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Previous Thread: >>3659133 Archived Threads: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=Magical%20Contractor%20Quest

The Quest so far: You are OCTAVIAN, a magical contractor in the guise of a plush rabbit. You offer humans magical powers in order to extend your own life. It is a mutually beneficial arrangement. At least, you think it is. Your most recent contractee and traveling partner is ALICE, the daughter of Titania, one of your previous magical girls and former traveling companion. Abandoned shortly after her birth, Alice has spent the past fourteen years growing up on an isolated farm run by a cult in Wisconsin. You spent the time watching over Alice pretending to be nothing more than a stuffed animal. A few nights ago, you spirited Alice away from the compound; saving her from falling victim to a cult ritual: an attempt at birthing their god. Shortly thereafter, Alice accepted you contract, made a wish, and became a magical girl, under the false pretext that you were her guardian angel offering her a divine mission at the request of God, Himself. Afterwards, you hit the road, hoping to be far from the cult by the time they discovered Alice missing. During your travels you've encountered ALONSO, a wendigo who now fancies himself a knight and Alice his queen after her magic defeated him. And the DURANDS: tribal elder and shaman, SAMUEL and his grandson, JONATHAN an exorcist and amateur detective focusing on supernatural matters. You are currently staying with the Durands under a deal with Jonathan. He and his grandfather are to investigate and remove a strange aura of corruption seeming to emanate from Alice's soul. You will get Alice to help Jon with a couple of future jobs as payment for his services. In the mean time, you have been practicing with Alice, in order to further develop her magical skills. You have also discovered that you are infected with (human) emotions along with a seemingly paternal bond to Alice. Unbeknownst to you, the cult hasn’t given up in their search for Alice. While they have struggled in vain to find any clues, who knows if and when their luck may change?

Alice and you have accompanied Sam to town. While he meets with other tribal elders to discuss Alice’s condition and circumstances, the both of you went on a much needed shopping trip. Alice needed more clothes. Your fun has been interrupted by the emergence of a magical barrier in the restroom of a deserted public park. In order to prevent its spread and to save any civilians trapped inside, you and Alice have entered it; braving the storm and twisted cityscape turned labyrinth contained within. At its center, you have found yourself face to bill with a giant swan that may be a thunderbird.

Conflict was inevitable.

>I will try to write at least one update every day save Saturday. I’m a slow writer so bear with me.
“Alice, run!” she barely gets out before the nearby scenery is obscured by a flash and your nose is assaulted by the smell of ozone. Alice has to get out of this clearing if she’s going to survive this. You can hardly hear your own thoughts from the din coming from the bird’s take off. You think you can make out another flash and one of the statuesque human forms disintegrating into dust. Well it’s clear this place is still operating on dream logic. There’s no telling what nasty surprise lay in hiding for you…That gives you an idea.

“Alice keep running. Go back into the maze.”
“Why would I want to that?” Alice shouts as she steadies herself on her feet. “It can just fly over the maze.”

“We’re sitting ducks out here in the open. The buildings will make it harder for it to hit us with a bolt. Secondly, that’s the point. I want it to follow us.” You can see Alice’s grip tighten on her hammer.

“What in God’s name are you thinking, Octavian.” She doubts you, but she’s already turned her back on the monster and hurrying back to the labyrinth.

“A trap. Spiders catch flies with their webs. That bird is a really big fly to a large enough spider. See where I’m going with this? Use your magic on the spider. Make her really big. Have her make a web between the tallest buildings she can find. Several if she can. Use the rest of your magic to augment yourself. We’re going to lure the bird into following us and attacking when the time is right. Hopefully, this thing cares more about killing us than seeing where it’s going.”

“YOU KEEP SAYING HOPEFULLY, OCTAVIAN!” you have no time to respond before the sound of thunder rings out and sparks fly as lightning impacts one of the nearby skyscrapers. The swan pauses directly overhead. It seems to readying a different attack. Alice seems oblivious.


With a beat of its wings, the rain seems to stop momentary before being replaced by long shards of glass, chaotically striking all around you. Shit, one just nicked your ear. Thankfully, Alice’s backpack bore the brunt of the damage before she escaped the path of the attack, breaking down the wooden door with a full body tackle. You can feel the ground shake through Alice’s body, more lightning strikes. Alice shakily asks “What do we do now, Octavian? We're trapped.” You can’t blame her for being scared. She was just inches from certain death.
“You can’t give up, Alice. Not now.” You place a paw on her arm. “You’re not alone. I need you to be strong for the both of us. You can do this.”

“I don’t really know anymore, Octavian. But it’s not like I have any other choice.” You tell Alice feign an attack with her rose from the doorway while she climbs out a window. The distractions worked and you get a head start. The bird seems to give chase a little slower. It seems that that glass trick takes a lot out of your opponent. “How’s the web coming along?”You ask impatiently. Alice ignores you momentarily, carefully considering which one of the three seemingly identical alleyways is the correct path. “It’s done” she replies “We’re still two miles away. I don’t know how much longer I can keep running like this.” Just try is the only response you can muster.

It’s a tense cat and mouse chase, but just as Alice’s stamina seems to fade and your pursuer is readying its attacks, you can make out the spider (Damn, she’s gotten big. Her enhanced size is roughly that of a semi truck.) scurrying around the outside one of the buildings “ALICE, NOW!” The girl stops dead in her tracks and the shadow of the swan looms ever larger as it dives to strafe you with lightning and glass…The attack never comes as the swan seemingly collides with an invisible wall—one that become much more visible as its silk glows an unnatural red. The bird’s momentum punches it through the first web, but it becomes hopelessly entangled when it becomes sandwiched in the second. The sound of thunder dies. The beast can’t seem to fight back without flapping its wings. The spider takes this as her cue to emerge from her hiding spot and deliver the first blow, biting the swan somewhere on its torso.

“Alice, use your roses. Make sure it can’t get free. Then pull it down to the ground. From there you can finish it.” You order stoically. The form of the spider shrinks to her original size and she scuttles off into a portal, as twelve giant rose vines erupt from the ground and envelop the spasming bird. With a sickening crunch, the vines begin to constrict. Between the web, venom, and vines, the swan can do little to resist as it’s slowly dragged onto the roadway below. Is it that blood mixed in with the raindrops?
“Let them go you meanie!” Alice exclaims as her first blow connects to the swan’s head with a dull thud. All it can do is let out a mournful cry. “Why won’t you let them go? Please just let them go.” There’s a second thud, then a third, a fourth…This isn’t a fight anymore. It’s a murder. It not cast off from Alice’s hammer—it really is raining blood. Despite the noise of the storm, the swan’s panicked cries, and the cacophony of hammer blows, you can make out Alice sobbing. “WHY?” She screams before putting her all into one final swing. Blood pours forth from the animal’s bill joining the fresh puddles of crimson in the streets. With a sickening death rattle the great bird falls still. The rain stops.

Not long afterward the whole world seems to turn a familiar shade of red and you feel a wave of great pressure crash into your body. This must be what an insect feels before it’s crushed by human hands. Then everything goes black…

The first thing you feel is dampness, water again? And pressure? There seems to be a lot of weight on top of you…Wait you’re in Alice’s backpack. You tied yourself in there before you…Shit where’s that knife? More importantly where’s Alice? It’s a struggle to free yourself but you finally escape. You’re both in the ladies bathroom. Alice is lying, face up, in a small puddle beneath a leaky sink, not far from the entrance to the restroom. You were still in her backpack before you came to. She’s still transformed. Her hammer lies discarded off to her right side. There’s no sign of the ordeal you both just been through, no blood, not even a tear in her backpack.

ALICE, WAKE UP!” You start to shake her. It’s just enough to rouse the girl.

“Octavian, I’m really tired” she says weakly.
“It’s only natural to feel that way after using so much magic. Come on. Let’s get going.”

“No, Octavian. I feel all yucky. I think I’m getting sick. My hands and feet are all tingly. It’s really hard for me to stay awake, but that sinking feeling hasn’t gone away. Is this what dying feels like?” Another attack, this can’t be happening. “Tell Joseph and Shirley, I love them…I hope they can forgive me for running off and being such a failure.” It has to be coming from somewhere. Glancing around the room, you can see a pair of feet, motionless; clad in ladies dress shoes from underneath one of the stalls. The woman you saw earlier, of course!

“Alice, you’re not dying yet. Get up. I know it’s hard. She’s in that stall.” You point for emphasis before doing your best to try to help Alice to her feet. She’s as dazed as that strange girl in the dreamworld. Alice almost falls down trying to pick up her hammer. It’s a trial for her to make it to the stall door and swing her hammer. The flimsy door latch offer little resistance even in Alice’s current state. It’s not what you expected at all…
The woman is actually a fair bit older than you first assumed now that you can see her up close. She’s clearly an adult. You would guess she’s in her late twenties. Her smart shoes and pencil skirt suggest she’s a white collar professional of some type, but the jean jacket says she’s off duty. She’s definitely not a local. Why come all the way out here? Her purse is sitting open on the paper dispenser. It looks like she was riffling through it in a hurry. What’s distressing is her left sleeve is rolled up. Her arm is tied off with some sort of elastic material and there’s a needle sticking out of her arm. Great you went through all of that and made Alice risk her life for some junkie. There’s no hostile reaction from the woman. She just sits there slumped over.

Wait she’s not breathing. Alice doesn’t look too good, herself. Wait, why is Alice acting like she’s been drugged. How are you going to deal with this?

“Oc…tavian…What’s wrong...with…her?”

>“Nothing’s wrong, dear. She’s just sleeping. We should go back to the park bench. You need a good long rest.”

>”Let me handle this. You’ve done what you can. Go back to the bench and get some rest.”

>She’s dead, Alice. She chose a sinful life and God has punished her for her sin. We should get going. I’m worried more about you."

>”We’re too late. She’s dead, Alice. It’s all in the Lord’s hands now.”

>”She’s dying Alice. Help me look through her purse. She has to have a phone. We can use it to call for help.”

”She’s dying, Alice. I know you’re tired, but you have to try using your magic. It’s the only thing that can save her in time.”

>Write in/Something else:
>”She’s dying Alice. Help me look through her purse. She has to have a phone. We can use it to call for help.”
I'll going to sleep for a little while. The vote is still open in the meantime.
My apologies. Something came up today and I didn't have any time for writing. I will try to get out the update tomorrow.
Okay, no problem.
You tell Alice to put the purse on ground level where you can get to it. Alice might not know it, but all it takes is one look at the woman's pale face and blue lips to tell you at this point your effort is a token gesture, at best. Now where's her phone. You know humans, especially females, are inspirable from those things. Now where would it be? Let's see...a spoon?, some scraps of foil?...What don't women keep in their purses? Well there's some sort of anonymous white powder in an old pill bottle. The label is scratched off. Of course, that's the narcotic. This stuff is drug paraphernalia. Her phone probably isn't in this compartment. In the main one you find a wallet, some loose change, a small bottle of perfume, some sort of folded paper--a map?, various female hygiene supplies, and...some sort of glass and metal thing. Wait it has a speaker grill. Oh, this must be what a phone looks like now. Shit, how do you use this thing; where did all the buttons go? You think it's off. "Alice, I need a little help here. Is this it? How do I use it?"

"Mmm...dunno, 'tavian. Never had one...'ather did...never let me play with it...Ask God. He know eeeverything." Alice dropping her hammer, woozily walks over to the unconscious woman and grabs her up in a big hug around the shoulders. "Sokay...I'm here now...no matter what happen...allgonna be alright...gonna' wake up and 's all fine." With that Alice goes limp and sinks to her knees, leaving her head resting on the woman's lap. The woman lets out a sickly sounding wheeze followed by her chest rising in a series of rapid gasping breaths. Her eyes seem to flutter open momentarily before closing again. Alice is back to her casual clothes. Her transformation ended abruptly. What the heck did you just witness? Healing magic doesn't work like that, at least the kinds which you've seen. That woman was dead. Alice couldn't have broken one of the few limits you know to magic. She's strong but there's no way. There has to be some other explanation.

