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BibliophileGoat
August 25th, 2015, 07:20 AM
[X] Gratitude to Lockhart for his quick thinking and action
[X] Suggest that a defense club needs to be organized, because next time Lockhart might not be there

[X] Ask Lockhart for training - the man is obviously skilled
[X] Spend more time training with the Stone Cutters

alfheimwanderer
August 26th, 2015, 12:50 AM
[X] Gratitude to Lockhart for his quick thinking and action
[X] Suggest that a defense club needs to be organized, because next time Lockhart might not be there
[x] Ask Lockhart for training - the man is obviously skilled
[x] Spend more time training with the Stone Cutters

100%

In the first of the Potions-Herbology classes, which meets outside near the Forbidden Forest, Professor Snape has announced a rather interesting assignment: students will be placed into groups of three to brew the Wiggenweld Potion (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Wiggenweld_Potion). As a first year potion, it would normally be fairly simple...except for the fact that students will not be allowed to use their ingredient kits. Instead, Snape and Sprout have prepared a tangled labyrinth, with each team of three assigned to a position within, and the various ingredients either growing freely (in the case of plants), or hidden in caches.

Each team has three roles - a Brewer, a Defender, and a Scout/Scavenger.

- Brewers, like the name implies, are in charge of preparing the ingredients and brewing the potion for the group, and may not use their wands for any other purpose.
- Scout/Scavengers are the ones tasked with going through the Labyrinth and collecting the ingredients for the Brewer's use - and are allowed free use of their wands.
- Defenders must remain within the bounds of the team's "base camp", and are tasked with defending the Brewer, but may not help with preparation of ingredients. They may become Scouts if their team's primary scavenger has been incapacitated, OR Brewers if their teams primary Brewer has been incapacitated.

Scouts may incapacitate other scouts, attack Brewers, or Defenders. Defenders may incapacitate scouts in their field of view. Grades will vary based on quality and time required to complete potion within a 3 hour period allotted for the class. A team with both Brewer and Defender, or both its Defender and Scout incapacitated, will receive a score of zero for that session.

Choice 32: Both Hermione and Harry wish to work with us as Brewers. Who do we wish to partner with for this class? (choose 1)

[ ] Hermione
[ ] Harry
[ ] Neither

Choice 33: Which role would you like to play? (choose 1)

[ ] Defender
[ ] Scavenger
[ ] Brewer (only if Harry or Hermione are not picked)

gesalt
August 26th, 2015, 12:56 AM
[X] Harry
[X] Defender

mangafreak7793
August 26th, 2015, 01:02 AM
[ ] Scavenger

Alf said we can use our Familiar in this exercise, which will be good practice in working with our familiar

Harry

Omida
August 26th, 2015, 01:06 AM
[X] Harry
[X] Scavenger

Vagrant
August 26th, 2015, 01:18 AM
Hermione
Scavenger

Harry would make an ideal Defender and maybe a couple of hours together alone in the forest with a purpose would help the two bond or at least fix their relationship a little now that Hermione has had her Sokaris breakthrough.

mangafreak7793
August 26th, 2015, 01:20 AM
Hermione
Scavenger

Harry would make an ideal Defender and maybe a couple of hours together alone in the forest with a purpose would help the two bond or at least fix their relationship a little now that Hermione has had her Sokaris breakthrough.

How would pairing with Hermonie help with that? Also Harry as a defender will leave him defending the base camp, which he will be unable to leave the general area.

Kishou the Badger
August 26th, 2015, 02:07 AM
[x] Hermione
[x] Defender

We just cheered the girl up that she's good with potions. Let's encourage that trust by working with her and being the bodyguard.

Vagrant
August 26th, 2015, 02:45 AM
How would pairing with Hermonie help with that? Also Harry as a defender will leave him defending the base camp, which he will be unable to leave the general area.

Hermione - Brewer
Shinji - Scavenger
???? - Defender

I want Harry to fill in that Defender role and then he and Hermione will have some goal-oriented alone time together at the base camp where both can utilise their best areas of skill (Potions/DADA respectively) and hopefully gain some much needed respect for each other or just hate each other less now that it's actually beenmentioned how Hermione realised she was lashing out at others to avoid dealing with Sokaris' death and has since actually started dealing with it.

mangafreak7793
August 26th, 2015, 02:48 AM
Hermione - Brewer
Shinji - Scavenger
???? - Defender

I want Harry to fill in that Defender role and then he and Hermione will have some goal-oriented alone time together at the base camp where both can utilise their best areas of skill (Potions/DADA respectively) and hopefully gain some much needed respect for each other or just hate each other less now that it's actually beenmentioned how Hermione realised she was lashing out at others to avoid dealing with Sokaris' death and has since actually started dealing with it.

Yet that is not an option since it says choose one?

mr_Trickster
August 26th, 2015, 03:18 AM
The main reason that Harry is running into this event as a Brewer is because he considers this practice for the potions competition - and a way for him to show his competency. With this in mind, we know that Harry and Hermoine are competing for the same position of Hogwarts Champion.

Scavenger is the definite choice for me here, as this would be an excellent time for Shinji to work with his familiar and possibly grind out some points with it while at the same time possibly proving his own competence within the field or gather experience from it.

The decision for Harry or Hermoine is a little harder here. I'd like to think that Harry would be alright with Shinji helping out a friend, while at the same time working with Harry would tighten bonds with the Stone Cutters further. I'd like to see some additional input from the others for this, but I'll still make a provisionary vote in the meantime.

[x] - Harry Potter
[x] - Scavenger

Vagrant
August 26th, 2015, 03:21 AM
Yet that is not an option since it says choose one?

Choose 1 Brewer. Doesn't mean I can't speculate on Defender options.

Cassius
August 26th, 2015, 06:10 AM
[ ] Hermione
[ ] Defender

Actually based on what Alf has been saying on the chat, I'd give decent odds he'll put Daphne with Harry and Pansy with Hermione. He has been saying Pansy will try and sabotage Hermione during this year to try and get with Shinji.

Magus
August 26th, 2015, 06:23 AM
[x] Hermione

[x] Defender

Vagrant
August 26th, 2015, 06:49 AM
How does 1 person join a group of 2 if neither of the others are interested in working with her though?

mr_Trickster
August 26th, 2015, 07:03 AM
Looking at the newer posts, and with a few idle thoughts I had throughout the day, there's a chance that Sokaris might be keeping an eye on Hermoine through Sykri. Of course, this is just an assumption made care of the idea with the Giant's Pit and a few conversations I had with some people. I'm not sure Sion would be too happy to see us leaving a mutual friend in the dust, especially since Harry will already be getting quite a bit of our attention throughout this year - or at least I'd like to think so considering how high Stone Cutters are going to be on our priority list.

The information regarding Pansy might also be something to note. Shinji's presence may cause the Slytherin girl to think twice about doing something like that in lieu of possibly screwing us over as well.

So I'm switching my vote over to Hermoine, though I'm still not switching out of Scavenger as this is something that would benefit Shinji, most likely.

[x] - Hermoine

EDIT:

Alf, does the Kodama's kit include abilities that allow it to sense things? Besides for searching, like sensing intruders and such? Because if yes, and one of our main goals is to train with the use of Kodama, we might be able to utilize it in this way. Of course, this may cause our specialization to start to swing from offensive to defensive in the long run, we might be able to strike up a balance. Would like to know the answer to this question if I'm switching votes to defender, please.

Mattias
August 26th, 2015, 08:51 AM
[]Hermy. Harry will be fine with Daphne who I'm assuming he wants to be the third of his group.

[]Scout. We have a magical tree familiar, it would be a great help.

Nephirin
August 26th, 2015, 11:38 AM
Hermione and Scavenger

Malgos
August 26th, 2015, 12:22 PM
Going to have to ditch Harry on this. I think he would understand helping Hermione, though. And I guess Scavenger makes the most sense, so there's that.

Kelnish
August 26th, 2015, 12:24 PM
Hermione and scavenger.

This doesnt seem like a good learning activity. Bad job teachers.

All That Is Left Unsaid
August 26th, 2015, 01:55 PM
[x] Hermione
[x] Defender

Tough choice. I could see Zelkova as being helpful for either role, a useful scouting aid for a Scavenger, or a second set of eyes at the very least with a Defender. This news about Pansy though, is concerning and leaving her alone with Hermione as a Defender would probably be the same as not being on her team at all. I have to wonder though, if Shinji could act separately from Zelkova for the exercise. That is, could he be a Scavenger, but leave Zelkova as a second set of eyes with Hermione and the Defender, or act as a Defender, but instruct Zelkova to help their group's Scavenger seek out the ingredients after tossing up a bounded field over their base?

Of course, either scenario could also backfire: As a Scavenger, without Zelkova he might have trouble finding the ingredients, and as a Defender he might be more susceptible to ambush, though I would think his experience with the tanuki would mitigate this a fair bit.

alfheimwanderer
August 26th, 2015, 02:37 PM
Alf, does the Kodama's kit include abilities that allow it to sense things? Besides for searching, like sensing intruders and such? Because if yes, and one of our main goals is to train with the use of Kodama, we might be able to utilize it in this way.

The Kodama, due to its nature, can indeed sense things like people and foreign prana. It could also possibly possess the trees around the area, giving it a wider set of information, though it is unlikely to just throw up a bounded field for something like this. And for the purposes of this exercise, its probably best not to act apart.

mr_Trickster
August 26th, 2015, 03:13 PM
The Kodama, due to its nature, can indeed sense things like people and foreign prana. It could also possibly possess the trees around the area, giving it a wider set of information, though it is unlikely to just throw up a bounded field for something like this. And for the purposes of this exercise, its probably best not to act apart.

Thank you, Alf.

I feel like this could be a case of taking a fox and a chicken across the river. We cannot leave either alone together. Now, if we push through with scavenger, it's entirely possible that Pansy could lure enemies to Hermoine and have that sabotage the latter. I personally find this unlikely as this would cause Pansy to appear incompetent to Shinji and I am certain that this is not what she wants. Another scenario is that Pansy will screw up the brew while Hermoine is distracted in some way. This is the most likely situation, I'd imagine unless Pansy can interact with the ingredients in some way while it is in transit between Shinji and Hermoine such as if he passes the items to Pansy first so that she may pass it to Hermoine instead.

Now, if Shinji was the defender, failing to find the needed ingredients would make Pansy look incapable with little to divert the blame to anyone besides herself. This would force her to perform as best she can and have little room to screw around. Assuming she doesn't tamper with them beforehand, but I'd imagine Hermoine would catch on to that.

On top of this, defender would still allow us to practice working with Zelkova using quite possibly the same set of abilities we would have used if we were acting as a scavenger.

Of course, this is all done under the assumption that the thing with Pansy is not a red herring, which is entirely possible.

Worst case, running as defender would allow Shinji to get his practice while still managing to have reasonable deniability should things go south, and maintain points with Hermoine.

So to make my decision official:

[x] - Hermoine
[x] - Defender

alfheimwanderer
August 26th, 2015, 03:31 PM
Minor change to the ruleset.

- Defenders may now also become Brewers if their teams primary Brewer has been incapacitated.
- A team with both Brewer and Defender, or both its Defender and Scout incapacitated, will receive a score of zero for that session.

mr_Trickster
August 26th, 2015, 03:43 PM
Thank goodness we did not dump potions, then.

Defender appears to be an even more advantageous position now, them, as it would allow Shinji to step in as necessary. I'd imagine any dissenters wouldn't want to actually fail the challenge as their own ass is as much on the line as the person they're trying to sabotage.

Would brewers be permitted to use their wands to defend themselves if their defender is incapacitated? Or for that matter, would a defender-turned-brewer lose their right to use their wands for combat?

alfheimwanderer
August 26th, 2015, 03:45 PM
Would brewers be permitted to use their wands to defend themselves if their defender is incapacitated? Or for that matter, would a defender-turned-brewer lose their right to use their wands for combat?

- Brewers are not allowed to use their wands to defend themselves, even if Defender is incapacitated.
- Defenders who become Brewers are no longer allowed to use their wands for combat

Each position has its benefits and restrictions to keep in mind. Scavengers may encounter other scouts and may have to deal with them. Defenders cannot move from base camp and can only take another role if one of their fellows is incapacitated. Brewers focus on preparing the potion and must trust the Defender to protect them

mr_Trickster
August 26th, 2015, 03:57 PM
So it's a complete roll switch and not a roll append. Thank for that clarification.

Well, I still cannot think of a reason to switch my votes again as of yet.

If I may clarify, however, and I apologize if this is reaching the realm of stupid, but a scout present with the brewer while the defender is incapacitated is permitted to attack any would-be intruders, yes? Or act as a substitute defender should he/she is done scavenging and the potion is being completed, yes?

Would any spells or enchantments cast before switching to brewer still be "legal?" Or may a familiar defend the brewer since we would technically be only denied our wands; would Ofuda be permitted?

alfheimwanderer
August 26th, 2015, 04:03 PM
Scouts are allowed free use of their wands, and are permitted to enter the labyrinth area to find ingredients. This in no way forbids them from entering or defending Base Camp. This does not change if the Defender is knocked out.

At this age, few have lingering spells/enchantments - though if you have hexed someone while you are a defender, you are not required to undo that hex once you become a Brewer. Ofuda has not been explicitly forbidden. Familiars have not been either, but how much of Zelkova's ability do you want to show?

mr_Trickster
August 26th, 2015, 04:24 PM
So it would also be entirely possible for Shinji to leave Ofuda or other such enchantments to assist in the defense of the camp while being away scavenging. From what I see, Scavenger would allow us the most freedom of movement while Defender would allow us the most flexibility in the event of an emergency.


Ultimately, this is a risk-reward choice. Our current skillset would allow us to help in defending to an extent while being able to possibly hunt down and remove threats preemptively. Which tells me that scavenger would maximize our potential more. Internal issues can be dealt with in much the same way I'd already discussed in my previous posts, I'll have to suppose.


You're really not making this easy are you, Alf? Hahahahaha


Fine, though, I'd rather be active than reactive in this situation, so back to scavenger it is.

[x] - Scavenger

Kuroyuki
August 26th, 2015, 05:57 PM
[X] Harry
[X] Scavenger

All That Is Left Unsaid
August 26th, 2015, 06:11 PM
The Kodama, due to its nature, can indeed sense things like people and foreign prana. It could also possibly possess the trees around the area, giving it a wider set of information, though it is unlikely to just throw up a bounded field for something like this. And for the purposes of this exercise, its probably best not to act apart.

Thanks for the info. That said, I will keep my choice as Defender. Reason being that the role will require the Defender to protect both themselves and the Brewer in the event of an attack, and Zelkova gives Shinji more options here, even if they are limited to early warnings. Ofuda would allow at least some degree of enchantment (however limited) to protect the Brewer if Shinji were forced to assume the role of Scavenger in an emergency.

Could a silencing Ofuda be placed on the Brewer so they wouldn't make any noise in order to hide? It might bring up bad memories for Hermione though.

alfheimwanderer
August 26th, 2015, 06:23 PM
Could a silencing Ofuda be placed on the Brewer so they wouldn't make any noise in order to hide? It might bring up bad memories for Hermione though.

Such is possible. As you've mentioned, however, possible bad memories, and if she can't talk, she can't warn you if she sees something or such.

BibliophileGoat
August 26th, 2015, 06:34 PM
[X] Harry
[X] Scavenger

EnigmaticFellow
August 26th, 2015, 08:57 PM
[X] Harry
[X] Scavenger

Mint
August 27th, 2015, 11:34 AM
[X] Hermione
[X] Scavenger

Aodyssey
August 28th, 2015, 02:20 AM
[X] Hermione and [X] Scout

You know, I think we should find some time to straight up tell Hermione we're just not that into her. Stringing her along is one hell of a dick move, intentionally or not.

alfheimwanderer
August 28th, 2015, 02:44 AM
[X] Hermione
[X] Scavenger

100%

Chapter 13. Tactics Time

Matou Shinji reeled back as a brilliant jet of red tore through the space his head had occupied just a split-second before, followed by a miniature whirlwind of Knockback Jinxes that nearly sent him sprawling.

Ambush.

He supposed he should have expected something of the sort, given the chaotic mess that Potions-Herbology was turning out to be, but he hadn’t thought anyone would use this sort of tactic, given that he was used to dealing with his own class. If he hadn’t instinctively dodged after seeing that the cache was empty…

‘Whoever is up in the trees would have gotten me.’

Buying himself time, the Ravenclaw conjured up a cloud of acrid black smoke to fill the area, obscuring the sight of his unknown assailant, and buying him a few precious seconds in which to assess the situation.

A shout of Verdimillious came from above, with an orb of glowing green energy hurtling down from above and exploding in a blinding flash of emerald light that would have disoriented him had he not closed his eyes at the last possible moment.

Opening his eyes once the brilliance had passed, Shinji grit his teeth as green sparks played over his limbs, making his movements disjointed and jerky, though more importantly, the glow marked his location for the enemy. Still, he knew where the enemy was too, so all he had to do was be faster.

“Verdimillious Tria!” he barked out, letting his anger fuel the powerful forks of jagged green lightning that arced from his wand towards his assailant – who screamed in agony as the attack struck home.

But the Matou boy was in mood to show mercy, as he kept up the attack, pouring his desire to crush his enemy into his assault until the form of Vincent Crabbe convulsed once, twice, thrice – and then went limp, eyes rolling back into his head as his wand slipped from his nerveless fingers and fell to the forest floor with barely a sound.
…followed shortly thereafter by a muffled thump as the Slytherin’s rather large body hit the forest floor.

Muttering a silent curse, Shinji dispersed the smokescreen and went to check his foe’s fallen form, rifling through the boy’s pouches and pockets to see what his opponent had found. Sure enough, he found a number of jars of Lionfish Spines – the potions ingredient that had presumably been hidden in the now-empty cache.

Apparently, the other boy had stumbled upon the stash first, and had decided to claim the entirety of the contents for himself. Why Crabbe hadn’t returned to his base camp at that point, Shinji didn’t know, though he suspected that the other boy might have heard someone approaching and decided to incapacitate the competition.

‘Me, in other words. Because if he had planned the ambush, it would have been more clever to leave one of the jars behind. I wouldn’t have suspected a thing then…’

He heard a crunch of feet on leaves behind him and he whirled to see the figure of Pansy Parkinson standing behind him, her wand pointed at his chest.

“Taking out the competition, Matou?” the brunette asked warily, raising an eyebrow in curiosity as she noted the unconscious form of Vincent Crabbe on the ground, with a number of ingredient jars scattered around him. “Didn’t expect that of a former Consul.”

“Hello Parkinson,” Shinji greeted genially, though he was careful not to make any sudden moves. He didn’t want her to act and force him to use his ofuda, after all. “And no, just acting in self-defense.” He lifted the jars in his hand. “He ambushed me, you see.”

“And took all of whatever ingredient was in this cache, evidently,” Pansy remarked, noting all the ingredients. “Foolish setup for an ambush, if you ask me. You need bait.”

“That’s exactly what I thought,” Shinji said agreeably. “Alas…”

“Alas indeed,” Pansy quipped. “So what was in this one, anyway?”

“Lionfish Spines,” Shinji said with a lopsided smile, casually tossing one of the jars over towards – but not quite at – Pansy, who caught it out of the air with her free hand, glancing at it for a moment to confirm the contents were what he said they were.

“Hm, that they are,” she confirmed. “You’re just giving these to me, when you could leave us all in the lurch like Crabbe tried to do?” the girl inquired coyly.

“Oh, I wouldn’t dare do that to a pretty girl who has a wand pointed at me,” Shinji replied glibly, with Pansy chuckling. “Besides, you’re working with Harry, and I wouldn’t do that to him.”

“Such touching loyalty,” she drawled, pocketing the item and – as he’d hoped – lowering her wand. “And what do you plan to do with the rest of those? Hide them? Take them back to your camp?”

“No. I’ll put them back, I think,” the Matou boy answered, the seed of a revenge plot coming to mind.

“What? All of them?” Pansy inquired. “Seems like a waste, since you could stop everyone else from finishing their potions.”

“With everyone suspecting it was me?” he asked, lips twisting into a wry smile. “That’s not worth it. Besides, it would set a bad example for next time.”

“…you have a point there,” the girl conceded reluctantly. “Still, you’re not going to do anything?”

“Oh, I didn’t say that,” Shinji replied with a smirk. “I’ll put them all back except one for myself, and one extra.”

“Why one extra?”

“While Goyle might enter the labyrinth if Crabbe falls…”

“…there will be a delay, so if he’s the last…”

“Exactly.”

“How very…cunning of you,” Pansy breathed, nodding appreciatively. “I assume you’ll be sending up the red sparks to signal the teachers that Crabbe was incapacitated?”

“Might as well. Then best to scatter, since everyone else will see it too.”

“Mind if I tag along? Just in case of another ambush, that is.”

Shinji weighed his options. For now, he had nothing against her accompanying him, and two wands were better than one.

“Why not?”

100%

After the debacle of the year’s first History of Magic Class, where a corrupt Ministry Official had almost killed them all, Matou Shinji’s mind had been working in overdrive, trying to figure out what happened. While the topic of the class had officially been the history of how werewolves were treated in Magical Britain, Shinji was fairly certain Professor Lockhart had intended to teach something far different: the lesson of how far those with power would go to retain it.

To the others in the class, the History Professor’s questioning of Dolores Umbridge seemed routine enough, given that he would point out inconsistencies with their arguments or viewpoints in much the same way, but then, most of them did not have as much to hide. With the threat of the lies she’d told being exposed to the world, the Head of the Improper Use of Magic Office had attempted to bring down the ceiling of the classroom and quite literally bury any witnesses to her humiliation – an event that had only been prevented by the decisive action of Gilderoy Lockhart.

‘Even I wouldn’t have been fast enough from where I was sitting.’

And if that spell had gone off…Matou Shinji thought he might have been able to protect himself using his ofuda, but he wouldn’t have been able to save anyone else. He could dodge spells aimed at him or use darkness to shield himself from something larger in scope. He probably could even stop a cracking ceiling from crumbling, but stopping that much debris from coming down on all their heads would have been beyond him.

In the aftermath of the incident, Hermione and a number of the other Ravenclaws had been quite upset by what happened, as they thought there had to have been another way things could have been resolved. While none of them thought Umbridge had been a pleasant woman, none of them had expected her to threaten the Professor, nor had understood that she had intended to bring down the ceiling with Bombarda Maxima. And surely, they thought, there had been no need to literally disarm the woman…

…but then, none of them knew that the “Rita” Lockhart had spoken to was one Rita Skeeter of the Daily Prophet, or the implications of this. Given what he’d said to the corrupt official after disarming her, most of the students assumed this Rita had been someone at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and that Lockhart was doing his part in a Ministry investigation.

But Shinji knew better.

The only reason Skeeter would be there – or perhaps had been listening in on a two-way mirror – was if Lockhart had intended from the outset to destroy Dolores Umbridge, with the woman playing right into his hands.

And while the woman’s insensate body had lay there afterwards, bound by conjured ropes, Lockhart had finished his lecture on how werewolves were much maligned, given the current evidence, and how the stigma of infection led many not to come forward. Corrupt officials like these drafted and passed laws without understanding the context of a situation or its likely consequences, abused the power of their office to advance hidden agendas that had nothing to do with the good of the people, and twisted the narrative of history to help them remain in power, taking credit for things they had not done and trying to avoid responsibility for the debacles they had.

“Do not absolve them of responsibility,” Lockhart had said. “For the Ministry exists to serve the wizards of Britain, not to control them.”

He’d dismissed them early, leaving Matou Shinji to reassure and comfort a shaken class of Third-Year Ravenclaws that things would be ok. Given that he’d faced a Dark Wizard and had masterminded the strategy that had let them beat Alastor Moody, his classmates were quite eager to hear what he thought of the situation.

Many of them wondered if they had really been in danger, and if so, why hadn’t he acted? Others wondered if Lockhart’s actions had been necessary. And some wondered if there was anything they could they do to protect themselves, as things had happened so quickly.

And as they made their way to a staging area near the Forbidden Forest where the Potions-Herbology classes would be held, he’d answered them.

Yes, they had been in danger, though even he hadn’t realized it until after the fact. For Dolores Umbridge did not call herself a Dark Witch or a Dark Lady. She’d worn the mantle of legitimate authority, benefiting from all the trust and respect ascribed to her position.

Yes, Professor Lockhart’s actions in disarming Umbridge had been necessary, if somewhat brutal. Given that she had been about to kill everyone in the room, mercy was not nearly as important as efficiency in eliminating the woman as a threat.

As for protecting themselves, Shinji had suggested that they form a Defense Association of sorts, in which they could practice what they learned in Defense against the Dark Arts. Given that a troll – and a Dark Wizard – had broken into Hogwarts during his first year, and Sirius Black had entered the castle during his second, even with Alastor Moody and a number of Hit-Wizards around, it was clear to him that as students, they could not leave the responsibility for their protection in the hands of the teachers, as the authorities might not always be there.

After all, with each and every one of them possessing wands, it was unconscionable that they did not train themselves to respond to threats, to act, to protect themselves.

‘Even the weakest magus learns how to fight effectively, after all…’

By and large, most practitioners of witchcraft did not bother, with most adult practitioners incapable of even casting a proper Shield Charm. Oh, they might know the theory, but when it came to actually practicing their spells, many put in as little effort as they could, not realizing that this knowledge could be the difference between life and death.

“Are you really sure something like this is necessary?” Terry Boot had asked, looking askance at Shinji. “I mean, how often—“

“If Lockhart hadn’t acted so quickly today, we would all be dead.” The harsh certainty in Matou Shinji’s voice made the others flinch – and left no room for argument. “He might not be there the next time. If you find yourself facing a troll, or an Erkling, or a practitioner of the Dark Arts, do you want to stand a chance? Or do you want to trust that someone else will protect you if you can’t protect yourself?”

As much as anything else, he wanted to be sure people wouldn’t be able to blame the Stone Cutters if they failed to stop an incident, for he knew far better than anyone else how mortal he and the others were, and how even they had limits, especially when taken by surprise.

“…when you put it that way, you have a point,” Su Li had conceded. “But who would run this Defense Association then? You? The Stone Cutters?”

“No,” Shinji had replied, shaking his head. He had enough things to do this year, without being put in charge of something new – working on his arts, training with his familiar, teaching Hermione about eastern herblore, and more. “The Ourea.”

