You wake up in the same hospital bed you didn’t fantasize yourself to sleep in.
The menus are still there, when you call them, just like before.
Part Ⅰ: Draw The Blinds On Yesterday
Well, there’s no sense in just sitting around feeling sorry for yourself…
Nurses and doctors insisted, despite your own darned eyes, that you were injured in merely a low-speed collision and suffered nothing more than minor abrasions. Not even a concussion, which is weird…
But you get the feeling that isn’t necessarily procedure.
The staff are obviously pretty harried. Beds all around you are filled – some injuries look pretty bad, too. That’s how Southern Sun is right now; full of tension, not enough to go around, and if they can fast-track you out of the hospital even if they should keep you here for observation…that’s one more bed they can give to someone who really needs it.
You love this city, you truly do, but…you won’t deny that it’s getting to the point where it really needs a heroine.
…and so you pull out your phone, and sigh, looking at all the messages (after swiping away all the pointless plop no one cares about, of course). Top of the list is your mom, of course. Of all the nights for her to be at an all-night concert, and not get the call from the hospital until much later…
Later than you thought, really. You haven’t heard from her until this morning.
[05:59 04/30/42] laurenmayberryfan2013: Cibele! I just got the message on my phone. Are you okay?
[08:02 04/30/42] qubeley004: Yeah, I’m fine, mom. It was a low-speed collision. I’m not seriously hurt.
[08:10 04/30/42] laurenmayberryfan2013: I’m glad to hear it. Listen, I’ll send Marq over to pick you up, okay? I’ll leave the scooter for him.
[08:10 04/30/42] qubeley004: Got it! :white_heart: Be sure to tell Papa and everyone else I’m fine too, got it?
Well, you probably don’t need your brother to show up, but you won’t deny you’re a little wary of walking now. The next time you go out, Truck-kun is liable to actually send you to another world.
It’s a bit unlikely, but you peek over at Calvina…
[18:00 04/29/42] Reiterpallasch: You’re running late. Is everything alright?
[19:00 04/29/42] Reiterpallasch: Alright, I hope you’re okay. But try to give more advance notice next time.
(…you know you shouldn’t, but you feel really bad for letting Calvina down…)
[08:11 04/30/42] qubeley004: I’m sorry, I was in an accident…
[08:15 04/30/42] Reiterpallasch: Oh…so it’s something like that. My apologies. Are you alright?
[08:15 04/30/42] qubeley004: Yeah, I’m okay. It wasn’t serious. Even my phone made it out alright!
[08:16 04/30/42] Reiterpallasch: Mm. Maybe you should skip tonight’s practice, though. Just in case.
[08:17 04/30/42] qubeley004: I’ll think about it. Listen, I’ll tell you later, yeah?
[08:20 04/30/42] Reiterpallasch: Of course.
Seems about right. Calvina’s so serious, and you worry a lot about what she thinks of you. You look up to her, so gosh-darned much, that you can’t help but feel bad for this, even if she’s forgiven you, and even if it’s not your fault. It’s –
well, it’s tempting.
It’s really tempting, to figure out what it is she thinks of you. Does she look down on you, or does she really –
You’re interrupted by the presence of a nurse. Seems like standard checkup, triage stuff. You imagine you’ll probably be kicked out of here pretty quickly, because…
just look at all those beds.
As you take a closer look, if you had to take a guess…a lot of them are climate refugees. Migrants. Some look like they’ve suffered injuries; others simply look like they’re suffering chronic health issues that finally became too much to bear, or became subject to endemic diseases they’ve never been vaccinated for. The kind of people who might well have to foot the bill for this when all is said and done –
“O-oh.” You look to the nurse, nodding toward him. “Right. Uh…yeah, what do you need?”
“I’ll need to ask you a few questions in a bit, but I’d like to know if you consent to being released today.” You get the feeling he’s rather busy, and would like to get through this as quickly as possible. “If you feel you need more medical treatment –”
“No, I think I’m fine.” You shake your head. “That is, if the doctors think so!”
“I have to consult with them, still. You sure look alright to me, but – heh. I’m just a nurse, you know?” He forces a smile. “Lemme go get that sorted for you.”
“Sure!” You flash a peace sign, and then…toss yourself back into the pillow.
This city…this city needs a heroine. At the very least, all these people in the beds need a heroine. You may not like the powers you got, but they’re what you have to work with. Even you can think of ways to use them that aren’t wrong.
So, let’s start from the top.
So you got hit by a truck, in what was apparently one-in-a-million. Thanks to your Gamer’s Body, you survive, albeit with much confusion. Because of the full beds, medical staff are looking for any excuse to clear one, and in this case you’re all too happy to oblige.
