Black Coffee and Determination is the fifth chapter of Lissa's Game High fanfic Pixels and Polygons. It can be read below.
Black Coffee and Determination Edit
“So, what are you doing for your English report?”
Simon and Takashi had begun sitting at the same table for lunch, hitting it off with swapped tales of magic and monsters. Honey, not one to be left out when there was talk of enchanted golden pirates, soon began sitting with them. Sofia couldn’t find a single other child of someone from the VWMA (“Can you even imagine?”) and begun tagging along with her roommate, making it to the same table. And it was only a matter of time until Vanessa began her own psychological profile on Takashi, interested in him and his evil overlord attire. And that’s how those five ended up at the same lunch table, talking of what they were going to write about for Prof. Layton’s class.
The question Takashi asked was directed at everyone, so Simon started first. “The Legend of Zelda.” He said proudly, “I’m going to piece together the exact timeline of events.”
“‘S that includin’ the CD-i games?” Honey asked, taking a swig from her milk carton.
He nodded. “But of course! They count, right?”
There were a few mutters (and grimaces) here and there about how they most certainly should not count. Honey took this opportunity to say her topic. “No More Heroes!” She grinned. “I dunno about you, but I’d love to be a ranked assassin. Making sweet cash just by killing suckers! Ah, that’s the life.”
“Rhythm Heaven!” Sofia’s eyes began to shine. “Everything I could ever wish for! Cute art style, funky music, and you get to improve your timing! It’s all I need in life!”
“I myself am going more broad.” Vanessa stabbed her fork into her little salad, topped with a generous helping of raspberry vinaigrette dressing. “Flash games. Do the likes of The Pretender, Amateur Surgeon, and You Find Yourself in a Room count for less because they were not officially released in packaging?” She put the glob of salad into her mouth, then shoved it into the corner of her cheek so she could keep talking. “And 1213! That’s an original title never released by a named company. For download and everything! Does that count?”
Takashi nodded, particularly interested in that last one, and then he revealed his own topic: “Psychonauts.” A smile went across his face. “What I’d pay to be a psychic. I could see how other people see me, enter everyone’s minds…” His eyes lit up in wonder and admiration. “That’d be bliss.”
“Wait wait.” Sofia blinked, spearing her little dessert flan with her fork. “Y’mean you’re not a psychic?”
“No. Did you think I was?”
“Sí. Well, you don’t have any of those twinkly gem thingies Great Tiger has,” She twiddled her fingers a bit, as though this explained what she was talking about quite clearly, “So you can’t make clones and, like, teleport and stuff. I don’t know, magic isn’t my thing, y’know? That’s all you.”
He gave a small shrug; all things considered, that was reasonable. “No, I’m no psychic. Just a simple evil prince, evil king to be, it’ll be great.” Pause. “Wait! You think I can get a summer job being a counselor for Whispering Rock?” Takashi grinned, a sudden giddiness rushing through his body at this idea. “You don’t have to be psychic to be a counselor, right? I doubt it. I mean, look at this!” He knocked his food aside (towards Simon, who wasted no time taking his banana nut muffin) and put one hand above the other. In the space between his hands, a dark, crackling thundercloud formed. Takashi grinned a manic smile, and for the first time everyone could see the competent evil wizard inside him. Then a rogue lightning bolt from the cloud snaked over and hit Sofia, leaving her comically charred. Everyone began snickering, and Takashi quickly put out the cloud. “Oh! Um. Sorry! Y-you know, you were the last person I was looking at and…”
Her fist clenched around her fork, stabbing her flan so quickly it was split in two. “Oh--! Usted estúpido mago! Es por esto que no me molesto con la magia! A sólo buenos puñetazos anticuados.” Sofia’s little angry Spanish rant over, she patted at her hair to find her roses charred. She sighed, quietly shedding a tear for the lost blooms. Then she speared one half of her flan and began eating, wiping ash off her body with a free hand.
“Pity your lightning’s of the non-lethal variety…” Simon murmured under his breath, to which Sofia glared right at him and he said no more.
A chuckle escape Vanessa as she eyed Sofia. “Certainly a shocking development for Takashi,” She remarked, causing the Spaniard to hiss spitefully. The fox paid her very little heed as she took out her psychological profile on Takashi (kept in a very official-looking binder) and scrawled in a few more notes. Hopefully she could use this for extra credit sometime. “Anyhow. Did anyone actually start their report?”
Nobody gave any definitive answer to this, non-committing murmurs going around drowned out by muffins and flan. It wasn’t that much of an issue. After all, they still had a week…
But that can often be a problem with a group of close comrades. They often assure one another they have more time than they actually possess. Honey and Simon sparred in Game Combat; Vanessa had to play keep-away with her gadgets more times than she cared to admit; Sofia ended up becoming something of a teacher’s pet in Dance; and Takashi was put in charge of making sure nobody stole the Legendary Rings in Advanced Magic Use (even though The Demon Jester’s Ring was so very tempting). Honestly, they were all quite busy. Nobody had the time to sit down and write a report on Psychonauts and Rhythm Heaven and what have you.
