Wednesday, May 12th, Reiwa 42.
School was more or less uneventful today. Seul-ki is still looking at you with those eyes, and Stella is still avoiding your gaze. It should really only be a matter of time before your study date, though! In the meantime, you have someone else taking up your full attention.
It’s been a long time since you’ve visited Korri’s place, even if it’s close to yours. You’re pretty sure it’s been months, at minimum. Definitely last year, at any rate.
And there’s a good reason for that! It’s the same reason she visits your place whenever she gets the chance – her parents are, to put no fine a point on it, shitheels.
(You can’t even be cutesy about it. That’s how bad it is…)
But Korri’s an only child, which makes it much easier to find private spaces in her home than in yours. Without homework as an excuse, you aren’t getting that at home; and so, you stand here before this decrepit gate, without really knowing why.
…okay, fine, it’s just the door to a townhouse. And you know exactly why you’re here! There’s no reason to be melodramatic all the time, Cibby! (Just, uh, most, probably?)
Even so, it does feel a little dangerous, doesn’t it? You’ve gained new abilities to further shape and understand minds, and Korri is entrusting you her heart. You’ll have to be responsible, at least a little bit…though, the plus side of all of this is, you can help her so much more, too. There’s really no need to be scared, as long as you act responsibly!
Korri’s house is a tiny two-storey unit nestled in against a bunch of similar units, bearing a façade of flat panel siding with a bit of brick and concrete. Small townhouses like these are usually relatively cheap, as non-apartment homes go in Southern Sun. Calvina says they’re actually a holdover from urban planning prior to the implementation of the new cities and the Reiwa Accord; Verwest is neatly nestled between both eras of Southern Sun, being dominated neither by low-rise or high-rise residences. It’s really cramped inside, even for a family of three; that said, it’s really not so bad when it’s just the two of you. It’s almost cozy, y’know?
You press the doorbell, and Korri doesn’t even need to check the camera before letting you in. The black-haired girl’s all smiles, bundled in yet another hoodie that hides most of her figure. “Cibby! You came!”
“Of course I did, Korri! You invited me, remember?” You give your very best friend a peace sign and a bright grin. “We don’t have too too long, but we should have plenty of time for this.”
Korri reaches out, wrapping you in her arms, as if she’d float away if she didn’t cling to you. She’s so warm…to you, she really is the cutest cutie you could ever ask for. She’s just so lovely in your eyes, and her happiness means everything to you…
You squeeze her tight. (As you might a prized possession, as if someone else might snatch her away if you ever let her go.)
“Listen, I’ll make you an Americano, okay?” Korri nuzzles into you, and a pang of desire fills you for the briefest of moments before she pulls away. “The Moka pot’s been lonely, I bet, without you!”
“Sure thing!” You step past the threshold and lock the door behind you. It’s pretty dark in here, compared to your place; there’s a lot fewer windows, and the lights are pretty dim. The air conditioning is turned up so much even you feel a bit chilly, the solar panels on top of the building pulling double duty for the sake of a family less adapted to the heat than yours. As Korri steps into the kitchen to make you your coffee, you sit down on a couch in the messy living room, worlds away from your family’s fastidiously clean living space.
So many memories here…if only they were good memories. And that’s just for you – you can’t imagine how it must feel for Korri, who has to live here. Who has to put up with the kind of people who wear false smiles to you, and then talk sorbet about you and your family behind your back.
But, never mind that. You’re here to help Korri ease her burden. To see light, to see hope – however faint it might be.
Well, besides her family, Korri’s has a lot of trouble when it comes to the idea of ‘love’ or ‘sex’. She’s described it to you quite a few times, in your arms, in tears – she’s not really ‘asexual’, like she tells people to get them off her back (because, let’s face it, plenty of people would love to have Korri due to her ‘vulnerable’ image, even in the gosh-darned Reiwa era), but more just…damaged. Her time in Cornwall, her ancestral home far from the shores of Southern Sun, brought her great misfortune when it comes to romantic and sexual things, lasting traumas that you’ve never been able to help heal.
