Your name is Cibele Epeli Imanis, and your cute little heart is troubled once again.
It won’t be long until you’ve graduated sixth form, and are on your way to university. Sure, your grades aren’t amazing, but that doesn’t bother you too much. And you don’t really know what you want to do at university, let alone with the rest of your life, but that doesn’t bother you either. You’re young, you’ve got time to figure all that stuff out. Right?
No, what bothers you is…
Here, wandering the back streets of the beautiful Capital District of the city of Southern Sun, once more you lament your loneliness. You…
Gosh darn it, you just want a girlfriend!
You’re nineteen, for heaven’s sake! You want to know how it feels, to be in another girl’s arms! You want to know what it’s like to kiss! You want to know what it’s like to have another girl stare into your eyes and tell you she loves you!
Is that…selfish of you?
It’s not like you’re desperate, exactly. You have friends, after all. People you care about. Passions. By any reasonable standard, you have a pretty good life.
But you can’t help but be at least a little curious.
“Silhouettes and shadows, watch the revolution…” You sing to yourself under your breath, reaching back to fiddle with the volume rocker of your earbuds, your other arm holding signs for the protest you’re supposed to meet up with Calvina at, the arrangement just the slightest bit awkward…
Right. Calvina. That’s part of the problem, isn’t it.
You’re hardly the only one with a crush on Calvina Aeterna. Your fencing teacher’s the idol and envy of her entire class. She’s never once spoken of romance, which only makes you all the more curious…
Well. You know she’s straight. At least, by all indications she is.
And so is Korri.
Ugh, you’ve been nursing your crush on Korri since before you knew what a crush was, but the idea of seeing her smile fade from her face, it would just kill you. (Well, not literally, that’d be weird.) Besides which, she’s straight too…
Well, women have faced that problem since time immemorial. It’s pointless to think about. It’s not like you could just flip a switch and make them gay –
Though, the thought is kind of interesting, and a bit funny, and –
No, bad thoughts, bad thoughts!
You sigh, waving that notion out of your mind, adjusting your grip on your signs. Thinking about confessing to them is more about just…having the nerve to. Not having that sword of Damocles hovering over your troubled heart. You’d feel way less guilty about cuddling Korri that way, anyway.
But, hey, it’s not like there aren’t other lesbians out there, right?
Yeah, if only it were that easy. You don’t pick the best girls to be interested in, did you? Well, not that it’s a matter of picking, but…
Stella Maris shouldn’t be your first choice.
It’s not because she’s somehow bad for you – she’s a really wonderful, passionate person, intelligent and insightful and really fucking hot, cough cough.
(Wait, no, fudging hot. Well, maybe Stella’s hot enough to be worth a swear?)
It’s not even that she’s taken – Stella’s pretty open about seeing several girls at any one time, and you’re not so selfish as to monopolize her (although it does make you feel like maybe doing so yourself wouldn’t be so bad)…
It’s that she hates your fudging guts.
You have no idea, you know? Why she hates you. You’re not sure what about you there is to hate. It’s too bad, really…
Maybe it’s like, she hates you but she actually loves you? At least, that’s what you hope…
You want to be loved.
Is that so wrong?
Well, at least – at least, you can confess to people! Yeah, you’ll confess to Calvina when you get to the protest today, and you can confess to Korri when you get home. It’ll make you feel better! And, maybe after that, you’ll feel more comfortable around Stella, or find some more cuties to try and fall for. It’s not too much further to the protest staging point, after all, and so all you need to do is get there and you can turn over a new leaf –
What is that horn –
Prologue: Careful What You Wish For
Your name is Cibele Epeli Imanis, and this situation is a lot more annoying than you ever imagined it could be.
…okay, ‘annoying’ is a rather light word for the situation. But even in a situation like this, you can’t be all dour about it. It isn’t like it’s a bad thing, exactly…it just has the potential to be one.
Well, let’s back up a little.
You didn’t look both ways when crossing the street, and may have been distracted by music…or, more accurately, by your own lonely dumb gay heart. Not something you’d confess on your way to Heaven, but it could happen to anyone, right? It’s not weird to be so preoccupied with your crushes that you end up getting in a serious accident, is it? It’s embarrassing, but still!
