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

“… 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.


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.

The Dualists: Fight Scene (Sneak Peek)

Ivy stepped through the door into what looked like coliseum. Her friends stood on top of the wall that enclosed her, at least 15 feet off the ground. They were looking down at her. Though their voices continued, their mouths were still. In the middle was a black, featureless humanoid statue. As soon as the door behind her shut, her friends all closed their eyes, and the room went silent. Six unblinking eyes opened on the statue’s torso. They weren’t arranged in rows or columns, but randomly scattered about. She could tell from the irises that they belonged to her friends. Just when she thought it couldn’t get any more terrifying, a seventh eye opened. Did it belong to her mother? Then an eighth. A ninth. More and more eyes opened, until she couldn’t stand the sight of it any longer. She closed her eyes, pinched herself, and willed herself to wake up, but to no avail. When she opened her eyes again, her gaze was met by a giant pair of eyes on the statue’s torso that were unmistakably her own. The entire surface of the statue was covered with eyes, except for three areas on its face: its mouth, and, ironically enough, where one would expect to find eyes. She looked to her friends for help, only to find that they were now facing away. She tried to call for help, but she was paralyzed by fear.

“It is as I suspected.” A mouth opened on the statue’s face, and began speaking with Regina’s voice. “She’s completely dependent on others. Cooperation is important to a team, but if we always have to bail her out any time she’s in trouble, she’ll only slow us down.” A second mouth chimed in with Clover’s voice, “Look at her, just standing there. Too afraid to reach out to others. That’s why she has so few friends. She feels so alone, but she feels even more afraid.” A third mouth, glossed with black lipstick, spoke with Coco’s voice, “There’s nothing wrong with not being a hero, but she’s not even a coward. She isn’t strong, nor is she weak. She isn’t smart or dumb, extroverted or introverted, good or bad. She is nothing. I would’ve been better off alone than friends with her.” “Shut up!” Ivy couldn’t take it anymore. “You can insult me all you want, but don’t you dare put those words in her mouth!” “You think you can stop me?” Coco’s mouth said. Ivy’s fear was replaced with anger. “I don’t know who or what you are, but this is my dream. As long as I’m lucid, I can do anything!” It was a bluff, but hopefully one convincing enough that her subconscious would believe it. She charged at the statue, and punched the largest eye on its torso. Unlike her real eye, the statue’s eye was hard and unyielding; the injury to her hand was made even worse by the ring that she forgot she was wearing. The three mouths of the statue laughed, but its body was eerily still. As she examined her finger to make sure it wasn’t cut or broken, she noticed that her ring’s diamond was black. The ring… of course! In that one dream, she used it to fight. But how did it work? She pointed the ring at the statue, and exclaimed “Ring, Activate! Power of Black Diamond, Go!” She totally made that up. But, surprisingly, something happened. The ring emitted a bright flash of light. The light began to coalesce into a solid shape, which fell into her arms with surprising weight.

Ivy penultimate draft
Art by @thebloodtypeV

It appeared to be a very large gun, almost like a bazooka. The mouths stopped laughing. Ivy did her best to take aim at the statue. “Not so tough now, are you? Let’s see you like- eek!” While she was talking, the statue suddenly moved to strike her, and she flinched by reflex. But the blow never connected. “Huh?” She opened her eyes, and saw the many eyes on the statue’s fist gazing back at her, inches from her face. “Ah!” as she recoiled away, her opponent was launched backwards. “Wait, did I do that?” The statue stood up, and leapt from halfway across the arena to attack her, but stopped in mid-air. Ivy held him there with her mind. “Telekinesis? Now this is more like it! Hold still for a second…” She aimed her weapon at the monster and pulled what she hoped was the trigger. The gun’s recoil nearly knocked her off balance, as it shot a projectile which exploded on impact, cracking one of the golem’s giant eyes. One of her eyes. But it wasn’t enough to defeat it. Its mouths kept berating her, voices overlapping in an incomprehensible cacophony. “I’ve heard enough out of you!” she quipped, flinging the abomination out of the arena. She saw no reason to go through the ordeal of firing her grenade launcher again.

