Much as I can appreciate the practical benefits of sabotage, not in my nature, went with just working on the potion, but it'll be interesting to see what comes out on top.
I like Sophia a lot. And while it might be risky I say we fuck with Melody, show it's not a smart idea to try and bribe us.
Imasuky said:
I like Sophia a lot. And while it might be risky I say we fuck with Melody, show it's not a smart idea to try and bribe us.
I can get behind that idea. I mean come on, we've got to be as cutthroat as possible, as that's clearly what's expected of us. However, we shouldn't target Aya because she already seems to be at a disadvantage, and not Katarina because she's probably too much of sneak herself to not notice.
JksAccount said:
I can get behind that idea. I mean come on, we've got to be as cutthroat as possible, as that's clearly what's expected of us. However, we shouldn't target Aya because she already seems to be at a disadvantage, and not Katarina because she's probably too much of sneak herself to not notice.
My biggest worry is her maid.
JksAccount said:
I can get behind that idea. I mean come on, we've got to be as cutthroat as possible, as that's clearly what's expected of us. However, we shouldn't target Aya because she already seems to be at a disadvantage, and not Katarina because she's probably too much of sneak herself to not notice.
I wouldn't necessarily say we're expected to be cutthroat... though there's some disconnect in-game and out-of-game. In-game Sophia is definitely expecting it, because the post of Grand Alchemist is a very politically important position. At least, it is now, Sophia's predecessor was much more hands-off and consumed with her own research (a philosophy which kinda fucked a lot of things).

Out-of-game it'll be entirely viable to be a goody-two-shoes. It'll just, be a rather submissive playthrough. Taking the initiative and messing with other people will be a pretty consistent way to see scenes where Tessa is dominant.

Not particularly related, but what gives you the impression that Aya is at a disadvantage? The mention of her nebulous 'circumstances'?
Alien said:
I wouldn't necessarily say we're expected to be cutthroat... though there's some disconnect in-game and out-of-game. In-game Sophia is definitely expecting it, because the post of Grand Alchemist is a very politically important position. At least, it is now, Sophia's predecessor was much more hands-off and consumed with her own research (a philosophy which kinda fucked a lot of things).

Out-of-game it'll be entirely viable to be a goody-two-shoes. It'll just, be a rather submissive playthrough. Taking the initiative and messing with other people will be a pretty consistent way to see scenes where Tessa is dominant.

Not particularly related, but what gives you the impression that Aya is at a disadvantage? The mention of her nebulous 'circumstances'?
I for one don't see Aya as disadvantaged, in fact she might be more dangerous due to whatever it is that her background is.

She is probably poor which means winning would be a big deal, for now I saw we watch her and learn, could form a deal with hr to fuck up the other two.
Well, the competitors are all theoretically balanced, with different strengths and weaknesses. And Sophia's taken some effort to level the playing field - letting the less-well-off source expensive materials through her, for instance.

Anyway the vote is closed, focusing on our own potion won out significantly.
Alien said:
Well, the competitors are all theoretically balanced, with different strengths and weaknesses. And Sophia's taken some effort to level the playing field - letting the less-well-off source expensive materials through her, for instance.

Anyway the vote is closed, focusing on our own potion won out significantly.
Well hopefully no one sabotages us.
Alien said:
Anyway the vote is closed, focusing on our own potion won out significantly.
Bah! We've got to be vicious, people! Vicious I say!
After a few moments of thought, I decided against trying to tamper with any of the others' potions. The risk of being found out was too great, and I ought to focus on my own work instead of getting distracted looking for an opening to mess with one of the others.

Putting my attention back to my work, it went by quickly. Soon I had about two dozen seeds and a pile of cored alle berries bleeding pink juice on the countertop. I washed off my knife, filled up my pot, and spent a minute fiddling with the stove. So far as I could tell it was simple to operate, you just had to turn a knob. Moving it a certain distance would make it click and turn on. After that, each time it clicked would make it hotter. Knowing it would take a while to grind the seeds down, I left it on one of the settings in the middle.

Then it was over to the mortar and pestle. I filled the mortar, lightly bashed the pestle against the seeds until they'd all cracked, and set to grinding. Eventually I was left with a fine black powder, with bits of red glimmering in it. Alle seeds weren't actually black - they were a deep, deep red so close to black it was just easier to say they were.

