Hope's Bright!

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A Visit to the MLC

Pennie was exhausted. For a week with hardly anything to do she had been quite busy. Master Isaac had given her a chance to perform in a few concerts that week, which she was excited to do at first. However, as time went by she came to realise how difficult performing was. Pennie had to learn all the routines and lyrics, had to undergo daily training and so much more. It wasn’t that she hated it, she really loved singing on that stage, but it just tired her out. Pennie was actually thankful for the opportunity as the recent attacks from Aria had left hardly any quests or jobs to do around Twilight Heart. The only way she had been able to get any money was thanks to the small pay she received from performing and her monthly allowance for being a part of the guild.

After getting changed and leaving the dressing room, Pennie decided to go relax in the Twilight Heart base. As she walked down the halls, she sighed. Her rent was due soon, and to make matters worse, she had to convince her landlord to allow her to postpone the rent for the last three months. She just couldn’t afford it; she didn’t even know if she could even afford the upcoming payment. However, there was no way the landlord would allow her to avoid paying him any longer. Pennie sighed again and began to look for her phone. After rummaging through her pockets for a while, she noticed she had left it at home, which was annoying because she needed it to try and calculate her total earnings for the past few months. She had finally arrived at the base, so she decided she didn’t want to go all the way home to get it.

Once she opened the doors, she noticed that Ray was sitting at the nearest table. He was the only one in the building, which wasn’t surprising considering how quiet it had been. Yet for some reason, she found it slightly disheartening. As Pennie walked up to Ray, she noticed that he wasn’t reading or eating like he usually did when he hung around the base. Instead, he was playing on a phone that she had never seen him use before.

“Is that a new phone?” Pennie asked when she sat in front of him.

“Yep,” he nodded, not drawing his attention away from his phone. “Mine was old and hardly worked, so I’ve been saving up for new one for a while. The money I won from Lynx’s bet gave me the amount I needed.”

“I forgot about that,” Pennie stated. “Isn’t that the latest model? It must have taken a long time to save for that.”

“It did, it took me nearly a whole year. Which reminds me,” Ray stated, he looked up at Pennie and passed his phone to her. “I realised I don’t have any of your contact information, you could add it if you like.”

“Sure,” she said before sighing. “You don’t mind if I use the calculator on this for a moment, do you?”

“Not at all,” Ray smiled.

She quickly placed her phone number and TCCATS ID before switching over to the calculator app. She typed in the amount she had earned from performing. However, at the rate of sixteen dollars per hour, the number was smaller than what she hoped for.

“Is something wrong?” Ray asked when he heard her sigh again.

“Nothing much, I’m just struggling to make ends meet at the moment,” Pennie explained, giving Ray his phone back. “With no quests to take I haven’t been able to pay my rent, and now I’m three months behind.”

“I don’t understand why you don’t look for somewhere cheaper to live if you are struggling,” Ray claimed honestly, as he placed his phone face down on the table. “The apartment complex I live in is quite affordable. It would make things so much easier for you if you lived in a place like mine.”

“That shabby old building you live in looks like it will fall apart at any moment,” Pennie rolled her eyes at him. “That’s the only reason it is so cheap.”

Pennie wasn’t exaggerating, the old apartment building where Ray lived was in terrible condition. The paint was faded, the roof was crumbling, and each apartment was squished closely together. The gate also broke every time she opened it. Pennie didn’t know how the building even met the safety regulations.

“It’s not so bad,” Ray stated. “I have a two-bedroom apartment that has all the necessities. Sure, it’s quite small, but why should I pay extra for space I don’t need.”

“While you make a good point, there is no way I could live somewhere like that,” Pennie sighed. “Okay, so I have to pay three months rent which is about four thousand and twenty dollars. Thanks to the last few concerts I have done for the past two weeks I have about two thousand nine hundred and sixty. That means I’m short by… God, I don’t know!”

“One thousand and sixty,” Ray said without needing time to think.

“Seriously?” Pennie sighed as she slumped her body across the table. “How am I supposed to come up with that in a week? I’m not even scheduled to perform at all before my rent is due.”

“You could ask Brittany or someone to swap with you, you could make arrangements to do half of Brittany’s performances,” Ray suggested. “I believe she’s doing about eighty hours next week, so if you do about forty hours at sixteen dollars an hour that would be about six hundred and forty.”

