A Magical Roleplaying Experience 

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 #25138  by Kael
 
Location: Broom Racing Pitch • Date: August 1994


Behind the scenes, the pitch wasn't as glamorous as it appeared. It was more practical and plain, and a bit musty. It didn't matter what country, what city, or even what damned year it was, there was always that musty smell.

"You know what I'm talking about, right? You can smell it?"

The dingy smell was all Francis seemed to care about before a race.

"So much money and effort involved and they can't dust the shelves back here once in a while. Euphémie?"

Francis was jittery with adrenaline. He was going to get the signal to head out onto the pitch any moment. There was a big race ahead with a lot on the line, and he was in Taiwan again, which meant there were a lot of people speaking in languages that he didn't understand. So he needed his translator. His translator was also his girlfriend, so he got a pretty good rate.

One of the attendants stuck his head through the curtain into the room and began speaking something foreign. Francis cut him off. He already knew what he was saying and he wasn't interested. Not then. He didn't need any more stress right before the race.

"Make something up! Please. She's not allowed back here.. but don't tell her I said that!" He looked to Zi Shang to make sure his message was received, and nodded because she was surely in agreement with him.

"I really didn't think my folks were gonna come all the way to Taiwan."
 #25187  by Everevna
 
"Hǎo de, má fan le. Wǒ huì gēn tā shuō de."

Lowering the event brochure which she had been skimming to her lap, Francis' companion offered a reassuring, kind smile at the bewildered young woman, who nodded rapidly like a cockatrice pecking at rice before disappearing behind the heavy, musky curtain. Zi Shang, meanwhile, lifted a hand to tuck a loose piece of hair behind her ear as she turned back toward her visibly neurotic partner, leaning in slightly to him with a natural manner of familiarity and intimacy that only lovers shared.

Even then, sitting side by side, the pair stood out like a sore thumb in the crowd for simply how mismatched they appeared. Her hand, as it reached to rest over his on his knee, was pale as ivory against his tan. Her demeanour, a graceful placidity, stood in stark contrast against his jittery nerves.

"Why wouldn't they? This is a milestone in your career. You've worked very hard and they know it."

She tried not to let her own nerves show. Zi Shang had never met her boyfriend's parents, though she had picked up bits and pieces of information about the mysterious older couple. They were apparently well-off from a solid accumulation by generations of financially-savvy Friis'. They each had successful careers and were well-respected members of the American magical society. They were everything her family was not, and her stomach were in knots at the mere thought of meeting them.

Still, Francis did not need the added burden. She squeezed his hand reassuringly, linking their fingers together as she had hundreds of times before, and meeting his gaze with a soft, analeptic smile.

"I'm so proud of you. I know they must be, too. And they will be watching it all from the first-class box."

Which was what the attendant had popped by to inform them, contrary to Francis' panicked belief.
 #25208  by Kael
 
Francis squeezed her hand tight as his own stomach turned just a bit more with her words. Despite the kind smile he returned, and Zi Shang's good intent, there was something in what she said that made him even more uncomfortable.

"You're right. They're just so overbearing."

Truly, it seemed Francis's mother started making wedding plans as soon as she caught him even looking at decent woman. This was, perhaps, why he had been in no rush to introduce Zi Shang to his parents. She had proven to the very most decent of them all, as far as he was concerned.

"You'll meet them after?" he asked, his brows raising to meet in the middle. It sounded as if it was a request for a favor.
 #25221  by Everevna
 
Overbearing was not the terminology she would use to describe parents who'd flown across half of the planet to support their child in his career, but Zi Shang did not make an attempt to correct her boyfriend.

Each family, after all, had a prayer book that was difficult to read.

Even then, she would have loved a family like his. Francis' parents may disagree with his choice of career, and they may disagree with one another over their personalities, but they showed up when it counted, and it counted.

She tried not to let her mind stray to her own.

"Is that an invitation or a deterrence?" she let out a small laugh, lifting her other hand to smooth over his knitted brows. "You sound like you aren't sure if you want me to."
 #30651  by Kael
 
Francis gave a nervous laugh. "It's more like I'm not sure if you want you to? You know?" He gave a sort of shrug, Zi Shang ought to have gathered as much talent for interpreting his personal lingo as his professional communications. "Of course it's an invitation. I just.. well, you'll see."

Truth be told, the lad was scared of the effect his parents might have on Zi Shang. He was scared of the effect she might have on them. He was scared of anything that seemed too serious, usually. But he could feel one of those interactions imminently approaching. A high stakes race was, oddly enough, just what he needed to take the edge off.
 #33256  by Everevna
 
"I will," Zi Shang concurred, unchangingly placid and seeming almost unconcerned in comparison to the racer's palpable anxiety.

Even when she was not, even as she stroked the back of his hand with a reassuring thumb in his jittery restlessness, and her expression turned still and contemplative when he looked elsewhere in his distraction.

