What the hell was that? Alicia thought to herself, barely processing Edwards words as she signed the document he’d laid down in front of her.
Non-disclosure agreement, uh huh, penalties, forfeiture of memories, sure, physical responses, of course. Operant Conditioning, whatever. The talk went in one ear and out the other as she stared into the wooden table of Edward’s mansion, pondering the sensations that had rocked her world less than an hour prior.
Never in her life had anything like the things her sister described happened to her. At first it was just scream-inducing discomfort, just like pain always had been, but each time he pulled one of the splinters and healed it a second later, she’d gotten a huge shot of adrenaline, making her heart slam violently in her chest. All that adrenaline then became meaningless when the pain faded a second later, energetically whirling inside around her body with nothing to do.
In the middle of the cooling sensation of the healing spell and the ten-pound hammer heartbeats, she’d glanced up at Edward’s face, his brows furrowed in concentration. She felt the hand on her thigh steadying the wound and something changed.
The next splinter he’d tugged out had still been painful, but along with the pain, there was the tiniest tingling that worked its way down her spine, between her legs. The sensation had slowly grown with each new burst of pain, until she was soaked, more aroused than she’d ever been in her life.
The underwear digging into her crotch had been her only relief, and she thanked the gods that Edward had been too stupid or too polite to notice her shaking.
Kolath, I hope he didn’t notice. An eight-hundred year old wizard didn’t notice? Don’t kid yourself. Alicia’s inner monologue went to war with itself.
And Alicia still had no idea why. She knew what had happened, the details plucked from her sister’s tales of debauchery, she just never, ever, thought it would be her.
I’m not supposed to be like this! Never in her life had she conflated pain and pleasure, and the only thing that was different from the past was the boy sitting in front of her.
“Hellooo?” Edward asked, waving his hand in front of her.
“Yes, what?” Alicia said, her eyes focusing on his face.
That was a mistake. The sight brought the memory back to the forefront, and she began to feel the tiniest tingle again.
Munasei leave me be! I’m not a deviant whore like my sister!
“This is a two-year contract. Do you understand? During that time I have the right to keep you from your family, and if either of us tear it up, you forget everything that happened during that time. This is a terrific gamble on your part. Are you sure you want to do this?”
Alicia’s mind dragged itself out of the whirl of excitement and dark memories to focus on Edward.
“Kyle might become the nominee for patriarch while I’m gone, it’s true, but even if everyone unanimously supported him, who says he’ll make it to the seat alive? My father’s got a dozen years left in him. At least. Plenty of time.”
“You might feel differently about the scale of your family troubles in two years,” Edward said. “Matter of fact, I’m hoping you do.”
Alicia leaned over and signed the document, and an odd red web leapt out of the paper and sank into her skin before she could take a startled breath.
“One copy for you,” he said, passing her the sheet.
“And one for me. Now, let’s start training.”
“What do I need to do?” she asked.
“Alright, listen up,” Garth said, pacing back and forth, passing by his Shadow clone as he did so. The Illusion was mimicking his behavior, even when he stopped to pick his nose. It was relatively easy to tell which one was Shadow, because there was a circle of brighter light around the illusion’s feet where it shed light like water from a duck.
Yes indeed, Shadow could come out to play during the day.
“I have in front of me, training tools I have devised to assist in instructing you.” Garth motioned to the first pair of items on the table, shadow acting as a silent showcase girl. On the table was a pair of clickers, one gold, one black. They had three buttons apiece, one green plus sign, one pink and heart-shaped, and one red.
“Since I’m training two people at once, for the sake of convenience and preventing confusion I’ve connected these clickers to your NDA’s. For example. Alicia!”
“Yes?” she asked.
“Give me twenty pushups.”
Alicia dropped to the ground immediately and knocked out twenty pushups in a matter of seconds. Very obedient, very fast. Traits to be rewarded.
“Good girl.” Garth accepted the black clicker from Shadow and clicked the heart shaped button. Alicia shuddered, wavered a bit, then stood up straight.
“Yes?” she asked, glancing nervously over at Alicia, whose face was a little red.
“Five firebolts into the target.”
Caitlyn hesitated a moment, then whipped out five firebolts in rapid succession as Alicia looked on jealously. Caitlyn did have a few days to get ahead of her. Hmm, not quite as instantaneous.
