Disclaimer: This novel contains adult material including sexually explicit activities, strong language, homophobic language, extreme violence, suicide, depictions of trauma, and more. Reader discretion is advised.
The Dominance of Abigale Quinlan
Shard 13: My Life As Jadigale Novus
A light electronic buzzing lifted me out of slumber and into the waking world. My body shot up and my arms reached for the sky as I performed a quick stretch, before finally opening my eyes. The morning sun illuminated my room with its always present radiance, and my clock beamed back to me with the time 6:30. I plopped myself out of bed and shut off my alarm before straightening out the sheets and heading to my closet.
After a second of hesitation, I reminded myself that it was Monday, April 6, 2015. Meaning spring break was over, it was time to go back to school, and it was time to break in my summer uniforms. After several seconds of perusing, I settled on a short-sleeve green dress shirt with a white ribbon, black skirt, and white stockings.
As always, I began my morning with a trip to the bathroom, to relieve myself, wash my face, apply my day cream, and brush my chin-length hair. While idly brushing and rubbing, I stared at myself in the mirror. Noting my smooth light brown skin, my cute smile, my vibrant green eyes, and my naturally curly black hair. I was blessed with hair that looked good even when just rolling out of bed, but that didn’t stop me from accentuating my natural features with a puff or three of my usual spray. Once applied, I completed the look by plucking my hair back using a silver dragonfly hairpin.
“You know, it’s hard to believe that I’m only going to wear this uniform for a few more weeks. After all this time, I’m almost done with school, almost ready to enter the adult world.”
And I very much looked that way. My body was tall and toned, my figure was developed with a modest set of curves. Despite this, I still had bits of youthful fluff on my face, especially in my cheeks, and there was something inherently juvenile to this uniform. The slightly goofy hairpin didn’t help on that front, but I wore it for sentimental reasons. Plus, it accentuated my pretty little face.
I let out a laugh as I examined myself in such detail before I left this room of solitude and trotted my way downstairs.
Making my way into the kitchen, I was met with my mother, Caroline Novus, still wearing her violet nightie as she stood over the stove, preparing eggs and potatoes.
Her shoulder-length blonde hair was slightly frizzy, as she had just woken up, but the sunlight practically sparkled against her fair skin, while her radiant blue eyes dazzled as they looked on at me. Despite being in her mid-30s, she had a deeply youthful air to her, and I could only hope that I looked as good as her in another 17 years.
“Morning, Mom!” I said giddily in a sing-song tone.
“Good morning, Jadigale. I can see you’re all ready for the final stretch.”
“It’s not going to last much longer, so I may as well enjoy it while I can.”
As I said that, I grabbed the plate of food my mother prepared for me. A piece of seedy toast, two scrambled eggs, and a sliced apple, along with a cup of almond milk.
With both hands full, I walked over to the cozy little four-person table at the other end of the kitchen, where I greeted my father, Bryce Novus. He sat back in his chair casually, a phone in one hand sifting through work emails or business publications, while taking sips from his steaming mug of coffee.
If there was one word that I always went back to when describing my father, it was ‘masculine.’ He was a particularly large man, standing at 2 meters tall and possessing a very… thick body. With dense arms, legs, and large fingers that made his phone look all the smaller. He was dressed in his sleep shirt and shorts, showing off the lush fields of hair that covered his thick arms and legs, while his usual morning stubble rested on his hardened rugged face.
His short dark hair sat sloppily on his head, lacking the usual combing and gel he gave it before heading to work. As always, I took a seat across from him, and he turned to look at me with his pale green eyes.
For some reason, I felt a bit… eerie looking at him, as if he was not someone I had seen nearly every day of my life, or as if he didn’t always have the same rich brown skin. I lingered on this hint of alienation, trying to piece what was off about him, before I heard his smooth deep voice escape from his mouth.
“I’ll never know how I wound up with a kid half as good as you, Jadigale.”
“You were a good role model, taught me good manners, good morals, and gave me everything I needed to apply myself. Simple as that.”
After making my slightly teasing comment, I began picking away at my breakfast. It was nothing special, but it was filling and gave me the energy I needed to begin my day on the right foot. As I started eating, Mom brought Dad a plate of eggs, potatoes, and a little cup of fruit. We both continued to eat in relative silence, with Dad occasionally commenting on an article of interest, or texting me a link for something I should read later. Though, the conversation didn’t really begin until Mom sat down, with her usual eggs, fruit bowl, and oatmeal.
“I know it’s early to ask this, but does Zeta Realty want me to intern this summer?” I asked Dad.
“Jadigale, you’re already starting college this summer,” Mom reminded me. “Do you think you’ll be able to do that and handle a summer job?”
“Honey, this is Jadigale we’re talking about, and it’s only one class,” Dad said, defending me.
“I know, Jadigale can do whatever she sets her mind to,” Mom said to Dad before turning to face me. “You really shouldn’t be in such a rush to grow up, you know?”
“Yes, I know,” I said. “Life’s short, you’re only a kid once, but when that’s all you have, you kinda want to get to work and start making progress on the rest of your life. Besides, if I start now, I’ll have plenty of time for youthful indulgences in my twenties.”
“Well, you never know. You might have a kid before you know it…” Mom said, her whisper plainly audible.
I could have said something disparaging in return. Instead, I continued to pick away at my breakfast.
