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Thread: A Study in Potential Futility (Granblue Fantasy fanfic) [Clarisse & Cagliostro]

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    Oh god, I see where this is going... Draconic's Avatar
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    Post A Study in Potential Futility (Granblue Fantasy fanfic) [Clarisse & Cagliostro]

    A Study in What May or May Not be Described as an Exercise in Futility


    Recorded and compiled by
    Cagliostro
    The cutest alchemical genius in the world
    (Possibly the universe)

    ----------------------

    I gawked at Harold.

    "You want me to what?"

    "Please, train our daughter in the art of
    alchemy," he begged. "I've never seen her make any progress except for the sole instance during which you offered her your personal tutelage."

    I raised an eyebrow. Was this idiot serious?

    "I feel like I should mention that she's unteachable. I didn't actually get anywhere with her, I just showed her how to remove specific parts of a greater whole. Everything she transmutes still explodes."

    "But that is still progress. She's able to identify individual elements where she couldn't even name one before!"

    This from one of the men who tried to have me sealed back up in a temporal prison. He had to know that he was asking me for the moon. Of course, if anyone could give someone the moon, it'd be the cutest, cleverest alchemic genius anywhere in the skies. Of course that still didn't solve the problem of me not being even remotely interested, especially not as a favor to a man who's loyalties could easily come into question.

    On the other hand…
    I let a smirk twist its way across my face. I didn't worry about how unsettling I probably looked at the moment. If he wanted my help, he'd need to have enough of a spine to stand up to me.

    "You know what? Sure. I'll do it. Just be aware that I'm doing this for myself. Relatives or not, the idea of doing anything for members of Helmuth makes me want to rupture my own innards."

    "You truly are impossible."

    "I'll give you reports on her progress whenever she makes any. That's probably the least painful method of keeping you filled in, considering I expect virtually nothing, or at the very least, for progress to move at a snail's pace."

    "Can you please stop insulting our daughter," Promethia demanded.

    I wracked my brain, but mortifyingly, I found I had no snappy comeback to that, and so I just sighed and said, "Look, you two; Clarisse is a lovely girl, I'm sure, and is probably incredibly charming. Unfortunately, my mind is twisted in such a way that I can't see any of that, and beyond that, the fact remains that she is the laziest brat I’ve ever met, and never studies. That is an objective statement. A fact. There is no sugarcoating it via my perspective. If you're expecting a miracle just because I'm the Founder, you're almost as demented as people think I am."

    And honestly, how dare those fools call me demented. The most adorable and brilliant alchemist in the world, and they call me insane. 'I've grown too wild,' they said. It was the same thing they had said when they had sealed me successfully. Evidently, some things never changed. The only difference was that the current generation had no idea what I was imprisoned for, and we're just doing it because something in their old research archives said it had been done before, and therefore, it could be done again. As that weasel Paracelsus discovered, unlike materials in a controlled environment, I, as a living, thinking subject, had the capacity to learn from previous encounters. Yet they continued trying to seal her by following the instructions.

    "You know, one particularly common, though nonetheless accurate, definition of insanity, is to do the same thing over and over, and expecting a different outcome each time," I leered at the researcher before me.

    The hapless fool cleared his throat.

    "Founder, I'm afraid I don't follow, nor can I construe anything I said such that it could have brought you to the point where you'd say such a thing."

    I blinked.

    "…the hell?"

    Oh. OH! Right. I was talking to Clarisse's parents, not Helmuth's next casualty.

    "Caglios—"

    "Sorry, I stopped listening and got lost in thought; you must have been boring me. What were you saying?"

    "Really, for an ancient bring of immeasurable power, I would expect you to demonstrate at least a semblance of maturity," Harold groused—though he at least managed to sound somewhat dignified. "I was explaining why I believe you're the best, possibly the only person who can teach my daughter."

    Ah, now there was the kind of respect the world owed me, even there was a jab sandwiched in the middle. Let's face it: I deserved the praise.

