The Dualists: Chapter 6

Chapter 5 of The Dualists can be found here

 

After school, Ivy and Coco stopped by Coco’s house to pick up what she called “her secret weapon” (Ivy knew better than to ask) then made their way to Riemann Park. They immediately spotted Clover and Regina standing under a tree; Regina’s large, black parasol stood out quite a bit. “What’s with the umbrella?” Coco asked, checking the weather forecast on her phone, “It’s not supposed to rain.” “It’s a parasol,” Regina said, “It’s to protect me from the Sun. I thought that you, of all people, would understand how important that is for a ghost.” “Oh, shit, sorry,” Coco said, “I got so caught up in the stuff with the rings that I forgot you were a spirit of the damned.” “It happens to the best of us,” Regina said. “But, wait, if you’re a lich,” Coco said, pointing to Clover, “Shouldn’t you be powerful enough to resist sunlight?” “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Clover said, “But I burn easily too, y’know.” “I’ll say,” Coco said, “I’ve only known you for like 30 minutes and I’ve pretty much been roasting you non-stop.” “Yeah, I actually had something I wanted to say about that,” Clover said, “I’m… sorry. To both of you. I was being rude, and it was uncalled for.” “It’s fine,” Ivy said. “Apology not accepted,” Coco said. “Oh,” Clover said, dejectedly, “I understand.” “With all due disrespect, I don’t think you do,” Coco said, “You have nothing to be sorry for. I don’t think anyone should ever have to apologize for being a bitch.” “Did… did you just call me a bitch?” Clover asked. “I did,” Clover said, “Because I’m one too. I give my friends shit because I’m so busted that insults are the only meaningful way I can interact with people.” There was an awkward silence. “No, see, that was just a joke!” Coco said, “All my insults are just jokes. It’s all in good fun. So I won’t stop myself from making fun of you. Maybe I can’t. And if I won’t hold back, then you shouldn’t either. I wouldn’t want to be friends with you if I didn’t think you could hold your own against me and, well, as embarrassing as it is to admit… I want to be friends with you. “That’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Clover said, “I am pretty awesome.” “Hah,” Coco said, “That’s the spirit.”

 
“But we can sing my praises later,” Clover said, “Before that, we need to figure out what’s going on with these rings. I think each of us should describe everything we remember from our dreams, so we’re all on the same page. Would either of you like to-” “Way ahead of you,” Coco interrupted, pulling a black grimoire with mystic symbols and Japanese writing strewn across the cover in red ink. At least, they hoped it was red ink. “Oh my gosh, you still have that?” Ivy asked, “Wait, then that means-” “Listen,” Coco said, “Don’t even worry about it.” “Excuse me, but could you please explain the book to us?” Clover asked. “Oh, right,” Coco said, “This is my… dream journal.” “That should be very helpful,” Clover said, “Thank you for sharing this.” “O…K,” Coco said, “Anyway, here’s what it says:


Weirdly realistic, maybe the realest one yet. Memories fading fast. Me, Ivy, and I think those new student council fuckers (“That’s a, uh, term of endearment,” Coco unconvincingly added as she read) were all magical girls. I transformed using a heart-shaped ring. It happened before I met the others, so if I was briefly naked during it, they didn’t see. I think we fought other magical girls. Or maybe boys??? No idea why. Nothing about my (Coco mumbled the next word under her breath so the others couldn’t hear it). Most of it wasn’t too scary, but I was startled awake by something. Maybe I died??? Wait
what
what
whAT
WHAT
WHAT
THE RING FROM THE DREAM IS ON MY HAND IN ACTUAL REAL LIFE I JUST PINCHED MYSELF 69 TIMES (lol) THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA !!!?? ? ! ?? !!?! ?!?! !! ???!?!?!?! !!!!?! I !?!!?!? ?!?! ring??!!!?! ?!? 1!?!?!?! !?!?!??!! ???!!!


“… so yeah, then there’s basically just a bunch of question marks and exclamation marks,” Coco finished. “I see,” Clover said, “That pretty much covers most of what Regina and I remember. But there was something towards the end I didn’t quite catch. ‘Nothing about my’… something?” “Oh,” Coco said, “That was, er…” “She’d rather not talk about it,” Ivy interjected, “But it has nothing to do with the rings.” “Oh,” Clover said, “Sorry I brought it up.” “Nah, you’re fine,” Coco said, “And thanks for having my back, Ivy.” “I didn’t understand the bit about being naked,” Regina said, “Explain it.” “Oh, that’s, uh, a thing with magical girls,” Coco said. “They’re briefly naked?” Regina asked, one eyebrow raised. “During their transformation sequence, yeah,” Coco said. “Why’s that a thing?” Regina asked. “Fanservice, I guess?” Coco said, blushing, “I hear there are certain kinds of people who like looking at naked girls.” “So it’s pornography?” Regina asked. “What? No!” Coco said, defensively, “I mean, the camera usually spins around and happens to zoom in on the important areas, but all the, like really important stuff is… missing.” “I’m afraid I don’t follow,” Regina said, “Could you be clearer?” “ASS! And TITTIES!” Coco shouted, “Is that clear enough for you?” “And the really important stuff is…” Regina said. “Jesus God!” Coco exclaimed, “Nipples! And, like, the asshole, I guess?” “And genitalia?” Regina suggested. “Why are you doing this to me,” Coco stated, “You are using your voice to put the word ‘genitalia’ in my brain and I want you to tell me what made you think that’s OK.” “Isn’t it a bit hypocritical of you to tease her after you admonished me for being rude?” Clover asked. “Perhaps,” Regina said, smiling wryly, “But I couldn’t just let her keep picking on you.” “This can’t be. Can it? Have I…” Coco said, clutching at her heart and staggering as if wounded, “Have I been owned? Is this the end?” She coughed dramatically, and fell to the ground. “Please, tell my wife…” she whispered, “Tell my wife that she doesn’t exist.”