Now, you’ve been given miraculous powers, and future-past-you is, for whatever reason, encouraging you to do nefarious things with them! To other girls! And, well, you have no idea why, and she’s not explaining near enough…
Perhaps, in the old timeline, she got these powers at the same time, but without any notes? Hmn. No, it seems like this is something she created for you. So if future-past-you got hit in that same accident without any Gamer’s Body…
Yeah, it bears little thinking about. You don’t know how fast, but it was a square-on hit; you’d not be surprised if you ended up in a coma after that! At least your new abilities are already helping, so small favors.
But to go any further, you need to pick one of your abilities. You can’t proceed from here without taking something, and of your three options, only one of them seems viable.
With a thought, you bring up your menu again in your mind’s eye, and flick through. There’s a page for the Developer’s Note (and presumably whatever else future-past-you deigns to add later), then a status screen which shows and explains your statistics and Skill Points, and then there’s your skill screen itself.
It’s set up into three different trees, actually – Hypnosis, Telepathy, and Enchantment. Each of these trees has a single starter skill which branches off into three branches with three tiers each, with a single capstone at the end that ties them all together.
Two of these three starter skills seem, uh…dubious at best. But in general, all three of the trees seem like they’ll be of some use to a heroine. Even Hypnosis, surprisingly enough…
Hypnosis grants you near-supernatural levels of knowledge of mundane ‘mind control’ phenomena – classical hypnosis, psychology, mentalism (in the ‘manipulative illusionist’ sense), social engineering, memetics, etcetera. It contains the Psychology, Induction, and Memetics branches.
Can any of this really work like that? Especially on the individual level? Well, if you’ve got psychic powers and magic too, that’s a bit of an odd hill to die on.
Even so, future-past-you has written notes for everything, seemingly to taunt you. (Tempt you?)
Aah, hypnosis…this is where I got started, you know. A matter of circumstance that let me discover my abilities. You’re a bright girl, Cibele, and Psychology is your favorite class. This is where I recommend starting.
Yeah, no. You’re not starting with its opener, ‘Instant Hypnotherapist’. Even if it is kind of intriguing –
no, bad thoughts, bad thoughts!
Anyway. Obviously, that’s not an option. Skimming through the skills suggests some of them might be useful, yes, but it’s really not worth the horrible temptation at this juncture.
(You’ll probably have to at some point, though. Each of the three skill trees is governed by one of your mental attributes, and raising them gives you points for only that tree. So when your Charisma goes up, you’ll get a Hypnosis skill point.)
Well, at least it’s less tempting than Enchantment…
Enchantment grants you magic spells that can compel certain courses of action, or alter someone’s perception of the world around them. It contains the Charm, Geas, and Disruption branches.
The starter skill is ‘Suggestion’.
It, uh, goes downhill from there.
Magic is absolutely real…or something like it, anyway. Sure, there’s something hotter about hypnosis, but isn’t there something special about being able to change a person’s mind with just a touch, a word? To warp their perceptions until they believe only what you want them to believe? So much potential.
How is that not being a villain?! Honestly, did future-past-you lose all her marbles at some point?
Right, so Suggestion is really not an option for your first skill. Again, you can see circumstances where these things are useful and not just imposing your will on cute girls, but if you’re avoiding temptation, the only tree that makes sense is, well:
Telepathy grants you psychic powers that give you the ability to read/alter minds, sense danger, or affect the physical world. It contains the Mentalism, Clairvoyance, and Override branches.
Yeah, psychic powers! Like being a Newtype or something! Plenty of these abilities seem abusable, but really, this seems like the best option for being a heroine, even if future-past-you has to continue ruining everything.
They say psychic powers aren’t about moving things with your mind…they’re about controlling your own mind. Close your eyes and clear your mind of excessive thoughts…or something like that, anyway. Well, maybe you can’t clear those thoughts, but you can certainly influence people!
“Mouuuu…” You’re just going to have to get used to it, aren’t you.
The opening skill for the Telepathy tree is ‘Thought Skimmer’, though. And of the bunch, despite the potential to violate someone’s privacy, it easily feels like the least unethical choice you could make to begin getting to know your abilities.
Telepathy Opener: Thought Skimmer. You may read surface thoughts from a single individual you are speaking directly to. You can also read their emotions to predict what actions would cause a desired response.
Even so, future-past-you’s words keep echoing inside your head. As if everything here could be used for the unethical purpose of altering minds, even the most innocent seeming skills, the ones inside the golden icons of the Telepathy tree. You’re really not comfortable doing anything that might play into her hands; whatever you do, you don’t want to become a villain, simply because you couldn’t resist the temptation.
But she’s set it up so you have no choice.