Careful not to spill any of the powder on the counter, or to breath any of it in for that matter, I brought the mortar over to the pot of water, which had started boiling a couple of minutes before. I dumped all the powder in at once and took a moment to watch as a cloud of red spread through the pot. I'd always had a fondness for things like that, as far back as I could remember. The fascination I'd felt at watching my mother change the color of an entire cauldron of liquid with a handful of powder might even be where my love of the art started...

Well, I could reminisce some other time. I set the mortar aside to be cleaned later, it'd just need a few wipes with a handkerchief or something, and started peeling orians. They were a larger fruit, about as big as I could comfortably hold in one hand, with lumpy green skin. Those lumps made them hard to skin, but they were the reason I was doing so at all. The lumps held a greater amount of the compound that acted as a depressant; some creatures in its native Erlguray had evolved along it to be immune to its effects, but humans weren't among them. Or maybe fortunately, since if we were immune I wouldn't be able to make this-

"Why are you doing that?"

I jumped with surprise as the voice intruded on my thoughts, and the knife slipped straight through the orian I was peeling to nick my thumb. I bit my lip to avoid crying out, carefully put both the knife and half-peeled fruit down on the counter, and turned around to see Sophia watching me.

"Sorry to surprise you," she said, not actually sounding sorry at all.

"It's fine," I lied, "I was a little too caught up. What did you want to know?"

"Why're you using orian skin instead of bunkit seed?"

I hesitated for a moment, considering. She must have some idea, but probably wanted to hear my reasoning. Partly it was just because I was more familiar with orians and wanted to play it a little more conservative, but there was also... "Orian skin gives me more control over the potion. If there were more than one bunkit maybe I'd use those, but I don't want to make the potion balance around a single bunkit seed."

"More work, though," she pointed out. "You're on a time limit here, remember. You'll have to get the skins out when you're done as well."

"Yes ma'am. I think it's worth it, though."

"Fair enough," she said. "Get back to it, then."

She walked over to Aya, who was working at a station beside mine, and started talking to her. The workstations were stationed far enough away and they were being quiet enough that I couldn't quite hear them over the sound of four pots boiling. I turned back to my work. My thumb had already stopped bleeding; it was a very shallow nick, barely enough to draw blood to begin with. As I ran water over it for a few seconds, I glanced over at the pot and frowned.

It was a deeper red than it should be. I consulted my memories of the last time I had made an alle-seed potion, and frowned more deeply. Definitely too deep a shade, even accounting for the difference in lighting between what I was seeing and my memories. My first suspicion was that it was something to do with the electrical stove, but... running too hot or too cold shouldn't have much effect on this particular potion.

...Had somebody had the same idea as I had about sabotage and dumped some extra alle-seed powder in while I was talking to Sophia? That was the only time I could think of that I hadn't been paying much attention to the pot.

Considering she'd been facing me, it would have been impossible for somebody to do it without her seeing. In fact, that was probably the whole reason she'd come over and started talking to us, to give us a chance to try sabotaging each-other.

That was... huh. I felt like I was understanding Sophia, and this contest, a little better.

But I still made sure to cut an extra length of orian skin. I couldn't be sure exactly how much without having seen whoever it was that tried to screw up my potion, but I could eyeball it and hope. There wasn't nearly enough time to start over entirely.

In fact, around ten minutes after Sophia came over and talked to me, she announced, "Time's up."

At the time, I was just finishing up, pouring the pot's contents through a strainer and into the mouth of a bottle. I'd gone to the table in the middle of the room to fetch a bottle a few minutes earlier, carefully watching the other girls as I did so, and found the strainer as well, which saved me the trouble of getting the orian peel out some other way.

The bottle was just about full, so I carefully set the pot aside, picked up the bottle, and turned to face the others.

All of them had finished as well, and were holding bottles of their own. All four of them had the distinctive deep red color of an alle-based healing potion, well-known to soldiers, adventurers, and clumsy shavers the world over.

"Alright, so you all managed to finish. Let's see if they work," Sophia said. "Who wants to go first?"

I exchanged glances with the other girls. After a moment, before I could decide if I wanted to bite the bullet and go ahead, Kat said, "Sure, I will."

She put her bottle on the counter, picked up her knife, and drew it across the palm of her free hand. I caught sight of blood pooling as she cupped her hand, but she quickly put the knife back, grabbed her potion, and took a swig. By the time she'd stuck her hand under the faucet and washed her hand off, it was healed up perfectly.

Aya repeated her performance, followed by Melody. At the start of the noble's turn, her maid stepped up and whispered something in her ear, but Melody shook her head. I wondered what that was about, but before I could venture a guess it was my turn.

