and beat out most of them in architectural ambition. Despite its sheer scale ornamentation was sparse and subdued, presumably modelling the Academie’s guiding principles of modesty, restraint and order. As for the grounds themselves, regimented paths, trees and ponds provided an honor guard for flawless lawns. The grass stretched an absurd distance before terminating sharply at a fence whose spikes were (perhaps unsurprisingly) pointed inwards. Next to it a band of lawn several dozen yards wide stood entirely clear, analogous to a fortification’s killing zone.

She tore herself away from the scenery to take a look at a nearby standing map of the campus, the kind you’d find at any self-respecting institution. The meeting place for horsemanship stood on the opposite side of the Academie proper, necessitating a brisk jog if Alex didn’t want to be late. She set out at pace, more out of interest in riding than any sense of obligation towards Mlle. Primfel’s regulations. Her shell was too heavy for any earth-based horse to support, but dimensional travel was supposed to involve some weird shit.

The pathways around the grounds were efficiently placed, leading Alex directly to her destination without the fuss of navigating innumerable halls. While the ‘Do Not Step On Grass’ signs festooning their edges at regular intervals were definitely inviting, tempting fate would have to wait. While this Madam Ascot probably wasn’t going to tack on (pointless) pushups to punish tardiness, she’d sat through enough instructors’ reprimands for it back in Quantico to develop a modicum of punctuality.

Alex arrived at the courtyard’s wide entrance with half a minute to spare. The sound of raised voices filtered through its large wooden doors. She slipped inside to find a crowd of girls blocking the way, first bell hardly audible on account of the commotion. Students hovered between the doorway and the courtyard proper in the state of thrilled trepidation common to those witnessing an unauthorized challenge to authority.
RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
Gurska was not at all opposed to blood sport. She had fond memories of training with gladiators-to-be on Tauri V and had competed frequently in Assault Ship Arena on the rare occasions that she had found a backer willing to sponsor a Taurus pilot. While neither of these were life and death situations, the fact that she both faced combat as her profession and had a cultural inclination to appreciate arena combat meant that she found being in a battle to the death to not be objectionable in its own right. No, the reason that Gurska silently swore to crush the Sophisticate’s skull with her armored fist was not that she was fighting for his entertainment. The reason was that she had not been given a choice. If she had been offered a wish in exchange for killing these other combatants, she would have strongly considered accepting it, given time and opportunity. Being yanked out of her transport ship on the eve of combat and told that she must fight, however, was unacceptable. Those who fought in the arena without a choice were prisoners and being imprisoned was a disgrace to the clan. The uniform also wasn’t helping.

The fact that it had appeared over her armor was welcome, as she had grown used to wearing the overlapping plate and envirogel encounter suit. Perhaps too used to it for a proper Taurus, but the Karr were never known to give up an advantage, and the high tech armor had proven its worth often enough. The shirt and blazer atop it seemed to offer no such utility. She twisted her torso, then raised an arm, straining the cloth. She raised her arm further, then bent it towards herself and flexed, prompting an audible rip in the fabric. She snorted, then simply tore off the sleeves of both the blazer and the shirt. Flexing again, she looked down over herself and nodded. The grey and blue garment now looked more like a tabard than a shirt, albeit not in the glorious red and gold of the Karr Dominion, and no longer hindered her movement. As long as it didn’t get in the way it would be allowed to stay. As for the skirt - she gave an experimental swish - well, that could stay for now too.

Immediate concern addressed, she started to study her environment. The room that she found herself in was devoid of visible life, but filled with small desks and uncomfortably undersized chairs. Perhaps it was a storage facility of some kind - no, wait, she had seen such rooms before. The Mercenary Coalition had used a similar environment for training their youngest. The lack of screens was unusual, but perhaps this place was too primitive or ascetic to employ such technology. If so, it would be an ideal location to employ her long underused battleaxe. She reached over her shoulder for the weapon, felt nothing, and reached again, grasping at air. She spun in place, arms questing at her sides for her ammunition and fuel canister. All missing. Then she saw the bag on the desk in front of her. Opening it, she found a map (useful), a small book titled “New Student Guide” (dubious), a brochure of some sort advertising the school and its values (useless), and a schedule. She pulled out the map promptly ignored the rest. She unfolded the map onto the desk and knelt down to study it. The simplistic paper seemed designed for temporary use, and lacked the detail needed to form a proper plan of assault. The map did, however, have a dormitory marked in a hideous purple, which she could only assume to be a designation that she had a room there. She rose, folding the map up again and replaced the bag’s contents. She then swung it over her shoulder and walked directly to the room’s only door, sending out cacophonous groans of wood grinding over stone as she simply strode through the furniture on her way out. As she approached the door, she could hear a dull murmur from the other side. Either there was some sort of active machinery in this place, or she wasn’t alone as she had thought. Oh no. Not alone at all.

The hallway was crowded with women, most of whom didn’t stand much taller than Gurska’s waist. They all wore the uniform that Gurska had found herself in, with some slight variations in color or cut. She drew a few glances from the students, but not nearly as much as she would have expected given the appearance of a woman nearly twice their height and five times their weight. Gurksa looked out into the hallway for a few more seconds, then quietly closed the door. Perhaps I should read the guide after all.


A short read later, Gurska was assured of three things:

First, this school was a terrible place for a battle. With an oppressive administration that somehow had the raw power to keep a vast variety of interdimensional beings in check, it would be difficult to initiate any sort of all out open combat without both fighters being apprehended and subjected to whatever ghoulish punishments a school that quite literally prided itself on being ‘authoritarian’ would have in store. It would also be nigh impossible to use any of her preferred weapons without inflicting terrible civilian casualties. She doubted that even the stone walls would last long against rounds fired from an autocannon designed to penetrate the reinforced metal plating used in combat craft, and the fire from her flamethrower would be likely to overfill a corridor and spill out into any open rooms along its path. Given that she had received no contract urging restraint (or, for that matter, any contract at all), there was no explicit incentive to avoid such unnecessary death and destruction, but in Gurska’s experience, it usually paid to keep things from getting too messy.

Second, this school was a terrible place in general. With an elaborate system of demerits for almost any activity outside of the scope of an uneventful school day and a policy of never expelling students regardless of their antisocial behavior, the school environment reminded Gurska more of a prison than any sort of learning institution. While most of its student body doubtlessly went about their lives without the authorities doing much more than looming as an unchallengeable threat overhead, she was sure that there were at least a handful of students that were unable to be molded in a manner acceptable to the school’s founder, especially given the variety of students that the manual’s ‘diversity’ section had boasted about.

Third, her weapons were most likely in her dorm. To her surprise, while the school had stringent regulations on what food could be brought into its grounds, it had no such rules regarding weaponry. It had supply storage areas for its various sports teams, but it lacked a proper armory as far as she could tell, which led her to believe that if her weapons were on the grounds at all, then they would be in her room along with any other supplies that she may have had with her when she was unceremoniously whisked away. It was a big if, she realized, but it would at least be worth checking. If she was to fight without her weapons, she could make do, and she told herself to keep an eye out for anything that she could use to make an improvised weapon.

With a better understanding of the school that she had found herself in, the mercenary marched back over to the door, and prepared herself to brave the crowd of little girls once again. To her surprise, the corridor was now empty.


It had been nearly an hour since Gurska had exited the classroom in which she had been placed by the seemingly random logic of the battlemaster and she was somehow further from her dorm than she had been when she had started. Though there was certainly a great degree of rhyme and reason to the school’s layout, its labyrinthine corridors proved difficult for the Taurus to navigate, and she had quickly gotten lost in one of the outlying wings of the school.

Getting to the ground floor had been easy enough - all she had to do was take every stairway down that she found. After a brief sojourn through a basement that had not lived up to the standards of aromatic hygiene espoused by the manual, she had emerged at the appropriate level. Navigating in two dimensions had proven to be no less difficult, however, and while the ‘Colossus’ dorm seemed to be at a far corner of the campus alongside the other dorms, she still hadn’t managed to find her way out of the castle-like compound containing the majority of the classrooms. Clearly it was time to ask for directions, yet as far as she could tell, the hallways were desolate.

Just as she was ready to implement the 'Always Turn Left' plan of maze solving, a distant bell tolled. After a slight delay, all of the doors lining the hallways opened within seconds of each other, and the crowd of young women that she had seen an hour earlier rematerialized as class was dismissed. Gurksa went from having no one to ask to having too many potential navigators, and scanned the diverse (if still usually short) crowd of students to find a likely mark. A loud, steady thump of heavy metal against stone prompted her to turn around, and she saw one of the few denizens of the school that she recognized - a fellow contestant in this mad battle.

Somewhat shorter than Gurska herself, Gunzelurge stood a mere head and shoulders over most of the students that had filled the hallways, but she was nearly as wide as the Taurus, making her ability to navigate the crowd a surprise. Nevertheless, she seemed to be proceeding at a steady jog whose audible approach enabled the crowd of students - technically other students, as the gladiators appeared to have been officially enrolled - to get out of the way. Whereas Gunzelurge believed their evasion to be common courtesy, Gurska recognized it as panic. Not that there was any problem with sowing panic every now and then, but it did made it difficult to acquire directions.

She could put that goal aside for now. While Gurksa didn’t fancy taking a fight with the second largest battler, talking with this particular rival would likely be helpful. Given how resilient her metal body appeared to be, it would likely be helpful to work with her, at least for a start. There were plenty of other opponents, after all, and forming a team would likely be the best way to get started. While the current of smaller folk cleared out a path around her, Gurska stood her ground and raised a hand in greeting.

Gunzelurge would have liked to chat, under whatever unordinary circumstances would have placed in her and Gurska in a calm room together, but for now she was in a hurry. She was eager to find her horse, and naturally the horsemanship class would be the place to find it. A chat with the mercenary would have to wait. She would move aside. Fragiles always moved.

So she wasn’t stopping. That was odd. People always stopped.Gurska raised her second hand, placing both in front of her in what she hoped to be a universal symbol.

Gunzelurge altered her course by a diplomatic five degrees. If others could show some simple courtesy, well, so could she. Tolerance was key, after all.

Gurska noted the shift, then stepped in front of her.
Her left hand reached for the metal druid’s wrist while her right gripped the intersection of one thick metal arm and the core of Gunzelurge’s chasis. Turning away from her at an angle, the Taurus bent forward, dropping to one knee and using her body as a fulcrum to throw the charging Pheral. She grunted as she felt the impact of the construct’s center of mass hitting hitting her shoulder. Her armor absorbed most of the concussive force, fortunately, and that same inertia carried Gunzelurge forward as her wide feet were lifted from the ground. For a brief moment, she was upside down and almost fully vertical, with her legs straight in the air while her head plummeted directly towards the floor, aided in its flight by the mercenary’s grip on her armpit.

Though the entire maneuver lasted a split second, the feeling of weightlessness seemed to last much longer. Well this hasn’t happened in a while. Reminds me of home.

Gunzelurge hit the hallway floor face first, shattering the dull grey stone. Plumes of dust rose up around them, prompting a fit of exaggerated coughing from the numerous and nervous bystanders. The Pheral’s feet hung in the air for a moment longer, before being reduced to their point of lowest potential energy with a clang that would have been dramatic had it not been preceded by an even greater impact. Gunzelurge found herself lying face up, and looking into the curious gaze of her assailant.

Gurska studied the solid steel face of the woman that she had just thrown. She was only slightly surprised to find that it was undamaged. ”Sturdy.” She paused only briefly, as she had already decided that the two should be friends. “You should join my team. Standard contract.” She rose, then reached down with one hand to help the Pheral up.

Though she didn’t need the assistance to rise, Gunzelurge accepted it all the same. People enjoyed feeling useful, and she saw no reason to decline the offer. She probably wasn’t going to be thrown again, and the first time hadn’t proved particularly painful. The large Fragile’s armor-played bicep trembled with the strain of taking on a large portion of Gunzelurge’s weight. ”Your-offer-of a. Team arrangement is. Agreeable. I would-be-happy-to. Learn-more-about. You. As-for-the standard contract -” Before she could ask the critical question about what she was signing up for, a small and imperious woman who had been pushing her way through the onlookers demanded their attention.

