A Learning Experience 17-05

Previous Chapter                      Next Chapter

“Seriously, man, thanks for helping.” Extending a hand to Travis Colby (one of Tristan, Vanessa, and Zeke’s teammates) as the muscular dark-skinned boy came into the room where Zeke and I had been working on our project for Carfried’s class, I offered him a smile. “If it was me and a couple Freshmen Heretics wanted to test their magic trap, I’m pretty sure I’d just run screaming in the other direction.”

Travis gave me an easy smile in return, though he did seem a little (understandably) nervous about the whole situation. “No worries, Flick. Already told Zebra if anything goes wrong, I get the next month worth of those care packages his mom keeps sending every week. And even if it doesn’t, I still get one thing out of the box. So I’m good either way. Just, uh, try not to do anything too permanent, huh?” He gestured toward his own face. “Really don’t need to explain any major damage to my momma.”

Blinking at him, I hesitated before asking slowly with a glance toward where Zeke stood, “Zebra?”

Before Travis could respond to that, my project partner stepped between us while clearing his throat pointedly. “Never mind, it’s stupid and childish. Are we going to get started on this thing now or not?”

Grinning past his teammate, Travis stage-whispered toward me, “Tell you ’bout it later.” Then he shrugged casually. “You’re building some kinda ‘react when the right kind of person walks by’ spell thingie, right? So I uh, I guess you just tell me where to walk and what kinda effect to watch for.”

Zeke shook his head at that while using a finger to adjust the way his glasses perched on his face as he corrected the other boy. “Actually, it’s better if you don’t know what to expect. That way we know the result that we get, if we get one, is real and not a subconscious reaction of you expecting it to happen.”

I couldn’t argue with that. He had a good point. So I nodded. “Yeah, probably best if you don’t know.”

Travis looked back and forth between us before shrugging. “Aight, if you say so. I do have one question though.” His eyebrows went up curiously. “Zeke uh, he said you guys were gonna set your spell to go off based on someone’s physical characteristic. Like that whole thing with his mom’s spell detecting Strangers. He said you’d use something like hair color. But he and I, we’ve both got brown hair. And it ain’t eye color, cuz we’ve both got hazel eyes too. So… what physical trait were you using?”

For once, both Zeke and I looked equally awkward as we glanced to one another and then looked toward Travis and his black skin. My mouth opened before shutting again as I tried to find the best way to diplomatically explain exactly what trait we’d used once we knew he was going to be the test subject.

Travis left us hanging like that for several extremely long seconds before his confused frown turned into a bright, toothy smile as he punched me in the arm. “I’m just fucking with you guys. It’s an obvious physical trait, man, ain’t no need to be all awkward and shit about it. Don’t make it so easy, damn.”

Still laughing at our reactions, Travis straightened and stretched languidly. “Right, where am I going?”

I shook my head, smirking in spite of myself while gesturing toward the other end of the room. About halfway there, a line of tin cans about two feet apart started and ran all the way to the opposite wall. “Just walk slowly past the cans to the other side of the room. We don’t want you to know which one has the actual spell on it. Like Zeke said, better if you have no idea when it’s actually supposed to happen.”

“Walk to the other side of the room?” Travis shrugged then and started that way. “Sure, I can do that.”

As the other boy moved, Zeke and I stepped out of the way and watched carefully. My eyes strayed to the third can in the line of seven. That was the one that we had attached the spell to. Trying not to make my anticipation obvious and risk spoiling the results, I leaned against the wall, continuing to observe.

The boy passed the first can, then the second without any reaction. As he passed the third can, however, he abruptly sneezed loudly, hand flying to his face as his head rocked backward a little bit from the force and suddenness of it. Then he coughed and gave his head a shake before looking over his shoulder at us. “Uh, tell me that was you guys and I ain’t suddenly allergic to being this cool.”

“Yup, that was us.” Wincing, I gestured to Zeke. “We might wanna tone down the reaction just a bit next time. That was less ‘polite sneeze’ and more ‘shotgun explosion recoil.’ You okay there, Travis?”

