the moderately-caring watch of MST agents, things settled down
in L. B. Gould and December returned to its routine of prolonged
holiday stress punctured by banal music. Of course, Christmas
anxiety wasn't a major concern for Molly's unit. They were all
high school kids and hadn't yet realized how frustrating the
season of goodwill can get. Besides, any grief over what to get
for whom and where to execute the transaction was a trifle
compared to what they had just been through.
the only one who earnestly enjoyed it was Kathryn. For her, it
was a reminder of the important things- family, friends and not
screwing around with magic. It was humdrum or worse for everyone
else. Renee had fun at her family's big gatherings, but nothing
substantial came out of it and she forgot every conversation she
had with every relative within minutes. Molly didn't bother
having conversations; uncles and aunts had long since dubbed her
'the quiet one' and she was happy to keep the myth alive.
made it a point to remind anyone fool enough to ask that he did
not celebrate Christmas. Even traditional pagan or wiccan
holidays were too mainstream for him. Instead, he honored the
awakening of an obscure dark lord named Urzelbak that had risen
to terrorize the world centuries ago. This wasn't as foolish as
it sounds; Urzelbak (now retired from his reign of destruction)
threw some killer birthday parties that were major events for
MST socialites. The problem was that he had actually risen in
holiday wasn't any more eventful than any other year, but he was
eager for Christmas to come. Not for the anticipated bounty of
presents and cash- that was a given. But rather the inherent
role of family in the season. This would be the first time
hearing from his father since enrolling at Central.
Troy hadn't seen his dad since the divorce, his father had
always sent a card for Christmas and birthdays. Troy had never
paid much attention to what was in the card besides the generous
cash gift. To the best Troy could remember, there had never been
anything particularly insightful about his father's messages-
just a line or two hoping Troy enjoys the holiday. But now that
the secret was out, he reckoned that this year might be
arrived on the 22nd. The red envelope bore Frank Monroe's
handwriting, not that Troy could tell what defined it as such.
He just knew. The address was legible, but the four-lined return
address was smudged and indecipherable. Troy made sure to leave
that intact as he opened the envelope; further investigation
would be necessary.
Troy found the same card that he had picked out for his
grandmother the day before. A generic Christmas card with a
generic message that was available in every generic drug store.
Troy opened it, pocketed the fifty-dollar bill, read the
inscription and frowned.
things are going well, and get even better next year. You know
I'm proud of you. Love, Dad.”
felt like we wanted his money back, forgetting that he was
actually up fifty bucks. For all he knew, this was the exact
same card, message and currency Frank had sent the year before.
Suddenly it wasn't enough.
much did you get?” his mother asked from the kitchen.
Troy replied, slumping into the couch.
walked in, puzzled at Troy's disappointment with what should
have been a small fortune for someone his age. “Can't complain
about fifty dollars. I'm sure he had to work hard to get that to
didn't say a whole lot. I would have thought he'd write more.”
Shrugging, Ellen held back a smile. “That's Frank for you. He
never was good at staying in touch. Why, did you think this year
would be different or something?”
tried to think of a way to say 'yes' without giving too much
away. “I guess I'm starting to wonder what he's been doing. I
haven't seen him since he took me to Bristol.”
what you mean. But I'm sure wherever he is, he's doing important
don't know where he is?”
next to him and put a hand on his shoulder. There was a
conflicted look in her eyes, which never faced Troy. She never
did like talking about it, hence the great pains she and Frank
had taken to assure Troy that such things were a normal part of
life and they would all have to move on. Even without giving any
details away, Troy's questions had demonstrated that he knew
that something else was going on.
don't,” she answered. “All I know is that we didn't belong
not?” Troy wasn't so naive as to think they were talking about
moving to a different city or state. Kurt's parents were in
another realm entirely, hence Kurt's insistence on saying they
were 'abroad.' Troy thought the same of his father, but any
additional clues were helpful, even if his mother had no
knowledge of the MST.
very vague about what exactly he was doing, but it didn't seem
like a life I wanted for us.”
mother stood up suddenly, leaving Troy to sit there and ponder
her words and question the lack of his father's. Her answer
seemed just as hollow as his generic greeting. He wanted
specifics- places, dates, job descriptions and Ellen's points of
contention with the three. Certainly, she had to have inquired
about all this. Around the time of the divorce, Troy may have
been naive and stupid but his mother was an adult. She would
have had to ask where he was going and what he would be doing.