    Either way, it put me in a good mood. I didn't know what else he had said about me, but chances were that it had been good, at least since the incident with ParaHELLsus. I took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. Promethia and Harold both waited for me. I guess they were expecting me to say something. Seriously though, what did they want me to say?! A little perspective would be nice! Whatever. I decided I'd oblige them anyway.

    "I couldn't teach my own sister alchemy, and Clarisse… well, they're more similar that you can imagine. Like, I'm serious, it's beyond normal comprehension. But I digress. I want you to keep your expectations low. I'm sure you're painfully aware of this already, but she's proven herself to be a terrible student." I paused—it functioned both as dramatic effect and let me savor the anxiety written across their faces as I drew out the moment before answering.



    Okay, ten seconds was enough. I gave them a rare earnest hint of a smile. Something few would ever see, and that fewer still would see and survive. But this was a special case.

    "But I'll do everything I can. She is my niece after all. And I'll admit. Annoying as I find her, she's kind of grown on me."

    ---------------

    I scratched my head for a moment. How in the hell had I ended up in this situation? Ah, right. I had one of those deranged fits I get in which I suddenly got overcome by an urge to do something nice for someone else.

    "Come on, Auntie, does there have to be a test?" Clarisse whined.

    "For the last time, yes, there does. And don't call me that."

    "Why, would you rather I called you my great aunt? Or uncle like I originally suggested?" Clarisse asked pointedly.

    "Well, those would just be inaccurate," I grinned diabolically. "Physically speaking, I'm one hundred percent female, and also younger than you are, and I'm entirely capable of increasing the age difference, if you get my drift."

    After centuries of practice, I knew exactly how I could affect people with a mere facial expression, and I knew how to express things very clearly without saying a word. Even without the admittedly maniacal grin, the baleful look in my eyes really drove my point home without needing to elaborate, and even Clarisse understood that she needed to clam up.

    "Good. Back to work then." I gave my pupil an appraising look. "As virtually no progress has been made thus far, I suppose I'll just have to quiz you on the founding principle of the art. Again. So, question one: What is the founding principle of alchemy?"

    Clarisse appeared to struggle for a moment, but then, to my complete and utter shock, she answered:

    "Equivalent Exchange?"

    "Wrong, the answer is—wait, what?!"

    I suddenly realized that I couldn't find my voice. Clarisse had never even managed to get this much (or rather, this little) right. This was actually unprecedented. As far as I knew, the first time she looked at an alchemy textbook was during the incident with Creepy McNeckbeard when I got my new body. I actually needed a moment to recompose myself.

    "I'm sorry. I'll try harder next time," Clarisse whimpered, evidently taking her teacher's silence as a sign that she'd failed again.

    "No! No, that's— That's the right answer."

    Despite my best efforts, I probably looked about as flabbergasted as I might were I contemplating having been recently psychoanalyzed—correctly—by a sentient fried egg. And no, that has never happened, do not ask why that was so specific.
    Somehow, the student still managed to look even more startled than her teacher.

    "What?!"

    "Sorry, I was just a bit surprised," I said, feigning nonchalance, but probably only half-succeeding. "I haven't exactly been operating on faith when it comes to the subject of your education. However, that's just the first question," my eyes narrowed. For a change, it wasn't out of malice, but rather out of strict professionalism. And then I continued: "It only gets harder from here. Can you tell me what that principle entails?"

    There were no expectations in these study sessions. Even one right answer was nothing short of a breakthrough. Which was why I nearly choked on my own damn tongue when Clarisse said, haltingly at first, but speeding up as she gained confidence:

    "Equivalent Exchange… is the principle that states… that in order for something to be gained…"

    She stopped talking and I found that I couldn't help myself and simply gestured with my hand for her to continue. The look I gave her was inscrutable, and I knew it from years of practice with it, but I was still worried that the sheer incalculable astonishment I felt was probably showing on my face, despite my efforts to hide it.

    "In order for something to be gained," Clarisse continued, "something of equal value must be lost!"

    I only realized my mouth was hanging open—like a total idiot—after a few seconds of processing the information.

