It’s No Game

Ⅲ.7: Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too

by Queen Fiona

Tags: #dom:female #f/f #hypnosis #Late_Reiwa_Era #pov:top #sub:female #D/s #gamemechanics #multiple_partners #mystery #romantic #second_person #worldbuilding
See spoiler tags : #bad_thoughts #corruption #cuties #cyberpunk #minced_swears #superhero #yurification

Most of the family isn’t home by the time you are, so you take the chance to grab a shower upstairs. Nice and warm and steamy, and a good opportunity to dye your roots – the black is growing in behind the blue again. Hmn, maybe you should get a haircut, soon? Or, maybe it’d be better to grow it out more…

Your thoughts still drift toward Milia and Seul-ki, as they did before…and Stella, too.

Yi Seul-ki. Your teacher, the giver of ‘wisdom’. The person you’ve wanted so badly, but even your pre-Gamer self knew better than to pursue…

You think of the way she tapped her pointer, like a metronome. Tap, tap, tap. Slow, methodical…enveloping. You weren’t hypnotised or anything (you think, anyway?), but surely, if you allowed it to happen, it’d be easy, wouldn’t it? And it’s hard not to imagine it, let alone –

ah, what if Milia got hypnotised by you and Seul-ki at the same time?! You could both have her glassy-eyed between your arms, pressing your chests against her, you whispering in one of her ears, Seul-ki in the other –

no, bad thoughts, bad thoughts! Don’t make this all weird!

Okay, so you have access to Milia. You have your new Thought Delver. You have Suggestion. Heck, by the time the date happens you might have another useful skill. You can find out exactly what their connection is! You could even delve into Seul-ki if you get a chance, though she’s probably going to be perceptive enough to make it risky.

…Milia.

She really brings out your ‘S vibes’, doesn’t she? Not that this whole hypnofetish thing doesn’t, or anything, but something about the Empress draws out a more explicit ‘sadist’ streak. Your desire for heroism, to spread your ideals against evil, twists itself when faced with such a representation of evil…with such a stupid sexy face.

Or maybe she just makes you so mad you wanna punch her face in! Just, y’know, heroically.

(…or sexily, apparently.)

That…tantalizing feeling, though. That sense in the back of her mind that, if you wanted, you could’ve made her feel aroused, sexually, from losing to you. That you could start to turn her toward a masochistic streak, one she might not even know she has, one you might well just be creating.

You can feel that part of you, that sadistic part of you saying: just grind her under her heel until she begs. Not for mercy, but for more.

Because Cibele is a form of ‘Cybele’…the mother goddess. If Milia is an Empress by her name, clearly you’re a Goddess, someone even an Empress must kneel to.

…ah, Goddess?

You feel a heat growing in your cheeks as you think of it. Goddess. Goddess. Milia’s Goddess, or even Stella’s Goddess.

Something about that really feels good, fits neatly in some part of your brain or your heart. It’s arrogant, but it’s still…it’s still kind of sexy, right? A Goddess, you think, as you blush even in the heat of your shower.

Your fingertips touch your lips. Or rather, one hand’s fingertips touch one pair of lips, and the other touches the other.

An image of yourself in a stained-glass window…there is something appealing about that, isn’t there? I-it’d be really egotistical, though…! A stained-glass window, an image of a pigtailed Goddess?

A Goddess.

The image fills you with passion, and desire. A-and yet, you can’t help but think you’re thinking far too many steps ahead, let alone whether such a thing would even be good in the first place. You can’t just go mad with power!

But…

(thinking of Stella and Milia kneeling before you, you in front of the stained-glass window that shows you in effigy…)

(it fulfills something fundamental, within you, that you’d never realized existed before.)

(And besides.)

(A Sunset shareholder’s daughter is hardly the worst kind of person to bring under your power, if you want to become a heroine, is it?)


