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Ut0p1a
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Ghost Stories
Grave Importance
See Through To It


The World of Hybrids
The Stuff of Legends
The Birth of Legends [Worldbuilding]
Ideal With It
A Little Harmony
Out of My League


The World Made From A Wish
Type-Casting
The Final Front


Of Mana and Ether
Witch One?


Sisters of One Mind
An Open Book
Ever Mindful


Paths of a Fashion
Crossing Paths
Parallel Paths


Zzz... (Old, Iffy, Unsorted)
Focus
The World Was Made From A Wish
A Curious Kind of Tree





Up to Code

I woke up feeling weird.

I had no idea what time it was. So I looked to my left -

No, to my left -

My left -

As much as I tried, my head would not turn the way I wanted it to. Quickly realizing what was wrong, I closed my eyes again and sighed, wondering if I could just sleep the rest of the day.

I wasn't in the mood for yet another glitch.

——

I eventually made the effort to get out of bed, and one more "eventually" later, I was up - then just barely stopped myself from falling off the side. I noticed my roommate was watching me bemusedly; I wasn't sure how long she'd been doing that.

"Really not a morning person, are you," she noted with a fake yawn.

"I try to be...", I muttered, though she definitely got up earlier than I ever did. "I'm usually better at getting out of bed than that. It's just... I've got another glitch."

"Oh," Lily said, in a way that was hard to qualify - was it disinterested? Or concerned? Or "what, another?" Probably just couldn't tell because I was sleepy.

"See, my whole... everything's backwards," I explained. "Try to move something one way, and it goes the other. Weird, huh? Why do you think a -"

"Don't ask me," she shrugged. "...Ever had that one before, Lina?"

I shook my head, then paused momentarily since it hadn't been in the direction I'd meant it, but quickly realized it didn't matter. "Brand new. Gotta be ready for everything, huh...?", I sighed with a strained smile.

Lily definitely didn't look interested; I guess it just took a little waking up for me to notice. She didn't say another word, so I backed off and left her to her own business.

That was how things always went between us, generally. Anybody could tell just looking at us that Lily and I were not a proper match: her being such a stoic and stunning figure, and me being some cottontailed dork...

There had even been a survey thing for roommates, too, so I really feel like that should have kept this arrangement from ever happening. But something probably went wrong, like it always does.

Still... sometimes I was really glad for it.

I booted up my computer, mostly out of habit - after all, I felt like I wouldn't be able to accomplish anything on it today. I just laid back in my chair, already feeling exhausted.

This was one debilitating glitch. And was it even worth it to make the effort of getting used to the difference? Wouldn't it screw me up just as much the next day, once it got fixed?

...Actually, would it even be fixed by tomorrow? Could I know that for sure?

I sighed at the thought. "I'm gonna call an admin," I said out loud, I guess to Lily.

She turned halfway to me. "Got an emergency?"

"It kinda feels like one..."

"Well, you better tell them that with a teensy bit more conviction," she advised, turning back.

I reached for the phone with my left hand, which I again hadn't intended but thought didn't matter. At least until the phone slipped right out of my grasp, and I remembered why it did.

I looked at the hand. The textures on it were still failing to load, making it effectively frictionless. It had been that way for... how many days, now? Really annoying.

I picked the phone back up with my good hand and slowly dialed the number, checking to make sure I remembered it right, and soon heard the familiar neutral voice.

"You have reached the Personal Afflictions Help Desk. What is your malfunction?"

I nervously answered. "I, um, I've got a glitch. A few, actu -"

"Is this an emergency?"

"Uh... w-well..." I stammered, then shouted, "I-It kinda feels like one!"

Lily immediately started coughing. I looked back at her in worry, wondering if she had a hairball in her throat, but mentally chastised myself for the very thought.

"Is everything all right, miss?"

"N-Not exactly!", I answered, focusing on the call once more. "If you don't fix this glitch I have soon, uh... my roommate might choke!"

"Please," Lily groaned at me, quickly regaining her composure.

"Tell us the nature of your glitch."

"Well, it's just like, if I try to move my right arm, I move my left! And if I turn my head, it turns the other way, um... does that make sense? Oh yeah, and it's not just the one -"

"Thank you for your cooperation. This information has been added to our records."

And with that, the call ended. I don't know what I was expecting - that was how it always ended, and it never seemed to mean much of anything.

Even when I called in directly with my glitches, they weren't always fixed by the time when I went to bed for the next patch. That's how it was supposed to work, and how everyone else said it did... but evidently not for me.

And whenever the patching of my glitches was uncertain, and productivity seemed impossible... my path was clear.

"Good night, Lily."

She looked at the clock. "That's a ways off, but thanks, Lina."

——

I woke up and looked to my left.

Ahhh. Good.

I sat up in bed and looked at my hand: also fixed. It felt like a miracle whenever my glitches got fixed quickly... although I wasn't sure yet just how long I'd slept.

I always seemed to get the short end of the stick when it came to glitches. Everyone I ever asked about it said they didn't get that many, and they weren't that bad, and they got fixed quickly. I disagreed on all three counts.

It kind of made sense, though. Sure, I could never figure out why I got so many. But if I was the only one getting certain glitches, and so many to boot... I wasn't exactly at the front of the priority queue, was I.

But now wasn't the time to think about that. With those glitches fixed overnight(s?), I could actually accomplish something today. I hopped out of bed and tried to talk with Lily while my computer booted up.

"Hey Liyl, those glitches got fxie - I mean, fixde - fiiixeeed."

She gave me an odd look. "Cat got your tongue?", she asked, then grabbed her tongue to illustrate.

I glared at her. "...That's not evne close to funyn. Funnyyy." Not only that, it was downright uncharacteristic, but I was in no condition to spell that word.

"You're right, I'm sorry," she said, looking sincerely apologetic, then briefly paused. "That was in poor taste. ...Get it? Taste?"

I put on my earphones. "Not even listneing anymore."

Despite this, she kept trying to talk to me. "I'm just trying to lighten the mood... you know, help in some way. Because every time you get hit by a new glitch, you just seem so..." Seeing I was ignoring her, she trailed off. "Well, I don't know."

"Anyway," Lily interjected, standing up, "I need to get going. Take care around here."

