April 30th. Walpurgisnacht. As you do many times a week, you’re on your way to your fencing class, and to seeing the third of your less-than-ideal crushes: Calvina Aeterna.
Friday, April 30th, Reiwa 42.
It has little meaning this close to the equator, but ‘winter’ is fast approaching. Here in Southern Sun, of course, there’s little change; the season is what it always is: ‘hot, and also wet’. Now, part of you is grateful for the climate because it ensures cuties across the city wear light clothing as much as possible, but most of you just absolutely hates the heat.
The price of living in paradise, huh? The air conditioning helps, at least.
…but it’s not paradise for everyone, is it?
You pass beneath the shadow of skyscrapers, overtop the elevated rail line, and turn toward the train window, looking down toward the surface level to see the two constants of Southern Sun:
climate refugees, and the Sunset Corporation.
A crowd of people are holding up signs toward one of Sunset’s countless office buildings; from here, it’s nearly impossible to tell for sure what it is they’re protesting, but you’ve been on their end of things enough times that you have some guesses. Workplace safety, fair compensation, citizenship, health care, the list goes on. People who fled their homes to make a new life here so often have to fight simply to gain the basic rights someone like you has, most importantly the right to live.
If you wanted to be poetic, though, you’d sum it up like this: not enough light, not enough hope.
The Sunset Corporation is everywhere. There’s not a single part of life in Southern Sun that doesn’t involve them in some way. They own the media, they perform construction, they provide health care. They control most of the supply chains, so even those independent businesses that do exist have to pay them somewhere down the line. Most people in the city work for them, either directly or indirectly – your parents, for one.
It wasn’t always this way, but over the course of your short life, it all turned out like this. And a city that had welcomed your parents as migrants with open arms was now rejecting those who came after them, even as the city needs that constant migration to survive. Democracy remains in Southern Sun, but the power to hold Sunset accountable seems to somehow remain just out of reach.
Where does all the good go?
So, you hold this power, this ‘Gamer’. With only a single one of your powers, you can read minds – all you need to do is draw someone’s attention to you. So, how did future-past-you get it?
The Sunset Corporation doesn’t just supply the necessities of life. It also employs countless scientists, researchers, and engineers. They even have top-secret ‘Special Divisions’ that serve as skunk works, creating future technologies under a powerful veil of secrecy.
…not to say that you believe the more nutty conspiracy theories about them. That they develop survival horror-style ‘bioweapons’ and parasites, that they have a secret division composed entirely of artificial intelligences that influence the city from the shadows, that one of their top scientists is a literal gosh-darned witch…
Although, now that you have the power to read people’s minds, and somehow your future-past-self traveled back in time in some way to give it to you, you really can’t rule anything out, can you?
For all you know, all of those things were true, and more.
You hope…you really hope you can become strong enough to find out before it’s too late.
(No matter the consequences for your soul.)
Fencing class is, to put it bluntly, not going well.
Even at the best of times, Calvina’s so much better than you it’s not even funny, but you aren’t usually this awful! You feel sluggish, as though everything around you had sped up, and each flash of the blade is impossible to predict. You don’t even have one point yet!
Poke. Poke. Poke. Her foil hits you again and again, without the slightest bit of resistance.
(It’s really kind of embarrassing, actually!)
Eventually, though, Calvina notices something is wrong. “Halt!” she cries, as she lifts off her mask, deftly unpinning her brilliant red hair in what looks like almost the same motion, making it look like the easiest thing in the world.
“You’re not doing your best tonight, Cibele,” she says. “Is there something on your mind? You seem distracted.”
Calvina Aeterna is…bluntly: she’s everything you hope to be someday. Your senpai, your idol, your inspiration!
“Well…” Obviously you can’t tell her the truth about the Gamer or anything. That would be weird! (A-and you also can’t tell her about your crush, either.) “I guess you could say that?”