The organization he headed, dedicated to the development of student leaders. Given all the scenarios Lockhart put them through, Shinji thought they would be well suited to lead – and train – others.

After all, there was only so much they could learn from simulations in the Book of Spells, no matter how realistic they might be. To go further, they had to lead others.

“We will…?“ Hermione had asked softly. Teaching people how to cast spells, fixing their pronunciation, or helping them with theory was one thing. That people would be counting on her to teach them how to protect themselves, when she’d failed her leadership challenge, her Kobayashi Maru? That was terrifying. “All of us?”

“Yes,” Shinji had affirmed with a smile. “All of us. Together.”

Shortly thereafter, they arrived at the staging area, where the third-year Slytherins were already waiting. There, Professors Snape and Sprout had greeted them, going over the expectations of the joint class and what it would entail.

“This will be the hardest, most challenging course you may ever take at Hogwarts, one that will quickly wash out any…dunderheads left in this school,” the Potions Master had begun, his dark eyes glancing over every member in the audience. “Until now, I have been…merciful, allowing you to brew potions from prepared ingredients in the safety and comfort of the dungeons, without any conditions except that you finish your potions within the time limit of a single class.”

He’d smiled coldly.

“But the time for mercy is…over.”

One could almost hear a collective gulp from the assembled students, who by now were quite worried as to what awaited them.

“In this new class, you will learn to harvest plant-based ingredients from the wild and prepare them for use in potions,” Professor Sprout filled in helpfully. “Wolfsbane, Mandrakes, Mint, and more. Those ingredients which do not require a working knowledge of Herbology will be provided, after a fashion.”

The Professor had gone on to explain that students would not be allowed to use their ingredient kits, but would be sent into a twisted labyrinth – a section of the Forbidden Forest – and broken into groups of three.

Each group would be assigned a “base camp” location, and each member would take on one of three roles: Scavengers, Brewer, or Defender.

Scavengers, the only role that could freely leave the team’s “base camp”, were tasked with collecting the potions ingredients hidden therein. These ingredients were sometimes free-growing, as with the case with plants, or else were hidden in sealed caches. As they would face danger from plants, animals, and each other, they were allowed full use of their wands.

Brewers, like the name implied, would remain at the base camp, where they were the only ones allowed to prepare ingredients and perform other tasks related to brewing the potion for the group. As such, they were not allowed to use their wands for any other purpose. The task of protecting them in case of attack fell to…

Defenders, who were also limited to the bounds of the base camp, and were tasked with defending the Brewer. In the event of an emergency, such as the incapacitation of the team’s Scavenger or Brewer, they were allowed to make a one-time role shift to fill the vacancy.

There would be one grade given for the group as a whole, depending on quality of the potion and time required to complete the potion within a 3 hour period allotted for the class, with one additional caveat - a team with both Brewer and Defender, or both Defender and Scavenger, incapacitated, will receive a score of zero for that session.

For this first session, Professor Snape had assigned the Wiggenweld Potion. As a first year potion, it would have fairly simple to make…in the classroom. Shinji had rather suspected things would be different with this setup, as it seemed almost designed to cause conflict among the students, and required each group to know their strengths well.

In the ten minutes allowed for team selection, Harry and Hermione had both approached him, asking him to join them – with neither exactly pleased with the sight of the other – and both stating that they were going to be Brewers.

‘No doubt because both want the position of Potions Champion and wish to show they can brew under fire…’

Making a choice like this had not been a headache he needed, but in the end, he’d chosen Hermione. The girl’s delighted reaction had been nice, and reassuring him that he’d made the right decision, as he was reasonably sure that, still shaken from the incident in History, she could use a shot of confidence, while Harry would at least have Daphne.

He’d half-expected Pansy to join him as well, given her actions on the train, but he’d seen the other girl approach Harry instead, making for an all-Slytherin team.

‘If Harry is the Brewer, then Daphne will be his Defender, since he trusts her the most. Which means…Pansy is going to be the Scavenger?’

The same role he wished to take for himself, given that Hermione was going to brew and Su Li, another Ravenclaw, had volunteered to be the Defender. It only made sense, since of the group he was the best at herblore and knew a fair bit about combat.

...the fact that Zelkova had been tasked with helping sniff out caches for him while in spirit form also didn’t hurt. Such a thing had not been explicitly forbidden after all – and neither had use of his ofuda, though he was rather more hesitant to use those.

100%

And so the situation had developed to where it was now, with Matou Shinji making his way through the tangled underbrush of the Forbidden Forest alongside Pansy Parkinson, while doing his best to avoid the spikey spore-like balls shot by various plants.

‘Venomous Tentacula, like the plants mixed in with the Devil’s Snare…’

Pansy, on the other hand, didn’t bother avoiding, as she just used a Shield Charm to ward off the spikey balls and send them bouncing away.

“You know the Shield Charm?” Shinji asked curiously, given that that was a somewhat more advanced spell.

“Well, it would be a shame to have access to the Book of Spells and not take advantage of its lessons,” the Slytherin girl replied with a smirk. “I mean, I’m sure you and the Stone Cutters took full advantage of it in your first year.”

“True enough,” Shinji admitted. His own specialty hadn’t been defensive spells though, but the things he could do with ofuda and working on silent casting, since Tomas had disdained the reliance of combat-trained practitioners on shields, which was why the Killing Curse was so feared.

“Not going to tell me what you all worked on?” Pansy teased, though frankly she didn’t expect him to reveal his secrets. Not more than he intended to, that was. “Aside from the Head Boy mastering the Patronus, that is?”

“In a word, no.”

Whirr!

A volley of great yellow thorns flew at them like knives, as several Spiky Prickly Plants, feeling threatened by the approach of these humans, released their spikes towards the magic users, with Shinji casting a silent Flipendo Tria to knock them all away, and Pansy following up with a volley of Severing charms to cut the plants apart.

“I normally wouldn’t have anything bad to say about our Head of House,” the Slytherin girl remarked as she glanced around for any more threats from the surrounding vegetation, “but this exercise is ridiculous. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was bitter about not being made Headmaster. Maybe he just wants to see Hogwarts have a champion for the Potions Competition, but…”

“I think it’s more about trust,” Shinji opined. Feeling a prickling in the small of his back, he jumped aside as a jet of blue light blazed through the area where he’d stood a moment ago, with Pansy whirling and striking their would-be assailant with a blood red Stupefy between the eyes.

There was a scampering of feet as someone watching from the distance apparently bolted, but with a silent order of ‘Bind’, a paper talisman shot out from his sleeve and sped through the underbrush towards the target, who quickly overtaken and subdued.

“Trust, Matou?” Pansy quipped, as she moved to see who she had laid low. Shinji narrowed his eyes at seeing the shaggy black hair of one Michael Corner, a third year Ravenclaw. “When your own House turns against its former Consul? Were you much of a tyrant, I wonder?”

“…I wouldn’t say so,” Shinji replied, frowning as he knelt and rifled through the other’s pockets, finding a vial of Flobberworm mucus and passing it to Pansy. “You got him, so the spoils of battle are yours.”

But the girl waved the vial away with a wan smile.

“Such a gentleman, Matou,” the Slytherin girl joked. “But I already found some earlier, so you take it.”

“Hm, thanks,” Shinji said, pocketing the vial and sending up red sparks with his wand so the Professors could retrieve the fallen student. “All I’m missing now is Honeywater.”

“Likewise.”

“You didn’t have any trouble finding the Wiggentree bark?” Shinji asked, curious. “Those trees aren’t exactly commonplace.”

“No, but our base camp has a Wiggentree right next to it,” Pansy replied with a smirk. “Doesn’t yours…?”

Shinji grunted.

“…now that you mention it, it does,” he muttered. That couldn’t be a coincidence, since those who touched the trunk of those trees would be protected from attacks from magical creatures as long as they were doing so. ‘So the camp placement wasn’t random…meaning that in the future, I could have Zelkova scout out camp locations and maybe make a map…’

At least, if Snape wasn’t paranoid enough to shift camp locations around, or thought they would not need such protection during their second or third foray in the forest.

“Let’s find the one who ran off,” Shinji said, already moving to find the one he’d had to use an ofuda to capture. He cut through the underbrush, following the trail of trampled vegetation the other had left, to find a witch fallen on the ground, perfectly still, a paper tag on the back of her head.

Shinji casually rolled her over to see who it was, raising an eyebrow as he saw the face of Sophie Roper, eyes open wide, and utterly unable to move.

“Stupefy,” Pansy intoned lazily, a jet of red light issuing from her wand and impacting the stricken girl as Shinji surreptitiously dispelled the ofuda, allowing the rigid Slytherin to slump into unconsciousness. “So you can strike from quite a distance, Matou.”

Matou Shinji frowned, but nodded.

“My Master trained me well,” was all he said on the matter.

“No doubt,” Pansy replied, kneeling to search through Sophie’s pockets and such, but finding nothing of note. “Especially since you dodged that attack without seeing it coming. Tell me, ts Mahoutokoro better than Hogwarts in terms of what it offers?”

“Not necessarily better,” Shinji answered with a sigh. “Just different.” But he knew they were running out of time, so he asked his familiar if it could sense another cache near here. Or perhaps something like water.

‘Speaking of which…’

He placed his fingers on the wand concealed up his sleeve, closed his eyes, and turned around in a circle, taking a step forward as he felt something like a pulse.

Opening his eyes, he saw Pansy looking at him oddly.
“What were you doing?” she asked suspiciously, no doubt thinking that Matou was practicing his strange arts again.

“Sensing water,” Shinji said tersely.

‘Master, there is a cache in the direction you are pointing, containing multiple sorts of containers. They appear to be located in a cave of some sort.’

“Are you a Seer or something?” Pansy inquired, looking at Shinji in an odd light. “Ever have dreams of things to come or far away? Ever see the future?”

“Not that I’m aware of,” Shinji replied. He’d had those strange dreams during the summer, but no idea of what they meant, and besides, they’d faded away now… “This way.”

“Well, I’ll follow your lead.”

100%

They pressed on for almost a kilometer further before coming to a halt before a massive hole in the earth, with a tunnel sloping down into the earth, going who knew how deep. Clearly, this was the cave in question, within which the cache was hidden.

“…are you sure that what we’re looking for is in there?” Pansy asked, looking around for some sign of treachery.

“Positive,” Shinji confirmed, as a puff of silvery smoke left his sleeve. “There’s water down there – and something else too. A cache – a big one.”

“You’d better be right about this, Matou,” the Slytherin girl grunted, but made no real protest. “So, tell me, did Lockhart really cut off the arm of the Head of the Improper Use of Magic Office?”

“Well, her wand hand,” Shinji replied casually, as both of Pansy’s eyebrows shot up nearly to her hairline.

“You don’t sound surprised,” she noted. “You’ve seen worse…haven’t you?”

“Stone Cutter, remember?” Shinji reminded her.

“Ah, right. You want me to cast Lumos, or…?”

“No, let me,” Shinji answered, the tip of his wand lighting up silently as they descended into the tunnels. “I can defend myself without this wand.”

“With your mysterious Eastern Arts.”

“Among other things.”

…like his second wand, of course.

As it turned out, the cave was quite infested with an assortment of creatures.

Fire Crabs, those large turtle-like creatures native to Fiji which shot flames from their rear ends when attacked to stop pursuers in their tracks. These, fortunately, were handled by Pansy, who took care of them with one Stupefy apiece.

Streelers, giant snails native to Africa, which changed color hourly, and left behind a trail of venom so toxic and corrosive that it burned all organic matter that it touched. A room whose floor was slick with the substance in this case.

Pansy had also proceeded stunned these, but had puzzled over how to continue.

“Allow me,” Shinji had said, dimming his wand and using it to levitate her into the air, causing a squawk of surprise. “Calm down, I know what I’m doing.”

‘Zelkova, can you provide me with light?’

The answer was affirmative, as an orb of illumination appeared on his shoulder, causing Pansy to raise an eyebrow as he just walked out onto the floor slick with corrosive venom – without any effect, pulling her floating form along behind him.

Soon enough, they reached the other side of the room, a tunnel that was thankfully clear of the snails or their venom, whereupon Shinji set Pansy down.

“…Ok, that was creative,” Pansy allowed, but fell silent as she heard something come near – a buzzing of some kind. “Do you hear that?”

“Buzzing…?”

Shinji had a very bad feeling about this. The last time he’d heard buzzing like this, it had been in Quirrell’s challenge, where…

‘Doxies…this cave must be infested with doxies. And even if I run, Pansy can’t…’

Which meant he had to stand his ground.

“Doxies,” Shinji almost spat, looking over towards Pansy. “Ok, here’s the plan. We’re using Verdimillious Tria. Knockback won’t be enough, and fire might work, but it makes the rest angry. We need to stop them here, and lightning is our best chance.”

“Alright, Stone Cutter,” Pansy replied with more confidence than she felt as the blue creatures came into sight, beetle-like wings beating the air as the rushed towards the duo, along with their coarse, black hair.

Doxies.

Normally considered mere pests of the wizarding world, the Biting Fairies, as they were sometimes called, could be quite an annoyance, as they liked light and sound and noise – and were unfortunately blessed with a double row of venomous teeth, which could make one quite ill.

And not just one Doxy.

This…was a swarm. A swarm of angry, biting things – and nowhere to run.

In the face of this, Shinji drew his second wand and reached inside himself, awakening the power he had trained so hard to master this summer – the power sleeping within his wand as he called forth his anger, his rage, his frustration and fear that these things would dare try to stop him there.

“On three,” he whispered, his voice faint against the buzzing. “One. Two…three!”

Twin shouts of Verdimillious Tria filled the air, and with a sharp bite of ozone, the darkness was torn apart by jagged strokes of lightning. Brilliant green lightning from Pansy’s wand – and purple, almost black lightning lancing forth from Shinji’s dual wands, ripping into and through the swarm of Doxies.

These three forked tongues did more than stun – they killed. They burned, they paralyzed, they tore the pests apart from within, tongues of electricity surging forth again and again as the swarm came at him – and failed, burned, still-twitching husks of once-living things falling to the ground with a sound like heavy rain.

Doxies poured forth like countless grains of rice into an insatiable void, ground up and destroyed by the channeled power.

Lightning flashed over and over and over again, against a backdrop of screams and pattering rain, until at last, all was silent.

Shinji fell to one knee, breathing hard once it was over, the smell of charred flesh redolent in his nostrils – as it should be, given the mass of blackened Doxy corpses that carpeted the tunnel. Hundreds perhaps. Or thousand. He didn’t know.

He just knew he’d killed them all.

“Matou…that lightning…” Pansy managed after a few minutes, once she stopped feeling dizzy. “That wasn’t…and why do you have two wands?” She blinked, frowning. “Why can you use two wands?”

“Don’t ask,” Shinji replied, shaking his head as he sheathed his second wand – the length of hazel and coral. “It’s a very long story.”

“Then why show me?”

“I brought you here. I wasn’t about to let you get hurt on my account,” Shinji growled out. “Especially not when you watched my back up there.”

“Tit-for-tat, huh?”

“Exactly. Equivalent exchange,” the Matou boy said quietly, levering himself to his feet. “Don’t tell anyone about this.”

“Assuming there actually is a cache, sure,” Pansy agreed.

Getting to their feet, they continued onwards towards a faint glow in the distance, eventually emerging into a vast chamber lit by seven burning trees. Or what looked like trees, at any rate, only they had no leaves, and were wreathed in fire.

In the distance, they could see a glimmer of light on water, and could hear the sound of a vast subterranean river – and a waterfall.

“Fire Seed Bushes?” Pansy asked. “I’ve seen these in the Greenhouses. But why are they here?”

“…maybe this used to be someone’s garden?” Shinji joked.

There was more truth to the quip than he thought, for indeed, these caves had once been a part of Hagrid’s garden during his time as Keeper of the Grounds, but in his absence had become overrun with creatures of all sorts. Then again, given the half-giant’s penchant for strange creatures, it was hard to know if they had been there before or after he had stopped being able to take care of the place.

‘The cache is ahead, on an island in the river…’

Indeed, as they walked into the chamber, looking around, they could see a faint golden glow from a small island in the middle of the river, but no way to reach it.

“Well, don’t look at me, I’m not swimming,” Pansy declared as she knelt down and touched the cold water, thinking about how inconvenient it would be to cross that. Unfortunately the freezing spell wasn’t something she could do quite yet.

With a sigh, Shinji waved his hand and several ofuda – elemental ofuda, these – shot out, landing on the surface of the water and freezing a portion several inches thick solid. He crossed over to the island, retrieved two phials of Honeywater from the stash – which apparently contained everything one would need to make several varieties of potions – even the more advanced ones, and returned.

Once he crossed back onto solid land, he waved his hand, and the ice shattered, the frozen bridge collapsing into the river and washing away, to Pansy’s astonishment. He could have used his wand, but this was quicker, honestly, and he was tired after using so much prana to kill all of the Doxies.

“Here. One for you, one for me,” Shinji said, handing his companion one of the phials.

“This was…a bit much for a cache of potions ingredients,” Pansy ground out, sighing and shaking her head. “But thank you. I wouldn’t have been able to get down here without you.”

Shinji suspected this cache had been meant for more advanced students, but did not voice his suspicions.

“Let’s go. We have a ways to go before we back to our base camps.”

Pansy chuckled.

“On the bright side, we might be the only ones to get Honeywater, and Malfoy probably won’t finish his potion if he was relying on Crabbe and Goyle for ingredients. Not since you picked up an extra set of Lionfish spines.”

“Well, there is that.”

Suffice it to say that when they got back, their groups were quite happy to see them, with both Harry and Hermione managing to brew quite acceptable potions, a feat few others had matched, given one ingredient or another had been missing, as some had felt it wise to gather extras in case they messed up a batch.

“What took you so long?” Hermione had huffed, as an exhausted Shinji stumbled into camp with the ingredients.

“Sometimes I wonder, if people have no sense of decency. Without rules to make them nice, without someone’s watchful eye, would they be decent people?”

“…well, you are,” Hermione had replied.

“The exception that proves the rule,” he’d grumbled. Hermione had wondered what he meant, but didn’t press.

Not having been out in the mess of scavengers, she was surprised afterwards at how many scavengers had fallen to one another’s treachery, and how many teams had failed to find ingredients within the time limit – either because they could not find the caches, or because others had emptied them out.

“How did you succeed where others failed?”

“Well, I did say I’d teach you a bit about Eastern Herblore, right, Hermione?” Shinji quipped. “I know a few things about finding things hidden in the woods. Good job on the potion, by the way.”

She’d accepted his praise with a blush, and so he’d not mentioned that he’d paired off with Pansy and had his familiar sniff out caches he didn’t bother mentioning, as he thought it might make her upset. Or that even he had worried when he heard that potions that had been brewed successfully would be later tested on Scavengers dosed with the Draught of Living Peace to confirm their effects...

100%

Fortunately, the rest of the days classes were far less eventful, with Shinji retiring to the Room of Requirement after dinner for a much needed rest, while he worked out what to ask Lockhart about the incident, and how to bring up his new initiative to the Ourea.

‘Maybe Diggory will want to run the defense group…’

“Wrackspurts bothering you again?” a voice asked him, as Luna sat down beside him in the Room-cum-garden she so often liked, her fox regarding him curiously.

“A little bit,” Shinji admitted, shaking his head. “Potions was something else, and after what happened in History?”

“It turned out alright, didn’t it?”

“Thanks to Lockhart. Without him…”

“You should worry about what is, not what might have been. There are too many of those, and only one of you.”

Shinji smiled weakly at that.

“Well, that’s a point.”

“Isn’t it?”

100%

Choice 34: What would we like to learn from Gilderoy Lockhart?
[ ] The art of movement - the man is clearly very fast, and speed is a virtue in and of itself
[ ] Close-range combat - he's an adventurer, and as seen, sometimes combat takes place at extremely close ranges
[ ] The art of manipulation - the man is very good at politics and turning people's strength against them
[ ] Let him choose
[ ] (write-in)

Choice 35: Which members of the Ourea would you like to run the "defense club"? (choose one leader, and one second in command)
[ ] Cedric Diggory
[ ] Neville Longbottom
[ ] Pansy Parkinson
[ ] (write-in)

Choice 36: Suggest a name for this defense association.
[ ] The Templar Order
[ ] The Terracotta Army
[ ] (write-in)

Cassius
August 28th, 2015, 03:03 AM
[X] The art of manipulation - the man is very good at politics and turning people's strength against them
[X] Boss: Cedric Diggory
[X] 2IC: Susan Bones
[X] The Defence Association

Kuroyuki
August 28th, 2015, 03:56 AM
[X] The art of manipulation - the man is very good at politics and turning people's strength against them

[X] Leader: Susan Bones
[X] LT: Pansy Parkinson

[X] Self-Defense Club


Obvious bias towards CQC is shining now. Also who doesn't want to learn cool wizards counter kill techniques or beating up a Caster Heroic Spirit because you had MARTIAL ARTS. So yeah obvious bias is obvious. CQC... Failing. Must support second useful thing. The power to sed- I mean manipulate people for my Hare- I mean... better politics. I definitely didn't stutter twice.

Now for leaders... Okay Cedric is the oldest and pretty experienced as we all know. Pansy for LT because... Eh I can't come up with a good substitute.

I completely forgot about Susan Bones. And Pansy for LT because toss the dog a bone.

alfheimwanderer
August 28th, 2015, 04:25 AM
Ourea Members and other Responsibilities
Leader, Matou Shinji: Stone Cutter (Member)
2IC, Neville Longbottom: Potions Boot Camp, Co-Consul
Fay Dunbar: Potions Boot Camp, Co-Consul, Gryffindor Beater (Reserve)
Ginny Weasley: Consul, Gryffindor Seeker (Starting)
Daphne Greengrass: Co-Consul, Potions Boot Camp
Pansy Parkinson: Potions Boot Camp
Draco Malfoy: Co-Consul, Potions Boot Camp, Slytherin Seeker (Starting)
Cho Chang: Consul, Prefect, Ravenclaw Seeker (Starting)
Luna Lovegood: Consul
Hermione Granger: Potions Boot Camp, Consul
Cedric Diggory: Prefect, Consul, Hufflepuff Seeker (Starting), Hufflepuff Quidditch Team Captain, Potions Boot Camp
Susan Bones: Consul
Hannah Abbott: Potions Boot Camp

Veldril
August 28th, 2015, 06:08 AM
First post here but I have lurked this story for a long time :P I would like to first say that congratulation on making a well-crafted story, even more impressive that is is also a crossover and CYOA. I have truly enjoyed reading your story and looking forward to a great story in the future too.

That said, choice time!

[x] The art of manipulation - the man is very good at politics and turning people's strength against them

From our previous choice in Shinji's key strengths (awareness and deception), manipulation would bring out full potential of those strengths we chose before. We can even manipulate enemy into reveal crucial info that we can use for binding techniques too. This is a private lesson so we should maximize our gain from the crash course.

[x] Leader: Neville Longbottom. It is not very rare that the leader of the organization to delegate tasks for 2IC to be a leader in a particular division. It should be a good opportunity for Neville to learn how to be a leader too in case we want him as a leader in the future.
[x] 2IC: Susan Bones. Her aunt is the head of DMLE so she should and she only has one responsibility so far. Should be able to help provide information about what are necessary for DA by consulting her aunt.

I don't think Cedric is a good choice for the leader because he has so many jobs already (he is the person who has highest responsibilities on the list). Hermione and Luna can be fine too but we might be accused of playing favorites with those two (at least until Luna shows how good she is in dueling).

[x] Defense of the Ancients Defense Association should be fine. or maybe Seigi no Mikata :P

Magus
August 28th, 2015, 09:17 AM
[x] Manipulation
[x] Neville
[x] 2IC: Susan Bones
[x] Kuro no Kishidan (The Order of the Black Knights)

Omida
August 28th, 2015, 10:14 AM
Well, our first Herbology/Potions class went well, I would say, and I think we scored another Hermione point, but also some Pansy points (for help and showing our second wand). And leave it to Snape to make his students wish they were back in his dungeon. I think Shinji's way of handling the issue of Umbridge Incident was nice enough.

I am somewhat torn between movement and manipulation. Situation with Umbridge showed, that we have a long way to go before we could be fast enough. But I think, I will agree with Veldril for now. Shinji does have talent in that area, so

[X] The art of manipulation - the man is very good at politics and turning people's strenght against them.

[X]Leader: Cedric Diggory - He is the oldest member of Ourea.
[X] 2IC: Susan Bones - While I would like to put Neville in this position, he is already 2IC of Ourea, so people may get ideas. Besides, as it was said, Susan's aunt is head of DMLE, so she may know a few extra bits.

[X] Name: Knights of the Round/Round Table - Since we already got another meaningful names for organizations Shinji belongs to, I think we could play to British pride this time. Even if wizards don't necessarily know enough about Round Table besides that Merlin was advising their boss.

Mint
August 28th, 2015, 10:46 AM
[X] The art of movement - the man is clearly very fast, and speed is virtue in and of itself
[X] Leader: Cedric Diggory
[X] LT: Pansy Parkinson
[X] Self-Defense Club

Kelnish
August 28th, 2015, 12:12 PM
Assassins choice.
Dont care about the club leadrship but its name should be Zoot Suit Riot

gesalt
August 28th, 2015, 02:58 PM
Let him choose

Leader: Bones
2IC: Pansy

Self Defense Club

Malgos
August 28th, 2015, 04:41 PM
I think Lockhart should decide himself, I trust the Assassin to assess Shinji's weakness well and help him improve.

Also I'm going to choose Diggory as the leader for the following reasons. He's the oldest so he would know the most spells and he has the most responsibilities. Now while that is a demerit it also reminded me of the hell Shinji was put into during the second year, so I think if he can manage all that well, I'd say Shinji got himself a member for the Stoner Cutters.

Second in command should be Draco as he also got a lot of responsibilities and I want to see how he handles himself. Also promotes more interaction between the houses and Slytherin seems to be the odd one out most of the time. Not sure if I want to have him in the Stone Cutters so I wouldn't really consider that as he has a bad relationship with pretty much all of them. Still I would be impressed if he manages.

I don't care about the name, maybe I'll vote for that if something catches my eye.

mangafreak7793
August 28th, 2015, 04:47 PM
Let him choose.