And if she did, did Frank really accept divorce papers over
giving an honest answer?
of these thoughts, framing them into a coherent question was
beyond Troy. Thankfully, before his mother left the room, she
stopped and turned around. Although Troy was still working on
his bombshell question, she could see the gears turning in his
eyes. She knew he was trying to come up with something to get
more information. Rather than wait and see what came out, Ellen
elected to drop all pretense and give some straight advice:
if you do go through with all of this, don't marry outside the
so busy conjuring his question that he almost didn't hear it. It
took a moment to sink in, at which point his question-forming
skills failed him and he asked, “Wait, what do you mean?”
smiled. “Marie's a nice girl. Don't get her dragged into all of
mean... you... know?” Not quite as eloquent as he wanted it, but
he had gotten it out all the same.
I'm not supposed to tell you I know about it, but now that
you're in it I don't see the harm. And I know you're not
supposed to tell me about it, but I just got your permission
slip from the academy. It says you're going on a three-week trip
to learn the ins and outs of RV sales. I really don't want to
hear your stories from that when you get back and I don't think
you want to tell them. So we might as well get it out in the
mouth still hung open, but he nodded.
nodded back. “Good. I'm starting dinner- what do you have a
Ellen's decision to tell
Troy about her knowledge of the MST turned out to be one made
solely out of pragmatism. The mother/child bonding moment never
quite came to pass. Just because she knew about it didn't mean
she was excited by it. Besides a couple token questions about
what he had learned so far, she didn't probe into his exploits.
Or even the circumstances about his early enrollment. Troy was
surprised that his mother was so ambivalent to the whole thing.
As if his involvement was like his enthusiasm for cars: she
supported the idea of him having a hobby, but had little
interest in the actual details.
This wasn't entirely
bad. For all she knew, he was following the normal road of an
MST trainee. She probably would have been a little more
concerned had she known about the battles with Kendrick and the
Zukoni. If she had, she might not have been keen on the idea of
keeping him enrolled. For whatever reason, Ellen didn't see the
MST as anything special; the inherent danger wouldn't improve
her perception of it. So for now, Troy decided to keep quiet
about all that.
To clarify- Ellen did
not actually know magic, nor was she ever interested in
discovering her trigger. To do so would qualify her for
enrollment in the academy or a memory recalibration, neither of
which she found at all enticing. For convenience, upon
graduation from the academy, magi are permitted to reveal the
truth to primary family members- provided all parties involved
are legal adults. Hence Frank explaining his job to Ellen and
At least she was
supportive enough to give him a ride to Molly's when the next
term at Central started. A bitter cold front blew through town
that weekend and Troy wanted to be outside as little as
possible. In fact, as soon as Ellen pulled up to the house to
drop Troy off, Kathryn jumped into the back seat, shivering.
Ellen furrowed her
eyebrows at Kathryn, but tried to be polite. “Um... Kathryn,
dear, you do know I'm dropping off, not picking up, right?”
“Gotta warm up... they
won't let us in,” Kathryn replied, rubbing her gloved hands
Troy smiled and opened
his door. “Can you get the trunk?” he requested. Ellen did,
letting Troy retrieve his bags. As he did, Ellen turned to
Kathryn once again. This time, she carried a more inquisitive
“You're in the MST too?”
Kathryn froze... now
figuratively as much as she had literally. After the moment of
shock passed, she replied, “He told you about this?”
“Oh no... Frank was in
it too. I've known the whole time,” she explained. “I got sick
of playing along.”
“Gotcha,” Kathryn said
with a nod. “Yep... I got dragged into this too.”
Ellen hummed a “Hmm,”
trying to conceal a trace of chagrin. “That... surprises me.”
Initially, Kathryn took
offense, but the way Ellen had said it didn't suggest that
Kathryn wasn't right for the MST. Ellen thought highly of
Kathryn and Kathryn knew it. She almost felt like Ellen was
uneasy about the whole thing- that perhaps the MST wasn't right
Kathryn understood that
sentiment all too well, and replied, “Yeah... me too.”
