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

  1. #1481
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    [x] No, they can probably just wrap themselves in robes and do as best they can.
    [X] Modify the entryway so that its protected from water pouring in it with a small roof and then modify the tunnel so that its the lowest point, causing it to be an cold air trap yet allowing fresh air to come in. Last modify the rock room with dirt and whatever soft material is around to raise the sleeping area a few more inches so that they are above the colder air. Wrap themselves in cloned robes. One person stays awake in watches.
    [X] Modify the entryway so that its protected from water pouring in it with a small roof and then modify the tunnel so that its the lowest point, causing it to be an cold air trap yet allowing fresh air to come in. Last modify the rock room with dirt and whatever soft material is around to raise the sleeping area a few more inches so that they are above the colder air. Wrap themselves in cloned robes. One person stays awake in watches.




    In the end, Ernie was sadly outvoted - there would be no fire that night, nor would the entrance be blocked off, meaning that if it began to pour, things could get uncomfortable. Still, he cooperated, as overt resistance was futile when it came to dealing with such matters, even if he privately was annoyed that he couldn't do much of the necessary alterations she requested with his wand.

    Oh, perhaps if the people with Selina were her brother and his jolly band of adventurers, whose exploits in Faerun were nothing short of legend, then this would be trivial - a master of transfiguration would have had very little difficulty doing everything she asked, much less a party. But then, neither he or Matou were nearly at that level - or at her level, for that matter - something he thought that Selina forgot sometimes.

    'She expects too much of people, I think.'

    It made him want to be more than he was, to be someone worthy of her - even if he knew that right now, he wasn't anywhere near worthy.

    That was why he'd suggested just blocking the entrance - that was something he could do, as opposed to raising the sleeping area, modifying the tunnel crawl-space, and building a roof for the entryway - things that he knew, knew, would take more time than any of them had.

    Still, she'd insisted otherwise, so all he could do was try...

    ...only to be proven right, given how, as he was scooping up dirt in his hands, there was a sound as if the sky itself was tearing itself open, and with it, a deluge began.

    Only it wasn't just rain that fell, but great nodules of ice bigger than his fist, violently crashing into the ground.

    "Guh!"

    One moment he'd dumped the load of dirt and twigs he'd collected and was running for the rock.

    The next--

    "Huh? Why am I...?" He was on the ground, looking up at the--

    A flash of white, then another, as stars blossomed in his vision.

    "I...I..."

    Whatever he was about to do next, it didn't matter, as a hailstone the size of a softball smashed into his unprotected face.

    Ernie is dead, with Shinji and Selina having been lucky enough to take cover just before the storm hit. The water contraption was set up in the covered tunnel, using duplicated robes. Still, they are somewhat wet and the temperature is dropping precipitously - the boy is shivering.

    What should Shinji do?

    [ ] Start a fire - warmth is the priority, and the rock shields them from sight. Mostly
    [ ] Suggest that they strip off their wet clothes and huddle together for warmth while wrapping themselves in copied robes
    [ ] Wrap Selina up in robes and endure the cold stoically - someone needs to stay on watch, since Ernie...
    [ ] Suggest going down into the burrow, if its not flooded
    [ ] (write-in)
    Last edited by alfheimwanderer; September 16th, 2018 at 10:43 PM.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  2. #1482
    [X]Start a fire

    Alright over-complex plans are a no no. Right...

    Sorry Daiki. My bad.

    F'ing Hail...

    Softball size even...that is a bit extreme.
    Last edited by Skull Leader; September 16th, 2018 at 12:55 AM.

  3. #1483
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    If it doesn't seem quite natural, that's because it isn't. Remember, when magic is involved, very little is quite what it seems - and that in the jungles far away from the civilized world of the DADA books, there may lurk creatures one may have never encountered before.

    Like, oh, say...Troll Shamans.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  4. #1484
    [X] Start a fire - warmth is the priority, and the rock shields them from sight. Mostly

  5. #1485
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    [X] Start a fire - warmth is the priority, and the rock shields them from sight. Mostly




    Matou Shinji could credibly be called quite a few things, though he hoped that none of them were "idiot" (or in his native language, "baka"), as unwise as some of his decisions had been. In this case though, what happened really couldn't be said to be his fault, since he wasn't the one who'd come up with the plan - Selina had obviously been the more experienced adventurer among them, something which no amount of roleplaying via Quirrell's scenarios could let him surpass.

    'Though, since we're in one of Quirrell's scenarios, I wonder if the rules are different...'

    For example, did the weather ever change this drastically from day to night? From hot and muggy to bone-chillingly cold, with the heavens showing just how little they cared for those under them by carpet-bombing them with great orbs of ice that the boy was sure would kill him if they hit him anywhere sensitive.

    Like the back of his head.

    'Speaking of which...where's Ernie? He went out to get mud and firewood, since Selina thought it was better for one person to work inside the hollow rock, while another gathered...'

    Had the other Hufflepuff found shelter from the storm? Had he managed to get somewhere safe before the sudden onslaught of frozen death from above?

    He voiced this to Selina, who was standing by the door, her expression unreadable.

    "He either did or he didn't," the blonde remarked, her voice devoid of anything like remorse or worry. "Either way, there's nothing we can do."

    Shinji blinked, feeling a shiver go down his spine - and not just because his robes were damp, or the air was cold. It was almost as if Selina didn't care what happened to Ernie, if whether he lived or died was immaterial to her. Was she really that cold? Was this the person he was going to be spending summer with?

