Harold's Birthday is the fifteenth chapter of Lissa's Game High fanfic, Pixels and Polygons. It can be read below.
Harold's Birthday Edit
It had been two weeks since Vanessa had her chat with Voltar, the Outfielder, and Magnilde. Two long, long weeks for a certain blonde wizard. It was getting harder to lie to everyone about his little condition, harder to ignore the crooning whispers in his head. And, as of this morning...His fingers were absolutely pouring dark magic.
“Takashi!” Honey shouted again, cramming tissue paper in a gift bag. Today, the air outside of Game High was crisp, the atmosphere preparing itself for snow to arrive any moment now. Today was also, coincidentally, Harold’s birthday. Honey set the gift bag atop her dresser and began rooting through her clothing, looking for something marginally better than her normal attire, since that’s just what people did for birthdays. “Takashi, you get your rear in gear or we’ll see just how squishy of a wizard you are.”
The Darkling in question was having a bit of trouble with his magic. He flicked his wrist, and his illusionary self came into view--And then faded. Flick and fade. Flick and fade. Takashi grit his teeth and balled his fists, resisting the ever-increasing urge to punch the wall. “Honey, c-can you get me some elixirs?”
“Elixirs?” Honey pulled out a dress from her lowermost drawer, a mostly purple ensemble with the skirt showing a pattern of a carousel of Cataquacks. She growled at the dress. Didn’t she say she’d burn it? She crammed it back in and kept looking. “That different from potions? Got one or two of those.”
“No, no--Potions restore health, elixirs restore magic, haven’t you pa-paid any attention at all!?”
“Shas an’ I are usually chattin’, cut me some slack. Whadaya need ‘em for?”
He paused, swallowing. Flick and fade. He was clearly out of magic, though the dark magic coming from his fingers made it clear he had more then enough Darkling magic. Could summon monsters to every town at this rate. But the last thing he wanted to use right now is Darkling magic. “...U-um, for, y’know. Sp-spells and...And wha-whatnot.”
Honey shot him a look through the room divider, not quite buying that story. She yanked out a red-and-white striped shirt, decided it good enough, and removed her standard tattered blue top and put it on. “Yeah, I don’t know if you’re aware, I ain’t magic. So I don’t have any of those with me. Stop with your magic malarky and hurry it up, Nessa’s gonna get antsy soon.”
“O-okay, um...I’ll just toss my present over the divider, and then…”
She frowned hard, yanking out a pair of grayish tights. These would do. She pulled off her shorts and put these tights on, tying a jacket around her waist. “No, no, y’are comin’ to Harold’s birthday, ain’t ‘cha?”
“N-not without elixirs!”
“What d’ya need them for that’s so bad that y’can’t even get out?”
Takashi sighed from his side of the room, burying his face into his hands, sharp Darkling fingernails sinking into his skin. “It’s--It’s really important, and I-I can’t be seen unless I ha-have proper magic, so Honey, can’t you please just--Just--Find me some elixirs and then I c-can make it to Harold’s party--”
The female pirate gave a warning hiss through her teeth. She stood up, pulling tall boots on, then walked towards the room divider, putting a hand on her hip. “You get out here, Takashi, or I’ll knock the divider down.”
“Honey! No, no no, I--I can’t get out, don’t knock it over, can’t you please--”
A sharp kick came against the room divider. It fell against the floor with a spectacular clatter, shattering the illusion of the room being divided. Honey set her jaw, leering around the wizard’s half of the room--Then her eyes landed on the Darkling on the bed, who had wide eyes and was slightly cowering. She stared at him. Then she hung her head and let out a string of curses that would fit very nicely in an M-rated game. “Takashi!”
He tensed up, shuffling further into the corner, his wings giving a twitch. “I-I need elixirs to cover this up!”
“What--What happened to you!?”
“I-I was looking for something to tr-try and save Simon, and I got overwhelmed, and th-this mental bat began screeching--”
“And--And Mr. Weber said he could make it stop, and--And--And now I’m this!” His voice bordered on a wail, gesturing to himself frantically, pulling himself into a tighter ball. “Th-this is why I need elixirs, I’ve be-been covering it up with illusion magic, but no-now I can’t…”
“...More than two weeks ago. Th-the day after Simon disappeared, be-before Weber left.”
