Mana P2y1s17

Mana: And so it was written: Pokiehlember 2nd, Year 1, Gnome's Day. The gardens of Jinn, I think we left off - the rain coming in soon, blown by brisk winds across a turbulent sky. The bases of the leaves showing, fallen blossoms rattling across the stone walkways.
Wilhelmine looks up at the sky, and confirms to herself where she wants to go next: somewhere with cover. This rain is not something she wants to deal with right now. That, and there's business - leads to follow. The roads she knows of that will take her to somewhere that satisfies both criteria are to Wisp via the Garden Arch, then to Shade in the passageway above the pillar at the
Wilhelmine Fountain of Spirit. Wordlessly and alone, she begins walking.
Mana: The guards - distracted - let you pass easily out into Wisp, where things are being pulled in off the street, and the trolleys race past.
Mana: The fountain of spirit shines beautifully in glass, the water pouring gently down it. Wisp, her countenance ever-graceful.
Mana: …But mostly, you're here for the passageway.
Wilhelmine clambers up - she came to Wisp from here after graduation, and again, she uses it to return. Her march down the tunnel is passionless, devoid of any meaning or fire. That's the mental state that living in Wisp has left her in: Wisp has all the answers. There's no room for curiosity or inquiry or wonder - everything you need is all there for you. To restore that passion she once
Wilhelmine had, Wilhelmine doesn't seek out answers: she seeks out questions, which Shade has in spades, a myriad of impossibilities and complexities and enigmas. Questions give her drive, she's realized, not answers.
Mana: The Dreaming City. There's a low haze, roiling along the streets - some long-abandoned, some still haunted by the day's markets and its passers-by. Stalls sell tiny statues, memories of places long-buried, sticks of incense, shards of broken bottles strung up with wire (for luck, it's said) and the chanters, always, are repeating their names: "Alexander, Justinian, Phanna Via…"
Mana: …And so on.
Mana: …And so forth.
Mana: A stork-man, his legs two-thirds of his height, leans sharply forward to nose underneath a market stall, flipping through one of the latest books.
Wilhelmine walks past the chanter that says Alexander's name, backpedals a couple of steps, and stares directly at him. Or her.
Mana: He's a wastrel, really, shoulders hunched, wrapped in a pitch-black cloak, almost disappeared beneath a stamped-on-looking black hat. Eyes focus upwards.
Mana: A shake of his money dish. "Chant ya a name, any name, ten gil a day."
Wilhelmine: "Do you know the name of the person who told you to chant Alexander?"
[OOC] Wilhelmine: Also, Lucre.)
[OOC] Mana: Yup. Fix that in the logs, if you feel like.
Mana: He smiles, teeth glinting. "Could, maybe."
Wilhelmine: "It's a yes or no question."
Wilhelmine flips him a 10-Lucre coin. "Though I figure that's a yes."
Mana: "Oh, onna the crazies they keep locked up, Carceri-way. The Prof Merrick, I think."
Wilhelmine: "Didn't ask for his name, myself. Just wanted the chanting."
Mana: "Oh." He smiles. Clears his throat.
Mana: A practiced, solemn drone: "Merrick, Alexander, Justinian, Phanna Via…"
Wilhelmine: "Though I'd have heard it anyway."
Wilhelmine nods at him in thanks and continues on. Stir the hornet's nest, see what happens as a result. Merrick's a name she'll keep in mind. The Carceri's her next destination, it seems, though it won't hurt to browse through the books alongside the stork-man.
Mana: The latest works: Poetries, the latest parts of a few self-indulgent epics, some of them obviously self-published, at least one of them actually worth reading…
Mana: A bodice-ripper disguised as an adventure story. More surprisingly, an adventure story disguised as a bodice ripper.
Mana: A collection on insects, specimens carefully pinned to each page.
Mana: Kuro Kuro Carceri rises in the cavern beyond, the chain sloping gently up towards the floating prison.
Wilhelmine: None of these interest her. She wants her thought to be teased and provoked, possibly with some research and what implications it has and what further research could stem from it. Unless … research about fiction. Narrative potential. This stall could lead her down the path of the Secret Science once more. She takes the last two mentioned - the insect collection and the seemingly
Wilhelmine: lurid-on-the-surface book - and asks how much.
