Tuesday, May 4th, Reiwa 42.
Your family’s place is an ultra-modern house in the Verwest district, built mostly of glass and white-painted climate-friendly materials, of a respectable size and its own lawn, bolstered by quite a few incomes that help support the needs of ownership. Living in a house like this is relatively unusual, of course, but it doesn’t really feel that different from apartments and condos when you take into account how crowded it can get sometimes.
Fortunately, you’ve got plenty of time to yourself today to study, at least before fencing class later! Having received a reading list from Aunt Vesta, you’re taking your time going through all the material you can, still unsure when, or even if, Stella will accept ‘hypnotherapy’ as the subject of the assignment.
(…okay, maybe you’re a little interested for its own sake…)
You confess, you’re not really great with books. You put in the effort for Ms. Yi, definitely, but book learning isn’t your strong suit! (Although, it’s preferable to video essays, blech.) But even so, you’ve dived right in, and some of these books are downright captivating.
There’s a certain overlap between the list Aunt Vesta gave you, and Ms. Yi’s reading list for Psychology class. It makes sense; it seems Vesta has an interest in psychology, and if they’re both talking about a fringe topic like hypnosis, it’s only natural they’d go to similar references. Honestly, the two of them seem pretty similar in your eyes; you can almost imagine the two of them together, swapping notes on hypnosis, experimenting on each other, and –
no, bad thoughts, bad thoughts!
Er. Right. Books.
Right now, you’re going through the work of Dr. Cindy Newton, psychologist and memeticist – and popular science communicator. Ms. Yi has said if not for her, ‘memetics’ would still be considered a pseudoscience as it was up to the Heisei era. You’re pretty sure future-past-you knows her work; the concept of a ‘supreme idea’ appears to originate from the titular book, The Supreme Idea.
As Ms. Yi has told you, ‘memetics’ is the cultural and intellectual analogue of ‘genetics’, and much like ‘genes’, ‘memes’ can be passed from person to person, and are affected by a form of evolutionary pressure.
In essence, through communicating with others, we pass on our memes to the next generation. And just as over time, genes that confer a reproductive advantage become better represented in a population, memes that are communicated more effectively or situate themselves more suitably inside the mind become more common as well. Natural selection as applied to culture.
And as humans interfere in the natural selection of organisms, so too can they interfere in the natural selection of ideas – artificially selected ideas, created as our ancestors might create new breeds of domesticated organism – to maximize desirable qualities, to the advantage of those who have selected that ‘meme’…usually to the detriment of society, historically, but very often to its benefit as well. The Reiwa era began after decades of memetic selection, and the disasters to come couldn’t be understood by those who believed humans would always behave in their own interests.
(In this world, bathed in carbon, you wonder bitterly how people could have denied it – and still do, to this day.)
In that respect, the titular ‘supreme idea’ is a meme that is not simply selected, but engineered, as humans might engineer an organism. Or so Dr. Newton puts it:
A meme so readily accepted by humans that it outmodes all others before it. An idea that, once imparted, completely transforms a person. One idea, with no other memes before her.
It’s a terrifying prospect. Ms. Yi once talked about a Heisei-era novel which presented Sumerian as the ‘programming language’ for the brainstem, and the linguistic curse of the Tower of Babel (or as Ms. Yi called it, ‘the Curse of Balal’), a counter-program that forced humanity to speak different languages. The goddess Asherah, a mother goddess (much like Cybele!) was herself a personification of a linguistic virus that could reprogram humans, and the priestly class of Sumer passed these programs, these me to the population, programming their brains directly, before the god Enki created the Curse to prevent it.
It’s obvious that future-past-you knows it too. In this novel, Sumerian was a language that could be perfectly understood; the languages we have now would then become removed from the ideal of ‘perfect understanding’. And perfect understanding is a goal worth pursuing, Ms. Yi has said so as well, but…could you really perform that kind of act? Violate the self, that thoroughly?