“But I’ll still be short…” Pennie sighed under her breath.

“As for the last four hundred and twenty, you could probably explain things to Master Isaac, and he’ll give you some odd jobs to do around the guild to earn that much.” Ray continued. “There are also some places around Asteria that are looking for temporary workers. If you can find a place that will give you forty-eight hours of work and pay you about twenty-one dollars an hour, that would be around one thousand and eight. Which would mean I could probably lend you the last little a bit.”

Pennie blinked, if she was completely honest, all of Ray’s calculations went through one ear and out the other. There were way too many numbers to remember.

“How are you able to calculate all those sums so fast?” Pennie asked.

“I don’t know, I’ve always been good at that sort of thing,” Ray stated with a shrug of his shoulders. “If I had to guess it must have something to do with the way I was raised, not that I can remember anything about that.”

“Man, you really are a genius,” Pennie smiled as she sat up straight. “I really didn’t expect it all things considering.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ray growled, narrowing his eyes.

“I don’t mean to be rude or anything like that,” Pennie said quickly, noticing that she had said something a little bit offensive. “It’s just that you are so easy going and impetuous and you kinda go overboard and a little destructive.”

The annoyed look on Ray’s face made Pennie realise what she had said wasn’t any better than the last sentence.

“That’s not right either,” Pennie shook her head. “You always jump into danger’s way to help someone in need without a second thought. I always knew you were clever, being able to come up with plans on the spot like when Blaze attacked us. I guess what I’m really trying to say is that before recently you never really showed us how smart you really were, and I was kind of wondering why.”

After a long silence, Ray sighed.

“It’s just easier that way,” he stated. “It’s just easier to act spontaneous and accommodating rather than clever and reserved. It easier to get along with people that way.”

“I’m not sure I quite understand,” Pennie said, feeling a little confused.

“In books and movies, everyone’s favourite characters are always the easy-going protagonist that makes them laugh. They are often athletic and a little bit stupid, but they support the other characters without even trying, which is why everyone likes them,” Ray stated. “On the other hand, barely anyone loves the quiet intellectual types. They are often either serious, dull or they can be overly patronising. They often have a voice or a manner of speaking that can get annoying. For some reason people don’t like it when someone is smarter than them, so I’ve always tried to make sure that my intellect doesn’t stand out too much.”

“I never really thought about it like that,” Pennie claimed. “I Although I think I would have liked you regardless, so I think you should just be yourself.”

“Be myself…?” Ray blinked with surprise.

“Yeah, because no matter how you act, I’ll be your friend no matter what,” Pennie said with a smile.

Ray looked down at the table, is cheeks blushing slightly looking embarrassed. Realising what she had just said, Pennie also began to turn red.

“You know I think that’s the first time anyone has said that to me. It’s nice to know that I have someone like you who will be by my side,” Ray explained, looking up at Pennie with an awkward chuckle. “You see I was really shy when I was younger. I didn’t really get along well with others, so I spent most of my time reading, I used to read stories about far off lands and legendary heroes and I loved absolutely every word. I wanted to be more confident like the heroes in those books and go on the amazing adventures they had, so I began to mimic them. Before I knew it, I started acting more energetic and easy going and it suddenly became easier to talk to people.”

“Really? That’s kind of surprising,” Pennie stated.

“I suppose. Back then I had hardly any friends, I’m pretty sure I only ever talked to Azaliea and…” Ray continued before trailing off.

“Wait, you were talking about that far back into your past,” Pennie exclaimed. “How much do you actually remember?”

“I guess I was…” Ray sighed. “Lately I’ve remembered a lot more about my past, but they’re just small fragments of memories that don’t seem very important. It’s extremely annoying, but from what I can remember it would seem that I used to have another friend other than Azaliea. Unfortunately, I can’t remember his name or even what he looks like.”

“Then there was someone other than Azaliea? What was he like? Did you live near each other? Were you close?” Pennie questioned, speaking extremely fast.

“You know I can’t answer those questions, especially when you speak that fast,” Ray claimed. “From what I can remember there were three people I used to know quite well. Azaliea, this guy and someone called Dari. By the sounds of things, I didn’t get along with this Dari person, but I did used to get on well with this person whose name I don’t remember, although it would seem I hated to admit it.”