Which is how they all ended up at the same table during lunch hour the day before the paper was due.
“We’re gutted.” Sofia muttered, looking at her lobster taco in dismay. “Prof. Layton will split our spines,” She picked up her lunch and made a gesture at it with her other hand. “Like lobsters.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Simon said, though then again he knew puzzle game characters weren’t always the most benign of the bunch, as was commonly thought.
Vanessa shrugged, not seeming worried at all. “You’d be surprised how hard it is to research my topic. Thought it’d be a flash...But no. Indie games get all the fame, nothin’ on Flash at all…”
Takashi’s fingers were drumming on the table idly. “They expect me to come up with a good essay when I can’t even go to the camp? I tried to interview Mr. Bonaparte but he always said he was busy…”
“So what’re we gonna do?” Honey scowled, glancing to the others. “Normally I’d just knock ‘im out, take...What d’ya think he has?”
“Well,” Takashi made the mistake of piping in, “I heard in one game he had this slot machine gun--”
Honey’s eyes lit up bright. “Waaaaaaawaitwaitwait. Did’ja say slot machine gun?” She grinned, leaning back (as much as she could, sitting at a lunch table and all). “That’s cool. Mom’ll be thrilled when I take that back…”
“You’re not taking anything.” Simon deadpanned. Honey was about to protest this notion when the white-haired pirate looked over at her with a smirk. “Because I’m gettin’ that first.”
“Ooooh--You’re on, pretty boy!”
“It’s a date. Whoever gets it first pays.”
“Yeah! W--Wait, what!?”
Vanessa stabbed at her salad loudly, distracting the pirates for a moment. “Now, remember matters. Prof. Layton was gonna gut us? We have to finish this report in a day, need we forget…”
Honey leaned back a bit, looking at the fox with a cocked eyebrow. “Have you got a plan, foxy? Some gadget or...Somethin’?”
She shook her head. “But I know someone who’ll let us use a room.”
“You do?” Everyone asked, surprised by this notion.
Vanessa just smirked. “But of course! That room is my room too.”
So after lunch, after the rest of their classes were attended, everyone met up with Vanessa in the dorm commons. She beckoned, and they followed behind her, worming around other students as they made their way to her room. Her room was on the first floor, and they were there fairly quickly, but to the fox’s surprise the door was already slightly ajar. Curious, Vanessa walked in slowly, followed by Sofia, Takashi, Honey, and Simon.
They were greeted by someone talking from behind the room divider.
“Pac-Man! Of courze you’d pick Pac-Man, it’z only obviouz, I’d zink!” The voice sort of sounded like someone from the midwestern United States trying their hardest to do a German accent, and while it sometimes sounded authentic, most of the time it did not. “It’z pretty good, pretty good! An’ you liked mine?” Pause. “Ah, zank you, danke! I know not many people know of Illbleed, but I really have to go to ze virtual horror land zomeday, you know? I’m a bit numb to horror an’ I hope zat it can bring it back.” Another pause. “Well, zank you again. Be going now, Gregory iz waiting. Goodbye!” There was the creak of someone getting off bedsprings, then someone slunk around the room divider, allowing everyone to see the offending speaker. He was tall, with an unhealthy pallor, brownish-black hair, and a purple velvet prince’s suit. He seemed a bit taken aback by the influx of people on the other side of the divider, but soon lit up and grinned. “Hallo, Vanezza!”
“Hello, Tökkentäkker. Do you know my companions? Flamenco, Syrup, Centifolia...Takashi.”
“Hallo, hallo, hallo, and hallo! I’m Ambroz von Tökkentäkker, nize to see you! Pardon, but I muzt go, Gregory might try to poizon me again if I’m late!” Ambros gave a little wave before weaving around the group and vanishing beyond the doorframe.
The fox’s friendly demeanor vanished as she shook his head. “The accent is barely even German anymore.” She tutted, then walked over to the room divider and poked her head around it. “Harold? Um, as it turns out...Yeah, nail on the head. So, you don’t mind if we--Oh, you even got the good creamer! You’re a lifesaver, Harold.” She turned her head back to the rest of the gang before making the ‘okay’ sign with her hand. “Oh, er, you want to come say hi, Harold?” A pause, then Vanessa backed up. “Friends, Honey, this is my roommate.”
A short male stepped out from behind the divider, with tanned skin and black hair. He wore a sort of medieval...Potato sack...Thing (nobody quite knew what the heck he was wearing), with some sort of silver garment below it. The potato sack had a belt around the middle and three neat little stars on the breast as some sort of design. On his feet were simple, cheap leather boots. He greeted them all with a nice little smile and a wave.
“Harold the Heir. Son of Dirk the Daring, game’s Dragon’s Lair, not to forget Time Warp, he says hi.” Vanessa said for him, and he nodded. “He’s taken this silent protagonist oath so don’t expect him to say much. He’s agreed to let us use the room, too! Even got the good coffee creamer.”
“Coffee creamer…? Oh no.” Sofia squeaked, her eyes going wide. “Don’t tell me this means…”
“Yes.” The spy deadpanned, a glint sparking in her eyes. “We’re writing this essay, even if we die of caffeine poisoning!”