Mana: The bookseller curls a little at the edges - some kind of smile, perhaps. "Fifty lucre for the first. Three-fifty for the second."
Wilhelmine: "Fifty for the insect collection. Haven't enough for the other." She flips a 50-lucre piece to the seller and continues on her way.
Mana: She sets the leather-bound book back on the cart with six paper fingers, smiling, taking the coin, and handing over [The Love of Beetles]. but there's shining flies, and ink-dark moths pinned inside it, too.
Wilhelmine will peruse it later. For now, there's the matter of how the quarantine progresses and of Merrick at Carceri.
Mana: Kuro Kuro Carceri: Your old stomping grounds. The traditional _ _ _ _ _ _, the courtyard ahead, the greenhouses - and the quarantine - to your left.
Mana: (You probably know where Merrick's office is. You took one of his classes, once, picking up a statistics credit.)
Mana: (He missed more of his own lectures than any of the students.)
Wilhelmine strolls on ahead. Merrick's absenteeism means he'll be easier to miss - best to check him first. The quarantine, being a quarantine, will remain where it is.
Mana: Professor Merrick's office - you catch him on the tail end of berating one of his graduate students: "You don't have results! Don't cry to me about not being able to find the spinner time - you're the scientist, after all! Get the spinner time. Show initiative! I'm not here to hold your hand! Build one your damn self!"
Mana: The student slips off a few apologies, explanations, affirmations of redoubled effort - before scurrying off.
Wilhelmine: "What he means to say is that inquiry is part of the learning process - to truly understand the answer, you must wrestle with the question." Kinder words - her old teacher's lesson, without the annoyance.
Wilhelmine catches him by the shoulder before he does so. Y'know. To get that word in edgewise.
Mana: He smiles sheepishly, nods to Wilhelmine - "Ahem. Right, will do." - but there's pressing business elsewhere, of course.
Mana: Merrick looks up, pushing square glasses up to his eyes. He's seated at his desk, in a room with wood panelling and leather padding along the walls - the old stuff stripped out, and a fancier kind added, probably as a private joke. A wiry, golden-haired man, handsome in a professory way. Gaunt cheeks. Suspenders too close to the neck. Pupils like red-hot needlepoints.
Mana: "Really should just be doing that one myself. Have it done in half the time, but I had to find him a…"
Mana: "…Anyway. That's not what you're here for."
Wilhelmine adjusts her glovestraps and nods at Merrick. "For instance, I could simply ask you how you know someone named Alexander - surname Djinn, presumably. But I guess that'd garner a similar response you gave your student just now. No, your nigh-legendary poor attendance for your own classes means you just might venture out of this District and get up to who-knows-what."
Mana: "A professor of the University never needs to leave the district."
Wilhelmine: "Of course, such travelling has the potential to leave a trail - witnesses, paperwork, other sorts of evidence. I might be willing to investigate that, or since you're so busy, you could save us both a bunch of time and just tell me."
Wilhelmine: "Needs to, no. Wants to? Takes the occasional jaunt?"
Mana: "Of course, once we built the spinners, they said we'd never need to go into town again, but the Frog goes and now I'm calling on chanters like it's the dark a-"
Mana: "Hmph."
Wilhelmine: "Hmph?"
Mana: "Alexander, of course, is known geneologically."
Wilhelmine: "What signifigance would he have after he's dead?"
Mana: Merrick smiles - "None, of course." - and pulls out a sheet of paper from beneath a few other sheets of paper. A family tree? He crosses out another name - most of the branches are looking quite bare.
Wilhelmine: "Oh, did I just give you more news than your chanters did?"
Mana: "Well, they work for tuppence. I'm sure they think they're cheating me."
Wilhelmine: "What'd happen if they chant your name?"
Mana: "Hard to say. The Imperial Catch is very carefully designed - chant a name, they get offed."
Mana: "Since my lineage runs through brothels more than anything else, one can be reasonably certain that the mechanism won't trip."
