Magical Girl Policy- Chapter 29

Robynne walked down the long hallway to room two-eighteen while she scratched at her ponytail. Even though she was across campus, she felt like she could still feel Cammy’s aura sticking to her. No, that wasn’t the right word. Sticking implied there was some addition that couldn’t be removed. Cammy hadn’t added anything to Robynne’s aura. It was more like it had been magnetized; Robynne’s aura was still her own, but now it was “aware” of Cammy in much the same way Robynne was always “aware” of where her Spirit Stick was.

Could this effect be countered? Could you degauss an aura the same way you could an old monitor? Those used strong, oscillated currents to fix any magnetization that might have occurred. Robynne doubted such a thing existed for auras.

Then again, she remembered that magnetization only worked up until certain temperatures. Metals lost their magnetization if they got hot enough. Some auras did have a temperature to them. Could hanging around someone with a warm aura lessen the effects of Cammy?

Electricity. Heat. Warmth… As Robynne thought about it, only herself and Angela seemed to have the ability to sense auras with any detail. Mallory’s element was lightning. While electricity was definitely susceptible to magnetic fields, strong electrical currents created magnetic fields of their own and could potentially shield themselves from a magnet’s effect. Vivian’s and Kara’s elements were fire and light. Fire and light were elements that heated things up, though to different degrees.

But Angela’s element, earth or stone or whatever it actually was called, was an element that contained metals. Metals were extremely susceptible to magnetism while water molecules had a slight dipole that would cause them to align with whatever field they were around. What if all these elements had some implication for the Spirit Guard and their empathokinetic aura-sensing? What if the reason Mallory, Vivian, and Kara weren’t as sensitive to things with auras was because there was some sort of analogous principles between magnetism and empathokinesis?

Then again, as Robynne thought about it, if it were truly that analogous, Angela should still be more sensitive than herself as metals had much stronger dipoles than water. And Kara should still be more sensitive too since light definitely wasn’t going to heat something up as much as fire. Still, Robynne felt that something was here.

As she approached her dorm room and pulled out her key, Robynne heard the distinct sounds of Japanese lyrics mixed with terrible English and pop music. Robynne reached out with her other sense and “smelled” the warm, dew-misted meadow aura of Kara. Robynne pushed the key into the door and walked in. She was greeted by the sight of Kara stomping on Eli’s gamepad while playing Hop Dance Mania.

Kara glanced back briefly and smiled. “Heya Robynne! How were classes today?”

Robynne nodded and removed her backpack. She set it on the small dining table and shook her head. “Classes were just fine. It was the rest of the day that was… interesting.”

“Oh? Interesting how?”

“Well, for one,” Robynne said as she fished for a soda out of the fridge, “I think I’ve made my first non-magical, non-ninja female friend as Robynne.”

Kara chuckled as her song finished up and she stepped off the dance pad. “So she’s your first non-forced girlfriend as a girl.”

Robynne shrugged. “I never liked that girls referred to their other female friends as girlfriends.” Robynne cracked the soda open. “It just always struck me as weird.”

Kara raised an eyebrow as she approached Robynne. “What’s so weird about it? I mean, yeah, guys don’t call other guys their boyfriends but it just doesn’t seem that strange. Girls are just more… familiar with one another.”

Robynne took a sip and leaned against the counter. “Forget the boyfriend thing. It just always struck me as odd how girls seem to have this hierarchy of friendship. Girls call acquaintances their friend. Their friends are girlfriends. And their close circle of friends are their best friends. It bugs me. There should be only one best friend, but you girls have, like, I don’t know, seven best friends at any one time. And people who you only kind of know and are friendly with are friends. Feels like friendship inflation.”

Kara laughed and shook her head. “We girls are just more inclusive than you boys.” Kara gave Robynne a playful poke in her arm. “So who is your new girlfriend?”

Robynne willed herself to not shrink away from Kara’s contact. Though Robynne really hated how often Kara would invade her personal space, the bluenette was so kind that Robynne always did her best to try and not make her feel bad for doing so. Besides, it was good practice for her anyway. Uncle Taylor had always been on Robert for avoiding physical contact. “Her name is Stacy. Stacy… uh… I actually forget her last name.”

Kara chuckled and walked into the kitchen. She pulled out a bowl and started grabbing random ingredients from the the various cupboards. “Truly, your friendship is off to a rip roaring start. How do you know her?”

“She’s in my business class.”

“Neat,” Kara said idly as she started pouring flour into her bowl. “You just sit next together and got to talking?”

Robynne nodded. “Pretty much.”

“Well nothing sounds all that strange so far.”

Robynne smirked. “Well, there is the fact that she is a cheerleader.”

Kara laughed and rolled her eyes. “Another cheerleader, Robynne? Seriously? You really need to branch out. Every female friend you have is a cheerleader.” Kara paused as she started adding some water to her bowl. “Though, to be fair, you do also have a ninja friend.”

Robynne chuckled and took another sip. “Yeah. See. Completely normal.” Robynne watched as Kara fished some eggs out of the fridge. “What are you making anyway.”

“Noodles,” Kara said as if it were obvious.

“What for?”

“I’m going to make some homemade chicken noodle soup.”

Robynne scratched at her ponytail. She had never had homemade chicken noodle soup before. “Why? Is someone sick?”

Kara pursed her lips curiously. “‘Why?’ Because I feel like it.”

Robynne shook her head. “And I thought I was crazy. Why would you just feel like making chicken noodle soup when you can just get some from a can.”

Kara waved her mixing spoon at Robynne. “From a can? For shame! You’re going to taste this and see the world of flavor you’ve been missing out on.” Kara cracked a few eggs and added them to the mixture. “Besides. Cooking is fun! You should try it some time.”

“I’ll leave the cooking to you.”

“So why are you making friends with cheerleaders? No offense meant, but they really don’t seem to be the type for you to get friendly with.”

Robynne shrugged once more and finished off her soda. “Well… I don’t know. Stacy’s just… she’s just really nice. Not really sure how else to describe her.”

“Can’t argue with really nice. Still, other than cheerleader, what’s so weird about your day? I mean, given your life over the past week, weird day is pretty much your default setting. I’m not sure what a normal day looks like for someone with your background.”

“Tell me about it.” Robynne tossed her soda into the trash can. “Well, the weird thing was she offered to buy me lunch so we could get to know one another. Little did I know, it was something she was put up to.”

Kara furrowed her eyebrows. “Put up to? By who? For what purpose.” Kara grimaced. “She wasn’t trying to set you up with a boy was she?”

That thought gave Robynne pause. Did girls do that often? If they did, Stacy would definitely be the type. She thought dates were fun and wanted to share her fun with others. This would be something Robynne would have to watch out for in the future. “No. She wasn’t trying to set me up with anyone. Though, in the end, I think what happened was worse. We were joined halfway through our conversation by the Cheer Captain.”

Kara stopped stirring before she turned around. “Cheer Captain? As in Cammy DeCroix?”

“That’s the one.”

Kara turned away and stirred her bowl. “Curious.”

“Curious how? Angela has some sort of history with her, right? Is that how you know her?”

Kara nodded. “I know it’s a messy history too, though Angela seems very sensitive about the issue. I know Cammy somehow got her kicked out of Cheer Squad, but that’s it. However, that’s not why I remember her.”

“Why do you remember her?”

Kara added some salt to her mixture. “Three months ago, it had been a week or two since I first joined the Spirit Guard. Angela took me aside and said she wanted to try something with my magic sense. I thought it was a little odd. We hadn’t gone on any kind of field trip before, and, well, she asked me on a day when Vivian and Mallory were already busy with other stuff. But I figured Angela must have had a good reason and went along. I thought maybe it was training of some kind.”

Robynne fished another soda out from the fridge. Today felt like a two soda day. She wondered how lame that sounded, but reassured herself by thinking about how most people weren’t raised by a dental hygienist. “So she took you to see Cammy?”

Kara nodded. “It was real cloak and dagger. We snuck into a gym where they were holding some preliminary Cheer Squad tryouts in the early summer months. She was very insistent that she couldn’t be seen. But we went to a window and she told me to focus on the violette who was leading everything.”

“What did you notice?”

“Well, for one,” Kara scoffed, “she was gorgeous. Stunning. Movie starlet levels of attractive. I was very jealous.”