    'Though, its not as if Beauxbatons will be dangerous. It's a magical school - I'm sure that no one would put something dangerous at a school on purpose.'

    Well...aside from something like the Chamber of Secrets, Cursed Vaults, the Forbidden Forest, and whatever lurked in the Third Floor Corridor...

    '...never mind.'

    Was theresomething about their abilities that made users of witchcraft lose track of common sense?

    'Then again...who knows? Since much of Witchcraft involves curses, maybe the overuse of it has distorted the common sense of more advanced practitioners?'

    He hoped not, though that did go a way towards explaining the eccentricities of someone like Headmaster Dumbledore. Not that magi were immune to such things either, given that his own grandfather had apparently thought it was a good idea to turn himself into a decaying mass of worms, but that was neither here nor there.

    "Isn't that a bit heartless?" Shinji asked, his brows furrowing. "He...seems to care a good deal about what you think."

    "Maybe he does," Selina replied evenly. "But whether he does shouldn't change anything. His fate is his own in this."

    "...I'm guessing you've lost people on adventures before then?" the boy hazarded, with the blonde nodding. "I see. This...all of this must seem so...hollow to you then. The danger - all of it. Fake."

    "Even if the danger is fake, and the world itself a lie, we are real. You, Ernie, and I - all of us exist, even here. Yet when we die here, that death isn't real, so it does no good to be upset. At least if he died, it was probably quick, and it wasn't at a critical moment."

    "...I see," Shinji grunted. He was silent for a while, thinking how to process the fact that Selina thought like a magus, before he thought of something else. "This hail, you ever see anything like it?"

    "A few times," Selina admitted, a wry twist gracing her lips. "One I even saw rocks fall and kill an entire party of adventurers."

    Shinji blinked.

    "That...sounds unnatural," he commented.

    "Oh, it was," the blonde agreed. "Rocks plummeting from the sky aren't something you see every day. In this case, a wizard did it."

    "A wizard?" Shinji echoed. Well...yes, he supposed he could see Zelretch causing a swarm of rocks - meteors, he supposed the name would be - to fall from the sky. He'd famously stopped the moon from falling, so yes, him causing rocks to fall, leading to everyone's death was something he could see happening.

    'I think he's better adjusted than that?'

    Not that he knew Zelretch. He didn't know many Magicians in person, as he'd only met Miss Blue, which was not an experience he particularly cared to repeat.

    "Yes. Or at least, some magic user," Selina said quietly. "I think the party must have angered them, though I don't know the exact details. Just that they all died."

    "...you...you saw this yourself?" Shinji asked, aghast. "And you...you weren't killed?"

    "No. Take that as you will," the blonde replied, with Shinji taking a moment to absorb that. "Also, I don't know about you, but I'm starting to feel cold. It's getting a bit damp, and we didn't quite avoid getting a soaking. Let's get a fire going, yes?"

    "You're not afraid of someone finding us because of the smoke?" Shinji questioned. A part of him - a very small part - was tempted to suggest that instead of a fire, they just huddle together for warmth, skin to skin, but...he thought better of it. She was, after all, the more experienced adventurer, so if she was suggesting this, it was probably the better idea.

    "In this deluge? The rain will dampen the smell, and hide some of the smoke. Besides, with all the hail, the only thing I can see wandering out there would be..." she trailed off, her gaze turning sharp as she looked into the distance.

    "Would be...?" Shinji prompted.

    "A troll," Selina supplied. "I remember that Phelan's party ended up fighting one. Maybe more than one. Phelan and Granger died. Only Weasley survived, because he ran away."

    The Japanese boy swallowed.

    "A troll..." he repeated numbly. "And all we have are our wands."

    And an enchanted knife which glowed in the presence of enemies, though how useful that really would be, he didn't know, since he didn't know the range of it, what it defined as an enemy, or any such things. All of the sudden, an invisibility cloak sounded like a good idea.

    "Then we'll find a way to beat it with our wands, if need be. Get that fire going, would you?"

    "...as you wish," Shinji growled, moving to do just that. "Wait, what about smoke?"

    "We'll worry about that later. We didn't seal off the rock, so there should be a place for air to come in," Selina replied.

    Have watches?

    [ ] Yes - one person should be awake at all times
    [ ] No - its unlikely anything will attack in the rain, and if they did, there's not much a first year could do

    If there's a watch, who is up first?

    [ ] Shinji
    [ ] Selina

    Anything he wants to talk about with Selina?

    [ ] (write-in)
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  6. #1486
    [x] Yes - one person should be awake at all times.
    [x] Shinji.
    [x] Asks her opinion as a GM, what she thinks lies ahead for this challenge.

    She probably has a decent picture of how Quirrell's mind functions by now. While it is based past events, it's likely Quirrell enhances each scenario in order to make them more interesting. I would like to hear what kind of hurdles they should expect on the way to the goal line. Even if she can only foresee specific patterns, that's good enough for me.

  7. #1487
    [X] Yes - one person should be awake at all times
    [X] Selina

    I don't this watch plan now that we have only two people as it is serious cut into sleep. Still I have a fire going that may or may not fill the place with smoke, that needs to be watched. I give Selina first watch so that she can deal with the fire if its is a issue. And franky I remember that other Shinji was bad at staying up for watch duty so he might as well be semi rested before he goes on watch.

    Daiki's question is a good one but it is not a question I think Shinji could asked. After all he barely understands what a GM is even after his party and just how much XP Selina has in this subject for him to make this leap of logic.