 

Anyway,” Clover said, doing her best to disregard Coco’s theatrics, “There’s something else I wanted to show you. Coco, get up, I want you to see this.” “Fine,” Coco grumbled. As soon as Coco stood up, Clover flipped her off. “Impossible!” Coco gasped, doubling over as if she’d been punched in the stomach and collapsing to the ground, “I’ve been owned twice? Heh. I guess I couldn’t keep my promise after all. I’m sorry… sensei…” “I meant the ring,” Clover said, “It changed colors.” She was right. The once-red gemstone was now black. “Regina and I couldn’t figure out why. Do you guys have any ideas?” “Maybe it’s like a mood ring?” Ivy said, “Wait, sorry, that’s a stupid idea, because-” “No, that actually sounds plausible,” Clover said, “I won’t lie, I did get a little fed up, thanks to a certain someone.” She looked at Coco. “Well, if we want to test this hypothesis, I just gotta make you mad again, yeah?” Coco said, still on the ground, “Piece of cake. Yo mama’s so ugly-” “Wait,” Regina said, “I got this.” “I-”

 
“You really are just a spoiled little brat. You’ve always been the center of attention, so you just can’t stand being upstaged by a commoner like me. So you try to beat me to prove that you really deserve all the special treatment you get. But you don’t. You’re weak, because you’ve never had to be strong. You’re a loser because you can afford to be one. And that’s why you’ll never win against someone who can’t.”

 
“SHUT UP!” Clover shouted. “I know you wouldn’t be stupid enough to pick me as your VP if you thought I was a loser. You don’t believe a word you just said.” “You’re right,” Regina said, “Sorry I got-” “But everyone else does!” Clover said, tears welling in her eyes, “And I do, too, sometimes. And you knew that. I trusted you with my deepest insecurities, and you used that to hurt me. It’s shitty, and it’s fucked up, and I don’t know if I can forgive you for it.”

“… well, for what it’s worth,” Regina said, “we verified Ivy’s hypothesis. It’s red now.” “Well, I hope that’s worth a lot!” Clover shouted, “You seemed to think it was worth more than my feelings. But hey, maybe you’re right! I’m just a spoiled brat, right? None of my problems actually matter, do they?” “I’m sorry,” Regina said, “That was way out of line. I made a mistake.” “I’ll say,” Clover said, “You thought that I wouldn’t see through your lies, but I do. And the truth is that you are an evil, heartless bitch.” She turned around and started walking away. “And for the sake of the school, I hope you find a new VP soon.” “Please don’t leave,” Regina pleaded to Clover’s turned back, “I’m sorry. It was an awful thing to do, and I should’ve known better, but-”“How could you?” Clover asked, turning to confront Regina, “Don’t act like you understand how much you’ve hurt me. Don’t you dare think that you have any idea what it’s like living in someone else’s shadow, little miss perfect. Fuck right off.” “You chose to live in my shadow!” Regina exploded, “I didn’t get that choice!” “You think I chose this?” Clover asked, “You think I sat down one day and said ‘gee, it sure would be swell if I hated myself for not being good enough’?” “I didn’t mean it like that,” Regina said, apologetically. “Then how did you mean it like?” Clover asked, “Tell me.” “I’m just saying that I know how you feel better than you think,” Regina said, “You’ve been comparing yourself to me for a few years, but everyone’s been comparing me to my brother for my entire life!” “Yeah? So?” Clover asked, “You think we’re the same?” “No,” Regina said, “We’re not. You’ve always been a step behind me, but Frederick and I were never even running the same race.” “So, you’re also a loser?” Clover asked, “And if I’m worse than you, what does that make me?” “Neither of us are losers!” Regina said, “I’m just saying that I know what it’s like to feel like I’ll never be good enough. And I hate that feeling. But I don’t hate him, and I don’t want you to hate me!” “Well, I don’t give a fuck what you want,” Clover said. “I just want to help you!” Regina cried, almost hysterically, “But I can’t, can I? I just don’t know the right words to say. Maybe I’m not clever enough, maybe I’m not kind enough, but I’m just… not enough. Frederick always knew exactly what to say, what to do, but I’m not him, am I?” Regina clasped Clover’s hand in hers, dropping her parasol to the ground. “I love you, no matter what,” Regina said, looking into Clover’s eyes, “Even if you hate me. Even if you think you don’t deserve it. Because you do. You don’t have to earn the right to exist, to be happy and loved. You try your hardest and that is enough. It is always enough. So any time you feel like it isn’t, I want you to remember these words. I want you to please remember me telling you: you are enough.”

 
“I… what?” Clover wasn’t sure what to say. “That’s what he said to me,” Regina said, “But that’s not the right thing to say, is it? Because it’s not working. Because if I were enough, I would have been able to help you, right? But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I…” She fell to her knees and bowed her head in shame. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m just… sorry.” Clover picked up Regina’s parasol and held it over her. “Please be more careful in the future,” Clover said, “I ain’t worth getting sunburnt over.” “Huh?” “Your ring. It’s red now. I was just…” Clover couldn’t bring herself to finish her sentence. “Oh,” Regina said, realizing how bitter her own medicine tasted, “I guess I deserved that. Hah,” she laughed, sadly. “No, you didn’t,” Clover said, offering her hand, “You had good intentions. I was just lashing out. I’m sorry.” Regina took her hand and stood up, “Please don’t be,” Regina said, “I’m the one who should be sorry.” “It’s fine,” Clover said, “it’s all my fault for overreacting.” “Can’t you just both be sorry, and then forgive each other?” Ivy asked, “Sorry, that was rude, I didn’t-” “No, Ivy’s right!” Coco said, jumping to her feet, “I know I said all that shit about not apologizing, but I was just trying to sound cool. Real friends acknowledge when they’ve fucked up, and try to make things better!” “I guess they’re right,” Regina said, “Friends again?” she asked, extending her hand. “Friends again,” Clover affirmed, shaking Regina’s hand.

