Project ZEAL

The following scene is a work in progress by Symmetry. At the time of writing, its placement in the grand scheme of the work was undetermined.

Scene #B - An Evening Above the Stars (Symmetry)

Covering her mouth as she yawned, Naomi slouched her posture as she sat upon a sofa in her mother's room, nearly sliding off the divan as she waited impatiently for the enchantress to finish dressing for the gala being held at the palace later in the evening. Although she had no great love of such social events, Sessimine had insisted that she attend. Not wishing to disappoint her mother and seeing the occasion as an easy way to earn the favour she struggled endlessly to obtain, Naomi agreed to accompany the elder Maruyama to the ball and had even already dressed herself appropriately by donning the pink subfusc she wore everyday to class over a simple coral-coloured gown worn by novice enchantresses on formal occasions. Unable to focus her mind on any one train of thought for very long, the student let her eyes wander about the room aimlessly, her vision repeatedly returning to one of the portraits hanging from the wall until she was finally able to remain concentrated on one subject.


Sessimine replied from behind her dressing screen, her voice slightly muffled due to something in her mouth.. "Yes, dear?"

"That man..." Naomi paused, unable to speak momentarily, then finally forced something barely coherent out. "... absolutely wonderful!"

There was no doubt in Sessimine's mind as to whom her daughter was referring to. "He is, isn't he? Whenever I have a nightmare or some other unpleasant thought late at night, I just turn to that portrait and instantly my fears are gone -- although I usually end up losing sleep over continually staring at him, but that's far more preferable than losing sleep over something horrible! I suppose you meant to ask me just who he was, however, didn't you?"

"Huh?" The student continued to stare semi-mindlessly, her mother's comments entering one ear and exiting the other.

The elder Maruyama giggled as she peered out from behind her screen at her daughter. "Dear, if you blink once in awhile, you can ogle over that portrait longer."

Naomi snapped out of her trance. "What? I am not ogling over anything! I'm merely... admiring respectfully, that's all!"

The enchantress smiled as she disappeared once more from plain view. "Admiring respectfully, hmm? Fabulous excuse, my dear... I'll have to remember that one! Anyway, as you were undoubtedly about to ask, that beautiful work of art is none other than the very lovely [INSERT FULL NAME HERE]. [NAME], as you might have reasonably deduced had your mental capabilities been free, was the single male Provost of the School of Enchantment. Besides unquestionably being the finest specimen the other gender ever had to offer, he was arguably the most talented enchanter in the history of the art. [NAME]'s work revolutionized the way charms were studied and altered the way enchantresses viewed themselves and the world around them."

"How so?"

"How so? How so!" Sessimine stepped out from her screen with one hand wrapped firmly around her hip, the other pointing at Naomi in condemnation. "What do you mean, how so? Had you kept up with your studies and read my work, you would know!"

"Eep!" Naomi covered her mouth; she had unintentionally confessed to something she did not plan to reveal.

The elder Maruyama sighed as she turned away and pointed at one of the portraits on the wall. "Seeing as how you've neglected even to read the exciting work of your own mother, I suppose I'll give you a generous - yet brief - overview of my magnum opus, [INSERT TITLE OF BOOK HERE]. This lovely middle-aged woman you see here is Miss Berenyi Fujima, the first Provostia of the School of Enchantment. As you may or may not realize, our art is the youngest of the five divisions of magic; for a long time, charms were merely considered to be a subdivision of sorcery. After the creation of the Mammon Machine some twelve-thousand years ago, Zeal entered a phrase of unparalleled scientific enlightenment and for nearly six-thousand years afterward this enlightenment had a profound impact on our kingdom's culture. You see, the focus of the enlightenment was on the power of reason and its role in conceptualizing new ideas under which the entire universe were governed. This focus on becoming more and more rational overrode personal desires and human emotion; the passions were all but abandoned and cultural achievements such as the arts came to a standstill. It was in this time that Berenyi, appearing seemingly out of thin air, became an influential voice in Zeal by advocating the value of the passions once more. This return to a focus on the relevance of human emotion eventually gave birth to the School of Enchantment, which Miss Fujima was appointed the first Provostia of -- despite the fact she was utterly and completely devoid of any personal charms and charisma herself. It was said of her that men would fall in love with her at a distance only to quickly fall out of love upon hearing her ceaseless complaining and commandeering; in fact, there's even a spell named after her which grants its caster a similar aura!"

