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Caster
November 2nd, 2015, 01:55 AM
I figured as much, I was kind of hoping it could provide an extra power boost. But I guess it just is a means to add up to a hundred percent, fusion does that as well, no going over.

alfheimwanderer
November 2nd, 2015, 02:48 AM
I figured as much, I was kind of hoping it could provide an extra power boost. But I guess it just is a means to add up to a hundred percent, fusion does that as well, no going over.

Well, if you consider ways to get to the full power of a wizard-type magic user, Fusion is one of the ways that unlocks their full potential - though one can of course work on awakening one's inhuman heritage independently as well. Wandcraft is faster to learn and easier to use, but...its not going to let you reach the same levels of power.

Skull Leader
November 2nd, 2015, 03:15 AM
How does one safely go about awakening their inhuman heritage? We have been warned from just trying to awaken it as the results might overcome us depending on the heritage. It something that I think would suit Shinji as he has been barred from his Matou heritage with his lack of circuits, he can fall back on the inhuman heritage given to him by his mother. In a way, it is all we ever received from her. That and her wand that we gave away. And Hogwarts. And our magic. Ok so owe a lot to her.

I am really curious on what the heritage will be for Shinji. It should not be related to worms as its the wrong family side for it but if its also connected to death/decay...well that will be a scary day.

Caster
November 2nd, 2015, 03:16 AM
Yeah, I was just trying to figure out if they were mutually exclusive. From the sounds of it they are. Any chance of Shinji unlocking his inhuman potential? Kind of curious how that would turn out.

alfheimwanderer
November 2nd, 2015, 03:59 AM
How does one safely go about awakening their inhuman heritage?

That's something to pursue when he's more seasoned and stronger mentally. Preferably after he's gotten control of both of his elemental affinities, which are related to his heritage in some ways. Similarly, working on fusion is not recommended until one has at least begun and gotten somewhat proficient at elemental training and the mindsets required of each.


Yeah, I was just trying to figure out if they were mutually exclusive. From the sounds of it they are. Any chance of Shinji unlocking his inhuman potential? Kind of curious how that would turn out.

Basically don't use a wand while you're in fusion form. Pretty much every group that uses shamanistic techniques / fusion will eschew the use of a wand during that time, due to it not being fully compatible with the resultant mix.

You can use one while not in fusion form, however, which is useful, especially when one is still building up one's talents and hasn't yet acquired a familiar. Mahoutokoro's current teaching incorporates both ofuda and wand use, as it makes some more options available, though as has been noted, its philosophy on wand crafting and pairing is a bit different from most of Europe. As mentioned, in the East, crafters prefer to have wands and other more specialized catalysts (which they used before wands) match with the alignment and affinity of the user, sometimes foregoing consistency of performance for a more personalized catalyst tailored to one's strengths.

Unlocking his inhuman potential would come later.

Skull Leader
November 2nd, 2015, 05:14 AM
We can't master our wands and their magic with our current Yin/Yang imbalance. We can't master water due to the large chance of it running amok due to said imbalance. We been told that he needs to master Earth to get in control of Water. And now the same is being said for him connecting to his inhuman side as well as mastering his fusion form.

I assume that the next level for Ofuda, being able to control Shikigama, also requires mastery of the elements as his inhuman side because of the same logic. You are going to need the will, fortitude and experience gain from mastering your elements to succeed without killing yourself.

So almost everything that makes Shinji different from anyone in Hogwarts, ultimately boils down to Shinji needing to master his elements, Earth and then Water.

Yet currently Shinji is doing everything but working on Earth control. He dueling, flirting, working on fusion and his relationship with his familar, learning the art of movement, learning advance charms with Prof Weasley, skipping rune grade levels and doing the catch up required for said skip, leading school organizations, buying houses, planning raids against spiders and if he thinks about it maybe completing his normal school work. And soon he going to add learning potions for real(finally) and group planning and group coordination drills with the stone cutters.

Yep, Shinji gonna totally master Earth well enough by the beginning of summer with all of the free time he has. And this was suppose to be a less busy year compared to last year.

alfheimwanderer
November 2nd, 2015, 05:36 AM
We can't master our wands and their magic with our current Yin/Yang imbalance. We can't master water due to the large chance of it running amok due to said imbalance. We been told that he needs to master Earth to get in control of Water. And now the same is being said for him connecting to his inhuman side as well as mastering his fusion form.

You're not doing badly with Earth actually. Zelkova's affinities and Shinji unlocking fusion / training with his familiar both serve as a powerful boost in gaining proficiency with that element, with a healthy dose of practical combat use.

With an earth-aligned anchor, you should be ready to begin working on water, if that is what he wishes to do, as opposed to Shikigami or further Yin training.

mr_Trickster
November 2nd, 2015, 06:20 AM
You're not doing badly with Earth actually. Zelkova's affinities and Shinji unlocking fusion / training with his familiar both serve as a powerful boost in gaining proficiency with that element, with a healthy dose of practical combat use.

With an earth-aligned anchor, you should be ready to begin working on water, if that is what he wishes to do, as opposed to Shikigami or further Yin training.

Which does make me wonder, Alf: What current and further benefits would we gain from Yin training? I know we get dark-empowered spells right now, but how does that differ from Yang-aligned spells like the ones Luna has? To my knowledge hers gives her more punch, but what about ours?

alfheimwanderer
November 2nd, 2015, 06:58 AM
Which does make me wonder, Alf: What current and further benefits would we gain from Yin training? I know we get dark-empowered spells right now, but how does that differ from Yang-aligned spells like the ones Luna has? To my knowledge hers gives her more punch, but what about ours?

Yang-infusion boosts the physical damage of spells. Yin, on the other hand, boosts the spiritual damage they do. Most spells that you have learned up to now lack that component - though the Dark Arts certainly would contain some of that. Alternatively, it also allows powerful sealing arts as well, allowing one to potentially say, seal away an affinity someone has. Or their magic completely, but that would be at a very high level.

mr_Trickster
November 2nd, 2015, 07:25 AM
Yang-infusion boosts the physical damage of spells. Yin, on the other hand, boosts the spiritual damage they do. Most spells that you have learned up to now lack that component - though the Dark Arts certainly would contain some of that. Alternatively, it also allows powerful sealing arts as well, allowing one to potentially say, seal away an affinity someone has. Or their magic completely, but that would be at a very high level.

So considering this, we don't have much going for Yin right now - or at least, nothing affecting our immediate spells? Or did things like our twin Yin Verdimillious Tria have additional effects attached to it besides the coloring? Also, what sort of Dark Arts are we talking here? The run of the mill HP dark arts? As for sealing, do you mean advanced Yin or advanced Ofuda (or both)?

alfheimwanderer
November 2nd, 2015, 07:39 AM
So considering this, we don't have much going for Yin right now - or at least, nothing affecting our immediate spells? Or did things like our twin Yin Verdimillious Tria have additional effects attached to it besides the coloring? Also, what sort of Dark Arts are we talking here? The run of the mill HP dark arts? As for sealing, do you mean advanced Yin or advanced Ofuda (or both)?

Additional effects? I suppose if you're dealing with a spell that does not already have such a component, you add a spiritual damage bit to them, allowing yourself to bypass physical defenses to deal damage directly to the mind or soul. Damage that is much harder to heal from, may I add.

Studying yin unlocks advanced sealing, in ofuda and otherwise.

Caster
November 2nd, 2015, 11:31 AM
I look forward to seeing our ranking with our skills later on. And I got the impression that a wand wouldn't be all that useful even if it was aligned with the fused form, am I wrong? Not that Shinji needs a third wand, but it makes me wonder still.

alfheimwanderer
November 2nd, 2015, 03:43 PM
I look forward to seeing our ranking with our skills later on. And I got the impression that a wand wouldn't be all that useful even if it was aligned with the fused form, am I wrong? Not that Shinji needs a third wand, but it makes me wonder still.

You are correct on that. Since your soul and that of your familiar / whatever you are fusing with would already be resonating with one another, using a wand then, even if it was aligned, would be superfluous at best.

100%

Please cast all votes for Shinji's team by the end of today. Currently, the top two are Daphne at 7 and Neville at 9, with a tie between Susan and Fay at 5 votes apiece.

saki
November 2nd, 2015, 04:44 PM
[ ]Neville
[ ]Fay
[ ]Whatever

Is it good to have daphne in the team since she is a potential rival in the potion championship?

Skull Leader
November 2nd, 2015, 05:18 PM
Rivals? No way.

Daphne is the advisor/girlfriend of our long/best friend Harry. As stone cutters, Harry and Shinji are brother in arms. There can be no rivalry between two who have fought back-to-back against certain death. The entire wizard world might seen the two groups as rivels but I do not believe those involved see it that way. Daphne would work with us well because we are her boyfriends biggest supporter.

And if it came done to a big finality between Harry and Shinji to determine the championship, I believe you would get a result very similar to Harry/Cedric's Triwizard sharing victory.

Also if Harry came to Shinji and told him that he truly wanted to be the champion for a really good reason like wanting to connect with his mother's past, I would like to think that we would vote to let Harry become the champion. The reverse is also true, if Shinji told Harry that he needed to be the Potions Champion in memory of Sion, Harry would very likely step aside.

skulkidcachi90
November 2nd, 2015, 05:53 PM
Can we make Shinji and Harry fight an awesome battle to decide who is gonna go to the potions tournament?

Cremela
November 2nd, 2015, 05:56 PM
... a spiritual damage bit to them, allowing yourself to bypass physical defenses to deal damage directly to the mind or soul. Damage that is much harder to heal from, may I add.

Sounds like the Horcrux soul splitting from the HP universe and Gae Buidhe's effect of making the wounded state max health in the Nasuverse

alfheimwanderer
November 2nd, 2015, 06:46 PM
Can we make Shinji and Harry fight an awesome battle to decide who is gonna go to the potions tournament?

Given the skillsets they're best at, with Harry being the best of the Potions brewers at Hogwarts (as it should be, since he's been receiving personal instruction from Snape), it is quite likely Shinji will force such a confrontation in the field, so it doesn't come down to a brewoff.

saki
November 2nd, 2015, 10:29 PM
Rivals? No way.

Daphne is the advisor/girlfriend of our long/best friend Harry. As stone cutters, Harry and Shinji are brother in arms. There can be no rivalry between two who have fought back-to-back against certain death. The entire wizard world might seen the two groups as rivels but I do not believe those involved see it that way. Daphne would work with us well because we are her boyfriends biggest supporter.

And if it came done to a big finality between Harry and Shinji to determine the championship, I believe you would get a result very similar to Harry/Cedric's Triwizard sharing victory.

Also if Harry came to Shinji and told him that he truly wanted to be the champion for a really good reason like wanting to connect with his mother's past, I would like to think that we would vote to let Harry become the champion. The reverse is also true, if Shinji told Harry that he needed to be the Potions Champion in memory of Sion, Harry would very likely step aside.

Harry asking that from shinji would most likely be a choice for us, given our Sion-loving war-minded hive-mentality Shinji is figthing Harry and having Daphne see our tricks and tactics can be a disadvantage. Of course im puting the tin foil hat while writing this but it is something to think.

mr_Trickster
November 3rd, 2015, 01:00 AM
Harry asking that from shinji would most likely be a choice for us, given our Sion-loving war-minded hive-mentality Shinji is figthing Harry and having Daphne see our tricks and tactics can be a disadvantage. Of course im puting the tin foil hat while writing this but it is something to think.

Please note that the Daphne that will be in our team for the Kobayashi Maru is gong to be a projection and not the actual person. :)

alfheimwanderer
November 3rd, 2015, 01:23 AM
Please note that the Daphne that will be in our team for the Kobayashi Maru is gong to be a projection and not the actual person. :)

Its the actual person, to better test ability to command, synergy and such.

mr_Trickster
November 3rd, 2015, 01:25 AM
Its the actual person.

Oh! I see! Well then!

Thanks for the clarification. XD

This does indeed make Daphne a little more of Liability for the medium-term, hmm. I'm still good with having her on the team for the sake of the actual Kobayashi Maru, though. So Harry will have a little more knowledge of our skillset - all things considered, he'll get a good idea of it anyway considering we'll be going on the spider hunt with him.

Skull Leader
November 3rd, 2015, 01:51 AM
Its the actual person, to better test ability to command, synergy and such.

If that's the case, I wonder how many of these Shinji will have to go on for others. Some of the others will have to pick Shinji to go on theirs. He is a known powerhouse, that works well with people. Luna without a doubt will pick him, pansy as well. Who knows how many of the others will come to this conclusion.

Cedric, if he was smart, would pick him. If Cedric wants to be a stonecutter so bad, then this is his big chance. Hillard is watching and if he picks Shinji then he has another stone cutter to impress with his skills. Don't waste this moment, Cedric. The fate of the Hufflepuff spot on the Stone Cutters falls on to you. Plus if you act now you get to risk your life to kill evil giant spiders. Win Win for everyone, except for the spiders.

mr_Trickster
November 3rd, 2015, 02:03 AM
If that's the case, I wonder how many of these Shinji will have to go on for others. Some of the others will have to pick Shinji to go on theirs. He is a known powerhouse, that works well with people. Luna without a doubt will pick him, pansy as well. Who knows how many of the others will come to this conclusion.

Cedric, if he was smart, would pick him. If Cedric wants to be a stonecutter so bad, then this is his big chance. Hillard is watching and if he picks Shinji then he has another stone cutter to impress with his skills. Don't waste this moment, Cedric. The fate of the Hufflepuff spot on the Stone Cutters falls on to you. Plus if you act now you get to risk your life to kill evil giant spiders. Win Win for everyone, except for the spiders.

I thought no one could pick Shinji? Wasn't it on the choice statement?

Skull Leader
November 3rd, 2015, 02:18 AM
I thought no one could pick Shinji? Wasn't it on the choice statement?

I looked back, I did not find anything forbidding the others from picking him for theirs in Alfs choice post. However that limit would not be unreasonable given his stone cutter position. However that would mean that Hillard should forbid Luna from being picked by anyone else (except by Shinji) for the same reason.

Edit: Found it. I glossed over the the statement the first time reading it.

mr_Trickster
November 3rd, 2015, 02:33 AM
I looked back, I did not find anything forbidding the others from picking him for theirs in Alfs choice post. However that limit would not be unreasonable given his stone cutter position. However that would mean that Hillard should forbid Luna from being picked by anyone else (except by Shinji) for the same reason.

Unfortunately, that might cause people to realize that she is a Stone Cutter already, which isn't something we want as of yet. Quite likely, Luna will be openly available for everyone, but Shinji will not.

Skull Leader
November 3rd, 2015, 02:39 AM
I agree but would Hillard see it that way?

alfheimwanderer
November 3rd, 2015, 02:46 AM
I agree but would Hillard see it that way?

Tis not Hillard doing the forbidding. Its Lockhart, and he doesn't know about Luna yet so...

Abendroth
November 3rd, 2015, 10:16 AM
Its Lockhart, and he doesn't know about Luna yet so...
Officcialy, anyway.

Caster
November 3rd, 2015, 11:11 AM
Do you think it's wise then to do it? I think Lockhart would look down on Shinji a bit if he breaks the spirit of the rule but obeys the letter.

mr_Trickster
November 3rd, 2015, 11:52 AM
Do you think it's wise then to do it? I think Lockhart would look down on Shinji a bit if he breaks the spirit of the rule but obeys the letter.

To do what? Bring Luna? For Shinji it should be free game as we're a Stone Cutter ourselves. As for the others picking Luna, well I don't think he'd object anyway even though he has his suspicions.

I'd also imagine Lockhart would establish with the others that Shinji is off limits, as well.

saki
November 3rd, 2015, 12:21 PM
Do you think it's wise then to do it? I think Lockhart would look down on Shinji a bit if he breaks the spirit of the rule but obeys the letter.

Wouldn't he give us thumbs up since everything is permitted. In the battlefield the people who don't know something are in the wrong, and the ones who don't use every advantage are fools.

Skull Leader
November 3rd, 2015, 03:17 PM
You know Lockhart, for a man who says everything is permitted; you certainly have a lot of rules, I guess nothing is true anymore.

alfheimwanderer
November 3rd, 2015, 05:34 PM
You know Lockhart, for a man who says everything is permitted; you certainly have a lot of rules, I guess nothing is true anymore.

The Ourea is not the Order of Assassins. Even if his Kobayashis are kind of training and testing their ability to question the assumptions of a scenario, examining how they're able to solve problems, and seeing how good they are as leaders.

alfheimwanderer
November 3rd, 2015, 09:29 PM
Neville, Fay, and Daphne it is. Writing in progress.

Chapter hopefully out tomorrow evening!

saki
November 4th, 2015, 09:16 AM
Is there a way for shinji to make his ofuda fire proof?
The *throw ofuda* *burn to ashes* situation is getting to common.

mr_Trickster
November 4th, 2015, 11:30 AM
Is there a way for shinji to make his ofuda fire proof?
The *throw ofuda* *burn to ashes* situation is getting to common.

I think this was already brought up in first year. All we've managed to figure out so far is using warding ofuda to block a one-time burn, though.

saki
November 4th, 2015, 12:37 PM
I hope that when Shinji learns how to use the water element he can make some water seal that wards against fire.

alfheimwanderer
November 4th, 2015, 07:30 PM
Such would work. Earth stuff also works. The basic stuff tends to be a bit more difficult to ward.

On another note, for those of you who haven't heard, America uses a different word for non-magicals (to my utter lack of surprise).

mr_Trickster
November 4th, 2015, 07:37 PM
What do they use? Normals? Mundanes? XD

alfheimwanderer
November 4th, 2015, 07:41 PM
The New Yorkers at least use "No-maj", from "no magic", as confirmed by Rowling. Normals would imply that wizards were abnormal, and that is not how they describe themselves.

Non-magicals tends to be the internationally used term for more formal stuff, to avoid confusion from slang. Also used where there is more societal mixing. Hence non magical sometimes gets corrupted to nomaj.

mr_Trickster
November 4th, 2015, 08:15 PM
Well then. O.O

alfheimwanderer
November 4th, 2015, 08:56 PM
On another note, I'm not feeling particularly well today. I apologize, but I'll have the chapter out by Friday at the absolute latest.

mr_Trickster
November 4th, 2015, 09:12 PM
Take care and get some rest, Alf. :)

Cremela
November 5th, 2015, 09:44 AM
Yes, do take care!!! Get well soon!

mAc Chaos
November 5th, 2015, 10:27 AM
On another note, I'm not feeling particularly well today. I apologize, but I'll have the chapter out by Friday at the absolute latest.

You already have a godlike productive ability for fanfics so it's a warranted rest. Makes me wonder how fast you'd churn out a regular fanfic.

Also is it just me or did it get quiet in here lately.

mr_Trickster
November 5th, 2015, 10:48 AM
Possibly? We might all be busy - as admittedly I am at the moment. And to be fair, conversation was kinda active up till yesterday, in my opinion. O.O

Caster
November 5th, 2015, 11:20 AM
Nothing too much for me to comment on, so I haven't really been talking. Usually once a vote is decided it's quiet for a while. I hope you feel better soon Alf. I'm sorry you're feeling unwell.

Cremela
November 5th, 2015, 01:33 PM
You already have a godlike productive ability for fanfics so it's a warranted rest. Makes me wonder how fast you'd churn out a regular fanfic.

Also is it just me or did it get quiet in here lately.

I was noticing BL as a whole seemed to be more quiet, but seeing as I was only lurking since late summer I thought the place normally quiets down this time of year. I guess people are recovering from Halloween hangovers... and the UK's having Bonfire Night tonight.

I was blown away at how fast you normally update Alf.

alfheimwanderer
November 6th, 2015, 08:12 AM
And here we go...

100%

Chapter 35. The Left Hand Path

It had been exactly one year since the founding of the Ourea, and in that time, the young organization had been involved in quite a few things.

To Hogwarts at large, they were known and envied as a group of leaders and innovators, credited with creating a Self-Defense Club to help the students of Hogwarts practice the more dangerous aspects of their Craft, introducing the sport of Capture the Flag to the school – something which had quickly risen in popularity as those less talented at broom handling sought their fifteen minutes of fame, and helping to put together Hogwarts’ productions when the school hadn’t had a drama club for nearly fifty years.

Internally of course, things were somewhat less glamorous, given the politics of the ever-shifting factions within the group, the divided loyalties of a number of the members, the historical scenarios each were required to participate in, and of course, the looming specter of the Kobayashi Maru, an oddly-named test of character that every member was required to undergo each year.

A test which they knew almost nothing about, save that its difficulty would be…rather high, and that it would be offered to them sometime this term.

“…and why should you?” Professor Lockhart asked when one of the members – a certain Draco Malfoy – had been a hint too insistent about how not knowing simply wasn’t fair. “Especially when you don’t complain about Potions Challenges and not knowing what those will be like in advance.” The History Professor smiled coldly, seeming to enjoy how the younger blond flinched back from his icy expression. “But I suppose I can tell you one thing: there will be no Dementors involved.”

“…or Lethifolds?” Pansy inquired, with the Professor’s attention turning to her.

“Or Lethifolds, Miss Parkinson,” Lockhart conceded. “The Patronus Charm will not be required for the purposes of the scenario to come.” He chuckled. “Not that it was for the first Kobayashi either.”

“But…but the Head Boy…”

“Yes, Miss Parkinson, Robert Hillard did demonstrate a fine example of a Patronus Charm,” the History Professor noted. “Even so, his victory was only possible because of his bravery, charisma, and his capacity for original thought. In the face of a superior foe, he did the unexpected, acting instead of simply reacting.” The man sighed and shook his head, his gaze moving from one member of the Ourea to the next, pausing only briefly on the empty seat at Matou’s right hand. “In any case, I suppose you’re all wondering why I called you here tonight.”

“The thought had crossed my mind, sir,” Cedric Diggory replied pleasantly. “It’s not our usual meeting day, after all.”

“True,” Lockhart allowed, his crimson and black robes billowing about him dramatically. “Does anyone have a guess? Miss Lovegood?”

“It’s been one year,” the young Ravenclaw said quietly, with the History professor nodding slowly.

“Indeed. It has been one year since the Ourea was founded. As those who have been members of the organization since the beginning, I thought it would be nice to hold a special session today to celebrate your achievements, and to discuss the possibility of nominating new members.”

The dozen students gathered around the table nodded at that, though this piece of information only raised more questions.

Or rather, one question that was on several people’s minds.

“In that case, where’s Granger?” Cedric asked, noting the empty chair at Matou’s right hand – the place where the bushy-haired Ravenclaw normally sat. “Is she late, not feeling well or…?”

“Hermione Granger did not receive a summons to be here.”

The Professor’s uncharacteristically blunt response stunned most of those gathered, with almost all of the students – save Matou and Lovegood – turning to him in shock, brows furrowed as they tried to work out what exactly had happened.

“But…why?” the Prefect inquired dumbly, wondering why Shinji and the girl at his left hand didn’t really seem surprised.

Or well, in Luna’s case, more surprised than she usually looked.

“Hermione Granger is no longer a member of the Ourea, having resigned her position as of the beginning of this term,” Lockhart supplied helpfully.

To be honest, Matou Shinji had half expected this outcome after Tomas’ explanation of what had happened, though it still hurt to know she was going out of her way to avoid him.

Draco just sniffed at this.

“About bloody time, if you ask me,” the Slytherin boy commented. “Not much of a leader, that one. Didn’t do much in Self-Defense, didn’t join Capture the Flag, and never really seemed enthusiastic about anything except Potions.” He paused, noting that people were eying him a bit critically and decided he should offer her something. “Well. And the stage.”

“The stage indeed, Sir Luckless,” Lockhart noted coolly, with Draco flinching as he remembered how angry his father had been when Lucius saw the pictures of the performance in the Daily Prophet, specifically those at the end of the performance, where he – in his role as a Muggle Knight – had declared his undying love for the witch Amata – played by Hermione Granger. “As it happens, Miss Granger will be transferring to the Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts this fall, with my full recommendation.”

“Oh?” Pansy asked, finding this tidbit quite interesting, and making a mental note that if Granger were gone, then her chances of getting closer to Matou looked quite good indeed.

“Indeed, Miss Parkinson,” the Professor replied. “I happen to know the Headmaster of W.A.D.A. quite well, and he is always looking for talented wizards and witches to join their ranks.” The man smiled jovially. “Miss Granger is such a one, as she is quite good at acting how others wish her to.”

“I see.”

“In celebration of this, I am producing a new play, scheduled for the end of the year, if any of you are interested in taking part,” Lockhart continued. “A play featuring two feuding families, mass conflict in the streets of fair Verona, and a…grave misunderstanding due to the Draught of Living Death. Mister Malfoy, since you’ve been such a good sport these last two years, I thought I would offer you the role of the male lead, whose name is known through much of the world as a synonym for passion. If not, I suppose I could always offer it to Matou…”

“Ah. That won’t be necessary, sir,” Draco interjected, looking entirely too pleased with himself. “I would love to play the role of…what’s the character’s name?”

“Romeo, Mister Malfoy. Romeo of the house of Montague.”

“Huh. A noble,” the blond mused, frowning. “Though Romeo isn’t an English name. Is this another translation like the Epic of Makar Zolgen?”

“Not precisely,” Lockhart replied, the corners of his lips curving into an enigmatic smile. “Though much of the original story does come from Italy, one of the few places on the Continent that lacks a magical government.”

“Does it now?” Pansy asked, curious as to why this might be, noting Matou’s thoughtful nodding out of the corner of her eye.

‘So…he already knew about this…’

“Indeed, but that’s a story for another time,” the History Professor noted, snapping his fingers as platters and bowls laden with food appeared on the table, alongside frothy mugs of butterbeer, pumpkin juice and more. “For the moment, enjoy the evening, talk of what you have done, and by its end, nominate some prospective members for the Ourea – though not too many, if you please, as I would like to keep this gathering an exclusive one.”

And with that, he was gone, leaving the others to debate and enjoy.

Unsurprisingly, it was Draco who spoke up first.

“There’s another order of business Professor Lockhart didn’t mention,” the boy drawled, with all eyes turning to him. “The matter of a co-leader for the Ourea.”

“…but Neville is our leader,” Fay broke in, not liking what the blond was implying. “The one chosen from among us to stand as Matou’s equal, that is,” she amended. “He’s done a good job this year.”

“Perhaps,” Malfoy allowed graciously. “But Longbottom has also been in office for an entire year. It would only be fair for him to step down and give someone else a chance to lead, since the Ourea is about training people as leaders.”

“...you wouldn’t be saying that if you’d been elected as leader, Malfoy,” the Scottish girl said, a definite edge creeping in her voice as she tensed.

“Of course I would,” Draco protested, his hand on his chest as if he’d been stung by the accusation – though no one really bought the act.

Shinji sighed internally, as this squabble was reminding him of the first meeting all over again. He coughed into his fist, bringing his other hand up to call for silence.

“Malfoy has a point,” he said, once all eyes were on him, with the Boy from the East somewhat amused to see an expression of shock flicker across Draco’s features at his pronouncement. “As members of the Ourea, it is only right for each person to have a chance to lead.” His gaze shifted over to Neville, whose head was bowed, as if accepting the inevitable. “Still, Neville has done a good job this year, working behind the scenes to make sure the Self-Defense Club and Capture the Flag League ran well. Wouldn’t you agree, Cedric? Pansy?”

