The Writing On the Wall (Part 2)
A 2nd Generation Whateley Academy Story
The Writing On the Wall
Whateley Academy, Monday morning, Sept 12th, 2016
Today was the first day of school. Technically, I’ve been at Whateley Academy for a week, but until now, it had all been tours, power testing, physical exams, paperwork, and all the other little things that needed to be done. Today, was the actual first day of classes.
Appropriately enough, my first real class at Whateley, had been Power Theory, which was all about the different types of powers and how they worked. It looked like it was going to be an interesting class, or at least, the subject matter was. I was still amazed that not only did this school have a class like that, but that I was actually getting science credit for taking it. And to make it even better, some of my friends were in the same class, so I wasn’t alone.
As interesting as Power Theory was, my second period class, Magic Theory, was even more relevant to my personal situation and powers. Between Tessa and the book that I’d inherited from my grandmother, I was pretty sure that I had a good understanding of the basics, but I was eager to learn more. I had a long way to go before I came close to reaching my grandmother’s level, but this seemed to be a good place to start.
Of course, the fact that my roommate Morgana was in Magic Theory with me, made it even more interesting…especially this morning. Somehow, on the very first day of class, Morgana managed to make a couple more enemies, with a pair of ‘mean girls’ named Antionette and Estelle…or La Mage Blanche and Hermione. After what had happened with Stahlfaust, I shouldn’t be surprised, especially since these two were a couple of stuck up little bitches.
However, I didn’t have time to worry about that at the moment. I was currently in the locker room, getting ready for Basic Martial Arts. It was strange to be sharing a locker room with a bunch of half-dressed girls, especially ones outside of Poe, who didn’t know about me. I kept expecting them to look at me and cry out that I was some kind of imposter who’d snuck into the girl’s locker room, but no one did that.
I was doing my best to ignore the other girls as I got dressed in my white martial arts outfit. A couple people had told me that it was called a gi, but I didn’t really care what it was called. As far as I was concerned, it was just an odd set of pants and a shirt.
Just then, I heard one girl say, “I can’t believe they’d let a freak like her in here…”
I froze at that and snapped around, just in time to see the door close as whomever had spoken left the room. Then I noticed Laura, who was looking at the door with a scowl on her face, which probably matched the one on mine. The two of us shared a glance, then a faint nod of mutual understanding. Neither of us was sure which the comment had been directed at, but neither of us liked it.
“Are you ready?” Laura asked me a minute later.
“As much as I’ll ever be,” I admitted with a shrug. I tugged on the odd clothes and gave a wry smile. “I’ve never done this martial arts stuff before, so I hope the teacher takes it easy on me.”
A minute later, I was in the main room…the dojo, looking around and seeing that a lot of kids were sitting down on some mats. I went and joined them, feeling self-conscious and nervous since I didn’t know what to expect.
In the Family, self-defense meant either using magic or firearms, and occasionally being able to punch someone hard enough to break their nose. Of course, there was one guard who was into savate and kickboxing, but I didn’t know him very well. This whole martial arts thing was rather new to me, and I found that to be both scary and appealing. After all, anything that would give me a better chance of surviving the next assassination attempt, was something worth learning.
Laura sat on one side of me, and as I looked around, I saw a few other kids I knew. Tanya was there, sitting next to Vic, while AJ was a short distance away. Erica, Jimmy, and Cally were scattered about. I just hoped that I didn’t have to fight any of them, because if I had to go up against someone as strong as Tanya, then I was probably done for. My powers wouldn’t do much good in a straight up fight with someone like her.
And then, while I was still worrying about having to go up against Tanya, Morgana came of the locker room and walked straight over to where I was sitting. If there was anyone I wanted to fight even less than Tanya, it was my roommate. She could get downright scary, especially when she transformed. And at the moment, she was smirking at me.
“What?” I asked her.
“With your coloring,” Morgana told me with a grin, “you kind of blend in with your gi…”
I rolled my eyes at that. “And if I stand against one of the white painted walls, I’ll be completely camouflaged…”
When Morgana looked to Laura, the blue-skinned girl quickly warned her, “Don’t even think it.”
“Think what?” Morgana asked with a look of mock innocence.
Laura gave her a flat look. “You were going to say I looked like Karate Smurf, or something like that.”
Morgana grinned in response, pointing out, “You said it, not me.”
Laura looked like she was about to say something back, but then she paused, making me realize that class was just starting. Two people stood in front of the class, a short old Asian man, and a tall black woman, who was wearing some kind of tight black outfit that resembled spandex. Both of them practically radiated the same kind of confidence that I saw from most of the Loyal back home. It was the way they carried themselves, as though they were absolutely certain that they could handle anyone present.
“Hello class,” the black woman greeted us. “I am Amanda Tolman, and you will all address me either as Sensei or Sensei Tolman.” She gestured to the old man and continued, “This is Ito Sensei, who is an instructor emeritus.” She smiled faintly at that. “That means, he has retired after serving many years as a martial arts instructor here at Whateley. Even though Ito Sensei is mostly retired, he still serves as an advisor for the Martial Arts Department, and he will sometimes observe this class and share the benefit his great experience.” Then she paused again and slowly looked around the room with a firm gaze. “You WILL treat Ito Sensei with the respect he has earned.”
After this introduction, Tolman began going over all the rules of the class, along with some of the customs and traditions we would be expected to follow. I paid attention, though I could see that some of the other students didn’t. Somehow, I had a feeling that this lack of courtesy would come back to bite them in the butt. This wasn’t any kind of precognitive ability on my part, simply experience with my grandmother and how she’d dealt with rudeness.
When the lecture on safety and expectations was over, Tolman looked around the room and asked, “Who here believes that they can defeat me in a match?”
Several hands went up, while several other students looked at the owners of those hands, as if they were stupid. I just kept my hand down, my mouth shut, and my eyes open. Somehow, I didn’t think that I wanted her to notice me at the moment.
“You,” Tolman announced, pointing to one of the boys had raised his hand. I quickly recognized him as one of the people who had clearly not been paying attention during the briefing.
As the boy stood up, I gulped, suddenly feeling worried for Tolman. He was big, strong looking, and looked like an anthropomorphic warthog with bristly brown fur over his body. His tusks came up from his lower lip making him look even more intimidating.
“What is your name?” Tolman calmly asked the warthog boy, not looking the least bit intimidated by him.
“Bacon, ma’am,” he responded with what appeared to be a grin, though it was a little difficult to tell from his features. When several students started to laugh at that, he chuckled. “Hey, when you look like I do, you might as well have fun with it. And besides, everyone loves Bacon.”
“Well, Bacon,” Tolman told him, gesturing to a circle in the middle of the room. “We will spar, according to the rules that I just finished describing. I will not use any powers, but you may.”
Bacon gave a broad grin at that, one that looked a bit scary with his tusks. He was obviously confident in his chances, but I wasn’t quite so sure. As soon as Ito called out for the match to begin, Bacon went straight for Tolman, clearly expecting an easy victory. However, in mere seconds, his face was planted on the floor and she had his arm pulled back, held in what looked like a very uncomfortable angle.
“How the hell did you do that?” Bacon gasped in obvious surprise. “I’m a brick…”
“With the proper application of skill and experience,” Tolman told the class as she released Bacon, “you can usually defeat a more powerful opponent.”
Then Tolman repeated the demonstration with Bacon in a second match, quickly proving that her victory wasn’t just a fluke. I looked around and saw that I wasn’t the only one who’d absorbed the lesson. Skill was more important than size or strength. Unfortunately for me, I had neither the skill nor the physical strength, but that was why I was in the class.
Once Tolman was finished with the demonstration, a very chagrinned Bacon returned to his seat. A couple of the other boys snickered at his defeat, but he just grinned and announced, “There’s worse things than getting your butt kicked by a hot chick…”
“How many of you have had previous martial arts training?” Tolman asked from the front of the class. A few hands went up into the air, including Laura’s. “We will begin evaluating the skill levels of everyone here, so that we can see where to begin your instruction. Those who have had previous training, come up front.”
Tolman and Ito spent about fifteen minutes questioning the students who went up front, and even had them do some quick demonstrations. At this point, my mind began to wander and I started looking around the room, wondering what powers everyone had. Would they match us up against people with the same kind of powers? That would be the fair thing to do. However, I didn’t have to wonder for long.
“Rapunzel and Mouse,” Tolman called out.
Two girls stood up as their names were called, and they nervously went to the front. One of them had long light-blue hair, that was pulled into a ponytail, which hung past her butt. The other girl was short, just under five feet tall, with tanned skin and shoulder length reddish-brown hair. It didn’t take much effort to guess which was Rapunzel and which was Mouse.
“Charger and Crysis,” Ito called out.