She quickly got her things in order and was out the door. Boy, what a coincidence she had to leave now... I guess neither of us wanted to talk.

I stared at the computer screen. I wanted to draw something while I had a good opportunity to practice, but I was drawing only a blank. It was always hard to get started, even when theoretically nothing stood in my way - so could you fault me for not even wanting to try whenever I had glitches to deal with, too?

Before long, I opened up my closet and looked through my clothes for inspiration. A dress with blocky textures... a pleated skirt with an undefined number of pleats... a "top" which actually extended infinitely downward... nothing new, really.

Yes, my clothes would often get glitched as well. I didn't even need to be wearing them at the time. Even when I just left my wardrobe alone, it seemed to change regularly with bizarre patterns. I don't know if it was contagious or what.

It was rather hit-and-miss. Sometimes the glitched apparel was appreciated and served as a cool piece of fashion, and sometimes glitches would ruin my favorite dress... uh, and sometimes my favorite dress would be a glitched one.

But anyway. While my weird wardrobe was a common source of artistic inspiration for me, it wasn't doing the trick today. So I went with my other last resort: doodling cats.

I just... liked drawing cats.

Still, I felt it was no way to improve as an artist. I could never focus on one project for long, and that felt like the biggest problem keeping me from improving. So whenever possible, I wanted to devote more effort to single drawings.

Thus... instead of doodling cats, I spent hours drawing one cat.

I got so into it that I didn't notice Lily until she started talking.

"Oh, are you drawing something? Hey, could you draw me?" She chuckled to herself. "Just kidding, I know you don't... uh..."

She trailed off as she came up behind me. I looked at her, then back at the picture, then back again.

Trying to hide my red face, I fixed her hair color to be a little darker.

"...Ahem." She coughed, turning away and settling into her side of the room as if nothing was amiss. "Proceed."

——

That night, I couldn't sleep.

It had nothing to do with Lily. If feeling awkward sleeping in the same room as her or just thinking about her could keep me awake, I would've been sleepless nearly every night. No, I was sure it was a glitch.

And that was just too much. A glitch that kept me from even getting my glitches patched. How much worse could you possibly get?

Giving up on going to bed for the time being, I went searching online for something that could help me. But I wasn't expecting much. Few seemed to have as much of a glitch problem as I did, and those that did never got answers much better than "wait for the admins to fix it."

However, a search for "can't sleep insomnia night glitch please how to fix" finally turned something up.

"is anyone else getting a glitch where you just can't sleep? can I even get patched without sleeping??"

I excitedly scrolled down to see the best answers.

"I don't suppose you've got romance weighing on your mind? ;3"

I nearly snarled. No, you idiot, I already established that I...

But it continued. "Seriously, though, if you've got glitches that bad, maybe you might want to give sourcery a shot."

I stared at that word. What in the world was that? Why had I never heard of that?

If I hadn't been unable to sleep before, my searches from then on would have kept me up all night regardless.

I learned that sourcery was a technique that allowed a person to change... a lot of things, if they knew how to. It could be used to fix glitches. It was something anyone could theoretically learn.

And there was an introductory class being offered at my school for the coming quarter.

This was baffling. I knew I must have been missing something. How could no one have told me about this when it was right under my nose the whole time? Dubious, I searched for reviews from students who had taken the class.

"Easiest A I ever got! Great for filling your schedule."

"Gives underwater basket weaving a run for its money."

"Snooore."

Given my situation, that last one felt unintentionally spiteful.

So I was still confused. Was this class not as incredible as the subject matter was seeming? Or was it actually incredible, but also just that easy? Was there something about this I wasn't understanding in my sleep-deprived state?

Maybe I should wait, I thought, ask Lily if she knows anything. But the class was almost filled up already, so it might be too late by the time morning comes, especially if it's supposed to be easy...

All of a sudden, I kicked all that out of my head. This was the first light of hope in my life in... maybe ever. It looked like I could finally do something about this. I couldn't just let that chance go.

So I dropped a history class and signed up for Introduction to Sourcery.

Even at the time, I felt like it might have been too rash, but that wasn't important. The important thing was that things were going to change from here on out.

And I vowed that, no matter what happened, it would be for the better.

——

After a long night, I was rewarded with the rare sound of Lily yawning.

"Huh, you're up early," she noted curiously, stretching.

"Oh yeah, I'ev been up sinec... uh... reeealyl early."

"...Ah. I see," she solemnly remarked.

She sat on the side of her bed. "I'm going to guess it was a glitch that kept you up all night. But it wasn't too bad, I hope?"

"Uh... I guess not...", I mumbled out, surprised that Lily was engaging in conversation with me before even getting properly dressed.

Then I remembered, as if I'd somehow forgotten: "Oh yeah! I signde up for a sourcery class!"

"A sourcery class!", Lily repeated in surprise. "You mean, next quarter?"

"Yeah, but I had to drop Histroy to get it on my scheudle - wait, hold on." I held my forehead. "Why did I not just kepe the history class until I was sure that I really wnated to take the..."

"No, don't worry. I believe you made an excellent choice," she assured me. "A sourcery class sounds like a great idea. I should have thought to suggest it earlier, but I thought you might have already known."

I looked up at her. "Do you, uh, know more about it? I knda don't."

Lily seemed unusually shy all of a sudden, reaching for her neck. "Oh, well... Not that much. I suppose it's..." She became a bit more confident as she found the words. "It's good for those who don't just want to put up with what they're initialized with."

I lowered my head. "Well, maybe that's the kind of person I sohuld be, huh... But I was initialized really young, and I've just been putting up with sutff the whole time."

"Were you, now?", she asked, more interested in my initialized age than the other part. "I was initialized at 15, myself."

"Huh, lucky."

She blinked at me. "Why do you say that?"

That startled me, and reminded me that I was talking to Lily. "Oh, uh... I dunon, really? It just sorta came to mind. I'm tired."

"Well, I know that," she said under her breath. "But do you personally think it's better to be initialized older?"

"I guess... yeah, sorta." I struggled to explain why I felt the way I did. "It kinda means you don't have to put up with a lot of childhood stuff, doens't it?"

"What's your definition of "childhood stuff," first of all?"

Now she had to be playing around with me, I thought. "You know, stuff that hppaens in your childhood? I kinda wish I didn't have to deal with a lot of dumb parts, so..."