With his bags out of the
car, Troy pulled Kathryn out and said goodbye to his mommy.
Ellen drove off, leaving Troy to face the elements. He didn't
enjoy the cold any more than Kathryn did.
“Lucky you. I hate lying
to my folks about this,” Kathryn said.
“Well, she doesn't know
about the demon attacks, so I'm not being totally honest
either.” Troy looked around. They were the only ones at the
curb. “Where's Yuki and Donovan?”
“Yuki went with Molly to
get the car,” Kathryn answered, letting an air of disapproval
sneak through. She was still a bit leery of Yuki's sudden
fondness for Molly. “Donovan went inside.”
Troy looked at Kathryn,
puzzled. “Renee let Donovan in and not you?”
“Donovan let himself in.
One of those teleportation spells.”
His mouth hung open in
shock. Donovan had barged into someone's house? The audacity!
The nerve! The insulation... the electric heating...
“That's...” Troy stared
at the house, then at his trigger finger. “...Actually not such
a bad idea.”
The front door opened
and Renee and Donovan exited together. Renee was laughing and
smiling at him, so apparently no harm had been done. They
reached Troy and Kathryn, to whom Renee jubilantly announced,
“Did you see what Donovan did?”
Kathryn nodded, not
nearly as amused.
“At least he picked the
basement this time.” Still cheery, Renee pointed an accusing
finger at Donovan. “No more bathrooms, got that?”
“Can't say I blame you,”
Troy said to Donovan as another shiver rippled through.
“I know!” Renee
concurred, hopping in place to keep her legs warm. Magic academy
or not, she was already having second thoughts about wearing a
Thankfully, Molly pulled
up in the Caravan. Everybody knew the drill and put their bags
in a nice pile so she could beam them to Indiana. Everybody
except Renee, who piled her baggage into the little crevice in
the van's rear that served as the trunk.
“Not this time,” she
explained. Molly nodded in understanding and did her thing to
the other luggage. As she did, Troy, Kathryn and Donovan jumped
into the van to warm up.
This time, Kathryn found
two additional passengers in the back seat. One was expected...
one not so much.
“Good morning,” said
both Yuki and Blaine.
Kathryn sat down next to
them. The only reason she chose the back seat to begin with was
to stretch out and take a nap. She didn't mind sharing with
Yuki... but Blaine?
Between him, Renee's
luggage and the seventeen-inch TV wedged in the back, she was
“Why are you here?” she
answered Molly, re-entering the vehicle and pulling out amid the
The loudest was from
Blaine, the designated replacement. Conjuring a wave of heated
air, he said, “Just letting you know I'm not very good with fire
spells. So uh-”
“Yeah, save your energy.
It's a long trip,” Molly added.
Blaine obeyed. Kathryn
and Yuki held their hands over the warm air he generated.
“Whatcha got there?”
Renee asked Troy. As she was leaning towards the center of the
van to catch more of Blaine the Human Heat Duct, she figured she
may as well make small talk with the passenger across the aisle.
“Christmas card from my
dad,” Troy replied. He had brought it to investigate further at
the academy. Despite the news about his mom being in the know,
it still didn't answer anything about Frank.
Molly coughed in
disapproval. “It's okay, I'm curious,” Renee told her sister.
“What's it say?”
Troy handed it over.
Renee read the card and could not come up with a response. Even
a patronizing 'oh, that's nice' seemed exciting for such a dull
Eventually she said,
“Not much of a talker.”
“I know. I was hoping I
could at least find out where it was sent from but...” He
trailed off as she was already looking at the return address on
“I see. I can't make out
“Let me try!” Yuki
As Renee passed it back,
Molly asked, “Lucidrol works on bad handwriting too?”
“Yep!” And it was true;
Yuki's communication drug also worked to decipher thick accents,
poor penmanship, and grammatical atrocities borne from netspeak.
One look at the
envelope, however, and she bent over, clutching her head in
pain. She cried out, wincing as the smudged ink and hurried
scribbles inflamed into a migraine.
“Please don't throw up,
please don't throw up, please don't throw up,” mumbled Blaine,
watching her uneasily while maintaining his heat spell.