My eyes went wide as I saw the massive horse man stand up and move towards Ito. I gulped, thankful that I wasn’t the one who had to spar against him, and I immediately felt pity for the lean black-haired boy who was stuck with that task.
Just half a minute later, two sparring matches started, with one of them being watched by Ito and the other by Tolman. These matches were supposed to be without powers, but I was pretty sure that Charger didn’t need any power to stampede right over Crysis.
Rapunzel and Mouse were both pretty awkward in their sparring, and it was obvious that neither had much training. However, Tolman watched them carefully with an unreadable expression.
After their hesitant punching, Mouse grabbed hold of Rapunzel’s hair. Suddenly, Rapunzel’s hair came loose from the ponytail and began to wrap around Mouse’s arm. A moment later, Rapunzel was using her hair to throw the shorter girl to the ground.
“I don’t think so,” Mouse exclaimed, right before she suddenly shrank down to the size of a doll, slipping free of Rapunzel’s hair and then growing back to her previous size.
“Enough,” Tolman called out, ending their match.
Next, Tolman called up Miss Omega, a short and nerdy looking girl, and Morgana. It was an interesting match to watch, and of course, I silently cheered for my roommate.
As soon as that match was over, Tolman called out, “Glyph.” I stood up and gulped, hoping that she didn’t put me against someone like Tanya. Then she called out, “Ms. Samuels,” and I let out a sigh of relief.
“I can deal with Laura,” I muttered to myself. Neither of us had much in the way of physical powers, with the exception of my limited elemental spells, so I figured this would be a pretty even match.
Laura gave me a wry smile but didn’t actually say anything. However, she positioned herself to get ready, doing so in a way that made me a little wary.
“Hajime,” Tolman announced to begin the match.
Laura suddenly came at me, and before I even realized what was happening, I’d been knocked on my butt. I looked up at Laura, who gave me an almost apologetic smile. It wasn’t until that moment, that I remembered that she had previous experience.
“Sorry about that,” Laura said as she held out a hand to help me to my feet.
Laura and I got back in position, then Tolman called “Hajime,” again.
This time, when Laura came at me, she did so a little more slowly, probably because she felt sorry for me and wanted me to have a chance. She threw a couple punches and kicks at me, and this time, I realized what was happening when I fell flat on my butt.
“Well, that was pretty damn useless,” I muttered to myself before returning to my feet with as much dignity as I could muster.
Fortunately for me, my brief but pathetic showing had been enough to tell Tolman what she needed to know…that I was a complete and total beginner. I was incredibly self-conscious as I returned to my seat, and more than a little depressed. If I couldn’t even defend myself against Laura without using my powers, what chance did I have against the next assassin?
“Don’t worry,” Laura told me. “You’ll get better.”
“I certainly hope so,” I responded with a weak smile. “I’d hate to take this class for nothing.”
By the time class was over for the day, I was eager to jump into the shower and soak in the hot water. I didn’t even care that some girls I didn’t know would see me naked, or get a look at my tattoos. I just wanted to get cleaned up, go to lunch, and try to forget that this class was even on my schedule.
Whateley Academy, Monday afternoon, Sept 12th, 2016
I slung my backpack over my shoulder and started towards my last class of the day with a faint smile on my face. Magic Lab. After taking Algebra and English after lunch, I was happy to get back to one of the more unique and interesting classes.
When I reached the classroom, I came to an abrupt halt, not wanting to bump into the zombie that was standing in between me and the doorway. He was hideous, with rotted clothes, desiccated skin, and even a few bones sticking out. He looked like something straight out of a movie, and he was right in my way.
My eyes went to the girl who was standing right beside the zombie, Penny Dreadful. Penny was a goth, with shoulder length black hair, pale skin, dark eyeshadow and black lipstick. I’d seen her around campus a couple times over the last week, and on those occasions, she’d been wearing mostly black, usually in some kind of traditional goth or gothic lolilta style. Today, like myself, she was wearing a school uniform, which dulled her goth image, but certainly didn’t remove it.
I wasn’t sure what to say to my creepy classmate, and found myself asking, “Is that a real zombie?”
Penny gave me a flat look, and in a deadpan voice, answered, “This is my ex-boyfriend James.”
The zombie didn’t react to that statement and just stood there with a lifeless expression. After a moment, Penny gestured towards him and he suddenly collapsed to the ground like a puppet whose strings had just been cut. As I watched, the whole thing melted and faded away, until seconds later, there was no sign that the zombie had ever been there. Without a word, Penny continued into the classroom.
“Creepy,” a voice announced from behind me.
I turned to see Morgana. “What?” I asked my roommate wryly. “Keeping her ex-boyfriend around as an undead slave?”
Morgana snorted at that. “Actually,” she told me, “I heard that she’s really a manifestor, and that she just makes things that LOOK like zombies…”
“That is a little less creepy,” I admitted. The idea of sharing a class with someone who made real zombies, had been just a little unnerving.
“And less chance of the zombie apocalypse,” Morgana added cheerfully. Then, before I could think of a comeback, she flashed me a grin and added, “You know, with your skin coloring, I bet you could really pull off the goth look…”
“I don’t think so,” I responded emphatically, which only seemed to encourage my roommate.
“Come on,” Morgana teased. “You’d look totally awesome done up in goth lolita…”
“And you could carry around a pitchfork,” I pointed out, wanting to change the subject. I’ve already dealt with Tessa treating me like some kind of living doll to play dress up with, and there was no way I was going to let my roommate do that to me too. Then, to make sure she got the point about that particular conversation being over, I turned and hurried into the classroom.
A minute later, Morgana and I had found our seats, right next to each other. Earlier this morning, during the theory part of the class, Mrs. Grimes had assigned lab partners, in teams of three. And since we were just starting the lab part of the class, we were expected to sit with those lab partners. Morgana was one of my lab partners, which was convenient for both of us. However, our other lab partner was AJ, which added an awkward complication.
In spite of having met as children, I didn’t know AJ very well, and was a bit wary of him. I didn’t really care that his mother was a supervillain, and it would have been pretty hypocritical of me if I did. I was more concerned about the fact that he knew I was the new White Lady, and that he could out me to the entire campus with just a couple words.
Fortunately, AJ hadn’t said a word about my meeting with the Bad Seeds yesterday, or about the invitation they’d offered me. Maybe he was just respecting my desire to keep a low profile, and not to let anyone know who I was. I hoped so. As it was, he was polite and even friendly, but I noticed him giving me a couple sidelong glances, and was pretty sure that he was just as wary of me as I was of him.
While waiting for class to begin, I pulled out the notebook where I’d written my notes this morning, and absently began to doodle in the borders. However, instead of the usual mindless doodles, I began to practice some of my runes.
“What are you drawing?” Morgana asked, giving me a curious look.
“Just practicing a few runes,” I explained, showing her some of the other doodles that I’d made in previous classes. I opened up to one page, where a large rune filled most of the sheet. I’d done that one in English, and a few more while keeping myself occupied in Algebra. “Just making sure I don’t forget them.”
“So,” Morgana teased me, “even when you’re wasting time in class, you’re still practicing…”
“Practice is never a waste of time,” AJ commented, glancing to my notebook and then looking at me with a thoughtful expression.
It was at this point that Grimes began the class with the announcement, “Today, I will teach you some basic exercises, which will help you develop the focus and control necessary to properly manage essence…”
This morning, during the theory part of the class, Grimes had given a lecture on the very basics of magic, which focused mostly on essence…the energy that spells were powered by. It made sense that our practical class would start with the basic exercises to control it. After all, Tessa had begun my lessons with some of these simple exercises as well.
“But what if we can already control our essence?” a girl called out.
I looked at the speaker, a beautiful blonde girl named Chained Melody. She radiated a ‘spoiled rich girl’ attitude, and the fact that she was an exemplar, with the looks that went with it, only made it worse.
“I can already perform magic,” Melody announced in a rather smug tone. “Why should I have to do the same exercises as the beginners?”
Grimes fixed Melody with a cold look, which I was suddenly thankful, was not directed at me. “Chained Melody,” Grimes said in a frosty tone. “Just because you are blessed with the ability to gather essence more easily than some of your classmates, that does not excuse you from having to master the basic fundamentals. In the long term, these exercises will help you build the control necessary for holding the essence you have gathered, and in the short term…they will determine whether or not you pass this class.”
Melody sunk down in her seat, clearly chagrinned from the lecture. However, when Grimes turned around, Melody glared defiantly at her back.
After this, Grimes began teaching the class the first exercise. This one had nothing to do with actually using essence, only in building the kind of self-control and focus that we needed, so that we could hold onto essence without it all leaking away. This was the first exercise that Tessa had taught me, and one that I still practiced nearly every night.