Standing a hair under five feet in height even with the aid of her uncomfortable looking heels, she was notably short even among the (relatively) small-statured populace of the school. Though bearing a slender frame commensurate with her diminutive statue, she was visibly older than the students and held her head up at an angle to ensure that she was looking down her nose at most everyone she spoke with. Though usually effective when applied to students nearer to her in size, she had to tilt her head nearly perfectly backwards to apply this same effect to the two taller ‘troublemakers.’ Unfortunately, this made her half-moon glasses slide up her snout, ruining the intended dismissive effect.

“What’s this? What’s this?” she demanded as she ran her gaze over first Gunzelurge, who still had shards of the broken hallway floor stuck to the grooves on her head and shoulders, and then over Gurska, who had quickly recognized the woman as belonging to some sort of local authority and stood to attention. Though she didn’t recognize either of the students, she already disliked them. Ripped sleeves, heavy plated armor - yes, this was clearly one of those badminton players, she thought to herself. Oh how I loath those athletes, with their undue pride in physical accomplishments. Well if this girl couldn’t show the proper respect, then would learn to regret it, oh yes.

“Mlle. Du Pice,” she said finally, introducing herself to the pair. “And you two must be…” she trailed off for a moment as she flicked her thumb over a small glowing screen in her hand. The bright colors of the device’s interface was a stark contrast to the plain black on white and green on black that Gurska was used to, and for a moment she was unsure if the woman was truly navigating through her record system or had simply been distracted by her device. Nevertheless, both girls managed to stay stoic until Du Pice piped up with a high pitched “Ah ha! New students. And already unruly. I suppose you think that you can just trot on in and act like you own the place, don’t you princess?”
“That title is not relevant.”
“Hmph. I’m glad you recognize that, at least.” Du Pice was surprised by what she misinterpreted as modesty from the armored Taurus, but carried on all the same. “Now, why don’t you tell me what exactly has happened? If you’ve been fighting, it will be more than just demerits for the both of you!” She looked from one to the other, expecting an argument between the two and possibly even some lovely outright insolence. Oh yes, that would lead to a well deserved detention for one or both of these upstarts. To her surprise, she received neither.

“I made a mistake, ma’am.” Gurska rumbled. “I attempted to halt my comrade here, and in so doing have damaged your base.”
“No-harm-done. Mademoiselle. Du Pice.” Gunzelurge reassured the teacher in her most pleasant tone. “I also apologize-for. The damage.”
“W-well then.” The teacher was somewhat taken aback by the unexpected obedience of the two, and even more surprised by their apparent amiability. Still, as far as surprises went, their courtesy was a pleasant one. Perhaps she had misjudged them after all. Turning to Gunzelurge first, she decided to release the obviously innocent one first. “Seeing as you’ve done nothing wrong from the sound of things, you may run along now.”
Gunzelurge enthusiastically obeyed, resuming her previous gait almost exactly as she tromped down the hall to her upcoming class, fragments of the shattered floor falling from her head as she ran.

“As for you,” the little woman turned her body towards Gurska, but seemed to have her attention turned back to her screen, “I will be letting you off with…” Another long pause followed, as she fiddled with her device for almost a minute. “Five demerits.” She looked up at Gurska to gauge her response, but the mercenary simply gazed back impassively. After a long period of silence, she realized that she was supposed to respond. She had no particular concern about demerits from an academy that she did not intend to graduate from, but knew that saying so would start her down the path for making this already irritating encounter far longer and messier than it needed to be. It was still too early to start killing faculty.
“Fair,” she said finally. “I accept your judgement.”

“Fair, quite, given your recent arrival to the academy, but you were a hair - a hair I say - away from earning yourself a detention, and let me tell you, you wouldn’t want that, oh no.”
“I suppose that I would not.”
“Well, no, of course you wouldn’t. No student would want to go to detention, and why would they? Spending your precious youth locked away, and being unable to spend time with the lofty company that is usually enrolled in our pristine academy.” The hallway began to clear as the drama had evidently ended, and even those who had ample time to get to their next class didn’t feel the need to listen to Du Pice chatter on about the school.
“... Now, of course, only the worst students wind up in detention. Barring a major offense, which I must remind you that throwing another student usually is, you will end up with demerits instead. Only a great number of demerits or otherwise egregious behavior will make a girl like you end up in that most unpleasant place. After all - ”
“I have changed my mind.”
“I believe that I will have detention.”
“You - what? And why is that, exactly?”
“I believe in... self discipline.”
“Hmph. Now I do say, that’s an admirable trait. I won’t say I didn’t warn you, but if you insist - “
“I do.”
“Well then. I shall assign you detention after your classes today. Mm, an hour?”
“One hour will suffice.”


Having acquired the first soldier for her team and a new lead on making contact with the school’s criminal underbelly (which, in spite of having no evidence of, she was sure existed), Gurska was quite satisfied with her brief encounter. Now all she had to do was grab her weapons and - oh. Right. Just as quickly as the hallway had filled, it seemed to be deserted once again. Well, she supposed that she could study the map one more time.
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RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
"Here we are, again I must say, I am terribly sorry no one guided you here earlier. The attendants will take you to your room, so you can have some time to make yourself at home before your first class."

The dragon flew off without any further explanation, but before Damse could do anything else, two mechanical girls ran out and grabbed her by the arms.

"Oh, we are terribly sorry, Lady Damse! Terribly sorry!" they cried in unison. "We do not know how we missed your arrival, but rest assured, you will receive the finest accommodations our school has to offer!"

"It's okay, really, you don't have to..." Damse began to say, but she was already being lead down a hallway towards an elevator, and being rushed through the dorm at incredible speeds. She barely had time to regret her inability to punch the attendants before finding herself in a distressingly familiar room.

"This looks just like my room when I was in Troit," she said, stunned.

"No expense is spared in making you feel at home, Lady Damse. Please let us know when you are ready for class."

And with that, the mechanical attendants left, before Damse could spit out that Troit was hardly her "home". Although Tress wasn't exactly a place she wanted to be reminded of, either.

She sat on a fine silk cushion while she tried to finally gather her thoughts. Gods, what was she even supposed to do here?

The one obvious thing was that she'd been thrown into some kind of Story. Or possibly more than one at once, but that was more than she was willing to process. The Academie's Story was the only one she was able to concern herself with for now.

And she didn't understand it yet. This didn't clearly fit the pattern of any comedy or tragedy she had seen. The next step had been made clear enough, but the overall shape was well outside of Damse's experience.

But whatever the Story was, she already hated it.

To her mind, the question wasn't whether to fight it, but how. Narra's curse ruled out physical strength. She'd tried taking another path, but she could already tell that hadn't worked; the Story just found another way to make it lead to the same destination.

Which, as she thought about it, made the look of the room more fitting. It was the same room she'd ended up in the last time she'd tried running away from her problems.

That settled it. This time, she wasn't waiting around for the stupid horse. She was going to meet the Story head-on, and even if she couldn't punch it in the face, she was determined to win.

Damse stepped out of the room, and was immediately swarmed by the attendants. Six of them this time, though you couldn't tell that from the way they spoke.

"How may we be of service, Lady Damse?" six asked at once, in perfect unison.

"I'm heading to class," she said.

No sooner had she spoken the words than she found herself swept up by the attendants again, and by the time the world stopped spinning, she was being led across the school grounds in an ornate carriage.

As far as she could tell, the carriage was actually slower than the attendants. She took advantage of the relative clarity to push aside the equisite silk curtain covering the window and take a look outside.

She couldn't see much. Just the attendants keeping the young girls nearby away - though not far enough that Damse couldn't see the expressions of adoration and envy on their faces.

Damse really wished she could punch someone.

Finally, the carriage pulled to a stop, and the door opened. Naturally, one of the attendants was already leading Damse out of the carriage and into the nearest building before she could say a word in protest.

"Here we are, Lady Damse. Sadly, we may not accompany you to your dance class, but if any accommodations are not to your satisfaction, be sure to let us know afterwards so we may correct the error."

"Dance class?" Damse managed to stammer out, but the attendant was already gone, and a decrepit old hand was pulling her into the room.


The hand belonged to Madame Chora, a woman who clearly was determined not to let her advanced age get in the way of teaching a new generation of young ladies the proper way to dance.

"Ah, you must be Lady Damse," she said, in a disconcertingly friendly tone. "Before the class starts, I just want to reassure you that yes, you will be paired with an appropriate dance partner. It would not do to have a lady of your status associating with riff-raff, after all."

"That's not..." Damse began, but she was interrupted by the bell before she could work out exactly what she wanted to protest. Madame Chora began gesturing frantically with her cane.

"Now, take your place! Right there, right there. Class will be starting shortly."

Damse stood a whole place to the right of where the teacher was pointing.

"Oh, my mistake. Yes, that's your place, and a delightful place it is. Just stay there while I guide everyone else in."

Damse watched as more students flooded into the room and gradually filled the space. Most didn't catch Damse's attention, but the pink-haired cat creature that stood next to her was hard to miss, even if Damse hadn't recognized her from the introductions.

"No, no, no!" Madame Chora shouted, poking the pink-haired girl with her cane. "That's not where you're supposed to be."

Damse wanted to grab the old woman and snap her cane in two, but she found herself frozen in place. Her feet refused to charge in to the rescue, and her hands refused to clench into fists. It was the damned curse again, and she felt a chill down her spine as she helplessly watched Madame Chora poke the girl repeatedly into her proper place, next to another unimpressively-clothed girl with blank eyes.

Damse tried to remember if the other girl was one of her opponents as well, but her train of thought was interrupted as a skeletal girl who had suddenly materialized next to her started speaking up.

"I knew she was the sort who'd have to be taught her place," she said, and Damse suddenly realized the real source of the cold sensation running through her body. "But it's good to see we have at least one newcomer with some class. What's your name?"

"Damse," she said cautiously.

"A lovely name. I'm Morinaga, but you can feel free to call me Mori. I trust we shall have much to discuss later, once this class is over."

"I can hardly wait."

Mori suddenly turned obediently silent as Madame Chora stepped to the front again, satisfied that everyone was where they should be.

"Well, now that everyone's here, and standing where they should be," she said, with a pointed glare in the catgirl's direction, "we can begin."

She promptly turned her cane towards a phonograph in the corner and struck it. It began playing soft music.

"We'll be doing the waltz today. Everyone take hold of your partner while I explain the positions you need to take."

Damse knew - knew - who her partner was going to be even before she felt the chilly, lifeless hand in her own. She turned to face Mori, and found to her displeasure that she didn't even have the strength to lift this bag of bones and throw her across the room.


"Hey, new girl? It's not going to help our grades if you keep looking over at the Princess over there."

Gally barely paid attention to her partner's protests. Damse was right over there. The vile temptress who had not only stolen her man, but broken several of his bones.

How could she be so cruel? How could she toy with poor Pygmale's heart so callously?

She would pay for her crimes. Gally would make her pay.

"Seriously, I know she's a real eye-catcher, but we've got to stay focused. You don't want to fail, do you?"

No. Gally would not fail. Gally could not fail, for she was perfect. Gally would be the best dancer in this class.

She finally turned to face her partner, a gargoyle who was having trouble keeping up with the movements due to having a stone pedestal as her base instead of legs.

"Thanks, this is hard enough as it is," said the gargoyle. "So what's your name, anyhow? I didn't catch it."

"Gally," she said.

She didn't explain that she was the most perfect woman ever to grace the halls of this school. That went without saying, after all. Pygmale had created her to be perfect, and her perfection shone wherever she walked. It was his place to call attention to it, not hers.

"I'm Rocksanne," said the gargoyle, but Gally had already stopped listening. What did she know?
RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's

Völsung and the Queen found the meeting point for Horsemanship more by accident, more focused were they on the spirit's search for any signs of life. Not bodies of the student variety, no; the Queen insisted there was something growing here, however more vital it managed to be than the fettered, declawed mockeries of nature that were the manicured topiaries.


The spirit bounded across the courtyard, the stress of her situation forgotten however briefly as she gazed up at the neon-pink willow. Völsung was more cautious, evaluating the space and how its features might serve them in a fight. She was giving the writing at the plinth's base critical look when a sharp voice snapped her to attention:

"Girl! Get down from there this instant!"

The voice came from the rooftops - wait, what-

There was a clatter of hooves, the rare but rewarding scream of a horse that actually knows what it's doing, and Madam Sigrdrífa Ascot and her pearlescent steed plunged from the Academie roof and stuck a perfect landing from three stories up. The horse's hooves glowed with a terrible fire that left the flagstones faintly steaming, and it shone like it stood under a blazing noon sun. The smattering of students who'd occupied the courtyard not moments before had retreated, quicksmart, to a safe distance. Völsung was impressed, until she realised that was her partner attracting attention.