Lily shrugged. "If you say so. Anyway, it's not like I didn't live through those years. I was just initialized after them. My childhood never struck me as that bad, just... unremarkable."

"Is that hwo it works?", I wondered. "You still live those years, no matter what age you're initailized at?"

"It's how I remember it," she flatly replied.

It sounded off to me, but I didn't want to press any further; she wouldn't appreciate me questioning her memories. I shifted the subject a little. "I always wodnered, how do people get initailized? They come in all difefrent ages and types, so how's that decided?"

"That's awfully existential of you. Well, who can say?", she shrugged. "But as for the latter part... randomly, I'm sure," she suggested with a hint of disdain. "It's all luck of the draw... and some aren't so lucky."

Yeah... You got that right.

She seemed to be getting fed up with this discussion. I hadn't even meant to start a real conversation with her, it just happened. I blamed my sleepiness - I was definitely sleepy.

I yawned. "Well, um... sorry I bothered you. Honestly, I really just wanna slepe..."

"Hmm," Lily nodded. "You know, I doubt that glitch could be completely preventing you from sleeping. At worst, it's just making it very difficult."

"Really? How can you tell?"

"Well..." She scratched her head. "Just think of all the things that would have to get messed with to make sleep absolutely impossible. Could a simple glitch do all of that?"

I drowsily nodded. "Yeah... Probbaly..."

She walked over, grabbed my shoulders, and looked at me seriously. "Lina, if you're going to fight back against your glitches, you can't believe that."

I looked away from her eyes. "...Yeah, you're right. But I treid to sleep for hours last night..."

"But you're even sleepier now, surely?", she reminded. "Can you think of anything that would help relax you further?"

"Relax me...?"

Too sleepy to use reason, I pointed at Lily.

She sighed, but was smirking as if she'd expected it all along. "Very well."

And with that, I was asleep in no time.

——

Finally, the day came for my first Introduction to Sourcery class.

Since I was determined to start things off right, I wore my favorite dress: one which would flutter at random times as if blown by a breeze, without any kind of breeze. I don't think any of my classmates noticed, though, either in a good or bad way.

Taking a look at the other students before class started, I couldn't help feeling that I was the odd one out, even if I wasn't sure exactly how yet. Though... that also wasn't exactly a feeling unique to this class.

The teacher, Professor Meyer, arrived right on time, handed out a syllabus, and got straight into it.

"Welcome to SRC 101, Introduction to Sourcery," she began. "A mere primer on the subject of sourcery, and a vast subject it is."

She slowly trotted from one end of the room to the other. "Some consider this class to be a joke. And in a way, it is true - in comparison to the later, more demanding courses."

"But before anything else, let me make one thing clear." She stopped mid-trot for dramatic effect and faced the class. "Sourcery is no joke. It must always, always be handled with care and responsibility."

After this, she dropped the stern tone and fell back into a comparably rather bored-sounding one. "On that note, I suppose I should ask. How many among you plan to take further classes in this subject?"

I hesitated a little. I'd seen there were more advanced classes, but I just wanted to focus on first steps, rather than thinking too far ahead...

Still, I raised my hand. I noticed not many others did.

"Interesting," she remarked with little interest to be found in her voice. I felt like she was looking toward me, though.

My suspicions were confirmed when she came over to my desk in the front row. "Your name?"

"L-Lina Brackett."

"And you say you'll continue in this field? I repeat: interesting. Perhaps we'll be seeing a lot of each other," she said dryly, and with a smile halfway between pleased and amused. "Oh, and about your dress..."

My face brightened at once at the mere mention of it. "Oh, thanks for noticing! It's my favorite, but I didn't think anyone -"

"Don't wear that in my class again, please. It's distracting."

Oh. Embarrassed, I kept my hands firmly on my lap to keep it from fluttering too much. Then again, how distracting could it really be if none of the students seemed to notice? A few of them even seemed confused about how it was "distracting." But if it distracted the teacher... well.

Anyway, not long after that, Professor Meyer began the lesson proper.

"If we're to talk about sourcery, then it should be obvious where we need to begin: the entire means by which it is even possible. I'm referring, of course, to the Exploit."

She changed the slide, and I was assaulted with a wall of confusing words that seemed to make little sense together. I hurried to write it all down in my notes as she explained.

"These are the commands that make up the Exploit, allowing any kind of sourcery to be performed. Without a doubt, you must never forget these if you're to use sourcery with any regularity."

A boy raised his hand - I wasn't paying much attention, but I think he was one of the other ones who said they wanted to continue beyond this class. "Where does the name Exploit come from?"

"That's... difficult to say," Meyer replied, seeming to consider it deeply. "Though we have retained knowledge of sourcery for many ages, the circumstances of its discovery have been lost to time.

"However, you may be familiar with the term in computing, which derives its name from the Exploit. There, it refers to something that allows users to do things which were never intended - in most cases, it grants someone much greater control than they were ever meant to have."

Someone else raised their hand. "But aren't those exploits usually patched?"

Mrs. Meyer paused. "...Only if there is someone to patch them."

While this discussion was going on, I was still trying to copy down the commands. I don't know what it was; my hands were shaky, I couldn't spell right, my pencil kept outright failing to write.

But more than that, I just couldn't... focus. For as determined as I was to succeed in this class, and for how important Professor Meyer said this Exploit was, focusing was proving impossibly difficult.

Was this just like that night I couldn't fall asleep? Were my glitches too much of an obstacle for me to even learn how to fix them?

Or even worse than that. What if I couldn't blame this on glitches? What if it was just... me?

Maybe worrying about this was half the reason I couldn't focus. So I just put it out of mind.

The lesson continued, and I started feeling a lot better. This was nothing difficult, I thought, not yet. I could manage this. I could do something with this.

I thought so, at least, until I had to start putting these things into practice.

——

Our class a few meetings later started off oddly.

"This is a pencil." Mrs. Meyer placed it on the desk in the front of the class, then was silent.

After we'd stared enough at the pencil and at her, she continued. "Yes, you're right, it's obvious. Anyone could tell you that this is a pencil. But pencils are not all exactly the same, and not all aspects of it are visible, either."

She picked it up. "But let's start with what's visible. We can see the color of a pencil, but are not allowed to change that color after it's already been made with one."