“It makes sense, at least. Even if you weren’t hurt, an accident like that is going to worry you.” Calvina walks over to the benches, as the other students continue to practice with one another. “It’s pretty dedicated of you to come to class anyway, though. I’m impressed.”
“I guess, after a scare like that, I don’t wanna slack off?” Er, not that you weren’t trying hard before, honest! “Ehe. I guess I’ll take the compliment – wah!”
You carefully catch the water bottle Calvina tosses you, managing to stay standing despite a bit of a botched toss. Ugh, how embarrassing! And in front of Calvina, too…
Calvina pops open her own bottle, tipping her head back as she drinks. Like Stella, she’s a local whose family was born in Southern Sun, but where Stella’s features are soft and gentle, Calvina’s are stern and determined. It suits her; she’s a gallant knight if there ever was one, a real heroine without compare.
Tall, striking, perfect.
“It’s important to know your limits, though. Dedication is one thing, but if you injure yourself during practice, you’ll set yourself back a lot further than if you took it slow.”
Her gallant aura does read a bit gay to you, even if you’re pretty sure she’s not…still, it’s enough for you to hold out hope. Even if she says no, though, you’d at least want to confess your crush, and hope that she sees you as an equal. You’re not a kid anymore, right? Even if you’re just her kohai, you’ve done your best to keep up with her over the past five years –
and admittedly not done a very good job, but still!
“I guess I’ve got a lot of things on my mind, is all,” you say, sheepishly. You sit down on the bench next to Calvina, carefully drinking up as much as you can.
…and you can’t help but think back to future-past-you’s words.
She told you that, with the power of Telepathy, of Thought Skimmer, you could become the perfect partner for someone. Someone like Calvina.
If you could read her mind, and know exactly how to make her fall in love with you…wouldn’t you take that chance?
If you could read her mind?
Calvina’s mind is like marbles on glass. It feels…surprisingly fragile, for the strength you see in her. Guarded, too. She has her burdens, teaching the art of the sword, and having to be the paragon everyone lives up to.
you do wish, you could help her –
Well, at least Cibele’s eager. It helps inspire the younger students. Hopefully she’ll be more disciplined from now on.
You suppose you really aren’t, if you’re honest. By the time she was your age, Calvina was already an Olympic alternate. Even though you’ve trained hard, you’ve never had the focus to really go past local or regional competition.
Still, it does bother you. That, after all this time, she still thinks of you like that.
You just…you want, so badly, to be someone that Calvina can love.
“…right, about that,” Calvina says, as you continue sipping on your water. (If she notices you’re distracted, she doesn’t say a word.) “I could really use your help with some of the new students. You’re really the most experienced person here besides me, so I think they’d get a lot out of working with you.”
(…she says that, after thinking that? You’re not sure how to feel about that…)
“A-ah…” Even so, you can’t help but blush. You could say that even if she wishes you were more disciplined, senpai still noticed you after a fashion? Maybe? “W-well. I’ll see what I can do, I suppose? I’ve got a big project this week, and lots of other things going on…” Like, y’know, saving the world through yuri and mind control, apparently!
“It’s not a big deal,” Calvina says, as calm and unflappable as ever. “Consider it an open offer. Just text me when you’ve got time in your schedule, okay?”
…well. It’s worth considering, at least.
You watch as Calvina stands back up, heading toward the younger students to help them out. You’re sure more than a few of them admire her as much as you do – someone who seems all but invincible, who always does the right thing, and fights for those who need someone to protect them.
What is Calvina like, behind that? What kind of person is she, really? And…
could that person, who hides behind the mask, ever fall in love with you?
And the day ends as it always does: you atop your bunk bed, alone with your thoughts, a girl in love with love.
Something good did happen, kind of, didn’t it? At least, Ms. Yi seems confident that you’ll work things out with Stella, and Calvina’s giving you a chance to have some fencing kohais of your own. And you didn’t do anything too evil with your powers, maybe, probably.