Confound it. The Verdant Queen made her descent, gentle and blithely fearless as any leaf on the willow. The faculty was... scrying? Some phantasm was certainly lingering on their raised wrist, as Madam Ascot looked hawkishly over the display and down at Her Viridience. "Spirit," she said, making a snap decision on how best to not address her as royalty, "attempt to explain yourself." The horse was a striking creature, naturally drawing Verdant's admiration. It snorted at the earth's sovereign, pleased to earn her regard but professional distance keeping its hooves tied. Völsung was just considering stepping in, when the Queen spoke up.

"This place is... unfamiliar. We sought a finer vantage point, and I heard this one. It's a beautiful tree; I'm disappointed there's no dryad to protect it."

"Hmph. A fine course of action in combat, girl, but practical warfare is not in the Academie curriculum. Aesthetic admiration, perhaps." Her disapproval wasn't completely directed at the Queen, or so it seemed to Völsung on the sidelines of this dispute. Perhaps there were folk among the faculty who might be reasoned with. The horse turned its head Völsung's way, and its rider followed after another glance at her wrist.

"Miss Völsung," barked Madam Ascot. "Co-enrollment of vassals is a privilege, not a right, and extended by the Madamoiselle herself to students of high peerage." She here jerked her spear, in a deferential movement to the empty plinth. "If you are to continue to enjoy this privilege, you are expected to take personal responsibility in ensuring your detail comports themselves to the same standards set for yourself. Do I make myself clear, girl?"

The last word stung, a sharp reminder of enemies and too-stupid-to-know-better-opposition, taunting her stature before she tore them down and made them pay. A crowd was pooling at each of the courtyard's entranceways, students just wanting to cross the courtyard to get to class, unwilling to get involved. Völsung mulled no shortage of arguments, to let this haughty mortal know just who she spoke down to. "Absolutely, madam," she said stiffly.

"Seven demerits for disruptive and unladylike behaviour, then." She almost smiled, though it could have just as easily been her horse casting shadows. "I daresay I did worse on my first day here, and my instructors weren't nearly as sympathetic to my stubbornly bucolic habits."

It took Völsung a moment to realise, she was supposed to be grateful. On Verdant's behalf. At an age: "Thank you, madam."

"The pair of you are attending Horsemanship with myself in five minutes, so you will wait here, uneventfully, until the rest of your class assembles. Radicorn here shall retrieve the lot of you shortly and lead you to the stables."

The horse (Radicorn, presumably) took a few steps like clanging church bells, then leapt high enough to clear the pink willow twice over. The courtyard returned to dull normalcy, complete with mundane-overcast lighting change without a celestial horse to set it noon-ablaze.

"Hah. I Chose right skipping calculus for this."

Völsung spun about; one of the students had broken ranks from the nervous lookers-on. An unsettling juxtaposition of organic form and demonic cladding, the summoner recognised it from that Sophisticate's introduction. Alex sized the pair up - the dryad or whoever she was seemed nice, but you had to wonder why she was under the thumb of this little magician.

"I'll cut to the chase. That So-farce-ticate can bite my impervious curse-chassis, I'm not murdering anyone on his orders." Red-glow behind the diamantine screen of her mask. "For both our sakes, I hope you and your friend there feel the same way."

Verdant and Völsung shared a look. The Sophisticate had called this one a bound djinn, and the flame internal attested to that, but she didn't talk much like the fire spirits the Queen knew. They were caprice and wild passion and gleeful abandon; this one was tamed. Focused. Cool. Völsung weighed her words, before finally speaking.

"We have no choice. Satisfying as it would be to bring our kidnapper to justice, distasteful as it is to be complicit in innocent blood spilt, in our case more than two lives are at stake."

Justifying a dozen-odd bodycount for a greater good. Great. Awesome. "Nnnnot exactly the attitude I was hoping for, but you've clearly got your reasons."

"We face an invasion!" Alex would've blinked, she hadn't anticipated the dryad piping up. "Separated from our people and land, against foes that are tireless, mindless, consuming all in their path." There was an intensity to the Queen that struck Alex, effortlessly accidentally charming next to her politico-tongued bossmage. She resolved to find out just what this dryad's deal was as soon as Alex could peel her off Völsung.

"Point taken. We weren't introduced? Alex Alameda."

The spirit accepted an extended hand, the texture not dissimilar to a polished stone left in the sun. "Well met, ifrit Alex. I am the Verdant Queen."

"Wait. If you're royalty, what's she- I mean, uh, do you prefer 'your majesty', or 'your royal highness'-"

"I've no crown but those of the treetops," laughed the Queen. "You may call me Verdant."

"Right, well, Verdant. Völsung-" there Alex settled for a polite nod in the dragúnsídhe's direction- "How about a truce? This school's got loads of powerful students - I think I saw a dorm for 'deities', even-"

"-and the faculty capable of corralling them could be of assistance against the Sophisticate. It crossed my mind, however. Verdant and I do not have weeks to familiarise ourselves with this place, or spend time earning the favour of its residents."

"Pliable god-teachers or none, whatever," the djinn insisted. "That shitwizard said we're all stuck here until somebody dies, so first person to do as he said spends next round trying to convince the rest of us it was for a "greater good". Double down on that if we were making actual headway here."

It smacked of idealism - still, tearing Alex down for the crime of a little blithe goodwill would only foster resentment, which didn't suit the dragúnsídhe's plans. And with some caveats, her terms weren't exactly unreasonable either.

"Protocol of distinction," said Völsung, nodding as she looked to Verdant. "To not take lives unless they actively threaten us first, and to condemn those who fail to uphold the same. No advantage in singling ourselves out among the contestants as the first to heed the command."

Ugh. A dragon that speaks legalese. "Great. No need to go making unnecessary enemies, yeah?" Völsung tried not to smile, but she'd just figured an argument to sway the djinn.

"Indeed. And, if we're in agreement on not squandering our, ah, brief education, we should neutralise contestants too unreasonable to agree on a ceasefire. I'm speaking, of course, about the demon."

Alex frowned. "Iiiiiiii'm taking a total stab in the dark here. The fairy hunter?"

"...the mechanthropoid?" Völsung said, a little wow-how-are-you-not-following for Alex's liking. "The machine man."

"Oooh. Gunserface."

"If it's anything like the demons Verdant and I have fought, it's likely already caused enough mindless damage to be detained by the school. Grant it any intelligence to speak of - enough to understand the Sophisticate - and we face a truly dangerous foe."

"EXCUSE-ME-I-AM. COMING-THROUGH" someone bellowed down a hallway, though to the the trio's in the courtyard it would've sounded more like a thoroughly ignorable public address system, distant and muffled by architecture. What did draw their attention was a flurry of panicked students briskly walking (demerits for running, recall) the hell away from one of the entranceways into the plaza.

Gunzelurge, to her credit, screeched to a halt before almost palm-thrusting the grand oak doors off their hinges.

"GOOD-MORNING. FELLOW STUDENTS OF. HORSEMANSHIP." Gunzelurge greeted. She figured say it loud enough, and she'd greet everyone at once, even the ones who weren't quite in the vicinity yet. Late to the first and most important class of the day or no, they still deserved Gunzelurge's courtesy.

Not like Gunzelurge had too much time for pleasantries, however. She had a horse that needed exercising.
RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
“Something’s missing.” Tiff murmured. She was sat sprawled out on the Sophisticate’s brown leather sofa, with her feet (and subsequently her heavy boots) up on the antique glass coffee table and a half eaten bowl of munchos cheese puffs in her lap. Arrayed around the room are a number of windows displaying the environs of Mademoiselle Primfel’s and the battlers they had sent there. These windows hung in mid air, their edges curling into smoke. Tiff had conjured them herself, despite The Sophisticate’s insistence that he had a media room set up for this very purpose. He was there too, slumped in his black leather recliner, his bowl of munchos only barely picked at. At Tiff’s murmur; at the merest hint of dissatisfaction in her voice, he almost leapt to his feet, nearly knocking over his bottle of Cool Spring soda.

“I knew it!” He said. “I knew you’d finally come around to my way of thinking. I just knew that if we left your gaggle of girls to gallivant around for long enough sooner or later you would come to realize that your idea of what is a battle is is horribly misinformed and every choice you’ve made has been nothing short of catastrophic.” He paced back and forth along the coffee table as he unleashed the tirade he’d clearly been practicing in his head for the entire length of the battle so far. “But, you know me, I’m not the kind of petty small minded person who needs to say I told you so, because I’m better than that I’m gonna help you out of this spectacular mess. It’ll be almost as good as if you’d just listened to me in the first place. So what you’re going to want to do is-”

It was at this point The Sophisticate realized Tiff wasn’t listening and stopped mid-rant. She was looking from window to window, an expression of concentration on her face, only acknowledging the grandmaster so much as he was standing in the way of one of the windows. “And you’re not even listening to me. I’m offering you the best advice you could ever get and you think you’re somehow going to solve this on your own as though you’re freaking Jamie Knight or something…” He slumps back down into his recliner and says nothing, staring sulkily at Tiff as she pulled out a retro flip phone and makes a call.

“So come on then Sis. Don’t keep me in suspense. What one hundred percent wrong conclusion have you come to and how to intend to fix it, because clearly you don’t need the assistance of someone who actually has watched battles and knows how these things go.” The sarcasm dripped from his voice thicker than treacle.

“Not enough cats.” Tiff said simply.

The Sophisticate stared at her open mouthed for maybe a full minute then sighed deeply. “I give up. There’s just no helping some people. If you’re intent on making the worst battle this side of the multiverse then I guess I just have to let you do it.” He grabbed a well worn manga from a nearby shelf and started thumbing through.

“Thanks.” Tiff snarked. “Real generous of you there, Sophie.”

The Sophisticate tensed up for a moment, then slowly relaxed, as he mumbled to himself “’ve got to be the bigger person here...”

Not too long after the almost silence of occasional muncho bites and slow turning of pages was broken by the jangling of bones. The door to the drawing room opened and in stepped an animate skeleton holding in its hands a large cat; twice the size of a normal cat with gold accents around the joints and card symbols marking its body. The skeleton strode, awkwardly, over to Tiff and stood in front of her. She climbed to her feet and inspected the cat making all the noises that cat lovers make, whilst making sure not to actually touch the cat herself. The Sophisticate resolutely refused to look and just shook his head despairingly.

“Sophie, don’t you wanna give our new contestant the rundown on how all this works?” Tiff asked.

“I can think of nothing in the multiverse I’d less rather do thank you.” The Sophisticate mumbled.

Tiff paused, cocked her head and shrugged. “Alright then.” she said and gave the nod to the skeleton. It promptly threw the cat through the closest window, which graciously became a portal for just long enough for Felixia to pass through entirely. Its job done the skeleton turned and left the way it had came.

“You know, you were already well over the normal limit of contestants.” The Sophisticate said.

“So?” Tiff said.

“Well it’s really not the done thing to just add new contestants mid round.”

“Do you have a point?”

“My point is as ever that you’re terrible.”

“Whatever,” Tiff held up the empty bowl that had once contained munchos cheese puffs. “You sure you don’t have any popcorn or anything. These are just the worst.”

“Absolutely positive.” The Sophisticate replied, “Here’s a thought, if you don’t like eating them then don’t.” Tiff was already tearing open a new bag with her teeth as she sat back down to watch the battle resume.


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RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
Cats normally land on their feet, but Felixia was not really a cat, and she’d just been thrown through an interdimensional portal. She plowed headfirst into a bookcase.


A large tome thumped solidly onto the arcanomachine’s head, sending a shower of sparks across her vision. Contestant? What? Was this one of the Pyrrhus Club’s new games? Felixia scrabbled through the shower of books crashing down around her. Her claws scored a long gash in the cover of Dancing With Diplomats, raking up little curls of paper. This wasn’t in her timetable. She was supposed to be in the Carmine Lounge with the Comtesse Du Vraquier. Had she misread? Who had those people been? Was this some rogue VR simulation? What was she wearing?

“A-hem.” A rather prim-looking human was gazing down at her. Belatedly Felixia realized she was on her back and tried to right herself, but only succeeded in entangling herself further in the miniature schoolgirl’s uniform into which she’d been stuffed.