Once you pop out of the shower, hair still left down as you wander toward your room, you notice the light under Marq’s doorframe. Most of the family isn’t here still, but it seems Marq ducked out early tonight, huh? He can tolerate meat a lot more than you can, but the crowds are still going to be a bit of an issue – and not every member of the extended Epeli or Imanis families is totally affable. So you can understand that…

May as well check on him! Not before changing into your nightie, mind you, but once you do:

“Hey, can I come in?” you ask, knocking gently on the door.

“Sure, sure.” There’s something on his speakers, you can faintly hear from behind the door…

As you open up, you notice that today’s posters all seem to be ponies, or humanized ponies at least. Multicolored horses…well, some of them are kind of cute? And the humanized ones, too, there’s an appeal. And on one of his monitors?

“Young candidate, make a contract with the Goddess, and tell her your name!”

A black-haired woman in glasses, in a dress that resembles a black swan, is leading some kind of ceremony, with a girl kneeling to her, surrounded by other girls in colorful robes. Hung upon the wall is a symbol, an eight-pointed star flanked by a goddess’ wings beneath, and runic words…if you remember correctly, they read das Ewig-Weibliche, ‘the Eternal Feminine’ – not that you can read it yourself, but it came up in one of Seul-ki’s lectures about new religious movements.

“Huh…what’s this?” you ask, peeking over Marq’s shoulder as he pauses his video.

“Mmm. It’s a contracting ceremony,” your brother says, pointing at the screen. “Candidates for the Fourth Order, those who follow the path of the Adversary, tell the Goddess their name so that she will remember it, just as her followers remember the Goddess in return. In this, they make a contract – and thus, their name is inscribed somewhere it will never be forgotten, even if the world around them forgets.”

“So they never forget…”

“It’s also just a celebration, you know? A new girl coming into the lives of the Order’s coven. The Coordinator gets everyone together, it’s a happy occasion. The Goddess is happy to get a new girl to protect, so why shouldn’t the Order be too?”

Religion…religion isn’t something you understand very well. To the girl kneeling on the screen, this looks like the most important moment in her life; and the woman (presumably a Coordinator) certainly looks happy, despite her surely having performed many other ceremonies like this in the Goddess’ name. You don’t understand why someone would worship something like ‘magical girls’, either, but…

it reminds you of a question.

A question you’ve never actually had the courage to ask, but in this moment – during this time, when your family does something that’s so important to them, that’s so strange to you – feels important to get a straight answer for.

“Marq, do you believe in God?”

And with that, Marq turns around in his chair to face you. “…nineteen years, and that’s the first time you’ve asked me that question, huh.”

“I-it’s an awkward question to ask!” You wave your hands around frantically! “It’s like, it’s not something you just ask someone, even if they’re family!”

“Well, I’ve never asked you, either. Not that I’ve ever needed to, but: do you believe in God, Cibele?”

“…I don’t.” You shake your head. You’re not sure you ever have, really; you may not be as blatant as Aunt Vesta about it, but it’s hardly a secret.

Especially not this time of year – Eid al-Adha.

Traditionally, it’s a celebration where animals are sacrificed in God’s name. Animals aren’t allowed in Southern Sun, of course; across the world, religions have had to adapt to a post-Collapse era and its attitudes toward livestock, but one thing remains true here in Southern Sun – it’s a time when everyone gets to eat meat. The entire community donates money to purchase large amounts of meat, including normally-expensive farmed varieties only the rich would normally eat. Families like yours that don’t usually partake in meat at all take this occasion to do just that in honor of God and tradition, and poorer families have a rare chance to eat meat they might never otherwise get a chance to. (Especially important, for recent climate refugees – part of why you can’t get entirely upset on principle.)

It’s a time of celebration and culture, and you’d never deny that to your family, but you personally?

You just…you can’t stand meat. Cultured meat is…tolerable, but not ideal. Farmed meat, on the other hand, makes you sick just to look at, let alone remembering how it was made, or the consequences its production has for the planet. The idea of spending an entire week visiting family or the mosque to look at those ‘sacrifices’ is something you do your best to avoid. Or worse, being pressured to eat.