“Anyway,” Dad interjected, “I haven’t talked to the guys yet, but everybody at Zeta loves you, so of course they’re going to say yes. Hell, I’m pretty sure that Juniper hasn’t filed a damn thing since last August. And after helping with the Windows 7 roll out last year, Gregg wants to send you to IT bootcamp.”
“Eh, I wouldn’t mind,” I said, “the more I know, the better my chances of success are.”
“This is why I say you’re going to be a millionaire by 30, Jadigale,” Mom added.
“30’s pushing it,” Dad commented. “35 though? Definitely. Well, so long as there isn’t another recession.”
As my parents praised me for my conviction, I finished my breakfast, rinsed my dishes, and checked the time. 7:15. Just enough time to get everything ready before Maxxie comes.
I gave Mom a hug and Dad a kiss on the cheek before I offered them my goodbyes and headed upstairs. I brushed my teeth, grabbed my backpack, and plopped on my standard-issue brown school shoes before heading out the front door.
I gazed upwards at the scattering of clouds drifting through the vibrant sky. It was a beautiful sight to begin my day but, before I could lose myself in this simple joy, I saw a familiar car driving outside of my house. Inside, I was met with the face of my oldest and dearest friend, Maxxie Flare. Her dark hair long and straight, her visage slightly plump and coated in black freckles, and her body dressed in a periwinkle and navy uniform that amplified her more curvy features.
As she saw me looking at her body from head to toe, Maxxie leaned toward me, her eyes shut and lips puckered. With no hesitation, I did the same, and took a moment to enjoy our good morning kiss..
“Ah! I love my CHarM Tea, but I don’t feel like I’m 100% until I get my Jadigale fix!” Maxxie exclaimed as she started driving.
“You know, codependency isn’t anything to be proud of. You should be able to get up on your own.”
“Yeah, yeah. What’s important is that I do get up. The hows and whys— those are secondary.”
“Are you expecting a congratulatory smooch for getting up on time after a break?” I said with a smug chuckle.
“Nope! …But I am expecting one after someone made me turn in for bed at midnight, like a grandma!”
“I said 23:00, and that still is not enough. Sadly, the American education system demands that classes start at 8 in the morning, so us teenagers must deal with inconvenient schedules such as these.”
“Yep! The world’s a dysfunctional system that cannot be changed without power, and power comes from abusing or using the system to one’s advantage. Which is why you want to seize all the power for yourself, isn’t that right, Miss Novus?”
“Pfft. I swear, my parents saying how I’ll be a millionaire and you saying how I’ll rule the world. Is that just some vibe I’m giving off? Some holier than thou aura I’m radiating at the moment?”
“Nah, babe. I’m just messing with ya,” Maxxie said, her face beaming with joy.
As we continued similar antics, the car soon filled up with the remaining two members of our merry quartet.
The first was Zoe Xing, looking about as mature and as sharply dressed as a high schooler could. His hair was slick, his uniform ironed, and his face looking awfully mature for someone who was only 18, bearing all the angular and hard features of a man, and deep hazel eyes. Looking at his face, I felt that something was missing, but from his maintained hair to his tie to his shimmering shoes, I could not see anything amiss.
The second was Shiaka, her tiny body wrapped in a simple short-sleeve black and white uniform and her face obscured by her classic bob as she nestled into her seat. Once sat, she looked at us with a beaming smile on her tan face and a glance at her beautiful deep blue eyes before greeting us. She was a little pocket of sunshine who brightened up our day, but I couldn’t help but feel that something was ‘off’ about her. It was as if she seemed happier, but I could not imagine why. She was timid by nature and not the best conversationalist, she was also one of the most loving people I ever met. Well, second to my girlfriend.
This awkward vibe did not last long though, as we quickly fell into our usual topic of conversation. Talking about the game. Project Love & Souls.
“I checked Git this morning and saw that you were working on something until 22:00 last night. What was up with that?” Maxxie asked, looking back at Zoe and Shiaka.
“When we’re on a roll, we’re on a roll,” Shiaka said, a subtle snarkiness in her voice.
“We just finished a script to rework how character sprites work, and Shiaka wanted to upload the new batch of art assets. Character eyes, eyebrows, mouths, and general colors are now unique assets that can be manipulated independently.”
“Are you sure that’s necessary?” I asked, “I mean, that’s a nice feature, but it’s not as important as making the game feel good.”
“It’s not necessary, but it is a nice touch,” Zoe answered. “For everything else though… Just wait until lunch, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with where things are at.”
“We’re still in the prototyping phase, but I think we’re about ready to get started on our first environment,” Shiaka elaborated, spoiling the surprise.
“Finally!” Maxxie shouted. “I’ve been making so many goldarn textures and tilesets that I’ve been dying to glue onto some polygons! You disabled that texture filtering crap, right?”
“Again, Maxxie, that was my mistake,” I explained, “I accidentally set a variable to 1 instead of 0 in a build I sent you. Texture filtering is going to be off by default, but we will not get rid of a standard feature just because it looks bad. Some people just have bad tastes.”
“Texture filtering is easy next to making the rest of the game, and I’m beginning to doubt that we can make something like this by the end of summer. A demo, sure, but a finished project is…” Zoe said before trailing off.
