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28

It didn’t take Professor Klan long to patch up Peneloputty. The longest part of it was her screaming after reattaching the arm. Who knew that it would be painful to circulate blood back into a dismembered limb that was brutally removed? Not even her syndrome helped to dilute it. In fact, if Mel didn’t know any better, it only added to her pain, but at least she was quieter, which was what everybody wanted.

After she settled down, it was Mel’s turn to “aid” in removing her barb-in-face problem. Professor Klan didn’t really approve of his methods, but it got the point across... g... get it? Point? Briers? Barbs! She gave him a look that was no small part murderous and definitely large parts loathsome, but fixed her face up after he removed her condition. Peneloputty had slipped into a pain-induced slumber during, so he didn’t have to listen to her grovel and grumble her apologies and that she only did everything she did because she loved him and- blah blah blah. S.O.S.:D.F.D.

However, he was a man of his word, a friend through and through. He gave up his date, his tea and movies and potentially fun stuff... to stay with her until she awoke. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he had a fuck to give, but he was fresh out of those at the moment –which Brin was just joyous about.

“We should have been back in our room by now,” she grumbled sometime during. There were no clocks in the infirmary, and it doesn’t need to be explained again that time has no meaning in a place without a sun. At least she had climbed off his back; she laid on the bed behind him, to the left of Peneloputty. Saliim, meanwhile, simply stood by him, the fires on her shoulders finally snuffed out. Brin groaned, and the bed thumped for the... ninety-seventh time? Ninety-ninth? Regardless, it was always the same question that followed it. “Master, why are we still here?”

“Because I’m her friend... somehow,” he said, again, and hoped it would be the hundredth soon. He would get a snow cone!!! He was going to make it... pina colada.

This time, though, Saliim disturbed the natural order and... SCOFFED.

“‘Somehow’. We all know how,” she said. “Deep down, you want to bang her, if only once, just so you can see what sort of scenario comes with it.”

“You have a point. I am a masochist, bordering on nihilist, but even I have standards.”

“That’s why I said deep down... as in deep... deep... deep down.”

Brin sighed, and he heard the bed huff as she rolled over onto her side.

“Master, you don’t need to fantasize about such things anymore,” she said. “You have me... Come on... You can join me on the bed, can’t you?”

“Oi! Professor Klan, was it?” Saliim called out, her voice bounding through the hall. “Can we get a spray bottle over here, preferably filled with liquid nitrogen?”

“Keep your voice down,” Klan grumbled, stomping over, though her heels barely ever made more than a clack. “Why would you need such an item?”

“You see the succubus on the bed behind me?”

“Ja- oh my... Here.” Professor Klan lazily waved her hands together, making a sphere of pale blue light, and, from within, a metal spray bottle formed. Its black iron outer shell didn’t stay that way for long, frosted to a pale blue by the liquid inside, steam rising through the titanium spray nozzle. She fanned her hands, and the energy carried the bottle over to Saliim, fading into a pale blue scarf around the trigger, giving the succubus something to grab onto. “Be very careful,” she advised, but there was no real care behind her words, already walking away.

Saliim, meanwhile, turned around in her chair, aiming the frosted bottle at Brin. Mel, also, turned, to watch, to see the dour glower Brin was giving her compatriot.

“Don’t even think about it,” Brin said, her voice distorted again.

“I’ll blast you where the sun doesn’t shine,” Saliim said. “Calm yourself and quit acting like a bitch in heat.”

“How dare you! I’m simply showing my love and admiration for master in every way I can. Our joinings are my greatest acts of devotion to him, and I want to give all that I am.”

“That doesn’t mean every single day!”

“But it does. So long as he has physical desires, he shall be pained every day. I don’t want him to suffer-”

“And you don’t think daily consummation is hurting him?” Brin muttered something, but Saliim and even Mel didn’t really hear it. “What was that?”

“Of course you would want that to be true,” she repeated, her voice a level beyond distorted, mingling with bitter rage. Black fire oozed from her runes, frothing and smoking as her eyes once more became the pits of Hell. “It’s his decision in the end. Master can tell me to stop, but he doesn’t because he loves me. Now, put that toy down before it is shoved, as you said, someplace where the sun doesn’t shine.”

“Why can’t you two go back to being silent companions?” Mel mumbled. “It was so peaceful having you as a backpack and you as a candlestick.”

“She started it-” Saliim muttered.

“And I’m finishing it. Give me the bot-” He grabbed for the bottle... and touched the metal. It hissed and popped and seared his hand but would not let it go, even as Saliim did. With his other hand, he actually did grab the pale blue scarf and ripped it off his other hand, already glowing green. “... Ow.”