    [X] Talk about her (theirs) Summer plans.

    Might as well talk about their upcoming summer together.

  8. #1488
    死徒 Dead Apostle
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    [x] Yes - one person should be awake at all times.
    [x] Shinji.
    [x] Asks her opinion as a GM, what she thinks lies ahead for this challenge

  9. #1489
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    [x] Yes - one person should be awake at all times.
    [x] Shinji.
    [x] Asks her opinion as a GM, what she thinks lies ahead for this challenge




    "What lies ahead?" Selina echoed quietly. "Something that we'll be able to beat, but not through force, unless you're hiding some dark power that can tear apart the world. Or well, a troll," the blonde amended, with Shinji shifting a bit uncomfortably at her comment but otherwise saying nothing.

    "Any advice then?" the boy asked. "You've done things like this more than I have..."

    "Just that Quirrell probably wants us to second-guess ourselves," the Slytherin girl related. "It's not an uncommon pattern to see a team break after one of their members dies. And if I know the Professor, he's included plenty of chances for us to get ourselves killed through our actions - or through our lack of action."

    "...that sounds a bit twisted," Shinji observed. Well, more than a bit, but it was what it was.

    "So is everything else about this particular scenario," Selina noted evenly. "Making us choose only three items among the three of us, with no three covering all our needs. Making the land a hostile one - probably worse than what the original explorers found, if this was based on some adventure. Ensuring that we would waste time arguing - or at least, have no one to blame but ourselves - by giving us options for us to choose between."

    "What do you mean?"

    "I mean that if there'd only been one choice for shelter, we could have blamed him for not letting us reach it in time if someone had died," Selina pointed out. "Or in what I've heard of Phelan's scenario, they only faced one troll at first - they could have run, could have gotten away if they were willing to take a chance."

    "But they chose to fight."

    "And so Phelan died, and later, so did Hermione, who also stood her ground," the blonde reflected. "In the end, they are the ones whose choices led to their failure, while Weasley succeeded because of his."

    "...or how like here, because we chose Ernie to be the one to go out and gather dirt and sticks, he ended up dying," Shinji said quietly. It did not escape him that once, long ago, Quirrell had asked him to make a choice between two people as well - to pick whether Phelan or Ernie would live if only one could be saved. Even if nothing had come of his choice, even if they'd both been saved, that choice had weighted heavily on him, much as he was sure those who hadn't faced that choice before would have been horrified at the consequences of their choices.

    That because of them, someone had died, even if it had not been a true death.

    "Probably dying anyway," the boy amended. "He might still be alive."

    "I wouldn't hold out hope," Selina commented. "If you do, you're likely to be disappointed."

    "...something about that reminds me of my childhood."

    "Oh? Did your family think of things in a similar way?"

    Shinji's lips twisted into a grimace.

    "Something like that. Not that it mattered what I chose, did it? I ended up here, not..." he hesitated for a moment. "Not elsewhere."

    "Mm," Selina murmured. "Do you wish you could go back?"

    "...not really."

    During first watch, Shinji smells something pleasant - and it isn't Selina's shampoo. It's a smoky, meaty aroma - something like pork - and it made his stomach rumble. He hadn't eaten all day, after all, that he could remember. It was coming, he thought, from outside, as he made his way to the entrance, only to see what appeared to be smoke coming out of the hole in the ground.

    'Huh...' Something was clearly down there, and they had food. Food would go a long way towards keeping up their strength on the journey to the extraction point. On the other hand, it could well be that whoever or whatever was down there didn't feel much like sharing, or would kill him on sight if he wasn't careful.

    Still, the hail was also petering off, with only the rain left now...

    What does he do?

    [ ] Wake Selina, ask her opinion
    [ ] Go down the burrow himself and see what's going on
    [ ] Wake Selina, the presence of other people means this area isn't safe anymore
    [ ] Wake Selina, they should go in as a team, since backup is advised in these situations
    [ ] (write-in)
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  10. #1490
    [x] Wake Selina, the presence of other people means this area isn't safe anymore.
    Last edited by shanagan; September 20th, 2018 at 01:09 AM.

  11. #1491
    [x] Wake Selina, the presence of other people means this area isn't safe anymore.

    Don't get lured by Ernie's body being BBQ'd.

  12. #1492
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    [x] Wake Selina, the presence of other people means this area isn't safe anymore.




    Thinking that the presence of more people - or maybe trolls, if trolls knew how to use fire - so close by probably boded ill, Shinji moved to shake Selina awake. But before he did, he realized that she might end up screaming or making some other noises that would lead to them being discovered by whoever was down there, so in one of his more brilliant moments, he decided to cover her mouth before shaking her shoulder.

    ...perhaps, had he thought about it some more, or been used to dealing with sleeping girls, he would not have ended up on the ground when she woke up swinging, with a wild haymaker breaking his nose and sending him sprawling.

    Like a cat, she rolled to her feet, snatching her glasses from beside her head and putting them on, her leg poised to step forward and step on--

    "Oh, god, I'm sorry, Matou," the girl said, realizing what she'd done. Drawing her wand, she pointed it at his face and called out "Episkey", with Shinji's nose feeling very hot, then very, very cold, catching the boy's attention. And then he noticed - the pain was gone.

    "Huh," he said to himself as he got to his feet gingerly. "Healing is that easy?"

    "Well, small things, yes. Larger things I can't do yet," the bespectacled blonde replied. "You alright?"

    "I was before you hit me," Shinji grumbled. "What'd you do that for anyway?"