A minor, dead silence swept through the room. Everyone sort of glanced at one another, groaning internally. Vanessa’s gusto was appreciated, but really…
Nonetheless, thusly, they began.
With laptops rented from the library the five of them typed like there was no tomorrow. There’s something about pulling an all-nighter that just cannot be captured in words--The sound of keys and the voices of everyone asking each other for words to make themselves sound that much better (they probably shouldn’t have bothered; Prof. Layton was notoriously hard to impress); the feel of tired stinging at your eyelids and the sound of Harold, who was very compliant to everything they asked even if it meant slipping out past curfew, going to swipe some more coffee to keep them moving. Every now and again Vanessa would say some sort of aside to Harold, and he’d smirk and point to the screen once more. Everyone would try to understand what was going on between them, to no avail.
“This is awful!” Sofia finally exclaimed, eyebrows furrowing. “Layton’s still gonna split my spine and I’m not gonna lie I’ve been watching videos for the past half hour.”
“That’s better than somma’ us.” Honey said. She was laying on her back, feet propped on Vanessa’s bedframe, laptop on her chest. For emphasis, she reached far to her left, fingers bushing Takashi--Completely out, wrapped in his cape.
“Well, yeah, but Takashi’s a lightweight. He couldn’t get drunk on power, much less coffee.”
Simon had to bite his tongue to hold back a yawn of his own. “Well, Sofia, perhaps had you possessed better time management skills, you wouldn’t be here right now.”
“Wh--” She blinked, taken aback. “You’re here too, Simon! Don’t go bein’ all hoity-toity an’ holier-than-thou, bueno?”
“Of course I’m here. Zelda has a...Lot...Of things to...To put together. How does Faces of Evil relate to Spirit Tracks and then how does it relate to Majora’s Mask? Very important stuff. You wouldn’t get it.”
“I wouldn’t get it? You’re the one writing about the CD-i like you can take it seriously!”
“It’s a...It’s a sophisticated system. Like the Virtual Boy.”
“Hey, hey.” Honey shifted so she could see Simon better. “Y’don’t mention Virtual Boy, ‘kay? It’s the only time bein’ the best game on the system ain’t a compliment.” She shifted back. “B’sides, you’re clearly pullin’ things outta’ your--”
Vanessa sighed loudly, rubbing her temples. “And we were doing so well, too…” Harold was standing behind her, and he patted her shoulder sympathetically. “Someone nudge Takashi awake. Just because Layton’s grading us doesn’t mean we can lay down.” A pause, and then, as a deadpan aside, “Yeah, that one was a stretch…”
When nobody dared wake up the evil prince, everyone paused and stared at Harold. Upon realizing everyone had their gaze fixed on him, his eyes widened and he shook his head, taking a wary step back. Honey sighed, letting a sandal fall on her face and threw it at Takashi’s head. He gave a little gasp, sitting up abruptly, his fingers flying across the keyboard with sentences he must have dreamed up. They watched him for a moment, then he yawned and stretched. “...Harold, got any more?” He asked to nobody before curling up again with another teeny yawn and falling back asleep.
“Well, that was…” Honey began before her eyes wandered away and found Sofia, her head lolling forward and her body relaxing. “Oh, c’mon, not you too...Ugh, pretty boy, tell me you’re fine…”
“Barely.” Simon replied.
Harold quickly went back to Vanessa, tapping her shoulder and whispering something very quietly to her. She nodded, and he slipped behind the room divider. “...Harold’s going to bed.” The fox sighed, standing up and pulling her shirt straight. She trudged over to her bed, murmuring to herself and falling onto the mattress. “Giving up. I’ll hack into the databases. G’night.”
“What!?” Honey set her laptop aside, maneuvering into a sitting position to look at the spectacular display of Vanessa giving up. “This was your idea! Ugh, you’re all lousy saps.” She shifted again, looking back to Simon. “So, guess it’s just you and me, pretty boy.”
Simon hummed a sort of low note, shaking his head as he closed his laptop and propped himself on the room divider. “No. It’s just you.” And then, slowly, his head lolled forward too.
Her jaw dropped, an angry growl coming from her throat. She slammed her laptop shut, scowling at her sleeping, treacherous friends. Could nobody get properly hopped on coffee anymore? She scooted closer to Vanessa’s bed, yanked a loose sheet off of it, and lay down on the ground, drifting off as well.
And then, at six-fifteen on the dot after two hours of sleep, there was the awful blaring of an alarm clock and a frenzy like you wouldn’t believe. All six of them seemed to recall they were in a room together at the exact same time, so everyone was frantically smoothing out their clothes, tripping over laptops, typing a final few sentences before printing them out (since every room just had to have printers in them, Master Hand’s orders) and rushing off to first hour, all without breakfast and running on leftover caffeine and two hours of sleep.
But, in varying hours of the day, they turned their essays in.
And, two weeks later, they got them back.
Only Harold received an ‘A’.
First Chapter: We Begin by Entering
Previous Chapter: The Perilous Princess Predicament
Next Chapter: Anything You Can Do