All of a sudden, it turned from yellow to blue. "Except when we are."

Those who were invested in the class - it had quickly become apparent who those people were - were quite impressed, and that included me. Pencils were relatively boring, but imagining how much further it could extend, it was clear how incredible sourcery could be.

Meyer put the pencil down on my desk. "So we'll be starting simple. I've taught you some basics, so see what you can do with this pencil. Don't worry, it really doesn't have to be anything big."

"Er..." I coughed. "You want me to go first, Professor Meyer?"

"You seemed raring to go to me."

No, I think you just misread me being really anxious about having to go first, instead of getting to watch someone else do it before me... Okay, okay. I can do this.

I closed my eyes and activated the Exploit, which I'd miraculously managed to memorize already. I found the pencil in front of me, and was able to sense some of its qualities. Now I just needed to decide what to -

"W-What the heck is that?!"

I was broken out of concentration by a classmate beside me practically screaming. I stopped and turned to look at him, and he just cowered in fear. I looked at Mrs. Meyer, and she was staring blankly.

"Um... what was that about?", I asked. "...Oh! Did I change anything with the pencil?"

Meyer picked the object up and stared at it. "You turned it into a pen."

"...Is that a good thing?"

She sighed one of the loudest sighs I'd ever heard. "Arguable." Then she chucked the new pen in the trash, which seemed to imply that "it was a good thing" was the tougher argument.

She procured a backup pencil and began having everyone else try what I had failed. Meanwhile, I quietly asked the boy next to me why he'd screamed.

"Uhh... It was like... Your face went all weird," he explained, seemingly unsure how to describe it. "It was like... part here, part there..." He tried to illustrate with his hands.

"Oh, that sounds like a glitch," I told him, a little relieved. "I get a lot of those."

"...Huh," he said, then turned away. I wondered if maybe he was still scared of me.

Naturally, no one else had any major problems to speak of changing aspects of the pencil. Somebody even turned it into a mechanical one, which I took issue with, because how was that fine and a pen not? Though I didn't get as far as saying it out loud.

The rest of the class passed without incident until the end of it, when Mrs. Meyer told me this: "Miss Brackett, if you can spare the time, I would suggest coming to my office."

I had plenty of time to spare, and was very willing to devote it to improving at sourcery. I needed as much improvement as I could get.

——

Professor Meyer seemed almost relieved when I entered her office. "Good, you came." She produced a pencil. "Try this again, without someone who will distract you this time. I just want to make sure."

I tried to do just what I'd done in class... well, the first part, at least. However, I was having trouble even getting the Exploit to work this time.

"Uh, give me a second..." I reached into my bag and got out my notes, looked them over, then tried again.

And again.

It wasn't my memory that was at fault. I was just unable to say - spell? - the commands correctly, even in my own mind. I put my head in my hands and groaned.

"...Are you all right?", Mrs. Meyer asked concernedly.

I didn't answer her. I just kept trying at it until finally, it succeeded. But now I was worried. Would I be able to do this properly if I'd had so much trouble with the "easy" part? I found the pencil -

There was a loud bang. I opened my eyes, and the pencil was... in pieces.

"How did you even call an explode function?!", Meyer shouted.

I scratched my head. "Uh, yeah, wouldn't expect a pencil to have one of those..."

"It doesn't! I would know!" She sighed. "You're just... you have a lot of glitches, don't you?"

"Yeah," I sighed. I didn't know what more to say about that.

She seemed to be slowly considering what words to say. "Well, for... someone like you, this is going to be a lot harder. You'll likely meet a lot of added resistance."

"That sucks," I mumbled, slumping on her desk.

"...It's just how it goes," she consoled, barely.

"I guess I should've figured glitches would get in the way of fixing glitches, like they always do..."

"Hold on," she interrupted. "Is that your primary intent for taking my class, to fix your glitches?"

"Pretty much. And?"

"...First and foremost, that's a bit beyond the scope of the intro class," she informed me, with a hint of sadness in doing so. "And I would hardly suggest skipping ahead on your own, given... well, what I've said."

I should have been phenomenally disappointed, but I noticed not all was lost. "The intro class? So is it in SRC 102 or something?"

"Yes, that class does go into more depth on such topics as glitches and..."

"All right!" I did a fistpump. "Then consider me in SRC 102 next quarter!"

She didn't seem amused. "You still have a class to pass first." Yeah, you didn't need to remind me...

I went to leave, but then turned back around. "Oh, uh, one last thing. You're really good at sourcery, right? Couldn't you just fix my glitches?"

She made an exaggerated cough. "Miss Brackett."

"Yes?"

"When I look at you... I do not know where the glitches end and where the person begins. You are on your own."

——

Things went on like this for a while. Which is to say, not well.

It would have been one thing if I was just plagued with glitches. It would have been another thing if I was just doing terribly in class. But also, as much as Mrs. Meyer advised against it, I kept trying to fix my own glitches, and kept failing spectacularly at it.

I felt Lily rustling me. "Hey, Lina, wake up. Don't you have Sourcery class soon?"

"Not on today's schedule," I mumbled out.

"You dropped the class?", she asked concernedly.

I shook my head, annoyed. "No, no, I meant..." I sighed. "I just don't want to go to class today. It's too much."

"Okay," she said readily, which surprised me. Then she left me alone to continue lazing in bed.

It felt so relieving to not have to worry about Sourcery class, and for Lily to be okay with it. I'm not sure how long I lied there before something else crossed my mind.

"Uh, Lily... Don't you have any classes to get to?"

"Not on today's schedule," she happily replied.

"...Then... what is your schedule today?"

"Looking after you."

I sat up immediately and looked at her, stunned.

To be honest, I always thought Lily hated me. She was just nice enough not to say so. But... I guess for a while now, I'd been finding that it wasn't true.

"That out-of-character, is it?", she sighed. "We should talk."

"...Okay," I squeaked, cowering in my covers. "You go first."

Lily came over and sat on a chair near my bed. "I know I usually present myself a certain way," she began. "Stern, kind of bossy. Hard to approach."

"It's really all an act, though. And I'd rather not have to be that way." She looked down sadly. "But I want to be taken seriously as a woman, and that's the only way people will do both."

"Isn't that only one thing?", I asked, confused by her wording.