Your Memetics branch, under the Hypnosis tree…
Memetics: Memetics allows you to spread ideas that infect others, slowly but passively subverting their will.
You’ve listened to Yi Seul-ki’s lectures, haven’t you? You know what it is she’s taught you, about ideas that infect people, convince them of such horrible things. That we continue clinging to the ideas that perpetuated thousands of years ago of what should and shouldn’t be. With this branch, you can change that! And have so very much fun as a side effect, too…
You don’t think future-past-you is so noble about it. ‘You’ll Trust Me’, ‘You’ll Love Me’, ‘I Am Your Goddess’? N-none of that is nice at all! I-is this what ‘Brilliant Star’ means?!
“Mouuu…” you mutter to yourself, trying not to think about it too hard. You don’t need to pursue that branch, anyway; the entire Hypnosis tree is very Bad Thoughts, but you can try to stick to taking the least Bad Thoughts-y skills, and use those abilities responsibly! For the good! You’re not even a little tempted!
Saying that, though, The Supreme Idea contains stuff about hypnosis as well; it’s not a huge amount, but evidently Dr. Newton is a passionate practitioner in both professional and personal capacities. And her talking about it makes you feel a little better about it, and puts Aunt Vesta’s words into better context:
Hypnosis as a method of control used by abusers and liars? Yes, it is true that even a ‘consensual’ act can be abusive, and hypnosis has the potential. But it is the same as any social pressure. Hypnosis is merely a means to an end, an end that can be accomplished through countless different means of social coercion and conditioning that are far easier to grasp. Hypnosis as a weapon of abuse is much easier to unravel than other methods, as I know from experience.
Therefore, I would say to fear not hypnosis, but the hypnotist. And beware even further, the hypnotist who tries to convince you it’s magic.
Even if that’s true, though…what you have is magic, isn’t it? You can go past such limitations. It’s frightening, to hold that kind of power, no matter how exciting it may also be.
If it weren’t for this power, if it weren’t for the Gamer, if it weren’t for future-past-you, you’d probably be both excited and relieved by these words. But holding this power in your hands, with your darker self guiding you into your worst possible impulses, just makes you worry all the more –
Oh! It’s your phone! And it’s a text from Stella! You quickly toss your reader aside and start to chat with her.
[11:31 05/01/42] qubeley004: So, uh, Ms. Yi told me you’re interested in hypnotherapy? It might be a bit weird, but, we could do that for the project if you like!
[17:30 05/04/42] luckystar: …you’ve been studying that?
[17:31 05/04/42] qubeley004: Ms. Yi and one of my relatives have given me material on it, and I’ve paid really close attention to lectures! I don’t think Ms. Yi would recommend it if she weren’t confident, you know?
[17:31 05/04/42] luckystar: …
[17:36 05/04/42] luckystar: Let me make this *damn* fucking clear. If my grades in Psychology weren’t so awful, I wouldn’t even consider it. But as it stands, Ms. Yi is the only thing standing in my way toward a scholarship, and so my hands are tied.
[17:37 05/04/42] luckystar: If you’ve been studying, you know hypnosis isn’t magic. And I doubt you could do much with it anyway, but that shouldn’t matter for the grade. That said, know this:
[17:37 05/04/42] luckystar: If you try *anything* weird, that footage goes straight to Ms. Yi, the staff, the dean, the cops, and *God!* You got it?
[17:38 05/04/42] qubeley004: …oh, so that’s a yes? :D I’ll do my best!
[17:38 05/04/42] luckystar: Do you *have* to get so excited? I regret this enough as it is!
[17:39 05/04/42] luckystar: But yeah, I get it. Maybe I’ll owe you a favor if you help my grades, but that won’t make us *friends*.
[17:40 05/04/42] luckystar: Your place is in the Verwest district, right? I can be there for Friday, late afternoon or early evening. Up to you.
[17:40 05/04/42] qubeley004: I’ll check with my family and let you know! :white_heart:
[17:45 05/04/42] luckystar: …sure.
