Garth couldn’t help giggling as he climbed to his feet. Luckily his skull hadn’t put a dent in the wall, so nobody would think he hit it hard enough to kill somebody.
“Ms. Denton!” The teacher shouted from the front, breaking the silence. “This is-“
“No, No, it’s okay!” Garth said, levering himself up off the wall. “It was my fault. I was way out of line.” Which was true. Maybe the spirit of being a cavalier devil-may-care teenager had gotten the better of him.
Deep in his heart of hearts, he knew it was because she had a really nice butt.
Anyway, getting knocked around had given him an opportunity to get some stuff done other than sit in a chair and learn shit he already knew.
Garth took a step toward his chair and folded his leg out from under him, falling forward and catching himself on his desk.
“Why is the room so spinny?” he asked, using an illusion to fake a vigorous nosebleed.
“Hah, looks like the old soul can’t take a punch.” A boy catcalled in a cruel voice. Garth took note, then dismissed it as the class began to laugh at him. Must. Not. Hurt. Children.
“Ms. Denton, take Edward to the infirmary.” The teacher said with an irritated tone.
“Because you did it. Is that not obvious?”
Garth suppressed a chuckle and focused on looking concussed.
“Fine.” Brenna said, roughly grabbing his arm and hauling him to his feet.
She smelled nice.
The girl didn’t show any sign of struggle as she walked him to the front door, taking him outside the classroom and turning left.
Garth marveled at the large marble halls draped with tapestries that showed scenes that covered every major event of the entire history of the Mississippi Empire. It had started in Mississipi, of course, based on using the river for agriculture and transportation, then spread it’s influence west. They were way out in the sticks apparently, being damn close to California was practically on the other side of the world.
The law got more draconian the further East you went.
“Ahh, thanks,” Garth said, standing up straight and stretching. “Don’t know if I could have gotten through an entire lesson without exploding something with my mind to ease the boredom.”
“The class didn’t even start.” She said, brows furrowed, staring at him like something squirming on a dinner plate.
“Right, well, thanks for the out. Which way is the principal’s office?”
“Principal, the guy in charge of the school?”
“What, did we get all British while I was gone?”
“Don’t answer that. Probably a nobility thing. Which way is the Headmaster?”
“first right, then third on the left.” She said, pointing down the hall.
“’Kay, thanks,” Garth said, studying the tapestries. This one showed Jim heroically leading an epic battle against a coalition of slavering nonhumans.
Pretty sure that’s not how that went down. Garth had been wondering why he hadn’t seen much in the way of non-humans.
Ethnic cleansing, anyone?
Garth was suddenly curious about his tapestry, if he had one. They seemed to be organized by date soo…
Garth started following the tapestries back to their source, following them further and further as they detailed one horrific act after another.
The arrival of the dragons. The Dan Ui clan conquering earth. Garth saw the guy who murdered him, floating above a mass of groveling subjects, a halo of gold around his head, like a goddamn saint.
Garth walked further, his neck craning upward as he viewed snippets of history in reverse, written by the victors. If he wanted to write his own history, he’d have to wipe out everything they’d built from the wreckage. An atrocity to right another atrocity.
The more he looked at the angrier he got.
“Edward?” Brenna called after him.
“Are you not going to the infirmary? Or the Headmasters?”
“Just a sec.” Garth said as he stopped in front of the second tapestry, by date.
It was a picture of him, kneeling at sword point in front of his brother, about to be executed in front of a crowd of ridiculously happy onlookers.
The Betrayer Answers for his Crimes. – year 2 A.S.
“Bullshit!” Garth shouted. “I was vaporized by a Kamehameha, not…” Garth gritted his teeth.
“Can you believe this shit?” Garth asked, glancing over at Brenna, who watched him with apathy.
“What about it?” she asked.
“Umm… their clothes. All the people in this tapestry are wearing homespun peasant garb, but in the first two years after the kipling came, there was still a bunch of clothes left over from the world before. People hadn’t really started going native yet, seeing as how there were like, a hundred silk shirts per person, since the majority of mankind was extinct.”
