Chapter 16: Issues in Continuity
As much as I can tell, I've never had memory problems. So I was understandably startled when I blinked and was out of the shower all clean and completely dry. Physically speaking I haven't felt this good in a long time, mentally and emotionally I felt like I had gone through a stereotypical tragic backstory. I felt tired, sad, angry, hungry, irritated, scared, and suspicious all at once… and yet I haven’t felt this light since I got here. Finally unsuppressing all those feelings and thoughts lifted a burden off of me that I wasn’t aware of until now, I can’t let myself get that bad again.
Turning to check myself in the mirror I was greeted by the absolute mess that is my new body, my mane was a frizzy mess that I had a hard time straightening out with only my hooves and magic to help. I ended up just tying it up in a short ponytail, I am once again reminded that I am horrible with hair. Looking and feeling much more refreshed both inside and out I left the bathroom and trotted back down the stairs… and as I entered the slightly trashed first floor I realized that I probably wasn’t all that quiet during my breakdown. Two pairs of concerned eyes met mine as I came into view of the kitchen, I flashed the two a small smile to hopefully dissuade their concern which I appreciate of course.
“Your turn David” The Pegasus didn’t say anything in return, he just rose from his chair and approached me to pass up the stairs. He did stop next to me for a moment to give me a pat on the shoulder before continuing up the stairs. I didn’t really feel embarrassed per say, but I don’t like the idea of others knowing my feelings and such… meh it was going to happen sooner or later anyway. Actually entering the kitchen showed me something fantastic, Morgana and David didn’t just sit and talk the whole time. They had been cooking up a storm! There was the obvious salad, there was fried eggplant (kinda gross), these carrot hotdog things (interesting/weird), some sandwiches, and a soup of some kind… how long was I in the shower?
“How did you two cook all this so fast?” Morgana seemed to carry herself a bit taller at my incredulous words and started to move some more food over to the table. All the delicious smells were beginning to mix into an odd hodgepodge that confused the senses, whatever Morgana was going to say next was interrupted by the long rumbling growl that was my stomach yelling bloody murder. I wasn’t embarrassed, I knew almost for a fact that Morgana and David are just as hungry as I am and the only reason they haven’t eaten is because they were being polite and waiting for me… which I really appreciate.
“*Snort* believe it or not, but David is actually the one who gave me all these recipes. He apparently comes from a family of vegetarians so he knows quite a few meatless recipes… he just can’t cook” Oh… That’s surprising! I guess that goes to show that the three of us really don’t know each other that well.
“That’s pretty cool, I don’t have many meatless recipes but if you want anything baked I’m your guy” I’ve always been pretty good at baking, at times it was trial and error but I got the hang of it… I miss cookies. I was about to sit down at the table until I remembered that my bloody butt print was still there so with a not so heavy heart I switched it out for David's chair, the amused look Morgana sent my way went ignored.
“I assume David caught you up to speed on our current ‘problem’?” Morgana sat down the last dish of eggplant (ew!) and let the easy going smile on her face morph to a neutral frown. Seeing her change in emotion was confirmation enough, I let her sit down fully before telling her about my little epiphany in the shower. I saw a flash of recognition in her eyes when I mentioned the article, but the recognition slowly turned to confusion by the time I was finished explaining.
“Wait… If Arron was in prison then… how is he playing this game?” I… what? That doesn’t…
“The same way we are… I think… wait” My head… hurts. I… what was I gonna say? My burning migraine was suddenly quenched by the cool touch of a hoof being pressed to my temple, opening my clenched eyes (When had I closed them?) I saw Morgana in a similar state as me with a glowing green hoof pressed into both of our heads. What we were talking about snapped back to the forefront of my mind, Aaron wouldn’t even be in this game if he was who we thought he was… but I know for a fact that I’m right. My [6th Sense] is screaming at me to look deeper! I just kept focusing on the disconnect, how Aaron is both in prison and yet was able to play this game… in fact where did I buy this game from. I just remember having downloaded one day and never questioned it.
“Morgana… do you even have a computer?” If I'm remembering this right then Morgana had just moved in with another foster family and judging from the now slightly scared look on her face, Neither Morgana nor her brother own a computer. I think the whole video game thing was just an excuse for whatever being that brought us here… is this system even real?
[Okay, that’s far enough]
Then as if I just blinked… everything came to a… stop. As if some hit the metaphorical pause button on reality everything stopped and took on a dead grey tinge. Even the air itself froze and felt suffocating in my lungs, my rising panic was forcibly ripped away from me leaving me horrifyingly calm.
[I will admit, I am impressed with how clever you are]
[Not many can puzzle there way around my mental blocks, yet here you are]
What are you
[Hmm, starting with the basics huh?]
[I guess you can call me your Benefactor]
[Think of this as both an accommodation and a. . . warning]
A warning for me or about something else?
[A little of both, but that will come later]
[You are the first I have directly spoken to and the first to survive my words as well]
[You have a unique. . . lets say ‘affinity’ for the esoteric forces that is magic]
[So let’s have that be your reward for your persistence]
Wha- survived?! Wait-
[I’ve always wanted to be a goddess and what’s a goddess without followers]
[Some of your latent gifts have been unlocked]
[Cutie Mark Unlocked!]
[Cutie Mark: I art thou, thou art I: Your body and soul are intrinsically connected]
[to the forces of magic making you gifted in its manipulation and creation]
[Effect 1: Magical Manipulation and creation is boosted immensely when not]
[following a known spell form]
[Effect 2: Unknown -Must be unlocked through time and effort- Active skill]]
[Effect 3: heightened effect in Artificery and Enchantment]
[New Spell Form Gifted!]
