1.04 Differences Between Wouldn't and Couldn't



“So that vial contains magic?” Agnes eyed the blue bottle questioningly.


“I know it doesn’t look like much, but…” Olivia carefully reached down and tapped the side of the bottle with her finger, causing it to change colors within the glass chamber that held it.
Agnes leaned over to look at the vial, feeling a soft pull - a hum. It felt almost like she was a moth being pulled to the light. She reached for it, but stopped. “Is it safe to touch?”


Olivia nodded, “yes, it should be. It’ll actually be a good test to see how my last round of stabilization worked on it.”


Agnes’s finger approached the glass and colors began to swirl in it. Olivia had grown quiet as she watched with eyes wide. By the time Agnes’s finger touched the glass, the whole bottle shimmered. “Wow…”


“Do you have magic, Agnes?” It was a question fueled by the confusion in Olivia’s gaze.
The question seemed odd and Agnes laughed, thinking it was a joke at first. When she realized it was serious she shook her head suddenly. “What? Me? No, no…”
“Kef-” Olivia had only spoken the first part of his name when he appeared. “-ka?”


“You rang?” He leaned casually onto the archway.
“Touch it again please, Agnes.” Olivia gestured to the bottle.
Agnes looked between the two of them before reaching down to tap the side of the vial, making it react and shimmer again.


This got Kefka intrigued and he approached the table with interest. “You’ve got one strong affinity for magic, don’t you?”
He had been looking at the vial, but his eyes slowly came up to look at Agnes when she didn’t answer. Her eyes widened briefly, “who me? No… I don’t have any!” She’s been average her whole life.


Well, minus the imaginary dog.
Or rather, the imaginary critters in general.
“Ah, no.” Kefka stood up straighter, “I meant to have magical affinity does not mean you have magic, though most people with a very strong affinity do. In fact, it’s pretty rare to be born with a strong affinity like yours without magic, which is likely why Olivia asked.”


“So it just means… magic likes me?” Agnes gave a loose shrug, grasping at straws.
Kefka chuckled, “yes a bit. I’m probably not the best person to explain, as I don’t have traditional magic, but I’d say affinity is the…” His face shifted as he thought about what he wanted to say next. “It’s the strength and control one exercises over magic. The stronger your magical affinity, the more the magic of the world will react to you and be reacted by your touch.”


“It’s like magnets!” Olivia said suddenly, as if she had an epiphany.
“Oh, yes that’s a good way to word it.” Kefka agreed.


“Think of the magic in the world - that makes up the world like a magnetic object, and everyone in the world has a certain amount of pull - the pull is the affinity. If you have a very strong affinity, you have a natural pull that makes the magic… sort of… come to you. It makes spells easier and stronger, and makes the world more likely to bend to your will. It makes the magic… malleable.”


“So… I have a talent for something I don’t have access to. Sounds great,” Agnes half-grumbled. Of course she’d have a talent that would just be wasting away in her mind. That would be her luck.
“With an affinity like yours, you likely had a lot of strange things happening to you throughout your life.” It was clear that Olivia was trying not to pry, but she wasn’t being successful.
Agnes shook her head in response, “nothing unusual. I had a pretty normal childhood.” Minus the whole “imaginary friend” bit.


That made Olivia’s brow furrow, and she exchanged a confused look with Kefka. “So… nothing strange or magical at all?”
Just a green and blue glowing dog and a few colorful imaginary friends, all of which were treated for by therapy. “Nope, nothing,” Agnes shrugged and started to list: “Had two parents”


Who both died in a car accident.
“-a suburban house-”


Which was sold to pay for their funeral.
“-an annoying older sister-”


Who she hadn’t spoken to in what felt like years.
“-and no pets because my mother hated them.”


Except that imaginary friend which put her in therapy that would eventually be the reason they’d be driving their car on the day of the accident.
It wasn’t Bear’s fault, though. He was just a part of her imagination: a part that she wasn’t meant to have to be considered “normal.”


Olivia smiled in her usual, gentle way. “Well, I guess that means these past few days have been a complete upheaval for you. You’re very strong to be handling it so well.”
It was a disarming compliment and it shook Agnes straight from her spinning thoughts. “Thank you… but… I… it doesn’t feel like I’ve had a lot of choice in the matter.” It was either she went along with this crazy magic or she died.


Olivia shook her head, her smile only growing wider, “on the contrary, Agnes, you’ve had plenty of choices to make. You could’ve gone up the beach when I told you to, yet you didn’t.”
“You could’ve chosen to not put on and continue to wear that necklace,” Kefka added.