It’s not like…you wouldn’t force it on them. Right?
(You’re getting ahead of yourself.)
Anyway. Now you’re lying in a hospital bed, but instead of a concussion, you have a user interface hovering in front of your eyes, refusing to go away however many times you try. An interface like you’d see in a video game, with thick lines and solid colors, as the classic RPGs of yore…
In a way, it’s kind of nostalgic.
Because, this kind of story is hardly unknown to you. It’s the ultimate wish fulfillment, really. The kind of story where an ordinary girl (or boy!) gains extraordinary power, in the form of video game conventions, with an interface that allows them to grow and develop their new abilities. A so-called ‘Gamer’, who uses their so-called ‘system’ to gain power, achieve great things, and maybe fight a little evil along the way.
And, of course – most exciting of all, to you! – fall in love.
Not this time.
If this is just a dream, well. It’s no dream – it’s a chocolate-fudge-coated nightmare!
A soft ‘mouuu’ escapes your lips, an old habit you’ve never quite broken, as you try to confront your terrifying new situation. The ‘developer’s note’ hovers in front of your eyes, once more scrolled to the beginning after several attempts stopped cold once you realized the implications of the ‘developer’s’ words. You have to admit, you were too scared to read anything initially, just going right back to bed in hopes that it’d all just be a bad dream, but…
that just means you have to collect your courage, no matter what lays ahead.
So, you try again.
If you’re reading this, you’ve been run over by a truck. Unfortunate! No, you’re not in another world, this is the same Southern Sun you know and love.
Yeah, you know that some people are different, but…no matter what kind of cool powers you’d get, you’d be really sad that your family and friends are gone. You’re happy to still be in your beloved home – especially since it could still use a good heroine, for so many different reasons.
But, thanks to my foresight, you now have the power you need to do what you’ve always wanted to do – save the world! Isn’t that amazing?
It would be! What girl doesn’t want to be a heroine? That’s half the reason you got into fencing! It’d be really scary, but…you’d do your best, just as you always have, to do the right thing…
(regardless of your personal feelings.)
Yeah…you’ve always wanted to be a heroine. You really aren’t very good at it, just making things worse constantly, especially in the realm of romance…so you do need the help, all things considered. You’re not going to reject a special power.
And hey, if there’s a villain to fight? So much the better. Maybe you can have an exciting, superheroic sword duel under the moonlight or something like that!
Yeah, if only it were that simple.
You see, I’m you. Or rather, I would be you. I’m your future self, from a future that no longer exists! Be thankful for that. You’d have been in the hospital for a very long time if not for me, and by the time you were able to fight…well, it’d be too late.
Yeah, that tracks. It’s kind of hard to imagine, but – if things like ‘superpowers’ are real, things like ‘magic’ and ‘miracles’, then sure. Time travel works. If your future self told you how to train, who to fight, and what to do to try and avert disaster? You’d do your best to try and help.
But she’s not telling you any of that, rather, she’s saying…
really really weird things!
But, there’s even more good news. This power…you’ll have all you ever wanted, all you ever needed. Here, in your arms.
(That’s part of why you believe this is you. Only you would speak in such a way, right?)
(Even things you’ll try to tell yourself you don’t want.)
…of course you wouldn’t want this. It’s wrong.
You’ve been deliberately avoiding looking at them, but…just the names of the skill trees you’ve been given are enough.
‘Hypnosis’. ‘Telepathy’. ‘Enchantment’.
The branches quashed any hope you might have of this being at least a little innocent. ‘Mentalism’, ‘Charm’, ‘Geas’…and the skill names…
There’s no mistaking it.
You…you have brainwashing powers!
This is the worst thing!
Okay, well. Having a certain power doesn’t make you a bad person, right? Even if it’s a power that’s much more easily used for evil than for good, it’s what you do with a power that really matters. Right?
Yeah, there are a lot of other ways to use these new talents! You could understand people more easily, maybe see who the bad guys are before they strike. You could convince people to lower their weapons, or that you were an ally! You could read their minds to know their movements. You could even make them terrified of you, impose your psychic pressure upon them, maybe see them look at you in awe –
No! Bad thoughts, bad thoughts! Don’t let her get to you! Even if ‘her’ is ‘you’!