Okay, don't panic. You think. Focus on what's actually important. You turn your attention back to Alice. She has a steady pulse and is breathing easily. The same goes for the mystery woman. Color has returned to her face. It's as if they were both sharing a peaceful dream during afternoon nap. Strange. Alice doesn't budge when you shake her. If someone walked in you would have a real mess on your hands. There's no way you can move either of the women and this scene can't pass for anything normal. Still you have to make do with what you've got. You climb up the older woman and cut off the band and remove the needle, tossing them back into her purse. You roll her jacket sleeve back down her arm. You need to think of something. Deciding to check if the coast is clear you grab the purse and hop out of the restroom.
Thankfully, the park is still just as deserted. You're far enough away from Alice to begin sensing magic again and there's potent magic right in your arms. Something in the purse is magical. Your first guess was the needle. It contained a small amount of the woman's blood. Withdrawing the item and squeezing a drop on your paw, you take a sniff. This woman has magical potential, but it's completely untapped and nowhere near enough to create a barrier like the one you just saw. Carefully, you place the sharp instrument back in her purse. You notice the pill bottle again. Yeah, it's the drugs. Why would someone enchant narcotics? It does explain the barrier: an out of control chain reaction brought forth from a positive feedback loop between an enchantment and virgin magic. You might be able to tell more about the magic in play if you opened the bottle, but you leave it as it is. You don’t relish the possibility of accidentally inhaling the powder. This might be something that interests Jonathan. You set it aside before tossing out the rest of the drug paraphernalia in a trash can out of an abundance of caution. You still have about an hour before Sam finishes up his meeting and there’s no telling how long it would be before he comes out here looking for Alice.

>Rummage through the woman’s purse again. Maybe you could find out more about her from her wallet or the slip of paper.

>Calling the cops now might raise too many questions, but there was that Madeleine woman. She said she was willing to help Alice. You would have to figure out how to use the phone though.

>Try to rouse Alice again. That’s one problem off the list and she might be able to help you figure out something to do with the woman.

>Write in/something else/some logical combination of options:
Just sort of a quick note. Octavian is familiar with cell phones but not smartphones. He's been with Alice at the cult compound since the early months of 2005. (She just turned 14 in January.) Communication with the outside world wasn't exactly high on the cult's priority list. Flounder is the only one with a smartphone and a television and he didn't really flaunt them. Johnathan's work phone is a prepaid feature phone, just in case he needs to ditch it. So this is the first time Octavian has seen a modern smartphone.
Sort of a shameless bump. The vote in >>3707515 is open.
>Try to rouse Alice again. That’s one problem off the list and she might be able to help you figure out something to do with the woman.
>Rummage through the woman’s purse again. Maybe you could find out more about her from her wallet or the slip of paper.
>I combined the votes.

You always did love a good mystery, all this was shaping up in to one, but your first priority is still Alice. Going back into the bathroom, you give her a gentle push and an "Alice, wake up." No dice. She's still out. (Hopefully, it's just magical overexertion.) Especially if you did just witness a novel form of magic. Even if you are mistaken, this experiment is--You decide to shake off your wandering thoughts. You have a job to do. The mystery woman is sleeping soundly, herself. Not that you would want to wake her up. She's an unknown quantity here; a potentially dangerous one at that. There's no telling what she might decide to do to Alice or you considering the circumstances of how you found her. Well she doesn't have to be a complete mystery. Your attention turns back to her purse. You practically have her everyday life in your paws. Well there's no harm in investigation. It's not like you have much else to do until Alice wakes up. Although...You put down the bag and pick up the multitool from the bathroom floor where you left it. With some difficulty with the dexterity in your paws, you switch the open blade from the serrated to the clip-point and set the knife down next to you. It's not like you could put up much of a fight, but you were willing to try for Alice's sake.

You sit down and get to snooping about. First, you check the unmolested leftmost compartment. Inside you find nothing of interest: A compact with makeup, lipstick, earbuds--probably tossed in the wrong compartment in absent mindedly, a pen, and a small pad of paper. With the rightmost section now empty save for the strange drugs, you decide to go back to the main compartment. You lift out the wallet, phone, and paper and push the purse aside. You check the wallet first. It opens with a loud snap and a few scraps of paper fall out: receipts. One from an ATM for a five-hundred dollar withdrawal, a few for gas, a couple for roadside food places, and one from a outdoors supply store. It lists off nylon rope, a state map, a foldable camping stool, and some small camping supplies. She's definitely not dressed for roughing it, no mention of a tent or sleeping bag, either. She must have already had them. Your greed momentarily getting the better of you, you open the fold containing a small collection of bills. A quick count tells you she has less than seventy of that five hundred left. You consider removing the currency and robbing the woman, but something tells you Alice would disapprove of that. You decide to leave her money where you found it.
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>Forgot my trip.

Turning to the neat row of cards, you finally find something useful. A Wisconsin driver's license. The black and white photo's dour visage resembles your mystery woman. The surname Martin is listed at the top and underneath it the first and middle Jeanette Melissa. An address to an apartment in Madison is listed. She's a long way from home. Next the identifying details eased any doubt that this Jeanette was your mystery woman. Five foot eight at a svelte, one-hundred and twenty pounds. It was hard to tell with her slumped over as she was but she did seem to have long legs and was pretty thin. Brown hair and eyes--that's a match from what you could see. She was going to turn twenty-nine on the eighth of this month. Her birthday was a few days away. The issue date was last year. Pulling out some of the other cards, you find a mix of credit and bank cards with the names: Jeanette M. Martin and Jeanette M. Anderson. Finally, the last card in the stack was also a telling one. A staff identification card for a Sacred Heart Catholic School from the 2017-2018 school year for a Mrs. Jeanette Anderson, Sixth through Eighth grade English and Language Arts; your now not-so-mysterious-woman is grinning happily in the ID's picture. This druggy was a school teacher, one who taught kids around Alice's age. What is the is world coming to?

Placing the wallet back inside the purse where you found it, you then unfold the paper. A smaller note contained within drops out:

Dear Dad,
There's no easy way to write this...

It's unfinished. Well now, that doesn't tell you much. The map is of Wisconsin and a number of state parks are circled. Some are crossed out. One circled park isn't a far drive from where you think your current location is. That's probably the camp site this Jeanette was driving to. Folding back the map and sliding the note back into its hiding place, you stuff the paper next to the wallet, tipping over the bottle of perfume in the process. Without the cap it's already assaulting your sensitive nose. To you it might as well be smelling salts...

That gives you an idea. You look over to the sleeping Alice and pull out the bottle. You could try spraying it on her nose. That might wake her up, but there's a risk here. What if Alice thrashes around as she wakes and rouses this Jeanette woman. You give Alice another light shove. She's still snoring. Well nothing ventured, nothing gained. You climb up Jeanette's legs and let Alice have it. She lets out a dainty sneeze and slaps you away out of reflex. You land sprawled out on your back on the hard concrete floor. "Ouch!"

Alice regards the sleeping woman, she was using as a pillow, confusedly for a moment before scooting backwards and pushing herself upright. She rubs at her nose. She turns to your prone form to voice her displeasure. "Octavian, what gives? That sorta' stung."
"I was worried sick. You started acting strange after we got out of the barrier. You collapsed and then you wouldn't wake up."

"I did?...Oh I pushed you too. I'm so sorry, Octavian. Are you hurt?" A look of genuine concern dawns on her face.

"No, no dear. I'm alright. I can take much worse. I'm just relieved that you're okay."

Alice looks back to the sleeping Jeanette. Alice opens her mouth to say something and then hesitates. "I don't remember anything after all that awful stuff with that monster. I, uhh, I think I was dreaming or something. I, don't feel that sinking feeling anymore." Pointing to Jeanette she asks: "Is she the person I was supposed to save? What do I do now?"

"Yes" you respond. "And that's a good question. I have no clue myself. I hoped you could help with that. If you could help me figure out this blasted phone, I could call the police and they would bring her to a doctor..."

Alice cuts you off "Father said not to trust doctors and certainly not the police. They lie and can do all sorts of bad things and they can get away with it too!"

"Alice I don't think that's right." Deciding to drop the topic before things get uncomfortable, you add: "She's not in any immediate danger anymore...I think? We could just leave her here."

"No, Octavian. What if some bad guy comes along when she's like this. He could take all her stuff and that's wrong. What if she gets lost or hurt?"

"Alice, we have to get going soon. You can't possibly want to bring her along?"
"Why not?"

"ALICE, SHE'S AN ADDICT!" You shout after losing your cool. You don't like Alice talking back to you like this.

"So? I don't even know what that means, but she's my responsibility. After all, God sent me personally to save her. Octavian you couldn't have forgotten our mission? Maybe, I did really hurt you? I'm sorry, Octavian. Please forgive me for hurting your angel, God."

"I already told you I'm fine. Alice, she's a bad person, who does bad things."

"Father told me all about when Jesus was preaching he hung out with all sorts of bad people and showed them how to be good people instead. I just need to teach her good things, like Father Flounder taught me. Isn't that part of what I wished for?"
You're not talking her out of this. You could try to come clean about everything. (But do you really want to hurt Alice like that?) You dismiss the notion. What will you do?

>Show Alice all of the things you found. Maybe that could help you reason with her. You might find even more incriminating evidence on woman's phone, with Alice's help.

>Tell Alice to figure out the phone and suggest to call that Madeline woman as a compromise. That might get this Jeanette out of your fur.

>Reluctantly agree to at least to talk to the woman. You would need some help from Alice, but you could try rouse her with some sunlight and fresh air, or her own perfume in a pinch. Then you can have Alice ask her your questions.

>Maybe Alice has a point. She does have an unusual amount of magical potential for a fully grown uncontracted woman. You would still want to ask her some questions and get some reassurances before you're really comfortable with her presence, but Alice's potent magic can deal with a simple woman, assuming the worst. And at best, you might get a contract out of this.

>Write in/something else:

>Maybe Alice has a point. She does have an unusual amount of magical potential for a fully grown uncontracted woman. You would still want to ask her some questions and get some reassurances before you're really comfortable with her presence, but Alice's potent magic can deal with a simple woman, assuming the worst. And at best, you might get a contract out of this.
The update will be later today. Something cut into my morning free time and I didn’t get much written.

>the votes still open for now.

Also, How well did I do at conveying the circumstances of and a few of the events in Jeanette’s life without dialogue? I alternated between wondering if I was being too obtuse with some parts and too painfully obvious in others. You’re still missing the answer to: “Why did these things happen?” But that’s something that would come up in conversation with the woman or you would stumble upon a few clues in her phone. I’m curious if I need to add in more dialogue in places to spell things out or maybe even cut to her perspective, which I still might do because I want to clarify exactly what Alice did to her. I just have to think of a different way to do it than I originally conceived.
I can get the idea pretty easily, personally
Thanks. Also,
>Writing. I'm not sure how long it's going to take.
>Sorry I had to get something to eat before I could finish writing.

You take to brushing back your ears with your right paw—a newly found nervous tic. Alice is waiting for your reply. Feeling those strange sensations again you can’t seem to calm your reservations. As you’ve thought before there’s no telling what sort of trouble this woman could cause and you don’t want any unnecessary trouble for Alice. But you do know what trouble she might get you out of, personally. She has the magical potential to form a contract, quite unusual for someone her age. Running into her is a spot of luck. Considering Alice’s disposition, there will be no complaints or threats like those of her mother. She could even be a boon to get through to this Jeanette woman. Your thoughts have a point. While Titania and Alice have bought you many years of life, you can’t shirk your duties forever without facing certain consequences. Contractees don’t just fall into your lap like this. Well it couldn’t hurt to find out more about this woman. Maybe Alice has a point considering what she did to Alonso. Still you would want to take precautions. You don’t want to be trapped in a stall if things went south.

“Alice, I hate to ask but can you still do magic?”

Alice scrunches up her face. She looks like she’s assuming you have hostile intentions. “Yeah, a little bit. Why? I’m not going to hurt her in her sleep.”

“No dear, it’s just you made a decent point earlier. Still this woman has a life of her own, so I would like to see what she wants to do before you think about bringing her along. I think she might be a little more agreeable if she doesn’t wake up surrounded by strangers in a bathroom stall.” You state the obvious. “I can’t carry her by myself, but you can.”

“Really, that’s all you had in mind, Octavian?”