“We can do it if we all play our part!” Shiaka declared. “We just need to focus!”
“I’m willing to press pause on pretty much all my other art, but what about J-star over here?”
“Well, I have already signed up for summer classes, and I am planning on interning at Zeta Realty—”
“So you can give us evening shifts… maybe?” Zoe asked.
“And weekends,” I added. “You know how fast I can work when I’m in the zone, and I already have some rough level designs and a script already written. The concept work is done, now we just need to actually make the darn thing.”
“Exactly! The design is done, so now we just have to do the actual hard part, and not get distracted!”
As Shiaka said that, her eyes were directed at Maxxie.
“Hey, that was the old Maxxie! The new Maxxie is 100% committed to Nigma Interactive Software, and will do all she can to ship a commercial game! Including footing the licensing fees for music.”
“The other month, you tried convincing us to use music exclusively from SLOS.biz and oo39.com.”
“Again, that was the old Maxxie. New Maxxie has a $10,000 audio budget from her mama and papa!”
As we continued to indulge in such banter, we eventually arrived at our destination: Oransen High. Our school for the past three and a half years, but not much longer. Even after a weeklong hiatus, we all immediately fell back into the groove once we entered these familiar halls. There, without even really thinking about it, my body walked over to my locker before making its way to first period.
Psychology served as a pleasant little wake up call after the break, as my teacher introduced us to the self-enhancement theory and the ‘oversimplification of the other.’
People have a tendency to view themselves as good, above average. Yet, that is only the default. When they do knowingly make a mistake, they exaggerate the mistake with embarrassment and believe that their mistake was more extreme than it really was. As for ‘others’ though, a person tends to oversimplify them, believing that they lack the same depth, associating positive or negative behaviors, or traits, with their personality. From assuming a single instance of rudeness or kindness can be extrapolated into their very nature, to associating attractiveness with both competency and morality.
My pen furiously scratched against my notebook as this lecture played out, while my mind maintained a similar momentum as I used this knowledge to examine myself. Though it was true that I thought highly of myself as a person, I only did so due to how I have succeeded on every metric. I was a quick learner, diligent worker, possessed a large capacity for knowledge and information, and had been complimented on my appearance enough times to know that others consider me attractive.
Though I may have simplified others at a mere glance, I had long-since known the complexities of a person, and knew it was the height of folly to judge another based on a mere impression. I thought that, perhaps, I was falling into this model as I pursued this positive interpretation of my self. I actually was as great as I thought I was, and to think otherwise would merely be a forced modesty born from a lack of self-esteem.
While my mind raced with such thoughts, my eyes scattered about, and I could tell that many of my classmates were in similar mental exercises. Allowing the material to sink in and forcing themselves to reexamine both their thought patterns and past behaviors.
Just looking at my deskmates, Gem Stone had a frustrated look on his face as he followed along— likely because he recalled an instance where he assumed the worst about another person. While Maxxie bit onto her lip as she followed along on her print-out. She looked like she was realizing how self-appreciative she had been in the past… or maybe she just wasn’t in the mood for such an introspective topic first thing in the morning.
Alas, right as we were wrapping up this topic, the bell rang, sending my peers and I to our next class. For me though, this meant a trip to the library, where I began by finding a seat and pulling out my laptop to type my notes. While the use of laptops was permitted during lectures for the purposes of note taking, I chose to write my notes by hand. Not only for practicality reasons, but because I knew the act of re-reading and transcribing my notes would not only improve their quality, but my personal retention of the information.
Regardless, it only took me a matter of minutes to recount what I had learned, and complete the required reflection questions to Desire2Learn. I busied myself by polishing up the documentation for Project Love & Souls, before I was met with a set of familiar faces in the form of Vivi and Anita.
They casually took seats next to mine and looked at me with smiles as I pushed away my laptop.
“How’s it going you two?” I asked.
“About as well as it can be, I suppose,” Vivi answered with a subdued sigh. “Anyway, I just finished your visual novel last night.”
“Oh? So you finished Milky Sunshine’s Doki Doki Adventure?”
“I actually streamed it from beginning to end last night— since it was only about three hours long— and I have to say… I was impressed.”
“Yeah, same here,” Anita added. “I just finished watching V’s stream this morning and… I didn’t even know visual novels could look like that. I thought they were static by design.”
“Leave it to Shiaka to develop a robust ‘kamishibai’ animation system on top of what Ren’py usually does and leave it to Maxxie to go buck wild with the animations. By which, I mean she created animation mockups, while I programmed the actual animations in.”
“Yeah, that’s the side of game development they don’t tell you about,” Vivi replied. “It seems all vibrant, but most of the time you’re looking at white text on a dark background, typing things to make the engine do what it’s supposed to do.”
“Well, that and writing things out in a collaborative Google Doc— which is not a very good format for writing game dialogue by the way.”
“Still, I would say it was well worth the effort,” Anita said. “I never really messed around with visual novels outside of Phoenix Wright, but I think I might need to broaden my horizons.”
“I… honestly did not expect that kind of reaction from a comedy visual novel. We never had any grand aspirations with the game, considering how cluttered the market is, and we mostly just made it for two reasons. To prove that we could, and because Shiaka wanted to ship a game before she turned 18.”
“Damn. If you made that just to prove yourselves, I have to wonder what you’re working on next.” Vivi mused as she brushed a hand through her curly red hair.
