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
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.