Chapter 11:



October 29, 2022 AD. Sunview University, California, USA, Earth

“Um…” Dinah said as she and Cam sat in the library in their usual seats. “Is this right?” She held up a piece of paper covered in impressive mathematical calculations. Impressively wrong.

“No. Try again,” said Cam. Dinah sighed. She pulled up the hood of her hoodie and got back to work solving the difficult differential equation. Cam watched her idly. “Say, about your outburst the other day.”

“What?” Dinah said without looking at him.

Cam mimicked her voice. “’Die stupid calculus. I hope you burn in the flames of Hell!’ Or something like that.”

Dinah reacted quickly. She jammed the tip of her pencil into Cam’s hand that was lying on the table. She pressed down, hard. “Forget it,” she said, glaring at him with a murderous expression.


“Forget. It. Right. Now.” she said, driving the pencil into his hand a little deeper with each word.

“Yes ma’am. Forgetting right now.” When she heard his words, as if nothing had happened, she withdrew her pencil and resumed studying. With silence restored, Cam clearly heard a rumble of thunder. A moment after, he heard the sound of raindrops hitting the library roof. A quick glance outside confirmed that it was indeed raining quite hard. “Seriously?” he asked nobody in particular. “It never rains in October in California.”

Dinah looked worried. “Our D&M session starts in 30 minutes, right? I hope it lets up in time for us to get back to your dorm.”

Cam nodded. “Focus on finishing your math problem. We’ll go after that.” As Dinah returned to work, Cam’s phone buzzed. He picked it up to see a text message from Annette. It said look left. Curious, Cam turned his head. Sitting on the other side of the library was a figure in a big jacket and a baseball cap, but when the figure waved to Cam, he could tell that it was Annette. She continued to wave; he unenthusiastically waved back. His phone buzzed again. Another text from her. This one said look under your chair.

“What is this girl talking about?” he muttered softly enough that Dinah couldn’t hear. Across the room, Annette gave him the thumbs up. Sighing, he reached under his chair. To his shock, he felt something hard with a lot of cloth and a button on one end. As Dinah was still engrossed in math, he pulled it up. It was an umbrella. Annette was still giving him a thumbs up, only now Cam could tell that she was trying to hold back laughter. He texted her did you do this?

Yep. Cam didn’t respond, instead glaring at Annette across the room until she texted I always check the weather, and u always sit in the same seat. Not hard to set up.

In response, Cam texted back ok but why

U + Dinah walking in the rain under the same umbrella? Super cute :)

Ha ha but really why

I got ur back bro. The 2 of u can be together. So close, almost touching. So romantic… ;)

Dinah asked “Cam, how do you take the second derivative of a fraction again?”

“Almost touching!” he blurted out. At Dinah’s confused expression, he said with a red face “that’s not what I meant. Here.” As he re-explained the concept, his phone buzzed one more time. Glancing down at it, he saw it said good luck with a thumbs-up emoji. He glared across the room, but Annette had already vacated her seat. He just barely saw a flash of her jacket through the closing door. “Stupid woman” he muttered to himself.

In about 20 minutes, Dinah gave up studying. She slammed her book shut surprisingly violently. They needed to leave soon in order to get to the other three girls to start D&M, but the rain was still pouring down harder than ever. As Dinah stood just outside the library door under an overhang, looking worried, Cam steeled himself. “Here. I brought an umbrella.” He tried to sound powerful and manly while he said it, but he had a sneaking suspicion that his voice was too high-pitched to achieve such a vocal goal.

“Oh. Thanks,” Dinah looked confused, but she stepped under the outstretched protection. “Shall we?”

“Yes,” Cam said awkwardly. The two set out into the pouring rain. Don’t make it awkward, don’t make it awkward, don’t make it awkward he repeatedly told himself. In his zealous efforts to do so, he made sure to hold the umbrella away from his body. This gave Dinah lots of personal space. So much so, in fact, that he was mostly standing outside of the shelter of the umbrella. Within a matter of moments, his entire right side was soaked.

Dinah, too, seemed to be giving him plenty of space. Although Cam tried to walk looking straight ahead, he could tell out of the corner of his eye that Dinah was also getting partially soaked. In this way, the two of them proceeded slowly through the pouring rain: the majority of the space under the umbrella empty, with the two figures partially exposed. Cam tried not to pay attention to the attractive way Dinah’s wet hoodie clung to her slender figure on the left side of her body.

They were descending a hill when Dinah suddenly slipped in a puddle. With a cry of surprise, she fell. Cam, reacting instantly, grabbed her, pulling her back. He yanked with such force that he pulled her into his arms. Both of them released the umbrella, which blew several yards away. It felt like time was frozen at that moment: the short, frail Dinah clutched in Cam’s arms, with the rain pouring down upon the both of them. Their gazes were locked on each other. Cam realized how soft she felt. She seemed delicate, too: like if he squeezed too hard, she would snap.