Grimes went around the room, checking on all the students, and seemingly having a sense of who had done this kind of exercise before, and who hadn’t. She gave a faint nod of approval to both AJ and myself, along with a couple others. And to my surprise, Chained Melody was one of them. For those of us who were doing well enough, Grimes began trying to challenge…or just distract us…by asking questions about things that we hadn’t covered yet in class.
“What are three ways of acquiring essence?” Grimes asked AJ.
“Well, you can gather it directly,” AJ answered, not looking the least bit uncomfortable at being called on this way. In fact, he almost acted bored. Then again, since his mother was the Witch Queen, she’d probably taught him all about magic, just like my mom had been doing to Paige. “You can receive it as a loan or bequest from someone else, and there are certain rituals that can be used to build essence.”
“Good,” Grimes responded with a faint nod of approval. “Chained Melody. What does the wizard rating on your MID represent?”
Melody looked a little smug as she answered, “How powerful a spell I can cast…”
Grimes shook her head. “That is incorrect.” Several students began to snicker while Melody turned bright red. Grimes looked around the room, then called out my name. “Glyph?”
I scowled in annoyance since I was trying to do the exercise she’d assigned us, and these questions kept distracted me from that. I took a deep breath, then tried to look calm and confident as I answered. “It represents how much essence you can gather, not what you can do with it.” I hesitated for a moment, thinking about Tessa and the other Hands before adding, “A baseline mage can cast spells just as powerful as any mutant, just as long as they have enough essence for it.”
“Good answer,” Morgana whispered to me.
Melody glared at me, and I heard her mutter, “Know it all freak,” to the girl beside her.
“Correct,” Grimes said from a short distance in front of my desk. She’d moved closer to me while I’d been answering the question. Then, just as she was turning to leave, her eyes settled on my notebook, the corner of which had several harmless runes doodled on it. She paused for a moment, before abruptly asking “Glyph. What is the law of precedent?”
I gulped at being called on like that, since I wasn’t nearly as comfortable with the attention as AJ seemed to be. Then, still trying to act calm and confident, I answered, “That is the law of magic that says, the more times a spell has been cast, the easier it is to cast it again.”
I glanced to my notebook, staring at the runes I’d drawn, and knowing that they were the reason she’d asked me that question. After all, the law of precedent was one of the main reasons that my runes worked as well as they did. They were ancient spells, that had been cast countless time over the centuries.
“Correct,” Grimes told me before she moved on to the next student.
Morgana elbowed me in the side and whispered, “I think someone is mad at you…”
I looked over and saw that Melody was still glaring at me, as if it was somehow my fault that she had answered her question wrong. However, I didn’t show any reaction and casually looked away, returning to the mental exercise that we’d been assigned.
Just a few minutes after this, a girl came into the class and handed Grimes a note, before she quickly left again. Grimes read the note, scowling deeply as she did so. “Class,” she abruptly announced. “I have to leave for a few minutes. Continue practicing the exercise.”
As soon as Grimes was gone, Morgana mused, “I wonder what that was about…”
“No idea,” I responded with a shrug. Since our teacher was gone for the moment, and I’d had enough of this exercise for the time being, I flipped my notebook open to a blank page and began to practice another of my runes.
“Hey,” Morgana said, elbowing me in the side again. I glared at her, but she just nodded towards Chained Melody, who was standing up from her desk and watching me with a smug expression. “I think you have incoming…”
“Listen, you pasty freak,” Chained Melody said with a sneer. “You’d better learn your place…”
AJ leaned back in his chair and watched with a look of faint amusement. “This should be interesting…”
Melody was clearly trying to intimidate me with her ‘better than thou’ attitude, though I wasn’t the least bit impressed. For one thing, I’d grown up around women with the same kind of attitude, and some of them had the power to really back it up. Compared to someone like my grandmother, or even my mother, Melody was more annoying than threatening.
“And you should probably study more,” I answered in an even tone that really seemed to piss her off.
Melody’s eyes seemed to flash with rage, then she paused and gave me a smug look. “Then I’ll simply have to teach you your place,” she announced with a smirk.
With that, Melody began to sing a strange and melodic tune, which surprised me since I hadn’t expected a musical number to break out in magic class. But from the way everyone nearby was staring at her in rapt attention, I wouldn’t have been too surprised if other people started to join in at any moment.
“This Magic Lab,” I snapped at Melody in annoyance, “not Choir. If you want to practice your weird singing, you should do it somewhere else…”
“What?” Melody gasped, staring at me with a look of stunned disbelief. Then she snarled and ordered, “Bark like a dog…”
“Why in the world would I do that?” I responded in surprise. “You know, I think you have some serious issues…”
Most of the students who had been staring so intently at Melody a few seconds earlier, snapped out of it and began laughing at her instead. She turned bright red, which seemed to be from a combination of anger and embarrassment.
“You…you pale skinned freak,” Melody snarled at me.
Suddenly, Antionette, and Estelle, the two girls who’d been giving Morgana such a problem this morning, jumped up and began yelling, “We don’t need you freaks in here…”
Morgana jumped to her feet, glaring at the other girls and looking rather pissed herself. Her more demonic features were starting to emerge, which showed how close she was to losing her temper.
“They aren’t worth it,” I cautioned my roommate. Getting into a fight was one thing, but doing it in the middle of the classroom... If she did that, the school wouldn’t be nearly as understanding as they’d been the first time.
For several seconds, there was a thick tension, but then Grimes stepped back into the classroom and it all evaporated in an instant. Morgana and the two bitch girls sat back down and tried to look innocent, while Melody hurried back to her seat.
“What the hell did that bitch do to us?” Morgana whispered to me.
“What?” I blinked in confusion. “She sang…”
“It was spellsinging,” AJ answered. “A type of bardic magic.”
I blinked again. “Spellsinging?”
“My mom told me about it once,” AJ responded with a casual shrug. “Basically, she channeled essence into her singing, and used it like a spell.”
“That explains it,” Morgana said with a nod. Then she gave me a curious look. “But how’d you break out of it?”
“Break out of what?” I asked in annoyance. “I didn’t feel anything.”
Morgana stared at me for a moment, while I wondered why she was making such a big deal out of it. Sure, AJ said that Melody had been doing some kind of magical singing, but I hadn’t noticed anything magical about it.
Suddenly, it dawned on me. When I’d inherited the mantle of the White Lady from my grandmother, I’d gained a few ‘gifts’, along with a few ‘curses’. From what I’d been told, one of those curses was that I was deaf and mute to magic, though I hadn’t really understood what the deaf part meant until just now.
I glanced to Chained Melody, who was sitting in her chair again, though she was glaring intently at me. I fought back the urge to stick my tongue out at her, knowing that it would be both petty and useless. Instead, I turned my attention to Grimes, who looked like she was about to address the class again.
Whateley Academy, Monday evening, Sept 12th, 2016
It was late in the evening, at the time when the sky was darkened and most students were just settling in for bed. Esquire stood alone outside, not yet ready to return to his room in Emerson. Instead, he was savoring this chance to think in peace, without his thoughts being drowned out by noise from other students.
At the moment, Esquire was silently watching a firing range, or at least, the group of students from the evening Firearm Safety class, which had just been released and were quickly heading back to their respective cottages. His eyes were firmly locked on just a single one of those students, the girl with the chalk white hair and skin. The teenage White Lady.
Esquire considered what it meant, that a magic user like her was taking Firearm Safety. Was she trying to learn about what weapons might be used against her, or did she intend to carry a weapon of her own?
Just then, Esquire saw something from the corner of his eye and he snapped around, releasing the catch on his cane in the process. Steel ball bearings flew out of his cane and began to orbit in a circle around him, ready to be flung out as lethal projectiles with just a thought. A moment later, he saw the small furry animal that was looking up at him through its bandit mask.
“Oh,” Esquire said in annoyance. All the steel ball bearings flew back into his cane, which he snapped shut. He scowled, not happy at having been caught by surprise that way, or in the way he’d shown his hand without needing to. “It’s only you.”
The raccoon shimmered and was suddenly replaced with a boy, who gave Esquire an easygoing grin. “Why so jumpy, Gideon?”
“I told you not to call me that,” Esquire reminded the other boy.
Racoon just shrugged, then looked out to the girl that Esquire had been watching. “You’re still watching Glyph.”
“She belongs with the Seeds,” Esquire stated.
“It isn’t like you to care about some freshman who turned us down,” Racoon pointed out, giving Esquire a curious look. “We asked. She said no. Now, she isn’t our concern.”
Esquire gave Racoon a flat look. “That is where you are wrong. The White Lady is very much our concern. She represents an opportunity that we simply can’t ignore.”
Racoon let out an exasperated sign, then asked, “Why do I feel another one of your schemes coming on?”
“Glyph, may just be a freshman,” Esquire explained in his usual arrogant tone. “But the White Lady is the head of the Family. She has access to wealth, resources, and connections, and if she was a member of the Seeds, then we would have a certain degree of indirect access as well.”