She shook her head. "Never mind that, we can talk about that some other time. It's not as important as this." She put a hand on me. "I don't want to act like that to you, Lina. You deserve someone who can help you, and that's what I'd rather be for you."

I was still taken aback. "So does that mean... you like me? Like, actually like me?"

"Don't sound so surprised," she replied, almost like a plea - she seemed pained realizing how much I'd doubted that to be the case. "You're a perfectly nice girl. Talented. ...And you're a whole lot more upfront than me about who you are. It's good."

"I guess that is good," I smiled bashfully, though obviously more excited to learn how Lily really felt.

"So," she said, uncrossing her legs. "What's been making you feel bad, and what can we do about it?"

Struggling to avoid the feeling that I was bothering her, telling myself that she was willingly giving up her own time to help me, I told Lily about a whole lot of things. All the glitches I'd been dealing with over the past weeks, how much trouble I was having focusing and learning in class, all my confrontations with Mrs. Meyer in and out of class, how I kept trying to fix my glitches with sourcery but usually just ended up making them worse because I had no idea how to do it.

I didn't know how to answer the second question, though.

Lily didn't have something to say about every little thing I mentioned, and when she did, often the most she could offer was "I'm sorry to hear that," "I know how that must feel," that kind of thing. Maybe she wasn't that sure about the second question either.

But when I was finally done, she asked me: "Well, what do you want to do now? You've got the day off."

I thought about it. "...Draw, I guess."

She smiled. "Then I think that might make you feel better."

Maybe she was right. But the truth was, I already felt a lot better.

——

Unfortunately, not everyone felt that I was "getting better."

I was coming to Mrs. Meyer's office regularly, and she would regularly tire of me. I only hoped there weren't other students who needed extra help, but if Meyer never used that as an excuse to get rid of me, then there probably weren't.

"We have class meetings for a reason, Miss Brackett," she groaned. "You would do well to listen then, rather than letting everything slip through your floppy ears. Assuming you even come to class in the first place..."

"I... I'm sorry. I can't always make it..." It was ambiguous enough to be true without getting into the reasons.

"I suppose I can't fault you for that," she conceded, giving up on pressing further. "But my point still stands. This is not meant to be a difficult class, so I hardly see why I need to teach you everything twice."

"I've been getting better at remembering, though! You can see that on my written quiz scores, right?"

"Not enough improvement that I can see it," she mumbled, leaning on one elbow. "And you're still coming here nearly every day."

"It's the execution where things go wrong," I admitted. "Didn't you tell me yourself? Of course my glitches will get in the way, but I just -"

"Miss Brackett," Meyer loudly interrupted. "Have you ever considered why you're so glitch-prone?"

She stared intently at me, frightening me a little. "N... no? Not really..."

"Hmph. ...Because you're broken to the core."

"Wh... what?", I stammered. As harsh a teacher as she was, I had never expected her to say anything like that... or maybe I'd just hoped that she never would.

She shook her head sadly. "I love to see my students go on to be proficient at fixing glitches. I really do. But you've failed to convince me I'll ever see it from you."

She stood up and paced around. "Sourcery is supposed to fix things. It's supposed to help us make good things happen when we would have no other way to do so. To make the impossible possible."

"But it's not the sort of thing where you can just wave a wand and expect results. Sourcery is like trying to patch tiny little holes in a sinking ship." She lowered her head. "And let me tell you, some ships are not worth saving."

She turned to me and glared. "In your hands... sourcery no longer strikes me as a solution to anything. You revel in glitches, and wreak only more in your pathetic attempts at fixing them. You're... you're..."

All of a sudden, her anger seemed to cool down significantly. She sat back down and put her head in her hands. "I just... I just hoped one of my students could fix this world someday. And I wish I'd been right about you."

I didn't know what to say. I was glad she stopped berating me, but... the damage was done, so to speak. And now I felt bad wondering what could have caused her to lash out like that.

"I'm sorry," she told me. "I didn't mean to take it out on you. But... the fact will remain that I grade all my students fairly. So I had better see you improve."

I nodded. "I'll try."

She seemed surprised I wasn't more affected by her outburst. Thinking a bit, she smiled and nodded back. "I hope you will, Miss Brackett."

——

Lily seemed to notice something was amiss as soon as I came in the door. "What happened?"

"Found out what Meyer really thinks of me," I sighed with a shrug. "...No big deal."

"Dang," she said, then was silent. "Guess now's a good a time as any to tell you I had her, too. Same class."

"So you did take Sourcery," I said aloud. I suppose it would've been reasonable to be a little upset that she never told me until now. But I'd had the feeling she took the class for a while, so it didn't bother me.

"I wasn't great at it. And I only took that first class, for the credits; I wasn't too interested in going further. Not really the admin type."

I raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean, admin type?"

Lily looked at me like I was stupid, but, uh... more affectionately. "You didn't even know? You've gotta learn to search better. Admins are basically just sourcery masters. ...But hardly anybody wants the job."

"Because..." It sunk in. "They have to fix everyone's glitches?"

"Exactly."

"I didn't even know admins were just regular people," I gawked. "I thought they were just, you know... initialized that way..."

"Nope," Lily said with a shake of her head. "People work their way up to the position. Or step down from it, like Meyer."

"She was an admin?!" Given the other revelation, I suppose it shouldn't have been that surprising - a former admin teaching prospective admins - but it was coming all too fast.

"Yeah... That's where my knowledge is spotty, though." Lily scratched her head. "I heard something happened while she was on the job, and before long, she'd quit. Not to mention left her husband."

"Her... wha...?" I was beyond shocked.

I mulled over the information, and at once felt terrible about a lot of things I'd thought in the past.

The admins weren't all-powerful, just regular people - yet they had to work out everyone's problems. And Mrs. Meyer not only had to deal with that, but something else that led to... well, what Lily said. I couldn't even imagine what.

"If that's true," I quietly began, "I guess I can't really blame Mrs. Meyer for yelling at me."

"When her students let her down... I've heard it really gets to her," Lily said solemnly. "I guess she's still really passionate about her admin job, even if she's quit it. She wants the people who take her place to be even better than she was, and she was supposed to be really good."

She put a hand on my shoulder. "But I hope you don't think less of her for anything she said. I think deep down, she really wants to help people."