    "Um, right, right. I guess I'm still waiting for the rupie to drop. Of course, just because you can parrot those words at me doesn't mean you understand them. How do alchemists determine such value?"

    "Uhhhhhh…"

    And there it was. Oh well, at least the idiot had a frame of reference to try and get to that not-at-all-lofty next step.

    "Ummm… weight, and… what's the word…? Means height and thickness… urgh… starts with a V… VOLUME! Weight and volume!"

    I'll be completely honest here, I had to admit that I was already quite fed up with having my expectations dashed all over the floor. On the other hand, the particular expectations I had here sucked eggs. That aside, was this even really my dunce of a niece?!

    "There are actually several more," I added, "and one of them is actually the most important. Can you tell me what it is."

    It seemed as though this had finally stumped the girl. Then to my utter dismay, she opened her mouth with yet another answer:

    "Crystallization? Wait! No! Physical state! It's physical state! Is it physical state?"

    Oh. Well, that was completely wrong. I don't even know where she got either of those from, and I voiced that. Clarisse wilted under my criticism; common enough occurrence.

    "Look, I'm not surprised you didn't get them," I added. "Getting this much right already exceeds expectations here, and before you grin, that's not a complement—it's borderline insulting if you ask me. But I'm getting sidetracked. The other factors are density, and most important of all, depending on the situation: Either the elements present within the initial matter's composition, or the preconstructed material components."

    "Elements presented in what-now?"

    Well, that was a relief. Truth be told, if the ditsy alchemist-in-training had done anything even remotely clever to follow up, I really would have assumed that someone had either kidnapped her and replaced her with a phenomenally convincing double, or whatever medication she might have taken hours prior was working magnificently. The second possibility presented its own problems, but the first one would result in at least one count of homacide. But moving on…

    "Next question—"

    "Oh please, no…" she whimpered. I had to turn my head for a moment to hide the sheer glee on my face. I couldn't help myself. I had to grin.

    "Oh, yes, we're continuing. Now, let's hope you have a good memory: Recite the first twenty elements on the periodic table. In order."

    "GRRKH!" Clarisse made a strangled noise at the back of her throat. Then clutched the top of her head in her hands. "Grrr, I knew this! I knew it, like, a week ago!" she muttered despairingly.



    "Well? Are you going to answer, or am I going to deduct this from the total?"

    She moaned, then lifted her head, took a deep breath, and tried to look somewhat confidant.

    "Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium, Boron, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen…" she trailed off. "Potassium… Sulfer?"

    "Well, you were doing alright until Potassium which is the nineteenth, and Sulfer is even earlier. Eight out of twenty for this—on to the next," I didn't give the girl any time to cry. My heart is a stone as cold as the frozen wastes ruled by Cocytus, but I can't stand bearing witness to so much pathos in one sitting.

    "Name two alchemical practices that are dangerous to the practitioner."

    Again, Clarisse was unable to produce an answer. And this time, she didn't actually find anything. Just a simple mumbled, "I don't know."

    "Basically anything that you do, to be honest," I said, more conversationally than anything, "Not finishing a transmutation can cause something to explode, including the air, as you know all too well. Some people who do what you do blow themselves up just as often as blowing other things up. I'm honestly surprised you survived the trial and error necessary to fail halfway through a remotely activated transmutation. Put simply, attempting a transmutation one doesn't fully understand."

    She stared up at me blankly. She probably didn't have the first clue what any of that meant.

    "Wait! I know one!" she spouted abruptly, and I went stiff as a plank.

    "Performing human or animal transmutations that involve trying to create life from death. If done improperly, which is what normally happens because there is no correct method—um… except in your case, I think—the alchemist will start drawing on their own lifespan in the attempt to bring the subject back to life. When this happens, there's no limit to how much of your own life force you use up because no matter how many years of your life you give, even though the body comes back to life, the soul that inhabited the body is already gone… uhh, unless they did whatever meta mumbo-jumbo you did to yourself when you were a kid."

    I blinked. Then I responded as delicately as I possibly could under the circumstances, as was only appropriate:

    "WHO IN THE HELL ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE BUFFOON I'VE BEEN TEACHING FOR THE PAST TWO MONTHS?!"

