Seraphina Martel.   Posted by Editor-in-Chief.Group: 0
Editor-in-Chief
 GM, 1037 posts
Mon 29 Mar 2021
at 19:43
Seraphina Martel
In reply to Seraphina Martel (msg # 270):

Gilda laughs when you talk about marrying a king.  But near the end, she seems more thoughtful.

"Hmm.  If you look at it another way, they could be giving us a sneak preview of what's to come.  I know one thing.  No matter what the world throws at me, I'll be okay in handling it after Saint George's.  I dunno.  I just feel like if they trained me to be all virtuous, it would be the same thing as hanging a target sign on my back when they pushed me out the door after graduation."

A bell chimes across campus.  It's the warning bell that means ten minutes until the next class starts.

Gilda stands, hoisting her back pack.  "Sorry.  I gotta jet over to the science building.  Give me a text and we can catch lunch tomorrow or something.  See ya."

Your schedule today has English and history.  Then lunch.  The kendo club meets at three this afternoon.

We will handwave English and History.  Did you want to do anything before Kendo?
Seraphina Martel
 player, 148 posts
Tue 30 Mar 2021
at 19:50
Seraphina Martel
Gilda missed my meaning. Maybe I didn't express myself well enough. Dad has a hard time speaking to people one-on-one, but he gives great speeches. Maybe I'm the same way; I've considered that before. I wave goodbye to Gilda and watch her for a minute as she walks off.

That's fine with me. Onward, to hitting people with wood shaped like swords! Thonk! Thonk!
Editor-in-Chief
 GM, 1043 posts
Thu 1 Apr 2021
at 21:38
Seraphina Martel
In reply to Seraphina Martel (msg # 272):

English and History appear to be...dull.  You've read most of the novels on the reading list.  The history class is recovering material you learned two years ago.  Easy A's.

The dojo for the kendo club is not at all traditional.  It's a squat building that somehow manages to resemble a toad.  How that is, you can't put your finger on.  But looking at it...you just think of a toad.  It's also a little bit of a trek away, behind the stands in the field the human chess match was in.

When you arrive, a number of people are standing around in kendo uniforms.  A sign is posted asking new members to wait along the wall.  You see about five people standing there already, two of them you know.

Robert Rutherford, the guy on the bus who was eating the fired chicken and one of your classes gophers, nods at you as you approach.

Standing next to him is Adam Browski.  The guy with the halberd.  The halberd is leaning against the wall next to him.  Adam doesn't nod at you, but he may not have seen you.  He's watching the members in uniform with a look of concentration.
Seraphina Martel
 player, 149 posts
Fri 2 Apr 2021
at 08:32
Seraphina Martel
At least I can slack off and play games in English and History class. Which I do. Second row, left side, the seat any given teacher is least likely to look. Or speaker of any kind, for that matter. I don't feel a need to pretend to be paying attention; I read manga while the teachers drone about things I already know in ways that I am pretty sure are carefully calculated to be as boring as possible.

On the other hand, fighting. Finally! Augh! I've practiced many martial arts; kendo is not among them. I'm eager to get started smacking people and things. If I hadn't spent so many hundreds of hours cultivating an unflappable demeanor, I'd be bouncing on my feet and shadowboxing with anticipation. The toad-ness of the building doesn't dampen my enthusiasm in the least. It's kind of silly, really, and I think I like it.

I wave at Bob and stand next to him while we wait. I wonder whether I could throw him onto the roof. It would depend on his power, whatever it was. I have no trouble throwing or kicking a sufficiently durable object five times the speed of a cruise missile, since I can accelerate to ridiculously high velocities at a moment's notice and in a very small space.

"I took you for more of a bodybuilder type," I say, without looking at him.
Editor-in-Chief
 GM, 1046 posts
Sat 3 Apr 2021
at 06:26
Seraphina Martel
In reply to Seraphina Martel (msg # 274):

He glances down at you and snorts a chuckle.  "Everyone does.  But muscle doesn't do you any good if you don't know how to use it.

"Along those lines, I didn't expect you to be the kendo type.  What's your attraction for it?"
"
Seraphina Martel
 player, 150 posts
Sat 3 Apr 2021
at 07:14
Seraphina Martel
My reflexes are very, very finely honed. Mother made absolutely sure of that. At even the slightest hint that I am about to be hit by anything, I freeze time. I have to consciously push down those reflexes. Sometimes, like when I'm training, that's a good idea, because not every attack is physical. I may be able to stop a laser before it hits me, reacting faster than light itself, but there are other, more subtle methods of attack. I know that being prepared to act without the benefit of my powers is important, and it's saved my match in multiple League tournaments.