Leader: Bones
Second: Pansy.

The Self-Defense Club.

SDC for short.

alfheimwanderer
August 28th, 2015, 05:05 PM
Made a small revision to the Responsibilities list: Cedric is the Team Captain of Hufflepuff's Quidditch team, starting this year!

Nanao-kun
August 28th, 2015, 05:19 PM
Considering the number of responsibilities Cedric already has, I'm wary about giving command to him.

BibliophileGoat
August 28th, 2015, 06:02 PM
[X] Let him choose
[X] Neville Longbottom
[X] Self Defense Club

Vagrant
August 28th, 2015, 09:57 PM
[☆] Let the assassin choose. I'm too torn between speed and some close combat skills.
[☆] Neville
[☆] Susan

Cedric has so much on his plate right now.

Nephirin
August 28th, 2015, 10:53 PM
I'm tempted for manipulation, but let Lockheart choose, he might come up with something inventive.


Defense leader is a bit harder. Do we know anyone on the Ourea who's particularly skilled with DDA? I'm tentatively saying Neville with 2ic Susan Bones, but will change based on the answer, cause I think it should be based on DDA/Dueling skill.

For the club name, no need for anything fancy. Just Defense Club, or some such is fine.

alfheimwanderer
August 28th, 2015, 11:08 PM
Defense leader is a bit harder. Do we know anyone on the Ourea who's particularly skilled with DDA? I'm tentatively saying Neville with 2ic Susan Bones, but will change based on the answer, cause I think it should be based on DDA/Dueling skill.


You know Pansy studied the Book of Spells intensely, given her performance. Cedric would have received training under Moody and Watch-Captain Hillard last year, given the Black incident. Luna has the yang infusion ability but might be a bit young.

Nephirin
August 29th, 2015, 12:08 AM
Humm. I guess recommend Cedric with Pansy as second then.

All That Is Left Unsaid
August 29th, 2015, 12:53 AM
[x] Let him choose

[x] Susan Bones
[x] Pansy Parkinson

[x] Self-Defense Club

mr_Trickster
August 29th, 2015, 11:20 AM
Lockhart is far more experienced than we. We've taken the initiative with approaching him for training, we might want to see what he feels we need the most. He might be able to see something we don't.

I'll admit this one is a little harder. As much as having Cedric lead this little group looks good considering he is already a very decorated leader on top of being a seventh year with quite a bit of training from the right people, he's already extremely busy. Interfering with his already-overflowing schedule might endanger his graduation, and I'm sure he wouldn't take to kindly to that.

Some of the others have brought up is that Susan Bones might be a good idea, and I agree. She doesn't have as many obligations as some of the others, and I'm certain she could use all the more practice. Her connection to the DMLE will also be good to grant a little more legitimacy to this group.

Pansy Parkinson is also a good addition as second in command. Her time spent studying the Book of Spells will certainly pay off here, and in the event Susan isn't as combat-ready as we might have liked, Pansy has certainly proven to be capable enough when we worked with her in the previous chapter.

The name, though. Throughout this story, we've been exposed to some rather meaningful naming schemes. Each one made to represent something of the organization. This is especially important in this universe where there is so much power in a name. Wouldn't this put the defense club we're establishing not as bright a light?

I suggest Byzantium after the empire of the same name. The last bastion of the 'Roman Empire.' After all, we are supposed to be a last-resort defense, right?

[x] - Let him choose

[Primary] - Susan Bones
[Secondary] - Pansy Parkinson

[x] - Byzantium

Kishou the Badger
August 29th, 2015, 01:39 PM
We could go for Manipulation, or let Lockhart go with what he feels best. It might be a risky gamble, but I think at this point we can trust the guy NOT to screw us over. He is our autobiographer after all. We might get something entirely new, or further strengthen something already in our skillset. I mean, Touko gave us something pretty cool when we wanted her to surprise us, so let the surprising continue.

Not as sure with the whole defense group, other than to call it "Aurorlite". I think Cedric and Malfoy might make good choices, though, based on Malgos' reasoning.

[x] Let him Choose
[x] Cedric Diggory
[x] Draco Malfoy
[x] Aurorlite

Veldril
August 30th, 2015, 06:37 AM
Currently we have 5 for Cedric, 4 for Neville and 4 for Susan.

I still kinda confused why everyone would go for Cedric as a head of the defense club. Sure he has experience and training but his responsibilities for other stuffs would hinder his performance to organize the club. He has like five other things he has to do. And those activities surely would take a lot of time too (team captain already has to organize the practice, prefect has to patrol, consul has to work with the class).

Question though, what is the responsibilities of the leader of the club? Do they organize the activity or they have to teach the spells too?

I would even prefer Pansy Parkinson more than Cedric at this point (she has some training) or maybe even Susan Bones (but then she need a crash course to make up the lack of ability).

Omida
August 30th, 2015, 07:30 AM
Hmmm, right. Changing club votes to

[X] Leader: Susan Bones
[X] 2IC: Pansy Parkinson

Veldril
August 30th, 2015, 09:51 AM
I'm also changing club vote to
[x] Susan Bones as a leader; and
[x] Pansy Parkinson as 2IC

Caster
August 30th, 2015, 12:37 PM
I would let Lockhart choose, think that's most interesting.

alfheimwanderer
August 30th, 2015, 01:40 PM
Question though, what is the responsibilities of the leader of the club? Do they organize the activity or they have to teach the spells too?

Organizing the activity at a minimum, though the more capable one is, the more legitimacy one has, given that although you can invite "guest teachers", like the Stone Cutters or some of the Professors, to give demonstrations or help with the teaching, you need to know at least the basics yourself, since there's no guarantee one will always be available.

Nephirin
August 30th, 2015, 04:00 PM
Yeah, I'mma change my vote to Susan and Pansy.

Mattias
August 30th, 2015, 05:02 PM
[X] Movement. Can't kill what you can't hit. Also if it's a White Wolf system, then all the additional dex bonuses translate to extra damage.

[x] Susan, for all the reasons already stated. Plus, we already have a bookworm, a cloud cuckoolander, a older mentor, a world leader and some politians. Let's make a Iron Lady too.
[x] Neville as 2IC, because he still needs some practice, and I kind of want to see him as a pseudo Drill Sargent.

[x] Since I suggested Organization XIII last time, lets say Nobody. Because I love that one Odysseus story.

alfheimwanderer
August 30th, 2015, 11:39 PM
Choice 34: [X] Let him choose
Choice 35: Leader [X] Susan Bones, 2IC [X] Pansy Parkinson

100%

Choice 37: Choose a name for the defense group:

[ ] Defense Association
[ ] Self Defense Club
[ ] The Black Knights
[ ] (write-in)

Choice 38: You find the first lesson of Ancient Runes to be quite slow, given that you've been exposed to Runes in one way or another for the last two summers, and had an in-depth study from your Master this summer. Looking through the syllabus, you find that everything to be covered this year is essentially theory and basic applications - which you have already covered. Thus, after class, you explain Professor Babbling, the instructor for Ancient Runes and explain your situation, noting that you are the apprentice of a Professor of Ancient Runes at Mahoutokoro, and have already gone over this material. She is sympathetic to your situation, but is not sure if Ancient Runes at Mahoutokoro is equivalent to Runes at Hogwarts, and so offers you a Placement Exam.

As it turns out, your knowledge of the Elder Futhark runes - upon which the "Ancient Runes" of Britain are based - is quite solid, equivalent to that learned in a year at Hogwarts, and she is most impressed by your ability to apply the runes to practical uses, which is usually not taught until next year. However, over time, the language has drifted from its base, and so includes odd variants for things like numbers (http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20140419183719/harrypotter/images/8/8e/Ancient_Runes_Made_Easy.jpg), and such - these, you do not have a good grasp of.

Your choices then, are as follows:

[ ] Advance to the next year now, and catch up as you go
[ ] Remain with your year for half the term to catch up, and move up a year during the Spring term
[ ] Remain with your year to ensure you have a grasp of the basics

Cassius
August 30th, 2015, 11:41 PM
[X] Defense Association
[X] Advance to the next year now, and catch up as you go

EnigmaticFellow
August 30th, 2015, 11:44 PM
[X] Self Defense Club
[X] Advance to the next year now, and catch up as you go

Not all club names need to be pretentious. Sometimes, you need a name that gets to the point and doesn't get anyone confused as to what it's for. Besides, anyone can join it. As for the other choice, Shinji should be able to catch up since we chose to have Shinji focus on runes. It won't be a loss for us if he has to put extra effort into it.

mangafreak7793
August 30th, 2015, 11:56 PM
[ ] Self Defense Club
[ ] Advance to the next year now, and catch up as you go

Kuroyuki
August 31st, 2015, 12:04 AM
[X] Self Defense Club

[X] Advance to the next year now, and catch up as you go

Malgos
August 31st, 2015, 12:16 AM
Still don't really care about the name.

I think remaining half the term to catch up would be best, sure it's not as flashy as advancing now but it would ensure that Shinji has the least amount of chance to mess up there and potentially embarrass himself, which is what he really doesn't want. Also gets him introduced to Britain's Rune system.

gesalt
August 31st, 2015, 12:16 AM
[X] Self Defense Club
[X] Remain with your year for half the term to catch up, and move up a year during the Spring term

Better safe than sorry

Omida
August 31st, 2015, 01:25 AM
[X] Self Defense Club
[X] Remain with your year for half the term to catch up, and move up a year during the Spring term

Shinji should know the value of caution and importance of solid basics already (especially after our summer trip).

mr_Trickster
August 31st, 2015, 06:55 AM
I suppose Enigmatic does have a point, and god forbid we use anything with 'knights' in it considering what happened to the last group in Hogwarts that had such a word in their name.

While I sometimes believe that fortune favors the bold, perhaps caution will be the better part of valor for Shinji this time. Wouldn't want to embarrass ourselves now.

[x] - Self Defense Club
[x] - Remain with your year for half the term to catch up, and move up a year during the spring term

Malgos
August 31st, 2015, 09:52 AM
I suppose Enigmatic does have a point, and god forbid we use anything with 'knights' in it considering what happened to the last group in Hogwarts that had such a word in their name.

Guess I second that and also go for the Self Defense Club.

I don't really know anything about Harry Potter so who was the last group that had "knights" in it and what happened to them? Thanks in advance.

Omida
August 31st, 2015, 10:07 AM
Knights of Walpurgis. Nowadays known as Death Eaters.

Mattias
August 31st, 2015, 11:06 AM
[x] Go half and half on the year.

[x] Again I don't really care on the name except for making joke suggestions. Maybe Life Vomiters. The opposite of a Death Eater.

Omida
August 31st, 2015, 11:17 AM
Hilarious suggestion, but for it to be opposite of Death Eaters all the way, it would have to accept only muggleborns (and an odd half blood). And leader's name would have to mean something like Acceptance of Death, or something.

Mint
August 31st, 2015, 11:29 AM
[X] The Black Knights
[X] Remain with your year for half the term to catch up, and move up a year during the Spring term

Veldril
August 31st, 2015, 11:50 AM
[x] Self Defense Club
[x] Remain with your year for half the term to catch up, and move up a year during the Spring term. Although I would also suggest to get a special session or permission to sit in the upper year class too so we know what to expect in the next year class.

mangafreak7793
August 31st, 2015, 12:41 PM
[X] Self Defense Club
[X] Remain with your year for half the term to catch up, and move up a year during the Spring term

Shinji should know the value of caution and importance of solid basics already (especially after our summer trip).

But after talking with Alf, we can review with the twins on anything we might miss. and as Ancient Runes as our focus for this year we'll basically cover any weaknesses.

Omida
August 31st, 2015, 01:20 PM
Actually, yeah, good point. We do have other Stone Cutters who could help with catching up. So I (tentatively) change vote to:

[X] Advance to the next year now, and catch up as you go

I hope, that if this option does win, it won't bite as in the back later.

Caster
August 31st, 2015, 02:12 PM
I vote advancing to next year now.

BibliophileGoat
August 31st, 2015, 02:40 PM
[X] Self Defense Club
[X] Advance to the next year now, and catch up as you go

We freed up a bunch of time by dropping all those extracurricular activities, so we shouldn't have any problems catching up on what we missed in our spare time.

Magus
August 31st, 2015, 04:11 PM
I did not expect the Black Knights to be taken seriously as a choice. That was more of a joke on my part. But since it's still here.

[x] The Black Knights.

Self Defense Club will win anyways.


[x] Advance to the next year now, and catch up as you go.

This is what I did when I was promoted right from the end of 4th grade to 6th grade, skipping over 5th grade, many years ago. It worked for me and it can work for Shinji.

All That Is Left Unsaid
August 31st, 2015, 05:20 PM
Hard to say for the name. While they don't need to be pretentious, I could see how people would want something to inspire confidence. By the same token, a simple straightforward name could also demonstrate the serious tone of the group, symbolizing its focus on practicality over grandiose displays. However, I've got nothing better to offer, so I'll just go with

[x] Self Defense Club

[x] Advance to the next year now, and catch up as you go

As others have pointed out, Shinji is already putting his focus on Runes as a course, and the Twins are options for consultation.

Nephirin
August 31st, 2015, 06:21 PM
[x]Self Defense
[x]Advance now

mr_Trickster
August 31st, 2015, 09:55 PM
But after talking with Alf, we can review with the twins on anything we might miss. and as Ancient Runes as our focus for this year we'll basically cover any weaknesses.

Well this information certainly changes things.

Fortune favors the bold, indeed. Changing my vote:

[x] - Advance to the next year now, and catch up as you go.

alfheimwanderer
September 1st, 2015, 12:02 AM
[x]Self Defense
[x]Advance now

100%

Chapter 14. Games and Gambles

In the morning before class the next day, Matou Shinji found himself back in the Room of Requirement, working out some of his uneasiness in a spar against Luna Lovegood. It wasn’t his classes that unsettled him though – Charms, Arithmancy and Ancient Runes seemed manageable enough, given that he’d focused heavily on the first during the past few years, and the last was something he’d received some training from his Master in.

It was the fact that he intended to ask Professor Lockhart for training, a prospect that was more than a little daunting, especially given the ease with which the History Professor had destroyed a high-ranking official, and how easily the man saw through him, something that he found most disconcerting.

But then, in his quest for truth, Lockhart felt more like a powerful magus, or at least someone steeped in the darkness of the Moonlit World, than any other practitioner of witchcraft Matou Shinji knew in Britain. Everything the History Professor did seemed to serve a purpose, which he’d thought might simply be personal power at one point, though he wasn’t sure if that was an end in itself, or a means to something else.

Given the man’s obvious competence, Shinji was sure that he could benefit from what the history teacher had to teach, but the possible price of the bargain worried him.

Perhaps he’d become a little paranoid about the hidden costs of dealing with powerful individuals after his experiences over the last two summers, in which he’d traded what he’d first thought were just books – but ended up being so much more – for a mechanical owl and a new wand.

But this wasn’t a stranger he was dealing with, not exactly. For he and the History Professor already had a pre-existing relationship. Lockhart, after all, was the biographer and publicist for the Stone Cutters, as well as the advisor to the Ourea, and Shinji doubted the man would wish to lose the benefits of that arrangement.

Even so, he worried…

“Expelliarmus!”

He leapt aside as a jet of red tore through the space he had occupied a moment before, only to find a blue orb of foxfire rushing towards him—

Fzzt!

—but the fireball dissipated harmlessly on a bounded field that flashed into existence before him, leaving Shinji unscathed.

‘Thanks, Zelkova.’

‘It is curious how humans choose to bond over conflict…’ the kodama observed, as its projected form of a black fox sat perched on Shinji’s shoulder. ‘Among other creatures, males may stage conflict with other males to display their prowess. But this sort of display…’

‘Zelkova. Not now.’

“Flipendo Tria!”

Silently, Shinji cast his own version of the advanced Knockback Jinx to counter the whirlwind of force coming at him, though with Luna having infused her spells with yang prana, hers overpowered the first of his – though not the second, which successfully negated her whirlwind of Jinxes.

Fighting with a wand in each hand required a slightly different mindset, similar to that of using one incantation while casting a second spell – something which he’d become adept in due to his mental partitions. At present, he still had but a public and private partition, but that was enough to split his trains of thought, if he really focused.

‘Bind!’

As a distraction, strips of paper flew from his sleeves, with the air lighting up in a tempest of sound and fury when Luna countered with her wand, as flash-bang ofuda hidden in the mix exploded on contact with a wave of fire.

The din was deafening. The light blinding.

And so, taking advantage of his opponent’s presumed disorientation, he sent more ofuda forth, these striking the ground around her in an array not unlike a pentagram – only for these to be burned to a crisp by arcs of chained lighting.

Fighting Luna Lovegood – or any other practitioner – one on one was something he’d grown rather good at, and indeed, most of his tricks relied on distracting or deceiving a single opponent. Facing her and a second opponent, who might not share her weaknesses, and whose skill set he was unsure of – was another thing entirely.

With a muttered “Fumos”, Shinji conjured up a cloud of acrid black smoke to block her line of sight, only to whirl as he found lightning racing towards him – arcs of power that were blocked as the ground rose up to shield him, seemingly of its own volition.

‘How did she get…?’

And then a shout of “Wingardium Leviosa!” interrupted his ponderings, as Matou Shinji found his pants being levitated with great force, with Luna’s levitation charm lifting them – but not the rest of him, the irresistible force hoisting his legs into the air, so he quite literally fell head over heels – and was now facing the wrong way to aim his wand at her, no less.

Whirr-Boom! Whirr-Boom!

A flurry of fireballs came towards him, only to be intercepted by a bounded field as Shinji hurriedly cast Finite Incantatem on his pants, with the end result being a Matou Shinji that ended up sprawled on the ground.

‘If she’d used the charm on me, not my clothing, my nullifying ofuda would have worked fine…’ he told himself. Only she hadn’t, and so his defense had failed.

He flipped himself over just in time to witness the white and black foxes fighting with fire and barriers – and to see the face of Luna Lovegood hovering over his own, the point of her wand pressed against his throat.

“Do you yield?” the girl asked in her musical tones, to which Shinji could only sigh.

“…yes,” he groaned, dropping his wands in a symbol of surrender. The very fact she was next to him, touching him, meant he’d lost, given that she could have cast any number of spells while he was otherwise distracted. All of his firepower was meaningless if he couldn’t bring it to bear, after all… “You win, Luna.”

Luna smiled at that, helping the boy from the east to his feet as the room transformed from an empty chamber of stone into a perfect copy of the Ourea clubroom, table, bathroom and all.

“You forgot about my fox,” the mysterious girl commented wryly, with Shinji nodding somewhat sheepishly, as he had, at that.

“I’m used to fighting one opponent, not several,” Shinji explained. And it was true, since in his encounters with Tomas, Kaiduka, Sajyou, the Onikuma, and even the Troll, he’d only had to face one enemy at a time. Even so, being bested by someone who wasn’t his Master, or one of his teachers still…hurt.

They were expected to be better than he. But Luna…was his peer, and he’d always stood head and shoulders over them.

“We’ll just have to practice then,” Luna replied, her calm voice taking some of the sting out of the defeat. “Together.”

“Right,” Shinji said. And in truth, it was better for him to realize these weaknesses now, in a spar against a close friend, rather than later, in a fight against an enemy who might actually be trying to kill him. “So, reading then, since you won today?”

That had been the terms they’d agreed on, after all. If she won, they would read together over a quiet breakfast in the Room of Requirement. If he won, she’d refill his prana for the day and help him sort through the Room of Hidden Things.

“Yes,” Luna agreed, though she wrinkled her nose cutely as she pointed towards the bathroom door. “But we should clean up first.”

“My dear Lovegood, are you trying to say I stink?” Shinji teased.

“No, but you will if we don’t have a bath after our spar,” Luna pointed out in a quite matter of fact fashion, noting the sweat on his face and form. “Even if I don’t mind the way you smell.”

Shinji found himself flushing at that, and wisely chose not to continue arguing.

“…you make a good point,” he conceded, though he tilted his head as a thought came to him. “What about you?”

“Oh, I can wait till you finish,” Luna answered playfully, stepping close as hands wreathed in amber light brushed away the aches he felt, and the scrapes on his skin. “Or make another room.”

“…I guess you could, at that.”

The Room of Requirement really was quite remarkable in how easily it reconfigured itself according to a person’s needs, even if it couldn’t conjure up opponents for him to face like the Book of Spells. But then, he didn’t need one, not when Luna and her familiar were quite capable of fulfilling that role quite well.

And so the two headed off to cleanse themselves after their morning spar, before facing the rest of the day ahead.

100%

After his morning duel, Shinji was thankful for the fact that Professor Weasley’s first Charms class was mostly review, with the man assessing their abilities with the charms they’d learned in the past years, before demonstrating a few of the ones they’d be learning this year.

The Cheering Charm, for instance, which could induce a state of contentment – or if overdone – hysterical euphoria.

The Seize and Pull Charm (Carpe Retractum), the conjured rope of light that Moody had used the previous year to draw students away from the Boggart, since the Summoning Charm did not work on most living beings. Unlike the Summoning Charm, however, this was a strictly line-of-sight based spell, and its effectiveness was dependent on the relative mass of the caster and the target.

The Freezing Spell (Glacius), which caused air in front of the wand to reach extremely cold temperatures, allowing one to freeze water, cool off objects, or cause ice to form on most surfaces.

The Engorgement and Shrinking Charms, which caused a target to either swell (up to a certain point, whereupon it would explode) or shrink.
And of course, how and when to effectively use the General Counter-Spell Finite Incantatem, which the Professor had found invaluable in his previous occupation as Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office. He’d proceeded to show them some of the objects he’d collected during his tenure in that office, including Biting Kettles, Shrinking Keys, and Anti-Gravity Hats, as well as some of the other ways in which enchantments could be useful, as with the enchantments that made brooms fly.

At the end of the class, he made his Ford Anglia materialize from seemingly out of thin air, something which had stunned many people in the class, who hadn’t realized it was even there to begin with.

“When most people think about charms, most people think about dueling, and certainly, a mastery of Charms is essential if you wish to be a duelist,” Arthur Weasley explained to his startled students. “But more than any other field of magic, Charms is what underpins the foundations of our world. Without charms, our stoves and lights would not work. Without charms, our brooms would not fly and we would have no Floo. Without charms, none of us would have wands today.”

With that, Professor Weasley dismissed them, leaving Shinji thoughtful about the role these spells had in the greater picture of Magical Britain.

Arithmancy, Matou Shinji’s next class of the day, was one he found considerably more…peculiar.

On a conceptual level, he found it quite interesting. Delving into the magical properties of numbers and words so one could understand how some spells worked as they did and possibly create new spells was something he could certainly use if he wanted to further investigate the foundation of witchcraft.

He didn’t even mind having to consult various number charts and performing calculations by hand if he had to, as he knew quite well that using devices like calculators effectively required a working knowledge of what the device was doing.

…no, it was the fact that their equivalent of a calculator wasn’t a standardized method, but a series of spells that would automate some of these calculations, with an effectiveness based completely on one’s understanding of what was being done.

Essentially, each student who stayed in the class would eventually have to create the equivalent of a calculator from scratch, with its logic entirely dependent on how well one understood the underlying algorithms.

Now, Shinji was no stranger to calculating the future – or the past – based on various factors. Indeed, the Alchemists of Atlas used a method based on Laplace’s Demon to calculate the future, though their method was standardized, with its effectiveness varying not on the algorithms one used to compute the future, but the quantity and quality of the data being for computation, and what had to be approximated. Moreover, they did these calculations in their minds, without the use of outside spells – and if they needed something beyond that, could build a magical computer of a sort.

He could understand the need for a powerful computational engine for things beyond the ability of one individual to deal with, and for a standardized method of computation, but what was being asked of in Arithmancy was a bit extreme.

(If one considered magic spells as programs that would affect the universe, then Arithmancy was essentially the study of programming, with each aspiring Arithmancer and spellcrafter required to essentially create their own compilers from scratch without fully understanding the rules of the programming language one was using.

And of course in this case, bad code wouldn’t just fail to execute, it might very well kill you and those around you. Nor was talent any talisman against this, as Pandora Lovegood, who was known to be exceptionally talented, had died experimenting with a new charm.

It was for this reason that most practitioners of witchcraft used the common library of spells already known to them instead of creating anything new, as the risk of spell creation was not generally worth it. And since they could use other spells without risk, they did so willy-nilly, never acknowledging the price paid by those who came before so they could live comfortably.)

For magi, who courted death simply by using their magic circuits, acknowledging the price of thaumaturgy was part and parcel of what they did, and because their Craft came at such a risk, they took pains to pass down what they learned to future generations, with a magus’ successor formally inheriting a Crest containing the compiled knowledge of those who had come before. Each generation built on what the last had done, adding more circuits – and knowledge – to the Crest, until it held a vast library of spells, methods, functions and so forth.

That was why there was only one heir, because for a magus, advancement of the knowledge one had spent one’s life to obtain meant everything. To divide this knowledge, rendering it less than it could be, or passing it into the hands of someone less the capable, was anathema.

Matou Shinji understood that, as being passed over as heir had defined his life until he had received his Hogwarts letter. But this…this society where such knowledge not only wasn’t passed down but wasn’t even valued was…

‘…horrifying.’

Hermione didn’t see it. The others, steeped in this culture as they were, didn’t see it. For them, this was just the way things were. The way things had been. The way things would be.

There was no other alternative, and little possibility things would ever change.

And to him, that was utterly terrifying.

100%

The Study of Ancient Runes, on the other hand, was more comforting, as it was rather familiar to him. Too familiar in some ways, given that the material on the syllabus for this year was essentially the basic theory behind Runes and how to read them – most of which he’d already covered, thanks to his time with his Master, Aozaki Touko.

Not wanting to interrupt, he waited till after class, motioning for everyone to go on without him. Once they had gone, he went up to Professor Bathsheda Babbling and explained his current situation.

“So what you’re telling me is that you have been apprenticed to a Professor of Ancient Runes at the Mahoutokoro School of Magic, and have already covered the material for this class,” Professor Babbling echoed, her brown eyes peering at the boy curiously.

“That’s right.” Shinji nodded. “I didn’t say anything during class because I didn’t want to be rude, but is there more advanced material I could be taking?”

The Professor made a considering hmm sound as she pondered her options.

