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  • A prestigious dance studio in Freiberg, Germany. A luxurious apartment building in New York City. A regal palazzo in Rome, Italy. All three written of in "The Three Mothers", a mysterious and rare tome by Italian architect E. Varelli, describing the specific physical spaces designed to amplify the evil magicks of a trio of witches bent on ushering in the apocalypse.

    Of course this is entirely unknown to Suzy Bannion, the hopeful and fresh-faced American student enrolling at the Freiberg Tanz Akademie in hopes of becoming a celebrated ballet performer. Nor is it known to local student Kreszenz Baumgartner, who quickly forms a strong bond with Suzy as strange sounds in the gloom make for increasingly restless nights. And what about the mysterious student with the stunning gaze that entrances them both into a tangled trio of whirling emotion? Worst of all, what could ever prepare them for the ghastly murders to follow, and the revelation of even more terrible implications spanning the globe? Will their bond be enough to lend them the strength needed to seek out and kill the Three Mothers before the end of days?

    This RP is a sort of "inspired by" reimagining of The Three Mothers trilogy of films by Dario Argento - Suspiria, Inferno, and The Mother of Tears. Released in 1977, 1980, and 2007 respectively, these Italian horror masterpieces are well-regarded for their striking aesthetics, mesmerizing synth soundtracks, heightened reality of ultraviolence, and their non-linear dream logic in lieu of traditional plot structure. Our story will focus on a romantic bond between 3 girls, who discover early in their journey that they each possess the capacity to wield white magic, and how they will struggle with not only the feelings involved in their wildly unconventional relationship, but also how best to deal with the responsibility thrust upon them - defeating a trio of powerful evil witches.

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    Name: Suzy Bannion (played by Cam)
    Age: 21
    Eyes: Hazel
    Hair: Brown
    Strengths: Finds the good in most everyone she meets, makes friends easily, romantic, introspective, agile, organized.
    Weaknesses: Wears her heart on her sleeve, doesn't keep secrets and would be a terrible poker player, does not do well where she would need to be in charge, will more often than not put others before herself.
    Likes: Reading and collecting books, writing letters or making phone calls to friends, running, gardening, dance in all forms, activism.
    Dislikes: Being alone, arguments or prolonged disagreement, cold weather.
    Appearance: Slight of frame and stature, the exceedingly lithe Suzy seems perfectly built for the demanding world of formalized dance. But while she stands out on stage, she is often overlooked elsewhere due to a somewhat girlish plainness, appearing younger and less mature than she is. Her wide brown eyes frequently have an optimistic wonderment to them, framed by her full, wavy brown hair. She dresses modestly, often with ankle-length dresses and blouses or cardigans that cover her arms. While she does not appear overly withdrawn or mousy, her understated, almost classical fashion aligns well with the usual stereotype of a theatre girl.
    Personality: Supportive, nurturing, friendly, sensitive, easygoing, inquisitive, problem-solver. One might accuse her of occasionally having her head in the clouds, but she is focused and well-organized where it matters. Soft-spoken but not shy.
    History: Born and raised in the suburbs of northern New York state, Suzy lived the life of most average American girls, but was drawn most to dance and to the arts. Over time she discovered her passion for ballet, competing with her local dance troupe in various cities on the east coast, and continued to pursue perfection long after many of her peers moved onto other interests. When faced with career decisions, Suzy decided to perfect her ballet studies in the most famous school of dance in Europe. She chose the celebrated academy of Freiburg. One day, at nine in the morning, she left Kennedy airport, New York, and arrived in Germany at 10:40 p.m. local time...


    Name: Kreszenz "Zenzi" Baumgartner (played by Baddamobs)
    Age: 21
    Eyes: Honey-brown
    Hair: Light-brown
    Strengths: physically stronger than she looks, makes friends easily, inquisitive, loyal, fierce when driven
    Weaknesses: easily scared, struggles to connect to others beyond casual friendship, slow to forgive, stubborn at times, internalizes doubts
    Likes: Long drives, intricate machinery like clocks, history subjects, naps, vegetable gardening, dancing (as in casually; she'd define ballet as more of a passion or ambition)
    Dislikes: Rainy days, open confrontation, overly sweet food, long stretches of isolation, being over looked
    Appearance: Zenzi frequently favors clothes that might be considered on the more ‘masculine’ side, including preferring pants and trousers to skirts, though honestly this mostly stems from finding such ensembles being comfortable than any sense of fashion. She has the athletic build one invariable gains from focused dance routines, though she has subtle layer of muscle that might be consider slightly more dense than usual; it’s frequently more than a bother than a boon, since her instructors won’t hesitate to berate her lack of lithe grace.
    Personality: Bold, outgoing, and greeting each friend she meets along the way with equal enthusiasm, Zenzi moves through life with a kind of passion for living. With an odd duality of spending a great deal of time dragging friends to frivolous trips to town and spending hours at once practicing and training for ballet to exclusion of all else, Zenzi is at least someone who always gives her all in whatever she puts her mind to. While she has more friends and acquaintances than she can count, she struggles with making herself truly vulnerable and open to even people she’s known for years, perhaps as a result of an friendship which soured in her early youth.
    History: Born and raised in Freiburg im Breisgau, Zenzi reaped all the benefits a baker’s daughter could in her formative years, with one of the more prominent ones being the large flock of potential playmates that hovered around her family’s bakery, playmates that made passionate declarations of friendship and comradely for whatever treats Zenzi could sneak out of her parent’s shop.

    Zenzi herself, however, wandered somewhat aimlessly from one interest to another as a child. Nothing seemed to hold her attention for long, and she likewise felt restless near constantly, making her question if she would ever find the supposed special talent or interest all of her childhood friends seemed to boast about.

    A answer would arrive in the form of several tall and elegant girls, who glided into her family’s bakery one day when Zenzi’s age had only just entered into double digits. Zenzi was immediately captivated by these older girls, who seemed to move with a kind of grace and poise that made even sitting at a small bakery’s table seem oddly exquisite. Asking them bold-faced who they were, Zenzi was told they were students of the ‘Helena Markos Tanz Akademie,’ making them dance students.

    Zenzi decided then and there that she had found something that was truly worth dedicating her efforts towards. She would become like these graceful, beautiful students, and enrol in the academy. The following years of preparation was spent spending every penny of her allowance on books and music, trips to watch ballet performances, and anything else she could think to boost her chances.

    Her entry to the academy was, many years later, bought through a mixture of sheer effort and sheer stubbornness; the dance school was used to receiving a myriad of applications from the whole world over, but was perhaps ill-prepared for one stubborn eighteen year old girl to make the hike through the Black Forest on foot every weekend for almost two years straight. Every time, from the first instance to the last, Zenzi would come knocking at the prestigious school's doors, and with a practiced politeness asked to speak to a teacher, whom she would make her same plea to.

    Perhaps perplexed where Zenzi was even finding the time to practice ballet with how many hours she spent trekking through woodland, the academy's tutors finally relented and gave Zenzi a single chance to prove she deserved a spot amongst the students. Zenzi danced her heart out in that trial, but her acceptance into Helena Markos Tanz Akademie came with the warning she only passed by the absolute skin of her teeth. Zenzi didn't mind the dire warning; as far as she was concerned, she had finally take the fateful first step on her ultimate goal, and was truly glad for it. She was so glad that she could almost ignore how the corridors stretched in strange and disquieting ways, and how the howl of the wind sounded ghostly and unnatural as it cut through the shuddering trees of the forest that now surrounded her…
    Notes: Zenzi’s family is actually still in Freiburg, and she goes to visit over the weekends quite frequently, but Zenzi insists on boarding at the school; in her stubborn head, she thinks if she had to work so hard to get into the darn place, she wants spend as much time there as possible.Her still living relatives consist of her mother, a younger sister, and her frequently glowering uncle.