Did she know? It did not slip past the woman's attention that the male had fleeting caprices, but it was never destructive. Not that she had noticed. Francis was simply Francis, young and temperamental and mercurial like all men of his age. Kaleidoscopic, the way she had never seen anyone, certainly not in herself, and she loved him for that.

But was it that Zi Shang didn't want Zi Shang to meet Francis' parents?

Or was it that Francis wasn't sure if Francis wanted Zi Shang to meet Francis' parents?

The sound of an attendant's voice in a familiar string of her mother tongue placed a cork in her introspection, just enough that the translator recomposed her expression into its customary tranquility to smile softly at the racer, who seemed to understand that his cue was up without her having to translate.

"Good luck," Francis' girlfriend said simply, momentarily pressing her lips to his, where she held the kiss for just a heartbeat.

"Leave them in the dust."
 #35583  by Kael
 
Francis could feel some tension, but he wasn't in the frame of mind to realize that it may have been his own creation. The fight or flight instinct was kicking in. And it was time to fly.

Zi Shang's affection was reciprocated, loudly and overly-enthusiastically, with something that Francis would accurately describe as a 'smooch.' He could feel everything falling into place, reassuring himself of his own solidarity as he squeezed his girl firmly on each shoulder.

"I will. I've got to keep myself qualified, at least." He smirked. "Otherwise I'll be out of a job and you'll have no excuse to stick around."
 #35593  by Everevna
 
It did not seem to matter that it was not her first time joining Francis in the waiting tent before a race. When they parted, a rosy flush still coloured the young woman's pale cheeks as she cast an involuntary, cursory glance at their surroundings. Fortunately, every other person seemed either too preoccupied to notice, or was at least too polite to show that they did.

"I am not sure. You would make a very handsome house husband," Zi Shang reassured quietly with a vixenish glimmer of a smirk of her own. She linked their fingers briefly as he turned to leave, giving his hand a quick squeeze.

Just for good luck.

After the racers were gone to assume their positions on the tracks, she joined their other companions in filing out into the designated spectator stand and watched the miniature figures of the racers rise over the starting line. Even as she leaned forward in her own seat to pin her gaze on the one and only racer she rooted for when they catapulted forward at the sound of the whistle, the translator tried not to wince from a deafening roar of cheering and hooting that rippled across the crowds like thunder in a monsoon storm, That, too, did not seem to matter how many times she'd watched these races.

When he won—as he nearly always did—the view of her boyfriend swallowed up amid flashing camera lights and a swarm of enthused sports journalists and reporters held her back in the spectators' stand. She watched, a proud smile hidden behind fingers pressed to her lips, him throwing his arms around his parents and pulling them in for a group shot. She noted the way that the older couple seemed only mildly flustered, but pulled themselves together within a blink of an eye to smile graciously for the cameras.

The village-raised daughter trailed behind the group as they returned to the racers' tent. It was barely minutes before the racers came billowing in through. The victorious one was in the forefront of them all, a hurricane in his own right, his parents mere steps behind him.

Zi Shang smiled, trying to mask the nervousness behind it, though her excitement still shone through the cracks as he closed the gap between them amidst the cheering and feet stamping and back patting.

"I am sorry that you'll have to give up your dream of being a house husband," she whispered in Francis' ear.
 #35595  by Kael
 
He was above. He was beyond. Had he crossed a finish line? Or had he taken a ninety degree turn towards the sky and rocketed straight to the heavens -- simultaneously existing as the galaxy's brightest star, as well as the very first to arrive with the transcendental, cosmic eruption that could only be known as Francis Friis.

It was a lapse of time that could not be truly measured. Francis was gone in this time, tuned into the exact frequency that he was designed for, operating for the exact task that he'd been built for. This was it.

Suddenly, everything was slowing down. He was the fish at the end of the line, being reeled in towards the static, open air that could suffocate him.

Francis's pupils dilated as he returned and focused back on Zi Shang. She was here. He was here. He'd won and that was something that he needed to share with those important to him.

"I won." He smiled and let out a long breath, like it was the first he'd released since crossing the finish line.

Francis wasn't perfect. He was far too often wrapped up in his own stardom and lacking in self awareness. But Zi Shang was something great and that would require some effort to hold, he knew.

"Thank you."

They had only a few short moments before the hurricane would trail in.
 #35597  by Everevna
 
The young woman was not in the trade of playing coy. Zi Shang knew why Francis thanked her. It was not only for the emotional support, though she hoped that too meant enough to him. It was probably also because her translations had helped him get his foot in the door to what was, in her limited understanding, one of the largest and most prized races on the continent she had been born in.

It was not as if she did not believe then that he'd win—she had always known that he was a winner. His talent shone through, even to her untrained eye. She'd believe him till the sun darkened into a shadow.

Francis' girlfriend just wasn't sure what came next after he won.

Perhaps she had intentionally refused to think of it.