“Really? Why’s that?” Pennie asked.

“As I said before I really don’t remember that much,” Ray stated, placing his chin on his left hand and looking up at the roof. “So, I can’t really explain it.”

“Still, when I first met you, you couldn’t remember a thing,” Pennie stated. “But then again a lot has changed since then.”

Pennie couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if Ray regained all of his memories. Afraid of the answer she erased the thought from her mind and continued to have a casual conversation with him. They talked about the summer weather, their favourite books and Noah’s obsessive eating habits. They had talked for an hour, but Pennie had enjoyed herself so much that it felt like minutes. Master Isaac walked into the base moments later and called out to them.

“There you two are,” Master Isaac’s voice echoed through the halls. “I had hoped you two would be here.”

Pennie turned towards the door and saw Master Isaac walking up to them. Pennie noticed that he was more neatly dressed than usual and seemed a little tense.

“Did you need our help or something?” Pennie asked.

“Brayden, I need you to come with me,” Master Isaac claimed with a nod. “You are welcome to come along too Pennie. Your presence may make things a little easier.”

“Okay…? What for?” Ray asked, sounding hesitant.

“We are heading to Espoirs Lumineux,” Master Isaac replied. “The MLC has requested to speak with you.”

Ray had a tight feeling in his chest as he paced up and down. He was waiting outside the office of Sir Richardson, the Vice President of the MLC who had requested to see him. Ray had no idea why which made him feel extremely anxious.

“Ray are you perhaps…” Pennie asked, noticing Ray was unusually tense.

“N-no, I’m not nervous at all,” Ray lied.

“Wow, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you this nervous before,” Lynx sniggered, watching Ray with a smirk as he lent back in his chair.

When Master Isaac revealed that the MLC wanted to see Ray, Lynx and Dimetrios happened to walk into the base and overheard them. Claiming that they were interested in what was happening, they insisted that they tagged along.

“I don’t see why you guys had to come,” Ray growled. “This is hard enough without you guys making it worse.”

“You are most likely in a lot of trouble and who’d want to miss that?” Dimetrios pointed out.

“If I had to guess you are getting in trouble for all the destruction you’ve caused,” Lynx agreed.

Ray clicked his tongue but said nothing. Lynx and Dimetrios had been more annoying than usual the past few months as they suddenly had a strange friendship that Ray didn’t understand. Not that he had spoken to Lynx much in the past few weeks. Ray still hadn’t forgiven Lynx for the nasty things he said, not that Lynx ever apologized.

“I thought so too, so I decided to come to cheer you up, I guess.” Pennie smiled nervously.

“Aww man, not you too,” Ray sighed heavily as he took his seat. “Although now that I think about it, I hope it is only that.”

“Only?” Pennie said. “What do you think they want then?”

“Well, if I had to guess it might be because of my recent IQ test,” Ray said anxiously. “This one was different from last years, but I don’t remember if it was higher or lower. I don’t even want to think about all the other tests.”

“I’ve meant to ask,” Pennie wondered. “Why is it that you have to take tests in the first place. I don’t believe it is a requirement that is regularly enforced.”

“I don’t really know either,” Ray sighed again, fiddling with the arm on his chair. “I’ve had to do them for years, and I really hate them. They don’t tell me anything about them either.”

“And what happens if you fail to meet their requirements?” Pennie asked. “Will you be forced to quit?”

“I don’t know that either,” Ray stated. “Every time I ask, they reply with ‘Yeah, well, keep up the good work.’”

“That doesn’t sound too good…” Pennie sighed.

“There’s no need to be so paranoid,” Dimetrios stated bluntly. “Just make up some excuse like you usually do.”

“You mean I should say something like, oh I don’t know,” Ray said, trying to think of an appropriate excuse. “I could possibly say I was distracted.”

“That’s not a good excuse,” Lynx laughed. “Although you aren’t a very good liar, to begin with.”

“I really can’t think straight,” Ray groaned, ignoring Lynx. “Either way I think I may be in a lot of trouble.”

Almost as if it was right on cue, the Vice President’s door opened, and his secretary came into view.

“Sir Richardson is ready for you now, Mr Valero,” the man said with a bow, “Your friends may enter as well if they wish.”

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