Remembering my suspicion about somebody messing with my potion, I hesitated for a second. But hopefully I had balanced it out. And it wasn't like I could back out right after watching the other three try their own potions.

I drew my knife across my palm lightly, enough to draw blood but not enough to really cut into the muscles there. An alle-seed potion could heal damage like that, but I didn't fancy sawing away at my own hand. I cupped my hand like the others had, so that the blood wouldn't splatter all over the floor, and grabbed for my potion.

It was sweet but left my mouth feeling dry, even though it'd only been in my mouth long enough for me to swallow. I hadn't ground the seeds quite finely enough; I could feel a slight grittiness settling on my tongue. It'd be just as effective either way, but I didn't like the feeling. Some people did, but then some people liked pulp in their fruit juices. The world has its fair share of madmen.

My hand started to tingle as soon as the potion started to go down my throat. That was one of the several advantages potions made with alle seed held over those with just the flesh; they took effect almost instantly. I turned around and washed my hand off like the others, and like them it was healed by the time the blood started circling the drain. There was a slight pale line where the cut had been made, and it'd feel a little more sensitive for a few hours, but practically speaking it was healed completely.

"Congratulations," Sophia said once I showed the others that it had worked. "You're all vaguely competent alchemists. More interestingly, half of you tried to fuck over somebody else." She paused for a second, and I looked at the others. I'd already suspected one person had tried to sabotage my potion, but two of them had made attempts? I wondered which of the others hadn't tried anything. "Key word there being tried. Both of you failed. We'll work on that in the future, and see if we can't get the other two to be a little bit gutsier."

She let that hang for a few long seconds, then clapped her hands. "Well, that's for later. We're done for today. Don't worry about cleaning up. Ms. Culouse here," she gestured to the stern woman, "will show you to your rooms."

The woman - Culouse, apparently - took a step forward and offered us a short bow. "Please, follow me." She waited for us to set our things aside and take our aprons off before starting out of the room. I followed her, of course. Just before I left the room, I glanced back and found Sophia watching us thoughtfully, her arms folded.

Once again, the trip through the tower only took a couple of minutes, not long enough for anybody to start up a conversation. I spent most of it staring at the backs of Melody and her maid. Which, well, there were certainly many less pleasant views in the world.

Towards the end of the short trip we ended up in what seemed to be the main stairwell and went down two flights of stairs. By my count, that put us on the fifth floor of the tower.

After we left the stairwell again, it was maybe twenty seconds before Ms. Culouse came to the door at the end of a hallway, opened it, and turned towards us. "In here, please."

Melody glided past her like a black swan. I wondered if she was used to people holding doors open for her. Was that a noble thing? Did they not open their own doors? It seemed like it'd be more inconvenient than it was worth, but then, that'd never stopped nobility from doing something stupid.

I was in third, after the maid. I found myself in another comfortable sitting room, much like the one I'd first met the other contenders in; dark wood paneling on the walls, rich carpet, and an array of leather armchairs, plus a couple of tables. Unlike that room, there were no bookshelves, and this one had five doors other than the one I'd entered from, arranged in a half-circle along the opposite wall.

In the middle of the room, there was a girl waiting for us. She wore a maid uniform like Melody's companion, but from a quick glance the noble didn't seem to know her. She looked young, barely eighteen if I had to guess, and had straight, light-brown hair that seemed to flow most of the way down her back. She was also tiny; I had a full head of height over her, and I was not especially tall.

As Kat and Aya crowded into the room behind me, the girl made a perfect curtsy to us. At least, it seemed perfect from what I knew; I hadn't often seen one performed. "Hello," she said softly. "My name is Mei. I'll be assisting you while you reside here. It's an honor to meet all of you."

"Our own maid?" Kat said from beside me. "Nice."

I was a little more torn. I'd gotten used to living on my own, and the idea of somebody going through my things to tidy them up felt a little uncomfortable. And frankly I didn't need any help like that. Besides, I had no idea how to treat a maid. Melody had barely acknowledged her own the entire time I'd seen her, was that normal? Was I just supposed to pretend Mei wasn't there? I didn't think I could manage that.

Mostly because, well, she was really cute. And if two of the others were already willing to sabotage people's projects, I ought to keep my guard up around all three of the others. It'd be nice to have somebody I could relax around.

"Miss Ostanes, Miss Boyle," the stern woman - Culouse - said behind me. I turned around along with Aya, while the other two walked deeper into the room. "We've taken the liberty of having your things fetched from your lodgings. They'll be along shortly." Oh. I hadn't thought about what I'd do about the inn I'd been staying at, so this was convenient. Though perhaps a little creepy that they could arrange it already, before I'd even thought to ask.