He waved me off then. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Whoo. Clears out the sinuses pretty damn good though, huh?” Giving his head a violent shake, the boy gave us a thumbs up. “So, that about do it for ya?”

“Yeah, yeah, we’re good.” Nodding quickly, I looked to Zeke. “Unless you think we need to go again.”

“No,” my project partner walked away from the wall, leaning down to pick up the cans that we had set up. “We’ll ease up on the spell a little bit and then turn it in on Friday. It’s good enough now.”

“Cool.” Travis straightened then before focusing on me once more. “Cuz I was kinda hoping you could give Aylen and me a little help with our spell reaction thing. It’s not a trap or nothing like you guys got set up here, but we gotta have someone who ain’t us to test it. You know, if you ain’t busy or nothing.”

After blinking at that, I gave a quick nod. “Oh, sure. What did you have in mind, exactly?”

In response, Travis gave me a slow smile. “Columbus said something about how you used to have a job in some movie theater, right?” When I nodded, he went on. “Well, let’s just say you’ll appreciate it.”

Of course, Zeke couldn’t help but put in his own comment. “I’m surprised Carfried put you and Aylen together. I mean, you’re both Bystander-kin. What interesting spells could you possibly come up with?”

Somehow resisting the urge to kick the boy in the knee, I managed through slightly gritted teeth, “All of us just started learning magic this semester. You don’t have some huge advantage on that front.”

He just shrugged. “Yeah, but I’ve been around magic my whole life. I’ve seen a lot more examples than you guys have about what it can do. So, again, what kind of interesting spell could they know about?”

******

As it turned out, the answer to Zeke’s incredibly rude question was ‘one that would’ve been incredibly useful while I was still working at the theater and that I wish I could send back in time to myself.’

Basically, Aylen had looked through the library and found a spell that was meant to be used in older classrooms back during the first days of the school. It made it so that anyone talking above a whisper was made to hear a steady, drowning ‘shhhhh’ noise until they quieted down again. While the trigger for Zeke’s and my spell had been someone passing the object, in their case, the trigger was simple volume.

It ended up working well, and I made them promise to show me how to do it the next chance we got. I wasn’t sure the actual ‘shh’ noise itself would be all that useful, but I might be able to adjust the specific sound into something else. Besides, every new spell that I learned was another arrow in my quiver.

Speaking of arrows in my quiver, it was the next afternoon and I was out on the grass with my newest tutor, who was helping me start to get the hang of the latest update to my slowly growing arsenal.

“Thanks again, Rudolph.” I held up my transformed staff in its bow form and gave it a slightly awkward wave. “Pretty sure I’d manage to poke my own eye out with this if I didn’t have some help.”

The pale-haired boy just shrugged at that, mumbling under his breath, “No big deal.” Straightening, he reached up to his neck and wrapped his hand around the necklace there. As he gave the thing a tug, it pulled off and, in mid-air, extended and transformed into his actual bow. It was pretty similar to the way Tristan’s snake-weapon was disguised, and looked pretty damn cool, to be perfectly honest.

The body of his bow had five buttons along the side. One red, one blue, one white, one green, and one brown. From previous interactions, I knew that each of the buttons determined what kind of arrow would appear when he used the bow. The red button produced arrows that created fire when they hit something, the blue created water arrows, the white one produced arrows that froze things, the green one caused minor shockwaves or earthquakes when they hit, and the brown one created normal arrows for times when he didn’t actually want any kind of special effect. It was the brown one that he hit now.

As the arrow appeared in its place, notched against the string, Rudolph pulled it back and sighted in on the target that he had set up in the distance. After checking to make sure that no one was nearby, he released the arrow and sent it into the target. It didn’t hit the exact center, but it was pretty close.

“Like that,” he announced while lowering the bow. His voice was calm. “I know you don’t know what you’re doing, but could you just take a shot and show me what you do to start and we’ll go from there?”