    "I woke up with someone covering my mouth and someone reaching for my clothes. What was I supposed to think?" the girl answered, with Shinji taking a moment to process that before going very, very red.

    "I...I wasn't. I mean, I would never..."

    "You would never, huh..."

    "I uh, that is to say..." The boy glanced around for something, anything he could seize on as an excuse not to have this conversation right now. "There's trouble," he managed at last, looking towards the entrance.

    "Oh?" Selina asked, before she noticed the smell too. "Ah. Cooking."

    "Pork, I think."

    "Or human," came the reply, one that had Shinji feeling vaguely nauseous. "They call it long-pork for a reason."

    "Oh." The boy's thoughts came to a crashing halt. "I'm not expert but...let's get out of here?"

    The rain seemed to be dying down, at least, even if it was still dark.

    "Not a bad idea. But where do we go?"

    [ ] Towards the trees
    [ ] Use the compass - get an early start to the day
    [ ] On second thought, just because there's something down there doesn't mean they'll come up here
    [ ] Check his knife - is it glowing? And if it isn't, is that because there aren't any enemies, or because they're out of range?
    [ ] (write-in)
    Last edited by alfheimwanderer; September 20th, 2018 at 05:40 PM.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  13. #1493
    [x] Use the compass - get an early start to the day.

    I'm not sure what it means for the water contraption but it may be more vital to simply push forward right now.

  14. #1494
    Its night Daiki. Going outside means that one wand is spent lighting up the place and going HEY SOMETHING GOING ON OVER HERE. PLEASE KILL US.

    Shinji has had no sleep as well. He is going to make stupid choices from lack of sleep. Like he just did.

    [X] On second thought, just because there's something down there doesn't mean they'll come up here


    I need both of them to be semi-rested for them to go marching across the wilderness. Let them sleep. If they die, they die. But I know they will get themselves killed if they go running into the night with Shinji tried and hungry.

  15. #1495
    Well, no guarantee the troll(s) won't come checking the hollow rock / burrow once they're done feasting on Ernie (After all, if there's one human around, there might be more...). You don't really want to be caught inside that shelter of theirs, since the first years have no way to fight head on with wands and a knife.

    Shinji can call first sleep rotation / get some rest once they have relocated.
    Last edited by Daiki; September 20th, 2018 at 07:25 PM.

  16. #1496
    [X] Check his knife - is it glowing? And if it isn't, is that because there aren't any enemies, or because they're out of range?

  17. #1497
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    Chapter 42. But for a (hail) Stone

    For Matou Shinji, who had always been proficient at everything he tried – with the (not so) minor exception of magecraft – it had never occurred to him that a single class could occupy so much of his time. Nor had he ever thought that he would be forced to, or worse – would choose to – take time away from ensuring that he was progressing adequately in his other courses to make sure he passed one assignment.

    This had been a year of firsts, it seemed, with Professor Quirrell opening his eyes to entire new universes of peril and pain.

    The boggart in Quirrell's first scenario had caused him to snap, with all the rage, anger, hatred - of himself as much as anything - he'd bottled up inside since his mother's death exploding out of the corner of his soul where he'd shoved all of it. He hadn't realized that...that there was something like that sleeping inside of him, but then, he supposed that shame and self-loathing for never being good enough, no matter how hard he tried, always being thrown away, had congealed into something powerful.

    On the adventure where he'd found the Chamber of Secrets, he'd learned that all the cleverness and strength in the world sometimes availed not, and that sometimes, it was only the vagaries of fortune that determined who lived and who died.

    During the Defense of Hos, he'd learned that for all the cunning and wit he could bring to bear on a problem, it was just as important to be able to manage other people and their expectations...and that sometimes, luck didn't matter as much as he'd like when the enemy had the advantage of both numbers and time.

    And during the scenario after the break, the boy had found that even bitter rivalries could be put aside in the face of survival...and that as powerful as luck could be (as Felix Felicis had let him overcome ridiculous odds, allowing him to do far better than his skill or power truly merited), relying on luck was not a valid strategy in the long run as the law of averages inevitably caught up.

    Which was why he was training so hard now, attempting to close the gap between himself and his companions - Amber Noel and Natsumi Suzuki, girls who were both skilled in their own right, and who had worked together for years. Having to match them, training alongside them...he'd never imagined that engaging in vigorous exercise with two pretty girls could be so...exhausting.

    And not from the more pleasant activities his mind sometimes brought up from time to time if he allowed it to wander.

    No. Instead of doing something like k-k-kissing or such, he was learning to imbue his knives with curses more quickly, to toss potions over to one of the two when they needed it, to dodge and weave and evade spells, to run from knives that Natsumi sent hurtling after him with the power of Mopsus.

    ...and yes, finally, finally, learning how to use the training weapon he'd been given during the break, so that he no longer posed a danger to himself while swinging it around.

    True, the rapier he now wielded wasn't a goblin-forged item by any means, unlike Amber's choice of arms, but one long, pointed piece of metal was as good as another – or so he told himself. He wasn’t foolish enough to say it aloud, in case his words somehow got back to Phelan or Amber, who were both…very particular about the virtues of their choice of edged weaponry, but it was what he thought.

    ‘I guess a sword might come in handy if I ever lose my wand? Or if I need to defend myself, since I’m going to be using one of my wands as a glorified flashlight anyway…’


    He’d hoped that there were potions that could be used instead, so as to keep his hands free. Things would be far simpler if each of them just wore a glowing phial, after all, instead of him needing a wand to provide some illumination.

