I straggled along with everyone else as Jin led us over hill and under hill, through…OK, my literary side’s coming through. Really it was mostly across town. Uphill.
My feet were killing me.
Back in the castle I never had to put up with anything like this. If some peasant wanted to present something to the princess, he would have had to come through several layers of bureaucracy specifically designed to keep out such requests. Well, there were also other, less seemly requests. But there was no way, no way a princess of her both should be traipsing up a hill with commoners, without a word of explanation.
It made me want to strangle him.
Nobody really understood. Life wasn’t some precious thing to hold on to. It’s a joke! Nobody really cares about who wins some tournament. Nobody really cares. So, that day my mother put her foot through the TV…
…but now Jin had stopped, and for the first time an expression of uncertainty flickered across his face. The house was scarcely a hovel fit for one of my subjects not too far from the one my father had left us in.
“All right, Jin,” said Christine, “What’s going on here?”
“Yeah, tell us,” I added, “And make it good.”
The four oddly familiar newcomers stared impassively. The man seemed kind of dismissive of Jin, as if he couldn’t be the one doing all of this. The woman still seemed a bit surprised, as if he couldn’t be the one doing all of this.
Jin put his hands in his pockets. A bad habit, I’ve told him before. Common. He looked around at each of us and began.
“Isn’t it kind of odd, that there are three main branches of speech—”
“That’s Interp, Impromptu, and Platform.” Gordon looked so pleased with himself. I wanted to wipe the smug smile off his—
“Right—but only one debate? LD?” Jin took off his glasses and wiped them on his sleeve, rather than sensibly using a handkerchief.
“Who was Lincoln Douglas, anyway?” wondered Ivy. I certainly had no idea.
“So?” answered Flora cautiously.
“Well…it turns out it’s not true.” Jin gave a small grin. There was a stunned silence, then everyone broke out arguing. What was he talking about? There couldn’t be more than one type of debate. That would be against natural law. Forget that. Jin’s finally gone off his rocker.
“What about Congress?” Flora put in. She seemed to be the only one who remembered Congress.
“Oh, come on,” said Jin, unusually assured of himself, “Is Congress really a major event? I’ll admit there are other speech events too, but none of them are big enough for any Cooportinoans to enter.” That was an unusually poliscentric view for Jin, but that was the proper way of things, after all.
“And there’s no Avatar of Congress.” Christine nodded definitively, as if that put an end to it. She was way too obsessed with the Avatars. Trust me, I know what obsession is like.
“Anyway.” Jin would have shouted but for his naturally quiet nature. Fool. “This place here”—gesturing behind him—“is the home of the last surviving practitioner of the second form of debate. Parliamentary.”
“Oh, come on, Jin,” Kushal scoffed, “Parli’s just a story that seniors tell their kids. It isn’t real.”
“Yes it is,” Jin insisted, “I’ve checked up on all of this. Fritz, what do you have to say?”
The question caught Fritz completely by surprise. “Uh…well…it’s got the letters P and I in it.”
“There, you see?” Jin smiled. “And this house”—his smile faltered as he really got a good look at it—“is where the last Parli debater lives.” His voice had gotten less and less certain until it cracked on “debater”, and, his composure pretty much broken, he looked almost desperately around. My rage was rising but that was not the proper behavior for a young lady. I tried to stay calm.
“Uh, Persia, you’re twisting your hands again,” Richard helpfully pointed out. I gritted my teeth.
Jin was in look, because the unknown-yet-familiar Edward and Elaine were looking at each other with an expression of…well, sort of like wonder, but not exactly. Their two companions were looking on with mere faint interesting; it was Flora, surprisingly, whose face mirrored the expression of pararapture. I hadn’t seen Flora like this, well, ever.
It was Christine, of course, who broke the silence. “Well, can we go?”
“No!” Jin immediately shouted, then looked chagrined. “We…we can’t let Parli die here. We need to…” His expression was almost hungry, one I hadn’t seen since, well, since my girlfriend tried to kill me. Before I killed her.
“All right.” Christine sounded disappointed. The Richard-Gordon-Kushal trio exchanged glances, then, almost simultaneously, shrugged.
Jin turned with a flourish (one could almost imagine he had a cape) and knocked three times on the door. We heard footsteps.
I tried to compose myself into one personality as footsteps grew louder, the floor creaked. Sometimes I almost forget which personality is the real one.
Sometimes I almost forget which personality is the real one.