Jan 29, 2022 3:18 AM
july 12 end of week summary thread [english]
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Sean hates it here.

He was hoping to make it to the end of the first semester before working up a full head of steam on hating it here. It was inevitable, but there would be a certain integrity to hating the place after it had six months to wear on him. Instead he hates it by the time a week has gone by for all the most pedestrian and obvious reasons. The water tastes bad. So does the food. The air is weirdly dry, except in the bathrooms, where it's uncomfortably humid in that middling-temperature way that's neither the soothing cool of mist or the penetrating heat of a steam room. His bed is uncomfortable. He can't get his mother to explain things when he's confused in class, and he tried asking cousin Amber once but she told him she was focusing on a difficult shop project design and he should just fob off the homework on Riley or somebody if he was floundering, which, of course, would be very pathetic of him this early in the year, though she didn't say that part out loud. And worst of all he can't relax, any hour of any day, and he misses being able to relax, and that's only going to get worse as the mals get thicker and he's ratcheted down on the big corkscrew.

The last class to graduate from Manchester included a couple of very high-mana-generation kids and Eleanor is talking about needing to do a power sharer audit if things don't pick up now that they're gone, so Sean can ask the void for spells to make the water taste better and the air to be a more reasonable level of moisture all he wants, and the void will provide, but he doesn't dare actually cast them. He likes meditating too much and he's in too good shape for any of the obvious exercises to yield good results in reasonable amounts of time, it was most likely all the swimming. Probably he should take up one of the textile options. Maybe later when Ennis is taking payment in mana for the makeup there'll be more slack but right now people are too worried about mysterious serial killers. Why couldn't Sean have something marketable like that?

He stares into the void on Sunday night, trying to remember how it felt to float in the enclave pool, weightless.

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Aadhya thinks she's in pretty good shape.

She is selling assignments in Bookkeeping and various help in Shop, and does not find any classes awful enough to be buying, so she's net winning on that front. She is trading Hindi help for Bengali help with a girl from Bangladesh, and there have been intimations of starting a monthly Hindi spell swap group. Shop won't be any help in determining her affinity until she's past the first semester basics, so she's been asking for things from the void pretty energetically, anything she can maybe use, when she has downtime - spell to smooth out paper, spell to kill all the mal eggs in an area so she can clear her room periodically, spell to keep her clothes and her calculator happy, spell to make her tools go sure and steady wherever she sends them. She needs mana storage before she's going to cast any of these, but she learns them, and looks for patterns. She's not sure, but notes as possibly pattern-shaped that the mal egg killing spell has four variants on the third line ("intact", "dried through", "hollowed", and "crushed smooth") depending on whether and how you want to keep the eggs afterwards for something.

She asks for a mana storage construction blueprint, in case she has the shop time to build one early and in case the void's instructions are more specialized for her than the standard assignment end of semester. It doesn't look that hard but she is not going to be able to get a crystal horn off a fucking cave dragon! There are a lot of mals in this school but she is pretty sure there are not specifically cave dragons! She is pretty sure cave dragons are extinct, gone since the days you could leave out a bowl of milk for the fair folk or pacify the monster under the ground with a coin, which would explain how Shakespearean this set of instructions is. She sighs and throws back the scroll with the cave dragon horn storage plan on it and gets ready for bed.

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Annisa's momentum for putting herself to sleep at night by doing core exercises until literally unable to move runs out by midweek, but the misery about French mostly runs out with it, and it feels more like an extremely burdensome and difficult class like one ought to expect they'll be assigned occasionally. Naima's in that horrible Persian medicine class and no one would reasonably assert that Naima is thereby doomed. 

She finishes Naima's and Julian's knives in the evening on Tuesday and Wednesday and Malak's on Thursday and Marcy's on Friday, which is the optimistic pace they discussed when they discussed her plans for the first month of school. Of course, she only managed that because Marcy paid in mana and she spent literally all of the mana plus most of what she generated herself off her frenzy of French-misery on the knives, so she did all that work for net zero resources, but -

- but not precisely zero resources, right? An in with Boston, which seems like the best-behaved enclave around, and a Group for studying and sparring and exercising in the mornings, and help with French no matter how bad at it she turns out to be, and if Naima's right that she's just scared of French then the fact she has a backup plan ought to make her less likely to need it, like how armies that believe they are invincible sort of are because a line that doesn't break doesn't lose, until the other side has invented cannons....

(History of Artificing is a fun class. Introduction to Drafting is a fun class, too. Intro Comp and Intro Incantations are both great, math is math, the Romantic poets of England are wrong and dead but she got a B on her first essay explaining why they are wrong and dead, and only spent an hour on it, so that's a perfectly solid class too. If not for the French she'd be downright optimistic about surviving.)

And in that sense maybe the French is a favor, because it's a reminder that she is in a hostile environment, one that will watch her and decide what work to put her to, and mercilessly kill her if she isn't good enough. Julian talks about the school like it's a person. If so, it's a person who kills most of its charges, and it's a person who put her in French. It has absolute power over her; it would be insane to declare it an enemy. But if it is a god it's like Naima and Malak's god, who gives people boils and sends plagues and so on. Presumably if there are any Jews who forgot to paint their doors with lamb's blood (she did, eventually, look up Malak's reference) their God killed them too. It does not love her. She does not matter to it. The only person in this entire little world who cares if Annisa lives or dies is Annisa. And maybe Julian. He's a bit of a softie but he'll grow out of it. 

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Marcy had a good first week, which is not at all remarkable--if your first week is bad the rest of term is really not looking good. But she's learning two new languages, and has a new spell that can fling a mal away from her. She got a B on her Akkadian homework, which is great, and a C on her Mal Studies homework, which is also great, and an A on her German homework but it was in the name of getting spell-competent before the void starts giving her German spellbooks so that's okay, and similarly on Kevin's homework including the one she dumped on Franklin so she could get out ahead of Akkadian. And she's met some quality people. Annisa is smart and a good artificer and is making them all practice knives so they can spar the fun way. Naima and Julian are both clearly brilliant. Malak is harder to get a read on, which is itself a compliment. She's made some positive acquaintances and not pissed anyone off that she knows about except possibly Connie but she will deal with the Connie situation as it develops. Sacramento seems to be stabilizing okay and Shanghai is metaphorically all the way over there. She ended up breaking about even on mana even after the practice knife.

