"Right you are," the door-spirit said as it released the locks, mundane and enchanted, that secured the door. "I'll have to come up with special riddles, just for you."
Rachel and Angie went through the door, the familiar sound of it closing and locking behind them played out as they entered the common area.
When they were too far away for the door spirit to hear Angie asked, "How do you do that?"
"Do what?" Rachel said, genuinely befuddled.
"The questions; you always know."
"I think," Rachel said. "Most people's problem is that they don't stop and think things through, they look for some trick or shortcut. The key to the sort of questions the door-spirit asks is to just think things through from start to finish."
Rachel shrugged, "If you say so."
There was a brief pause, and then Angie said, "I've noticed that you don't hang around your own school that much," in a way that indicated she thought the previous conversation had run its course.
"I suppose that's true."
Angie stopped walking and said, "That's not an answer"
Rachel was a step ahead by the time she'd realized Angie had stopped, she was forced to spin around to face Angie. "You didn't ask a question," she said as she ran her fingers across Angie's cheek.
Angie took Rachel's hand and kissed it, "The question was implicit."
"Well," Rachel said, "spell it out for me, I'm horrible at all that implicit crap."
"Why don't you spend time around your own school?"
"The four schools were each formed with a guiding virtue--"
"Everyone knows that."
"And my school was founded with the guiding virtue of --"
"Thank you for not saying, 'der Wille zur Macht,' and yes. On the idea that you can become more, and more powerful, than what you are, and this is a perfectly appropriate drive to have. Your school was founded on seeking wisdom and knowledge for their own sake, my school views them as means. Study science so you can better do things, poetry to you can better use language yourself, magic so you grow in abilities..."
"The point," Angie said, "you seem to be losing sight of it, love."
"And you two seem to be standing in the way, lovebirds," Nicholas said as he entered the common room himself.
"Sorry," Angie and Rachel said as one.
"No big deal," Nicolas said while walking around them, "but half a dozen freshman classes get out in a few minutes, so you might want to pick another spot."
Rachel looked around the room and then asked, "Couch?"
"Couch," Angie agreed.
After they had relocated to the couch Angie said, "So how does ambition equal hanging around outsiders more than your own group."
"Two things," Rachel said. "The first is that a lot of people in my school have lost their way, and I include teachers in that number."
"What ever would we do without Rachel, keeper of the one true faith?"
Rachel continued as if Angie hadn't interrupted, "They see ambition as merely advancement within the current power structure and, in some cases, the same as avoiding loss of privilege. That thinking, at its best, leads to lackeys, toadies, other things ending in 'ies' and suck ups. Less shining examples include petty bullies who think that if they can push around people within the school that somehow makes them powerful and great."
"And you always stomp them down."
"For many reasons."
"Not just because it's the right thing to do?" Angie said, feigning a loss of innocence and giving a pout.
"I never do anything for just one reason," Rachel replied kissing Angie on the forehead and stroking Angie's arm with her fingertips.
"This is, hands down, the strangest flirting I've ever seen," a sophomore named Casey said.
"Mood killer," Rachel snapped.
Angie merely glared.
"Anyway, I have no time for people whose idea of ambition is to become an underling or a bully," Rachel said. "Their view is too narrow, their sights too low, and their horizons too close."
"Nice tricolon," Angie said.
"That's reason one. I aim to change the world, I have no time for lesser minds whose entire being is tied up in becoming king of some molehill or other."
"World domination; got it."
"I'll give you Iceland," Rachel said.
"How romantic," Angie said flatly. "What's reason two?"
"Which do you think would better serve my aims: staying in my own school, trapped in a bubble of allegedly like-minded people, or getting to know everyone, making friendships and alliances throughout the university, and gaining a broad network of friends and acquaintances I can draw from in the future?"
"Damn, that's a hard riddle," Angie said. "Maybe the door spirit should use that next time."
"Shush, you doof."
"I've given it a lot of thought and I'm still not sure."
"And you're supposed to be from the brains school."
"It's about what we value, not what we have,"
"If you start on your, 'I'm not smart enough,' self pity thing again I'll kick your ass."
"No, you wouldn't."
Rachel rummaged through her bag and pulled out her wand of choice, a fractured drumstick she'd picked up off the stage at the first rock concert she'd ever been to. "I stand ready to kick ass."
"There's no magic in the common room, and I know you wouldn't."
"How do you know that?"
"Because you didn't," Angie said with a suddenly somber tone. "When I was in my downward spiral you didn't try to knock me out of it with threats or worse, you stood by me, propped me up. Kept me going when I felt like I was going to collapse." Angie paused. "I'd have flunked the whole semester without you."
"I'm sorry," Rachel said. "I didn't mean to-- I mean, I was just trying to be funny, and--"
Angie cut Rachel off with a kiss. When she broke it, she she said, "It's fine. I got over it. It's in the past."
"I'm still sorry," Rachel said.
"Well, that's your problem," Angie said. "I've moved on and I don't need to be handled with with kid gloves."
"Ok," Rachel said. "In that case, isn't there some rule about not kissing in the common room?"
"Oh, there is," Angie said, "but I only pay it--"
"Don't say it!" Rachel almost shouted.
"Lip service," Angie finished with a smirk.
"I told you not to say that," Rachel said.
"How far do you expect to get in your schemes for world domination if you can't handle puns."
"Every empire in the history of the world that respected puns has collapsed."
"Is that true?" Angie asked with genuine curiosity.
"Since you don't know," Rachel said, "I'm going to say, 'Yes.'"
For a moment there was silence. Not awkward--contented.
"So what do you think will happen when all of the people you've helped out over the years find out you only did it because you thought you could leverage it into working in your favor."
"First, I said I never do anything for just one reason," Rachel said. "And I think that at least some of them would be honored to know that I saw their potential for greatness when they were still unpopular college kids."
"Hello?" Rachel said in a tone of voice reserved for questions that were strictly rhetorical but delivered with far more snark than rhetoric. "I come from the school of ambition. Ambition: the thing that drives us to succeed and become greater than what we are. Everyone has the potential for greatness. Any other position is blasphemy."
"So it's a religion now?" Angie asked.
"Now you're just being silly."
"Hey Rach; hey Angie," a freshman named Jessie said.
"Hey," Rachel said.
"Hey," Angie said.
"You gonna be crashing here again tonight?" Jessie asked Rachel.
"Probably, that a problem?"
"No, we were just thinking of running a late night game of Politics and Pegasi, and if you're going to be using the common room to sleep we'll set it up elsewhere."
"No need to do that on my account," Rachel said. "It's been too long since I spent time at the other schools anyway, I'll go to one of those."
"You're sure?" Jessie asked.
"Totally," Rachel said.
"Thanks, Rach," Jessie said and bounded off.
Rachel turned back to Angie and asked, "Jessie does realize that I don't own your school's common room, right?"
"You spend so much time here it's kind of hard to remember that myself."
"Yeah," Rachel said, and stretched her arms above her head. "I used to divide my time equally between the schools, these days I seem to hang around this one a lot more." She turned her attention entirely to Angie, "It's almost as if I've found something here that I'm drawn to."
"I wonder what that could be," Angie said innocently.
"Manipulator," Angie said before giving Rachel a quick kiss on the tip of her nose.