“I understand that this is probably frustrating to you,” she replied. “However, in the past, my response has traditionally been no, given that those who approach me have generally only studied the topic on their own. Do you have documentation that you took lessons at Mahoutokoro?”

Shinji produced a letter from his Master, certifying that as her apprentice, he had completed the equivalent of a year of study in Ancient Runes – and was now rather glad he’d asked for it.

“Hmm, visiting Professor of Ancient Runes, eh?” Bathsheda Babbling commented, nodding slowly. “Yes, well, this seems in order. However, I am not sure if the course over at Mahoutokoro is equivalent to that at this school.” She paused for a moment, a considering sound in her throat again. “I don’t suppose you have a syllabus in English, do you?”

“…unfortunately not.”

“Hm, I didn’t think so,” the Professor sighed. “I presume you covered the Elder Futhark, at the least?”

“Both the theory behind it – how to read it, and the meanings of it, basic arrays – basic applications,” Shinji confirmed, as Babbling’s eyes widened slightly.

“Applications, you say?” the woman asked, her voice curious now. “I don’t suppose you could demonstrate?”

“I suppose,” Shinji said, taking the syllabus and placing it on the floor. With the tip of his wand, he traced the Ansuz rune in the air, filling it with prana, as flames spread over the syllabus and burned it to ash. “I can do a few other minor things as well.”

“Well, well. That certainly isn’t taught in the first year of this class – this is next year’s material. Given the circumstances, you wouldn’t mind taking last year’s final exam, would you?” the Ancient Runes professor inquired. “I need to see exactly what you learned before I can make a judgement.”

And so Shinji sat what would have been the Ancient Runes year end exam, finding that some parts of it were as he expected – and that some parts of it he had no idea about, and had to guess. Some runes were obviously not of the Elder or Younger Futhark. Perhaps they were Celtic in nature? He honestly didn’t know, but took his best stab at it.

After he had finished it as best he could, Professor Babbling took the parchment from him and graded it on the spot, making a number of curious noises as she marked the parchment in red.

“Your knowledge of the Elder Futhark, the foundation of the Runes we study, is indeed solid,” the Ancient Runes Professor remarked. “However, there are areas you seem to have overlooked entirely, such as the pictographs we use in place of numbers, and some of the other systems mostly used here in Britain. I take it you did not cover them in your training?”

“No, ma’am,” Shinji replied.

“I didn’t think so.”

Professor Babbling was silent for a moment, which made Shinji rather nervous.

“How did I do?” he inquired.

“Well, based on your score – which falls on the border between Acceptable and Exceeds Expectations, you would pass this year,” she answered, shaking her head. “And I am impressed by your ability to apply the runes to practical uses, which is more advanced material. Based on your score, I have no reason not to advance you to the next class. However, what you’re missing concerns me.”

“Ah.”

“Since you came to me, I’ll give you a choice: I can advance you to the next year of Ancient Runes now, and address that in your schedule, or you can remain with your year for the fall term to catch up on the basics, and I will move you up in the Spring,” Babbling offered, peering down at the boy. “I don’t suppose you would be happy simply staying with your year?”

“Unfortunately not.”

“Hmm, I didn’t think so…in that case, I suppose you want me to move you up to the next class, schedule permitting?”

“…only if it’s not too much trouble,” Shinji murmured.

“It’s always trouble, but it’s worth it when it comes to helping a student,” she commented. “What is your other elective?”

“Arithmancy, Ma’am.”

“I suppose you would be one to study that art,” Professor Babbling harrumphed. “Very well, I will talk with your head of house, and make the appropriate arrangements.”

“Thank you, Professor.”

And Shinji meant it, as he relished the idea of learning something useful and not wasting his time here at Hogwarts.

But she just waved off his gratitude.

“Bah, don’t thank me. Just study hard and don’t make me regret the paperwork I have to fill out.”

100%

Following the Arithmancy revelation and the trying work of taking the End of the Year exam for Ancient Runes, Shinji made his way over to the hallway outside the History Professor’s office, somewhat anxious about what to expect.

“Come in. I’ve been expecting you,” Lockhart’s voice called just before he knocked – which made him wonder if the man had a charm on the door to notice if someone was approaching.

Not that he knew how to detect that, in all honesty, but it was something he’d have to look into.

As he entered, he noticed that the room was mostly the same as it had been the year before, save for some markings on the map of Magical Europe mounted on the wall. Notes, perhaps. Numbers. All around the Balkans, and Germany…

Curiously, though the Book of Spells sat on the desk, as well as a stack of parchment, Lockhart didn’t seem to have been writing, as the man had his eyes closed, and his fingers steepled.

“Matou, what can I do for you?” he asked after a moment, opening his eyes.

“I wanted to thank you for what you did in class, Professor,” Shinji said, getting to the point. “You saved our lives – even if that wasn’t your purpose.”

“Oh?” Lockhart inquired, a dangerous smile flitting at the corners of his lips. “And what was my purpose then?”

“I think we both know that, sir.”

“Perhaps,” the History Professor voiced eloquently. “Did your grandfather enjoy the play, by the way?”

“He did. Thank you, Professor.”

“I see,” Lockhart replied. “It is good that someone appreciates the old epics. Something like Makar Zolgen is not often spoken of outside Russia, after all, nor are most curious about it. Your grandfather can use magic, I suppose.”

“…yes,” Shinji said slowly. Not “Magic” per se, but magecraft certainly. Matou Zouken was an Archmagus, after all. This was a gamble but… “He gave me this book for you to look at actually.”

From his mokeskin pouch, he withdrew the Russian tome that Zouken had sent him, with Lockhart raising an eyebrow as he waved his wand over the book, and a second book appeared.

“Gemino charm. Copies the contents without any of the magic that might be inside it. Useful thing for an adventurer,” the man explained when Shinji raised an eyebrow. “Hmm, let’s see.”

The man opened the cover of the copy, poring through the first few pages, and all but froze as he read the contents.

“Did your grandfather say anything to you about what is in this tome?” Lockhart asked quietly, looking at Shinji with an intensity that was almost terrifying.

“Only that it allegedly concerned the Templar Order,” Shinji replied truthfully.

“And what do you know of the Templars?” the History Professor inquired in the same tone of voice.

While revealing what he knew might be dangerous, he imagined it would be even more dangerous to lie to the man, given that Lockhart had an uncanny way of seeing through him.

“…that they are a small but powerful faction that specialized in hunting what they called heretics?” Shinji asked.

“…and?”

“…that they were opposed by several organizations. Organizations such as the Illuminati.”

“…and?”

“…the Order of Assassins,” Shinji concluded. He swallowed as he looked at Lockhart in realization, unable to keep himself from continuing. “The ones led by the one they called Hassan-i-Sabbah, the…”

“…Old Man of the Mountain, yes,” Lockhart said mildly. “I thought it a curious title.” Though Shinji suspected there was far more to it than that. “And I do have to say, you know more about the world than your peers, don’t you? Especially when that old book is a journal.”

“A journal?”

“A chronicle of observations on the Templars. By one Makar Zolgen, no less,” the man continued, quirking an eyebrow. “Your grandfather must have gone through some trouble to get his hands on this.”

“…I suppose,” Shinji allowed. “I don’t know much about grandfather’s past. He doesn’t talk about it very much.”

“I imagine he wouldn’t.” Lockhart let the comment hang in the air for a long moment, before he shook his head. “But that is neither here nor there, is it? You and I both know you are here for more than to thank me. So what is it you desire?”

“I wish to learn,” Shinji replied.

“A statement any teacher would appreciate, but learn what, I wonder?”

“As you are the most skilled adventurer in Magical Britain, I was hoping you would be able to tell me what I could best benefit from,” the boy from the east said quietly.

Lockhart chuckled as he got to his feet.

“Well, that is easy enough,” he related. “The art of movement is something you and the other Stone Cutters could bear to learn. How to move quickly, but quietly, to be unseen unless one wishes, so one can blend into a crowd or seem to be the only one in a room. How to bypass obstacles, like walls and barriers. Knowing how to move is a virtue few possess in the wizarding world. Certainly, most of your professors lack it, except for Professor Flitwick, a duelist, or Professor Snape, who was once a spy.”

“Or yourself, an adventurer,” Shinji supplied, remembering how quickly he had moved to stop Umbridge, and how ruthlessly he had crushed her.

“Indeed,” Lockhart confirmed. “Most believe power is something of spells and curses or laws. And there is that, but more than magic, there is power in appearances. In knowledge. There are three things I find invaluable: awareness of my surroundings, preventing possible threats from knowing what I am capable of, and having the speed to capitalize on my advantages.”

“You would be willing to teach me this?” Shinji asked.

“I would, though there will be a favor to collect later. Is this acceptable?”

Matou Shinji had been afraid that would be the answer, but he supposed he didn’t have a choice.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good,” Lockhart replied with a smile, as the air of danger seemed to fade. “One evening a week then, we will train you in this technique, using the Book of Spells. Was there anything else?”

“Yes, sir. In the aftermath of what happened in History, when Umbridge tried to kill us all for no reason—” And here he barely managed to keep a straight face. “I thought it would be useful for the Ourea to create a defense organization, since you won’t always be there to protect us.”

“A wise idea. I assume you wish to appoint Mister Diggory as its head, given his training and his age?“

“No, actually,” Shinji noted. “I was thinking Susan Bones, given her relation to the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, with Pansy Parkinson as her second.”

“While I do not presume to question your judgement, you do realize that Prefect Diggory is likely to be unhappy with this arrangement?” Lockhart inquired, but shook his head. “But that is your business, and you may bring up the proposal to the Ourea as whole this Sunday.”

“Very well, sir.” Shinji realized he’d forgotten one very important thing. “Just one thing – what is the password this year? ‘Lily of the Valley’ doesn’t work anymore.”

“I was intending to have the password sent out to you all soon, but since you ask, the password is ‘Alamut’.”

100%

Choice 39: During the Ourea meeting, Draco Malfoy brings up the question on everyone's mind - what is to happen with the Stone Cutters, since Robert Hillard is set to graduate this year. The implication has always been that members of the Ourea might have an advantage in this, and he openly wonders what will happen when the Tri-Wizard and Potions Champions are appointed. The others are curious about this as well - so how do you respond?

[ ] (write-in)


Choice 40: Susan Bones does not feel qualified to lead the Self-Defense Club, as she doesn't consider herself a good candidate for leading the hosts of Hogwarts, no matter who her aunt is. After all, it isn't connections that make people leaders, but who they are and what they have done. Her expertise is in Herbology, not Defense, and - looking at Cedric - she thinks someone more experienced would be a better candidate for leadership.

How do you reply?

[ ] Attempt to persuade her - explain your reasoning, as well as why you chose her as a leader
[ ] Concede that perhaps there might be someone more suitable
[ ] Ask Cedric what he thinks
[ ] (write-in)

Choice 41: Do we keep our same role for the Hufflepuff/Ravenclaw joint session?

[ ] Yes, we are best as a Scavenger, and Hermione is a good Brewer
[ ] No, we should be a Defender, since Hufflepuffs are great at Herbology and we should spend more time talking to Hermione
[ ] No, we should brew and let Hermione get experience as a Scavenger.

Kuroyuki
September 1st, 2015, 12:30 AM
[X] Tell them that the Stone Cutters will function as normal, but have them ask Hillard about his spot.

[X] Ask Cedric what he thinks

[X] Yes, we are best as a Scavenger, and Hermione is a good Brewer

I did consider directly convincing Susan Bones, but I think a more subtle answer might be better. Such as Cedric saying his opinion that Susan Bones is probably the most qualified among the non-busy members. Of course, I'm assuming Cedric knows enough about Susan Bones's feats and history at the school.

Mint
September 1st, 2015, 12:36 AM
[X] Tell them that the Stone Cutters will function as normal, but have them ask Hillard about his spot.

[X] Ask Cedric what he thinks

[X] Yes, we are best as a Scavenger, and Hermione is a good Brewer

This works for me.

Cassius
September 1st, 2015, 12:45 AM
[X] Hillard will prepare a task/trial/challenge to help him judge who wants to replace him, helped with the input of the other Stone Cutters. All members of the Ourea will get to compete, if the Stone Cutters feel a non member is exceptionally worthy then they may be allowed to compete.

[X] Ask Cedric what he thinks.
[X] Give them our reasoning as to why we choose Susan (Potential, As a test as a leader, also other member's obligations towards other clubs and etc)

[X] No, we should be a Defender, since Hufflepuffs are great at Herbology and we should spend more time talking to Hermione

Veldril
September 1st, 2015, 01:15 AM
[X] Tell them that the Stone Cutters will function as normal, but have them ask Hillard about his spot.

[X] Ask Cedric what he thinks. Also, if he interests in the head position, ask him whether he will have enough time to manage the club or not. (Better make sure if he wants to run it, he can run it properly).

[X] Yes, we are best as a Scavenger, and Hermione is a good Brewer

mangafreak7793
September 1st, 2015, 01:24 AM
[ ] Hillard will prepare a task/trial/challenge to help him judge who will replace him but details as to how will be determined later. As for Tri-Wizards and Potions Champions as being appointed that will be discussed among the Stone Cutters when they are confirmed.

Tell them something will happen but the details are not confirmed.

[ ] Ask Cedric what he thinks
[ ] Give them our reasoning as to why we choose Susan (Potential, As a test as a leader, also other member's obligations towards other clubs and etc)

We can ask for the other Ourea's input but giving our reasoning as to why we thought it was for the best based on our own experiences from last year.

[ ] No, we should brew and let Hermione get experience as a Scavenger.

If she wants to be champion she needs to learn how to Scavenge for ingredients

Omida
September 1st, 2015, 02:00 AM
Shinji's observations during Arithmancy are interesting. It's nice to see just how great cultural shock is, even after two years of being immersed in wizarding world.

[X] Tell them that Stone Cutters will function as normal and that decision about Hillard's spot will be resolved between the six of us. It will depend on decision of all six members if we want to take a new member in. As for Tri-Wizards and Potions Champions as being appointed, that will be discussed among the Stone Cutters when they are confirmed.

We must remember, that Stone Cutters are close knit group, forged by danger. It's not some super exclusive club, but group of friends. We should first ask others, if they want to choose a new member that would take Hillard's place when he graduates. And mention, that no matter what happens, Hillard will always be a member, and that we will remain in contact with him.

[X] Ask Cedric what he thinks and explain our reasoning for choosing Susan. - Lockhart already mentioned that Cedric is unhappy with our decision. Let us hope this will clear any misunderstandings.

[X] No, we should brew and let Hermione get experience as a Scavenger. - mangafreak gave a good reasoning for this decision. If Hermione wants to be a champion in Potion Tournament, she needs to learn how to gather ingredients.

mr_Trickster
September 1st, 2015, 05:06 AM
Shinji's observations during Arithmancy are interesting. It's nice to see just how great cultural shock is, even after two years of being immersed in wizarding world.

[X] Tell them that Stone Cutters will function as normal and that decision about Hillard's spot will be resolved between the six of us. It will depend on decision of all six members if we want to take a new member in. As for Tri-Wizards and Potions Champions as being appointed, that will be discussed among the Stone Cutters when they are confirmed.

We must remember, that Stone Cutters are close knit group, forged by danger. It's not some super exclusive club, but group of friends. We should first ask others, if they want to choose a new member that would take Hillard's place when he graduates. And mention, that no matter what happens, Hillard will always be a member, and that we will remain in contact with him.

[X] Ask Cedric what he thinks and explain our reasoning for choosing Susan. - Lockhart already mentioned that Cedric is unhappy with our decision. Let us hope this will clear any misunderstandings.

[X] No, we should brew and let Hermione get experience as a Scavenger. - mangafreak gave a good reasoning for this decision. If Hermione wants to be a champion in Potion Tournament, she needs to learn how to gather ingredients.

I agree with all of this, and vote likewise.

Malgos
September 1st, 2015, 06:33 AM
Hillard will prepare a task/trial/challenge to help him judge who will replace him but details as to how will be determined later. As for Tri-Wizards and Potions Champions as being appointed that will be discussed among the Stone Cutters when they are confirmed.

The above and asking Cedric.

Shinji is best suited to be a Scavenger in my opinion so he should stay as that. Same goes for Hermione.

Magus
September 1st, 2015, 07:03 AM
Of course, we've kind of made potions one of our dump subjects, so Shinji being the brewer might not work so well.

[X] Tell them that Stone Cutters will function as normal and that decision about Hillard's spot will be resolved between the six of us. It will depend on decision of all six members if we want to take a new member in. As for Tri-Wizards and Potions Champions as being appointed, that will be discussed among the Stone Cutters when they are confirmed.

[X] Ask Cedric what he thinks and explain our reasoning for choosing Susan.


[x] Scavenge, while Hermione brews.

mr_Trickster
September 1st, 2015, 07:28 AM
All things considered, I do believe that Hermoine is likedly to get 'rekt' should she be made a scavenger.

The lesson ruthlessness might be good for her, though; provided she learns it at all, of course.

gesalt
September 1st, 2015, 09:11 AM
[X] Tell them that Stone Cutters will function as normal and that decision about Hillard's spot will be resolved between the six of us. It will depend on decision of all six members if we want to take a new member in. As for Tri-Wizards and Potions Champions as being appointed, that will be discussed among the Stone Cutters when they are confirmed.

[X] Ask Cedric what he thinks and explain our reasoning for choosing Susan.

[X] No, we should brew and let Hermione get experience as a Scavenger.

Caster
September 1st, 2015, 01:37 PM
I agree with the general votes, but as mentioned Scavenger is likely a good learning experience for her. This seems like a good potential year for Hermione to try and reach Shinji as something closer to an equal, so I'll vote for Hermione as Scavenger. Plus it seems like it would help get an idea of what the others on your team are doing, which helps with teamwork.

All That Is Left Unsaid
September 1st, 2015, 02:45 PM
[x] Tell them that Stone Cutters will function as normal and that decision about Hillard's spot will be resolved between the six of us. It will depend on decision of all six members if we want to take a new member in. As for Tri-Wizards and Potions Champions as being appointed, that will be discussed among the Stone Cutters when they are confirmed.

[x] Ask Cedric what he thinks and explain our reasoning for choosing Susan.

[x] No, we should brew and let Hermione get experience as a Scavenger.

For the roles in the potions courses, there is the issue of how Snape plans to use the teams. Will he want people who can specialize in one area, or those who can adapt to multiple roles? The ability to change roles suggests the latter, along with the fact that we don't know what form the Championship would take. If Hermione only focuses on being a Brewer, then she would be compared to Harry, who is likely Snape's favorite for the position, assuming the competition resembles these classes.

The other issue is if Hermione had this mindset going into the teams. Was she prepared to change roles, or did she expect to just stay a Brewer? Shinji might want to help her grow, but he wouldn't necessarily want to jeopardize his own grade, and dropping this on her if she wasn't expecting it might be problematic if she isn't prepared. That said, this class will be between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, so the risk of people acting to eliminate the competition would hopefully be less than those shared with Slytherin, thus it might be a safer class for Hermione to get a feel for the Scavenger role without excessive fear that she will be attacked. She should still be advised to be cautious of course.

Mattias
September 1st, 2015, 05:02 PM
[X] Tell them that Stone Cutters will function as normal and that decision about Hillard's spot will be resolved between the six of us. The organization is more of a group of friends and colleagues and not bound by a predefined number of members. "And none of us like you Draco so stop asking"

[X] Ask Cedric what he thinks and explain our reasoning for choosing Susan. Mainly that her inexperience is the reason she should lead, since where else could she begin her development of these skills? Just like having Neville as 2IC of the Ourea.

[x] While being scout would be the best for us, seeing as we don't seem to be aiming for the potions contest. If Hermy wants to, she should also develop her other skills as well, not just her Brewing. So Hermy Defend, Su Scout and Shinji Brew. And then next time we cycle again.

Nephirin
September 1st, 2015, 09:40 PM
[x] The Stonecutters will function as normal. The membership is not a hard limit-- just because one member leaves doesn't mean we need to recruit someone new. By the same token, if new talent appears, there's no reason not to recruit them either. If someone joins the Stonecutters, it's because they're worthy, not because we have a quota to fill.

[x]Ask Cedric.

[x]Scavenger

Cremela
September 4th, 2015, 01:53 PM
Just signed up to Beast's Lair because of these stories! Binge read them over the past week or two to catch up to here, but now I don't know how to vote?! (Is it ok for me to join in at this late stage?)

Edit: Btw, has anyone thought about the implications of Arithmancy and Sakura's "Hollow/Imaginary numbers"?

alfheimwanderer
September 4th, 2015, 02:30 PM
(Is it ok for me to join in at this late stage?)

Welcome! Yes, its quite fine for you to join in at this stage.

Malgos
September 4th, 2015, 04:34 PM
Just signed up to Beast's Lair because of these stories! Binge read them over the past week or two to catch up to here, but now I don't know how to vote?! (Is it ok for me to join in at this late stage?)

Edit: Btw, has anyone thought about the implications of Arithmancy and Sakura's "Hollow/Imaginary numbers"?

Welcome and enjoy your stay.

alfheimwanderer
September 4th, 2015, 07:19 PM
[X] Ask Cedric
[X] Tie between Scavenger and Brewer. Guess I'll write a scenario where Hermione gets a taste of both, huhuhu.

mr_Trickster
September 4th, 2015, 08:09 PM
Welcome new person!

Alf, can I still make a last minute change of vote? I recall the last draw we had didn't really end too well. With us losing something important for an owl that didn't gain us much.

.[x] - Scavenger

alfheimwanderer
September 4th, 2015, 08:11 PM
Alf, can I still make a last minute change of vote? I recall the last draw we had didn't really end too well. With us losing something important for an owl that didn't gain us much.[x] - Scavenger

Unfortunately, votes have already been tabulated. And don't worry - Rin will be using the owl to send you mail once she gets to Britain.

mr_Trickster
September 4th, 2015, 08:14 PM
Ack, damn. Ah well. We'll just make the most of everything I suppose.

alfheimwanderer
September 5th, 2015, 09:15 PM
Chapter 15. Shadow and Flame

Below him, the world burned.

Flames swept across the ground as fast as a man could run, surging up trees, across underbrush and forest litter, tongues of hungry heat and light visible even through the great cloud of smoke from below sending violent gusts of wind into the air that nearly sent his broomstick out of control.

“What in…”

“Yeah, I really don’t envy you, Matou,” Cedric Diggory – Captain of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team, whose broom this was, grunted, his voice distorted by what looked like an upside-down fishbowl over his head. “I admit, I was a little upset about not getting into NEWT Potions, but with how Snape has gone spare this year…”

Shinji looked down into the sea of fire, or at least, what he could see of it, and swallowed. He’d never imagined fire could be so…noisy, a cacophony of consumption, punctuated here and there by the whump-crack of trees exploding from the heat.

“How much further?” he asked, casting a Bubble-Head Charm of his own to ensure he’d have a supply of clean air – at least for a while.

“Almost there, at least if the map is right.“ Cedric glanced behind him to confirm the two Quidditch players tasked with carrying the rest of Shinji’s team were following. None of them were particularly happy about it, given the updrafts and the marked lack of visibility – and the impeded mobility that came with having to carry another person on their brooms. “Hope you remember Spongify.”

And then the broomstick came to a halt, as a giant down arrow of made of green light loomed out of the smoke.

(In concept, it was very much like the Dark Mark, which Severus Snape had once learned to cast, but with some suitable alterations for his own purposes).

“We’re here,” Cedric intoned, having to raise his voice to be heard above the din as the others pulled up beside him. “With the fire and heat, it’s not safe for us to take the brooms down any further. You’ll have to jump.”

Hermione, sitting on another broom, blinked as she looked down – they had to be at least 20 meters off the ground.

“Is it…safe?” Su Li shouted – almost squeaked. Being the Defender during the last live-fire exercise had been one thing, even if she – like most Ravenclaws – preferred a good knowledge of theory to practical tests, but this…

…what kind of twisted mind came up with these scenarios?

“Safe enough,” Cedric said grimly. “You should be jumping into an area protected by Protego Totalum, after which you’ll have to make your way through the forest to one of the base camps.”

“But how will we know where they are if we don’t have a map?”

“The camps are towards the outside of the forest. If you can’t find them though, you can signal for extraction – but that will mean failing this session. Ready?”

“Does it matter?” Shinji shot back, whereupon Cedric smiled thinly.

“No, I suppose it doesn’t. Matou, as team leader you jump first, followed by Granger and Li a minute later.”

Shinji nodded with a grunt, and with flames all around and only a green arrow to mark the proper path, Matou Shinji drew his wand and took a leap of faith.

“Ventus!” he cried, conjuring a whirlwind to clear away enough of the smoke before him, so he could see just where the ground was. “Spongify!”

A bolt of pink light slammed into the ground, causing the area below to glow purple for a moment before fading, as Shinji forced himself to relax, hitting the ground feet-first – and bouncing as if he’d hit a trampoline.

He bounced once-twice-thrice, arms going up to protect his head as the momentum of the fall gradually bled off and he rolled to his feet, moving away from the impact area as first Hermione, then Su Li fell from the sky, bouncing a few times before coming to a halt, with no injuries except to their pride and dignity.

It was a good thing that the Softening Charm – which true to name, softened a target area or object, making it rubbery and bouncy, was a first year spell, but charming an area this big used a fair bit of prana.

‘…fire…’

That was the first thing the astralized kodama had muttered since they began the exercise, which Shinji had attributed to distraction, though he was not so sure.

‘Zelkova…are you ok?’

‘No,’ came over the mental link. ‘The sound of flames. The scent of death. The heat. Our kind fears fire more than anything else.’

‘You’re not in danger.’ Shinji tried to reassure his familiar. ‘Your physical form is in the Castle, not here.’

‘With all due respect, Master, knowing that in my mind is one thing,’ Zelkova replied tersely. ‘Understanding that is something else entirely. I can function, if that’s what you need.’

‘Sorry. I probably will.’

“Hermione, Su, are you both alright?” Shinji asked, reaching out to help one – then the other – to their feet, his lips curving downwards as he looked at their unprotected bare faces.

