I wanna take you for a ride (I think)! Let's discuss Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite!


June 10, 2012

I Hraet You (13)

Beat 13: Connect the Dots with a Sledgehammer of Ham

A chilled, salty wind swept over the school’s east breezeway -- not surprisingly, as the school, and plenty of other buildings, sat on an incline high enough to peek at the harbor.  But for the moment, Lloyd paid the sea no mind; he just sat in the nearby lawn, cupping his mouth as he tapped his foot against the stone bench. 

It didn’t work, he thought, his fingers regularly pressing into his cheeks.  I couldn’t head into the audition room with May.  Why?  Is there something missing?  Could I have overlooked a step?

He turned to his right.  With the pre-school morning winding down, students started heading toward their classes in earnest.  By the dozens they stepped through the doors on either side of the breezeway, in groups as large as seven or as small as two.  Only the occasional oddball -- like a lanky punk with a mohawk -- headed inward by himself.

Lloyd raised a hand and hailed a couple of girls toward him.  “Ah!  Miss Byrne!  A pleasure to see you again!  I trust you had an uproariously entertaining summer?”  He trotted towards them like a loyal terrier, just as they stepped onto the grass to meet him.  He only recognized one of them -- Rita Byrne, a newly-minted junior with curly brown hair and a propensity for wearing track shorts (perfect for showing off those tanned, toned legs of hers, Lloyd had noted).  The other was shorter and sandy-haired, and blew carelessly into her bubble gum.  “Oh!  And another fair maiden has come to enjoy your company!  A younger sister, I presume?”

“Good guess,” said Rita, managing a pleasant but strained tone (and making sure to keep a few feet between the girls and Lloyd).  “My little sister, Riley.  She’s starting high school this year.”

“Ah, marvelous!  Another member of the illustrious Byrne clan has decided to ally herself with our establishment.”  He offered a cordial bow, as if he’d suddenly become her butler.  “A pleasure to meet you, my dear.  May your high school adventures be full of rapturous elation!”

Riley turned to her sister, still blowing her bubbles.

“…Yeah, you’re probably better off not getting too involved with guys like him,” said Rita, rubbing her crown.  “He may be handsome, but he’s still a perverted idiot.  Keep away at all costs.”

“Miss Byrne, I’m standing right here!” Lloyd wailed.  He slumped over; he hardly believed that Rita could cut him down with the same pleasant smile on her face. 

Riley raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, he has a really bad habit of ogling me and the rest of the track girls,” Rita continued, oblivious to Lloyd’s slumping.  “He puts on airs, but that won’t stop him from trying to follow you into the girls’ locker room…or just busting in to start up a conversation.  Seriously, who does that?”  She giggled at the thought of it; by the time she’d finished, Lloyd had fallen on all fours, head hung and face quivering. 

Damn it all!  To think that my reputation has gotten this bad…and it grows worse still.  If the younger sister gives such an unflattering assessment to her friends, then my victory would be naught but dust on a summer gale!  He lifted his head, and a feverish glint waltzed through his eye.  The day’s barely begun, yet I’ve been faced with countless adversities.  The time to strike back against my ill-fortune begins now!

Rita and Riley started toward the halls, but Lloyd jumped in front of them.  “Miss Byrne!” he blurted, extending a finger.

“Which one?”

“…Little Miss Byrne!” Lloyd pointed his finger at Riley.  “A moment, if you would!  I’ll not try to deny the unflattering image your sister has painted of me…BUT!  I ask that you would give me a chance to redeem myself!  To act upon your own judgment, that you may see me in an admirable light, as I see you, o innocent flower of Porbeagle!”

A chilled gust swept across the breezeway.

“…Or…or should I say, o innocent SUNflower of Porbeagle!”

Riley turned to her sister, who merely shrugged and sighed.  “He’s very theatrical, at least,” she offered with a slight smile.

“Never mind that.”  Lloyd held out a hand.  “Little Miss Byrne.  If you would, I’d like to hold your hand.  If you’ll allow me the pleasure, I’d wager there’s a chance I could show you something far more delightful than the standard classroom.  Take my hand in your own, and I’ll show you a magical adventure!”

Rather than look back to her sister, Riley did as instructed.  She took Lloyd’s hand in both her own, and pressed her fingers into his skin. All right then, Lloyd thought, closing his eyes.  If I’m to activate my powers, I need to concentrate.  Focus!  Let your mind leave behind your mortal form, and traverse to the interstice between body and soul!

And then…

…Nothing happened.

Lloyd opened his eyes.  Same old lawn.  Same old school walls.  Same old students.  Unbelievable.  Even now, I still can’t reach the audition room?   Just what am I --?