“Well, we’re still getting things started on a new game, so I don’t think I can divulge any details quite yet.”
“What about a genre?” Anita asked.
“Um… a story-driven action RPG, with a lot of Ys DNA.”
“The hell does that mean? Are you bringing back the bump system, doing something like Memories of Celceta, or…”
“We’re mostly looking at Ark of Napishtim, Oath in Felghana, and Origin. A loose trilogy that doesn’t have a name, but Maxxie started calling it the ‘ANOFO’ trilogy.”
Vivi then looked at me with a stern expression before scooching her chair closer to mine.
“Oh, really now? And you wouldn’t happen to be open to having someone else join your team, would you? I don’t have much experience outside of making mods for Bethesda games and what I learned in AP Computer Science and Video Game Development, but—”
“Yeah, you’re in,” I replied.
“Well, that was easy.”
“Hey, no fair!” Anita whisper-shouted. “This is going to be our last summer together and you’re going to hang out with Jadigale and her friends?”
“Neither of us are leaving Oransen, Anita. We’re still going to be taking Gen Ed classes at the same school, and I can even make it so that we have the same schedule.”
“…Yeah, I guess that’s true, but I’m still going to miss you. I would volunteer, but I don’t even know what an ‘ease’ is, let alone a ‘bump system.’ …But if you want some music or sound, you should ask Gem.”
“Gem’s a musician?” I asked with more than a modicum of disbelief.
“Yeah, but not the kind who plays an instrument, it’s all on his computer, and he’s made some pretty… weird stuff.”
“What’s his handle?” I asked.
“He goes by MinoFloppz. Two P’s, ending with a Z, all one word,” Vivi recited with zero hesitation.
As I looked up his name, I could not help but smile, as the third thing that came up was a Bandcamp page for an album called “You Are My Friend & I Love You So Much.” Before I looked at the album in detail, I immediately noticed an illustration of a headless schoolgirl, lightly lifting up the hem of her dark skirt, and recognized this page.
“He produces stuff for The Worst Label? Oh yeah. Maxxie is gonna love his stuff! Though, we want to avoid using too many samples… maybe he could create something unique from a sound sample library.”
After sending the information to Maxxie and putting out feelers on adding more people to the dev team, the bell called me away from study hall and to Creative Writing. Sadly, it was more of a review day than an opportunity for me to flex my writing muscles. One where we reviewed notes on the short stories we had written prior to spring break, before going over certain common mistakes and discussing how we could avoid them in the future.
While this was an assuredly helpful class for some of my students, I was left with a paper bearing an elusive 100% grade from Raiyne Underwood, before sitting back and watching her recite the problems of others. I would have pulled out my phone or laptop to work on something else, but not around Raiyne. Forty minutes later, the bell brought the class to an end, and Raiyne called me to speak to her, as she often did.
“So, a full 100%, huh?” I said, mildly proud of my score.
“What can I say, Jadigale? You’ve proven yourself to be an especially skilled writer for your age, and you’ve probably got what it takes to make it as a writer.”
“Heh. No offense, but I know how hard it is to make it as a writer, and I have other aspirations.”
“Well, nothing says you can’t be a writer on the side. Whether it be a research paper or a novel, I know you would succeed at whatever you set your mind to.”
“Please, I’m still a high schooler. And if it were that easy, I’m sure you would have already made a name for yourself as a writer.”
“I actually assisted with a few scholarly articles back in college, and I have a YA novel I trunked a few years back. It’s a teen dystopian novel that I thought of pitching to a literary agent back when The Hunger Games was making waves. Sadly, publishing is so hostile nowadays that it’s hard to get anyone to call you back, let alone accept a meeting.”
“Well, even if nobody’s interested, you could still self-publish it and say you’re an established author. It’s better than being a debut novelist, I take it.”
Raiyne took in my suggestion in silence, glancing over at the tablet on her desk, furrowing her brow.
“Isn’t it better to share a creation rather than let it gather dust, never to be seen?” I asked, already knowing her answer.
“Yes, I suppose it is. Hm… I’ll reread it over the summer and see if I can spruce it up a little.”
“That’s the spirit, teach! Anyway, I gotta run, see ya tomorrow!”
After sharing a wave, I moseyed down to the locker room and felt a faint shiver trickle down my spine. As if there was something wrong about this sight of teenage girls in plain underwear, switching out their bras, putting on baggy workout clothes, and tying up their hair. It only lasted for a second, but even as I left the room, my hair tied into a ponytail and by small breasts thoroughly supported, I still felt that something was off about the situation. …Before I realized it was the smell. They used way too much Pine-Sol when cleaning this place up.
As to be expected, coach Olson had us running laps today, and I spent the first part of the period getting a good run, jogging a kilometer and a half, and making good time too. I always enjoyed running, but I felt as if there was something new I was enjoying. A previously unseen factor I was only now discovering. The way my body moved, the steady bobbing of my ponytail, and the fact that I was reminded of the form of my body with every passing second. Something about it all just felt… right.
Sadly, I lacked the stamina to run for half an hour straight, and slowed down after showing more effort than most of my peers. And as I did so, I happened to cross paths with Zoe.
“Do you think other students appreciate this?”
“You mean having time carved out of their day to work out? No, not quite,” I answered.
