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Thread: But For A Stone (A Matou Shinji Series AU)

  1. #561
    リビングデッド Living Dead Desann's Avatar
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    [x] The rapier-armed brunette who just finished talking with the Chief Inspector
    [x] Natsumi

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    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    Main timeline Shinji or this timeline's Phelan might qualify for the Gentleman Class (presented by Old Spice).
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  3. #563
    [x] A blonde girl his age holding court on the couch, discussing wondrous inventions, such as bags of holding, with a circle of others.

    Selina - Token vote so we go to her after Amber.

    [x] Noel Twins
    (subject to change)

    ^Too fitting for mainline Shinji.

  4. #564
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    Who to approach next: [X] The rapier-armed brunette who just finished talking with the Chief Inspector
    Last gift priority: [X] Noel Twins (subject to change)




    Looking about, Shinji tried to identify someone who might be interesting to talk to - someone who might have information about the case. Not that he expected anyone to simply give up information for nothing, but with how things stood right now, he didn't think he was any closer to finding out who the culprit was.

    'I'd thought for sure that Sokaris would have something useful to tell me,' the boy from the east mused silently. 'But she only started talking about masks that were hard to take off...'

    He didn't see how that would help him, since he already knew the 'killer' was somewhere in the room, where everyone was going out of their way to hide who they were - even him.

    'Should I keep looking for Miyuki-senpai?'
    he wondered. He was certain that she would have some interesting way to look at the situation which would prove rather insightful, but... 'Then again, I don't really know who senpai is here.'

    He'd thought that maybe she would have been in conversation with Sokaris, but thinking back on it, she had said he would only see her at the event that he recognized her.

    'And tonight, when everyone wears different clothes, different names, different faces, that would be difficult...'

    He didn't know what senpai was wearing, what she would be acting like, what name she might use. For all he knew she'd taken Aging Potion and was the older, more shapely raven-haired girl he saw moving about the room, or had hidden her face and figure completely. This made things...difficult.

    'Still, what I have I learned...?'

    That there were likely people emboldened by the masks they wore, and with it, the assumption that no one could recognize them. How much freedom that would offer, if one could go anywhere, do anything, without having to worry about the consequences or the reactions of others with prying eyes.

    'But why would Cho Chang only talk to Sokaris on a night like this?' he thought to himself. Weren't they in the same house? Wouldn't it be easy for her to just approach Sokaris in the Common Room? Something didn't quite add up there...and now that he thought about it, the whole situation was a little suspicious.

    And if he wanted someone to help him pick out suspicious characters, he needed someone with a good eye for detail, like...

    'Aha!'

    ...the rapier-armed brunette who just finished talking with the Chief Inspector, who he suspected was Amber Noel of Gryffindor.

    "How about her?" Shinji suggested to the erstwhile Miss Lockhart, as he nodded in the girl in red's direction. "She was just talking to Quirrell. Perhaps she has some clue to the case that the rest of us don't."

    "An acceptable suggestion," his companion noted, as they set off together to intercept the rapier-wearing girl, as she made her way towards the punch bowl, only to pause and turn towards them as they approached.

    "Good evening," the other said mildly. "Who might I have the honor of addressing?"

    "Kōichi Zenigata, at your service," Shinji replied gallantly, greeting her with a sweeping bow. He glanced to his side, noting that 'Miss Lockhart' was still attached to his arm. "And this is Miss Aeris Lockhart...my companion for the evening. 'And thorn in my side,' he wanted to say, but didn't, as he wasn't stupid. Having one brunette out for his blood was bad enough. Best not add another.

    "I see," the brunette noted coolly. "You found a partner, Inspector. I hope for your sake that she is better at stopping crimes than your namesake."

    "Namesake, huh?" Shinji asked, eyes widening as he found himself surprised once more. After all, why would a young British noblewoman know of the material he'd borrowed it from. Do you...recognize it, perhaps?"

    "Enough to know that you chose poorly. If you are anything like your namesake, in spite of your brilliance, your quarry will escape ninety-nine times out of a hundred," the girl in red commented mildly.

    'She does know it! But how?'

    It wasn't as if manga or Japanese animation were exactly popular outside of the country. At least not yet...

    "It appears you have me at a disadvantage," Shinji conceded, tipping his hat to her. "As you seem to know of me, but I know nothing of you, Miss...no, Lady...?"

    "Skywalker," the figure in red supplied, as the delicate fingers of her hand came to rest on the hilt of her blade. "Katrielle Skywalker."

    'Skywalker? Why does that sound so familiar?'
    he mused, though he couldn't come up with anything off the top of his head.

    "A pleasure indeed," Shinji murmured, taking her hand and kissing it as well, noting idly that the girl before him seemed to flush when his lips touched her skin, with perhaps a bit of trembling. 'Odd...Miss Lockhart didn't react like this.' And wouldn't a daughter of the nobility be used to this? Or had he remembered the etiquette improperly? After all, if he tried this on Tohsaka, he was pretty sure that she would simply punch him, and since he wasn't some sort of anime protagonist who was immune to female violence, he thought he should probably avoid that. "It is good to see someone else trying to unravel the details of tonight's mystery. You are tempted by the prize, I take it?"

    "Mm...admittedly so, though the prize itself is odd," the brunette in red commented, pulling her hand back. "After all, why would the Chief Inspector have the right to give out one of Professor Slughorn's last creations? Under normal circumstances, wouldn't that be entered into evidence, maybe as a possible motive for the murder?"

    "A very good point," Miss Lockhart remarked. "And hardly the only inconsistency tonight."

    "...I'm sure it doesn't mean anything," Shinji protested. "Someone has to give out the prize, right? And since Professor Quirrell is playing the part of the Chief Inspector, why not him? It's not as if someone dead needs it."

    "Even so, I find it suspicious," Lady Skywalker replied, her mask - her green-eyed mask, now that he looked more closely - hiding her expression. "Do you not, Miss Lockhart?"

    "Among other things, yes."

    "Speaking of the...Chief Inspector," Shinji interjected, with both of the girls turning to look at him. "You spoke to him just now, yes?"

    "Yes? What of it?"

    "Did he have anything interesting to say? Any new clues or suggestions?"

    "Only that the fact that a master potioneer had actually been poisoned successfully, suggested that the killer was either a potioneer of no small ability - say, an alchemist," the girl in red supplied, with Shinji unable to keep from stiffening as he remembered the role he had been assigned that evening.

    Alchemist.

    'Wait...am I the murderer?!'

    No, that couldn't be right, could it? After all, he didn't have any of the poison on him, just a vial of the...

    '...of the antidote.'

    The boy's eyes widened despite himself at this realization. After all, why - and how - would someone have an antidote on hand for an unknown poison...unless they were the one who had brewed the self-same poison?

    'No...it has to be a mistake. I can't be the killer...there's probably someone else whose role is that. I'm just an Alchemist, right?'

    "Is something wrong, Monsieur Zenigata?" Miss Lockhart inquired solicitously, as she touched one of his now cold hands. "You seem like you've come face to face with something...unpleasant. Is my presence truly that distasteful?" She leaned close, her next words murmured quietly into his ear. "Or is it time to say someone might be a murderer?"

    Shinji flinched, pulling away from the dangerous girl by his side.

    "W-what?! N-n-no, that's not it at all," the boy babbled. "You've got it all wrong. I'm not...I mean, you trust me, right?"

    "Trust a boy behind a mask, who clearly has something to hide?" Lady Skywalker inquired, stepping closer to cut off the boy's line of retreat. "Do I seem that foolish to you, Mister Zenigata?"

    "N-no, not at all," Shinji denied, reeling as he found himself on the back foot. How had things become like this? Only a short time ago, he'd thought that maybe with help, he could claim the prize. Yet now...