“I’m fine, Matou, thank you,” Su answered, holding onto the boy’s hand for a moment more than absolutely necessary as she steadied herself. “Just a little shaken. This kind of thing…it’s my first time…”

In truth, Shinji sympathized. If the fire had seemed bad from the vantage point of broomsticks, when they still had the option of backing out, it was worse here, on the forest floor. True, the fire had been intentionally set as part of a controlled burn, and where they were right now they were safe, but outside the protection of the barriers that had been erected, there was only smoke and fire.

He hoped – really hoped – that there were no low-hanging branches, so the fire would spread into the forest crown, or this could get really, really bad.

‘…I’m sure Professor Snape would take better care of us than that…’

Though after the debacle of first year, and how Professor Dumbledore had kept a Cerberus in the school, as well as all those other defenses, he was not sure. But that wasn’t his concern – his mind was focused on the practicalities of the present, given that it was impossible to see too far, it was hot, and the noise was indescribable. Like a living thing, the inferno roared.

“Hermione?” Shinji called out, noting that his friend’s breathing was becoming faster and shallower as she stared into the fire. “Hermione!”

“Oh. Huh, yes, Shinji?” the girl mumbled, seemingly distracted and overwhelmed. Her eyes gradually focused on him, and recognition came to them. “What…what’s going…”

“The Bubble-Head Charm,” Shinji interjected. “Do you know how to cast it?”

It took a moment before his words filtered through the girl’s rising panic, and she nodded weakly.

“Cast it then!” he ordered, and shakily, the girl complied, a protective bubble forming around her head as she calmed down, her breathing slowing.

“Shinji. How…how are we going to…?”

“We’re going to make it, Hermione,” Shinji said with more confidence than he felt. “I’m sure Professor Snape wouldn’t throw us into anything we can’t handle…right?”

“…right,” Hermione agreed, her voice still weak as she clutched his hand tightly as if holding on for dear life. “You’re right, Shinji…”

‘Do you really believe that, Master?’ Zelkova’s voice questioned.

‘…well, no, but I think it’s kinder to lie in this situation,’ Shinji explained. ‘Besides, if she doesn’t calm down, we won’t be able to proceed at all.’

‘The more I see, the stranger humans seem to me.’

‘We’re strange enough to each other as is.’

“Su, do you know how to cast a Bubble-Head Charm?” Shinji asked, taking a step back to reassess the situation. As a more advanced spell, normally learned in fourth or fifth year, he couldn’t really expect anyone outside the Ourea to know it, after all, and he didn’t want anyone on his team to succumb to smoke inhalation – or to need to resort to using wet rags over their noses and mouths.

As predicted, the girl shook her head, whereupon Shinji let go of her hand and cast the spell on her.

“Better?”

Su Li nodded.

“Ok, then we need to exit the protection of the shields and find a base camp,” he stated, reminding them all of their mission parameters. “Remember, all of us can scavenge along the way and have free use of our wands until we get to one.”

“How are we going to find one?” Hermione asked, looking once again at the world around them, and the flaming chaos they’d been dropped into.

“Look at me, Hermione,” Shinji told her, with the girl doing as he asked. “I went through a forest this summer. I know how to find things.”

And given that base camps were marked by Wiggentrees for protection, he had a marker to look for.

‘Zelkova, can you sense any caches or Wiggentrees in the distance?’

There was pulse of something like a nod, along with an indication of direction.

“Ok…I trust you, Shinji,” Hermione said, fighting to keep her fear under control. “I trust you.”

“Good. I’m going to take point. Su, if you could guard the rear?”

The Chinese girl nodded, brandishing her wand.

“Hermione, stay between us – you’re the brewer, after all, and we’ll need you to make the Fire Protection Potion when we get to camp. Without it, we have no way to escape this area – not without giving up.”

And that was something Matou Shinji was not willing to do, not when the task before them was – on paper – quite simple: Enter the Forest, reach a base camp, collect the ingredients to brew the Fire Protection Potion – and while under its effect, leave the forest on foot before the time limit.

The bushy-haired brunette nodded, her hand almost white as it clenched on her wand.

“You’re going to have to let go of my hand, Hermione,” he admonished, his face leaning close to hers. “I’ll need both my hands free in just in case. Need to keep you safe, after all.”

“O-of course,” Hermione squeaked, doing so.

“Ok, then let’s go,” Shinji ordered, as leading by example, he stepped out of the safe zone, with the others following him into what seemed like the depths of hell itself. “Until we get to base camp, we need to stay in sight of each other at all times. Understood?”

“As you say, Matou.”

100%

As it turned out, once they were out of the safety of the landing zone, braving the smoke and heat, the group found some paths left relatively clear of flaming debris. Relatively compared to the inferno around them, but with the help of their wands, they managed to do what they could.

In truth, Shinji felt quite frustrated, given that his usual force multiplier – ofuda – weren’t actually that useful in the middle of a flaming wood. Yes, he could still use explosive ofuda, or manage to raise protective bulwarks of earth around paths, but at their core, his paper talismans were quite flammable.

He didn’t yet know the Flame-Freezing Charm, after all, something he resolved to fix after this, and more to the point, didn’t know how ofuda that had already been filled to the brim with prana and intent would interact with another spell layered on top of it.

‘Guess I’ll have to test that.’

For now though, he used water to douse a burning branch that had fallen across the road, with a silent gouging spell to clear the debris from the path.

Behind him, he heard the crack of a spell being fired, and turned to see Su Li had dropped to the ground and was exchanging spells with someone, while Hermione remained standing and was stiff as a board.

He was about to reprimand her for freezing up, when he noticed that she wasn’t just stuff, but unnaturally frozen, with her legs locked together in one of the classic signs of a Total-Body Bind.

Casting ‘Finite Incantatem’ on Hermione, he dropped to the ground and pulled her down on top of him, to get her out of the line of fire, with the girl’s body tensing, her expression a mask of utter shock and embarrassment as she fell against him.

She almost jumped to her feet, as if his very touch burned like the fire around them, but Shinji kept a tight hold on her arm, keeping her from doing so.

“Stay down. It’s an ambush,” he whispered harshly, hastily restoring the Bubble-Head Charm that he’d accidentally dispelled.

“Ah…” Hermione said eloquently, her body relaxing against his. “What do we do?”

Shinji smiled thinly.

“Well, we fight, of course. Though if you could get off, that would good. I need to use my wand, after all. I need you to lay down some stunning spells for suppressive fire, if you can.”

“R-right!” Hermione squeaked, shifting herself off the boy as she recovered from her shock and pointed her wand into the smoke in the distance.

‘Zelkova, how many of them are there?’

‘…three attackers. All male.’

‘None of them have the Bubble-Head Charm active, do they?’ Shinji inquired, suspecting that his ambushers had begun to panic from the effects of smoke inhalation. With that in mind, he knew he needed to get them out of the forest quickly for their own good – and his, since if they kept lashing out, it wouldn’t help. He needed to stop them – and quickly.

But he couldn’t….

‘Wait…I can.’

Frowning, he extracted a few explosive ofuda from his robes, compressed them into a small orb about the size of a marble and primed them.

‘Deliver this to them, Zelkova, and then return.’

‘As you wish…’

100%

In the air above, the Quidditch players waiting for their underclassmen to signal for extraction were stunned when a massive explosion of pure white light ripped through the forest and into the sky, a wave of concussive force blowing away the smoke from the area to reveal a newly formed clearing where fire had been snuffed out.

“…was that…Confringo?” one of them asked, swallowing as he looked over at what he imagined was a scene of devastation. “What kind of third year knows…?”

But his voice trailed off, as there were two third year students he could think of who might know such a spell.

“…well, it’s not Slytherin out there, so that was probably Matou,” Cedric replied, shaking his head. “We should probably see what happened, and if anyone needs to be evacuated.”

And there were indeed three unconscious individuals who needed extraction: Zachariah Smith, Ernie Macmillan, and Justin Finch-Fletchy, all of which had been knocked unconscious by the force of the explosion – but who hadn’t been too badly injured.

“It’s strange, Captain. It’s like whoever knocked them out cast from point-blank range and knew exactly where they were.”

“…in this smoke?” Cedric blinked, surprised. “Well, I suppose I should be the last one to underestimate a Stone Cutter…”

100%

As they proceeded along after the attempted ambush, Hermione stared at the back of Matou Shinji’s head, wondering what had happened when the wave of force washed over them – or rather, wondering how Matou was able to just turn his back on his opponents without checking to see if they were ok? She knew that at Shinji’s bidding, Peeves had caused an explosion of light and sound in Moody’s classroom last year, but if he had caused it without Peeves, didn’t that mean it hadn’t really been one of Peeves’ abilities – but one of his own.

But…how was that possible? He hadn’t said a word, and she hadn’t seen him use his paper talismans at all.

There were so many rumors about what Matou knew – ones she was having to re-evaluate since she found out he’d been allowed to move onto the second level of Ancient Runes after the very first day. It was obvious to her that he had strange and potent abilities, and as she followed him, noting how confident he seemed, how even this firestorm left him unruffled, she wished she was like him – that she had that kind of confidence.

That she was a leader, as he believed her to be – and she didn’t.

Sometimes she felt like a fraud. Like she didn’t deserve the successes she’d obtained, and wasn’t as smart as people thought she was. She worked hard, very hard, learning advanced charms, excelling in transfiguration, and more, but what good was her knowledge when she couldn’t use it?

Had Matou honed his skills in situations like this? Encounters full of uncertainty, where disaster was only a hairbreadth away? Was that how he’d become so strong?

‘Hm?’

A flash of color caught her attention, as she turned see something on the side of the road – a large cluster of mushrooms with white stalks and red and white spotted caps.

‘Bursting Mushrooms.’

These, like Salamander blood and Wartcap powder, were an essential component of the Fire-Protection Potion – though they were notorious for exploding with enough force to knock a person out if approached.

“Shinji, wait. I see bursting mushrooms,” she called out, as the others came to a halt, looking at the mushrooms to the side of the road.

“…this is tricky,” Su commented, frowning. “You think the Freezing Charm will work to disarm them?”

Hermione didn’t know, but cast Immobulus on the mushrooms anyway, before gingerly taking a step forwards, only to step back as the mushrooms began to swell and shrink.

“Stun them, Hermione!” Shinji ordered, as he loosed a few ofuda to bind the mushrooms and utterly seal their ability to sense things approaching. The bushy haired brunette did so, and they quickly harvested a number of the mushrooms.

On their way towards a base camp, they were fortunate enough to find some wartcaps, which Shinji took the lead in harvesting, since his gloves protected him from direct contact with the substance – which otherwise would cause unprotected skin to stiffen into a hard crust, a magical infection that would slowly spread over the rest of the body unless treated.

As a close-knit group, they avoided a number of dangerous obstacles, cleared the road, shook off another ambush party and more, before finally approaching what they thought was a base camp, only for Shinji, their de facto leader, to signal them to halt.

“Get down,” the boy from the East hissed, with the others complying. Laying out a few ofuda, he raised a protective bulwark of earth before him, with the others raising an eyebrow at his abilities – and why he saw the need to stop. “There are people ahead, and they’re fighting.”

Indeed, in the distance, beams of red and blue and green were visible through the smoke, as a battle raged.

“I guess some teams didn’t want to find another base camp,” Su spoke. “Is there another one we can get to?”

“I’m sure there is,” Shinji replied. “But do we want to cut through more of that flaming wood?”

“…now that you mention it, no,” Su answered, an expression of distaste flitting across her face. “It was bad enough, even with you as our leader.”

“Hermione?” Shinji asked quietly.

“We don’t even know where another one might be,” the brunette spoke up, shaking her head. “Should we walk up and ask them to stop fighting? No one said there can only be one team per base camp, right?”

“Heh,” Shinji grunted. “Well, that’s true. I don’t think they’re in a mood to talk though, since…they’re already hexing each other.”

And since he couldn’t see any of them, much less who they were, he imagined that if he was to loom out of the shadows all of the sudden and call for a ceasefire, he’d receive the full force of an attack or three – and that wasn’t high on his list of priorities.

“Matou, just finish them like you did the ambushers,” Su said, getting straight to the point. “I don’t we have much time left.”

Shinji raised his hands in mock surrender.

“Alright then,” he said, withdrawing some of his explosive ofuda and compressing and priming them into small orbs once more.

‘Zelkova, you know what to do.’

‘…if you insist.’

100%

In the sky above, Cedric and the rest of his Quidditch players suppressed a frisson of horror and fear as two massive explosions of light and power erupted from the forest below, wondering what third year was ruthless enough – and had enough power – to unleash this kind of spell. True, with conditions being what they were below, it was expected that most of the students would end up in conflict, even if some hoped they’d move beyond panic and actually work together, but even so…

After the shockwaves passed, they made their way down to the clearing of one of the base camps to find that Matou Shinji and his team were setting up their equipment to brew the Fire Protection Potion, having found the cache of Salamander Blood buried near the tree, and acquired the other two other ingredients en route to the camp.

“I was wondering when you’d show up,” Shinji said casually, motioning over towards the sides of the clearing, where a number of prone bodies lay. “There are six people who need extraction. We found them fighting over the camp and couldn’t take the risk they’d target us.”

“…so you…blew them up?” one of the Quidditch players whispered.

“I did what I had to,” the Boy from the East replied. “No more no less.”

In the end, his team would be one of the two to emerge from the burning labyrinth on their own two feet, successfully brewing the Fire Protection Potion and walking through the ring of fire that surrounded the area.

The other was a Hufflepuff team led by Susan Bones, which earned the girl a good bit of respect. Apparently, she and her teammate Hannah Abbott had known the Bubble-Head Charm, which had kept them from succumbing to the fear and panic others did. They’d proceeded slowly, avoiding confrontation and keeping low to the ground to avoid looming out of the smoke at anyone, and had reached a base camp relatively quickly, and – as experts in Herbology – had managed to gather the ingredients relatively quickly.

All in all, it was about as messy as the Gryffindor and Slytherin joint session, which had happened in a different section of burned forest…

100%

For Matou Shinji, it was almost refreshing to sit down to a meeting in the Ourea clubroom after his journey through the burning wood – and after a long shower as well, to get the smell of smoke out of his nostrils. He was drained, completely and utterly so, and though he had been feted as one of the few to pass that session, it hadn’t felt like victory.

Especially given how quickly rumors spread, and how some thought of him as a ruthless destroyer who it was futile to face, while some – the people he’d knocked out – blamed him for making them fail.

‘Honestly, they only have themselves to blame.’

He understood how fierce competition was, and how the constraints of this particular session had brought out the worst in everyone, but he’d expected better of his classmates. He surely hadn’t expected Cedric to look at him warily, as if he might be a rival at some point – it wasn’t as if he wanted to be a school champion or such.

“So, Matou, what’s happening with the Stone Cutters since the Head Boy is graduating this year?” came a voice from the table – that of Draco Malfoy. “Will you be recruiting someone else to replace him?”

Shinji sighed, not really wanting to deal with this, but it was something he had to, given that he was the leader of the Ourea, and it had always been implied that members of the Ourea would have an advantage when it came to recruitment.

“That’s a good point,” Cedric affirmed, nodding slowly. “And what of the Tri-Wizard and Potions Champions? Given that students so selected would have accomplished the extraordinary, surely they’d be considered for membership in the Stone Cutters?”

Luckily, he had talked to Hillard at the beginning of the year, and had at least a partial answer.

“The Head Boy is preparing a trial by fire to help us select who will come after him,” Shinji replied, nodding to both Diggory and Malfoy. “Though I stress that whoever is selected must be approved by all current members of the Stone Cutters, as it is not just a club, but a network of comrades. As for the Tri-Wizards and Potions Champions – well, we’ll see what happens, since the Weasley Twins are being talked about as candidates for both of them.”

“…that much is true,” Cedric conceded, shaking his head. “Can’t help but feel you’re missing a Hufflepuff though.”
“Well if you become a Champion, there will be a good chance,” Shinji answered. “More if you face a practitioner of the Dark Arts or such, but those are a bit rare on the ground.”

“Thankfully,” Cedric grunted. “Look, whatever else, I’ll admit you all deserve the honors you’ve gotten. Surprised that you skipped a year in Runes though.”

“So was I,” Cho Chang spoke up, eyeing Shinji curiously. “I didn’t expect Matou to walk into my classroom and sit next to me today. But he’s very…good.”

“Thanks,” Shinji noted, inclining his head with a wan smile. “But the thing is, we won’t always be there. And so, as the leader of the Ourea, I’d like to propose the formation of a Self-Defense Club to help the students of Hogwarts put what they learn in the classroom into practice.”

This caused a bit of interesting chatter about the round table, as the others talked about the implications of such a club, how it would run and such.

But of course, the most interesting question was who would lead the group.

“I had in mind Susan Bones as leader, given her performance in the most recent Potions-Herbology joint session, with Pansy Parkinson as her second in command,” Shinji suggested, opening the floor for discussion. “Any opposed?”

“Me,” came the voice of none other than Susan herself. When Shinji looked at her, bidding her wordlessly to go on, the girl just bit her lip and frowned. “I don’t feel like I’m qualified. You probably know my aunt is the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, but she’s not me. I’m good in Herbology, not Defense, and…” She looked powerlessly over at Cedric. “I think someone more experienced would be a better candidate to lead the students of Hogwarts in learning to defend themselves.”

“Cedric, what do you have to say?” Shinji inquired. He could admit to himself that on paper, the other boy was a good candidate to lead the organization, as Cedric had received training from Moody and Hillard last year during the Black Incident, and was already a decorated leader. The trouble was that, as a Consul, a Prefect, and as Hufflepuff Quidditch Team Captain, he was extremely busy.

“I think…Susan has potential,” Cedric acknowledged, wanting to come across as diplomatic and not…well, power-hungry. “Especially after that session. I’m proud of her for leading her team to safety – the only one besides yours to escape in time, Matou. But…”

“But…?” Shinji coaxed.

“It’s true that most of Hogwarts would probably have problems following the instructions of a Third Year,” Pansy pointed out. “Having one as second in command would work.” And here she flashed him an appreciative smile, as Shinji almost felt Hermione tense up next to him. “But not in overall charge, except if it was Harry. Or maybe you, Matou.”

“Does anyone have another suggestion then?” he asked quietly.

“How about this?” Pansy offered. “Cedric will be the Self-Defense Club’s nominal leader, while Susan and I work as the group’s second in commands, doing most of the work of organizing things.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Luna chimed in, her eyes bright.

“Susan, Cedric, what do you think about that?” Shinji inquired, raising an eyebrow. It sounded like a fair enough arrangement, and two people as Cedric’s deputies would probably be enough people to take up any slack.

“…well, if Prefect Diggory is ok with it, I think that would be ok,” Susan allowed. “It would give me a chance to learn from someone more experienced.”

“It sounds fair to me,” Cedric said. He wasn’t about to turn down an offer like this, after all. “This way I get to pass down my experience, and having two deputies will be useful if things get busy. You do have potential though Susan. Matou wouldn't have picked you to be here otherwise.”

“All of you have potential,” Shinji affirmed, his eyes looking over the group he led. “Some have already realized most of it. Some are just starting out their journeys as leaders. But you are leaders, or you wouldn’t be here. You faced the Kobayashi Maru, came to grips with your fears, did well in that forest. There is not a person in this room I wouldn’t mind having by my side should I face a practitioner of the Dark Arts.”

Admittedly, the last bit was a stretch at best, but it sounded good, and it made Hermione, sitting next to him, all but glow.

“Um, Shinji,” Hermione asked. “Do you plan to set up a group dealing with Potions under the Ourea as well?”

“Maybe next year. Right now, Professor Snape controls the Potions club, and something tells me crossing him would be a very bad idea.”

Those in third year and above shuddered, having seen what the Professor was willing to do in the pursuit of excellence, while the second years blinked.

“Why? He’s strict, but he seems fair,” Ginny Weasley spoke up with a puzzled expression. “I’ve heard the new classes are helping everyone learn Herbology better too, right?”

“Yes, but…”

“You’ll know next year, Miss Weasley,” Shinji replied, with the girl blushing as their eyes met. “I just hope you’re as talented as your brothers.”

“I-I’ll try not to disappoint.”

“Oh, Matou,” Draco spoke up, frowning. “Do you know what Professor Lockhart plans for Halloween this year? Another play, maybe?”

“I hope it will be A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Luna murmured in her sing-song voice. “I’ve always wanted to play Titania.”

“The Fall of Raczidian is one possibility,” Shinji related, with several people in the room shivering as the name brought their Kobayashi scenarios to mind. “Otherwise, yes, possibly A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Or something else entirely…”

“…hopefully not some Russian epic again,” Draco Malfoy groused. “I don’t really want to sacrifice myself for the Greater Good on stage.”

“Well, that’s up to the Professor, and as we know, he’s less than…utterly predictable.”

100%

Choice 42: Once again, its Halloween, and there are a number of things to do. Of course, Lockhart is putting on another play, if Shinji would like to be part of it. He could go to the 501st Deathday celebration of Nearly Headless Nick, and talk to the ghosts, as its been a while. He could take a private dinner with Harry and the Stone Cutters in the Founder's Tower, a time for them to look back as a group and remember what they'd lost and what they fought for, since its their final year together.

For Halloween, Shinji will: (choose one)

[ ] Participate in the Halloween Play
[ ] Go to the Deathday Celebration with [write-in]
[ ] Have a private dinner with the Stone Cutters to honor the fallen and remember what they fought for

Choice 43: In addition to the play, Lockhart has made plans to throw a Halloween Ball, given that it is one of the greatest festivals of wizardkind in the west, and there is much to celebrate and honor, including the bravery of heroes. This will be a formal dance, to be opened by the Stone Cutters and their partners in a grand Waltz, with all years allowed to attend if they wish, and a good deal of attention to be focused on young heroes and their companions.

So, with that in mind, who will you take as your date for the evening? (choose one)

[ ] Hermione
[ ] Luna
[ ] Pansy
[ ] (write-in)

Kuroyuki
September 5th, 2015, 09:29 PM
[X] Have a private dinner with the Stone Cutters to honor the fallen and remember what they fought for

[X] Pansy Hermione.

First choice: Nakama. Also not too fond of doing the play or deathday. Unless the play is Shinji Matou in the Fall of Grindelwald with him playing as Dumbledore's Sister and Hermione/Luna are Dumbles and Grindelwald. Deathday party if we dress up as Darth Vad- WAKAME with our guest in a white suit of armor with blue stripes on it.

Pansy because I want an odd sort of pick. To be honest, I did consider picking Cho Chang so I could get a Hogwarts Senpai hare- conq- romantic interest, but it looks like the year of Pansy so far. (If I exclude Luna and Hermione)

Veldril
September 5th, 2015, 09:58 PM
Asking Cedric really was the best option :D

[x] Have a private dinner with the Stone Cutters to honor the fallen and remember what they fought for

[x] Luna

Sorry but best girl (at least in this story) needs to get that dance. Beside, it would be a good time to tell Hermione about how we really feel about her so she can move on too.

Cassius
September 5th, 2015, 10:08 PM
[X] Have a private dinner with the Stone Cutters to honor the fallen and remember what they fought for.
[X] Hermione

EnigmaticFellow
September 5th, 2015, 10:49 PM
[X] Have a private dinner with the Stone Cutters to honor the fallen and remember what they fought for.
[X] Hermione

Going with this option to keep Hermione stable.

Nanao-kun
September 5th, 2015, 11:03 PM
[X] Have a private dinner with the Stone Cutters to honor the fallen and remember what they fought for.
[X] Luna

Mint
September 5th, 2015, 11:20 PM
[X] Have a private dinner with the Stone Cutters to honor the fallen and remember what they fought for.

gesalt
September 6th, 2015, 12:55 AM
[X] Dinner for the Fallen
[X] Cho
[X] Grey Lady

mangafreak7793
September 6th, 2015, 01:30 AM
[ ] Have a private dinner with the Stone Cutters to honor the fallen and remember what they fought for

[ ] Grey Lady


​It will make a inpact for sure.

Omida
September 6th, 2015, 01:31 AM
First half of the chapter was really intense. Shinji's fame and mystery seem to only grow, which is a little amusing. Also, it would seem that asking Cedric for opinion paid off.

[X] Have a private dinner with the Stone Cutters to honor the fallen and remember what they fought for. - Yeah, this year we are focusing on SC, so no question.




Also not too fond of doing the play or deathday. Unless the play is Shinji Matou in the Fall of Grindelwald with him playing as Dumbledore's Sister and Hermione/Luna are Dumbles and Grindelwald.

This is hilarious image, even if somewhat scarring (though some time ago, in quest to find pics of fem!Shinji, I found he needs a very little alteration to pass as a girl).



Anyway, Halloween Ball reminds me of another important decision. This year we must finally solve Shinji's love life without alienating girls we are friendly with. I don't want to suddenly have yanderes after Shinji. To recap the girls:

Sokaris - Friend and trusts us enough with her secret. Probably not interested in romance for another few years (Yes, I find Matou desirable, but currently he is a bit too young to pursue.) If we decide to still maintain her as primary interest, we will have to balance our Hogwarts relationships into something more platonic.

Rin Tohsaka - Intrigued by Shinji, may be interested. Comes with hidden Holy Grail War sub-quest later on. Option only if we decide to focus more on Asian side of things. As with Sokaris, we must be careful with handling Hogwarts interests.

Hermione Granger - Crushing on Shinji (if I read the situation right), but feels inadequate and threatened by Luna. Also, Harry doesn't like her. Requires careful handling of both Harry and Luna.

Luna Lovegood - Crushing on Shinji so hard... Bonus for Harry being friendly with her. If we choose this heroine, we must somehow assure Hermione that we still want her as a friend/make it platonic. I think Luna would be the easiest girl to shift into platonic relationship, but wrong decision may also break her.

Pansy Parkinson - Recently started showing interest in Shinji. Possibly has hidden agenda (more spotlight? genuine infatuation?). Won't be horribly disappointed if she doesn't win Shinji.

There may be someone I forgot. Or not.



So for ball let's go with:

[X] Su Li - She made positive impression during our latest potion class. Also, she is neutral to us. If we ask her, stress the point that we choose her because she isn't interested in us (I swear to God, if she turns out to be interested...). Promise Hermione and Luna a dance (maybe more).

I would choose Daphne as she would probably understand, but Harry may well kill us for stealing his girl. Cho is going out with Cedric (I think... maybe...) and Susan may get the wrong idea again.





[ ] Grey Lady

​It will make a inpact for sure.