“Are you okay, master?” Brin said, leaning off the bed. She took his hand, watching as the skin regrew and revived blackened tissue around the point of contact, then shot another Hellfire gaze at Saliim. “You... you hurt master.”

“I didn’t do a single thing!” She shrieked, which garnered another glower from Professor Klan, as well. Saliim growled, lowering her voice, and crossed her arms. “I was settled in for a quaint night at Daisy’s. I was looking forward to some delicious tea -and ladyfingers after they were brought up- then a few select movies and simply unwinding. Instead, I am down here in the infirmary, overseeing a nuisance that can be best described as ‘a friend... somehow’. I didn’t say much because, hey, good tea and company. No reason to complain... but now? Now that we are waiting for ‘a friend... somehow’ to recover, and hearing a drowning-yet-thirsty succubus beg in the middle of a PACKED infirmary... you will forgive me if I am a bit perturbed.”

“Wow. Didn’t know you were looking forward to my tea that badly,” Daisy said, giggling as she approached. She had entered during the succubus’s little rant, carrying both a platter of teacups and a strange crate. Mel knew the art on it very well, but there was no way... It would be too ironic here, after all. They already planeswalk, so the idea of them playing that or even keeping the cards was rather droll... right? Daisy gently set the tray on top of Peneloputty, too dead to the world to really notice, then pulled up a chair on the right side. She set down the crate by the makeshift table’s head, which the crate dwarfed her head two-fold, then patted it, tittering. “Have you played before, Mel?”

“Once or hundreds of times,” he said, picking up a cup of tea- and grabbed a long, thin bit of spongecake! He didn’t notice the plate of them behind the saucer until he actually focused on the platter. “So what do you have in there?”

“Little bit of this, little bit of everything, really. Power of magic and all.”

“E...everything? Even the Power 9?”

“Of course... They’re all proxies.”

“In that case, can I start by building with four lotuses, sapphires, rubies-”

“You better not ask for pearls next.”

“Don’t be silly... I want jets. Then four bolts, rituals, recalls-”

“How about standard? It’s actually pretty good right now.”

“But I don’t like the guilds...”

“Come on... there has to be a two-color combination you like.”

“I do, but people hate me for it.”

“Blue-white?”

“Red-blue.”

“Well, that’s not too b-”

“With a splash of white.”

Her teacup clinked down onto her saucer, the handle squeezed clean off. The look she was giving Mel was as if she was looking at rotting, festering garbage. It was as if he told her that he liked to freeze his own feces in condoms then shove them back up his rump for pleasure or he collected dead animals and played in their remains or she was down in a well demanding to be let go while he commanded her to use the lotion on her skin or else she got the hose again. Mel was considering his next words carefully; he didn’t want his head ripped off. Either one.

“To clarify,” he finally said, clearing his throat, “I run agro red-blue splashed with white. Lots of low-cost creatures and instants with token generation and manipulation in the end game.”

“Oh,” she said, her mood instantly cleared. “That actually sounds fun.”

“A pain to get rolling, though. Most people aim to end the game before turn four, which still works for an agro deck, but I want to slam somebody with either a crapton of BIRDS or summon a load of angels and play Flight of the Valkyries as I smash their face in... I’m, also, a fan of red-white-green. Dinos for days!”

Daisy giggled again, and, after she replaced the handle on the cup, finished her tea before cracking the crate, which now Mel understood it was her cube, open. Inside, as expected, there was a pocket dimension, swirling slowly in its dark confines. Daisy turned the cube so that the lifted part was on top, and a LED display appeared, as well as a digital keyboard. She didn’t bother with it at first, instead clicking on a folder on display, which showed multiple... multiple... multiple... multiple other files, but she chose the first, the most recent, also filled with an obscene amount of folders. Again, she chose the most recent and, thankfully, there were only three files in it. The first was named X Gonna Give it to ya, the second Fly Like an Eagle, but it was the third, the one she chose, that caught Mel’s eye, simply titled FACE.

The pocket dimension flashed, and a small, leather case rose from its depths. It was longer than it was tall, and opened from the side, held there by magnets. They clicked as she pulled it open, requiring a bit of strength, and it housed crimson-sleeved cards. She eased the deck out, and placed it on the air above Peneloputty, simply floating there, shuffling itself.

“Okay,” Daisy said, handing him the cube. “Your turn. Just... punch in the basic idea you want for your deck on the keyboard, and the layout will give you the cards that you need from standard –already put in that filter.”

Mel gulped, not sure what to really do. A deck called FACE? He was obviously going to be facing a burn deck, most likely red-black. Sustain while tearing him down; was he going to counter that and make it a dull, miserable experience, or build a deck with just as much sustain? Would she loathe that as well, though- and would he get sleeves, or would he be stuck being a plebeian and use naked cards?