    'If I'm found out, I'm done for. After all, my role is Alchemist, and the Chief Inspector just told Lady Skywalker that the killer was probably a great potioneer, or an alchemist.'

    "Your mouth says one thing," Miss Lockhart observed, her tone almost mischievous, "but your body says something else entirely."

    "I..."

    There had to be some way out of this. Something Quirrell had said that would clear his name, or at least throw off some suspicion.

    "What else did the Chief Inspector say?" Shinji said with false cheer in what clearly wasn't an attempt to change the topic, with the other two eyeing him strangely. "I mean, we should know the whole picture before we make any accusations, right?"

    He was sweating now, unable to hide his nervousness.

    "And what do you think he might have said?" Lady Skywalker asked.

    What does Shini ask about? (choose one)

    [ ] The circumstances of the case - was there anyone who could have tampered with the scene?
    [ ] Was the scene kept untouched? Or had things / the body been moved to make way for the reception?
    [ ] Couldn't the evidence also point to someone close to Slughorn? Someone he wouldn't expect to poison him?
    [ ] Why the Chief Inspector is certain that the killer is in the room.
    [ ] (write-in)
    Last edited by alfheimwanderer; February 11th, 2018 at 12:00 PM.

  5. #565
    ぷよ使い Puyo Mage fallacies's Avatar
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    [x] The circumstances of the case - was there anyone who could have tampered with the scene?

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    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    You have six hours from now to get your vote in.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  7. #567
    リビングデッド Living Dead Desann's Avatar
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    [x] The circumstances of the case - was there anyone who could have tampered with the scene?

  8. #568
    [X] The circumstances of the case - was there anyone who could have tampered with the scene?

    Given that this is the early 90's and before the internet allowed information to flow everywhere, the number of people that could possible know Shinji's name reference is very small elite group. Sokaris gets a pass on this front...she knows everything.

    But a girl that makes a Starwars reference...and knows Shinji's name origin...there is only one girl that comes to mind. One that is both mischievous and would blush if Shinji kissed her hand.

    I do believe we found Natsumi with Ms. Skywalker.

  9. #569
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    What does Shini ask about? [x] The circumstances of the case - was there anyone who could have tampered with the scene?




    Thinking quickly, the hapless boy seized on the first thing to come to mind. Namely that while yes, the way the evidence was presented made him look rather - no, pretty much painted him as being the murderer of poor Professor Slughorn, there was no guarantee that things were as they seemed, particularly on Halloween.

    "He might have said something about the unusual circumstances that led to us all being called here tonight," Shinji suggested, glancing hither and fro nervously. "I mean, with so many people - and an event obviously planned - couldn't someone have tampered with the scene?" At this point, he was speculating wildly, without any solid grounding, but he needed throw off the suspicions of his companions if he wanted a chance to win that vial of Felix Felicis. He finished what he had to say, his words hanging in the air as Miss Lockhart circled him, with Lady Skywalker watching him, while her fingers toyed with the hilt of her rapier.

    "An interesting suggestion, even if you are only making it to try and deflect the suspicion from yourself," the half-masked Miss Lockhart conceded. "Tell me, then, how might the scene have been tampered with?"

    "Uh..." Shinji thought, trying to recall what he'd seen of the body, over in the corner as it was. "Maybe the body was moved."

    "Which would prove what, exactly?"

    "It wouldn't prove anything," Shinji admitted, "but it might be enough to obscure the real cause of death. I mean, and I'm not saying this is what happened, what if the murder took place somewhere else, by some other method?" He thought about the blackness around the corpse's mouth, and how that was an obvious - a suspiciously obvious - cause of death. "What if, to throw off suspicion on him or herself, the real killer just used something harmless to dye the man's mouth black, so at first glance, one would assume the cause was poisoning?" His eyes shone with a maddened light. "What if...what if it was a curse? Or say...a house elf? In the kitchen? With a candlestick?!"

    'Miss Lockhart' blinked.

    "What."

    It was as if the boy she was walking around had said something so stupid she couldn't wrap her head around the words coming out of his mouth.

    "I mean...it-it could have happened that way? Right?" the boy continued, desperate for an outcome other than the one he feared. "I mean, you believe me, right, Lady Skywalker?"

    "Should I repeat my point about believing a boy wearing a mask, who clearly has something to hide?" the rapier-armed Lady Skywalker replied with a mild sense of amusement, something like a smirk playing over her lips. "And how foolish that would be?"

    "Heh...would I really lie to two such beautiful young women?" the boy offered lamely, hoping that at the very least, she'd laugh, and maybe he would be out of immediate danger. "Especially ones who are so fiendishly clever?"

    "Oh? Resorting to flattery now, are we, Mister Zenigata?" 'Miss Lockhart' commented, having recovered from her earlier shock. "As for your point, it is well known that a man will say anything to earn the favor of beautiful young women, as you put it. Though, does this mean you think we're beautiful?"

    Shinji felt his face blazing as hot as a miniature sun as the two brunettes circled him like sharks that had scented prey.

    "I...uh...."

    "Oh? You don't, then?" Miss Lockhart questioned, her tone wry. "How--"

    "No! I mean, yes, I mean...you're beautiful, yes. You're both beautiful."

    "Do you hear that, Lady Skywalker?" the half-masked brunette inquired, turning to her companion all in red. "He thinks you're beautiful."

    "Hm. Something I would perhaps believe if he said it when he could see my face," the rapier-wielder replied. She paused for a moment, before adding, "And when I could see his, of course."

    Shinji's blush only deepened as her words made him wonder what 'Lady Skywalker' looked like behind her mask. With the exception of tonight, he'd never really told someone she was beautiful before. The closest he'd come was telling Miyuki-senpai that she was precious to him - anything more than that would have seemed like he was trying to confess or something absurd like that.

    'And it
    would be absurd, as if I was Icarus flying too close to the sun...'

    Miyuki-senpai was kind, and beautiful and wise and...

    'She is so many things that I could never be, and I could never really deserve.'


    Not as broken as he was.

    "...you look sad, Mister Zenigata, as if you realized something," 'Miss Lockhart' murmured into his ear, her voice soft enough that only he could hear it.

    "I was just thinking of what a cruel world this was," the boy remarked, shaking his head. "And how even outside this room, we all wear masks, only ever showing people the pieces of ourselves we're not afraid of. The parts we're not ashamed of."

    "And are you ashamed of what you are?"

    "...I'm not happy about it," Shinji admitted with a heavy sigh. It really was odd how freeing it was to wear a physical mask, to dispense with one set of falsehoods even as one donned another. "I guess I just don't like thinking about myself all that much. I do it a lot, but...even I..." He closed his eyes. "It's hard, you know?"

    "That much, I know well," Miss Lockhart told him, leaning close against him - again, perhaps a bit closer than propriety would allow. "There are things expected of one who, despite their deepest wishes, can never become the heir of a family."

    "Mm," Shinji agreed, before jerking back, his face pale and drawn under the mask he wore as the words she'd chosen sunk in. "Wait. You..." He found himself backed against a corner, his expression becoming something twisted as he began to hyperventilate. Those words. How did she know? How did 'Miss Lockhart' know. 'No. No one should know. No one. Except senpai and Sokaris, and this can't be senpai, right? It - it..."

    "It was him, Inspector!" a voice declared, with the crowd parting with a murmur to reveal the girl who he knew to be Cho Chang pointing at him. "That 'Koichi Zenigata' said he was an alchemist earlier this evening. He must have done it!"

    Shinji's stomach sank into a pit as he felt despair begin to overtake him.

    He would be exposed.

    Any minute now, Quirrell would come over, and Matou Shinji would be exposed as the murderer, with the boy losing his best chance to begin to repay senpai - or maybe Sokaris - with a good Christmas gift, which was the least he could do after everything they had done for him.

    And...