“Young lady. You are extremely late.”

Felixia blinked. She was in an expansive ballroom full of tittering girls- girls of every shape and size, most of them species she’d never seen. They were looking at her with obvious scorn. Was that another CoveTech model? No, just a pink-haired felinoid. Felixia felt her mechanical heart sink a little.

“Ten demerits, one for every minute you were late, and five more for damaging school property,” the first human sniffed, pointing to the scratched book. She marked something off on a little tablet in her hand. “I understand you’re one of the newcomers, but there can be no excuse for such tardiness. Now, go join your partner.”

Hopelessly confused, Felixia found herself dragged across the floor and swept off into the arms of something very like an oversized yellow spider that had to crouch awkwardly down to hold her paws. Her head still smarting, Felixia was slowly led around and around in a waltz set to the tune of a reedy violin. Her dancing partner hissed and clicked at her irritably as she stumbled around the ballroom, paws slipping on the marble.

Completely absurd, Felixia thought dazedly. There must have been some kind of mistake. She must have been sent to a VR room on accident, and now she was in some bizarre scenario about- dancing? School? Teenagers? She couldn’t ascertain the theme, and the violin was giving her a headache. She danced about as well as any cat propped up on its hind legs for the next few minutes, her thoughts racing. Surely this bizarre simulation would end soon. She just had to wait. Her chances of returning to the Comtesse on time were-

What? Zero?

The dance ended abruptly, Felixia’s partner dumping her without ceremony on the floor as the students convened about the nearby wall barres for a break. The arcanomachine sat dazed for a moment before bouncing back to her feet, her claws clattering on the tiles. Surely she could access some kind of information program on this simulation. There must be a failsafe somewhere.

She bounded across the ballroom to the pink felinoid she had spotted earlier. “Excuse me,” she said politely. “How can I exit this program? I’m very late. I have an appointment.”

The felinoid looked at her, rolled her eyes and said, “Get lost.”

“I have to leave this simulation! I have a very profitable bet to close! You have to assist me!”

The pink-haired girl gave her an irritated look. Her dour expression spoiled her otherwise quite pretty face. “This isn’t a simulation.”

Felixia paused. The girl’s odds of lying to her were… low. She felt herself becoming aware of the very real breeze wafting through the ballroom, the detail of the class’ conversations, the coolness of the marble under her paws. This wasn’t VR at all.

“Then… where am I?” Felixia asked plaintively.

The girl nearest the pink felinoid elbowed her. She was starting at Felixia’s mouth with blank, pearly eyes. “Are you a contestant?”

Felixia’s ears flicked back and forth. “A… thing called Sophie was involved. This is some kind of mistake.”

The two girls looked at each other. The pink one shrugged. “You’re in a battle to the death. We’re in it too.” She wrinkled her button nose at Felixia and said, “I’m Georgia. Is there some kind of cat theme?”

Before Felixia could respond, a feral-looking human slunk up to the group, hair bristling unattractively around her neck. Another group of girls watched her go, giggling to themselves. “Brought more friends, kitten?” the girl asked Georgia tauntingly, casting a yellow eye over Felixia. “I bet you two are sisters. How cute.”

Georgia groaned. She’d hoped that she would be able to escape from Mori’s clique at least during classes, but Madame Chora’s attention was occupied on a birdlike student struggling with her footwork. She could see Mori watching smugly from the other side of the room, surrounded by sniggering girls.

Georgia was about to suggest to Victoria where she could stuff her tail when the little cat at her feet interrupted.
Do you bet we’re sisters?” Her tail lashed, clinking on the marble.

Victoria growled. She clearly wasn’t in the mood to deal with someone’s wayward pet. “That’s what I said.”

“Would you bet your left eye?”

The werewolf blinked disdainfully at the question. “What? Whatever.”

“We are not sisters.” Georgia watched the cat lean forward, tail twitching. “This bet is concluded.”

There was a little shimmer of golden light, an electric tingle in the air, and suddenly Victoria was screaming, bright scarlet draining from the empty socket where her left eye had been. She howled, slamming into the ballet barre and snapping it like a toothpick. Concerned students flocked to her as the werewolf swung wildly about in a panic, trailing red droplets across the marble.

The sight of so much blood hurt Georgia’s stomach. By her ankles she felt the cat curling around her, kneading her paws gleefully.
“I’m Felixia,” the cat said. “Would you like to make a wish?”
RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
“So,” Cassandra began, “what does it take to score a gig like yours?” She punctuated the query with a wide sweep of her arm, indicating the hazy inside of Room 102b (Intermediate Calculus).

Oh, right. The room was full of smoke. Probably a more important detail to point out, but Cassandra wasn’t currently taking in the details of anything except the neatly rolled cylinder in her fingers. “Also, what does it take to score some of this?”

“You can’t.” Wren pursed her lips; a perfect smoke ring came floating out before dissipating into the general fog of the room. “This place is more straightlaced than… than a lace-straightening factory.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure. There’s an underbelly to every city.” The PI examined the joint more closely, then threw caution to the wind and lit it. “Oh. Wow.”

“You said it. Enjoy it while it lasts.”

As if on cue, faint and angry noises began to emanate from the corridor outside.

Cassandra took a long drag, the end of the joint glowing brightly. “Guess we shouldn’t have kicked the rest of the students out, then?”

“Probably not.”

A furious knocking made itself known without. The thick wooden door fairly shook in its doorway, but the bolts held, and a muffled voice came inching through the cracks in the door. “We know you’re in there!”

“Piss off! We’re learning in here!”

The hammering stopped. “Please let us in,” another, more plaintive voice squeaked, “please.”

The two miscreants shared a glance. Wren silently raised an eyebrow; Cassandra shook her head, shaking loose a hitherto unnoticed old, disgusting corn chip previously lodged in the fedora’s hatband. Both grimaced and resolved to forget about it as soon as possible.

“Can’t you know, curse them?” Hopping off their respective desks, they slowly crept towards the door.

“I have to see them to do that. Among other things.”

“Lame.” The demon hunter flanked one side of the doorway, while the prophet took a stand in front of it, crouched behind an overturned desk. “Like what?

“Various things. And it doesn’t always work the way you’d expect, either.” She began rummaging through a few abandoned backpacks. “I think I saw… hold on.”

The plaintive voice called again. “Please let us in.”

“Found it!” Triumphantly, Cassandra pulled a handle from the nearest schoolbag, which was followed by about a meter of brightly-shining metal. “Y’know,” her tone grew introspective, “no matter where you go, weapons all look the same.”

“No, seriously,” the first voice came through again, “we can help you. And more importantly, you can help us.”

“Bite me.”

“We can pay.”

“...with what? Lunch tickets?”

“Information,” piped up the plaintive voice, “and you won’t get it if the Prim catches us.”

Cassandra passed Wren a momentary glance. “I like information.”

“Yeah, like ‘what the fuck’s wrong with your school?’” Wren chimed in.

“Prim is, duh. Come on, let us in before she… Bad Allie, what’s our status?”

“No movement yet,” a third voice cut in, presumably that of Bad Allie, “But Teufels is patrolling the floor above us. Come on, let us in or I’ll turn the fire alarms back on.”

Another glance. “All right, but make it snappy-like, alright?”


This trifecta of bad girls reminded me of an old crew I had once. Bad Allie was their technical boy; she cut wires, diverted security, forged records. Plus, she had a rad jacket, all pockets and leather and chains, all that shit.

“That’s a rad jacket.”


Sad Jodie, the pale one with the pigtails and tiny voice, she was their go-getter. Espionage - real easy for a dead girl who can walk through walls.

“Wait, so you could have just walked through the door?”

“Sure.” Sad Jodie shrugged a semi-transparent shoulder. “We wanted to see if you’d let us in.”

And finally there was Mad Mandie - the doer. What needed to be done, got done. I’d’ve pegged her as the muscle, except she was pretty clearly leading this particular crew. She looked at me like I was shit she had to scrape off her shoe. I should really get used to that one of these days.

“That hat looks like shite.”

“Your face isn’t too shit-hot either.”

Mad Mandie’s lip twisted. “For the record, I was against this. I got outvoted.”

“Why all this fuss, then?”

“You conned your way into a teacher’s position.” Bad Allie said in admiration. “No one’s managed that before. Think of all the shit you could do!”

“That’s why we’re taking you to see the Ring,” Mad Mandie added, “and I hope she sucks you dry.”

“The ring?”

“The ‘Ring’.” Bad Allie corrected. “Head honcho. Bitch in charge.”

Sad Jodie raised a finger. “Bitches in charge.” The profanity sounded wrong in Jodie’s plaintive voice. “It’s complicated.”

“Shit’s always complicated with you, Sad Jodie.” Neatly, Mad Mandie shouldered one of the more weapon-bristling backpacks from off the floor.

Wren looked up sharply. “Where are you taking that?”

“It’s my backpack, dumbass. And no, we aren’t going to behead you behind some pot plants. The Ring wants you. She’ll get you.”

“I take it this is yours, then.” Cassandra hefted her scavenged blade.

“Yup.” Pause. “Nice choice. It’s one of my best.” Mad Mandie added, somewhat begrudgingly.

“Now kiss!” Bad Allie quipped, prompting a quick duck from a Mandie-fist. “I’m just sayin’...”


RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
"The demon," hissed Völsung. Verdant's hand went for her erstwhile sword - not that it would've done much good against something of Gunzelurge's size - and Alex figured this'd be a prudent time to step in.

"Let me handle this."

She squared her shoulders and, with a pleasant ringing of boots on courtyard flagstones, walked over to Gunzelurge. The Pheral looked at her with undisguised curiosity, though it would've been quite easy to mistake it for a hulking leer. Most expressions'd be "hulking" at that size, Alex supposed.

"Good-morning I. Do. Believe-we-have-met."

Alright figured Alex, this is going to be fine. Juuuuuuust fine. She seems nice. Kind of slow, but honestly? Kind of terrifying if she weren't, with a build like hers.

"I-wish-to. Compliment. Your chassis. I-am-led-to-believe alloys like yours are rather." Gunzelurge thoughtfully tapped the grill of metal, cowcatcher-like, which approximated her face's lower half. "In-vogue."

Oh. "Uh, thanks?"

"If you were an. Actual. Pheral. You-would-not be. Out-of-place-in The Wright-claves-of-Machinations. Or-so-I-believe, it-has-been-a-while since I stopped by. Town."


"I know you are not a real Pheral. Because. Your alloy is. Not. Desirous-of-metal-in-conduct but. Still very nice." She flexed a bicep of her own to demonstrate, pointing at the exposed joint. Alex would've whistled in appreciation; the mechanical pistons or whatever in Gunzelurge's elbow did it for her. "If you are. Jointed, you conceal it. Like a Fragile."

"A what now?"

A pause two beats south of awkward. The ifrit was about to ask if the robot had like, crashed, or something, then: "My-apologies-it-is-a-Se'anvil-term-for-sophonts-not-Se'anvil-I-do-not-have-anything-against-them-collectively-but-understand-if-the-term-standalone-is-not-flattering-"

"-woah, hey, it's fine-"

"and-you-seem-nice-and-cognizant-of-local-norms-such-as-not-suplexing-each-other-as-greeting-in-high-traffic-areas. Anyway-I-am-Gunzelurge-and-it-is-lovely-to-meet-you-and-I-apologise-again-for-possible-offense-by-flexible-definitions-and-for-not-introducing-myself-sooner." The druid seemed to notice she was still flexing and lowered her arm, shifting her stance a little.

Alex, more than a little bemused, patted a clearly-embarrassed robot on the back of its hand. Christ, she's got fingers as thick as my forearms. With both hands, she shook Gunzelurge's hand in a movement that wasn't quite a handshake.

"It's fine," insisted the ifrit. "I'm Alex, it's great to meet you too and oh boy it's that horse again."

Gunzelurge spun around faster than Alex was really prepared for, but it was only Radicorn. Which meant, it was time for-



Radicorn's incandescent presence had been enough to stop anyone kicking up a fuss about the stuff their classmates were made of, and now thirty-or-so first years were lined up outside the stables in varying states of excitement, anxiety, and matter (stood between Gunzelurge and a fight-or-flight-ready Verdant was a human-shaped shimmer in the air, the posture of her school uniform the only indication her immediate company was making her uncomfortable).