That is a lot to say to Robert, and I don't feel like going into that much detail.

So instead, I reply, "I started to get sick of the politics and social sharpshooting after about the third minute on the bus ride here. I wanna hit people and things."

My flat affect may not help my case. Fortunately, what I said is true. Doubly fortunate, I am very good-looking; that always endears people.
Editor-in-Chief
 GM, 1052 posts
Mon 5 Apr 2021
at 20:54
Seraphina Martel
Robert laughs.  "Yeah.  It was kind of a hoot wasn't it?  Sorry about that."

"Kendo is more about control." Adam speaks up, watching the upperclassmen start to warm up.  "If you just want to whack things with sticks, it will cost you points in competition."  He shrugs.  "Though you can still work off a lot of stress by just going through the forms."

Robert looks at him.  "You've done kendo before?"

Adam nods, finally looking at both of you.  "Yeah.  I had to do a lot of martial arts training because of..."  He glances at the halberd.  Then he shrugs again.  "We've got some stiff competition in the club.  A couple of the seniors have been to nationals at the meta level.  They're really good."
Seraphina Martel
 player, 151 posts
Tue 6 Apr 2021
at 20:01
Seraphina Martel
I started to reply to Robert, but fortunately Adam interrupted me. Remembering Gilda's advice, I think that Robert is likely much more shrewd than he appears or acts. Sharing my thoughts with him seems like a bad idea.

I look over at Adam and consider him while he speaks.

"Is that so? Father either personally taught me or had me learn several martial arts; kendo wasn't one of them. I take it kendo is less aggressive than usual."

It certainly looked that way; there was a lot of circling and staring, in preparation for a single strike, often with a shout. I can see already that this is a martial art developed by people who killed for a living, even if the modern incarnation is far removed from ancient roots.

His last comment draws my attention more than the rest.

"The meta level? Is power use permitted in competitive kendo?" That would be a new one for me. I can't help my superhuman physical abilities, but stepping out of time was always discouraged. Having to contend with other powers would make competitive kendo even more interesting than it already was.
Editor-in-Chief
 GM, 1054 posts
Tue 6 Apr 2021
at 21:26
Seraphina Martel
In reply to Seraphina Martel (msg # 278):

"Depends on the power," he says, then looks back your way.  "You probably would be disbarred for the time stuff.  I know one of our seniors...that guy..."

He points to a tall man in full uniform and mask.  "...he can bend reality.  So he can't use his power either.  Super strength is fine, mostly cos no one can really 'not' use it."

He shrugs and then points at a young woman, also in full uniform.  "On the women's side, that's gonna be your big competition if you're aiming for the top.  She's phenomenal.  Will probably go to the Olympics for fencing.  And she's a normie who competes in the meta leagues."

Robert gawks at her.  ""That's allowed?"

Adam nods.  "Sure.  Not every super has a power you know."
Seraphina Martel
 player, 152 posts
Tue 6 Apr 2021
at 21:45
Seraphina Martel
"Bend reality?" I ask. "What does that even mean?"

I am immediately driven with the desire to compete with that man. And yet, as always when encountering the possibility of someone stronger than myself, I am afraid. Not of them, but of my parents. The only thing that won their approval, even for a moment, was my demonstrating total superiority over everyone in my peer group. I don't want them to give me the cold, disapproving look I remember. It chills my blood to think of how they'll reject me.

If he really can change reality at a whim, I have to kill him. But can I? No, no, I'm overreacting. Nobody can change reality. That's ridiculous. His power must be something else. Illusions maybe.
Editor-in-Chief
 GM, 1058 posts
Thu 8 Apr 2021
at 21:30
Seraphina Martel
In reply to Seraphina Martel (msg # 280):

Adam shrugs.  "That's all I've heard.  He didn't compete in the leagues cos he and Rigney don't get along.  A couple of hero teams are scouting him. But...well.  All I know is gossip really.  You should ask your buddy Saul.  I've seen them talkin' back at the fair.  They seemed to know each other."

A young woman in uniform comes over, taking her helmet off.

"Hi!  I'm Celia.  Captain of the Kendo Club.  You guys are our newbies, right?  Today we'll need to take some measurements for the uniform and get you equipment.  You need to show up Tuesdays and Fridays for PT.  Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays we do PT too.  But you'll actually get instruction then.  Any questions for me?"
Seraphina Martel
 player, 153 posts
Thu 8 Apr 2021
at 23:32
Seraphina Martel
My long-practiced composure is a sort of armor. No one can see my fear, can they? My fear of being rejected by the only people whose approval ever truly mattered to me. It strikes me, as it has many times, that I am living in a prison of my own mind and own making, but I do not know how to escape it.