“Do you really think,” Racoon asked with a snort, “that if she joined the Seeds, that she’d just give us access to her bank account?”
“Of course not,” Esquire responded dismissively. “But she would have a certain obligation to the rest of us. And as a fellow Seed, she would also be in a position where we could influence her…” He smirked as he considered how easy it would be to manipulate a naive freshman, such as her. “If we build the right connections to the White Lady and the Family now, then those connections would become even more valuable once we leave Whateley.”
Racoon shook his head and let out an exasperated sigh. “I think you’re forgetting one small detail. We can’t MAKE her join. You remember what Nightsnake told us about the last time the Seeds tried to strong-arm someone into joining. It was a total disaster.”
“Of course we won’t force her,” Esquire responded dismissively. He looked in the direction of Poe Cottage, where he’d seen the young White Lady heading. “We merely need to convince her that she needs our protection.”
For a moment, Racoon just stared at Esquire with an unreadable expression before he shook his head again and let out another sigh. “You know, you aren’t nearly as brilliant as you think you are.” Then he flashed Esquire a grin, admitting, “But if nothing else, it should be interesting to see how this plays out.”
“You underestimate me,” Esquire announced, turning away from Racoon for just a moment. When he looked back, the other boy was gone. That didn’t surprise Esquire though, as he was used to Racoon pulling those little tricks. Then with a smirk, Esquire mused to himself, “It is simply a matter of applying the appropriate pressure.”
Whateley Academy, Wednesday morning, Sept 14th, 2016
Mornings at Whateley were a strange affair, with a calm peaceful feel that was due in no small part to the fact that most of the students were still asleep...mentally if not physically, interspersed with bursts of chaotic energy. It wasn’t until after breakfast that the student body began to really wake up, myself included.
I let out a loud yawn as I made the walk between Crystal Hall and my first period class, which triggered a chain reaction of several more yawns from my friends. Morgana, Tanya, Bailey, Vic, and Tia all trudged to class beside me in various stages of wakefulness.
Since we all had Power Theory together, we were getting into the habit of walking there together after breakfast. Some of my other friends had the same class too, but were probably making their own way there this morning.
“I need more coffee,” Morgana grumbled, seeming to ignore the fact that she’d already had a couple cups.
“You need an IV drip,” I pointed out, wondering how many cups would fit into one of those plastic bags.
Morgana gave me a grin, responding, “Not a bad idea…”
In spite of the fact that I was still pretty tired, I kept my eyes open and watched my surroundings. There was no telling when someone might make another move on me, and if they did, I wanted to see it coming. The presence of my friends made me comfortable enough that I relaxed my guard a little, but not completely.
Like me, Tia was looking around, though she had a visibly nervous expression. I could certainly understand why, because the girl who’d transformed her and had ruined her life, was not only here at Whateley, but had sworn to ‘get even’ for imagined wrongs. If I knew for a fact that Scorn or the Messenger was at Whateley, I’d probably be pissing my panties, so I definitely felt for Tia. I just wished that I could do something to help her.
Even though I was paying attention to my surroundings and where I was going, I suddenly tripped over something and sprawled face first onto the ground. “Ouch,” I cried out as my hand hit concrete, scraping enough skin off so that I was bleeding. I grimaced at that and muttered, “Damn…”
“Are you okay?” Tia asked me in concern.
“Just peachy,” I grumbled, more embarrassed than hurt. Thanks to my regenerative abilities, the scrape was already healed, and the remaining bruises would probably be gone in just a few minutes.
Morgana held out her hand and helped me up, though she had a mischievious grin on her face and asked, “New feet?”
“Something like that,” I responded, embarrassed because there was a certain element in truth to that. However, I’d been a girl long enough to get used to my new center of balance, at least enough so that I wasn’t tripping over myself like that. “My foot hit something.” However, when I looked, there was nothing there but smooth ground, not even a small rock to have gotten in my way.
“Like your feet,” Morgana teased me.
“As long as you aren’t hurt,“ Tanya said, giving me a smile. “Now, let’s hurry before we’re late.”
Just half a minute later, we reached the classroom door, though the way inside was partially blocked by Janine and Giggles, who were in the middle of a conversation. Janine had Power Theory with us, but I knew that Giggles didn’t. I was pretty sure that she was in the class next door, since she’d arrived with Janine yesterday morning too.
“Bianca,” Janine announced with a smile as soon as she saw me.
“Hello,” I greeted her and Giggles.
Before I could say another word, Janine gasped out, “Your hand…”
I looked at my hand, and the drops of crimson that stuck out quite visibly against my white skin. When I’d hurt myself a minute ago, my scrape had healed in seconds, but that didn’t mean my hand had miraculously cleaned itself in the process. Now, a few drops of smeared blood remained.
“I’m fine,” I assured Janine, looking for something I could wipe the blood off on. “I just tripped a minute ago…”
“Yep,” Morgana added with a cheerful smile. “She tripped right over her own feet…”
“There was something there,” I responded defensively, giving my roommate a flat look. “It felt like I kicked something…”
“Well, I certainly didn’t see anything,” Morgana teased.
Janine’s eyes went wide and she gasped, “Maybe it was one of those invisible bunnies…”
I blinked at that. “Invisible bunnies?”
Janine nodded empathically, then looked around at my friends before seeming to realize that she had an audience. In a quieter tone, she explained, “A couple girls in my cottage told me that some devisor made a couple rabbits invisible, and that they accidentally got loose…”
“They were just messing with you,” Giggles told Janine with a roll of her eyes. “You know…messing with gullible freshman.” Then she looked to me and shrugged. “The invisible bunny thing is Whateley’s version of an urban legend.”
“Like alligators in the sewer,” I said, nodding my understanding.
“Actually,” Tanya pointed out, “I heard there really are things in the sewers here…”
“Well, don’t worry about your invisible bunnies,” Morgana told Janine with a grin. “I mean, this is Whateley, so I’m sure we can find a holy hand grenade around here somewhere…”
“Just be careful about which bunny you try to blow up,” Bailey offered, smirking at Tia.
“Ha ha,” Tia responded with a roll of her eyes. “Real funny.”
Giggles stared at Tia for a moment and began to giggle. But instead of just giving a quick giggle and being done with it, she continued giggling, growing more manic in the process. I took a step back and gave her a worried look.
“Are you all right?” I asked Giggles, who was still giggling.
“It’s her Diedricks,” Janine explained as she put her hand on Giggles’ arm and gave her a worried look.
“Diedricks?” Tia blurted out, going pale and taking a step back.
Janine nodded. “She goes into uncontrollable giggle fits…”
Giggles nodded agreement, though she was still giggling and looking mortified at the same time. Tears were beginning to form in her eyes and she was starting to turn away from everyone. If I was giggling uncontrollably like that, I probably wouldn’t want everyone to stare at me either.
“I…I’ve got to go,” Tia blurted out, quickly rushing into the classroom.
Janine gave Tia a confused and perhaps even hurt look, so I quickly explained, “Tia has a phobia of devisors with Diedricks.”
“But she’s a gadgeteer,“ Janine protested.
I nodded at that, wondering if Janine knew about Tia and her…situation. Tia had been outed on international news, but I still didn’t feel like it was my place to share her story.
“Is she going to be okay?” Laura asked, giving Giggles a worried look.
Giggles and Janine both nodded. “I’m…fine,” Giggles said as her giggles finally came to a stop. Her face was red and she had teary eyes, but she was no longer giggling. “It…happens every couple days.” Then she gave a faint and very self-conscious smile as she added, “This one wasn’t too bad…”
After this, Giggles hurried off to her classroom, while the rest of us went into ours. I quickly found my seat, with Janine quickly taking the seat beside me. Morgana took one look at Janine, then smirked.
“It looks like you found a sidekick,” Morgana whispered to me, low enough so that Janine wouldn’t hear.
I just squirmed a little at that, not sure how to respond. So instead of saying anything, I just opened my notebook and readied myself for class. However, as I looked around the classroom at the other students, I noticed Chained Melody sitting on the other side, silently glaring at me. She quickly looked away, but not before I’d noticed the look of hostility on her face. I guess some people really didn’t know how to let things go.
Whateley Firing Range, Wednesday evening, Sept 14th, 2016
I was standing at the firing range, fully aware of just how solid the gun felt in my hand. There was a certain sense of security that came with being armed, as well as a nervousness. After all, this very gun had once saved my life, but in the process, I’d learned exactly what it could do to a person. Death…even a well-deserved one…was not pretty.
After taking a deep breath in order to mentally steady myself, I shifted into a weaver stance, just as Marcus had taught me, and took aim. I felt the recoil as I fired the trigger, and immediately corrected my aim and fired again. Several rounds later, I lowered my gun. Nobody would say that I was an expert shot, but I was good enough to get a consistently decent grouping.