Plenty of people have first weeks this good and then die by field day.

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Orion likes it here.

He doesn't say so, of course. It'd be deeply weird to go around being all, "I love the Scholomance! Add a decent taco stand and I'd love to stay forever!" But there's so much to hunt here, and everyone's so impressed, and he saved some other kids from an oilslick-thing and he's clearing out the shop so people can get stuff they want and the first couple days he needed some mana handouts but now he doesn't, the digester got him through the rest of that day and to the next decent quarry and it'll be smooth sailing here on out. In a couple weeks he won't even need to look, he can just listen for yelps and chase down whatever's causing them. Guard duty didn't involve this much abundance.

And when there's nothing to hunt he has work, of course, studying Ancient Greek and doing enough math that he can pass tests and stuff, though Silas disappears anything that gets left behind, and Julia's sarcasm aside there is no Mom here to police how his study habits are and how his social life is doing. Nobody is going to tell him, "Orion, don't walk out of your Sophocles class in the middle of your enterprising classmates doing a read-aloud of Antigone because you thought you heard something skitter in the hall".

Orion dreams of cutting his way through the graduation hall.

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Ribo is mostly recovered from the shock of Sophie's death. She knew intellectually that Mother wasn't here with her but she hadn't really internalized that she's now playing the game of life without a net. After Sophie died of something she's pretty sure Mother could have fixed in a minute.... well it's much more apparent. Still it's not all bad. She's made friends with Nia, Marian seems to respect her, she has an in with Sacramento, and she's met a bunch of other people like Lucy even if they aren't quite as friendly. Most of her classes have been easy so far, the only exception has been Russian Literature and she's making solid inroads on learning Russian for that. She's cautiously optimistic.

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Miguel is INCREDIBLY DOOMED AND SOMETHING IS INEVITABLY GOING TO EAT HIM. 

 

He tries not to think about this. It won't help. The only kids who have died so far, according to the rumor mill, are ones who were murdered by a crazed serial killer, which is the kind of thing that happens all the time at normal high schools too and is not a reason to conclude that death is inevitable. The mals will reportedly get worse, at some point, but there's no point borrowing trouble. And graduation is very dangerous but it's a long way away. 

Those are the most reassuring things he can come up with to say to himself and they're not very reassuring. 

Some kids have a gang already. Some of them came in with one, the enclaves, with visible signifiers and promises made on the outside and things carried in for each other. Some kids assembled them fast, on the inside, with the kind of adeptness that Miguel can recognize, and vaguely envy, but not remotely hope to achieve himself. People who eat one meal with him don't particularly care to eat a second. He doesn't talk much and is usually half a step behind the conversation because his English is - well, he thought it was pretty good, before he came here, but a lot of these kids have accents he doesn't recognize and his comprehension of accented English is not very good. There are some contexts in which it's okay to be the quiet one who mostly lurks and is added muscle when muscle is needed, but - he doesn't know how to get into one of those.

They'd hoped that it'd be easy to sell the cocaine. His father says that most kids who graduated did it on so many drugs they couldn't even feel their injuries. So far it hasn't been. People say 'oh that's neat' or 'I bet I can make that in the lab'. He's terrified that in the last couple decades someone invented a convenient way to make cocaine in the lab and his main trade resource is completely useless. 

He goes to church on Sundays. The Spanish services, not the English ones; he should probably be trying to practice English more but it's nice to have one single goddamned thing that's in a language he can understand without mentally mapping everything over in his head and constantly being three sentences behind. He doesn't talk much in church either. It feels like the older students are looking at him with pity and he can't exactly tell them they're wrong. 

His classes are hard. He found an English-Spanish dictionary in the library and with that in hand he can understand all the words in the textbook but it's slow going, and he has to read it a couple times to make sense of it. He's spent practically all his free time studying and he got Cs on his first round of assignments, and Cs are good, you're supposed to get Cs, but you're also supposed to have time to learn spells from the Void and build mana and get in shape and make friends and he has absolutely not had time for any of those things. 

 

The thing he ends up asking the Void for, when he's done all the math homework he can bear to force himself to do, is a spell to hide things so only your blood relatives can find them. So he can stash his stuff in the library, and if he dies Maria and Edgar and Carmen will find it. The Void obliged but the spell's much too mana-intensive to cast, so he guesses he'll have to just not die, which he is definitely going to try to do! He's trying very hard! It just feels ...sort of like trying very hard to swim the Atlantic Ocean. Your problem, if you're trying to do that, isn't that you don't have enough grit and don't believe in yourself enough. It's just that that's, you know, not a thing people can do.

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Rebecca has landed on her feet! She keeps getting the impression that no one expects her to live very long? But as far as she can tell she is actually just fine. "Don't go places alone and do your homework" is not really so complicated you need an entire childhood about it to remember it and a lot of people with entire childhoods about it have - well, nicer outfits, but sometimes they go places alone, so she is solidly not doing worst here unless there is a secret strategy that involves going places alone without even being Orion.

Evening routine! She has it written on her wall; Chloe's first alchemy assignment was ink, and she shared in exchange for some of Rebecca's tea since she isn't regular enough to have known when she needed to carve out the lab time to make her own, and Rebecca doesn't have the kind of pen you dip into an inkwell but she can kind of paintbrush it on with a piece of notebook paper, so she remembers all the steps she should do every day.

1. Planks and leg lifts and trying to figure out all the chord progressions in Cats, for mana! (Meeeeemory, all alone in the moooooonlight...) She doesn't have her conch yet, so she doesn't need to do this all day, just till she has enough for the spells she needs, but it's a good time for it.

2. Ward! Zeke is still putting a few layers on every day but apparently it won't be very good till he's been doing that for months, so she does her Latin one.