But you – the other you, the one that wrote this – keeps insisting, making it all the harder to continue.
Your crushes are a dead end. Even the ones you think you might have a shot with, Cibele. Believe me, I’ve seen how it’ll end. Not to mention the girls who hate you…
W-well, they don’t…hate you, exactly. You don’t think so, at least. It’s like. Sometimes people act like they hate what they really love, or they just need someone to be kind to them to help them reform, and it’s not like you have an ulterior motive, mostly…like, maybe ‘tsunderes’ don’t exist, but if they did, would Stella be one? (That’s your hope, at least.) Is it odd to think such a thing?
“Mouuuu…” you mutter to yourself. (Cutely. Always cutely.)
Okay, maybe you’ve made some silly decisions. But, you really do like Stella! Even after all these years. You just, kinda wish she liked you. You’ve never understood her, and secretly always hoped someday you’d learn she had a crush on you too.
(Are you really that hopeless?)
…or the girls you know are straight.
Well, you’re not sure they’re straight. Well, you are for Korri, but Calvina you only really have her word. Are you sure, perhaps, you couldn’t simply reach her somehow?
(You know that’s not how it works, but you still can’t help but hope.)
Developing your powers requires using them. You can’t get around that. I tried.
Even if you have to use them, does it have to be like this?
I told myself, I was a good person, I’d find a way. But it was a lie.
What could have happened to you, to make you act like this?
You thought you were good because you had no claws. That will only hold you back.
What does future-past-you mean, ‘had no claws’? You remember that from your Psychology class, yeah, but you’re not sure you like the implication here. Like you’ll just become an awful person, if you get a power like this. Or maybe future-past-you is trying to pretend she’s just, super smart and completely above you…
(Well…okay. Intelligence is one of the ability scores, and she did figure out how to transmit Gamer powers back in time, but still. It’s just rude.)
You’re stalling, aren’t you.
Hesitantly, you reach out and ‘scroll’ the interface down, to the line where you stopped reading, and could never go past before now, until your attempts at sleep here in this hospital bed were clearly futile. The line where you felt you couldn’t continue…
Just…think about it. Wouldn’t it feel good to know you didn’t have to be rejected? That you could not only have one of the girls you wanted, but all of them at once? That they would be at your beck and call with a single snap, adoring you with all their heart?
Well…you won’t lie. Maybe there’s a bit of an appeal, you know? Who hasn’t thought about such things? About having that kind of power? That’s the whole appeal of ‘gamer’ stories in the first place, right?
But, you’d never really want to do anything like that to another person. It’d be wrong. Just like conversion therapy is wrong. It doesn’t suddenly become right just because you’re turning straight girls gay…
Not that you haven’t thought about it before.
J-just because it might be a little hot…just a little…
So what? Fantasies are fantasies. There’s not a lesbian in the world who hasn’t thought about it at least once! You’d never do it to Korri, your very best friend, let alone Calvina!
You can’t just do this, can you?
“Am I sure this is me?” you ask yourself, as though to try and dispel the fudge-coated nightmare. But you know in your heart these are your words. Not as cute as usual, maybe, but you know yourself well enough to know the familiar tinges behind these unfamiliar words. You just…can’t imagine at all what it is that’s caused this drastic turn…
what would make you such a terrible person.
Do you want Stella? She hates you more deeply than you could ever know. She’s not the kind of person you should leave as they are, because she’s going to betray you to your enemies. I turned her around, but I didn’t get to enjoy her head between my legs before things started crashing down. You can.
…w-why is future-past-you so lewd?!
Seriously. Wouldn’t telling you about why things went wrong be more useful? What it is you need to use these powers for? Or is it just so much more important you grind up your powers by using them on the people around you, regardless of whether it’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’?
…maybe this is like…one of those roguelikes or hardcore RPGs where the only way you can succeed is by grinding up a sherbet-ton before some kind of wall. So maybe the point of all this is…to tempt you to grind?
Well, not just Stella…
Or maybe you’d prefer Calvina. She doesn’t look at you as anything but a student, you know. If you could read her mind, and know exactly how to make her fall in love with you…wouldn’t you take that chance?