She celebrated her triumph for a moment, but it was short lived. “What happens now?” she wondered aloud, “Am I supposed to wake up? Can you guys hear me? Coco? Regina? Clov-” Her voice was drowned out by the sound of something heavy slamming into the ground behind her. “Did you think our battle over? We’re only getting started!” She turned to find that the monster that she thought she’d defeated had returned transformed. It was now at least twice as large as before, but more than that, it was shaped differently. Less human. Its head had disappeared, leaving its three mouths strewn randomly across its torso, and its arms and fists were much larger, proportionally. Before, it was just meant to frighten her, but now, it was clearly designed to crush her. Though its body grew, its eyes all remained the same size; hundreds, maybe thousands had opened to fill its surface completely. The time she spent looking it over would’ve been better spent trying to stop it as it charged towards her, but she was paralyzed with fear. Right before it hit her, she snapped out of it, and used her telekinesis to try to push it back. She tried as hard as she could to repel it, but… WHAM! She was overpowered, and the golem’s fist knocked her off her feet, at least a yard backwards onto the ground. Though the blow surely would have killed her in real life, she managed to stand up. “Is that all you’ve got?” she bluffed. The monster’s mouths laughed. “I could see through that bluff even with a thousand eyes closed!” “Then I guess I’ll just have to close them for you!” Ivy shouted. She fired her gun. The grenade exploded against the golem. Nothing. The golem remained utterly still, except for three smug smirks on its face.


“Is that all you’ve got?” it asked, echoing her words in her voice. Then, with a speed that seemed unreal, it charged at her; she just barely managed to jump to the side to avoid its upward punch. She was surprised by how high she jumped; the ring must have augmented her strength. While she was still in mid-air, the golem’s fist shot off its body, heading straight for her. “Let’s see you dodge this!” She tried to move herself telekinetically, but to no avail. Even in her dream, some semblance of physical laws applied. If she couldn’t push herself, she’d have to push something else. But what? An epiphany hit her moments before the fist would have. She fired a grenade sailing over the walls of the arena, using her telekinesis to push it even faster than the gun shot it, so that the recoil knocked her out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, this also knocked her off balance. As she tumbled to the ground, the golem’s snapped back to the end of its arm. “Impressive,” Regina’s voice admitted, “but you can’t dodge forever. I’ll hit you eventually, and you have no way of defeating me before that happens!” Its gloating gave Ivy enough time to stand up, but not enough to retort. The golem performed the exact same attack, and Ivy dodged the same way, jumping out of the way, and using the recoil of her weapon to avoid the follow-up attack. As before, she was too focused on her telekinesis to land on her feet. Her foe took advantage of this, and punched its right fist directly down at her. She barely managed to roll out of the way in time. As she stood up, he swung his left fist at her, then shot it at her after she jumped over his attack. As before, she used her recoil to dodge. Unlike before, the golem’s right fist burst out of the ground before she landed. He must have shot it into the ground during his attack earlier. Before she had a chance to react, it hit her leg. She spiraled out of control and slammed headfirst into the ground. Her leg felt broken, and her scalp seemed to be bleeding. She couldn’t dodge another attack. This was over. “I must admit, you put up a hell of a fight. You’re a lot tougher than I expected,” Clover’s voice said. Regina’s voice continued, “But you’re still the same loser you always have been. That you always will be.” As it made its way over to Ivy to deliver the final blow, she smirked.

“You’re a really crappy monster, you know that?” Ivy said. “What the Hell’s that supposed to mean?” the Coco asked, “certainly not as crappy as you, who lost to us.” “Oh, so you killed me in a dream. Big deal. You defeated an opponent who’s never fought in her life. It’s like winning a chess match against someone who just learned the rules five minutes ago.” She said. “If you’re attempting to stall, it’s pointless. No one’s going to save you. You lost,” the Coco’s voice sneered. “Did I? I lost this fight, but that’s not important to me, and I don’t think it’s important to you,” Ivy said, “you want to scare me. Get in my head. Make me feel insecure about my friendships. And in that respect, you’ve failed, because I believe in my friends. I know they don’t believe what you’re having them say. You kill me now, I wake up, and you lose. But I’m a gracious winner. So I give you one last chance. One last chance to say something that’ll haunt me even when I wake up. Make it count.” The golem chuckled ominously. Its three voices spoke as one. “How wrong you are. You have lost for the precise reason that you claim you have won: you believe in your friends. You do not believe in your own strength. Instead, you rely on others. You think that your friends, your trinkets will bring you strength, but they betray you. I admit, you showed some ingenuity, but it was not enough. You are not enough. That is why you are weak. And that is why you had no hope of defeating me.” It cackled maniacally as it raised its arms over its head for one final strike. “hahahaHAHAHAHAHAH-?”