Once Yuki took her eyes
off the offending return address, her headache subsided enough
for her to hand it back to Troy. “Sorry, all I can make out is
the zip code- 46195. The rest is too painful to look at.”
“46195? That's an
Indiana zip code,” Renee said.
“You know that off
hand?” Kathryn asked.
Smiling, Renee replied,
“Sure. Doesn't everybody?”
“Well, that doesn't help
me,” Troy said, returning the envelope and card to his bag.
Kathryn turned to Yuki.
“You gonna be okay?”
Yuki sighed. “I think
so. As long as nobody says anything tricky for awhile.”
On cue, Donovan turned
around and stared at the girl. His mouth opened and, in a low
voice, started mumbling in a sharp demonic tongue. Yuki's eyes
widened as he continued, growing louder with more complex tones.
Renee and Troy watched him, helpless to stop the onslaught of
evil verbiage from penetrating Yuki's ears. Well, they could
have stopped him, but wanted to see if Yuki would translate...
or have a seizure.
She did neither: “Random
noises don't count, Donovan. Even a demon language has a
sentence structure and parts of speech.”
A thought struck Renee.
“Hey, Molly,” she said. “What about Donovan's parents?” Troy,
Kathryn and Yuki stared at her, as did Molly through the
rear-view mirror. The sudden change of subject was a typical
habit of Renee's; they were more surprised that someone had
taken an interest in Donovan's family life.
“I mean, Troy's Dad's in
the MST and Yuki and Kurt are pure-bloods, but us and Kathryn
“Say it and you're
walking home,” Molly blurted.
continued, “But what about Donovan?”
“My mother is blind to
the dark arts. I have no father,” Donovan replied.
“You live just with your
Mom too?” Troy asked.
Donovan turned around to
glare at Troy. His seatbelt only let him get so far. “No...
there never was a father. My birth is shrouded in mystery.
Priests from across the land have attempted to-”
“So what's really going
on with Donovan?” Troy asked Molly.
“Actually, as far as we
can tell, he's right,” Molly said. Hearing it from Molly shocked
the rest of the van far more than when Donovan had said it.
“Nobody has ever provided satisfactory evidence that Donovan has
Everyone turned back to
Donovan, frightened at first but annoyed once they saw the
satisfied smirk on his face.
“Not that anyone's
really delved into it,” Molly added. The MST had been a little
curious ever since Molly listed Donovan's father as 'Not
Applicable' on his enrollment paperwork. But to her knowledge,
nothing more than a casual inquiry had been made to confirm the
existence and identity of the baby-daddy. All the priests Molly
knew were far too busy to deal with that kind of crap.
second term, arrival at Central Academy went far more smoothly
than the first time. The group could now teleport clear across
the parking lot to Hall D on the other end of campus. From
there, it was just up a flight of stairs to room 202... except
for Renee, who needed to wait fifteen minutes for an elevator to
get all of her bags up. But she did, and there were no other
issues with the luggage delivery.
they had a TV. Renee turned it on, “just to test it out,” she
said. Within five minutes, she had settled into the couch
flipping between a decade-old movie, playoff football and
whatever was on the History Channel. Kathryn and Troy would have
sat down for the football if Renee wasn't such a quick-draw with
the remote. Instead, Molly sent the two, along with Yuki, out to
get needed supplies from the bookstore. She would have sent
Donovan (or Blaine, more likely), but he had already locked
himself into his room.
couch potato phase lasted about half an hour, at which point her
stomach took over and demanded tribute. She turned the TV off,
but with the three sociable tenants gone, she was left with few
options to accompany her to dinner. And like hell was she going
to eat alone.
she asked, simultaneously knocking and opening her sister's
was at her desk, flipping through a binder with class timetables
and blank schedules. “Yes?” she replied, not looking up.
get some dinner?”