3. Checking to see where she's at on all her homework: she's doing good! Apparently you don't actually want good grades here, you want to learn the stuff you want to learn and you want to not be eaten, and those are both totally different from good grades. She accordingly is copying Zeke's Ovid homework, which Zeke is not even doing himself anyway, Silas is buying old papers from somebody from Mexico apparently, and she found a person who was in both geometry and American history and they are splitting the homework so Rebecca, who had a mundie education and is aware of American history on a level a homeschooled wizard from Newfoundland definitely isn't, will be doing that and the Newfie is doing most of their geometry (not all of it, geometry meets three times a week to American history's two and there are sometimes tests so Rebecca has to vaguely know how to geometrize things) and they swap after dinner every day, and she is getting her Diaspora Enclaves essays from Jean in exchange for brief serenades one per, which is an incredible deal and her main worry is that people are going to think she's sleeping with him. That leaves lab and shop and languages and composition and also learning Intro Incantations since she didn't get put in a section of that for some reason and wants to be introduced to incantations. She is super on top of things.

4. Praying! She was not super good about this before but if you're going to make a list of things you do every night this has to be on it and she is, actually, doing the list, since some of the items are important for making sure she is not eaten.

5. Getting ready for bed! She has pajamas and she's going to use them. And the silk slippers; she has heard some people sleep in their shoes, you don't really want to be barefoot if you have to fight something off at three in the morning, but she has the slippers so she uses those. She bought a toothbrush from a New York junior who brought in more than he needed (though they've all had the handles cut off and a threaded plastic bolt attached instead, and he has one handle he swaps between them, so she has to kind of stick her whole hand in her mouth), and apparently you can just use baking soda for toothpaste, who knew, and it tastes kind of gross but you know what's not in here? Dentists. Not in here.

7. Sleep! ...she is kind of nervous about going to sleep, ward or no ward, slippers or no slippers. But she can lullabye herself, if she lies awake too long trying like Landon suggested to remember every frame of Phantom and not accidentally replace Emmy Rossum's voice in her head with Sarah Brightman's etcetera. ...yeah she's not asleep yet. Lullabye.

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Julian has a routine. He studies in the library every evening until ten. Then, he goes back to his room to work on his extra credit assignments – he's come up with a list for every class – alterning every twenty minutes of studying with five minutes of core exercises. He does that until midnight, at which point he uses his accumulated mana to cast his nighttime wards, followed by another hour of quiet reading ahead in his textbook. He sets his alarm for six, so he can get in another hour of studying before his morning workout with the group. He's mapped out the most efficient routes between all his classes so he can arrive early get in a few more minutes of work that way, which is going to get dangerous later but is probably worth it now. He's let it be known he's selling homework in Geometry and Vedic Sanskrit and History of Enclaves and Intro Comp and he already has a couple of takers. 

All in all, he thinks he's doing alright. He's made the one suicidal mistake, but it hasn't really left him worse off than he was to begin with. He has a Group. That's the thing that really worried him, going in, because he hasn't spoken to a kid his own age in more than two years, and anyone who plans on spending as much time with their head in a book as he does needs people to help watch his back. Of course, he likes them all enormously, which he knows is probably the the product of relief and desperation more than any innate social compatibility but he still can't totally suppress. He's still a little bit scared of Naima and her Avicenna class and her ability to squeeze more seconds out of the day than should really be humanly possible. If he wants to live, that's how hard he has to work. And he's trying. He's gotten perfect scores on all of his assignments so far. It hasn't even been hard. 

Which is the thing that really has him worried. No one actually knows how grading works in the Scholomance. The most common theory among the sino kids is that assignments are graded against some kind of standard rubric generated by the school, but the anglos have all kinds of crazy theories. One kid in his comp class swears up and down that you always gets better grades if you cheat, which means he might not be able to sell his assignments without screwing himself over. And all that aside, he's far from the only overprepared indie from China or India who crammed most of a high school education into his head before ever being inducted. If he finds the coursework easy, they do too. Which means if he wants an edge, he's going to have to do more. If he's serious about making valedictorian, his two hours of extra credit a night might not cut it – he's going to have to learn exactly what the school finds most impressive, without pulling so far ahead of the pack that he ends up in some horrible two person advanced seminar and gets eaten by a grogler before field day. 

Julian decides that next week he's going to let himself sleep in until seven on weekends. He'd better pace himself. It's going to be a very long four years. 

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Naima's system in the Scholomance definitely isn't as good as her previous systems, but her previous systems also weren't very good when she started them, and she thinks she's at least learned some things about making systems over the past several years.

She's made herself a very colorful leather wallet for her flash cards, which she thinks has so far been one of her best decisions since coming here, next to randomly approaching Julian (although that was probably, in hindsight, a minor act of God) and making conversation with Malak. She hadn't thought much of the decision to dye the frog leather extremely bright neon colors when she picked it up, but now that she has a wallet that's mostly blues and purples and pinks, it's kind of growing on her. It doesn't have enough space for all of her cards, so she's only putting in the newest couple sets, and limiting her review of older sets to mornings and evenings. At this point she's adding about twenty cards a day, about half Avicenna and half relating to her spellbook. Whenever she doesn't have someone to walk with, she runs between classes, and whenever she makes it to class early, she goes over a few of the new cards again, and she goes through them all at mealtimes. They're... mostly sticking, with somewhat more trouble than she's used to. She's definitely nearing the edge of how much she can pick up in a day, given that each card has a lot more information on it than, say, a simple vocabulary word. But she is learning the material. Time will tell whether she's learning it fast enough.

She brushes her hair and her teeth while reading her textbooks. She repeats her new Persian spells in her head while she sews the clothes that people ordered from her, and has the first orders done by the end of the week. She writes her longest and most involved current spell up on her wall chalkboard, and she reads it over and over while doing jumping jacks. When she does homework in her room, she sets her cute little mechanical owl timer for twenty-five minutes, works for that long, and then spends five minutes working on planned designs to paint on the inside of her bookshelf, in the hopes that a painted interior will make future spellbooks happy with their surroundings. She does sit-ups and wall-sits and clamshells and leg lifts while doing her obligatory-for-fun kindle reading, and by the end of the first week has finished a book on how trauma impacts learning and a book about how cancer was viewed in early modern England. Now she's halfway through The Wealth of Nations, which is relevant to her economics class but also just an incredible book? Adam Smith was kind of brilliant at a field that she kind of didn't know that people could be brilliant at? 