“That and I wanted to know if you could get away should things turn hostile. It’s more of the former than the latter. I don’t think she could do very much to hurt you if you have your magic, Alice…Wait up a moment.” You gesture over to the phone and the bag lying on the ground. “Take off your backpack for a second. You can’t carry her and I at the same time. I’ll hold on to her stuff at least. I wish I could help you more.”
“Okay” Alice slides off the backpack after you help cut off the thread still tied around her waist. You put your multitool and the woman’s phone away and hop into the bag with Jeanette’s purse. You wait for Alice to put on her pack before you slide the pill bottle out of Jeanette’s purse and place it next to the nylon sheath. It’s best for you to hold on to it. No need to have a repeat of the events from earlier. Alice on her part struggles to find a comfortable way to lift Jeanette. The dead weight isn’t the source of the problem, but rather the height disparity between the two girls. Alice finally settles on the most awkward looking bridal carry you’ve ever seen. It takes a bit of effort not to snicker. “Okay Alice, I think we should lay her out on the park bench. Make sure to check if the coast is clear first.”

“I know already, Octavian.” She peeks around the corner of the entrance. It’s still deserted. Considering the state of the surrounding neighborhood, you can surmise this isn’t exactly a popular lunchtime spot. Alice’s new clothes are still where you left them, right in front of the park bench. Alice steps right past them and spreads Jeanette out on the bench. Deciding to make yourself useful, you ask Alice to put you down. You set aside the woman’s purse and get to redistributing the clothes between Alice’s two bags.

"Octavian, can I have my sweater?” You pass Alice the garment and she looks at it for a moment, before she slides it behind Jeanette’s head as a pillow. Alice gently brushes the woman’s bangs away from her eyes. This elicits a reaction from the sleeping woman. She starts stirring and mumbles out “Mmm…Dan…let me sleep for five more minutes. I’m not going to be late for school.” Jeanette opens her eyes. Finding herself in unfamiliar surrounds, she jolts up into a sitting position. A hand goes to the small of her back out of some practiced reflex. Her expression becomes even more puzzled when doesn’t find whatever she was looking for. She starts talking to Alice.

“Wait, you’re the girl from my dream…I…saw you in my classroom…Is your name really Alice?”
“Um…Yeah?” With that, Alice, on her part, clams up. You knew this would happen despite her earlier eagerness. She was always shy around new people. You remember her shielding her face behind your plush form at the sight of a stranger when she was a very little girl back at the cult’s farm. Alice takes a step back in caution.

“No sweetie, I promise I’m not scary. You can trust me. I’m a teacher. I’m Mrs. Anderson” Jeanette goes quite for a moment and mumbles a fast correction almost under her breath “was a teacher. I was Mrs. Anderson. I, uhh…I…”A look of horror spread across her face. She looks down at her arm and back to Alice. “Don’t tell me you saw me…? I swear it’s not what it looks like.” At this point Jeanette starts stammering. “It’s…It’s just medicine. I got in a really bad accident when I was a little older than you. If I don’t do anything the pain gets unbearable. Some days I can barely walk.” You think you can see the beginnings of tears welling up in the corners of her eyes. “I took too much again, didn’t I?” She buries her face in her hand to hide her shame. “Please don’t judge me. Not you too. Please…”

Alice seems confused and still a little bit frightened. She isn’t speaking up. Should you join the conversation?

>No, you might just scare this woman more. You have faith in Alice. She can be a brave girl when she puts her mind to it.

>No, but you could walk over to Alice and whisper a few reassurances and pointers while Jeanette isn’t looking.

>Yes, You’re going to have to speak up eventually if you want to contract this woman. You might as well get the shock out of the way early and you get to ask your own questions this way

Do you have any particular questions for Jeanette? If so,

>Write in:
>Yes, You’re going to have to speak up eventually if you want to contract this woman. You might as well get the shock out of the way early and you get to ask your own questions this way.
Maybe start with some introductions, then if she is still coherent after that we could ask her to tell us about herself and maybe about the dream she had.
Supporting >>3716619
Supporting. By the chance that she does contract with us, she can be good company. Human company.
"Alice, it's okay. She really needs another hug right now." You speak barely above a whisper. Speaking up is the right course of action, in your opinion, but it's best to ease into this. It's the very same course of action you would take with older children. They would usually regard a talking stuffed animal with suspicion. It was so much easier with the younger ones. They tended to react with awe, much like Alice did. Granted you were in uncharted territory. You've never contracted an adult before, nor really found many reasons to interact with those that weren't already magically adept and well aware of your presence.

"You're right, Octavian. I guess she thinks I'm being mean." Alice steps forward and wraps herself around Jeanette's shoulders in a deep hug. This time there isn't the dramatic reaction you witnessed earlier. "I'm sorry you're sick. I hope you feel better." Jeanette's sobs become audible after that comment. Alice in return squeezes her a little tighter. "I really am sorry. I don't know what's wrong. Whatever it is, you're safe now. I saved you."

Jeanette visibly confused by the comment, lowers her hand from her reddened face and settles on placing it on Alice's arm. You can see her regard Alice for a short spell before she attempts to speak in her best attempt at a soothing voice, given her current emotional state. "So, Octavian is the name of your stuffed animal, Alice? He's cute. I always preferred dolls myself. Ever since I was little, I always knew I wanted to become a mommy someday, just like mine." Jeanette trails off for a moment, a look of regret on her face. "It's one of the reasons I decided to be teacher when I grew up."

Maybe you were hasty with all your assumptions. Jeanette really does seem nice. The drugs are going to be a problem, but that's a bridge you can cross later. You loll your head to one side sending a droopy ear with it and smile. SHIT! She just saw you move your head, didn't she? She tries to bolt up from her seat but Alice is in the way.

"It just moved...and smiled at me." Jeanette starts hyperventilating.

"Actually, he's an angel." Alice adds in a hushed tone. Great, that's not going to help anything.

"This has to be another dream. I guess "Requiem" was right all along. All the drugs must've made me crack up. I've gone crazy." Jeanette thrashes around a little more in Alice's arms before going still and reaching her free hand to her lower back again. "I should be having a pretty bad spasm right now with all this moving around...WAIT, ANGEL." Jeanette's sobs return and she starts shouting hysterically. "No!No!No! NO! Not like this. I wanted to die out in the middle of the woods where no one would find me. Not in a dirty bathroom...not with a needle in my arm. Please, I don't want anyone to see me like that. Please. PLEASE! Send me back. I'll do anything."
"Actually Jeanette, you both quite alive and sane thanks to Alice's magic." You add in a matter of fact tone out loud. Hoping to head off another freak out, you decide to take a bit of a gamble; to use some of your own magic. You project your thoughts directly into Jeanette's consciousness. Hopefully Alice won't suddenly develop the ability to pick up on your conversation, but she's surprised you before. "I can assure you, you are not dead and I'm not really an angel. However that last part must stay a secret between you and I. In exchange, I can overlook mentioning your illicit drug use to Alice."

"Why would you offer to do that? I already opened my big mouth. I'm pretty sure she knows." Jeanette replies.

"She knows nothing." You counter. "You see, Alice is quite innocent to the ways of the world. She has no clue what she just witnessed...Unless I tell her." You let the implication dangle in the air for a short time. "Keep my secret and I will keep yours."

Even in her own mind, Jeanette was unsure. "Well, what really are you then? How do you know my name?"

"I found your ID in your purse. As for the less mundane answer, I am a magical contractor. It is somewhat self explanatory. I offer humans, with the proper potential, magic for the duration of their lives, along with one wish." Jeanette's mind is skeptical. "Look it's a mutually beneficial arrangement. The human get's access to magic and my lifespan is extended. I get to stay alive. That's the secret part. Happy now?"

"Why should I believe anything you say? You just came out and told me you're lying to Alice."
Of course she went right for the sore subject. "Alice is a special case...She...She was the property of a cult. She spent virtually the entirety of her life on their compound and they did a thorough job indoctrinating her. They were going to do something awful to her--a sacrifice to their god. I didn't want stick around to find out exact the details. The only way I convince Alice to leave was to prey on her religious beliefs. I used the cult's own work against them. Something terrible was going to happen to Alice if I didn't step in. I didn't really have a better choice." You almost lose your train of thought but you manage to recompose yourself. "I really do care about her. I've been watching over her for fourteen years, since the moment she was born. I'm the closest thing to a parent she has left."

"Jeez, I'm sorry. My training didn't go in to dealing with anything that extreme. I would have called the cops. That wasn't an option, right?"

"They were very isolated. The leader was the only one with a phone. Even if I did convince someone to take a closer look at the farm, there were a lot of cultists and, of course, they were armed. It would have been a bloodbath and the cult would have had plenty of time to do whatever they wanted with Alice during the siege."

"I can see why you did it, uh...Is it your name really Octavian?" You confirm it is and Jeanette continues her thought. "Nobody deserves a fate like that, especially, a cute little girl like her. I could have sworn she was younger from her appearance and demeanor."

"Alice didn't exactly have a rich diet on the farm, like children do on the outside. Well, her mother was like that too...Until she grew up way too fast."

Jeanette has already caught on to your implication. "Christ, I really don't know how I would have handled that in my classroom. She just threw Alice away, too?" You add a half-hearted "Correct and Alice mustn’t know any of this" in affirmation. "I would have killed to have a little girl like Alice, or a boy, or just any child to call my own. I couldn't though. The doctors said..." You cut her off. "Your drug use, right?"

"NO! They told me I would wind up paralyzed, and that was if I was even able to carry to term...I Well I knew I would have to give up the pills. I could have dealt with the pain...It's not like that at all. Well, back then it wasn't."

"Jeanette, it’s clear you have a story to tell. I don't know how long I can keep this up, but I can tell you want to get this off your chest."

"It's long" She replies "Isn't Alice getting suspicious?"

"I'm inside your mind. Thoughts move faster than words. To Alice we've been starring at each other for a second. Although I'm starting to tax myself, try to make it brief."
"Well I grew up in a pretty normal home. I got good grades. I loved ballet. I lived to dance; I was pretty good at it too. When I was Alice's age, I got in an accident. It was the afternoon on Fourth of July and I was out riding my bike with my friends in the neighborhood. One of our neighbors was coming home from the store in a hurry--a beer run--and he was already really drunk. He plowed right into me. The doctors didn't think I would ever wake up. I proved them wrong on that one. Then, I was never supposed to be able to walk again. I was a stubborn girl. I never gave up. I proved the doctors wrong again. But, I didn't have a miraculous recovery. My spine is fractured in a couple of places. My entire lower back is messed up. I've been in some type of pain ever since then. Obviously, I could never dance again. Things got bad. My mom died before I turned sixteen and things got even worse, but I kept going. I got over dancing. I went to college, found something new to live for--teaching. I met a man and fell in love. I got the job of my dreams. Everything was going great, but I couldn't beat fate in the end. As I've gotten older, my condition has steadily deteriorated. The pain just got worse and worse. I wound up on stronger and stronger doses of opiates. I tried else everything, to no avail. I guess I started to take out my frustration on Dan. I really wasn't the woman he married anymore and...It didn't help that I couldn't 'perform my wifely duties' without being in abject agony. He cheated on me. Then, I filed for divorce. I started really using then."

"I managed to keep things looking normal for a time. One day a few months after my divorce, I was having a bad pain day at school. The students weren’t helping either. I guess I really lost track of how many pills I took between classes. When I went on break, I took a couple more. I went into the teacher’s lounge bathroom to clean myself up and I was thinking about going out to my car to get my cane or just signing out sick. Then I don’t remember anything else. Apparently, I passed out. I was in there through my whole break and twenty minutes into my next class, before one of the students called the office. The security guard had to kick down the down the door and call an ambulance. I was already on thin ice with the administration for starting an argument with a parent over his child bullying my favorite student. Apparently, he threw enough money around to get them to side with him. The principal didn’t wait for me to leave the hospital, before he called me and demanded my resignation. I lost my insurance and I couldn’t afford the pills anymore so I called up an old friend from ballet. Her life was going about as well as mine, she had become a different type of dancer, and she hooked me up with heroin.
"Since then, what else can I say? I’ve ran though my savings. I can’t get a job. I couldn’t pass the drug test even if I could get an interview with my professional reputation in tatters. I’m divorced. I really am damaged goods that no man would ever want. I can’t have a baby and no sane agency would ever let me adopt. I didn’t tell my dad anything. I never wanted to be a burden. He’s starting to figure things out on his own. So I said I was going out on a spa trip for my birthday and…"

“You were looking for an exit.” You say.