The horse was nudging at girls' poor posture and affixing a deathglare on anyone who dared so much as whisper. It was something of a relief when it finally pawed the ground twice and Madam Ascot emerged, holding a hovering rope and leading thirty-odd horse-shaped entities out of the stable. If Gunzelurge was disappointed, she didn't show it. The "horses" fanned out, forming a matching row behind the instructor.

"Morning, ladies!"

Verdant's designated horse was a haughty stallion, finest among the for-realsies horses. He was a noble jet-black under natural light, and a drabber, respectful grey under Radicorn's. He looked at the disembodied tack beside him with disdain.

Völsung's was also an actual horse, a brown fell pony rather more nervous around these unsettling horseforms, of which Gunzelurge's was the largest and least horselike by dint of its extra load-bearing legs.

Alex, with a human on either side of her and two mares across obfuscating the gap between them by huddling from the not-horses, clearly didn't have a horse, because-

"Hrm. We're one short. Alright, which one of you lost their timetable and thought they could join their friend?"

There was a collective moment of hesitation before Gunzelurge raised her hand. Radicorn exchanged a withering glance with the strategically-armored abomination opposite. Madame Ascot groaned inwardly - the Constructs students were by and large well-behaved, but you'd occasionally get shit like this - and booted up her wrist display. "Name."


"Gunzel... Gunzel- ah. Miss... Retrowirx." Gunzelurge still had her hand up, and was pretty clearly on-track to be disruptive if improperly handled. Alex resisted the urge to do a double-take, because nobody else was daring to move. "Miss Gunzelurge. While your honesty is admirable, you're supposed to be in this class right now and not the student I'm looking for." Gunzelurge still didn't lower her hand, so Madam Ascot actually sighed this time and gestured to the Pheral.

Clang. Wince. "Thank-you. Madam Ascot. Your-" the robot made an aggrieved gesture before finally spitting out "-Horse. You have. prepared-for-me. It is nice however. I-was-hoping-to. Manship my own horse today and. That he would-be in your stables as. De suggested. If he is-as-I-suspect, not. that-is-acceptable, given he needs. Ample space. To run. Also. I am able to summon him so. You would not need to. Worry."

"Did that demon just say it can summon?"

"*stern neigh*"

Ascot rolled her eyes and did a pretty solid job making it look like a gesture toward Radicorn. "Fine, but go give yourself enough space to be quiet. Do not interrupt this class further."

"Thank-you-Madam-Ascot," said Gunzelurge, and she headed out a respectful distance from the class, Radicorn in tow.

"Right," said Ascot, dismissing Gunzelurge's original 30-hand "horse" from existence with a wave of her hand and a wave of relief among the remaining steeds. "The rest of you, hurry up and mount your horses, and may Primfel have mercy on whichever one of you is not supposed to be here."

Everyone hurried to their respective horses pretty quick-smart after that, save for Völsung and Alex. The dragúnsídhe was staring at the robot doing warm-up stretches, Alex was watching Ascot, and Ascot was distracted by two queen bees trying to trade a meeker girl for her apparently-the-best horse.

Everyone noticed the vwoom and arctic gale as Gunzelurge opened a portal in the air, big as a six-lane road tunnel and uttering a magnificent roar. The Pheral clapped her hands with a righteous CLANG that set Völsung's teeth on edge, and bellowed in response.

Völsung's's initial thought was "how big a horse are we talking about here even," before realising she'd been struck dumb by a demon. This had to be a trick, there was no way-

Radicorn screamed, bursting into searing light-


Ascot had leapt to Radicorn's side in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it flash of white wings, shaking with barely-contained fury. His radiance stripped and visibly grappling with Gunzelurge's portal, the horse lay sprawled, plain, and panting on the ground, very clearly pissed that that's where his reputation would average out for a decent while. Gunzelurge took the hint, and with another cacophonous bang of her fists, the portal closed again.

Nobody said anything for a tense moment, broken once Radicorn seemed to recover and haul himself to his feet.
"Detention," Ascot finally managed. Composure was officially for chumps who didn't have Constructs crashing their first classes of the day. Gunzelurge nodded. "Now."

Gunzelurge figured it best not to argue. Ascot pointed the way of the main building, clearly not trusting Gunzelurge to avoid summoning another damnable "horse" en route. The rest of the class, she entrusted to Radicorn as she growled: "Practice... practice tacking your horses. Radicorn does not know the meaning of 'detention', only 'the Headmistress' Office.' Not a single demerit amongst you until I return."

Gunzelurge, having walked a dozen steps and almost returned to her pre-summoning location in line, waited patiently for the Madam to catch up. She waved shyly in Alex's direction as she was hustled away, a surprisingly conservative movement for something so large. "Move it, you."
RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
Des La Ryuje walked in the (an?) underground of the school, wondering both how they got into this situation and slowly coming to the realization that for the first time since joining the PH Mech Program they were truly alone. They tried to stave off the latter with the former, continuously reading back the words of Firro, the andriod who was in charge of if not the entire Mechanoids and Machine dorm, then at least the more troubled members of it.

It wasn't that Des didn't sympathize with the students in their assigned dormitories, Firro and their friends' very identities were in danger, if not from the Mademoiselle, then from the risk of reprogramming. It was that Des didn't see why they had to do this alone. While it was true that upon entering this forsaken school, they weren't given a uniform, it didn't seem to be as big of a deal as Firro had made it.

"The uniform isn't just a pretty set of clothes, it's a symbol of Primfel's power over us. Something about them allows the staff and security to know when we're near, when we aren't where we're supposed to be, it limits us in ways that aren't obvious, but still painful."

"And? I have a uniform, and I can take care of myself, I don't need a warning or anything..."

"No, you do not have a uniform, AMP Veloci does. You are free of the rules of this prison, making you the only one suitable to find what we need."

It wasn't very long before Firro had convinced Angelica with the AI positing that if indeed there was some sort of power that the uniforms held over the wearer, now would be the best time for the two of them to split up. A logical conclusion, meaning that Des felt all the more alone for it. Lacking anything better, Des clenched their knife in its sheathe, the feeling of something familiar calming them in this dark place. This was a place with uncertain laws and unwritten rules, so unlike their home, leaving them wondering, what were they even doing? Following the whims of some robots they didn't know, into a place no ones ever been, in hopes of finding a power that might not even exist?

"No," Des continued to reminisce in Firro's, "This is more than a rumor, this is history. If you go into that dungeon, you will find Mademoiselle Primfel's only true mistake. I am absolutely certain."

Des hated Firro, they hated how sure they were, they hated that they convinced their companion to abandon them, and they hated how even now they couldn't think of anything they could have done differently. A moment passed, and with it so did Des' misplaced frustration.

"What's past is past... it doesn't matter. For better or worse, this is my mission, I need to find whatever this so called mistake is."

Des's attempt to physical move forward proved better than their emotional attempts, and before they could begin to dwell on their past some more, they found that the corridor they had been following finally opened up. A quick feel of the brick walls led Des to believe that they were now in a circular room with only the one entrance that they had entered from.

"I guess this is it then." Des got closer to the floor and started to pat the floor, wondering where the "mistake" that was supposed to be dwelling here resided. Eventually, they found a depression in the center of the room.

"Hmmm..." After some hesitation, Des reached into the depression. And then they reached deeper. And deeper, before reaching far deeper than they should have been able to.

"I... see..."

Des ignored the voice, instead feeling around the hole.

"I see.... you De......"

Des began to shake, but still ignored the voice.

"I see you... Des La Ryuje... I am what you seek..."

Des felt something grab their hand, and they pulled it back as hard as they could.


Angelica, remotely piloting the AMP Veloci, sat in her first period and began to ge to work. She didn't care what it was. She did not truly care about a lot of things right now, as she had one true priority, the protection and safety f her pilot above even hers. While in most cases, a super robot was a good and safe place to be, the risk of the facilities magical restrictions outweighed the danger. Des was a capable person, and Amp Veloci's could read the area better as a student than as an outlaw.

Still... there were other things to consider, and Angelica hoped that she did not make the wrong choice.


Des looked down at their hands and saw nothing, even though they knew that they felt something heavy clinging on to them. They looked around the floor and realized that they could now see the entire room, though there didn't seem to be any light sources.

"Des... La Ryuje, an interesting name, you're less from here than most people are, interesting."

Des looked around, trying to find the source of the voice, now coming from closer to their head than the hole.

"Really? Confusion? I'd thought you'd be used to this sort of thing by now, we both know that I'm not your first guest here." The voice had a tinge of disappointment.

"You're in my head..."

"Yes!" The voice almost began to cheer, "Good, good. You know, it's very comfortable here, I can see why you've let so many others in..."

"That's, don't, shut up!" Des gripped their knife tightly.

"Oh... You don't want to be reminded of... I see...I'll just... look around a bit more I think."

Des was very uncomfortable. They began to take some deep breaths and try to assess the situation, but it was difficult to calm down when something was rummaging through your thoughts. The voice was chilling and smooth, speaking with a soft hum, almost flowing from one word to another. The voice knew things about Des that they wished she didn't, and was only learning more. Was there even anything they could do in response?

After a moment, Des decided to try a diplomatic approach, "I came here to find... what is called Mademoiselle Primfel's Mistake. Are you the one?"

"Is that what they call me? Hah. I suppose that's fair... Not a lot has changed then." The voice was quiet for a moment before she continued, "I suppose that, given the circumstances surrounding my imprisonment, yes, I must be..."

"What should I call you then?"

"You know, I haven't thought about that too much... How about, F Sharpe? I think... that sounds right enough."

"Right. So, what now."

The voice didn't respond, as if contemplating something.

"F Sharpe?"

"Des... you... you aren't what I was expecting, who I thought would free me."

"What do you mean, is my past too boring for you or something."

"Well, I think we both know I don't mean that. I... There's some things here alright."

"What's past is past, what matters is my mission, which was to find you, and now I found you, so tell me what I'm supposed to do with you."

"Do you really want to know? I guess you do... and the sick thing is that I don't even have to make you, huh?"

"Sick? Me? I don't know what you're talking about, but I didn't ask for this, I didn't have a choice here."

F Sharpe's tone wasn't angry as much as it was to the point, "No, you had plenty of choices, plenty of chances to forgive and forget."

Des shouted in return, their voice starting to lose certainty, "My country is at war with monsters!"

"Then what about what you did to the people who weren't monsters?"

"Shut up!"

While Des couldn't see F Sharpe, they could feel her staring at them, and they did their best to stare back.

"You aren't stupid. You aren't naive. You and I both know what we have to do, you just want me to tell you to do it, as if that would absolve you of your guilt." F Sharpe's turned to a mocking tone, "Oh, woe is me, I'm forced to kill and kill under orders, how terrible, good thing I enjoy it though!!!"

"I..." Des began to shake and their breathing became irregular.

"Enjoy it? Yeah! I noticed! I noticed a lot of things, and on further reflection, I'm glad that you pulled me out, it means that I can feel less guilty, knowing there's someone so similar to me!"

The voice in Des' mind and heart was ecstatic, but Des was miserable. As much as they didn't want to admit it, F Sharpe wasn't throwing shots at the dark. In mere moments, the ghost had laid bare so many feelings that had been dwelling inside of them since even before they joined the PH Mech program. They clenched their fist and teeth and curled into the floor, no longer listening to F Sharpe if she was even saying anything.

Were they truly loyal to their country, or loyal to the violence it enabled? It was a line of thought that Des often came back to, when they were alone in the dark, turning in their sleep. Could things be different? Would Des feel worse if they were? Who would Des lash out against if the Dragonoids didn't attack their people? Where would they even be without their status, without their mech, without Angelica?

The ghostly presence only watched as Des began to cry, now digging their knuckles into their head as they wrestled with their thoughts. F Sharpe refrained from speaking, feeling somewhat guilty for inducing this panic in the pilot, but not enough to regret doing it. She had been laying down there for so long, all alone, forced to spend an eternity in stasis, catching only whatever scraps she could snatch whenever a guard had to come into her prison. She didn't ask for this either, but she'd be damned if she didn't get her revenge.

Des continued to grapple with their thoughts, struggling under the weight of all of these feelings they had repressed. They had been hurt. And their response was to hurt others. Was that right? Did 'rightness' matter? What was important? What was important to them? What did they want? What did they want?

Des didn't know.