By this point she's consistently generating more mana than she can hold or usefully use on her regular spells (which, for the most part, are just her alarm ward and her nearly useless repellant ward, although of course the room is also covered by Malak's concealment ward). Since she doesn't have storage, she's dumping the excess into making a magic floor mattress. For about half an hour every night, she hand-sews the covering, singing to it in Arabic about helping people recover their strength and heal themselves through rest. She doesn't do anything else while she's doing that; artifice is one of the only things that really does take your whole attention. She's already spent three hours on it, and she suspects it's going to be another twelve before she gets far enough to start working on the embroidery she has planned. The filling will come her way when it comes her way.

The assignments that she's gotten back have all gotten A's, which would bother her if she felt like she wasn't learning anything in them, but she mostly feels like she is. In the classes that have lectures, she records everything, and refers to her shorthand notes whenever she feels the need. In the classes that don't have lectures, she keeps her head down, reads, and tries to get the homework or at least a good start on the homework done in class, whenever there's not a quiz to work on instead. She ended up working far enough ahead in Mal studies that at this point she's using the second hour as a study hall, mostly for the classes where she doesn't know anyone yet and therefore doesn't have anyone to study with (and, of course, for another pass over her Avicenna material). She spends eight hours of Sunday in the Munich and Barcelona reading room, where she's fairly quiet and reads obsessively and works on her essays and calls out occasional clarifications on the text for other people. She's read the first book of the Canon through twice, at this point, and the second through once, but just because most kids are struggling to make it to the end of the first book at all doesn't mean that she's anywhere near as confident as that one Chinese junior, who she faithfully shows up to study with for an hour in the evenings. Apart from that, she does most of her studying with the Group, which is kind of fantastic, not so much in terms of actual studying efficiency, but in terms of knowing people and having people to trade with and not having to go places alone. And they're a good group, she's pretty sure. Maybe everyone is as talented as they are, and dies anyway, but she doubts it.

She's making good progress on everything that she needs to do, other than finding mana storage, which - yeah, she doesn't have a plan for that besides stone carving, and she isn't going to have time to learn stone carving until she's gotten out ahead of her homework a little more. She needs to at least finish up the collection of medical spells she was given, she thinks, at least the ones that aren't specific to geriatric conditions or childbirth or something. It's going to be at least another couple weeks.

It does not at any point occur to her to consider whether she likes or dislikes this place. It doesn't really fit into her schedule.

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Nia's doing all right. She is friendly with Montréal, and making good progress on French, and putting away a little mana savings in her sapphires every day except for Wednesday when she had a bit of a scramble to get some of her literature homework done.

Doing all right doesn't mean she can afford to relax except insofar as that is essential for sleep. It means she can keep doing what she's doing. It means she doesn't have to be desperate to reevaluate how she's handling everything.

She has a list of things to ask the void for; this was her mother's advice, that you don't want to be a junior and still only learning new spells when you need them, you need to be on it from the first and build a good repertoire. It'll help her learn her affinity too. So she asks for a spell to run away from mals and a spell to braid her hair - she has it short now, for the weight, but she's black, she doesn't need to go around nearly bald to avoid having grabbable tails, she can just braid it to her head once there's enough - and a spell to check her spelling and a spell to prevent nightmares and a spell to organize her desk and a spell to find good materials in shop and lab. Many of these turn up duds, off-target for what she asked or just too expensive, though the Swahili braiding spell looks perfect and the English nightmares one looks good too. She's expecting to start having nightmares any day now, and now she is prepared when that arrives. Might be saleable too.

She builds mana a lot, because no one is paying freshman, especially indies, in mana right now and she can't trade anything for it even if it were obvious what she'd trade. The endurance bracelet helps a lot. She does pushups to failure, with the form her dad taught her, and it takes longer than she expected it to, with a lot of time spent in the "if there were any end condition other than failure this would be it" zone.

When she's through she flops into bed and kicks her blanket mostly into place since her arms are spaghetti. She needs to make more friends till she finds one who is learning Swahili, that's all, and then she'll pull ahead.

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Caio learned his affinity, so that's good. It's arrays and arrangements, which is - complicated. It's going to be hard to explain to anyone who isn't themselves fairly into alchemy, because "array" is not exactly the same as "big complicated alchemy working" - there are simple arrays, there are complicated potions where nothing goes on the bench and everything goes in the vat. But it does mean he's going to be able to operate above his weight class in alchemy in a wide range of possible projects, and he's also a good candidate for collaboration on big alchemy projects people will start getting later. If arrays don't get stuck in everyone else's head like an annoying song, then that's his niche. (He'd always assumed they were designed mnemonically somehow. Incantations are!)

He met Bella, which is also good! She's PRETTY and an enclaver (albeit a small enclave, they don't have power sharers, though they will get them in her junior year) but she's very easy to talk to somehow, and as smart as him, and has more friends than he does but likes him anyway. They don't have any classes together, but maybe they will next semester. He is trying not to be pathetic about how much he wants to hang out with her and maybe after giving it a lot of very judicious thought also kiss her face.

His room is depressing in the sense that he looks at it and goes "wow, that's depressing" but not in the sense that he is actually currently feeling depressed by it. The library is lovely and he can hang out with Bella there in her reading room since he doesn't have a carrel claimed.

There is a ROVING UNCAPTURED MURDERER but it is now the case that someone would notice if he were dead, which is an improvement over day one, when there was still one of those but nobody would have noticed and he didn't even know to be... careful... like he was going to be, for some reason, uncareful, in the default state of things, in the Scholomance.

His classes aren't too hard. He holds back from acing them, instead scheduling himself tighter per assignment and working farther ahead. Honors classes are bad and if the Scholomance can tell how long he's spending he's doomed anyway on that front so he might as well have more hours in the day. He can go to college and be very impressive and have all his teachers call him a genius later.