“So why are you both here? Why did I have a dream about talking to your girl in my old classroom? Why isn’t my back hurting anymore? Why don’t I feel high?”

“Jeanette, this is all sorts of complicated, but…Somehow your drugs got tainted with magic. I don’t know how or why. That magic reacted with your latent magic to produce something dangerous, which Alice dispelled. Afterwards we found you and I’m pretty sure you were dead. Alice did something to you. It wasn’t like any magic I’ve seen before. Apparently it healed you. I’m afraid I can’t really give any more specifics. Alice's magic is quite unique. As for the dream, I suspect you two were communicating like we are now.”

“Alice was scared both of me and the classroom. I had her sit in my lap and I started reading ‘Charlotte’s Web' to her.”

“You must have made a good impression on Alice. She’s been badgering me to take you along with us since she woke up.”

“Octavian, you just said I have magic. Are you trying to talk me into a contract?”

>Yes, and you would have access to a wish that could grant you almost anything you ever wanted. Well, almost anything. There are a couple of things I can’t do and a few things I should advise you against doing. Don’t worry about that too much. You could solve any of your problems, or decide to solve others like Alice did.

>Yes, you were looking for an escape for your old life and now you have a real opportunity. You would become someone great, a true heroine, despite all the odds being stacked against you. They could never judge you again.

>Yes, I can’t raise Alice alone. She needs a human mother, one who really cares this time, one who can help to keep her safe. I can’t be that for her, but you can.

>No, but you might want to consider it. Alice would like your company. She needs more interaction with sane humans and an education might help her.

>No, I’m just being friendly, but you do have the capability to do so. Did I mention this ability is exceedingly rare for an adult?

>Write in/Something else/Some logical combination of answers:
>No, but you might want to consider it. Alice would like your company. She needs more interaction with sane humans and an education might help her.
>Yes, I can’t raise Alice alone. She needs a human mother, one who really cares this time, one who can help to keep her safe. I can’t be that for her, but you can.
+ And... To be frank, I can’t raise Alice alone, no matter how hard I try. She needs a human mother, one who really cares this time, one who can help to keep her safe. I can’t be that for her, but you can.
>writing: Take the Soft Sell approach and appeal to Jeanette's maternal instincts.
I'm going to try to get out an early update today. No promises I can get it done today.
Neato, take your time QM.
I wound up starting over. I wasn't happy with the dialogue. However I'm going to be out till the afternoon. If I finish up the update it will be closer to when I posted yesterday.
this is smart
you said it right
and she can wish to fix her spine
>Sorry, I was having a rough time writing today for some reason. Also, technically I missed getting this out on Saturday.

Well, she is an educated woman; of course she caught on to where you were going with this. You were going to wait a bit longer to broach the subject of contracts. You didn't want to seem too pushy. "No, but you are capable of making one. It's something worth considering." Jeanette seems skeptical again. Time to try a different approach "Alice would greatly appreciate your company. She hasn't exactly had the pleasure of interacting with many people. Well, sane people at the very least. We've made the acquaintance of a couple of...Well, I don't know if I can call them both sane, either. But for lack of a better term, a pair of human individuals. We're currently staying with them, but it's a temporary arrangement at best. Furthermore, you're an educator. Alice is a smart girl, despite the cult's best efforts to keep her from developing that way. It's a travesty for her to know so little about the world around her. You could really help her expand her horizons."

"Octavian, I'm a drug addict and I was this close to killing myself. I don't think qualify as sane. I understand the gravity what you're asking me. I appreciate that you have some faith in me, and I do feel for the girl. My heart goes out to her, but the school had a point, In my current state I'm not exactly a good role model for a child. I would love to spend more time with her, but it would be selfish of me to do so. I don't think that's in Alice's best interests, at all."

"Jeanette, do you think I'M qualified to raise the girl? Do you think I can be a role model for a child? I'm an outsider. What I know of humanity is through passive observation and following a number of my contractees. In fact, I've only been experiencing emotions for a handful of days. There's much I don't know and even more that I poorly understand. To be frank, I can’t raise Alice alone, no matter how hard I try. She needs a human mother, one who really cares this time, one who can help to keep her safe. I can’t be that for her, but you can. You told me how much you wanted to be a mother, Jeanette, and Alice wants a family to call her own. That's what's in Alice's best interests.
>And I forgot my trip

"There's no reason you should be asking that of me. You shouldn't trust me...I...I...can't, Octavian. I just can't."

"...And I can't do it either, Jeanette...But, I'm trying my best. I understand your reservations. My first instinct was to get Alice as far away from you as possible, but she saw something in you, something worth saving. I don't think you understand quite what Alice did for you. You said your back hasn't hurt since you woke up?"

"Yeah, it's the first time I've actually felt good since I was a teenager."

"Jeanette, I'm positive she healed your back." She's fallen silent. You could only imagine what she is feeling now. "...But something like that is a trivial task for magic. I probably could have done it when you contracted, even without using your wish. With that I could have created an entire new body for you from scratch. However, I, nor a wish can create a copy of a soul; much less force the soul of the recently departed back to earth. Jeanette, I can't raise the dead. Believe me I've been asked to try...It went very poorly."

"...And you said you thought, I..."

"Yes...Jeanette, I have performed deeds humans have deemed miraculous, for decades, and to me what Alice did for you was a miracle. I don't know how she did, or if it came at some personal cost. She was in great distress before she tried...And if it were up to me...I would have done nothing. I would have left you. I owe you an apology, Jeanette. I..."

"I understand, Octavian."

"I don't think you do. I've operated by doing what was logical and expedient for close to eighty years now. Seventy-Nine to be exact. To suddenly look back on all my deeds from a more human position...I've done some awful things by those standards."

"Octavian, I can't say I'm innocent, either. But I think I can speak for both of us when I say that I want to keep Alice innocent for as long as I can. I'm strongly considering your offer, Octavian. I can't really repay Alice any other way, if I could ever repay her at all...But say I come along, say I contract. What happens if the cravings come back or I really get sick? You know--withdrawal. Or I start feeling lonely, and sad, and...I start thinking about doing something stupid."

"Alice and I will do what we can. I promise. All you have to do is speak up."
"Okay...I'll do it. I'll take the contract. It's not like I really have much else left to do with my life anyway."

"Jeanette, do you have a wish in mind?"

"I have an idea."

"Then, thank you, on behalf of both Alice and I. You won't regret this. I'm severing the connection. I'll tell Alice I was doing something to calm you down."

"Right." With that your left with only your own thoughts and the tell tale throbbing of a headache. Jeanette's frees her hand from Alice's grasp and pulls the girl into a hug of her own. "I'm sorry, dear. I was acting foolish."

Alice looks surprised by the sudden change of mood. "It's okay. Miss Anderson."

She looks back at Alice and smiles. "Eh...That name sounds so stuffy and I don't really go by that anymore. You can call me Jeanette, or Jean, or Jenny. I've went by one or another at different times in my life."

"Okay. Jenny is a nice name." Alice turns her attention to you."Octavian. What just happened?'

Your quick with your prepared answer. Well, Jenny didn't understand why I was here and she got scared. Angels have that effect on a lot of people. That whole 'Be not afraid' thing comes up for a reason. She thought I was taking her to the afterlife and I used a little angel trick to calm her down and make things clear. Thank Gabriel, for coming up with that one. I have good news too, Alice. I think Jenny going to be joining us on our mission. She has a calling too."


Jeanette stands up and pulls Alice into her lap. "It's true." She whispers into Alice's ear. "Even without my classroom, God wants me to keep helping children...And he told me about one special little girl I should pay a lot of attention to; It's you Alice." You can see tears once again forming in her brown eyes. "I'm so happy I got meet you." Her words fail her and she buries her head into Alice's shoulder.

You let them have their moment. You have about thirty minutes before you need to get back to Sam. Jeanette has a car of her own nearby and it's not a long drive back to the coffee shop. How will you spend this time.

>Finalize the contract. This park seems isolated enough and Jeanette knows her wish.

>Jeanette didn't exactly pack much, considering she was never planning on going home and it might be some time before she can. Alice and her can't share clothes. Look over what she has and do some last minute shopping.

>You're pretty sure you've sold Jeanette, but it might be helpful to have Alice give a demonstration of the basics of magic. That way Jeanette might have an easier start than Alice did.

>Write in/something else:
>Finalize the contract. This park seems isolated enough and Jeanette knows her wish.
Damn QM, these are some nice posts, good job!
>Finalize the contract. This park seems isolated enough and Jeanette knows her wish.
>Tell Alice she did a good job.
>Writing.If there's any other little things like praising Alice, feel free to write them in. I will check back periodically.
Hopefully, I get it done by this evening. I've just been pretty tired all day. I don't really have a good reason.
>I had my first taste of the curse last night. My internet conection committed Sudoku and I couldn't figure out a way to get the word document with the update off of the flash drive I keep it on and on to my phone without the internet or typing the whole thing on a virtual keyboard (not happening). Everything is back up and running this morning. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Well, Jeanette has a vague idea for her wish. You might as well strike while the iron is hot. Humans are finicky creatures, their females in particular. This woman could find any number of excuses to back out of your agreement later, especially given her precariously illogical mental state.(Can you even make such an accusation when you find yourself similarly compromised?) It's been many years since you've held two contracts. The graceful woman, that you are contracting now, was probably still the clumsy child you saw back in the barrier. It would be many years before the cruel sword of fate fell upon her, stealing away her dreams. Your mind turns back to hazy memories. There were four of them, childhood friends. You remember being eagerly passed around. Smiles and giggles turning in to awe, with a display of fresh magical power. Declarations of friendship and togetherness. You remember the face of a young neighborhood girl, still very much a child. The fear in her eyes from the discovery of her uninvited presence turning to joyful wonder at the sight of the pretty costumes--You think you can see a little sliver of that happiness in the face of her daughter. Inevitable conflict. Regrets at unspoken words and unsaid goodbyes turning into tears. More empty seats at their clubroom table. Loneliness. Titania's furious face despite your most detailed and logical explanations. You suppose things went poorly for them...all of them. You silently resolve to make sure things go better this go around. (For Alice's sake). You hope that Alice, nor Jeanette can see your mouth drooping into a frown. (You can't help but wonder if it was all your fault.)
Deciding not to mire yourself in guilt, you turn your mind to the task at hand. "Alice, dear. There's a swing set all the way over there. You did a really good job today so, you deserve a break. Go have some fun. Jenny and I have some things to discuss." You can see a look of growing disappointment on Alice's face. It's clear she wanted to keep hugging and whispering with her new friend. "Don't worry dear. It's about Jenny's mission. She might to keep some things between her, me, and God. You wouldn't like it if I went around blabbing about all your prayers."

"I guess you're right Octavian. That might be embarrassing. It's just...we didn't have anything like those back on the farm...What do I do with them?"

Jeanette speaks up for you. "Sweetheart, you've really never been on a swing before? They're sort of like a rocking chair but you can go off the ground if you want. It's fun." Jeanette breaks the hug to run a hand through Alice's blond hair. "Just be careful and don't swing too high. I don't want you to fall off."

"I always did like sitting in Sister Shirley's rocking chair when she wasn't hogging it all the time. I'll give it a try."

Jeanette gives Alice a look you've seen before on the mothers of some of your contractees. "That's good Alice. It's important to try new things. You might find something you'll really like, or maybe a new talent or hobby that you will want to practice for your entire life. I'll come along and show you how to get started."

"Count me in as well" you add, not wanting to miss a display of Alice's cuteness.

Alice follows Jeanette's example and sits down on the swing. It takes Jeanette some effort to push herself to any height with her long legs being awkwardly mismatched for how low the swing hung from its chains. Alice tentatively follows her lead, having a much easier time thanks to her child sized height. Jeanette gives some quick instructions on how to slow down, before stopping her motion to dismount the swing and give Alice a gentle push. Now with Alice thoroughly distracted, you both leave to discuss your unsettled contract.

"So Jeanette, have you finalized you wish? Are you ready to become a magical girl?"

She gives you a knowing grin. "I knew you would be chomping at the bit. But, yes. I think I'm ready as I'll ever be."