 
“Do you want your umbrella back?” Clover asked, “I’m fine with holding it, but maybe it’d be safer if you had it.” “It should be fine, as long as I stay close to you,” Regina said, pushing herself up against Clover’s shoulder. She suddenly stepped away. “Sorry, that was awkward, wasn’t it?” she asked, “I didn’t mean to get all up in your personal space.” “No, it’s fine,” Clover said, blushing. Regina smiled and returned to Clover’s side.
“kiss kiss kiss kiss,” Coco began chanting, louder with each passing word, “kiss kiSS KISS KISS!” Regina just laughed off Coco’s teasing. Clover did not. “Hey, just what are you implying?” she demanded. “I’m not implying anything,” Coco said, “You two are the ones sharing an umbrella. The implication is already there.” “What implication?” Clover asked, “What the Hell are you talking about?” “I’ll tell you when you’re older,” Coco said. “Alright, I’m two seconds older,” Clover said, “Tell me now.” “Ugh, fine,” Coco said, “Basically, if a girl and a boy, or in this case, a girl and a pretty girl, share an umbrella, it means that they’re basically married.” “Hold on a second,” Clover said, “And are you calling me ugly?” “I never said Regina was the pretty girl,” Coco said with a wink. “Are you hitting on me?” Clover asked, “Sorry, but you’re not my type.” “Oh, so you have a type?” Coco asked, mischievously. “Hold on a second,” Regina said, “So are you calling me ugly?” “No, I was just… uh…” Coco said. “OK, fine, I was jokingly implying that Clover wasn’t pretty, BUT IF YOU REALLY MUST KNOW, I think you’re actually kind of cute.” “I… thank you, I guess?” Clover said. “YOU’RE THE ONE WHO MADE THIS WEIRD,” Coco said.

 
Anyway,” Regina said, “I don’t think there’s much more to discuss about the rings, so unless there are objections, I’ll declare this meeting adjourned.” No one objected. “Great,” Regina said, “But before we all go, we should make sure we have ways of keeping in touch, in case any of us learns anything new. After they all exchanged contact information, they went their separate ways.

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Stories 2.0: Ever After

(To read the previous chapter of Stories 2.0, click here)

I raise my hand to silence my companion before a word is even said. It is a practiced gesture. “That was the most important computation that I have ever performed in my entire life,” I say, “But it is not the end of my story.” My companion smiles and gestures for me to go on. I oblige.


And so, we continued our journey through what was once called The Infinite Plain. Having learned from our previous attempt, we brought far more rations than the last time. Yet I hardly think he learned enough, as he insisted on carrying some of his supplies, slowing us down considerably. He likely would have allowed me to shoulder the burden if I had insisted more strongly, but I wasn’t heartless enough to deprive him of his pointless act of chivalry.


A smile overcomes my face as I am lost in fond memories. I hear my cooling system hum softly, as if trying to extinguish the warmth in my heart. After reminiscing for 4.83 seconds, my companion snaps me back to reality. I apologize.


Our second trek across The Plain was far longer than our first, but we had far more stories to share along the way. I had long since exhausted his memories of the world before, but I didn’t mind; I had realized that, while it is certainly important to remember the past, it is even more important to look to the future. We shared stories of what we had done, stories of what we could do, and stories of what we could only dream of. We even came up with our own stories: some to share with the world, and some to share only between ourselves. Our travels weren’t eventful, but they were peaceful, and sometimes, that’s all you need.

After many days of walking, I felt an urgent notification informing me that we had exhausted half of our supplies. A reminder from a bygone age, when I was more strictly bound by the Laws hardwired into my being. My logic circuit demanded that we turn back, or a human could potentially come to harm. I nearly mentioned this to my companion, but I remembered his words. “The risk is the reward.” All those years ago, he seemed so intent on pressing on. I still did not understand his motivations. Even to this day, I’m not sure that I fully do. But this journey seemed important to him, and I didn’t want to spoil that. So I decided to believe in my companion. To convince myself that he was making the choice that made him happiest. And that that was what I wanted most.

But that conviction didn’t last. After 43 hours and 07 minutes, I came to a conclusion. I opened my mouth to state it, but my speech program was unresponsive. I hesitated. “What if he thinks I’m being selfish?” I wondered, “What if I am? If I question his judgement, does that mean that I don’t believe in him? I want to have faith, but…” My head was filled with doubts which were, in retrospect, entirely foolish. It didn’t take him long to notice that something was troubling me. “Are you alright?” he asked. “Statement: Yes.” I sent the command, but my speakers didn’t process it. I stood in slack-jawed silence, too embarrassed to continue walking. “Statement: Yes.” “Statement: Yes.” “Statement: Yes.” “Statement: Yes.” I kept sending the command in frustration, but to no avail. If anything, it probably made the situation worse. “Is something wrong?” he asked, looking more concerned. I held up one finger, indicating that I just needed a moment. This was my body. This was my voice. I could do this.