Trying to finalize these class assignments. Weatherstone is
still trying to get you into a Thrusting program.”
sigh, Renee said, “Well... I suppose I can go with Troy when he
gets back.” She suppressed a laugh: this wasn't an effort at
rebellion against or manipulation of Molly. No, Renee had said
it just to see the look on her sister's face.
rewarded with a good one. Molly paused, her fingers locking up
mid-flip. She turned her head, and only her head, at Renee. One
eye narrowed, one eye widened, and neither eyebrow budged. Renee
couldn't contain herself and let the giggles erupt.
looked away and closed the binder, trying not to chuckle
herself. She had to acknowledge Renee's tactic: had she been
serious, Molly would have been terrified.
giggles stopped suddenly as Renee suddenly turned inquisitive. A
red envelope had been hiding under the binder. “Hey, that
envelope looks just like-”
know, on second thought, I could use a break,” Molly
interrupted, sliding the envelope and whatever was inside back
under the binder. All Renee could gather was that it was
addressed to Molly and the return address included five digits
that looked an awful lot like '46195.'
Renee could ponder it any further, Molly was on her feet and
halfway to her coat. Dinner was on, and Renee forgot about the
each July term, the first night of arrival meant an unbearably
crowded dining hall. Once through unpacking, everybody wanted
food and nobody wanted to work for it. Many students realized
the battle for a hot meal and an unclaimed seat was more of a
hassle than cooking something themselves or eating off campus,
and avoided the cafeteria on the first night of the January
students, in fact, that the place was only half-full when Molly
and Renee arrived. This, of course, would lead to the belief
that the initial rush was only a fluke, setting up another mob
scene next July. Molly was one of just a handful to figure out
the cycle, and she was rewarded with a peaceful and calm dinner
where she and Renee could sit down and just be sisters for an
was shortened to five minutes by Yuki's shrill cry of, “Molly!
Renee!” She had discovered them, and sat down beside Molly.
Worse yet, she turned and yelled, “Over here!” This brought Troy
and Kathryn over. Kathryn sat next to Yuki; Troy slid his tray
next to Renee's. He paused for a moment, waiting for Molly's
protest, but she didn't bother.
thing you got us some of those books a few months ago,” Yuki
said, “I don't think we could have carried them all back if you
didn't reply. She just looked at Renee unhappily. Renee shrugged
for picking up the load,” Renee said. “Anything fun happen?”
picked up books and hauled them back. Sorry you missed the
adventure.” Kathryn replied.
chuckled a bit, just to affirm his place in the conversation.
But his mind was more interested in the newspaper he was
bother looking for anything interesting in there,” Molly told
him. Like many school papers, The Centrist was a lowly-regarded
compilation of poorly-written fluff pieces and questionable
editing. Free copies rested in bins at the bookstore and dining
hall, most undisturbed through the entire term.
to see if there's anything about the Zukoni attack,” Troy said.
scoffed. For actual news, the paper relied solely on press
releases from various PR departments around the organization,
with no actual investigative work involved. “I doubt the academy
would want to let on that students were attacked,” she said.
Troy nodded, but continued reading. A few moments later, Molly
thought about joking that mentioning it in The Centrist would be
a good way to ensure that the student body ignored it, but the
moment had passed. She never was apt at comedic timing.
here it is!” Troy declared, discovering a small article wedged
in the middle of page eleven. The headline read “Zukoni Roundup
in Ohio.” The story focused solely on the crack team of agents
led by Richard Herman apprehending Kaz and his gang of
evildoers. Nowhere did it mention Molly's unit or the
provocation leading to Kaz's arrest. Troy frowned and said as
said, they don't want students to think they're going to get
attacked or anything,” Molly said.
I understand that. Would be nice to get some credit for all that
wanted to dismiss any notion of a student receiving acclaim for
any off-campus activities, and scold Troy for even desiring it,
but she dropped the subject. Crushing Troy's spirits just didn't
seem that fun at the moment. She had signed up for a quiet
dinner with Renee; she did not want to be shoved into Guardian
mode like this and wasn't feeling as confrontational as usual.
these kids don't know what they signed up for either?” Kathryn
Molly answered, “I'll grant you that the MST isn't exactly
forthwith about the danger involved, but it's not as severe as
it sounds. They mitigate the risk for most field work when it's
anticipated. Occupational safety laws and all that.”
term finally included a couple specialty classes for each of the
three schools. Thrusters like Troy got an introduction on their
emphasized elements- in his case water. One of the concepts he
learned was temperature change. Just as Blaine had warmed his
air spells to heat up the Caravan, Troy could internally freeze
his water spells to shoot ice instead. Now he had an attack that
could deal some physical damage, and doing the reverse and
scalding an adversary was another option.