“Oh, uh, sure. Yeah, that makes sense.” Nodding, I put my fingers against the energy-string on my own bow and waited for the arrow construct to appear before pulling it back. Sighting in on the target, I took a few seconds to aim before releasing it. The arrow soared through the air… passed the target completely and hit a tree in the distance, sending a shockwave through it that made a handful of colorful birds erupt from the canopy while loudly calling out their annoyance for everyone to hear.

“Uh.” I coughed quietly at the sight of the fleeing birds, flinching a little bit as my face went pink. “Whoops?” Shrugging awkwardly, I added, “I guess maybe I’ve got more than a little practicing to do.”

Even laid-back Rudolph couldn’t restrain his smirk at that as he waved a hand. “S’okay,” he replied. “We’re just starting. When I used my bow the first time, I almost shot Sovereign. Aylen wasn’t happy.”

“Ouch.” Wincing at the thought of how the metal bird and his owner would’ve reacted to having arrows coming his direction, I nodded “Yeah, that was probably bad. But hey, at least you’re better now.”

“And you will be too,” he promised. “Just let me show you a bit. Take up your position again, and–”

Before he could say anything else, however, we were interrupted by Professor Kohaku. The Asian woman approached with her hand up for our attention. Once she was close enough, she gestured to my bow. “I see Nevada has finished your weapons upgrade, Miss Chambers. How does it feel?”

I coughed again, flushing as I glanced to the bow. “It feels like I really don’t know what I’m doing yet.”

“You will before too long,” she assured me with a slight smile. “Mr. Parsons has already learned quite a lot. And if his tutelage isn’t enough, I’m sure that Ulysses would be glad to offer his own assistance.”

“Thanks, Professor.” Returning the woman’s smile briefly, I asked “Err, sorry, was there something else we could do for you? Were you looking for Sean or Zeke?” Those were the two that I knew were part of her Security track. Rudolph, like me, was in the Investigation track with Professor Dare.

“Actually, you were the one I was looking for,” Kohaku replied evenly while shaking her head. “You’re probably already aware that students are allowed to change their track specializations each semester in order to broaden their training. I’d like you to consider joining the Security track next semester.”

That made me blink a couple times in surprise. “Switch to the Security track, ma’am?”

“Yes.” She nodded once. “I believe that you could stand to benefit a lot from what we teach.” Pausing, she added, “For example, we partner our track students with members of the actual security team.”

Wyatt, I realized after a moment. She was saying (without actually saying it since Rudolph was there) that if I joined the Security track, I’d have the perfect excuse to spend a lot of time around Wyatt.

Plus, I really could stand to learn more about security, given everything that had happened so far. After a momentary hesitation as I considered, I nodded. “Thank you, Professor. I’ll—um, I’ll think about it.”

Belatedly, I realized something. “Wait, I do have a question. Um, there’s different teachers for the older student tracks, right? How come the Chief of Security is the Track Advisor for the Freshmen instead of someone like Rucker doing it while you advise, say, the seniors?”

“First of all, the fourth-year students do not technically attend many actual classes,” she answered easily. “They’re usually paired with a fully-trained Heretic whose job has something to do with their own chosen specialty, and are sent out as junior partners. As for the rest of it, yes, most of the track advisers only teach one year. Development, Investigation, Hunters, and Explorers all have different advisers for second and third year. But I am the adviser for each of the three years, though I pass that responsibility off as needed to my subordinates, like Reid Rucker. As I said, we partner our Track students with actual security guards, so it’s similar to the way seniors are partnered with full Heretics.”

That made sense. Kohaku didn’t actually have to do as much hands-on teaching as someone like Professor Dare did, because she had an entire staff of tutors to help out. Which meant she could actually technically be ‘in charge’ of the full first though third year Security track.

“I get it.” Nodding to that, I smiled faintly. “Thanks for explaining. Like I said, I’ll think about joining.”

“Good.” Professor Kohaku paused before looking at Rudolph. “You are welcome as well, of course.”