    Quirrell advanced upon him, looking for all the world like a blood-soaked specter in his rust-red robes as he moved towards the boy, his wand outstretched to cover his movements.

    At this rate, the man would be on him in seconds.

    What will Shinji do?

    [ ] Run - if he's not caught, he can't be made to reveal his role
    [ ] Let Quirrell reach him, try to defend himself verbally
    [ ] Look to one of the girls with him - maybe one of them will do something
    [ ] Give himself up
    Last edited by alfheimwanderer; February 12th, 2018 at 09:59 PM.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  10. #570
    Nobody thought about questioning Quirrell, really? Going to take everything at face value?

    [x] Let Quirrell reach him, try to defend himself verbally.

    Fine. Hopefully, it doesn't put an end to the whole event.
    Last edited by Daiki; February 13th, 2018 at 12:31 AM.

  11. #571
    [X] Let Quirrell reach him, try to defend himself verbally

    Cho has no evidence, just knows that Shinji is an 'alchemist' which is not a crime. At least try to defend yourself Shinji. Admitting to doing this will make you the bad guy and lose. The girls will chime in during Shinji's defense trial here.

    The people that accuse the wrong person, lose. So make them lose, so that we can go about finding the person that really did it. Like Quirrell
    Last edited by Skull Leader; February 13th, 2018 at 12:51 AM.

  12. #572
    [x] Let Quirrell reach him, try to defend himself verbally

  13. #573
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    [X] Let Quirrell reach him, try to defend himself verbally




    For a moment, Shinji considered running - trying to slip past Quirrell, since, if the man couldn't catch him - couldn't force him to reveal the damning role he had been given for tonight's mystery, then he wouldn't have to give up his chance of victory, would he? But the mad thought passed as quickly as it had come.

    He was already backed into a corner, after all, and the Chief Inspector had his wand out just in case of such an eventuality. That, and if he ran now, there would almost no question in anyone's mind of his guilt.

    'Whereas if I stay, try to argue my case, maybe I can get myself out of this. Somehow.'

    Yes. That might work. Though it would be nice if one of the two with him were to help...

    'Huh? Where'd they go?' the boy wondered, his thoughts coming to a halt as he realized both of them had essentially disappeared, slipping away while the attention of the crowd was focused on him. 'No. That's right...they think I'm guilty too.'

    And then the sweeping figure of Chief Inspector Quirinus was standing before him.

    "M-mister...Zenigata, is it?" the red-draped man questioned, looking at him with pale, almost curious eyes. "You stand accused of the murder of Horace Slughorn this evening. How do you plead?"

    "Not...not guilty!" the boy stammered.

    "Not...not guilty?" the Chief Inspector repeated slowly, his voice just loud enough for everyone to hear - almost as if he'd cast something on his throat. "So you admit to the crime of which you are accused?"

    "No! I...I meant, not guilty!" Shinji snapped, wincing at how his fear had let him be so misinterpreted. "I didn't do it."

    "...you did not, did you?" Quirrell asked, his wand pointing unwaveringly at the boy's chest. "Then I'm sure you won't mind if we discuss the facts of the situation?"

    "No. Anything's fine," the boy said quickly. "Why am I even being accused, anyway? Because I said I was an Alchemist, on an evening where no one is playing their true role?"

    "Because given the circumstances of Professor Slughorn's death via poisoning, only a Alchemist, or someone else similarly skilled, could have done the deed."

    "B-but there's no proof! And I have no motive!"

    The man says nothing, just stretches out his hand, with the glass vial - the one piece of evidence that Shinji could not easily refute - flying from a pocket in his robes to the Chief Inspector's hand.

    "No proof, you say?" the man echoed, suddenly dropping his stuttering and insecure act. "Then what is this, Mister Zenigata?" he asked, his voice stern and hard. "You carry a strange glass vial on your person. One that claims to be an...'antidote.' How very curious."

    "S-so what?" Shinji asked defiantly. "It's just a vial. Anyone could have a potions vial. Th-that's hardly a crime, is it!"

    "Perhaps not, but why would they bring such a thing to what they believed was a party?" Quirrell pressed, with Shinji feeling options close off all around him. "Particularly one an...antidote of all things. Tell me, Mister Zenigata, do you have enemies in this room?"

    "...no..."

    "And do you live in fear of poisoning?"

    "No, but--"

    "Then why do you have such a vial?" the Chief Inspector asked. "You can't answer that, can you, Alchemist? Because you know that there is no good reason to carry such a thing with you in such a situation. And given the facts at hand, I must sadly that that you are--"

    "OBJECTION!" a voice cried out, with heads turning at the sound to find a red-clad figure standing on a hastily-cleared table, her finger outstretched at the red-robed Inspector, whose face was a tableau of surprise, as he had not expected anyone to call him out.

    "Lady...Skywalker, was it?" the man questioned, once he'd composed himself again. "On what grounds do you object?"

    "On the grounds that you are badgering the witness - and that the events of this entire evening have been a farce!" the rapier-armed brunette declared, her green-eyed mask staring imperiously down, as people began to mutter.

    "A farce?" the Chief Inspector repeated gravely. "Miss...Skywalker, a man lies dead this evening, with the chief suspect for the murder about to admit to his crime. I assure you, this is no farce, so kindly remove yourself from the table."

    "I will not," the other declared. "Because Mister Zenigata is no murderer at all." Shinji felt his spirits - his hope - rise as the girl continued to speak in his defense. "He was framed."

    "F-framed?" Quirrell echoed incredulously. "Of all the absurd...the vial he was holding proves otherwise."

    The man held the object in question up to the crowd, as if to show off what it was he had found.

    "Let me examine that," the other spoke, opening her hand - as the vial left from the grasp of the Chief Inspector, flying towards hers - only pause in mid-air.

    "Miss Skywalker, it is a grave offense to assault a representative of the State," the man said stiffly, his own hand outstretched as the vial began to drift back towards him...before overshooting into the hands of a shapely raven-haired girl wearing a form-fitting dress of silver and blue and a bronze mask engraved with azure lines. "As it is for you, Miss Yuki."

    'Miss...Yuki?'
    Shinji repeated inside his head. 'Wait that's...don't tell me senpai used such an obvious alias.'

    Hiding in plain sight, while dressed in colors of Ravenclaw no less.

    "Indeed, but that is only so if the person in question is truly a representative of the State," Miss Yuki commented, glancing down at the vial in her hands. "A curious thing, is it not? That someone should be carrying around such a vial at all, even if they were themurderer. After all, the deed was already done, and assuming this killer was assured of their success, why would the killer keep the antidote on him or her, instead of disposing of it, along with the poison?"

    "What exactly are you suggesting, Miss Yuki?"

    "That Miss Skywalker is correct - this boy has been framed," the raven-haired girl declared imperiously.

    "And yet from how he was acting, this is not so," the Chief Inspector replied fearlessly, his smile a cold one indeed. "He knows his guilt. Look how he trembles. Look how he cannot meet my eye. And you try to defend him by saying that he was framed? That as Chief Inspector, I am not a representative of the State? How absurd. You cannot argue against material evidence with these half-cast speculations Miss Yuki, when a much easier explanation for why he was carrying the vial was that he was good at crafting potions - but needed to be sure he could create a situation where he and the Professor were drinking of the same poisoned brew. Did you consider that?"

    "I did," a third voice broke in - that of Miss Lockhart. "And I dismissed that as absurd, since none of us were on the scene until just slightly before. None of us except you, Inspector."

    Quirrell's expression was a sight to behold at that moment.

    "This should be amusing," the man said coolly. "Say your piece, if you will, since it seems evident you three will not let me finish this case until you do."