He has no mana storage so he raises just what he can use and hold, for now, and spends his spare time getting farther into the curriculum for anything he can predict (which isn't everything, not every course provides a syllabus) and studying Latin. He's good at memorization, it's just the grammatical flow he's bad at in foreign languages - Portuguese isn't even that grammatically different from Spanish and his Spanish still feels clunky and unnuanced and robotic. Latin seems memorization-heavy; its grammar is also pretty weird, but in a way where you have to remember stuff to decompose the sentence into elements and figure out what they all point at, so... he thinks it will be okay.

He goes to sleep on Sunday night and then promptly has a NIGHTMARE ABOUT THE MURDERER ON THE LOOSE and wakes up and has to drink some water and pace and bury himself in Latin for another half an hour before he thinks he can go back to sleep.

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First week of Scholomance: Acquire alchemical tools and ingredients. Take notes in lectures and memorize the notes. Finish homework, read ahead while it's easy, and sell homework services. Don't go for valedictorian, it's not a game worth playing, but work ahead to buy leeway later. Leverage personal-focused alchemy. Trade upward, trade for weapons and for spells and the mana to cast them. Use the spells and potions to grow stronger, to be a valuable guard for other students, to have options for fight or flight when mals attack. 

That was the plan, anyway. 

Instead, Alexius spends most of the first week trying not to drown. The debacle with the memory potions set him back horribly, and not just on mana. His reputation among the upperclassmen is shit, now. He can't count on regular supply runs with how badly the potions hurt Alex and Zed. (Betrayal. Guilt. Horror.) Determined to distance themselves from the freshman fuckup, Jacksonville badmouthed him for days, a major breach of enclave solidarity and etiquette even though they haven't much of either to spare. They even threatened to kick him out and take away his secondhand power sharer (only after he'd refunded all the borrowed mana, of course). He's in debt to thirty people and his failures will be a warning to students for years to come. The Scholomance makes him feel like a compass in a magnet shop, flailing wildly without purpose or direction. 

And yet, he is more himself than he's ever been. 

However bizarre the source, the spell he acquired from El on Saturday is nothing short of miraculous. It rights his compass with a surety that not even the Scholomance can upset. He's started calling it soothsoul, in his head, the spell of trueself. He casts it almost hourly, whenever he has a spare moment. It has no mana cost, in its most basic form, and the basic form is all he needs. He would almost suspect a trap, but his affinity is absolutely singing and his affinity has never once steered him wrong about his own wellbeing. 

It is more than he ever dared hope, in the midst of all this evil, to gain so much for so little. 

Alexius is right with himself. Now he just has to fix everything else. He does Naomi's Russian homework, stands guard for a maintenance shift, trades spells and homework and languages. He builds mana all week, barely spending it on anything but the bare minimum of brewing and wake-up-warding. He tracks down his customers and pays his debts. He's determined to pay back not just the price of the potions, but the price of their failure, a much trickier thing to judge, but he'll overshoot, if he has to. He will make it right with the victims of his mistakes. The ones worth knowing will see, and understand. 

The void gives him a new potion. He makes it, and gets to work on growing up. 

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Ennis is aware that there is a risk of death in the Scholomance but was mostly expecting to survive, not because she's all that but because she's, well, the firstborn of the Manchester Domina. (Mum rose to power early, but also, perhaps relatedly, waited until she was sixty to have children. Wizards can do that.) She just needed to not do anything colossally stupid, and all the things she needed to survive would accrue to her, and then she could figure out what to do with the rest of her life. A random mischance could get her, sure, but that happens to mundies too, they get hit by cars or come down with cancer or go swimming and drown or turn out to be allergic to bees, and they don't live like they're in fear for their lives every minute, they just look before they cross the street and don't consider nuclear plants a tourist destination. That's supposed to be her. A high school girl boy girl boy who looks both ways before stepping into a zebra crossing and exhibits a responsible amount of noblesse oblige and endures bad cafeteria food.

Instead it's looking like her affinity might be useful, and that's exciting. She wasn't exactly eaten alive with guilt at the prospect of coasting on Manchester's infrastructure all the way to graduation but it's - soothing, to think that she'll be a net positive, turning herself into a spectacular poisonous butterfly threatening to give mals upset stomachs, or an undetectably zebra-striped shape in a crowd of other zebras, impossible to target. She'll have plenty to do and will be able to use the slack from being Manchester's princess on something more than idle - not luxury, there's not really luxury in an objective sense here. On something more than idleness.

Of course, maybe her only customers will be Julia and Nie Huaisang, and the latter only till it turns out the product won't move. Maybe she'll turn out to be dangerously bad at something other than cosmetics, such as literally any other form of alchemy, or getting up in time for breakfast, or - well, who knows. But she falls asleep trying to decide on a minimum viable color palette for a poison frog pattern, wondering if the supply cabinets ever have henna, contemplating hair dye that stops your hair from growing out while its color stays fast...

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Wendy has been looked at like she's obviously an idiot and about to die more this week than she managed all last year. Her instincts are all wrong for this place. She wants to keep her head down and lurk in corners and be meek and uninteresting, and she keeps sliding back into those habits. But you want to be careful and alert and decisive and dangerous-looking here instead. After the first few days she hasn't really... Had substantial conversations... With anyone. Just negotiating bathroom trips and library runs and, once, a run down to the workshop with some neighbors while trying to avoid all the DRAMA and MURDERERS and wondering if she's going to get MURDERED by the crazy going around - it's not that black kid, she's pretty sure even while the whole mess is ongoing, as shitty as he (literally) smelled - he's suspicious but he didn't talk like someone who was one twitch away from murder or coolly plotting murder. Best not to rely on that sort of judgement though.