    Name: Anya Roimata (played by Cam)
    Age: 22
    Eyes: Blue
    Hair: Dark Blonde
    Strengths: Can talk her way into or out of just about any situation, smart to the point of deviousness, effortless fashion sense, brave, can put up a decent fight.
    Weaknesses: Doesn't take well to criticism, doesn't express her inner self very well, prone to mood swings and overindulgence in vices.
    Likes: Fashion and jewelry, art collecting, interior design, swimming, most animals and insects, social gatherings, city life, wine.
    Dislikes: Laziness or inaction. Not particularly fond of children.
    Personality: Cold, impatient, and standoffish to most, but playful, flirty, domineering, and blunt with close acquaintances. She holds herself with a confident grace, and some might wish to dismiss her as an unlikable ice queen. But beneath an aloof exterior, she is capable of forming loyal bonds to those she deems worthy, probing to the very heart of who they are.
    History: A second year student, Anya does not speak much of her family, although they are presumed to be quite well-off, her mother growing up among the wealthy elite in Rome, and her father from old money in New Zealand and apparently of some renown. What she does speak of, however, are the many opportunities and successes she has experienced over the years, with her exotic allure attracting many would-be suitors, only for her to turn them away. She dabbled in modeling, sculpture, photography, violin, opera, and many other academic pursuits before settling on ballet. In her wake was left many broken hearts, and more than once did she find herself stalked by jilted ex-lovers. Some wonder if that's the real reason she came to the remote dance academy, though they wouldn't dream of saying it aloud to her face.

  • suspiria1-5.pngMiss Tanner: Lead dance instructor at the dance academy. Brutish, strict, and overbearing. Dresses in masculine suits and carries a cane, which she more often uses for corrective action as opposed to assistance with mobility.

    suspiria12.jpgMadame Blanc: Deputy headmistress, or principal. She is liked by most of the students, despite not being directly involved with their day-to-day teaching. Cordial and classy, with a distinct mole on her left cheek.

    68527150_10156149978296851_1203222520900091904_o.jpgOlga: "The popular girl". Senior student. Tall, with jet black hair. Sassy, overdresses for nearly every occasion, butts heads with Anya especially. Rents a room in the city rather than boarding at the school.

    Sara: A likeable girl with curly red hair. Second year student, arrives early. Will prove to be a friend and ally to our trio.

    suspiria6.jpgMark: A third year student, and one of the few male students at the academy. Awkward but handsome, he is popular with the girls. Rumors abound that he isn't particularly wealthy, and does errands for Miss Tanner as partial payment.

    Suspiria-129.jpgDaniel: School pianist, for keeping time during instruction. He is blind, with a German Shepherd as a seeing eye dog.

    Suspiria-124.jpgAlbert, and Albert's mother: Servants and housekeepers to the school. Something about their presence seems odd, and many of the girls describe their presence as "creepy". Not much else is said about them, and they seem to keep to themselves and out of sight.

    Professor Verdegast: School doctor, with a thick German accent. Balding with a combover, wears glasses.

    Pat Hingle: A senior student, murdered in the lobby of an apartment in town, the night before school starts for the year. She was close friends with Mark and Sara, and suspected something amiss at the school.

  • Coming Soon!

  • Coming Soon!

  • "The Three Mothers": Six copies are known to exist of this tome, and is the most comprehensive resource for information regarding the trio of witches known as Mater Suspiriorum, Mater Tenebrarum, and Mater Lachrymarum. It is told that in the dawn of the 11th Century, on the shores of the Black Sea, they entered a pact that would transform them to the most powerful witches in known history. For generations, they spread death and despair in their wake while amassing considerable wealth and power. They eventually took on new identities in order to keep working in secret as the world became more modern.

    E. Varelli: Without realizing the awful scope of their plan, he was contracted by three women to design and construct separate estates for each, with "sacred geometry" woven into the architecture to amplify magical energy. Only after completing the project did he learn that these women were witches who intend to bring about the end of the world. Keeping his first name concealed, Varelli broke the alchemist's vow of secrecy - Silentium - to write a book detailing the existence of the Three Mothers and their current whereabouts.

    Alchemists: A shadow cabal of men who practice a distinct form of magic using potions, transmutation, metallurgy, "divine architecture", and other physical objects to change the very makeup of elemental reality. To the layman, they may seem like a direct inverse to witches, and indeed consider witches to be their rivals. However, they more typically operate independently to protect their secrets, and might have their own motivations within the organization (an alchemist attacked one of the protagonists of Inferno when she tried to retrieve a copy of "The Three Mothers", but Varelli himself expressed regret in his writings for his role in endangering the world).

    Mater Suspiriorum (the Mother of Sighs): The oldest and wisest of the trio, also known as The Black Queen. Her home is in Freiburg, Germany.

    Mater Tenebrarum (the Mother of Darkness): The youngest and most cruel of the trio. Her home is in New York City.

    Mater Lachrymarum (the Mother of Tears): The most beautiful and powerful of the trio. Her home is in Rome, Italy.

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𝕝𝕦𝕟𝕒 𝕚𝕟 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕤𝕜𝕪 𝕗𝕠𝕣𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕣
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Fantasy, magical, horror, fandom, romance, yuri, cyberpunk, fandom, urban fantasy, high school, historical fantasy.
Mater Suspiriorum, The Mother of Sighs

Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, 1977

"Our Lady of Sighs never clamors, never defies, dreams not of rebellious aspirations. She is humble to abjectness. Hers is the meekness that belongs to the hopeless. Murmur she may, but it is in her sleep. Whisper she may, but it is to herself in the twilight. Mutter she does at times, but it is in solitary places that are desolate as she is desolate, in ruined cities, and when the sun has gone down to his rest."
- Suspiria De Profundis, by Thomas De Quincey

The warm morning was a stark contrast to the torrential storm of the previous evening when Suzy Bannion had first arrived at Freiburg's Tanz Akademie, and already the puddles of rain had faded back into the earth as her cab turned in through the entry circle before the front entrance. Once the cab had come to a slow, squealing stop, she briefly cast her gaze toward the gilded double doors of the entryway and the attached intercom speaker she had tried fruitlessly to make use of last night. Thankfully, there appeared to be a few other students arriving today as well, and it certainly felt nicer to be here in the sunlight than caught outside in the rain once more.

She tipped the driver and exited the car, retrieving her suitcase from the luggage rack overhead. Suzy was a small girl of slight figure - no taller than five and half feet, with voluminous waves of brown hair that bounced around her shoulders, and wide hazel eyes that regarded her surroundings with the alertness of a deer alone in a field. She was dressed simply in a pale blue sleeveless dress that flattered her narrow waist, with a sea green shawl draped over her shoulders, the sheer fabric adorned with small rhinestones that sparkled as she moved. Choosing an outfit for her first day had been intimidating. She had wanted to be presentable, but also didn't wish to stand out. She wondered what the other students might be wearing, feeling faint butterflies in her stomach and a flush behind her cheeks.

Overhead loomed the sheer facade of the academy. Here in Germany's aptly named Black Forest, its striking crimson facade stood as solid contrast, like a beacon in the open ocean. It was more than a little intimidating, even in the day, and Suzy felt the butterflies stirring a little more. A protruding bay window overlooked the entry door, like a theatre balcony overhanging a stage. Gothic details were set in brilliant gold and black, with tall, narrow windows marking each floor, upward and upward until reaching the jet black shingles layered in elaborate rows along the peaked rooftop. The darkness of last night had concealed much of its form, but now it unabashedly showed its immense breadth. For a moment, it felt as if it might grow even larger, and swallow the whole of the world.