"Name your desire."

The grin leaves her face. "I...Um...It's...This is harder than I thought." It's clear she's having hard time putting her wish into words, something that's not uncommon in contractees. "Does it have to be like one concrete thing, or can I sort of walk you through my thought process?"
"Jeanette, there's nothing to be afraid of." You state in a calm tone. "I'm not going to pounce on the first thing say. I have some pride in my craft. I'll give you a chance to confirm that your wish is just what you want. But yes, you can do the latter. That's how Alice made hers."

"Okay, well. Considering her age and how little education she's received, most teachers would write off Alice or any other kid like her. I don't want to give up on her. I want to be the best teacher I can be. I want to be able to bring out the best in any child so they can grow into the best person they can be. And I want to be able to keep children safe from harm or at least make it all better. So they wouldn't ever have to deal with the kind of pain I did, physically or emotionally."

"That's somewhat vague in parts, but I can work with it" You can see Jeanette looking at you, somewhat disappointed from your words. You hold out your paw. "No need for the long face, dear. It's a fine wish, a noble one at that. Consider it done." Your height difference forces Jeanette to practically kneel to complete the handshake. Shortly, you find your vision obscured by the bright light of her magic brought forth from her soul.

Where Alice was much like her mother, an barley contained bonfire of crimson red spontaneously roaring into existence, Jeanette's light moves like the sea on a calm day, gently lapping at your eyes as the ocean does to the shore. It's a similar shade of aquamarine too, one that's reflected throughout her costume. It's a tight dress with accents of white. The skirt is both almost too short and ridiculously poofy, with the white lace of a petticoat peeking out from beneath. It did however, show off how surprisingly well toned her legs remained, despite years of disability. It occurred to you that Jeanette must have struggled hard to maintain her dancer's body. Maybe it was simple vanity, but more likely it was a desperate bid to hold onto one thing from her former life, when everything else was hopelessly beyond her control. The skirt has a pattern: a ring composed of dark pink triangles around its circumference, just before the hem. The same pattern is mirrored on the ends of her otherwise pure white elbow length gloves. The bodice seems to be straining against her bust and shoulders, even with as thin as she was. It was like the dress was meant for a smaller woman, a shorter one too. On her head, sits a tiara, a large greenish aquamarine at its center. It's quite the absurd get up, but you don't allow your face to betray any amusement and continue to firmly grasp her left hand. Lying on the ground underneath her right is a staff made of polished wood. Near the top, the wood seems to have grown as if it had coiled around something, making it look like two diverging serpents forming a crescent moon finial. At the center of that arc sits another bright greenish aquamarine gem, held aloft by magic.
Jeanette finally gets over her self-induced shock, from the light show she put own, lets go of your hand and looks down at her costume. You’re having a hard time reading the emotion on her face. She’s starting to tear up once again. “It can’t be…” You can make out between sniffles. “The color is all different, but it looks just like it…But dad threw it out after…”

“It’s your costume, Jeanette. I didn’t pull it out of a closet or a landfill somewhere. Your magic made it. Its form is influenced by how your wish and your soul interact.” You decide to add tentatively: “You can change it a bit if you don’t like it. It’s simple magic that most learn. Many girls like to alter their dresses because they find them awkward in…”

“No, Octavian. That’s not it at all. It’s just like…"

“What did you say to her, Octavian? Did you make fun of her dress?” Of course, Alice picks now to show up. She’s in her costume and your little nun is slowly floating back to the ground. She must have seen the lights and decided to come running. You could guess she wanted to compare outfits with Jeanette. Alice for the third time today pulls Jeanette into a hug. “Don’t cry Jenny. It’s really pretty.”

“No, Alice he didn’t do anything. “My mommy made a dress a lot like this for a fairy princess Halloween costume a long time ago. She came to visit me in the hospital on Halloween wearing it, back when I first got hurt. She worked really hard to get it finished in time even though she was already really weak from…” Jeanette stops talking abruptly and just lets herself cry. “Don’t worry Alice. I’m going to be fine. I’ve just remembered so many things today. Some I treasure dearly; some I would like to forget.”

You decide it best to join them. You climb into Jeanette’s lap and hug her around her midsection, before speaking up. “I hope you will both remember this moment and come treasure it as Jenny said.” No more words are needed. All three of you just spend the time enjoying each others presence.
The sun’s position betrays it is past midday and you need to head to Jeanette’s car and get back to Sam, but how will you explain Jeanette’s presence. You don’t want to make it seem like you are altering your deal with the Durands to take advantage of them. How will you go about making the introduction?

>Have Jeanette distract Alice and tell Sam about all the events that have transpired today yourself.

>Have Jeanette distract Alice and tell Sam some of what happened, but leave out more sensitive things, like Jeanette’s drug addiction, that she might not want strangers to know about.

>Have Jeanette tell her own story and you will deal with Alice. That’s she’s made a contract and wants to help Alice too.

>Sam has a soft spot for Alice, so let her do the talking. She might not make it a cohesive narrative, but she will make it clear that she wants Jeanette in her life.

>Write in/something else/some logical combination of options:

The car ride back will eat up a portion of your afternoon but you should have some free time. How do you want to spend it?

>Get right back to work: Training. You have a new magical girl to teach and Alice might have demonstrated some new skills. (Starts a second vote for what you would like to train)

>The Durands have a number of films; maybe Jeanette and Alice might like to spend more time together. You might watch along yourself. You never cared much for cinema but that was before you felt emotions yourself.

>There are some children’s board games. Maybe everyone needs a break. You will even handicap yourself so Alice has a decent chance of winning.

Author’s note: Alice did get new things from the boss fight. The world glowed red before collapsing, after all. I just didn’t want to break the narrative to give the standard you got: X greentext. If it wasn’t clear from the description Jeanette’s outfit was heavily inspired by Madoka’s MG outfit. Just imagine how silly something like that would look on an adult woman, and a tall one at that. As my notes put it: “Clearly, Jeanette needs the prettiest of pretty, pretty princess dresses, as to be the butt of jokes well into the future.” You were originally going to encounter Jeanette much later in the story and she was a much more one note concerned teacher character that wants to help the girls (that you could talk into make a contract with the right votes). Originally, the junkie was a different throwaway character. I decided to merge them together and I’m pleased with how it turned out.
>Sam has a soft spot for Alice, so let her do the talking. She might not make it a cohesive narrative, but she will make it clear that she wants Jeanette in her life.

>The Durands have a number of films; maybe Jeanette and Alice might like to spend more time together. You might watch along yourself. You never cared much for cinema but that was before you felt emotions yourself.
>Writing. This update is taking me a bit more time to write. I needed to look up a couple of things.
>This came out to be a long one. I guess I didn't need two voting events to lengthen it out at all.

As much as you enjoy the warmth and how the soft material of Jeanette's costume rubs against your fur with each of her breaths, You did make a promise to Sam (You do suppose there would be more time for things like this in the future. You were looking forward to it). You give Jeanette a soft pat on the back and break your hug. "Well, it looks like it's time. Jeanette did you see that old house near the center of town?"

"The bed and breakfast? Yeah, on my drive in. I wanted to stop and check it out, but my back was spasming horribly from all the driving. So I really..." She pauses and quickly decides on a different course of events. "... I really needed to use the restroom, so I stopped here."

Alice pipes up "I sorta need to go too..." She looks fearfully back at the park bathroom. It's understandable that she might find the building a little traumatic, considering today's events. "But, I'd rather go somewhere else."

Seeing Alice in distress like that causes you to try to mimic the calm way Jeanette speaks to Alice, but in your deeper voice."It's fine, dear. Jenny's going to drive us there, so it shouldn't take very long. I'm sure there's a much nicer one at our destination. Can you make it?" Alice nods in affirmation, so you turn back to your previous conversation. "Anyway, there's a restaurant there or a coffee shop. We'll be meeting with an elderly gentleman. We've been staying with him and his grandson. They're in a pretty rural area. I guess...we'll need to work something out when we get there."

"If push comes to shove I can just sleep in my car. That's mostly what I've been doing since I left home anyway. I'll still have to figure out something for food. I've mostly been eating junk since I hit the road. I guess there wouldn't be much harm in skipping a meal or two. Just one other thing, Octavian, uhh...Do have to walk around like this all the time?" Jeanette gestures to her light blue costume. She has a point. Her outfit is even more conspicuous than Alice's.

"No..."Alice cuts you off. She breaks her hug and walks in front of Jeanette, before dispelling her transformation. "I had trouble with that, at first, too. See it's like this, Jenny. All you have to do is find the wriggling in your tummy and tell it to cut it out. Then there's not as much wriggling and you change back. Easy." All Jeanette can manage is to mouth out a silent: "What?"
You give Jeanette an apologetic look and dispel her first transformation manually, just as you did for Alice. "Jenny's going to need some practice before any of that makes sense to her." You say to Alice. "In fact, she's going to have to take things a bit slower than I did with you. Most adults can't really learn magic, so she's somewhat blessed in that regard. Well unless the adult was previously contracted and just never followed through on learning, or had some type of in born ability; those tend to be useful, but rather weak. Well, they could be altered by some other powerful magic and then they use that to catalyze...I'll spare you the technical details. I'm wasting time. Let's get going."

Alice insists upon carrying all of your various bags, leaving Jeanette to hold you and show the way. Not that there was much need for that. There was only one car occupying the small parking lot, a silver Jeep SUV with a disabled placard hanging from the rear-view mirror. Jeanette fishes a set of keys from her jacket pocket and unlocks the car. “I must apologize I don’t normally let my car get this dirty, but I haven’t had the energy. You know what I mean, Octavian.” She sets you down on the center console and tosses a pillow from the driver’s seat onto a blanket haphazardly crumpled in the back seat.

You continue to play coy for Alice’s sake. “I haven’t had any personal experience with such a thing but I have seen the effects up close before. You’re quite alright, Jeanette.” Your eyes follow her as she circles around to the passenger side. She picks up a medical brace of some type and tosses it back with the pillow, before picking up a cane and looking over it with a hateful look. She throws it with the rest, a bit more forcefully than necessary. She turns her attention back to you. “It’s definitely safer for a girl of Alice’s size to ride in the back seat. There’s too much stuff back there right now. Make sure I keep it clean in the future.” Jeanette looks back to Alice, as she puts on her pink sweater, with a serious look. “It’s just after what we talked about, Octavian, I really don’t want to give you any other reason to think I might be a bad mot…” You stand up from the center console and grab her right hand between your paws and give it a gentle squeeze. You look up and smile at her. She just nods, before turning and walking over to Alice. “Come on, dear. I want to adjust the seat for you.” You’re going to have to help Jeanette with her self-confidence at some point. It’s clear the woman internalized a great deal of guilt over her situation, maybe some she didn’t rightfully deserve.
For all of Jeanette’s fussing, the car ride is a short one and you find yourself back to the same stately old house where you started today’s journey. With nary a Sam in sight, your group heads inside. You had informed Alice and Jeanette to stick together for ease of introduction’s sake. Before seeking out Sam, Alice heads off to the bathroom; leaving you with Jeanette. She thankfully doesn’t try to make any conversation in public. Instead, she takes to touching up her makeup, no doubt, hoping to make a good first impression. “Jenny, what’s that?” Alice asks as she returns.

“Oh, this is lipstick. See. It makes your lips look pretty.” Jeanette passes the tube to Alice.

“I never saw anything like that back on the farm. Father said women should accept their natural beauty. Anything else made you a temptress and a sinner.”

“Alice dear, there’s nothing wrong with makeup. Women have been using cosmetics since before The Bible was even written down. You have to do something naughty first before you’re a sinner.” Thankfully, Alice is too innocent to pick up on the innuendo.

“I guess that’s true.” Alice opens the tube and inspects the waxy substance.

“Here, pucker your lips” Jeanette takes back the tube and applies a little on Alice. “Now rub them together.” Jeanette opens up her compact and let’s Alice take a look at her reflection. “My shade of red is definitely too dark for your skin tone. Maybe I should just get you started with lip-gloss.” She passes Alice a cloth to wipe off her lips. “We can play around later. I don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea if they saw you like that.” You can’t help but remember another girl when you looked at Alice’s red lips. You can only hope Alice doesn’t follow in her footsteps.