She carefully studies and pronunciation-practices the book of Practical Incantations for Defense. She goes to the library on Thursday and takes one of her stolen Adderall and it really hits her hard, so she spends hours writing out German vocabulary and reading about the evolution of the language over time and in her room later doing about a hundred push ups and sit ups and jumping jacks and rewriting her German Verse homework and finishing the rest of her writing-based homework and trying to invent a spell from the Grimm style stories her mother told her to make her behave - the one the adults use in her version of Krampus to make anyone else more interesting a target does something when she chants it and rubs the sign of the cross into her doorframe, it takes mana out of her at least- She feels vaguely guilty about that for a while.

She tries to spend as much time that week as she can in shop, but only actually manages to find a shop group once. Risks going down there right after another group anyway and gets lucky, once. Does as many craft-related things as she can think of on scrap material, grinding and polishing and using the clamps and swinging a heavy blacksmith hammer (it feels right, and it's pointless when she's hitting a shapeless cold blob over and over again, and it's so fucking heavy, so it's good mana). Feels and plays with the rubies and the pieces of metal she didn't manage to trade for basics - what makes you different, rubies, what can I do to this little tin ingot to make it mine- Coins, maybe, maybe even set the rubies in the coins. But coins have to be shiny and smooth, so- Hmm. Okay, what about armor, what does she need to make that? Books about armor, from the library. And it's a major project, so she can't do that yet. Get used to more basic things first. Gets Annissa's group's shopping list and gets ready to head down with an empty backpack, next week.

She asks the Void for a book of artificing metalwork Friday afternoon. And boy does it deliver. The leatherbound tome with sturdy iron trimming on the edges is a thick volume titled Metallurgical Science and You: A Spellbook, with the subtitle, Stress and strain are your friends! It opens with a discussion of how cheap steelworking was the foundation of the industrial revolution- And here's a mana-cheap way to judge the carbon content of steel! She effusively gushes at both book and void for at least ten minutes. And gets to studying.

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El knows dozens of ways to stop being angry, and they really work.

It's just hard to muster the sincere desire to stop being angry when your week has consisted of people accusing her of murder kind of a weird number of times. People at the commune didn't like her but they didn't think she was committing murders! They didn't even think she tortured animals or set fires! She's not even experienced with being accused of, say, stealing or vandalism!

The Pisa girl thinks she's clear but wants answers and El doesn't have them. Who walks up to someone and says "you there, explain why you've been accused of murder", like the opposite of an alibi. Please list what about you might be causing mistrust and dislike! Please explain the story of your life, which I'm just sort of going to casually assume has not suffered from your BLOODY DOOM SOCKS (thank you, Lucy, you are cool, Lucy, El will remember your willingness to make civil conversation if she ever gets the chance).

But -

But.

Lissa.

Lissa is - probably going to die.

But it will not be because El didn't take good care of her.

Lissa walked up to El, specifically, in a crowd of thousands of kids who don't get accused of murder for mysterious reasons, and wanted to be her friend, and sit next to her in class, and hang out during meals, and - and that's - it's never happened before but she is going to take good care of her, she got dropped in here without any idea what was going on and picked El.

El does pushups in her room before bed, pushups and jumping jacks and squats, in her underwear so she won't get her clothes sweaty, and then air-dries and puts them back on and tucks herself in.

She doesn't want to stop being angry but - yeah, she can manage to put herself right. Sleep comes easier, after that.

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Bella is doing fine on all metrics but she has blown her dumb mistake budget for the next four years! Don't take potions that seem too good to be true without at least as much advance research as you'll spend on mana for the purchase! Alexius seems otherwise cool and she isn't going to, like, shun him, or even be a huge loan shark about getting her mana back, but WOW she shouldn't have done that.

On all other fronts things are clear. She is fine in math, even Econ, which is hard but in approximately the way she wanted, since Mandarin is as useful for the in-Scholomance economic benefits as for the spell repertoire and it's stressing exactly the bits of her disfluency that needed the work. She's ahead in mal studies and both histories, for now, and going for quality in literature and steady in language lab and solid in shop and lab and doing great in comp, which she's glad of, she doesn't want to switch tracks and if there were the slightest sign she'd need to she'd have to do it now. Her extracurricular project is putting her in debt and she's working on that but she thinks it's important and she can't just wait four years, she might not have four years. Chantal's room would be the clear winner if she definitely had four years. But Sophie's is kind of winning in the event that the murderer is caught soon, and she won't have the containers for a bit longer anyway so she can wait to see if the upperclassmen's investigation pans out.

The Group (she's just started thinking of them as that in her head) are pretty neat, and she needs to sit near them before Wednesday at some point and ask Julian about his textbook. Caio is really cool, very bright and easygoing, and if it weren't way too early to start using terms like "best friend" he'd be a strong contender. Marcy is sensible and worth knowing and making a good impression on and her clavemates seem solid. Honestly most people she has met who are still alive seem solid, though she still has no idea what Masozi's deal is except that apparently he didn't kill Sophie. Shannon and Sacramento are lovely folks and she hopes the Scholomance doesn't ruin them. Alexius is decent company and she has decided not to hold the potion against him, a decision she will follow through on when she has been paid back and when she has paid Suze back.

She and Suze don't have enough in common to ever really be friends unless they somehow find themselves surrounded by mundies and can bond solely over being wizards, but they make fine clavemates. Suze helps Bella find books; Bella sings to Suze's concerningly temperamental rocking chair that she built in shop because she's too fidgety to sit fully still and study. She has a good study diet - not a schedule, she wants to be flexible when deadlines aren't specifically looming, but amounts of time that she should devote to various things in whatever order seems lowest-friction so she can take advantage of moods if she's ever suddenly curious about a history subtopic, or antsy enough to want to go for a jog around the dormitory, or or desperate to do something that passes as pleasure reading to casual inspection and it's time to pick up Les Mis. She got an A on the first Victor Hugo assignment, which convinced a few more people to pay her for the chance to copy homework; they won't do mana, but she's gotten more embroidery floss, and snack tokens, and a pair of perfectly good socks someone got from a graduating senior and found weren't thick enough to pad out their shoes, and a pack of Old French flashcards, and a pair of marble bookends, some of these items paying in advance for several weeks.