“It begs the question of how we are going to incorporate exercise into our adult, or even college, lives.”
“Going to the gym, jogging on a trail, or using your own at-home equipment are the go-to answers.”
“Yes, but it all feels so inefficient, like much of the world,” Zoe sighed.
“Are you going to bring up your dormitory theory again?”
“Dormitories eliminate the need for travel and allow workers to endear a greater sense of collaboration and community. They can also house facilities, such as cafeterias and exercise rooms, making it easier for individuals to incorporate both healthier meal plans and routine exercise into their day. Alas, industry is not allowed to be structured around such order, for the current format of society benefits and empowers too many to ever be changed in such a dramatic manner. At least, unless the government forces industry to change to its liking.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I replied. “Typical Zoe. Falling back on your Chinese heritage when it comes to your societal ideals.”
“Wǒ cónglái méi qùguò Zhōngguó!”
“I know. …Yes, you have said that so many times that I recognize what you’re saying.”
“Is it really so bad that I wish to organize and structure society in a way that achieves mutual benefits for both individuals and institutions?”
“Well, you’re not as worldly as you think you are, and that’s why I always say that I would never want you to be a high-ranking politician or something.”
“I only share these thoughts because I am comfortable around you, Jadigale. I understand that there are drastic repercussions to my theories, and I would seek advice from a group of advisors.”
“Advisors who you selected because they agreed with you.”
“Do you really think so little of me?” Zoe sighed.
“Hell no, dude! I think you’re great. This is just how I show my love!”
As our conversation carried on, coach Olson began blowing her whistle, calling us to join her near the entrance to the track field… while Zoe and I were as far away as possible.
“Fancy a little race, Mister Xing?”
“Very well, Miss Novus. Have at you!”
As we ended that exchange, the two of us began sprinting forward, going on an impromptu 100 meter dash as we soared past our classmates. We were side by side for the bulk of the dash, before Zoe kicked it into high gear at the very end and beat me by a single second.
“Damn… you and your… long legs! You… should’ve been… nicer to a girl… like me!” I panted as my sprint slowed to a walk.
Zoe, in response, did not say anything. Instead, he just gave me a smile as we walked back to school, our bodies hot and sweaty, but in the best way imaginable. Or rather, the second best way imaginable.
Five sweaty minutes later, I made my way to room 1337 for lunch. Or rather, a ‘Nigma Interactive Software lunch meeting.’ By the time I arrived, Shiaka had already brought out her laptop and started showing off the build she mentioned this morning.
The game, Project Love & Souls, was a third-person 3D action RPG with a fixed overhead camera, where characters and enemies were represented with 2D sprites, drawn by none other than Maxxie herself. It was a style of game that was only prominent for a few years in the mid-90s, back before it became mandatory that every console game was full 3D. It was pretty common across a lot of RPGs like Grandia, Final Fantasy Tactics, Xenogears, and Ragnarok Online. However, this approach was rarely taken with action games, which typically took the form of 2D side-scrollers with a non-interactable 3D backdrop.
Hell, it was hard for us to find many examples of this style, and when we did, we pretty quickly gravitated toward the Ys ANOFO trilogy. As such, looking at the game running in a tiny window before me, it was no surprises that it looked like the Ys trilogy, but with actual sprites, none of that pre-rendered garbage.
Shiaka, using her keyboard, demonstrated where she was at in regards to gameplay and features. She showed off the plucky sword-wielding protagonist as she hopped about with a double jump, dashed on ground and in the air, and slashed a training dummy. Then, once demonstrating these mostly finished animations, Shiaka interacted with an NPC, showing off the dialogue system, along with a menu system that would allow players to influence dialogue. While these could have been very plain conversations, the scene doubled as a test for all the effects that the animation system was capable of. Showing character sprites flip around, grow, stretch and squash, and flutter through a flurry of expressions.
It was impressive, unlike the environments, which were a mixture of simply shaded geometric shapes and haphazardly placed obstacles meant to test the engine and general feel of the game. It was certainly shaping up for something that only began development two months ago, but it still had a ways to go.
“So, you said that Vivi wants to join our team?” Shiaka asked, a bit unnerved.
“That’s what she said,” I explained, “and she has game development experience. I mean, it’s mostly just 2D demos, but that’s still something.”
“Quite frankly, I’d be delighted to have her on the team,” Zoe replied. “I’ve seen her dedication, and it can be almost frightening at times.”
“As I say, the more the merrier! …But were you being serious with Gem?” Maxxie questioned while staring into my soul.
“Unless Vivi and Anita were pulling a fast one on me… yes.”
“Hell Yeah! I love his stuff, but we need something a bit more… diverse here.”
“About that, are you 100% sure about this ‘multi-dimensional’ aesthetic you’re going for?” Shiaka mused, pulling up a folder full of textures.
“You bet your butt I am! Sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, all of that stuff is played out, but it will be fresh as heck if we kitbash them together into something better!”
“So long as you remember our agreement,” Zoe added, his voice calm. “We’re targeting a two to three hour campaign. Don’t make more than seven unique environments. And, no matter how well development is going, there will be no boss battles against polygonal enemies, or any polygonal enemies for that matter.”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. This is already a lot of work and, if we really want to, we can always make a sequel or better version after the game’s done.”
“None of which will be possible unless we actually finish the game,” I clarified.