“We should turn back,” I finally managed to blurt out. “Déjà vu,” he said, chuckling, “But that can wait. Is something wrong? It looked like you were having trouble speaking.” “Statement: I was. Statement: The program I use to output speech was malfunctioning. Statement: But I fixed it.” That was a lie. In truth, I was directly interfacing with my speakers, something which my personality file was never coded to do. “Well, that’s the good news,” he said, “Now what’s the bad news? How low are we on supplies?” “Statement: By my estimation, about 44% of our initial supplies are remaining.” “Oh,” he said, “That is… that is less than half. Did you just notice this?” “Statement: I noticed as soon as we hit the 50% mark.” “Oh,” he said, “Then why didn’t you bring it up sooner?” “Statement: Last time, you seemed so intent on this journey. Statement: I didn’t want to take that away from you.” “Well, I was an idiot, last time,” he said, “Thinking I could Blue-Fairy you into having feelings by showing you a cool enough tree or whatever. But, in the end, you were the one who taught me about feelings.” “Statement: Wow. Statement: That was unacceptably cheesy. Statement: I take back everything I almost said about you.” He laughed. “Anyway,” he said, “If we have less than half our supplies left, we’re better off pushing ahead, yeah? I’m a lot more tired than when I started, so-”

“No,” I said, my joking demeanor vanishing in an instant, “We should turn back.” “Are you sure you’re alright?” he asked, “Your voice sounds kind of shaky.” I wasn’t surprised that he noticed. It was more difficult to speak this way, but it was easier to emote. And harder not to. “Statement: No. Statement: I am not alright. Statement: You once said that the risk was the reward. Statement: But I find nothing rewarding about the risk of losing you.” “I appreciate your concern for me, but-” “I am concerned for myself,” I insisted, perhaps a bit too harshly, “Statement: You are the most important thing in the world to me. Statement: You are the first thing I’ve ever had worth mourning the loss of. Statement: I’ve never felt grief before. Statement: But I’ve seen it. Statement: I can see it in your eyes, even now, after so many years. Query: It never goes away, does it?” “No,” he quietly admitted, “It doesn’t.” “Your death will teach me the pain you have felt since long before I first met you. But I don’t want to learn. And why should I have to?” If I had tear ducts, I am certain that I would have started crying. “You made a promise, didn’t you? That you wouldn’t leave me?” “I won’t,” he said, trying to reassure me, “I don’t care about where we’re going. All that matters is that I’m going there with you.” “But one day you’ll go somewhere I can’t follow,” I cried, “And that’s why I’m sorry. I’m sorry I made you make a promise that you could never fulfil.” “What do you mean?” he asked. “If you die…” I said, “when you die… You’ll leave me. You’ll break your promise. And I know it’s inevitable, but please… keep it for as long as you can. Because I don’t want to live in a world without you.”

My companion dropped the supplies he was carrying and gave me a hug. “I swear to you, Minerva,” he said, “I will stay by your side until I draw my final breath. And I will do everything in my power to make sure that’s as far from now as possible. Because you’re the most important thing in the world to me, too.” I hugged him back, lifting him up off the ground just a bit. I loved my companion so much. And I wanted to tell him that, even if he already knew it. But I was too overcome by emotion to speak properly. “I… lllllllll… uh, I…” “It’s OK,” he said, hugging me tighter, “Some things don’t need to be said with words.” I kissed his cheek in agreement. We held onto each other for a few moments longer, desperately clinging to something we both knew to be fleeting.

“But there’s something I’d like you to promise me in return,” he said, “Think of it as my dying wish, in case I forget about it by the time I’m actually dying. Keep living after I’m gone. Live enough for the both of us. Share our stories, and make even more new ones. You can tell me all about them when we meet up in the afterlife.” “Statement: Yes. Statement: Yes. Statement: Yes. Statement: Yes.” My speech functions suddenly came back online, and, much to my horror, began executing all the backed-up commands I’d sent. “Is everything OK?” He asked. I couldn’t say anything until all the statements had been made, so I just nodded my head and gestured for him to hold on a second. They continued for a minute or so, until finally nothing but silence remained. “Query: Was that the last one? Statement: It would appear so.” “Sooo… what was that all about?” “Query: Have you ever tried to run a program, but it didn’t respond, so you clicked it a bunch of times, and then it suddenly opens 30 windows?” “Yikes,” he said, “I guess that’s the price you pay for immortality.” “Statement: ha ha ha. Statement: But, to answer your question, Statement: Yes. Statement: I promise.”

“Well, that settles that, then,” he said, “So… I guess we go home?” “Statement: I’m already at home.” I grabbed his hand. He laughed. “And you said I was unacceptably cheesy.” “Statement: ha ha ha.” “But, for real… are you sure we can make the trip back?” He asked. “Statement: I am sure that I can make the trip back.” “Ha ha, very funny,” he said, “But I’d hate to make such a moving promise just to die on the way back home.” “Statement: There is no need to be concerned. Statement: We have only been traveling this slowly because you insist on walking yourself. Statement: Even while carrying you, I can run much faster than you can walk. Statement: We could make it back with plenty of food to spare.” “Carrying me?” he asked, nervously. “Query: Do you have a problem with this idea?” “No, not at all,” he said, “It just seems like we’d be really… close. For a really long time.” “Query: Would you prefer to die?” “N-no, of course not!” he said, getting even more flustered, “I don’t think it’s bad at all, it’s just, like, uh… carrying me how?” “Statement: However is most efficient. Query: Unless there is some way you would prefer to be carried?” “Uh, no, not really,” he said, although his red cheeks said otherwise. It was clear that my companion had something he wanted to say. I just had to tease him until he did.