This...Yeah, if we want to send a signal that we are not interested in romance, this may well be good option, if hilarious. Or it starts a rumor about our preferences. Hard to tell with Hogwarts Rumors Mill .

mr_Trickster
September 6th, 2015, 02:01 AM
Halloween will be a good time for us to be together with the other Stone Cutters. Between Harry's tendency to allow the worst of his guilt to get the better of him on this holiday, and the fact that this will be the last year that the original members of this organization will be together, it's important that we reinforce our unity.

As for the ball, I have to say that I agree with Omida's reasoning here. It appears to be rather sound to me.

On a personal standpoint, I'm still gunning for the Sokaris ending here, and I see the prudence in keeping a good balance with everyone that we have to interact with in Hogwarts. While it's true that keeping up with Hermoine is important, we also don't want to put too much time into her that she might start getting the wrong idea - something that unfortunately seems very common with her. That and I feel like we've put in quite a bit of time into investing with her already. This could lead us down a very long and painful road. And while Mangafreak7793's choice of the grey lady is one I am more than willing to get behind, I'm not sure if enough of us on this forum can build up steam for it.

That said, I'll be voting for Su Li as well with the condition that we actually establish that this is a platonic date and hope that she does not get any ideas.

So for official voting it's...

[X] - Have a private dinner with the Stone Cutters to honor the fallen and remember what they fought for.

[X] - Su Li

Omida
September 6th, 2015, 02:23 AM
Yeah, I am gunning for Sokaris too. As it's the most long term plan (and she is the girl that required the most effort to get) I envision Shinji's time at Hogwarts, if we decide to still pursue her, to consist of beating the girls off with the stick and micromanaging the female friends he already has. She just has sort of appeal to me. Besides, Shinji was the most open with her, and as I said, she reciprocated in kind.

Of course, beginning of this year was (as tags put it) really forcing Luna lovin', so that's here and there. Generally, if there was no Sokaris in this universe, I would happily ship Luna/Shinji. Alas, that's not the case.

Veldril
September 6th, 2015, 02:46 AM
I kinda prefer Sokaris more on the platonic relationship :P Beside we don't even know how much will we interact with her in the future. Luna is here and she has a kinda good chemistry with Shinji so I want to explore that direction more.

Caster
September 6th, 2015, 02:57 AM
I like the idea of the Gray Lady as well. Partially because I think our roster of characters is already pretty big without giving more focus to others, partially since she is an interesting figure, and partially because it is a neutral option. It's not going to make Hermione feel bad, which I do want to avoid, and should avoid making it look like a romantic thing. The Stone Cutter focus should continue for obvious reasons.

tohkos
September 6th, 2015, 03:18 AM
[X] Have a private dinner with the Stone Cutters to honor the fallen and remember what they fought for.
[X] Hermione

mangafreak7793
September 6th, 2015, 04:13 AM
First half of the chapter was really intense. Shinji's fame and mystery seem to only grow, which is a little amusing. Also, it would seem that asking Cedric for opinion paid off.

[X] Have a private dinner with the Stone Cutters to honor the fallen and remember what they fought for. - Yeah, this year we are focusing on SC, so no question.



This is hilarious image, even if somewhat scarring (though some time ago, in quest to find pics of fem!Shinji, I found he needs a very little alteration to pass as a girl).



Anyway, Halloween Ball reminds me of another important decision. This year we must finally solve Shinji's love life without alienating girls we are friendly with. I don't want to suddenly have yanderes after Shinji. To recap the girls:

Sokaris - Friend and trusts us enough with her secret. Probably not interested in romance for another few years (Yes, I find Matou desirable, but currently he is a bit too young to pursue.) If we decide to still maintain her as primary interest, we will have to balance our Hogwarts relationships into something more platonic.

Rin Tohsaka - Intrigued by Shinji, may be interested. Comes with hidden Holy Grail War sub-quest later on. Option only if we decide to focus more on Asian side of things. As with Sokaris, we must be careful with handling Hogwarts interests.

Hermione Granger - Crushing on Shinji (if I read the situation right), but feels inadequate and threatened by Luna. Also, Harry doesn't like her. Requires careful handling of both Harry and Luna.

Luna Lovegood - Crushing on Shinji so hard... Bonus for Harry being friendly with her. If we choose this heroine, we must somehow assure Hermione that we still want her as a friend/make it platonic. I think Luna would be the easiest girl to shift into platonic relationship, but wrong decision may also break her.

Pansy Parkinson - Recently started showing interest in Shinji. Possibly has hidden agenda (more spotlight? genuine infatuation?). Won't be horribly disappointed if she doesn't win Shinji.

There may be someone I forgot. Or not.



So for ball let's go with:

[X] Su Li - She made positive impression during our latest potion class. Also, she is neutral to us. If we ask her, stress the point that we choose her because she isn't interested in us (I swear to God, if she turns out to be interested...). Promise Hermione and Luna a dance (maybe more).

I would choose Daphne as she would probably understand, but Harry may well kill us for stealing his girl. Cho is going out with Cedric (I think... maybe...) and Susan may get the wrong idea again.





This...Yeah, if we want to send a signal that we are not interested in romance, this may well be good option, if hilarious. Or it starts a rumor about our preferences. Hard to tell with Hogwarts Rumors Mill .


Halloween will be a good time for us to be together with the other Stone Cutters. Between Harry's tendency to allow the worst of his guilt to get the better of him on this holiday, and the fact that this will be the last year that the original members of this organization will be together, it's important that we reinforce our unity.

As for the ball, I have to say that I agree with Omida's reasoning here. It appears to be rather sound to me.

On a personal standpoint, I'm still gunning for the Sokaris ending here, and I see the prudence in keeping a good balance with everyone that we have to interact with in Hogwarts. While it's true that keeping up with Hermoine is important, we also don't want to put too much time into her that she might start getting the wrong idea - something that unfortunately seems very common with her. That and I feel like we've put in quite a bit of time into investing with her already. This could lead us down a very long and painful road. And while Mangafreak7793's choice of the grey lady is one I am more than willing to get behind, I'm not sure if enough of us on this forum can build up steam for it.

That said, I'll be voting for Su Li as well with the condition that we actually establish that this is a platonic date and hope that she does not get any ideas.

So for official voting it's...

[X] - Have a private dinner with the Stone Cutters to honor the fallen and remember what they fought for.

[X] - Su Li


Then why Su Li? I think the Grey Lady will be accessible and less random then suddenly picking Su Li out of nowhere not to mention the possibility of tripping her flag.

Omida
September 6th, 2015, 04:17 AM
Okay, since these are indeed, good points, I will switch.

[X] Grey Lady

Though, I was operating under pretense, that she won't be interested in such an event. I may be wrong.

mr_Trickster
September 6th, 2015, 04:24 AM
Then why Su Li? I think the Grey Lady will be accessible and less random then suddenly picking Su Li out of nowhere not to mention the possibility of tripping her flag.

Point taken.

[X] - Grey lady

Grey lady it is, then!

Malgos
September 6th, 2015, 06:32 AM
Getting together with the Stone Cutters.

Gonna go with the Grey Lady, I was thinking about an option that has no romance involved in it, but I couldn't think of anything good just some dumb things and this is a pretty good option for that.

gesalt
September 6th, 2015, 09:00 AM
I'll gladly change my vote to

[X] Grey Lady

Vagrant
September 6th, 2015, 10:19 AM
[Stone Cutters]
[Fly Rin in from Fuyuki]

Mattias
September 6th, 2015, 01:25 PM
[X] Stone cutters
[X] grey lady. I was going to say go stag, but this is pretty much the same thing. Just a little creepier. I just hope she doesn't start trying to kill us to be together forever.

Nephirin
September 6th, 2015, 02:31 PM
[x] Private Dinner

[x]Gray Lady

If Rin were in London already, I'd suggest her, but I think she's still in Fuyuki.

All That Is Left Unsaid
September 6th, 2015, 03:00 PM
[x] Have a private dinner with the Stone Cutters to honor the fallen and remember what they fought for
[x] Grey Lady

alfheimwanderer
September 6th, 2015, 10:44 PM
Just so you know, the Stone Cutters and their companions will be the subject of a piece in the Daily Prophet, to be written by our favorite reporter, Rita Skeeter - including photograph, given that people are quite curious about the young heroes. So let's be careful what kind of impression you want to give Magical Britain, eh? Just a thought.

Anything you reveal during the ball, like abilities and such, is of course, fair game, especially in conjunction with some information that you may be setting out to buy the Black House.

Caster
September 6th, 2015, 10:57 PM
I think that taking anyone else though makes it all the more solidly placed in favor of this or that route. I suppose we could take our familiar though, similarly neutral with slim chances of a relationship.

Vagrant
September 6th, 2015, 11:03 PM
Fly rin in, seriously. We don't want rumours about us being able to touch ghosts coupled with taking a lady ghost to the dance. The necropholiac shinji rumours are right there waiting to start guys.

- - - Updated - - -

We're going to end up like Thanos. He Who Courts Death.

alfheimwanderer
September 6th, 2015, 11:29 PM
We're going to end up like Thanos. He Who Courts Death.

You want Shinji to wield the Infinity Gauntlet?

Vagrant
September 6th, 2015, 11:33 PM
If that is an option. Will we end up getting crushed by a ridiculous alliance oc superheroes?

Harry Potter and the Fist of
Eternity, please.

Caster
September 6th, 2015, 11:40 PM
Shinji with the infinity gauntlet is a win in my books.

mr_Trickster
September 7th, 2015, 12:10 AM
Well, I can certainly imagine people getting majorly creeped out by Shinji at this point. Taking any of the three might have had political impact such as taking Parkinson would have shown that Shinji was rather interested in getting in on Magical Britain politics while Hermoine would have made a statement to blood-purists (While I cannot say what sort of statement taking Luna would make). As much as this new information might have influenced me to switch my vote, Grey Lady has already been really invested in now.

That, and getting the Black House would really be a good idea, in my opinion.

Veldril
September 7th, 2015, 12:11 AM
Just so you know, the Stone Cutters and their companions will be the subject of a piece in the Daily Prophet, to be written by our favorite reporter, Rita Skeeter - including photograph, given that people are quite curious about the young heroes. So let's be careful what kind of impression you want to give Magical Britain, eh? Just a thought.

Anything you reveal during the ball, like abilities and such, is of course, fair game, especially in conjunction with some information that you may be setting out to buy the Black House.

Well, that means it is very important who we invited to be our partner in the ball. I don't really think that Grey Lady would make a good impression to Wizards considering how they view non-wizard kind. I think preferring Sokaris is fine and dandy, but we don't even know whether the route still exists or not, or how we interact with other girls might affect the route. I don't really think Sokaris cares that much if Shinji interact or take other girls to the ball. I would gladly support her if she's at Hogwart now but she isn't so other choices look better.

Flying Rin in would be a fun option (in a train wreck way), especially if the Wizard World learns about magecraft :P Magic Association would be instantly labelled as The Lair of the Dark Lords, lol. But it can be fun too if we don't reveal too much about magecraft.

Speaking about flying someone in, then we also kinda can fly Sokaris in as Sion Eltnam Atlasia and introduce her as "Sokaris's sister". The result might not be pretty though :P

You know what, screw it. I'm going to change my vote to [x]Fly Tohsaka Rin in Let's see how witches and wizards react a mage who walk alongside death.

Vagrant
September 7th, 2015, 12:13 AM
You're all fools! Rin could do some tour of the Clock Tower too while she's here. She'll be there in a little over two years time.

Wait no the maths doesn't work. I fucked up with that bigtime. Ignore me.

Veldril
September 7th, 2015, 12:21 AM
You're all fools! Rin could do some tour of the Clock Tower too while she's here. She'll be there in a little over two years time.

Wait no the maths doesn't work. I fucked up with that bigtime. Ignore me.

Well, I think in this story, Rin kinda attends Clock Tower earlier (like she's joining now instead of after the 5th Grail War) than in the canon. So she should be able to give a tour to Clock Tower after she get to London.

mr_Trickster
September 7th, 2015, 12:22 AM
Speaking about flying someone in, then we also kinda can fly Sokaris in as Sion Eltnam Atlasia and introduce her as "Sokaris's sister". The result might not be pretty though :P

As much as I like this idea, I'm not sure it's something we can pull off (or Alf will allow, for that matter). Ironically funny that bringing an actual ghost would be easier than bringing in our closest friend.

alfheimwanderer
September 7th, 2015, 12:52 AM
[x]Fly Tohsaka Rin in Let's see how witches and wizards react a mage who walk alongside death.

No flying people in for this ball. This is a Hogwarts/Magical Britain event, essentially. You'll have your chance for interactions with Rin later this year, and possibly even with the Director of Atlas. But that's later, so patience, please...

Also, Rin is coming to Clock Tower now because she wants to catch up with Shinji, seeing how far he came after leaving Fuyuki, and will be here during winter break. Just in time for a house as an xmas present.

Veldril
September 7th, 2015, 01:01 AM
No flying people in for this ball. This is a Hogwarts/Magical Britain event, essentially. You'll have your chance for interactions with Rin later this year, and possibly even with the Director of Atlas. But that's later, so patience, please...

Also, Rin is coming to Clock Tower now because she wants to catch up with Shinji, seeing how far he came after leaving Fuyuki, and will be here during winter break. Just in time for a house as an xmas present.

Well, it was kinda trollish choices anyway :P

I will just go for [x] Luna then. Well, unless there is a choice that can overtake the Grey Lady's vote.

Mattias
September 7th, 2015, 11:27 AM
Ok, then I change my vote to going stag. Give your first dance under the spotlight to Hermy though.

- - - Updated - - -


Ok, then I change my vote to going stag. Give your first dance under the spotlight to Hermy though.



Also, Rin is coming to Clock Tower now because she wants to catch up with Shinji, seeing how far he came after leaving Fuyuki, and will be here during winter break. Just in time for a house as an xmas present.

How do the different magics interact with other? Like could Rin even see Hogwarts with all its illusions and charms protecting it, when she uses an entirely different magical system?

Vagrant
September 7th, 2015, 11:51 AM
One assumes there are ways.

If I can't fly Rin in then I guess I can't request that Touko come either for bonus Snape scenes.

I protest this horrendous railroading by not voting at all. Nobody at Hogwarts deserves Shinji :P

Omida
September 7th, 2015, 12:05 PM
One assumes there are ways.

If I can't fly Rin in then I guess I can't request that Touko come either for bonus Snape scenes.

I protest this horrendous railroading by not voting at all. Nobody at Hogwarts deserves Shinji :P


Fuck, if there was an option to get Touko, I would take it as soon as possible. No question asked, no matter how many yandere flags it would trip.

Alas, only one Aozaki can be a shotacon. And alf probably would put it down with similar reasoning to the one used to shoot down Rin option.

Mattias
September 7th, 2015, 12:06 PM
One assumes there are ways.

If I can't fly Rin in then I guess I can't request that Touko come either for bonus Snape scenes.

I protest this horrendous railroading by not voting at all. Nobody at Hogwarts deserves Shinji :P

Go Stag man. It's the only option to keep the foreigner routes on track.

Nephirin
September 7th, 2015, 12:24 PM
to be opened by the Stone Cutters and their partners in a grand Waltz

One assumes that we'll need a partner, at least for the first dance, much like how Harry needed a partner in book 4. Can't be the opening scene when you show up solo. But man, this is hard. I don't really like any of the choices now that Rin's cut off. :P

We could grab Harry as our date, I suppose. :neco_arc:

Omida
September 7th, 2015, 12:34 PM
We could grab Harry as our date, I suppose. :neco_arc:

Let's go! Change the old preconception of protagonist's sexuality! (On a more serious note, don't. Daphne will kill us. I am 99% sure she already secured Harry).

If we absolutely need someone alive for the first dance, let's pick Luna, while promising Hermione our attention afterwards? (Stone Cutters open the ball. Putting Hermione near Harry isn't good idea).

Velyoukai
September 7th, 2015, 12:39 PM
The obvious answer is to go with the mysterious stranger that showed up for just this dance that has never been seen before, but appears to have mystical powers and was able to enter Hogwarts -uninvited!!!?- for the sake of dancing with Shinji Matou, only to disappear afterwards.

I am speaking, of course, of Shinji x Zelkova

Caster
September 7th, 2015, 12:42 PM
I did suggest Zelkova. It's still a neutral route, and it lets Shinji keep his air of mystery. It also gives him an out for Hermione so she isn't jealous. I'll change to Zelkova if that seems like it
is gaining traction.

All That Is Left Unsaid
September 7th, 2015, 01:26 PM
[x] Hermione then. The stag option is tempting, but this seems like one of those traditional gatherings where such would not be looked well upon.

What about Ginny Weasley? What are some potential pros and cons of taking her?

She does seem to be developing a crush on Shinji, so using her for this could be seen as a d*ck move if he isn't up front about it, and I could see the Twins going either way with how they feel about it.

alfheimwanderer
September 7th, 2015, 02:57 PM
How do the different magics interact with other? Like could Rin even see Hogwarts with all its illusions and charms protecting it, when she uses an entirely different magical system?

It's suggested that enough magical power renders things like Muggle Repelling Charms ineffective for a viewer, so high prana capacity or active circuits would circumvent things like that. In effect, Hogwarts has something not unlike a bounded field, convincing people that there is only a ruin there, and preventing practitioners of witchcraft from apparating in or such (though this doesn't work for say, House Elves, which could come in and out at will, or likely powerful magi).

TLDR, its not the system that really matters as much as if you have the prana to wash away the mental effect.

mr_Trickster
September 7th, 2015, 04:26 PM
Are we possibly entering an extended voting period then (like an additional six to twelve hours?)? What's the current tally right now, anyway?

Well, for the pros and cons of the living date options: With Luna we'd be bringing somebody that is considered quite eccentric. Xenophilius Lovegood is fairly known in the wizarding world, yes? Unfortunately, this could probably throw us into even more Luna points if that's what we're going for. It's a similar issue with going for Hermoine especially since this girl is someone that has had a history of jumping to conclusions up to and including the start of this year. That, and choosing Hermoine is bound to get the possible ire of one Lucius Malfoy by virtue of the fact that she is a muggleborn. It'd stir up some early political conflict and it might affect how easily it will be for us to purchase Grimmauld Place.

Pansy might be an interesting option for this provided we can establish with her that this is a platonic dance and that Shinji might not be interested. As a Slytherin and one of the noble families, this could open up some more unlocks with her for intrigue for the remainder of the year, and we might gain access to a good informant? Pansy does seem to go through a lot of trouble to get info, after all.

Cassius
September 7th, 2015, 04:41 PM
I'm really against bringing the grey lady to the party. Even Pansy or the familiar in disguise is more preferable, shinji is getting enough odd remarks on being dark as it is no need to bring in practices necromancy. No even bringing up the massive age concerns with such a pairing.

alfheimwanderer
September 7th, 2015, 05:06 PM
You have some additional time to vote yes. Till tomorrow, basically. And well, I'm not here to tell you who to take. Just saying its something that should be thought about is all...

The current Tally is as follows:


[5] Hermione
[3] Luna
[6] Grey Lady

mr_Trickster
September 7th, 2015, 05:41 PM
Thanks for the info, Alf! :)

Upon further thought, I think that Pansy might be the best options for this out of the living three as far as the intrigue goes. Opportunities for her and contacts for us. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if it's possible to build enough steam with that line of voting to get things going.

And the current tally is a bit worrisome, though. While I don't have anything against Hermoine, we've already had two votes go in her favor. Not only that, but going with her to the ball could also spark some (not all-too positive )attention towards us, anyway. Cassius does have a point, though. Do we want the wizarding world to think that Matou Shinji is a dark wizard in the making? What do you all think?

Omida
September 7th, 2015, 06:17 PM
True, taking Grey Lady may lead to really unpleasant (but probably hilarious) rumors. I am actually kinda 'meh' for Hermione, and at this point I would only like to avoid making her snap and turn yandere on Shinji.

Luna would be understandable choice for Shinji, even if we point out to her, that currently we aren't (if that's the case) interested in romantic relationship.

Pansy would be a new, interesting option... as long as it was entirely platonic.

So I shall change my vote for

[X] Luna

But if there, by some strange coincidence will be a tie between Pansy and whoever else, I will gladly throw a vote for Pansy (if Luna doesn't win),

mr_Trickster
September 7th, 2015, 06:22 PM
True, taking Grey Lady may lead to really unpleasant (but probably hilarious) rumors. I am actually kinda 'meh' for Hermione, and at this point I would only like to avoid making her snap and turn yandere on Shinji.

Luna would be understandable choice for Shinji, even if we point out to her, that currently we aren't (if that's the case) interested in romantic relationship.

Pansy would be a new, interesting option... as long as it was entirely platonic.

So I shall change my vote for

[X] Luna

But if there, by some strange coincidence will be a tie between Pansy and whoever else, I will gladly throw a vote for Pansy (if Luna doesn't win),

Well this is certainly something I can get behind. And this does tie-up the vote for Luna and Hermoine - if at least for now.

[x] - Luna

Malgos
September 7th, 2015, 06:26 PM
Do we want the wizarding world to think that Matou Shinji is a dark wizard in the making? What do you all think?

I don't really care let them talk or think whatever they want. That way they wouldn't be further from the truth and expect Shinji to be good.

Velyoukai
September 7th, 2015, 07:34 PM
Switched back to stay w/ Zelkova because A. .hack is super cool and B. gotta stay the course.

mr_Trickster
September 7th, 2015, 07:36 PM
Hmm, so it's a three-way tie now, I think.

Caster
September 7th, 2015, 08:11 PM
Trickster, you missed Zelkova. I think either him or Pansy would be wise if we aren't doing Gray, but I think Pansy is more likely to ignite conflict. The goal of the Gray Lady was a neutral option, and if we are moving against her for political concerns then it seems best to go with the next best choice, Zelkova, especially as we are limited by people at Hogwarts. Zelkova is unlikely to develop romantic feelings towards us, isn't going to try and leverage this event against us like Pansy would, and is easy to explain away to Hermione, as Luna likely would notice it anyways. It also allows Shinji to appear mysterious and important, getting someone from outside the school to attend a formal function, showing he can command respect and favors that appear at odds for someone his age. It's hard to think of any drawbacks really.

Velyoukai
September 7th, 2015, 08:15 PM
Being called "Master" during the dance might lead to some questionable rumours about Shinji, but hey that's being Shinji for you

mr_Trickster
September 7th, 2015, 08:31 PM
Trickster, you missed Zelkova. I think either him or Pansy would be wise if we aren't doing Gray, but I think Pansy is more likely to ignite conflict. The goal of the Gray Lady was a neutral option, and if we are moving against her for political concerns then it seems best to go with the next best choice, Zelkova, especially as we are limited by people at Hogwarts. Zelkova is unlikely to develop romantic feelings towards us, isn't going to try and leverage this event against us like Pansy would, and is easy to explain away to Hermione, as Luna likely would notice it anyways. It also allows Shinji to appear mysterious and important, getting someone from outside the school to attend a formal function, showing he can command respect and favors that appear at odds for someone his age. It's hard to think of any drawbacks really.

I have to say I see the merit here. There could be quite a few questions brought up by this choice, however. Wouldn't a lot of the people also question how a guest such as Zelkova was brought into Hogwarts at all? It could compromise the school's reputation as far as security goes. Which might have some long-standing consequences later on in the story.

Also, may I ask what conflicts you feel the Pansy choice could spark? Besides the more pairing-related stuff, of course.

Caster
September 7th, 2015, 08:54 PM
An explanation can always be made later as to how Zelkova arrived. Shinji could always discuss it ahead of time too after all. It doesn't matter if Flitwick knows so long as the general public doesn't.

And if she doesn't throw her hat in the ring for Shinjis heart then I anticipate owing her a debt. I think Shinji has enough on his plate that unless she is purely altruistic that it's going to be an issue later on. And the odds of pure altruism seem slim. As do the odds of purely platonic things. With how things go it's likely she will try to maneuver for Shinji, even if it's for more ambitious reasons as opposed to romantic, let alone the impact it would have on Hermione. Luna is bad enough, but at least we spent a lot of time with her, Pansy we've barely had any interaction with. It'll look like we wanted to go with anyone but Hermione, and explaining it after likely won't change things, especially if Pansy tried to leverage it against us. Zelkova won't. The issues with Zelkova are so minor and easy to fix, and would let us keep the relationships in check. It also affords us a capable guard in case something may be off there, the others are unlikely to do that as well.

Vagrant
September 7th, 2015, 08:57 PM
Fucking Jesus what a clusterfuck. As long as Grey Lady doesn't win that's fine. Too many rumours and reputation.

[☆] Hermione

mr_Trickster
September 7th, 2015, 09:12 PM
An explanation can always be made later as to how Zelkova arrived. Shinji could always discuss it ahead of time too after all. It doesn't matter if Flitwick knows so long as the general public doesn't.

And if she doesn't throw her hat in the ring for Shinjis heart then I anticipate owing her a debt. I think Shinji has enough on his plate that unless she is purely altruistic that it's going to be an issue later on. And the odds of pure altruism seem slim. As do the odds of purely platonic things. With how things go it's likely she will try to maneuver for Shinji, even if it's for more ambitious reasons as opposed to romantic, let alone the impact it would have on Hermione. Luna is bad enough, but at least we spent a lot of time with her, Pansy we've barely had any interaction with. It'll look like we wanted to go with anyone but Hermione, and explaining it after likely won't change things, especially if Pansy tried to leverage it against us. Zelkova won't. The issues with Zelkova are so minor and easy to fix, and would let us keep the relationships in check. It also affords us a capable guard in case something may be off there, the others are unlikely to do that as well.

You make valid points, Caster. Alright, then...

[X] - Zelkova

... it is.

It should be possible for us to ask for permission as a possible pretext for bringing her in. There should be some other avenues for how we're going to go about that as well.

Granted, I'm not sure how we're going to slow down the Hermoine train at this point.

Caster
September 7th, 2015, 09:31 PM
I think it's best not to encourage Hermione unless we are set on her, and I don't think the group is as a whole. I think we are giving her more attention which is good, but if it continues she will have false expectations and her heart will
get broken. I am only advocating for Zelkova because as a neutral option it's the safest, the rumors it spins should be positive or neutral at best.

mr_Trickster
September 7th, 2015, 09:52 PM
Which is part of what worries me, honestly. Over-developing Hermoine might not be good for either of us in the long-run.