“He was rather helpful, yes,” Prefect Diggory noted, curious what Matou was up to. “He was quite an example for other Gryffindors. Has been since first year, when he almost won Quirrell’s challenge.”

“I’ll agree with that,” Pansy chimed in, getting up and moving to claim the seat beside Matou, as if declaring to the others that in Hermione’s absence, it was she who would become the Stone Cutter’s right hand – the one he found most useful – and of course signaling her support of whatever he decided. “His was one of the first teams to join the League, actually.”

Malfoy, not missing the implications of the girl’s actions, glared at the brunette, while Matou looked over at her and nodded, as if Pansy’s actions were exactly what he expected of her.

“In light of this, I think it would only be fair if we vote on the position of leader once again – without restricting who is eligible to lead,” Shinji offered, with the others nodding thoughtfully at this. “Next year most of us will be at Durmstrang, after all, and it would be good to ensure that we have strong leadership – both for those of us who are there, and for those left behind.”

“Mm.” Luna Lovegood made a sound of agreement, her silver eyes wide as she looked around, her gaze meeting Ginny’s for a moment. “There will only be a few of us still at Hogwarts.”

“That is, unless one of us happens to become Potions Champion, or is appointed the Champion’s Second – in which case, we could move back and forth,” Pansy said meaningfully. Left unspoken of course, was the fact that everyone knew Matou Shinji was one of the two leading candidates for the role of Champion. “However, that’s not something we can count on, so in addition to a current leader, it would be good to vote in an...understudy of sorts.”

“…that’s a good point,” Cedric chimed in. “Which means the understudy would have to be either Lovegood or Weasley, as the rest of us will be sent over.”

“I think Ginevra would be better,” Luna replied simply. She said this for a number of reasons – first and foremost the fact that she was a Stone Cutter, and so in Matou’s absence would likely be appointed as nominal head of the Ourea anyway.

Cedric grunted.

“I can live with Weasley as the leader’s understudy,” the prefect allowed. “Is that fine with you, Matou?”

“It is,” Shinji confirmed, steepling his fingers. “And the rest of you?” Seeing no objections, not even from Draco Malfoy, he thought the outcome was clear. “Well then, congratulations are in order, Miss Weasley.”

“Thank you,” the redhead said from across the table, her cheeks reddening as everyone gave her a bit of polite applause. “I’ll do my best.”

“I’m sure you will,” Shinji replied with a winning smile, before turning to the rest of the Ourea. “With the matter of the understudy settled, let us return to the main issue at hand: who to appoint as leader of the Ourea for the following year?”

“Not me,” Cedric interjected, much to the surprise of a number of people there. “It’s very likely I’ll be Head Boy next year, and I know I’ll be putting my name in for Tri-Wizard Champion. Between either one of those, I’ll be too busy.”

“While I’d be interested, I think I may have other commitments myself,” Pansy demurred. Especially if her arrangement with Lockhart bore fruit, and resulted in her getting media credentials for one of the Tournaments. “So if another is more qualified…”

“Duly noted,” Shinji said agreeably. “Neville, I assume you’d be interested in leading us once more?”

Neville Longbottom inclined his head.

“Yes, Matou. It has been an honor to work with such talented people.”

“You’ve done a good job, Nev,” Fay noted, with the co-leader of the Ourea smiling faintly at her words.

“I just helped make sure everyone was able to do what they wanted to do,” Neville replied modestly. “It’s all of you that impress me. Though no one has impressed me more than the Head Boy yet. His Kobayashi, it…that was brilliant.”

“…yes. Yes it was,” Shinji said, shaking his head as he thought back to his first year – when he’d studied for a prank war under a young man who had once been a prefect. “Actually, Robert was a lot like you, Longbottom.”

“Oh?”

“Someone who wasn’t sure he was good enough.” The Boy from the East smiled as he recalled those early days, before the encounter with the troll – and then the altercation with Quirrell – changed everything. “Someone who cared about other people’s success and well-being more than his own.”

“Sounds more like a Hufflepuff than a Ravenclaw to me,” Susan Bones stated, though Shinji just chuckled at the remark.

“We’re more than just our houses,” the Matou scion replied. “Even if that’s easy to forget at Hogwarts, with interhouse rivalries dividing us. Whether we’re part of Ravenclaw, Slytherin, Hufflepuff or Gryffindor, that doesn’t really matter. We’re students at Hogwarts – and more, we’re Ourea. We’re the leaders people look up to.”

“Well said,” Cedric observed, nodding in agreement. “You make a good point, Matou, one I’ll keep in mind next year when – if – I become Head Boy.”

“See that you do,” Shinji noted. The two shared a look of acknowledgement, before returning to the topic at hand. “In any case, is there anyone here who thinks someone other than Neville should lead us next year?”

Out of the corner of his eye, Shinji saw Draco’s hand go up, though as the blond looked around, seeing that no one was agreeing with him, the Slytherin lowered his hand and crossed his arms grumpily.

“Seeing none, congratulations Neville,” the Matou scion commented, nodding to the Gryffindor. “It appears we’ll be working together again this year.”

“So it seems,” Neville demurred, stunned by the show of support – or at least at the lack of opposition. “Nominations, then?”

“Nominations, indeed,” Shinji said, running over the possible candidates in his head. “Did anyone have suggestions? Cedric? Pansy? I assume you have some ideas, given your involvement with self-defense and Capture the Flag.”

“I have two nominations, actually,” Pansy noted. “Non-Ourea team captains who have done well in Capture the Flag.”

“Who?”

“Anthony Goldstein is the first. He’s done a good job leading Team Snorkack all the way to the top of the league,” the Slytherin girl answered with some amusement. “Not an easy thing, since everyone likes to dethrone a champion.”

“And the second?”

“…well, Ronald Weasley, actually,” Pansy remarked, her lips quirking into a smirk.

“Merlin, no. You must be barking!” Draco thundered, rising to his feet with a look of shock and betrayal as the girl said Weasley’s name. “Him? Goldstein fine, but…Weasley?”

“Hey, that’s my brother you’re talking about!” Ginny interjected, standing herself as she glared at Draco. “He may be a right arse sometimes, but—“

“—but what, Weasley? Are you really going to defend someone who was so starved for attention that he lied about fighting off Sirius Black?”

“L—what makes you think he lied?!” Ginny demanded, placing her hands on her hips. “He’s not some bloody Snake, unlike your father!”

“Bringing my father into it, Weasley? Do you really have nothing better to say than to imply all Slytherins are liars?” Draco growled, glancing over at Pansy. “I’m sure Parkinson here would appreciate it after she nominated your…brother.”

Ginny looked down, abashed.

“I…”

“Besides, if he’d done what he claimed, wouldn’t he be a Stone Cutter now?” the blond boy sneered. “But no, he’s not. Matou didn’t even nominate him to join the Ourea last year. So what does that tell you? I’ll tell you what it means, even if you don’t want to listen. It means he lied.”

Ginny’s wand was in her hand, the tip level with Malfoy’s face.

“Take that back,” she bit out, the look on her face one of pure loathing of Malfoy and everything he stood for.

“Or what?” Draco asked, his expression almost daring her to do it. “You’ll hex me, in front of the Ourea? You, the so-called understudy of our dear leader? You don’t have the—“

“Enough.” A voice spoke out, interrupting them as Ginny’s wand flew out of her hand…into one of Luna Lovegood’s, whose silver eyes seemed no longer surprised, but disappointed. “This is unbecoming of you. Both of you.” The unexpectedness of the reprimand hit both Draco and Ginny like a slap, with the two flinching at her words…and at the observation that she hadn’t drawn a wand.

“…wandless, nonverbal magic?” Draco whispered, sounding almost horrified. “As a second year? But how is that…?” He trailed off, noting the boy she always sat next to – the Stone Cutter, Matou Shinji, one of whose claims to fame was something very much like that. “…so that’s how it is,” he muttered bitterly, shaking his head. “It wasn’t Granger after all…”

“Malfoy. Ginevra. Would you kindly sit down?”

As if she’d said some irresistible word of command, the two sat, eying her warily as if she’d revealed herself to be someone – something – dangerous. Even Shinji didn’t think he’d ever heard Luna sound quite so intimidating before, even when she was in fusion form, as she was usually more playful.

“I have some personal reservations about Ronald myself, but I am willing to give him a chance,” Shinji admitted, keeping a smile plastered on his face with some measure of strain. Things didn’t usually get this heated during a meeting, but then, this wasn’t an ordinary meeting. “Here’s what I propose: we will test him with the Kobayashi Maru, and if he performs well, we will accept him.”

“…is that really fair?” Cedric questioned, frowning. “The Kobayashi is…it is something almost anyone can fail. That most of us did fail last year, despite the benefit of our training.”

“I meant this year’s scenario, which none of us have faced yet,” the Matou scion corrected. “And as for his performance, I meant relative to the rest of us.”

“Ah. So it’s no whether he beats the ‘no win scenario’…”

“…but what he does during it, yes,” Shinji commented, shaking his head. “I’m beginning to see why Lockhart likes these sorts of things.”

“I’d find that scary if…I didn’t understand what you meant,” Cedric noted with a dry chuckle. Cho shot him a strange look, but just shrugged. Sometimes, one just had to smile and nod after all. “I do wonder what Lockhart will be throwing at us this time.”

Neville coughed for attention.

“I think it should be fine to give Ron a test, since I have some concerns myself,” the co-leader of the Ourea affirmed. “Any objections?” No one spoke up. “Right, and none to Goldstein joining us?” Again, no one spoke. “Ok then. Any other nominations?”

“I have one, actually,” Shinji said.

“Oh?” Daphne questioned, speaking up for the first time that evening. “Su Li, I imagine?”

The Boy from the East raised a slim eyebrow as the girl pre-empted him.

“…why Greengrass, however did you guess?”

“She, like Granger, worked with you fairly regularly in Potions,” the other Slytherin girl noted. “And if Granger has left the Ourea, I assumed you’d wanted a Ravenclaw, for balance…”

“Very astute,” Shinji observed.

“Pays to be, in Slytherin,” Daphne said simply.

“So I imagine.”

“I have no qualms with Su, but I’m concerned about what happens after most of us leave for Durmstrang.”

“Oh?”

“We’ll have two members – Lovegood and Weasley. I’ll vote to accept Su Li if you agree with inducting the Carrow Twins, Hestia and Flora. They’re first years, but they have a good deal of potential.”

“Two nominees to his one,” Cedric noted. “Interesting.”

“I don’t ask that it be an immediate induction,” Daphne commented, her lips quirking into a smile. “It can be delayed until the fall term.”

Shinji thought about her words and nodded, as they made a good bit of sense.

“Presuming I agree, we’re moving onto fall nominations then?” he asked, with Daphne nodding. “I suppose Lockhart won’t have any complaints – however many we nominate for next year will be a small number compared to us.”

“I think it’s fair,” Neville spoke up. “Provided we all get a chance to nominate others as well. Like our original group, it should have people of every house.”

“Agreed,” Cedric said. “While we are one group, it would be dangerous to let any one house dominate too much. I don’t mind Su Li, but yes, let’s talk of the fall nominees.”

“There’s a second year called Anthony Otterburn,” Fay suggested after a moment. “He’s usually in the greenhouses and is very good with Herbology. I think he’s a Hufflepuff.”

“Anthony? I know him,” Diggory commented, surprised someone had suggested the boy. “Sprout likes him – was thinking about having him help out since he likes plants so much. I never…well, maybe.”

“I think he’d be a good fit,” Neville added. “People look down on Herbology, but I wouldn’t have done so well in Quirrell’s challenge without it.”

“…so you’ve said before,” Fay noted gently. “That’s why I thought of him, because he reminds me of you.”

Neville Longbottom went red as a tomato, as he didn’t know quite what to say about that.

“If we’re nominating people from different houses, then how about Colin Creevey?” Luna asked quietly. “He was always good at seeing the big picture. But then, most of Team Snorkack is.”

“Colin? You mean the boy who takes pictures?” Ginny asked.

“Yes. He’s quite good at it, too,” the Ravenclaw girl said warmly, with Shinji feeling slightly irritated that she was praising another male for some reason. “Oh, and there’s Heather Barnaby, too, a Hufflepuff.”

“…you’re just nominating your Flag team now,” Pansy Parkinson commented, knowing full well who was on which team.

“They do keep up with people older and more experienced, don’t they?” Luna asked.

“True enough,” the head of the League conceded. “I don’t deny that they deserve it, but I think that’s probably enough. So, up for a vote: Su Li and Anthony Goldstein, with Ron Weasley a provisional nominee, to be confirmed based on his Kobayashi Maru performance. All in favor?”

Pretty much everyone raised their hands.

“Any opposed?”

Draco objected, of course, stating concerns about Ron Weasley, but aside from that, the others were fine.

“And for the fall term nominees: the Carrow Twins from Slytherin, Colin Creevy from Gryffindor, Anthony Otterburn and Heather Barnaby from Hufflepuff. All in favor of accepting these as is?”

This time, the result was indeed unanimous, as Draco had no axe to grind with any of these people, even if he didn’t think Hufflepuffs were particularly deserving.

“Very well, it seems our business is concluded, Matou,” the girl noted with a sly smile. “Shall we all enjoy ourselves then, as Lockhart suggested?”

And so they did, with Luna returning Ginny’s wand to her, and the group moving on to speak of their thoughts on the year behind them, the year ahead, and what wonders might await in Durmstrang.

“I almost went there instead of Hogwarts actually,” Draco said airily at one point. “They do have a better grasp of the Dark Arts, after all.”

“Why didn’t you go?” Cho asked, somewhat curious as to why the boy had chosen to stay in Britain.

“…mother didn’t want me going so far from home,” he admitted sheepishly. “Though, I guess I get to go there anyway, so…” He turned to Shinji and Cedric, somewhat grudgingly. “Thank you.”

“No need,” Shinji replied with an odd-seeming smile. “After all, it was the right thing to do.”

“Speaking of Durmstrang,” Cedric broke in. “Any ideas about how we’re going to get there? I assume the Ministry will want our delegation to make quite an entrance.”

“Mm, a flying ship would be nice,” Luna suggested. “Or a fleet, sailing through the sky, soaring before the northern lights.”

“…I might be wrong, Lovegood, but I think something like that would probably violate the Statute of Secrecy. In about a dozen ways,” Cho noted. “Who knows – maybe they’ll make something like Stonehenge and use it as a great gate.”

“I suppose that’s doable,” Shinji allowed, remembering the portals Matsuo-san set up in Mahoutokoro. “But if it was in the open like that, wouldn’t that also violate the Statute of Secrecy.”

“…I didn’t think about that,” Cho admitted, glancing at the boy speculatively. “I don’t suppose you would know, being a Stone Cutter and all?”

Shinji just laughed.

“Your guess is as good as mine.”

100%

Choice 88: As you suggest consulting Lockhart directly, noting his credentials as an adventurer, Hillard nods thoughtfully.

“I had considered that,” he said. “Though I’m a little concerned about what he might want in return. He’s very perceptive, after all, and the more he knows…”

“Yeah, I know. But I’m also concerned about us as a group. I remember first year, Robert,” you say. “I don’t want that to happen again because we overestimated ourselves. Our secrets are important, but…”

“Not as important as our lives, true – though you haven’t shown us all your secrets yet. Fusion, for instance.”

“…that’s because Fusion isn’t the easiest thing to achieve, Robert.”

“Then don’t tell him about those particular secrets. Keep back your absolute trumps, if you need to, but be honest enough that we get good advice. Most of what we do is common knowledge anyway – that you can use ofuda, that Harry is advanced in Defense, that I can do the Patronus, that the Twins are good at Runes and setting traps. See what he comes up with using that, so I can compare it with my thoughts.”

“Alright.”

“…one other thing, Matou.”

“Yes?”

“Is there anything else you know about Lockhart?” Hillard asks. “When you talk about him, there’s something in your tone that implies he’s more than an adventurer. Especially when you mention what he’s been training you in.”

You tell him…(choose one)

[ ] No, you don’t know anything.
[ ] There might be something, but you haven’t confirmed it.
[ ] There’s something, but it’s not your secret to tell.


Choice 89: The Twins are intrigued by your request to help you out in Potions in return for a favor, though they’re quite curious how you managed to get so good. You mention that you had some help from Granger at brewing and that your main talents lie in defense and scavenging, something that they understand well.

Curious as to how your level of ability stacks up to theirs, they wish to duel you – 2 v 1 – to see how you do. If you can beat them, they will agree to your request.

How do you fight? (choose one)

[ ] Hold back – just fight as you normally do
[ ] Fight with more than usual effort, using two wands, ofuda, and Zelkova’s sensory overlay to predict their movements and stymie their traps
[ ] Go all out, using Zelkova’s abilities, up to and including Fusion Form if need be

Mint
November 6th, 2015, 10:15 AM
[X] There might be something, but you haven’t confirmed it.

[X] Fight with more than usual effort, using two wands, ofuda, and Zelkova’s sensory overlay to predict their movements and stymie their traps

mangafreak7793
November 6th, 2015, 10:17 AM
[ ] There might be something, but you haven’t confirmed it.

Show Hillard the Armbrace.

[ ] Go all out, using Zelkova’s abilities, up to and including Fusion Form if need be

While maybe a bit overkill, i think it's only fair to give everything we have to show the twins we're serious.

saki
November 6th, 2015, 10:27 AM
[ ] There might be something, but you haven’t confirmed it.
[ ] Go all out, using Zelkova’s abilities, up to and including Fusion Form if need be.
Its not polite to hold back against a friend. Also apparently fusion is something that the Stone Cutters already know. Btw, when did that happen.

mr_Trickster
November 6th, 2015, 11:38 AM
Welcome back, Alf. I hope you're feeling better. :D

As for votes, before I place mine, I'd like to check a few things: Where would our little practice match with the twins be taking place? I'm a bit iffy about letting everyone know just what exactly we can do, and I have to say that such might not be the best for us in the long-term - especially when I look back at first year.

With regards to Choice 88, however, I am leaning towards [x] - There might be something, but you haven't confirmed it yet, but I'd like to see what the others have to say on that matter for now so I'll keep this vote provisional.

Veldril
November 6th, 2015, 11:44 AM
Welcome back Alf! Your regular update is a godsend for an avid fanfic readers (consider how many dead fics there are)!

Voting time:

[ ] There might be something, but you haven’t confirmed it.

I do agree with show Hillard the Armbrace too.

[ ] Go all out, using Zelkova’s abilities, up to and including Fusion Form if need be

Better safe than sorry.

gesalt
November 6th, 2015, 11:48 AM
[X] There might be something, but you haven’t confirmed it.
[X] All out

alfheimwanderer
November 6th, 2015, 11:57 AM
As for votes, before I place mine, I'd like to check a few things: Where would our little practice match with the twins be taking place? I'm a bit iffy about letting everyone know just what exactly we can do, and I have to say that such might not be the best for us in the long-term - especially when I look back at first year.

Founder's Tower, a reasonably private spot for the group.


Its not polite to hold back against a friend. Also apparently fusion is something that the Stone Cutters already know. Btw, when did that happen.

They don't "know" fusion, exactly, in that only two of them can use it, and only one with extreme ease. Shinji just mentions the basics of the ability since Hillard needs to know about it for his planning in the next chapter.

mr_Trickster
November 6th, 2015, 12:03 PM
Thank you for the clarification, Alf.

Honestly, I am still abit wary about going all-out on them by virtue of the fact that magus mindset normally dictates that we avoid showing everything we have to others unless absolutely necessary - but I also feel that we might want to really secure their assistance for the Potions Champion attempt. I hope Harry will not be around to see this, Alf? If anything, I suppose this would at least prove our determination to acquire the position.

[x] - Go all out.

skulkidcachi90
November 6th, 2015, 12:49 PM
[X] There might be something, but you haven’t confirmed it.
[X] Go all out, using Zelkova’s abilities, up to and including Fusion Form if need be


Can we invite other people (like Luna, Rin or Harry) to see the combat?

Kelnish
November 6th, 2015, 01:04 PM
Tell the kid nothing, its safer for everyone that way, the only person to consult concerning a hassan is zouken and the rest of the type moon side.

Go all out and accidently kill one of the twins? I think not. Exert more effort than normal.

Thedoctor
November 6th, 2015, 02:29 PM
Guys, Kelnish might have a point about accidentally killing one of them.

[X] There might be something, but you haven’t confirmed it.

saki
November 6th, 2015, 02:46 PM
Shinji has Zelkova as a co-pilot. I think he has his back.

alfheimwanderer
November 6th, 2015, 03:45 PM
Can we invite other people (like Luna, Rin or Harry) to see the combat?

With the exception of Luna, who will probably observe so she can heal you and the others after - and who can deal with fast pace and sheer power of fusion combat, probably not. It's not the Room of Requirement, with its great amount of space, and you don't want to run the risk of catching them in a crossfire.

Magus
November 6th, 2015, 03:58 PM
[x] We haven't confirmed it yet
[x] More effort than usual - no need to overkill them

Caster
November 6th, 2015, 04:14 PM
Alf, is killing the twins a realistic possibility if we go all out? I assume Shinji isn't going to treat it like life and death even if he is going all out.

alfheimwanderer
November 6th, 2015, 04:15 PM
Alf, is killing the twins a realistic possibility if we go all out? I assume Shinji isn't going to treat it like life and death even if he is going all out.

I doubt it. Think of it as a way to practice control.

saki
November 6th, 2015, 04:32 PM
Right, we can also think of going all out as a test drive for fusion. Shinji hasn't use it on anyone but Luna except for that one time against the spider (and that one gave the best results). Having fights with many different people is the way to grow.

Malgos
November 6th, 2015, 05:12 PM
Possibly advise Hillard against investigating Lockhart, while he is a teacher he's also a Hassan, so I don't think it would be wise to pursue this further.

It's a friendly match against the Twins and there's something on the line, so going all out is safer. After all it's a 2v1 and they are really good at teamwork. Also seems disrespectful to hold back against your close friends and comrades. Going all out also allows them to evaluate Shinji better, so they know what to work on.

100%

[ ] There might be something, but it's not his secret to tell.
[ ] Go all out.

Caster
November 6th, 2015, 05:22 PM
Go all out then. I think that the Hillard one might be better with a write in.

Kelnish
November 6th, 2015, 05:35 PM
Well if the author is saying volitile magics which have killed creatures of greater mystery than two boys are totes not gonna kill those kids them fuck it, go all out with the cock ou

alfheimwanderer
November 6th, 2015, 05:53 PM
So long as he keeps control and doesn't decide to just eviscerate them, they should be fine. We do have a healer on standby.

Caster
November 6th, 2015, 06:38 PM
Is Shinji likely to lose control?

alfheimwanderer
November 6th, 2015, 06:52 PM
Is Shinji likely to lose control?

Its much less likely with Earth as opposed to water. Even so, just something to think about!

Skull Leader
November 6th, 2015, 07:16 PM
We are pretty much united in our votes today. Can's say I have anything to add that others have not brought up yet.

[x] There might be something, but it's not his secret to tell.
[x] Go all out.

Abendroth
November 6th, 2015, 07:59 PM
Last time Shinji went all out to win a contest he got burned badly and failed people that were important to him. I think it would be in character for him to be a bit gun shy after that. Especially since if Harry manages to learn what we are truly capable of now he will have an additional two months* to train a to deal with it, which could mean the difference between a becoming a champion and failing.


* Approximately. We will have to show off fusion form during the spider hunt which will give Harry a month between then and the final champion selection to train, but the spider hunt is somewhere in the vicinity of two months down the road from here. Alf has said that the spiders will still be sluggish from hibernating and they won't hibernate through March.




[ ] There might be something, but you haven’t confirmed it.
I believe this is the truth. I don't think Shinji has actually manage to confirm anything, we just have a lot of suspicions, and we don't even really understand what those suspicions are, just that he's really very unusual.


How do you fight? (choose one)


[ ] Fight with more than usual effort, using two wands, ofuda, and Zelkova’s sensory overlay to predict their movements and stymie their traps




I'm saying this now, but there is actually a better answer to this question.


Alf: Shinji has been training with the other stonecutters regularly and has a much better idea of how his abilities stack up against theirs than we the reader do. What does Shinji's think he needs to do to be able to win?

alfheimwanderer
November 6th, 2015, 08:15 PM
Alf: Shinji has been training with the other stonecutters regularly and has a much better idea of how his abilities stack up against theirs than we the reader do. What does Shinji's think he needs to do to be able to win?

Against one: Somewhere between fighting normally and a little more than usual.

Against both is a dicier proposition, since the two are very good at teamwork and are both skilled opponents. Harry is not going to be watching, so that's a non-factor.

Caster
November 6th, 2015, 08:38 PM
So the middle option sounds like maybe, I think it's better to not take chances. If we don't get their support it sounds like we may be out a potions teacher, better not to chance it.

Skull Leader
November 6th, 2015, 08:56 PM
Last time Shinji went all out to win a contest he got burned badly and failed people that were important to him. I think it would be in character for him to be a bit gun shy after that. Especially since if Harry manages to learn what we are truly capable of now he will have an additional two months* to train a to deal with it, which could mean the difference between a becoming a champion and failing.


There is a vast difference between showing an unknown teacher with questionable motives our full abilities, like what happen with Quirrell, and showing his proven friends/comrades. Gun shy or not these are Stone Cutters we are talking about. They are a Band of Brothers at this point and are not going to stab Shinji in the back. If Shinji can not trust the Stone Cutters at this point, who can he trust? He might as well pack his bags if he can not trust them as he will never be able to full trust anyone in his life.

I feel people's view that it has to be Harry vs Shinji with them against each other over the Champion position, is getting out of hand. We should not be worrying about what skills Harry sees Shinji can do. They are friends. This competition means so little compared to their three years as friends. Why should it come down to treating the other like they are an enemy. Seriously, Harry and Shini need to tallk to each other about their friendship and the competition.


As for the Twins, if they want to see us at our best, then we should respect them by giving them our best. They will come at Shinji as a pair of people acting in unison. Two people that fight as One Entity. So Shinji and Zelkova fusion form would be him doing the same back at them. Two acting as one. Just in a more magical way. It seems fair to me.

All That Is Left Unsaid
November 6th, 2015, 09:01 PM
[x] There might be something, but you haven’t confirmed it.

[x] Go all out, using Zelkova’s abilities, up to and including Fusion Form if need be

Cassius
November 6th, 2015, 09:20 PM
[X] There might be something, but you haven’t confirmed it.
[X] Fight with more than usual effort, using two wands, ofuda, and Zelkova’s sensory overlay to predict their movements and stymie their traps

Mattias
November 6th, 2015, 10:01 PM
[X] There’s something, but it’s not your secret to tell.

[X] Fight with more than usual effort, using two wands, ofuda, and Zelkova’s sensory overlay to predict their movements and stymie their traps. We just had a talk about holding our trumps back.

Thedoctor
November 6th, 2015, 10:16 PM
[X] Go all out.

Veldril
November 7th, 2015, 02:28 AM
[X] There’s something, but it’s not your secret to tell.