Troy had to suffer through two class periods outside in the
January cold to get all that down. After the second, he holed up
back in the commons, huddling under two blankets as he attempted
to study at the table. He wasn't having any luck; the constant
ice spell practice had rendered his right hand completely numb.
Also, Yuki sitting across from him. With her knack for ill-timed
chemical explosions, he tried to keep a constant eye on her.
Only now, she was looking back at him with a bemused face.
Troy asked, suppressing a sneeze.
we don't have a kotatsu,” she replied.
told you, you'd feel even more lousy.”
think that's possible,” he said, turning just as the sneeze
forced itself out. Troy moaned, his head falling back against
his chair. “I don't want to be sick here! Can't I be sick at
normal school instead?”
was looking at the ceiling, he wasn't ready for Yuki's next
explosion, which sent a puff of blue smoke into his face and
triggered a fit of coughing. When he recovered, he saw her
holding a vial up with an apologetic look on her face. Troy told
himself that if she wasn't polite enough to warn him that a
potion was nearing completion, he'd stop turning his head when
he coughed or sneezed.
try this. It's a cold potion I saw in my book,” she said,
handing it to him.
took it, but paused. “You know how to make potions for colds?”
giggled. “Surprising, isn't it? But it was in the book, so I
figure I'd try it. I hope it works!”
Troy. He took a deep breath, gulped it down and immediately
regretted it. While nothing compared to her energy booster
during the Zukoni battle, this concoction left the taste,
sensation and pain of chugging a spearmint-flavored Slushie.
Troy fell over and clutched his chest as he felt what he thought
was his stomach acid freezing over. Yuki didn't notice this at
first. She was consulting her book to make sure she had read it
right: now that Troy had mentioned it, curing the common cold
did seem pretty complex fare for a second-term Crafter. “Oh, I
see! It makes you cold! Sorry!” When she turned to face him, she
saw him on the floor, gasping for warm air.
you okay?” Yuki asked, already standing up and backing into her
room for more blankets. She threw them on, but didn't see any
improvement in Troy's condition. As his labored breathing
continued, so did her fretting. She leaned over him, clasping
his hands and holding them close to her body. Just as she was
tempted to summon help, the front door opened.
thank God, I think-” she said, stopping when she realized that
it was Donovan.
Troy, a bunch of blankets, and Yuki laying on top of him. He
raised an eyebrow. “What is this?”
to fix his cold and I think I gave him hypothermia,” she cried.
paused and looked at Troy once more. Troy did seem to be in some
serious trouble. With a snicker, Donovan said, “Well done.” He
went into his room, shutting the door behind him.
gone, the panic resumed. “Maybe I can make something,” Yuki
her return to her chemistry set and mumbled, “No more potions.”
Even his words seemed to freeze the inside of his mouth. Yuki
stopped and looked at him for a better idea. He tilted his head
towards the kitchen area.
right!” Even she could make hot chocolate, and it didn't even
require an explosion! Thankfully, they had mix on hand and a way
to heat water naturally. She combined the two into a mug and ran
it to Troy.
somehow secured it in his hands and felt the heat under his
nose. That felt good, but as cold as he was he had no desire to
burn his tongue off. Troy blew the drink to cool it off a bit.
The top layer froze. He drank it anyway.
better,” he said, sitting up.
looked at him nervously. Troy was still a bit pale. “Uh... maybe
I'll make some soup just to be safe.”
nodded. He was back to being simply uncomfortable rather than on
the brink of death- an improvement that was hard to appreciate
under the circumstances. Yuki started heating a can of soup over
a hot plate and returned to the table. After a few moments of
silence and some awkward fidgeting, she returned to her
these months and Troy still hadn't gotten used to Yuki. Yes, she
attended L. B. Gould High, but Troy never had to deal with her
much in Ohio. They didn't share any classes, so the only times
they were together were outside of school. Then, Kathryn was
always around to keep Yuki occupied and upbeat. Troy had no
problems with her then: she was an outgoing, cheerful girl that
at worst was like someone's little sister tagging along.
however, Yuki's true nature emerged and it wasn't pretty.