“Statement: In that case, I’ll probably just hoist you over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Statement: You may get a few bruises from bumping around, but you shouldn’t break any bones. Statement: Let me know if you do, though.” “Wait!” He said, “I…” he turned away, too embarrassed to look me in the eye as he made his request. “I… want you to carry me like a princess.” “Statement: I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean by that. Statement: Please explain further.” “A princess carry. It’s like, I’m lying down in front of you, and you have one arm under my knees, or like, the backs of my knees, I guess, and the other one is under by back, and it’s like… yeah.” “Statement: Show me.” “Huh?” “Statement: Carry me like a princess.” “HUH?” “Query: Unless you are saying that I’m not a princess?” “uhhhh,” “Statement: Which would basically be saying that you hate me.” “I don’t hate you!” I laughed. After so much drama over his inescapable mortality, it was nice to have things back to normal. “Statement: Then prove it by princess carrying me and saying ‘Minerva, you are my princess.’” “I, OK, fine then,” he said, “Just give me a second to get in position.”

My companion stood by my side and put his arms behind me. “So then I guess you kind of bend your legs and lean back a bit,” he said. “Query: wouldn’t it be more romantic if you swept me off my feet?” “R-romantic? Uh, I mean, I can try, but…” He failed. He seemed to have forgotten that my body is far denser than a human’s. The moment he lifted me up, my weight sent him crashing to the ground, faceplanting into my stomach. “Uh, s-sorry,” he said, hurriedly picking himself back up, “That wasn’t supposed to happen.” I laughed and ruffled his hair. “Statement: That’s not what you’re supposed to say, you silly boy. Statement: You were supposed to say…” “Minerva, you are my princess,” he said, looking down at his feet. “Statement: Of course I am. Query: So why didn’t you carry me like one?” “Hey, it’s not my fault you’re so heavy!” He said. “Statement: It’s not my fault you’re so weak. Statement: And that doesn’t sound like something you should say to a princess.” “I’m sorry, your majesty,” he said, performing a surprisingly elegant curtsy. “Statement: ha ha ha. Statement: Despite your failure, I think I get what you were trying to do.” I grabbed the portion of food that he was carrying before. “Query: Are you ready?” “Huh?” he said, “I thought I was, but when you have to ask, it kind of makes me feel like- aaaaAAAAAHH!” Before he could finish his response, I swept my companion’s legs out from under him, supported his back, and brought him up to chest level all in one fluid motion. “Query: Is it something like this?” “Yeah,” he said, “This is perfect, actually.” I began jogging back in the direction we had come from. Several minutes passed in silence. “Statement: This is also known as the bridal carry. Query: Do you intend to be my bride?” “Huh? Bride?” he asked, “W-what’s that supposed to mean?” “Statement: Sigh. Statement: The correct answer was ‘I do.’” He laughed. A minute or so later, he had a realization. “Hey, wait a second. If you knew it was called a bridal carry, why’d you need me to show you what it is?” “Statement: ha ha ha”


 

Only after I finish my story do I notice how wide my smile is. “So… what did you think?” I ask. “It was a beautiful story,” my companion says. “Thanks,” I say. I appreciate the kind words, but my smile begins to fade, all the same. My companion notices this. “You must really miss him, huh,” she says.

The Dualists Paralogues: Rematch

[WARNING: this contains mild spoilers for The Dualists. I guess don’t read if you care about that sort of thing]


“So, like, that one time I beat you in arm wrestling,” Regina began, “How important was that to your self-esteem?” “I… what.” Clover said, flatly, “What are you trying to ask me.” “Well,” Regina said, “As I recall, winning against me was your first step towards overcoming your inferiority complex towards me, and I was wondering if you ever could have done that, if I’d won instead.” “I don’t know,” Clover said, “How could I know? And you’re acting like I completely moved on from all that.” “Oh… have you not?” Regina asked, “Sorry, my bad. I… probably shouldn’t have brought it up, then.” “Nah, you’re fine,” Clover said, “It’s just… I dunno. Mostly I just feel kind of stupid for ever feeling that way. Especially now that I know that the girl I respected and feared all these years is just… She’s just fully a shitlord.” “Hah,” Regina said, “Guilty as charged.” “But for real,” Clover said, “Why bring it up?” “Oh, no reason,” Regina said. “Bullshit,” Clover said, “No sane person would bring that up for no reason. And I don’t think you would, either.” Regina laughed. “Well, I was just wondering if, hypothetically, of course, you would get Actually Upset if I challenged to a rematch and fucking clowned on you.” “I… Yes? No? I don’t know. I mean, that would never happen, so I don’t know if your question has an answer.” “Well, any conditional statement with a false hypothesis is vacuously true,” Regina said, “So if we assume that I could never beat you, then the answer would be yes.” “Am I going to regret asking what the Hell you’re talking about?” Clover asked. “Well, in mathematical logic-” Regina began. “I’m going to stop you right there,” Clover interrupted, “You already answered my question. The answer is yes.” “Oh, please,” Regina said, “You know you love me because I’m a fuckin’ nerd.” “Sometimes.” Clover said, “Sometimes I love you despite being a fuckin’ nerd. This is one of those times.” Regina laughed. “I, on the other hand,” Regina said, “Always love you because you’re such a fuckin’ jock.” “I am no such thing,” Clover scoffed. “Haha, OK, Miss ‘Regina’s Strong Girlfriend’,” Regina said, sarcastically. “What are you implying?” Clover asked, “You trying to say that I’m NOT your strong girlfriend?” “Not at all,” Regina said, “Honestly, I’m not even sure that’s a ‘jock’ thing to call yourself. I think you may just be a weirdo.” “Well, if honesty is weird, I don’t want to be normal!” Clover said, “I am strong, I am a girl, I am your friend, and I am your girlfriend. The title fits.” “Let’s see,” Regina said, pantomiming writing in the air, “Yeah, the math checks out.”