[X] Fight with more than usual effort, using two wands, ofuda, and Zelkova’s sensory overlay to predict their movements and stymie their traps. We just had a talk about holding our trumps back.

I think we are holding back against Lockhart, though. The Twin are very close to us, and we want to win them as allies so we shouldn't have to worry about letting them know our trump card if we are going to work with them in a long term.

Nephirin
November 7th, 2015, 03:20 AM
[x] Might be something, haven't confirmed it.

[x]More than usual effort.

Feels like Alf is dropping hints again that all out might not work out well.

Omida
November 7th, 2015, 04:54 AM
Chapter about politics. Huh. Well, teenage politics, but nonetheless. Pansy is brutally quick in securing herself spot as Shinji's right hand in Ourea. She will probably be efficient business partner (and friend). It is nice to see that Ron's actions in previous years make it harder for him to be considered serious choice for Ourea. I mean, even Hufflepuff OCs managed without much fuss! And Luna showing more, erm, serious side to silence troublemakers...


[X] There’s something, but it’s not your secret to tell.

Shinji practically knows Lockhart's secret with clues he has, but well, master assassin and all.

[X] Go all out, using Zelkova’s abilities, up to and including Fusion Form if need be

As Alf mentioned, Twins working together are dangerous thanks to their teamwork and being older by two years. While exerting more effort than usual may be a way, Shinji regularly looses against Luna (yes, I know she is special in that regard) and I doubt he has experience in fighting multiple opponents at the same time. That way, he will practice control, train fusion in combat situation and probably succeed in securing Twins' help.

EnigmaticFellow
November 7th, 2015, 05:07 PM
[X] There’s something, but it’s not your secret to tell.
[X] Go all out, using Zelkova’s abilities, up to and including Fusion Form if need be

Cremela
November 7th, 2015, 05:18 PM
[X] There might be something, but you haven’t confirmed it.
and warn Hillard if it is as you suspect, poking around could be very dangerous.

Don't go spilling secrets of the deadly Assassin, don't let our trusted allies know we're keeping secrets from them. As people have said, it's not like Shinji has conclusive evidence; just a load of heavy hints. We don't want Hillard trying to spy on a master of Presence Concealment and getting himself killed or Obliviate-ed, but if he does do well enough Gilderoy might decide to take him as an apprentice instead and let us off the hook.


[X] Go all out, using Zelkova’s abilities, up to and including Fusion Form if need be

We don't want one of the twins dying or losing an ear, but Alf's said doubtful Shinki would end upp killing them and also that


Alf: Shinji has been training with the other stonecutters regularly and has a much better idea of how his abilities stack up against theirs than we the reader do. What does Shinji's think he needs to do to be able to win? Against one: Somewhere between fighting normally and a little more than usual.

Against both is a dicier proposition, since the two are very good at teamwork and are both skilled opponents. Harry is not going to be watching, so that's a non-factor.
If fighting just one of them is somewhere between the first two options and the twins together are more than twice as dangerous as one on their own, we will need to go all out to have a hope of beating them.


Alf, look after yourself!

alfheimwanderer
November 7th, 2015, 07:18 PM
I mean, even Hufflepuff OCs managed without much fuss! And Luna showing more, erm, serious side to silence troublemakers...

They're from the HP games, actually!

Omida
November 7th, 2015, 07:44 PM
They're from the HP games, actually!

Isn't it nice of Rowling (and game- and movie- makers) to make those Name Only characters that we can use and claim to use canon characters instead of bunch of dirty OCs? (Note: I don't have anything against OCs)

alfheimwanderer
November 8th, 2015, 07:16 AM
Isn't it nice of Rowling (and game- and movie- makers) to make those Name Only characters that we can use and claim to use canon characters instead of bunch of dirty OCs? (Note: I don't have anything against OCs)

To be fair, they did provide some information - such as the fact that these would have done quite well in the dueling club, had it been started that year, or that Anthony Otterburn finds Herbology relaxing, and can usually be found around the greenhouses.

Abendroth
November 8th, 2015, 05:03 PM
This competition means so little compared to their three years as friends.
Harry is certainly Shinji's friend. He is also Shinji's rival. Harry was not an option for our potions tutor because even though we are his friend, we are also his rival, so he doesn't want to help us beat him. By the same token we would keep some secrets from him. Friendly competition is like that. And that doesn't even take into account Shinji's innate secretiveness as a magus.




The competition means nothing. Disappointing Sion, however, means everything; if it comes down to a choice between Harry and Sion, Shinji will choose Sion.

alfheimwanderer
November 9th, 2015, 09:03 PM
[X] Go all Out
[X] Might be something, unconfirmed, dangerous

100%

Chapter 36. Threat and Temptation

The din of combat filled the air as two figures strove mightily against one another, a flight of miniature dragons created by Draconifors meeting a flurry of ofuda, with spells batted aside in mid-air not by a shield, but by a gloved hand.

‘He’s quick!’ Shinji thought as he faced his opponent, Fred Weasley, wondering where the other twin was, since it was supposed to be a 2 on 1 duel, and losing track of the other was dangerous.

…as was evinced when a shout of Incarcerous (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Incarcerous) came from the seemingly empty air behind him, an unseen force knocking Matou to the ground, with thick cords appearing around his body to bind him tight.

Only for a dark fog to seep out of Matou’s form, dissolving away the rope as if it had never been, as the boy recovered to his feet, his grey eyes glinting with a golden light.

“…a vanishing spell? You shouldn’t know a fifth year transfiguration spell!” Fred asked, narrowing his eyes as he launched an orb of green lightning at the boy – noting with interest how Shinji didn’t raise a shield to block it, but instead caught it with his hand…and turned, tossing the orb at what seemed an empty corner of the room, where it exploded on contact with a hastily raised shield spell – momentarily revealing the location of the disillusioned George.“

“Untransfiguration, actually,” the Matou scion grunted.

After all, conjuration was a form of transfiguration that creating an object from thin air…which meant that one didn’t need a vanishing spell to erase it. One simply needed to revert it the conjured object to its original form – that was – air.

With a frown, Fred snapped his fingers, with a horde of miniature dragons swarming forward, dozens upon dozens of bright green menaces that moved to attack the enemy before them, their fiery breath issuing forth to burn away any ofuda Matou might send against them…except that he sent none at all.

Instead, an orb of darkness issued from his wand, flying into the center of the swarm and detonating in a wave of shadow that engulfed them all, reverting the miniature dragons to what they had been before Fred’s transfigurations - harmless paper airplanes that fluttered to the floor.

Fred took a step back in shock as he saw this, with Shinji pressing his momentary advantage with a silent stunning spell – though the smile faded as the crimson spellbeam was deflected by one of equal force from another corner of the room.

“You two know…spell fencing?” he asked warily, as the two moved to circle one another, with Shinji trying to keep the invisible George in his view – though he didn’t really see George as much as a human-shaped form of red.

“Quirrell may have been a right arse,” Fred quipped, launching a barrage of silent disarming spells, “but that doesn’t mean, we can’t use his techniques.”

Cursing at the sudden onslaught, Shinji was forced to deflect them with a Shield Charm, while he commanded his ofuda to seek out the other – invisible – twin and bind him, only for his wand to fly out of his hand as he was hit by a disarming spell from behind.

“Huzzah!” Fred said, a smile creeping over his face as he used a whirlwind of force to knock the ofuda going after his brother to the ground, with Shinji’s cherry wand describing a delicate arc through the air, and vanishing as it was plucked away by an unseen hand. “Your wand is gone, Matou, and so your main defense. Do you yield?”

But Shinji only chuckled, with the visible twin’s expression going flat as the Matou scion produced a second wand – his wand of hazel and coral.

“I think…not!” the Ravenclaw replied, launching a small orb of ofuda into the air before him – one that detonated in an incandescent blaze of light and sound that blinded and deafened those combatants who weren’t ready for it.

Whump-boom!

…naturally, this meant everyone but Matou Shinji, of course.

He wouldn’t lose this battle. Couldn’t afford to lose, since the Twins had agreed to help him out in Potions – but only if he managed to beat them in a battle in which they were going all out. After all, they were quite curious as to how he’d been named one of the two Champion candidates without going to the Potions Boot Camp at all – and all the more so when he had mentioned that his candidacy was based mostly on his skill at scavenging and combat.

“Well then,” George had said after some minutes. “I think a test is in order, don’t you, brother of mine?”

Shinji had been instantly on his guard.

“A test, you say?” the boy had replied, looking between the twins – one of which wore the enchanted gloves Shinji had passed along, with the other wearing the enchanted boots. He’d thought it only fair to give them his extras at the time, since Touko was giving him a new set of enchanted clothing, but he’d never anticipated that they’d turn them against him. “What did you have in mind?”

“Nothing complex,” Fred had noted.

“Not a potions challenge, certainly,” George had added, with the two looking at each other and nodding once.

“Combat.”

The Twins had chorused that together, with Shinji feeling more than a little on edge. On a one-on-one basis, he could probably beat them, but…

“Against both of us,” Fred had added.

“At once,” George supplied.

—two on one was a different story, given that that meant he’d have to split his attention between them.

“What are your conditions?” he’d asked warily.

“Beat us,” the two had said at once.

“By which we mean that both of us must be incapacitated or made to yield,” Fred had clarified.

“Best us, and we will help you with Potions—”

“—in return for a favor,” the two had concluded together, eying the boy to see what his response would be.

“Agreed,” Shinji had found himself saying.

Aside from the twins, he had precious few options for really boosting his potential in both combat and Potions. Pansy, of course, had been hinting – and none too subtly at that – that she’d be willing to aid him with the Competition, giving him information from Boot Camp and such, with the caveat that if he accepted her offer, he would have to appoint her his Second.

Harry wasn’t an option, since the Boy-Who-Lived was his rival for the position of Champion, with the Heir of Slytherin having his own reasons for competing: something that drove him beyond a simple desire for fame or glory. Shinji knew full well that Harry wished to live up to the expectations of everyone around him, to become the hero they saw him as, and that he saw this competition as one step towards that.

He even respected it as a motivation – but that didn’t mean he’d let his friend have the spot. Not when the Director of Atlas herself had expressed an interest in him being part of the Potions Championship, given its location on an ancient floating isle and such.

Above anyone else in this world, Matou Shinji was loyal to Sion Eltnam Atlasia, so if she had a wish, he would surely work to grant it – even if it set him against Harry. For surely, the Boy-Who-Lived would have other opportunities to prove himself.

Shinji had the one, and he wasn’t about to squander it.

Hence he had approached the twins, instead of Pansy or Su Li, both of whom would gladly work with him, but would only boost his skill by so far.

…which brought him back to the present, where he was dueling the two of them.

Alone.

With the momentary advantage his flashbang had bought him, Matou Shinji felled Fred Weasley with a Stunning Spell, a halo of red blossoming around the older Gryffindor’s form as the twin was caught flat footed, his form crumpling bonelessly to the ground.

He turned to do the same to the invisible – but presumably stunned – George, only to see a jet of crimson light coming straight for his face. Shinji ducked to avoid it, but couldn’t avoid the followup of Flipendo Tria, a whirlwind of force that knocked him flat, with a second Disarming Charm catching him in mid-flight, his second wand flying from of his hands into that of his invisible opponent as he was flung into a corner of the room, his head ringing.

As he struggled to get back to his feet, the Matou scion sent a wave of explosive ofuda outwards, attempting to buy himself some time, but as it so happened, George wasn’t pressing his attack anyway, with Shinji stifling a muffled curse as he heard the word Rennervate.

‘…the Reviving spell. Which means Fred is back in action.’

So it proved, as the older teen surged to his feet, a wave of fire poured forth from his wand, incinerating the ofuda while with a cry of “Draconifors”, the paper airplanes that had fluttered to the floor earlier became miniature dragons once more, taking flight and adding their fire to Fred’s.

“You fought well, Matou,” Fred commented, eying the young Ravenclaw who had been quite literally backed into a corner. “But this is it. Your wands are gone. Your surprises are spent. Your ofuda are useless against our small army of dragons. And both of us remain. Yield.”

“…no,” Shinji growled out, his eyes flashing gold in the dim light of the tower. “Not while I’m still…here!”

“Heh, to the last, is it?” Fred asked, raising an eyebrow. “As you wish, Matou!”

With a gesture, the dragons surged forward once more, rushing towards the stricken form of Matou Shinji, who simply closed his eyes, as if accepting his end.

As they came, his sense of self faded. His anger, his defiance, his bravado faded. Everything faded except what lay before him – the desire to reject this end. They were many and he was one. They had trained to fight a superior foe, but their tactics in the end were only human. Holding back, he could not beat them, for they weren’t – they knew how he fought.
They knew most of his tricks.

They had tricks of their own, made to counter his – as they had seen the ones Harry used – hence they had fought to disarm him, not to stun him, as they knew his ofuda would simply revive him.

He could not defeat them with wand and ofuda. But he could imagine what could, as he opened the door to the world beyond, the door behind which lay everything and nothing and every possibility between.

In that moment, there was no Matou Shinji. There was no world.

All was one.

He returned to awareness as the miniature dragons swarmed over him, screaming in confusion as their raking claws proved useless against flesh hard and unyielding as stone itself. He could feel the room, the tower, everything around him. The flow of prana in the air, where both of the twins were, and more.

The stone of Hogwarts. The iron in the blood of those around him. The wood in their wands. The spells they were preparing. All of these sang to him, leaving nothing concealed from his sight.

From his body, spikes of earth shot out, impaling each of the miniature dragons that crowded around him, their forms going ashen grey and crumbling to dust in an instant.

In the distance, the one named Fred went pale at the sight. Petrification magic was…was a high level Dark Art. A spell only the most powerful of Dark Wizards could accomplish in the histories.

“But Matou isn’t…?” he breathed in confusion. “How is this even…?” But he steadied himself. He was not a Stone Cutter for nothing, after all, even if what he was seeing was not something he’d ever expected to encounter. And he had one more trick to play. “George, now!”

Fred Weasley gripped his wand tightly as he loosed spell after spell upon Matou’s changed form, wondering what magic he had wrought to utterly transform himself, as even his clothing was different, and the younger boy seemed dangerous on a level he had never appeared before.

“Flipendo! Stupefy! Immobulus!”

All these and more he cast, coruscating beams of color and might streaking towards Matou Shinji, who did not even bother to block as he advanced, with the spells splintering upon his skin and fading. For in his fusion form, Matou Shinji was closer to an elemental than a human, and to such a being, wand spells were an inferior mystery.

“…spell resistance?”

Fred swallowed, crying out “Avis!” over and over, as an unending stream of birds shot from the tip of his wand, heading unerringly towards the advancing Ravenclaw’s eyes.

‘Maybe I can’t stop him. But I can slow him down…’

Not for long though, for as the birds came close to Matou, they were wiped from reality by a shimmering field of power that forbade their existence – a bounded field that reverted transfigured things to their natural state.

Fred Weasley had only a moment to process what had just happened before he lost consciousness, his wand snatched from his hand by an unseen force.

And in that moment…

Light flared as George completed what he had been working on – a runic array carved into the stone of the Tower for a single purpose: to bind the human named Matou Shinji.

They had anticipated he would have odd tricks, much as Harry Potter or Robert Hillard did, and in the event such a thing proved overwhelming, they had created a powerful binding to trap him, though there was no magic poured into the runes to prevent him from sensing or seeing them. There was no sense not using every advantage possible, after all, not when they were the ones who had prepared the battlefield in advance.

As long as he was still human – or reasonably close – the binding would succeed, and with Matou Shinji rendered helpless, the match would be over.

Under the cover of an Invisibility cloak, George Weasley stamped his foot, pouring the final bit of magic he needed into the ground, with runes blazing into existence one after another across the entire surface of the room to stop Matou and hold him fast.

…but Matou Shinji did not stop.

‘What…but the array…it’s active, so why…?’

Yes. The array which he had inscribed and activated would surely have bound Matou Shinji as long as the younger boy was human.

But in fusion form, the young Ravenclaw was not, in fact, human, as he proved by advancing through the field of runes unhindered, heading inexorably towards George’s location.

“Fizzle,” the other intoned, as a haze of shadows rose from the ground and the runes died, the energy within them stolen away by a superior force. “Bind.”

George prepared for an onslaught of ofuda, but none came forth, with his body stiffening despite himself. There were already talismans scattered all over the floor from a previous altercation, after all, from which the shadows congealed into lines and whorls, like ropes that froze as they touched their target. “User of Witchcraft, I bind you.”

The shadows rose, the freezing sensation of their touch stealing the sensation from his arms and legs, his wand slipping from his hands.

“Sons of Arthur and Molly Weasley, I bind you.”

George tried to speak, to say something, but could not, as the chill stole over his throat, his chin, his face, leaving him helpless.

“George and Fred Weasley…I bind you.”

And then it was complete, the ropes of power sinking into him and leaving him – and his brother – motionless, bound not simply by intention and prana, but by knowledge of their nature, their lineage, their names.

…very much as the Twins had tried to do to Matou Shinji, save that they had not accounted for an unexpected variable in their calculations.

His familiar.

In their minds, a familiar was simply a pet, after all. Even if they’d heard things about creatures from the east being able to transform and use magic of their own, to them, familiars didn’t take part in combat – and to be fair, most British familiars, with the exception of beasts like the Basilisk of Slytherin or Albus Dumbledore’s phoenix, were rather useless on the battlefield.

They’d seen Shinji with what had looked a fox, but didn’t know what that creature could do – hadn’t even considered that they might face it, given that it seemed like a harmless little animal. Such were the ingrained prejudices of Wizarding Britain.

“This battle is over,” Shinji announced, the now silent chamber making his voice seem all the louder. “And I have won.”

After collecting their wands – and his – he released them from their bindings, and revived Fred Weasley, with the Twins looking at his form with a wary sense of respect and fear, given what they’d seen him do – and his odd appearance.

“What is…?”

“This is called fusion,” Matou Shinji explained, his golden eyes looking upon the Twins. “One of the greatest techniques of wizardkind, long forgotten by the West, created by the combination of a nature spirit with one of our kind.”

“…a nature spirit?”

“Like a kitsune,” the boy noted, with George feeling more than a little unnerved at how calm the boy sounded, as if they had not just fought each other – as if Shinji had not just used that powerful binding on him. “Or some other youkai. But you don’t have many such spirits in Britain.”

“…no. We don’t,” Fred admitted, taking a deep breath. “Fair’s fair, I suppose. You’ve beaten us, so we’ll help you.”

“We actually didn’t expect you to win,” George stated bluntly. “Especially since we’d devised this strategy to counter powerful opponents like Hillard or Harry. One Twin holding your attention with charms and more showy transfiguration abilities, while the other attacked from behind, set up a runic binding and more.”

“To be honest, we weren’t sure you knew what you were asking for,” Fred added, shaking his head. “Asking for our help in Potions meant that you wanted us to train you to beat Harry, after all. And given that he’s Snape’s prize pupil, there’s not much hope of beating him in brewing. So you’d have to be able to beat him on the field, more than just matching him.”

“I don’t think that will be a problem, do you?” Shinji inquired solicitously, with both of the twins shaking their heads.

“No—“

“—we don’t—“

“—think so.”

“Good,” Matou Shinji noted, releasing the fusion and reverting back to his normal form, with Zelkova perched upon his shoulder. “I rather hoped not.”

“Merlin’s bloody balls…” George whispered. “So what…this is like an Eastern Animagus transformation?”

“You could say that,” the Ravenclaw said. It was not dissimilar, he supposed… “But you’d need a familiar to pull it off. A powerful one, not something you’d get in a pet store.”

“Ah,” the twins chorused as one. “Then we know our favor.”

“Yes?” Shinji asked, wondering what it would be.

“We want familiars,” they noted.

“That form of yours…it’s…wicked.”

Shinji smiled slightly.

“Agreed.”

He just hoped Matsuo-san wouldn’t mind visitors in the summer.

“…so…can Lovegood use fusion too?” Fred said slowly, remembering that Luna had accompanied Shinji to Japan and had gotten a fox, much like he had.

“…she usually beats me when using it,” the boy admitted, with Fred stunned into silence.

“Remind me not to make her angry,” George quipped after a beat, thinking that if Luna could beat Shinji at his full power, then the girl was liable to be rather scary indeed.

And well, she was, given that in fusion form, she could use walls of razor wind, swirling fireballs that consumed spells, and more, in addition to things like basic spell resistance, limited flight, and invisibility, with a viciousness and power belied by her cute appearance.

“I’ll second that, brother of mine,” Fred added fervently. “I’ll second that.”

100%

Later that evening, Shinji found himself talking with Robert Hillard, the strategist of the Stone Cutters, as well as the others, about their plans for the spiders. By the end of the week, the equipment he had commissioned – the wyvernhide armor and such – would finally be complete, and he wanted to know what the Head Boy had come up with.

“First off, we’ll need to spend a great deal of time drilling ourselves for the attack,” Hillard noted. “And of course, we’ll have to get buy-in from a teacher, given that someone should know where we are. Probably Lockhart, given that he probably knows a thing or two about fighting spiders. Though…”

“Yes, Robert?”

“…it’s just that there are so many of them,” the Head Boy said, his lips pressed together in a thin line as he examined a battle map of the hollow and surrounding areas. “True, they’re hibernating now, but once we begin, I’m sure they’ll wake up.”

“We’ll be able to eliminate a few first, right?” Harry asked.

“A few is not the problem,” Hillard responded bluntly. “I understand we’ve been successful in our engagements against the spiders to date, but we’ve also only fought a few at a time. I’m concerned that against the numbers we’re looking at, we’re going to be worn down at the very least. There is nothing more tiring than battle, Moody tells me, and I for one believe him.”

“Well, how about getting some outside help?” Shinji broke in, with the others turning to him.

“What do you mean?” Fred asked.

“Do you mean the Ourea?” George added.

“Not exactly,” the Matou scion responded. “I mean Lockhart. He is said to be the greatest adventurer in all of Britain, after all, and I’m sure he may have dealt with a situation similar to this. Acromantulae are used to guard treasures, after all.”

…that and he was reasonably certain that Lockhart was part of the Order of Assassins, and they were quite good at killing things, if nothing else.

“I had considered that,” Hillard remarked. “Though I’m a little concerned about what he might want in return, if actually comes with us. There’s the risk he’ll claim the lion’s share of the wealth when we do the work, after all. Also, I’m not sure I want to reveal all of our abilities to him. While he’s been a useful ally, I’m not sure how much I trust him.”

“That’s true,” Shinji admitted. There were times that the man disturbed him a fair bit as well. “Though I don’t think him knowing what we’re capable of is something to worry about for now. Let’s concentrate on one threat at a time.”

“True,” Harry conceded. “Why don’t you start with asking him for advice? I don’t know what to believe about Hagrid. I don’t think he’d intentionally do something wrong, but…”

“It doesn’t matter what he meant,” Fred said quietly.

“Just what he did,” George chimed in.

“Those spiders could very well kill someone,” the twins chorused, disgruntled. “Explains why he would never let us into the Forbidden Forest though. Protecting his secrets, no doubt.”

“It’s concerning, I agree,” Shinji noted. “I’ll ask Lockhart, but you have to remember the man is very perceptive. It is…very hard to hide things from him. And…I remember first year. I don’t want that to happen again because we overestimated ourselves. Our secrets are important, but…”

“Not as important as our lives,” Hillard finished. “It’s true. Still, there are some things we can probably keep back, like any absolute trumps. Being perfectly honest, most of what we do is common knowledge anyway – that you can use ofuda, that Harry is advanced in Defense, that I can do the Patronus, that the Twins are good at Runes and setting traps, and that Luna is good at unusual strategy. I assume the design of whatever protective garment you are commissioning came from him?”

“…indeed,” Shinji confirmed.

“Interesting. Tell me, is there anything else you know about Lockhart?” the Head Boy asked. “When you talk about him, there’s something in your tone that implies he’s more than an adventurer. Especially when you mention what he’s been training you in.”

Matou Shinji was silent for a moment as he considered what to say. From what Sion had told him, it was likely Lockhart was an Assassin, but he hadn’t ever confirmed that – nor did he think it was safe to really look into.

“There might be something,” he admitted reluctantly. “But I haven’t confirmed it, and frankly, I don’t think it would be safe to look into. I don’t think he’s a dark wizard, mind you, just that he’s a dangerous man in a number of ways.”

“…I’d figured that much out myself,” Hillard grunted, shaking his head. “But since you insist, I’ll leave it at that for now. For now, here’s what I have in mind. Matou, you and the Twins are the best at Runes among us. I want you to scout the perimeter around the hollow while they’re asleep, erecting a runic array if possible to keep the spiders inside. We don’t want any escaping.”

“Mm, it doesn’t matter how strong we are if they run away,” Luna said distantly, speaking up for the first time that meeting.

“Indeed,” Hillard said, smiling slightly. “So while they’re hibernating, I want us to make preparations. We needed a shielded rest area we can retreat to if necessary, as well as a boundary.”
“Understood,” the Twins chorused.

“Harry. I’ll need you to brew us quite a few potions. Stamina potions, healing potions, and the like. You can have others help out – say it’s for a project we’re working on.”

“…and it wouldn’t even be a lie,” Harry noted with a faint smile. “Alright.”

“Luna, I want more details about how many spiders there are, of what size, what the hollow looks like exactly, and such. Get Matou to help you out.”

“Mm. Ok.”

“Since I am collaborating with Lockhart on creating this year’s Kobayashi Maru exercise, I’ll have access to the Book of Spells, and will be using it to create a scenario for us to practice, based on Luna’s information. Every evening you’re not busy with something else, I expect you to be practicing your abilities, sparring each other, and working with each other on your assignments. We have a lot to get done in a couple of months, and we need to know each other’s abilities inside and out if we want a chance of victory.”

“Understood,” the others said, each one looking at Hillard with determination in their eyes.

“Good. You all make me proud to be a Stone Cutter. Let’s just hope this adventure goes a wee bit better than last time, eh?”

“…so I hope,” Harry murmured distantly, looking at the empty chair which symbolized the missing member – Sokaris. “So I hope.”

“Speaking of adventures…I don’t suppose you could give any hints as far as what you’re making for the Kobayashi?” Shinji asked dryly. “Not that I expect you to, but…”

“You’ll find out with everyone else, Matou. After all, it wouldn’t be much of a test if you knew what was coming, eh?”

100%

Choice 90: Besides Shinji, whose Kobayashis would you like to see? (choose two)

[ ] Pansy
[ ] Daphne
[ ] Neville
[ ] Cedric
[ ] Ron
[ ] (write-in)

Choice 91: Since I've been concentrating on our main cast this time around? Who would you like to see an interlude from? (choose 2)

[ ] Lockhart
[ ] Snape
[ ] Rin / Mashu
[ ] Matou Zouken
[ ] (write-in)

Cassius
November 9th, 2015, 09:15 PM
[x] Daphne
[x] Neville
[x] Matou Zouken
[x] Lockhart

Nanao-kun
November 9th, 2015, 09:17 PM
A good battle.

I certainly want to see...

[X]Ron

But unsure of the second.

Kuroyuki
November 9th, 2015, 09:21 PM
Choice 90:
[X] Ron
[X] Daphne

Let's see Ron freak out at spiders and I'm sort of curious on how Daphne would respond to this.