He cut the thought short.  The first bell rang, sending all the lollygagging students into double-time to get to class.  Rita patted her sister’s shoulder and nodded.  “We’d better get moving; you don’t want to be late on your first day, do you?”  She turned cordially toward Lloyd.  “Even though it sounded like you were trying to get in my sister’s pants just now, it was nice seeing you.  Don’t do anything perverted or I’ll call the cops on you again, okay?”  She waved at him, and then led her sister into the building.

Lloyd covered his face.  Yet again, I’ve failed to tap my powers.  And yet again, I’m at a loss.  But he lowered his hand, and clenched it into a fist.  No.  I’m not done yet -- not even close!  For the sake of my harem…for the sake of love unyielding…I will know victory!

You just wait, world.  You’ll not best me!

*

Unfortunately for Lloyd, he’d have to wait on making is claims come to fruition.  He had to sit through anatomy class first.

Science has always been my weakest subject, he mused, watching as the last few students shuffled through the classroom door.  Perhaps in this, my final year in high school, I stand a chance at making myself akin to Asclepius.  He turned to his right; rows of counters and sinks filled the other half of the room, along with the engraved scent of chemicals -- a testament to dissections long past.  Or maybe I’ll consider it a victory if I don’t throw up.

He turned back ahead, staring at a map of the ocean’s currents with particular intensity.  But that aside, I need to redouble my efforts.  I’ve my share of issues -- the end of High Tide Park and the dissolution of the drama club chief among them -- but I’d best focus on problems I can easily remedy.  And right now, that problem would be…

He stared at his hands for what had to be the eightieth time that day.  Hmmm.  That new lotion seems to be doing wonders for my skin.  But nevertheless, I need to find out just why exactly my powers aren’t working.  What on earth could I be missing?  Surely I haven’t lost them! Considering how effortlessly I managed to connect with Miss Walters, I hardly think my powers would just vanish without notice.  Given that, there must be some sort of requirement -- a set of conditions that must be met to enter the audition room.

The bell went off with a series of metallic pings, and the last few students scrambled into empty seats.  And yet the teacher’s desk, sitting atop a short podium, remained empty.  The students took the opportunity to keep chatting, catching up with old friends and regaling each other about their summer exploits.  Naturally, no one dared speak with the prince -- yet Lloyd ignored that sentiment for the moment. His body just started moving on its own, bringing him to the front of the room.

He pressed a hand to his heart.  “Brothers and sisters, gathered before me in this hall of knowledge, hear me -- let my voice, and my words, be engraved upon your souls!  Welcome back, my fellow classmates!”

The class went silent.  The first day of school, and already they were having a time-wasting assembly?

“I, Lloyd B. Hoigleheimer, your trusted compatriot of the student body, would like to express my deep and unflinching elation in seeing your faces once more.  Many weeks have passed since last we met, and many nights I did long to see the faces of my most beloved peers!”

“Who’s that guy?” someone in the back of the room asked.

But Lloyd paid him no mind.  While his body -- and especially his mouth -- went to work, a corner of his mind kept at work with his reasoning.  What could the conditions be?  What made a connection with Miss Walters possible that couldn’t be done with Miss May?  And by extension, Little Miss Byrne?

“But alas, our time together is coming to an end,” Lloyd continued, pressing his hands to his chest like a nun in prayer.  “We have but a few months to continue cooperating, crafting memories that will carry us from this ephemeral moment until our final seconds in this world; thus, we must do all we can in the time left to us.”

The conditions when I met Miss Walters…if I reflect on them, there were a few elements.  I was in the hospital when we first connected -- in a sorry state, no less.  If not for her saving me, doubtless I would have perished.  Twice over, considering the mishap in the water.

“While we may each subscribe to a different brand of justice, with our pooled knowledge, resources, and power, we as a new generation may strike back against the knaves and foul airs that plague our world -- for you see…”

Could the requirement be physical pain or discomfort?  Perhaps…or perhaps it’s merely the ideas and emotions that result from it.  Pity, concern, or perhaps…perhaps it’s not a case of looking down upon me in my worrisome state, but the start of a new bond.  In other words, endearment.

 Lloyd lowered his head, and clutched his right hand into a fist.  “If you believe in your dreams with unflinching resolve, you stand a chance at reaching the zenith of human potential, straddling the line between heaven and earth -- you may very well become an actor!”

Miss Walters was able to find some semblance of faith in me -- a thread to tug on, and help pull her into the audition room.  Given our dialogue earlier, neither of the Byrne sisters could forge the same framework for a bond -- and similarly, neither could Miss May. 

“Because there are few things in this world more delicious than cantaloupe!”

So, if I can forge a bond with a person, however slight, I can stand a chance to enter the audition room.  Yes…it’s merely conjecture for now, but as long as I use the lessons Miss Walters’ experience taught me, then I should be able to surmount any unforeseen problems.  And so, my course is clear.