“Good.” Garth clicked the green plus sign on the gold clicker, and Caitlyn broke into a grin.
“As you can see,” Garth said, showing them the clickers. “Very cost effective training props.”
“Next on the menu, is this.” Garth picked up a two-and-a-half foot long rod about a quarter inch across and bound in black leather with a little loop of leather at the end.
“It’s a tool enchanted with a powerful healing effect, in case one of you gets injured during your training. If you get into trouble and I’m not there to help, this little baby will save your butts.”
“But why is it a riding crop?” Alicia.
“That’s how it works, you just smack someone with it, heals them right up.”
“Yeah,” Caitlyn said, her brows furrowed. “But why did you make it a riding crop?”
“Not just any riding crop,” Garth said, slapping the toy in his palm menacingly. “It can multitask. When Caitlyn’s been bad,” Alicia’s been good, “or somebody needs a healing from getting injured during training.
“Why are you only using it on me?” Caitlyn asked, dismayed.
“Because Al has an incredible tolerance for pain. It wouldn’t get the desired results. Besides, I really don’t expect you to misbehave, Cait.”
“I guess,” she said, folding her arms.
“Next up,” Garth moved on to two black leather collars. “I know what you’re thinking, ‘collars? I signed up for magic lessons, and this fucking weirdo wants to put a collar on me! No way Jose.’, but these collars are actually safety equipment. They create an invisible protective bubble around your head so that neither of you can instantly kill the other during training. Should give me enough time to get there, or if not, the other person can give them a beating with Mr. Heal.”
Alicia raised her hand.
“Did they need to have spikes?”
“Yes.” Garth and Alicia stared each other down for a moment, before Garth moved on to the next item.
“Next we have these two,” he said, pointing at the shiny black arrowhead-shaped object and the clear bottle of fluid. “Would anyone like to guess what these are for?”
“Do they increase our endurance or learning comprehension?” Caitlyn said.
“Something like that. This is magical plant-based lubricant.” Garth pointed at the bottle. “It makes things go in other things easier. And this,” Garth said, picking up the buttplug. “Is a buttplug. It plugs the butt.”
At Caitlyn’s horrified face, Garth cackled madly and tossed aside the sex-toy, where the illusion dissolved in the forest. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help it. I tried really hard not to want to do that, but the gag was totally worth it.”
Garth cleared his throat at Alicia’s intense stare, putting his Sensei face back on.
“Moving on,” Garth said, coming to the last item on the table, a fifty-gallon wooden barrel with a bunch of paper cups next to it. “One barrel of Garth-Aid™ the Thirst Eviscerator. It’s got what apprentices crave.”
“And what does it have?” Alicia asked.
“It’s got Electrolytes.” Garth said.
“Huh?” Alicia asked, brows furrowed in confusion.
“It’s probably from his TeeVee. You might think he’s odd, but it makes sense when you realize most of his behavior stems from copying funnier people from a thousand years ago.” Mrs. Banyan said as she wheeled a barrel of Garth-aid™ past them. The volume was still increasing, and Garth was starting to get a little concerned.
“Eight hundred and fifty years ago, thank you very much,” Garth said, leaning on the table with a scowl.
“Anyway, that’s all I could prep on such short notice,” Garth said, picking up the two clickers and holding one in either hand.
“Let’s begin with your stance,” Garth said, adopting the familiar stance of the Divine Lantern Technique. Garth wasn’t going to teach them Lanterns, at least not yet. Not when he couldn’t trust them one hundred percent, and certainly not when using it would draw the wrong sort of interplanetary attention before they were ready to deal with it, but he could at least build the foundation.
“You girls are right handed, right?” Garth asked, and they nodded.
“This is my Lantern,” he said, tucking Caitlyn’s clicker to his chest. “This is my Spool,” he said, wiggling the fingers of his right hand as he crouched.
Wonder if I could come up with some inane training techniques that would let them practice in their daily lives and pull a Mr. Miyagi on them.
Wax on, Wax off.
As long as I don’t let being a Sensei get to my head. Garth briefly recalled the buttplug prank. Too late.
“Caitlyn, straighten your back a little until you feel tension in your stomach and butt…good.”
Alicia’s posture was better, being a consumate fencer, but her offhand placement wasn’t great.
“Alicia, wrap your left hand in a little tighter, use your wrist to really shield your lantern. Good.”