Apparently, given her lineage, she had always been coddled as a
natural at magic. Yuki, and her roommates, quickly learned that
this was not the case. This was something she had trouble
accepting and it led to longer and more explosive study sessions
in the dorm, in hopes that she could at least keep up with her
elder classmates. Molly had not divulged anyone's actual grades,
so nobody knew quite where Yuki actually stood. But Crafting was
not coming easily to her, which led to more frustration, more
practice and more explosions.
wasn't long before Yuki was back at it, trying to create another
mixture of unknown purpose. Double-checking her textbook several
times, she poured ingredients in carefully. Troy glanced away
from her and saw a lot of steam rising above the pot of soup.
how's the soup?” he said.
right!” she shouted, running back into the kitchen. Yuki turned
the hot plate off and sighed in relief. As she looked for a bowl
to serve it in, Troy noticed that Yuki's potion had been left
unattended. And it was starting to smoke.
pensive, Troy said, “Um... Yuki?”
sec. Almost ready!”
potion, which had once been a clear liquid, turned brown. Worse
yet, there was no stopper on the vial and however the contents
responded to open air, they were doing so quite loudly. Troy
pushed his chair back to get away, only to have the chair's back
legs catch against a blanket. The thing blew, Troy fell
backwards and a startled Yuki dropped the bowl of soup.
“Whoops!” she shouted. “That wasn't supposed to happen.”
was. Although now that he was on his back, now focused more on
the pain than the cold, Troy had a much better idea of what
needed to be done with Yuki. Ignoring her apologies and offers
to help him, Troy crawled into his room and locked the door.
Burying himself under his blankets, he swore that once he woke
up from his long nap, he would take action.
of Troy's plan to handle the Yuki situation involved Kurt.
Although the nap warmed him and delayed if not deterred any cold
bug, he was still feeling that post-illness hangover as he
knocked on room 209.
opened the door, saw the irritated look on Troy's face and
wasn't sure if he was supposed to smile or not.
Yuki by the collar, Troy pushed her towards Kurt. “Got room for
a twelve-year-old Crafter? She's going cheap.”
I was sorry,” Yuki whined.
laughed. “Got a couple Crafters in my study group. I know what
don't,” Troy insisted. “I just had a near-death experience
thanks to her.”
“Near-death? What happened?”
out the cold potion in my book doesn't treat colds,” Yuki said,
yeah, you can't cure colds. Everyone knows that,” Kurt said.
sighed. “Isn't there something we can do? She's driving us
looked up at Kurt pleadingly. “Most of my potions are turning
out okay, so I'm getting by in class. But I'm always having
problems mixing everything together. I have to wear earplugs
because they keep exploding on me... even the successful ones!”
scratched his chin. “Oh... well, if it's a technique thing, I
know somebody who can help. Don't know if Molly would approve.”
was okay with me giving her to you,” said Troy.
not what I mean.” Kurt shook his head. “You guys don't know
about Reggie, do you?”
Yuki looked at each other, both shocked that the name had come
up. It was a name often whispered about campus- a living legend
so infamous that everybody seemed to know it, but nobody would
explain it. Molly absolutely refused to discuss it, banning all
references to Reggie when inside the perimeter of room 202.
them had heard other kids allude to visiting 'Reggie's room,' a
term that came up so often and with such gleeful deviousness
that Troy had assumed it was a reference to some illicit
activity. A couple days prior, a boy had asked Kathryn to go
with him to Reggie's room. Even without knowing what it was, she
had turned him down and was tempted to slap him.
don't think we're supposed to know about Reggie,” Troy replied.
The name seemed so taboo and sinful that he didn't want to risk
sacrificing his youthful innocence to know about Reggie.
down the hall shouted, “Whoo! Reggie!” He walked away without
bothering to infer the context of the conversation.
he's the only one I know who can help Yuki,” Kurt said. “Come
followed him, looking back nervously at Troy. Troy followed,
tentative but willing to see Kurt through if it meant fixing
Yuki. At the bottom of the staircase, instead of the going
outside, Kurt led the two down the first floor hallway to room
Reggie's room?” Troy asked. It seemed like a typical dorm.