Robynne rolled her eyes. “I was more interested in her aura.”

“Oh,” Kara said curiously, “So was Angela… but all I felt was that her aura was more powerful than your average aura… though it did, uh, I don’t know, taste different from the others.”

Robynne raised an eyebrow. “Taste? It had a taste?”

Kara shook her head and returned to mixing her ingredients. “No. I just don’t know how else to describe our magic sense. I mean, other than the monsters and our transformation sequences, nothing really is too strong of an impression. But I remember Cammy’s. Her aura reminded me of some of my cooking wines.”

Robynne’s shoulders sagged. “That’s it?”

Kara turned around and narrowed her eyes. “Should I have felt more?”

“I did. A lot more.” Robynne “smelled” a burst of lavender coming from the decorative stone in the corner of the room. The stone lit up like a portal from a cartoon immediately thereafter.

Kara turned only at the burst of light. “A lot more how?” Angela stepped through the portal looking out of breath and worried. Kara put down her bowl and stepped away from the counter. “Hey there Angela. Is something wrong?”

Angela dropped her purse on the couch. “Wrong? Oh… uh… no. Not at all. Just um… could I borrow Robynne for a minute?” Robynne sighed. Subtlety really wasn’t Angela’s strong suit.

Kara glanced between Robynne and Angela. “Sure. You don’t need my permission.” What she was trying to figure out, Robynne couldn’t be sure of. It seemed to Robynne that if Kara knew the full history between Cammy and Angela then she would know exactly why Angela was here. Her look suggested she clearly did not know everything. But what reason would Angela have for hiding her history with Cammy from Kara?

“Thanks.” Angela hurried towards Robynne’s and Noriko’s room. “Let’s talk in your room Robynne.”

Kara gave Robynne a suspicious glance. Robynne decided to just shrug. If Angela was keeping the others out of the loop, there was likely a reason for it. It wasn’t Robynne’s business to make sure Angela shared all intel… for now. If Robynne decided it was important enough, she could later relay this information to the others.

Kara nodded her head, though Robynne could tell the bluenette was still very curious as to what was going on. “Oh Angela,” she said with a probing tone, “I am making some chicken noodle soup. You going to stick around for that?”

Angela stopped her march towards Robynne’s room. “H-homemade chicken soup?”

Kara smiled. “As if I do anything else.”

Angela glanced at her feet as if she were soliciting them for advice. “Well… have I ever skipped out on free homemade food from you, Kara?”

Kara grinned wider. “Excellent! I’ll set an extra bowl!” It seemed to Robynne that Kara was planning to get more inquisitive during whatever dinner she had planned. It was a delicious trap for Angela; Robynne suspected the Spirit Guard’s leader didn’t even realize it.

Angela gave a relieved nod and walked into Robynne’s room. “I look forward to it.”

Robynne followed her in and shut the door behind her. “So… care to explain why you were stalking me?”

Angela backed up defensively. “I wasn’t stalking you! I promise!”

Robynne chuckled and spun her desk chair around. “I’m just teasing you, Angela.” She folded one arm over and rested on the back of her chair. “Well, half teasing I guess. Why were you watching me talk to Cammy?”

Angela sighed and pulled out Noriko’s chair and took a seat. “I just happened to be in the Billot Building. I saw you in the middle of everything. Your hair kind of makes you stick out.”

Robynne groaned. “So much for mismatching clothing helping that out.”

Angela opened her mouth to say something but then reconsidered it. “At any rate, when I saw you sitting with a cheerleader, I thought that was quite odd.”

Robynne nodded. “I find it quite odd too.”

“Then I felt Cammy’s aura approaching you. At that point I… started watching you from the balcony trying to figure out what Cammy was up to.”

Robynne closed her eyes and focused on Cammy’s aura. Robynne could sense her somewhere on the north side of campus. It was faint, but whatever Cammy had done had sure left an impression. “Her aura. What the honey was that?”

Angela clutched her chest and gave a sigh of relief. That sure wasn’t what the reaction Robynne had expected. “You felt it too then? How different her aura is? I had started to worry I might be crazy.”

“Crazy?”

Angela took a deep breath. “Her aura. Cammy’s aura. What did it feel like to you?”

“She’s the girl you were talking about yesterday, wasn’t she?”

“Just tell me what it felt like to you. Please, I have to know,” Angela pleaded.

Robynne glanced up at the ceiling. Why was she being so insistent on Robynne answering that before saying anything. Regardless, Robynne would humor her. “It was like you said. Her aura had a texture. It was the texture of… I guess of a soda without the carbonation. So, a flat soda’s texture: still liquid, but there was a syrup…ness to it. Though I’m sure syrupness isn’t a word.”

Angela gave reluctant smile. “I think you’re right.”

“But it was more than the texture,” Robynne continued. “I think that’s what surprised me the most. With the guy at the booth, it was just the crushed velvet texture. But with her, so many other senses were going off. It tasted like something fruity but smelled of alcohol. Unlike most auras, it had a color to it: purple with gold burned at the edges. And it seemed to crash against everyone, like she was the ocean and everyone else was a rock that could do nothing but get wet.”

Angela clasped her hands together. “So vivid. I just… I feel all that too but… less. And your metaphor for aura being so… sticky… just much better.”

Robynne shrugged. “It’s what we’ve got. But I can still feel her, the same way I do the Spirit Stick. I can feel where she is on campus. Her aura did something to me.”

Angela gave a weird half-smile, half-frown and looked like she was about to cry. “I’m not the only one. Oh heavens… thank you. I’m not the only one.”

“Kara said when you brought her to observe Cammy she only felt…or rather, tasted something similar to her cooking wines.” Angela’s face went pale at Robynne revealing she had been discussing this with Kara. “Why are you hiding this from the other Spirit Guard, Angela.” Angela bit her bottom lip and didn’t meet Robynne’s eyes. “You said the person with Cammy’s aura did some bad stuff to you. Did she kick you off of the Cheer Squad? What’s going on?”

Angela went stiff. “How did you know I had been in Cheer?”

Robynne chuckled. “Vivian let it slip during our ice-cream fueled pity party after… well… after Day LaMode.”

“I’m surprised you call it a ‘pity party’ without hesitation,” Angela noted in a not-so-subtle attempt to change the subject.

Robynne steeled her gaze and willed Angela to look her in the eyes. Though Angela tried to avoid eye-contact, as the seconds dragged on she eventually relented. “You have to understand… I thought I might be wrong.”

“Wrong about what?”

“About all this aura stuff. None of them felt Cammy’s aura,” Angela said with a hint of loneliness in her voice. “Kara was the closest one, and even she didn’t feel Cammy’s aura affecting everyone around her. After the third new teammate… I started to doubt whether my magic sense was… even correct. I started worrying I might be imagining it.”

Robynne squinted in disbelief. “Why would you doubt your magic sense? And what does all this have to do with you being on the Cheer Squad last year?”

Angela held her knees close together and rested her hands on them. She collected her thoughts and let out a long breath. “I was a cheerleader throughout high school. Even when I found out about this Spirit Guard stuff, I still planned on cheerleading when I got to SAU. I loved it. I loved being involved with upcoming events, cheering at games, and, most of all, the friendships and camaraderie we had on my high school Cheer team.”

“I became Spirit Guard Valor when I still had one semester of high school left, you know. Platicore’s monsters… they were so much simpler then. Just using one attack repeatedly, not hiding very well. Kunapipi told me I’d have allies but I hadn’t felt anyone I thought would be worthy of the Spirit Guard. But then I showed up to SAU over the summer to try out for the collegiate Cheer Squad.” Angela sighed and shook her head. “That’s when I first felt Cammy’s aura.”

Robynne sat up straight. “You thought Cammy was a Spirit Guard, didn’t you?”

Angela’s shoulders slumped. “I mean, you felt her aura! I had never felt anything close to that! I still haven’t! It made perfect sense to assume she was…”

Robynne held her hands up. “Hey. No need to justify yourself to me. It makes sense. I just wanted to know.”

Angela gave a thankful nod. “It didn’t help that I was completely under her sway.”

“How do you mean?”

Angela took another deep breath. “I was her best Promoter. Freshman can’t cheer so… I don’t know how, but with the help of her aura she convinced me to be the best little Promoter the Cheer Club had last year. Well, until Mallory showed up.”