“Nice grouping,” the instructor said from behind me.
Sgt. Miguel Rivas, a short and stocky Puerto Rican veteran, was our instructor for the Firearm Safety course, and he obviously took his job very seriously. I was aware of the fact that he was still behind me, watching my every move. I was tempted to turn to look at him, but instead, I carefully cleared my weapon, making sure to keep it pointed down and towards the range. Once I had done that and set my weapon on the small counter, barrel pointed down range, I finally turned to look at Rivas, who nodded in approval.
“You’ve done some shooting before,” Rivas said. It was a statement, not a question.
“Yes,” I answered, trying to keep my voice calm, even though I had a momentary flash of the Messenger’s face as I shot him. “A friend of the family used to take me shooting.”
Rivas nodded at that, then continued walking down the line, keeping a close eye on all the students who were currently shooting. Of course, only about half the students in our class were shooting today, so he wasn’t quite as busy as he might have been otherwise.
On Monday, the entire class had been dedicated to watching safety videos, and going over all the rules of the shooting range and firearms in general, especially the safety rules. Rivas had repeatedly emphasized just how important those rules were.
Yesterday, Rivas had gone over the rules again, and we ended the class with a test on those very rules. We had to get a perfect score on the test in order to actually move on to the shooting part of the class tonight. For those who didn’t get a perfect score, they were spending the night getting a refresher course, and repeating the test until they passed.
I wasn’t the only one of my friends taking this class. Laura, Jimmy, and even that stuck up Hikaru were in it as well, though I didn’t pay much attention to them. Instead, I kept my focus firmly on what I was doing, and on not making any stupid or carless mistakes that might get me thrown out of the class.
Once everyone was done shooting and the range was clear, we were able to retrieve our target papers and compare our groupings. It was pretty clear that some of the kids in class had never fired a gun before in their lives, much less in a real world situation. Lucky them.
“That’s pretty good,” Laura told me as she looked over my paper.
“Yours…isn’t bad,” I tried to reassure Laura, who appeared to have hit the paper only twice, and neither time actually on the target.
“I suck,” Laura responded with a shrug. “But you’re pretty good…”
I smiled faintly at that. “I’ve had some practice.”
Laura chuckled, then gave me an amused look. “Now I know how you feel in BMA.”
“At least you have BMA,” Jimmy announced as he came over. He held up his own paper, which was a little better than Laura’s, but not by too much. “I get my butt kicked there, and THEN I can’t hit the broad side of a barn.”
Jimmy’s constant companion, the VI ferret named Tavi, teased, “Big barn!” At the moment, Tavi wore a ten gallon hat and was twirling a pair of six shooters, though earlier today in BMA, I’d glimpsed him wearing some kind of ninja outfit instead.
“You’ll get better,” I assured them both, before smirking. “And if you don’t…just use a shotgun.”
“Or maybe I’ll just make something that aims for me,” Laura said with a faint smirk.
“And at least in BMA,” I told Jimmy, “you have that PK shell. I don’t even have that…”
Jimmy nodded in sympathy and pointed out, "And worst case, I can always throw Tavi at them."
The ferret immediately agreed, “Tavi aims!"
After this, Rivas went around and once again verified that all the weapons were still unloaded, even though he’d made sure that each of us properly cleared them after we were done shooting. Still, I could understand his caution, because I wouldn’t put it past a few of my classmates to play around with the weapon and load it again afterwards.
“Now,” Rivas announced, looking around at all of us. “You have to clean your weapons before putting them away. A clean weapon is a happy weapon…”
There were groans from some of the students, with one boy whining, “But it isn’t even dirty…”
I rolled my eyes at the complaints, since Rivas had made it perfectly clear that any weapon we used, would need to be properly cleaned and oiled. Taking proper care of the guns we used was included in the firing range rules. Hell, that was even one of the questions in the test we all shad to pass.
“Once you’re finished cleaning to my satisfaction,” Rivas said, “your weapon will be returned to the armory, and you will be free to leave for the day.”
Several of the other students had previous experience shooting, but when it came to cleaning their weapons afterwards, it was clear that they were less experienced there. Fortunately for me, Marcus had been a stickler for the details, so I was the first one finished.
In spite of being done, I hung around and waited for Laura to finish up as well. After all, it was getting late and dark, and I didn’t think that either of us wanted to walk back across campus to Poe alone.
Hikaru was the second one finished, and from the methodical way she cleaned her weapon, it was clear that this wasn’t her first time doing so. We said a polite goodbye to each other as she departed for Melville.
I didn’t have to wait too long for Laura, and once she was finished, the two of us started back to Poe together. Neither of us said much at first, though we were about halfway back, she broke the silence.
“So, you’ve done a lot of shooting before,” Laura started.
“Yeah,” I responded. After hesitating a moment, I continued, “A family friend used to take me…”
“Used to?” Laura asked, giving me a worried look. “Did something happen?”
“Yes,” I said with a sigh.
Laura gave me a sympathetic look, obviously expecting the worst. Maybe she thought he’d been killed along with my family. Maybe she thought he didn’t know about my changes. Or perhaps, she suspected that he’d turned on me after I manifested.
“I came to Whateley,” I told her with a wry smile before adding, “Marcus is…my legal guardian now, but things are…chaotic. I don’t know if we’ll have time to do something like that again, even after I go home.”
Laura gave a sad nod at that before admitting, “My dad used to take my brothers shooting. Me…not so much.”
“Why not?” I asked, then immediately wished that I’d kept my mouth shut. I wasn’t comfortable with people asking about my family, so it wasn’t right to be asking her about hers, especially when I knew there were issues.
For several seconds, Laura remained silent, then she let out a pained sigh and answered, “My dad… He thought I was a scrawny runt, and wasn’t worth doing that kind of thing with.”
“Ouch,” I responded with a wince of sympathy.
“My mom,” I started, almost before I realized it. “My mom was the same way.” Tears started to form, though I tried to hold them back. “She pretty much doted on my sister. Me…not so much.”
Laura didn’t say a word, though she gave me a sympathetic look and then a hug. It felt a little awkward at first, but oddly comforting at the same time. When we were done with the hug, we continued to Poe in companionable silence.
Poe Cottage, Thursday morning, Sept 15th, 2016
I let out a loud yawn as I slung my backpack over my shoulder, feeling less than enthusiastic about going to classes for today. Of course, I got to have breakfast before classes, but even in a school full of mutants, most classes tended to get boring quickly.
Well, BMA wasn’t boring, but that didn’t make it a class that I enjoyed going to. In fact, it was the most exciting class on my schedule, and the one I enjoyed the least. At least in magic theory, thanks to Tessa’s tutoring, I was actually ahead of the curve. In BMA…not so much. If it wasn’t for my regeneration, I’d have bruises over my entire body.
“Come on, slowpokes,” Morgana called out, giving a loud yawn of her own. “Let’s go girls. I need my coffee.”
“You were the one who took forever to get showered,” Laura pointed out.
“And I’m still ready to go before you,” Morgana responded with a grin, that was broken by another yawn.
“Who cares who the last one to get read is?” I grumbled as I started towards the stairs, while my friends in the changeling girls wing followed behind me. Then as I reached the steps, I smiled faintly and pointed out, “Besides, I was the first one, and that is all that matters…”
Just as I was about to leave through Poe’s main entrance, a girl exclaimed from behind me, “Move it freshie.”
A moment later, a gorgeous girl with golden blonde hair and big breasts pushed past me and hurried towards Crystal Hall. She was hot enough that she was almost definitely an exemplar, but I had absolutely no idea who she was. After living in Poe for nearly two weeks, this was the first time that I’d seen her.
“Who was that?” I asked aloud.
“That was Façade,” Krystal answered as she came up behind me as well.
“Façade?” I repeated in surprise as well as confusion. “But I met Façade the other day and…”
Krystal just grinned. “And she didn’t look or act like that?”
“No she didn’t,” I agreed, thinking of the ‘librarian’ looking girl that I’d met before. Then I considered her name and blurted out, “She’s a shifter…”
Krystal hesitated for a moment before shaking her head. “Sort of. Not really.” At my confused look, she asked, “You remember those old movies and cartoons, where people wear completely realistic skin masks, and no one can tell that they’re fake until they tear off the masks in a big reveal…”
I blinked at that. “And you’re saying that she’s wearing a skin mask?” I gave Krystal a skeptical look, because both girls had looked completely real, and not like someone wearing a mask.
“Pretty much,” Krystal responded with a chuckle. “Façade is a manifestor and creates these shells around herself, that look completely and totally real. I mean, she can even make clothes.”
“Impressive,” Laura said from beside me. “She certainly didn’t look like she was wearing any kind of mask.”