Right, she isn’t super enthusiastic about it, but a win is a win! Yayifications! Maybe, you can help Stella be a little nicer?
As you roll over atop your bed, you wonder – what secrets does Stella hold in her heart, that makes her so determined to be unpleasant toward you?
(And, of course, how can you change that?)
If you’re completely honest, you chose the Moonlight Fencing Club for the name.
It’s quite deliberate, too; none of the fencing disciplines bear any real resemblance to the classic Sword of Moonlight, but at the very least, Calvina’s also a fan of that old series. Maybe that’s part of why you looked up to her; if nothing else, she doesn’t see your silly hobbies as a joke, nor does she insist you should be playing whatever gacha game Sunset’s coming out with this week. (Seriously, blech.)
The classes are run within the Sakurai Hall, on the campus of the Capital University close to the train station. Capital U makes up a considerable chunk of the Capital District, freely mingling with the city itself, while the Sakurai Hall is in a little enclave – an exercise and athletics facility attached to the health sciences department. The familiar sight of its angled windows and concrete facade – did Calvina call it ‘Brutalist’? – is a bit far for you to come every week, sure, but you think it’s worth it to be able to learn from someone as talented and amazing as Calvina Aeterna.
“Glad you could make it, Cibele,” Calvina says as she greets you in the gym; she’s still in her street clothes, as you came a bit early by request. “Listen, there’s been a bit of a change of plan.”
“Oh? Do you not need me to help out with the younger students anymore?” you ask. No one else is here yet; the hall is covered in the normal cruft and detritus a gym picks up, including displays of the club’s achievements in local competition (and of course, the qualifications of Calvina herself). “I can still take an extra day’s practice, it’s fine.” You still need to grind Dexterity, right?
“It’s more about who you’re helping. She should be here any minute –”
You turn around and…well, you’re in for one heck of a shock, because you’d know that face anywhere! Oh, oh jeez, if Marq knew about this he would be so jealous!
“Glad you could make it,” says Calvina, “and right on time too. Cibele, this is Enkhtuya Enkhjargal – you won’t just be teaching the younger students, you’ll be teaching her.”
“You can just call me Enks if you prefer, though. Enkhjargal’s a bit of a mouthful.” The verdette with the looooong ponytail and the winning smile pops out her earbuds, seemingly already dressed for the occassion in her black workout wear; she’s even taller than Calvina, and she’s got muscles, and abs, and this lovely tan, and she could probably bench you if she wanted, and –
Okay, okay, calm yourself, Cibby! D-don’t fangirl out, you’re the senpai now, apparently! “P-pleased to meet you,” you hastily say, bowing to one of the top athletes in the whole city!
Your brother is the one who introduced you to Calvina and the Moonlight Fencing Club; Marq may not participate, but he still keeps up with the local sword sports and historical reenactment scenes, and Enkhjargal is the one he admires the most. Though she’s never been involved with fencing, she’s a big deal in the local HEMA scene, and an even bigger deal in kendo – she’s the top kendoka in the city, and maybe even the world! They say she saw the first Olympic kendo matches in Reiwa 22, and promised she’d be one of the very best…
“That should be my line!” Enkhjargal smiles, and claps her hands together. “I’ll be in your care, Cibele. Calvina has told me that if I want to get an idea about how fencing is, I should really try it myself. She said you’d be a good teacher!”
That’s…well, it’s a bit humbling, and it makes you blush, but something doesn’t seem right here –
Calvina is averting her gaze a little. She seems a bit standoffish, more than usual even.
“You two know each other, Calvina?” you ask.
“We’re…friends,” she says, trying to leave it at that. And you don’t need to read her mind to know there’s some history there. C-could Enkhjargal be Calvina’s ex or something?!
Maybe not, actually. Enkhjargal seems a bit oblivious. “So! Can we get started? I know it’s a bit early.”