It stopped laughing abruptly. “What was that? Did I just… swallow something? ” “Three somethings actually,” Ivy said, “When I used the recoil of my gun to avoid your attacks, did you think it odd that the shots I fired never exploded? Or do you focus so much on your eyes that you can’t hear?” “But I didn’t see them. I see all!” the monster shouted, “I see right through you. I’m calling your bluff. That was probably just some debris from when I broke through the ground earlier!” “Tsk, tsk,” Ivy said, “I know you can’t see through me. Because you couldn’t see through my friends.” Every eye on its body widened. “You used your telekinesis to hide them behind your friends? No… Impossible! I-” Ivy braced herself and shot the golem one last time, causing the grenades within it to explode. The monster shook violently for a bit, then was still. Smoke began to rise from its gaping mouths. A clear fluid began to flow from the giant eye. Was it… crying? The other eyes followed suit, until its entire body was slick with tears, flowing down its body and pooling onto the ground. The tears began to dissolve its body, then seeped into the ground, eroding it until eventually nothing remained.

The Dualists: Chapter 4

(Chapter 3 of The Dualists can be found here)


The crowd applauded thunderously. Clover could take no more, and ran from the stage, barely containing her sobbing. “Could someone get her?” The principal asked to a group of teachers, who begrudgingly went after her. “If you don’t mind, Mr. Dedekind, I’d like to talk to her,” Regina said. “But you need to appoint a vice-president. We’re already running late,” he said. “I’m sure the students wouldn’t mind pushing class back a little longer,” she said. The crowd of students cheered. “Fine,” he relented, “But do try to hurry up.” After a bit of searching, she found Clover in the nearest bathroom, crying her eyes out. “Do you have a moment?” Regina asked, through the door of the bathroom stall. “Come to rub your victory in my face some more?” Clover spat. “I-I’m sorry, I know you’re better than that.” “No problem,” Regina said, “To answer your question, I was sent to retrieve you, so the assembly can continue.” “Oh, God, is the whole school waiting on me?” Clover asked, “I’m so sorry, I’ll be right-” “But,” Regina continued, “I’m here to do my job as president. To help you.” “I appreciate the sentiment,” Clover said, “But no one can help me with this. Especially not you.” “I don’t understand,” Regina said, “You said that you believed that I ‘excelled at literally everything.’ So why can’t help you?” “BECAUSE YOU’RE THE REASON I NEED HELP IN THE FIRST PLACE,” Clover said, her anger getting the better of her. “Because I beat you in the election?” Regina asked. “And in that fencing match! And in the science fair. And in math Olympiad. And everything else! You’ve always had a higher GPA, been the star athlete, while I’ve been nothing! I thought that maybe, with this election, I’d finally, finally win against you, but no. I guess you’re just completely better than me in every way. Congratulations.” There was a moment of silence. “I missed you, y’know.” Regina said. “Huh?” “I remember you now. From when I first moved here. You were the girl in my fencing class who was just as good as me.” Clover scoffed, “But you beat me.” “Barely,” Regina said, “I knew I could learn a lot from you. But even more than that, I hoped we could be friends. I was – and still am, I guess – a lot better at fencing than I was at socializing, so I figured that was my best shot at meeting new people. But after that first day, you left. Why?” “Because I hate losing,” Clover said, “Because I was so used to being the best, that I couldn’t handle coming in second.” “I’m sorry,” Regina said, “I am truly, deeply sorry that I hurt you, that I’ve been hurting you, and that I never even noticed.” “But I don’t need your apologies,” Clover said tears returning to her eyes, “I need to win. I need… to know that I’m not a loser.”