That said, you’re pretty sure a lot of these abilities are useful for more than just brainwashing people. Or even not useful for that at all! Precognition, social engineering…even some of the more mind-control-y stuff would be plenty useful when fighting some baddies. Enchantment’s an undervalued spell school! Having bad powers doesn’t make you a bad person, right? Despite the fact that merely having them tempts you…
If it’s like that, though?
Just think of it like a feat tax. You know, a thing you take because you have to, not because you want to.
“Mouuuuuuuuuuu…” you mutter to yourself again as you stare at the skill screen. One point. One skill. Then you can start using your newfound powers to make a real difference.
It’s not a huge temptation, right? You don’t need to. You’re sure you could find a girlfriend (or two, or several) just fine if you tried. And you don’t even have a mind control fetish, or anything!
Sure, future-past-you does, but who knows what she saw in a future so terrible she resorted to time travel to fix it? You’re not the same person. You have the chance to make things right!
All you need to do is…oh…oh, why does it has to be like thiiiiiiiiiiis
“Mrrnnmrnmgr…” you mutter nervously, biting your lip, considering this incredibly important decision…closing your eyes and shaking your head, you reach out and poke the non-existent tile with your finger.
As you do, the golden tile lights up in a pretty white glow, the icon of a person’s head and an electrocardiogram impulse shimmering as new paths open to you. Like a world of possibilities has –
oh. Oh no. Future-past-you has written even more notes! How many of these things does she have?!
Does this sound innocent to you? It’s not, you know. There’s so much you can do, even with just thoughts on the surface. Instantly knowing what the other person is really feeling…can’t you just use that, and become the perfect person for someone else, making them kneel to you without even changing their mind at all? Even Calvina…
Noooo, why does she have to do thiiiiiiiis, it was going so well before she decided to tease you again…it’s…it’s still not right.
Even if it would be so lovely to be Calvina’s perfect girl, it’s not right.
“Oh! Uh, yeah.” You hastily turn back to the nurse, hoping you didn’t look too weird to anyone watching. Lots of girls have cute verbal tics, it’s fine, right? “You need to check things with me, right?”
“Yes, that’s right.” The nurse taps a stylus on his tablet, looking down the list. “This’ll only take a few minutes and a signature, and you’ll be good to go.”
You smile and nod, listening carefully as the nurse takes your questions – most of it you just say ‘no’ to, really. But, even so, this strikes you as the perfect time to test out your new ability.
Reading anyone’s mind is going to be a tricky matter. Even so, you know you’re not, uh…the best at reading social cues. (At least, Calvina’s had to deal with you misreading them kind of a lot?) If it’s just surface thoughts, it doesn’t strike you as a massive violation. And if it’s someone in a professional context…
you reach out, with your consciousness.
You recall Korri telling you once that the brain has no nerves within it; it cannot ‘feel’ its own physical presence. But when you concentrate, you can feel it, now, like a phantom pain, some organ you never realized you possessed, yet was always within you.
Not only that, but you can sense the mind of the nurse in front of you. As he turns to his list, the presence fades…but when his gaze turns to you, that presence returns.
As someone in an anime said once, you can see it!
All you need to do is reach out, and…
I can’t believe we wasted a bed on this shit, the nurse thinks. What’s next, are we going to keep a kid in observation because he caught cooties?
…okay, all moral and ethical issues aside – that was awesome.
You…you have superpowers! Magic! Psychic powers! You’re a Newtype, or something! If this is a dream, you don’t know if you want to wake up! Screw future-past-you, if you can avoid the whole ‘brainwashing girls’ thing, you’re sure you can protect Southern Sun, and have fun doing it!
“…huh. You look like you’re in a good mood,” the nurse says, tapping the tablet. He’s more frustrated than he looks, but, you know that a job like this is the kind where people get upset. You’re not going to take it personally.
“Well, you know. I feel like something good’s going to happen today.”
“Today? It’s Walpurgis Night, isn’t it? I’m planning a big date with my boyfriend tonight at the Capsule Club.”
“In the Electric City? My brother’s always doing stuff this time of year.” It’s a special holiday for a lot of the refugees in the city, and a religious movement called the Fourth Order considers it sacred too. “Hm, are you and your partner secretly witches?”
“I don’t think so. Pretty sure I weigh more than a duck.” He smiles – and you can tell thanks to your Thought Skimmer ability that it’s genuine, too. This is gonna come in handy! “Anyway, you’re free to go, just sign here.”
You do exactly that, and let the nurse go deal with people who actually need the help. As for you…
you can’t help but laugh a bit, and smile. You know you can do something good, and after learning that your powers are real, totally real…
you just know that something good is going to happen!