“Exactly!” Shiaka responded, her face beaming with determination. “…Unfortunately, we don’t have much time to really work on it right now, so let’s just have some lunch.”
“Itadakimasu!” We all said as we opened up our lunches.
Once lunch was over, we went our separate ways. Well, except for Maxxie and I, who went to our usual corner in the computer lab, where we busted out our tablet and laptop, and we resumed working on the game. I was still designing in the dark as I tinkered with design documents, doing work that would most likely be modified, but at least it was something to work off of when the tools were in my hands.
Maxxie, meanwhile, was in the zone, her earbuds plugged in and the music easing her soul as she continued drawing enemy sprites. Sprites that ran the gamut from erratically moving geometric shapes to fleshy monsters who borrowed from so many sources, they looked almost original, to good old busty ninja maids.
It was eclectic, but she had a vision. A cobbled together vision with myriad influences, and while I cautioned her against rampant creative indulgences, I knew that the quality of her art was high enough that she could pull off anything she wanted to. It might limit the initial appeal, but we are not working on Project Love & Souls for any particular audience. We’re just making it for ourselves.
Sadly, we were unable to spend all day with such a self-centered goal, as the bell called us to our next periods. Maxxie’s was a public speaking class, while mine was AP Calculus. A class that I hoped would mathematically challenge me, yet was rather routine and dull by most accounts.
Nearly every class saw the introduction of a new concept or subchapter, and I would quickly follow the instructions in order to breeze through the material before getting a head start on the homework. It was useful knowledge for those in more technical fields, but it was delivered in a rather opaque way, focusing on the process rather than the application. Thus making it easy to understand upon review, but difficult to remember.
College Financial Accounting fared better however, with the class offering practical bookkeeping and financial skills. It was, potentially, a bit too focused on a company perspective, rather than helping one improve their own financial literacy, but I suppose that’s what Consumer Education was meant to be.
Instead, it was mostly a list-based class where we were introduced to various financial metrics, from Net Present Value to Payback Period to Internal Rate of Return, the teacher reciting the information without adding too much of substance. It was useful in a sense, yes, but only in certain contexts. And seeing as how one of those contexts was the inevitable assessments, I typed away and absorbed the key component of the teacher’s words until this expository class ended. Once it did, Shiaka and I left the classroom and walked to our ninth period, side by side.
“You looked kind of miffed during class, did something happen?” Shiaka asked as she walked alongside me.
“Hardly. I simply wish that modern education prioritized practice and performing over information retention. It simply feels like a waste to spend 42 minutes learning information that could concisely be transposed onto a single sheet of paper.”
“You know that not everybody’s as smart as you, Jadigale,” Shiaka said with a smirk.
“You say that like you’re not part of the high honors club.”
“Certain things come easily to me, but other things, I’m a bit slow on. Everybody has different strengths and weaknesses… except for you, I guess.”
“Come on, you know that’s not true. I…”
As I paused, I tried to think of any areas where I truly faltered and, despite my digging, I could not find many beyond passing moments of embarrassment. No major anxieties, personality flaws, or learning disabilities. My mind was quick, clear, and I earnestly believed I could do whatever I set my mind to.
“Well, there are still a lot of skills I don’t have—”
“You learn what you don’t know. Like some sort of classically trained executive. You didn’t know how to code, so you took a Computer Science class, and you don’t know Japanese, so you’re taking a Japanese class.”
“And you’ve seen me fumble with certain things there, so you know I’m not perfect.”
“Fumbling with a new language, especially one vastly different from your native one, is the rule, not the exception,” Shiaka sighed.
“Regardless, it does not feel good to talk with the proficiency of a 4-year-old in a foreign language, but… Maa, shio ga nai ne.”
“You… might want to try pronouncing that again. You just said ‘there is no salt.’”
“See, what did I tell you? Jadigale Novus is not perfect!”
Following a largely iterative Japanese class with Shiaka, who learned Japanese when she was very young, and Maxxie, whose head was full of ‘anime Japanese,’ the final bell of the day rang. Thus spurring hundreds of students to storm their lockers, rearrange their heavy textbooks, and billow out of this school. Whether that be by walking, taking the bus, or, in my case, driving with a group of friends.
Seeing as how there was little to discuss regarding Project: Loves & Souls at the moment, we wound up musing about the games industry. The future of independent developers in an increasingly cluttered market. How monetization is creeping its way into games via season passes. And reminding ourselves of the unfortunate truth that, when you are working on video games, you don’t have much time to play them. This sort of games industry musing was pretty much the number one topic for us. The second was school, while the third was a tie between anime and politics. You know, just to cover all bases.
Our conversations slowly drifted before coming to a stopping spot as Maxxie dropped off Zoe and Shiaka, leaving only the two of us together.
“So, you wanna come to my place for dinner?” Maxxie asked nonchalantly.
“Sure thing, babe. Let me just text my folks real quick,” I said as I pulled out my phone.
“Actually, can we do a little stream sesh too?”
“It’s a school night.”
“C’mon, please! Just 90 minutes! I promise we’ll do our homework first!”
“Fiiiiine. …The things I do for love.”