Choice 91:
[X] Rin / Mashu
[X] Lockhart

Got to watch the waifus and the Assassin. Any kind of knowledge of Lockhart's plans will be beneficial because it might tell us of any of our weaknesses or faults. And maybe... Just maybe we can switch any of our strategies to fix it.

skulkidcachi90
November 9th, 2015, 09:22 PM
Choice 90


[X] Neville
[X] Ron


Choice 91:


[X] Rin / Mashu
[X] Zouken

Malgos
November 9th, 2015, 09:29 PM
As expected, can't beat the Twins without going all out. Even more so than what the choice implied. They truly were the best choice. Also nice that they will be getting a familiar.

100%

I really want to see how these two will fare. If I could choose three then Cedric as well, but alas.

[ ] Ron
[ ] Malfoy

100%

[ ] Matou Zouken (Rejoice, Kelnish.)
[ ] Emiya Shirou

100%

Really liked the fight and Alf did a great job showing that the Twins are not to be underestimated or any Stone Cutter really. Fusion being overpowered helped, but they also got no experience dealing with Magic Resistance, while Shinji does. So the surprise factor helped a lot, too. Still what a great setup they had, I'm really impressed. I'm curious if Harry or Hillard would've been able to deal with that and how. I guess Harry is sort of answered since they set it up to affirm that Shinji can beat Harry. So I guess it's more about Hillard.

EnigmaticFellow
November 9th, 2015, 09:33 PM
[X] Cedric
[X] Pansy

The choices here don't concern me that much.

[X] Matou Zouken
[X] Touko

As for these, we don't get to see Zouken's perspective much. Meanwhile, I want to see how Touko views Shinji after he got out a loan for her.

Caster
November 9th, 2015, 09:58 PM
So, looks like our summer guest is assigned to the twins. Interesting, I'm glad that happened. I definitely stand by one of them becoming our second then, it seems like it'll offer the most benefit for us. Kind of feel bad for Harry now though. Of the current Stone Cutters he will be the only one without a familiar in the sense the rest have, might be a negative for him.

As for the votes...

Ron for sure, Zouken for the second. I'm unsure as to the rest. But given that Ron is one of our newbie folk we should see what he does. And Zouken strikes me as someone Alf will use to show a lot of things that we might not otherwise get access to. I'm inclined to agree with EF on Touko though, we need to know how Touko is going about things in regards to Shinji. Lockhart is tempting to though, as is Snape.

skulkidcachi90
November 9th, 2015, 10:23 PM
I want to know more about Mashu and how she is taking her "Mission", also I think than could be really interesting see Rin interacting with other characters in the clock tower like Waver and maybe learning about the gala and the disappearance of the Ilya.

Veldril
November 9th, 2015, 10:28 PM
Choice 90:
[X] Ron
[X] Neville

Well, we put for Ron to be tested in the first place so we should see how it goes. The other one can be anyone but we haven't seen Neville in action for quite some time + he was our co-leader so he might be a good one. But other choices are fine for me too.

Choice 91:

[X] Rin and Mashu
[X] Emiya Shirou

Rin and Mashu choice is kinda a given for me. I would also be interested to see how Shirou is doing, as he's also very different from his canon counterpart. Seeing what he learned or do at Mahoutokoro could be fun too.

Malgos
November 9th, 2015, 10:34 PM
[X] Emiya Shirou

I am ashamed that I forgot about Shirou. Thank you, time to adjust some things.

skulkidcachi90
November 9th, 2015, 10:41 PM
I would also be interested to see how Shirou is doing, as he's also very different from his canon counterpart. Seeing what he learned or do at Mahoutokoro could be fun too.
also could be very interesting see about how he is taking the dilema of taking off avalon of his body.

Skull Leader
November 9th, 2015, 11:09 PM
And that is why we chose going all out in the fight, its the only choice that allowed Shinji to win. GG Twins.

I see that Shinji is going to serious go after Harry to win the slot in the Potions Championship. Hopefully they won't ruin their friendship over this, and that win or loss they support the other.

[X] Cedric
[X] Ron

Cedric - Because I want to see if he is Stonecutter worthy yet. Ron - Because for the laughs if it goes bad or to see him finally show his good side like his cannon version shows at times.


[X] Touko
[X] Shirou

I have to go with checking in with our Master and on the "homefront" with our friend Shirou.

Edit: With the twins now getting familiars, this will leave Harry and Hillard as the only Stone cutters without them. Would it cheapen the twins favor if we added them to the trip? Assuming of course they had the time and the drive to go on said trip.

saki
November 9th, 2015, 11:36 PM
[ ] Ron (fun screw up)
[ ] Daphne (potential rival)

[ ] Lockhart
[ ] Matou Zouken
(I want to know more about this two)

Im not picking shiro because he is almost a foot note in shinji life by now, better not start new sub plots.

Mint
November 9th, 2015, 11:47 PM
[X] Cedric
[X] Ron


[X] Rin and Mashu
[X] Emiya Shirou

alfheimwanderer
November 9th, 2015, 11:50 PM
Edit: With the twins now getting familiars, this will leave Harry and Hillard as the only Stone cutters without them. Would it cheapen the twins favor if we added them to the trip? Assuming of course they had the time and the drive to go on said trip.

Hillard can't go anyway - Auror training. As for Harry, unless he's your Second, he has responsibilities in Britain.

mr_Trickster
November 9th, 2015, 11:54 PM
Considering the fact that the we already had an interest in giving Ron a chance, it's only proper that we see how he's managing. The other choice is a little more tricky for me, personally. While Daphne and Pansy catch my curiosity, perhaps Cedric would be best considering he wishes to be a Stone Cutter candidate and it would be beneficial for us to know more about how he handles things. Will we still be receiving a shallow overview of their runs like we did last year, Alf?

[x] - Ronald Weasley
[x] - Cedric Diggory

Now as for the second choice, I have to agree with many of the others - especially Caster: Matou Zouken is someone that only rarely appears as an option for us, he is - in some long and convoluted way - our mentor and our inspiration (though perhaps motivation by way of fear). We have historically gotten good options and good results from consulting with him. This is likely to apply as well. Please remember that we have just acquired the ire of the remainder of the Einzbern family and Zouken might have useful information for us as players and for Shinji as a character later on. As for the second one I am unsure if we're looking for more Moonlit of Sunlit world information, but it would appear that Touko seems like an attractive option as well as Shirou depending on where they are right now.

[x] - Matou Zouken

I shall hold off on my second vote for now, however.

Skull Leader
November 9th, 2015, 11:57 PM
Hillard can't go anyway - Auror training. As for Harry, unless he's your Second, he has responsibilities in Britain.

That's what I figured. I was thinking down the road as an option if we can get Harry as our second. Of course, that is a big hurdle to overcome.

alfheimwanderer
November 10th, 2015, 12:07 AM
Will we still be receiving a shallow overview of their runs like we did last year, Alf?

Yes.

gesalt
November 10th, 2015, 12:38 AM
[X] Ron
[X] Pansy

[X] Snape
[X] Zouken

Kelnish
November 10th, 2015, 01:09 AM
Dontc care about first vote except to say zouken is my eritin.

For the second zouken obv and then probs lockheart

- - - Updated - - -


Considering the fact that the we already had an interest in giving Ron a chance, it's only proper that we see how he's managing. The other choice is a little more tricky for me, personally. While Daphne and Pansy catch my curiosity, perhaps Cedric would be best considering he wishes to be a Stone Cutter candidate and it would be beneficial for us to know more about how he handles things. Will we still be receiving a shallow overview of their runs like we did last year, Alf?

[x] - Ronald Weasley
[x] - Cedric Diggory

Now as for the second choice, I have to agree with many of the others - especially Caster: Matou Zouken is someone that only rarely appears as an option for us, he is - in some long and convoluted way - our mentor and our inspiration (though perhaps motivation by way of fear). We have historically gotten good options and good results from consulting with him. This is likely to apply as well. Please remember that we have just acquired the ire of the remainder of the Einzbern family and Zouken might have useful information for us as players and for Shinji as a character later on. As for the second one I am unsure if we're looking for more Moonlit of Sunlit world information, but it would appear that Touko seems like an attractive option as well as Shirou depending on where they are right now.

[x] - Matou Zouken

I shall hold off on my second vote for now, however.

No. Youre wrong. He is always an option. You plebs just lack the clarity of vision that your elders possess to see it through.

mangafreak7793
November 10th, 2015, 01:25 AM
[ ] Rin / Mashu
[ ] Matou Zouken

[ ] Neville
[ ] Cedric

All That Is Left Unsaid
November 10th, 2015, 02:41 AM
[x] Cedric
[x] Ron

[x] Matou Zouken
[x] (write-in) Touko

Veldril
November 10th, 2015, 02:43 AM
By the way, how the Twins fought against Shinji would really make Touko proud with rune and all. Maybe we should introduce them to her in the future :P

Omida
November 10th, 2015, 02:52 AM
Yeah, so going all out seemed to be the only way to beat Twins and even then it was close call.

Choice 90:

[X] Ron - I agree with previous logic. If we are giving him a chance, I would like to see how he fares.
[X] Pansy - Time to see how our right hand-wannabe fares on her own.

Choice 91:

[X] Matou Zouken - As any good child, it's time to give the limelight to grandpa for some wisdom.
[X] Shirou Emiya - Because the last time we have seen him, he was with Hisui and Kohaku. I want to see how Ally of Justice fares.

Caster
November 10th, 2015, 03:02 AM
I'd second that. Touko might like meeting the Twins, and given that Type-Moon runes are kind of looked down upon I could see some benefit from that. Shame we don't know Bazett, between her and Touko the twins would be scary good.

Also I do think it'd be nice if we could help Harry somehow get a familiar. Maybe in the gap between fourth and fifth year?

mr_Trickster
November 10th, 2015, 03:13 AM
Speaking of fifth year, actually. That's when the Grail War is supposed to happen, yes?

alfheimwanderer
November 10th, 2015, 03:15 AM
Speaking of fifth year, actually. That's when the Grail War is supposed to happen, yes?

Grail war should be 6th or 7th year.

mr_Trickster
November 10th, 2015, 03:23 AM
Grail war should be 6th or 7th year.

Noted, thank you.

Cremela
November 10th, 2015, 08:41 AM
Great battle scene, managing to work in worldbuilding as a way to enhance just how awesome the techniques seem really well!



one of which wore the enchanted glove Shinji had passed along, with the other wearing the enchanted boots.

I assume an "s" is missing and Shinji didn't randomly decide to keep the other one. X)



“You fought well, Matou,” Fred commented, eying the young Ravenclaw who had been quite literally backed into a corner. “But this is it. Your wands are gone. Your surprises are spent. Your ofuda are useless against our small army of dragons. And both of us remain. Yield.”

“…no,” Shinji growled out, his eyes flashing gold in the dim light of the tower. “Not while I’m still…here!”

“Heh, to the last, is it?” Fred asked, raising an eyebrow. “As you wish, Matou!”

With a gesture, the dragons surged forward once more, rushing towards the stricken form of Matou Shinji, who simply closed his eyes, as if accepting his end…


He returned to awareness as the miniature dragons swarmed over him, screaming in confusion as their raking claws proved useless against flesh hard and unyielding as stone itself.


So how far would the twins have gone if we refused to yield? 0.0



Fred Weasley had only a moment to process what had just happened before he lost consciousness, his wand snatched from his hand by an unseen force.

Not quite sure what happened here...



“Fizzle,” the other intoned,

The picture of someone intoning the word fizzle is something I find inherently funny, but then this is the Twins!



“Also, I’m not sure I want to reveal all of our abilities to him. While he’s been a useful ally, I’m not sure how much I trust him.”...

"Our secrets are important, but…”

“Not as important as our lives"

Well it's not like we won't develop new techniques, even if Quirrel/Mort survived, the Stonecutters have so many new tricks up their sleeves, although I guess Lockhart could to some extent predict how they could develop with all his experience.


Regarding the Kobayashi Marus,

[X] Ron

definitely, we could always ask Hillard for an overview of Cedric's if he's serious about becoming a stone cutter, personally I'd like to see how

[X] Neville

thinks and leads, although Fay would be interesting too. Saying that, Pansy may be of more use if she's trying to get close to us. Malfoy would be good for a laugh or to see how someone who could be working against us in the future thinks and operates (enemy of opponent may be too strong a word). There could be a case for Daphne to keep an eye on how our friend's girlfriend would do in battle...


So. Many. Good. Choices. Lockheart's perspective is always useful, and he seems somehow intwined with Shinji's subconscious given his dreams, like EnigmaticFellow and Caster said, Touko would be good to check up on given how Christmas went. I have to disagree with saki on Shirou; he is possibly a future opponent in the Grail War depending on how things go, so it would be good to check on him. Rin/Mashu promises to be entertaining, while getting 2 for the price of 1 AND a possible connection to Sion (and Illya). And of course we want to see how our beloved Grandpa is doing (and sister). Hmm...

[x] Matou Zouken
[X] Rin / Mashu

(if there's a tie between Shirou and Rin/Mashu will he be coming over to London for an athletics competition? ;) )

Are you feeling better Alf?

skulkidcachi90
November 10th, 2015, 09:16 AM
Cremela convince me.
I change my vote from Shirou to Zouken.
Also change my vote from Cedric to Ron

mr_Trickster
November 10th, 2015, 12:31 PM
Going to vote on [x] - Rin and Mashu for my second interlude vote here. Would like to see on their thoughts on matters especially since we've never gotten the chance to explore Mashu before.

mAc Chaos
November 10th, 2015, 01:29 PM
For the 2nd vote:

[x] Zouken

And...

[x] KOTOMINE

It's time.

Rin and Mashu sound OK but it'll probably just be Rin chilling at home. I want mapo priest and gold king bonus cameo.

alfheimwanderer
November 10th, 2015, 04:12 PM
So how far would the twins have gone if we refused to yield? 0.0

Incapacitation. While you're getting scratched up and such, they probably would have finished the rune binding.


Are you feeling better Alf?

For the moment, yes.

Velyoukai
November 10th, 2015, 06:01 PM
1. Pansy + Neville
2. Zouken (obv) + Touko

Magus
November 10th, 2015, 06:52 PM
90: [x] Ron, [x] Pansy

91: [x] Rin & Mashu, [x] Emiya Shirou

Kelnish
November 10th, 2015, 07:52 PM
For the 2nd vote:

[x] Zouken

And...

[x] KOTOMINE

It's time.

Rin and Mashu sound OK but it'll probably just be Rin chilling at home. I want mapo priest and gold king bonus cameo.

Changing my vote to this.

Caster
November 10th, 2015, 08:35 PM
So, are the twins the best potions tutor available but also the most taxing? Seems like we picked our summer guest out due to them, and we narrowly avoided wasting that vote entirely, which would have made it impossible to win the Potions bit against Harry. Just kind of curious if its value that caused it to go that way or maybe if all choices would have done that.

Looking forward to more familiar searching though. That was fun, and it'll be nice to see the twins branch out instead of be carbon copies just about. Wonder if Shinji will be able to get a second one too, at least he will be better prepared this time.

Abendroth
November 10th, 2015, 08:37 PM
[x]Pansy

[X] Zouken

alfheimwanderer
November 10th, 2015, 09:42 PM
Just kind of curious if its value that caused it to go that way or maybe if all choices would have done that.

Each prospect has a skill check necessary, depending on what their interests were, as well as some sacrifice needed.

Twins have the best balance between Potions and Combat available, given their unorthodox methods - as such they have a high combat skill check.

Pansy has more of a Potions slant, so for her, you'd need to be willing to make her your Second.

Mattias
November 10th, 2015, 10:26 PM
Choice 90: Besides Shinji, whose Kobayashis would you like to see? (choose two)

[X] Neville
[X] Ron

Choice 91: Since I've been concentrating on our main cast this time around? Who would you like to see an interlude from? (choose 2)

[X] Touko
[X] Sion, getting a report from Mashu about the goings on at Grimmauld (aka what Rin's up to).

saki
November 10th, 2015, 10:31 PM
[X] Zouken
[X] Sion

I change my vote to Sion. May as well see how illya is doing.

mAc Chaos
November 10th, 2015, 10:44 PM
you guys want kotomine dont lie to yourselves

gesalt
November 10th, 2015, 11:36 PM
I also change my vote from Snape to Kotomine

mr_Trickster
November 11th, 2015, 12:09 AM
Switching my Mashu vote over to [x] - Sion as well.

Almost tempted to switch Cedric over to [x] - Pansy so doing so now.

Caster
November 11th, 2015, 02:28 AM
Would Su Li have been the worst but easiest option then? Sounds like Twins and Pansy were the good ones. I think overall Twins were best for sure. Looking forward to seeing the twins get more attention, so that really is a big bonus.

alfheimwanderer
November 11th, 2015, 02:44 AM
Would Su Li have been the worst but easiest option then? Sounds like Twins and Pansy were the good ones. I think overall Twins were best for sure. Looking forward to seeing the twins get more attention, so that really is a big bonus.

Su is a more mediocre option overall, but would have cost the least to get, yes.

Caster
November 11th, 2015, 02:48 AM
Hmm. Well good to know, primarily asking so I can get an idea of how good in evaluating the options. Glad we avoided Pansy. Though why did we pick what we offered them? It sounds like each of them was relatively focused on what they'd accept.

alfheimwanderer
November 11th, 2015, 03:37 AM
Hmm. Well good to know, primarily asking so I can get an idea of how good in evaluating the options. Glad we avoided Pansy. Though why did we pick what we offered them? It sounds like each of them was relatively focused on what they'd accept.

It wouldn't be a game if you didn't have a risk of failure, though for the record, the twins would have been ok with one of them being a Second as well. And Su or others would be more open.

Caster
November 11th, 2015, 03:52 AM
Ah. So it was a potential chance at failure then. I figured as much but I was curious. Guess we will just need to see how we manage with the spiders and Harry then. At least picking the twins probably helps with the spiders too some.

Thedoctor
November 11th, 2015, 04:29 PM
For the 2nd vote:

[x] Zouken

And...

[x] KOTOMINE

It's time.

Rin and Mashu sound OK but it'll probably just be Rin chilling at home. I want mapo priest and gold king bonus cameo.

I vote the same

Nephirin
November 12th, 2015, 01:14 AM
Choice 90: Besides Shinji, whose Kobayashis would you like to see? (choose two)

[ ] Daphne
[ ] Neville

Choice 91: Since I've been concentrating on our main cast this time around? Who would you like to see an interlude from? (choose 2)

[ ] Matou Zouken
[ ] Emiya Shirou

mAc Chaos
November 13th, 2015, 06:04 AM
I bet Kotomine would have kept some tabs on Shirou.

:o

alfheimwanderer
November 13th, 2015, 06:17 PM
Choice 90: Besides Shinji, whose Kobayashis would you like to see?

[X] Ron of course, is picked as one, given his commanding lead in votes.
[X] Neville just edged out the competition.

I might throw in one bonus Kobayashi if I need to for flow, but those will be the major scenes. I'll get to writing - expect it by Sunday!

Choice 91: I guess we have a [x] Matou Zouken interlude. For the other choice, there was an outright tie, so...

100%

Choice 92 - TIEBREAKER: Which one of the following would you prefer to see in the interlude?

[ ] Rin / Mashu
[ ] Emiya Shirou

Choice 93: As suggested by your fellow Stone Cutters, you approach Lockhart for advice, given that he's a seasoned adventurer, outlining the basics of the plan to confront the Acromantulae colony during its time of hibernation, though you leave out any mentions of Fusion - or the Hidden Blade which remains back in your room, with the man listening expressionlessly.

"...an interesting hypothetical scenario, Mister Matou. I presume that the individuals in this case have no experience facing beasts such as this in large quantities. A pity none of them are trained Magizoologists like Newton Scamander, who is one of those rare wizards, like myself, with a great deal of travel experience, though Miss Lovegood's fascination with strange creatures reminds me a little of the man."

"As you say, Professor."

"Shall we dispense with the hypotheticals then, Mister Matou?" Lockhart asked brusquely. "Can I safely assume that this scenario you laid out is not indeed hypothetical, but is an endeavor that the Stone Cutter Society seeks to take part in - which explains, of course, your questions about protective clothing?"

"...yes, Professor," Shinji admitted after a few tense moments of silence, knowing that Lockhart would ferret out a lie.

"And the reason you are conducting this in secret?" he inquired. "I presume it is out of more than a desire for glory or the wealth that might be obtained from the destruction of such a colony."

"...are you familiar with the history of Rubeus Hagrid?" Shinji asked, as Lockhart blinked, his lips curving downward in a tight frown as he recalled what he knew about the half-giant - specifically his expulsion from Hogwarts over a notorious incident almost half a century ago...

"I take it this is related to the Chamber of Secrets incident then?" the Assassin said flatly. "That this colony is his doing?"

"Yes," Shinji affirmed. "My sources tell me that the original spider was brought here by Hagrid."

"...troubling. Acromantulae tend to devour one another in the absence of other food, but if there is an Acromantula that has survived for nearly fifty years, it is likely to be immensely powerful and rather immense in size."

"...could you give me a size reference?"

"If most full-grown Acromantulae are about the size of carthorses, this one - and its mate, assuming it has only one - would likely be the size of a small elephant. And of course, the others are likely to be fiercely loyal to their leader while alive, meaning they will do whatever it takes to keep you from getting to him or her. Consider, if you will, the specter of a roiling wall of fangs and eyes and mouths, bearing down on your intrepid group."

Shinji felt a chill go down his spine at the thought of such an onslaught. Facing something like this would stretch his abilities to their limits, even with the help of a trump.

"...I see," the boy whispered.

"I suppose you'd be right to avoid letting others know. For if the half-giant found out about your intentions, he would likely interpose himself between the spiders and you. Or at least rally them as a force."

"...I hadn't considered that," Shinji admitted. He'd thought that Hagrid might warn the spiders or move them, but he supposed it was possible the half-giant would stand against them, and that would not be pleasant to deal with. The prospect of dealing with a grand army of beasts, coordinated by a dangerous magic-using foe was...not something he wanted to deal with.

"I thought not. As powerful as your group is - as mighty the feats you have accomplished - you are yet young and innocent to the realities of the world. Consider the likely purpose of those spiders, powerful and dangerous beasts useful for protection...or for conquest."

"Conquest, sir?"

"Yes, Mister Matou," Lockhart responded gravely. "Conquest. If a powerful wizard was to...say transfer them to the Ministry via Portkey, where a fourth of Wizarding Britain is employed, these hungry beasts would appear amidst throngs of witches and wizards who couldn't cast a decent shield charm if their lives depended on it. You know what these spiders are capable of, as well as the average wizard. What do you think would happen next?"

Death. Death on a scale beyond anything Wizarding Britain had ever expected. Was prepared for. Could ever be prepared for.

"...that's..."

"This is the reality of what you are confronting," the Assassin said quietly, his cold gaze boring into the boy. "Even with every precaution you have made, I am unsure if it will be enough. I have no doubt you can slay a few - perhaps even a score. If you attack quickly, perhaps even more than that - but the numbers you are proposing to face is something else indeed."

"...I...see."

"However, there are ways to help mitigate the risks," the man allowed. "Beyond training and equipment."

"Yes?"

"Your ally Peeves," Lockhart replied, as Shinji's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "As someone who cannot be slain, someone who can be as material or immaterial as he wishes, the poltergeist presents an interesting asset to call upon, whether to draw attention, to kill the enemy, or call for help."

"Huh. I hadn't thought about that. He's not limited to the Castle then?"

"The spirit of chaos is linked to the castle and its grounds, presumably," the Assassin noted gravely. "I will provide some assistance myself by keeping watch for any sign of Rubeus Hagrid, preventing him from leaving the castle, if need be."

Remembering his dream about an assassin slaying giants with little more than knives, Shinji had no doubt Lockhart would be able to do so.

"...that's very generous of you," the boy said cautiously.

"Perhaps. I have no desire to see your group perish. Britain does not need more martyrs, after all," the Assassin commented. "It needs leaders who are not as corrupt and self-serving as Lucius Malfoy. The Stone Cutters - the Ourea - both are symbols that change is possible, that the limits men impose upon themselves are false limits - that wizards and witches can be much more than the Ministry would believe. So for this, I am willing to lend some aid. Should more be required...we can work out the details then, agreed?"

"Agreed, Professor."

"Ah, there is one thing, Matou."

"Yes?"

"As useful as scenarios like the Kobayashi Maru are in expanding a student's worldview, they are no substitute for going abroad and seeing the realities of the world. So I am inclined to take a member of the Ourea under my wing this summer, so to speak, with that member experiencing the life of an adventurer. You no doubt have obligations in Mahoutokoro but I was wondering if you had any recommendations, Mister Diggory and Mister Malfoy aside?"

...so which member of the Ourea do you recommend Lockhart take with him during the summer?

[ ] (write-in, ​Draco and Cedric are not options)

Nanao-kun
November 13th, 2015, 06:39 PM
Hmm, a difficult choice.

mr_Trickster
November 13th, 2015, 06:48 PM
Pansy Parkinson is perhaps the first person to appear in my mind for choice 93 because we are already aware of how she wants to be able to travel the world. This would be especially beneficial for us when she's been made aware of it. Neville would also be good but he's not as close to us right now - maybe now would also be a chance to get around that though I am not quite sure it'll work that way. Daphne could be interesting but I'm not quite sure Harry would approve of his girlfriend leaving the country to travel unless he's also coming himself.

I'll hold off on voting for now to see if the others bring up more points. I'd like to see what they think.

Omida
November 13th, 2015, 07:01 PM
Lockhart paints a bleak picture in regards to our mission, though he certainly offers help in his own, unique way.

[X] Emiya Shirou

[X] Pansy Parkinson - Shinji knows that Pansy really wants to leave Britain. He may use Lockhart's offer to grant her her wish (at least temporarily) while he will be busy with catering to the Twins + anything else he might do at the summer.

Unless, of course, going against acromantulas ends badly enough.

Cremela
November 13th, 2015, 07:19 PM
Choice 92 - TIEBREAKER: Can't... decide...

Choice 93: PANSY! PANSY! PANSY! Get rid of that obligation!!!


Current Ourea members are

Slytherin: Daphne Greengrass, Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson

Gryffindor: Ginevra "Ginny" Weasley, Neville Longbottom, Fay Dunbar and ?Ron Weasley?

Ravenclaw: (Luna Lovegood), Cho Chang, Su Li, and Anthony Goldstein

Hufflepuffs: Cedric Diggory, Susan Bones and Hannah Abbott

I'd say of these (other than Pansy) Ron could benefit from forcibly having his horizons broadened and having to man up, although he could cause an international incident or two (assuming he gets in) and Neville could flourish under the opportunity.

mr_Trickster
November 13th, 2015, 07:31 PM
Huh, I also just remembered that whoever we send with Lockhart will become more closely tied with the Hashshashin. Another thing we have to think about.

skulkidcachi90
November 13th, 2015, 07:42 PM
[x] Rin / Mashu
[X] Neville

I do not want give anything to the girl who is spying shinji for Lockhart for her own benefit

mr_Trickster
November 13th, 2015, 08:16 PM
[x] - Pansy

It's a little more risky but we already have an established relationship with her and she seems to at least have at least a decent amount of emotional investment in us. Better the threat we know and can control.