Taking a breath, she began towards the entrance, passing a German Shepherd dog wearing a seeing-eye harness and resting calmly in the shade. It paid her and the other arriving students no mind, which was a weird sort of relief. If it didn't notice her presence, maybe she didn't stick out as obviously as she felt. But she paused once again to survey the surroundings, and found her attention helplessly drawn to another student nearby...
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Said student fiddled with the collar of her shirt for what had to be the fifth time in as many minutes, her patterned formal jacket rustling at the movement. She had just managed to stamp down on the fretting, just in time for her foot to start bouncing in place, gently knocking her pants-clothed leg against her suitcase before she managed to reign that in too.

The student, one Kreszenz ‘Zenzi’ Baumgartner, let out a gentle laugh. She wasn’t sure why she was even trying to control her fidgeting, considering she currently felt like she could jump in place from all the eager energy zipping through her veins.

Zenzi had arrived slightly earlier that morning, hitching a ride with her uncle in one of the few times she had the comfort of riding a car through the Black Forest to Tanz Akademie rather than making the long journey on foot. While her uncle had complained nearly non-stop the entire trip that his precious Steyr wasn’t “built for these kind of roads” and that “if that last bump put a dent in the chassis, so help me,” Zenzi had kissed his cheeks and wished him a safe trip back with the same bright smile she had leapt out of bed with.

As far as Zenzi was concerned, it could have been pouring with rain and today would have still felt as bright and wonderful. She finally stood outside of the renowned academy she had toiled so long to gain entry to, able to count herself as being among the promising young dancers that made up the student body that now surrounded her. Zenzi took a few glances around, trying to commit the faces of her new peers to memory.

More than few students were glancing up at the dance school with wide eyes, looking almost cowed by the sight of the towering, gothic structure. Zenzi didn’t blame them, considering that even she still felt a little shiver when she focused on the grand building. It was intricately detailed, and awe-inspiring in its scope, but also more than a little disquieting: a single splash of red in a horizon of gloomy greens and consuming blacks. From a distance, one almost got the impression of a single great crimson eye, tracking a person’s movements from between the trees.

Zenzi shook her head, briefly sending the curled strands of her brown bob of hair flying. First day nerves must have been thick in the air, if even she was starting to get worried over nothing.

It was when she resumed her scan that Zenzi happened to fall across a graceful looking girl, standing a few steps apart from the others, dressed in a fetching pale-blue dress.

Blinking slightly, Zenzi’s honey-brown eyes took in the girl for a brief moment. While nervous energy filled the air and more than a few girls were looking around uncertainly, the girl who caught Zenzi’s gaze had a certain ‘out of place’-ness to her. Like a vole that found itself in a cage filled with mice, the girl’s distance to the other students did not seem to be just a matter of physical difference.

Zenzi was still seizing the girl up, noting the girl’s quick glance at the gently huffing German Shepard lingering in the shade, when their eyes abruptly snapped together.

All at once realizing she had been staring, Zenzi quickly dismissed her embarrassment and raised a hand as she ambled across the worn stones of the academy’s front drive.

“Hey, good morning!”

It only took a few strides before the two girls stood together, this new distance letting Zenzi see she stood a healthy few inches taller than the dress clad stranger. Jerking her head towards where the German Shepard was still silently observing proceedings, Zenzi let a wry smile creep across her lips.

“I wouldn’t worry about Schwartz, he’s a sweetheart as long as you don’t get between him and his dinner bowl – speaking from experience.”

Giggling a little as her own joke, Zenzi held out a hand as she straightened her smile into something a little more friendly.

“Kreszenz Baumgartner, at your service, Miss…?”
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"Suzy Bannion," she replied automatically, hesitant at first, a sideways glance of uncertainty and trepidation melting away to a smile at the corner of her mouth. She gave the dog a second look but it was more to stall for time than any particular interest. "You two are acquainted already then? I suppose I really am late to to everything. I was actually supposed to be all moved in last night, but--"

She trailed off, realizing she was rambling. Would it be worth trying to explain the strange events of the night before? How Suzy had seen a student in the doorway, shouting something unheard in the pouring rain, before pulling the door shut and running somewhere out of sight. Had that been some sort of row between students? Already, before orientation had even begun? What had she been shouting about? And why was the door locked just a moment after, and why did the voice on the intercom instruct Suzy to come back later when she was so exhausted already by her trip?

"Are you from around here?" Suzy finally asked, attention returned to the present. Her voice was gentle, almost with a tinge of naivety, but the butterflies usually didn't last long in her chest once she was determined to be rid of them. Kreszenz, she repeated in her head, determined to master its pronunciation. She of course had never met anyone with such a name, even in her trips to the city from the New York suburbs. Nor had she met anyone with quite the easy style that this girl seemingly possessed. The patterns and colors in her outfit seemed at once effortlessly casual and perfectly chosen. Perhaps the stereotype of all European girls being on the cusp of every trend really was true after all.
“Suzy Bannion…” Zenzi repeated just under her breath. She had, on the drive over, mentally prepared herself to hear names that that came from overseas. After all, the Tanz Dance Akademie was regarded with high enough praise that students flocked from the world over to attend. It was the reason Zenzi had committed so much time to learning English, the most common dialect she had heard the students who visited Freiburg speaking. While she was fairly confident on her grasp of the language, she didn’t want to insult this ‘Suzy’ by butchering the pronunciation of her name.

Suzy herself asked after Zenzi’s knowledge of Schwartz, which caused the German girl to start in place.

“Ah, no, not exactly acquainted,” Zenzi let out a dry cough of a laugh, suddenly feeling a little self-conscious. “Nothing that impressive, really. I just had the good luck of being able to visit, and I sometimes got the chance to scratch him between the ears, you know how it goes.”

It had been often the only solace she could take, after trekking for hours through a gloomy wood, knocking on the door and buzzing at the intercom just to receive a firm order to leave if she was lucky. Zenzi didn’t regret her efforts, but those had been dreary days. Luckily, Suzy knocked her out of her grim thoughts with a question,

"Are you from around here?"

“Yep, you’re looking at a pure born and bred Freiburg local.” Zenzi’s lips quirked back into a smile, briefly, before focusing back on the girl before her. There was something in Suzy’s voice that was rousing Zenzi’s curiosity. “You though…Your accent sounds like…American? Or maybe English? In either case, you’ve must have come a long way to arrive in our little corner of the world.”

Zenzi considered that, for a moment. She thought that her own feat of gaining entry to the dance academy was impressive, when she had the comfort of launching her efforts from the convenience of her home. But this girl had travelled half-way around the world to get here, to a place where (presumably) she didn’t have any family to share her burdens with.

Zenzi knew that such a story was not uncommon in the student body, that they were all leaving a lot behind to chase an ambitious goal. But as Zenzi gazed down at this slight slip of a girl, who looked so nervous but who had never the less summoned the courage to make the journey, she couldn’t help but feel a little impressed.

“…Err, well, I’m sure that you’ll enjoy your stay is all I’m saying, Miss Bannion.” Zenzi finished, lamely.
With the handle of the suitcase clasped firmly in both hands, Suzy listened with interest. More than a born and bred Freiburg local, this girl was something else. The hyper-competitive world of formal dance had no shortage of beautiful girls, next to which Suzy had always felt inadequate, but Kreszenz struck her in such a way that caught her off guard. An exotic allure, perhaps? The hip mod styling of a jacket and pants in place of blouses and skirts? Something else entirely? For a suburban American girl, the 70s had already been a whirlwind of upheaval, and here was this girl completely across the world whose very presence hinted at things Suzy knew she'd never experienced.