“Thanks.” He shrugged. “Probably not gonna do it, but thanks. No offense. Just not a security guy.”

Frankly, I wasn’t sure how a guy as laid back as Rudolph happened to be was the investigator type, but he still seemed to get all his work done anyway. He’d probably do fine no matter what track he joined. Except maybe Hunters. There weren’t a lot of shortcuts and ‘easy ways’ to the straight up combat track.

But if there was, I was pretty sure Rudolph would find a way.

******

“Normally, you will have to carve the runes into your wooden block yourself,” Gaia informed me that night. “As well as invest enough time and power to make the theriangelos spell work. In this case, I’ve prepared most of the block ahead of time, so that you can see how the spell works. Next time, however, you will have to do it yourself.”

Blinking at the incredibly elaborate and detailed scripts that literally covered the piece of wood she was holding up, I whistled. “Wow. We have to remember each of those runes and draw them perfectly in the exact right spot? That’s gotta take awhile.”

“I believe that Benji is fond of a certain phrase that applies here,” Gaia replied with a smile. “One that he has taken great pains to repeat ad nauseum in your classes with him?”

Groaning, I nodded. “Yeah, yeah. Magic is not fast. Professor Carfried says it all the time. Magic is not fast. I guess he’s got a point. Still, damn, this is… how long does it take to draw all that?”

“You’ll get better and faster at it with practice,” the woman assured me. “For now, simply finish the last line by closing the circle there.” She indicated a spot on the wood. “Then I will help you invest enough power to make the spell work.”

“You said it was called the… the whatchamangel spell?”

Gaia chuckled, head shaking. “Theriangelos. It is derived from the Ancient Greek word therion, meaning ‘wild animal’ and the word ‘angelos’ meaning–”

“Angel?” I guessed.

“The word angel is derived from angelos, yes,” she confirmed. “But it actually means messenger. Since the spell was initially often used to carry messages that couldn’t be sent by other means, it was given the name ‘animal messenger’ spell.”

“Animal messenger, got it,” I nodded slowly, looking down at the block before accepting it from the woman’s hand along with the black marker. After a moment of hesitation, I closed the last circle.

As I did so, Gaia put her hand over mine and pressed it flat against the block. “Focus on your own power and speak the words that appear on the wall in front of you,” she instructed. “Don’t worry about running out of strength, I will provide my own for you to draw from.”

So, I did. Keeping my hand against the block, I looked up to the wall and began to recite the words that appeared there in glowing script. As Gaia had said, I would eventually have to remember how to do the spell myself (or just write the specifics down and keep it with me), but for now, she helped.

Even then, it took a solid minute to recite the full spell as the words kept appearing. And through it all, I continually pushed my power into the block of wood. I could feel Gaia helping, guiding my own efforts and providing energy for me to draw from. My own incredible stamina helped a lot, but even then there was a difference between the energy I had to go for a run and the energy I had to perform magic. Without Gaia’s help, I probably couldn’t have finished.

Eventually, however, the spell was done. I felt the wood grow hot in my hands. As I dropped it, the wood floated instead of falling. It spun away from me, flying through the air before starting to glow with a bright, almost blinding red and gold color.

As the light faded, the wood wasn’t there anymore. Instead, settling down onto the floor, there was a beautiful fox. Its main body was ruby red, while the underside that would have been white on a normal fox was gold.

I also had the incredibly strange sensation of seeing myself and Gaia. It was weird. I was sitting there watching this gorgeous fox perch on the floor. But I was also looking up at my own body, seeing through the eyes of the animal itself. Herself. However that was supposed to work.

And not only that, I could also smell a lot more than I’d been able to before. My senses of smell and hearing through the fox was incredible.

It was weird, trying to focus on both at the same time. I ended up almost giving myself a headache, staggering a little.

“Shh,” Gaia put a hand on my back. “Close these eyes and focus on seeing through the fox. Focus on controlling the fox. Don’t worry about this body, worry about that one. See if you can make her move.”