Even beyond that, living there was pretty bad in other ways. She’s told you that everyone in the old democracies believes the world’s going to end soon, and so they act like they have nothing to lose. You think she’s exaggerating based on a limited experience – Cornwall isn’t all of Old England, let alone all the world outside Southern Sun – but the stories she’s told definitely paint a picture of a world, a nation, devoid of hope. A world her parents rejoined, for the sake of their own greed…and came crawling back here, when they realized they’d been scammed.
She’s been hurt, so much.
She’s been hurt so much, and yet still, she smiles for you.
…in this moment, sitting in this home of hers, knowing all the pain Korri carries with her every day of her life, the curses she bears deep within her…you don’t really care about your own selfish desires for her love and affection. Nor even your desires for her body, or her kiss. Even if you desire to reshape her mind, maybe that desire, in this case, isn’t so bad?
Because today, you just want to understand her pain, and see her smile.
After a few minutes, Korri comes in with your coffee – a piping hot Americano from an induction Moka pot, with lots of cream and sugar, just like you like it – and you sip slowly as she lays down upon the couch, you on a chair right next to it. “It’s been a while since I’ve made it for you, Cibby, so it’s probably not great –”
“No! It’s good!” You drink a bit more of it before putting it down, licking the taste of it off your lips “It’s alright. Before we start, Korri, let me ask again: do you trust me?”
(That single word pulses across your senses, even the ones Korri doesn’t know you have.)
(…not just yet.)
You nod in acknowledgement, and look down upon your subject
(yours). “Please, get comfortable for me,” you say, letting Korri settle into place, closing her eyes as she once more entrusts herself to your words, your hands, your will.
It’s…it’s as terrifying as it is comforting.
There so many turbulent emotions inside you, competing against one another…but, that’s your burden, not Korri’s. As long as you have these powers, and no one to trust with that information, you’ll have to live with it, as best you can.
(You don’t plan to keep it a secret forever from those close to you, but right now? It has to stay that way.)
(To Korri, most of all.)
Your hands rest upon the sides of Korri’s head, and she closes her eyes, smiling under your presence. Korri’s mind is so close, and focused entirely on you.
Your new ability – your Thought Delver, an evolution of your telepathy – shows you a new nature to Korri’s mind. The eyes that seep blood inside her brain, are merely the surface of her thoughts. Your Suggestion, and presumably your other Enchantment abilities, can shape that mind like a solid mass, making impressions within it, be it on the surface level or perhaps – and it makes your heart race, to think about – far beneath, deep within something like a soul.
With your Delver skill, you cannot leave such an impression, but you can push deep within her, and know her thoughts all the more intimately than you ever could before.
To put it another way – if Skimming, the shallow telepathy you’ve been using up until now, is treading water…then your new Delving is diving in. And like diving, you’ll need lots of practice to be able to do it further and longer…not to mention safer.
You begin with Skimming, as before. Reading the impression of those thoughts on the surface, those she’s consciously aware of, those she’s actively generating.
…Cibby seems more confident lately! I hope I’ve been helping her…and, I hope she doesn’t think it’s weird that I enjoy this. Being in her hands, it’s…
…it’s not a sexual feeling, you think. Nor even a romantic one. It’s a very strong friendship, isn’t it?
And yet, it’s still such a temptation. But you’ll resist. In this moment, Korri needs a friend, not a lover.
(…for now, anyway.)
Breathing deep to steady yourself, not knowing what will happen…your sixth sense pushes beyond the surface. As you dive inside Korri, Delve inside her, the words that her conscious thoughts form fall away into images and impressions. Glassy eyes filled with reflections, like Korri is a kaleidoscope, filled with myriad pictures and memories. Flashes of the dark history, the parts of her she hides behind that smile.
(It’s so beautiful, isn’t it?)
(And yet, of course it is. Korri is more beautiful than she could ever know.)
So much of it is composed of you. Your smile, your hand, your touch. Your ability to be there for her even in the darkest of times. How lonely she was when she didn’t have you, how hard it was upon the decaying, drowning island of Great Britain. How happy she was to return to Southern Sun, even if it meant her family was there too.