"From New York, actually," she replied, trying to keep up with the conversation as well as make sense of her own thoughts. It all made her feel a bit lightheaded. And yet, here they were, making introductions before entering a new world together. Perhaps they could even be friends? The thought renewed Suzy's smile, and already she was starting to feel more relaxed. "I'm thinking I might enjoy it here quite a bit, Kreszenz-- um, Miss Baumgartner."

As if beckoned unconsciously, both girls found themselves climbing the short staircase to the double doors of the entryway, and quickly discovered that the stoic crimson exterior of the academy hid a great whirlwind of activity just inside. The opulent lobby was filled with students, many already in leotard, rushing to and fro. A man in a black suit and dark glasses passed in front of them, and Suzy quickly surmised that he must be the owner of the dog outside, his cane tapping along the elaborately inlaid and polished floor. The walls reached high overhead, aglow in royal blue floral wallpaper, with a golden staircase winding up and out of sight. Around the perimeter of the octagonal room stood sculptures of feminine figures holding aloft potted plants that overflowed with greenery, as well as a few cushioned benches in striking black and white patterns. Hallways in gleaming black hardwood branched outward into unseen wings.

There was a murmur of nervous excitement in the air. A striking raven-haired girl in a long black dress attended to a call in the phone booth in the far left corner, and in the opposite corner some official looking men with their backs turned seemed to be having an important discussion with another unseen individual.

But before either girl could say much of anything about the scene, they were approached by an imposing woman of broad stature, blocky black heels commanding attention with each step. She stood tall and straight, clad in a navy pantsuit, with her silver hair held in a rigid bun, and Suzy thought for a moment that she might be some military general, misplaced in a school of dance.

"Good morning," offered the woman, with a smile that did not seem entirely unkind, and yet did little to put anyone at ease. "May I help you?"

"Yes, I'm Suzy Bannion, and this--"

"We expected you yesterday evening," the woman interrupted.

"I did arrive last night... about ten o'clock? But the door was locked, and someone on the call box said they didn't know who I was and couldn't let me in."

"Who said that to you? I'm so sorry. Well, at any rate, now you are here among us. Welcome to our academy. I'm Miss Tanner, one of the instructors." She shook hands with Suzy and turned her attention to Kreszenz. "Miss Baumgartner, I must extend congratulations for your unorthodox acceptance into the academy. I see that when you make up your mind about something, nothing will change it for you. My compliments."

Suzy looked to her new companion in surprise.

"Come along," continued Miss Tanner. "I'd like to introduce you to Madame Blanc, our vice directress. She was a very famous ballerina..."

As the trio crossed the room together, Suzy hurried to keep up with Kreszenz. "What did Miss Tanner mean by your unorthodox acceptance?"
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"I'm thinking I might enjoy it here quite a bit, Kreszenz-- um, Miss Baumgartner."

Zenzi had simply smiled, and nodded as she hoisted up her own suitcase, turning with Suzy as they ambled their way to the grand doors that led into the academy. As they approached the elaborately decorated entranceway, Zenzi glanced at the girl walking besides her, and decided then and there she was glad to have ran into Suzy; while she hoped to make many friends more, Zenzi thought she could have done much worse than running into someone as polite and clearly gracious as this pretty girl from New York was on the very first day.

Zenzi took a breath as they ducked through the doorway, almost mentally bracing herself. While she had no idea what to expect upon finally stepping into Tanz Dance Akademie proper, somehow the interior was exactly like she always envisioned. Breathtakingly arranged, with the bold and contrasting colours of the furnishing and walls creating a striking impression, grand and imposing. It was also just as busy as she had guessed, with the space filled with people hurrying about, the press of bodies chaotic enough to cause Zenzi to question where they were meant to head next. Thankfully, a woman emerged from the crowd, with a commanding presence that came from more than just her considerable height and sharp gaze. One Miss Tanner, an instructor of the academy, and fairly intimidating besides.

Zenzi quirked an inquisitive brow at hearing Suzy’s story, before stiffening when Miss Tanner turned her attention to her. Manging a mumbled thanks at the older woman’s congratulations, Zenzi awkwardly followed as they were led further into the building, the sea of bodies parting around Miss Tanner like a river parts around a boulder.

"What did Miss Tanner mean by your unorthodox acceptance?"

“Ah, that…well…” A slight smile crept onto Zenzi’s face, as well as a little red. It felt a little embarrassing to recount such an example of hard-headed stubbornness, but still she decided to speak plainly. “As soon as I was old enough to apply for the academy, I spent far too many hours of my free days trekking through the Black Forest, just so I could jab at the buzzer and demand to be given a chance. They put up with it for two whole years, before I finally wore at their patience. An instructor came to the door, looked at me shivering in the cold, and said I had one opportunity to show my worth, right there on the driveway.”

Zenzi remembered it vividly. Shrugging off as much restricting clothing as she dared, testing the limits of common decency and the frigid evening air, she had stood poised under the calculating eyes of the academy’s instructor like a mouse huddled under the gaze of a cat. Drinking in deep breaths, trying to fight down shivers that might have been born of the cold and nerves both, Zenzi had drawn herself up with as much grace as she could manage.

Then, to the tuneless sounds of the Black Forest, she had begun to dance. With no music to guide her, Zenzi had leapt and spun from one ballet technique to the next, focusing on trying to show off the results of her hours of practice. She blocked as much out of her mind as she could, trying to ignore the feeling of the eyes watching her, to focus just on moving as seamlessly from one pose to the next.

Soon, time lost its exact meaning, seconds measured in quick breaths and minutes tracked by the feeling of her feet meeting the unforgiving stone of the academy’s entrance driveway. By the time the instructor told her to halt, Zenzi felt like an hour could have passed and she wouldn’t have even noticed.

Panting like a dog and drenched in sweat, Zenzi had pulled to a stop, listening with wide eyes as she was told she danced well…for a clearly untutored wannabe. She was likewise dismissed coldly, with the slim consolation that her ‘application’ would be considered.

Still, she was walking in the grand halls of the academy now, wasn’t she?

That thought brought Zenzi back to the present, and the realization she had been walking in silence for a few breaths too many. Giving Suzy a somewhat bashful smile, she said,

“I guess being pig-headed pays off some of the time, yea?” Then, leaning in somewhat conspiratorially, Zenzi chuckled. “Though, I think they only let me in because they figured I’d be less of a bother that way.”

As the small trio continued to push across the room, each step taking them deeper into the academy’s body, a thought came to Zenzi. Turning again, she asked Suzy,

“You said that you were supposed to arrive yesterday, Miss Bannion? And Miss Tanner even said you were expected, and yet you were still turned away at the door?” Zenzi gave Suzy a sympathetic, somewhat worried look. “Last night’s storm was horrible, I hope you didn’t have to find your way into town through that?”
"N-no, the cab driver was kind enough to wait," she replied, finding herself hanging on each of Kreszenz's words, the accent and the girl's incredible story leading her along as her feet moved automatically. Suzy had always been naturally inclined to the arts and particularly classical ballet, and while she certainly sought to excel, she did not recall a time where she almost literally had to beat down the door to be noticed. It made her feel a little sheepish. Had opportunity just been handed to her by accident? It's something she hadn't considered before, even while watching her peers struggle and starve themselves and lapse into deep depressions and manic exuberance in singular pursuit of perfection. Many of her friends within the art had distanced themselves long ago, while Suzy carried on.