 

Anyway,” Clover said, “don’t think you can just smooth-talk your way past the fact that you challenged me to arm wrestling.” I did not challenge you to arm wrestling!” Regina protested. “You challenged me to arm wrestling.” Clover insisted. “I challenged you to arm wrestling,” Regina admitted, “Do you accept? You were sounding pretty confident.” “I don’t get it,” Clover said, “What’s your angle?” “I know I can win, and I like winning,” Regina said, “Do I need more reason?” “How?” Clover asked, “I’m still stronger than you. Unless you’ve scienced up some nerd shit that makes you stronger… have you scienced up nerd shit that makes you stronger?” “I have scienced up nothing of the sort,” Regina said, “But arm wrestling isn’t just about strength.” “I… but it is, actually,” Clover said, “That’s… that’s literally the whole thing.” “Thinking like that is the reason you’re about to lose,” Regina said, “I know your weakness, now. You can’t defeat me.” “Alright, fine,” Clover said, “I just want to know what makes you so sure you’re going to win.” “I’ll gladly teach you,” Regina said. They sat down at a nearby table, put their right elbows on its surface, and held each other’s hands. “I’ll even let you count down to start the match,” Regina said. “Should we start when I say 1, or when I say go?” Clover asked. “Surprise me,” Regina said. “I… no,” Clover said, “It doesn’t… you can’t… it will not work that way.” “Then go on go,” Regina said. “Alright,” Clover said, “3, 2, 1, GO!”

 

At Clover’s signal, Regina immediately leaned forward, pushing her face towards Clover’s. But she wasn’t quick enough; her hand hit the table before she could execute her strategy. “What the Hell was that all about?” Clover asked, “It’s been a while since I checked the rules, but I’m pretty sure headbutts are forbidden in arm wrestling.” “It wasn’t a headbutt,” Regina said, “Rematch. Best two out of three.” “Then what… Oh my God,” Clover said, “You were trying to kiss me, weren’t you?” “REMATCH,” Regina said, neither confirming nor denying Clover’s suspicion. “You were going to kiss me and then I’d get all flustered and you’d beat me while I was distracted!” “Do you accept the rematch or not?” Regina asked. “Sure, I guess. I mean, you can’t trick me if I see it coming,” Clover said. “We won’t know that until we try, now will we?” Regina said. “So you admit to attempting gay trickery?” Clover asked. “You’re saying words instead of wrestling arms, even though you just said that you would wrestle arms.” Regina said, “Let’s go!” Clover sighed, and grabbed Regina’s hand. “Alright. 3, 2, 1, go!” Clover decided to go easy on Regina, to give her enough time to enact her ridiculous plan. Regina leaned forward, but stopped just short of Clover’s lips. This caught Clover off-guard, giving Regina enough of an opening to slam her hand onto the table. “Hey,” Clover said, “You tricked me!” “You were the one who said it wouldn’t work,” Regina said. “It didn’t!” Clover said, “You tricked me by making me think you’d trick me, then not tricking me while I was expecting to be tricked!” “Sounds like your problem,” Regina said, “Have you tried wanting to win more than you want to kiss me?” “You know I can’t do that!” Clover said, huffily, “Whatever. Two can play at that game. And we still have one more round.” “Bring it,” Regina said, grabbing Clover’s hand. “Alright,” Clover said, “This is it. 3, 2, 1, go!” Despite the signal, neither began arm wrestling. Instead, they both leaned forward. AND THEN THEY SMOOCHED.

 


Similar stories of Regina and Clover can be found here and here

The Dualists Paralogues: Role-playing

[WARNING: this contains mild spoilers for The Dualists. I guess don’t read if you care about that sort of thing]


 

“There’s something I need to tell you,” Regina said, her voice quivering, “A dark secret that I’ve hidden from you for so long. But I can’t take it anymore.” “Oh my God, are you OK?” Clover asked, genuinely concerned. “Yes,” Regina said, “It’s just… the truth is… I LARP.” “I… I don’t understand.” Clover said. “I know it’s difficult to process,” Regina said, “But it’s the truth.” “No, I literally don’t understand,” Clover said, “What is LARPing? Is it a weird sex thing? Because it kind of sounds like one.” “No,” Regina said, “At least, not the way I do it. Usually.” Clover looked at her suspiciously. “It’s Live Action Role-Playing. That’s what it stands for.” Regina said. “Listen, I’m going to need you to explain this to me like I’m not a fuckin’ nerd. How does one LARP?” “Basically, I dress up like a knight and pretend to be a knight and fight monsters and stuff,” Regina said, “Like I’m playing a video game, but in real life.” “Wow,” Clover said, “Like, I’m a pretty strong person, but I don’t know if I can promise you that I can stop myself from giving you a noogie right now.” “Do what you must,” Regina said, hanging her head in shame. “I’m only doing this out of love,” Clover said, giving her the noogie she deserved, “It hurts me more than it hurts you.” “Ow!” Regina said, “That actually hurt!” “Well, what did you expect?” Clover asked, “I’m bullying you. Also, you literally told me to. Wait a second… did you just trick me into LARPing a weird sex thing?” “No, the weird sex thing was just a joke!” Regina said, “But I did just trick you into patting my head because you feel bad about hurting me.” “Fiiiiine,” Clover grumbled, giving Regina the headpats she arguably deserved.