    Yet when he’d asked Sokaris about such, the purple-haired girl had merely told him that there were no such potions in the British repertoire, and that while the effect could be replicated, she did not wish to teach him how to make a potion that he didn’t understand the properties of. Instead, she’d showed him some general tips and tricks, like how to shorten brewing time, how to achieve increased potency at the cost of reduced shelf-life, and how potions, if imbibed, could bypass the resistances of even trolls and other magical creatures.

    Really, he appreciated her help – his rank in potions class was almost entirely due to what she had taught him, but it disappointed him that she hadn’t been able – or willing – to teach him how to make the potion he’d wanted.

    ‘But then, I shouldn’t take people for granted.’


    Sokaris was under no obligation to help someone like him, any more than she was to lift a finger for a worm crawling on the ground.

    Thus, to keep himself humble, he took time out of his day to help Miyuki-senpai with her gardening, which, for all that it was exhausting, was rewarding enough in its own right. After all, senpai had seemed…grateful for the help, as she had recently been requested by Sokaris to help the young Alchemist with preparing Nigel for the bonus dungeon as a practical field test of her plants, so to speak.

    Something about that bothered Shinji a bit – mostly the fact that she would be spending time with Nigel, something which had directly led to her troubles last year. Yes, that was what he was concerned about: the fact that she might end up troubled again, not because he was bothered because Nigel seemed to like Senpai or anything.

    Or so he told himself as he watered plants, raked muck, fought off the spiky balls of death that venomous tentacula flung at him, learned to tell just when a bursting mushroom was likely to explode, and other such things that kept his mind off...topics he would rather not contemplate.

    Either way, every day ended with the boy bone weary, collapsing into his bed.

    Perhaps it was unsurprising that his grades in other classes slipped, with him dozing off quite frequently during Astronomy class, and once almost - almost - falling off the Astronomy Tower in his fatigue, though thankfully, Natsumi kept him from plunging to his death. As for the rest...well, being so tired made it hard to concentrate, but surely it wouldn't be so bad if he just skipped some of the Charms homework, right? It might have been better to skip Transfiguration work, since McGonagall was often absent these days, but...he wasn't willing to jeopardize what he'd managed so far, and he was sure that he wouldn't ever need to know the exact properties of something like Spongify.

    ‘…still, I need to find out more about what the
    Book can do,’ he mused to himself one night as he lay in bed. ‘Maybe I should try out another scenario before the final exam comes, just so I can see if Quirrell has any other tricks up his sleeve.’




    Thus, sometime later, Matou Shinji found himself standing in a room of white, alongside Selina and Ernie, with the trio moving among tables strewn with a dizzying array of gear.

    "So, here we are," Selina said cheerfully as she picked up a set of armor that didn’t leave much to the imagination, before grimacing and putting it back on the table where she’d found it. "Choosing to face down another scenario. Surprised you agreed to join us, Matou, seeing as you took first in the rankings. Not like you need the practice."

    "I got lucky, that's all," Shinji grumbled, waving off the praise as he moved around a few items to reveal what looked like a goblin-silver blade, half buried beneath the pile of other goods. ‘Huh. This could be useful.’

    For this scenario, he and his team would play the role of three intrepid adventurers from a Hogwarts long past, who had attempted to circumnavigate the world by broomstick with the reckless confidence of the young. Sadly for them, they’d been unaware that a few wands, a single canteen, a pack of pemmican, and an assortment of other cobbled-together supplies wasn’t enough to keep a party of three alive and healthy on such an expedition.

    Nor, of course, were the brooms of those bygone days, intended for no more than short jaunts between wizarding hamlets (since most did not know how to apparate), rated for a transcontinental voyage.

    In their ignorance, the three of them had set out on their journey, hoping to make history.

    Alas, only one had returned, and not in triumph, but defeat.

    From the accounts that he’d read, Shinji knew that the party had mostly flown towards the sunrise each day, making camp at night and taking off at first light, with stops every few hours to pluck the splinters out of their arses, heading in a vaguely easterly direction until they ran afoul of a rather massive storm, and well…

    ‘There’s a reason Quirrell called the scenario
    “Surviving the Crash”,’ Shinji mused bitterly.

    In the case of the three adventurers, their broomsticks had been destroyed on impact, with their provisions and goods – even their wands – lost.

    Of course, since Shinji and the others challenging this were first years, not graduates of Hogwarts, the Professor had shown them some mercy, allowing them to keep their wands – if they could find them – not that he thought that the limited repertoire of spells a student knew would do much good when they were thrown into a strange and deadly world.

    A sprawling jungle, a mist-shrouded place riddled with swamps and bogs, filled with creatures dangerous and exotic, about which they would not yet have learned.

    ‘At least we aren’t being asked to defeat some mythical beast, or to explore a hidden temple here, just to retrace the steps of the lone survivor of the expedition.’


    It seemed simple enough, really: all they had to do was reach the small town that the adventurers had flown over an hour before crashing…only the distance a broom could cover in an hour was far greater than that which a human could cover on two legs.

    ‘…No doubt, we’ll get lost, and once we do, we’ll run into something that kills us. I know how the Professor thinks by now.’
    Or at least he thought he did. He knew better than to think he knew all of Quirrell’s tricks though, as that way lay complacency, and with complacency came disaster. ‘I learned that well enough in the last scenario I did…’

    “You got lucky?” Selina echoed.