Robynne shook her head. “Back up. Best Promoter? Why were you her best Promoter? I mean… I thought you said you felt how her aura affected others.”

“I did.” Angela hung her head in shame. “I didn’t realize it was affecting me.”

“Really? How could you not? I mean, didn’t you feel yourself making decisions you wouldn’t normally? I did.”

Angela’s eyes plead with Robynne to understand. “Would you have been on your guard if I hadn’t told you about her aura ahead of time? I was thinking she was my fellow ally in the fight against Platicore. I felt more alive when I was next to her. I was so convinced by her aura that she was a Spirit Guard that I nearly exposed my secret to her in hopes it would, I don’t know, awaken her to the connection we had.”

Robynne cleared her throat. “You almost did what?”

Angela groaned and held her hand to her face. “I know. Kunapipi thankfully talked me out of it… doubly thankfully given what I suspect now.”

Robynne couldn’t help but let a derisive snort escape her nostrils. “So the kangaroo rat is useful for something after all.”

Angela frowned. “Wallaby. And she’s been invaluable.”

Robynne rolled her eyes. “I’ll have to take your word for it. But what do you mean by, ‘what you suspect now?’ And what did you mean earlier about Mallory making you open your eyes or… whatever it was you said.”

Angela gave a weak smile. “I ran into Mallory by chance. Well, by Fate really, but it felt by chance at the moment. I was at a rally for the volleyball team. Cammy let me do some cheers with the Pep Squad for the rally and, at the time, because I was a freshman and freshman couldn’t technically be on the Pep Squad, it felt like a huge honor. It’s where I first felt Mallory’s aura and, though it wasn’t anything like Cammy’s, it was still very unique.”

“I struck up a conversation with her after the rally. Though Mallory seemed confused why this random cheerleader would come up and talk to her, we connected over the fact that we went to rival high schools and we just talked about how much fun the rivalry was. We exchanged numbers and, later on, after a few casual conversations, we decided to meet up for dinner one Friday night when, miraculously, neither one of us had anything going on.”

Robynne squinted. “Miraculously?”

Angela winced. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but Cammy was grooming me to join her inner circle. I was a Nine on her oh-so-important hotness scale she uses to define everyone. I was always being dragged to the coolest party or game or dinner or whatever. And Mallory had a volleyball game most Friday nights that semester.”

Robynne shook her head. “Wait. Cammy uses the One-through-Ten scale? I thought that was something only stereotypical, meathead frat houses did! Doesn’t she feel demeaned by that scale?”

Angela laughed. “Are you kidding? She has the scale all mapped out like a bell curve and has the standard deviations worked out and everything. To her, beauty is a weapon and she intends to wield it. She views herself as a kingmaker. She loves setting up her prized minions up with useful idiots as future campus power couples.”

Robynne blinked in shock at that. “Power couples? You have got to be sugaring me!”

Angela shook her head. “No. I didn’t realize it at the time but Cammy was trying to set me up with some hotshot basketball recruit, but since I kept avoiding any keggers she tried to invite me to, she was never able to introduce us.”

Robynne scratched her head. “This is all so incredibly stupid.”

Angela shrugged. “Regardless. It happened.”

“But wait,” Robynne said, “if you were under her sway, why would you refuse going to those parties?”

Angela puffed her chest out a little. “I wasn’t a mindless drone. I had some standards I wouldn’t break. And I wasn’t drinking any alcohol when I was only eighteen.”

Robynne laughed. “Even when being tempted by the Great Evil Queen Biscuit of the Cheerleaders? You really are the pinnacle of Valor.”

Angela blushed. “Thanks.”

Robynne rolled her eyes and teased Angela. “Don’t let it go to your head. Being a super goody goody isn’t the best super power.” Angela looked slightly hurt by that statement. Robynne sighed. “Sorry. Was trying to just tease you. Did I hit a nerve or something?”

Angela rubbed her arm. “That was… well… Cammy called me a goody goody a lot.”

Robynne shivered. She never wanted to be compared with her again. “Sorry.”

“No. I shouldn’t be so sensitive. It’s just… it still feels fresh.”

Robynne shrugged. “So what happened? What did Mallory do that opened your eyes?”

Angela snapped. “Oh yeah. Well, we went to dinner one Friday night and, well, Mallory’s first monster attack happened. Sucked too. We went to Italy’s Patio. Really good local place. But a monster attacked. It was the first one that had multiple attacks. During the fight I got myself separated from Mallory on purpose so I could transform. When I got back, and I still feel bad for this, it was trying to drain Mallory. But just like with you, she was glowing and the monster couldn’t drain her.”

Robynne held up her hand. “Sorry. I know this is a tangent, but what was the monster’s name?” Angela gave Robynne a flat look. Robynne shrugged. “Cory’s not here. It felt weird to me if nobody asked.”

Angela rolled her eyes. “Alena Alfredo.”

Robynne giggled. She still hated the sound of that giggle. “Lame as always. Sorry. Continue.”

“Anyway,” Angela continued with a hint of annoyance, “I then realized that it was Mallory who was my ally and gave her the Spirit Stick of Tenacity and…”

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” Robynne held up her hands. “Timeout. Back up. You gave Mallory her Spirit Stick? I thought we had to reach into the Standridge Stone to get them. Or did you just walk around with the spares? And how did you know which one was hers?”

“Well, one of my abilities as the reincarnated Princess is I can reach into the Stone remotely at any time.”

“News to me. Why didn’t you try throwing me my stick during the Polygal attack then?”

Angela gave a nervous shrug. “Your situation was weird enough I figured we probably should have a discussion first. Throwing a stick at you would have just added to the chaos.” Angela gave Robynne shrug. “I mean, do you disagree?”

Robynne thought back to how confused she was at the arcade. She hadn’t known anything about the Spirit Guard and wouldn’t have begun to understand the significance of the Spirit Stick. “You’re right. Probably was a good call.”

Angela nodded and moved to the next question. “As for how I knew which stick was hers… it was the magic. It just felt right.”

“Stupid unexplainable empathokinetic sense,” Robynne grumbled.

“Regardless,” Angela continued, “Mallory transformed and we beat the monster. At that point I was so happy to have someone I could share the secret with. I was still convinced Cammy had to be the next Spirit Guard though. So I took Mallory to meet Cammy and see what she thought of the aura.”

Robynne once again rested her chin on the back of her chair. “What did Mal think?”

Angela shook her head. “She didn’t really feel anything. A bit of a charge but that was it. She didn’t feel the grape juice texture, the force of the aura, or how it stuck to anything. Just that Cammy had a slight charge to her. It was no different to Mallory than anyone else with an aura.”

Robynne squinted her eyes. “So Mal feels auras equally as… weak?”

Angela shrugged. “If she feels them at all. It really confused me that Mallory couldn’t feel it the way I did. But what made me question myself the most was Mallory telling me, after a few days, that she really didn’t like Cammy and thought she was a bit of a witch with a b.”

“It’s okay,” Robynne teased. “You can say biscuit. We’re both adults here.”

“Anyway,” Angela said as she rubbed the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes, “Mallory’s words were hard for me to hear. I thought Cammy was the most amazing person in existence. Mallory pointed out how weird it was that I was worshiping the ground Cammy stood on given what a rule follower I was. That confused me and I was kind of in denial at that point, so Mallory pointed out a lot of things that that Cammy was doing that sort of ran against my personality.”

Robynne cocked her head to the side. Finally, they were getting to some of the dirt of what Cammy was up to. “Things like what?”

“Well, how she would use boys then throw them away when it was convenient. How she’d play off of cheerleaders’ insecurities, including my own, to get us to do what she wanted. How she was always trying to set us up with people who conveniently had ties to the Cheer Squad. That one really struck a chord with me.”

Angela straightened her skirt, stood up, and stared out the window of Robynne’s room. “But what hit me the hardest was how Mallory pointed out that when I wasn’t around Cammy, I was confident and took charge of things but the moment I hung out with Cammy, I’d become passive and wait for Cammy to decide what to do. Up until Mallory had pointed that out… well… I had noticed Cammy’s aura sticking to other people but I hadn’t even considered that it might be sticking to me.”