You were always there.
You are always there.
Cibby is always there.
I will be with you.
Cibby is always there for me.
Until hope has fully withered.
Cibby has been there, since I returned. From the first moment. Without her, I’d be lost. I want this friendship to be forever.
You don’t hesitate to kill for ‘humanity’, do you?
I need it.
Without it, I’ll go back.
Back to that place. Back to that time. I need to smile for them. I need to smile or they’ll know I’m hurting. Or they’ll hurt me more.
Teachers. Students. Parents. Friends.
If the world ends, it doesn’t matter how I feel. If the world ends, if the world ends, it’s my fault.
I’m not like other girls. I’m not like other people. I’m broken. I deserve to be hurt. There’s no marks on me I didn’t make myself. They didn’t beat me. I have no excuse to ask for help. I need to go crawling back. I’m a genius, my grades should be good. I’m only good for sex.
I deserve to be locked up.
Why won’t they lock me up anymore? At least then I’ll know they’re being honest.
I can’t smile anymore, except for Cibby.
I need the only light in my world. Maybe she can save me.
Millions will die. Exciting, don’t you think?
Maybe she can save me before I kill someone.
Maybe not even myself.
Help me, Cibby.
H̵e̷l̴p̴ ̷m̶e̶ ̵–̴
Korri reaches out, and touches your face. Tears have dripped down from your eyes, before you even realized at all.
And that was only a fraction of Korri’s pain, a tiny fraction of the countless reflections within her.
Feeling…feeling all of that at the forefront, feeling in such detail everything Korri has thought, all the things she hides for you behind that smile…it’s too much.
“I…I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, Korri I’m so sorry I can’t –”
“Ah, Cibby, if this is making you uncomfortable, I’m so sorry, I…”
You sniffle, suddenly so conscious of the emotions that washed over you. Ah, you wanted to have some privacy to test your Delving, to see how you’d respond, but – but maybe, maybe it wasn’t the best idea, because all that pain has hit you all at once, and you can’t stop crying…
“It’s…it’s not your fault…!” You sniffle again, the tears, the feelings caught in your throat. Korri told you that she feels emotions more intensely than others! Her mind is so beautiful, but it all hit you so hard, you can’t, you just can’t! “I…I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you! Being here – being here reminds me, that I could do so much more, I should do so much more –”
Korri shakes her head, turning around to wrap her arms around your shoulders! “It’s not…it’s okay, Cibby! No one’s here, I…it’s okay. You’re here with me. That’s what’s important. If you’re here, I don’t mind, okay? I really don’t mind…”
…but it’s not true. She feels guilty. She feels guilty that she made you feel this way.
And that hurts even more.
It hurts, that Korri has been made to feel this way, but it hurts even worse that she doesn’t want you to feel it, she doesn’t want you to feel pain because of her, even though all of her pain is justified, and she’s the one who should be upset. She deserves to cry all the tears in the world, and that you can make her smile – truly, genuinely smile, when you’re around – is the most wonderful feeling, but it’s not enough.
She shouldn’t feel guilty. For anything.
You don’t know what future-past-you wants you to do with this power, besides to find love. What ‘saving the world’ means, or who the Queen is, or anything like that. Heck, for all you know she made it all up, or you’ve been hallucinating ever since that truck hit you, or you’re dead and this is just the last flickers of thought before you reach oblivion.
But you make a promise to yourself, right then and there.
You will create a world in which Korrigan Trelawney never has to cry again.
Eventually, you recover somewhat from your botched first Delving attempt – and learned, you hope, some valuable lessons about going in unprepared. The coffee has gone cold.
Korri’s in your lap now, and you’re squeezing her tight. It’s almost like being lovers, you imagine, and yet you can’t imagine Korri feels the same way. Being as touch-starved as she is…and with you, the only person she trust enough…
“Would you…do you, do you still want me to hypnotise you? Can I…?”
“I would do anything for you, Cibby.”