You're still in Jeanette’s arms as the girls round the corner from the sitting room turned reception area, to what you think might have been a very large dining room or maybe a ballroom, now converted into a small restaurant. You see Sam still waiting at an otherwise empty table, although there were the telltale signs that he had company. He looks a bit confused at Jeanette, before focusing his eyes. He looks back to Alice. His look turns to concern. If he was using his sight, you may have just proved your theory about that corruption coming from Alice. In order to not blow your cover, you again probe at the edges of Jeanette’s mind. “That’s the man. Have Alice make your introduction.”

“Why was he looking at me like that? Why don’t you just tell that to Alice?”
“He can see the supernatural. There’s aura of magic coming off of your soul, now. It’s one of those in born powers I mentioned to Alice earlier. It’s a pallor trick compared to your magic, but it on the more useful end of them. His grandson has it too, just so you know. As to your second question, I neglected to mention this for both of our privacy, but this link is a two way connection. You can do a lot more than just communicate in words with it. You can transmit memories, like your classroom, if you wanted to. Titania figured out pretty quickly how to get into my memories over this sort of connection without my consent. I don’t want a repeat of that with Alice.” She gets the picture so you sever your connection.

Jeanette puts her hand on Alice’s shoulder. “You should introduce me to your friend.” Alice on her part grabs her hand and eagerly drags Jeanette toward the table.”Grandpa Sam, Grandpa Sam! I made a friend. This is Jenny and she’s really nice.” He offers an unreadable glance to your motionless form before giving an apologetic look to Jeanette. “She’s has a mission too. God told her to help me out.”

“Did he now?” He glares another dagger at you. “How did you meet?”

“Well Octavian and I went shopping and I got some pretty clothes. Then he took me out to eat and we went to the park, but I felt something bad.” Alice starts speaking in a low whisper. “There was some monster inside the bathroom. No it was inside a maze thingy in the bathroom. Octavian said people might get hurt if got out or something. So went inside and fought it. It was this big bird and it had all of these people. And it shot lightning at me. It was really scary. Ms. Spider caught it and then…and then.” Alice gets a guilty look on her face. “I hurt it back, but it wouldn’t free the people. So, I kept hitting it and…I killed it. Then I fell asleep. Octavian said I helped him find Jenny and she was hurt really bad, but he thinks I healed her or something.” She goes back to her normal volume of loud “She was really nice in my dream and it turns out she’s really nice when I’m awake too. Her special dress when she transforms is really pretty too. I like mine just fine though. Can she stay with me? Can she?”

Jeanette decides to offer her own introduction with an outstretched hand. “Uh, Sam. I’m Jeanette Martin. I’m a teacher or I should say I was one until I had to resign my position due to illness…I was on a trip to see the state parks before I got too sick or you know, I’m not around anymore. I stopped here for a bathroom break and well I guess that’s what happened. I was unconscious for most of it. Alice helped me, so I want to return the favor. Don’t worry. Octavian didn’t force me to do anything. He asked nicely. I freely volunteered to come along. I’ve talked to a lot of concerned parents over the years; I’m pretty sure he wants the best for Alice.”
Sam shakes her hand. “It’s Samuel Durand. That’s good to know. I noticed the same thing last night. I just wasn’t expecting to see someone else exceptional out of the blue. I’ve only seen one girl like Alice or you before, and she disappeared under mysterious circumstances. I don’t really know the specifics of how this works.”

“I’m new to this whole mission thing myself. That’s more of a question for Octavian.”

He considers her words before adding: “Yes, I guess it is. We can speak more freely back at my place. You can take Alice along in your car. That would actually let me get a head start on some phone calls. I might be busy for the rest of the day. Do you have a number just in case you get lost? I don’t mean to insult your sense of direction, but you look like a city girl. My home is a little off the beaten path.” Jeanette clearly hasn’t taken any offense and is happy to have Alice’s company. The two exchange phone numbers before you all get back on the road.

The drive is uneventful. Jeanette and Alice spend their time continuing their earlier conversation. Jeanette manages to turn the mindless subject of cosmetics into a discussion on color-theory and how it impacted both fashion and art over history. You’re impressed. Jeanette knows her stuff. She probably was an excellent teacher before her problem got out of control. Although, you tune her out eventually, your head is still aching from both the thunder and your long mental conversation earlier. This is one of the few times you wish you could sleep like humans do.

When you get back Alice unloads her bags and gets to showing Jeanette around the place. Sam elects to remain in his truck, still continuing his business on the phone. While Alice takes Jeanette outside to meet Alonso, you head to nook to find Jonathan at his computer. You hop onto his stack of papers. “Follow me. I have something you might be interested in.” He looks at you reluctantly but follows you into Alice’s temporary room. You dig the pill bottle out of Alice’s backpack. “Catch.”

“Is this what I think it is? Why the fuck do you think I would want heroin.”

“You might want to open the bottle so you’re not looking at it through an orange filter. Notice something?” He opens the bottle and focuses. Yeah he’s noticed alright.

“It’s magic? Why?”

“I thought the same thing. I found it on a dead person in a magical barrier. I think it was the cause. I suppose you know how bad it would get if this stuff wound up all over the streets. Are you up to the challenge?”

“Well considering that my missing students turned up both alive and still drunk. All signs point to Alonso being the only cause of my disappearances. Since he’s taken care of, I’m looking for a new case to investigate in my free time.”
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“Good, let me know what you find.” You take your leave of him and head back toward the living room, hoping for a break. Sam stops you coming from his room, clearly in a hurry. “Octavian, I’m taking Jon to help me get some things for the ritual I’m planning. Have you seen him? I trust you can keep an eye on the girls?” You confirm you can and point Sam towards Jon’s old office. You reach the living room and plop yourself onto the sofa. You can hear the men leave the house and the sound of Sam’s truck starting, before it grows more distant. Finally, some peace and quiet. No, scratch that. You can hear an argument coming toward your location. “Alice, I don’t like you hanging around a monster in armor. Even if he does call you queen.”

Piping up you join in. “Alonso is harmless. The spider on the other hand, she’s the one to worry about. Once you hear her speak you will want to find the nearest sharp implement to deafen yourself. We’ve got the place to ourselves. I’m tired so you two probably can use a rest too.” You gesture to the rows of shelves. How about a film? Those are supposed to be relaxing, correct?”

Jeanette responds: “They can be Octavian. Let me pick one out. I think I can see a few that I’ve shown to my class before.”She goes to the shelves and runs her finger across a few, before settling on one of the thinner cases—a disk. You think those are called DVD’s. You recognize the mouse-wizard on the cover. Did it really have to be something nearly as old as you? You’ve seen this one before with a contractee back when it was in theaters, shortly after you came to this country. It was terribly boring to you then, even if you found the music pleasant. Okay, knowing the subject matter, Jeanette has to be letting her personal bias color the decision. You remember from that contractee that a few of the musical numbers in this feature came from ballet. She was an upper-class girl and was quite familiar with live performances of the source material. She liked to call you her servant and never spared an opening to tease you as she had pulled you from the trash. In retrospect, she was pleasant company. She was similar in quite a few ways to Alice. You wonder what happened to her. You lost track of her after her father moved the family. It had something to do with his business. She could still be alive, but she would be of a very advanced age now. While you've been reminiscing, Jeanette’s been talking to Alice and seems to be waiting for your approval. The older woman is practically giving you puppy dog eyes. "It's fine. I didn't care for that one myself, but Alice should be allowed to form her own opinion."
Jeanette takes your answer as a yes (but not before giving you a dirty look) and gets everything set up. Alice sits down next to you on the sofa, before picking you up and hugging you to her chest. You first saw this feature in much the same way, smothered in a contractee's hug. Jeanette soon joins you, wrapping a free arm around Alice's shoulders. After skipping through some advertisements, you're presented with scenes of an orchestra and a narrators voice you can recall from almost a lifetime ago.
It was much better to you on the second viewing. There was a sort of passion in this type of music that was unknown to you so many years ago. Jeanette ,of course, enjoyed the movie. She confirmed to you later that she had viewed it many times before. Alice liked it too. She particularly seemed to enjoy the part with the mouse character. She said it reminded her of how she first felt when you taught her magic. Her favorite part was with the dancing animals. She laughed out loud during it. Alice didn't really like the part after that. She was frightened by the demon and his ghoulish entourage. Maybe, her fear steamed from her religiosity, but you think her battle earlier in the day might have had something to do with it. She now knows, like you do, that monsters like him can be quite real. After some comforting from both you and Jeanette, Alice seems happy again. She suggests that maybe you should celebrate Jeanette's coming birthday on the eighth by watching movies together. It's not the worst idea if it would please the birthday girl. You could enjoy reevaluating more films together with them.

It's getting late. After the Durands return with dinner, Alice will surely go to bed. How will you spend your evening?

>Jeanette wants to help Alice with her nightly routine. You could join in too. Then, stick around afterward and quietly talk. You could stand to get to know your new contractee better.

>Go to Sam and find out his portion of today's events. He is setting up that ritual for Alice, after all.

>You haven't talked much with Jonathan. You should get to know him a bit better. You will be working together in future.

>Write in/something else:
>Jeanette wants to help Alice with her nightly routine. You could join in too. Then, stick around afterward and quietly talk. You could stand to get to know your new contractee better.
>Writing this. I will try to get the update out this evening or tomorrow. I am somewhat busy today.
>If you have any particular topics you would like to discuss feel free to write them in:
After the hectic pace of the past few days you wish you could have more downtime like this with Alice. After the film, Jeanette stated messing with her phone. Whatever she was doing seemed to sour her mood to some degree and she asked you to keep Alice company while she dealt with it. She headed off to her car leaving you in your younger contractee's loving arms.

"Octavian, you said early you watched this that movie before. Did you see it in heaven? Do you have your own special movies up there and if you do does God make them?"

You reach your paw up to her cheek and give it a gentle squeeze. "No silly, I'm a guardian angel. I saw it on earth." Well at least the second part is true.

Alice thinks about your answer before asking another question. "Knowing you Octavian, you weren't slacking off. So you saw it with another person, someone you were watching over like me, right? I kinda hoped I was special."

"Alice, I'm old and I've been at this sort of business for a while now. Of course, I've watched over other people in the past." You clasp her hands in your paws. "Alice, you are special. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I've really stuck my neck out for you. I'm well outside of standard rules and regulations by this point."

Alice looks over you with concern. "Octavian, don't tell me you gotten yourself in trouble for my sake? Please I don't want you to go to hell. There're bad guys like the one from the movie there...and that means we couldn't be together when I go to heaven, someday."

Thinking about some of your past deeds, you would be in good company there, if a place like hell really existed. "I think I'm fine for now. If God was mad at me, I would know by now. There's nothing wrong with bending the rules a little bit as long as no one gets hurt."

She seems to mull that over for bit. "I...I guess. It's just Father always told me to follow the rules or else God would be angry. Oh, I see now. Like how I was never ever supposed to leave home because Father said so, and what Father says comes from God. But then God wanted me to leave home. So I was allowed to break that old rule..."She goes silent.
You just nod. Someday, Alice would learn the truth behind everything. There's no way you could keep her in the dark forever (and wouldn't that be cruel?). So for her sake, especially after contracting, you had to control the flow of new information. Maybe this self-contradictory logic could allow you to slowly clue Alice in on the reality of her situation, but that's a problem for a different day. You can feel some dampness register with your ear.

You turn to see fresh tears in Alice's eyes. "It's like killing, Octavian. 'Thou shall not kill'. I know, I had to do it. I had to save Jenny. I had to protect myself and the bird was a monster or a demon or something. I remember we talked about this sort of stuff earlier...But I still feel bad about it. All of that, doesn't make me feel any less sad and I know this won't be the last time, I have to..."

One side of your mind quickly wins out. You shake your momentary indecision and pull Alice into a deep hug and whisper into her ear: "It's okay sweetie, I'm here for you. Just let it all out." It's the only thing you can do, after all, she might as well be (your daughter).