Her expression was a mix of admiration and concern, and she resolved to speak more on the matter if they had a moment alone together in the future. It was a distant prospect now, however, as it seemed they were both expected to hit the ground running.

"Madame Blanc," called Miss Tanner, as they neared the far corner of the lobby, where three men in suits parted to reveal an older woman of obvious class and esteem. She had a vintage sort of beauty to her despite her age, glittering silver and diamonds around her neck and wrists, and draped in the gauzy layers of a pale pearly silk gown. A beauty mark on her left cheek stood out from her powdered face, lending a certain familiar charm, like a distant grandparent. As the girls neared, she took almost immediate note, regarding them with obvious up-and-down appraisal.

"Kreszenz Baumgartner and Suzy Bannion, our new students," announced Miss Tanner.

"Oh yes," replied Madame Blanc, continuing to examine the girls in silence before excusing herself from her conversation and stepping forward to greet the trio. "They're policemen," she added apologetically. The suited men returned to quiet discussion, but Suzy regarded them with a pointed curiosity, and felt the butterflies in her stomach again without fully knowing why.

"I knew a Bannion years ago in New York. Carol Bannion," Blanc mused.

"She's my aunt," Suzy replied.

"Ah, good! She's a marvelous woman, friend and benefactor of artists everywhere. I'm delighted to have her niece here!"

Suzy shrunk a little, thoughts of easy opportunity returning to the forefront of her mind. While it was true that Carol Bannion was a modestly renown figure for her contributions, Suzy had thought nothing of the potential influence that might have played a part in her own successes. After all, there were certain politics always at play, and the competition was often so intense that certain people never reached the top without stepping on someone else to get there. She felt her cheeks grow warm, and gave a sideways glance to her new friend, who had fought to be here.

Madame Blanc continued addressing both girls. "Well, I offer our academy's official welcome in the name of our directress, who is unfortunately not here at the moment, as she's traveling abroad. But I must tell you something very quickly, as those gentlemen are waiting for me. Something terrible - truly horrible - has happened. One of our students was murdered last night by some madman. It's a frightening story. But I always tell our students, don't I, Miss Tanner, not to get involved in questionable friendships. What I wanted to tell you is that the both of you will be boarding together for the time being, as Miss Bannion's room is not yet prepared."
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Zenzi had immediately stood rigid at Madame Blanc’s evaluating gaze, feeling all at once that she was somehow not standing with an enough respect to be in the presence of a woman with such a commanding aura around her. When the vice-directress said almost off-handily that the gentlemen clustered behind her, talking in low and serious voices, were actually policemen however, Zenzi felt her poise collapse from shock.

Policemen? Here, at the academy? Had there been some kind of trouble?

In the quick, concerned glance that she managed to sneak in, Zenzi determined that the trio of law enforcers definitely had the air of men discussing something dire. Zenzi unconsciously lifted a hand, fiddling with a cuff as she felt worry settle like a rock in the pit of her stomach.

The topic quickly shifted, however, to Suzy. It appeared that the girl was related not only to someone who’s name carried some clout, but who knew Madame Blanc personally. Zenzi listened to the exchange, feeling…vexed.

Unbidden memories came rushing back to her, of slowly trudging across the uneven floor of the Black Forest for stretches of time long enough to see the shadows change dimensions. Of following the same route, feeling like she was personally beating in a new path through the woods thanks to the sheer number of times it had taken before her pleas for a single opportunity were granted.

She wondered, just for a moment, if Suzy had ever felt a similar struggle.

An ugly thought bubbled up from the very back of Zenzi’s head, as she risked a quick look at Suzy only to just catch sight of a retreating glance. The thought quickly blossomed, a poisonous flower spreading its petals, until she could ignore it no longer:

Are you worried, Miss Bannion, because your aunt’s good name gives the impression of fortune over skill? Or maybe…you’re worried because it’s the truth?

Zenzi tried to squash the thought back – it was unfair to Suzy, a girl she barely knew, to assume that the only reason they stood there together was because of a blood relation. It was not impossible that Suzy had, regardless of the worth of her last name, worked just as hard to be there as any other student.

Yet the idea, already growing hard to ignore, wouldn’t shift. It might have stayed there on the forefront of Zenzi’s mind, it hadn’t been for the next revelation:

“Murdered-!?” Zenzi clamped her teeth down, not managing to bite the word back. She squirmed slightly as the group of police officers turned to look over at her sudden exclamation, and she quickly averted her gaze down.

Someone had actually died!? Not just that, but a student, likely someone close in age to Zenzi herself. Someone who had come to the academy for simple and mundane reasons, and now lay perished for their troubles.

Zenzi felt her heart racing, sudden real fear rushing through her. Just a few hours ago she had awoken feeling like the world was pivoting directly in her favour, it’s centre of gravity pulling her towards where she wanted the most to go. Now it felt like it was spinning too quick, making her sick to her stomach.

“I…” Zenzi swallowed thickly, forcing a hand through her hair and finding it coming free clammy. “This is a lot to take in, Madame Blanc. Forgive my outburst.”

For one blinding moment, Zenzi almost asked for details, to know whether the person responsible for such a horrible thing was still at large, but she bit her tongue. Madame Blanc’s serious gaze gave Zenzi the impression that questions would not be appreciated, if they were answered at all.

Zenzi glanced to one side, taking in what she could of Suzy in that small window. Despite the doubts gnawing at her, this was clearly not the time or place to protest, especially not with her thoughts racing as they were.

“W-well, I shared a room with a little sister for most of my life, so I have no objections if you don’t, Miss Bannion?” Zenzi tried to pull her expression into a smile, though the shaky quality of the expression was a poor mask for her fears.
"Not at all," Suzy replied. She looked hard into the empty space between them, overwhelmed, trying to focus on everything at once. Her veins felt like ice. Back home, she had taken day trips with friends into New York City, a place supposedly brimming with shadowy dangers, and yet she had never felt even a remote proximity to something like murder, of all things. Helplessly, she returned her attention to Kreszenz. The more she thought about it, the more Suzy felt like having a roommate was exactly what she needed, despite not expecting it. It felt safer, even if they were still practically strangers. "I'd like that."

"I entrust you in the care of Miss Tanner," concluded Madame Blanc. "She will guide you to your room and let you get oriented. Don't be upset if she seems a little stern or serious, it's only her manner. She's even that way with me! She really is an invaluable teacher."

Tanner beamed wide a toothy smile and bid the girls follow her once more, leading to where the staircase wound upwards, with its golden railing twisting in serpentine design. Madame Blanc returned to her conversation with the policemen, which caused Suzy to stop short.

"The student, Pat Hingle? She left around what time," one of the men asked, louder than he intended.

"Excuse me!" Suzy called down to the officers. "When I got here last night, a little after ten, I saw a girl leaving the school. Blonde hair... wearing a brown raincoat?"

"What was she doing?" asked an officer in reply.

"I don't know. I only saw her for a minute, in the middle of that storm," Suzy offered, feeling helpless. She wanted to say more but wasn't sure what. Her mind was racing. Without knowing the full story, she was quickly becoming convinced that she had seen a girl in her final hours without fully realizing it at the time. It was like a literal brush with death. She looked to Kreszenz and very strongly wished to be in their room already.

"We may have further questions for you in the future," the policeman replied.

Miss Tanner led the girls from the second floor landing and deeper into the academy. The halls were mazelike, jutting outward and taking sharp corners into unseen areas, some increasing or decreasing elevation by several small steps, as if the design had come about organically to account for unplanned obstructions. Blood red floral wallpaper, likely from the Victorian era, clashed hard against art deco shapes in silver and gold. Immense ceilings were held so high they almost couldn't be seen, and all along the walls, black wooden doors marked each bedroom.