Not too long ago, you thought about how you go through the motions of the religious background noise of your life. And you stand by that, but…if it’s meat, farmed meat, that’s one line you refuse to cross. Even if people would accept you there without eating it, you don’t want to be reminded, and the pressure and expectation is always there.

…it’s little things like that. Disagreeable traditions, unanswered prayers, small pressures and conflicts. No single moment of disbelief, just death by a thousand cuts; it makes you roll your eyes a little at people who describe grand disconnects from religion, grand crusades against the idea of ‘God’, when to you there was never such a moment – and never needed to be.

“Well, I do.”

…case in point.

“Really? I guess…I guess I always figured, since you get along so well with Aunt Vesta and all…”

Marq turns around in his chair again, facing the monitor once more. “Mm. How to explain this…”

“What, the Twilight Sparkle wig?” you joke, poking at a mass of multicolored hair he’s placed atop a pile of boxes, no doubt retrieved from Marq’s closet. “Where’d you find this from?”

“Friend wanted help with a costume for Halloween back in high school.” Your brother shrugs. “I got the wig, but he bailed on it, and it just got left in a box somewhere.”

“Crossplay?”

“Well, you know, femboys and all. Think he mixed up Twilight Sparkle with Stocking.”

“And this…” There’s a small box under the wig. “Is that a hairpin –”

Before you can take a close look, Marq snatches it up and ferrets it away somewhere on his desk. “Ah – that’s not important. Just a gift for someone.”

“Someone you like?” Marq doesn’t talk about his crushes much – he likes to joke that you’ll steal them away otherwise. (Might be why he’s never said word one about Korri there.)

“Something like that.” Your brother turns back to his computer. “But…mm. There are, what, two billion Muslims in the world, right?”

“Give or take.” The Collapse, and the post-Collapse baby boom, both fudge with the numbers a little. “Of course, those kinds of figures are pretty iffy.”

“In raw terms, sure. If you look at Christianity, in particular, drawing the distinction between mere theism and a devout faith is sometimes pretty difficult. But in any population, in any nation where something like a ‘religion’ is a commonplace part of life, where those practices and cultures are a part of life, you can still place someone within a ‘Christian’ or ‘Muslim’ world. People like Aunt Vesta are rarer than you’d think; conscious refusal of a holiday or practice is much more difficult than people take credit for.”

“Hmn, that’s true…” You have to admit, seeing other students go around wearing Santa hats every December is kind of annoying. It’s the southern hemisphere, darnit! And even if it weren’t, it never snows here, not even on the top of Mt. Kaguya! And there are no chimneys, either!

“In that respect, even those who do not consciously consider themselves devout still participate in the surrounding cultural system, inspired by a belief in, say, ‘Allah’. That goes all the more for societies where religion is the basis for law, in whole or part. Given this…

“I don’t believe humans have the capacity to grasp something like ‘God’. I think it’s a quiet arrogance to assume that we know enough about existence to even state definitively that such a thing could exist at all.”

“And I don’t think we’re lucky enough to live in a world where something like ‘God’ exists, I guess,” you mutter. “Maybe, if I’d lived through the Collapse, I’d think differently…”

“Or you’d just reject it because you did. Plenty of people thought, back then, that God had abandoned them. But that’s not my point – my point is the idea of ‘God’ being an actual entity, a physical existence that humanity can understand, is irrelevant. Two billion people either believe, or participate within a society that believes, that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Prophet. In that respect, even if that particular conception of God, or any conception of God or gods exists, ‘God’ – that is, ‘Allah’, in our case – is, in some way, very real.”

“I’m not quite sure I understand…” Is this not an Adaptability thing? Maybe instead, you need ‘Wisdom’? Or, could it require currently nonexistent Faith…?