    "There are three problems with the situation as it has been framed," 'Miss Lockhart' declared imperiously, obviously speaking for the benefit of the crowd. "First - you allege that Professor Slughorn was killed by poisoning, yet his body shows signs of being beaten, as if by a blunt instrument. And well - that blackness on the body is not natural at all, but dried ink."

    "
    Second," Miss Yuki commented from her position by the door. "It was curious indeed how few instructions we had for a proper murder mystery. All of our roles were given to us when we came into this room. All of us wearing masks, adopting identities not our own. It seems a setup designed to sow confusion and discord - to distract us - especially with the addition of the oh-so-convenient vial Mister Zenigata seems to have been planted."

    "And third," Lady Skywalker announced, drawing her rapier and pointing it across the room at the Chief Inspector with a dramatic flourish. "You are not Quirinus Quirrell!"

    The room went utterly still at this declaration, with people looking uneasily between the three girls who had spoken up and the Chief Inspector, who seemed bemused by their assertions.

    "Miss Skywalker, even if I were prepared to overlook your outrageous claim that I am not who I say I am, I cannot overlook your transgression of drawing a weapon against a representa--"

    "Quirinus Quirrell was the Muggles Studies Professor at Hogwarts for several years," Lady Skywalker continued impetuously, as if the man had not spoken at all. "Because of that, he should be familiar with trends among Muggles, should he not? And yet - he did not recognize my name."

    "...what does your choice of alias have anything to do with this, Miss Skywalker?" Quirrell inquired coolly. "Perhaps I did recognize it, but simply did not show a reaction."

    "Then, Chief Inspector, which popular Muggle franchise is the name Skywalker from?" the girl in red countered. "Can you answer that for me?"

    "This is absurd! This entire line of questioning..."

    "You refuse to answer, Inspector?" the girl in red said by way of clarification. "Or is it...that you can't answer? Because you genuinely don't know?"

    A few moments passed while the man thought, before sighing.

    "Doctor Who," the man answered finally. noting that Lady Skywalker seemed to relax, nodding to herself at that. "Are you happy now?"

    "I am," the red-clad brunette stated, drawing herself up regally, her expression a smile of utter triumph. "I am because you have just confirmed to me that you know nothing of Muggle media, or Muggle culture, and thus cannot be Quirinus Quirrell. You too are pretending to be someone else - though your mask is harder to take off than any of ours, as befits a Master Potioneer using Polyjuice to borrow someone else's form."

    "...this has gone beyond absurd now, Miss Skywalker. You cannot--"

    "Inspector, would you like to hear my theory of who you really are and what really happened tonight?" the brunette questioned. "Because I know the answer to both."

    "...at this point, I can hardly stop the three of you, so by all means, Miss Skywalker," the red-robed inspector allowed.

    "The fact of the matter is that there was no murder tonight," Lady Skywalker declared. "Yes, the body that you declared to be Horace Slughorn resembled him in passing, but did not hold up under closer inspection."

    "It wasn't even a body at all, but a fake, transfigured into his likeness from some sacks of wheat," Miss Yuki pointed out helpfully. "A mannequin, dressed in his clothes and dumped in a corner, whose face was stained so to throw off how hastily the transfiguration had been done. For example, how the eyes were only black spheres and not really eyes..."

    "Then, there was the matter of the invitations - and the roles," Lady Skywalker supplied. "This was to be Professor Slughorn's Halloween party, yes? With the good Professor known for his love of...talking to students and seeing how they thoughts? So then, why was Professor Quirrell taking the leading role?"

    "And for that matter, why was he not wearing a mask?" Miss Lockhart inquired. "On the face of it, it might seem that he was not an invited guest at the party, and thus wore no mask to separate himself from the rest of us, so that we would extend him the trust we give to an authority figure. But I think there was something else - that he wore no cheap mask because he was already wearing one. A mask of flesh and magic."

    "The truth is that Professor Slughorn was here all along, watching us. Mingling with us. Seeing how we reacted and how we thought when a prize was at stake," the red-clad girl announced. "Only he slipped up, because he offered to us a prize that wasn't Galleons or something Professor Quirrell might offer, but a vial of Felix Felicis - and a representative of the state would have no authority to simply give a murder victim's possessions to someone else. Once I worked that out, and confirmed you were not Quirinus Quirrell, it seemed obvious who you had to had to be," she summed up, her smirk triumphant. "Professor Horace Slughorn, Potions Master of Hogwarts, the one responsible for this entire evening's events! J'accuse!"

    The Chief Inspector blinked as he listened to the allegations of the three.

    "You have a most wild imagination, and a bolder will than I would have expected, Miss Skywalker," he allowed after a few moments. "The same to you, Miss Lockhart. Miss Yuki. Claiming these things, defying my authority, and banding together to make yourself be heard. Taking such risks, questioning the assumptions you have been given, and going out of your way to do so...theatrically...it is enough to make a man weep the state of the youth. Except for one thing." Without a word, he summoned the vial of antidote from the hand of Miss Yuki, downing it before anyone could act, with the form of Quirinus Quirrell melting away, revealing a hale and hearty Professor Slughorn in somewhat more ill-fitting robes of an Auror. "The fact that you are correct. And in spite of my protests and attempts to divert you, you arrived at the truth - seeing through the inconsistencies of the case - even using Muggle culture to reveal that I could not be who I claimed. Congratulations."

    The Potions Master of Hogwarts tipped his head in acknowledgement as he withdrew a single vial full of golden liquid from his robes.

    "As promised, one vial of Felix Felicis - a day's worth, though you are free to split it up as you wish," the man said grandly. "Come forward, Miss Skywalker. Claim your prize."

    The red-clad figure did so, hopping down from her perch on the table and making her way to where Slughorn stood.

    "Congratulations. When Quirinus suggested this idea to me, I had no idea how it was going to turn out, as my parties have always been rather more informal. Less...dramatic and contrived. I wasn't convinced anyone would figure out the twist, and yet you and your colleagues surprised me. Well done indeed."

    He bowed, Miss Skywalker curtsied, and as they straightened, the man handed her the vial.

    "Your prize for the evening. Use it well. As you are using the Mopsus you won from exceeding my expectations throughout the semester," he commented genially. "And one of your colleagues, I suspect, is using Aging Potion."

    "All true, and thank you."

    "It was a pleasure, Miss Skywalker," the man admitted with a wry smile, before turning to the crowd - some of which was shocked, some of which was baffled, some of which was genuinely impressed, and some of which were shaking their heads in disbelief over the scale of the deception he had done. "And now that our game has come to an end - please, enjoy the evening and the company of one another. There is food and drink aplenty, and much time left this Halloween night."

    One of the more shocked ones was Matou Shinji, who was still gobsmacked at the revelations and manner of approach the others had used. He hadn't questioned the assumptions of the case - not really. And because of that - he'd fallen into a trap.

    'Or really, I would have been used as a bait for a trap for everyone else...'

    A false accusation that everyone believed, disqualifying them from the prize, before Slughorn himself walked away with it at the end of the evening. He could see that at work too, and just as clearly, Quirrell's hand in the creation of it.

    Now that it was over though, Shinji thought perhaps he should take Slughorn's advice about enjoying the evening - he'd had more than enough shocks for one night.

    For the rest of the night, what will he do, aside from mingling? (choose three)

    [ ] Seek out "Miss Yuki", who seems to have vanished in the aftermath
    [ ] Join "Miss Skywalker" and "Miss Lockhart"
    [ ] Join the green-eyed blonde on the couch, where she is discussing handy haversacks of all things
    [ ] Seek out Cho Chang, who had accused him
    [ ] Talk to Professor Slughorn
    [ ] Talk to Sokaris
    Last edited by alfheimwanderer; February 13th, 2018 at 02:12 PM.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  14. #574
    死徒 Dead Apostle
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    [ ] Talk to Professor Slughorn

  15. #575
    [x] Seek out "Miss Yuki", who seems to have vanished in the aftermath.
    [x] Join "Miss Skywalker" and "Miss Lockhart".
    [x] Join the green-eyed blonde on the couch, discussing handy haversacks of all things.