I also agree that it is best that we free ourselves of our obligations to her.

Still holding off on interlude vote.

Caster
November 13th, 2015, 08:27 PM
Shirou and Pansy I suppose. Though I would be interested in seeing someone more out there get it. Any chance we could see how people do on the Kobayashi and pick then? Might be someone stands out more than they do now.

mangafreak7793
November 13th, 2015, 09:26 PM
Neville or Pansy

EnigmaticFellow
November 13th, 2015, 09:44 PM
[X] Rin/Mashu
[X] Pansy

Kelnish
November 13th, 2015, 09:56 PM
Still viting kotomine.

Voting zouken for summer internship. I saw the intern and old men reentering the work force is wicked endearing

Malgos
November 13th, 2015, 11:42 PM
Shirou and Pansy.

Veldril
November 14th, 2015, 12:20 AM
Choice 92 is one of the hardest choice ever for me :P

Choice 93: I would go with [x] Pansy too.

Mattias
November 14th, 2015, 12:45 AM
[x] Rin/ Mashu. It's what I voted for orginally, even if my first choice was Touko.

[x] Neville. I want my badass Neville now. Indiana Longbottom would be a step towards that.

Caster
November 14th, 2015, 01:53 AM
I could get behind Neville but it would be good to have a bit more info on what this would turn out like. Though I'm surprised Lockhart doesn't have any preferences.

alfheimwanderer
November 14th, 2015, 02:01 AM
I could get behind Neville but it would be good to have a bit more info on what this would turn out like. Though I'm surprised Lockhart doesn't have any preferences.

Oh, he does. He wants to know what you think though.

Caster
November 14th, 2015, 02:07 AM
Ah. Would it be possible to get an idea if there is anyone who would stand out in the Kobayashi Maru then before we make this vote? It seems kind of premature given that the test is likely to have a good impact on who would/wouldn't be a good suggestion.

Edit: So Alf said in IRC that the people who did well in the Kobayashi were Shinji, Luna, Anthony, Pansy, and Fay. Personally I think looking at either Anthony or Fay might be more interesting than Pansy then.

Edit 2: Based off of Alf again, I find that Anthony seems like he has the most potential. Anthony is comparable to Luna in that both of them use more unorthodox approaches, and I think it'd be more interesting to see that encouraged.

Cremela
November 14th, 2015, 09:20 AM
Huh, I also just remembered that whoever we send with Lockhart will become more closely tied with the Hashshashin. Another thing we have to think about.
In that case, I definitely don't want Neville going anywhere near Lockheart's trip!

Edit: So Alf said in IRC that the people who did well in the Kobayashi were Shinji, Luna, Anthony, Pansy, and Fay. Personally I think looking at either Anthony or Fay might be more interesting than Pansy then.

Edit 2: Based off of Alf again, I find that Anthony seems like he has the most potential. Anthony is comparable to Luna in that both of them use more unorthodox approaches, and I think it'd be more interesting to see that encouraged.
Another reason to say Pansy. Hmm, while I'd love to hear more from Goldstein, having an awesome Fay to go with awesome Neville would be interesting... although her being an assassin might put the two against eachother!

Even if Anthony is more unorthodox, Pansy is still be willing to learn new things. Anthony seems like he would latch on to having something significant in the magical world given his Boggart, although it may not have reflected reality. Something to think about is that Assasssins started out Ismaili Muslims (in our world at least), which could put them at odds with his Jewish faith.

Alf, how religious is Anthony Goldstein? What's the religious situation with the Assassins, have the moved away from Ismailism or are they completely Assassin's Creed style? Also, if Lockheart kicks the bucket this summer would he be able to be summoned in the Assassin class?

gesalt
November 14th, 2015, 09:56 AM
[X] Rin / Mashu
[X] Pansy

Veldril
November 14th, 2015, 10:09 AM
Choice 92: Rin/Mashu

Well, we could get Shirou next time (maybe at the beginning of the next year).

alfheimwanderer
November 14th, 2015, 12:02 PM
Alf, how religious is Anthony Goldstein? What's the religious situation with the Assassins, have the moved away from Ismailism or are they completely Assassin's Creed style? Also, if Lockheart kicks the bucket this summer would he be able to be summoned in the Assassin class?

Still somewhat religious. Has not exactly been attending a synagogue since going to Hogwarts, of course, and has found himself struggling with faith since well...Hogwarts may not care, but his religion does.

Currently, the Assassins have moved away from their Ismaili roots, given that Lockhart himself isn't exactly a believer. They would still find themselves in opposition to the Church, but not for religious reasons. As for whether Anthony might find it in conflict with his beliefs, well, he's already in conflict given that he's learning magic...

And yes, if Lockhart dies, he could be summoned. He is a Hassan, after all!

saki
November 14th, 2015, 12:41 PM
[X] Rin / Mashu
[X] Pansy

All That Is Left Unsaid
November 14th, 2015, 02:29 PM
[x] Rin / Mashu
[x] Pansy

Abendroth
November 14th, 2015, 04:15 PM
[ ] Rin / Mashu




Choice 93: PANSY! PANSY! PANSY! Get rid of that obligation!!!

I don't recall any obligation. We didn't accept her help with potions. Am I forgetting something else?

Magus
November 14th, 2015, 05:21 PM
[x] Rin/Mashu

[x] Pansy

mr_Trickster
November 14th, 2015, 09:14 PM
[x] - Rin/Mashu

mangafreak7793
November 14th, 2015, 10:51 PM
Rin/Mashuj

alfheimwanderer
November 15th, 2015, 04:24 PM
Final tally coming in 12 hours. Cast your votes today!

Cremela
November 15th, 2015, 04:34 PM
[ ] Rin / Mashu


I don't recall any obligation. We didn't accept her help with potions. Am I forgetting something else?
More a moral obligation. She's asked us for help to escape the world of wizarding Britain, which Shinji's also not too keen on, and helped us out on the assumption we can help her. Also strategic: if we help her she will continue to help us and also owe us any success she has.


Final tally coming in 12 hours. Cast your votes today!

Pretty much Rin / Mashu atm, although I'll still refrain from voting on this particular one. Out of interest, if there was a tie on this tiebreaker would you have the deciding vote Alf, or would something bad happen?

alfheimwanderer
November 15th, 2015, 05:32 PM
I'll just pick one for the major focus, and gloss over the other. It's an interlude, not something critical.

Cremela
November 15th, 2015, 05:41 PM
No British BAR jumping then! :P

Nephirin
November 16th, 2015, 02:03 AM
Looks like I'm too late, but if it's still ongoing,
[x]Shirou
[x]Pansy

alfheimwanderer
November 16th, 2015, 05:33 AM
Choice 92: Which one of the following would you prefer to see in the interlude? [X] Rin/Mashu
Choice 93: Which member of the Ourea do you recommend Lockhart take with him during the summer? [X] Pansy
100%

Writing in progress

alfheimwanderer
November 17th, 2015, 06:14 AM
Part 1 of the Kobayashi Chapters

100%

Chapter 37. No Win Scenario

In the sky above an endless sea of trees, six figures sped on broomstick towards their destination: an inverted pyramid of weathered white stone just visible above the horizon, an ancient ruin whose makers had been long forgotten by any living civilization.

“Think that’s it?” Ron Weasley asked, the redhead squinting as he leaned forward, shading his eyes with one hand as he tried to make out any details of what lay ahead. Sadly, with the sun hanging low in the sky before him, this was an exercise in futility. “The place where they’ve hidden the Holy Grail?”

“…well, I don’t see anything else that seems promising,” Cedric mused aloud. He turned to the girl beside him, the one he trusted most of the entire group. “Do you, Cho?”

After all, like him, she was a Seeker, trained by endless hours of Quidditch practice to notice the smallest hint of something out of the ordinary. But as she scanned the horizon, peering into the distance, the Chinese girl shook her head, biting her lip.

“I think Weasley is right, Ced,” the girl said quietly. “I don’t see any other leads.”

“Malfoy? Dunbar? Ginny?”

His outriders responded in the negative as well, with Diggory, the commander of the group, acknowledging their replies with a curt nod.

“Alright, let’s get closer then,” the youth ordered. “Malfoy, you and Dunbar fly low, keeping watch for anything unusual around the treeline. Weasleys, fly ahead of the formation and keep us informed of any threats from the sky. Cho, cover me.”

“Roger that.”

The fliers zoomed to their positions, and keeping a watchful eye for any emergent threats, they advanced in formation, the distance between them and their destination shrinking at a rapid clip. Soon they would be at the temple – and who knew what awaited them once inside?

“Flare!” came a shout from below, as Fay Dunbar caught sight of a shower of green sparks, looking much like the ones she’d seen above a burning forest months ago, and then a hidden clearing around it, surrounded by trees. “I think it’s a landing zone, captain!

“Good!” Cedric boomed, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. “You and Malfoy hold position here, and make sure the landing zone is safe. Cho and I will link up with the Weasleys and do a bit of scouting.”

“Captain?”

“Well, while we have brooms, might as well get in close and buzz the temple, to see if there’s a way in from above…or at least to see if we can get any idea of what’s on the ground between the landing zone and the entrance,” the youth explained, with Fay giving a curt nod and descending towards the ground below as he and Cho zoomed forward.

Ahead, he raised an eyebrow at the sight of the two Weasleys circling the ruin like wary vultures, apparently engaged in a squabble over what to do next.

“I don’t see why we don’t just land and have a look around,” Ron was saying, gesturing to the flat roof of the temple below. “I mean, it couldn’t hurt, right?”

Ginny just shook her head and sighed.

“Ron, you’ve never taken one of these before. And for all you know, the roof could very well be trapped,” the redheaded girl argued, though she could see her argument was falling on deaf ears. Luckily for her, before anything else was said, Cedric and Cho joined the two above the ruin.

“What’s happening here?” the youth asked mildly.

“Captain,” Ginny replied in a clipped tone, her lips pressing together. “My brother and I were just having a disagreement about whether to get closer. He thinks we should land on the ruin and look for a way in from the top. I think it’s probably a trap.”

“Well, let’s find out,” Cedric noted, producing his wand from a pocket in his robes. “Avis.”

With a loud blast like the sound of a rifle being fired, a swarm of falcons burst forth from the tip of the youth’s wand, angling towards the barren stone of the roof. The moment they made contact, however, concealed runes flared to life all over the temple’s roof, reducing the conjured birds to nothing more but ash before vanishing once more.
Cedric – and Ron – blinked at this, momentarily speechless, while Ginny simply sighed and shook her head.

“Don’t say it,” Ron warned, looking over at his sister. “Please.”

“What? You mean, ‘I told you so’?” she couldn’t resist asking, with her brother’s face taking on a pained expression.

“Yes. That,” he answered.

“Well…it’s definitely a trap, that’s for sure. Wouldn’t be much of a challenge if it were that easy anyway,” Cho broke in, not wanting to hear the siblings squabble over these things when there was a mission to finish. “Ced, back to the landing zone?” She looked back in the direction where they had left Malfoy and Dunbar. “I don’t know about you, but I want to make sure the Slytherin Seeker and the Gryffindor Beater haven’t torn each other apart.”

“Hah! They wouldn’t…” But the youth trailed off as he saw the serious look on his girlfriend’s face. “Surely you don’t think…”

Cho just shrugged.

“Better safe than sorry,” she said, swinging her broom around and zooming off in the direction from whence they’d come.

“…well, you heard the lady,” Cedric said after a beat, as he moved to follow suit. It simply wouldn’t do for a leader to be shown up by his subordinates, after all. “Weasleys, after me.”

Fortunately, there was no disaster waiting for them when they arrived at the landing zone, just a lone flier hovering above the clearing with streaming chestnut brown hair – the Scottish girl Fay Dunbar, with Draco Malfoy nowhere to be seen.

“…hey, where’s Malfoy?” Cho asked the Gryffindor, who simply pointed to the ground below, with nary a person in sight. The Ravenclaw peered down at the clearing, carefully checking to make sure she hadn’t missed anything, or that the boy wasn’t hiding behind a tree, but didn’t see anything. “Dunbar…”

“It’s fine,” the Scottish girl said brusquely. “He found an invisibility cloak on the ground and is hiding under it.”

“…it wasn’t neatly folded and out in the open, was it?”

“It was, actually,” Fay remarked, raising a slim eyebrow. “I’m not sure if that means it was meant for us, or if it means there’s someone else already here.”

“Or if it was a trap.”

“That too,” Fay noted, shrugging. “But Malfoy wanted to go down, and since nothing has killed him yet, so it’s probably safe. For now.”

“For now,” Cho echoed.

“Well, you can never be too sure about one of these exercises,” Fay observed. “I mean, last year, there was an army of Dementors to contend with. This year, we haven’t seen anything like that yet…”

“So the real danger is still to come, you’re saying.”

“Yes,” Fay said, as the others came into view. “No luck getting at the ruin from above, I take it?”

“No,” Cho replied, her lips pressing together in a thin line. “Disintegration curse.”

Both of Fay’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, with the girl looking from Cho to the three figures rapidly approaching.

“You didn’t lose anyone, so how…?”

“Bird-conjuring charm,” the Ravenclaw explained. “Handy thing.”

“Ah. That it would be.”

Cedric arrived with the Weasleys moments later, signaling for the group to descend to the rocky forest floor. As they touched down, and dismounted, the youth was surprised, but not entirely impressed, to see Draco Malfoy step out from under a rather large invisibility cloak with his broom.

“Look what I found just laying here,” the Slytherin Seeker observed. “An invisibility cloak big enough to cover all of our brooms.”

“So we can’t land on the temple roof and are meant to approach it on foot, huh?” Cedric mused, though his mind turned to darker possibilities for why the cloak might be here. “Somehow, I don’t like that idea, since it means it will be harder to get away if need be. Let’s face it. We have quite a few more options when flying than when on the ground.”

Fay grunted in acknowledgement, while Malfoy crossed his arms with a sour look of defiance, as if to say that while the older boy might be right, it wasn’t as if he was helpless on the ground. Far from it, in fact.

“So what you’re saying is, you don’t think we can beat whatever is in our way,” the blond remarked with a touch of irritation. He didn’t particularly like people doubting him or his abilities, after all. But then he glanced over at Ron and Ginny and snorted. “Then again, you have a second year here, and of course, Ronald Weasley, who isn’t even a proper Ourea member. Never took a Kobayashi before. Probably couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag if he had to.”

“Why you—“

“Gentlemen,” Cedric hissed between clenched teeth, fixing both Draco and Ron with a baleful glare, as this was the last thing he needed. “I do not doubt your capabilities in the slightest. I chose you, after all – both of you – all of you to join me on this mission, and I would not have done so if I did not have faith in what you could do and if I did not believe you would be useful in what is to come.”

“Alright, Ced, what do you have in mind?” Cho asked, her brown eyes curious as she regarded the Hufflepuff.

But the youth did not answer directly.

“What do we all have in common?” he inquired instead, his gaze moving from one member of his team to the next. “Aside from the fact that we are all part of the Ourea.”

Surprisingly, it was Ronald Weasley who answered.

“…we play Quidditch?” the redheaded boy hazarded, with the Gryffindor rewarded with a grateful smile.

“Mister Weasley is correct,” Cedric announced, looking between his team members again. “You all play Quidditch. And that is important, given that of the Ourea, you are the only ones who do.”

“Oh?” Fay asked.

“The people who designed this temple and its defenses don’t think like Quidditch players,” he explained, a curious expression of cheer tugging at the corners of his lips. “Since the roof is trapped, they expect people to dismount here and to proceed to the destination on foot, meaning that what we will face is probably geared towards incapacitating or disabling people on the ground.”

“You want us to fly through the forest?” Cho deduced, raising an eyebrow as she glanced at the dense forest around them. True, there seemed to be enough room to fit a boom and rider, but…she knew that there would be all manner of sharp turns within, and very little visibility. “It’s an interesting idea, but isn’t it a bit dangerous?”

“More so than doing exactly what Lockhart expects? We’ve taken the Kobayashi Maru before – we know that is utter folly,” Diggory retorted, which the others had to admit was a fair point. “Accepting the given circumstances of one of these scenarios all but guarantees failure.” His voice was grim and his demeanor perfectly serious as he locked eyes with his team. “Don’t get me wrong. I agree that most people would probably find it difficult to fly through a forest. But then we’re not most people, are we? We’re Quidditch players, and damn fine ones at that! We even have the four starting Seekers of Hogwarts among us, as well as a Beater and a Keeper.”

Malfoy, who had been on the verge of speaking, remained silent, seemingly mollified by the Hufflepuff’s words of praise.

“All of us want to win. To show Lockhart that we do not believe in no-win scenarios. And so we have to do something different,” Cedric continued. “Something bold. Something unexpected. That’s why I picked you – all of you.”

He took a deep breath, looking at each of them in turn.

“Not because you are individually the best at combat, though you are each very skilled – both as competitors and captains. Not because you are the best strategists – though you have a solid grasp of tactics and strategy. Not because you are proven leaders – even though each of you has proven yourself a hundred times over. I picked you because you are experienced Quidditch players. Fliers. Masters of the skies. In all of the Ourea, you no doubt have the best broom handling skills, the best ability to work as a team, the best ability to think outside the box. And together, I think we can win.”

“Alright then. You’ve picked us - what do you want of us, Cedric?” Ginny asked quietly.

“Fly with me,” Cedric responded. “It will be difficult, to be sure, but it is better to face what is merely difficult than what is impossible. We’ll move in two groups – one consisting of Malfoy, Ron Weasley, and Cho, and the other Ginny, Dunbar, and myself. The lightest and fastest scouting ahead and blazing a trail for the rest of us to follow, the defenders protecting them, and the most experienced bringing up the rear in case. Any questions?”

“Yeah,” Ron spoke up, crossing his arms. “Why do I have to be in a team with him?” he asked venomously, glaring at Malfoy.

Cedric sighed.

“Would you rather follow your sister’s every move?” the youth questioned, with Ron’s expression growing tight and pinched.

“…now that I think about it, no. But well…”

“I think you know the story of the Stone Cutters and how they came to be, right?” the Hufflepuff remarked, stilling Ron’s protests. “Given that your brothers are members, you should, at least. It was an open secret that they were at war with one another – the infamous Weasley Twins against the Boy from the East and the Boy-Who-Lived. They hated each other. Pranked each other mercilessly, and probably would have done worse. But then the troll came…” Cedric Diggory trailed off, shaking his head. “The troll came, and they put their differences aside to defeat it, just as you and Malfoy will need to put your differences aside if we want to succeed in our quest for the Grail. Can you do that?”

“…I guess,” Ron replied, the reluctance in his voice plain as day.

“’I guess’ is not good enough, Ronald Weasley,” Cedric responded. “You want to be seen as a champion, as a heroes, as a leader among leaders, but are you willing to do what is necessary to reach that goal?”

The youth looked at Ron challengingly, with the young Gryffindor meeting his gaze without flinching.

“I am.”

“Then mount up, and let’s ride.”

Only minutes later, the two groups found themselves speeding through the forest, weaving between trees as they hurtled towards the temple.

“Stupefy!”

Draco Malfoy juked left and then right again as a bright red spellbeam tore through the space where his head had just been, striking a plumed, winged serpent almost two meters in length that had been rushing straight at him.

An Occamy – an aggressive, highly territorial creature – said to be native to the Far East.

…just one of the many hazards that those approaching the temple could expect to encounter.

“Watch it, Weasley, you almost hit me!” Draco snarled, turning to glare at his erstwhile protector.

“Sorry, I didn’t expect you to dodge that way!” Ron shouted back, about to launch into a tirade – only to bite his tongue, his eyes widening at the sight of something suspended between two trees. ‘Oh merciful Merlin…’ “Malfoy, look out!”

“Huh?”

But the warning came too late as Draco Malfoy ran smack into an Acromantula’s web, the sticky silk wrapping around him as he lost his grip on his broom, which free of his control, veered off somewhere into the forest.

“Ugh…” Malfoy groaned, dazed from the impact. “Weasley…what…”

And then he froze, his body going perfectly still as a jet-black creature with far too many eyes and legs slinked out of the underbrush, hissing the words, “Fresssh Meaaatt.”

“Acro…acromantula,” he breathed, and then his doom was upon him. Faster than anything that size had a right to move – it barreled over to the boy and folded the web over him before lifting him up into the air with its front legs. He could hear Weasley shouting something as he rained spells down upon the spider, but it did no good, as the young Gryffindor’s spellbeams shattered on the arachnid’s hairy carapace.

The spider ignored the annoyance, sinking its fangs into the hapless Draco Malfoy to paralyze him before bringing its spinnerets to bear, spinning his body round and round as it wrapped him in silk.

“Hey you, don’t ignore me!” Ron cried above, though the spider was doing just that. If he couldn’t affect it directly, then maybe... “Incendio!”

With a wave of his wand, the web-wrapped form of Draco Malfoy was set aflame, with the flames quickly spreading to the Acromantula’s forelimbs. The giant spider dropped the bundle of flaming silk and reeled back in shock, focusing its full attention on Ron with a bloodcurdling shriek.

‘I’m dead. I’m so very dead.’

“Stupefy!” was all he had time to cast before he was knocked off his broom by a wave of barbed needle-like hairs that struck every inch of his exposed skin – as well as his eyes, blinding the boy. “Ahhhhhhhhh!” he screamed as he fell, casting what spells he could towards the crashing he heard coming closer and closer.

And then for Ron Weasley, it was all over, with the spider’s fangs sinking into his throat and ending his wretched existence.

Cho, seeing what had happened to Ron or Draco, shook her head and simply sped by, hoping the creature would be distracted enough by its new meal that it would ignore her, as she knew that confronting it would be an exercise in futility, and she had no wish to give her life in vain.

She even managed to avoid running into any other spiders or traps, with the temple in sight when—
Pain. Painpainpainpainpain.

Light blossomed, a line of runes blazing into existence on the ground as she slammed into a powerful barrier and was burned to ash in an instant.

The other team fared little better as Ginny met the same fate as Cho, a scream of pain and utter desolation issuing from her throat as the magical barrier tore apart her form.

As if the activation of the barrier had been some kind of trigger, the doors of the temple opened, with an armored troll nearly five meters tall emerging from within and roaring as it pounded towards them.

‘…we’re doomed…’ Cedric thought, his wand in his hand as he stared at the oncoming beast, feeling true terror for the first time. “Dunbar, get out of here. I’ll draw its attention.”

“But, captain, what about—“

“Go,” the youth insisted, his eyes old and weary as he looked upon the great troll, knowing there was no way he could beat it. Not with Dunbar by his side, and certainly not alone. “This is my fight.”

“But you’ll….”

Her voice faltered as she took in her leader’s expression, one which accepted that he had been wrong. That because of him…because of him, his team had…

“Go,” he commanded, brandishing his wand. “That’s an order, Dunbar.”

“Understood, sir,” Fay said softly, flying off in the direction from whence they’d come.

With a wave of his wand, Cedric transfigured some of the fallen stones upon the ground into wolves to distract the troll – but the creature simply charged past, trampling them underfoot as it came straight at him, seeing him as intruder and enemy.

“Today…is a good day to die,” he whispered, before the club splattered his entrails across the clearing and everything went mercifully went dark.

When he came to again, Cedric Diggory found himself drifting through a sea of white.

‘No. It’s not white…’ he realized after some time. ‘It only seems like white. But…where am I?’

It wasn’t anywhere he knew. Anywhere he recognized. Anywhere he had heard of, as there was nowhere in the world that was just an expanse of nothingness. In the world, anywhere one went, there was at least form and time, if not light, air, color, and sound.

Here, there were none of those.

There were no names. No words. Nothing, as he sank, falling deeper and deeper into the pattern of reality.

No. That wasn’t right, was it? How could he be falling if there was nothing here, nothing to fall from, nothing to fall to, nothing to fall through? How could he be falling when the very concept of falling itself was meaningless?

What had happened? How had he gotten here? His mind was fuzzy, his thoughts were clouded.

“—or—.”

‘—or—?’

“Dig—.“

‘Dig—?’

“—y.”

‘—y?’

“Dig—ry.”

‘Dig—r?’

“Diggory. Wake up.”

‘Diggory.’ The word stirred something in him, with the pieces of his mind reassembling themselves as he spoke it. ‘A name. My name. My name is Cedric Diggory.’

The sea of white faded, with the youth coming to awareness again, finding himself laying on the cold stone of the castle floor. His head hurt. His body hurt. There was no part of him that didn’t hurt.

But he…was alive.

“Can you hear us, Mister Diggory?” a voice spoke. A familiar voice at that…

‘Professor Lockhart’s voice…’

“Ugh…” he groaned, opening his eyes and forcing himself to relax as he felt someone helping him to a sitting position, letting him see the stirring forms of his comrades behind carried out of the room.

The ones he had chosen to aid him in his quest. The ones who had given their lives for him.

The ones he had failed.

“One burned to death. One eaten by an Acromantula. Two killed on impact with the barrier. And yourself crushed by a troll,” another voice broke in – a younger voice this time. The voice of someone he looked up to as an example of what ordinary people could become in extraordinary circumstances: Robert Hillard, the prefect who had risen to become a Stone Cutter. “How did it feel, Prefect Diggory?”

A cup of something aromatic was placed into his hands, and he downed the contents quickly, feeling the pain in his body ease as he did.

“…I failed,” the youth said distantly. And he’d failed spectacularly, to boot. That might have been expected last year, when the Kobayashi Maru had pitted them against an army of Dementors and the Dark Lord who commanded them, but this year…this year, they hadn’t faced anything outright impossible to stop.

“You did,” Hillard noted dispassionately. “And…?”

“I thought…” Cedric hung his head. “I thought I had what it took to be a leader, that I could take this group of people and challenge the Kobayashi. That if we were daring enough, bold enough, we could win. But…” His voice faltered and the youth swallowed, closing his eyes. “…I was wrong.”

Silence hung in the air for a time with the Prefect beginning to think the worse – that because of his performance, he’d be dismissed from the Ourea, stripped of his honors and more, but then Hillard spoke again.

“Being what people call a hero, or well, a Stone Cutter, isn’t about honors or glory, Prefect Diggory,” the Head Boy remarked, his tone sympathetic but edged with steel. “It’s not about courage, or charisma, or winning.” Cedric’s eyes flew open as he stared at the older boy, the one he’d looked up to for years now. This was a different face to the hero he knew, one he didn’t think the boy showed often. “It’s about sacrifice, teamwork, and knowing what it is you value. It’s about leadership, and understanding the responsibilities of leading.”

“…is that why…” ‘…you had us pick others to come with us?’

Robert chuckled bitterly.

“Indeed. When you are overconfident as a leader, when your plans fall through, when you fail, you are not the only one who suffers.” The Head Boy knew that all too well, given what had happened in their final encounter with Quirrell, with the burden of leadership sitting heavier on his shoulders with each passing day. “Your team trusted you. They had faith in you.”

“…and I failed them,” Cedric whispered.

“If this had been real, all of your team would be dead, save for Miss Dunbar, who you sacrificed yourself to protect,” the Stone Cutter confirmed.