"...Any particular reason why?", I asked. I wondered if Lily had been on significantly better terms with Meyer than I was.

"Oh, uh..." She rubbed her neck. "Well... she became an admin. Then she became a teacher. Don't you think that shows an interest in helping others? ...It's what I'd like to believe."

"Yeah... So would I," I nodded. "Um, could you believe something else for me?"

"Hm? What would that be?"

"That I'm going to ace the final," I smiled.

——

"She gave you a what?!"

"A D in the class," I answered.

The class was done, the quarter was over, and I'd gotten a failing grade. Or at the very least, it didn't count as passing the class.

"You worked your tail off studying for that final!"

"Yeah, I did..."

"You improved so much! I saw it with my own two eyes!"

"Yeah..."

Lily was furious. "Oh, forget what I said - Meyer's totally got a grudge against you, doesn't she?! Why, I oughta..."

I tried to pacify her. "Look, Lily, it's not important."

"Don't tell me it's not important, Lina!", she fiercely replied. "I care about your well-being! I care about seeing you succeed in... anything! I think it's important, and I think you should too!"

I shook my head. "No... That's not what I meant."

"Then what did you mean?", she replied curiously.

"The grade I got in the class... doesn't matter. It's everything else that matters. My attitude about my glitches, sticking with it no matter what..." I took her hand. "And having people who understand what I'm dealing with."

"When I first found out about sourcery," I reminisced, "it sounded like such a magic solution. An instant end to my glitches. ...But that was really naive. Like Mrs. Meyer told me, you can only fix one thing at a time. And my glitches won't let up just because I'm working on them."

"And besides... I'm not the only one. Sometimes it seems like I'm all alone in having all these hardships, but it's not really true. Everyone has problems, one way or another. So... all we can do is -"

I was interrupted by my phone going off with an email notification. "Uh... sorry, let me check that," I said, a little embarrassed.

I opened the email, and my eyes went wide.

"Miss Brackett:"

"I gave you the grade I did in the interest of fairness. But in the interest of justness, I can't just leave it at that."

"So I've decided that I will allow you to enroll in SRC 102, if you are up to the task."

"What's it say?", Lily asked.

I just looked up at her and smiled, then typed my reply.

"I'm up for anything. When do we start?"



