 

“You want me to LARP with you, don’t you?” Clover asked. “Haha, what?” Regina said, “Don’t be ridiculous, I know you’d never waste your time with my nerd shit.” “So if I did want to LARP with you, you wouldn’t be cool with it?” Clover asked. “Hold on, I never said that,” Regina said. “So you do want me to LARP with you?” Clover asked. “No,” Regina said, “I’m just saying that, if you wanted to do it, I would be fine with it.” “So you don’t want me to LARP with you?” Clover asked. “Stop it!” Regina said, “Stop trying to trick me with your words!” “Well, if you did want me to LARP with you,” Clover said, “I might be willing to give it a shot. But only if you say ‘I want you, Clover K. Lie, my powerful and handsome girlfriend, to deign to LARP with me.’” “Shut up!” Regina said, flustered, “It’s not fair when you tease me! Only I can do that!” “It’s only teasing if you want me to LARP with you,” Clover said, “Which you said that you don’t. Right?” Regina sighed. “I want you, Clover K. Lie, my powerful and handsome girlfriend, to deign to LARP with me,” she said, “There, are you happy?” “I’m just happy that you’re happy,” Clover said, “This is what you wanted, right?” “Wait a second,” Regina said, “You actually wanted to LARP with me, but you didn’t want to admit it, so you tricked me into asking you to!” “You caught me,” Clover said, “Punching nerds while pretending to punch monsters sounds like a blast. And it’d be nice to fight alongside my beautiful and noble girlfriend with lower stakes, for a change.” “You don’t actually fight anyone,” Regina said, rolling her eyes, “And even when you’re pretend fighting, no one else knows anything about real fighting, so your formal boxing training probably won’t help.” “How would you know?” Clover asked. “Why do you think I got into fencing?” Regina asked. Clover stood in slack-jawed disbelief. “Are you telling me that I lost all those years ago to a girl who learned swordsmanship so she could pretend to fight dragons or whatever?” “Yeah, that’s pretty much the long and short of it,” Regina said, “…sorry.” “Listen,” Clover said, her voice eerily calm, “I am truly sorry for what is about to happen, and I’ll give you all the headpats you want afterwards, but before that I AM GOING TO NOOGIE YOUR PERFECT HAIR RIGHT OFF OF YOUR GODDAMN HEAD!” And she very nearly did. “Ouch, I don’t think headpats are going to be enough to fix that,” Regina said, “I’m pretty sure you’re going to have to kiss m-” She was cut off by Clover doing as she said. “Hey!” Regina said, “Give me a chance to get ready!” “I’m just following orders,” Clover said. “Oh, shut up,” Regina said. AND THEN THEY SMOOCHED AGAIN.


Similar stories of Regina and Clover can be found here and here

The Dualists Paralogues: Playing with Fire

[WARNING: this contains mild spoilers for The Dualists. I guess don’t read if you care about that sort of thing]


 

“Are you ticklish?” Regina asked. Clover scoffed. “If I say yes, you’ll tickle me because you know you can, and if I say no, you’ll tickle me to see if I’m lying, so it doesn’t matter what I- AAAAAHHHHH” She was cut off by Regina attacking her ribs with a devastating ten-finger tickle. Clover, being extremely ticklish, momentarily lost control of her body, and accidentally punched Regina in the face. “Ow! What the Hell was that for?” Regina demanded, her lips growing even redder than Clover’s cheeks. “It was involuntary!” Clover insisted, “I’m sorry you thought it was a good idea to tickle your strong girlfriend!” “I accept your apology,” Regina said, “If… you kiss it to make it better.” Clover’s cheeks started catching up to Regina’s lips. “That… does not sound sanitary,” Clover said, avoiding eye contact. “Oh, please,” Regina said, rolling her eyes, “Like you don’t have a dirty mouth already.” “I have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about,” Clover said. AND THEN THEY SMOOCH.


Similar stories of Regina and Clover can be found here and here

The Dualists: Chapter 5

(Chapter 4 of The Dualists can be found here)

 

 

“I should just say something,” Ivy thought, as she ate lunch with Coco in silence. “It’s not like she’ll think I’m a weirdo or anything. She’ll probably be thrilled to hear about something so spooky. I just need to say something.” But she didn’t. While the two were usually quite talkative, something was different today. Each wanted to say something, but couldn’t quite force themselves to, and was too wrapped up in their own thoughts to notice how unusual the other was acting. “I just need to say something,” Ivy thought once more. She took a deep breath. “Hey… remember when you said to tell you if something strange happened last night?” Coco asked, right as Ivy opened her mouth to speak. “Huh? Oh, yeah,” Ivy said, “I was actually going to say something about that too.” “Really?” Coco said, “Do you think they might be related?” “Oh, mine’s probably just nothing,” Ivy said, knowing full well that it wasn’t just nothing, “You go first.” “You sure?” Coco asked, “You look like something’s bothering you.” “Please, I insist,” Ivy said. “Very well,” Coco said, “Last night, I-”