F Sharpe didn't know either.

It was very likely that no one knew.

There was a moment of silence.

And then Des La Ryuje stood up.

"You're right. You're right about everything. I've just been lying to myself this whole time."

"Being honest feels good, doesn't it?"

"It really does."

"Then you know, what we're going to do, right?"

Des wasn't sure how, but they felt F Sharpe smile. It was warm and familiar, like one from an old friend.


Des brushed themself off and walked back into the corridor they entered, discussing with their new friend the murder of Mademoiselle Primfel, along with, how nice it is to not be alone.


Georgia was on her way to detention, shoulders hunched, her stride as low and downtrodden as it could be, with the hopes of almost becoming one with the hall, when out of the corner of her eye, she saw something odd ahead. She wasn't sre what it was, but she knew that something was ahead in the corridor, between a set of lockers and a classroom. Normally, she would refrain from investigating such a thing, even thinking about it too much could be risky, but... there was something, a feeling she couldn't shake, that drew her to it.

Georgia slowly leaned closer to the side of the hall where she had seen, whatever it was that she saw, just to get a closer look, not to get involved or anything.

When she finally reached it, the last thing she expected was to get pulled in by Des La Ryuje.

Georgia looked around, she wasn't in the hall anymore, she wasn't in a classroom either, was it a closet? A hidden room? She supposed that some schools did have hidden rooms... Then she turned her attention to the person grabbing at her, it was definitely the other mecha pilot.

That didn't stop her from attempting to ask, "Aren't y-"

"Shhh," Des covered Georgia's mouth and after some moments passed, uncovered it, "Okay, it should be fine, and yes, I'm Des."

The two awkwardly stared at each other for a while. It was the first time that Des had gotten a good look at her, and while before they might have scoffed or pitied the animalish pilot, in light of recent events, Des had ended up with new, possible conclusions...

"Are you going to uh, let me go?"

Des quickly, released their grip, keeping their hands close to them and definitely no where near Georgia, "Sorry."

In Des' head, F Sharpe giggled and let out an, "Ohhhhhh my gooooooooood."

They rolled their eyes, and turned their attention back to Georgia and the issues at hand, "Do you know where your robot is?"

Georgia's brow furled and she quickly rebutted with a, "Do you know where your robot is?"

"She's probably still in her first class I guess?"

"Oh. Uh, well, okay. That's some pretty good AI technology you've got then, I uh, don't know where mine is. Sorry."

Des nodded and then stepped into the back part of the hidden room they were in. Georgia looked with some confusion as her peer in piloting robots started to talk to themself. Georgia thought about leaning in closer, to try to hear what they were saying, and assuming that they weren't just talking to themself, find whatever device they were using to communicate. Instead however, Georgia's eyes settled on Des's very large knife.

"What?!" Des shouted as F Sharpe giggled some more.

They turned around and accidentally locked eyes with Georgia, and then immediately turned back.

"Look, I'm just saying, that, whatever conclusions you're drawing, they're wrong!"


"So, that said, is... this really the only way?"


Georgia finally decided to lean in, just in time to catch the tail end of the conversation.

Really? D... B... thats... okay sure." Des returned from their whisper-fest and then asked, "Could you please uh, hold your hand out."


"Could, could you please hold your hand out."

"Is... is this all... was this all just to... you know there's..."

"Look, this is, a bit weird, I know, but its easier if you hold your hand out than if I sit here and explain it all, apparently."


"It's a ghost thing, okay?"

"A what?"

Without really thinking, upon exclaiming 'what', Georgia spread her hand out, allowing Des to quickly grab it. As their hand wrapped around hers, she felt a light wind flash through her head. A moment passed, and she was still holding hands with Des. Before she could say anything however, she began to hear a soft hum flow in her mind...

"Hey Georgia! I'm F Sharpe! Long story short, I'm a spooky ghost who's going to help you get to your robot! I just need to look in your head a bit..."
I wanna be a real friend, Don't wanna break when I bend
I wanna a be no seeker, I wanna scream eureka
RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
Crime bosses are all the same, when you get right down to it. Big table, imposing presence, smoldering cigar dangerously close to bottle of liquor. Maybe a giant pile of cocaine, but that was one time and it didn’t end well for the guy.

Point being is, there’s a kind of essence that follows crime bosses around. A big-tableness. Imposing presence-ness. Cigar, bottle, smolder, cocaine-ness. You know. The smell of old leather, too. Oh, and lackeys. Lackeys leaning against the walls with their own smoldering cigar-ness floating about them, you know?

So, psychically speaking, when Mad Mandy opened a classroom door and a big cloud of all these -nesses rolled together came bursting out like a slap to the face, I pretty much had an idea of what I was going to find behind there. Bossa Numero Uno. Bitches in charge. The Ring.


“It’s a TV.” Cassandra watched the mute nods all around, especially from the lackeys in the corner of the room. No one else seemed keen to say anything. “With a tape player.”

“A tape player? What is it, Betamax?” Wren leaned in to peer into the slot, poking at the plastic flap with the stem of her pipe. This turned out to be a bad idea.

HANDS OFF hands off HANDS hands off OFF HANDS OFF hands off bitch

Slowly, Wren picked herself up from the smoking crater in the floor. “Definitely Betamax.”

The TV flickered to life, displaying a kaleidoscope of ghostly, white-haired girls, all dressed in tattered school uniforms. The effect was rather spoiled by Wren’s pipe, which was still stuck in the slot underneath the screen.

WE ARE THE RING, the image on the TV screamed, AND YOU ARE UP IN OUR SPACE which was followed by the cacophony of echoing, discordant repetitions of all that which was just said, plus or minus a few utterances of ‘bitch please’.

“Uh-huh.” Cassandra casually twirled a chair underneath her, putting her feet up on a desk even as she fell into the clattering seat. “Let’s cut to the chase.”

“Respect hers,” Mad Mandie hissed from her corner of the room, “or you can join hers…!”


“I’ve been in a hundred rooms like this one, usually tied to a chair or,” Cassandra paused and quirked a smile, “one time, the ceiling…”

Sad Jodie broke formation and floated over into Mandie’s junk-filled corner. “We can do that if you’d like, I have some rope somewhere.”

There was a pregnant pause, though a few afterechoes from the Ring giggled.


The flickering images on the TV began to slow, gaining color and depth. A face formed, from the profiles of hundreds of other faces - not that you would have seen it, covered in long white hair as it was. But the one eye that was visible quivered in rage and hate, pupil contracted to a pin-like dot.


A pearlescent rainbow rippled across the screen. Color burst onto the Ring’s face like an exploding peach, though they were so pale the difference was barely visible. But the eye flared into a brilliant red, crimson iris quaking, flickering from face to face.

WE WANT OUT, WE WANT OUT, WE WANT OUT want out OUT want out WANT want OUT want OUT bitch

The TV physically shook on its rolling stand as the Ring screamed. Wren’s pipe shot out of the videotape slot and buried itself, stem first, in the classroom door. The windows, if there had been windows in this cellar-like room, would have rattled in their frames. As it were, the cheery drawings that had been hung up in lieu of those, which, incidentally, were mostly of windows, very quickly stopped needing to be described in such detail because they were on fire.




With that, the undertone of screaming stopped, and the TV started spinning around in circles with the leftover momentum. The embarrassing squeaking went on into the silence for some time before Mad Mandie worked up the nerve to steady the thing.

“How many bodies have we got?”

Mad Mandie gestured around the room. Sad Jodie floated over Bad Allie’s head and waved.

YOU WORK WITH WHAT YOU GOT, the Ring intoned, and promptly went silent. With an incongruous ‘splort’ sound, the TV ejected a videotape before turning itself off.

After a second, Wren picked it up with a level of care usually reserved for high-level nuclear waste. “Huh. VHS. Never would’ve guessed.”

“So,” Cassandra said finally, “it’s a heist.”
RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
"Nope, no, fuck that," Georgia replied almost immediately, forcefully jerking her hand back. She turned to the door, shoving it open with her shoulder as she stormed into another featureless room, identical to the one she had just left. Her tail swished irritably and her ears flicked back. Des followed slowly after, their footsteps soft and surprisingly hesitant after the catgirl's burst of anger.

Yeah, that's not going to work, the ethereal voice said. Her voice had a disquieting, calming resonance to it, and it was just as much a sound as it was a feeling, a fleeting impression in Georgia's mind. Besides that, I can't imagine you're excited to spend the next few hours in detention, so it's not like there's any real rush to get out of here.

"Fuck off," Georgia snarled, to the almost visible consternation of Des. "Look, I don't know what you two worked out--" she said, both to Des and where she approximately assumed the ghost was, based off of what felt like a half-imagined voice in her head, "--but I'm really not in the mood for this."

Des rubbed their thumbs against their temples. "Look, I know this sounds suspicious--"

"That's putting it mildly," the catgirl interrupted, the remark punctuated with an angry flick of her tail and a scowl hard enough to make Des pause for a half-second to reconsider their words.

"--but, we're dealing with a situation larger than either of us. We need every advantage we can if we want to even the odds."

"Wow, okay, yeah, when you put it like that I totally feel comfortable about a ghost looking through my mind." Georgia rolled her eyes and winced, still feeling her bruises from earlier. She took the momentary silence as an excuse to examine the room-- the spatial impossibility of it mildly bothered her. If it were caffeine instead of adrenaline keeping her awake, she would give it more critical thought, but she was still running off a fight-or-flight response that made anything past annoyance difficult to process.

We're in an adjacent para-dimension, Sharpe explained without prompting. We made it to hide from Primfel, although it hasn't been used in, oh, probably a thousand years or so, if I had to guess.

"Yeah, I don't really care about your tragic backstory." Georgia yawned for emphasis.

Fair enough! Sharpe's ethereal voice had a mocking, sing-song cheerfulness to it. Lucky for you, I don't need you to care. I just need you to work with me.

Georgia groaned, leaning against a wall to ease some of the weight off her sore, bruised frame. She felt more awake now, at least; her body was sensitive and still painfully ached, and every breath sent a jolt of pain along her spine and across her abdomen, but it was keeping her focused. "You still haven't given me any particularly great reasons why I should let you inside my head," she said, shooting a brief look at Des-- who was doing their best to not look confused about the catgirl's one-sided conversation, projecting something almost close to the professional composure a military pilot was supposed to exhibit.

Look, Georgia, the short of it is that you need me. You got into a fight just after arriving. You're off to detention after one and a half classes. You're going to need some help if you want to get through this. I can help, if you'll let me. Sharpe's voice paused, her words silently hanging in the air. You've got an easy choice. You either swallow your pride, or you watch Primfel grind you up and spit out a well-behaved, well-mannered young lady.

"Fuck, okay, fine," Georgia said, sighing. She hated that Sharpe was right, and no amount of acerbic vitriol would change that. "Don't pretend this changes anything, though. I don't like this and I don't like you."

"You worked something out, then?"

Georgia stared at the pilot. The tip of her tail swished irritably. "Yeah, I guess. Whatever. What happens now?"

Des frowned and idly adjusted their collar. "You continue with class," they finally said. "I'll secure an infiltration route to your mech so you can be inserted in. We'll reconvene here in two hours and continue from there."

"Cool, I'll just go spend a few hours in detention, then, sounds great."

"I know this is not--"

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Look, it's-- it's fine. I've been through worse than this. It's just been a rough morning. We'll call it even after you've gotten me to Sorry and I've had a chance to thoroughly fuck up this shitty school."

"Um, right, yes," Des said. "You should leave first, then. It'll give us better cover."

She seems fun, Sharpe's voice projected-- Des could feel her invisible presence beside her again, as the catgirl left the empty room and headed off, presumably towards detention. Anyway, I know where her mech is.

"Yeah?" Des idly stretched, shifting their weight from one leg to another to limber up in preparation. "You make it sound like I'm not going to like this."

Oh, it's nothing you can't handle, I'm sure. Sharpe paused. We just need to break into the contraband locker, one of the most guarded places on the campus.

Another pause. No pressure, though.
RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
Felixia fumed.

She was curled up on her bed in the Constructs dormitory, having been granted a free period. Or so she assumed. It had been difficult to extract the thinly-printed schedule from the pocket of her uniform without poking it full of holes. Why on Arcana anyone had decided a feloid gambling machine should be signed up for Advanced Diplomacy, Backhanded Compliments, and Beginner’s Tennis was beyond her, and those were simply the classes she could still read. Felixia flexed her diamond claws. This was not going according to plan.