“You’re not a loser,” Regina said, earnestly. “Then why do I always lose?” Clover asked, “Why are you always better than me at everything?” “That’s not true,” Regina said. “Name one thing, then,” Clover said, “One way I’m better than you.” “Well, off the top of my head, you’re certainly prettier than I am,” Regina said. “Are you kidding?” Clover asked, “Have you ever looked in a mirror? Have you ever even seen your eyes?” “Er, well, if nothing else, you certainly have bigger-” “Anyway,” Clover said, “that’s entirely subjective. Besides, there’s no skill involved in looking this good. It just happens.” “I guess you’re right,” Regina conceded, “well, you have more friends than me, don’t you? I mean, it wouldn’t take many, and you’re the most popular girl in school!” “My dad is the most popular girl in school,” Clover said, rolling her eyes. Regina chuckled. “I’m being serious!” Clover continued, “He’s rich and well-known, so people hang out with me because they think I can help them be rich and well-known. I’m no one’s ‘friend.’ I’m a ‘connection.’ A rude, unladylike brat that people suffer in the hopes that it’ll pay off later.” “I’m sorry, but… fuck them, and fuck that, in that order,” Regina said. Clover chuckled. “I’m being serious!” Regina continued, “You may have some phony friends like that, but they aren’t even worth wasting breath talking about. You’re a strong person, Clover. Not just because you’re pretty buff, but because you say what needs to be said, even when it’s hard. It would’ve been so easy for you to just half-ass an impromptu concession speech, but the student body deserved to know the truth. So you told them. Because you give a shit.” Regina took a deep breath. “And I’m sure you have friends who appreciate that about you.” “You’re probably right,” Clover said, after thinking it over for a bit, “But ‘probably’ isn’t the same as ‘definitely.’ I need something certain.” Clover thought for a moment. “Then arm wrestle me,” Regina said, “Right here, right now.” “In the bathroom?” Clover asked. “I’m sure we can do it on a desk in a nearby classroom. Like, use it as a surface for arm wrestling,” Regina said. “Fine,” Clover said, “just let me wash my hands first.” After a few seconds, she opened the door to the stall, and walked over to the sink. Her cheeks were dry, but her eyes were still red. As she waited for Clover, Regina realized something. “Wait… did you go to the bathroom?” Regina asked. “Yes,” Clover said, sarcastically, “In fact, I’m still here.” “You know what I meant,” Regina said, “Did you piss and/or shit?” “Since you’re so interested, yes, I did, before you came in. Literally why does it matter,” Clover said. “I don’t know,” Regina said, “It’s just weird imagining you not wearing pants during this whole heart-to-heart conversation we just had.” “I think you imagining it is weirder than it happening,” Clover said, as she dried her hands. Regina realized that she had a point, and dropped it.

In the next classroom over, they sat on opposite sides of a desk, clasping each other’s hands with their elbows on the table. “Oh, wow,” Regina said. “Huh?” “Oh, I, uh, guess I just didn’t expect your hands to be so calloused,” Regina said, regretting having said anything. “Oh, yeah, I guess,” Clover mumbled, “yours are pretty soft.” Regina gave the signal to start immediately after, so neither noticed the other blushing. Though Regina gave it her all, she was overpowered in seconds. “See?” she said, “You’re not a loser.” “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Clover said. “So… how do you feel?” Regina asked. “Better…” Clover said, “Hey, I was just wondering… do you still want to be my friend? I know it was a long time ago, so I understand if you don’t, but-” “Of course I do!” Regina said, “Nothing would make me happier. Actually, maybe if we were also… wait. Never mind. I have to ask you a question first.” “Shouldn’t we be heading back soon?” Clover asked. “This is important,” Regina said, “Did you really want to be president?” “Thanks to you, yeah,” Clover said, “At first, it was just a thing my dad made me do, and then it was just a way for me to finally beat you at something. But then I heard your speeches about how you wanted to help people… I realized that I did, too. Or maybe I just wanted people to respect me the way they respect you. So I could prove that I’m not just a spoiled little brat. To my classmates, to my dad… and to myself.” Clover sighed. “But it wouldn’t have happened. I would’ve just taken credit for someone else’s work, just like I did during the campaign. Because I really am just a spoiled little brat.” “I disagree,” Regina said, “You basically owned your dad in front of the entire school. That doesn’t sound like something a ‘spoiled little brat’ would do.” “Maybe you’re right,” Clover said, chuckling, “but it doesn’t matter anymore. I’m not going to be president.” “But you could be vice-president,” Regina said. “Is that an offer?” Clover asked, incredulously. “It is,” Regina said, “There’s no pressure, but-” “I accept,” Clover said, “Just don’t think this means that we’ll stop being rivals.” “Of course,” Regina said, “Welcome aboard, partner.” She shook Clover’s hand, then started to blush as she realized that she was still holding it from when they were arm wrestling. Just then, the bell went off, indicating that the election assembly was over. “Oh, shit,” Regina said, “We’d better get going.” As they walked through the halls, Clover asked, “So… did you do all of that just because you didn’t have anyone else lined up to be your vice-president?” Regina just laughed and shrugged non-committally.


(Chapter 5 of The Dualists can be found here)