Judging by her expression, Aya was thinking along the same lines. But after a moment she said, "Thank you," and I echoed her.

Culouse nodded sharply, and raised her voice slightly to make it obvious she was addressing the whole room. "You may sort out who gets which room between yourselves, so long as you behave yourselves. Mei will stay in the leftover room so she can remain close to you. As for your servant, Miss Kubota..."

Melody glanced over and smiled. "She'll stay in my rooms. I'm afraid I'm quite useless in the mornings without Claire's assistance."

The maid - uh, the one I'd already sort-of met - blushed at the praise and nodded her head, making her bangs fall over her eyes.

"As you wish," Culouse said. "I'll leave you to sort out the rooms, then."

With that, she closed the door, leaving us along for the first time in a while. Almost immediately Kat walked over to one of the doors, opened it, and started peering inside. Melody, meanwhile, took a seat. I wondered at that for a moment, but then remembered she was wearing rather high heels and had been on her feet for the past half an hour or so. Her feet probably hurt. Melody's maid, apparently named Claire, went over to Mei and began speaking to her in a quiet voice. I assumed they were gossiping about... maid things? That was an entire world I hadn't the first clue about. Lastly, Aya hung around near the door like I was doing, looking uncertain.

After a moment of thought, I supposed I ought to take the time before my things arrived to learn a little about the people I was going to be competing with for the next year. Any little bit I found out about them could be important in the long run.

http://www.strawpoll.me/12112691

http://www.strawpoll.me/12112703
Well I think I can no longer cheer our girl on. If she thinks pepole who like pulp in their juice are mad she obviously needs someone to guide her in life.

Mostly joking but for know I say we talk with the maids and be nice to Mei, she's cute.
Right, I think we should talk to Aya, because we know very little about her at the moment, and it would be great if we could find out something about these "circumstances" of hers.

Regarding Mei; much as I'm certain we'll regret it down the line, I too think we should be friendly with her.
I feel like this story is gonna be one where the players rapidly develop a sizable doze of paranoia =u=

:EDIT: Or a dose, even...:
Pastel-Daemon said:
I feel like this story is gonna be one where the players rapidly develop a sizable doze of paranoia =u=

:EDIT: Or a dose, even...:
Doze could be oddly fitting if a sleep potion is used. Freudian Slips can be hilarious.
Pastel-Daemon said:
I feel like this story is gonna be one where the players rapidly develop a sizable doze of paranoia =u=

:EDIT: Or a dose, even...:
I'd rather a sizable dose of paranoia than a sizable dose of poison.
Imasuky said:
Well I think I can no longer cheer our girl on. If she thinks pepole who like pulp in their juice are mad she obviously needs someone to guide her in life.
a controversial opinion to be sure but I refuse to hide the truth

also why would anything bad ever happen from being nice to the cute meido???

Fun fact, if we'd chosen to sabotage somebody last time and then tried to interact with them in this choice, we would have gotten the earliest possible sexy scene.
Alien said:
a controversial opinion to be sure but I refuse to hide the truth

also why would anything bad ever happen from being nice to the cute meido???

Fun fact, if we'd chosen to sabotage somebody last time and then tried to interact with them in this choice, we would have gotten the earliest possible sexy scene.
I knew it was the right choice!

And by that I mean pulp. But I do wonder what if any threat Mei is.
Imasuky said:
But I do wonder what if any threat Mei is.
She's working for everyone, so she has free access to everybody's rooms and stuff. This makes her a prime means by which people could attack others. Additionally, she probably has her own agenda.
JksAccount said:
She's working for everyone, so she has free access to everybody's rooms and stuff. This makes her a prime means by which people could attack others. Additionally, she probably has her own agenda.
Yeah I know that but I mean more what her motivations are. And this is why we should be nice get her on our side so she won't hurt us but will help us against the others.
Imasuky said:
Yeah I know that but I mean more what her motivations are. And this is why we should be nice get her on our side so she won't hurt us but will help us against the others.
The nobels maid is alredy recruiting her so she is a gone if we dont step in.
nemesis said:
The nobels maid is alredy recruiting her so she is a gone if we dont step in.
I'm not that mean, probably. But we'll see since you all voted to talk to the maids and try to befriend at least Mei!
Honestly, the line about 2 people trying to sabotage someone gives me the hilarious idea that both of the attempts were on us. That and Alien's line about the sex scene.