Robynne felt the scent of a pine-covered mountain just before a storm hits burst into the living room. Mallory was coming from the stone. Kara must have called her and said something about Angela behaving oddly. Or maybe it was the fact that she wanted to talk to Robynne alone. Or maybe Mallory just got home, didn’t see Angela and decided to pop on over and see what was going on. Robynne decided she shouldn’t jump to any conclusions.

Robynne reached out with her extra sense searching for the sunny meadow scented aura of Kara. She was surprised to not only find Kara’s aura, but the fruity, flowery scent of Vivian’s aura too. When had she arrived? Robynne was amazed at how something as strong as a Spirit Guard’s aura could sneak up on her if she wasn’t concentrating.

Robynne glanced at Angela. “…started thinking about that fact and realized I was acting different around Cammy.” If the blonde had noticed the extra auras’ arrival, she hadn’t shown any sign of it. She likely had been focusing on their conversation even more than Robynne. “With the exception of the keggers I was doing everything she told me to. I was skipping classes to promote various activities. This was, of course, affecting my grades. I had been a straight A student in high school! And Mallory’s observation made me realize that every event that I was promoting involved either a club, frat, or sorority that had helped the Cheer Squad or Cammy in some way.”

“Helped out the Cheer Squad how?”

“Well, for example, I was assigned to do a lot of promoting for a big Tri-Alph fraternity event where they were having a big beer pong tournament.”

Robynne held in a laugh. “Competitive beer pong? And you were promoting it?”

Angela rolled her eyes once more. “Yes. Competitive beer pong. This goes to the point that a lot of fraternities are just stupid. But, yes, I was promoting it. I originally objected but Cammy rationalized that I didn’t have to go, I just had to promote it and… well, when Cammy put it that way it seemed fine. I didn’t think it was odd that she told me to skip several classes to promote it because, ‘the Cheer Squad really needed me to step up and if I started to struggle in classes, it’s okay Angela. Some boys in the athletic tutoring department owed Cammy some favors and they could do it for me.'” Angela looked down at her feet in shame.

Robynne leaned forward, curiously, “Did you take her up on that offer.”

Angela shut her eyes. “Not at first… but as I skipped more classes… Cammy wore me down. She got a guy to write two papers for one of my English classes for me.”

Robynne tried really hard to avoid it, but her eyes bugged out a little. Sure, Robynne didn’t know everything about Angela, but cheating at homework… that was not like her at all. “Wow… I… I didn’t realize how much she could affect you mentally.”

Angela kept her face to the floor. “Neither did I. It took Mallory’s observations to make me realize it. I started taking a very close look at the Cheer Squad and… I started noticing other odd things.”

“Odd how?”

“Well, for one, not only were we favoring certain frats and clubs and the like, gifts would appear out of nowhere for Cammy’s favored circle.”

“Gifts like what?”

“Clothes mostly. But also things like purses, gift certificates, and…”

Angela was trailing off. That meant this next item was personal. Robynne leaned forward and tried to give Angela a curious but non-judgemental look. “And what?”

Though she avoided it, Angela eventually gave in and looked Robynne in the eyes. “Cammy saw my old flip phone and sort of made fun of it a bit. It made me very self-conscious. My mom isn’t that well off and getting me just that flip phone was a struggle for her.” Robynne nodded her head, but made note of the fact that Angela had only mentioned her mother. That meant her father, for any number of reasons, was likely out of the picture. “So after I did a lot of promoting, I was ecstatic when Cammy gave me a shiny, new uCall… well, it wasn’t brand new. It wasn’t something new from the 6 series or anything, but it was a 4-special… to me it was like a spaceship for all the upgrades it had over my flip phone. I was beyond elated to have it.”

Robynne nodded. “Regardless of which series it was, a new uCall with a paid-for plan isn’t cheap. Where did Cammy say it came from? Was it something one of the other cheerleaders was no longer using?”

Angela pushed her hair back, her eyes starting to morph back into their normal determined expression. “No. This is where things changed. When I asked about it, Cammy said something off-hand about how, ‘there was always room in the Cheer budget for her favorite promoter.’ I had just assumed it was a hand me down or maybe Cammy had just bought it for me out of her own pocket.” Angela’s voice turned uncharacteristically venomous, “Or rather, her Daddy’s pocket. Her father is loaded, one of the larger donors to the SAU business program,and he makes sure his little princess is never without.”

Robynne rolled her eyes. “Of course the rich, snobby, scheming Cheer Captain comes from a rich family.” Robynne couldn’t help but chuckle. “Maybe the universe is as cinematically inclined as Cory thinks it is.” Robynne dismissed the thought and moved onto the important point. “So it came out of the Cheer budget? How would they have money to just buy cheerleader’s gifts?”

Angela snapped her finger and pointed at Robynne. “That was exactly my thought. My high school cheer team had to do all these fundraisers just to cover uniforms, coaching fees, camps, and competitions. But the SAU Cheer Squad did nothing like that. I was spending all my time promoting other clubs’ activities. Some of them, like the Beer Pong Tournament, had fees to participate so I was actually fundraising for them! It seemed all backwards.”

“At first,” Angela continued, “I just thought it was weird, but I wasn’t questioning Cammy so I just left it at that. But then, Mallory showed up and got my head on straight so I started asking around to get to the bottom of it.”

“What did you find out?”

“Well,” Angela said with the tone of a noir detective, “as you’d probably guessed, most of the other cheerleaders didn’t think to question it much either. They liked not having to do fundraisers like they had to at high school and, occasionally, some of them got free stuff. Who would question that?”

Robynne nodded and added in one of her favorite sayings that her Uncle always said backwards, “Keep the wheels greased and ain’t none of them squeaking.”

Angela smiled. “Exactly. But as I started asking around, I found out most everyone just didn’t care. Or treated me curiously when I asked. It wasn’t until I got to asking Tanya, a sophomore cheerleader who was in the know and, like me, was being groomed to join Cammy’s inner circle, that I got any info whatsoever. Tanya had discovered how we got all our funding.”

“And how was that.”

Angela sighed. “Because of the way this University is run, with a strange, far-more-powerful-than-usual Student Association, a lot of the funding decisions are left to the them. Cammy, in her freshman year, somehow convinced the Student Council to stop doing any budgeting for promotion and instead funnel the money to the Cheer Squad and have them do all the promoting.”

Robynne raised her eyebrow. “In her freshman year? Why were they listening to her at all?”

Angela shrugged and threw her hands up. “My only thinking is it’s all aura based. From what I can tell, she should have had no say in those meetings anyway since each club’s designated SAUSA liaison is the only one who can speak and vote on things in those meetings.”

Robynne nodded. “Makes sense. I found it hard to say, ‘No,’ to that aura if I wasn’t focusing. Gummi knows how hard it’d be for a normal person.”

Angela nodded. “Exactly. Cammy wasn’t the Cheer Captain as a freshman but from what I can gather she essentially turned the girl who was the Captain into her puppet fairly quickly. Regardless, it wasn’t just the promotion budget that Cammy convinced SAUSA to turn over to the Cheerleaders. She reasoned with them and got them to agree that one dollar out of every pledge to a club or fraternity should go to the Cheer Club since they would be doing all that Club’s promoting.”

Robynne squinted. While considerable, that didn’t seem like it could amount to too much. “One dollar? How many students join clubs and frats and stuff?”

Angela rubbed her chin. “Hard to say exactly. Fraternity and Sorority stuff is easier to come by since a lot of the chapter stuff is online. About one-in-nine students at SAU join a fraternity or sorority. So that comes out to about three-thousand there. And Clubs represent slightly more than half of SAUSA so my guess is about three-thousand to four-thousand there. But a lot of students participate in more than one group so some of that money is doubled. I’m guessing all told this represents somewhere between seven and eight-thousand a semester in money going into the Cheer Club.”

Robynne nodded. “Leeching off all the clubs. Still, while a lot to you and me, that’s not much in the grand scheme of trying to run a university.”

Angela shook her head. “No, until you consider that Cheer Club already had a budget. And Cammy’s aura and connections through her mega-rich dad allow her to get even more donations to Cheer. We’re talking tens of thousands here. And then there’s her shady dealings with the frats and sororities.”

“Shady how?”

Angela gave a derisive smile. “Well, Cheer is supposed to be at every Club’s disposal. That’s the logic of giving Cheer one dollar out of every pledge.”