Of course not! That’s…that’s not love. Even if, maybe, there’s something romantic about fitting someone’s desires so exactly, or something hot about knowing what someone is thinking…
Calvina would never forgive you if she knew her love was based on a lie. She’s not that kind of person, and that’s the reason you admire her in the first place.
To do this…wouldn’t it be like seeing her as nothing more than a tool?
But then, there’s dear, sweet Korri. She’s your best friend, and she’ll stay by your side, but she’ll never look at you with lust-filled eyes. She trusts you, though. I think, if you just asked her to play along, you could hypnotise her, and turn her into a devoted lover…or just watch her in trance. There’s really nothing hotter than a girl being hypnotised.
w-why does future-past-you have such weird and specific fetishes?!
W-well, maybe, when it comes to you, you think Korri would be as trusting and naive as people seem to think you are (and you don’t exactly dissuade them – are you already so manipulative?). Maybe you could convince her. And, it might be fun to see her get all dopey-eyed and fuzzy, and the whole concept of how hypnosis works…you’re kind of curious? You’re pretty sure she’s got experience, it seems like the kind of thing she’s tried, so you wouldn’t even be violating her –
Bad thoughts. Really should not think of how hot your very best friend would look when she’s hypnotised. You can’t let future-past-you get to you like this!
Whatever the case…I recommend you start grinding as soon as you can. You can try to just do it ‘normally’, but you’ll need one of my powers to start…and the only way you can gain the power you need to face what’s ahead is by taking someone and using your skills on them.
By making them yours, with all of their heart, down to their very soul.
…how did you become like this?
What made you abandon all you once claimed to believe?
It’s okay. The whole idea of being a heroine…you want to be loved, and you want to fix the world, right? Well, now you can do both! What better way to fix the world than to make absolutely sure everyone does the right thing? What better way to be loved than to ensure your loved ones can’t even think of not loving you?
Any better way.
That’s…that’s the difference between good and evil. To be a good person means accepting that you might lose. Trying to force yourself to win…that’s what evil is. Mind control, immorality, tyranny…even if the good path is harder, that’s what makes it the good path in the first place. No matter how horrible the world is, no matter what kind of enemy you’re going to have to face, trying to make people good by force? That’s true evil right there.
No matter how many people suffer because ‘good’ cannot use such methods to see itself done.
No matter how wrong people are, all the time, every day.
You’d be evil. No matter how much better you think it might be sometimes if everyone thought like you did, if everyone could understand each other perfectly with no regrets, it’d be wrong.
I know this must be hard for you, Cibele. It was even harder for me, thinking I was good because I had no claws, refusing to use the power I was granted even when I knew it would make everyone happier. Being indecisive, because you believe this power will tempt you into darkness, will only ensure that your light – the only thing that can save this world – will fade away.
Refuse your ‘selfish’ desires, and only dark will remain.
(…a power like this isn’t a ‘light’. And using it like this isn’t being a heroine.)
But, it’s okay. You’ll learn what your true role is. What it is you need to do. And how happy those you choose to love will be when you make them yours, to the point where you’ll wonder why you ever resisted sweet, ‘fudgey’ temptation at all.
And after all of that? After a harem of cuties eating out of the palm of your hand? Well, when the time comes you have to use your power for more than love and sex, I hope you’ll be ready for it…
to do what I could not, and save the world from the Queen.
You can’t do it. You won’t do it.
You toss and turn in your hospital bed, clinging to your pillow and wrenching your eyes shut. Forget your future-past-self. You’ll…find some other way. You won’t do it.
You won’t even fantasise about it, even a little.
You won’t fantasise about correcting Stella’s bullying behaviour with a spell, turning her into an upstanding citizen, and becoming so irresistible she can’t help but fall for you.
You won’t fantasise about reading Calvina’s mind and learning about everything she is and wants, and fulfilling it, knowing exactly what to say to make your fencing teacher melt in your arms.
You definitely won’t fantasise about Korri. Sweet, trusting little Korri, letting you hypnotise her on your word alone, watching as her eyes go deliciously blank and you rewire her thoughts, one by one, into something small and smooth and pleasing to the eye.
It would be wrong.
(really, you won’t…)
(you continue ‘not fantasising’ until you fall back asleep, drifting off into fitful dreams of beautiful girls eating right out of your hand.)