̠̬͇̉ͥ̾͐͋̚ͅ ̏͛̑ͤ̍̎̾ ̩ ̰̜̻̤̦̳͎̋̂̅ͭ̃̌ ͇͖̤͙̬̣̒́̊̿̏
̱̙̃̃̓ͅ
̘ͭͩ̎̌̾ͅ ̭̩͎̣̺̉̎̔ ̬̣͈̗͊̍̆̒̒ ͯͪ̏̍ͤ ̜͓̫̀ͬ͑ ̘͍̟ ͈̘͖̭̫̖ ͇͕͎̾ͫ ̺͎ͫ͐ͭͯ͐̌ ̯͕͖̻̙̼̿͆̓̒͂͗ ̬͊̈́̃
͖͍̝͕ͫͪ͌̐
̠ͦ͋͆͗ ̗̥̥̳͔ͭ̔̿́ ̭̣̤̫͉̗̼̍͂͒̈́̽̉ ̯͓̳̝̞̊ ̦̩̦͕͒͆͗ͫ̒ͅ ̠̪͔̥͊ͩ̃͐̏̄ͅ ͈͍̫̦̟̩̣̾̈́͑ͮ ͩ͗̒̉ͬ̚ ͔̙̞̬̓̒͌̚ ̤̠̑̋̒ͦ̋̾͐ ̼̻ ̼͉̱͕̘͉̑ͅ ̭̰̭̦͋ͣ ̫̱̞̼̙ͪ̓̅͆́̅ͮͅ ̩̜̓̃ͫ ̺̾͒ ̟̬̠̪ ̱͔͔̜̪̗͕̌̓͒̂̽̋
̙ͮ̍
̟͔̘ ͗ ̺̫͓͇͔̚ ̬̟̖͔̥̗͋̃́́̉ ̪͇̮̓̉ͮ̄̒ͪͦ ̝͇̘̥͎͚͈ ̄̈́ ͕̩̤͉̘͎̱ͤͮ̂̔̌ ͙̣͕̥̪ͣͅ ̻ ̦̒̒ ̖̫̼̠̎͊̋ ̮ ̩̘̣̣̊ ̤͉̱͓͌͊ͫ ̫̼̘͈̤́ͧ͊͊͋̍̏ ̱̼ͤ̓ ̇ ̯̹̼͔̬̥̬ͧͮ ͮ̐ͯ̓͂ͣ ̹͓͛ͤ̅ ̞͕̱̳͇͛ͥͯ ̦̱͈̲ͫ ̪̲ͪ ̣̦͍͈ͦ̔̋ͅ ̒̒ͥ̈́ͦͮ ̻̠̰̎̀̔̑̿̊ ̯ͮ͂
̱̦͊
̳̭̝̱̀ͤ̌ͣ͌ ̻̠̖̅ͦͣͥ̄ ͚̦͐ ̬͕ ̭̗̣̼̦̞̆ ̰̲̼͖̜̣̩ͪ́̔͂ͧ ̰͔͎̾̉̏͆̓ ̗̪̹̔ͅ ̯͉͐̃ͬ̓ͮ͆ͅ ̠̬̂̆͐͐̒͂ ̰͓̪̹̼͑́ͦ̐ͮͤͯ ̺̮̰͎̼͖̺ͦ̍ͦ̑͗̽ ͍̖͚̝͙͍̲̽ ̥̤ͨ ̙̜̋ͅ ̭͈͒͑̋͒ ͖̫͒̏ ̩̟̯͚̣̙̏͌ͧ̄̿ ̦̙̳̝̬̺̗́͊ ̱̍ͪ ̙̃ͬͫ͋͑̈̎ ̲̭͍̆́ ̳̘ͧ͒̈́̿̂ ̞͎̰̤̅͊ͣ̋͐ ͕ ̲̗͎͑̒̍̃̍̍ ͂̐̒͋̄̉̚ͅ ̜͎̟͍̲̞̊ͥ̾ ̺ͬ͑̄ ̖͍̟ͮ̓ ͎̣̘̾̓ ̯̞͓ ͎ ̘͓̭̋ͮ̾̔ ̹͓͕͕̭̊̆̏ ̣̗̩̜͈̞͍̊̓̓̿̂̋͊ ̦͓̯͈͍̞̓̐̌̚
̠̩͈̰͇͕̪̐̽̿̒̓̉̔
͔͚̦̳̎͂̉͛ͮ̎͑ ̱͙͓̻̆ ͔̬̩͙̑͋ͥ͑̿ͤ ͚̰̰͓͚̾̇ͥ̍͆̍ ͎͕̘̦̰̖͑̓̄͒͛ ̱̳͚̃ͪ̍̑ ̞̖͇̹̥͍ͫͯ͆͐ͫͅ ̺̪͓͎̥̼̿̄̏̾̆͂ͤ ̌ͦ̇͐ ͎̳̞̞̰̪̂̋ͬͦ̏ͅ ̳̘̯̳̃̾ ͓̟̣̝̻ͪ̌ͤ́͒ ͕̦͖͖͈̅̑̄̉̾́ ̩͐ ̮̠̥̞̟͊͋ͅ ͇͒̉ ͙̘̍ͣͫͥ̊̎ͅ ̲̱̭͓̈̾̃͒ ̙̮̪̭͇͍ ̳͕̠̖̳͓̊̑ͧ͊̏̔́ ̹̩̝̳͍̓͒̓́͆̐́ ̳̻̝̜̜͊ͣ ͩͣͫ͆̇ ̥̼̦͋̽̓ ̣̭̲̺͚̠̮̓ ̭͈̲̖̱͍̍̊ͬͦ ̥̘̖ͨ̔̐ͦ ̠̪̳̤͙̣͎̌̓̌̈́ ̑͂͆̐ ̿̒̾͗͑͂ͮ ̣̥͉̔͂̓ ̩̹͖̞͚̥̔̉͆̿́̄ ̲̅͗͋ͯ̍ͮ̀ ͙̳ͪ ͎̦̖̤ ̠̳̓ͫ̅̅ ͔͇͉̰̑͊̉ ͎̹͍̹ ̖͍ ̖̈̓̀ͦ͑͒ ̮͔̯ ̣̯͎̖̫͑ ͉̣̩̱̟͙̓̌͗ ̼̟͊͂̈́̓̒ ͍͔̺̬͕̈́ͪͮ
̮̓ͭ
͗̋̓ͩ"͖̫͎ͯ̃̉̑̂ͩ͋Ï̬̼̣̝͈͖̼͑͋ ̫͚ͨͨ͌͒ͫͬ̚d͖ͯ̾ͨ̀̅̌ỏ̠͇̐ͧ̎ň͙͖̪̲̠̞͚͗ͬͦ̾'̹̭̪͇̜̞̈́t͍͚̞̮͛ͧͅ ̯͖͕͓̫͕ͭ̊ͫͮ̓͌t͑͋̑h̖͙̺͇̤͈ͅi̞̙̮̩̦̩̔̾̄n͂k̳͉̠ͣͪ̎ ̪̲͍t̺͎̏hͣͤ̅̆ͬ͋̊e͚̭̼̘̬̭̥̿̇͂ỷͮ'͚̞͈͍̲̱̌ͣ̔̚ṙ͔̳̗̇ͭe͔͍͔͖ͫͯ̓ͦ̏ͤ ͕̄ͯ͊̔͛̄g̰̠͖̥͖͎o͎͕̙̎̅̐ͭi̹̪͔̦̬̥ͪ̅̊ͯ͌̀n̲͓̯̖͉̿ͦ͛̈́g͚ ̫̖̘̋͌ͯt̙̳͔̲͚̂ͣͨͤ̽o͊ ͙b̘̟̤̙͍̽ͣ̉ͧ̍ẹ͚̣͓͖̙ ̪͚̘̮̠̲̓ͮ̆c̅̅ͩ̈̅ͯ̓o̫̟͙̤͉ͣ̋m̥̄̚i̦͔͖̖̩͊ͬ̈̊̉ͥn̳̮̣̗̭͈ǧ̣̓ ̽͌̈͊ȋ̬̖̺ͨ̉̑̽ͬ̚n̼͙̦̼̻̯͓͂̀̈ ̤̬̩͈̟̊ͣ͊ͅa̗͓̪̹̤ͣͩͩ͗͋ͫ̚n̝̱̗̹͚̫̳̉y͕̪̦͂m̞͙̯̻ͪ̓̓̎ō̳̯͚̲ͮr͔͉̹̆͛̆ͧ͛̋̀ė̠͙͈̟̰̒̓̓̈́ͥ̏.̫̪̗͍̜̫̯̿̒"̗̼̺̯̬̝̔ͮͬͤ