    “More or less,” Shinji agreed, not really wanting to admit that his luck was due to Felix Felicis.

    "Got lucky, huh?" Ernie muttered, sifting aimlessly through piles of odd armor, tabards, books, packs of food, weapons, and more. "I wish I would get lucky sometimes." The boy’s movements stilled as his hands seized on something, pulling it free from the pile. “Huh, what’s this?”

    “A canteen,” Selina observed, noting the construction. “Open it, see if there’s a note.”

    Ernie did, finding that inside was a slip of paper describing what he held as a canteen which could purify any water put into it, regardless of the source, making it fit for human consumption.

    “…I think I’ll take this,” Ernie noted, clutching the item, before glancing back at Shinji. “I have to say, I thought you and Granger would have gotten each other killed. Or killed each other. One of the two. That you would score first…"

    “We nearly did a few times," the Japanese boy admitted, shaking his head. "Anyway, we still lost, so I can’t say I did all that well. It just shows how much I need to improve, you know?"

    "Says the guy whose score is better than everyone except the two who tested out of Defense for the year," Ernie replied testily. "You're not making the rest of us feel any better, you know?"

    "...I'm sorry?" Shinji offered, somewhat shocked by his friend’s outburst. "I'm...I'm not trying to upset you. I’m just…I’m disappointed—"

    "Well, maybe if your disappointment didn’t make the rest of us sound like idiots for doing worse than you. Because if you keep saying you did horribly, how do you think it makes the rest of us feel?" the blond Hufflepuff growled. “It isn’t all about you here.”

    "Ernie. Enough," Selina cut in, putting a hand on the shoulder of the boy in question – at which, Ernie Macmillan instantly went still.

    "But..."

    “I don’t think Matou meant any harm,” the bespectacled blonde said soothingly, her fingers squeezing the boy's shoulder gently, as Ernie exhaled - well, sighed, really. "He didn't do as well as he would have liked. Neither did we. That's all there is to it. He’s allowed to be unhappy."

    There was a beat before…

    "Right. I...I know that," the blond Hufflepuff replied wearily, looking away. "I just—"

    He went silent, his face flushing bright red.

    "You don't need to worry about my feelings," the Slytherin girl replied with a soft smile. "In things like this, sometimes it really is luck. Sometimes you roll a one, sometimes a natural 20. Either way, there’s no point in being annoyed at someone because they were just a bit luckier. I just have to make sure that the next time I roll the dice, I stack as many modifiers as I can in my favor."

    Ernie blinked.

    "What? Modifiers? Dice? Natural 20...?" the boy repeated, feeling a bit lost. He knew what the words meant individually, but when put together, they didn't really make a lot of sense. Did all adventurers talk like this, he wondered? Did they all develop…eccentricities to deal with the life or death situations they found themselves in regularly?

    "Sorry. I mean that if I don't do so well the first time, I’ll try to do whatever I can to make sure things will turn out better the next," Selina explained, with Ernie nodding.

    When put that way, it was a very pragmatic attitude, with a practicality no doubt born of her having seen adventures and dangers the rest of them could only imagine.

    In many ways, Ernie Macmillan envied Selina Moore.

    She had done so much, seen so many things, experienced the world, and yet she was here, with all the rest of them. She’d even chosen to work with him, of all people, an unremarkable boy by any standard, who had never even left Britain.

    It wasn’t strange that she liked working with Matou, who had come from a land far, far away, with traditions and mannerisms he found puzzling. What was puzzling that she enjoyed working with him, since the closest he’d come to adventures – not counting Quirrell’s scenarios – were the new year dinner parties his family often hosted, with their frivolity, verbal sniping, and…exotic sights.

    ‘I’d almost expect her to prefer working with Phelan.’


    After all, for all that Ernie was annoyed by the earl’s son, he couldn’t deny that the Gryffindor was far more dashing, far more charming, than he. That…and Phelan Noel was a muggleborn, like Selina Moore, so he knew at least some of the same references she did, while Ernie…it was all he could do to follow along and not seem like a fool in front of the beautiful Slytherin.

    She told him of the great masters she had learned her arts from.

    The bards Gilbert and Sullivan, who’d chronicled the adventure of pirate kings, sorcerers, Venetians (whatever those were).

    Lord Gygax of Clan Gygax, a man who had at various times been a clerk and a cobbler, before rising to glory as the man who opened the way to the land of Greyhawk, one of the two great lands where adventurers could test their mettle.

    Master Greenwood, who had mapped out the way to Faerun and made it accessible to adventurers.

    And of course, her brother and his merry band, who had grown up in that mystical land.

    With such a pedigree, it was unsurprising that Selina was far better accustomed to the life of an adventurer than he was. But while it was frustrating to be in her shadow, what bothered him far more was how he was always in Matou’s as well.

    They were in the same house, knew the same people, studied the same things, and yet…why…why was Matou so much further ahead than he was? Even working with Granger, he’d managed to do better than anyone except Sokaris and Nigel, and those two were essentially untouchable when it came to doing well in scenarios.

    It made him feel so…inadequate, so small, since he’d been around magic all his life, yet was…somehow finding himself not even second-best, or third-best, but so far out of sight, no one knew he was even competing.

    Still…it wouldn’t do him any good to be a prat to Matou, not when Selina had invited the Japanese boy to work with them.

    She had her reasons, no doubt.

    Ernie was about to ask if she’d found something, only to see, when he looked over, that she was holding something like a golden compass.

    “What’s that?” the boy asked.