Shivering a little, I leaned back against her reassuring touch while letting my eyes drift shut. Then I focused my attention on the animal, seeing through her eyes instead of my own.

Two things I knew for sure. First, I really liked this spell.

And second, given a fox’s general reputation for trickery and spying, I really didn’t see it going well if Ruthers found out what my animal spirit was.

Previous Chapter                      Next Chapter

Advertisements

14 comments

  1. Happy New Year, guys! Hope you all had a good one, and welcome to 2017. Let’s see how this year goes, huh?

    And there you go, Flick’s animal. Probably not that much of a surprise, but it does make sense. At least, I hope it does. 😉 Plus, not only did we get interaction with one little-seen student in the form of Rudolph this chapter, even the elusive Travis made a fairly major appearance. Whoo!

    Thanks for reading, guys. And for your votes on Top Web Fiction! We’re still hanging in there on the top ten. 😀 If you’d like to throw your own vote in to help keep us there, feel free to do so right here. Thanks again!

    Our tags for today are: Clearly Kohaku Only Wants Flick In The Security Track So It’s Easier To Keep An Eye On Her., Felicity Chambers, Flick, Gaia Sinclaire, Professor Kohaku, Rudolph Parsons, This Isn’t A Surprise Flick – Shiori And Avalon Already Knew You Were A Fox., Travis Colby, Zeke Leven

    Like

  2. I was honestly thinking that Flick’s animal would end up being a bird of prey, like a hawk or a falcon. But a fox was definitely up on my list of possibilities. I’m surprised we found out so quickly though. I mean, sure, Flick didn’t actually cast it on her own, but I was expecting it to take awhile, like Harry’s Patronus lessons with Lupin in Prisoner of Azkaban, where we didn’t find out it was a stag until after a few sessions (or was it when he cast it at the end?).

    How does a specific animal end up being someone’s projection, anyway? Do general cultural perceptions (such as the trickster reputation mentioned by Flick) influence it?

    I like this chapter. I do feel like each scene went by a little too quickly, but it overall works very well. It’s nice to see that Zeke’s team doesn’t put up with his shit. I want to know where the “Zebra” thing came from. I also want to know what’s in the care packages his mom sends.

    Clearly Kohaku Only Wants Flick In The Security Track So It’s Easier To Keep An Eye On Her.

    This Isn’t A Surprise Flick – Shiori And Avalon Already Knew You Were A Fox.

    I think these are my favorite tags.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m surprised we found out so quickly though. I mean, sure, Flick didn’t actually cast it on her own, but I was expecting it to take awhile, like Harry’s Patronus lessons with Lupin in Prisoner of Azkaban, where we didn’t find out it was a stag until after a few sessions (or was it when he cast it at the end?).

      I figured that with everything ELSE I have you guys waiting on to find out, I could at least reveal that little bit, and given Gaia’s assistance, it made enough sense that she could pull it off. It’ll take longer and a lot more practice for her to be able to cast it herself.

      How does a specific animal end up being someone’s projection, anyway? Do general cultural perceptions (such as the trickster reputation mentioned by Flick) influence it?

      It’s a combination of multiple factors. Their personality, their subconscious understanding of those animals, the way their society views them, etc etc.

      I like this chapter. I do feel like each scene went by a little too quickly, but it overall works very well.

      Yeah, I wanted it to be sort of a brief ‘slice of life’ type chapter where we see some things but not everything. Getting in and out of the scene as soon as the important info is imparted. But hey, at least Flick now has an offer for a different Track next semester.

      I want to know where the “Zebra” thing came from.

      I’m sure it’ll come up again.

      I also want to know what’s in the care packages his mom sends.

      This too, might just come up again…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ma just going to leave there here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy6WItWRKsQ

    Zeke continuing to be elitist, maybe some day he’ll learn. At least Travis seems cool enough. It would indeed suck to be allergic to being awesome. Though I guess if one was allergic to being awesome it would make one less awesome and balance itself out in the end.

    I don’t remember Rudolph’s description but I kinda get the feeling he’s the quintessential Hawaiian: soft spoken, laid back, easy going and will totally wreck you if he has to.