When they arrived at last to their room, Suzy wasn't fully sure she could find her way back without breadcrumbs. The interior was just as elaborate as the rest of the building. The walls were a pearly white, patterned in shapes resembling scales or seashells, and bare of decoration aside from glass lamps glowing dimly. A wide, heavy oak wardrobe was placed against the wall opposite the entry, with one of its doors opened to reveal the clean interior waiting to be stocked with their belongings. A vanity dresser sat against the rightmost wall, its circular mirror aglow with tiny lightbulbs around its black rim. Next to it was the bathroom, shining with white tile. Across the room from this, against the leftmost wall, was the bed. It was the only one in the room, but was wide and spacious, with a tall cushioned headboard. A few narrow windows allowed shafts of morning light to filter through. It was a pleasant enough scene.

"Now then," barked Miss Tanner. "Orientation is in two hours, ladies. Report with uniform dress and pointes for warmup. I am looking forward to seeing you both demonstrate your aptitude."

And with that, she was gone, leaving Suzy and Kreszenz together in their new home.
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With no objections (and both girls clearly eager to leave), it wasn’t long before Zenzi and Suzy were trailing behind Miss Tanner, the party ascending the gilded staircase. There was a brief pause however, when Suzy caught the name of the deceased – ‘Pat Hingle.’

Zenzi turned, blinking with surprise as Suzy lent over the railing, revealing she actually saw a girl last night during her ill-fated attempt to enter the academy. However, her voice lost any trace of confidence the longer she spoke, and she meekly ducked out before long, wide eyes briefly locking with Zenzi as she turned. In that moment where they’re gazes met and Zenzi saw the uncertainty and fear filling Suzy’s hazel eyes, all of the German girl’s jumble of thoughts on the matter briefly fell away. More than anything Zenzi felt sympathy for poor Suzy, who might be the final witness to a girl’s life.

Zenzi chewed on that unpleasant thought, as they slowly climbed their way into the twisting and turning corridors of the academy.

Zenzi gave up trying to mentally map out the coiling and warped route they followed Miss Tanner through about halfway to their room. The strange, inexplicable design of the building’s layout was like nothing Zenzi had seen before, full of blind corners that followed one after the other and a strange sense of anatomy: like the red walls they marched by were actually the innards of some great beast and they were moving deeper into its stomach. Morbid or not, that was the impression that would not leave Zenzi, even as they finally came to the door that marked the girl’s shared room.

Miss Tanner, standing on the other side of the door way, told them in no uncertain terms to be ready in two hours, fully dressed and mentally prepared for orientation. The door closed behind her like the period at the end of a list of orders, and Zenzi and Suzy found themselves alone.

For a moment, the two stood in complete silence, hovering by the door in a mutual moment hesitation. Finally, Zenzi started moving again, almost drifting into the room as her uncertain footsteps took her to the centre of the space. She spun once in a slow circle, taking stock of everything that made up what would be her quarters for the foreseeable future. And Suzy's as well, to be fair, until her own room was finally made ready.

After a few moments to consider, Zenzi reflected this was probably a nicer space then her own cramped bedroom; it had its own accompanying bathroom, nicely sized cupboard, even the vanity was of good quality. The windows allowing the pale morning light to slip in made a nice display of the white, patterned walls, and gave a nice homely glow around the bed. Overall, very pleasant.

"...Well, it's not much, but anywhere you hang your hat is home, yea? And it comes with the best feature of all, being the only lodging with a roommate, right?" Zenzi tried to smile to Suzy, before turning and letting herself fall back onto the edge of the bed, dropping her case besides her. She knew she should use this time to unpack; two hours might have been a healthy space of time, but Zenzi didn’t trust herself to be able to find her way to anything in this building quickly, at least not without getting lost first.

Despite that, Zenzi found herself leaning on her knees, staring pensively at the worn floorboards. Her every attempt to distract or distance herself from the truth of the situation was failing, as her mind ran in loops until it ended right back at the crux of the tension filling the air.

"...This isn't how I pictured our first day here going, you know. Don't get me wrong, Freiburg isn't some sleepy hamlet, I KNOW what kind of terrible things some people are capable of, but..."

It all suddenly felt very, very close. A murder was horrible enough; one committed to a girl her age, the very day before she moved into the academy where it took place? Zenzi was filled with a kind of instinctual dread, like she had stepped into an animal's den, and feral eyes were watching her.

Finally, she couldn't ignore the thought which had been hovering about them, thick enough in the air to be a physical thing.

"Do you think you did see her, last night? The...the girl who..."
"I think maybe I did," she answered, feeling the ice in her veins again, coursing down through her arms to her fingertips, which felt clammy and electrified all at once. She folded her hands nervously into each other in hopes of making the sensation go away. It didn't work. "If they were asking about somebody leaving the school around that time, then..."

She paced the room, trying to gather her thoughts. "Just as I came up to the entrance, this girl came running out, and I think she must have been arguing with another student back inside. She was saying something, and now I'm trying to remember what it was."

Eventually her pacing stopped, and she fell quiet to watch Kreszenz. She felt a pang of guilt, but it wasn't the same as when Blanc had mentioned Aunt Carol. Responsibility, perhaps? Even if that didn't make complete sense, Suzy felt as if she'd somehow involved this girl with something that should've been so far from the realm of possibility. In their very brief time since their accidental introduction, this girl had already shown a kindness that was entirely unlike what she was accustomed to.

She made her way back across the room to the bed, bending to pick up Kreszenz's suitcase, turning to place it flat on the dresser. She then did the same with her own suitcase, placing them next to each other, and then returned to sit on the edge of the bed next to her new roommate.

"You're right, Kreszenz. Not exactly what we pictured, is it? But I guess there's not really much we can do right now, except look out for each other."

Suzy's hair bounced in waves as she turned her head, and something in their meeting gaze held her attention for longer than she intended.
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Zenzi listened, tense and silent, as Suzy had paced around the room. It didn’t sound like there was any kind of conclusions to be drawn from what she had witnessed, though Zenzi thought that idea that Pat Hingle had been in some kind of argument just before her demise sounded suspect; while students arriving before orientation wasn’t strange, the fact that there had been trouble the exact night before seemed suspicious. What could have happened in that short space of time…?

Suzy’s pacing came to a stop, the sudden lack of movement causing Zenzi’s thoughts to return to the room. The two locked gazes from across the room, an emotion Zenzi couldn’t place swirling behind Suzy’s hazel eyes. Zenzi had been just on the cusp of asking what troubled the other girl, before Suzy moved again, this time leaning down to grab both her own and Zenzi’s cases and drop them onto the dresser. Curious, Zenzi finally relaxed from her tense lean and watched as Suzy dropped down next to Zenzi, both now perched on the edge of the bed.

"You're right, Kreszenz. Not exactly what we pictured, is it? But I guess there's not really much we can do right now, except look out for each other."

Suzy looked at Zenzi then, hair moving in a wave as her head turned. And just for a moment, Zenzi found herself briefly arrested by the girl opposite her.

Zenzi had felt such strong fear at just being told a girl had lost her life, a fear potent enough that even in this warm and sun-filled room she felt a shiver and could scarcely put her mind on much else. But Suzy, potentially the final witness to the girl in question and likely carrying the exact same fear that plagued Zenzi, still spoke so earnestly about being willing to watch out for Zenzi and ask for nothing else in return but the same favour.

Stranger still, Zenzi found herself assured. Something in the warm depths of Suzy’s hazel eyes made the cold fear hanging over the German girl feel further away.