Her bed- appropriately cat-sized, with an accompanying (and useless) water dish- was already suffering from the attentions of Felixia’s kneading. She was feeling the hungry itch that came with going too long without making a bet, clouds of unrealized fortunomancy gathering intangibly about her shoulders. Her attempts to lure the other students in the hallways had been unsuccessful- they had ignored her in favor of rushing to their next class. One had even kicked her, scuffing her white flexisteel plates. She growled at the memory, clawing another puncture into her bed. It was bad enough that she was going to miss her appointment in the Carmine Lounge, but now she couldn’t even make penny bets with children? Disgraceful.

The arcanomachine bounded to her feet, full of restless energy. The dorm was empty aside from her. With a surge of catlike spite she leapt atop another, comparatively massive bed, sinking to her ankles in plush blankets. With a swipe of a paw she knocked the pillow to the ground, followed by a glass of water and an expensive alarm clock. She felt a tingle of satisfaction as the little machine shattered into a hundred clockwork pieces. Served it right for being there.

“Destroying another student’s property? Twenty demerits!”

Felixia whirled, pinning her ears flat against her head. A hulking mass of living green crystal stood framed against the door, crammed somewhat awkwardly into a plus-sized uniform. A prefect’s sash was positioned across its boulder-like chest. The craggy mass that she supposed had to be its face was wrinkled forebodingly, glaring sightlessly at her with obvious dislike.

“And I see you’ve ruined your own bedding. Well. I am very disappointed in you, first-year.”

Felixia snarled, her plates bristling threateningly. How dare this oversized paperweight speak to her as she was some kind of drone? “I am currently occupied,” she hissed. “I have no need of your services, maidservant.”

“Insubordination,” the crystal prefect grated, its voice an oddly chiming boom. With startling speed it reached over and plucked Felixia from the bed by the scruff of her neck. She hissed again, swiping at the behemoth’s arm, but she was trapped in the thing’s craggy fingers. The little arcanomachine twisted furiously, trying to find purchase.

“I have no choice but to recommend you for detention,” the prefect said, ignoring Felixia’s struggling. “Perhaps you will have the opportunity there to learn some manners.”
It stalked off, holding Felixia in its stony grip as she spat and snarled.


Felixia had not been programmed with the knowledge of what detention was, but the fragmented souls that made up her core were familiar with the concept. She had in her mind the image of desks, carved with decades’ worth of initials, rude words, and vulgar anatomy. A lone teacher glancing in irritation at the clock. Long hours of boredom. Feigned attempts at homework. Every so often, an assault with a ruler.

She did not have in mind a pocket dimension, hidden in a disused classroom inside a broken cabinet.

The crystalline prefect opened the creaking doors with one hand, revealing a red-rimmed halo pasted on the cabinet’s backboard like a glowing, two-dimensional mirror. It held Felixia in front of it and scrutinized the feloid with what she could only assume was a daunting expression, letting its disapproval sink in.

“Madame Castigatio will ensure that you are brought up to this school’s standard of behavior. I sincerely hope that I will not have to have this conversation with you again. You will be expected back within one hour of your arrival. Do not attempt to escape.”

Unceremoniously, it flicked its wrist and sent the cat flying.

Felixia yowled as warping energies plucked at her chassis. She felt as though she were being squeezed by a giant fist, determined to press the life out of her as it propelled itself through an ocean of black oil. Her joints creaked from the strain, her soul engine quivering. She had no need to breathe, but she found herself gasping, scrabbling for purchase on nothingness.

And then she was through.

“-Without saying that if you do not succeed in achieving acceptable behavior, you will be kept here indefinitely.”

She crash-landed on a wooden floor. The world shook like upturned gelatin.

“Now. All you newcomers, I can only assume-” a not-very-polite titter echoed around the room- “that you are unfamiliar with Detention. Of course, if you weren’t in need of it, you wouldn’t be here at all.”

Felixia meowed in pain, righting herself on the wooden planks. She allowed herself the indignity of shaking like an animal before trying to peer through the sea of legs in front of her.

A group of girls- though some pressed the limits of that descriptor- stood in a rather breezy room, somewhat like an overly large garden shed in nature, though its windows only showed the oily blackness of the void. The tallest of the crowd scraped the vaulted ceiling with her train-like head (a machine? Like her?); the smallest was simply a rat in a pinafore. All of them had their backs to her, facing a lurking monster at the front of the room. A tangle of shadowy limbs was all Felixia could make out before her eyes felt as though they were about to boil out of her skull. Madame Castigatio, presumably.

“You may think of this as a remedial course in ladyship and fine manners,” the monster sniffed. It drew itself up, somehow far too large to fit in the room yet also primly posed behind a desk. “Only when you have proven yourself more of a gentlewoman than every other girl in this room may you be released back to your classes.” It seated itself in a plush leather chair and steepled its skeletal fingers. “You may find it necessary to discourage others from taking the top position. That is acceptable. However, you may only do so with impeccable manners.”

In the front of the group, one of the girls swept the legs out from her neighbor with an elegant toss of her tail. The victim hit the ground with a sickening crack.

Madame Castigatio smiled, facelessly. “That’s the spirit, my dear.”

Felixia began to panic as the girls quickly began to divide themselves into defensive groups. A sea of calves parted, leaving her alone by the rear wall. Ladyship? She wasn’t even humanoid, let alone ladylike. Frantically the arcanomachine searched the room, desperate for a familiar face-


Felixia leapt, claws outstretched, over the shoulders of two lizardlike girls onto the back of Georgia’s blouse. The catgirl jumped and swore as Felixia clambered onto her head, tail lashing madly.

“You need to help me,” Felixia pleaded, gazing upside-down into Georgia’s very irritated face. “I can’t fight anyone here. I’m a gambling machine. I can barely fight an actual cat. You get me out of here, I’ll grant whatever wishes you want, good odds, no catch. What’s your name? Georgina?” She scrambled to avoid a swat. “I’m begging you, Georgina.”

“Get off me!”

Felixia only tightened her grip. She was doing considerable damage to the catgirl’s uniform. “We felines have to stick together, right? Right? Our chances together- they’re good. They’re real good. I wouldn’t lie to you. I’m not programmed for it.”

Georgia finally managed to free herself of the arcanomachine with a well-aimed punch, sending Felixia crashing to the ground. The cat rebounded, preparing herself for another pounce.

“Okay, first of all, stop trying to claw me to death,” Georgia snapped. “Second, shut up. Just- shut up for five seconds.”

Felixia sat, wrapping her tail around her body. She tried to look plaintive, but she was a mechanical cat, and the best she could manage was smug.

Georgia shook herself off and took a deep breath, getting a read on the room while the cat settled. Already a few girls had been taken down. It seemed as though Detention had some veterans.

She looked down at Felixia. “Wishes?”

RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
"I'm surprised the Nekomata lasted that long without detention," Morinaga chuckled. Her friends joined in; even the werewolf, clutching an ice pack over her still-regenerating eye, couldn't help but laugh at the pink-haired catgirl's misfortune.

Damse didn't. She might be sitting at their lunch table, drawing envious stares from the other high-class girls in the VIP dining room. But as far as she was concerned, she wasn't one of them.

Not that they seemed to have the self-awareness to notice. Of course, Damse was mostly ignoring them, too. She had taken an interest in Georgia's punishment, but for entirely different reasons.

Apparently, there were "demerits". Get enough of them, and you got "detention". Allegedly they were handed out for misbehaving, but from what Damse had seen, the catgirl hadn't done anything at all. Certainly nothing to warrant the same five demerits the other cat had received for taking another student's eye.

What it was really about was obvious - those demerits had been for not being the sort of girl Madame Chora approved of. That much had been obvious from the moment the class started.

And somehow, Damse was "the right sort of girl" in every teacher's eyes. That was probably the Story's fault.

But now she knew how to fight it. She had to earn demerits, somehow. It wouldn't be easy - with her narratively-enforced status, she was sure the teachers would look the other way as hard as they could.

"I'm looking forward to the other lowlife feline joining her," said one of Mori's friends, yet another catlike creature. "I wouldn't want those ghastly troublemakers ruining tomorrow's volleyball tournament."

That was the first part of the conversation to catch Damse's interest in the slightest.

"How do you think they'd ruin it?" she asked.

"Why, they might participate. Can you imagine?"

The other girls burst into laughter again. Damse just ignored them, and started slowly picking at her food some more.


"A volleyball tournament?" Gally asked.

"Yeah, it's the big event of the year," Rocksanne said. "Thought about signing up last year, but, well." She looked down at her pedestal. "Not really built for it, so to speak."

"Then why even consider it?"

"Why else? Status. Winning the tournament is a sure ticket to the VIP dorms." Rocksanne glanced around carefully. "Of course, the girls who're already there usually win, so, it probably wouldn't have been worth the trouble anyhow."

Gally started to smile.

"And I imagine if one of these vee-eye-pee girls were to lose to someone of lower status, it would be a grand humiliation. Yes?"

"Probably. But, meh. It's basically rigged for pretty much that reason. Look, I want to move up in the hierarchy, of course I do. But the VIPs, status is everything to them. They're ruthless about it."

"And so they'd surely be devastated to lose it," Gally cackled. "Tell me, what must I do to sign up?"
RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
Angelica finished class, her processing power having no issue juggling the classwork with the various things weighing on her digital mind. She believed that Des would succeed in the plan that the Mechanoids and Machine dorm had come up with, no matter how it would manifest, but it was difficult for her to fully processes the situation. It was a simple matter for Firro and their companions to transfer the information of their plan to AMP Velosi but it was far more complicated for her to come to terms with it.

”You see, our dorm has… a reputation, that has been difficult to lose.”

Des crossed their arms, staring at the android with some skeptism, “What do you mean?”

“Well, I imagine that you are familiar with how popular media usually portrays A.I., for one?”

“As purely benevolent beings created to aid and assist with any number of tasks, ranging from military to every day. Artificial Intelligences such as those used in PH Mechs like my own are to be respected and trusted like any other peaceful living being, what of it?”

“Uh, no, most people think A.I.’s go rampant and crazy dude.”

“That is unfortunate. However, using that as a point of reference, I can see why machines would not be trusted. ”

“Not to mention, there’s also the matter of the notion that we must abide by our programming, whatever that may be. Most of the other rebellious factions in the school simply do not trust us, citing fears of us getting reprogrammed but being able to act the same.”

“That doesn’t make sense, everyone has their “programming”, rules they abide by, and anyone can be bought as easily as a machine can be reprogrammed.

“Yes, but we’re dealing with teenagers here.”

Before Des could continue their series of objections, Angelica interjected, “So, I’ve now reviewed the plan, why exactly do we need to come into contact with a more... biological student?”

“The process of calling for an emergency inspection is something we can and have been trying to do, but we run into a CAPTCHA before it can be fully executed. We need a student of the school capable of getting past it if we wish to call the inspection. As none of the students trust us enough to listen to us, we can only hope that one of the contestants in your battle can or that somehow, you can find or ally with someone who will trust us.“

She was impressed with how quickly Firro had incorporated her and Des into their plan and was forced to admit that it was unlikely an opportunity as golden as this one would happen again. There wasn’t that much time, she had something that she had to do now. AMP Velosi locked on to the location of the contestant nearest to her and hoped whoever it was would be one amicable to the Machine Dorm’s plan…


Wren looked quizzically at the bag holding the VHS tape. “I guess you don’t or can’t exactly talk? But I really don’t get where I’m supposed to be going… You said I’d know or you’d lead me but I kinda think that you’re doing a shit job of it so far.” The demon hunter was wondering how Cassandra and the Ring’s goons were doing when she was suddenly pulled away.

“Oh, I think I kind of know this one.”

“Yeah, wow. Me too though?”

Wren looked at the odd featureless room, filled with exactly one teen, wearing a sleek outfit that definitely didn’t follow the dress code. They were the first person they’d seen in awhile who was out of uniform, even the Ring was wearing one after all.


“You can talk now?”


Wren took a good look at the person she assumed grabbed her, they seemed to be talking to someone, but Wren didn’t see anyone. “So uh, who are you, exactly?”

“Oh right, you probably don’t recognize me. I’m Des La Ryuuje, it’s a lot to explain, but first of all let me touch you for a second.”