Perhaps she was afraid. She hoped he did not see it behind her gaze, behind her smile, the latter of which was still very real, and very happy for him, and very impossibly proud.

Zi Shang shook her head as she placed her hands on both sides of his face. "You won," she repeated after him with conviction. "It was all you. You were a comet."
 #35615  by Kael
 
His grin said it all. What words were there, really, in a moment like this? His appreciation for Zi Shang was real, and Francis was better at showing how he felt than he was at saying it.

"Close friends and family only! Out! Out out out!" he turned and snapped at the horde that had followed, mostly reporters and the like. Francis loved the limelight, so pushing it away for something more intimate was a big move to anyone that knew him.

"Go on!" he gestured to the attendant once again, insisting that they usher out any unwanted guests.

As the crowd dissipated, two figures remained -- Francis' parents. They were modelesque, the epitome of upper-class, American success. His father, Floyd, was tall and only a hair shorter than his son. He carried himself with great confidence, like a man who got what he wanted at the snap of his fingers. His mother, Fiona, did have a more noticeable air of snootiness. One would gather that she was born into her success and married into the proper lineage. But she was not immediately unpleasant. She was petite and fit.

Francis found himself in his parents' embrace, with congratulations and welcomes that he'd started growing used to.
 #35617  by Everevna
 
As Francis turned away, the student of languages tried to hide her smile at that trifle little word choice. 'Close friends', as if there were more than only her, aside of his own parents, who presumably fit the description of 'family'. She appreciated the gesture, if only because she knew just precisely how much he'd otherwise relish the opportunity to bask in the limelight and the attention for a little longer before the commotion over a fresh-earned victory passed. It passed quickly, she'd came to learn in her short stint of observation by the athlete's side.

Now that the Friis' were not coloured miniature dots several hundred feet away, Zi Shang could see where her partner had inherited his personable looks. The charming smile was cut of the same cloth from his father's, albeit a more boyish, youthful take on Floyd Friis' less boisterous smile. His eyes were Fiona Friis', whose polished sense of style Francis had clearly failed to assume. Even from afar, it was evident that the older woman's attire could not have been from just any department store in Constellation Plaza.

This up close....

Zi Shang involuntarily looked down at her simple, modest wrap sundress that she'd purchased for bargain at a vintage store. She tweaked at a hem in an attempt to straighten it—a likely unnecessary move. Was that a loose thread?
 #35619  by Kael
 
"Euphémie, these are my parents. Floyd and Fiona." Francis gestured to each parent. He was a charismatic lad, but even he could feel the odd tension during meetings like this. He just needed to plow through it and trust that things would settle in quickly.

"And this is her! Zi Shang. Euphémie. My lover. My light. The key to my success."

Fiona rolled her eyes playfully while Floyd grinned at Francis' dramatic introductions. They both approached for a quick sort of half-hug that was pleasant and genuine enough, but as reserved as one might expect from someone they'd never truly met.

"Great to meet you, dear," Fiona offered.

"We've heard a lot!" Floyd added. "Sounds like you've been keeping our boy in one piece. You might get to spend more time with him as healer, though, considering how much dirt he's eaten to get this far."
 #35625  by Everevna
 
Francis' lover and light startled as she heard him addressing her. Fidgeting hands hastily lowered whilst a soft smile began to lilt on her lips, though it briefly turned abashed as he launched into the considerably pronounced introduction of her role in his life.

Really. One would be forgiven to think he came from French ancestry instead of some distant Danish lineage.

She ushered forward to return the Friis' greeting embraces, trying not to focus on how strange these Western ways were. Hugging an elder? And an elder, who, by all means if things went well as these things were meant to go, would become her in-laws? Was Confucius turning in his grave this very moment?

She had never even embraced her own parents, but that was also—especially—a thought she nipped in the bud as soon as it bloomed.

"I suppose I could afford to take on a minor. It certainly is less of a mouthful than 'magiphilologist'," the philology student answered lightly, her jesting tone tinged with a mild hint of nervousness that she hoped they could not tell. Zi Shang smiled her best gracious, polite girlfriend-of-one's-only-son smile as soon as they stepped back. "It is my honour to meet you, Floyd and Fiona."

Floyd and Fiona. Confucius was definitely turning in his grave now.

"Francis speaks of you often with the most appreciation for everything you have done for him. This victory today is as much yours as it is his."
 #35627  by Kael
 
This was Francis' chance to sit back and let it all unfold, he thought.

"Oh, how proper!" Fiona smiled and fluttered her lashes a bit. She was the type to expect that sort of respect, but it wouldn't stop her from being just a tinge backhanded about how she acknowledged it.

"Well, good!" said Floyd. "And a victory for you, too? The pair of you have made some progress together."

"'Magiphilologist,'" Fiona wondered aloud. "What a choice of profession, that is. I can't imagine you ever thought it would bring you here."