"Interesting. So whatever happened to Berenyi, given the lack of charisma? I bet she didn't hold the post of Provostia very long."

"No, she didn't. Miss Fujima was a tremendously powerful sorceress, but she simply didn't have what it took to be a successful enchantress. She is relevant to our art not because of her power, but rather because of who she was. In a time where emotion was being rejected as a legitimate expression of our humanity, Berenyi advocated that there was no greater value than that of self-love."

Naomi grinned. "You mean vanity, right? Now that you mention this, it's starting to sound familiar."

"Precisely. Calling her vain really doesn't do her arrogance justice; however, despite her flaws, Berenyi was vital to the resurgence of the passions within Zealian culture, although few outside our art accepted her claims that self-love was the end-all-be-all to our existence. Still..." Sessimine hung momentarily on the final letters of the word before continuing on. "...the School of Enchantment was very... different then than it is now. In the beginning, there was no theory behind charms or illusions -- these had to be created and borrowed from other disciplines, and it would still be several generations before our order would begin this process. For nearly a hundred years after Berenyi mysteriously disappeared, the School of Enchantment was little more than a social club for bored aristocratic housewives. It was not until... ahem... the very lovely [NAME] became an influential figure within the kingdom did our discipline begin to take on the theories you are familiar with and earn the respect it so rightfully deserved as a distinguished arcane art!"

After turning back to Naomi to make sure her daughter was still listening and engaged in the all but one-sided conversation, the elder Maruyama continued to recount the history of the school she oversaw. "[NAME], besides being wonderfully beautiful as we've both suggested many times now, was well-known and respected for his intelligence and wisdom, despite his lack of training in the arcane sciences -- a point his detractors and those envious of his influence routinely pointed out. In an effort to silence his critics, he enrolled in the School of Enchantment -- the mystic art he considered to be the most practical -- and blazed through what little curriculum existed at the time. Unfortunately for [NAME], but fortunately for us, his detractors were quick to point out he chose the least demanding of all the arcane colleges to study. Frustrated with his naysayers constant criticisms, but realizing that in reality that they were true to some extent, [NAME] decided to undertake a task that would once and for all prove his talents -- to transform the Zealian Lonely Housewives' Social Circle & Cotillion Society into a fully-functioning educational facility." The enchantress grinned, amused with her own wit. The Zealian Lonely Housewives' Social Circle & Cotillion Society... what a brilliant name for am opera! I'll have to remember that one... "In any case, [NAME] disappeared from public view for nearly five years before finally emerging from his self-imposed solitude, having written a slew of books concerning theories behind the art of enchantment... I suppose it goes without saying that he was successful in passing on what he learned from his compilations, although sadly, he was never successful in obtaining the approval of the critics he sought to win; it was only several generations later that the importance and the far-reaching effects of [NAME}'s work were fully appreciated."

The younger Maruyama glanced over the handsome man's portrait one last time before the image of another one of the school's headmistresses caught her eye. Like all of the other women immortalized on the bedroom's wall, she was very beautiful, but something about the academic diva bothered her -- something Naomi couldn't quite put her finger on. After staring at the portrait for a few minutes while her mother finished getting dressed, the exact source of her uneasiness finally struck her, but just as she was about to inquire into the woman's identity, a knock came from the door.

"Naomi, please see who that is. It should be one of the prince's aides or someone to escort us to the palace this evening."

The student's eyes widened as an expression of surprise overcame her relaxed visage. "An aide of the prince? You mean Prince Aias?!"

Sessimine replied, rolling her eyes -- a gesture that went unseen due to her location behind a dressing screen; however, from her tone of voice, anyone with even a passing knowledge of the enchantress could have guessed the motion of her visual organs. "No Naomi, the other prince. Of course I'm referring to Prince Aias! You are aware that the King only has one male heir, aren't you?"