"Sure," I answer Adam.

I greet Celia with a wave and a small grin. Thinking about the sport again will distract me from the existential horror of contemplating my parents' rejection due to outside forces I have absolutely no control over. Or considering murder. It would be the first time I'd killed someone on purpose. I know I could do it. No one can stand in my way, because letting them would be the same as being left all alone...

I take a deep breath and let it out. You're here for kendo, self.

"Hey, Celia. Is there just the one meeting a day, or are there multiple? Also, does the club have a manual or something of that sort? Rules and procedures. I've never been in a sports club that allows metas and baselines in the same events."
Editor-in-Chief
 GM, 1061 posts
Sat 10 Apr 2021
at 22:58
Seraphina Martel
In reply to Seraphina Martel (msg # 282):

Changing Celia to seagreen.  I keep forgetting that Coral looks a lot like Orange.  Thanks

Celia chuckles.  "Well there's one official meeting a day, yes.  But you can come to the club during school hours and practice.  We have the Toad," she nods at the building. "To ourselves.  Well.  The baseball club uses one of the locker rooms. But they're only here to change.

"Anyway, we encourage members to come and work out or train when they can.  Our instructor isn't here today.  He'll be back tomorrow.  You can arrange some practice time with him if you like.

"You'll get our handbook when you get the uniform.  Mr. Ito, our instructor, will also go over the rules for metas during your first training.  In a nutshell though, the Kendo League will evaluate your power profile and issue guidances on what you can and can't do.  During official matches, you have to abide by those rules or you're disqualified.

"As far as the baselines, don't underestimate them.  One of our best,"
she nods at the lady Adam had pointed out before. "is a normie.  And she will take you out before you know it.  Official kendo isn't about how hard you hit.  It's about how well you hit.  You'll see.

"Anything else?"


You can post anything you want about uniform and sword selection.  But the swords are the usual bamboo blades.  Nothing special.

Anything else you want to do today?  Or you ready to move on?

Thanks

Seraphina Martel
 player, 154 posts
Sun 11 Apr 2021
at 00:26
Seraphina Martel
Looking at the weapon racks, I see that actual swords are reserved for 1-dan and higher practitioners. Black belts. There are no "live" swords on the racks. This is a kenjutsu dojo, but a kendo club. Interesting. Well, Adam does have a halberd with him, so I suppose that's not entirely odd.

The uniforms are standard and traditional: white gi for newbies, with more red and black as one progresses, then a white haori and red hakama with black sash starting at 1-dan. I'm surprised the school colors aren't involved. Maybe they're on the armor, which I also presume to be in the locker room; it's certainly not out on the floor.

"The rules are the game, and baselines can play it just as well as metas," I respond. "No other questions for now. I'm Seraphina. I hope I'll get lots of time in to practice, between all the school activities. It'll be fun to master something new." I grin at her.

I'd like for Sera to catch up to Saul and ask him about this supposed reality warping guy, then find the guy himself and ask him about it. She is, as you can tell, not very happy about the possibility. That's not a coincidence. She is also, in fact, absolutely willing to murder him, if it's true. With her upbringing, she hates feeling like she has no control over her destiny, and his presence, if he really can warp reality, will make her feel that way. (That is also not a coincidence.)
Editor-in-Chief
 GM, 1064 posts
Mon 12 Apr 2021
at 20:09
Seraphina Martel
In reply to Seraphina Martel (msg # 284):

Interesting.  But sure.  Let's start with Saul

You track Saul down to the cafe during dinner.  He's sitting on a chair, reading a copy of Fleurs du Mal and eatting a sloppy joe.

He glances up at you when you walk up.

"How'd day one go?"
Seraphina Martel
 player, 155 posts
Mon 12 Apr 2021
at 20:20
Seraphina Martel
I, personally, intensely dislike uber-powerful NPCs. I have had too many bad experiences with GMs on power trips and will likely never get over bad initial exposure to the concept. In-character, I feel like I've explained Sera's motivation pretty well.

I don't know what the reality-bending character's name is.


I sit down across from Saul and look around me. I feel slightly nervous. Excited, in a bad way. My nerves are steely-calm by normal standards. The slight twitch of my fingers, usual behavior for other people, is a betrayal of my discomfort, to anyone who knows me well. Maybe Saul has me figured out. I don't know.