Robynne sighed, “But of course that is not how it works.”

Angela nodded solemnly. “I discovered that firsthand. There were several times during my freshman year where I was scheduled to promote something for a club and then at the last minute Cammy would tell me to go promote something else. Through Tanya I found out that those situations were normally due to someone not paying up or someone else sweetening the deal. That Beer Pong Tournament I was promoting, yeah, turns out the Cheer Team was getting a sizable cut of the entrance fee, hence why Cammy had me promoting it so hard. But usually the money wasn’t as big an issue as control over the votes of SAUSA.”

Robynne pursed her lips. “How so?”

“Well, despite Cammy’s aura, not everyone agreed to her plan.” Angela tapped her knuckles on her chin. “I’ve thought about it a lot and Cammy seems to prefer one-on-one situations rather than speaking to rooms. I wonder if her aura is something that somehow has to be, for the lack of a better word, directed at specific targets and it loses its focus when it has to be spread over several targets.”

Robynne cleared her throat. “Interesting, but you were saying something about not everyone agreeing to her plan?”

“Huh?” Angela glanced up and shook her head. “Oh, yeah, right. Sorry. Well, yeah, not everyone agreed. Most of the dissent came from the smaller clubs. They tended to have smaller dues and narrower focuses. So for them, the Cheerleaders taking one dollar out of each five dollar or ten dollar due represented a ten to twenty percent reduction in their budget. So they voted against the plan despite Cammy’s aura.”

“Good to know she can’t completely just override people into acting against their self-interests. But, let me guess, when it did pass those smaller clubs never seemed to get cheerleaders promoting their stuff.”

Angela nodded, “Combine that with their now slashed budget, suddenly these clubs shrunk slightly and the groups that supported Angela grew to represent a slight, but definite voting majority of SAUSA. These last few years she’s enjoyed about a sixty percent voting lead.”

Robynne nodded, “So then the thing about a dollar from each due had less to do with the money going to Cheerleading and more to do with neutering the growth of the dissenting clubs. It was about control.”

Angela nodded and her face darkened. “Cammy is all about control. She feels she deserves it and doesn’t care who or what she has to destroy or humiliate to get it or keep it.”

“I see,” Robynne said ass she leaned forward. “So how does this lead to you getting kicked out of Cheer?”

Angela hung her head in shame. “I was so naive back then. I went directly to Cammy with my discoveries and told her I thought they were wrong. I had expected a fight but, surprisingly, Cammy just said she’d take it under advisement. I was dumb enough to think that was true. But nothing changed. Why would it? The only opinion that matter to Cammy was her own.”

“What did Mal have to say about it?”

Angela rubbed her elbow self-consciously. “Well… not much.”

Robynne squinted. “Not much? Why wouldn’t she have much to say?”

Angela rubbed her temples, “You have to understand, this was all happening in a short period of time. One month. And in that month Mallory and I fought four monsters. I think Platicore was trying to fatigue us during that time given that it was officially the first time I had an ally. For that reason, Mallory suggested, and rightly so, that we probably should focus more on the guy trying to destroy us, Platicore, rather than some spoiled bimbo who wanted to treat the University like it was high school.” Angela swallowed hard. “Mallory didn’t really have the patience for the drama. She was always much better at hitting things… plus there was the fact she couldn’t feel anything special about Cammy’s aura. I don’t think she ever took the threat of Cammy that seriously… I also kind of wasn’t really keeping Mallory in the full loop on what was going on with Cammy.”

Robynne shut her eyes and held her hands up. “You didn’t keep her in the loop? The most unique aura you’ve ever felt and you didn’t tell Mal everything? Why not?”

“Again,” Angela reiterated, “Mallory couldn’t feel anything of what I felt. Also, given that it took Mallory to point out how manipulated I was by Cammy, I may have… taken it a bit personally and decided to handle it on my own. I was so humiliated that I had been so blind and I just… I had to solve it on my own I guess.”

Robynne considered that. If she was right about Angela’s father being out of the picture she would have seen her Mother do everything to get them by. The fact that she used a flip phone before Cammy backed up that image of hard-working single parent. That would, over the course of years, project a lesson that if you wanted something done right, you did it yourself. Robynne had learned that very same lesson from Uncle Taylor.

It made sense. Angela had worked alone as a Spirit Guard for several months at that point. Mallory had said Angela was active in student government in high school. No doubt she was the type to take charge of a project and do it mostly herself. It made sense that Angela would have, given her personality, that she would tackle the issue on her own. “How did you try to solve the problem on your own then?”

Angela blushed. “I threatened Cammy that if we didn’t reverse our course of behavior that I’d blow the lid off the operation.”

Robynne blinked. Even she could see that was about the worst course of action and Robynne never involved herself in politics. Cammy was not the type who would take a threat laying down. That was a direct challenge to her power. Such attacks on a queen bee’s power always lead to reprisals. “That didn’t go well. Did it?”

Angela cringed. “I thought I had all I needed. I had recorded conversations on my phone. I had written down what I knew of the finances. I thought that, if Cammy went scorched earth, I was prepared…”

Silence hung in the air like the scent of a rotten egg. Robynne knew the next part wasn’t going to be pretty. “What did Cammy do?”

“I could never afford an SAU education,” Angela said with a sniff. “I’m not rich. But I applied myself throughout high school. I was on committees and councils and did lots of community service. I had a 4.0 and was one of my high school’s twenty seven valedictorians.” Robynne prevented herself from scoffing at that. Twenty-seven valedictorians though? That was… not the point. She needed to focus on what Angela was saying and not let her pet-peeves on the participation trophy society unfocus her. “I was a really good student. I got the Presidential Scholarship. Me. At a school as prestigious as SAU. Tuition, housing, books… all paid for. It was a dream come true.”

Dream come true? Robynne could practically hear Cory facepalm at that invocation. Nothing good happened after that phrase. Though Robynne supposed getting a full-ride academic scholarship was proof she should maybe soften her stance on that multiple valedictorian thing. “Wow. Presidential? That’s… amazing.” She hoped to soften the blow of what was coming next.

“Thanks,” Angela said through choked back tears. So much for the compliment-softening-the-blow idea. “The next day I got a call from scholarship office… I went in and… and the President of the University was there.” Tears streamed from Angela’s cheeks. “He told me they had discovered my two papers that the tutor had written for me. He told me I had broken the no-cheating policy of the University and I was being stripped of my scholarship. ‘Presidential scholars don’t cheat,’ he said.”

“Oh dear.”

Angela was full on crying now. “I t-t-tried to apologize and bring up Cheerleading but he wouldn’t accept my excuse. I tried to show him my evidenc-c-ce that this was Cammy just ratting me out t-t-to cover her tracks and… but it just sounded like some girl who got caught and now was trying to shift blame to others. I tried to show him my evidence on my-my phone but I…” Angela succumbed to her crying and started to full-on hyperventilate.

Robynne sighed and stood up. She didn’t like personal contact but sometimes it had to be done. Angela was tearing herself apart reliving this part of her life and Robynne could just sit by and do nothing. “Let me guess, the phone Cammy gave you suddenly didn’t have any of the data you recorded?”

Robynne sat down on Noriko’s bed, mentally apologizing to the ninja for ruffling the sheets. She stroked Angela’s shoulder and arm, trying to calm the leader of the Spirit Guard down. Holy sugar. What was Robynne getting herself into? Life was so much simpler when she was just a normal college student… well maybe not normal but life was so much less dramatic back then.

Angela seemed to respond well to the arm stroking, sniffed, and regained her composure. “Thank you.” She pulled a handkerchief out of the pocket on her blouse and blew her nose. “You’re right. The phone was wiped clean. Probably some cloud storage thing. It was stupid to have used the device she gave me. I was so careless.”

“You didn’t know what she was capable of,” Robynne said. “But what happened next? I mean, with no scholarship? And I get you didn’t trust Mallory but what about Ms. Kuna? She’s a campus administrator or something. Wasn’t there anything she could do?”