“You could’ve rolled over and avoided any and all conflict in this, yet you haven’t. No, you’ve made a lot of choices Agnes - choices that, in my opinion, are worthy of praise. You’ve had your entire world turned upside down, yet here you stand, ready to embrace it and all it brings. I think that’s very strong, and I admire it.”
It was strange seeing how much Olivia really meant what she said, too.


“...Thank you.” Agnes turned her gaze back to the vial with a furrow of her brow. “So what will you do with it after you’ve finished stabilizing it?”
“We’ll find a host for it.” Olivia ran her fingers along the table beside it.
“A host?”
“Yes, we’ll need to find someone who’s willing to join our… cause that can take the magic. Unfortunately none of us here can, so we’ll need to find ourselves a host for it,” Kefka hummed in response, adjusting in his stance.


This prompted Olivia to continue, “out of the three of us - we all already have magic of some variety, so it would conflict.” She paused and shifted her gaze towards her husband, “I mean, it’s possible that Kefka could use it but-”
Kefka was already shaking his head, “I’d sooner absorb it and all your hard work would be wasted. Not a chance I’m willing to take, especially with you putting your life on the line.”
“There’s no hurry for it though. Right now, we’re focusing on getting you to safety, then we’ll look at it again. It's just our side-project we've been nursing in our downtime.” Olivia looked back to Agnes, “I also meant to say that if you have any questions regarding magic or anything, please don’t hesitate to ask. I know it’s very overwhelming, and I don’t want you to feel like you can’t ask.”


“If I think of something I will,” Agnes murmured, eyes still on the vial. “My head is still spinning I think, so I haven’t had much time to really put it back on straight.”
Her gaze lingered there, thoughts whisking around behind her eyes. A hum started up, echoing from her necklace but she knew she was the only one who could hear it.
“That I can understand.”
The whispering in Agnes’s ears hummed before she finally cut through them. “I think the artifact is trying to talk to me.”


Olivia’s gaze was steady and almost a little resigned. She nodded, “it was bound to happen sooner or later. You remember what we talked about over breakfast? Just remember that no matter what persona it puts on - no matter what it claims or, rather, claims it can do, you always have the right to choose.”
Agnes felt a pull inside of her, one of drowsiness. She took a slow step back from the table. “I… I think I’m going to go lay down for a while. I’m starting to feel tired suddenly.”
Perhaps she should’ve been afraid, but if she were honest with herself after the past few days she’s had, nothing shook her anymore.


One magical being trying to kill her or another… but at least this one had something to offer her. She could feel it: a mutual deal.
A beneficial relationship.
“We’ll be here if you need us.” Olivia nodded. “Feel free to lay out on the couch, it might make me feel better to know I can monitor you as you go under.”


She didn’t have a response to that, so she nodded, already halfway towards the nearest couch in the atrium to fall backwards onto.


“I’m going to make some phone calls.” Kefka’s voice was barely heard as Agnes collapsed into the couch, and the soft light of the afternoon on the white lattice slowly faded to darkness.





Where… am… I…? 
'Agnes.'


What is this place?


“Agnes? Agnes!” 
I hear someone calling for me, but the fire is too loud.
I just want to sleep, like my mom and dad are.


'Eule.'
That’s… my name? Yes? Why am I here? 


“Agnes? Agnes! You’re too old for imaginary friends!” 


“Agnes, you can’t always get what you want.” 


“Agnes? Agnes!” 
'Would you save them?'
Would I save them? My parents? Of course I would.
'What if it killed you, instead?'
…Yes.


I feel selfish hesitating. 
'Mm.'
Did I answer wrong?
'Your hesitation was your answer, Eule.'
I’m not ready to die.
'Why?'
I have goals I want to accomplish! Places I want to go… things I want to see!


'You almost killed a group of innocent people.'
I… did… but I-
'Because you weren’t ready to die?'
Because I wanted to live!


'To live?'
Yes… to live. To own that bakery I always wanted… to talk to my sister again. To finally get the courage to do something with my life besides wait for it to end!
'Yet you didn’t do what you were told.'
I couldn’t kill those people.


'You could, though. You held the box that could. You held the power to.'
It doesn’t matter, I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t take someone else’s life! I wouldn’t do it!
'Wouldn’t. Curious.'


I want to live but that doesn’t mean I want others to stop living!
'Wake, Eule.'







'Shall we make a deal?'

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