The pirate girl exhaled through her nose, rubbing her face slowly, trying to regather her thoughts into something more than angry shouts and curses. “...So. You’re the Darkling.”
“I-I didn’t want you t-to see me like this...” He wilted, tail shifting, wings drooping. “I don’t want to hurt anyone, I really don’t, but if th-they see me...” Takashi gave a small shudder, refusing to think about what could happen--What they’d do to him, or worse, what he’d do to them. “So, um. You don’t mind if I opt out of the party?”
Honey peeked out from between her fingers, sighing. Her hands lowered. “...Where’s your present?”
He looked up, eyes brightening, whole body relaxing. He got off of the bed, going over to his desk and opening the drawer, taking out a small box. “And...You promise not to tell?”
She gave him a hard stare, but sighed, nodding.
The present was passed into her hands. Takashi knelt down, picking up and pushing the room divider into it’s proper place. Honey shook her head slightly, rolling her eyes. Takashi was such a numbnut sometimes. “...I’ll get your elixirs.” She muttered, sticking the wizard’s present under her arm, then getting her own present bag and a yellow bandanna. She left the room.
How could Takashi be so stupid sometimes? Wasn’t literally the first thing you learned in Advanced Magic Use not to trust Weber? Her eyes rolled up to the numbers on the doors, then slowly she walked into the dorm commons.
“Hey, Shas.” She smiled a lopsided grin upon seeing her friend in one of the high-backed commons chairs.
Shasta looked...Anxious. She looked up, fidgeting with her baseball cap. “‘Ey, Honey-bun. You seen Scaredy ‘round?”
“Scaredy.” And, when this warranted no reaction, “The bear.” And, when that warranted no reaction either, “Not th’ evil robot bear, but, y’know, small cutesy teddy bear?” Still, nothing. Shasta sighed loudly, gesturing with a hand. “In your Weaponology class.”
“Oooooooh,” Honey nodded in realization. “Uh, nah. Why?”
Shasta frowned, shifting in her chair. “I’unno. Been ‘voiding me. And then Outfielder’s all antsy an’ thinkin’ we all see ‘im different, so th’ Spitballs ain’t doin’ so well.” She looked away, snickering to herself quietly. “No s’prise. Guess I’m kinda dumb to be stickin’ wit’em, right?” A shrug. Then Shasta looked back to Honey. “Your group doin’ fine?”
“Simon’s still nowhere, Takashi’s bonkers, Sofia’s a good fight, Nessa ain’t bad, and Harold’s...Harold.” Honey paused, then slightly adjusted the presents in her grasp. “Actually, Harold’s havin’ a birthday t’day.”
“Really?” Shasta straightened, hands feeling around her denim jumper. She eventually came up with a rubber keychain shaped like a familiar pinball machine. “Here, toss ‘im this from me. I owe ‘im a few things.”
Honey caught the keychain, nodding, sticking it into her present bag. “Hey, good luck with the others, ‘kay? Hope everything works out with your team. Me, I got a party to be at.”
Shasta tipped her hat with a toothy grin, but it didn’t have any of her trademark cheekiness to it. “Wish Harold a happy birthday.”
“Will do.” The pirate nodded, waving to her friend, who waved back. Honey walked on, through the dorm commons, giving a few nods to people she knew as she passed them. She went into the next hall, eyes going up to the numbers on the doors. However, she found very quickly that she didn’t need these numbers at all: Harold and Vanessa’s dorm room door was slightly ajar. She bumped it further open with her hip, strolling in.
Apparently, Sofia thought this was a more lavish event then it was. She had broken out an old flamenco dress, red and black with a whole bunch of ruffles, and was wearing it just for the occasion. Her hair was up in a bun (though her roses were still black), mascara on her eyelashes and lipstick on her lips. Vanessa, by contrast, was more subdued--A nice black trench coat, an orange-and-white striped skirt, and neat little black sneakers, a black fedora perched upon her head. And Harold? Harold looked exactly the same. The dorm room was littered with presents: Little cupcakes, a box of fudge, a music box, a watercolor painting...More confetti than necessary...Honey almost laughed upon seeing a Diamond Sword almost proudly held in Harold’s hands, but it was super blocky and obviously made of foam. “Whoa-ho-ho, looks like I’m underdressed.” She cracked a grin.