"Yes, yes. I'm sorry... It's just that... Well, I wasn't aware you had any sort of personal relationship with his majesty. I mean, why would Prince Aias ask for your presence in particular at such an important social event as his sister's birthday?"

The elder Maruyama stepped out from behind the screen with an exasperated look on her face and her hands locked -- as usual -- firmly on her hips. "Why would Prince Aias ask for me presence at such an important social event? Why wouldn't he, is the question you should be asking! It's not like I'm..." Sessimine's rant was cut short by another knock on the bedroom's ingress. With lips clenched tightly, the enchantress lifted one of her hands from its position and pointed toward the source of the tapping sound. "Just... get... the door, okay?"

Naomi scurried to the door and answered it with a polite a grin on her face as she could have possibly mustered. "Er... Hello? May I help you?"

Acting as if he had not heard any of the two women's conversation -- although from the look on the man's face, it was obvious he had -- the attendant returned the polite expression with one of his own. "I am here to escort Miss Sessimine Chisato Maruyama and whoever may be accompanying her this evening to the palace. There is a carriage waiting for us just outside the college gates whenever she is ready."

The student turned back to her mother, who was now sitting at a dressing table, slowly applying makeup as if she had not a care in the world. Turning back toward the attendant, Naomi glanced one last time at her caretaker before replying. "I think she's going to be awhile. I'd ask you to come in, but I don't think mother would appreciate that. Why don't you wait outside in the carriage and I'll try to hurry her along as much as possible."

The aide grinned, impressed with the young woman's ability to resolve the situation. "Of course, madam. We'll be waiting patiently outside for you. Until then..." The young man removed his hat and took a deep bow before departing for the carriage. Tickled with herself, Naomi closed the door and sat back down on the sofa with an amused expression on her face. Having momentarily forgotten about the spat moments before, the young woman remained seated until Sessimine tossed several containers of makeup back into the drawer which she kept them and looked herself over one last time before standing up from her vanity and posing before her daughter.

"Well? How do I look? Not as if I really need to ask, but..."

Naomi rubbed her chin, actively noticing her mother's choice of clothing for the first time. For once, she was actually quite pleased -- impressed, even -- for the elder Maruyama had opted to wear something unquestionably modest by even the most conservative standards; after considering this for a moment, Naomi began to wonder why her mother's newfound sense of decency hadn't stuck her earlier. Sessimine's attire consisted of an dark purple kimono which left an unusually lengthy trail of silk behind her when walking, a violet undergarment which -- to Naomi's delight -- left everything to the imagination, and a golden sash and pair of gloves that she had chosen to wear solely because she had stumbled upon a similarly coloured vial of eyeshadow moments before.

"I like it, which coming from me, really means something, I guess. It looks... very traditional, yet sorta modern at the same time. I can't say I would have expected you to dress like that, but it fits at the same time... I don't think most people could pull off wearing a kimono."

"Obviously you haven't been paying attention to the latest fashion trends, although I appreciate the comment. The kimono is very stylish right now, at least if you're of the proper social standing; however, I don't think I've seen anyone wearing one long enough to pool about their feet -- those knee-length dresses have been the fashion staple so far." Content with her dress, Sessimine glanced back at the mirror, inspecting herself one last time, only to find an aspect of her appearance she had neglected. "Oh my! I nearly forgot!"

Naomi scratched her head. What could you have possibly forgotten? You're dressed to the nines as is..."And what would that be?"

"My hair! The last time I met with the prince, I took the liberty of rummaging through his mind a little..."

The young woman gasped, cutting the elder Maruyama off. "Mother! That's terrible! You can't do that to a member of the royal family!"

Sessimine dismissed Naomi's objection with a few nonchalant waves of her hand. "Calm down, calm down... Of course I don't make a habit of invading Prince Aias' mental privacy; however, being the loyal and submissive subject I am, I want to tend to his needs the best I possibly can."

"And what, might I ask, does this have to do with your hair?"

"Prince Aias swoons over brunettes."