Wilhelmine chuckles. "How certain?"
Mana: "I published, didn't I? It's a controlled catch, the best that's ever been tested. Precise, surefire, selective."
Mana: "You pull it on me? Well, probably something university politics, really."
Mana: "Did you tip a coin to a chanter for someone to hassle me about my use of spinner time, hm?"
Wilhelmine: "No, just spite. Alexander was a friend of mine."
Mana: "The Imperial branches tend to fall away, you know."
Mana: "Like a bonsai, maybe."
Wilhelmine: "Because of your Catch? Or is there only a strong correlation?"
Mana: "Because of the catch. Which means, while everyone else is stumbling in the dark, I've run a proper machine on the spinners."
Mana: "Input, result, predictable."
Wilhelmine: "So you have the results you want, but do you know its inner workings? Not the what, but the how?"
Mana: "Yes. But you're asking me because you're too lazy to read the paper, hm?"
Wilhelmine: "Wasn't aware there was a paper. I've had a … sabbatical."
Mana: Merrick gets up, plucks a piece of chalk, snaps it to half-size, and begins diagramming:
Wilhelmine: "Oh, please, I'll read the paper."
Mana: "Everyone says they'll read the paper. And then they don't, and my students spend their days hiding at their desks doing nothing, and all the spinner time goes to a frog."
Mana: "So, watch closely."
Wilhelmine: "Since that makes you sound disappointed, now I'm considering doing nothing to allow the frog to keep its spinner time."
Mana: "As. Is. Known-" Through gritted teeth "- E, up in the tower, is a Ruler Without Mandate of Heaven, as it were, and as such, the pressure of anyone resembling a candidate for the position is more or less off the charts…"
Mana: "By which I mean, a theoretical Imperial Decay would be very favorable. But! As you can see, it's kept forbidden."
Mana: "Whenever the exchange normally begins…" He snaps his fingers - "Our E, as it were, eliminates the E-to-be."
Mana: "Why is this? Well, it's because E is aware of the decay process. When we stimulate an E-to-be, the E reacts. Entanglement by knowledge of the system."
Mana: "Giving him considerable capacity to save his own throat, forcing him into a situation where he must take a certain course to avert his decay allows us to force his hand."
Mana: "Which is to say, all the other professors? They say they have spooky-action-at-a-distance."
Mana: "But the Imperial Catch is the only true, predictable, dependable, surefire action control that's ever been implemented."
Mana: "…And it keeps our favorite model damn stable, for all the thanks I get."
Mana: "Any questions?"
Wilhelmine: "Yes. Why's it 'our favorite model'?"
Mana: "E can take big actions, with big effects - simple to observe. And it's quite constrained, so it's easy to affect."
Mana: "I mean, I couldn't build a Catch around you. Couldn't even keep you from dropping out, not that I remember your name."
Wilhelmine: "Oh, don't worry, I hardly remembered yours."
Mana: "Makes us even."
Wilhelmine: "What could make it unstable, though? Say, if an E-to-be was never offed?"
Mana: "That would."
Wilhelmine: "Was an assumption that your paper covered?"
Mana: "…But, you know, legion of socially accepted, even welcomed assassins with go-anywhere passes and complete moral justification."
Mana: "Fat chance, as it were."
Wilhelmine: "Well, no one in particular knows how far back my lineage goes. And despite their best efforts to kill me, they could only imprison me."
Wilhelmine: "Never be complacent with the answers you have so far, Professor Merrick.
Wilhelmine: "
Mana: "A technicality of birth doesn't matter for anything. A claim comes from family status, I think. Momentum. The will of the populace."
Mana: "And that, that hooks right into the catch-"
Mana: "…You're saying you're immortal, hmm?"
Wilhelmine: "Do you feel like testing the theory?"
Mana: "No, I simply don't think you qualify."
Wilhelmine: "Qualify?"
Mana: "For the catch, I mean. Cheating death is beyond my purview."
Wilhelmine: "I meant the latter, but oh well."
Wilhelmine shrugs. "Well, that will be all, then. Do take care."
Mana: "Hmph. You as well."
Mana: And so it was written.

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