“Never wear your Sunday best whilst painting, lest you seek to stain your reputation as well as your clothes!”

First, I’ll contact Miss Walters; with a short conversation, I may find some additional clues to guide my course.  Second, I’ll begin purifying my sullied name, and speed along the endearment process.  And then, finally, I’ll begin learning how to harness this power with reignited zeal and learned passion!

Just before Lloyd could start discussing the importance of breathing, he bolted out of the room.  “The performance is at its end!” he called out, his voice making it through the doorway.  He hoped that the others heard him; with eyes ablaze, he dashed through the halls as quickly as he could.  I’ll do Miss Walters an even greater service!  I’ll not just call her (mostly because I don’t know her number); I’ll return to her, and converse at length!  And then -- finally --I’ll take a grand leap towards my lovers’ paradise!

He pranced through the hall to illustrate the point. Ah, what a feeling this is!  To know that I’m moving towards a dream…I’ve never felt better!

Ka-TACKLE!

Lloyd went spiraling through the air and crashed against a locker.  “…Okay, I deserved that,” he moaned as he fell on his face.  “It’s been too long since I was the victim of any slapstick.”

“Get to class, punk!” the hall monitor bellowed.  “Or you’re goin’ to the VP!”

Lloyd held up a quivering hand.  “P-perhaps you could have warned me of such before you liquefied my ribs?”

The hall monitor looked about ready to stomp Lloyd’s head into sauce -- but a sudden rush of footsteps echoed through the hall, and held the stomping at bay.  “Hey now!  Leave that poor student alone!”

Lloyd lifted his face from the ground.  He caught a glimpse of black high-heels and brown stockings, a black skirt and sleeveless collared shirt tagged with lotus flowers.  But he paid no mind to the clothing, or even the pleasing form they clung to.   

 That voice…that creamy, maternal timbre…could it be…?  He picked himself up and stood upright, and gazed in awe at the exchange ahead.  The hall monitor -- several inches above towering -- reeled as a young woman leaned toward him, hands on her hips.  Lloyd observed her form, but hardly needed to study the body he’d seen so many times before; the svelte, graceful body.  The skin, pale like a porcelain doll and twice as smooth.  The scent of flowers, refreshing as a spring breeze, swirling about her.  The silky black hair, with its straightened edges just barely gracing her shoulders.  Those dark eyes of hers, now agleam with indignation.

“M-Miss Zhang?  Is that really you?  It is!”  Lloyd pushed the hall monitor aside -- or at least tried to.  With all that girth, he’d sooner move an elephant.  “I never thought I’d see you again!”

“Ah!  Lloyd?  Lloyd Hoi…”  She covered her mouth.  “Goodness!  You’ve gotten so tall!  And…purple-haired.”  She turned toward the hall monitor.  “You can leave this to me.  I’ll escort him back to class.”

The hall monitor grumbled and lurched away.  No head-stomping today, it seemed.

Lloyd clapped his hands together.  “Ah, Miss Lien-Hua Zhang!  What auspicious fortune it is to stand together with you again!  Much praise must be offered to the gods above!”

Lien-Hua flashed a polite smile.   “I see you still have…an interesting way of speaking.”

“But of course!  As a self-ordained entertainer, I would have nothing less but this articulate manner of speech!  But enough of that; what brings you to L. Bernstein, old friend?”

She pointed to the classroom Lloyd had just abandoned.  “Well, I’ve got a class to teach -- and it won’t do me any good to stand out here.”

“Ah!  Not only a teacher, but teaching in MY classroom?!  This has transcended coincidence; what we have is nothing short of destiny’s bond!  Merry days await us, if only we --”

“Lloyd?”

Lloyd straightened up like a soldier at attention.  “Yes ma’am?”

“We should get to class now, shouldn’t we?  It’s unsightly for a new teacher to let the class go unattended to.”

“Yes, I agree!”

“Then you’ll join me, right?”

“Ah --”  Lloyd glanced aside with a nervous smile.  He’d planned to get in contact with Trixie as soon as possible, but something in his gut told him that he’d do well to hold off…especially considering the pain still lingering in his chest. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt,” he said with a callous wave.  “I’m sure that with your stellar instruction, I’ll become the supreme chancellor of science!”

Lien-Hua giggled.  “Well, I don’t know about that...but still, let’s do our best, okay?”  She held out a hand.  “I’ll be sure to make this school year your best yet.”

“I’m looking forward to it!” Without a second thought, Lloyd reached for Lien-Hua’s hand, and seized it in his own.

He probably should have thought it over first.

--STAGE ON--

TO BE HEARTINUED…

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