“Such an admirable scholar of history,” she said, crossing her arms.
“One specific part of it.” Garth said. “You could say I’m an expert on the Fall of Man, and everything else is a great big blank.”
“So you’re fine then?” she asked.
“Yep, You’re free to go, Brenna.” Garth said, glancing back at the tapestry and stewing. He just needed a grease pen and he’d be able to draw a stupid villain mustache on Jim’s stupid face. They had Garth’s face all wrong too, made him chiseled and muscular rather than thin, intelligent, and average. The only reason he knew it was him was because the man was purple.
Garth shook his head. Fucking Jim. How much do you have to shit all over me until you’re satisfied?
Garth glanced over and saw Brenna staring at him.
“That’s not my name.” she said.
“It’s not?” Garth asked. “Huh.”
“Where did you hear that name?” she demanded, stepping closer until they were practically nose to nose.
Still smelled nice.
“I dunno, you looked like a Brenna to me?” Garth said. “What is your name, anyway?”
“It’s Alicia. Where did you hear that name?”
“Well, Alicia, I’m Edward Bergstrom, nice to meet you.” Garth held out a hand.
She seized it and pulled him close, squeezing his hand with inhuman strength.
“You sure it’s not John Smith?”
Garth gave her an extra-wide smile.
She gave a frustrated grunt and turned away.
“You sure you wanna leave?”
“Why?” She asked over her shoulder.
Garth put a hand over his heart. “I swear on my true name that hanging out with me will be way more fun, informative, opportunity creating, and probably dangerous, than sitting in a classroom and zoning out.”
“Last time I saw you, you were cowering in an alley while I was being attacked.”
“Cowering, what cowering? I was high as balls. Speaking of.” Garth manifested a cigar in his pocket and pulled it out, retrieving an expensive lighter he’d stolen from her dead uncle, and starting it up. It’s five o’clock somewhere.
“That’s my uncle’s.” She said.
“I’m borrowing it.” Garth replied, starting toward the principal’s office.
“He got it from my grandfather. He’d never lend it.”
“Borrowing without permission,” Garth clarified as Alicia trotted to catch up with him. “And try not to breathe the smoke if you wanna keep all your motor functions intact.” Garth breathed out to the opposite side, trying to avoid her with the knockout smoke.
Garth was partway down the hall when Alicia tackled him to the floor, trying to grab the lighter out of his pocket.
Garth carefully kept the smoking end of the cigar away from her face as she wrestled with him.
“Now, this isn’t…very…ladylike.” Garth said, trying to ward off her hands with his one free hand, and not doing a very good job.
After a minute of fierce struggle, she got him in a reverse mount, pinned his free arm under her knee and was able to search though his pockets unhindered.
Garth didn’t mind, taking another hit and moving the lighter around telekinetically, busting through the seams of his pocket as he enjoyed the view of her working for it.
“Almost got it. Nope, not quite. Slippery thing.” Garth said as her hand groped around in his pockets. Having a pretty girl grinding on top of him was quite the stimulus, and there weren’t enough dead puppies in the world.
“That’s me.” Garth said as she fumbled through his pockets. “Still me.”
It’s times like this, Garth thought as she recoiled away from him, her neck turning crimson, That I think maybe I’m a bad person.
“Find what you were looking for?” Garth asked.
She spun around on top of him, producing a switchblade from nowhere and holding it to his neck.
“Give me. The lighter.” She said, her face red with anger and embarrassment.
“Could’a just asked,” Garth said, tucking the cigar in his mouth and digging the lighter out of his pocket.
“How?” She demanded, looking at the lighter in his hand. “It wasn’t…Gah!”
She snatched it out of his hand and stood up, panting.
“That was fun,” Garth said, dusting himself off. “Remind me to borrow more stuff from your uncle.
“How did you even…you’re a Bergstrom! He would be just as likely to kill you as talk to you!”