“Even…Cho?” the Hufflepuff asked, swallowing. “I didn’t see…”

“Your paramour, Miss Chang, would have been vaporized by the protections around the temple.”

“I see.”

Robert Hillard sighed and shook his head.

“But this was not,” the Head Boy continued. “Real, that is. Oh, the emotions are. As is the pain and frustration that both you and they felt. You failed. You let them die. But you – and they – are alive, that you might learn.”

“I…if I’d known…”

“That’s the thing, Prefect. We don’t always know,” Hillard said softly. “We cannot always know before we charge into the breach.”

“But…after this…if it’s the same scenario…?”

“Then those who have experienced it before will know some of what awaits them, yes. But will it help them? Or will it paralyze them? As a Ravenclaw, I can tell you that knowledge is not always power. A little knowledge, in fact, can be the most dangerous thing in the world.”

“…you might have a point there,” Cedric conceded. Part of why he’d been so confident was because he hadn’t known what awaited him. If he had…

“Indeed,” Hillard mused aloud. “Mister Diggory, as you – and almost everyone else – knows by this point, you are very likely to succeed me as Head Boy. Whether or not you are selected as Tri-Wizard Champion, you will have responsibilities to the students of Hogwarts, given that over half the school – Fourth through Seventh Years – will be with you at Durmstrang.”

“I’ve never…I’ve never left Britain before,” the Prefect stated, shaking his head. “I don’t…”

“They haven’t, either,” Hillard rejoined. “With few exceptions, most of us are born in, grow up in, and die in Britain. So while at Durmstrang, they will look to you for guidance. Especially if you become Champion.”

“…but what about the Stone Cutters?” Cedric asked, genuinely curious. “Aren’t you and the others the ones everyone looks up to? I mean, even I…” He trailed off.

“People look up to us, yes,” the Head Boy affirmed. “But they also think of us differently. They don’t see us as their peers exactly. They see us as heroes, as extraordinary individuals who strut about the stage of history and do the impossible. They look up to us, but they don’t look to us – because in their minds, there is a gulf between us and them, between what we do and what they can accomplish. What we were, that we were like them, doesn’t matter as much.”

“It matters to me,” Cedric said quietly, his eyes meeting Hillard’s. “It matters that someone who isn’t the Boy-Who-Lived, who isn’t a mysterious boy from the east, who isn’t one of the Prankster Twins who even Peeves respects, stands among the Stone Cutters. It…you remind me that greatness is not entirely out of reach.”

“It never is, Prefect, so long as one dares to reach for it. There is always a place among us for those who strive, and those who prove themselves worthy.”

“…I’ll keep that in mind.”

“See that you do, Mister Diggory.”

100%

For Ron Weasley, who had never been exposed to something quite like this before, the visceral power of the Kobayashi Maru was nothing like what he had expected. True, he’d taken Professor Quirrell’s Christmas Challenge in his first year, but that had been nothing compared to what he had just experienced – and even if it had been, that was over two years ago at this point, and his hadn’t been one of the more brutal ones.

Getting his throat ripped out by an Acromantula – even if literally he hadn’t seen it coming (because it had blinded him) – had been something on a whole other level. Even now, after drinking the potion Lockhart had pressed into his hands, an elixir which had reversed most of the nocebo effects left by the spider attack, he found himself trembling as he replayed those final moments of the assault again and again in his mind, sitting in the corridor outside the Ourea clubroom with the other members of the organization.

Being knocked from the air. Losing his sight. Knowing that death was coming, without any way to defend himself. Knowing that in the end, resistance was futile. That had been utterly…

“What happened to you?” he croaked out, turning to the person seated beside him – his sister, who he had discovered was apparently Longbottom’s Second in the Ourea. “In the forest.”

Ginny was silent for a moment as the images of last year’s Kobayashi flashed into her mind, a scenario where she’d been forced to confront Sirius Black, who had laid siege to Ottery St Catchpole with a vast army of enemies.

A scenario in which she’d surrendered Ron to the clutches of the Dark Wizard so that everyone else might be spared.

She’d resolved to do better this time. To win without sacrificing anything, like Hillard had done. But…

“I died,” she whispered softly, shaking her head.

“How…?” Ginny didn’t reply immediately. In fact, Ron wasn’t even sure she’d heard him. “Gin?”

“…you know the runes carved onto the roof of the temple?” she asked at last.

“Yeah?”

“There’s a line of them around the temple, too,” the Seeker of Gryffindor answered. “Get too close, and, well…”

She shivered. Last year, she’d been one of the lucky ones, one of those who had gotten away with only emotional scars to bear. This year…

“…then how the bloody hell are we supposed to get inside?” Ron growled, balling his fists in frustration. “It’s like that git Lockhart is setting us up to fail.”

“…well, he did call the Kobayashi Maru a no-win scenario last year,” Ginny said matter-of-factly. “Even though a couple of people did beat it.”

“Huh.” Ron grunted and shook his head. Even with just Acromantulae and the invisible cursed barrier, he had a feeling this was far above anything he was capable of. Still, even if the very thought of leading a team into that terrified him, even if every bit of magic he had was screaming at him not to go through that again, that it utterly meaningless, he wouldn’t just quit.

Truth be told, the boy knew he would probably fail. He knew that compared to Cedric Diggory, he wasn’t nearly as experienced in the art of leadership. Compared to his sister, he wasn’t as good a flier or as much of a daredevil. Compared to someone like Matou, he wasn’t nearly as powerful.

But there was a part of him that refused to give up, a part of him that said that if he walked out now, he would never become anyone of note, unlike his brothers and his sister.

All of his life, Ronald Weasley had wanted to become somebody, and now he’d been given a chance. Apparently, there were those in the Ourea – perhaps even Matou, the boy who had slain an Acromantula in single combat – who thought he had potential, and he wasn’t about to squander it.

Not even if they tossed him against what he feared most.

Yes, the Acromantula had killed him. But as the memories flashed into his mind over and over, he came to the realization that the only reason it had come after him was that he had hurt it – or at least surprised it – when he had set the webbed Draco on fire in his ill-thought out attempt to free the other boy.

The spider had seen him as a threat.

It had taken him seriously.

The door opened then, with Professor Lockhart emerging with a thoughtful-looking Cedric.

“We’re ready for the next person,” the History Professor noted, eying the group for any who seemed less than eager to participate, with his gaze falling with amusement on the rather sullen Seeker of Slytherin, who had been leaning against the wall a bit down the corridor, shaking his head. “Mister Malfoy, I do believe you’re up.”

“No.”

The response, curt and bitter as it was, surprised the man.

“What was that, Mister Malfoy?” Lockhart asked.

“I said no,” Draco repeated, matching the assassin’s glare as his lips twisted into a scowl. “I’m not doing this. Working with that Mu—ggleborn for a play is one thing. Walking into certain death without any chance of victory? Facing things like Acromantulae or Dementors when we haven’t even learned how to deal with them, or the spells for stopping them are far beyond even a normal Seventh Year? Forget it.”

“Mister Malfoy,” the History Professor intoned coolly, the man’s tone making Draco bristle. “I remind you that you are a member of the Ourea, and as long as you hold that status, you are required to participate in the Kobayashi Maru exercise.”

“Then I quit,” Draco Malfoy stated bluntly. “The Ourea is supposed to be an organization that trains leaders, but what you’re teaching isn’t leadership. It’s insanity.”

A hush descended upon the members of the Ourea gathered in the corridor as they bore witness to the dispute between their mentor and one of their peers.

“Are you certain, Mister Malfoy?” the History Professor asked quietly, his features harsh and unyielding as stone. “If you choose this path, there will be no going back. Not even if you change your mind.”

The atmosphere was tense as the others waited to hear what the boy – one of their peers – would decide.

“…so be it,” Draco said with finality, as he turned and walked away, with Gilderoy Lockhart watching him silently until he disappeared down the stairs in the distance.

“Disappointing,” the man uttered as he turned back to the group. “But then, Draco Malfoy never did understand the deeper lessons of the Kobayashi. Curious, really, how it is those born to power who are the ones who appreciate its costs the least, as opposed to those who work for it.” Lockhart shook his head. “With that in mind, are there any who would like to volunteer to go next?”

“Me.”

Ron wondered who had spoken up – and why everyone was looking at him and muttering in surprise – before he realized it was he himself.

“Oh? You would like to volunteer, Mister Weasley?” the History Professor asked coolly.

“I would,” the Gryffindor boy said, keeping a tremor from his voice only with the greatest bit of effort.

“Very well then. And who would you like to accompany you in your quest for the Holy Grail?”

Not the easiest of questions, that, but then, Ron had thought about who he might want.

“Dunbar, Diggory, Lovegood, and Goldstein.”

Diggory had led the previous team and likely had insights. Dunbar had survived where the others had fallen. Lovegood and Goldstein were respectively the founder and current leader of Team Snorkack, who led the Capture the Flag league, and since Lovegood’s Christmas visit to the Burrow, he had had suspicions about her relationship with Matou.

A mix of those who had just gone through the scenario with those who had not, as there was a balance to keep in mind. Yes, those who had been through the trial would be prepared for what lay ahead, but those who had just…died, or who were still processing what had transpired might be more of a liability than an asset.

‘…just like Malfoy, who quit just now rather than face that scenario again.’

“That’s four, Mister Weasley,” Lockhart observed, as those named rose and made their way to the door. “Do you have another person in mind?”

“Eh…Longbottom,” Ron said after a moment. The Consul might be a right git, but at least he was a Gryffindor, and Ron figured that someone who was co-leader of the Ourea had to be good for something.

“Very well then,” the History Professor noted, as Neville got up as well. “Come in then, Mister Weasley, and when you and your team are ready, we will begin.”

So the group made their way inside, with Ron frowning as he overheard Prefect Diggory mutter “…here we go again.”

He’d show them he was capable.

He’d show them all.

100%

After a great deal of effort, Shinji's team of Luna, Pansy, Daphne, Neville, and Fay finally stands before the archway leading to the innermost sanctum of the Temple, where the Holy Grail is hidden, with a suspiciously familiar barrier of ebon flame barring the way. Even more telling, in an alcove of the room immediately before the barrier are several vials, and a riddle he remembers from the quest for the Philosopher's Stone. And like two years ago, there is only enough for one, perhaps two people to pass.

"Any of you been this far before?" he asks.

"Yes, but my team and I turned back. We were down to three, and I didn't think that would be enough..." Fay said. "Not when splitting the party like this is usually a bad thing."

"You're right about that," Pansy said. "I went through before, but then we were ambushed. I don't know if its because I was too slow in solving the puzzle on the other side but...when I came out, I was incapacitated instantly. Lovegood?"

"Mm. I had to destroy the Grail to keep the ambushers from getting it," the girl reflected, her white dress making her stand out in her dim surroundings. "We had lost one person, sadly, so they outnumbered us."

"Did a number on you, huh?" Pansy quipped. "Is that why you changed from your robes?"

"Mm. Among other reasons."

"Alright Matou, you're team leader - who is going through, and who is staying behind?"

Choice 94: Does Shinji go through himself?

[ ] Yes, because if only one person can go, it might as well be the most skilled.
[ ] No, because in the event of an ambush, Shinji's firepower is best suited for defense

Choice 94a: If he does go through, who does he leave in charge of the group?

[ ] Luna
[ ] Pansy

Choice 94b: If he does not go through, who does he send in?

[ ] Luna
[ ] Pansy

Veldril
November 17th, 2015, 08:13 AM
This chapter is one of the best chapter in this installment. And if there's something I got from reading the Fate series; it would be there is always something that a Hero would never give up. A hero might sacrifice everything he had but there will always one thing that he would not yield no matter what.

Ron is still far from it, but at least he starts to have a mindset for it. I guess that kinda make Ron, at least for me, qualify for joining the Ourea.

For the choice:

Choice 94:

[x] No, because in the event of an ambush, Shinji's firepower is best suited for defense.

This is a hard choice for me. On one hand, I want to go in just to read what is inside the chamber. On the other hand, if we want to win, we would need to be able to beat the ambush. So I think we need to concentrate our defense unless the situation inside the grail room is different each time the scenario is repeated.

Choice 94b:

[x] Pansy

We're lucky that both Luna and Pansy have already completed the puzzle before so we can choose either to go in to get the grail. Pansy did it too slow during the first time but she now know what she should expect inside so this time she should be able to solve the problem quicker. Luna, on the other hand, is also a very strong combatant that would help us setting up the defense and prepare for the ambush.

Omida
November 17th, 2015, 09:03 AM
So, Draco quits Ourea because he doesn't understand the point of Kobayashi?

And Ron shows his growth exceptionally. Eve forced to work with person he hates, he shuts up and grinds teeth. And then, he risk his life to save Malfoy, because for that moment, they were allies. And then, even with memories of being ripped apart by giant spider and feelings of failure, when there is need for a volunteer, he decides to do it. IT's beautiful, especially as Ron doesn't realize a the start that it was him who volunteered. It's just... This is a guy who despite broken leg stood before insane escaped convict and told him guy had to go through him first.

Choice 94:

[X] No, because in the event of an ambush, Shinji's firepower is best suited for defense - It's actually interesting that we have protagonist with skillset that actually is more suitable for team work and defense than normally, so we should play to strenghts.

Choice 94b:

[X] Luna - In this team, Luna is second best overall and her abilities and skills are in my eyes better suited for offensive play, or at least worse for defending position from assault, so in the event of an ambush, she and her unconventional thinking are better of on the other side of the flames.

mr_Trickster
November 17th, 2015, 09:17 AM
Ron is progressing as a character. This was, indeed, a good opportunity for him and I am hopeful that he will be able to make the most of this chance we've helped provide.

As for the choices, I'll be running through this with the reasoning that we're in a more-or-less clone of the Philosopher's Stone scenario. Alf, could you please confirm in red that the puzzles on the other side of the ebon flame do not change and are the same as they were in every other iteration of the scenario? Provisionary choices and reasoning I'll be going with is that we've already had experience dealing with this situation before and we are far more prepared for addressing possible ambushes this time with Ofuda and Zelkova's sensing and Assassin's Creed Vision. With that said, I vote that we stay behind as [x] - No, because in the event of an ambush, Shinji's firepower is best suited for defense.

The choice between sending in Luna or Pansy to solve the riddle feels like a choice between solving the puzzle faster as Luna seems to have managed to complete it more quickly than Pansy did (Alf, may I also please ask for a red confirmation for this, please?) in exchange for less combat effectiveness since we lose someone who is arguably one of the most powerful members of the Ourea right now. On the other hand, we can send Pansy in and take longer, but be more likely able to deal with any threats that come in from the outside, but Pansy might be more prone to threats that make it past us or coming from within - this is partially why I want to know if the puzzles are the same or change as this could be a factor in this decision. Just because Pansy was able to get past the first iteration of the puzzle, the one in this iteration might take her down.

So for now, send in [x] - Pansy.​ As I'm assuming that the iterations are the same.

Thedoctor
November 17th, 2015, 10:20 AM
[X] No, because in the event of an ambush, Shinji's firepower is best suited for defense

[X] Luna.

Speed is probably of essence here.

Skull Leader
November 17th, 2015, 11:08 AM
Alf, could you please confirm in red that the puzzles on the other side of the ebon flame do not change and are the same as they were in every other iteration of the scenario?.

While Alf might answer your question, it would seem to me that the nature of that question goes against the sprite of this trial. How is Shinji suppose to know if it will be changed or not? We are making a leadership choice here for Shinji. We should always plan for the scenario that it changes regardless if it does or not. Luna is the best person to break puzzles on our team so we should use her here. When people lives are at stake, relining on grand assumptions like how intel from previous runs must be true will get people killed.

As for this chapter I had a list of comments to make about Cedric's choices (that team was so bad, skills alone does not make a team, not that the flying idea was a bad idea), however Hillard's talk with Cedric included almost all of my comments I wanted to make. Cedric badly needed this lesson on what it truly means to be a stone cutter. His choice of facing against the troll and knowing that he was going to die while telling Fay to leave mirrors the same decision that Hillard did all those years ago. Only Hillard was lucking that the people he told to run away, stayed. Hopefully Cedric will learn from this and rise to the challenges that he will face next year.

Malfoy leaving was a surprise. I can't wait until he tells his father about this! Lucius will be pissed at his son.

As for our choices, I feel that Luna should be picked regardless on if we go or stay. Shinji trusts Luna the most of anyone baring Sion, so she is the person Shinji would pick if we did not have a choice here. I am on the fence on if Shinji should go in or not but ultimately I think Luna is the better person to send in. She has the power to go alone, can solve puzzles better than Shinji. Having Shinji stay and help defend against an ambush is the better choice to show leadership and he is better suited for it.

On the other hand, Luna staying to defend would mean we have a healer with the group, and Shinji will be more free to use his abilities if he doesn't stay with the group. I will have to think on this choice some more before I make a final decision.

skulkidcachi90
November 17th, 2015, 11:41 AM
Choice 94: Does Shinji go through himself?

[X] Yes, because if only one person can go, it might as well be the most skilled (Saber style baby).

Choice 94a:

[X] Pansy

I see luna more like a skilled soldier than a leader.

gesalt
November 17th, 2015, 12:12 PM
[X] Yes, because if only one person can go, it might as well be the most skilled.
[X] Pansy

Best to have someone without bias go in in case the puzzle is different.

Skull Leader
November 17th, 2015, 02:09 PM
I had a thought. Is our famliar with us in this trial, Alf?

If he is, then we could send him with Luna and with our link with Zelkova we might be able to stay in communicate with her. Which should help with the unknowns that we face. One of the reasons Pansy failed is that she had no idea what happen to the rest of her group while she was seperated. We would avoid that problem with the use of our familiar. We would lose the ability to fusion but we are unlikely to use it in front of everyone else. And the communication would work better with Luna being on her own then if she stays with the group. Zelkova would not be a large increase of mass when he is in his fox form so he should be able to get thru with Luna. Its a wild off the wall idea but it might work.

alfheimwanderer
November 17th, 2015, 04:27 PM
Alf, could you please confirm in red that the puzzles on the other side of the ebon flame do not change and are the same as they were in every other iteration of the scenario?

I'm not answering that.


I had a thought. Is our familiar with us in this trial, Alf?

Not with Shinji, exactly. Read the provided information again and see if you can spot the clue as to where he might be.

Malgos
November 17th, 2015, 04:52 PM
Shinji should go in, I think for something like this the lessons from Lockhart on the art of movement will be very handy and if speed is, indeed, of the essence then Shinji might get it done the fastest at least movement wise. If the puzzle completely stumps him then maybe not, but he's a smart guy. Unless we have to vote on that. Even then I believe we may be able to conquer it.

Luna should lead, during her capture the flag run her interesting tactics netted her first place. Also Luna is wearing a white dress, so she's got Zelkova with her.

Caster
November 17th, 2015, 05:00 PM
I agree, Luna leading and Shinji going through the barrier makes sense. Either way I don't think that Pansy is that suited to success in either role. As a leader she sacrificed others to try and succeed, something that I don't really want to see. Luna going through the barrier makes sense as well though. Luna having Zelkova makes me question which role she'd be better in though, and it does make me think she might be better suited to go through the barrier. Zelkova has a big awareness deal, and I think that would make Luna very useful in either area.

Malgos
November 17th, 2015, 05:08 PM
Zelkova has a big awareness deal, and I think that would make Luna very useful in either area.

Well I figured that awareness bonus would be better suited for the defenders as I thought the enemies must have some sort of skill in stealth as they ambushed people. Maybe it's even assassins. Also since Luna has Zelkova, Shinji won't so his firepower is more limited and unlike her he wouldn't use his fusion form in front of the group anyways. Also didn't Shinji also specialize in awareness and deception himself or have I mistaken that with the actual voted choices for that? Also unless Zelkova gets eliminated when Luna does, in the worst case scenario he can warn Shinji and they might be able to come up with a countermeasure. Although I doubt Zelkova gets to stay, since Luna is "wearing" him.

Also thank you for jogging my memory I knew I forgot some stuff in my previous post, but I couldn't remember it. Also managed to think of something new.

All That Is Left Unsaid
November 17th, 2015, 06:55 PM
[x] Yes, because if only one person can go, it might as well be the most skilled.

Choice 94a:

[x] Luna

From the sound of things, Luna is in fusion form with Zelkova, so she should remain with the group to defend them, and be in charge to direct them with her Zelkova-enhanced awareness, as she would be able to detect threats before the others.

Random thought, but if Luna had her own familiar to fuse with, could she have just winked out the ebon flame I wonder?

saki
November 17th, 2015, 07:38 PM
Not with Shinji, exactly. Read the provided information again and see if you can spot the clue as to where he might be.

Is the information only in the last post or is theres something in previous ones?

Caster
November 17th, 2015, 07:49 PM
Why doesn't Luna have her own is a better question I find. Seems odd that it's not there.

alfheimwanderer
November 17th, 2015, 08:20 PM
Random thought, but if Luna had her own familiar to fuse with, could she have just winked out the ebon flame I wonder?

Quite possibly. In fusion form with her fox, she has a good command of air and flame.


Why doesn't Luna have her own is a better question I find. Seems odd that it's not there.

Its harder to hide the inhuman features of her fox fusion, which is why it isn't there at the moment.

Skull Leader
November 17th, 2015, 08:29 PM
I caught Luna was already in her fusion form the first time but I had assumed she was fused with her fox but she has spent enough time over winter break with Zelkova to learn to fuse with him as well. Luna is much better at fusion then Shinji is by far. So I guess my idea will work then. The fact that luna is wearing white robes and not a dress should be the clue that it was not her normal fusion form.

alfheimwanderer
November 17th, 2015, 08:34 PM
I caught Luna was already in her fusion form the first time but I had assumed she was fused with her fox but she has spent enough time over winter break with Zelkova to learn to fuse with him as well. Luna is much better at fusion then Shinji is by far. So I guess my idea will work then. The fact that luna is wearing white robes and not a dress should be the clue that it was not her normal fusion form.

In her fusion with her fox, she tends to appear in dark blue, with fox ears and a tail. While fused with Zelkova, she tends to be clad in that white dress she's been seen in on several occasions.

Abendroth
November 17th, 2015, 09:58 PM
Alfheimwanderer, did Luna have to destroy the grail because when she emerged with it her forces were overwhelmed by the ambushers, or did the enemy follow her in? Or something else? I'm trying to figure out if it even matters how fast the puzzle is solved.

Caster
November 17th, 2015, 09:58 PM
Ah, I see. So Luna is with Zelkova. Any details on what that forms like mechanically? I'd like an idea of what she does better so I can vote for where she would be most useful.

alfheimwanderer
November 17th, 2015, 10:46 PM
Did Luna have to destroy the grail because when she emerged with it her forces were overwhelmed by the ambushers, or did the enemy follow her in? Or something else? I'm trying to figure out if it even matters how fast the puzzle is solved.

Option 1. Its worth noting that if you do take a while to solve the puzzle, things may become more...difficult, however. That, and the flame protection potion's effect isn't permanent.


Ah, I see. So Luna is with Zelkova. Any details on what that forms like mechanically? I'd like an idea of what she does better so I can vote for where she would be most useful.

Less defenses than Shinji's fusion form, but superior awareness. Command of wind and life (like plant matter, or healing), as opposed to earth. Weapon is not ​a scythe.

Caster
November 17th, 2015, 10:53 PM
It's not? Darn, I was so sure it would be. Actually, does Pandora!Luna have a weapon? And awareness boost on par or maybe even better than Shinji?

alfheimwanderer
November 17th, 2015, 11:09 PM
Pandora!Luna has similar awareness mod to Shinji, though she detects disturbances in the air more than the ground. In that form, she can summon a set of magical mirrors which float and have invisibility features of their own, with her capable of casting spells through them for a multi-pronged assault, or using them as a way to block spells or melee attacks.

Zelkova!Luna's main weapons are a set of war fans.

mr_Trickster
November 17th, 2015, 11:58 PM
All of this new information certainly does change the atmosphere of the scenario for us, yes. Thank you, Alf.

Now considering the fact that Shinji does in fact not have access to Zelkova as he is now - or at least direct access, we might be best going in ourselves considering we no longer have the awareness and the advanced earth-type defenses we had access to in fusion or pre-fusion. With that said, I have to agree with what the others have said mentioning movement would likely be beneficial to us in there since we're entering, and the rest of our group outside will definitely benefit from the firepower enhancement granted by a fusion-empowered Luna.

So, [x] - Yes, because if only one person can go, it might as well be the most skilled.

Between the two we want to leave in charge here, someone with more combat experience would be best in light of what we are expecting them to encounter once we begin solving the riddles inside. Unlike Pansy, [x] - Luna has had past experience in capture the flag as well as acting with the other Stone Cutters and we might benefit more from having her in charge than not.... provided the remainder of the group is willing to follow suite.

Caster
November 18th, 2015, 01:02 AM
Pandora!Luna sounds so fun. I wonder what Pandora!Shinji would look like. But that sounds useful to know. So she's been going easy on Shinji so far in their duels? I don't recall the mirrors at all. Still torn on if Luna would be better with the group or going ahead though.

Cassius
November 18th, 2015, 01:49 AM
94:
[x] No, don't go in

a:
[x] Luna is in charge

b:
[x] Luna goes in

alfheimwanderer
November 18th, 2015, 04:05 AM
Pandora!Luna sounds so fun. I wonder what Pandora!Shinji would look like. But that sounds useful to know. So she's been going easy on Shinji so far in their duels? I don't recall the mirrors at all. Still torn on if Luna would be better with the group or going ahead though.

I haven't really covered the two of them dueling in fusion mode much. And while she can do the ghostly echoes and deploy mirrors, its not as useful against Shinji as against some others, given his earth awareness bonus and prana detection abilities, as well as his form's slightly higher magic resistance. Shinji's fusion with Zelkova is more defensive, which makes fights interesting, but then, she has the offensive capability to break through.

Skull Leader
November 18th, 2015, 01:14 PM
[X] Don't go in
[X] Send Luna in

In the case of Shinji going in, then I would like Luna to be in charge of the group.

Veldril
November 18th, 2015, 01:37 PM
Change my vote to

[x] Go in

[x] Luna lead the group

Mattias
November 18th, 2015, 01:40 PM
So that's why Draco was exempt from the Lockheart's Apprentice draw.

Good chapter, although in the Cedric bit you use the descriptor 'the youth' a bit much. It's hard to tell who you're describing since they are all young, and Cedric (I assumed they meant him since it was his focus in the scene) is actually the oldest one in the group, calling him 'the youth' is a bit misleading.

On that note, I originally thought it was Ron whose scenario we were reading, since everyone was a Quidditch player, and that seems like what he would do. Obviously, I was proven wrong.

[x] Go. As the Clash say " If I go there will be trouble. If I stay it will be double"

a)[x] Luna. She's better leader for the remnants, as shown by CTF.

b)[x] Luna again. She's the other powerhouse, intellectual and magical, on the team.

Vagrant
November 18th, 2015, 04:49 PM
[☆] You do it.
[☆] Luna stay.

Abendroth
November 18th, 2015, 08:28 PM
Given Luna's portrayal by Alf, she is probably better at solving puzzles than we are, so I choose:

Choice 94: Does Shinji go through himself?
[ ] No, because in the event of an ambush, Shinji's firepower is best suited for defense

Choice 94a: If he does go through, who does he leave in charge of the group?