The moment ended as quickly as it began. Cam released her with an apology. Realizing they were both soaked, both chased after the wayward umbrella. Dinah reached it first. She held it up so the two of them could take shelter once again, although at this point, they were both fully drenched. Still, they walked the rest of the distance together underneath the umbrella.

“Cam?” she asked as they walked, turning her head away from his.


“Thank you for teaching me.”

“You’re welcome.” Cam expected that to the end of this conversation, but to his surprise, she continued.

“I know I’m a bad student, but you’re always so patient. You explain things over and over until I finally understand. No matter how many times I want to give up, having you beside me, encouraging me, keeps me going.”

“Gee, I don’t know if I really do all that much. I-I mean, I do my best to teach you, but—”

Dinah shook her head. “Mm-mm. Just you being there is enough.”

Cam had no idea how to answer that, so it was a relief when they approached the large, blocky shape of his dorm. The rain was easing up. They hurried up to his room. Annette, Bekah, and Ella were already inside. Evidently Jordan had let them in, because he was in the middle of animatedly talking to them. The three girls were in the midst of laughter at one of Jordan’s comments when Cam and Dinah entered the room, dripping onto the cheap carpeting.

Bekah sprang to her feet. She ran over to Dinah, saying “oh you poor thing! You must be freezing in those clothes.”

Cam said grumpily “where’s my sympathy?” In response to him, Ella laughed.

“No guy I am training should be put off by a little cold!” Ella said, slapping him on the back.

Annette walked to Dinah. She said “My dorm is just the floor above this. Come with me; we’ll get you changed.”

Cam said “Annette, you live in this same dorm building?” She just laughed and asked how he hadn’t noticed already. She and Dinah walked through the door, leaving Cam, Jordan, Ella, and Bekah in the room.

Ella said “are you gonna change? Those clothes do look pretty wet.” She was sitting on the floor, making no motion to give him any privacy.

With a stern look, Bekah hauled the taller woman to her feet. She steered her outside. Cam heard a snippet of their conversation. Ella was asking what this was all about, to which Bekah told her that they were giving ‘the boy’ some privacy. Cam could hear Ella whining something about “people are too shy for no reason; it’s just a body” before Bekah closed the door.

As Jordan flopped down on his bed, scrolling through his phone, Cam quickly changed out of his soaked clothing into something dry. As he did, Jordan said without looking up, “you really are a lucky dude. Hurry up and choose the one you like before things get even more complicated.”

Cam said “sometimes, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Actually, most of the time.” He opened the door to re-allow Bekah and Ella entry.

Annette and Dinah returned as well. Cam almost didn’t recognize the latter. Rather than her trademark shapeless (and rather ugly) hoodie and jeans, she was wearing Annette’s clothes: fashionably ripped jeans and a silver blouse that hugged her form and exposed her torso just above her belly button. Completing the package was a yellow hairpin that swept aside the hair that usually hung in her eyes. The difference was staggering.

Bekah sprung to her feet and said, “you look gorgeous in those clothes!” Ella gave Dinah a thumbs-up. Jordan, too, with his natural-sounding confidence, remarked that she looked great.

Dinah said shyly “this isn’t really my style, but I’m glad you like it. Annette picked this out.”

Annette laughed and said “if you like that outfit so much, you can keep it.” She sidled up to Cam to nudge him in the ribs. In a low voice, she said “aren’t you going to tell say anything to her? I picked a style I thought you’d like.”

Cam did like it. A lot. “Um. You look, um, nice in that,” he said awkwardly, looking away with warmth growing in his face. Must be hot in here compared to the rain he thought.

Dinah said “Thanks.” It definitely must be the temperature difference, because her face seemed red too.

As the group took their places, Jordan raised his hand. “Yo, Cam. Like I said before, I might drop in on a game every now and then. I’ve got the day off from work, so mind if I hop in?” He held up a piece of paper. “I’ve already built my character.”

Glad for the distraction, Cam said “yes, I can add you in tonight. What is your character?”

“He’s a fiendblood berserker named Jotun of clan Jormungandr. I’ll be starting in the place with the backstory we talked about the other day, ok?”

Cam nodded. “I think that will be fine. Unless anyone has any objections?” The four girls all shook their heads. That out of the way, he cleared his throat. “Previously, on your journey, you traveled with difficulty through a dense wood. Now, however, you have made it to a clearing in the center of the woods, where you behold a strange collection of buildings…”