    Shinji makes for a decent unwilling bait.

  16. #576
    リビングデッド Living Dead Desann's Avatar
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    [x] Join "Miss Skywalker" and "Miss Lockhart"
    [x] Join the green-eyed blonde on the couch, where she is discussing handy haversacks of all things
    [x] Talk to Professor Slughorn

  17. #577
    Quote Originally Posted by Daiki View Post
    Shinji makes for a decent unwilling bait.
    It is what he good at...is that not why someone like Elesa would take him into the dangerous dungeon? Sadly, this Shinji not yet socially savvy or tanky to survive being bait. But that is ok, Natsumi keeps him around anyway. After all she keeps getting wonderful loot because of his actions.

    [X] Talk to Professor Slughorn
    [x] Join "Miss Skywalker" and "Miss Lockhart"
    [x] Join the green-eyed blonde on the couch, discussing handy haversacks of all things.

  18. #578
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    [x] Join "Miss Skywalker" and "Miss Lockhart"
    [x] Join the green-eyed blonde on the couch, where she is discussing handy haversacks of all things
    [x] Talk to Professor Slughorn




    Chapter 12. Apocrypha

    On the night before Halloween, Matou Shinji dreamed, and in the dream, he found himself standing at the conclusion of what must have been a terrible battle, with the rubble and ruins strewn all around him. Before him lay the broken body of his vanquished foe, a black-haired youth with a distinctive lightning bolt scar, the hilt of a shattered sword still clenched tightly in a severed hand, with the remains of what might have been a wand laying near him, just out of reach.

    "I know you're not dead, Potter," he found himself calling out, and indeed, the other's chest was still moving.

    "I have nothing to say to you, Matou," the other hissed, angry green eyes snapping open to glare at him. "Because of you...because of you...you--!"

    "I don't care what you think of me," Shinji said evenly, regarding the body of his foe with something like pity. "You made your choice, and I made mine."

    "You...you would let thousands die, let half a nation be slaughtered, for the sake of a single person's happiness?" the other spoke, eyes accusing. "You - doing this, you're nothing but a monster. I can't believe I ever called you my friend."

    But Matou Shinji did not flinch from the accusation. He did not rear back or feel any spark of anger.

    He only laughed, the dark and terrible sound filling the air as his foe looked on in horror and disgust.

    "Are you even--"

    "I swore an oath long ago," he said, cutting off his fallen opponent. "To be a single person's ally, even if it cost me everything, even if the world itself became my enemy. Those thousands you've mentioned? Half a nation? A tragedy, but compared to what might be? A bargain."

    "They—Hillard was your friend, Matou! Don't you even care that by doing this, you're dooming them, spitting on everything—"

    "It doesn't matter," Matou Shinji intoned with finality. "What matters is that this charade is over. That your pitiful attempts to stop what must be have failed. Stop this madness, Potter. Surrender, and I will see that you and those you love are spared, however little you may deserve it."

    The other sighed heavily.

    "It's not like I have a choice, do I?" the black-haired youth asked bitterly. "Fine, I surrender."

    Matou Shinji exhaled, letting out a breath he hadn't known he was holding as he smiled, ever so slightly.

    "Good. I'm glad you came around in the end. I was afraid—"

    But his happiness was short-lived as the other wizard's remaining hand moved, reaching for something in his robes—

    Thump.


    —only for the Japanese boy to close the distance in the blink of an eye, severing the offending limb at the elbow and sending it flying with something like a scythe as the other screamed, more in fury than in pain.

    “So even that was a trick, Potter?” he murmured to himself, as he raised his weapon a final time. "That's how it is, huh? As you long as you draw breath, you'll never give up,"

    "No…wait. Are you sure you want to do this?" the other hissed, his face twisted by desperation. "The device – what I carry – is only stable because its tied to my life and magic. If you strike me down..." The black-haired youth glared up at him defiantly. "Can you afford to do that, knowing what might happen? Will you doom the world by—”

    “Goodbye Harry."

    But the other was not allowed to finish, as the scythe came down, and—

    Matou Shinji woke screaming, white hot pain burning in his head as what he'd seen began to slip away, even as a sense of profound sorrow welled up within him, and tears streamed down his cheeks.

    'Why...why am I crying?'
    he wondered. It was just a dream. A nightmare, really. So why did it feel like more? Why did it feel that something precious had been lost, even as something else had been protected? The youth from his dream had called him a monster - and his dream-self had agreed, declaring himself the enemy of the world. 'Is Granger right about me? Am I that kind of person? A monster willing to let thousands die? Willing to kill someone in cold blood?'

    It shook him to the core, more than even the memory of Matou Zouken calling him worthless, or the memory of being consumed by thousands upon thousands of worms. It...what the person had said...what had that person said? The boy shook his head and concentrated, but the specifics were already mostly gone, except for the vivid memory of him bringing the scythe down, the poignant feeling of loss, and the knowledge that if pushed to it, he could very well be a monster.

    'I...'
    He couldn't handle this alone. He needed to talk to someone. Someone who might understand. Or at least someone who might listen without judging.

    But who...?

    'Senpai...?'
    Yes. Miyuki-senpai would listen, he was sure of it, and wouldn't judge him for feeling what he did. He'd already told her...told her something about himself, though he'd forgotten most of what he’d said.

    Maybe Sokaris. She seemed to be patient enough to listen to someone's troubles, given her attitude towards Nigel, and maybe it would be good to have someone he didn't know quite as well...

    Or perhaps Professor Quirrell? Surely the man had experienced...terrible things in his life and might have some advice. Even for someone who might very well be a monster.

    ‘No. I’ll talk to Sokaris.’


    She would be the best one to talk to about this, since while Miyuki-senpai would no doubt listen, he didn't want to worry her even more than he already had or take advantage of her kindness. Not when she'd already done so much for him, given him so much of her time - called him her friend, despite him not having done anything to deserve that.

    'At least with Sokaris, she and I know where we stand...'


    That particular relationship was a much less...complicated, with her willing to help him so long as he made it worth her while in some way. Though...now that he thought about it, maybe she was only like that to keep people from taking advantage of what she could do, much like Miyuki-senpai, since she seemed to make time for Nigel, much in the same way Miyuki-senpai did for him.

    Still, as everything was give and take with Sokaris, what could he bring her that she would listen to him?

    'Maybe...the journal grandfather sent me?'


    He’d gotten it only a few days ago from his grandfather, in response to his query about ways to deal with ghostsa weathered old thing filled with dense notes, written mostly in Russian, a language that he didn't understand.

    At least, he thought it was Russian, due to the odd Cyrillic lettering in which it was written. Well, it was either that or Greek, and as he knew a bit of the latter due to his study of the Matou texts, he didn't think it was that. He supposed that perhaps it could have been written in a cipher as well, in which case, there was little hope for him figuring out the contents, but he didn't think so, since there were a few pages here and there where annotations had been added in the same language - or later, in Japanese.

    Some pages had what looked like complex equations and diagrams of the human form. Some pages depicted fairly intricate formations of runes. Some pages had sketches of what looked like immense worms, several times the size of a human (as the stick figure drawn for reference seemed to indicate). There was more beyond that, but the little he could make out was...tantalizing.

    A letter included with the book had explained that since Shinji seems to be a practitioner of Witchcraft, this journal, taken from a somewhat troublesome example Zouken dealt with years ago, might prove handy.

    Still, though he’d looked at it, he couldn’t really make heads or tails of it.

    What secrets were hidden in his old tome? Why had the monster who was his grandfather described the former owner as being somewhat troublesome? These were all mysteries that he wanted to find out, though self-study had proven to be of little benefit.