“If you really wanna know, follow me.” Garth said, turning back toward the headmaster’s office. Sounds like the guy’s the master of giving head.
“You coming?” Garth asked over his shoulder.
“I think I’ve had enough of you for one day.” Alicia said, turning her back on him and starting off in the other direction.
Garth’s gaze slid down her slim waist to the juicy buns wobbling beneath, and he heaved a sigh. No more fun for today. Well, it was probably better that she wasn’t present for what he was about to do anyway.
Garth straightened his clothes and headed to the office, where he came across a large oak door. He knocked politely.
“Come in,” came a woman’s voice.
Garth opened the door and strutted in, weaving mana as he went.
The headmaster – mistress? – took the full force of the spell to the face, point blank. Her face went from annoyed and irritated, to delight to see him, a welcome reprieve from paperwork.
“Hello,” She said, beaming. “I don’t think we’ve met in person. I’m Gloria Pendleton, you must be Edward Bergstrom.” She held out a hand.
She was… in her early forties maybe, and a diet of physical Heartstones had kept her looking good. An athletic, short woman with dirty blonde hair.
Garth wasn’t sure exactly where he drew the line on who was okay to use mind magic and drugs on, but he knew this woman was in the ‘fend for herself’ category, while young girls like Alicia were not to be tampered with.
Maybe a sliding scale starting at the age of twenty-five and adjusted based on the person’s good/evil ratio, as well as other mitigating factors.
Totally evil twenty year old, fair game. Totally good thirty year old…not quite yet.
Totally evil ten year old, give them some time.
Garth switched the cigar to his left hand and shook hers.
“Wonderful to meet you in person.” Garth said, noticing her eyes on his cigar. She looked at war with herself, since her duty was to punish him, but everything about him was registering as a good thing right now.
“Would you like one?” Garth asked, taking a seat and pointing at his cigar.
“I shouldn’t. I’ve got a job to do.” She said, glancing at it longingly. “And you shouldn’t either.”
“I’m on a mission to get to know every member of the faculty,” Garth said. “I’m sure you can take five minutes to talk.”
“What do you say…” Garth pulled another cigar out of his pocket. “Until this runs out?”
The headmistress squirmed in her seat for a moment, before coming to a decision. “Shut the door.”
Garth handed her the cigar and she lit it while he closed the door to her office.
She took a deep breath, lighting the cigar with a lighter from her desk.
“Smooth isn’t it?” Garth asked, coming back to his seat.
“Mmmn.” She said, her eyelids fluttering as the drugs overloaded her with oxytocin and a dozen other drugs designed to raise her suggestability.
They chatted aimlessly for a couple minutes, until Garth saw that her eyes were black, and she was rocking in her seat, unable to respond to him with little more than a grunt of affirmation.
Garth wove his precanned Operant Conditioning spell on her, with a few tweaks.
“You like agreeing with me.” Garth said, leaning back in his chair.
“I do?” she whispered.
“I do.” She said, then shuddered as a wave of pleasure ran through her.
“I’m the best student in the school, You’re awed and amazed by me, and you take my suggestions seriously. Agree with me.”
“Yess.” She whispered, shaking in her seat.
“Anything I say, you thought of yourself.”
“You care about and work towards my best interests.”
“You defer to my judgement.”
“You validate your existence with my approval.”
“You’re secretly in love with me, and desperately want to earn my favor.”
“Alright, most important one. You don’t care who I am. No matter who you discover me to be, how you feel is more important.”
“Alright, from the top. Now you repeat after me. You feel good when you agree with me…”
Can’t brainwash someone with just one repetition, Garth thought, taking a puff of his cigar and settling in for the long haul as the headmistress humped the chair in front of him.
The best thing about brainwashing with drugs is that it doesn’t leave magical evidence.
Open the door with Charm person, then switch to old-school methods reinforced by Operant Conditioning, then once the new behavior is set, dismiss all the magic, leaving only the changed person, and no evidence of foul play.