Minutes later when we got to Maxxie’s luxurious abode, we quickly headed into her tastefully disheveled bedroom, working through our homework in near record time. Then, the minute after we finished, Maxxie was already getting her stream set up ready. Pushing out my chair, taking her PS4 out of rest mode, and hitting up her followers on Twitter and Tumblr, letting them know her girlfriend was going to play Bloodborne.
It was a continuation of something Maxxie roped me into during spring break, as she thought it would be a good idea if we streamed Bloodborne every day. We thought of it as a break from the 10 hours we were putting into Project: Love & Souls for nine days straight. As such, it was pretty easy for me to hop back into my save and greet the chat as people started cropping up. There weren’t that many, because Maxxie streams whenever she wants, but I saw some familiar usernames appear in the twenty or so viewers. Most of them were fans of Maxxie’s work who took a liking to me, but as the stream went on, I noticed the handles for Zoe, Shiaka, and Vivi come on, even ‘MinoFloppz.’
Our setup worked like this: I played the game and offered commentary, Maxxie also offered commentary, but primarily focused on drawing things on her tablet. Sometimes, she would ditch the tablet if I was playing a game she had never played before, or if it was a co-op game. But she made it a point to binge Bloodborne the week it came out. Meaning she was able to offer insights and tips while I embarked on my maiden voyage through Yharnam.
Regardless of the arrangement, the stream largely consisted of me narrating my thoughts as I focused on playing the game. Exploring, parrying, and maintaining a good balance of aggression without getting reckless. Because when you get reckless in a Souls game, you get sent back to the last bonfire… or rather, lamp. Not that I had too much trouble with that. I had a handful of deaths, but I managed to scrounge through Forbidden Woods, beat Shadow of Yharnam, and started making my way through Cainhurst Castle. Unfortunately, time got the better of me as I played, and I was pulled out of my zone when a familiar knocking came from Maxxie’s door, declaring that ‘dinner’s ready.’
With a callous disregard for professionalism, Maxxie immediately ended the stream, stopping it before I could finish a combat encounter or even say goodbye. I would have been angry with her… if not for the fact that she was laughing all the while, clearly getting a kick out of… whatever she was trying to accomplish. I just couldn’t get angry at Maxxie when she had a smile on her face.
A minute later, we sat at the smaller dining table of the Flare residence, Maxxie and I on one side, while Terra and Babs sat on the other. For some reason, I felt a degree of… eeriness as I looked at Terra. I had known her for her entire life, yet seeing her with her long black hair and cute, breezy purple dress struck me as strange. It was as if she looked prettier than I recalled, and that wasn’t just because she was developing into a young woman. It was as if I expected her to look… more timid. Like she was when she was a really little kid, before she came out as trans at age 6.
It all started when she heard about Maxxie and I’s crossdressing antics in middle school. She asked why we dressed up like boys for fun, we wound up explaining what transgender people were to her, and… it all quickly fell into place. A week later, she was trying on Maxxie’s old dresses. A month later, she was talking to her parents about attending school as a girl. Then, after winter break, she came back to her first grade class as Terra Flare.
I don’t know why I was so fixated on this. That was ancient history, and I barely even remembered what Terra looked like back when she was boy moding it.
“Uh, Jadigale, any reason why you’re staring at me? Do I have something on my face?” Terra asked.
“Oh, no, I was just lost in thought. It was as if something was off about this situation, but I cannot remember what.”
“‘Off’ as in déjà vu, or as in the Mandela effect?” Babs said as she popped out of the kitchen.
“Hm… it’s hard to describe. I feel like something has been slightly off since I woke up this morning, and I’m not sure what. Everything feels normal, but it’s as if everything is off by two degrees in one direction or another.”
This conversation came to something of an end as Babs finished passing out an eggplant cauliflower stew. A casual culinary creation that amounted to a rich and filling dish where the flavors mingled in the bowl and melted together in one’s mouth.
“So, Terra, how was your first day back in the grinder?” Maxxie asked as she finished her first spoonful of stew.
“Eh, boring as usual. I don’t really mind school, but it’s kind of a drag sometimes.”
“It gets better when you can take electives and advanced courses,” I explained. “Just make sure you push for what you want when you decide on your schedule.”
“You sure about that? Because most kids at school are freaking out about that part of middle school.”
“You kids know way better than I do,” Babs began, “but middle school was just the worst back in my day. Girls are at their bitchiest, guys are at their horniest, and the entire place stinks like sweaty farts”
“Great vote of confidence there, Babs,” Terra coyly replied.
“What? You’re a big girl and don’t need me to sugarcoat things.”
“Babs p-much bonked the mole on the noggin there,” Maxxie interjected. “Middle school was fun sometimes, but it has pretty much all the bad stuff from elementary and high school, with none of the childish playtime and the pseudo-adult freedom.”
“Jadigale, are you going to be the voice of reason here?” Terra groaned.
“…Nah, you’re too old for me to be lying to you about these things. Just try to stick to your friends, unless they suck, and don’t let the bullcrap of other people bog you down.”
“I’m gonna be real with you, the best parts of being in middle school were goofing off with my friends, playing games, watching anime, growing boobs, and learning how to masturbate. And I know you’ll like all of those… except for the last one… maybe.”
“Maxxie, that’s the 37th time you’ve talked about masturbation during dinner…” Babs grumbled, a hand covering her face.
“It’s okay, Babs,” Terra said, patting Babs on the back. “I’m… used to it at this point.”