Angela shook her head and blew her nose again. “Kunapipi’s role on campus is that of a simple counselor. Keeps others out of her business… but doesn’t exactly give her a lot of power when it comes to this stuff. She can only really help in logistical ways like with your rooming. As for what happened next, I was immediately put on probation for cheating. But my scholarship was gone. On top of that, suddenly, all the people I thought were my friends in cheerleading wouldn’t talk to me. I was kicked off the team.” Angela shut her eyes so tight Robynne would have thought she was trying to avoid looking a medusa in the eyes. “Cammy started spreading rumors about me… that… that I got that boy to write those papers for me by doing… favors for him.”

Robynne scowled. “But you couldn’t have been the only one who had a paper or two done for them.”

Angela kept her eyes shut tight as she tried to fight back another wave of tears. “When Cammy spread a rumor people believed it. It… it doesn’t matter I guess. The point was I suddenly lost every friend I had made except for one.”

“Mallory.”

Angela nodded with a hint of a smile and opened her eyes. “Yes. Mallory. Mallory helped me get through it by encouraging me to forget the cheer team that had betrayed me and focus on the one I had. It probably was a good thing we faced so many monsters so close together. Helped get my mind off of being kicked out. Though it did little to solve the money issues I was going to run into.”

“Yeah. Money. What did you do with no scholarship?”

“Well,” Angela said, “I still had my first semester’s worth of tuition, food, and lodgings paid for. They couldn’t un-pay all that. But things were looking grim for next semester. I think Cammy was hoping I’d leave town after being humiliated and my money ran out, however Fate had other plans.”

Robynne sat up straight, “Fate?”

Angela smiled, “Well, I applied for more than a few scholarships but once I got the Presidential Scholarship I informed all the various other ones I had received that they should direct the money towards someone who hadn’t gotten a full-ride scholarship.”

Robynne rolled her eyes but grinned. “You really are a model citizen.”

Angela blushed and smiled, but continued her story. “But about two weeks after the scandal passed, I got a call from Ritner Industries. Apparently I had applied for and was awarded a big scholarship with them but their outreach person retired shortly before the summer and this slipped through the cracks!”

Slipped through the cracks? On a big scholarship? Robynne didn’t consider herself an expert on corporate American accounting practices, but her gut told her thousands of dollars didn’t go missing in a company without someone knowing about it. “When you say big, how big?”

Angela shrugged, “Well, it wasn’t the size of the Presidential Scholarship, to be sure. But it was just big enough to cover everything if I moved into less… expensive accommodations than the dorms. And cut down on some food expenses. But, it was a miracle. It was exactly what I needed.”

Robynne nodded. “Okay, I hear you on that.” She still was skeptical about Fate stepping in. If Fate could step in there, why not in other areas, like, say, making sure Robynne had been born a girl to avoid the insane situation they were currently in? Regardless, Robynne had other questions to sort out. “So you moved out and focused on Platicore. I guess that’s the end of the story with you and Cammy?”

Angela glanced back and forth. “Uh, mostly?”

Robynne winced, “Mostly? What do you mean mostly?”

Angela took a long deep breath. “I haven’t told the rest of this to anyone.”

Robynne’s shoulders slumped. “Seriously? Not even Mallory?”

“No.”

“Okay,” Robynne sighed as she rubbed her eyes with her thumb and index finger. “What is it that you haven’t told everyone else?”

Angela bit her bottom lip. “I haven’t exactly stopped trying to stop Cammy… and it’s because of some visions of the Empathic Empire I’ve had.”

Robynne paused. Visions? That was related to Cammy? At first she was going to dismiss the thought as absurd but, as she reflected upon Cammy’s aura trying to mold Robynne’s decisions, she reconsidered. “Cammy is related to your visions?”

Angela nodded. “Shortly after the loss of my scholarship, I began to have visions I hadn’t experienced before. Visions involving the Princess’s tense relationship with her mother, the Empress.”

Past life stuff. Robynne hated past life stuff. “Are you implying you think Cammy is the Empress?”

Angela tensed up, drawing her limbs inward as if she was preparing herself to be struck. “I… think it’s a possibility. I mean, other than the visions themselves, my interactions with Cammy have some mirroring to the Princess’s interactions with the Empress. Also, they both were violettes.”

Robynne stood up off Noriko’s bed and began to pace the room. “The hair thing is a moot point. The Scholar had pink hair and Vivian has black hair.” Despite her doubts, Robynne gnawed on her thumbnail some more as she considered that possibility. “But however much I want to say that’s crazy, Angela. And trust me, I really do want to dismiss this idea…”

Angeal leaned forward like a mouse peeking out of it’s den to make sure there was no danger. “But?”

Robynne stopped biting her thumbnail and threw her hands up, “But even I have to say, after feeling Cammy’s aura try to drown me in sycophantic awe… there is definitely something strange going on with that girl. I don’t know what exactly, but something strange is happening.”

Angela’s lips quivered and her eyes misted slightly. “You really think so?”

Robynne shrugged. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves; we don’t have much to go on. However, it feels like something’s going on. Now,” Robynne said with caution in her voice, “I’m not saying I think she’s the Empress. That feels like too big of a leap in logic for us to make at the moment. But I’m just saying that if anyone was going to be more than they seem on this campus, Cammy is a donuted strong candidate. However we shouldn’t jump ahead of ourselves. I mean, she really could just be a regular person with a very potent aura that affects people. We must remain open to that possibility.”

“But it would make so much sense,” Angela countered. “It would explain so much! Her need to make everyone worship her. The desire to control campus like some queen. Her aura…”

Robynne shook her head. “We can’t just go assuming she’s an evil person from our past lives just because it’d be really convenient if our two enemies were the same person. For one, let’s ask ourselves this: if she really is the evil Empress, how the honey is she here? I mean, we got reincarnated because of some voodoo the Shrine Maiden pulled off with the High Spirits or whatevers. From everything you told me, the evil queen isn’t going to have any favors done for her in the afterlife? Plus what does controlling campus offer someone who controlled an entire fudging empire?”

“For motivation, maybe it’s step one to something more glorious. As for how she’s back… maybe she made a deal with the devil?” Angela offered hopefully.

Robynne waved her hand, “Too many variables we don’t know. I suppose there could be other beings she made deals with. Sure. But none we know of. We can’t just make that assumption. Nor can we assume, given our own backgrounds, that she’d remember being the Empress. We didn’t remember anything, after all. Also, I thought the Empress got consumed by the Other Power? Wouldn’t that, I don’t know, stop her doing reincarnation shenanigans?”

Angela shrugged, “We know even less about the Other Power than we do about what the Empress was up to. Fate can’t even see what the Other Power’s nature is.”

Robynne grimaced. “Yeah. Can’t make any assumptions there.” Robynne shook her head then gave Angela a side-glance. “Let me ask a different question… why haven’t you told any of this to the other girls?”

Angela looked down at the ground. “I… I was worried they wouldn’t believe me.”

“Wouldn’t believe you? Why wouldn’t they believe you? They’re your friends. And also your teammates.”

“They can’t feel her aura, Robynne. Not like we can.”

Robynne shook her head. “They trust you, Angela. You know that, right?”

“I know that.”

“Then why not tell them? Why am I the first?”

“I guess…” Angela wrung her hands together. “I guess I didn’t want to look like I was obsessed with Cammy. Mallory didn’t like how infatuated I was with Cammy when we first met. She encouraged me to focus on Platicore during and after the loss of my scholarship. I just didn’t want anyone to think I was wasting all this time trying to stop her.”

Robynne thought about Angela’s crying over losing her scholarships and her old friends ditching her when Cammy set her up. From what Robynne could tell, Angela had spent all her high school life both preparing for college and being a part of a cheer team. In one fell swoop, Cammy had taken both away from her. What would that have felt like to lose everything you had been working towards and lose your support group of friends at the same time? Was this about her not wanting the other Spirit Guards to think she was wasting her time, or was this the result of all her former friends in the Cheer Squad thinking she was nuts and abandoning her? Was this just Angela being afraid of looking crazy to her new friends and losing them like she had lost the others? Could that have made Angela that insecure?

“Angela, they are your friends. If it’s important to you then it’s important to them. Plus, you fight anthropomorphized-object monsters with them. I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to think you’re crazy. I’m fairly certain we’ve crossed the threshold of things sounding nuts a long time ago.”

Angela shut her eyes and whined. “I know that. I know… I just… Robynne… I’ve been keeping this secret so long I… I don’t know how I’d even broach the subject. I know it will hurt them that I’ve kept something like this from them because it might make them feel guilty or something or… I don’t know. It’s complicated.” Angela shook her head and pushed some tears away. “How do you suggest I tell them?”