I let out a long sigh and take a drink of Earl Grey. Then I look directly at Saul.

"I don't know yet. To answer that, I have some questions for you. Let me be direct."

I would normally not even state that I was being direct. I have to convince myself not to dance around the topic, because it makes me uncomfortable.

"Adam, the guy with the halberd, claimed that one of the other guys in the Kendo class with us can bend reality. He also said you knew that guy. That ring any bells?"
Editor-in-Chief
 GM, 1067 posts
Tue 13 Apr 2021
at 22:36
Seraphina Martel
In reply to Seraphina Martel (msg # 286):

I'm not a big fan of high level characters either.  So don't worry.  But he is someone who could give you a challenge.  Maybe. We'll see.

Saul blinks as if you've surprised him.  He puts the book down and wipes his mouth.  "Uh. Yeah.  Sounds like you're talking about Brady.  Brady Armatrading."

The name means nothing to you.

"You okay? You look a little...not like you."
Seraphina Martel
 player, 156 posts
Wed 14 Apr 2021
at 02:50
Seraphina Martel
"This whole place is disconcerting," I reply. "The vagueness and games of deception, along with the deliberate lies, bother me. I don't like how everything, including the abilities of the students, is kept hidden."

Hopefully, that will be enough displayed vulnerability for Saul to just answer my questions. Hopefully. I don't want to tell him that I'm already planning Brady Aramtrading's death, because then he'll try to stop me. Or at least he'll clam up.

"I want to know what Brady's ability actually is. More to the point, I suppose, is that the halberd kid was being deliberately vague to agitate me, and I'm not allowed to beat that kind of middle school nonsense out of him."
Editor-in-Chief
 GM, 1072 posts
Thu 15 Apr 2021
at 18:51
Seraphina Martel
In reply to Seraphina Martel (msg # 288):

Saul frowns and seems to consider saying something.  Then he shrugs.

"Brady's abbility?  Honestly I don't quite understand it myself.  But he...it's like he can 'reset' things.  Now that I think about it, he's sort of like you in a way.

"I think where you can stop time...or step outside it.  Whatever.  He can go back in time.  But only to certain moments.  I don't really understand what the criteria are.  But he can skip back to certain points and...'do over' I guess is how to say it.

"As far as Adam..."
  Saul shrugs.  "If Adam said anything about Brady's power it probably wasn't completely accurate.  Not a lotta people know what Brady can do.  And there's all kinds of speculation about it.  Whenever it happens to Brady, everyone around him has this vague sense that something is off.  It leads to a lot of talk.

"Why do you wanna know?  Are you worried he'll use it to get you or something?"

Seraphina Martel
 player, 157 posts
Fri 16 Apr 2021
at 16:10
Seraphina Martel
I consider what Saul says and then reply:

"That sounds interesting, maybe similar in principle to my own but different in effect."

The tightness in my chest and stomach loosen a bit and I breathe more evenly. I didn't notice I had been taking faster, more shallow breaths. It was barely there, the tiniest change of my composure, but Saul seems to have picked up on it. Fear of rejection by my parents, for not being the absolute pinnacle of perfection in my peer group, is gradually replaced with curiosity.

I decide to be honest with Saul. If I mean to change the world to one where virtue, forthrightness, justice, and that sort of thing rule, rather than corruption and deception, I should start with myself. Right? Right.

"I want to know for two reasons." I chuckle a little at the idea that my personal safety might have been my concern. "St. George's is supposedly an elite school. I'd run into a wall, so to speak, with nobody but my parents around me even close to my level of skill in the things I care about. Now that I think about it, I might only care about those things because my parents pushed them so hard on me. Anyway, I wanted some competition, since testing oneself against greater challenges is the only real way to get better at anything."

I look at my hands, folded on the table, then back up at Saul.

"I hate the idea of being totally outclassed, because, well." Why am I nervous to say this? A girl with less self-control might start fidgeting or even shaking. "Because of my parents. I am the perfect daughter, and nothing less than that is acceptable. The only reason I am allowed to lose is as a learning experience. I..."

Pause.

"I don't trust them to be there for me if I fall down. I know they'll abandon me if I ever really fail. If I were in a situation where I couldn't succeed, no matter what I did, and no amount of effort on my part would let me win, my parents would disown me."