But you still have an uncertain future, and an uncertain threat. All future-past-you wants to tell you about is girls, only giving the faintest of hints about ‘the Queen’.
You roll onto your back, raising your hand to the ceiling, staring at it, and wondering:
can you be a heroine, with these hands of yours, that wield a power like the Gamer?
…and you smile.
You did as future-past-you asked! You chose an ability! Now, you don’t need to rely on her or listen to her at all, right?! If she’s going to give you this kind of chance, then all you need to do is grind! And grind! And grind! Grind like there’s no tomorrow, which for all you know there may well not be, and never need to brainwash girls and turn them into your beloved cuties at all!
Sure, future-past-you says you can gain skill points by gaining ‘servants’, whatever that means, but raising your attributes gives you skills as well! Grind hard enough, and you won’t need to brainwash anyone at all!
You’ll use your powers responsibly, and be the best heroine you can be. All while remaining a good person, who doesn’t fantasize about hypnotising girls one bit!
Smugly smiling to yourself, satisfied with your resolve, you smile and settle onto your side, closing your eyes as you allow sleep to overtake your troubled heart…
(and you definitely don’t fantasize, of course.)
(Not fantasizing, specifically, about Stella Maris – the girl Ms. Yi seems convinced you’ll get along with better after that simple Golden Week assignment which, somehow, turned into another source of temptation.)
(So you, despite your protests, end up fantasizing about Stella Maris.)
(You wonder what Stella’s thinking. And know you could find out. You wonder if she really does hate you, and if so, why. You’ve never done anything to hurt her, you’ve always been nice to her as much as you can…)
(You think of helping Stella become friendlier, bit by bit, revealing her secret crush on you. Helping her be a better person, someone who doesn’t need to lash out at you anymore.)
(One of your skills is called Handshake Induction – can you really put someone under, bring them into a hypnotic trance, with nothing but your touch?)
(You think of pulling Stella down into a kiss, hypnotising her with it, holding her in your arms and bringing her deeper and deeper under your power.)
(You think of using your Thought Skimmer together with the Enchantment opener, Suggestion, to create commands perfectly tuned to Stella’s mind, knowing her weaknesses and exploiting them. You imagine using it with your Charm Person skill, with your Induction skills…rebuilding a person from the ground up into something better.)
(You think of how one could be enthralled by your power, like a moth to flame. Unaware of how much you truly hold over them, yet always trusting you completely. Korri, maybe –)
(Wait, fudge, now your not-fantasies are spreading! Quick, quick, back…)
(You imagine physically holding Stella down, folding her over with an enhanced Strength, your charm making her feel weaker than she should, your telepathy making you know exactly what kind of things she’d want in such a position. Teasing her, taunting her, as you lick between her legs and learn intimately what kind of touches get the best reaction, making her melt in your grip. Hearing her tsundere taunts and feeling her come helplessly, learning to love being helpless…)
(Where did you get such bizarrely specific not-fantasies, anyway?)
(Maybe future-past-you is bleeding into you…or she really does know what you’d react to. If she has even a fraction of the power you’re supposedly capable of, she would surely know you better than you know yourself.)
(You squirm and bite your lip as your body reacts, and you indulge it…)
(…and if, in the morning, you should get an earful from your family about your not-so-silent nocturnal masturbation, well. That’s just idle speculation, isn’t it?)
???: Red Lynx
Skill points are gained through increasing ability scores. Increasing each mental ability score by 1 gives one point that must be spent in the skill that score governs.
Raising all 3 physical ability scores by 1 each gives you one universal skill point. In addition, raising a single physical ability score to 3 (and then 6, 9, etc) grants you one universal skill point. (This means raising all three physical scores and all three mental scores to 3 gives nearly the same number of points overall, with 2 locked to each tree, 6 total, and 5 universal.)
They may also be gained under other circumstances, particularly acquiring servants.
Some points may only be spent in a certain tree, however. Points gained in mental ability scores may only be spent in the tree they govern, for instance.