Krystal nodded at that, then in an almost conspiratorial voice, she said, “And get this… Façade has some kind of social anxiety disorder, where she can’t deal with other people very well, so she creates these new personas to hide behind. One day she might look and act like some kind of goth, and the next,” she gestured in the direction that Façade had gone, “you get this.”
“That…sounds a little confusing,” I admitted.
“It sounds like the girl has a few issues,” Morgana added. “Like a newsstand full.”
“Something like that,” Krystal responded with a grin. “Between Façade and Skizm, they do a great job of reinforcing Poe’s cover as the nuthouse.”
“As interesting as it is to gossip about our cottagemates behind their backs,” Bailey pointed out with a roll of her eyes. “I want to get to breakfast sometime before lunch.”
“Seconded,” Morgana quickly added.
“Well, see you later then,” Krystal said as she hurried off, joining up with a couple other sophomore girls.
A few seconds later, my friends and I were on our way to Crystal Hall as well. As soon as we arrived, Morgana dove into the buffet line with her usual abandon. She was still filling her plate by the time I reached our usual table.
However, as I sat down, I noticed one boy at another table, who was staring straight at me. Normally, a blue skinned girl, a white skinned girl, and one with horns might be worth a second look, but by Whateley standards, we were pretty tame. Then, as I carefully pretended not to notice the boy, he said something to one of his friends, while pointing towards me. For some reason, I had a bad feeling about that.
BMA, Thursday late morning, Sept 15th, 2016
It was only my fourth day of taking classes at Whateley, and I could already say without hesitation, that BMA was my least favorite. Practicing the forms, like we’d done for the first half of the class, wasn’t really that bad. The part that I didn’t like, was the sparring. Or more specifically, I hated having to spar with powers, when mine were clearly not meant for that kind of confrontation.
At the moment, I was standing in the sparring circle, facing off against Cindy Hoffstetter, a short and skinny girl with thick glasses, who seemed to fit nearly every stereotype of a nerd. Unfortunately, Cindy…AKA Miss Omega, was a perfect example of why you should never judge by appearances. In spite of her harmless appearance, Cindy was a PK supergirl…and a fairly high one at that.
Our first match, which had been without using powers, had been fairly even. However, the second match, had been unquestionably one sided. As soon as Tolman had called ‘Hajime’, Cindy had simply given me a ‘gentle’ push, which sent me flying out of the circle. Now, we were preparing for our third and final match, which I didn’t expect to be any different than the last.
Cindy casually adjusted her glasses, giving me a rather smug look that showed just how confident she was. A moment later, Tolman said, “Hajime.”
I grimaced, having already decided that even though I was going to lose, that this time I would go down fighting. I quickly flipped the mental switch to activate one of my elemental spells, and then unleashed the stored magic. Suddenly, my eyes and tattoos began to glow a silvery color, which startled Cindy, but not long enough. She swung her fist at me, only to connect with an invisible wall of air that I’d formed between us.
“What…?” Cindy gasped in surprise, since I hadn’t used this trick before in BMA.
I switched gears and switched all of the remaining energy I had stored for my air spell, into creating a concentrated burst of wind. Cindy was suddenly thrown back right to the edge of the circle, where she caught herself. She floated in mid-air for several seconds, fighting against my wind, then she came straight at me, and once again, I was throwing from the circle.
“I didn’t know you had a force field,” Cindy said, adjusting her glasses again and giving me a curious look. “I wonder what other tricks you have…”
“As do I,” Tolman commented, gesturing for Cindy and I to both return to our seats.
“That was a nice trick,” Laura told me.
“But not nice enough,” Morgana added.
Jimmy, who was also sitting close to us today, gave me a sympathetic look. “It was a good try though…”
“But not good enough,” Morgana repeated with a grin.
I glared at my roommate, then at Jimmy. He’d gone up against Cindy yesterday, and had done much better than I had. Since both were PK, and of comparable power levels, they had been pretty evenly matched. It had only been Cindy’s ability to fly that gave her any advantage over him.
As I watched the next couple fights, I considered how I would fight those opponents, but I had a hard time imagining how I could possibly win. No opponent would stand still and let me draw some runes on the floor, which meant that I’d have to rely entirely on my elemental spells. Unfortunately, I only had five of those, and most of them were useless in this kind of situation. After all, unless I was facing someone like Vic, being able to control water wouldn’t do me any good, and if I destroyed the floor with an earthquake, Tolman would probably kill me.
Then, after I’d psyched myself down to an even greater depression, Tolman called out, “Glyph and Crysis.”
“Good luck,” Jimmy said.
“Kick his ass,” Morgana immediately added.
Laura gave me a thumbs up and warned me, “He likes to start with a strong right punch.”
A few seconds later, I was standing up front in the sparring circle again, facing Crysis. Crysis was a lean boy with black hair and dark eyes, that were currently glaring at me as though I’d kicked his dog. This was the first time I’d sparred with Crysis, so I could only imagine that the glare was due to being put up against such an easy opponent. After seeing his powers in action, I knew that I had even less chance of beating him than I did Miss Omega.
“No powers for the first match,” Tolman stated, repeating the pattern that she’d been using for all the matches today. “Hajime.”
Crysis and I began to circle each other, neither of us making a move. He continued to glare at me with a faint sneer. Then, he suddenly lunged forward, swinging his right fist, just like Laura had warned me. Because of Laura’s warning, I had the presence of mind to actually block the punch, the way Tolman had shown me yesterday, then I punched him back, though it wasn’t nearly hard enough.
“Is that all you’ve got?” Crysis demanded.
Crysis came right at me, and though he wasn’t as skilled as Laura, he was still better than me. He attacked me with a series of punches, with one of them smashing right into my nose. I felt an explosion of pain and dropped to the floor, where I grabbed at my face and felt my hands fill with blood.
“BIANCA!” Morgana yelled, jumping to her feet. She was snarling in rage and beginning to transform.
“Stay back,” Tolman ordered my roommate, while Laura grabbed her arm and stopped her from doing anything stupid.
I grimaced in pain but managed to get to my knees. My hands were full of blood, and the entire front of my gi was soaked with crimson. However, the bleeding was already stopping.
“Do you need to go to Doyle?” Tolman asked me. She knew that I had regeneration, so she didn’t look worried, in spite of all the blood. Or at least, I hoped that was why she wasn’t concerned.
“No,” I answered, wincing at the pain and spitting out blood.
I got back to my feet, feeling shaky from the pain and loss of blood. I could leave and go to Doyle but Tolman would know that I didn’t really have to. My friends would know that I didn’t really have to. And even more importantly, I would know. If I ran away every time things got painful, than I’d never get strong enough to face Scorn. With that, I carefully pulled on my metaphoric mask and tried to act calm and confident. I wasn’t sure how well I succeeded, with my busted nose.
Tolman nodded and gave me a faint look of approval. “Very well then,” she said. “This time, you may use powers… Hajime.”
Crysis had a look of smug satisfaction on his face, and it pissed me off. Before he had a chance to use his powers, I decided to make my move. I unleashed another of my elemental spells, and suddenly the air around me exploded in flames. Crysis yelped and jumped back to avoid the expanding flames, far enough that he went outside the circle.
“Glyph wins this match,” Tolman announced, which brought a faint smile to my face.
Unfortunately, since that match was over, I had to release my magic, not that I had a lot of energy left in that spell. I was annoyed at having to end it early, because I wouldn’t be able to use it again until well after BMA was over for the day.
“Again,” Tolman told us. “You may use your powers.” Once we both got into position, she said, “Hajime.”
Crysis glared at me with even more hostility than before, which made me gulp nervously, though I tried not to show it. An idea suddenly occurred to me and I realized that I might be able to use my light power to bluff him. However, before I could activate that spell, Crysis made his move.
Before I even realized what was happening, I suddenly flew straight up in the air, courtesy of Crysis’ telekinesis. After leaving me hanging for a couple seconds, he brought me down again with a telekinetic body slam, where I landed right outside the circle. I let out a loud gasp as the impact knocked the wind out of me, and probably bruised most of my body.
“Crysis wins the match,” Tolman announced.
I was still dazed from the impact and trying to catch my breath when Crysis came over and bent down. With sneer, he quietly hissed out, “I don’t know how someone like YOU managed to kill the Messenger…”
If I’d had the air for it, I would have let out a gasp of shock. Instead, all I could do was stare at Crysis in stunned horror as he turned and walked away. He knew… How could he know? How could he possibly know?
“Bianca,” Laura said as she crouched down beside me. “Are you okay?”
I coughed and managed to sit up, wincing from the bruises all over my body…and Crysis’ words. I looked towards the boy, but he’d already taken his seat was carefully looking away from me. With a nod, I managed to gasp out, “I’m fine…” Laura and Morgana helped me back to my spot on the mat, where I sat back down with a wince.
“That one looked pretty nasty,” Jimmy told me with a sympathetic look.