Bella winds down in the evenings by embroidering her jeans and storing the mana up in her rubies. Tiny tiny single-strand patterns; she is no longer very worried about running out of thread but she's at all worried about running out of jeans. She supposes she can take up some other incredibly obnoxious craft should the need arise. Crochet's traditional but she doesn't actually hate it as much and it goes through yarn quicker and makes products she likes less, and she doesn't want to unravel her blanket. Lacemaking! She would abhor lacemaking. That's that settled. In the meantime, her back jean pockets are getting colorful, intricate paisleys.

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The thing about diplomatic incidents and serial-killer maleficers is that Theun doesn't have much energy to snap at high-and-mighty enclavers, and no one else really has energy to be mad about him doing it at them either when he does. He's made... maybe one enemy, prickly maleficer girl. That's... better than he expected. Maybe he can even keep it up, if he only pisses off one person a week three-quarters of the Anglosphere will remain un-pissed-off by graduation. That is totally how it works.

He's getting a mix of Mandarin and Old High German in language lab, which is convenient; the German is much easier, it's a language evolution that mostly follows rules, and he is much better at that than vocabulary and memorizing logograms, but he's making progress with the mixed set of spells he got, and he found a good Mandarin-decoding dictionary and took some time to put his "don't run away" ward on it, and it seems happy so far. The spellbook itself he hasn't warded, he's spending enough time rereading it and talking to it about what it says that he feels pretty secure on that front.

He doesn't have a decent study group and he really should try to get one. He's met a couple enclavers who aren't terrible, and some competent indies. If he's going to try to be the organizer, though, he will probably have to explain his deal, in order to explain why he can't/won't host it in the Philadelphia reading room, which he really, really does not want to do. Most people will take it as weakness, even most people who seem adequately non-terrible. Which... it is, objectively, but people knowing it and judging him for it makes it much more a weakness. And when he's not staring an injustice in the face and getting angry, he is embarrassed by his inability to kick the habit, which is... also a weakness.

He is, while kind of embarrassed about it, also quietly pleased that he's found some other mundies to give a fighting chance. Poor bastards, they're still probably going to die early from lack of mana and slack and reflexes and knowing what to fear, but he can help them out and it doesn't really cost him anything he was ever going to get, it was possible but not plausible he'd get a drop of mana or so much as a pen for those basics, though it is still, objectively, breaking his promise to his brother not to do anything stupid.

His classes... are classes. Algebra is tiresome, Logic is tiresome but there's hope of value in the end, Minnesang is practically designed to get him valuable trades it's exactly his skills, the histories are history and might get him some stray value from time to time. Especially with the murderer loose, he's been paying much more attention to the classmates than the classes, which he doesn't think is even a bad habit, really.

He meditates until the anger has faded enough, and then he falls asleep.

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Things could probably be going worse. He's buried in homework but not actually falling behind yet, and on top of that he listens as much as he can to anything anyone says near him, and reads ahead in Mal Studies so he can seem to know what he's talking about, and does push-ups, and fortunately he can handle babysitting Vanya at the same time as homework or push-ups so that doesn't take much extra time.

The most stressful part of everything is the buddy system. Especially for bathing. You don't do that with other people, outside, so he doesn't have a library of ways people can bathe and what that says about them. And all these kids, who have been expecting this for years, probably do.

Not that that's his biggest problem. His biggest problem is his confidence. You'd think it wouldn't be - you'd think the fact that he survived so long without ever being told what was happening and without any help would be a point in his favor. These other kids made it to fourteen with enchanted weapons, learned their shield spells from other people, had wards and parents to fall back on...

The thing is, he heard a story once where someone claimed to be really good at predicting the stock market, and sent a thousand people a prediction about a stock. A stock can only go up or down, so the scammer could tell half the people it would go up and half of them it would go down, and then half of them thought the scammer'd been right. Then repeat with that group, and then with half of that group, and then a hundred twenty-five people heard three correct predictions...

It doesn't have to be on purpose. How many Valiants could fit in the hundreds of miles between him and Chicago? How many Valiants who faced the same fights, who dodged left when he dodged right, right when he dodged left, who weren't any smarter or more careful or better than he was, are dead now?

It's probably not how it works but he pictures some other Valiant from slightly farther away from Chicago moving in with his parents, taking his place.

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It's been... an okay week, he thinks. He is not even a little bit succeeding at being ruthless and caring for nothing but his own survival, but like, he knew he wasn't actually going to be able to do that, they all knew he wasn't actually going to be able to do that, Astor did that but it has been obvious since Leander was ten that he isn't Astor.

Lot was-- is, but Leander is getting increasingly comfortable with putting his family in past tense and doesn't really want to undo that-- not very big on advice for taking care of yourself; he's more of the school of thought that if you need to take care of yourself then you'll die before the issue comes up. This did not of course make Leander any less in need of taking care of himself, it just means that he's getting all of his advice on the subject from places that are really not very suited to his actual circumstances and in fact are almost entirely useless, which is to say Tumblr.

But, you know, he's trying. Every tool he has for this that seems at all workable is stories-- he's considering taking Marian up on her offer of specific works of fiction to try to get Lord of the Rings or, if he's very lucky, TMA transcripts-- and currently he's got the English Romantic poets, who have a lot to say about death but very little so far that's useful for when things aren't beautiful or triumphant or glorious they're just bad and you have to live with them anyway, and Modern English translations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Morte D'Arthur, which might help more but he hasn't tackled them properly yet, he's been busy with all of his other homework. He's glad he's doing language classes and not even just because it helps with meeting people, his Latin is notably better than it was a week ago, but they're eating up a lot of time.

And... he's concretely, physically helping people. That's not the sort of thing you're supposed to take pride in here but he likes being able to do it, he thinks. In some ways he's doing better than he was outside. He has a group, sort of. Karen isn't the ally Lot would have picked for him but Leander actually likes her, which is not the emotion you're supposed to have about allies but see the above point about already knowing he isn't Astor; she's thoughtful and has her Pokemon team and she cares about stories in a way that he-- doesn't really have words for the way that he feels about, but he has feelings about it. Val is totally the kind of person Lot would have picked, modulo the not having had any idea what to expect thing; he's smart, and ruthless in the way that Leander is supposed to be but keeps failing at, and has a shielding affinity which is a very useful one in here, and Leander likes him too, likes the way he approaches problems.