    'At least, Sokaris might be able to help me decipher what the equations mean...?'
    he imagined, thinking that since she seemed to have an interest in Alchemy and other
    unusual bits of knowledge, she might find it useful. He packed it in his bag, and quickly throwing his robes over himself, made his way out of the Hufflepuff Dorms and through the still-dark castle, over to Ravenclaw Tower.




    The journey to the dark Tower was not difficult, as he’d gone there a few times by now. Entering it, however, proved somewhat more challenging, given that the way was barred by a stone door governed by a bronze eagle-shaped knocker that posed a riddle to any who sought access. And right now, Shinji was in no state to answer one, particularly one that went like this...
    What clings to you?
    Bear it—you cannot.
    Accept it—you cannot.
    But hidden—it is from you.
    Recite its name.

    To the first couple of lines, he had been tempted to answer, "Hermione Granger", since she seemed to "cling" to him in some sense and he could not bear her presence, but she wasn't really hidden from him, was she? Was it his past? That also clung to him, and he still found it difficult to accept that he had been replaced by the Tohsaka girl even now, but...that wasn't hidden from him either. What was hidden from him was what exactly he had done during the curious lapses in his memory, when...

    "...my dark side?" Shinji hazarded, wondering if that was the answer it sought. "My Shadow," he said more confidently, as the door opened with a click, and for the second time that year, he stepped into the Common Room of Ravenclaw Tower. Unlike the rather cozier Hufflepuff Commons, this one was...elegant, with graceful arched windows, blue and bronze silks hung on the walls, lush midnight-blue carpet, and a domed ceiling painted with stars – not to mention the marble statuary.

    "Matou," a quiet voice greeted, with the boy glancing over to where it had come from to find Sialim Sokaris sitting in a chair by the fire, reading a treatise on the life of Nicholas Flamel, of all things. "You have something to ask of me?"

    "...how did you know?" the Japanese boy asked, narrowing his eyes suspiciously. "I could have been here for anyone."

    "Unlikely," Sokaris noted, as a slim eyebrow arched. "You are not acquainted with many Ravenclaws, and the probability that you are here to visit Nigel Wroxton or Hermione Granger at this hour is minimal."

    Shinji winced.

    "...well, when you put it that way, I guess you have a point," he grumbled, scratching the back of his head. He really was rather...transparent, he supposed. "I wanted to show you something."

    "Something?" Sokaris repeated.

    "A book," Shinji clarified, as he made his way over to the seat across from her and withdrew the old tome from his bookbag. "It is...it’s a journal that ended up in my family's custody somehow. I don't know who the original owner was, or how we ended up getting it, but...I thought it might catch your interest?"

    He offered it to the purple-haired girl, who accepted it with a nod, after setting aside the volume in her hands. Very gently, she began to flip through the pages, her expression mostly impassive as her eyes skimmed over the contents, though she let out a small grunt as she reached the first of the equation strewn pages.

    "You require assistance with deciphering these equations? And recreating the spell they refer to?"

    "...is that what they are? The calculations for a spell?" Shinji muttered, blinking. "I mean, yes, I would like some help, if you would be willing."

    "I am not unwilling, though it would be faster if I was able to study it in my own time," Sokaris replied simply. "As I doubt you will part with the original, perhaps a copy...?"

    Shinji felt a little uneasy about that. He wasn't sure if the book was protected against duplication, and he didn't want to risk using Gemino on it...

    "...I would have to ask Madam Pince, since she might be able to help me figure out if any magic protections are on the book," he said, sheepishly. "I don't want to accidentally ruin it."

    "Noted," Sokaris answered. "I would not be averse to copying the contents by hand, if necessary. That way, we may study from a tome that is less likely to be damaged by our handling."

    "Ah...you would be, huh?"

    "This, of course, will require you to entrust me with the original for a small length of time, if you would be willing...?"

    “Yes, of course,” the boy replied with a small smile. “Better you than me, since I can’t really do anything with it otherwise.”

    "Very well, and was there something else...?"

    “There is, actually,” the boy admitted.

    He told her then about his issues - about the blackouts he had when he became overly emotional. About how after one of them, he'd heard that he attacked Quirrell. About how after another, he suspected he might have done something to Miyuki-senpai. About how he'd gotten angry after Granger had said something to him about him being thrown away, as...

    “I…I…” the boy’s face was twisted in agony, as he found it hard to breathe, the memories of what had happened threatening to overwhelm him as he closed his eyes, sinking into himself and—

    "Curious..." the Ravenclaw remarked, seeing the boy before her panting and straining, all of his muscles tensed as he clutched the arms of the chair, pausing in mid-recollection. She stood up and moved in front of him, where she touched his forehead with a single finger, and the boy's body slumped into his chair as his muscles went limp.

    Somehow—and he didn’t know why or how—he was able to control himself again. Or at least, he felt like he could, which was nearly as good.

    "As I was saying, I'm not sure exactly what happens when I lose control. But I don't think it’s good. I think..." he said, after regaining control of himself. "I think I might be a monster."

    "She was your partner for the challenge," Sokaris stated, with Shinji jerking at this piece of information. “Granger, that is.”

    "Then she's right to hate me. I'm dangerous. I..." The boy looked at his hands, as if terrified that they would turn into claws before his eyes. "I could kill someone and not even know it. I—"

    "--have not killed anyone, have you?"

    "I--" Shinji's expression was...complicated, to say the least, given what had happened to Argus Filch. If he hadn't helped to wrench the sink from the wall, if he'd thought to keep the man's neck stable, if he hadn't dropped the man... "I...no, I mean…someone is dead yes. Because of me. But I didn’t…”

    "Did you want to kill him?"

    "...no,” Shinji said at first. “No,” he repeated more softly, “though I did wish him dead."

    "Why?"

    "Because either he died, and my friends lived. Or he lived and they died. So, I wished for his death. That means I wanted him to die. And now he's dead. How does that make me any different than a murderer? I...I was told it wasn't my fault, but..."

    "You blame yourself, even so," Sokaris summed up.

    "Yes."

    "Why?"

    "Because I'm a monster!" the boy almost shouted, his breathing growing agitated. "I...Miyuki-senpai says I'm not, but she...I think she's too kind. But you...you'll tell me the truth, right?" His eyes were wide, and his expression frenzied. "Am I a monster, Sokaris? Am I?"

    "Why do you believe yourself a monster?" the purple-haired girl asked, unsatisfied with the logic he’d used to come to his conclusion.

    "Didn't you hear me? Someone died because of me! And I...I don't know what I'll do if I get angry anymore. Will I do what my dream said I would and kill someone? Will I..."

    "You are frightened because of a nightmare," Sokaris said flatly, thoroughly unamused.

    "No! Yes. I - I don't know," the boy whispered, his body trembling. "I'm afraid. I'm afraid because..."

    "Because you have a...dark side you cannot control?" Sokaris asked carefully.

    "Because I'm afraid I'll hurt someone who cares about me!" he blurts out, squeezing his eyes shut as he almost breaks down crying. "Because I..."

    “Because you have the potential to be a monster," Sokaris said bluntly. "Yes, this is true."

    The boy let out a strangled sound, a sound of utter despair at her words of damnation. It was true then – he could be—

    "But you are not the only one."

    "...what?"

    "Every living being has that potential. Whether wizard, magus, practitioner of witchcraft or someone without the gift of thaumaturgy entirely."

    "I...that's..."

    "Yes, you could very well become a monster, Matou. The question is - do you want to be?"

    "I—no! I don't – I've never wanted."

    "You spoke of an incident with Tsuji Miyuki."

    "Yes. I was...I thought..."

    "What did she say?"