[ ] Luna


Choice 94b: If he does not go through, who does he send in?

[ ] Luna


If speed matters, Luna is best. If it's a trap, Luna has better odds of fighting her way out than Pansy.

alfheimwanderer
November 19th, 2015, 10:11 PM
Get your votes in by Tomorrow night. I'll be writing on the weekend (not tomorrow, as its the anniversary of my brother's death and there is family stuff to be done)

Cremela
November 20th, 2015, 09:11 AM
“The place where they’ve hidden the Holy Grail?”
That's too much of a coincidence for a scenario where Lockheart is involved.


“Disintegration curse.”
... Nasty...



Stunning rallying speech captain Cedric!




“The troll came, and they put their differences aside to defeat it, just as you and Malfoy will need to put your differences aside if we want to succeed in our quest for the Grail. Can you do that?”
Neat foreshadowing


Ron standing up to the giant spider that we know he is pants-wettingly terrified of to try and save Malfoy is some great character development!


When he came to again, Cedric Diggory found himself drifting through a sea of white.

‘No. It’s not white…’ he realized after some time. ‘It only seems like white. But…where am I?’

It wasn’t anywhere he knew. Anywhere he recognized. Anywhere he had heard of, as there was nowhere in the world that was just an expanse of nothingness. In the world, anywhere one went, there was at least form and time, if not light, air, color, and sound.

Sounds like what Snape experienced... even though they didn't actually die?


Really good Hillard and Cedric scene.


The spider had seen him as a threat.

It had taken him seriously.
This line of thinking seems very dangerous... new Dark Lord Ronald?



Buh bye Malfoy!
http://i.imgur.com/wa187sa.jpg


“Me.”
I loved everything about this whole bit.



Veeery tricky choices...

Choice 94: Does Shinji go through himself?
[X] No
[X] Yes

Choice 94a: If he does go through, who does he leave in charge of the group?
[X] Luna

Choice 94b: If he does not go through, who does he send in?
[X] Luna
[X] Pansy


Not with Shinji, exactly. Read the provided information again and see if you can spot the clue as to where he might be.
Reading through the last section again, the only thing I can think of is that Zelkova is the one with the group (possibly looking like Shinji) and Shinji is somewhere else?



I hope you and your family will be ok at this difficult time. Take care.

All That Is Left Unsaid
November 20th, 2015, 02:49 PM
Reading through the last section again, the only thing I can think of is that Zelkova is the one with the group (possibly looking like Shinji) and Shinji is somewhere else?

Actually, it has been all but confirmed that Zelkova is currently in spirit fusion with Luna. The reason being that it is easier to hide the inhuman features present during Zelkova!fusion than with Pandora!fusion.

Cremela
November 20th, 2015, 06:21 PM
Aaah yes! My brain keeps going Pandora=white fox, therefore white dress=Pandora. Of course no-one would think it unusual for the girl who wears radish earrings to have twigs in her hair as ornaments. And outright stating it in the narrative would be too on-the-nose. Changing votes for now, but I wonder if we have Pandora with us and if we are able to fuse with her...

alfheimwanderer
November 20th, 2015, 06:38 PM
Pandora with us and if we are able to fuse with her...

You do not, and cannot.

Caster
November 20th, 2015, 08:43 PM
Votes: Shinji stays with the group, Luna goes ahead, and Luna leads if Shinji goes ahead.

And is Luna just able to hide the fusion form better through training or natural talent.

alfheimwanderer
November 20th, 2015, 08:47 PM
It's how the fusion is represented with her - the dress with its patterns and twigs and vines in her hair, as opposed to Shinji's crown of horn-like branches. Their different elemental affinities and such contribute to how the Fusion looks.

Skull Leader
November 21st, 2015, 02:09 AM
I might be off in my own count but I think we might have a tie on our go/don't go choice. A tie for this might result in Shinji freezing at the wrong moment, due to him not knowing what to do. This would be a outcome that was almost foretold by Hillard in the last chapter when he was talking to Cedric. So if no other votes are added in after this and a tie is indeed happening I would like my to switch from Shinji staying to defend to Shinji going inside.

Either choose here is better than a tie.

alfheimwanderer
November 21st, 2015, 04:41 AM
Choice 94: [x] Yes, because if only one person can go, it might as well be the most skilled.
Choice 94a: [x] Luna

100%

Well. This promises to be...most interesting.

"What clings to you, child? Bear it, you cannot. Accept it, you cannot. But hidden it is from you. Recite its name."

Veldril
November 21st, 2015, 09:29 AM
Choice 94: [x] Yes, because if only one person can go, it might as well be the most skilled.
Choice 94a: [x] Luna

100%

Well. This promises to be...most interesting.

"What clings to you, child? Bear it, you cannot. Accept it, you cannot. But hidden it is from you. Recite its name."

Interesting in the normal sense, or in the ancient Chinese's one? :P

alfheimwanderer
November 22nd, 2015, 03:49 AM
Both. Next year will be even more...interesting though.

saki
November 22nd, 2015, 11:12 AM
Both. Next year will be even more...interesting though.
Should we bring back the tag "Shinji gona die"?

skulkidcachi90
November 22nd, 2015, 11:37 AM
Well the next year is gonna be very dangerous, the Einzberns are gonna try to kill shinji with a sicarius (or even more than one), the Potion Championship is even more dangerous than the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and not forget the Kirei and Gil Subplot.
Heck who know if Zouken is not gonna be mad about the fact than shinji begin a war between his family and the Einzberns.

alfheimwanderer
November 24th, 2015, 12:17 AM
Chapter 38. Original Thinker

“We’re coming on Acromantula territory. Advance with caution,” Ron Weasley ordered quietly, his voice almost a whisper as he crept through the dense, gloomy woods with his five chosen companions. Given what had happened last time he was here, a team of six people wasn’t nearly enough firepower for his peace of mind, even if each was at least competent with a wand, but would have to do. After all, even if he wished he had an entire army at his back, they were all he had. “First rank, shield wall, now. Second rank, wands out.”

His comrades nodded, shield spells shimmering into existence as three of them – Fay Dunbar, Anthony Goldstein, and Cedric Diggory, muttered a quiet Protego, with Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, and Ron himself using their comrades – and their shields – as cover as the group advanced.

The redhead didn’t know much about Acromantulae, given that such creatures hadn’t been covered in any Defense class he’d had in his three years at Hogwarts, and so he didn’t know what exactly they were capable of. What he did know, however…made him more than a little nervous.

‘Well, no. That’s a lie.‘

Being completely honest, Ronald Bilius Weasley was terrified. Being back in the forest, back in the place where he’d been so brutally savaged, he could scarcely keep his breathing under control – and he was sure the others could hear the rapid-fire pounding of his heart, even if they had been kind enough to say nothing about it.

He was almost certain that victory was impossible, given that Ginny had told him that the Kobayashi Maru – whatever kind of name that was – was a “no win scenario”, yet here he was, clinging to the desperate hope that maybe he was wrong.

That maybe, just maybe, he could win.

“Forward,” he said, his eyes darting here and there, trying to see any sign of movement in the gloom, any sign of those hateful webs, but there was nothing but underbrush…for now.
‘Maybe I should have kept one or two of us on brooms as scouts…’ Ron thought ruefully, though it was far too late for that, as he’d had his group stash them under the provided invisibility cloak. ‘No. If I turn back now…’

…he’d lose his nerve. For the Weasley boy, there was nowhere to go but forward into the maw of destruction.

‘Still, I wish the forest weren’t so thick…anything could be in there.’

Hundreds of Acromatulae, for example. For where there was one…

Then his worst nightmare was upon them – a hideous shape with too many legs that came out of the underbrush, barreling into the group without any warning, its massive form smashing the formation to the ground, their shields flickering out as their concentration lapsed.

Before anyone could react, the monster seized Cedric Diggory with its front legs, lifting him into the air, with the boy only able to look on numbly as the legs brought him closer and closer to razor sharp pincers dripping with venom…

“Stupefy!” a voice cried out – not his own. The voice of Neville Longbottom, whose eyes were wide in fear.

The spell hit the spider’s gigantic, hairy body, but for all the good it did, he might as well have just thrown a stone, with the spider’s pincers slicing into the Hufflepuff’s unguarded belly.

“No!” Ron shouted, his wand coming up as he shrieked the words to one of the earliest spells he’d learned. “Expelliarmus!”

The Disarming Spell, which in theory should have made the spider drop its prey…but didn’t.

‘No…’

“Expelliarmus!” he cried again, but his spell had no effect, as once more, he was forced to bear witness to the grim spectacle of someone dying before his eyes, without any way to stop it.

“Stupefy!” Neville called out, the red spell-beam aimed not for the spider, but for Cedric this time, striking the older boy as his body went slack. If he couldn’t…if he couldn’t save the Hufflepuff, at least he’d make sure Cedric wouldn’t suffer.

“Together.” Luna’s voice cut through the din like molten metal through butter. “Disarming Spell on three. One. Two. Three!”

This time, the incantation for the Disarming Spell issued from three mouths at once, with the unconscious body of Cedric Diggory falling to the ground with a sickening thud – and the Acromantula rearing up in fury as they drew its attention at last.

“Stunning Spell,” Lovegood’s voice commanded.

“But, it didn’t…” Ron grimaced, as he’d seen a stunner just bounce off the spider’s carapace, and wasn’t at all sure it even could be stunned.

But Luna paid him no heed, as she was already issuing more commands.

“Goldstein, Dunbar, with me. Stunners on three.”

“Yes, ma’am!” Anthony Goldstein barked out, shaken from his paralysis by his former captain’s reassuring tones.

The sheer trust and confidence Ron heard in the Ravenclaw boy’s voice made Ron blink. He would be the first to (grudgingly) admit that the other boy was competent on the battlefield, as Team Snorkack headed the league, and Lovegood had once headed that team before Goldstein took over, but how did that translate to trusting Lovegood in a situation like this?

“One.”

He didn’t know – but he would have given anything for people to listen to him with such respect – to trust him so completely – though the thought of such a thing also terrified him, for what if he failed?

“Two.”

The spider charged, its massive form targeting Lovegood this time, but Luna did not so much as flinch.

“Three!”

“Stupefy!”

A volley of four crimson spell-beams lashed out at the arachnid, their combined might doing what one alone could not, with the spider keeling over sideways and crumpling to the ground in a tangle of hairy legs.

Ron swallowed as he looked the immense form of the spider, thinking that any moment now, it would get up again. That it would simply kill them all for daring to inconvenience it. For having the hubris to believe that wizards could possibly be a match for such terrible beasts.

Already, Cedric’s body had vanished, with the poison no doubt having taken hold.

‘One down already…’

Yet the others didn’t give in to despair. Even as he watched, one of them used the Levitation Charm to lift a fallen log into the air, floating it above the insensate Acromantula and slamming it down with brutal force over and over again, crushing the unconscious beast as its lifeblood trickled out onto the ground.

‘That was…Lovegood?’


It had to be – her wand had been the only one moving, even if she hadn’t said a word.

‘Nonverbal…she must have learned Matou’s arts…’

That and the way she had efficiently ended the spider’s life after it was incapacitated reminded him unpleasantly of how the boy from the east had singlehandedly defeated the spider in the tunnels – something he still hadn’t told anyone about.

“If there are others, they will be attracted by the smell of death, away from our party,” the small blonde noted as she looked at him. “We should either move on or retreat. Your orders?”

His orders? Right…he was nominally leading this run, wasn’t he? Shaking his head as if to clear it, the Weasley boy sighed. He wanted to retreat after what he’d seen – what had just happened, but…

He couldn’t.

“Onward,” Ron commanded, his voice harsh as he looked into the distance. “Turning back…isn’t an option.”

“Weasley,” Fay interjected. “We’re already down a wizard. And if we go too far…” She broke off, shuddering. “There’s a barrier around the temple. One that will disintegrate anything it touches.” ‘…and alert a troll that there are intruders.’

…she remembered only all too well the horror of that monstrosity – a beast nearly five meters tall, wearing some kind of armor. A creature that Cedric had sacrificed himself delaying so that she could escape.

This stopped the boy cold.

“…a barrier?” he asked, his eyes narrowing as he remembered what had happened when something conjured hit the Temple roof. “Invisible until something touches it?”

Fay only nodded.

“That’s why I’m not sure if we can go on,” Fay concluded. “If we don’t know where it is until we hit it…”

“Do you know Avifors or Draconifors?” Luna broke in, with Fay blinking in confusion at the sudden query.

“…yes, but why?” the Scottish girl answered, unsure of what a spell to transform things into birds or miniature dragons could be useful for.

“P-Professor McGonagall taught us Draconifors this year,” Neville added. “And Avifors is a second year spell.”

“…ohhhh,” Ron said, as something clicked. “Ok, I see what Lovegood has in mind. Longbottom, you and Dunbar use Draconifors on some of the stones or fallen twigs around here, to create a screen of things to scout for us. We’ll have the swarm go ahead of us, and when they hit the barrier…”

“Sounds workable,” Anthony Goldstein noted, nodding slowly. “Do we remember exactly which direction we were heading in?”

Ron frowned at that.

“I think we were going that way…” the Weasley boy answered, gesturing vaguely to the left. “The temple was west of us…I think.”

After the clash with the spider, they’d gotten a little turned around, after all…

“Well, there’s an easy fix to that, at least,” Goldstein replied, flattening his palm and whispering “Point Me” to his wand. The length of wood spun around once and pointed slightly right of straight ahead, towards one of the bigger trees in the forest. “Ok, that way’s north, so yeah, to our left.”
Ron grunted, but said no more, with the group advancing in near silence…until part of the swarm that preceded them crashed into the unseen barrier, a line of runes blazing into existence as those transfigured beings were turned to ash.
“…I guess there’s the barrier,” Neville said, looking around. “But how do we get past…?”
He clammed up at the sound of a monstrous roar in the distance, one that sent an icy shiver down his spine.
“Troll,” Fay whispered, swallowing.
“Fall back!” Ron said harshly, as the roar sounded again, with the ground beginning to shake as the troll pounded towards them, still out of sight, for now. “Quickly!”

‘…we should have kept our brooms with us,’ he thought. That way, they’d at least be able to speed away…but it was too late for that.

The group moved, but the troll was faster, crashing into the clearing with all the force of a moving mountain.

“Attack!” Neville and Fay ordered, as what remained of their swarm launched themselves at the troll, only to be smashed out of the air by a massive wrought-iron club as it turned to them.

In mere seconds, it would close the distance between them. In mere seconds, they would be struck down. In mere seconds…

‘No. No. I won’t allow it!’

“Glacius!” Ron called out, running to put himself between the duo and the troll, as an icy wind howled forth from the tip of his wand, lancing for the creature’s eyes.

The troll reeled back, not having expected the onslaught – particularly not as Fay and Neville joined their leader in casting the Freezing spell, with one of the monster’s hands moving to shield its eyes.

“Take that, you bloody wanker,” the redhead crowed, pouring more and more of his magic into the gale he was creating, sheer exultation surging through him as the troll bowed its head.

‘Yes. Yes. Take that. Take that!’

…that was the last thought Ronald Weasley had as the troll charged, his body crushed into the rocky ground by the momentum of its vicious assault.

Fay, who had just a moment more warning, managed to push Neville out of its way, though she herself did not escape, her body broken to pieces by the enemy’s sheer bulk.

“Wingardium Leviosa!” another voice called out – Goldstein’s – as the club flew from the troll’s grip and smashed into its metal-covered face, staggering the beast.

Again and again the club smashed at its iron mask, the air ringing with the sound of metal on metal as the troll roared, its arms moving to grab the weapon from the air, but failing.

“Reducto!” another voice called out – that of Luna Lovegood, who had an odd smile on her lips as a bolt of blazing blue light issued from the tip of her wand, arcing through the air and slamming into the troll.

…no, not the troll. Its helm, which exploded in its face with a blood curdling shriek, staggering the beast as the club pitilessly smashed into its unprotected face over…and over, and over, with a final blow knocking the creature unconscious, with the forest itself seeming to shake as the massive evil-shaped form crashed to the ground, with the club falling beside it as Goldstein released his spell.

In the silence, Luna ran, feet carrying her towards the fallen troll with every ounce of speed she had as she clambered on top of its foul smelling form and jammed her wand up its nose.

“Reducto.”

What gave a troll resistance to spells was its stony hide. If one was able to bypass that by, say, jamming a wad of ofuda down its gullet or one’s wand up its nose, then, well, there would be no resistance, and whatever spell the caster intended would take full effect.

As it proved here, where Luna Lovegood’s Reductor Curse blew apart its skull – and brains – with its face blowing outward and then going slack as its wretched existence was ended forever.

With the battle finished, the girl withdrew her blood-covered wand from the troll’s orifice and jumped back to the ground.

“It’s time to fall back,” she ordered calmly. “Goldstein, help Longbottom. We’re heading back to the landing zone.”

The scenario ended shortly thereafter, with Ron Weasley slowly returning to awareness. He found himself laying on a cold stone floor, alone, with every inch of his body screaming in pain. He’d…he’d died. Again. Failed.

“Can you hear us, Mr. Weasley?” a voice called out, with the redhead’s only response a strangled moan.
His forced himself not to resist as he felt someone helping him to a sitting position and force a vial of something down his throat – something that numbed his body, easing his pain.

“What…happened?” Ron asked, not sure if he wanted to know.

“You were crushed by a troll, Mr. Weasley,” Professor Lockhart responded helpfully, as the boy grimaced and shook his head.

“…and the others?”

“Miss Dunbar pushed Mister Longbottom out of the path of the troll, though she was killed herself,” the History Professor noted.

“Oh.” Ron was silent for a moment as he digested that. In the end, his last stand had accomplished nothing, and… “What about…Lovegood and Goldstein? Did they also…?”

Lockhart chuckled at the boy’s query.

“…they survived,” the Assassin noted, a reply that brought a bewildered expression to the Weasley boy’s face.

“…how?” Ron whispered. Surely the troll wouldn’t have just ignored them. Did they…? Had they…?

“They killed the troll, Mister Weasley.”

The redhead’s eyes bulged in disbelief as he heard this, wondering how that was even possible. With how his brothers had talked about trolls having spell resistance, how was it that Lovegood and Goldstein had slain it?

“...how?” he said again.

“That will be something for you to figure out, Mister Weasley, though the Levitation Charm came into play.”

“Huh. I see.” He didn’t though, not really. There hadn’t been any fallen logs around, boulders, or…huh “Did they…kill it with its own club?”

“Not a bad guess, Mister Weasley,” the History Professor noted in his cool tones. “You have a long way to go before you truly achieve your potential, however. What say you, Mister Hillard?”

At the query, Ron finally took notice of the fact the Head Boy – the eldest of the Stone Cutters – was in the room…and had probably watched what had happened. All of what had happened. Including his failures…

“From what I saw, you certainly have some amount of bravery,” Hillard allowed, the Ravenclaw’s face utterly expressionless as he regarded the younger boy. “And the fact that you volunteered to go next after Mister Malfoy refused speaks well of you. It is true that you have a long way to go before you are truly suited to lead a group into combat, but Merlin permitting, you will have that time.”
“Merlin permitting, yes,” Lockhart agreed, a wry, almost sad expression crossing his face for a moment, before the man’s expression returned to its normal, tranquil state. “For what it is worth, I think your willingness to listen to your team members’ suggestions is a good thing, Mister Weasley, as it allows you to compensate for what you do not see. Further, your willingness to confront the troll, and to block its path, while perhaps foolish, also says something about character.”

“Character is one thing,” Hillard said, frowning. “I will note that if it were not for the actions of Miss Lovegood, you would have lost your entire team.”

“Which is scarcely worse than Mister Diggory,” Lockhart riposted. “Mister Weasley’s team was not…”

“…destined to fail?” the Head Boy questioned dryly.

“In a word, yes,” the History Professor acknowledged with a dry cough. “They showed a willingness to work together, even in desperate circumstances, circumstances in which Mister Diggory’s team dissolved into chaos from personal quarrels.”

“Point,” Hillard allowed. “That team was held together only by its leader’s charisma, not out of any sense of loyalty to each other, or any shared duty. A dangerous thing when one is going into a hostile situation.”

“Agreed,” Lockhart said quietly. “That much I am aware of.” He turned back to the nervous figure of Ron Weasley, who sat awaiting the man’s judgement as to his fate. It was true that Ron didn’t care much for the so-called adventurer, but… “Mister Weasley, I am inclined to recommend you for membership in the Ourea, so that we may see just what you are capable of. The final decision, however, is up to your peers.”

“I…I see,” the Gryffindor replied, his emotions a whirlwind. He didn’t know whether to be happy, nervous or… “I…”

“I suppose congratulations are in order as well, Mister Weasley.”

“Oh?”

Lockhart chuckled.

“Of course. You have completed your first Kobayashi Maru.”

100%

“Finished. Try it now,” Goldstein’s voice called from below, with a grin nearly splitting Fay Dunbar’s face in two as her transfigured swarm of birds passed through the space the line of runes would have been with no ill-effect, before following them in on her broom, keeping her eyes peeled for any sign of additional barriers or defenses.

…but there were none, with a thunderous crash in the distance and the whoop of triumph that followed signaling the defeat of the troll which guarded the front entrance.

‘The barrier is down! Goldstein was right!’
“It’s down,” she confirmed, with the air rippling to reveal the head of Anthony Goldstein, who was wearing the team’s invisibility cloak.

“Good,” the Ravenclaw answered. “I was a little worried whether the others would be alright holding the troll’s attention, especially after the mess with the spiders earlier.”

“…yeah, running into a nest of them wasn’t fun. We fought our way out, but it was touch and go for a while there,” the Ravenclaw admitted. “One isn’t so bad. Three at once. Eesh.”

“Glad you had air support, huh?” Fay quipped, with Anthony nodding fervently.

“It was a good idea to keep some of us on brooms – and for the rest of us to carry ours on harnesses. Not that it kept us from losing Miss Bones.”

“…no, you’re right about that,” the boy murmured. “Shall we link up with the others?”

“Let’s. I’ll cover you, so don’t go invisible this time.”

“Right.”

They made their way over towards the front entrance, moving slowly to where Neville waited with Daphne Greengrass and Pansy Parkinson over the corpse of a slain troll.

“Good job, Goldstein,” Pansy remarked. “I was a little concerned that you were taking so long. Especially since this thing was one tough bugger.”

“Apologies Miss Parkinson, but with all due respect, there were four foundation points I needed to disable,” the Ravenclaw replied, nodding to the girl. “Each with a different runic configuration.”

‘Thankfully, unchanged from my last run though.’

“Tricky.”

“You’re telling me,” Anthony said dryly. “I’m the one who had to deal with it. Still, the barrier is down, at last. And we didn’t lose anyone to the troll. That’s something.”

“Thanks, Anthony,” Neville said, nodding his head at the other boy. “You know quite a bit about runes, huh?”

“I’m a Ravenclaw. It’s my job to know.”

That and he had an interest in barriers himself, as his ambition was to work for Gringotts as a cursebreaker and see the world. As such, he knew that whatever their effects, most barriers could only be maintained if their seals were intact.

And that if the troll could exit the barrier with ill-effects, there had to be more than one anchor point, unless there was a single, extremely complex seal engraved into the ground specifying everything the barrier could do.

…if that were the case, he would have had to give up, since his understanding of runes and arrays wasn’t advanced enough to disable something like that. That would leave the brute force method of using his magic to eliminate the seal, or to drain the magical energy in the seal, and he wasn’t especially skilled at either of those.

Yet.

So as Neville’s team kept the troll busy, Fay had helped him by using her miniature dragons and birds to keep the barrier lit up, with him finding the first point immediately east of the entrance and keeping it visible with Verdimillious.

The next had had been due south of the temple, then west, then north.

‘Point me helped a lot.’

If it wasn’t for that spell, which he’d read about in one of his spellbooks, he would have gotten…well, quite lost. He wondered sometimes if it was a spell Professor Lockhart made much use of, or if he just used a compass instead.

Perhaps he’d ask, sometime.

“Shall we go in?” Neville asked, eyeing the great stone doors of the temple with a bit of trepidation.

“You’re the boss, Nev,” Fay replied. “You tell us.”

Neville Longbottom took a deep breath and nodded.

“In we go, then.”

They stepped into the antechamber of the temple, wands drawn as if expecting the worst, but relaxed as they saw no immediate threats.

…but that was the wrong move, as the ground gave way under them and they fell.

Cold, damp air rushed past them as they plummeted into darkness, falling down, down, down, tumbling end over end until –

FLUMP

— with a funny, muffled sort of thump they landed on something softish.

“…ugh…” Pansy groaned, “what happened?”

“We fell,” Anthony said blandly, his voice coming from beside her. “It was a trap.”

“Besides that, oh great Master of the obvious,” Pansy remarked acidly. “Did anyone not get caught up in that?”
“Me,” came a faint voice from above. Fay Dunbar’s voice, they thought. “I held on to my broom just in case.”

“…good for you,” Pansy uttered, struggling to sit up as she realized she’d lost track of her wand. “Dunbar, can you get us some light down here?”

In answer, there was a cry of Lumos, as the area they were in was faintly illuminated from above, revealing that they’d all landed amongst some kind of dense, vinelike material…and that their legs had already been bound with long creepers without their noticing, with Longbottom and Greengrass unconscious, having hit their heads against pieces of rubble.

“Shit,” Pansy said with feeling, as more vines moved about her chest. “Devil’s Snare.” ‘How do I…I beat it with fire, but…’ “Dunbar, summon our wands.”

The light was extinguished as Fay cried out “Accio wands!” with five lengths of wood flying into her hands. It flickered on again, revealing the girl descending on broomstick.

“Catch, Parkinson.”

Pansy reached up and barely managed to catch the wand, which she used to efficiently free herself from the vine with well-placed Severing Charms. She knew fire would repel it, but she dared not use fire – not while her companions were still there. Quickly, she freed Anthony as well, with Fay tossing the boy his wand as both of them summoned their brooms, which had fallen down with them.

“I think this run is shot,” Fay called down.

“Couldn’t agree more, Dunbar,” Pansy said, even as the vines started creeping up again. “What say you, Goldstein?”

But the boy was shuffling over to where Greengrass and Longbottom had fallen.

“Agreed, but we’re not leaving them behind,” Anthony spoke, with iron in his voice. “We’re not leaving them to die. Not if we can help it.”

Pansy grunted.

“Fine, Goldstein. Have it your way,” she acquiesced. “I’ll get Greengrass. You get Longbottom.”

“Fair.”

Together, they cut the stricken members of their expedition free of their bonds, and used Seize and Pull Charms to grab onto them as they mounted their brooms and lifted into the air.

Lockhart seemed almost amused during the after-action report, noting that they had done a fairly good job, despite their lack of caution as they entered the temple. After all, they were the first team to find and disable the anchor points that maintained the barrier – and the fact that they had carried their brooms with them allowed them to escape the trap.

“A pity you did not advance further, but you are to be commended for choosing a good team, Mister Longbottom. One that chose not to leave anyone behind.”

“That wasn’t my doing,” Neville replied, closing his eyes. “They made that choice without me.”