    “A compass, only this one points towards the largest group of people in a hundred miles as well as north,” Selina replied, looking at the inscription carved on the metal of the instrument. “Could be useful, right?”

    “Mm, it could,” Ernie agreed.

    “You sure we wouldn’t be better off with a bag of food?” Shinji asked. “If we’re going to be walking a long way, we’ll want something to let us keep up our strength.”

    “Sure, but I think we can find food. If we lose our way, we’ve lost,” Selina reasoned, with the Japanese boy nodding after a moment.

    “You’re right,” he conceded.

    “Good to know we agree,” the Slytherin quipped, her tone mild. “You both know how this scenario goes, right?”

    "Yeah. Our broom flight crashed. We only managed to salvage a few items from the crash. We're supposed to try and get to the village we flew over...an hour ago?" Ernie said hesitantly, only vaguely recalling what Quirrell had said to them.

    "Mhm," Selina confirmed. "And we just picked out our items.”

    “Yeah…about that,” Ernie spoke up. “Would you mind carrying them? I would feel safer if you did, since well, you’re the adventurer here.”

    “Well, if you’re sure.”

    “I am.”

    Selina bowed slightly and took the canteen Ernie offered, before looking at Shinji. The Japanese boy raised an eyebrow, but wordlessly handed over the goblin-silver knife, with the girl nodding in gratitude that he didn’t put up a fuss.

    “I think the Professor said to signal when we were ready?” she commented a moment later.

    “I think I remember that,” Shinji mumbled. “But how—”




    When the group came to, they found themselves on the ground, battered and bruised, feeling their bodies ache all over, as if they’d been slammed into something hard at some ridiculous velocity.

    "Ugh..." Ernie groaned, wincing as he tried to get up, only to find that his body wouldn’t respond to his wishes. "What...what happened?"

    Splinters and ruined goods lay all around the trio, and a heavy mist – almost a dense fog – obscured anything other than their immediate surroundings. It was dim, too, from the look of it, they were either under the cover of a forest, or if they were exposed, then then sun had already set, with night about to fall.

    “We must be in the Surviving the Crash scenario," Selina related calmly. Or close to calmly anyway. Was that what one called it when someone’s voice was completely free of any emotion? Ernie couldn’t remember. "It's...huh..." She paused, slowly patting herself down and frowning as she didn't find the items the group had handed her. "That's weird. The items are gone. The ones we picked out."

    "Gone?!" There was a slightly hysterical edge to Ernie's voice, as he wasn't – and had never been, really – the most phlegmatic of individuals. "But...I…I thought."

    "Calm down," Shinji’s voice cut him off bluntly, as the Japanese boy got to his feet with some effort. "Let's look around. Our things are probably scattered around."

    It sounded like something Quirrell would do to them anyway, an extra hoop to jump through…though it also seemed reasonable for what would happen in a crash.

    "I...my wand? Where's my wand?" Ernie found himself asking. "I...I had it just a second ago."

    With no items, no wand, he was helpless in this place, whatever this place was, with no tricks up his sleeve, no vial of mopsus, nothing.

    ‘…am I going to die here? Am I going to fail?’


    “I…I…” the boy began to hyperventilate, his breathing growing shallow and as nightmarish visions ran through his mind. “I…I…”

    “Ernie. Breathe.

    The boy bit back the urge to say that was what he was doing, as she limped over to him and helped him sit up, while rubbing his back.

    It took a number of minutes, but eventually the blond Hufflepuff felt the wave of panic subside, probably thanks more to Selina’s closeness than anything else.

    "Ernie, did you already forget? You don't need a wand to be awesome. Remember the first scenario...? You and Suzuki showed everyone not to underestimate Mopsus – or Hufflepuffs."

    Ernie flushed, but muttered something about how anyone could have done that if they’d just thought of it, and how it had been Natsumi who’d come up with the idea, but Selina shushed him.

    “Maybe anyone could have, but it wasn’t anyone who showed us how it was done. It was you,” she told him, with the boy straightening, feeling…proud despite himself. “You were awesome before without a wand. You can be so again.”

    “I…I guess so,” the blond Hufflepuff said after a while, his shaking slowly easing off as he calmed down. “How…how can you be so calm? About all of this.”

    “Because I’ve done something like this before,” the Slytherin replied. “Situations like this happen. You just have to deal with them when they arise, because reality doesn’t care if you don’t like it. It simply is.”

    “…that’s fair,” Ernie grunted. “Any tips?”

    "Well, here’s a secret,” Selina whispered conspiratorially. “Keep calm. We're all more capable than we think. Usually."

    Case in point – while she had been calming Ernie down, Matou had demonstrated both his tolerance for pain and that his wits were intact by going around and collecting their goods.

    In fact, oddly enough, he’d somehow found three sets of canteen, knife, and compass for each person, though only one wand apiece.
    Well, so he said anyway, though Selina noticed the second wand hidden up his sleeve.

    By the time both of those goals had been accomplished though, the last remnants of daylight had faded altogether, with the temperature beginning to drop.

    Oddly enough, the mist which had obscured their sight was also beginning to dissipate, something Selina hadn’t expected, though she wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

    “We need to move,” she said, with Ernie looking at her blankly. “We need to find shelter, since if this place – a jungle – is like those I know, there will be dangerous beasts that come out at night.”

    “Not a bad plan,” Shinji agreed, looking around. “I don't think any of you are much good at building shelters from nothing."