[Ritual Magic: How else would you give me offerings? I’ll take anything magically]
[inclined or esoteric enough to fit my tastes and if they meet my standards you]
[might be rewarded]
[Skill Level 1: Requires research to level]
[Conduit Spell Form -If Skill level is high enough then allows the user to use other]
[magic types in ritual form if enough research is done]
[Whew! Doing that personally takes a lot out of me, now for the warning]
[You are not the first and you will not be the last]
[There are others out there who will stop at nothing until they get what they want]
[So choose your enemies wisely, either the evils unknown or the demons you know]
[That’s all I’m really allowed to tell you lest I want to ruin the timeline and please]
[try not to mention our little talk to anyone okay?]
[ so all I’ll say for now is do your best because I’ll be watching hehe]
It was like she hit the hard reset on everything, time rewound slowly at first until it was almost instant then suddenly I was back standing by the stairs and David had just passed me heading up the stairs. My head felt like it was gonna fall off, the previous lightness I felt after the show was gone and replace by the almost soul crushing stress of now knowing that some kind of all powerful spirit is watching me at all times and has also press ganged me into her cult or something.
“Whoa! Marcus when did you get your [Cutie Mark]!” My plunge into hysteria was cut off by Morgana rushing over to my side, I forgot during that whole thing she had given me my [Cutie Mark] (Annoying name, but whatever). Turning my body to get a better look at it I felt a bet of relief that it wasn’t anything too edgy or frilly. My [Cutie Mark] was a simple looking ritual circle with a four pointed star in the center, the symbols were just as white as my hair and the star itself had a light purple tinge to it almost lavender. With my new [Ritual Magic] knowledge I knew that the symbols on my [Cutie Mark] are actually the symbols needed to sacrifice an object to the… spirit. Oh God, I'm a Cultist! Morgana had lost interest in my mark after a bit and turned to trot back into the delicious smelling kitchen… too bad I lost my appetite this time around.
“believe it or not, but David is actually the one who gave me all these recipes. He apparently comes from a family of vegetarians so he knows quite a few meatless recipes… he just can’t cook '' The sudden switch in subject weirded me out for a moment until I remembered what the spirit said before she left, timeline. This conversation probably happens no matter what so I just need to steer it in a different direction, I hope I don’t ground hogs day myself.
“T-that’s cool, what do you think we’ll be doing next” Morgana turned to place the same eggplant dish onto the table and sat down at the same spot as before then spoke.
“Maybe we’ll make a guild like in those light novels I used to read, it would be amazing to be an adventurer!” Nothing seems to be slowing down so that's good, lets keep going this direction.
“That sounds like a pretty good idea, got any ideas of what we could do as adventurers?” Morgana pushed aside one of the dishes and leaned forward clearly excited by the conversation, she must feel strongly about this! At some point during the conversation I had realized I never switched chairs with David and had been sitting in sticky blood, eugh!
“There’s this one called Grimgar of fantasy and ash where the humans there have to pay to be part of these guilds to get class related spells and skills and get money by killing monsters! We could do that, make a guild and train other ponies that pay and travel around killing monsters and saving lives!” I felt it prudent to say that most of the main characters in Grimgar die at some point, but I felt my resolve fall to pieces when I saw the heartfelt look in her eyes… she really loves this idea and I will admit… it does have some merit.
“I kinda like the idea of being wandering heroes” The voice of a refreshed David sounded out from behind us making us turn to face him. He looked marginally better where before he looked cut up and disheveled, now he looks much more put together. His mane wasn’t as much of a rat's nest, his coat was a shade lighter with the dust gone, and his wings look much better now that he’s tended to them. He was also dragging with him a burlap sack that held what I assume is the remains of all of our ruined armor, *Growl* The sound of Morgana’s stomach singing the song of its people reminded me of the feast lying before us, even if I don’t feel like eating I need something in my stomach.
“Now that your here, it’s time to dig in” what happened next would make any high society member either faint or throw up as the three of us abandoned any form of manners and tore through all the food, of course we paced ourselves so we wouldn’t get sick but that doesn’t mean we stopped anytime soon. I don’t even think I tasted half of it… I even ate the eggplant dish and I hate eggplant. There was no talking while we were eating, only the sounds of chewing or gulping which in hindsight was thoroughly disgusting (I hate the sound of chewing). Speech only resumed when all the food had been eaten and even then it was stunted, at least mine was.
“I second that” No one blinked at Morgana’s frankly legendary burp or the fact that David had to run back to the bathroom at some point to throw up then ran back down to continue eating. At some point I'm pretty sure I ate a whole corn on the cob, core and all. In the end three of us felt stuffed and raring to go… at least until we needed a nap from all this food. And suddenly I feel like swearing heavily as I just remembered I need to go have a meeting with the other ‘leaders’.
“Ugh! I need to go to that meeting with the others…” I saw David shoot me a sympathetic look before returning to his food coma, Morgana perked up and spat the corn cob she was gnawing on out to speak to me.
“Remember to bring the guild idea up for me, I think that may be a big help for us” Morgana’s excitement for this idea was contagious and I couldn’t help but be just as excited to talk about it. The Aaron issue will have to take the backburner for a moment until I can puzzle out what the spirit meant by evils unknown and devils I know. Peeling myself off the sticky chair I shook myself fully awake and stopped at a nearby mirror to brush any errant food off of my body and to clip on my new lantern, I took a deep breath to focus myself before opening the door and stepping out into the warm afternoon air.
“Did Marcus have a Cutie Mark?” Morgana’s facehoof did nothing to muffle her laughter at David’s expense.