“It’s quite simple, really. When I pray, across Southern Sun, other Muslims pray with me. In that moment, we’re tied together by ‘religion’, by our culture. And alongside them, all other Muslims across the world. It’s the same with the Christian Sunday mass, or the Jewish Sabbath. Holidays like these, like Eid al-Adha, bind the world together – much more so, in the days before mass media. The concept of ‘God’ affects all of us, and within that concept, human beings are connected to one another.

“In that respect, I reach the same conclusion; there is something like ‘God’, regardless of any implicit physical existence thereof. Even those who don’t still reflect the society they were born in; the way Aunt Vesta dresses is pretty modest, and she wouldn’t have trouble blending in at the mosque today at all. Ask her, and she’d probably never have thought about it; even if she rejects God and religion, she still carries that past with her, you know?

“Besides. Think of history class – of outsiders banning the hijab, justifying it as ‘feminism’, when in nations like Algeria it was always considered an act of cultural rebellion against a colonial government that tried to deny Muslims their culture.” Not that your immediate family wears them most of the time outside the mosque, but headscarves aren’t universal, especially not here in Southern Sun with so many Indonesian Muslims around. “Heh. Aunt Vesta once told me some girl in high school praised her for rejecting the sexist headscarf, and she punched the racist in the face! Even she’s not going to deny the connection of religion and culture, you know?”

“Didn’t Vestal Virgins wear veils?” You giggle a bit – Aunt Vesta’s pretty cool sometimes. “Mm. As a concept, sure…I guess I can understand all that.” It rather clashes with Seul-ki’s words on the subject, mind you – but you get the feeling Seul-ki and Aunt Vesta would get along. Both of them are openly atheists, and the former has encouraged skepticism in ways large and small in her class, just as she did in that lecture just before Golden Week. (It helped you put words to your feelings, at least.) “But you don’t find it confining? You aren’t worried about falling short in God’s eyes, or anything?”

Marq clears his throat. “Sahih al-Bukhari 39: ‘Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded; and gain strength by worshipping in the mornings, the afternoons, and during the last hours of the nights.’“

Ugh, that’s even more confusing! “So…what, ‘perfection is fleeting, embrace mediocrity’?”

Marq snorts in amusement, shaking his head. “You have a way with words, Cibs. No, what I mean is…for me, I think, living my life in this way is the best thing I can do. It’s a way of guiding myself, centring myself in a world and culture like this, giving myself something to cling to. It doesn’t have to be a grand burden; I’m sure a lot of people would be upset with me for it, but the absolute inflexibility of faith always has exceptions in the real world.

“After all, in the Golden Age, peoples of other faiths lived in Muslim lands. And as it is today, freedom of religion is a concept maintained despite the letter of many of those religions rejecting the possibility of salvation through others. And so too, do religions evolve to allow people like you to exist within them, where the letter may state otherwise – or have been interpreted otherwise. Again, we return to the ‘idea of God’, and how humans might reach it; it’s an imperfect process, and I’m simply reaching for it in a way I feel honors my family and community.”

“…well, what about atheism? You’re not just writing it off, are you?”

“Not at all. The binding of something like ‘religion’ isn’t absolute. The words ‘God is dead’ refer not to the literal death of a deity, but the death of the possibility of God’s existence. Nietzsche may have overreached in speaking in absolutes, but that postmodern assumption – a society where ‘God’ is no longer necessary – still rings true.

“In Old America, in the twilight of the Collapse, the belief in ‘God’ became largely irrelevant to the political landscape of the time. Christianity could no longer be counted on to unify its adherents, even within a single denominations. By the end, they rallied behind leaders who gleefully violated all they claimed to believe, even alongside atheists they had previously rejected. Perhaps their faith was simply in ‘America’…well, that’s a much longer lecture. I’m a psychologist, not a historian.”

“I get the idea…but you didn’t answer my question.”