"Mother! You're not going to..." Before the student could finish the objection, Sessimine bowed over quickly, flailing her hair about wildly before standing straight once more, her inky locks having lightened up several degrees to a deep brown colour. Frustrated, Naomi continued her rant. "You can't just go changing your appearance whenever you like! Don't you think that's just a little dishonest?"

"Dishonest?" Sessimine eyed her daughter bewilderedly. "First of all, I have never -- nor has anyone in our art -- championed the value of truth. The truth can be repugnant and uninviting, the very traits any enchantress with the slightest notion of her proper role seeks to avoid! I'm not suggesting we should lie whenever it suits us, but to value truth for the sake of truth is just.... well, silly -- perhaps foolish, even! Secondly, my powers as an enchantress are part of who I am. My capacity to change my appearance as I see fit is a legitimate aspect of my persona as my incredibly clever wit. There's nothing dishonest about changing the colour of my hair to impress someone -- especially if that someone in question is a member of the royal family! And finally... well, silver just does not pair well with brown!"

A look of confusion manifested itself upon Naomi's face. She frequently had trouble trying to follow her mother's twisted sense of logic, but sometimes it was simply impossible to decipher the meaning behind the enchantress' statements. "Pardon me?"

"My hair! What else would I be talking about? Remember those icy sparkles that annoy you so much?"

"Oh yes! Now I see what you're saying. Yes, you should do something about that. Silver and brown don't go together very well, you know."

Sessimine rolled her eyes and stared at herself in the mirror for several minutes, mumbling to herself until the solution finally occurred to her. "Eureka! I've got it!"

Now it was Naomi's turn to roll her eyes. "You mean you've discovered the obvious solution of removing the dye from your hair?"

"Of course not! That would be far too pedestrian for someone like me!" With a smirk on her face, the elder Maruyama ran a hand through her hair; several swoops later, the silver dye had turned golden to match the rest the accessories of her outfit. "There! Now what to do you think? Marvelous, no? I think it makes me look at least a hundred years younger, if I do say so myself!"

"I think you should present yourself to Prince Aias as you are and let him love you with all of your flaws."

Sessimine's eyes widened before her jaw could make its way toward the floor. "Oh... my... Naomi Maruyama, I don't even know where to begin! Suggesting that I have flaws is bad enough, but suggesting that love has anything to do with this... I... I... You! Banish such preposterous ideas from your confused mind! I would never do something as foolhardy as falling in love -- that's entirely beneath me! I'll have you know that Prince Aias asked me to the ball this evening because I have been interpreting his dreams lately! His majesty is merely finding a way to reciprocate the services I have provided for him so generously!"

And generous services I'm sure they were!

"I know what you're thinking, Naomi -- nothing of the sort took place! Now enough of this! We shouldn't be arguing on the eve of such a delightful occasion! I look wonderful and you look wonderful, so we should be on our way. Agreed?" The elder Maruyama extended both hands toward her daughter, who was still seated firmly upon the sofa. Trying to repress a smile, Naomi allowed her mother to aid her to her feet and straightened out the wrinkles in her gown.

"Agreed. No more arguing."

"Excellent!" Sessimine kissed the young woman on her cheek. "Let's be off. I do believe we've provided the prince's attendants with entertainment long enough."

"What do you mean? They're waiting for us in the carriage, which is supposed to be parked outside the school, right?"

Her back to the door, the enchantress grinned as she snapped one of her fingers. Seconds later, the same aide who had requested the two ladies' presence earlier stepped into the room. "Oh cute - another eavesdropper! Naomi, you wouldn't happen to remember what I did to the last person who snooped on me, do you?"

"Mother, don't be cruel! Think delightful occasions!"

With arms crossed, the enchantress looked her daughter over and then turned to the overly curious servant, giving him the same icy yet playful stare. "Well! Looks like you're getting off easy this time, aren't you? A little advice, however... Stick to carriage driving and upholstery -- you make for a lousy spy." Smiling innocently, Sessimine tapped the captivated attendant on the shoulder and pointed toward the door. "Shall we be off?"

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