Sofia laughed, bounding over to Honey, snatching her two presents right out of her hands. “Oh, no no, no issue! I just needed an excuse to dress up!” She flounced back to Vanessa’s bed, setting the presents atop them. “Since yo estaba pensando, we’ve been too sad about Simon and Takashi, we need an excuse to dress up and be happy!” A pause, and the Spaniard looked back to Harold, who had developed a little bit of blush in his cheeks. “...Well, ‘cept Harold. Harold says his birthday’s no big deal.”
Harold looked down, shuffling his feet with some blush on his cheeks.
Honey laughed, tying the yellow bandanna around her head. “Hey, your birthday’s th’ most important, Harold.” She grinned, which made Harold look up and his blush increase. “So, we gettin’ this party on the road?”
Vanessa cocked an eyebrow. “Without Takashi?”
This made Honey pause. She twirled a bit of her hair, looking away, waving her other hand dismissively. “He’s busy with his magic stuff, y’know how it is.”
“Too busy for Harold?” The fox sounded almost hurt.
“...Well, y’know Takashi. He’s a nutcase!” A quick, forced laugh. “Anyway, y’wanna start this party or what?”
Vanessa didn’t look convinced, but she smiled a little bit when Harold gave a little nod. “...Alright. Harold, what do you what to open first?”
He played with the sword in his hand momentarily, then gently took one of the boxes off of Vanessa’s bed, holding it lightly. “Ooooh, that one’s mine!” Sofia grinned wide. “Espero que te guste!”
Harold gave a very small smile and a nod before setting the foam sword down, gently peeling off the paper.
The box was sectioned off, a little like a chocolate box. Except this box contained no chocolates. Instead, it seemed to have a variety of little knickknacks and powerups: Shroom Shakes, Sleepy Sheep, Whacka Bumps, etcetera--And at the bottom, two Retry Clocks. “I figured that if you’re going to go on some super cool adventuras, maybe you should have some stuff to help you out!” She beamed, and Harold just couldn’t help smiling her infectious smile back with a bright thankful nod.
Honey gave a small smirk, rolling her eyes, then hoisted her bag up and held it out for Harold. “Well, it ain’t too fancy, but happy birthday.”
A small smile, and Harold set Sofia’s gift down to take Honey’s large present bag. He tossed out the tissue paper--And suddenly, his eyes were almost glittering in awe. He pulled out what looked like an oversized golden spraybrush.
“Is that…?” Vanessa began softly.
The pirate nodded pridefully. “Authentic Areospray RG. Got it off the internet, took a while for a decent price. Me, I’m waitin’ for my Octobrush to show up, but what can ‘ya do.”
Harold made an audible squeak, the sound making him blush. He polished it with the sleeve of his shirt and then gave it a quick little hug, looking back to Honey and giving her a bright nod of thanks. Honey chuckled, saluting. With another small smile, Harold looked back over to Vanessa, carefully propping the Areospray RG against the wall.
“My turn then?” But Vanessa smiled wide, knowing the answer already. Her present was in a box wrapped in issues of the school’s newspaper, and she quickly turned around and snatched it up before handing it to Harold with a slightly unreasonable amount of flourish. “Here it is, then! You’ll have a cow with this, I promise.”
That made him crane an eyebrow. Slowly, Harold peeled the old newspapers off of the box; the box itself being cardboard with some holes punched in. He looked at the tape securing the box closed, then looked back at Vanessa expectantly, holding out a hand. She exhaled, then fumbled in her pocket before handing him a tube of lip gloss. He smiled, taking it and opening it, revealing a concealed pocketknife, which he used to cut the tape. He pulled out the contents of the box.
It was a small potted plant. The pot was brightly and decoratively painted, showing a sunny sky and a field of daisies. The plant itself was small, barely more than a little sprout, but there was something strange about it. Atop the sprout was the head of a calf, very small yet seeming comically oversized on the plant, with two little horns and two little leaves atop it’s eyeless head.
“Laganaphyllis Simnovorii!” The fox proudly proclaimed as Harold patted it’s head. “The common Cowplant. Isn’t it cute?”