    "...she said I didn't hurt her," Shinji whispered, closing his eyes as he remembered that oh-so-brittle expression on Senpai’s face, and a laugh that was full of loneliness.

    "Do you trust her?" Sokaris inquired after a few moments.

    "W-what kind of—yes, I trust her,” Shinji declared. “Why?"

    "Then accept her words, Matou. And trust yourself, as she trusts you."

    "But what if I...?"

    "Your fear will not aid you, Matou," Sokaris replied, silencing him as her purple eyes looked into him, seeming to find him wanting. "And you fear many things. Being thought a fraud. Hurting a person who cares about you. Being replaced."

    The boy jerked at her words, his face twisting into a snarl almost unwittingly.

    "You react, because you are afraid. Because you believe everything you have gained could be lost from a moment's carelessness," the girl murmured. "Because you believe that if you do not push others away, they will reject you in time. Is this not so?"

    "I...no...I..."

    "LEAVE SOKARIS ALONE!"
    a most unwelcome voice screamed at that moment, as a figure rushed forward and...seemed to trip over an invisible wire, her body flying through the air and crumpling to the floor as darkness overcame the light.

    A menacing growl filled the air, along with suffocating aura of hatred for all creation, as where Matou Shinji had been now stood a figure of shadow and flame, a demon of vengeance and rage whose eyes blazed red. His face was angled and drawn, like that of a fell beast, and he snarling as a cloak of corrupted prana billowed like black smoke around him. His body, half insubstantial, was riddled in spikes, and claws sharp as knives took the place of his fingers.

    The creature sprang forward, claws extended to put an end to the foe that had troubled him for far too long, only to instinctively recoil, slamming to a halt as Sialim Sokaris moved – faster than anyone would have thought possible – interposing herself between the beast and Granger's fallen form without a trace of fear on her face.

    The bestial form of what had been Matou Shinji reared, snarling at the figure before him, gesturing rudely as if commanding her to move, to step aside that it might at last destroy its hated enemy, but the purple-haired girl did not flinch.

    "You believe yourself a monster, Matou Shinji? " the purple-haired girl asked, standing before the demon without a trace of fear on her face. "I have seen monsters, and were I standing before one now, I would already be dead. But I am not."

    "---?!"


    A wordless shriek. A demand backed by the weight of a monstrous killing intent, yet Sokaris seemed utterly unfazed by it.

    "To some, the unknown is terrifying. Things outside their experience. Things outside of their ability to anticipate or predict. But there is nothing about this that surprises me," Sokaris answered. "Nothing beyond my calculations. For you are not a monster, but a shadow given form."

    "-------"


    A threat. A growl. A warning not to continue, except—

    "Matou Shinji fears rejection. And from that fear, you were born. Fear is all you know, and yet...fear is not your ally. Not when you see one who is unafraid." Her expression might have turned into something like a smile, as Matou Shinji's form flickered, twisted, bubbled and wavered at her words, a terrible shudder ripping through the beast's form. "Even so, will you strike me down as you fear you will?"

    She spread her arms, seeming for all the world utterly defenseless.

    “I stand before you, helpless, but I will not let you harm Granger while I live. Should you strike me down now, you will be a monster, as you fear.” The girl looked at the creature, looked into his eyes almost…challengingly. “Choose, Matou Shinji.”

    The monstrous form before her wavered.

    Choose.”

    With a terrible sound, the figure reeled, staggering backwards as it clutched its arms, clawed at itself, throwing itself into the wall, until slowly, gradually, it began to shift once more, the darkness bubbling away until with a strangled gasp, Matou Shinji returned to himself and the odd transformations vanished, leaving him kneeling on the ground, utterly exhausted.

    This time, however, he was still conscious – his mind not allowing him to forget had happened – what he had nearly done – as it had so many times before.

    "How...?" he croaked out. "How...did you know I...? Why did you...?"

    "Because I knew you would not harm me, Matou," she replied with certainty. "As I am not your enemy. Much as you did not harm Tsuji."

    "That was...that was...how did you know it wasn't just her I wouldn't..."

    "Because you are not a monster, whatever Granger may think, and whatever you may fear," Sokaris said to him, her eyes seeming much older and wiser in that moment.

    "I'm...I could still..."

    "You are not defined by what you could be, but what you choose to become," she intoned, to which Shinji nodded weakly. "Remember that. Now go. Return to Hufflepuff. I will deal with Granger. And the room."

    "And if I..."

    "Allow your fear to pass over you and through you, Matou, without holding it within or trying to drive it out. It is natural to feel some fear, but it should not linger when there is no reason. And when it has gone, there will be nothing left but you and your choices."

    Shinji nodded - no, bowed, as he rose to his feet, and very unsteadily left, leaving Sokaris alone with a mercifully unconscious Granger.

    A Hermione Granger who would remember nothing of this incident.

    "Perhaps he will fare better than I," she spoke to a room where none could hear, while clutching the journal she had saved from the boy's wrath. "After all, if we were to speak of monsters hiding their true selves from the eyes of others, then I am by far the more deadly."

    Shaking her head, the purple-haired girl called to Tizzy, a house elf she had made the acquaintance of, as she would not be able to clean up this mess alone.




    On his walk back to Hufflepuff, Matou Shinji had much to think about. This time he remembered what had happened. Not all of it, to be sure, and he wasn’t sure just how it was he remembered, or why, but nevertheless, he knew the truth. That when he became overly emotional, something inside him emerged, changing him into something almost demonic.

    Yet, even so, caught in the throes of incoherent rage, rage and pain so powerful as to drown out the world, he remembered himself refusing to harm Sokaris, even though she stood in his way. His body refused to harm her. To harm someone who wasn't his enemy.

    Or so she explained it, anyway.

    There was a sense that this wasn’t the entire picture, that what had made him spring away wasn't a desire not to harm someone unrelated, but a desire not to be harmed…yet...that was ridiculous, since why would he…

    ‘Why would an
    obscurial fear someone like Sokaris?’

    The very thought made him laugh. There was no way that could be true – it was just – his mind must still be confused by what had happened.

    Yes. That was the best explanation for his state right now. But…

    He shook his head.

    That wasn't important. What was important was that he should...

    "I need to talk to senpai..."

    She’d seen his form too, probably. And yet she hadn’t run away. She’d treated him so kindly, even letting him rest his head in her lap.

    Why?

    Why was she…?

    ‘I guess I’ll ask.’





    He found her, as he expected, in the Hufflepuff Common room, with the girl accepting his request to talk in private in her greenhouse without comment or complaint.
    Once there, the boy told her everything, fully expecting her to walk away from him, or to tell him to keep away from her and Natsumi for their safety. Only…

    “I’m not going anywhere, Matou.”

    “Wh...at?”

    "Sokaris is right, you know. I admit, when I saw you that first time – I thought your form was frightening, but you...you hurt yourself so you wouldn't hurt me. It was as if you were afraid to see me hurt – more afraid of that than anything else," she told him, as the boy broke down crying before her, with her kneeling beside him, rubbing his back. To the boy, this was an impossible scene, as never in his life had he thought anyone would simply be able to accept him, after what had become. After seeing what he could do. After what he had done. But...

    He shivered at the touch of her fingers through the fabric of his robes, a maelstrom of confused and tangled emotions rushing through him.

    "Why are you so kind to me, Senpai?" he wondered, his voice barely a whisper.

    "You are not the only one who can be monstrous," she said simply, a beautiful, yet fragile smile painted on her lips. "And for now, at least only one person calls you that. Unlike me."

    "You mean..." Shinji recalled Cho Chang's warning about there being a very dangerous person in Hufflepuff, someone who had put her friends into the hospital. "Senpai, what happened with Cho Chang?"

    Her hands went still on his back.

    "What do you mean, Matou?"

    "I..." the boy looked down, guiltily, unable to meet her eyes. "I may have met Cho."