    "It...it isn't nothing," Ernie protested. "We have what little is left of the brooms, and Matou can…” He blinked, as the wheels worked in his head. “You didn’t find more than one set of these, did you? You made new ones with the doubling charm.”

    “Well, yes…” Shinji admitted, taken aback that Ernie had seen through him so easily.

    “Then…you can make more of the wood scraps and we can put those together into a shelter, right?” the blond Hufflepuff proposed.

    But the Japanese boy grimaced.

    "I could," he admitted. "Though copying sticks is going to make me pretty tired, and it will take us a while to build a shelter. I don’t think any of us have experience with that either, except maybe Selina. Let’s look for something, since the fog has thinned out.”

    “And risk running into dangerous beasts?” Ernie shot back.

    “It’s not like we’re completely helpless,” Shinji commented. “We have our wands, and those knives.”

    "...and when something eats us after we didn’t see them coming, I'll be sure to thank you for it," the blond Hufflepuff shot back. "Selina, what do you think?"

    "It could go either way, really," the Slytherin girl mused to herself. "It's true that if we move around, we might be seen by whatever's out there. On the other hand..." she trailed off, looking around. "I'm sure that when we crashed here, we probably attracted some attention."

    "...point," Ernie conceded. "So...?"

    "We'll go looking."

    “…as you wish.”




    As the trio began to walk, the winds too began to pick up. True, it dispersed yet more of the fog, but the lightly dressed youths were cut to the quick by the sudden chill.

    “Cold…” Ernie muttered, with Selina shivering.

    “A storm is coming,” the blonde Slytherin noted, with Shinji’s eyes widening as she said this. Still, it hadn’t begun to rain yet, so the group made the most of the opportunity, walking as quickly as they can towards what seems to be a dense copse of trees, thinking that they might at least find shelter under the dense boughs.

    As they were making their way there, however, they came across a pair of great boulders leaning against one another, with Selina finding on closer inspection that one of them had an opening cut into it – that it was hollowed out inside.

    The other was partially covering what seems like a hole in the ground – perhaps the burrow of some animal, perhaps the opening to a cave.

    In the distance, thunder rumbled.

    The storm would not be long in coming now.

    The group looked uneasily between themselves, considering what to do, as the options – the viable options – open to them were quickly shrinking. There was no time to make something.

    If they headed off immediately, then perhaps they could reach the forest, but as it was...

    "I think we have to choose between the hole in the ground and the rock," Selina said aloud, verbalizing all of their thoughts. "And frankly, I'm not sure the hole is safe. We don’t know where it leads, what might be in it, or anything at all."

    And if Quirrell's previous challenges were any indication, if something – or someone – was in it, they were not likely to be friendly.

    "Better we stay out here," Shinji agreed, looking dubiously at the rock before him. The opening was large enough for him to enter, if he crawled, but inside... 'The hell?' Inside had been painstakingly hollowed out into something like a room, if it wasn't the result of erosion. "Might be a bit tight, but it is what it is. That and we probably won't annoy whatever's down there."

    Ernie looked like he wanted to protest, but seeing that he was outvoted, 2 to 1, he held his tongue, as he knew it wouldn't do much good.

    "Fine," he said. "Let's start a fire then. We might as well make ourselves warm." He paused, considering something. "Maybe we could block off the opening to the rock too? In case something else comes looking for shelter?"

    Sadly, in the end, neither of his suggestions were put to use.

    There would be no fire that night, nor would the entrance be blocked off, meaning that if it began to pour, things could get uncomfortable, and if someone came by, they would be discovered.

    Selina had then gone on to suggest modifying the entranceway and the floor of the hollow rock to make it more comfortable, something which Ernie didn’t think they had time for.

    Yet, he’d bowed to the will of the group, as overt resistance was futile when it came to dealing with such matters. It was better than wasting
    everyone’s time, and who knew, maybe he’d be able to do something, even if he couldn’t just transfigure the entrance and had to fix it manually.

    Oh, perhaps if the people with Selina were her brother and his jolly band of adventurers, whose exploits in Faerun were nothing short of legend, then this would be trivial.

    A master of transfiguration would have had very little difficulty doing everything she asked, much less a party of them. But then, neither he or Matou were nearly at that level – or at her level, for that matter – something he thought that Selina forgot sometimes.

    'She expects too much of people, I think.'


    She thought of them as being like her – which granted, made him want to be more than he was, to be someone worthy of her – though he knew that right now, he wasn't anywhere near worthy.

    That was why he'd suggested just blocking the entrance, because he knew that this was something he could do, as opposed to raising the sleeping area, modifying the tunnel crawl-space, and building a roof for the entryway – things that he knew, knew, would take more time than any of them had.

    Still, she'd insisted otherwise, so all he could do was try...

    ...only to be proven right, given how, as he was scooping up dirt in his hands, there was a sound as if the sky itself was tearing itself open, and with it, a deluge began.

    Only it wasn't just rain that fell, but great nodules of ice bigger than his fist, violently crashing into the ground.

    "Guh!"

    One moment he'd dumped the load of dirt and twigs he'd collected and was running for the rock.

    The next—

    "Huh? Why am I...?" He was on the ground, looking up at the--

    A flash of white, then another, as stars blossomed in his vision.

    "I...I..."

    Whatever he was about to do next, it didn't matter, as a hailstone the size of a softball smashed into his unprotected face, stealing away his life.




    So what do Shinji and Selina do?

    [ ] Stay in the shelter until daybreak
    [ ] Leave now and take their chances in the darkness
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

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