…she can say those words so easily, because she can’t see inside your mind, nor can she know what you’re capable of.
(if it’s Korri, you want so badly to believe that she’d say that even if she knew.)
At this point, you don’t have a lot of time before you have to leave for Rita’s class. Barely enough for a whole induction. Your library tells you that even if you intended to use I Want The Control like you never, ever should – you’d need to bring her into a trance far deeper than the one you’d feel comfortable with right now.
But there’s time enough. To do something only you can do.
You clap your hands, three times…and watch, as Korri starts to fade. As you help ease her burden, letting go of her strings, letting her sink into the couch…it’s a shallow trance, but it’s enough. You hold this power over her.
You’ve seen inside a girl your lessers, who could never understand her true beauty, have called ‘ugly’ and ‘broken’…and you love her even more, now, knowing what she’s survived to be here, within your grasp. Knowing that she smiles for you.
(Soon, you’ll take away her pain.)
“Korri…where do you feel safest?” you whisper, from behind. (Your breath is so close to her ear. She’s so beautiful.)
“In the dark,” she whispers in return. “I only feel safe when it’s dark, and I can’t see. It means no one can see me.”
Darkness is a friend to people like Korri. And in Southern Sun, where the heat scorches the city and lingers in the humid atmosphere, darkness is a welcome reprieve from the burning light.
You had this idea earlier, so you’re already prepared. You have your phone, linked in to the house’s windows and lights. The other is still on Korrigan’s head, rubbing her temple in a slow circle. You tap your phone, and…
The windows dim and darken. The lights in the house are still on, but the sun cannot reach her.
“Korri, I’m going to switch off all the lights. With each light that goes off, you’re going to sink into trance…” You go into the induction, with your words, with your voice. Guided by your librarian, you muster up that strength you have within you, that blooms so powerfully when you hold a girl’s head in your hands. That strength, which can guide Korri into a land of safety and comfort, so very far from her memories of the Duchy of Cornwall.
Your voice’s power has increased with Charisma and experience – and of course, confidence and resolve – helping things along, helping Korri sink so heavy and perfectly and wonderfully in your strong arms. But truth be told, it’s mostly that Korri is helping the trance herself, because she knows how it’s supposed to feel, and can bring herself down too.
So cooperative. So lovely. It helps heal your heart from the reflection of her pain, knowing that your power can make her happy.
Korri nods her assent, and your left thumb carefully taps your phone’s screen, your Dexterity letting you work with perfect timing and grace.
You switch off the kitchen light.
You switch off the entrance light.
You switch off the upstairs lights.
You switch off the living room light…
And darkness takes you both, only the light of your phone briefly illuminating your surroundings before you turn it off, placing both of you in pitch darkness.
You used to be afraid of the dark, once, when you were in kindergarten. But Korri told you that darkness was a friend, and you never, ever forgot.
You reach out to hold Korri’s hand. “Can you feel my hand, Korri?”
“mhm…feels nice,” she says, in that entranced voice you so love. (At least in the darkness you won’t ruin the moment by seeing Korri’s surely beautiful hypnotised face…)
“Does my hand make you feel safe?”
You squeeze that hand tighter. “I want you to remember my hand, Korri. I want you to remember how it feels to be here, with me, in the darkness, holding my hand. Can you tell me how it feels?”
“warm, and safe,” says Korri.
“Then keep that feeling inside your head. Whenever you want, whenever you need, you can imagine my hand. And you can have all those warm and safe and nice feelings, and I’ll be there with you, in the dark, protecting you. Helping you.”
“Whenever you need, wherever, just hold my hand. And I’ll save you, Korri. Like I always have.”
“okay.” You can barely see it, even with enhanced Adaptability, but you know Korri’s smiling. “thank you.”
…you stay there, for a while, in the dark, and hold Korri so close in your arms, until it’s time to go to class.
If…if you can do something like this with your hypnosis, with your control, then your powers are worth it.
You’ll do your best to save the city, save your future, but if you can just make Korri smile…
it’s all worth it.