Zenzi only realized she was staring when, from a minute movement of her leg, the bed let out a slight creak which suddenly broke the silence. Letting out a tiny noise of surprise, Zenzi rapidly breathed out,

“Y-yea, you’re right.” Zenzi finally tore her gaze away, all at once fascinated by the floorboards by her feet, confused why she felt a small flush of red across her ears. Scrambling for something to say, she continued, “B-besides, I’m sure the police have it well in hand. As long as we stick together, I’m sure everything will be alright.”

Zenzi’s fingers lifted up, fiddling with her cuffs again as she forced a calming breath through her nose, abruptly feeling a little foolish. Her nerves must truly be frayed by the news of the murder, if she was suddenly feeling nervous for no reason she could place.

Sitting up straight (and having gathered her wits a bit), Zenzi finally turned back to Suzy, finding a slight smile coming across her face. Regardless of anything else, Zenzi thought she must have been pretty lucky, to come across such a kind and brave girl on her first day. A girl who, at the very least, deserved the best sign of confidence Zenzi could offer.

“Well, if we’re going to be watching each other’s back in the future, there is one thing I simply must insist on. Please, call me Zenzi. I only ever got called Kreszenz when I was in trouble.” Zenzi laughed, recalling warm days of running from her family’s bakery, her uncle’s shouts following her. After a moment, she focused back to the girl besides her, eyes slightly hopeful. “In return, I hope I could you Suzy?”
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"When you were in trouble?" she asked incredulously. "I know we've only just met, but you don't seem like much trouble at all."

Despite her whirling anxieties, she had a certain way of holding herself. She'd be slow to describe it as anything approaching actual resolve, and yet time and again, Suzy sought to understand every challenge and upset that had presented itself in her twenty-one years. Some acquaintances had found this comforting, and some friends had found it alienating in the way she appeared to take things in stride that perhaps should've left more lasting scars. Already, she felt the fear leaving her body, almost as quickly as it came. It swirled away, replaced instead by something to pick up and unravel later, like a stone on a dark shore worn smooth by eons of black tide.

"Alright, Zenzi the troublemaker. You can call me Suzy, and I hope you'll also call me a friend."

When their gaze met once again, Suzy's curiosity persisted, and she searched Zenzi's eyes and gently dappled cheeks for whatever magic it was that insisted on keeping this girl close by. She might've continued to stare, until an awkward smile tugged hard at the corner of her mouth, pulling her up from her seat at the edge of the bed and to her suitcase.

"Have you seen any of those policemen before?" she asked idly. "In town I mean."

She realized that Freiburg might be a great deal larger than she thought, and felt a bit foolish for asking. She unzipped the suitcase, following it carefully and deliberately around the outside edge. Once it was opened, she looked down at her belongings and realized how far away from home she was.
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“Most of the trouble I got into consisted of sneaking treats out of my mother’s bakery and into the hands of my friends. Had to work to replace every penny that I cost the family, of course.” Zenzi chuckled a little, before clapping her hands together enthusiastically. “Oh! If we get a good free day, I have to take you to visit! I personally guarantee my mother makes the best Bienenstich this side of the country!”

Then, realizing she said might not have made much sense, Zenzi tried to clarify,

“Uhhh… we make the best ‘bee stings?’ [No, that doesn’t make any sense.]” Zenzi mumbled, accidentally slipping back into German, before shrugging. “She makes really good almond cakes. I’ll just show you, if I get the chance.”

"Alright, Zenzi the troublemaker. You can call me Suzy, and I hope you'll also call me a friend."

Zenzi blinked, a little surprised, before a grin lit up her features.

“Thank you…Suzy.”

Zenzi decided she rather liked the way that named rolled off the tongue.

Suzy herself, after a moment, stood from the bed and crossed the room to her suitcase, asking if the policemen that had been conversing in the lobby had been familiar.

“I don’t know any of them by name, but I think I might have seen at least one of them in town before.” Zenzi cast her mind to the various faces she had seen over the years, but came up frustratingly blank. “You would have had more luck if you asked my uncle. Despite his grouchiness, I’m sure that’s very little about Freiburg he couldn’t tell you. Assuming he felt in the mood to talk.”

Zenzi pulled her thoughts back to present, just in time to see Suzy looking at the contents of her suitcase. Seeing the other girl’s luggage reminded Zenzi she should probably start getting herself situated herself, especially with orientation fast approaching.

Hopping to her feet, Zenzi paced over to her own case, clicking it’s latches open and taking stock of the various clothes and toiletries she had packed. However, as her eyes glazed over her possessions a slight thought came to mind, one that brought the slightest hint of red back to her cheeks.

“To avoid celebrating our new friendship on a, uh, bold first impression, I think I’ll get changed in the bathroom.” Zenzi coughed as she carefully extracted her dance uniform and Pointe shoes from her case, resolving to put her other things away more carefully later. “Unless, you’d prefer the bathroom, of course.”
Suzy watched as much as she listened to Kreszenz, but for all the attention she paid, she kept finding herself so easily distracted. But distracted by what, exactly? She was practically staring the whole time. Zenzi held the spotlight of her gaze almost wholly since their meeting. She had wanted to ask so many things. Like where did the girl get her cute jacket? Who did her hair? What was it like being in a baker's family? Nothing had been missed. And yet Suzy could hardly respond by the time Zenzi was making her way to the bathroom.

"What? Oh. Oh! No, of course not, go right ahead," answering before understanding what exactly was being asked, and realizing in the same instant that she hadn't even thought about the practicalities of rooming together. Of course, like everyone in formal dance, she'd spent plenty of time in locker rooms with others in various states of undress. But now that Zenzi was here, specifically calling it out with items in hand, she felt weirdly like a child again.

She automatically reached for her own uniform and shoes and held them up to indicate that she'd change out here.

Once the bathroom door separated them, she turned away and paused in the middle of the room, the length of her dress swaying near her ankles. A sound at the window drew her attention, and she watched the pale curtain move in the breeze. Had the window been open the entire time? Certainly it must have been, even if she couldn't recall. Still, she hesitated before crossing the creaking hardwood floor to investigate. A tiny courtyard stretched far below. And in all directions above, the seemingly endless layers of brick and shingle and gables of the academy stretched into the sky. If the window had indeed been closed before, only the wind could have pushed it open at this height.

Still, why was she even wondering this in the first place? With a resolute shake of her head, she pulled it closed and drew the curtain.

"So you guys must be the talk of the town," she called out to Zenzi. "You and your family, I mean. What's that like, anyway? Being surrounded by sweets all the time. I don't think I could handle the temptation!"

She pulled her shawl from her shoulders and set it in the suitcase, before wriggling her dress up over her head. She held onto it for a moment, clutching the fabric to her small body, and looked to the window again. It remained shut.

Then, almost as soon as she slipped into the black leotard and matching black pointes for the day, a knock came at the bedroom door.
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The door closed with a click behind Zenzi, as she stepped into the bathroom. For some reason, she breathed a little easier the second she was alone, like her body could finally relax without the weight of Suzy's inquisitive gaze on it.

Zenzi shook her head at that, feeling all at once at little foolish. Suzy was possibly one of the most mild-mannered and pleasant girls Zenzi had met - what did Zenzi have to worry about?

Despite that, Zenzi still took a moment to run the sink's cold tap, splashing refreshing water onto her face, which the mirror rather treacherously revealed was still a fiery red.

Sighing, Zenzi took stock. Pushed against one of the bathroom's caramel coloured walls was a curtained bathtub, which Zenzi leant against as she untied her shoes, trying to just focus on the simple act of getting changed.