“Right, Cibs, think of it this way. It is a very scary thing, a very difficult thing, for a human to choose to believe in nothing. Thus, in the tradition of postmodernism, human beings find something else to hold self-evident – a nation, perhaps. A set of moral or ethical beliefs, disconnected from theism. Something to ‘live for’, even if you have no gods to pray to.”

“This isn’t going to be an ‘athiests literally worship godless science’ thing, is it?”

“Pft, please. I’m not that kind of moron.” Marq chuckles bitterly. “I had to argue that one with a few professors. People still hold belief – belief that may not be rational, even if it’s not theistic. Perhaps it’s something like, ‘the world is fair’, or ‘actions have consequences’. A belief in a political struggle. Or an identity – say, your own identity, like the ‘candidate’ in this video. It’s no surprise you’re an atheist; you believe in ‘lesbianism’ far above anything like God.”

You giggle a bit. “I believe in yuri~”

“But you do have to admit, sometimes it is something like that. People’s belief in what artificial intelligence might do in the future…with how magical it can get, a lot of it’s barely distinguishable from theism, in practice. Hell, something like, ‘the future is something to look forward to’ is an article of faith – one that was hard to maintain in the face of climate change, but people really did just blindly hope it’d work out.”

“…wonder how that worked out, huh.”

“Why don’t you ask the Amazon rainforest?” asks Marq.

“More of an Amazon highway, these days.” Well do you remember your one visit to Brazil – and heck, you hated the farmed meat then, too. “I still don’t quite get it, though…” You’re not even sure you get what you’re supposed to be trying to get in the first place.

“People believe in things, regardless of whether they do so consciously or not. Doing so without consciously thinking about it is actually rather dangerous – much easier to lose sight of yourself that way, and be swayed into belief systems you never realized you were.” (Makes you wonder, if you have been pushed into one…) “The Fourth Order, I think, is ‘something to believe in’; a way of centring oneself within the context of Goddess and Adversary, for those girls and ‘candidates’ who can’t find something to believe in another religion, lest they get swayed into more dangerous and harmful beliefs.”

“Gods who used to be human are a lot closer to something I could believe in.”

“How so?” Marq asks.

“I know I had a lot of unanswered prayers when I was younger. Faith isn’t enough on its own, is it? If there’s no one to answer our prayers, then it’s up to us to answer them instead.” You shake your head. “I could just never understand why a perfect God would allow for the existence of evil.” A question Seul-ki has asked before.

And Marq decides to clear his throat again. “‘Some would ask, how could a perfect God create a universe filled with so much that is evil. They have missed a greater conundrum: why would a perfect God create a universe at all?’“

“…that doesn’t sound like a hadith,” you joke.

“It’s not. Heh.” Marq chuckles to himself, at whatever old-ass reference he made. “Maybe it’s a bit more sensible to think of an imperfect God, in some ways. An imperfect God would at least call more.”

…and you can’t help but giggle a little. “I’d answer your prayer anytime, Marq~!”

“Ehe.” Aw, he’s embarrassed! It’s kinda cute when you get him rattled. “Anyway, we live in a world of deep alienation, Cibs. If God is dead in any sense like Nietzsche’s words intended, I think we killed Him on purpose – not to any higher notion of accepting the truth of the universe, but because it becomes much easier to replace that faith with something else. Right now, that serves Sunset’s purposes, more than anything else. It’s not hopeless, but I think sometimes it’s good to remember that maybe you’ve been brainwashed too.”

“Haven’t we all…” You don’t…really understand ‘faith’, still. You don’t understand what about ‘faith’ can make someone strong, or how to believe in things like ‘God’. You don’t think that’s the path forward for you, yourself.

Then again…you think it depends on the individual. For one person, a belief in God could justify self-harming under the belief that it’s God’s plan; for another, that same belief could give them the courage to come out of the closet, like it did for these ‘candidates’. It makes you wonder, about Seul-ki’s words, about new religious movements, and cults…

(Would you ask them to believe in you, because you don’t believe in anything?)