Wren thought about stopping Des from just, going and touching her, but shit was confusing enough. On the shortlist of things she expected to happen, F Sharpe appearing in front of her wasn’t high, but it wasn’t surprising either.

“Oh. Another ghost.”

The VHS tape was vibrating with excitement, “NO! NOT JUST ANOTHER GHOST, SHE. IS. THE. GHOST!!! THE OG MOTHERFUCKER!!!”

“Wow Sharpe, it looks like you have a fan.”

F Sharpe and Des quickly explained their plans to Wren, and the Ring and Wren responded in turn, neither living member of the party really seeing the need in hiding anything, especially as their spectral companions seemed to have a rapport.


“What’s so special about ghostie number two here? She seems a lot more...normal than you, uh, no offense.”

F Sharpe sighed, “Look, it’s not that big of a deal…”


Noticing the slight discomfort in Sharpe’s tone, Des made an attempt to interject, “Do we really have time for this? I mean-”


“Shut up.” A wave flowed through the room and The Ring shut up as did everyone else. For this moment, F Sharpe’s tone took a turn, the smug playfulness replaced by a frank seriousness, “Look babe, I know what you think of me, it isn’t like you’re wrong about me, but… I’m just the one that survived. We all worked hard to make… that happen, but like, remember, I... we didn’t finish the job.”

The group remained silent for a while, each mulling on the ghosts’ words.

F Sharpe turned away and apparated another exit from the room, “But that changes now.” Her voice changed back to its usual state, “Let’s get down to business, the four of us have a contraband locker to blow wide open!”


Des and Wren, much less excitable, simply nodded and followed Sharpe’s lead into the backdoors and siderooms of the school towards the unknown.


As the bell rang once more, Gurska was now, finally, completely acquainted with every single rule and regulation that pertained to Mademoiselle Primfel's Academie For Young and Emaciated Girls. In addition to her previous anger at the organisers of the battle she was in, now she was also disappointed with the rampant violations of code that the school was under. While she her initial and current instinct was still towards going to detention, she was weighing the options of using the number in the back of the guidebook to report these infractions.

It was as she was weighing her options on the matter that she noticed the robot running towards her. Fortunately, it was not a repeat of last time, with AMP Velosi stopping in front of her.

“Greetings, Gurska Karr.”

“Greetings, I believe I'm speaking with… Des La Ryuje?”

“Negative, I am AMP Velosi’s Artificial Intelligence, Angelica. I have come to discuss a plan that will destabilize the area enough to hopefully allow us the freedom to escape our predicament.”

“I will admit that I am interested in such a plan, please elaborate.”

Angelica explained Firro’s plan to Gurska, going into detail on where Des was, why the machine dorm needed her to act for them, and the various smaller details here and here. The minotaur listened intently to the A.I.’s words, impressed by the depth of the plan and how quickly it was adapted to fit the current situation, but less impressed at the large risks involved.

“I see. Well, my largest concern is that of your pilot, Des La Ryuje, if they were to fail in their mission none of us here are exactly capable of the scale of misconduct necessary to defy or discredit the headmistress. I myself have noticed many violations of the school board, but your friends seem to think that they would not be enough to do her harm. If Des were to not deliver with the madame’s mysterious mistake, it would be my head on the chopping block here.”

Gurska observed the mecha, taking note of how Angelica did not seem to take insult to her implicatory accusations despite previously clearly feeling concern for their pilot. Interesting… I wonder how advanced this A.I. is...

“Des La Ryuje’s mission record is, as any graduate of the PH Mech Program, exceptional. They have over a hundred successful sorties and this is not the first time we have been separated.” Angelica neglected to mention that she had been able to keep in contact with Des when they were previously separated, Gurska didn’t need to know that. “I do not predict or think they will succeed, I know it.”

“You have conviction, I will give you that. Now, as for your plan…”

AMP Velosi put up a hand and turned away from Gurska, “Wait a moment, my sensors indicate that more contestants are near.” Angelica noticed Alex and Völsung walking and talking as familiar sensor activated, pinging directly onto Völsung.

Gurska took a rare step backwards as AMP Velosi’s posture changed in response to seeing the horned elf. Similarly, across the hall, Alex realized that her words were going in one ear and out the other, Völsung now speaking with her spirit, both of them looking at AMP Velosi with ill intent.



A tension filled the air as the two locked what passed for eyes, perceiving the other as a mortal enemy.
I wanna be a real friend, Don't wanna break when I bend
I wanna a be no seeker, I wanna scream eureka
RE: The Opulent Quarrel - Round One: Mademoiselle Primfel's
Gunzelurge had never been great at reading a room; the layouts were cramped and had altogether too much fine print. She tried raising her hand, immediately hit the ceiling, and seemed to think for a moment how best to get the gesture across. She tried pushing harder, until something pop-creaked unpleasantly and Madame Castigato unfurled from her chair some. "You. Large metal one. You strain the false walls of this dimension, now stop it."

Gunzelurge had everyone's attention for a moment, until one spiny schoolgirl saw the opportunity and shook a headful of quills into a bystander. Gunzelurge nodded, and squatted where she was still seeing over most heads in the throng. "I-will-do-my-best. Madame. I-had-a-question."

Madame Castigato wondered: Why did this school bother trying to teach the complicated business of being ladylike to mockeries of life like these robots? "Do you not understand how detention is structured, Miss-?"


"-I don't particularly care," snapped the Madame. Gunzelurge was silent, when the ratgirl Felixia had spotted in the crowd leapt for the metal hulk's shoulder and stabbed a stolen quill between two plates of chassis. Gunzelurge, almost on instinct, snatched the girl one-handed, looked at her fist and saw an actual panicked person in there, and placed her softly on the ground.

"Not-particularly. I-apologise," she said, pulling out the quill and handing it back to a stupefied rat at her feet.
Ah, thought Castigato, remembering she too was something of a mockery of life herself. It was hilarious, that was why - as long as Primfel kept to her domain and Castigato kept to hers, the Madame could enjoy herself and to the Interstice with the Headmistress' motives.

"We're supposed to be fighting our way out of here," hissed someone. Gunzelurge looked down; Georgia glared back up. The majority of the students had backed off in their groups toward the edges of the room, giving the solo detention-veterans and Gunzelurge (who still hadn't moved) a fair berth.

"Hello. again," said Gunzelurge. "Were-you-also sent here to. Detention. For summoning your. Horse?" Georgia's expression could've curdled milk.

"No. I'm here because I'm an accomplice to eyeball theft."

"As I recall, I was sticking up for you against bullies." Georgia hissed, ducked, barely dodged a giant centipede who had been hurled across the room. Felixia appraised the bigger robot, for good sense decreed if it were on friendly terms with the catgirl she enlist its help in this melee instead, but there was something very, very off about these odds. The easy pickings knocked down and out, the rest of the room entered an uneasy lull as everyone awaited the next distraction.

"Whatever. Gunzelurge."


"Team up with me." Felixia meowed plaintively. "Fine. Us." Gunzelurge extended a hand, and the catgirl seized the thumb and hauled herself up. The druid was taken aback, but didn't swat off Felixia when she took a scrambling run up her flank and onto the opposite shoulder.

"Yeah, good idea," said Georgia. "If there's no room in your cockpit, I can hang on up there. Keeps your arms free." Gunzelurge wasn't sure what a cockpit was, much less whether she'd accidentally picked one up on her travels or if it was some emboldened pink Fragile parlance that would need clearing up later, so for lack of better options she put Georgia on her other shoulder as told.

Georgia's garbage school-issue plimsolls squeaked on Gunzelurge's cauldron-like shoulder, providing scarcely better grip than Felixia's claws.
"Can you move this thing 'elegantly' enough to take out the nastier girls?"

"And not just for Castigato, I'll note. Spin around too fast and I'm not going to be able to hang on."

"Well why don't you just wish for the skin off someone's back to stretch out and catch you?" Gunzelurge raised a placating hand before Felixia could respond.

"Fella(id)s. Please." Beyond the shack walls, a distant roar.

Gunzelurge stood a little straighter, ignoring Georgia's protests. If the giant metal humanoid taking on some kind of combat stance in the middle of the room didn't alert the other detentiongoers some shit was about to go down, the blue-white summoning circle emblazoned across and beyond the back wall sure did. "Your-attention-please," said Gunzelurge, and Felixia could smell the magic aligning with the bigger robot's phrasing, the focus, the prayer.

"The-next-horse-arriving-at-platform D. is-the-<ERROR>-hour. Present. Now-hour. Now-hour-IORE-express-service-to. Madamoiselle. Primfell's. Academy. In-the-interests-of-safety-please-stand-back-from. The trajectory. of-the-horse-until-it-is-brought-to-a-stop-"

-something metallic, huge, and distinctly unhorselike crashed through the back wall of detention, iron wheels chewing up floorboards and whatever pseudosubstance shimmered underneath. Gunzelurge caught the machine by its face in outstretched hands, dug in her heels, and forced the beast to a stop scarcely a metre shy of Castigato's desk.

Castigato smiled a smile so thin, she could've strung it across a footpath and decapitated passersby. Her expression cut through still-swirling debris in the air, and Felixia felt those awful eyes boring into the three of them, but Gunzelurge patted her steed affectionately on the snout, an oblivious clang-clang into the stunned silence, and turned only when Georgia hissed in her ear. Side of its face. Whatever.

"You," said Castigato, "should choose your next words. Very. Carefully."

Gunzelurge nodded.

"Now-hour-IORE express-service-to Madamoiselle Primfell's. Academy. Is-now-ready-for-boarding. For-your-safety please take-care-when-stepping-upon-the-horse. Proceed. In an. Orderly. and-ladylike-manner, as-failure-to-do-so-may require-you to. stay on. the platform."

"Wait," said a girl, no longer bothering to escape the almost-casual headlock her fellow student had locked her in. "Are you saying we can just get on this train-"


"and just leave?"

Everyone looked at Gunzelurge. Gunzelurge looked at Castigato, who boiled inscrutably in her seat.


"chivalry is not one of the school's core values to be instilled in pupils, however. Given the ample damselling opportunities you've created with your little stunt here, I believe you may have generated enough ladyship to get away with it."

Nobody dared move, until Gunzelurge asked "Is-that. a. Yes?" to everyone's exasperation, relief, and terror. Castigato shrugged, her shoulders tracing non-euclidean paths. Someone watched it a little too closely and threw up.

"It is no longer my jurisdiction, for with this pocket dimension's boundaries destroyed, my contract with the school ends and I am at long last free to unmake myself."

"Congratulations," said Gunzelurge, because that seemed like the right thing to say. The dame of the detention dimension gave a prim nod, before evaporating before everyone's eyes. IORE neighed impatiently.


The driver compartment was crowded, but mostly civil. At Georgia's behest, the girls caught taking an "active role" in detention had been left behind, though Gunzelurge had immediately ruined the gesture with a "IORE will return on a round trip."

"Some of these people need medical attention," Georgia had said, aghast.

"Other students. Would be sent here with. No means of exit."

It sucked, but Georgia had to concede the mech had a point. It had taken a seat on the roof of the cab - god only knew how it was directing the locomotive - which chugged through the oozing dimensionless void. The only indication they were actually moving was the loose hair of girls perched outside on the pilot and buffers, sharing quite inanities and one of them occasionally breaking into cackles. Felixia was elsewhere in the cab rubbing metaphorical shoulders or extorting people or whatever the little menace's business was, and Georgia felt herself wishing she could be alone, physically alone, as she felt.

If nothing else, time to herself might help get her head around this whole battle nonsense-

"-and. Actually just ladies. My-apologies-ladies-and-ladies-we-are-now-approaching-the-Academy-"

-ok, never mind, Gunzelurge was jumping around, shuffling everyone back indoors and bracing herself in the doorway, yelling more train stuff. Georgia shoved her way through the crowd until she was face-to-elbow with the robot.

"Any chance you could run this thing straight through the school?" I mean come on, the showboating mech pilot in her had to ask. A few girls who overheard her oohed appreciatively.




"Haha, wait, are you serious?"

"Yes," said Gunzelurge. "There are-" Georgia could've sworn she saw it do the robotic equivalent of back-of-the-napkin math. "-many chances."

And the void dissolved to sky, and the silence gave way to whistling, and the headmistress' tower was full speed ahead, and Gunzelurge's safety message was overtaken by a fair amount of screaming.