Sofia seemed to think so, squealing, hopping up and scurrying over to look at it closer. Harold held the plant out so the Spaniard can give it a pat. Even Honey couldn’t help but smirk at the plant’s cute factor, but her smile soon turned into a frown of thought. “‘Ey, don’ those things grow up t’ have cake tongues and eat people?”
Slightly sheepish, Vanessa wrung her hands. “Well--They don’t have to. Only if you wanna be functionally immortal.”
“Right, of course, potentially dangerous immortality-givin’ plant. From Nessa.” Honey shot her a look, which made her fox ears flick in irritation. Honey laughed. “Seems more like a Simon thing, y’know. Immortality.”
This made everyone quiet, a little uncomfortable. It had been so long, and nobody had any leads on where Simon could be. Harold tickled his Cowplant under the chin, making it wiggle a little, nuzzling to his hand. “Bueno, Digo que tienes razón.” Sofia said softly, a laugh slipping out. Vanessa pushed her sleeve up to show her watch, adjusting a dial once, then looked back towards Honey. “What’s the box?”
“Oh?” Honey picked it up, then held the box out to Harold. “It’s Takashi’s, he’s sorry he couldn’t show. Take it.”
He blinked in surprise, then took a moment to gently tuck the Cowplant under his arm. Harold walked up to Honey, then took the small box from Honey’s grasp. He gently opened up the lid.
There was a burst of dark magic, a sudden crackle of electricity. Harold dropped the box in surprise as it began vibrating, faster and faster--And then seemed to explode, electricity jumping out and filling the air. Small fireworks shot off. Sparkling star-shaped confetti rained to the floor. ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY HAROLD’, the electricity and fireworks and smoke seemed to spell out, making Harold beam and blush. A puff of dark magic swirled up, holding Harold’s present: A scarf, sort of orangey-brown, decorated in glowing white glyphs.
Sofia gasped, overtaken by awe. “It’s one of those scarves!”
“But how?” Vanessa breathed, “I thought you had to go on some remarkable journey to get one of those!”
“It’s full, too!” Honey was staring at the scarf, transfixed, mentally counting glyphs. “All twenty-one are on there! Geez, that dork really goes all-out.”
Harold held out his hands, and the dark magic dropped the scarf into his hands. One last burst of star-shaped sparkling confetti rained down, sprinkling all four of the party guests. Ever so carefully so as not to drop the Cowplant, Harold wrapped the scarf around his neck, smiling as a warm sort of magic flowed through his body. He felt like he could fly! He swallowed hard, then--Softly, raspily--“I-I feel spoiled. Thanks.”
Everyone gasped, not expecting Harold to break his vows--But they all smiled, rushing up and wrapping Harold in a group hug. He let out a very small laugh, cheeks becoming the reddest they’d been all day. Everyone said that he was very welcome, that he deserved to be happy. They tightened ever so slightly. “Don’t squish Rosey!” He urged, curling up slightly around the Cowplant. They paused. Rosey, Harold elaborated ever so timidly. Like the Rose Rock. In memory of Simon.
And once they understood, everyone liked that.
Vanessa removed her trenchcoat and fedora, exhausted. She rooted through her dresser for her pajamas, scratching a spot on her arm absentmindedly. Harold was already dozing among all of his lavish and lovely presents, Rosey upon his desk, pot wrapped in a sweater for warmth. He loved his birthday, and she couldn’t be happier. He really deserved it, after…
The fox pulled out her pajama shirt, then scratched her arm again.
Yet there was nothing to scratch.
She looked over with a start, finding that the spot that had previously itched was now flaked off, showing static flecked with red beneath her skin. “No,” She breathed, but a good spy never panics no matter how bad the situation. Spies never showed their fear.
More and more of her skin began to flake. More and more static and redness. She quickly stripped off her wristwatch, setting it on her desk, then opened one of her drawers and dug through her things until she found another radio spider. A flick of a switch, and it was alive. Vanessa stuck the spider into the sleeve of her blouse, and then penned a note in quick penmanship:
Found a lead on Simon. I have a bug on me. Try to talk if I can.
She set the pen and paper down on her desk, drawing a shaky arrow towards the wristwatch. Her fingers flaked away into static, and embracing the unknown beyond, Vanessa let herself disappear.
First Chapter: We Begin by Entering
Previous Chapter: The Possible Perpetrators
Next Chapter: Curtain Call