Well, it's out of our hands at this point. If people switch over, they switch over.

Nephirin
September 7th, 2015, 10:04 PM
I'll change my vote to [x]Zelkova.

Veldril
September 7th, 2015, 10:52 PM
The problem with Zelkova is that Shinji will need to explain a lot of things or rumors to people. If I read it correctly, if we take Zelkova as a Dancing Partner then we have to explain how do we get her in the first place. Hogwart is not that big, if I remember correctly, so most people should recognize if someone completely new suddenly shows up in the school. Can we really explain away the sudden appearance of a new student?

That, and there's also a chance that some people might realize the real form/power of Zelkova and that can ruin our trump card in the long run. If Zelkova starts calling us Master, then it would even couldn't be more obvious for others. Snape and Lockhart would realize for sure. Unless you guys are ok with letting out our familiar's secret, then Zelkova might not be the best option.

I'm going to keep tap of the vote for now but I will definitely try to get a "human" as a dance partner for Shinji.

Caster
September 7th, 2015, 11:04 PM
Does the dance partner specifically have to be from Hogwarts Alf? And even if it does, technically Zelkova is at Hogwarts. It'll look like Shinji got permission to bring someone else if they have to be, and if they don't the concern is moot. And the odds of anyone being able to make much of Zelkova are pretty slim, Alf has repeatedly driven the point that cross culture stuff is effectively zero, meaning no one should have much idea of what Zelkova is.

The flipside as well of using a human partner is that they also could be seen as a target to get at Shinji. Zelkova isn't as likely to be in any danger. I also don't really see what they would learn about Zelkova exactly that couldn't be found out by the fox form as well.

mr_Trickster
September 7th, 2015, 11:05 PM
The problem with Zelkova is that Shinji will need to explain a lot of things or rumors to people. If I read it correctly, if we take Zelkova as a Dancing Partner then we have to explain how do we get her in the first place. Hogwart is not that big, if I remember correctly, so most people should recognize if someone completely new suddenly shows up in the school. Can we really explain away the sudden appearance of a new student?

That, and there's also a chance that some people might realize the real form/power of Zelkova and that can ruin our trump card in the long run. If Zelkova starts calling us Master, then it would even couldn't be more obvious for others. Snape and Lockhart would realize for sure. Unless you guys are ok with letting out our familiar's secret, then Zelkova might not be the best option.

I'm going to keep tap of the vote for now but I will definitely try to get a "human" as a dance partner for Shinji.

It should be certainly possible for us to explain that it was one of the guests that was brought in. Since there are to be people from outside being brought in for publicity as well, it does give us a valid excuse. As a possible worst-case scenario, we could use what excuse we had lined up for Rin had she been permitted to fly in.

Veldril
September 8th, 2015, 12:01 AM
The flipside as well of using a human partner is that they also could be seen as a target to get at Shinji. Zelkova isn't as likely to be in any danger. I also don't really see what they would learn about Zelkova exactly that couldn't be found out by the fox form as well.

Well, the shape shifting ability for one. It would be hilarious if someone know the person who danced with Shinji was his "fox" and came up with "Shinji brought in Animagus".

Cross-culture is technically zero... except for one (maybe two) person, Lockhart. He traveled the world so he should know a lot of things that normal wizards don't. We don't know will we end up facing him in a combat or not so I wanted to play on the safe side, for now. Snape might also notice since he's quite competent in that regard.

It's also my personal dislike of going for a "neutral choice" so we can get Sokaris at the end. I like Sokaris, but that doesn't mean we have to forgo any relationship we can make with other girls now. We don't know how we will interact with Sokaris in the future, nor we know about when and how the romance would be driven. It just felt like we have a tunnel vision focus on one person that we don't look around at other options that might be better, or complement with the target we have.

Caster
September 8th, 2015, 12:10 AM
I'm not going for neutral because I am going for Sokaris, I'm going for neutral because I think adding points at this stage is unwise unless we are sure of what we want. I also think that toying with Hermione is rather cruel, but I don't think anyone here is really wanting her. Instead it would be out of pity, which isn't good for anyone involved.

As you said, Animagus could be the conclusion, but there seems like little reason to expect anyone to pick up on that aspect of Zelkova unless he's transforming at the dance. Lockhart will pick up on it eventually if he's ever going to pick up on it anyways, so it's kind of moot. Snaps is the same deal. I'm having a hard time seeing any potential issues that would occur specifically because Zelkova is there as opposed to just those people being around Zelkova, and they will see Zelkova anyways. The issues of potential targets from the humans and romantic drama though aren't really addressed.

BibliophileGoat
September 8th, 2015, 12:48 AM
[X] Zelkova, for reasons previously stated. Neutral choice since our love interests are scattered about in varying conditions of interest, insecurity, physical proximity, etc. in story, and opinions are just as scattered among us, the voters. Like this, no matter which of them we choose, there will inevitably be some fallback, so the only solution is to not choose a love interest.

Omida
September 8th, 2015, 12:58 AM
Hmmm... I honestly hasn't considered Zelkova as a serious choice. But yes, our familiar would be certainly neutral option. Arguments in favor are also quite good.

[X] Zelkova


There better not be another tie.

Vagrant
September 8th, 2015, 01:01 AM
I think it's best not to encourage Hermione unless we are set on her, and I don't think the group is as a whole. I think we are giving her more attention which is good, but if it continues she will have false expectations and her heart will
get broken. I am only advocating for Zelkova because as a neutral option it's the safest, the rumors it spins should be positive or neutral at best.

The group isn't set on anyone as a whole. I think it's best not to envourage Sokaros because she's old and busted and I definitely think it's best not to encourage Luna but hey that boat has fucking sailed.

You're never getting overall agreement on a target girl in a game like this. Rin, Sokaris, Luna, Hermione and Touko are all viable.

But we can all agree Pansy should fuck right off.

- - - Updated - - -


I also think that toying with Hermione is rather cruel, but I don't think anyone here is really wanting her.
I'll fookin bash yer 'ead in mate, swear on me mum!

Caster
September 8th, 2015, 01:08 AM
You are the exception not the rule on that. And I think we could come to a better consensus than we have currently. Going Zelkova gives us a better option to keep testing routes at least.

Edit: And I think adding someone else now is unwise, hence Pansy being a poor move. We have enough going on.

Vagrant
September 8th, 2015, 01:16 AM
Testing routes means never committing which means no route at all. I've learned this from dedicated VN playing. Pick a side, fencesitters.

If your side is Luna or Sokaris I'm disowning you. Rin, Hermione, Touko or bust.

Omida
September 8th, 2015, 01:28 AM
I would gladly go for Touko (and hey, Aozakis have a history of being enamored by younger boys). Though, she certainly would be extra hard to get.

The question is, can we avoid Luna route? Luna points were easy to get so far, after all. Regardless of heroine we want, if it's not Luna, it may be tricky to get necessary points.

Vagrant
September 8th, 2015, 01:33 AM
This is why I despise Luna. I already didn't care for her as a character so for her to just fall into our laps for two years running just grates on me so much. I understand why it's happening and I can't complain about it at all, but it is why I'm majorly antagonistoc towards any Luna rubbish.

alfheimwanderer
September 8th, 2015, 04:24 AM
There better not be another tie.

Current tally:

[6] Hermione
[3] Luna
[3] Grey Lady
[6] Zelkova

All That Is Left Unsaid
September 8th, 2015, 04:59 AM
Alright, I'll shift my vote to Zelkova.

Vagrant
September 8th, 2015, 06:03 AM
Ugh you guys. This will backfire hard. I'd even take Luna over Zelkova.

Dantalion
September 8th, 2015, 06:27 AM
Ugh you guys. This will backfire hard. I'd even take Luna over Zelkova.

As you wish. Voting for Hermione (inb4 Alf calls this a draw again and makes Shinji's ball hell).

Why does a dance partner have to imply romantic interest anyway, since it's a formality that all the Stone Cutters have to go through?

mr_Trickster
September 8th, 2015, 06:33 AM
As you wish. Voting for Hermione (inb4 Alf calls this a draw again and makes Shinji's ball hell).

Why does a dance partner have to imply romantic interest anyway, since it's a formality that all the Stone Cutters have to go through?

That's made it a tie again, I believe.

Dantalion
September 8th, 2015, 06:43 AM
That's made it a tie again, I believe.

That was my intention, to force a deadline extension in hopes of a Hermione win, because choosing Zelkova seems like a really stupid choice (even if it might be in character for this version of Shinji).

That said, my opinion is that Hermione's simply the lesser of two evils - I'd rather have Harry as companion for the evening, and have someone (Luna, probably, as the least likely to take offence, although one of the most likely to start undesirable rumours) as dance partner simply for the opening dance. Sadly, ball etiquette doesn't work that way.

mr_Trickster
September 8th, 2015, 06:51 AM
We already are​ on a deadline extension, unfortunately. It's quite unlikely that we're getting another extension, and much more likely that we'll be getting the 'tie' result.

Edit: And I honestly do not think Alf is going to be as nice with this draw as he was with the one we had just last chapter.

Vagrant
September 8th, 2015, 07:05 AM
At this point either just pick Zelkova or Hermione if you haven't already or just let Alf flip a coin between the two choices and stick with whichever lands. I don't think this is one where two options can be compromised so it's likely that in a total stalemate he'd have to pick one of the options via a random method.

mr_Trickster
September 8th, 2015, 07:06 AM
At this point either just pick Zelkova or Hermione if you haven't already or just let Alf flip a coin between the two choices and stick with whichever lands. I don't think this is one where two options can be compromised so it's likely that in a total stalemate he'd have to pick one of the options via a random method.

Quite likely. I actually imagined Alf would end up putting Shinji with someone entirely removed from the choices.

Vagrant
September 8th, 2015, 07:14 AM
Gotta forcibly open up that Cho Chang route somehow.

Dantalion
September 8th, 2015, 07:16 AM
The hell kinda name is Cho Chang anyway, I have no idea how you would write that in Chinese unless it's a dialect of some kind.

mr_Trickster
September 8th, 2015, 07:17 AM
Gotta forcibly open up that Cho Chang route somehow.

That would admittedly be amusing as hell. :)

And far removed enough from the chaos that we already have going on, I suppose.

AZURE
September 8th, 2015, 09:41 AM
Wait we are still tied, then I say that we should go for Hermione, it's the less bad choice in my opinion, plus if Shinji at least tries to make something work with her, then he can let her down later.

Veldril
September 8th, 2015, 10:52 AM
Switch my vote from Luna to [x] Hermione

Can't let that tie up yo. Also, let's hope that we can learn more about her familiar too.

Caster
September 8th, 2015, 12:58 PM
I'm still confused by the people saying Zelkova will backfire. I haven't seen any reasons that make sense.

All That Is Left Unsaid
September 8th, 2015, 01:57 PM
...Okay then, I'll shift my vote back to Hermione. Lets just get this part done with.


I'm still confused by the people saying Zelkova will backfire. I haven't seen any reasons that make sense.

Well, if we want to be a bit paranoid, someone could cast a revealing charm or more powerful equivalent as a prank in order to expose anyone who might have used magic to make themselves, their clothes, or their dates more attractive. Shinji bringing a mysterious foreigner might make him a target for those hoping that he had just used magic on a homely Squib or something. Best case scenario, Shinji takes a bad hit to his rep because he looks manipulative and desperate to appear important. Worst case, he is labeled as someone consorting with Dark Creatures. Zelkova might be strong enough to shrug off such a spell, but you never know.

A less dramatic issue would be Zelkova's inhuman nature makes its ability to interact with other guests extremely awkward, coming across as ignorant or disrespectful, which reflects poorly on Shinji.

Caster
September 8th, 2015, 02:05 PM
That is excessively paranoid. Casting magic on a guest at a party seems especially unlikely. The other part is possible, but doubtful as I imagine Shinji could coach. Hermione though, long run this will backfire.

Velyoukai
September 8th, 2015, 03:20 PM
Anybody casting a spell on one of the Stonecutters, or any student​, during a dance in the middle of a dance (event) seems like a pretty ballsy, if ill-planned move.

Considering unless it's some silent casting ASSASSIN shit, it's probably gonna be noticed and peeps like the professors are gonna be all on them in a heartbeat.

All Zelkova has to do is one introductory dance and then it can disappear for all the event cares. Just gotta deal with the spotlight event, yo.

mr_Trickster
September 8th, 2015, 05:00 PM
This is going to be one of Shinji's first events where the Stone Cutters are going to get quite a bit of attention. The interview with Rita last year had focused a little more on Harry than us as a group, and the rest of the times we've been seen publicly was at events related to Dumbledoor's death. It's important that we manage to make a good impression on Magical Britain while keeping attention away from ourselves too much.

And in a situation like this, appearing to be a mystery could be more in our favor than not. A big factor for Hermoine right now - especially in this version of the country that has Lucius Malfoy as the 'most powerful man in Magical Britain' - is that she is a muggleborn. Something that might make our dear Wizengamot feel threatened if it appears that she is closely-tied to the Stone Cutters. After all, this man has already started moving against us - if albeit indirectly and without our actual knowledge in-story. I see no reason in antagonizing him further, yet.

There is already a large chance that doing so now might cause further negative interactions with him before we are ready or before we would like. With the house that we might want to be buying later in the year to not only develop Rin a little more, but also to set up a base of operations inside this country, it would be unwise for us to gain the ire of a potential rival buyer.

As Velyoukai said, with this being a Stone Cutter-centered event, it would not be a good idea for anybody to just go up and make any threatening moves at either us or anyone we associate with. Zelkova would also serve to continue the buildup of Matou Shinji as a mysterious ally of the Boy Who Lived from another land, and even make Harry look better. And as mentioned above, we do not need our Kodama to remain for the rest of the night, and just be with us for the dance. We can go stag after.

Who knows, bonding with our familiar could allow us to grow in power and learn something about it and/or ourselves that could help us in the long run.

Caster
September 8th, 2015, 08:30 PM
I mostly just think it's cruel. At this stage taking Hermione leads to one of two routes. We either go down the Hermione route or we break her heart because we led her on really badly. And I don't think either of those is very good. If we want to have Hermione as a friend and not one of those two routes then encouraging her romantically is unwise. That and she's definitely the most vulnerable of all of the potential people we could take on just about any front, so it seems risky. If you want Hermione route that's fine, though I think drastically throwing the switch down it is likely to backfire, but otherwise I wouldn't vote for her unless you want to hurt her.

Mattias
September 8th, 2015, 09:18 PM
[x] Hermione then, but we make it clear this doesn't mean she gets the d. It's just because she's our best friend who's also gender appropriate.

alfheimwanderer
September 8th, 2015, 09:23 PM
[x] Hermione

100%

Chapter 16. The Perils of Paper

Matou Shinji was quickly coming to realize that in this world, there were things far more horrible than monsters, more intimidating than the most powerful of spellcasters, more difficult to grapple with than even the slipperiest foe. One of these, of course, was paperwork, the silent partner to death and taxes, and the cause of Shinji’s current headache.

Not that some of Snape’s scenarios hadn’t given him a few, what with most of his classmates giving in to panic or treachery, choosing short-term solutions such as sabotaging other teams or jumping at shadows in the forest as opposed to attempts to cooperate for mutual benefit. Or with how some had begun to look at him with apprehension after the burning forest incident, with Zelkova dutifully informing him of the rumors of his apparent power and ruthlessness.

Maybe it was true that one either died a hero or lived long enough to become a villain, if one didn’t manage one’s PR very carefully.

Lockhart would know better than he, Shinji assumed, given that the adventurer had navigated the treacherous waters of fame and conspiracy for far longer, but that was something to deal with later, after he finished this current batch of documents that had been sent to him from Gringotts.

The path to home ownership was a long and perilous one – especially it was an ancestral home he was attempting to acquire before it was listed for sale, as he didn’t want to deal with competition from other possible bidders (such as perhaps, Lucius Malfoy). Sadly, Matou Shinji had discovered that acquiring real estate with a history as venerable as that of the Black Estate was not simply a matter of throwing a million Galleons at the owner and getting the property in exchange.

No indeed. Instead, there were affidavits he had to sign, letters of intent he had to write, written negotiations over what additional property would be included in the purchase price, conditions that would result in him declining the purchase, and debates over services he expected to be completed before property turnover and so forth.

For instance, Sirius Black, on hearing of his interest, had initially wanted to sell him the house as is to get it off his hands – but Shinji had no interest in a dilapidated ruin that had been neglected for over a decade. He wanted Black to renovate and remodel the house before it changed hands, so that what he was acquiring for his money would be at the very least suitable for human habitation – though frankly, he wanted more than that. If he was going to shell out a million Galleons or more on a house he didn’t have an immediate use for, he wanted a rather impressive dwelling.

…if he’d known the condition the house was in before he’d begun negotiations with Black, engaging one of the Goblins of Gringotts to serve as an intermediary to protect his identity (as him writing to Gringotts – and Gringotts to him, would provoke far less attention than him writing to Black and vice versa) and help him fill out the paperwork, he might very well have decided not to buy it after all. Alas, now that he’d gone through so much trouble, he was already deeply invested in acquiring the house, with a portion of his funds already in escrow as a sign of how serious his intent to purchase was, it would be more trouble than it was worth to back out.

At the very least, the termination fees and other penalties imposed by the Goblins for not negotiating in good faith would be rather steep, being double the anticipated commission.

“Ugh…” Shinji groaned as he read through another sheet of dense legalese. There were few things worse than conducting legal correspondence in a second language, especially when one was less than entirely unfamiliar with the laws of the realm in question. Thankfully, assisting practitioners of witchcraft with property purchases and negotiations was certainly a service the goblins of Gringotts offered – for a fee.

‘Everything comes with a fee…’

Still, as much of as hassle as this was, it was better than the alternative, since as of yet, no one else had reached out to Black yet. Not that he was surprised, since he was acting on privileged information from Harry, and the others who’d heard about it had mentioned that their families couldn’t simply afford to buy the Black house.

All the more reason to negotiate a final contract quickly, before Black got any ideas about listing 12 Grimmauld Place on the open market, where the price would skyrocket due to competition from the Malfoys or other wealthy families.

So he’d taken to going over the relevant paperwork in the mornings, surrounded by the treasures of the Room of Hidden Things to remind himself of why he’d gotten into this mess to begin with, though Zelkova’s constant queries and musings didn’t help.

“I do not understand the human attachment to gold as a medium of exchange,” the kodama noted as he wandered the room in human form, his golden eyes peering curiously at the many artifacts and curios collected there over the ages. “Nor why goblins desire it so.”

“Oh?” Shinji questioned, looking up from the stacks of parchment on the table before him.

“It is not an especially useful metal, as it has little purpose in magic, and is too soft for use in war,” the tree spirit mused, shaking his unruly blue hair. “Perhaps it is useful for ornamentation, but I don’t see the purpose of that.”

Not for the first time, Shinji was reminded that as a tree spirit, his familiar’s way of thinking was rather…different from most.
“What would you prefer, then?” Shinji inquired. He’d never discussed currency and value with his familiar before, and he supposed the kodama might have some interesting insights.

“To me, using crystallized prana, as Mahoutokoro does, seems more rational,” Zelkova explained, as he looked through a set of omni-occulars. “It is both useful and has an innate value for all beings. Further, prana is something humans, youkai, and others all create, and so can be considered something that is inherently theirs.”

To Shinji, that sounded much like goblin standards of ownership, where the maker of an item was its owner, with one who purchased an item only renting it for their lifetime.

“What do you mean ‘inherently theirs’?” Shinji asked, tilting his head.

“As you know, I am a tree spirit. Such is why I find human notions of ownership confusing,” the blue-haired youth replied, his expression impassive. “To beings like myself, we can only own what we are and what we make. A tree does not own the land it uses, nor the air or water. These things are common resources free for the use of all. And when we cease to exist, as I will in a decade’s time, we have no further claim on anything at all, not even ourselves and what we might have once owned.”

“Huh,” Shinji said eloquently, though something else from what the kodama said stuck out in his mind. “Wait…you’ll cease to exist in a decade?”

“Mm.” The horned youth nodded, his face utterly serene as he discussed this. “I am but an aspect of one of the old ones of Shiretoko. I was born as a separate being by the terms of our contract, but when it ends, so will I. When you return to that place, I will rejoin the whole. The Zelkova you know will no longer exist.”

Shinji blinked at this. He’d known he’d have to return to Shiretoko, as per the terms of his contract with the elder kodama, but not about the implications of that.

“Aren’t you…anxious at all about that?” the Matou scion asked, eyes narrowing.

“Why should I be?” the familiar asked in turn, golden eyes looking at his Master without blinking. “Were it not for our contract, I would not have been born. Should I be upset that this very contract means that I will cease to be? We have the time that we have, no more, no less. I simply happen to know when my time will come.”

“That’s…interesting,” Shinji allowed, trying to wrap his head around the other’s easy acceptance of his end. “Out of curiosity, what do you think about human inheritance laws, then? Passing an item from one person to another, say – one that has been bought?”

“Trees do not have families, as you know, so the concept of inheritance is foreign to us. But I suppose it would depend if the one who created the item is alive,” the kodama replied after a moment. “If so, the creator would have the first claim to it. If not, then there would be no conflict, as a maker who has passed has no claim. This is related to your…paperwork?”

Shinji nodded.

“The goblins don’t believe people can truly buy one of their artifacts, only rent them,” he explained, shaking his head. “For them, if a practitioner of witchcraft passes it to another without further payment to the maker, it is essentially theft.”

“Something created has value because of the creator’s time. Payment, especially in these metals…” Zelkova trailed off, not really sure what to say.

“…I see what you mean,” Shinji commented, looking around at the great treasure hoard of the Room of Hidden Things. “I suppose none of the things here mean much to you then?”

“Not particularly, no,” the kodama replied quietly. “Perhaps the diadem you mentioned, given its nature, but the rest are simply things accumulated over time. An interesting assortment of the things humans forget about or try to hide. The things that are lost or thrown away by others provide at least as much insight into who and what they are as the things they value.”

Shinji blinked.

“I…never thought about it that way,” he conceded, smiling ruefully. “I’m just glad this is interesting to you.”

“Of course it is,” Zelkova answered, looking off into the distance. “Much as Hogwarts was interesting to you when you first came here. The wonder of a new land, the strangeness of foreign customs, and so many things to discover. Much as Mahoutokoro was for you, right, Miss Lovegood?”

Shinji startled as there was the air rippled, with the form of Luna Lovegood appearing from what seemed like nothingness, her wide silver eyes looking upon the kodama’s horned form with frank curiosity.

…only Luna seemed somewhat different, given that she was clad in what seemed like a dress of midnight blue, with pure white ears like those of a fox adorning her head – and a fluffy white tail protruding from her derriere.

“Hello, little kitsune,” the kodama spoke, bowing to the new arrival. “And her Master of course.”

“Hullo,” Luna replied quietly, curtseying in turn. “Pandora says hello as well. You are…Zelkova?”

“Mm, that’s right,” the youth spoke. “I’m Zelkova. Matou Shinji’s familiar. I believe my Master is finishing up some work at the moment, but I would be happy to spar once he is finished.”

“Oh?” the blonde echoed, as an orb of blue foxfire materialized in her hand. “I’m still getting used to this form. Magic feels…different, than usual, and I don’t need a wand.”

“…how did this happen, Luna?” Shinji asked, his eyes intent as he looked upon the form of his good friend and how she was using wandless magic.

Actual wandless magic, not simply a stored spell.

“I suppose you would call it fusion,” Zelkova explained. “As you know, possession is an ability all youkai have, though usually we retain control in such a union. But with your kind, there have been occasions where the abilities of master and familiar abilities are shared, where purpose and power are aligned.”

“With the familiar’s magical core serving in the place of the wand…”

“Precisely,” the familiar explained. “It is a difficult thing to achieve, however. Hence, why your kind devised the false echoes.”

“…interesting,” Shinji said, putting away the paperwork for now, his interest piqued. “You don’t seem surprised about Zelkova though, Luna.”

“There are stranger things in heaven and earth than we dare to dream,” Luna quipped, paraphrasing the words of the Bard. “Join me for a spar?” she asked with an ethereal smile.

“It would be our pleasure, right Zelkova?” Shinji answered, with the white-clad youth beside him materializing something that seemed like a wooden scythe.

“Of course. Let us begin.”

100%

After a long, drawn out battle, which Shinji thought he and Zelkova only won due to Luna being very new to the fused form – and because it was a two on one battle, they explored the Room of Hidden Things for a while, with each selecting a few things for themselves and others to send off to Gringotts, where they were slowly but steadily building up their accounts.

Such was always useful in the event he needed to make unexpected purchases, after all – and he expected he might, given that buying a house probably meant furnishing it as well, among other things. Fortunately, it was the weekend, so there wasn’t much to do – something Shinji was glad for, given how brutal some of Snape’s scenarios had been, as well as how much homework there had been for his other classes.

At least Ancient Runes was easy enough for now, but some of the work for Transfiguration and Arithmancy were…annoying, to say the least.

And with Lockhart training him to move and fight without the benefit of magic – often making sure the boy didn’t have his wand on him during the various scenarios he set up for Shinji’s benefit, some of which involved matching the body language of local townspeople as he made his way to a destination in a strange city, some of which involved navigating obstacle courses where success was only possible through seeing one's environment in a new way.

It was as if moving through the world was a puzzle, and to solve that puzzle, one had to see all the possibilities of how it might be navigated, whether by going around something, leaping a gap, going through a tunnel, or other such.

Often the scenarios involved avoiding enemies, reaching objectives without being noticed, or things of that sort, instead of the straightforward confrontations Shinji was used to – and without the benefit of magic, besides.

“As an adventurer, you don’t always have the option to fight,” Lockhart told him. “Granted, sometimes the only way out is through, but oftentimes, it is better if you manage to reach your objective unseen and unnoticed.”

And so he taught Shinji more than just how to move. He thought him a different way of thinking, allowing him to look past society’s common rules and assumptions of how things should be – and at what was really there, to look at the possible, not the expected.

Others relied on common assumptions, and so often had issues dealing with unexpected situations; to be a truly effective adventurer or combatant, Shinji had to see what was actually there, and to use them, while keeping in mind what others thought or assumed.

“This, above all else, is the thought that underlies the art of movement,” Lockhart liked to say. “You have heard me say that nothing is true – that all is permitted. Do you know what that means?”