Other than a vastly altered set of behaviors.
An hour later, she began to sober up, and Garth gave her the antidote on a breeze to speed the transition without telltale grogginess.
“Oh, what were we talking about?” Gloria asked, looking a bit confused as she came to.
“We were talking about a field trip to the forest.”
“Yes. You remember the recent incident with the Yenner?”
“Yes.” She said, her hips subconsciously grinding against the chair as she agreed with him.
“I was telling you how it would be a good idea to send the upperclassmen out to exterminate the Yenner and harvest their heartstones. It’ll be a good lesson in land management and show them what harvesting Heartstones was like in the beginning.”
“Yes, I was just thinking that.” She said, then frowned. “What if someone gets hurt?”
“They’re tougher than regular people. All your students are nobles with superhuman abilities, not like some hundred soldiers. It’ll be a breeze. And if someone does get hurt, hey, that’s why the nobles have so many children by systematically raping my granddaughters, right?”
“Right.” She agreed with him reflexively, then paused to think about what he’d said. “What?”
“I’m saying it’ll be fine, and no one’s going to begrudge you filtering out some of the weakest links.”
“Okay,” she said, gaining confidence. “Alright. I can have the city council and the Bergstroms specifically owe me a favor in one fell swoop. And it would be educational.”
“Wouldn’t it just?” Garth asked sweetly.
“Don’t forget to collect all the heartstones the students gather and store them somewhere safe. It wouldn’t do for a student to poison themselves with them.”
“Yes, excellent idea.” She said, unconsciously humping the chair.
I love my job. Garth thought, smiling.
Gloria noticed his smile and gave him a shy one of her own.
“Well, Gloria, it was nice to meet you,” Garth said, standing in front of her and extending a hand. She took it and held his hand for a moment longer than was absolutely necessary, looking him up and down.
“You too, Mr. Bergstrom. Feel free to stop by any time.”
“Oh, I will, but first I’ve got to ‘meet’ the rest of the faculty. Can you tell me who’s on break right now? it’s…” Garth consulted his inner clock. “About noon thirty.”
“Jennifer Kinsley should be on break right now, would you like me to show you?”
“It’s fine,” Garth said, heading for the door, before pausing. He’d only seen women in the Academy so far. It couldn’t be…
“Are there only women in the faculty?”
“Yes, given that male heirs are sparse in adulthood, most of the academy has always been run by third or fourth chairs of various families. That and the last male Headmaster some hundred years ago abused his position, and there were various incidents arising from male teachers. It’s been tradition for several generations now to strictly have a female faculty.
“Huh.” Gimmicky, but I can work with this.
“You sure you can find your way?” she pleaded.
“I’ll be fine, Gloria, you should focus on your work.” And finding a change of undies.
It was a messy kind of brainwashing.
“Okay,” she said, sitting down. “Visit me again sometime,” She said, the words seemingly erupting unbidden from her mouth.
“I will,” to reinforce your training, “see you later.”
“Oh, by the way.” Garth stopped at the door. “Do you have a grease pencil?”
Alicia ducked into an empty office as she heard Edward heading for the door.
Edward strolled past her, humming to himself as he headed for the Main Hall, twirling a grease pencil in his fingers.
What the hell did I just witness? She thought, a cold sweat forming on her forehead. She had felt guilty about abandoning the hopeless, delusional idiot, and had gone back to the principles office, where he would surely be being eaten alive by Gloria Pendleton, but she had instead been chanting…something. It had been difficult to make out through the door. A few minutes later, they had a short conversation, and he’d left, none the worse for wear, with Gloria calling after him like a lovetorn woman.
Alicia waited for him to turn the corner, then gave it a few heartbeats before following him down the hall, peering around the corner.
Edward stood at the far end of the main hall, chuckling to himself as he doodled on Jim Daniel’s face with the thick black pigment, drawing a twirling mustache and a pair of horns on the Saviour of Humanity.