Judging from the twelve text messages and their pleading tone (you didn't need a degree in English to make that out), You really worried your father. And rightfully so. God, you were really such a shitty daughter. He didn't deserve a fuck up like you; no one did. The only thing you every really succeeded at was making everyone around you miserable, including yourself. If only you listened to your mother none of this would have happened. If you just stayed at her damn boring party and let her treat you like a little kid, you wouldn't have been out in the road. Everything would have turned out better. But you had to be so damn stubborn. You knew she only had so much time left, but you had to go out to spite her.
Well you can't undo what's been done. All the drugs ever did was help you forget about everything for a little while. At first, it was just a convenient little side effect. After a while, you looked forward to that more than the pain relief. It was almost the same way with Daniel. Love was an escape at first. Then, it just became another problem. Without the drugs you can't run away from your feelings anymore. Well you can always punish yourself in your usual way later. How long would it be before you let the new pair down, just like Dan. Octavian trusts you too much. He's not human. He doesn't know you well enough. It would only be a matter of time before you hurt Alice like you did everyone else. She even saved your life and fixed your back. You should be happy about that, but you're not. You just feel numb, the same way you've felt for awhile when you're not high. A mother! What was Octavian thinking? You did always want a child, but deep down you knew you would fail her. There was no way you could live up to your mother's example. You couldn't even die like she did, and you've had three good chances at it. Well...you could always go for number four. Your hand goes to the glove compartment and finds the nylon case. You were keeping it there just in case you couldn't do it with the rope, or if something happened and you couldn't do it in the woods. Dan bought for you after you got married so you could keep yourself safe if something happened. If only he could see you now, with your little revolver under your chin. What would he think? What would your dad think? What would...

Wait, what would Octavian or Alice think? They're right there inside. They're expecting you to come walking in any minute now. They could hear it if you...and there would be such a big mess. You couldn't let that darling girl suffer through that. She's been too good to you and you've only know her for a few hours. You made that contract too. There was an unspoken promise with your wish. You couldn't break it so quickly. You weren't that cruel. “Well, you could always put this off for a little while longer, Jen.” You decide to put your gun away and make a phone call. "Hello, Dad. I know it's been awhile. I've been away from my phone...Yeah Hectic--you said it right; that's how it always is with trips..."

>Chapter One End: "Clasping Her Hands, She Ran Beside Me"

"I'm sorry for bothering you, Octavian. I don't want you to think that I'm complaining about what God has in mind for me. That's sinful and really selfish." You can make out between distant sniffles.
"It's quite alright, dear. You weren't complaining, sinning, or being selfish. Everybody gets sad eventually and I'm here to talk. If something's bothering you I want you to tell me all about it." You've just about got Alice calmed down, when Jeanette walks back into the house carrying a small satchel-like traveling bag and her purse. She hurries over. "Octavian, Alice, what's wrong? Is it Chernabog, again? I wasn’t thinking. I should have kn..."

You decide to answer. "It wasn't the film in the first place. I don’t really know the best way to put it, but it has to do with her fight in the barrier earlier.” Jeanette looks downright mortified by this. Is that guilt on her face?

Alice lifts her head out the wet patch in your fur.”I don’t want to trouble either of you…Jenny, don’t be sad. I would do it all again to save you if I had to.” The older woman mutters an unintelligible reply, before looking around as if she wanted to retreat to somewhere. You free a hand from around Alice and pat the cushion next to the both of you. She reluctantly complies and after a few rough breaths says: “I don’t deserve you.”

“Why not, Jenny? You’re my friend. Even if you did something bad, God forgives you and I do too.”The room goes silent before a ringing comes from Jeanette’s purse. She answers it.

“Hello…Who’s this?...Oh you’re his grandson…That might be awfully late for her…You shouldn’t do that for my sake….No, I insist. I’ll be fine.” She turns her attention back to Alice. “They’re going to be gone for awhile longer. If you want to stay up, Alice, they offered to bring something back for you.”

“It sounded like you don’t want anything Jenny?”

She shakes her head. “No, I get nauseous when I eat big meals.”

“Oh, that’s right you’re sick. I’ll make something special for you, Jenny. If I’m cooking then they shouldn’t bother.” There’s an “Are you sure?” followed up by a head nod on Alice’s part.

“No she said she wants to cook. Is that okay?...Oh that’s fine then…Alright, then good night and It’s been a pleasure meeting you.” She hangs up the phone. “You’ve got free reign of the kitchen, Alice. I have laundry to do. Do you know where the machines are at?” Saving Alice some confusion, you point Jeanette in the right direction. Then, head off to the kitchen with Alice. She seems to be lost looking over her options in the fridge.

“Make Jenny some toast. That should be easy on her stomach.” Looking at the contents of the fridge you remember an evening with your old group of contractees and Titania. “Alice, have you ever roasted hot dogs over an open fire? What about s’mores?”

“No, I don’t even know what the second one is.”
“Put the bread in the toaster, that thing over there. Then pull the handles down. I’ll get Jenny to help us with your dinner.” You head off to find the woman standing in front of the washer, wiping her eyes on a T-shirt. You share your plan with her and she agrees it’s a good idea. She comes back with you and searches the pantry. The Durands’ don’t have gram crackers or chocolate, but they do have marshmallows. You find a stick lighter and some charcoal lighter fluid. You just need to get a fire going and your set. Before you can get to that you can hear the toast pop up. Alice puts the plain slices on a plate and passes it over to Jeanette. “Here you are Jenny. Octavian said you could eat this. I hope your tummy feels better tomorrow.”

“Thank you very much.” The older woman takes a single hesitant bite before grabbing the hot dogs and marshmallows along with her plate. You beckon the two to follow along to the fire pit. The responsible human adult starts a fire while you get Alice to aid you in finding some suitable twigs.

Alice enjoyed the standard camping fare. She got Alonso to join in for a meal of his own. Jeanette even permitted herself to have a roasted marshmallow in between small bites from her slices of toast. Predictably Alice is getting sleepy. You tell her she should take a bath and Jeanette asks Alice if she needs any help with anything.

“I would like someone to brush my hair like Sister Shirley did back at home, but Jenny should take a bath first, she’s the elder. She get’s the hot water it’s only right.” You think the wonders of modern appliances might make this less of problem than Alice is making it out to be. But not wanting to make a fuss, Jeanette agrees. Thankfully, she helps you douse the fire before heading inside. Alice bids good night to Alonso, and helps you clean up the mess. You both retire to her room for the evening.Jeanette emerges a short while later, in an oversized nightgown with her jacket draped over her shoulders and still wearing her dress shoes from earlier. The older woman joins you while Alice heads off to the bathroom.

“So about earlier?” You break the uneasy silence.

“I...I’m fine. Just tired that’s all.”

You put a gentle paw on her wrist. “You didn’t sound fine. I won’t press the topic if you don’t want to be forthcoming. So do you have any questions for me?”

“About being a magical girl?” She says softly.
“Or anything else. Maybe you want to know more about me or Alice?”

“I don’t want to pry into your personal lives. But do we have to fight things?”

“Not necessarily, but the magical world is a small one. Trouble has a weird way of finding you unless you completely fall off the grid. I’ve found most humans cannot allow themselves to standby and idly observe the suffering of others when they can help.”
“People are social creatures. We worry about each other. That’s part of how we work. So, are you going to train me or do I just have to wing it and hope I don’t die?”

“Of course I will train you. I don’t want you to die, Jeanette. I actually enjoy your company. You have to cut me some slack. I’ve been dealing with emotions for only a few days. I’m new at this.”

“If you don’t mind me asking how did you get emotions in the first place? It sounds strange even to talk about someone developing them. Humans are born with them. It’s part of how we evolved as a species. I guess you guys are different.“

“Correct. We are not like you. However, I’ve not met very many of my kind. We are both solitary and territorial, for obvious reasons. As for when and how, I’m not sure. Like I said earlier, it’s been fourteen years. At some point, Alice became less of a scientific curiosity and I started to regard her more than an equal. I became invested in her well being beyond my own interests. I can’t pinpoint exactly when things changed or if they ever did, when it comes to her. Last night, Sam informed me that I’m acting like a human parent towards her. Maybe it’s from all the time I’ve spent with her, or maybe I went crazy from doing nothing but bide my time for so many years.”

“I guess I’m in good company then.” Alice walks in the room carrying the hairbrush you stole for her. The two girls enjoy the moment. It’s doesn’t take Jeanette long to finish up the task. Alice only has shoulder length hair. “All done, sweet pea. I’m getting tired too.” Jeanette stands up and turns to leave the room. “I’ll be in my car, if you need anything.” Alice stands up and grabs her arm. “No Jenny, Like I said before. You’re the elder. I have to respect you however I can. You should sleep in the bed. The ground’s not that bad when you're use to it.”

“Alice, there’s no way I could ask you to do that.”

“I’ve slept on it before when I got punished for disobeying my elders. I had to sleep in a ditch the first night I left home. If you want me to have the bed you can stay with me. Octavian sleeps next to me.” You don’t really sleep, but she doesn’t know that.

“Alice, I don’t know if that’s appropriate.”

“Why not?”

Jeanette just inhales deeply. “Octavian?” She’s looking to you for an excuse. “It will be a tight squeeze but I see nothing wrong with it. I’ll be in the middle” She seems to shrink a bit before giving a weak okay. She walks out of the room briefly and returns with a small blanket from the laundry. It was the same one you saw in the back seat of her car. Alice tucks herself under the covers and you give her a good night kiss on the temple. Jeanette lies down next to you wrapped in her blanket and turns the lights off.
Alice has been asleep for close to an hour but Jeanette still seems to be awake. You can see something is troubling her. You turn to her and whisper: “Is everything alright? Are you feeling sick?”

She looks over to Alice before whispering back to you. “I…No. Remember what we talked about earlier, in my mind?…I almost hurt myself, again. I stopped myself because didn’t want to hurt Alice too. I didn’t want to leave you with the mess. Sorry.”

You’re really not equipped to deal with this, but you have to.

>Actions speak louder than words. Give her a sympathetic ear and a shoulder to cry on, much like Alice needed earlier.

>”I can understand thinking like that. I’ve lost girls before. I can’t imagine what I would do if I lost Alice. You’ve lost a lot Jeanette. I can’t fault you feeling this way, but please keep going for my sake and Alice’s.”

>”You’ve been through a lot. I understand how confusing this must be, and that years of pain won’t just vanish instantly. But you have people that rely on you now. You’re not alone and things will get better.”

>No one is home yet. Offer to take a walk with her and listen to her story. You could tell she’s been holding things back. You promise not to judge her.

>Write in/something else/some combination of answers:

Don’t be scared to pick an option or combine things. There’s no “wrong” answer in the choices that arbitrarily punishes you. If you have an idea for a better answer--feel free to write it in. This hasn’t been the easiest stuff to write.
>”You’ve been through a lot. I understand how confusing this must be, and that years of pain won’t just vanish instantly. But you have people that rely on you now. You’re not alone and things will get better.”
>No one is home yet. Offer to take a walk with her and listen to her story. You could tell she’s been holding things back. You promise not to judge her.
I'm starting to worry that Alice's sense might get us in trouble in the future if becoming social with more people is a thing. But we have to uphold the illusion a bit more, don't we? I just don't want other people or other kids thinking that she's the loony religious girl for too long. At best, that quirk is but a quirk and not something detrimental.
Supporting >>3735580
>Writing. I'm pretty beat tonight, so hopefully I should have it out tomorrow. I also need to archive the thread.
I've archived this thread: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/3702767/
However, I haven't really gotten much writing done today. I'll try to get the update out early tomorrow. My apologies.
It's alright.
>I'm late. I wound up having to rewrite a potion of this after I realized forgot how I wrote one of the earlier updates.

There's a tangled mess of emotions in Jeanette's expression. Some of it could be fear. You remember how self conscience she was earlier; how she didn't want to give you the slightest indication of being a bad mother. You can't make what the others are, but the look in her eyes screams that she wishes she would have said nothing and could be anywhere else but here. You've seen something like this before. You vaguely remember a past contractee's tear streaked face, puffy and almost redder than her hair. She had thrown away all logic by that point. There was nothing you could have done, even if you understood her mindset. You did not force her into any action. A different part of your mind takes issue with that rationalization. (While you didn't know exactly what she was going though, and she wasn't nearly as forthcoming as Jeanette, you had been watching humans long enough by then to know something was wrong with her. You should have done more.). Maybe all those human superstations had a bit of truth to them. That being forced to go through this all again was some sort of cosmic punishment for your past deeds.

