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May 21, 2022 1:49 PM
the dunwich horror and an endarkened Ges in Kappa's Villarosa
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"I am fairly sure at this point that I would prefer to be the villainess."

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“Okay,” Lucy says dubiously. “I guess I’ll be the heroine. I still don’t wanna fight you, though.” 

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"I hear that we have the option to avoid fighting!"

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“Yyyyyes,” she says slowly, “but you haven’t said for sure that you want to take it.”

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Tabitha, who has been fiddling with her clipboard, passes each of them three Polaroid photographs from each of what now appears to be two clipboards.

First she describes one set to Raivethrani: "The villainess hairstyels are Drill Hair which grants the perk Ohohoho! for free, Hime Cut which grants the perk Silk Hiding Steel for free, or Elaborate which grants a free Maid minion." The photos show one girl with appropriately fearsome ringlets, one with long straight hair and straight bangs, and one rather magnificent set of braids. "Elaborate covers any hairstyle complicated enough to plausibly need a second person to help style it; the other two are narrower."

Then the other set, to Lucy: "And the heroine styles: Tails which grants the perk Relatable for free, Hime Cut again which again grants Silk Hiding Steel, or Half Up Half Down which grants the perk Ingenuous." One photo has a person with two high pigtails, one showcases a different hime cut, and the third has sort of a Disney princess thing going on, with flowers woven into a ponytail that comes together over loose flowing hair.

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"I think perhaps I want to wait on choosing a hairstyle until we've seen the full list of perks, then," she says. "Which is also what I'm waiting on before I make any firm commitments about the option or options to avoid fighting each other; how can I decide whether I want them before I know what they are?"

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Lucy...decides not to comment on how "I don't want to fight you" in no way counts as a mechanical choice or even a statement of intent, just an expression of a preference, and yet this woman refuses to say it. 

She does tick several probability points away from the hypothesis "everyone who does magic is fine and only people who don't have magic are horrible." Come to think of it, it was a spell that that man killed her with...

"I probably want half up half down, because I like it better than the others," she says instead, "but I don't wanna commit either until I know all the perks."

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"All right, then let's move on to hair colour. There are five choices, and they each have some subtle effects on your mind or body that are by and large not difficult to overcome once you know about them, if you don't like them. Blonde makes you prettier but also more shallow; Red makes you stronger and more passionate; Silver makes you weaker and more intelligent and creative; Brunette, which covers brown or black hair, makes you more practical and down-to-earth but also more passive; and Rainbow, which covers all hair colours not normally found on ordinary human beings, makes your world a little more strongly influenced by narrative forces."

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"An interesting assortment. I'm not sure which I like best, but I can always decide later."

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"Silver," Lucy says immediately. 

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Tabitha notes this down in pencil on the heroine form.

"Moving along, the next question is species—being an Elf costs a flaw, by the way, though it sounds like that will be plenty worth it in your world. After that comes your choice of story role: the villainess may be the Royal Princess, the Duke's Daughter, or the Rich Heiress, while the heroine may be the Extraordinary Commoner, the Poor Princess, or the Hero's Daughter. Should I describe those?"

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“Yes please.”

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"The Extraordinary Commoner is admitted to the elite Royal Academy on merit alone, with no wealth or noble heritage to recommend her, which is a remarkable achievement but also leaves her in a very conspicuous position. The Poor Princess is a princess whose situation is politically inconvenient in some way so that she lacks the power that her counterpart the villanous Royal Princess would command, but is still protected by her royal status. The Hero's Daughter is the child of someone who died accomplishing a great deed, and therefore has noble status inherited after it was awarded posthumously to her parent, but lacks the social fluency in elite circles of someone who grew up there. Meanwhile, the Royal Princess is the daughter of the King of Villarosa and undisputed most politically desirable bachelorette in the nation; the Duke's Daughter is the only daughter of the kingdom's highest-ranking noble, who has less status than the Royal Princess but correspondingly more capacity to call on her ambitious father for help in securing her engagement; and the Rich Heiress is the daughter of the kingdom's wealthiest merchant, with less status but more money than either of the other villainous options."

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Lucy makes some hmming noises. 

"So if I pick the Extraordinary Commoner, will this actually result in me being smarter than if I didn't?"

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"Hmm... not necessarily. It will ensure that whatever talents you do have are recognized and valued by society, and might nudge you into circumstances that develop those talents more fully than they otherwise might, but it usually doesn't outright enhance you."

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"Oh. Hmm. If I pick the Poor Princess, will that mean I can't have my mama, or hurt her or something?"

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"Not necessarily! It could for example make both of you foreign royalty who have been exiled to Villarosa, or make your mother the king's ex-wife whom he divorced when you were a child."

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“Why would he divorce my mama?” she asks indignantly. “Mama is great.”

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"Political reasons again, potentially. Or any number of other possibilities, which might not necessarily reflect badly on your mother—perhaps he was unkind to her and she decided to leave him over it, as one potential example."

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"I am thinking of taking the Royal Princess option," says Raivethrani. "It sounds like if your mother was married to the king, that would make us half-sisters, whereas if you were exiled foreign royalty, it would not. Do you have a thought about which of those you prefer? Or I could choose something else, if you like the Poor Princess and don't want us both being princesses."

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Lucy considers this. 

"I'd be the big sister, if we did that. And you're older than me now. Would that be weird?"

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"Hmm, I suppose it might, at that. I wonder if it would be possible for you to be my little sister instead?"

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"Arrangements could be made... if, for example, the villainess's mother died, and then the King remarried the heroine's mother, and then later divorced her. But exiled foreign royalty is also an option."

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"Or if I was a bastard..." she muses. "I dunno. I've never been able to trust anyone who wasn't family before, but I've always been able to trust my whole family. I don't dislike you, but I don't know if I you well enough to invite you to be my sister. And I don't know that I want to be the child of a normal person who didn't do right by my mama and my brother and me. I might go with the foreign exile option." 

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"Reasonable," she acknowledges. "I have had a... different experience of family than that."

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