Robynne took a deep breath and thought about that. It would be an odd, awkward, and possibly hurtful conversation. In particular it’d be difficult to tell Mallory, who had stood by Angela’s side for so long. And, without a doubt, they’d all blame themselves; Angela for not telling them and the others for not seeming inviting or open enough to tell. It was stupid, but Robynne had long since learned that girls blamed themselves for things for far too much. Though, Robynne thought if she was being fair, guys tended to not blame themselves enough.

As she thought about the other girls, Robynne remembered she had felt Mallory walk through the stone and into their dorm. The scarlette reached out with her extra sense to feel what it was she and Kara might be up to. Maybe if she knew what they had spent this conversation doing, Robynne could come up with a good way for Angela to…

Robynne could feel three distinct auras crowding the door to her room. When had Vivian arrived? Robynne grew more concerned with how easy it was to miss these things when she wasn’t concentrating. Even with her sensitivity, it seemed she’d need to work on being more attentive. Still, if they were all at the door, she had a feeling trying to engineer a situation where Angela explained everything was now moot.

Robynne approached the door. “Well Angela, I’m not so sure you should plan to tell them anything.”

“Really?” Angela asked with a shocked expression. “I would have thought you’d want to to tell them everything.”

“I do,” Robynne said as she opened the door. Vivian spilled into the room and fell on the floor. Kara and Mallory stood behind her with guilty and surprised expressions. Robynne smirked. “I just don’t think it’s a good use of anyone’s time to repeat ourselves.”

Vivian groaned and picked herself up off the floor. “Given the number of times I’ve seen that happen in movies, I’m kind of ashamed of myself right now.”

Robynne rolled her eyes and chuckled, “I think you all need to have a talk.”


It’s done! It’s done! Hallelujah it’s done!

I struggled so hard with this chapter. I was scrutinizing so many lines. Rethinking how to say stuff. I agonized over it. It’s still not QUITE to where I want it but, well, at a certain point it’s time to sugar or get off the pot. I need to give special thanks to Loman, Shadowmaster, SuperJordan, and UNSpacey for all their editing help this chapter. I leaned on them far more than I have in the past and this chapter would still be in write mode if it weren’t for them.

So now you know the sordid history between Cammy and Angela. Well, mostly. As many of you have guessed, Cammy might be the Empress reincarnated. It’s obviously been very heavily hinted at earlier but I feel it’s good to get that out there. I really liked Robynne, after having that revealed to her, going straight to the questions of “How is that possible?” and “If that’s true, why the honey does she want to run campus? What does that actually get her?” It feels natural to me to have Angela assume it’s just in Cammy’s nature to be evil and want to rule stuff but have Robynne keep a cooler head about things. After all, Robynne hasn’t had Cammy ruin her life… yet? *krakathoom!*

But back to the beginning of the chapter with Robynne pondering on the nature of Cammy’s auras and, in extension, the Spirit Guards’ auras. As usual, it made sense to me to have Robynne start comparing it to actual scientific systems. At this point in Robynne’s education she would have seen how some physics principles have analogs in other fields of study, like how you can compare flowing water in a pipe to electrical current. It’s in Robynne’s nature to try and break something she doesn’t understand into smaller bits that she can understand.

I’ve had it questioned whether Robynne is old enough to have ever needed to degauss a CRT monitor. In my mind Uncle Taylor took a while to update their computer at home so Robert was just old enough to have had one around the house as a kid. And Robert is definitely curious enough to do research to figure out what the cool button that makes the screen wiggle does.

Well, with another chapter done I’m once again hoping the dialogue went well, made sense, but left you wanting to know what happens next. Let me know what you thought, were intrigued by, and thought worked in your comments.

Hope you enjoyed it,
Taralynn



14 thoughts on “Magical Girl Policy- Chapter 29”

  1. A new chapter! It was worth the wait, well done! I really like how Robynne is so grounded in reality, especially when compared to Angela. Kara is much more clever than people give her credit for as well, and that last bit was pure gold haha

    As always, looking forward to the next chapter!

    -Tas

  2. Taralynn, if there’s one element of MGP that has had a clear and significant upgrade from the Alpha version, it’s Angela. You’ve done such a good job fixing her up. In the Alpha version, she just felt like a parody of Usagi Tsukino and magical girl leaders in general. She seemed so preoccupied on her fantasies of being the heroine in her own personal anime that she had no empathy for what Rob was going through and didn’t seem to consider that the rest of her teammates weren’t as crazy about this as she was. It left me wondering why Mallory wasn’t the leader instead of her, because there was nothing about Angela that seemed like a leader.

    This time, she’s an actual human being, and while she struggles immensely with being a leader because of her naivete and social interaction problems, the qualities that put her in such a position shine through very well. She always believes in doing the right thing and will never ask her allies to jump into danger unless she’s jumping in with them. You’ve also done a great job giving a much more complex reason why she’s embraced her role as Valor so much and why she sees Fate’s role in her life as a blessing rather than a curse. Spirit Guard is all she has left now, and Fate has saved her from being completely ruined for sticking by her principles. She doesn’t mind having an unseen force controlling things in her life because Cammy has damaged her confidence that she could handle things on her own.

    This has been a great tale, several cuts above the dumb fetish schlock that makes up most TG fiction. Keep it up.

  3. Rob, think about this. If Angela had tossed you the stick during the Polygal fight, you would either 1) have not figured it out and caused more confusion in a combat situation or 2) you would have transformed right then with no preperation or anything.

    I know your situation is weird and horrible, but imagine what it would have been like if you hadn’t chosen to transform after knowing what would happen?

    27 Valedictorians?!? What? How does that even work?

    Rob, don’t forget about that high school drama you never told us about. Drama follows you.

    Ritner Industries. Sounds interesting.

    Rob, I feel I should note that according to the history lesson they gave you, using Empathokinetics to swap your soul into a new, younger body was one of the big no-nos that caused Fate to remove her favor from that empire. It’s theoretically possible that the Empress didn’t need any god favors to pop up here. Though, one wonders why it took this long for Platicore and “the Empress” to show up, given that the circle was built thousands of years ago.

    Angela has seemed really insecure all through this series. It hasn’t stopped her from doing what she needed to do, hey Valor, but it does seem a little odd for her. Looks like Cammy really did a number on her.

    I dunno, I think some guys do blame themselves a fair amount.

    Well Of course they were listening! And of course Viv fell over.

    I think this seems like a good pause point for the chapter, yeah. When you pick up, I think you need to skip over part of the conversation until the yelling is about to start.

    Viv, I think it might be time to get your Scholar on and try to make some kind of Empathokinetic dampener or something.

    …Actually, I’m honestly curious what it’s like being in super form fer Viv. Does she remember more about how this stuff works? Is it instinctual? Can she see or sense anything?

    Also Kara clearly knows a lot about medicine in her super form. I really wonder how it feels to know all that stuff, then have it drain away, once you revert.

    Also, I’m still shipping Rob and Ang.

  4. Great chapter! Backstory acquired! I have one note though. There are two points where Robynne reaches out and feels Vivian’s arua and is surprised by Viv having showed up without her noticing.

    “Robynne reached out with her extra sense searching for the sunny meadow scented aura of Kara. She was surprised to not only find Kara’s aura, but the fruity, flowery scent of Vivian’s aura too. When had she arrived? Robynne was amazed at how something as strong as a Spirit Guard’s aura could sneak up on her if she wasn’t concentrating.”

    “Robynne could feel three distinct auras crowding the door to her room. When had Vivian arrived? Robynne grew more concerned with how easy it was to miss these things when she wasn’t concentrating. ”

    I figured this was an oversight in the process of editing the flow of the chapter.

  5. First of all- yay, back! I’ve been used to the once a month schedule, so the semi-hiatus was worrying me. I doubt there’s a lot of creative people that don’t know the slog it is to get back up and going again once you’ve stopped- my DA page has been sitting stagnant for about the last eight months after all. Hehe.

    Two quick, easy to fix things- in the line about the sixty percent majority, you accidentally replaced Cammy’s name with Angela’s, and you mentioned Vivian showing up two separate times (once in the middle and once at the end). Just figured you’d want to know.