It's not really enough to make up for how incredibly bad at being ruthless Leander is, but he's pleased with it nonetheless. He's pretty sure that Noelle and Engravaine did not put together a group, even a small and haphazard one based mainly on language instruction, on their first day. (Astor did; relatedly Astor is the only one of Leander's siblings who is currently alive. Leander is, in almost all respects, not Astor and never going to be Astor, but 'good at going out and talking to people' is a thing he can manage.) Group therapy in Julia's room was not very helpful on almost any metric but he did meet people? And maybe next week they'll be done with icebreakers and trying to convey the thing about stories that helped him and spectacularly failing, and he'll be able to talk about the thing he'd actually wanted to talk about.

He misses the people he had back home. Not his family-- he and Astor love each other but they were kind of incompatible in terms of liking, and his parents were, well, they were his parents-- but his friends, none of whom he'd known in person but you pretty much can't give a teenager internet access and also prevent them from knowing people that way. It's only been a week and he can guess how most of them are doing but-- if Roseheart or TamLin or squid or Luca got in a car crash tomorrow he wouldn't know about it, and conversely if he got eaten tomorrow they'd never find out, he'd just fail to come back from his multi-year internet hiatus like he'd warned everyone he might. And knowing that, statistically, they're probably okay, is different from being able to say hey mint, I read this and thought of you, or luca i'm proud of you for studying or curse are you SURE youre sleeping enough. It's not lonely, exactly, because he is meeting people here and he likes them an unwise amount, and it's not like there weren't enormous swathes of his life he couldn't talk about before, but he misses them nonetheless.

At some point, he thinks, he's really going to have to do something with his room besides having photos of his dead siblings, because as it is this is extremely depressing. This is not a thought that you have, if you're ruthless enough to survive the scholomance. But if you're ruthless enough to survive the Scholomance you don't wonder what Curse is drawing right now and whether TamLin got that job xe interviewed for, and if you're ruthless enough to survive the Scholomance you don't form a group with two mundane-raised kids on day one because they need language instruction and you're good enough at languages to give it to them, and if you're ruthless enough to survive the scholomance then you are, in a hundred different ways, not Leander.

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Briar is getting B's and C's, mostly, which is fine, you're supposed to get C's, though she vaguely suspects that her classmates are spending less time on getting C's than she is. Unfortunately she and Jeremy share Modern Magical History, which isn't ideal, but she's doing his Modern Magical History homework and in exchange he's taking her remedial algebra homework.

The bigger problem is that the school is full of maleficers! Her parents had warned her that maleficers existed, but she's met four by now, and she's barely been here a week. (Maybe someday, she'll be strong enough to use her affinity to make them stop -- but she isn't, yet, so that doesn't help her.) The first one was surprisingly willing to be persuaded to not be evil, but so far that's only worked once.

She does push-ups on her floor and thinks about the people who have already died. About the freshmen, of course, but mostly about Hazel, who should have been a senior this year, who might have been okay at graduation, she had a good affinity and everything...

There are no guarantees in the Scholomance, of course, but most people who aren't enclavers don't come with built-in allies, and having an ally that you can really, genuinely trust, even if you can't quite pay them back, because you know it'll even out over time, counts for a lot. She brought Jeremy a bag full of glass from the shop, and he couldn't pay her back right then, but a few days later he gave her half the antiseptic he had brewed in lab, and it wasn't a trade, it was just their relationship, and that's not the sort of relationship most indies have.

She's going to be okay.

They're going to be okay.

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Jeremy's father had an affinity for fire, and his mother had an affinity for metal, and they got a graduation alliance with a Berliner with a promise for an interview, but not a guaranteed slot, and apparently the enclave didn't think their affinities were worth much outside the Scholomance. He's not about to repeat their mistake. It's easier to get into an enclave if the enclavers actually like you, everyone knows that, so he's going to be the person they want him to be, when they're around, and maybe it'll be enough. It would be easier if he had an affinity for minds and could just make them like him, but glass isn't unworkable. Glass is useful for lots of things.

The problem with this is that none of the enclavers make ANY SENSE.

He thinks he managed to do alright in group therapy, but he still has no idea why New York apparently wants indies to just pretend that they're not probably going to die here? He didn't think most people viewed 'blatantly ignoring reality' as a positive trait in the Scholomance? Then apparently Shanghai decided that what you need to do to impress them is be a maleficer who can make a convincing show of regretting it, which would actually be better news for him, except for how he has no idea why this is what Shanghai wants. He even heard a rumor that Toronto bribed some indies to shove one of their freshmen into the Void, which sounds really implausible, but not more implausible than Shanghai allying with a maleficer, which everyone agrees is true. But in any case, if you want to murder your allies, which is already stupid, there have got to be better ways to do it than paying some other freshmen to shove them into the Void.

If any enclavers want to hire him to shove someone into the Void he'll do it but he's pretty sure you're not supposed to advertise that fact.

Then there's the manner of his mice. He had really thought this was a sensible backup plan! But apparently some freshman maleficer had the brilliant idea to murder an enclaver from Shanghai, and all of Chicago, and also some random indies? And now the upperclassmen are all on edge, and it's only a matter of time before they figure out that 'search the shop, with the enclaver maleficers who apparently exist' doesn't guarantee you'll check everyone, but 'search every room' does, and his room is full of mice in little glass tanks, hidden well enough that people won't notice if they're not looking but presumably the seniors are smart enough to look.

And -- that's only a backup plan, it has to be a backup plan, if he does it more than a little he'll get an aura and the enclaves won't want to talk to him (except apparently Shanghai??? but he doesn't even speak Mandarin). He could get rid of the mice, and count on his regular plan, of being able to, somehow, win over enclavers until someone is prepared to offer him an enclave spot.

He had really expected the worst part of high school to be the magic monsters that eat people.

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