“Look at this, Cibs.” Marq points to his monitor as he zooms in on the video. Through that window…wait.

No way…is that the Golden Gate Bridge?! Or at least what’s left of it…you didn’t even realize this was a newsreel from America before now!

“I thought the Fourth Order was just a local thing,” you say. “Lost Girls and all that?”

“Apparently not! Someone’s been exporting it to America, to bring these girls hope and love. Even in the darkest of skies, girls like that Coordinator must seem like angels; that’s what faith can do. That even in the darkest of moments, the darkest places, there can still be hope like this, even in nations where no one but the Goddess might remember your name.”

“Faith…” you whisper, barely able to hear.

(Faith in the Goddess, in a stained glass window.)

“Anyway,” says Marq, closing the video, “it’s not like what you do or don’t believe changes anything to me. You’re family, Cibs, and you really are amazing to me. Since the accident, you’ve been working hard, and I guess dedication does have reward sometimes.” Marq grins, and the feeling of his thoughts really is genuinely just, thinking you’re super amazing. It’s really quite humbling~! Your yuri-loving brother is the best ally you could ever ask for!

“I won’t give up on courage or kindness either!” You pump your fist. “But I will believe in love~”

“Attagirl. That said, I ate way too much, so I think I’ll be headed to bed soon.”

“Alright. I’d better get some rest myself.” You hug your brother from behind. “Thanks for chatting with me, Marq.”

“Anytime, Cibs,” he says with a smile, and you wander out into the hall, closing the door behind you.

“…faith,” you whisper, as you touch your fingers to your lips…

(Why is it that having this conversation made you think of Seul-ki’s lessons so much, anyway? It’s not like you weren’t always an atheist, but have you always felt this specific way about things?)

(Your beliefs, that you’d held so long, were so easily reshaped by her words. Without even realizing, you’d followed in her footsteps, happily following her wherever she led.)

(Just how much has Seul-ki been shaping you, in four short months?)

(And if she has been shaping you, is that really such a good thing, or is Marq right?)

(It it simply that, through Yi Seul-ki’s words, maybe you’ve been brainwashed too?)


Enchantment Branch: Charm

Charm T1: Charm Person. You may temporarily have one individual think of you as a trusted friend. They will answer questions they would consider reasonable, and they may perform actions for you if they would do so for a friend.

Note that though they won’t remember this ability being used per se, if your request or question is something they would never do for you normally, they may realize something was wrong. (This applies to your enemies; strangers will rationalize this more easily.)

Requires Suggestion.

Charm T2: Persistent Charm. A constant, passive ability. (It may be suppressed at will.) The longer you spend with an individual, the more influence you have over them, in the manner of a saleswoman. The upper limit of this effect depends on how close the individual is to you already. With enough time (several hours), you may eventually convince them of things they would normally never accept.

This can only be done with an individual, or a small group; the more targets you try to influence, the less effective this ability is.

These changes are long-lasting, though not necessarily permanent. The longer this person spends away from you, and the more your thoughts are normally opposed to theirs, are the basis of their resistance. Backing up your arguments with powerful rhetoric or rational thought will increase the length of this effect.

Requires Charm Person.

Charm T3: Seer’s Voice. An evolution of Persistent Charm. Your skill with supernatural persuasion has increased to its highest point; you may target more people (up to an entire crowd), get results in less time, and have longer lasting results with less risk. Within a single speech at a rally or assembly, you can create a crowd of fanatics who will eagerly advance your cause.

Though the effectiveness has increased overall, normally, the limits and limitations of your persuasion are not much different than Persistent Charm. However, if you have Intrusive Noise (Disruption T2), your ‘sales pitch’ continually short-circuits rational thought, to the point of actually reinforcing itself over time rather than decreasing. This also affects targets’ overall credulity, making the effect greater overall.

Requires Persistent Charm and Through The Cracks (Disruption T1).

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