“Yet they saved you all the same. Sometimes, you learn more about people from failure than through success, no?”

“…you have a point, Professor. And…thank you.”

“Don’t thank me, Longbottom. Thank your team.”

“Mm.”

100%

One by one, the others of the Ourea stepped up to the challenge of leadership, choosing their teams and building on the work of those who had come before. Su Li’s team came to a bad end when they stumbled upon a chamber of Billywigs. Ginny’s was ambushed and nearly overcome by a pack of Gytrashes – vicious dog-like spirits which concealed themselves in darkness – with them forgetting that it was the basic wand-lighting charm they were weak against, not one of the more advanced spells.

And so and so forth.

Anthony Goldstein had made an aggressive push into the temple, mapping out a number of its chambers and hazards as a bit of advanced reconnaissance, but it was not until Fay Dunbar led her team into the challenge that one managed to unravel the deepest riddles of the temple, defeating its guardians until they came to what they figured was the entrance to the final room – or what had better be the final room, given that it was warded by a curtain of ebon flame, with a strange indentation in the wall beside it containing several potion vials and some kind of inscription.

“One of these is Flame Freezing potion, isn’t it?” Pansy asked, eyes narrowing at the many vials. “But there’s barely enough for one swallow in each of these.”

“From the inscription, the rest are either poison or simply not useful,” Luna commented. “Pity we don’t have bezoars with us.”

“Heh. You’ve got that right,” Pansy remarked. “Well, Dunbar, what’s it going to be?”

Fay shook her head. Already she’d lost half her team, and the fact that only one person could go through, while the rest had to remain behind was setting off all sorts of red flags in her mind.

‘Ambush.’

“We’re falling back,” she said, with Pansy looking at her in shock.

“What? But…the goal is…”

“It doesn’t matter.” Fay cut her off. “We have three people left, and I don’t think that’s enough, no matter how skilled the two of you are. If I was the one who put this all together…” ‘…I would have designed a challenge that needed a full team if one wanted even a chance of success.’

“Well…your run, your decision,” Pansy said tightly. She didn’t agree with the decision, but it wasn’t her choice, after all.

On her own, she went through – and encountered an enemy she couldn’t defeat.

Luna Lovegood likewise entered the chamber on her run, with her team only down by one member, but though she passed the test and was allowed to retrieve the Grail, she was forced to destroy the Grail in the end to keep it out of enemy hands

And then it was Matou Shinji’s turn, the very last of the Kobayashis.

By now, each of his team members was quite experienced with the labyrinth, and under his direction, they thought they had a chance to win. After all, they’d come quite close before, hadn’t they?

Armed with the information from past runs, as well as the extra firepower of Matou’s dual wands and ofuda, there managed to reach the final archway – though it had taken considerable effort to keep anyone from getting injured too badly – and Luna’s help to patch up those who had been injured at all.

“So the Holy Grail is in there, huh?” Shinji asked, eying the suspiciously familiar barrier of ebon flame barring the way ahead, as well as a riddle he remembered all too well.

“Yes,” Luna confirmed, her white dress seeming almost purple in the odd light of the flames.

“So you managed to get it, huh?” Pansy inquired, raising her eyebrows. “Didn’t get out with it though.”

“Mm. There was an ambush, and I had to destroy it to save my team,” the girl murmured. “You didn’t?”

“…I well, I was a little slow about it,” was all Pansy said. “What I saw…”

“Yes?”

“No, it’s none of your business, Lovegood. I’m just surprised you managed.”

“One tries.”

“Speaking of which, Lovegood, is there a reason you changed out of your normal robes?” Pansy inquired, eying the dress the girl was wearing. “That kind of thing isn’t quite I expect to see during a raid on an ancient temple.”

“I had my reasons,” Luna answered, but she left it at that.

“Alright, Matou, I assume you’re going through, since you’re team leader,” Pansy remarked, turning her attention back to the boy who led them. “Who’s in charge while you’re gone?”

Shinji glanced over his team – Pansy Parkinson, Luna Lovegood, Daphne Greengrass, Neville Longbottom, Fay Dunbar, and nodded, having already decided. Especially as he knew the reason behind Luna’s current state of dress – though not why she’d chosen it for this run, as opposed to the others. As the only one who’d actually faced the ambush, he had no doubt she would be able to hold until he got back.

“Luna, you’re in command.”

The girl in white curtseyed.

“As you wish,” she replied, her voice carrying little of the dreamy quality it normally held, only a quiet sense of determination.

Preparing himself for whatever was to come, Matou Shinji downed the vial of Fire-Protection Potion and passed through the flames.

100%

Matou Shinji thought he was ready for anything, but as he stepped out of the flames, he found himself confused as he found himself in what looked like Mahoutokoro, around the time of Tanabata, if the fireworks and decorations were any indication.

He was standing on a bridge, facing a masked figure looking out upon the city below, a figure clad in a midnight purple yukata patterned with the faintest impression of red-violet leaves, held together with a golden obi.

“You have come, Matou Shinji,” the other said – in perfect Japanese – as she turned to him, removing her mask.

Shinji swallowed, not expecting to hear that familiar voice here, to see a face that was familiar in its own way.

“Sokaris,” he breathed. For that was the person before his eyes: Sialim Sokaris – not as Sion Eltnam Atlasia, the older Director of Atlas, but as his friend – the girl he had known at Hogwarts. Only she looked a little different…as if her age mirrored his. “Why am I not surprised to see you here?”

“It is Tanabata, is it not?” the other inquired, with the boy only able to smile.

“It is,” Shinji remarked. “Here.”

Even though it wasn’t elsewhere in the world.

“Yet here we are,” the other noted, her lips quirking for a moment into what might have been a smile – but only for a moment. “Stand with me.”

Shinji smiled faintly. If it were Sion, he would refuse her nothing but…

“…I would…if you were real…” he said, even though every one of his senses told her that Sokaris was there, in front of him. He could see the moonlight on her bronzed skin, feel the heat of the desert lingering on her, smell the desert sands…and yet…..

“Am I not, Matou Shinji?” the girl asked, her eyes almost curious.

“No,” Shinji said with a sigh, turning away from the image of the one who meant so much to him. This…this wasn’t her. He knew it wasn’t. Sion was…the Director of Atlas was back in Egypt, so… “As much as I wish you were.”

“Does that matter?” the voice of Sialim Sokaris asked. He could feel her gaze burning into his head, and fought against every bit of desire he had. “Here and now, we are here. Do you find my company…unpleasant?”

“…no,” the boy said after moment. “And if things were different…” He trailed off, unable to find the words he wanted to say. “There are people waiting for me. There’s something I have to do. I’m…” The boy shook his head. “I have to go.”

“Are you certain, Matou?” the girl asked, her voice almost a whisper as she came to stand by his side. “If you go, we will not meet again.”

“I…” Shinji swallowed. He was tempted, tempted beyond anything to just give in, but… “I’m sorry, Sokaris.”

Having made up his mind, he glanced up at her to find that the figure of Sialim Sokaris was dissolving into golden motes of light, just like the false Mahoutokoro, leaving only a room wrought of stone, with a chalice upon on the altar.

After taking a quick glance about for traps, and seeing nothing obvious, he took hold of the Grail, before turning to go and passing through the curtain of flame once more.

100%

Whump-boom!

An explosion blew away those who had been left behind – or would have, if they hadn’t already raised Shield Charms. As it was, the first strike blew away their shields, with spell-beams tearing through the space they used to occupy and stunning half the team, leaving only Pansy and Luna standing.

“There’s too many of them,” Pansy quipped, as she tried launching her own spell beams at the enemy, only to find her attacks blocked. “Six of them.”

Shadowy versions of each member of the team, capable of using every ability they’d displayed up until the time of the attack.

Including Matou Shinji and his ofuda.


Pansy had seen how powerful Matou was in battle, had heard rumors about him, knew the stories, and had been present when he’d blown away the Boggart. But in her mind, she’d always harbored some doubt as to how strong he could be.

She had none now, not when the false Shinji he had blown away most of their team with a single attack, before following up with a swarm of ofuda to bind them.

Like anyone else might, she used gouts of fire to try and burn them, but there was too much coming at her – and he wasn’t alone. There was a full team against Lovegood and herself, with spellbeams ruthlessly slicing through the air as Pansy dodged and blocked and moved.

Whump-boom!

And then a second sphere of ofuda came too close, erupting into a storm of force that tore apart her defenses and slammed her into the wall.

‘Matou…where are you…?’

But even Matou Shinji couldn’t beat himself and a team, could he?

‘A no-win scenario…’

She understood now. The more skill, the more power one brought to bear against it, the more would be brought to bear against the challengers. That was why it was a no-win scenario. Why there hadn’t been a chance from the beginning.

And yet…Luna still stood.

‘Huh. Wha…?’

As Pansy looked on, beams of red and blue and green slammed into the blonde without effect, with the ofuda being pushed back by something like an invisible wall, with the world around Luna Lovegood wavering.

‘Are her eyes…glowing…?’

No…it had to be a trick of the light. Her eyes had to be playing tricks on her, had to be—

In the next moment, Pansy screamed as a terrible sound filled the air, as if the very air itself was being torn apart, was howling in pain.

The corridor pulsed.

From Lovegood, something surged forth. Roiling waves, like a shredder with hundreds, thousands, no, countless blades, racing down the hallway…

…and obliterating the bodies of their attackers, leaving behind nothing but a fine red mist.

In a single instant, the doppelgangers had vanished. Distorted, sliced, compressed, utterly destroyed, with the architect of their demise – Luna Lovegood – standing there untouched, calmly regarding the space where their enemies had been.

Pansy was silent, finding herself utterly stunned – and more than a little fearful, as the girl turned to regard her, her hands glowing gold.

But as Lovegood’s delicate fingers touched her, Pansy felt a sense of peace, soothing away her pains, and refilling her energy.

“You…” Pansy whispered, swallowing. “…how did you?”

Her voice trailed off. She had trained rigorously, learning as much from the Book of Spells as she could this year, but…Pansy Parkinson knew her limits better than anyone else, and she knew she wasn’t capable of using something like this.

Of doing something like this.

She knew that Luna could use wandless magic, but to utterly destroy even Matou Shinji…how…?

“Who are you? Are you Matou’s…”

“We train together. Every morning,” Luna responded, tilting her head. “I usually win, too.”

Pansy’s face went slack in shock as she heard that, her mind freezing. What? Not…what? This was so beyond her that…

Laughter.

Someone was laughing hysterically.

It took Pansy a while to realize it was her, and even longer for her to stop laughing.

“…you and Matou, huh? I…well…I guess you’re going to be the next Stone Cutter, if anything.”

“Mm,” Luna responded. Before the blonde could say more, Shinji emerged from the curtain of fire, raising an eyebrow at the sight of half his team crumpled to the ground.

“It’s over already?” Shinji inquired.

“Indeed,” Luna answered, and with that, the scenario ended, with the others stirring as the cold surroundings of the temple faded away, with both Rober Hillard and Gilderoy Lockhart looking on in mild surprise.

“So…” the History Professor began, looking at Matou Shinji and Luna Lovegood. “You have succeeded in claiming the Holy Grail. I suppose I should have known that someone would beat the no-win scenario, eh, Hillard?”

“…well, I suppose I did say there was no such thing,” the Head Boy allowed. “Even so, that was…unexpected. Any questions?”

“One,” Shinji found himself saying. “What I saw when I passed through the flames. Why…?”

“Desire is stronger than fear, Mister Matou,” Lockhart replied. “Even if your mind knows that something is an illusion, it is far harder than most realize to toss away a dream. It takes extraordinary strength of will, in fact.” He turned his cold gaze upon Pansy. “Isn’t that right, Miss Parkinson.”

“…yes, Professor.”

“I will say, I am impressed, overall. By your strength of will and by…Miss Lovegood’s unexpected abilities.” The man chuckled dryly. “I am surprised you managed to hold that power in reserve, more than anything else, but then you aren’t the first to surprise me so. Congratulations are in order.”
“Thank you, Professor,” Shinji replied.

“Of course,” Lockhart said. “To congratulate you all for completing your challenge and to introduce our new members, there will be a banquet tonight, which all of the Ourea are welcome to. But first, Matou, if you, Lovegood, and Hillard would join me in my office for a moment?”

100%

“…so, how long have you been a Stone Cutter, Miss Lovegood?” was the first question out of Gilderoy Lockhart’s mouth once they were seated in the privacy of his office. “Shortly after the first Capture the Flag game, I imagine?”

“Yes,” Luna confirmed.

“I suppose I should have expected it. There are few other explanations for why you would resign from your post as captain of Team Snorkack,” Lockhart noted. “That said, you have a worthwhile successor in Anthony Goldstein. He even proved himself admirably tonight.”

“He did,” Shinji interjected. “So you wanted to talk to us?”

“Yes, Mister Matou,” the Assassin replied with a thin smile. “Now, given the nature of the scenario that you designed, Mister Hillard, I take it you expect the Stone Cutters to face Acromantulae soon?”

“...well. Yes,” Hillard admitted. The Head Boy proceeded to outline the basics of the plan to confront the Acromantulae colony during its time of hibernation, with the man listening expressionlessly. “I wanted to see how others would deal with these creatures.”

"I presume that you, yourselves, have no experience facing beasts such as these in large numbers?” Lockhart asked. “Given how accurately you modeled them, I imagine you have fought them before, however?”

Hillard nodded.

“A pity none of you are trained Magizoologists like Newton Scamander, who is one of those rare wizards, like myself, with a great deal of travel experience, though your fascination with strange creatures reminds me a little of the man, Miss Lovegood."

"As you say, Professor."

“Likewise, your abilities remind me of those of Djinns, but that’s neither here nor there, despite what an old teacher of mine would have to say about them,” Lockhart said brusquely. "Can I safely assume that the rest of you have other abilities like this?”

"Some of us, Professor," Shinji admitted after a few tense moments of silence, knowing that Lockhart would ferret out a lie.

"And what is the reason you are conducting this operation in secret?" he inquired. "I presume it is out of more than a desire for glory or the wealth that might be obtained from the destruction of such a colony?"

"...are you familiar with the history of Rubeus Hagrid?" Shinji asked, as Lockhart blinked, his lips curving downward in a tight frown as he recalled what he knew about the half-giant - specifically his expulsion from Hogwarts over a notorious incident almost half a century ago...

"I take it this is related to the Chamber of Secrets incident then?" the Assassin said flatly. "That this colony is his doing?"

"Yes," Shinji affirmed. "My sources tell me that the original spider was brought here by Hagrid."

"...troubling. Acromantulae tend to devour one another in the absence of other food, but if there is an Acromantula that has survived for nearly fifty years, it is likely to be immensely powerful and rather immense in size."

"...could you give me a size reference?"

"If most full-grown Acromantulae are about the size of carthorses, this one - and its mate, assuming it has only one - would likely be the size of a small elephant. And of course, the others are likely to be fiercely loyal to their leader while alive, meaning they will do whatever it takes to keep you from getting to him or her. Consider, if you will, the specter of a roiling wall of fangs and eyes and mouths, bearing down on your intrepid group."

Shinji felt a chill go down his spine at the thought of such an onslaught. Facing something like that might well stretch his abilities to their limits, even with the help of a trump.

"...I see," the boy whispered.

“I assume you have an estimate for the numbers involved?”

“Somewhere under a thousand, but over five hundred,” Hillard supplied, with Lockhart’s eyebrows both arching upward at the answer.

"A formidable number. Even for myself, that would be…a challenge.”

“Indeed,” Hillard noted.

“I suppose you'd be right to avoid letting others know. For if the half-giant found out about your intentions, he would likely interpose himself between the spiders and you. Or at least rally them as a force. And that point, things would get…interesting."

"...I hadn't considered that," Shinji admitted. He'd thought that Hagrid might warn the spiders or move them, but he supposed it was possible the half-giant would stand against them, and that would not be pleasant to deal with. The prospect of dealing with a grand army of beasts, coordinated by a dangerous magic-using foe was...well, it wasn’t something he was at all sure he would survive facing.

"I thought not. As powerful as your group is – as mighty the feats you have accomplished – you are yet young and innocent to the realities of the world. Consider the likely purpose of those spiders, powerful and dangerous beasts useful for protection...or for conquest."

"Conquest, sir?"

"Yes, Mister Matou," Lockhart responded gravely. "Conquest. If a powerful wizard was to...say transfer them to the Ministry via Portkey, where a fourth of Wizarding Britain is employed, these hungry beasts would appear amidst throngs of witches and wizards who couldn't cast a decent shield charm if their lives depended on it. You know what these spiders are capable of, as well as the average wizard. What do you think would happen next?"

Death. Death on a scale beyond anything Wizarding Britain had ever expected. Was prepared for. Could ever be prepared for.

"...that's..."

"This is the reality of what you are confronting," the Assassin said quietly, his cold gaze boring into the boy. "Even with every precaution you have made, I am unsure if it will be enough. I have no doubt you can slay a few - perhaps even a few score. But the longer you fight, the more tired you will become. And against the numbers you are proposing to face…."

"...I...see."

"However, there are ways to help mitigate the risks," the man allowed. "Beyond training and equipment."

"Yes?"

"Your ally Peeves," Lockhart replied, as Shinji's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "As someone who cannot be slain, someone who can be as material or immaterial as he wishes, the poltergeist presents an interesting asset to call upon, whether to draw attention, to kill the enemy, or call for help."

"Huh. I hadn't thought about that. He's not limited to the Castle then?"

"The spirit of chaos is linked to the castle and its grounds, presumably," the Assassin noted gravely. "I will provide some assistance myself by keeping watch for any sign of Rubeus Hagrid, preventing him from leaving the castle, if need be.”

Remembering his dream about an assassin slaying giants with little more than knives, Shinji had no doubt Lockhart would be able to do so.

"...that's very generous of you," the boy said cautiously.

"Perhaps. I have no desire to see your group perish. Britain does not need more martyrs, after all," the Assassin commented. "It needs leaders who are not as corrupt and self-serving as Lucius Malfoy. The Stone Cutters - the Ourea - both are symbols that change is possible, that the limits men impose upon themselves are false limits - that wizards and witches can be much more than the Ministry would believe. So for this, I am willing to lend some aid. Should more be required...we can work out the details then, agreed?"

"Agreed, Professor."

“And you, Mister Hillard?”

“Yes.”

“Miss Lovegood, you are a Stone Cutter – are you agreed as well?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I am glad to hear it,” Lockhart replied. “There’s just one more thing.”

"Yes, Professor?" Shinji asked warily.

"As useful as scenarios like the Kobayashi Maru are in expanding a student's worldview, they are no substitute for going abroad and seeing the realities of the world,” the Assassin remarked, a smile playing at the corners of his lips. “So I am inclined to take a member of the Ourea under my wing this summer, so to speak, with that member experiencing the life of an adventurer.”

“Did you have anyone in mind?” Luna questioned.

“Frankly, I had thought to take you, Miss Lovegood, but I suppose you have other plans?”

“I do,” the girl confirmed. “I will be Brazil this summer.”

“And Mister Hillard, you have Auror training, don’t you?”

“Yes, Professor.”

“Matou, you would have made an interesting adventurer, but I am aware of your obligations in Mahoutokoro. So…of the remaining members of the Ourea, do you have any recommendations? Mister Diggory aside, that is?"

Shinji thought for a moment, with his mind finding the name of a girl who wanted more than anything else to leave Britain – and who had done reasonably well.

“Pansy Parkinson.”

100%

Choice 95: Well, you've seen Ron's Kobayashi. Does he deserve to join the Ourea?

[ ] Yes
[ ] No

Choice 96: In terms of loot from the Spider Raid, what are you more interested in? So far, the Stone Cutter have talked about the venom, but you know there's more than just that.

[ ] Venom - its 100 Galleons a pint. That's considerable, and given our earlier expenses...
[ ] Forego the venom, ask for the silk and carapaces - Master was interested in some of both, and having a large supply of spider silk can be valuable, given its special properties...

Nanao-kun
November 24th, 2015, 12:40 AM
Luna a great.

skulkidcachi90
November 24th, 2015, 12:52 AM
Choice 95:

[X] Yes
[ ] No

Choice 96:
[ ] Venom - its 100 Galleons a pint. That's considerable, and given our earlier expenses...
[X] Forego the venom, ask for the silk and carapaces - Master was interested in some of both, and having a large supply of spider silk can be valuable, given its special properties...

mr_Trickster
November 24th, 2015, 12:56 AM
That was absolutely lovely, Alf. Thank you for the great chapter.

As for votes:

Ron has potential, and as one that is both willing to learn and beginning to take the opportunity to see the world in a broader way, I believe that, [x] - yes, he deserves a shot in the Ourea.

As for what to do with our share, we are already aware of what long-term benefits we can earn from taking the silk and carapces. There's also the added benefit of more Touko rep which we want as landing her apprenticeship full time is also one of our primary goals for this year. We'll be dry for a while, but it will certainly pay off when the time comes. [x] - Forego the venom, ask for the silk and carapaces.

Cassius
November 24th, 2015, 01:02 AM
[x] yes
[x] Forego the venom, ask for the silk and carapaces - Master was interested in some of both, and having a large supply of spider silk can be valuable, given its special properties...

Nephirin
November 24th, 2015, 03:06 AM
[x]Yes
[x]Forgoe the venom

By the way, what would have happened had we sent Luna in instead?

alfheimwanderer
November 24th, 2015, 03:29 AM
By the way, what would have happened had we sent Luna in instead?

She, like Shinji, would have been able to retrieve the Grail. While she does wish to see her Mother again, she knows that such will happen one day - in due time. Between Shinji and the others, there would have been a standoff outside, with ofuda against ofuda and the others matching one another.

Longer battle though, with Luna coming out to break the effective tie.

Omida
November 24th, 2015, 04:25 AM
So chapter entirely dedicated to Kobayashi... I would say that Ron's development is shown great this chapter. He is example of average wizard, so it was obvious he wouldn't manage to win, but it feels good for him to be acknowledged by Lockhart and Hillard. The nature of a final trap is also interesting. Defenders face mirror images of a team while the one to go their desire? In that case it's good we left Luna behind indeed.

[X] Yes - I think we agree that Ron deserves a chance at greatness. He came a long way from where he started and admittedly did good during his Kobayashi Maru.

[X] Forego the venom, ask for the silk and carapaces - Master was interested in some of both, and having a large supply of spider silk can be valuable, given its special properties... - While money is always nice, Shinji's strenght lies in in his connections, I think. So doing another favor to Touko is for me more valuable. Those kind of people don't grow on trees after all, and it would be real shame to loose her.

Magus
November 24th, 2015, 05:28 AM
[x] Yes

[x] Forgo the venom.

gesalt
November 24th, 2015, 07:49 AM
[X] No

[X] Silk and carapaces

Malgos
November 24th, 2015, 09:43 AM
Yes, he has a lot of potential and even Lockhart thinks so.

Get the silk and carapaces.

saki
November 24th, 2015, 11:16 AM
[x] Yes

[x] Forgo the venom.(If money is needed we can sell the silk)

What was that attack from luna?? It seemed to be air not earth.

mAc Chaos
November 24th, 2015, 01:31 PM
She, like Shinji, would have been able to retrieve the Grail. While she does wish to see her Mother again, she knows that such will happen one day - in due time. Between Shinji and the others, there would have been a standoff outside, with ofuda against ofuda and the others matching one another.

Longer battle though, with Luna coming out to break the effective tie.

So would there have been a difference between them either way? Or was the real trap sending neither of them.

saki
November 24th, 2015, 01:47 PM
So would there have been a difference between them either way? Or was the real trap sending neither of them.

Yes, Pansy was the losing choice.

All That Is Left Unsaid
November 24th, 2015, 02:39 PM
Interesting. It sounds like more of the team would have survived if Shinji had remained behind. Perhaps the best case scenario would have been sending Pansy through the flame, allowing Shinji and Luna to cut loose on the ambushers. Still, I think it was appropriate for the team leader to be the one to face the final challenge each time.

[x] Yes

[x] Forego the venom, ask for the silk and carapaces - Master was interested in some of both, and having a large supply of spider silk can be valuable, given its special properties...

alfheimwanderer
November 24th, 2015, 03:51 PM
So would there have been a difference between them either way? Or was the real trap sending neither of them.

You'd have seen a different scene, certainly, if you'd chosen either Pansy or Luna to go in. Both would have cost Shinji a good bit more ofuda, though with him there maintaining the balance, Luna might not have needed to use her fusion abilities to that degree. If you'd sent in Pansy, there's a question whether or not she could overcome the temptation of what she saw, as she didn't the first time...

Malgos
November 24th, 2015, 05:32 PM
Luna might not have needed to use her fusion abilities to that degree.

Well this might not be a bad thing, if people ask Pansy about the run and they find out that Luna was a driving force in it they might give Luna a bit more respect.

saki
November 24th, 2015, 06:22 PM
The fact that she had a breakdawn ma be a problem but i will not think about it for now.

Caster
November 24th, 2015, 08:43 PM
Luna had a breakdown? Not exactly seeing it. The impression I got was calm, but ridiculously powerful.

Also, since Pansy is relatively important to the plot, and I'm not sure I'll see you on IRC before I go, what elements/affinity does Pansy have?

alfheimwanderer
November 24th, 2015, 09:56 PM
Luna had a breakdown? Not exactly seeing it. The impression I got was calm, but ridiculously powerful.

I think he meant that Pansy broke down into hysterical laughter, not Luna.

Caster
November 24th, 2015, 09:59 PM
Yes, that makes more sense. Though I would imagine Pansy would omit that.

Veldril
November 25th, 2015, 10:53 AM
[x] Yes

He had a potential to grow more so let's give him a chance.

[x] Forgo venoms and focus on silk.

Although it might be better to also collect some venom to cover some of the expense.

BTW, is it just me or Luna's power is kinda like Arcueid's Marble Phantasm that she used against Roa in her route? Man, Luna is truly becoming really really strong.

mAc Chaos
November 25th, 2015, 01:38 PM
Did you guys see any hints what Pansy saw in that room?

Mattias
November 25th, 2015, 01:52 PM
[x] Let Ron in. Even if he's a bit of a dick, so was Malfoy. We need an ass in the group.

[x] Silk and such. What Touko wants, we get her. Besides what do we really need the venom for? More money? That's what the Bank of RoR is for. Even if we're a bit low now, we can always sell off some crystal chandeliers or old tomes of animal husbandry and make it back. Always go for the unique item.


Did you guys see any hints what Pansy saw in that room?

My guess is something to deal with her leaving Britain. Maybe becoming a female version of Lockheart?

alfheimwanderer
November 25th, 2015, 04:14 PM
BTW, is it just me or Luna's power is kinda like Arcueid's Marble Phantasm that she used against Roa in her route? Man, Luna is truly becoming really really strong.

Mm, she did indeed manipulate the air in that fashion, given her elemental affinities. Shinji, on the other hand, has access to Petrification, so both have the potential to be quite powerful.

saki
November 25th, 2015, 06:45 PM
Mm, she did indeed manipulate the air in that fashion, given her elemental affinities. Shinji, on the other hand, has access to Petrification, so both have the potential to be quite powerful.

How can a wood or earth elemental gives air powers??
Whats the relationship between the elemental affinity and the familiar?