From there, dinner carried on in its usually lowkey and awkward fashion. Once we finished, we chatted for another 15 minutes or so before I took my leave and headed home. I basked in the tranquility of the mid-spring twilight before me, the beauty of the vibrantly colored clouds overhead, and even the budding trees that lined the streets. While it was a victim of the heinously flawed American zoning system, it was a pleasant neighborhood to walk through, and I allowed myself a few minutes to let my mind wander aimlessly before I arrived home.
As per usual, I greeted my parents as I entered, exchanging a few words with them before heading up to my room, unpacking my things, before heading into the shower with a change of sleep clothes.
While there was an argument to be made that I should shower in the morning, due to how humans sweat in their sleep, however, I disagreed with that notion for three reasons. I found it easier to incorporate a nighttime shower into my schedule. It felt nice to be clean after going some place as germ-riddled as a public school. And there was something deeply refreshing and relaxing about bathing to mark the end of the day. Yet, as I casually looked down at my naked body, scrubbing it with my usual body wash, I felt a faint sense of… arousal.
Just seeing the water trickle down my smooth brown body, my small breasts resting on my chest, and scrubbing up my bony hips— It was all routine and mundane, but it felt like a part of me was seeing this for the first time. I will admit that I was proud of my body and considered myself to be an attractive woman, but this level of self-attraction was the latest in the list of things that felt ‘off’ throughout the day. I briefly pinched my nipple as I felt these feelings, hoping that would be enough to satiate my teenage libido, but it continued as I washed my hair and as I changed into my sleep clothes. Hell, it even persisted as I did more design work for Project: Love & Souls, my nipples drifting in and out of an erect state over the span of hours.
By 22:00, after my parents turned in for the night, I accepted that something needed to be done about my libido, and I knew exactly what I needed.
I sifted through my closet, digging past various doodads for a plastic shoebox-sized container that I used to store my ‘adult toys’ and produced a purple vibrator. A present Maxxie got for me on my sixteenth birthday. While I was typically inclined to use my fingers to stimulate myself, this felt like an instance where I needed some extra assistance.
With my door shut, I stripped and looked down at my naked form, the silicone wand aimed at the moist slit between my legs. My body was ready for such an event, and I readied my mind by reciting one of Maxxie’s favorite idioms.
“Sex and masturbation are some of the only things that make life worth living!”
And so I began. Keeping the vibrator on a gentle hum as I circled around my labia. Shuttering my eyes as I immersed myself in the sensations flowing throughout my body. And bringing a hand to my breast, caressing it and delicately rubbing my fingers across my areola.
My mind flashed back to memories of Maxxie and I. How she would pleasure my body as we spent our nights together, and how I would do the same to her. When I learned of masturbation, I thought it was shameful, dehumanizing, and vulgar. Yet she taught me the truth, how to enjoy myself in a manner both primal and pure, and where my body was the most sensitive.
Once my body was primed, I turned up the intensity, sending a wave of electric pleasure throughout my form. If I was home by myself, I would have vocalized my pleasure, but with my parents on the same floor, I felt the need to muffle my moans and force my mouth shut. A restriction that, ultimately, made the whole thing way sexier..
As my heart raced and my body neared an apex, I turned down the intensity of the vibrator and brought it upwards, past my labia and toward my clitoris. My molars dug into my tongue during these forty-five seconds of ecstasy before a small trickle of fluid burst from my urethra, dripping onto the washcloth I had splayed out on my bed. Habit inspired me to bring this damp rag to my face, where it smelled of sweat, my fruity body wash, and the sweet juices my body naturally produced. It was my scent and sniffing it sent a pulse of satisfaction through my being. I contemplated going an additional round, but with the clock already reading 22:22, I opted to clean up and go to bed.
While wrapped up in my sheets, engrossed in the dark of the night, I allowed my mind to wander, and it chose to wander around myself and about how… good my life was.
I had a loving mother and father. I was born into a comfortable economic situation. I had an incredible group of friends that I loved so dearly I considered them part of my family. I had good grades and excellent prospects for the world of continued education. And I have a fulfilling hobby where I create things that are not only enjoyed by thousands, but learn a bevy of unique and useful skills.
I was fulfilled.
I was content.
And there was nothing in this world that I truly wanted for.
With that final thought, my eyes shuttered, and I drifted off to sleep.
The Dominance of Abigale Quinlan Main Page
Shard 00: The Novus Logs Volumes 1 & 2
Shard 01: 108 Days Later
Shard 02: Melancholic Mundanity
Shard 03: Another Day; Another Doubt
Shard 04: Fractured Family
Shard 05: Troublesome Tuesday
Shard 06: Despair And Die
Shard 07: The Enigmatic Sickness
Shard 08: The Erotic Fantasy (Osananajimi;Myself Part 3700)
Shard 09: The Egregious Downfall
Shard 10: The Oransen High Massacre
Shard 11: The Dark Metamorphosis
Shard 12: The Dominant Reflection
Shard 13: My Life As Jadigale Novus
Shard 14: Fade Unto Dusk
Shard 15: Re;Birth Unto Jade
Shard 16: Gender Reveal Party
Shard 17: Enter The Three Wives (Psycho Bullet Festival 2222 – Bout 21-2)
Shard 18: Novus X – Ten Years Later