Garth walked around them and made minor adjustments to their form and reinforced exactly when they were in the right position with a minor blast of good vibes. Once they had the posture down, he let them stretch out, before having them jump into and out of the Divine Lantern stance.
“Why,” Alicia asked between hops into and out of Divine Lantern Stance. “Are we doing this?”
“She who questions her training, only trains herself at asking questions.” Garth said sagely.
“That one was from a movie too,” Caitlyn panted, hopping into the stance smoothly. “Saw it last night.”
“You’re ruining my mystique.” Garth said bitterly. He didn’t hit the red button though. Actually having someone to bounce things off of was refreshing. Punishing them for quips seemed like a great way to shut them up, but Garth didn’t want that. That would be dull.
“Alright, five minute power stretches,” Garth said once the two of them were dripping with sweat and visibly in pain from holding the awkward pose. “Channel all the mana you can handle and hold it there in front of you.” Garth said, instructing them to sit crosslegged.
Once again, he wasn’t teaching them the specific technique to make a Lantern, just strengthening their Mana Control for that possible eventuality.
No one suffered from having a higher Mana Control.
The girls sat across from each other and began drawing mana into an amorphous lump in front of themselves. Caitlyn’s eyes were closed, and a few rather decent sized lumps of mana were accumulating, swirling around her hands like living things, moving to the timing of her breath.
On the other hand, Alicia was enviously staring at Caitlyn’s lumps, her own mana control faltering and flickering in a jerky, awkward way.
Garth squatted down beside her.
“Is looking at her going to make you any better? Close your eyes.”
Alicia did so.
“Take a deep breath. Focus first on quality before size. Don’t try to make a bigger lump of mana than her, just harness a tiny bit of mana that moves exactly the way you want, then slowly add to it.
In front of Garth’s eyes, the jittery mana scattered everywhere, leaving a tiny sliver of white mana, that bent and twisted in front of her hands like a serpent. It slowly grew, until it was about the size of two earthworms stuck together, and then Alicia’s brows furrowed, and it began to shake again.
“Stop. Back it off a little.”
The shaking stopped and it returned to its snake-like smoothness.
“There, hold that for five minutes.” Garth said, setting a mental timer.
Alicia nodded, keeping her eyes closed.
“Caitlyn, you’re slipping a little.”
The girl frowned as the amount of mana she was controlling easily at first quickly began to weigh on her.
By the end of the five minutes they were both clenching their jaws, their mana flickering nigh uncontrollably.
“Time’s up, that’s the training for today. Good job both of you.” Garth said, clicking the heart-shaped button on both of them as they were standing up.
“Eek!” Caitlyn let out a yelp and collapsed forward, breaking her fall with her hands.
“Nnng” Alicia swallowed a moan, but her legs buckled out from under her, dropping her panting back to the ground.
I love my job sometimes, Garth thought, putting the clickers in his pockets, picking up a paper cup and filling it with the heartstone juice.
“Now feel free to stretch, walk around a bit, and if you’re thirsty, you should definitely drink some Garth-Aid™, water is an ingredient. Not a major one, but I’m sure you’ll get some hydration.”
“Why do you call it Garth-Aid?” Alicia asked.
“Because I had to do some truly evil things to make it,” He said mysteriously.
Whew, dodged that bullet.
Later that night Garth was planning his next day after finishing his backlog of enchanting projects.
Let’s see, tomorrow, the three of us can do training in the morning, then I can go into town, visit the bakery on the card, Garth glanced at the piece of vellum in his hand.
2431 Fresnel street
Ask for the first order of the day.
Meet with the Prima regula, then when the sun is down, maybe snoop around the church, see what all the hubbub is about in regards to Linda’s curse.
That sounded like a pretty full day, even if you didn’t include running for your life from the baying hounds of the theocracy.
A movement out of the corner of his eye caught Garth’s attention. Alicia was standing in the doorway, shifting from foot to foot and wringing her hands nervously.
Garth glanced at the clock that read two in the morning. Garth didn’t sleep much anymore, but she should be in bed.
“Something I can help you with?” he asked.
“Can we..can we do some more training?” she asked.
Garth felt his eyebrows climb up his forehead.
She opened her mouth, closed it again, hesitated, and spoke.
“Oh.” Garth processed that for a moment. “Ooooh.”