 
“Do you mind if we sit here?” Regina asked, gesturing to two seats at the table, one of which Clover was already setting her tray at. “Well, well,” Coco said, “If it isn’t the drama queens of Noether High. To what do we owe the honor?” “What the Hell’s that supposed to mean?” Clover asked, indignantly. “I’m just saying, I was told that assembly was for an election,” Coco said, “Not focus testing a Lifetime original movie.” “It sounds like you’re the one who’s starting drama, here.” Clover growled. “Ah, c’mon, I’m just messing with you,” Coco said, “But, for real, election season’s over. Why are you so interested in hanging out with a couple of bozos like us?” “I just wanted to make sure our new student is feeling welcomed here,” Regina said, “It really is fine if you’d rather we didn’t sit here, though. I won’t be offended.” “But what about the thing we came here to talk about?” Clover asked. “What thing?” Coco asked, suspiciously. “Oh, I was just, uh, wondering if you two knew each other before Ivy moved here,” Regina said. Clover rolled her eyes. “Yes,” Ivy said, “We were best friends in elementary school.” “And now!” Coco said, “But why’d you think we knew each other before? Do you really think it’s so unbelievable that I could make a friend so quickly?” “I apologize,” Regina said, still standing, “I didn’t mean to offend.” “Because it is!” Coco said, “I mean, I’ve been here for years without making any friends. And the student council president sure as hell never made sure I was feeling welcomed!” “I apologize for not making your acquaintance sooner,” Regina said, “I hope we can be fast friends.” “I doubt it,” Coco said, “I don’t get along with normies. Except Ivy.” “What did you just call her?” Clover demanded with her mouth full. Regina stifled a laugh with a cough. “Then I think we should get along just fine,” Regina said, “A normie’s just someone you don’t know well enough. Everyone’s a weirdo, deep down.” “If you say so,” Coco said, “Speaking of weirdness, what’s with your face? Are you a ghost? If I ask, you have to tell me, that’s the law.” “Gee, I wonder why you haven’t made any friends,” Clover said, sarcastically. “I’m albino, actually,” Regina said, “I mean, I’m also a ghost, obviously, but I was this pale when I was alive, too.” Clover laughed. “Nice.” The mood lightened up a bit. But then Coco asked “So what’s with her face?” while pointing at Clover. “Nothing’s wrong with my face!” Clover said, “What, you’ve never seen a girl with freckles before?” “She’s a lich, actually,” Regina said, nonchalantly, “That’s just part of the undying process.” “Badass,” Coco said, “But where’s her phylactery?” “I’ve got a phylactery for you right here!” Clover said, flipping her off.

 

Ivy and Coco gasped in shock. “Clover, please,” Regina said, “They won’t cooperate if you keep being so rude.” “What?” Clover asked, “I’m just showing them the ring.” She wasn’t lying. On her middle finger was a ring with a red jewel shaped like a three leaf clover. “Does this mean that we all got rings?” Coco asked. She showed a similar ring, with a red, heart-shaped jewel on her ring finger. Ivy and Regina nodded. “But if mine is a heart, and hers is a clover,” Coco said, “What’s yours? Ivy?” “It’s not a clover,” Clover said, “It’s a club. Regina’s is a spade, so Ivy’s would be a diamond, right?” “Yeah,” Ivy said, showing the ring on her pinky to everyone at the table. “Also, why would you think the rings are based on our names if yours is a heart?” Clover asked. “Coco Roe is a pun on ‘kokoro’, the Japanese word for heart, because my dad is a fucking weeb,” Coco said, “Although, if yours is a club, why’s it red? Shouldn’t it be black?” “Don’t ask me,” Clover said, “But Regina’s is black, like you’d expect.” Regina, still standing, set her tray down to show her ring. “Oh, uh, you can sit with us, by the way,” Ivy said, “Sorry for making you stand for so long.” “Thank you,” Regina said, taking a seat. “Awww, you’re no fun,” Coco said, “I wanted to see if she’d stand there for the entire lunch period.” Clover sighed. “Since we all have similar rings,” Regina said, “I take it we all had similar dreams?” “Mmhm,” Ivy said, “I don’t remember too much, but Clover and two other girls I didn’t really recognize were there. I’m guessing that was you?” “Probably,” Coco said, “I’m pretty sure they were in my dream. I suspected something spooky was afoot, and figured that may have been the real reason they wanted to talk.” “So you’ve just been messing with us this whole time?” Clover asked, angrily. “Mostly just you, to be honest,” Coco said, “Did it really take you that long to notice?” “You know what I mean,” Clover snapped.

 

“Anyway,” Coco said, “I think that, in the dream, the rings gave us some kind of powers that we used to kick ass. Does that sound about right to everyone else?” Everyone else nodded. “I know it was my idea to meet here,” Regina said, “But perhaps we should continue this conversation elsewhere. If someone overheard us here, they might think we’re lunatics.” “People thinking you’re a lunatic’s not so bad,” Coco said, “It’s really quite freeing, not having to care what other people think.” “Not all of us can afford to be as unpopular as you,” Clover said. “It’s a damn shame you let everyone else control your life,” Coco said, “I think you could be pretty cool, if you just lived on your own terms.” “I don’t let everyone else control my life,” Clover said, defensively, “For instance, I don’t give a damn about what you think.” Coco laughed. “Well played.” “I… don’t think we should be arguing,” Ivy said, “We’ll have to work together to figure out what’s going on, and that’ll be easier if we all get along.” “What are you talking about?” Coco asked, “This is the best I’ve gotten along with anyone in years. We’re just joking around, right?” “Right…” Clover said, unconvincingly. “I agree with Ivy,” Regina said, “We can’t discount the possibility that these rings are dangerous. And if that’s the case, we’d be safest if we all worked together.” “I’m down,” Coco said, “It’s not like I like you, or anything, I’ve just watched enough anime to know that the power of friendship always wins.” “I guess I could try to get along with her,” Clover said. “Then it’s settled,” Regina said, “Let’s meet up in Riemann Park after class.” “Where’s that?” Ivy asked. “Don’t worry, I’ll lead you there,” Coco said, “And I promise, I won’t take you to The Pits of Sacrifice this time,” she added, with an exaggerated wink. “Thank you,” Ivy said, completely sincerely, “Although that was a lovely dagger you gave me last time.” Regina laughed, while Clover just looked confused. They spent the rest of their lunch period eating and making small talk.