“You can say that again,” Laura responded.
Morgana gave a wicked grin as she said, “That one looked pretty nasty.”
“Hey,” Jimmy protested. “That was my line…”
“His line. His line,” the VI ferret exclaimed from above Jimmy’s shoulder.
I nodded absently as my friends tried to comfort me, but my attention was focused on Crysis. There was a cold knot of dread in my gut as I remembered his words, and as I considered what they meant.
Whateley Academy, Thursday afternoon, Sept 15th, 2016
They were watching me. Nearly everyone in class was watching me, staring at me when they didn’t think I could see them. They were whispering behind my back…and pointing. I wasn’t just being paranoid, in spite of what Morgana had suggested when I’d pointed it out during lunch.
I was currently sitting in English, and I was alone, without any of my friends to watch my back. Well, Janine was in the class, but she had been forced to sit on the other side of the room do to the limited availability of open seats, but I couldn’t count on her to do much.
My eyes quickly swept the room as I tried to take in every detail, not allowing myself to relax since I knew something was up. I didn’t know what it was, and that worried me.
For most of the day, people had been giving me strange looks and staring at me when they didn’t think I was watching. It had been getting worse and worse as the day progressed, which made me nervous as hell.
There, someone was doing it again. I didn’t know the girl’s name, but there she was on the other side of the room. She gave me an odd look, nudged the girl beside her, and then leaned over to whisper in her ear. She was talking about me. I just knew it.
I remained tense and on edge for the entire class, barely hearing what the teacher was saying. Instead, I kept my attention on the other students, waiting for someone to make a move.
While I did this, Crysis’ words echoed through my head. He knew that I was the one who killed the Messenger. That meant, he knew that I was the White Lady. HOW? How could Crysis know? Was he planning to jump me for some reason? Was he part of something larger? These questions kept coming, putting me further and further on edge.
Then, English finally ended and I let out a sigh of relief, though I didn’t lower my guard. Instead, I remained where I was, watching as the other students poured out of the classroom, feeling my fears recede just a little more every time there was one less potential threat.
“Hey, Bianca,” Janine said as she came over to me. She looked just a little nervous, which made me worry about why. Was she involved with whatever was going on? I certainly hoped not.
“Janine,” I greeted her warily.
Janine hesitated a moment, then held out her notebook. It took me a few seconds to realize that the random doodling all over the pages, was actually some sort of diagram, for what appeared to be another Rube Goldberg machine, though I had absolutely no idea what this one was for.
“I came up with a great idea,” Janine told me, looking both nervous and excited at the same time. It took me a moment more to realize that she was nervous about showing ME…about what I thought.
I blinked at that. “It looks interesting,” I said carefully, not wanting to hurt her feelings.
But just then, I noticed one of my other classmates coming towards me. Kopy was a stocky boy, with shaggy dark hair and few extra pounds on him, though he was more in the line of slightly chubby than straight-out fat. He was also a fairly high level power mimic, hence the name. I knew this because I’d heard him bragging about it several times in class.
“So,” Kopy said with a smirk. “I hear that you’re the new White Lady.”
I nearly choked at that, and then I spent several seconds frozen in shock and terror. I finally regained control of myself enough to pull on my metaphorical mask, and to at least try acting calm and confident, though I wasn’t sure how good a job I was doing at the moment.
“Where did you hear that?” I demanded in a cold tone, which hopefully covered my desperation.
“It’s all over the school,” Kopy answered with a smug look. “Word is, your grandmother was the previous White Lady, and that you’ve taken over…”
“What does that mean?” Janine asked, looking a little confused.
“What it means,” Penny Dreadful answered in a flat tone, just as she had been about to leave the room, “is that your friend is a supervillain.” She gave me a look of vague curiosity, which was a change from the expression of bored disinterest that she normally seemed to wear. “You’re not quite the goody goody that I thought…”
“What?” Janine blurted out, staring at me in stunned disbelief. “You’re a villain?”
I stood there for a moment, gulping and trying to gather my thoughts. Penny gave me a curious look, then gestured to the side, where a desiccated female zombie formed. Without a word, she handed her book bag to the zombie, then continued walking out the door while the zombie staggered after.
“Bianca…?” Janine started, sounding almost as if she was begging.
“Don’t worry about it,” Kopy told me with a grin. “I mean, I understand completely. Mimeo is my dad.”
I didn’t know what to say to Kopy…or to Janine, who was still staring at me with a confused expression. So, instead of speaking, I took a deep breath, tried to keep myself from screaming, and hurried out the classroom door.
“Hey, maybe we can join the Seeds together,” Kopy said from behind me, though I did my best to ignore him. “If you vouch for me…”
“Oh God,” I gasped, on the verge of hyperventilating.
My heart had to be racing at least a hundred miles a second, or at least that was what it felt like. My heart was definitely going fast, and I was shaking with dread. They knew. Everybody knew.
Suddenly, I understood the odd stares and whispers that I’d been receiving all morning, and my heart jumped up right into my throat. I had to get out of here. I had to get away from all those eyes that were watching me…judging me.
I started for Poe, not knowing where else to go for safety. However, I had barely started for the cottage when I heard my name being called out. I immediately snapped around, bracing for an attack. However, a moment later, I saw Morgana coming towards me.
“Bianca,” Morgana called again.
“Morgana,” I responded carefully, gulping at the realization that she was giving me the same kind of look that I’d seen from so many other students today. Still, I tried playing it cool in the hope that I was wrong. “What’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong?” Morgana demanded as she came up and stopped in front of me. “Oh, nothing much. Only the fact that someone just told me that my roommate is a supervillain with her own cult.”
I saw the look of anger, betrayal, and suspicion in Morgana’s eyes and took a nervous step back. It was just like I feared…that if my friends knew who I really was, they wouldn’t be my friends anymore. After finally making friend outside the Family, for the first time in my life, the idea of losing them hurt.
“I’m not a supervillain,” I responded quietly, trying not to burst into tears. “And I don’t have any cult…”
“Bianca,” Morgana started, giving me a look that seemed to be part relief and part skepticism. She paused for a moment, giving me a calculating look. “Damn near everyone is saying that your grandmother was some supervillain named the White Lady…and that you’ve taken over for her.”
She stared at me, as though silently begging me to deny the accusations. I wanted to deny the accusations, to tell her and everyone else that someone had made this up, but I couldn’t.
“My grandmother was the fifth White Lady,” I quietly admitted, unable to look my roommate in the eyes. “When she died, I inherited her powers and became the sixth…”
“What are you saying?” Morgana asked with a visible gulp.
“Yes,” I blurted out in frustration. “I am the White Lady.”
This time, it was Morgana who took a step back, staring at me with worried look. Her eyes narrowed, and I couldn’t tell if they were filled with fear, anger, or some mixture of both.
“So, you ARE a villain,” she exclaimed.
“No, I’m not,” I protested, growing more flustered by the moment.
I quickly looked around, but there were few people close to us. However, I did see Tanya, quickly walking away from us. Had she been close enough to hear what we were saying? Had she heard those rumors too? However, Morgana was standing right in front of me, so I shifted my full attention back to her.
“My grandmother USED TO BE a villain,” I nearly snarled at Morgana, “but that was back in the forties. She hadn’t been a supervillain in decades…” I glared at my roommate, angered by her suspicious gaze and accusations, which felt like a betrayal. “Sure, she ran the Family…and they might not always do thing legally…but they sure as hell aren’t a cult.”
“But what about...?” Morgana started, though I didn’t give her a chance to accuse me of anything else.
“I’m NOT a supervillain,” I insisted. “I inherited my grandmother’s power…and her title, but it’s not like I’ve put on some kind of stupid costume and went out robbing banks. If anything, I’ve helped stop a couple villains.”
“A couple?” Morgana asked, giving me a curious look. Then she looked a little chagrined, perhaps out of embarrassment over the way she’d confronted me over the rumors. “And what about the whole cult thing?”
“The Family is not a cult,” I told her with a sigh, closing my eyes for a moment and trying to keep from completely freaking out. “It’s the family business… My ancestors have been running the Family for centuries, but they…we aren’t a cult. We don’t worship anything. We just look out for each other and try to make a living…”
Morgana stared at me for several long seconds, and I couldn’t really read her expression. “So you’re not a villain?” I shook my head. “And you’re absolutely not part of a cult?”
“No,” I assured her with a tired sigh. For some reason, she seemed more obsessed with the whole cult idea than with anything else.
“But this Family,” she started, giving me another curious look. “You said that it isn’t legal…” Then her eyes widened. “You’re with the mob…like in the Godfather?” I winced at that, while she blurted out, “You’re a mafia princess!”
I winced again and responded, “Not exactly…” I squirmed, deciding that it wouldn’t be a good idea to point out that it would have been more accurate to call me a mafia queen. At least in theory.