“Um, sure!” You smile, trying to hide your awkwardness. Because, well…you really, really hope Calvina isn’t just getting you to teach her fairweather friend or ex-girlfriend or whatever just because it’s convenient…
You have to admit, Enkhjargal is…spirited.
Actually, a better way of putting it would be a ‘genius’. Sure, it’s unfair pitting someone so fit and well-trained in general against some kids who barely know one end of a foil from the other, but even then…
It’s like she was born to hold a sword. She grasped the differences in rules between kendo and fencing instantly, and only took a short time to grasp the basics of each of the weapons.
But…but just maybe, there’s one thing you can be proud of?
“Halt!” Calvina yells, as once more you gain the match point. Even though your sabre technique’s a bit rusty, you’re able to outdo Enkhjargal’s raw talent with your experience and skill. That’s quite an achievement with such an accomplished athlete, you think!
“Hah…” Enkhjargal removes her mask, smiling brightly at you. “You’re really good.”
“Well, I mean, I’ve been doing this a lot longer,” you say. “And I’m nothing compared to Calvina.”
“Hm, you say that, but…it was like you were responding to my movements better and better every moment.” Enks smiles wider, and aaaaaaaa, y-you’re really not used to being the senpai! A girl like this is praising you, y-you don’t know how to react –
Wait. She said you were reacting better moment by moment, right? You can’t tell her this, of course, but…could it be true?
Maybe it’s the Gamer System? Maybe it keeps track of attributes even below what it takes to make a point increase. That’d explain how you were able to compete with Milia on her home turf, and it lends more credence to your theory that grinding requires a social element or an expert of some kind to push you.
(It’s definitely not that you’re just good at this. Because you’re not. Not compared to Calvina, anyway…)
“Hm. Maybe I’m psychic?” you joke, pulling off your own mask.
“Well, I could always check,” Enkhjargal says, and she places a finger on your forehead…! Wah, this is too much, way too much!
“H-hey!” You end up blushing horribly, trying to look away. I-it’s really embarrasing –
“Hm, no third eye here,” she says with a big grin. Oh, it was a joke. Ehe. You’re not used to strangers being so touchy-feely.
“Even if I did have one, do psychic powers go through fencing masks? It’s all metal and everything.”
“You make a good point. Regardless, I think I’ve learned a lot from you.” Your famous opponent pulls away, and gives you a deep bow. “Thank you for teaching me, Cibele. I hope to learn a great deal from you in the future.”
T-there’s no way…you can’t be a cool senpai to someone so accomplished. Maybe she’s just making things up? Or trying to be polite toward Calvina’s kohai? You check, despite yourself…
Enkhjargal’s mind feels like metal plates atop a soft interior. There are sharp, prickly edges to it, but overall it’s smooth and cool to the touch. Like a knight’s armor, perhaps. Reaching for it, you listen in on her thoughts…
– she’s really talented. I must thank Calvina for this, I was worried when she said she wouldn’t teach me personally. But I needn’t be, Cibele really is a genius –
…aaaaaaand you just go bright red. Which Enkhjargal just responds to by putting a hand on your forehead. Too close–! “Hm? You don’t have a fever or anything, do you?”
“N-no, I think I just need some water!”
“Drink some of mine,” the verdette says, and where did she get tha–mmph! With a single motion, she pushes you to hydrate! A-ah, if she does this with all her kendo students, she must be really popular!
…fudgin’ heck, this cutie Enkhjargal will be the death of you. Talented and touchy-feely both…be still your dumb gay heart.
(Calvina still seems to be trying to avoid her, but – she seems like a nice person. She can’t be that bad, right?)
Mistress of Swords
Increase ability to avoid attacks. Increase reflexes. Increase aptitude with some weapons. Also affects balance and grace. Increase through delicate activity.
Aah, the talent of a fencer. And…well, other things. You can do so much with your fingers…or your tongue. They’ll never crave anyone as much as you once you’re done with them.