Regardless, he had to pick something. She was waiting for him... Meh. When in doubt, go big and green. He typed in Stompy and nothing but green cards shown up, including the giant, angry T-rex himself. It didn’t take him long to build his deck, and he was happy to see an option for sleeves at the end. He chose a deep, forest green... then decided that was too cliché and went for big anime ti- no... He was spoiled for choice. How could he possibly choose when there were so many good ones... He now wished he could just play with them bare, but the closest to that was clear or glossy black with the symbols on the back.

He finally made his choice (clear), and the pocket dimension flashed. He didn’t have a box for his, just the deck, itself, rising out of the swirling mini cosmos, clacked shut before handed back over to Daisy. She set it by Peneloputty’s head, and they got into a game. The first hand was short; Mel had the perfect hand that was picked apart by hers and so it ended 47 to 0. The second was a bit closer, at -32 to 7, but Mel was sure she humored him.

The third hand commenced; Mel gave the turn to Daisy, but she paused before playing her first card.

“You know, it’s been forever since I played against anybody,” she said.

“Same. Think I was, like, fifteen? I kept up with the cards, but nobody wanted to play, especially since they released that online client.”

“Yeah... I tried it, but the draw mechanic is sort of not good-”

“You mean garbage.”

“Back when I played, which was early open beta, yeah... Hope it got better since then, but that deterred me from ever playing it again... Been kind of nice to play somebody physically again.”

“No doubt.”

She bit her lip; her eyes glittered a little as she looked up at him.

“So how about we make a little bet-”

“But they got rid of ante.”

“No... not that kind of bet- they’re all mine, anyways!” They both laughed; she shook her head, and heaved a heavy sigh. “If you win, I’ll tie up Brin and Saliim and let you do whatever to me.”

“What!” Both Brin and Saliim shrieked.

“Oh, relax... I’ll be gentle.” She tittered, shaking her head. “Besides, he would have to win.”

“And what would you get if you won?” Mel said.

“You come over to my place tomorrow and we continue our date.”

“These both sound like things you benefit from.”

“I know! Isn’t it great?”

“How about... if I win, you have to... bake me a giant pizza.”

“Really? That’s i-”

“Don’t misunderstand me. Listen. Carefully. I want a giant. Pizza. Not a personal pan pizza. Not a medium. Not budget large. Not actually large. Not a big daddy; none of that. I want a giant... GIANT pizza. A pizza that even a giant would say is giant. A pizza that is bigger than your average American thirteen-year-old boy- no, bigger than the heaviest man in the world. I want a pizza so big that it eclipses the sun, where one bite of one slice is enough to feed a small nation. I want a pizza that Texans say is too damn big... Do you understand now how giant of a pizza I want?”

“Yup, so I better win. Otherwise, I have to bake a pizza, hogtie Brin and Saliim, then enjoy you using me as you wish as you die from pizza overload. Too many lives are at stake.”

“At least the fate of the entire world isn’t depending on a children’s card game.”

And so the match finally started. Both Mel and Daisy had such determination in their eyes, Lady Luck giving them both amazing luck on draws. By turn twelve, the board was still clear and both of their health was at 6. Neither had any cards in their hands and were relying on the top of the deck. Mel hadn’t seen a single other T-rex since the last board wipe; his odds of drawing it were good, but so were her odds of pulling an evil coffee machine.

She drew a bolt and dropped his life to three; it was now or never. He had to draw the big angry lizard and hope, pray she drew a land. Mel reached for his deck, his hand shaking a little; he wanted- no, needed that pizza... wait. Did Daisy say the original bet was still att-

The door to the infirmary slammed open. Putty men started to flood through, filling the hall with their annoying jeers and warbles.

“I knew it! I knew they weren’t gone,” Mel exclaimed, and bolted to his feet. From his robes he withdrew his shotgun, running towards the horde-

“Were you carrying that around this whole time,” Daisy asked, matching stride.

“Don’t you?”

“I prefer something a bit more... compact.” She held up her right arm. Magic consumed it, blanketed it in steely blue before fading to cobalt, washing-then-sealing it up to the elbow in the sleek metal. The tip of it, the barrel, glowed yellow, rising to a whine before something slotted itself inside the light, blasted off with enough force to even knock Mel out of his stride. The object, a purple missile, flew right into the oncoming army and exploded, destroying the entry as well in its force... and showing that their fight just began. “I love this handcannon.”

“Metroid fan?”

“You can say that.”

“Even Other-

“No. Hell no. Now come on! We have an army to kill then a game to return to.”

“I... I think I love you.”

“I know.”

With that they charged at the putty force, both humming the same song, in sync as they painted the world white.

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