“Why didn’t you say anything before?” Morgana asked. “I mean, why didn’t you tell me…?”
“Tell you what?” I asked grimly. “That my grandmother used to be a supervillain? That I’m part of a criminal organization? That the asshole who murdered my family has a price on MY head too?”
Morgana’s eyes went wide at that revelation, then she shook her head. “Damn.”
“I came to Whateley so I could get away from being the White Lady,” I told her with a scowl. “I came here so I could just be Bianca…and figure out who she is…” Then I shook my head sadly, “And now it’s all over… Everyone knows…”
“It’s okay,” Morgana assured me, putting a gentle arm around my shoulder. “Trust me, I know what it’s like having a bunch of shit in the rearview mirror that you don’t like talking about. But I’m your roomie… Your friend… Come on, you can tell me more on the way to class…”
Then, whether I really wanted to go to class or not, Morgana gently pulled me in that direction. After a few seconds, I let out a sigh and began to follow her on my own.
When we arrived at Magic Lab, I immediately noticed the same odd looks and whispers that had been occurring throughout the day, but this time, I knew exactly what they were for. I wanted to turn and leave the class, but I couldn’t do that now. Instead, I braced myself and slipped into my White Lady persona, trying to act calm and in control.
“Are you okay?” Morgana asked, giving me a worried look.
“I’m fine,” I answered in an even tone. From the look on her face, she didn’t believe me, but probably didn’t want to make a big deal of it right there in class.
I slowly looked around the classroom, carefully noting all the students who were giving me odd looks. Of course, Melody was glaring at me, as were the two other bitches Antionette and Estelle. From the way Melody began to smirk, I was pretty sure that she’d heard the rumors. There was no way I’d show any weakness in front of these bitches, so I locked the White Lady mask even more firmly in place.
AJ was already in his seat, looking calm and relaxed, though he was watching me carefully. “I’m sorry to hear you got outed,” he told me. “I know you were trying to keep a low profile.”
“Thank you,” I answered politely.
Morgana stared at him in surprise, then turned to me, “Wait… He already knew?” She gave me a hurt look, obviously assuming that I’d told AJ before telling her.
“The Bad Seeds figured out who I was and asked me to join,” I explained to Morgana, keeping my voice low and even. “I turned them down.”
However, it wasn’t until then that I suddenly realized an important question that I should already have asked. How did everyone know that I was the White Lady? Who started these rumors? The only ones who knew, or who I was aware of knowing, were the Imp and the Bad Seeds, and somehow, I couldn’t see my odd faculty advisor spreading that information.
“Someone did this,” I whispered to myself as I narrowed my eyes and looked over my classmates. Was one of them involved?
Morgana looked like she was about to ask me another question, but Grimes stood up from her desk and began the class. Unfortunately, I was a little too distracted to pay much attention, and I spent the entire class looking around the room, watching the other students and looking for any sign of an attack. Admittedly, I was getting just a little paranoid, but I didn’t care, because people really were out to get me.
As soon as class was over, I stood up and started to leave the classroom as quickly as I could while still maintaining my dignity. However, Melody warned one of the other students, “I’d get out of the white freak’s way if I were you, or she might make you go swimming with concrete shoes on…” Then, she burst out in mocking laugher, along with several other students.
“Watch it, blondie,” Morgana snarled, giving Melody and her friends a warning look. I just did my best to ignore the whole thing and get out of the classroom as quickly as I could. Morgana looked like she was going to follow, but something distracted her and I made my escape.
Once I was out of the classroom, I started straight to Poe as quickly as I could without actually running. My heart was racing and my eyes were darting everywhere, looking for the attack that was sure to come. I had to get away from these stares and whispers. I had to get somewhere safe.
The moment I arrived at Poe, I saw Decibelle in the doorway, talking to another girl I didn’t know. As soon as Deci saw me, she said, “Hey Bianca, I heard…” However, I rushed past her without responding.
I made it to my room and locked the door behind me with a sigh of relief. I was safe. But then, as I looked around the small dorm room, I realized that I wasn’t safe. I knew that there were some kind of magical protections around Poe Cottage, but I was sure that they weren’t enough. And even if they were, they wouldn’t protect against dangers from within Poe. I needed to fix that. I needed to make my room more secure.
I grabbed a piece of chalk and began to draw wards and protection runes on the wall, starting with around the door and then moving to the window. Admittedly, the number of spells I currently had available to me was rather limited, but I did have some good ones to protect from various forms of spying. And of course, I also had the large book that my grandmother had left to me, which included some protection spells that I hadn’t memorized yet. Those would be very useful.
“But this isn’t enough,” I exclaimed as I frantically looked around the room and the runes I’d already drawn. “They need to be stronger…more powerful. How…?”
I stood there for several long seconds, looking around and desperately trying to think of what I could do to make my spells stronger and more effective. Then it came to me. I knew the answer to that. A moment later, I grabbed a ceramic mug and the small dagger that I’d been carrying with me ever since my fight with the Messenger.
“I hope this works,” I whispered, hesitating only a couple seconds before I sliced open my own forearm. Crimson appeared against my stark white skin, and I quickly positioned the mug so that I could catch every single drop before the wound closed. “That should be enough for now…”
Just then, I heard my bedroom door being unlocked, right before it flew open and Morgana stepped inside. My roommate froze, stared at me with a look of surprised, and demanded, “What the hell are you doing?”
It took a moment for me to realize what it must look like, for her to see me standing there with a bloody knife against my arm. “I need the blood for my spells,” I quickly explained, wiping the blood from my forearm to show that it was no longer bleeding. “I need it to make the protection spells stronger…”
Morgana’s eyes widened as she looked around the room and saw the new runes that I’d drawn on the walls. Then, she turned to stare at me again, this time with a worried look.
“Bianca,” my roommate said in the kind of gentle and patronizing tone that was usually reserved for children, animals, and the mentally disturbed. “Are you okay?”
“Of course I’m not okay,” I exclaimed, holding up the cup of blood. I was practically shaking as I tried to explain, “They’re going to come for me…”
“Who is?” Morgana asked, slowly stepping closer to me.
“The assassins,” I answered, dipping my finger into the mug of blood and then looking at the wall to decide where I should put the next rune.
Morgana took the mug out of my hand and gave it a look of distaste before setting it down on top of my dresser. “Better your blood than mine,” she muttered, right before giving me a forced grin. “You are NOT using your blood to doodle all over the walls of MY bedroom…”
“You don’t understand,” I snarled, reading for the mug, but Morgana stopped me.
“You really think that assassins are coming for you?” Morgana asked, giving me a worried look. “Here…at Whateley? I think you’re being a little paranoid…”
“PARANOID?” I demanded, staring at my roommate in stunned disbelief. Did she think I was making this up? I wished to God I was. “Assassins murdered my family, right in front of me,” I snarled, perhaps getting just a little manic. “They came to my grandmother’s birthday party and killed my mom and dad…” Tears were starting to pour down my cheeks as remembered the scene. As I remembered being froze in terror while the Messenger and his daughter killed everyone… “THEY SHOT MY SISTER IN THE BACK!”
“Bianca,” Morgana gasped, looking horrified.
It hurt to talk about this…to even think about this. Tears continued to pour out. “They killed my aunt and cousin,” I said in a quieter voice, which trembled and cracked. My grandmother…and a lot of others… All I could do was stand there and watch.”
I’d told Morgana about this before, at least in part, when I’d first arrived at Whateley. However, I hadn’t told her or anyone else the full story. I hadn’t told them what it really meant when my grandmother and all of her heirs had been murdered. I hadn’t told them what else it meant for me.
“After I changed,” I whispered. “After I became the White Lady…the Messenger came after me too…and so did Overstrike.”
“How did you get away?” Morgana asked, but I was too caught up in my own thoughts to answer.
“I came to Whateley to hide from the assassins,” I quietly admitted. “But now, everyone knows who I am, so it’s only a matter of time before Scorn finds out I’m here. It’s only a matter of time before he sends more assassins after me…” Then I shuddered as I added, “For all I know, he might already know I’m here. For all I know, he was the one who outed me…”
I sat down on the edge of my bed, feeling too shaken to even stand. Morgana sat beside me, looking worried but uncertain about what to do.
“Whateley has great security,” Morgana tried to assure me. “There is no way an assassin could get you here. You’re safe here. WE are safe here.”
“This time, I don’t have any bodyguards,” I said. “This time, I don’t have any Loyal to help…”
“You have something even better than any bodyguards,” Morgana insisted, giving me a determined look. “You have me watching your back. You have friends, and even if some assassin did manage to find you here, there is no way we’d let them get you.”
Then, Morgana surprised me by throwing her arms around me in a hug. I didn’t think she was much of a hugger, but I hadn’t considered myself one either and I found myself holding her tightly as I cried.
To be continued