“That we should be free to consider all possibilities?”

“Not quite, Matou,” the adventurer corrected. “It is not a command to be free. It is a command to be wise, to realize how fragile the assumptions upon which the world rests truly are, and to understand that in considering your possibilities, that actions have consequences that we must live with, whether glorious or tragic.”

“And that we do not always know of them in advance,” Shinji concluded.

“Precisely.”

Privately, Shinji wondered where the man had learned this ideology, as the rule of consequences and logical thinking wasn’t exactly taught at Hogwarts, but kept his silence. Lockhart clearly had his secrets, given his knowledge of the Templar Order and such, but it wasn’t as if Shinji himself didn’t, not with his own background.

Still, given how rarely he had free time, it was odd having nothing to do – at least until the Self-Defense Club meeting that night.

He supposed he could watch the Ravenclaw Quidditch team practice if he was really inclined to, but he really wasn’t a big fan of the sport. Like Harry, he saw Quidditch as a waste of time. So he found his feet taking him to the Founders’ Tower, in the hopes that someone would be there.

100%

As it so happened, the other Stone Cutters had had the same idea, and in one of the rooms below the library, Harry and Hillard were locked in deadly battle, with the Weasley Twins looking on as Hillard’s superior charms and transfiguration knowledge were brought to bear against Harry’s ability to use ofuda, and the superior protections offered by his robes.
“Certainly exciting—“

“—wouldn’t you say, Matou?” the twins asked, raising an eyebrow as an obviously tired Matou Shinji walked in.

“I suppose. A bit more balanced than when one of my teachers spars me,” he related, remembering the many times he had been defeated in combat by Sajyou-san, Tomas, Hijiri, or Kaiduka. “Though Hillard has the edge, I think, since he’s a bit more experienced.”

Just then, a stunning spell from the Head Boy’s wand struck home, slamming Harry backwards, though the Boy-Who-Lived arrested himself in mid-fall, after a second flash of red light covered him, much to Hillard’s consternation.

“Of course, Harry has his share of tricks too,” Matou Shinji conceded, recalling that Tomas had instructed Harry in Defense for a time, and wondering exactly what the puppet had taught the Heir of Slytherin.

‘I can still win – I think…’

It was hard to say, as he hadn’t actually gone all out against his friend in a while, and unlike the others at Hogwarts, Harry also knew how to use ofuda, so any advantage he had there would probably be marginal.

True, he knew more potent abilities than Harry at this point, given that he was now working on nature interference spells and elemental manipulation, but power wasn’t everything.

Well, maybe if he achieved spirit fusion that would be different, since that offered a considerable boost in power and speed both, but he had a while to go as far as that was concerned, given how different his mindset was from Zelkova’s.

…not that spirit fusion was something he’d be comfortable showing off to most others in Britain, given the prejudice against the inhuman, as if they were somewhat…less than practitioners of witchcraft. Why, aside from a few prominent ones, even ghosts were seen as essentially set pieces and background, with few bothering to ask them what secrets they knew.

…aside from say, people like Tom Riddle, Luna Lovegood, and himself, who thought of the world differently.

Still, if he didn’t expect to end up in Magical Britain after Hogwarts, having an ability like that would be quite useful, especially if he ever went head to head with a magus or a youkai, since his wand-based spells wouldn’t be very effective against them.

And well, the extra magical resistance it would give him was not inconsiderable either…

In the background, the duel came to its conclusion, with Hillard doing something much like what Luna had done to him and pulling Harry into the air by his exposed pant leg, in a movement quick and violent enough that Harry lost his grip on his wand – only for ofuda to shoot towards Hillard, who cancelled the levitation spell and silently burned up the talismans.
“Draw?” Hillard offered, as Harry hit the ground with a muffled thud and groan of pain.

“…draw,” the Boy-Who-Lived said through his teeth. “Did you learn that from Moody?”

“Well, if I can’t stun you, there are other ways to disable you,” Hillard replied. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re invincible, just because you can block most other spells. Good use of the shield spell earlier though.”

“…Thanks,” Harry said, rubbing his somewhat sore back. “I’ll keep that in mind.” He turned towards the spectators to see his first friend at Hogwarts there. “Been a while, Shinji.”

“Indeed,” Matou Shinji agreed, smiling despite himself. “We haven’t all been in one place in a very long time.”

“We’re all—“

“—too busy—“

“—these days,” the twins chimed in. “It was easier—“

“—before everyone—“

“—wanted to be our—“

“—best friends.”

“Isn’t that the truth?” Hillard grunted, shaking his head. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are benefits—“

“—like the love of—“

“—the lovely lady Tonks—“

“—perhaps?”

“…that aside, life has been interesting,” the Head Boy continued. “Becoming Head Boy, getting apprenticeships and mentor opportunities, and well, Harry’s whole reign as Heir of Slytherin.”

“Well, reign is a bit…” But the Boy-Who-Lived trailed off, since he couldn’t completely dispute it. “You might have a point. Still, it was nice to know who our friends were, before everyone wanted to get close to us.”

“Not that—“

“—Harrikins minds—“

“—dating Lady Greengrass.”

“…admittedly Daphne’s been one of the best things to happen to me,” Harry said with a wistful smile. “She brings out the best part of me.”

“The embarrassed—“

“—snogged silly—“

“—part, more like,” was the Twins’ contribution, which earned them a withering glare from Harry. “Though—“

“—speaking of snogging—“

“—who is everyone taking to the Halloween Ball?” Fred inquired.

“And is anyone doing the play this year?” George added.

Given how Dumbledore’s death had rocked Magical Britain last year, Lockhart had made plans to have this Halloween be a grand celebration involving the Stone Cutters, as it deserved, given that All Hallows Eve was the most important holiday to western practitioners of witchcraft. Yes, many heroes of the past had fallen, but the hope of Wizarding Britain was still alive in well, as exemplified by the powerful magic and the great bravery of its heroes.

There would be a play again, yes, but also a formal dance, to be opened by the Stone Cutters and their partners in a grand Waltz. Unlike the Triwizard Tournament, all students of Hogwarts were welcome to attend – and the History Professor had mentioned that they and their partners would be featured in the Daily Prophet.

No small bit of pressure, this.

“Well, I’m taking Daphne,” Harry began, since this wasn’t exactly a surprise to anyone. He looked over at Hillard questioningly, as the older boy huffed.

“…yes, fine, I’m taking Tonks,” the Head Boy admitted, his cheeks tinged a healthy pink. “She’s coming as part of the security detail for the event.”

“Ohoho!” Fred and George commented.

“And what about you Weasleys?”

“…ah. About that…” Fred began.

“We hadn’t…”

“…actually decided yet,” the Twins replied with a shrug.

“I’ll probably ask Angelia Johnson,” George admitted. “I have fancied her for…a few years now. And you, Fred?”

But there as only silence, with Fred’s face screwed up as if in thought.

“Fred, brother of mine?”

“…maybe Cho Chang,” the other Weasley said, much to the surprise of the other Stone Cutters. “She’s…nice.”

Robert blinked.

“Well, that’s your choice, of course,” he said diplomatically, remembering the rumors Cho had spread about the Kobayashi Maru scenario and such. “And what about you, Matou?”

All of the others craned their heads over towards the Boy from the East, given that his love life was the subject of much speculation.

“Maybe Hermione,” Shinji replied, only to see raised eyebrows from Hillard and a small frown from Harry. “Well, the thing is…I don’t think she’d have anyone to go with otherwise. She isn’t…great with people.”

No one should have to be alone, its true," Harry acknowledged. While he didn't much care for Hermione, he understood Matou's reasoning - the same reasoning that had led Shinji to sit with him on the train all those years ago.

Hillard grunted. He hadn't thought that was why Shinji would invite someone though, given the other rumors... "But isn't the same true of Lovegood?" At an odd look from Shinji, he raised his hands defensively. "I'm not teasing you, I'm genuinely curious."

“Luna at least has her friend Ginny to keep her company,” Shinji said with a lopsided smile. “And if not…”

‘…well, I wonder if Zelkova might be interested in going with her to see how the evening is…’

“You’re a good friend then, I suppose,” Hillard noted, shaking his head. “Just…be careful, alright? Hearts can be very fragile things sometimes.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Shinji replied, closing his eyes. “But yes, is anyone going to be in the play this year?”

“Not me,” Hilllard answered. “The Professor offered, since he wanted to put on The Fall of Raczidian, with me as the hero, so he could show off my ability to cast a Patronus, but I suppose he’ll have to make do with something else.”

“Not us—“

“—this time,” the twins added. “As nice as it was—“

“—last year. There will be—“

“—enough time in the spotlight”

“No, not me,” Harry chimed in, shaking his head. “You know how I am with Halloween.”

“Well, I’m not participating either this year,” Shinji said, “so why don’t we all have a private dinner here in the Tower, to honor the fallen, remember who and what we fight for, and to well, talk. Halloween was the day we became brothers and comrades in arms. Let’s remember that day before we go our different ways.”

“Hmm. Should we—“

“—invite Peeves?”

“…only if he promises to behave,” Hillard growled.

100%

Later that night, they went down to take a look at the first session of the Self-Defense Club, and how the students gathered for that were being drilled in individual spellwork, with Prefect Diggory mentioning that in light of the current year of Potions-Herbology, they would have the opportunity to work on small-unit group tactics, given the fluid flexibility of such and the value of practical experience.

It wasn’t enough to know how to cast a spell, after all.

Being able to cast was important, but so was knowing when a situation called for a spell – or to move.

And so there would individual drills, but also some games, with the Quidditch Pitch being used during non-practice hours for bouts of what Lockhart called ‘Capture the Flag.’

100%

Choice 44: This term, we have a number of things we're learning above and beyond the curriculum, each of which do take time. Which of the three would Shinji like to focus on most?

[ ] Spirit Fusion + Ofuda
[ ] Parkour / Art of Movement
[ ] Advanced study of Ancient Runes and Charms

Choice 45: And who are the three people we want to give special priority to for Christmas gifts?

[ ] (write-in)

Caster
September 8th, 2015, 09:46 PM
Frustrating. I bet that spirit fusion would have gotten a boost with taking Zelkova as well. I'll vote for the Ofuda option though. It's our most unique talent, and likely the one we can get the most oomph out of. No idea on who to get presents for, though I kind of wish it could get bumped up a bit, the roster has expanded quite a bit already.

mr_Trickster
September 8th, 2015, 09:49 PM
As mentioned in the chapter, Shinji - and by extension us - doesn't know where we're going to end up after Hogwarts as of yet. There's little information for us to go on especially since things like the Holy Grail war are going to happen while we're still in school. In light of this I think selecting the option that will give us the most balance results as far as being able to deal with either staying in the East or West is concerned. Besides, it would be very interesting to see Matou Shinji pop out of nowhere to do who knows what.

[x] - Parkour / Art of Movement

As for the three we want to prioritize. Touko should be a given considering she's our master and we've been wanting to become her permanent apprentice for three years now. Third year would be a lovely time for us to finally make that succeed. Zouken as well since we're already exploring his past, his connections with the Hashshashin, our connections with a Hashshashin, and our own Yin affinity. Might as well make the most of that. And lastly, focusing on Sokaris would be beneficial, considering how giving her focus on Christmas had allowed us to unlock her epilogue, and how useful information we can gain from her even just during that one meeting can be quite useful for us in the long term.

[x] - Aozaki Tokou
[x] - Matou Zouken
[x] - Sion Eltnam Atlasia

Vagrant
September 8th, 2015, 09:53 PM
Going to the dance doesn't have to be romantic. It can be platonic. Alf just needs to actually have Shinji explain it.

EnigmaticFellow
September 8th, 2015, 09:58 PM
[X] Advanced study of Ancient Runes and Charms

[X] Aozoki Touko
[X] Zouken Matou
[X] Sion Eltnam Atlasia

Caster
September 8th, 2015, 09:59 PM
Given how Hermione is, I don't expect that to be her reaction. And even assuming Shinji explains it I think he will stick his foot in his mouth anyways. That and looking at the other dates, three of them are at least somewhat romantic, Cho being maybe the odd one out.

I agree with Sion focus as well, as this is one of our only chances to interact with her.

Mint
September 8th, 2015, 10:18 PM
Alf why must you give us so many awesome options it makes choosing one a nightmare.


[X] Aozoki Touko
[X] Zouken Makiri
[X] Sion Eltnam Atlasia

Veldril
September 8th, 2015, 10:33 PM
[x] Spirit Fusion + Ofuda

[x] Luna Lovegood
[x] Touko Aozaki
[x] Sialim Sokaris (Sion Eltnam Atlasia)

Luna have been our good friend for the last two years with good chemistry and one of two people who understand the path of magic as we are, let's keep that going. Touko is our master. Sokaris is another person who has the same mindset and our best friend.

Vagrant
September 8th, 2015, 10:38 PM
[☆] Advanced Charms + Runes

[☆] Touko
[☆] Rin
[☆] Sokaris

I'm off the Hermione train for now. Getting on dat Touko apprenticeship train.

Kuroyuki
September 8th, 2015, 10:41 PM
[X] Art of Movement.

[X] Touko Aozaki
[X] Sion Eltnam Altasia
[X] Zouken Makiri

Well I thought about getting Rin a gift then I remembered we were letting her live in our brand new Black Mansion. That should be a good enough gift.

Vagrant
September 8th, 2015, 10:51 PM
Are we though? Is that conclusive?

I kind of wish we'd known about spirit fusion earlier than the update immediately after the choice where we could have spent a romantic evening getting to know it and melding minds with our familiar.

Oh well.

Caster
September 8th, 2015, 11:03 PM
Yeah, I knew Zelkova was a good choice. Oh well, will be interesting to see how this dance backfires, I hope we get a brief talk of what taking Zelkova would have done at the end of the year wrap up though.

And I think letting Rin live at the house is part of why we were doing that.

Vagrant
September 8th, 2015, 11:14 PM
Well she's the best romantic option so i want to get her a gift anyway.

Cassius
September 8th, 2015, 11:39 PM
[X] Advanced Charms + Runes

[x] - Aozaki Tokou
[x] - Matou Zouken
[x] - Sion Eltnam Atlasia

gesalt
September 9th, 2015, 12:37 AM
[X] Advanced Charms + Runes

[x] - Aozaki Tokou
[x] - Matou Zouken
[x] - Sion Eltnam Atlasia

Omida
September 9th, 2015, 01:33 AM
And so, Matou Shinji meets his most dangerous foe to date. One that many tried to slay, and one that will only haunt him more and more in the future. Paperwork!




I kind of wish we'd known about spirit fusion earlier than the update immediately after the choice where we could have spent a romantic evening getting to know it and melding minds with our familiar.

Oh well.

Yeah, me too. But I am not terribly surprised it's Luna who figured it first. She certainly thinks outside the box and strikes me as someone, who would be the first to notice something so esoteric.



Oh well, will be interesting to see how this dance backfires.

Yandere points count starts?


[X] Advanced study of Ancient Runes and Charms.

And for the presents:

[X] Aozaki Touko - We barely managed to secure Touko's apprenticeship for another year, time to grind master's points. Maybe it will unlock even more.
[X] Sokaris/Shion Eltnam Atlasia
[X] Harry Potter

This is currently the list of three people I care about the most here. And even though Zelkova quickly gains my liking, it would probably be redundant to give him anything (especially as from his point of view, he got to live as independent being).

Caster
September 9th, 2015, 01:35 AM
So I guess everyone is focusing on Runes for Touko? Or am I missing something? Kind of curious why people make the votes they do.

BibliophileGoat
September 9th, 2015, 01:51 AM
[ ] Advanced study of Ancient Runes and Charms
Touko points, of course.

[X] Aozaki Touko
[X] Matou Zouken
[X] Sion Eltnam Atlasia

Vagrant
September 9th, 2015, 01:51 AM
I specifically mentioned I was chasing Touko points so yeah. It's actually a really hard choice though. I want to focus on what makes Shinji unique, which is ofuda, and also want to capitalise on Gilderoy as much as possible too. I'm like 33/33/34% towards the three options so I can be easily swayed still. Charms and Runes can be learned at any time with basically any teacher while the other two are more unique so despite the possible bonus Touko points I am strongly considering changing my vote.

Rin is the romantic lead I'm chasing now. The long run romance is best romance.

Alf, given that it isn't actually Touko's specialty and we're already focusing on Runes for our main school subject this year, is it likely we'll get much benefit in impressing our potential Master or not by choosing to chase Runes even more?

alfheimwanderer
September 9th, 2015, 01:58 AM
Alf, given that it isn't actually Touko's specialty and we're already focusing on Runes for our main school subject this year, is it likely we'll get much benefit in impressing our potential Master or not by choosing to chase Runes even more?

Probably not that much. Your main benefit would be being able to take the OWLs next year for both these classes, instead of just Runes. Its certainly impressive, especially in Britain, but less so to Touko, if I'm being entirely honest.

Vagrant
September 9th, 2015, 02:03 AM
Oh.

Then I'm changing to [☆] Art of Movement

Not super concerned about taking Charms OWLs a year early unless someone can make a strong argument for it.

I just don't want Lockhart to die before we get the most out of him.

Omida
September 9th, 2015, 02:07 AM
In that case I think I will switch to

[X] Spirit Fusion + Ofuda - Because this is something unique and interesting. Also, it expands our repertoire while not focusing on pure destruction (which is openly stated to be something Touko disapproves).

Presents stay the same, though.

Vagrant
September 9th, 2015, 02:08 AM
So yeah, unless you other 5 have a compelling reason for Charms (and I would genuinely love to hear reasons now that le Touko points has been WoG nulled) you should totally change to one of the two more unique options.

Kelnish
September 9th, 2015, 02:58 AM
Limber up and zouken gilgamesh and lockheart

Caster
September 9th, 2015, 03:35 AM
Could we give Gilgamesh a gift?

Omida
September 9th, 2015, 03:46 AM
What would you give to King, though? He already has everything in the world that is worth possessing (except Saber, but this is outside our ability). Worse, he may accuse us of stealing!

Now, a joke presents, do not take it seriously:

Kirei - book on dementors;
Gilgamesh - all and any possible variants of Arthurian legends (Monthy Python included!);

alfheimwanderer
September 9th, 2015, 04:36 AM
Could we give Gilgamesh a gift?

No, because you don't know who he is. Also, its not even a possibility in Shinji's mind.

Magus
September 9th, 2015, 06:06 AM
Are we though? Is that conclusive?

I kind of wish we'd known about spirit fusion earlier than the update immediately after the choice where we could have spent a romantic evening getting to know it and melding minds with our familiar.

Oh well.

Ah, you mean "direct tethering"?

[x] Art of movement

[x] Tohsaka Rin
[x] Zouken
[x] Harry

- - - Updated - - -

Come on, let's have some consistency with our past choices. Rin. She should be in England too, so we should visit her. And maybe buy her that house.

- - - Updated - - -

Oh wait, did we already do that [the house]? I just skipped down to the choices at the end after very quickly skimming over things. Time to reread the chapter more carefully.

- - - Updated - - -

So we did.

I suppose a house is a pretty big present for Rin… get her one anyways. After all, she's the best girl.

mr_Trickster
September 9th, 2015, 06:24 AM
I just don't want Lockhart to die before we get the most out of him.

This was actually one of my main reasons for selecting Art of Movement.

That and being able to move quickly and quietly around an area would be very beneficial for Shinji's skillset based on how we've built him over the course of the last few years. Using the black smoke or our alternate wand that can conjure mists, we can get in and out of dangerous situations fairly easily. Good movement would also allow us to strategically place Ofuda, making it easier to set up sealing arrays or elemental traps. In conjunction with Zelkova, this would allow us to track targets that may be far away and either anticipate their movements with preparation or get the drop on them as well.

Just earlier this year, we decided to specialize in awareness and deception. Improving this part of our skillset can grant us access to easier ways of gathering information or manipulating our enemies into unfavorable positions.

While it isn't a direct power boost, movement - especially when used in conjunction with stealth - can be a multiplier when used right. Very powerful once we manage to master it, and all of the different ways we can apply it.

BibliophileGoat
September 9th, 2015, 12:21 PM
Probably not that much. Your main benefit would be being able to take the OWLs next year for both these classes, instead of just Runes. Its certainly impressive, especially in Britain, but less so to Touko, if I'm being entirely honest.

Hm, that changes things. I'm switching my vote to [X] Spirit Fusion + Ofuda, then.

Vagrant
September 9th, 2015, 12:30 PM
But Assassin Lockhaaaaaaart you guys!

I seriously don't understand you at all.

- - - Updated - - -

But Assassin Lockhaaaaaaart you guys!

I seriously don't understand you at all.

Omida
September 9th, 2015, 12:43 PM
Fuck Lockhart.

This is only what we focus on. You know, pulling all our resources into figuring it out (and mastering if it's new)? Art of movement is taught to us by Lockhart, we don't need to focus specifically on it to advance.

Ofuda and Spirit Fusion? First is for ten months our independent research and second is unknown, exotic ability. Shinji needs personal ace, something others don't have (or have to much smaller degree). As such, Shinji needs diversity. Ofuda was our ace from the beginning. We should refocus on it. Spirit Fusion is just an icing on the cake. And it may give some serious profits back in Japan, when we show our mentors shiny, new technique that we learned on our own with only minimal input from one other person, who herself have to figure it out without help. They may even congratulate Shinji for showing initiative. Especially, if we run it through Zelkova first, to see how he feels about it.

Vagrant
September 9th, 2015, 01:03 PM
Hope you feel great when lockhart dies this summer and we're left with 4 more years to perfect Ofuda while being a combat slowpoke.

Omida
September 9th, 2015, 01:21 PM
Yes, Lockhart does seem to have a death flag tripped, doesn't he? Though, I doubt person worthy of name Hassan-I-Sabbah would be killed so easily. Voldemort situation was dangerous for him because... well, even Old Man of the Mountain may be ill equipped to deal with disembodied wraith of a Dark Lord. I doubt Lockhart will be easily killed. Of course, I never expected Dumbledore to die so early and with little fanfare as well.

And even if, Shinji isn't stupid. Even if Lockhart does die, he knows his weak spots, and he will search for methods of eliminating them.

Shinji isn't bad fighter, overall, I would say. It's just our opponents tends to be:
- vastly more experienced (Quirrel, Thomas, even Ayaka) - they know more tricks, have more power, they had more time to refine their skills;
- know us and our style well (Luna, Quirrel again) - those people know weaknesses of our style and how to counter us;
- simply overpower us (onikuma) - they are just simply so fucking resistant to anything we can throw at them;

So while speed will certainly help Shinji, he needs to come up with new tricks and refine his existing ones. Wasn't he musing somewhere there about protecting his ofuda from fire? As Shinji develops, he also comes with counters to counters others use against him.

Caster
September 9th, 2015, 02:08 PM
As Omida mentioned, this is just to see what we will focus on. The others all will get used after all, it's not like Shinji is just going to drop everything. But Ofuda is his thing. It's the thing we picked first year as our unique little talent, and it's proven a strong boon over the years. I'm not saying the other two aren't useful, if they weren't there wouldn't be a debate. But I don't expect Lockhart to just die out of the blue. Alf was hinting at Dumbledore's death for a while, it was set in motion early on. We haven't gotten any hints that someone is dying this year, so I think Lockhart is fine for now. I also don't think anything has come up that Shinji could have influenced that would be fatal to Lockhart, unless simply studying under him is the issue.

That and we are a mage. Movement is all well and good but I think focusing on our unique magical talent is probably going to pay off a bit more in the long run. He's made a lot more focus on that than he has on movement after all, it's better to try and specialize as opposed to spreading ourselves thin and dumping points here and there. If he'd had a focus on more physical stuff early on I could see it, but there really isn't much lining up for that. It's nice as a tertiary talent, but I'd rank it below Runes/Charms even in terms of how we should focus.

All That Is Left Unsaid
September 9th, 2015, 04:21 PM
[x] Spirit Fusion + Ofuda

[x] - Aozaki Tokou
[x] - Matou Zouken
[x] - Sion Eltnam Atlasia

With regard to Ancient Runes, wasn't this already chosen as a focus earlier? Did moving up to second year reset it as an option for primary focus, or would choosing it here add yet another point to it?

alfheimwanderer
September 9th, 2015, 04:53 PM
With regard to Ancient Runes, wasn't this already chosen as a focus earlier? Did moving up to second year reset it as an option for primary focus, or would choosing it here add yet another point to it?

Its not a reset, its an additional boost.

Malgos
September 9th, 2015, 04:58 PM
My choices for presents are Sion, Shirou and Harry.

Now on what to focus, I really value the art of movement. It's always going to be helpful and Shinji has the opportunity to be taught by a master assassin, he's Hassan after all, on that topic, so he should try his hardest to learn all there is about movement. Not to mention that this assassin deemed it to be his weak point and the man preys on weak points to kill his targets so he should know best. Sure, we might already learn it, but Lockhart will probably still undertake assassinations while not at Hogwarts so he could die, granted the risk is small but it is there nonetheless. Also if Shinji is a good student he might even consider teaching him more things. Also you can do a lot of things with what is being taught and it opens up a lot of possibilities. It could be something like just quickly getting to a certain point to ambush something or just something simple like evading hits. Evading is generally better than blocking something, also should Shinji ever pick up martial arts, like many magi do, these lessons would also come in handy.

Now Spirit Fusion would make a fine ace, but Magical Britain looks down on non-humans so Shinji can't really get much use out of this except for life and death situations as his reputation might take a hit otherwise. Also Shinji is probably going to be with his familiar for quite some time, so he has plenty of time to learn and while it would suck if he dies this year because he didn't have this ace, I'd like to think that being able to properly move and waste less time might also just be enough.

mangafreak7793
September 9th, 2015, 07:12 PM
[ ] Parkour / Art of Movement

Hillard, Sion and Touko

Caster
September 9th, 2015, 08:13 PM
I think it's better to have an ace that might hurt us politically if we use it as opposed to not having an ace at all. And who knows how obvious it will be, or how easily we could hide the side effects. But really the ofuda focus is the point, we only will work on that by ourselves, no long term teacher like the other two categories. Unless Zelkova could function as one I suppose, but that seems doubtful.

Vagrant
September 9th, 2015, 09:53 PM
>Thinking Lockhart is a "long term teacher"

You crack me up.