In that moment, I realize that exposing my vulnerabilities like this is also a way to challenge myself and improve. In this case, I can discover what my flaws are and try to overcome them, in one way or another, perhaps with simple mental resilience. I fancied myself as having more of that than anyone I'd ever met. Maybe I was wrong.
Editor-in-Chief
 GM, 1074 posts
Sat 17 Apr 2021
at 04:38
Seraphina Martel
In reply to Seraphina Martel (msg # 290):

Saul blinks, obviously surprised.  "Wow.  You are honest.  I didn't really get that until just now. Sorry."

He seems to think a moment.  "My experience is completely different.  I can't say I can relate to the parental pressures.  My old lady was drunk all the time.  My old man was only there until I was six.  Then he went to jail and I've never heard from him since.  But I guess we've all got sad songs to sing.

"I can understand being frustrated.  Particularly because opportunities are...well.  Lacking. Or access to 'em being just outta reach."
  He smirks and then seems serious again.  "Lemme ask something.  And I mean this as a genuine question.  The worst happens.  You can't measure up.  They abandon you.  Do you think you're life will be over?"

He waves a hand.  "I mean...I get it.  It will hurt.  I remember when the cops showed up to arrest my Dad.  Or everytime I'd see my Mom passed out on the floor.  So I get the hurt part.  Well.  As much as I can I guess.  It's probably different for everyone.

"But...just talkin' about you.  Your experience.  The worst happens.  They walk out on you.  Wouldn't that mean you were actually free?"

Seraphina Martel
 player, 158 posts
Sun 18 Apr 2021
at 02:55
Seraphina Martel
"It's funny, in a way. I've talked more in the past three days than I have in the year before that." With a smile and mild sarcasm, "Idle chatter doesn't become a queen, you know."

"I know I'm taking a chance being straightforward and honest. I know that I shouldn't be revealing my weaknesses or worries, because people will take advantage of them and of me. But if I want to change the world for the better, I have to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I don't know if they made you read and recite a bunch of philosophy in school, but I sure had to. There were so many ideals, ideals I can't argue with, because they're based on logic and irrefutable truths. I know they're practiced very rarely, even in controlled environments like schools."

I look right into Saul's eyes. I am unwavering, and surely there is audible conviction in my voice. "I intend to make those ideals reality."

I sigh at his question, though. "My life wouldn't be over, I know that. But they're my parents. I love them, even though they're...harsh. I love them, and, well..."

I take a calming breath. Competition drives me. Doesn't it? But then, I wanted to have real friends. Or did I? I'm not sure anymore.

"Have you ever been the best at something?"
Editor-in-Chief
 GM, 1080 posts
Mon 19 Apr 2021
at 05:13
Seraphina Martel
In reply to Seraphina Martel (msg # 292):

"You mean besides 'best asshole'?"  He grins and then shakes his head.  "When I was a kid, I could steal any car out there.  But that's not really what you're talking about.  No.  I can only imagine the pressure."
Seraphina Martel
 player, 159 posts
Mon 19 Apr 2021
at 21:22
Seraphina Martel
"Pressure from my parents, my 'friends,' my whole family, my peers, the people above me in the social hierarchy, the people below me, everyone is watching. Always. Staring, without rest, waiting for me to make a single mistake so they could destroy me. Jealousy, spite, and greed sniping at me from every corner, every shadow. You saw how everyone on the bus here, just a few days ago, reacted to me. Even you. It's an instinct every human has, and we have to consciously attempt to escape it; the tallest flower is cut down first, always."

Beat.

"I'm being honest and open here because I want to get away from that, but I'm starting to think I never will. I'm so used to the pressure that I've internalized it. I'm not sure I actually want to be any different, and I might just be having an attack of the grass is always greener syndrome."
Editor-in-Chief
 GM, 1083 posts
Mon 19 Apr 2021
at 23:33
Seraphina Martel
In reply to Seraphina Martel (msg # 294):

Saul seems to consider and then shakes his head.  "No...at least from my point of view, it's not that the grass is greener.  It's that there is actually grass over on the other side.

"It's not like I can judge you.  Just like you haven't lived with what I've had to live with, I haven't lived with what you've had to live with.  But I do know this from personal experience.  You can change things.  It might not work out exactly the way you want them to.  And you might have to compromise.  But you can change things."


He gestures at you.  "Lemme ask this then.  What do you want?  Leave out all the stuff you learned about.  And all the pie-in-the-sky-big-happy-world stuff.  I'm not talking about what you wanna be when you grow up either.  Just think about you for a sec.  What's your idea of a good life...not necessarily a perfect life...but a good life for you?"