    Maybe soon we can have Flick and one of her crushes talking about their feelings? Be it Avalon, Shiori or Tristan I don’t really care I just want to see Flick talking to someone about it! She tried with Shiori but she needs to try again and try harder! And maybe she can get Avalon to actually admit to something, even if it’s just a strong friendship for the moment.

    As for the Security track, she’ll probably find that really helpful when her eighteenth comes along.

    Another good update, looking forward to more.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t see Flick as crushing on Tristan like she’s crushing on Shiori and Avalon. I think she just notices the hell out of his body because he’s quite literally supernaturally attractive and not afraid to show it.

      Like

      1. While I agree that it isn’t as strong as what she feels for Avalon and Shiori, I’d still qualify Flick’s attraction towards Tristan as a crush. If this excerpt from 13-01…

        Even more than that, he seemed to take an incredible amount of joy just in including everyone. He went out of his way to make sure that everyone had fun. And somehow just seemed to intuitively know when someone should be left alone or when they needed attention. I’d met people that were full of life before, but Tristan was just insane. He was charismatic, gorgeous, and just plain fun to be around.

        … is any indication, her attraction to him is based on more than just his appearance.

        My read on the situation is that while Flick’s crush on Tristan is not at the level of her crushes on Avalon and Shiori, it has the potential to grow to that point and beyond.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think I have to agree with you here. Tristen is basically eye-candy with a side of amusement as opposed to Avalon and Shiori, where there is a rather strong emotional connection.

        Like

    2. I’ma just going to leave there here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy6WItWRKsQ

      lol, thanks.

      I don’t remember Rudolph’s description but I kinda get the feeling he’s the quintessential Hawaiian: soft spoken, laid back, easy going and will totally wreck you if he has to.

      Pretty much, personality-wise. Description-wise, he’s slightly on the chubby side and very pale with hair that’s extremely light blonde to the point of basically being white.

      Maybe soon we can have Flick and one of her crushes talking about their feelings? Be it Avalon, Shiori or Tristan I don’t really care I just want to see Flick talking to someone about it! She tried with Shiori but she needs to try again and try harder! And maybe she can get Avalon to actually admit to something, even if it’s just a strong friendship for the moment.

      Hopefully!

      Like

  4. ““Cool.” Travis straightened then before focusing on me once more. “Cuz I was kinda hoping you could give Aylen and me a little help with our spell reaction thing. It’s not a trap or nothing like you guys got set up here, but we gotta have someone who ain’t us to test it. You know, if you ain’t busy or nothing.””
    Me: Fair’s fair and all that. The initial sneeze effect sounded rather painful, good thing Flick and Zeke plan to tone it down.

    “Still, damn, this is… how long does it take to draw all that?”
    “You’ll get better and faster at it with practice,” the woman assured me. “For now, simply finish the last line by closing the circle there.” She indicated a spot on the wood. “Then I will help you invest enough power to make the spell work.””
    Me: Heh, I notice that Gaia avoided answering the question, though Flick’s more than bright enough to read between the lines.

    “Two things I knew for sure. First, I really liked this spell.
    And second, given a fox’s general reputation for trickery and spying, I really didn’t see it going well if Ruthers found out what my animal spirit was.”
    Me: A very interesting spell, and rather subtle in the right environments.

    Nice update.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me: Fair’s fair and all that. The initial sneeze effect sounded rather painful, good thing Flick and Zeke plan to tone it down.

      Yeaaaaaaah, toning it down is, well… for the best.

      Me: Heh, I notice that Gaia avoided answering the question, though Flick’s more than bright enough to read between the lines.

      😉 Yeah, I think ‘a long time’ pretty much goes without saying.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “Clearly Kohaku Only Wants Flick In The Security Track So It’s Easier To Keep An Eye On Her” – this was actually my first thought when it came up in the chapter.

    & fun to read without anyone actually being in danger, which is good for the long-term survival of the characters.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s