    "May have? Did she do something to you?" Miyuki all but demanded, with Shinji surprised by the intensity of her voice.

    "No! I mean, no...she didn't," the boy answered, shaking his head. "She didn't know I was a Hufflepuff at first. And when I told her, she warned me about someone who...who almost killed her friends." The boy snorted, shrinking in on himself. "Not that I'm in any position to..."

    He trailed off, and for long, awkward seconds, only silence lingered in the greenhouse.

    "She's not wrong," the Hufflepuff girl admitted finally. "I did almost kill them."

    His senpai seemed content to leave it at that, with her as the villain, but...

    "Why, senpai?" he wondered, turning to the girl he so admired. The girl who had confessed to nearly murdering a number of people. He hadn't hurt anyone, but...

    "Because they tried to do the same to me," Miyuki said quietly. "For an entire year, they tormented me. Destroyed my things. Ruined my clothes. Tried to 'lose' my assignments."

    "Senpai..."

    "I was alone then," the raven-haired girl admitted, with Shinji feeling his heart breaking at the desolation in her voice. "There was one boy who..." She shook her head. "He left, and his friends blamed me."

    "Senpai…"


    "For a year, they did what they would. And I - I thought they would tire of it. That they would stop. Only they did not. One day, they cornered me, trapped me in a room, so they could do as they wished, with no one to see - or stop them." Her smile, just then, was a terrible thing to behold. "The funny thing is, they thought I was trapped in a room with them, when really they were the ones who were trapped with me."

    "Senpai, you..."

    "I turned their things against them. Destroyed their wands, left them helpless in a room with dozens of frenzied dragons," Miyuki all but whispered. "If someone had not told Professor Sprout where they were, they would all have died."

    "Someone...senpai...was that someone...?"

    "Yes. They owe me their lives, and they hate me for it," the Japanese girl said without a hint of remorse. "That is why they say I am dangerous. Because on the day they tried to end me, I showed that I could end all of them instead. Tell me, Matou, do you really want to be around such a dangerous senpai? Someone people call a monster?"

    Shinji swallowed.

    "...you're not a monster, senpai! You had no choice!"

    "We always have choices," Miyuki countered, before shaking her head. "It's just sometimes, none of them are any good, are they...?"

    "No," Shinji agreed. "Sometimes they aren't." He straightened his spine and truly looked at the older girl, seeing the dignity and poise with which she carried herself - and with which she hid away so much from view. "Still, for what it’s worth, senpai..."

    "Yes, Matou?"

    "You saved them," he said, his voice mostly free of tremors. "You saved them when you didn't have to. Would a monster do that?"

    "...I suppose not. But what of you? Would a monster hurt himself to spare a mere upperclassman?"

    "But you're not a—"

    The boy promptly shut up, his cheeks burning furiously as his thoughts said what his lips could not.

    "Not a what, Matou?" Miyuki inquired curiously.

    "You’re…you’re not a mere upperclassman. Not to me," the boy forced himself to say, his voice barely a whisper.

    "Is that so?” the girl asked with some amusement. “Then just what I am to you?"

    "Miyuki-senpai is someone precious to me," the boy whispered. "The first person in the world who actually cared. Who welcomed me, instead of laughing, or pitying, or throwing me away. Senpai...accepted me, when even my family has no use for garbage like me."

    "Don't call yourself that. Garbage I mean."

    "Why not? It's true," Shinji replied, shaking his head. “That’s what I am.”

    "No. It's not. No one thinks of you as garbage at Hogwarts. Not Sokaris. Not Natsumi. And certainly not me."

    The boy sagged, leaning against the older girl.

    "...thank you, senpai. What would I do without you?"

    The girl chuckled.

    "I wonder that myself sometimes."

    Shinji nodded, before…

    "Hey!" he protested, though it was somewhat half-heartedly, since she was right. Without her…he would have crumbled here at Hogwarts, given into all the things he feared, instead of seeking to be better. “Actually…I was going to ask…for a favor?”

    The older Hufflepuff laughed, a quiet sound that for once, seemed rather amused instead of hollow.

    “Yes?”

    “I…um…will you be going to the Slug Club party tonight? On Halloween, I mean?” he asked, his face dyed crimson as he squeaked out the words.

    “Why?” she inquired, communicating with a single word that he should really get to the point.

    “…I said I would go, but I don’t…have anything to wear.”

    “Explain.”

    “Yes, senpai…”

    The girl seemed almost amused when Shinji admits that while he has multiple copies of his school robes - all made using Gemino, but that he didn't think to buy anything nicer, because he spent his pocket money on a book.

    “Could you help me?” the boy asked. “I mean, you don’t have to, but I know you’re really good at transfiguration, so…”

    "I cannot do much about the cut of whatever robes you wish me to modify. But adjusting the color and embroidery - perhaps even the material, should be acceptable. Bring me the garments to be changed.”

    He did so, rushing back to the dorms and returning with a bundle of his clothes, as she transfigured the coarse cottons of his shirt into black silk, with a stray piece of cloth changed into a bold amber colored tie.

    And as for his robes, well, there were things one could do to make school robes more elegant, with the Colovaria charm used to shift them from a matte black to shimmering iridescent hues, so that the humble work robe seemed like a magnificent cloak woven of all the colors of the rainbow. And as a final touch, she turned a pair of socks into a hat seemingly made of the same material.

    "There you have it, Matou," she told him, as she handed it over. "A set of formal robes suitable for Shinji of Many Colors."

    "T-thank you, senpai!" Shinji said with a deep bow. "I'll-I'll treasure these."

    "You are welcome," the older Hufflepuff told him. "Just be careful, lest you accidentally end up untransfiguring them. Or destroying them in anger."

    "...I'll keep that in mind," the boy managed to say, his cheeks quite warm as he thought of how he'd be wearing something made by senpai on his very skin. Wearing them would be like being…embraced by senpai in a way, since this set of clothes had been made by her for him and wasn't some mass-produced product. "Will you...will I see you tonight?"

    "I am usually invited to Slug Club gatherings," the older girl noted obliquely.

    "...that doesn't answer my question, senpai. You avoided answering it before as well."

    "You noticed," she commented, with a chuckle. "I suppose you may see me there. If you recognize me, of course."

    "What do you mean - why wouldn't I recognize you?"

    "Because the Halloween party is usually a masquerade, where everyone wears masks and pretends to be people they are not."

    “…you mean like every other day of the year?” Shinji asked dryly.

    “…you may have a point.”




    Who will Shinji do at the Gala Reception following the Order of Merlin award ceremony, now that he's met the Minister? (choose one)
    [ ] Take the opportunity to chat with Amber, his guest
    [ ] Speak with Professor Quirrell
    [ ] Chat with Gilderoy Lockhart, the noted adventurer and author, who as the most recent inductee into the Order, inducted Quirrell
    [ ] As for a tour of the Ministry
    [ ] (write-in)

    What gift suggestions do you all have?

    Feel free to suggest whatever you wish, within reason, as I may include them in the story.
    Last edited by alfheimwanderer; February 13th, 2018 at 08:04 PM.

  19. #579
    死徒 Dead Apostle
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    [ ] Chat with Gilderoy Lockhart, the noted adventurer and author, who as the most recent inductee into the Order, inducted Quirrell

  20. #580
    [x] Ask for a tour of the Ministry - Taking Amber with him.

    The Gilderoy choice is tempting.

    I think Shinji should keep Amber company, she's his guest indeed. Meanwhile an opportunity to visit the Ministry early should be a decent experience even if it's a superficial tour. So, I'd like Amber to tag along. As a muggleborn, she may be interested to visit the place where Britain's wizard side makes decisions and all.

    Basically a combination of choices one and four. That ought to give the two students a topic to discuss even. (Acceptable write-in Alf?)

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