    "Ack! Why are you yelling?!"

    "Are you actually Clarisse?" I demanded, summoning Ouroboros.

    "Yes! Please don't kill me!"

    "You realize that I'm easily able to verify whether you're lying or not, right?"

    "Yes!"

    "And you know what I'll do if you're actually not Clarisse?"

    "You'll kill me," she whimpered.

    "I will suck your soul out through your eyes, turn it into a liquid, pour it into a jar, and attach it haphazardly to a pendulum!"

    "I'm really Clarisse! I swear! I don't know how to be someone else!"

    That sounded pretty doofy. I mean the girl isn't that hard to imitate, but still, most people had more dignity than to say that kind of thing out loud.

    "How did you memorize that?" I asked, genuinely curious.

    "It was in a book I read. It was fiction but had real alchemy stuff in it."

    " 'Alchemy stuff,' she says," I muttered under my breath. "Dingus."

    That aside, evidently, she learned better and retained more information from fiction than textbooks. Son of a goblin, that'll be annoying as hell to try incorporating into lessons. No. Not gonna bother with that. No way in hell. Not if I were getting payed to do this. Maybe if I find something that might make for a fun experiment. Where was I? Oh, right.

    "What about the stuff from earlier?" I asked. You must have studied for a week to retain even that.

    "No… only four days. My brain feels like it's been trampled by golems."

    "Sure. I'll take your word for it, I said, deadpan."

    "So, we've actually made progress today, so I'll be letting you go."

    Unsurprisingly, my niece seemed to light up as I said this.

    "Really?!"

    "I need to report to your mother and father. I wasn't expecting to ever have to do that. Be proud of yourself; you disproved a hypothesis made by the smartest person to ever live."

    "Sweet! Thank you, auntie!"

    "Am I going to have to threaten to surgically remove all your physical extremities to make you stop calling me that?"

    The blood drained from Clarisse's face, leaving her almost as pale as that strange Primal Beast Shipwright.

    "Um, no, miss," she managed to gasp out. She was so pathetic. I couldn't resist. I had to go further. Anyone would have done the same in my position.

    "I don't use anesthetics, by the way," I snickered, my voice lowered to a hiss. She shuddered so violently that her body almost seemed to ripple. Incidentally, I had dismissed her, and then scared her out of her wits. Why was she still standing here?

    "I said you could go. I can torment you all day, but please try to remember I've got some work to do now, and it's all your fault, so if you're still here by the count of ten, I'll probably—"

    She didn't wait to find out what I would do, scurrying from the room. Incidentally, the thought died as it became obsolete, so perhaps no one will ever know what I had suggested I planned to do.

    Well, I had better get to work… the sooner I got this over with the sooner I can go back to making myself ever more adorable.


    Dear Harold and Promethia, I wrote.
    The unthinkable happened this week: Clarisse actually studied. For four days (or so she claims). I know, right? I couldn't believe it either!
    I don't expect her to follow up, but if she were to, I think there's a chance she may be able to understand the basics and finally get out of her incomplete transmutation rut.


    An explosion suddenly rocked the Grandcypher. I was about to check it out when I heard a voice.

    "Umm, I didn't do that!"

    With a sigh, I let myself fall back onto my chair and put pen to paper.


    Admittedly, it's a very modest chance…

    -----------------

    Author's Note: It always struck me as odd that despite being a genius, Cagliostro's only weird quirk was her tendency to switch between her two personas at any given moment—though preferring the diabolical one. So I decided to make an extension of that by giving her difficulty sticking to one topic. I made her one of those mad scientist types who have too many coherent thoughts going through their heads to verbally process them all with equal coherency.

    Also, I adore Clarisse, so I sincerely apologize if you feel I portrayed her in a negative light.

    Please don't kill me.
    Last edited by Draconic; October 24th, 2017 at 10:32 PM.
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    Deadpan Dead People LegalLoliLover's Avatar
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    Yeah, Cagliostro's switching between cutesy and diabolic is what I love about her.
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