Well, no time like the present for atonement. You wrap your arms around Jeanette's neck and rest your head on her cheek. Like many a contractee before her, Jeanette buries her face deep in the fur of your shoulder. You had some practice at being used like this, at least. Your form did have its advantages; some of those went beyond camouflage or playing Pied Piper for the magically gifted child. Stroking the back of her neck with your paw you begin to speak as quietly as you can. "Thank you for telling me. I did ask you to bring such matters to my attention..." No, that's not right. That's just going to get you a repeat of last time. "Your health and well being are concerns to me. I promised..." You still sound too cold, too official, too detached--just like your normal self. What would you do if it was Alice in this woman's place (you shudder at the thought). "What I'm trying to say is I'm sorry. I have no clue how to approach something like this. I'm confused where to even begin..." You pause again. Jeanette is probably feeling something similar herself. Her life had become warped around her injuries and trying to live with them. Then Alice comes along and makes it like the accident never happened. But she didn't wipe out the years of mental anguish, nor the hardships in Jeanette's life. She still had to face the consequences of her own actions, except now she didn't have an omnipresent excuse. She had to shoulder the burden with a sober mind. It must be overwhelming. You could try to put your empathy into words. You decide to try that and start again.
"...You’ve been through a lot. I understand how confusing this must be, and that years of pain won’t just vanish instantly. But you have people that rely on you now--Alice and I. You’re not alone and things will get better. I know it sounds insincere and trite, but we do care for you. Better days are ahead. You just have to take my word for it."

Jeanette finally speaks to you. "You must think I'm a real ungrateful bitch. You've both done so much for me and then I almost spat in both of your faces."

"I don't think anything of the sort. It's not your fault Jeanette. You're hurting. Even I know pain makes people react badly."

"If only I had a dollar for every time I heard something like that. I would have had a fortune to squander on drugs." The guilt is palpable in her voice.

"Why would you think I'm in any position to judge you? However, since you want it so badly, I will play along. Of course you've made mistakes. Everyone does, but no sane person would hold you entirely responsible for what happened. You have to let go of your guilt. You don't have to be the same person, I found earlier today, when you wake up tomorrow."

"You make it sound so easy. I'm not the sort of person you think I am."

"It is easy, if you want it." Honestly, you have no clue about that, but it sounded like appealing advice. "Jeanette, I don’t think you’re the sort of person you think you are. I gave you a chance to have almost anything in the world and you used it selflessly. It’s not healthy for you to treat yourself like this, and before you interrupt me, not for the obvious reasons.”

“So you were holding something back?”

“I could make the same accusation to you. I didn’t quite think you felt this badly. I thought it was probable that you might change your entire mindset in light of today’s events. It was a foolish oversight on my part. Like I said before, I’m not very experienced with emotions. I will protect you the best I can, but you have to let me in.”

You can tell it’s not going to be that easy. The conflict is clear on Jeanette’s face. You could force your way into her memories, but that went terribly the last time. “I don’t want to wake Alice.” She states weakly.

“Then we can go for a walk.”

“I’m not dressed for that, and I don’t exactly want to be around that zombie.”

“Just down the hallway, then. We can go back to the living room.”

She sighs. “Fine, I left my clothes in the washer, anyway. I should probably dry them before they get all musty. I didn't even start the second load.” You let go of her and she gets up carefully to avoid rousing the sleeping girl beside you.
“Here take your blanket too. I want you to be comfortable while we talk.” You say as she puts back on her jacket and shoes. She gives you an incredulous face. Even you know it’s something of a token gesture, but she takes the blanket in her arms. You follow her as she dumps the blanket on the living room couch and keep tailing her as she continues laundry related tasks.

She looks you over with slight exasperation. “You’re not going to let me get out of this, huh?”

“You should really talk. It's for your own good, Jeanette. Let’s go back to the couch. I’m good at keeping secrets if that’s what you’re worried about.” She shakes her head before picking you up and carrying you back to the living room. She sits down and kicks off her shoes. Speaking at the same low volume you did around Alice, you ask: "So what's eating at you?"

"I found out how badly I was worrying my father and it reminded me of..." She stops.

"Go on." You drag the blanket with you and pull it over her lap, before sitting on top of it.

"I remembered my mother again. It was my fault that I got hurt. We had a fight the day before about...Well we fought. That's all that mattered. I got grounded. I was board, so while she was distracted with entertaining her friends, I snuck out. I never should have been riding my bike that day. It was all my fault."

"Really, Jeanette? That's it?"

"She was dying, DAMNIT! She was sick and I had to be a punk kid. I ran my mouth off at her, then I disobeyed her. Well, I got what I deserved, but she had to waste the last couple years of her life taking care of me. Things should have been the other way around. Don't you see, Octavian? I ruined her life, my father's life, my ex-husband's life, even my own life. How long will it be before I do the same to you or Alice?"

"Jeanette, I understand the guilt, but you're not being fair with yourself, at all. You didn't deserve what happened to you." You pull her into a hug. "If I was in your mother's shoes and the same thing happened to Alice, I wouldn't care about anything she did. My only concern would be to ease my little girl's suffering, however I could. From the little you've told me, I think your mother thought the same. If you insist on punishing yourself over it, then you should definitely stay alive. Try to be live like your mother. Please, Alice needs someone like her."

"But...I'm not like her. I'm selfish and..."
"Stop. That's a lie and you know it. I can't speak to your marriage, but everything else I know about you says the literal opposite. Look, I get framing everything as some divine punishment against your inadequacies. I've seen people do that before. For some reason they accept it better than chalking everything up to random chance. I know I'm going to have to deal that sort of thinking from Alice. Don't tell me I'm going to have to hear it from you too?"
You can hear the woman's stomach gurgling when you're this close to her chest.
"I know how stupid it sounds out loud. I can't help it. I just feel this way."

"Does that have to do with not eating? You're hungry aren't you?"

"Of course you noticed."

"You're not really nauseous, are you? You've been perfectly healthy since Alice used her magic. Unless you had a stash out in the car and..."

"No. There's no more drugs." She hastily interjects. "Fine, It's a habit of mine. I do get nauseous with big meals, but it's only in my head. It started when I was dancing. I had to watch my figure, you know..."

"So you started skipping meals now and then, just like you said earlier." You add in.

"Yeah. My mom noticed and started asking questions. That's what we were arguing about. After the accident, the opiates really did make me throw up. That went away after a little while. The pills mostly made me feel hungrier. So I would gorge myself when I took them. I didn't want to get fat and it's not exactly like I could work out like I use to. So started skipping even more meals. If I hadn't taken my medicine yet I would force myself to throw up and then take the pill right afterwards. It made for a convenient alibi and I would get high as kite. I could always find an excuse for it. Some new dress I wanted. My husband might like me more if I was skinnier. I guess I really did it to punish myself."

"Well what are you waiting for? Eat something." You step off of her lap and pull the cover off with you. There's a reluctance in her gait, but you practically march her to the kitchen. She decides on making more toast. "There's butter and different preserves in the fridge. I saw a jar of peanut butter in the pantry." You say trying to make yourself helpful.

"That actually sounds good, but it's probably the unhealthy kind that's loaded with sugar..."
You cut her off with a glare and point to the pantry. She follows your paw and comes back with the jar. "Jeanette, what am I going to do with you? I don't want Alice picking up a habit like that, so we are going to deal with this between the two us. Am I going to have to follow you into the bathroom?"

She returns to the table with her plate of toast and knife. She spreads the peanut butter over the slices while she talks to you. "I would prefer you wouldn't. I hope you can trust me. I haven't tried to lie to you. Speaking of that, what were you talking about earlier? Let me guess there's some fine print to that whole contract business." She takes a bit out one of the slices. "Come on, Octavian. What did you do to me? It’s your turn to share with the class."
"I didn't really do anything beyond what I said. It's just very easy for someone in your condition to lose their magic. Well that's one of the two things that could happen, but it's the more common fate."

"I don't really care about my magic. I just wanted to help out. What's the other thing?"

"YOU DON'T CARE! ARE YOU STILL SUICIDAL?" You can see the confusion on her face. "Oh, I guess very wasn't clear. Your magic comes from your soul. To be more precise, it's a piece of it that has been altered by my magic. A truly miserable human can snuff it out subconsciously and irreversibly damage their soul in the process."

She drops her toast. "And that would kill me, great. That would have been nice to know beforehand."

"No, actually it's not fatal in the strictest terms. But you wouldn't want to go on living like that. It would destroy what's left of your mind. Death is preferable in my observation. While I do alter souls, it's one of those things that's beyond my capabilities, even with a wish. So I need to stay on top of you. I don't know if Alice has an encore in her."

"I've lost my appetite." She looks disgusted. "Fuck, how bad is the other one?"

"It's worse, but I've never seen it happen before...or maybe I should say I never really confirmed it's existence. It's more of a pet theory of mine. Satisfied? You need keep eating to keep your strength up. Please, I implore you to do so. If you hate me now, do it for Alice."

"I'll keep eating if you explain yourself." She takes another bite of toast with a dissatisfied look. "Continue."

"This is all based on what I've witnessed and it's all conjecture. Among the humans I've contracted, and the ones I've observed, the ones with actual magic potential underwent some sort of great trauma during their lives."

"That's not exactly a rare thing for people. Everyone has some degree of adversity in their lives." Jeanette speaks out between mouthfuls of bread.

"Yes, there was something of a trend. The more suffering the person underwent, the more powerful their magic was. I think magic could work like a defense mechanism."

She's almost finished a slice. "So how exactly is that a bad thing?"

"So, let's take that assumption as fact and remember magic is a fraction of a contractee's soul. Let's say this person has very powerful magic, like Alice. Rather than burning out it grows stronger as the person declines. As their magic grows stronger, it spreads to the entirety of their soul; consuming and altering it in the process. The mind and the body would soon follow."
"So what happens after that?"She says as she bites into the second slice.

"I don't know. They might die. Maybe it would unleash some sort of cataclysmic event. They might turn into something not human in the slightest. I didn't want to stay with her to finish the experiment. I decided to leave before then, so I went with..."You just told her too much.

Jeanette puts down her toast. "You weren't kidding when said you've done some awful things. You look guilty as all hell, Octavian. Why did you bring up Alice as an example? Don't tell me you were planning something?"

"No. Or at least, now I'm not. I care about her. I really do."

The older woman looks you up and down. She knows all too well how you feel (The difference is you deserve your guilt). “The girl was Alice’s mother. She was a contractee too. Like I was saying, I went with Alice when she decided to abandon her child. So was acting so bizarre at that point, even by her strange standards. There was nothing left for me to do.”

“You look like you’re going to cry, Octavian.”

“I can assure you, I can’t. I lack the physical ability to cry. However if I could, I would already be doing so.”

“Do you want to talk about it?"

“Not right now, but I don’t want to be alone. Please finish your food. I think I have enough blood on my hands. I don’t need yours too.”

“I will Octavian.”With that she finishes her meal. You spend most of the night in silence. She holds you in her arms until her laundry requires her attention, at which point you wordlessly help her with the tasks. Only for her to scoop you back into a hug again when she finished folding. It’s late when she carries you back to bed with Alice. You pretend to sleep only so she might do the same. Some hours later you can hear the Durands enter and promptly go to their rooms. They must be exhausted from their travels. You’re not going to bother them.

Dawn is approaching. How will you start off the new day?

>Wake up Alice and Jeanette. You’re going to start the morning off with a run together. The fresh air could do some good for your mind and Jeanette’s and if both of you are going Alice will want to tag along.

>Wake up Alice and Jeanette and make breakfast together. You want to make sure the food is appealing to Jeanette and you want to keep an eye on her to make sure she keeps her food down.

>Wake up Alice and Jeanette and get an early start on training. Starts a second vote for what to train.

>One of the above options but let one of the women sleep in. What do you do? Which one do you wake?

>”Sleep” in yourself. You want to be alone with your thoughts. You will interact with the first person who wakes up.

>Write in/something else:
>Wake up Alice and Jeanette and make breakfast together. You want to make sure the food is appealing to Jeanette and you want to keep an eye on her to make sure she keeps her food down.
training is enticing but i'll go with this!
>I'll call the vote here. I should have some time to write this evening.
The new thread's up. Sorry it took so long. If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to post them in this thread.

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