    Now, as for the content of the chapter- well, that’s certainly more interesting and involved than the alpha version, and it’s a massive improvement. With all the speculation I wasn’t sure if you were gonna pull a SHOCKING TWIST or not, but apparently the characters came to the same conclusion most of the other readers did. I’m not one to really speculate on things as they go- I prefer to experience things more transiently, enjoying them as they go rather than examining even the really obvious things (save when such is practically required)- so I didn’t theorize, but the possibility being pointed out and subjected to future examination is good to see in the story proper.

    Agreed with Jem, Angela is MUCH better of a character here. I dunno how much of this was planned to be in alpha but I’m glad she revealed this earlier on if it was in the works before. You’re really starting to build this story on a backbone of character. Or, rather, a second backbone I suppose, not just the plot. While this can be a little slow at times it makes for much better interim moments in general, so well done!

  6. On multiple valedictorians: High schools generally weight their grade point averages, with more weight toward more difficult classes (such as AP or college-level classes). Thus, even if multiple students have an all-A record for four years, rather than all tieing at 4.0, they’ll end up in a ranking and one, or sometimes two, will be valedictorian. However, in a high school that didn’t weight GPA in that way, there might in fact be dozens of valedictorians, as long as that many people got a 4.0 grade point average. Twenty-seven is probably on the high end of the possible, but then, it’s written to be excessive. Robynne even comments on it. I’m guessing that Angela’s high school either had slack teachers, particularly skilled teachers, or a mix of both — if so, then twenty-seven students getting all A’s might be within the realm of the possible possible.

  7. There seems to be another discrepancy: In this chapter, Angela mentions that the first monster of Mallory was “Alena Alfredo” while in the chapter 5, Robert mentions that the first sighting of Tenacity was with the weightlifting monster Barbella. But maybe Tenacity was not seen during the “Alena Alfredo” attack.

    While we are on discrepancies, what is the last name of Vivian?
    In chapter 2:
    “My name is Vivian Joyce.”
    In chapter 18:
    “I shall see you in the morning, Ms. Joy.”
    In chapter 25:
    “They are Kara Balmer and Vivian Joy.”

    These are small inconsistencies. The story is very well written with a good build up of characters.

  8. Really good chapter; definitely worth the wait. I’m sorry if you were looking for help with inconsistencies… I had noticed some (like Vivian’s last name) but never said anything because I thought it would be rude. I didn’t want bringing up minor errors to come across as an attack on you as a writer.

    I still wonder why you ever worry about your dialogue. It may take a lot of work on your part, but you’re one of the better dialogue writes I’ve ever read, and possibly the best for a hobby internet site. It feels natural and flows well. Though I do think you use “squinted” a fair bit too much… I think you’re mainly using it to convey a look of confusion, but it also seems that you use it a lot to describe other things. Makes the body language and conversational tone a little unclear at times.

    Ugh, yeah, I get the multiple valedictorians gripe of Robynne’s. My high school class had eight… eight! …and that was in a graduating class of about 64 students.

    I admit that the thought that Cammy was the reincarnation of the Empress had never occurred to me; and I had remained as skeptical of Angela’s claim as Robynne is while I was reading the chapter. Though from your comment at the end of the chapter, and the other reader comments here, such speculation appears to be common knowledge. I’m rather embarrassed at myself for not catching on to it. Much like Flairina said above, I try to just enjoy a story as it comes rather than actively speculate, unless someone requests that I do so. However, I usually subconsciously speculate enough to at least see most possibilities for major plot twists or reveals. But man, I never caught on. (Though because of my attempts to not speculate, I tend not to know what to think about or share that might help you as a writer develop the story. If you need help with anything in particular, please ask… because I would like to help.)

    I know the question of how the Empress was able to reincarnate has come up, and the only hypothesis I’ve seen so far by another reader involves her using the results of the experiments to do it herself. The characters hint the possibility that it may have been the result of the Other Power. Or some other entity… I remember in Robynne’s vision, the Shrine Maiden mentioned that though she and the other Spirit Guards’ past lives revered the High Spirits, it appeared the Empress and the majority of the Empire had fallen under the sway of the Lower Spirits. If each is represents the positive or negative empathokinesis, then it makes sense that the Empress would have been favored by the Lower Spirits. If the High Spirits and the Lower Spirits are themselves at odds, it makes sense that the Lower Spirits may have reincarnated the Empress without her even asking, just to maintain their champion against the High Spirits. Of course, Kunapipi also mentioned that the “gods” were the ones who decided whether or not to grant miracles of reincarnation in the chapters around the Standridge Stones… though, to be fair, those gods and the Spirits are likely the same thing given how the Shrine Maiden referred to them. If the Lower Spirits or the Other Power are really involved, and one actively reincarnated the Empress to oppose the Spirit Guard, will they do something to awaken Cammy’s memories and empathokinetic abilities like has happened with the Spirit Guard? It would be a honey of a plot point to fight three separate sides at the same time… Platicore, Cammy, and the Other Power. Just like their past lives.

    (Of course, given that Cammy is the reincarnation of the Empress, I’m wondering if Eddie/Fretribution might be the reincarnation of the Knight.)

    I also wonder about the timing of it all. How was the Empress reincarnated a few years ahead of the Spirit Guard, so as to have the power to be ahead of them in their current lives just as in their past lives? That doesn’t seem like a move Fate would make. And as was mentioned, how was Platicore able to awaken just before the Spirit Guard were able to be of age to come into their power?

    I have a hypothesis concerning this… and it’s that Platicore isn’t actually a villain. He’s playing the betrayer under Fate’s orders, perhaps because he had great empathokinetic potential and he was already one who questioned Fate’s intervention precluding the ability of Free Will. I mean, what better way to undermine Fate’s enemies that with an Agent that has apparently gone rogue. It would make sense that he rebels and combats the Ardent Empire right as they began violating the edicts of nature to perform soul-overwriting. It would also explain why his constructs started out simple and weak, and have slowly gotten stronger and more complicated over time. It explains the monsters’ need to gloat and create openings rather than ruthlessly killing when given the opportunity. It’s training by live combat. He could be forcing the Spirit Guard to draw out their power over time and better sync with the training and instincts of the girls’ past lives, preparing them to combat the Other Power before it arrives… and maybe the Empress now as well. Really, there are multiple ways such a plotline could be handled. There could even be a number of slightly tweaked variations. There are really many interesting ways this could all play out.

  9. Awesome chapter! I’m glad Angela finally told Robynne — and us — the whole story about Cammy. As I’ve said before, not telling her ahead of time was a huge failure of leadership, and it could have had disastrous consequences. Cammy is a real piece of work, and I don’t think it’s possible that she doesn’t know about her power over others. In fact, I think Angela is right on the money about who she is. The only thing that makes me doubt that is the fact that she clearly has no clue about the Spirit Guard. She was genuinely shocked by the way Robynne brushed her off, so if she is the Empress, I don’t think she has the benefit of memories of her past life, yet. That doesn’t conflict with her knowing about her power, it just means she doesn’t understand it.

    Your struggle was well worth the effort, Taralynn! Thanks for another great chapter; I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next!

  10. Glad we had the history of Cammy and Angela explained. There still seems to me that there are a lot we still don’t know about. Now with Cammy being suspected of being the Empress reborn…great. Now Angela is going to let the others what is going on.

    Zexand has a good theory, that Platicore could be acting as the villain to prepare the the girls to fight the Empress and the Other Power.

  11. Platy might well be doing it unintentionally, in which case he’s a surprisingly sympathetic villain. If he was pushed or manipulated to Fight Fate at the time of Fate’s choosing, when it best serves her plans, then he’s really just kind of sad.

  12. Well done! Good job fleshing out a strange character who is stirring the pot. Robynne is acclimating to being a girl rather quickly, I would say, but that is not a critical aspect of the story. Her empathy for Angela is surprising to me, as I would think that a loner would have more trouble feeling what others feel. Robynne does seem to have the most finely tuned empathokinetic(?) sense of all the Spirit Guard.

    Please, keep up the good work! Let yourself play with different parts of the story if you are feeling blocked, and actually step away from it if you have to. Don’t burn yourself out trying to meet a schedule. Creativity is rarely willing to be scheduled.

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