̟̭̘̩͂ͬ̃̽̅
̟̤̟͐ͭ̓̒̑ͩͮ"͕̠͙B͈͖̬̹̖̣u͇͂͊͑̚t͓̤̱̰̱̭̣͂̀̓̎̈́ ͤw̘̰͈͔͛ͭ̉h̘̻̜̙͈̫̀ẙ̫͍̬͎͈͎̭͑?̘̣̬̲̠͓̩̇͊ͮ̔ͨ͌ͥ ͖̱͖̠̺̎͊̓̚W̭ͨ̿̿̓h̫̑͑͒ͩ̎e͉͔̓r̮̮̖̆́ͯ̔ẹ̜̣̝͛̿͂̚ͅ ͕͔̫͍͗d̖̤̪̉̊̋id̹̮ͯ̃̎͊̒ͨ ̰͕̱̪̭̦̘t͔̟͖͇̪́ͨ͊̄̄͒ͅḣ̖̫̺̬e̫̹͑͑ͫ͐y̖̺͎̘̲̞͊ͦ͌̐͗̀ͩ ̲̜̳̲ͦ̆̊̿͌͐a̩̗̝̎̃͂ͬ̃̚l͓̩̣̙l̼̣͚̳̘̺͐ͮ́̑ ̺͔͙̱̂̈g̱̖͍̗̏o̙͔?͉͆ͭ͛"̪͕͚̠̣ͤ̿̐
̓ͯͬͭ
̅̔ͤ"̞̯͓̯̿̈́͊͛I̥̘̠͉̫̫̒ͥ̀̚ ̹͍̮̖̤̙͑̊͋̂ͅd̋̅̀ͣo̳n̤̺͙͖̖̪̥̊'̠̹̍̔̃ͫ͊ẗ̜͖̦̹̰̮̍ͧ̃͂ ̜̣̭̱̹̇k͔͚̤͎̟̾͊̄̋n̞͚̳ͪ̓̋ͮo̻̠͈̟̦͇͗͋͂͐̄w̪̉͐ͅ.͔̬̗̳ ̠̫̿̑͒̈ͪ͂̐W̙̹̳̍ͭ̀e͉͖̣̯ͬͯ͆͋ͨ͊̃ ̀̋͗͆̅͐c̦̓ͤ͋ͯaͣͬn̫͐ͪͦ̂́'̒t̝͛̄̓̃ ̙̙̄̋̄̓k̖̖̜̯̅͌͋no̎̔ͧͩͪ̑w̼̯̖̽͑͑̏̂.͈̲ͨͪ͛ͧ̇ ̫.̜̬̝̣͚͋̈̇.̼̅.̟͔̘̺͇͚ͩ͛̓͛ͅW͓͇̓̒̍̔ë͓̮͓͔̰̠ͥͤ̆ͨ͌̚'̼̻̲͉̣̑ͧͥ̿̏̍̐ͅr̰e͕͙ͬ ̯̰̣̙̫̪ͫͩ̓̀ͧ̎ͤó͔͎̄ͮ̓͛n̳͋ͮ̃̐ͬͮͅl̖̙͚̪͖͚͊̑ͮͣỷ͎̏̅̾͒̽͒ ͓̘̱̪̪̼͐ͦ́ͥͅp̆ͪ́͂ͪ͂r̙̲͚̼͉̖̽̎̅ͩ͂̃ͅo͈͉̬̞̲̯̤ͬ̉̔̀͋c͎̄̓͑̓̐̂e͚̰̰͓̊s͖͐ͥs͍̱̹̩̀͋̇e͆ͥ̌͒ͦͥs͍̬͍̞.̙͗̊̊͐̏"̱͕ͣ̉̏͐̽̏ͫ
͖̇́͊̈́ͭ̀ͣ
̫̦̇͂̾ͭ̈̆"̺̠.̣̤̫͍̈́ͨ̈̅ͩ̂.̻̯̣̟̜̉ͦ̿̈́ͮͫͅͅ.̜͙͐ͫW͙̜̻̜̠̉̆h̾ͬͫḁ̦̻͔̟̣ͭ̒̑̏̓̈́̍t̺̯̮̼̯͕̿ͥ̄̿̔̈ͥͅ ̰͎ͣ͛âͫ̿̍̀r̫̟̘͍̍ͮ̆e̤̫͕̟̘ͦ̍̑ͅ ̻͉̦̦̫̝̤ͧͫͬ̀w͓̎͑͗̀͋e͎ͣ͒̊ ͚͚͙ͮs̝̥̪̯͋̄ͯͨụ̻ͣͥp̥̙͔͖̙ͨ̃ͬ̅̓͗p̪̖̳̟̲ͩ̅̿ͨ̈̆o͓̫̗̰̥͔͋̚ͅs̝̾̾͌̑̄̄e̱͍̗͈̜̦̽ͦ́̔̚d ̲̱ṱ͔͓͕̖̜̬ͧ̋̅̎͊͑o͚̙͎̗̥͌ ̮̳̠̗̻̄͑̓͊d̦̝̘͈̠̾̊ͩ̇̎̓o̒̅̾̌ͯ ͚̘̠̍͒̈ͧ̈ͣ̐ẅḣ͂e̮͚̲̤̐̏ͦ̒n͓̻͕̩̮̼̓ͫ̍ͩ̚ ̱ã̮̳̰̩͕̹͚̊͋ḽ̪̞ͯͫ͊̉̾l̳͔͓̰͙̘̝̄̊ͯ̑ͨͨ ̯̈́t̮̟̘̙̫̑̿h̦̮̺̤͈̼̱̋̑̄̽e͈̼̫̜̯̭͖ ̟͍̻̩͊͒̍ͯ͌̎ṗ̬̮ͥͧ͌̓͂ͫe͇̜͐̑͌o̭̙̐ͣͥ̂̊̓ͤṗ͍͚͔̿̄̀ͫl̤̺̠̝̥e͍̹̗͌̚ ̇̃̿͂ͯ̑a͕͍̬̩̹̮̦̎̋̀̈r̂͛͋̎é̔͋ͥ ̭͍ͣg͑̎̂o̼̖͇͕ͣn̜̓e͚̳̤͙̖̽̾͆ͯ̐̔?̺͇̯"̹ͤͪͭ̈̇̀̀
̯̥͌͐
͉͍̼͈̀̊̓̀̓"͈̹̻̲̭͍̎̋̆T̹̰ͩḧ͉͖̬̿ͥ͊ͯͣe̟̟͎̠͓͓̙͒̿ͪ̐̏ͮ ̐̏͑̈́̌ͦo͊̅͐ͥ̽n͚̹͉̲̘̘͙ͣ̄̇͛l̠ͮ̄ͨ̆͋̈y̲̙̰ ̯̩̩̠̟̲̄ͮͭt̊ͫ̎̓̚h̠̎ͅi͍̠͚̍̉ͪ͌̊̐͊n̜̗̯̞̺̊͊g̣̘̮̝̖ ͔̦̦̑̓̅ͬ̈́w̮̩͎̦̗̦ͦ̚e̝̜̱̘ ̞̣ͪͧ͂k͛͛ͭn̗͚̞̻̱̠͆̍̒ͬ͂̎̈́ͅő͙̫̬͙͈̥̉w̼̆̽ ̫̦͓͚ͧ͌h͒̄o̥̹w̹͉̩͍͎̮ͤ͗̊͋̐ ͙̭͙̙ͦ̓̍̃͊ṭ̖̳̳͔̲͗o̮̊́̍̀̈̃ ̯͊͒̑̃ͮ̾d͕͂̄͆o̱̭̰̜̤̊ͣ͒́ͤͯ͒.͇͕̈
̝̫̗̣̞ͬͭ̅̍
̖
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