Besides the identifying numerals, the only thing on the door was
a markerboard, almost completely covered with messages and
scribbles- some with permanent marker.
pretty quiet right now. Good,” Kurt said, knocking on the door.
“Don't want to ruin Yuki too much.”
eeped and tried to backed away. Troy grabbed her collar again
and clutched it until the door opened.
other side was the most beautiful woman Troy had seen, at least
behind Renee. Her curly brown hair, which hung down to her
shoulders, was wet. More importantly, she wore nothing but a
towel held up only by her breasts, each plentiful enough to
carry the load. Troy felt a rush of blood to his face and even
didn't seem to notice. “Hey, Candace, is Reggie in?”
Kurt!” Candace said, cheerful. “Reggie's in the shower.”
Kurt shook his head. After a second of thought, taking his eyes
off Candice even, he said, “How about Crystal? Isn't she a
in the shower too.” Troy and Yuki blushed even more.
continued, “She also a Crafter? Huh. 'Course, I don't even
remember what I am.” She turned away, checking something in the
dorm. In doing so, her towel dipped down an inch or so. Not
enough to reveal anything, but Troy damn near fainted.
“Actually... I think he just got out,” Candice said.
have clothes on?” Yuki squeaked.
heard her. Thankfully, Reggie did- a pair of boxer shorts and an
extra-large t-shirt from some bar in Cabo San Lucas. This was no
kid plucked fresh out of high school: Reggie was undeniably in
his mid-twenties, with a mess of uncontrolled black hair
reaching to his shoulders and a chin of days-old stubble. He
smiled at Kurt.
Been a few days! How's things with Marlowe?”
looked away and frowned. “Long story short, still no progress. I
think I'm at the point where I should start worrying.”
what sounded like bad news, Reggie's smile broadened. “That why
Yuki here needs to learn some technique.”
smile faded as he looked at Yuki. Yuki's blush did not. “She
looks pretty young,” Reggie said.
“Crafting!” Kurt blurted. “I mean she needs help with her potion
she's pretty young.” Reggie raised an eyebrow at Kurt. “What did
you think I meant?”
mind. Will you help her?”
can. If she can put up with a few distractions, I'm game.”
looked at Kurt and Troy. The former nodded; the latter, still
looking at Candice, wobbled and almost fell down. “I suppose I
should learn to handle distractions anyway,” Yuki said. “What
kind of distractions?”
laughed and swung the door open, leading Yuki inside. This left
only Candice, who eyed both Kurt and Troy. “Coming in, Kurt?”
not in the mood,” Kurt replied.
about you?” she turned to Troy, adding a sly smile.
moment, Troy snapped back to life. Inside was either a nasty
temptation ready to taint him forever, or more of Yuki's potion
probably shouldn't. I've got a girlfriend,” he said. Kurt
I,” Candice replied instantly. “What's your point? She can come
opened the door, took his hand, and gently tugged. When they
made contact, he lost all desire to resist, and followed her. He
could make out nothing of the commons area until he crossed the
threshold into Reggie's room. Once across...
hours later, Renee, Kathryn and Donovan were all in the commons
of room 202. In light of their busy study schedules and rigorous
magic training, the three were parked on the couch watching
cartoons when Troy came in.
where've you been?” Kathryn asked. She didn't look at him, so
she didn't see the deliriously happy look on his face.
greatest, most magical place in the world,” he said. Now Kathryn
and Renee looked at him. “Oh, you guys would love it,” he added.
the joy emanating from Troy could fully engulf the room, Molly's
door slammed open. “Donovan, I just got a message from Professor
Melrose. When a TA demonstrates a shielding spell, would you
please stop testing its solidity with a-”
stopped when she saw the look on Troy's face. The blissful,
satisfied, 'all is right with the world' look on Troy's face. It
narrowed her eyes. “Kurt took you to Reggie's room, didn't he?”
nodded. Even Molly couldn't change his mood.
it, I'm gonna kill him. Now you guys will never get anything
done.” She teleported away, presumably to follow through on her
threat. And Renee and Kathryn gathered round Troy to hear of the
wonderful place called Reggie's room.