It wasn’t long, however, before Zenzi found herself over-thinking the exchange she'd just shared with her new roommate. Would Suzy perhaps think her insistence to change separately was odd? After all, they wouldn't be exposing anything more than what one would expect in a typical changing room, and while Zenzi's experience with such things wasn't extensive, such things weren't considered out of the ordinary.

Zenzi was still agonising over it, when Suzy's voice filtered through the door.

"So you guys must be the talk of the town, you and your family, I mean. What's that like, anyway? Being surrounded by sweets all the time. I don't think I could handle the temptation!"

Zenzi laughed, glad for the distraction, and called back.

"I won't deny, everyone wants to be friends with a baker! And especially a baker's daughter, I think. And to the temptation...well, it was only the fear that I wouldn't fit into a leotard that kept me in check." Zenzi let out an exaggerated sighed. "A baker's daughter choosing to be a dancer. What a cruel fate I chose for myself."

Still giggling, Zenzi was on the cusp of asking after Suzy's own family - when a thought stopped her. The thought that the topic had been breached before, and the revelation that Suzy was related to someone who's name carried a favoured weight in this far flung corner of the world.

Zenzi felt her question falter on her tongue. Maybe that was a topic best left until they were face to face…

Eventually, after some shimmying back and forth, Zenzi was situated in her pale-blue leotard, weathered grey pointes on her feet. Nodding, she gathered up her bundle of clothing and stepped back through to her shared room (after carefully checking to make sure Suzy was finished). She, after a moment of hesitation, slowly worked her mouth open to speak, when a knock came echoing through the door.

Giving Suzy a curious sidelong look, Zenzi sidled up to the door, pulling it open cautiously, and asked through the gap,

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A girl with curly red hair awaited on the other side, dressed in her own uniform. High cheekbones and a square jaw might've given her an intimidating appearance, but she was beaming from ear-to-ear as she announced herself.

"Hi, I'm Sara, your neighbor?" she cooed, eyes darting almost mischievously from Kreszenz to the interior of the room and back again. The girl had an accent, English perhaps, but it was hard to place. "Oh, is there two of you here?"

By now Suzy had moved closer, peeking over Zenzi's shoulder to get a better look. As the door opened further, voices of other students could be heard in the hall, moving about and talking among themselves. Old friends reunited for the school year were laughing together again, and presumably, other introductions such as these were being made up and down the halls.

Before either Suzy or Kreszenz could introduce themselves, another girl appeared in the doorway, and the pecking order was made obvious as Sara shrunk to the side.

"Kreszenz and Suzy," announced this second newcomer, and immediately Suzy recognized her as the girl in the phonebooth when they'd first entered the front lobby. Even in the commotion, there would have been no missing her. Unlike the other girls, she wore a dress, as jet black as her hair and slit up both sides, and white block heel shoes. She looked more prepared to go out on a fancy date than go for dance practice. "And Sara," she added, seemingly relishing the S sounds in each of their names.

"Hello," Suzy replied flatly.

"I'm Olga, and now that we're all acquainted, I'm sure we'll all have a lovely time." She gave Zenzi an appraising look, much as Madame Blanc had, but this seemed to have a deeper, unseen motive. No doubt this girl had most of the students and faculty wrapped around her finger. She was confident and striking, most likely a senior. "You're the bakery girl, aren't you?"
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Zenzi almost did a double take when Olga strode into view. For one moment, the girl hovered in the murky space of near-familiarity, before Zenzi finally placed where she had seen the senior student before. When she did however, she all at once felt like a cat with its hackles raised.

“Yep, that’s me. ‘The bakery girl.’” Zenzi smiled tightly, returning Olga’s searching gaze with an even look. “I’m…overjoyed, that you remember.”

Olga was not a frequent visitor to the Baumgartner family’s bakery, but each time was ‘memorable’ for all the wrong reasons. Zenzi could take a certain amount of being talked down to: her family’s business was not extensive, and thus Olga’s subtle jabs were probably at least technically correct. But someone “helpfully” giving her own mother advice on how to run her business in a condescending tone was several yards past where Zenzi drew the line.

The unpleasant memory nearly caused a snarl to work its way onto Zenzi’s face, but she managed to reign it. It was the first day, not even past orientation, and Olga was clearly someone who was well situated in the academy. Zenzi hadn’t worked so hard for so long just to start causing trouble when she had barely stepped into the school.

That being said, she also didn’t have to rise above just ONE quick jab.

“While I’m sure we’d love nothing more than to have a lovely time chatting, orientation is going to start soon, and we can’t afford be late. After all, we should make the effort to take this seriously.” After a single pointed glance at Olga’s ensemble, Zenzi glanced between the other two girls present, “Suzy, Sara, care to walk with me?”
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"Suzy, Sara," Olga mimicked, again dragging out the pronunciation, stepping aside for the trio as they made their way down the hall together. "I once read that names beginning with the letter S... are the names of snakes!"

Sara whirled on her heels, walking backwards, and stuck her tongue out. Olga hissed in reply. This continued back and forth until the group rounded the corner out of sight. Suzy gave a look to Zenzi, and hoped that it was obvious what she was thinking. Not even a full day here and they'd already met quite a cast of characters.

Out in the hall, it was difficult to tell what time of day it was. It was also difficult to tell where it led, or where it came from for that matter. There was a peculiar proportion to it all, as if the door handles were placed too high on the face of each entryway, and the decorative accent tables placed here and there seemed top-heavy with age-blackened pots that seemed as if they'd crash down on their heads at any moment. It felt like being a child in a grownup's house. Weren't these old buildings typically designed for the shorter average height of the day? Much like the Deco and Nouveau design details, it seemed counter to any known Victorian architecture, despite all other signs pointing to that era of construction.

"Don't mind her," Sara offered. "She thinks she runs this place, being a senior and everything."

Suzy looked to Kreszenz. "And it sounds like you've met before, too?"
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Zenzi felt a bubble of irritation blow up in the back of her mind, and only just managed to resist throwing back an insult to match Olga’s snake comment. Admittedly, it helped when Sara did exactly what Zenzi desired most and just stuck a defying tongue out at the black-haired girl, before the sight of her disappeared behind the corner.

Zenzi sighed slightly, before sharing a knowing look with Suzy. At least there was no risk of their time in the academy being boring.

The three ambled down the twisting corridors of the dance school, passing by the occasional student hurrying to and fro. Looking at the strange and somewhat disquieting architecture, Zenzi realized two things. One, that it was going to take a little while before she felt comfortable walking through the academy’s inner reaches, considering how it’s peculiar designs made her feel like oddly out of place. Secondly, she dearly hoped Sara or Suzy knew which way to go, because they had turned only a few corners and she was already hopelessly lost…

"Don't mind her," Sara offered "She thinks she runs this place, being a senior and everything."

Zenzi didn’t comment, though silently prayed that Olga would be in a different group than herself and Suzy. Putting up with her all day long would be pretty harrowing.

"And it sounds like you've met before, too?"

That came from Suzy, who glanced at Zenzi at they walked. Zenzi herself just shrugged.

“Much to my displeasure. I saw her a few times, when she stopped by my family’s bakery, making a nuisance of herself each visit. I could probably count the times we’ve actually talked on one hand, and even then, it feels like too many.”

Zenzi walked for a little while in thought, before she realized something, and turned with an apologetic look at Sara.

“Ah, in all the excitement, I completely forgot. We haven’t properly introduced ourselves, have we? Or at least, I don’t count Olga spitting our names out as much of an introduction.” Stopping in place for a moment, Zenzi offered out a hand and a smile. “Kreszenz Baumgartner, though if we’re going to be neighbours, please just call me Zenzi. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sara.”