Multifold Manus Chapter 16

	White. The entire campus of Fairgarland Academy was coated in a layer of powdery white snow. The cold of autumn now seemed warm in comparison as winter had rolled in before the next semester began. It came with cold, crisp air, low hanging icicles, frost on windows, and snow piling up on the trees and shingles of every building. Most noticeable to each student was the steaming breath from every creature living in Fairgarland save for Headmaster Crixx, who as a construct need not breathe at all. Snow was unavoidable but for the magicked paths of the campus, enchanted stone that allowed no ice or snow to slip up any pedestrians. The Fairgarland Houses changed as well, each one’s banner colors muted in the coldness of winter, while inside they became every student’s escape from the chilling winds with cozy magicked fireplaces and soft blankets and comforters adorning every bed, couch and chair. Each student was dressed accordingly, layers and layers of wool, fur and cotton coats, leather jackets, trench coats, wool knit caps and hoods. The students who could not afford such things were not without some warmth as the school had provided enchanted lanterns that produced their own warmth spells each day, allowing for safe travel from each side of the campus. Galahad himself was neatly dressed in a wool overcoat knitted and provided to him by Blud and Rald’s mother, Root.
 
	“I’ll not hear any protesting,” The goblin had told him, “Don’t worry about the size, just try it on!” Galahad had struggled to keep it on his shoulders as he put his arms through the sleeves. It was much too big for him, but Root simply giggled at him, waved her wand and the wool overcoat shrank to size.
	“Not bad,” Galahad smirked at her in the mirror, “Not bad at all. It’s a little snug, though.”
Root rolled her eyes and shoved him away, shooing him out of the house. “You can keep it if you keep Blud out of trouble!” She warned him.
	“What about Rald?” Galahad had asked.
	“She can handle herself.”

That had been a few days ago. Galahad smiled to himself, thinking about how much the Raxpedalias had done for him. Support in the duels, a Thanksgiving feast, and even a few warm coats and cloaks. Today was the first day of his winter semester. Most of Galahad’s classes had remained the same, Alchemy 101 being one of the easier classes as well as Conjuration 101. Now he was taking Alchemy 201 and had decided to drop conjuration altogether as he had lost interest in it. Instead he had decided to take Evocation 115, figuring as the house duelist and head of the dueling club he would need to expand his knowledge of martial spellcasting. He was on his way to the transmutation building across the campus when he realized that for a few moments there had been no other students in sight. Something was up, he knew in his gut. Slowly he drew his staff from his bag.
"GET 'EM!" Came the battle cry of a dozen students jumping up from the bushes on either side of the walkway, each pelting snowballs at the duelist from all sides. Galahad could only hope to block so many before he was struck-- each snowball kept their form, sticking to him like gum. He quickly understood what was happening, and turned to lock eyes with the president of the illusionary house herself, "Rita!"
"Hey, Galahad, how's the arm? Hope you had a good Thanksgiving break!" She stuck her tongue out at him before she turned tail and ran, her peers following after her before they all cast an invisibility spell on themselves.
Galahad tried to brush off the snowballs, but they merely got stuck to his hand instead. This particular spell was something he hadn't seen yet, which he didn't know whether to be angry or impressed. That imp must have thought this one up weeks ago, he figured. Now walking was a whole new challenge, the weight and awkwardness of the snowballs forcing Galahad to trudge across campus as if he were in five feet of snow.
"G-guess I t-t-technically am…" he grumbled to himself through shivers. As he neared the road on the west side of campus he passed by one of the warmth lanterns hanging on a sign by the crosswalk. Immediately some of the snowballs dropped off of him and melted like ice cream on hot pavement.
"So, that's the trick, is it?" He mused, quickly waving his staff over his body, blowing warm air across himself until he was clear of snowballs. Galahad shook his head and made for the other side of the campus. Rita's gonna get some pranks in return, he thought, she never said I couldn't fight back. He needed to learn a dispel invisibility spell soon. 
Along with most other students, Galahad crossed the street on the west side of campus to the teaching buildings. His first class was in the same room as last time with the same teacher. Miss Manus stood at the front of the room, browsing her textbook for the class in between speaking to some of the younger students. She had a few students in front of her, each one trying to hand something in. The duelist decided to leave her be for now. Soon after Galahad had taken a seat in the front, the bell rang and the rest followed suit.
	Manus stood at the front of the room and scanned the crowd, “Good morning, I am glad to see so many returning faces. It appears I was not… hard enough on you all last term,” She jested, though many were unprepared for the fey's new attempts at humor and weren't sure if it was a joke at all. Manus ignored their lack of response and quickly continued, “Welcome to Transmutation 102: Introduction part two. I will not take up too much time, we all know what is expected in this class at this point. Last term focused on transmuting liquids, a very malleable form of matter. This term will be focused on transmuting solids into various forms. A much harder prospect, but not as hard as the ever elusive gaseous matter we will focus on next term. Any questions? No? Mister Loxley, if you would, please come to the front and demonstrate what I taught you over the break. It makes it quite easy for me to direct if I do not have my hands full.”
	“Right,” Galahad nodded and took a spot at a table and drew his staff. Miss Manus waved a crystalline hand and summoned a glass cup full of sand. The wizard took a deep breath as all eyes were on him. He traced the rim of the glass with a finger as he muttered to himself. In a flash, he brought his hand up and jabbed his middle and pinky finger into the sand, his other three fingers clutching a tiny pearl. 
	“As you can see from his technique, unlike with a liquid, touching the material you are working with can make working with solids much easier,” Manus explained, “Galahad, when you are ready.”
	The wizard’s mouth was dry. A pounding in his chest made him feel off. He took a deep breath and channeled his mana into the sand. There was a warm tingling in the tips of his fingers as the mana left his body. The sand glowed slightly and began to climb the wizard’s fingers. Particulates started to fall off when they got to the bend of the fingers as they turned into a red liquid. He grunted before tensing every muscle in his body and blasted every bit of sand into the air around him like a sudden sneeze.
	Miss Manus sighed and used a cold swirling gust of air to collect all the sand and placing it back into the glass, “It is understandable to struggle with it,” She assured him, “You may sit.”
	Galahad said nothing and shoved his fingers back into the sand. He regulated his breathing and waved his staff in the air. The words of magic escaped his lips. Again, the sand crawled up his fingers before turning into a liquid, this time pinkish. He kept focused, the speed of the moving sand increased, and more and more liquid was made from the sand. All at once, the rest of the sand lifted out and became a liquid, and only splashed on the desk a few drops. Galahad exhaled with relief along with the rest of the class before picking up the glass and downing it, “Needs more strawberry in this lemonade,” He noted aloud.
	“Stubborn as always. Please sit,” Manus gently scolded. Galahad nodded and trudged to his chair, “Your task for today is to transmute sand into a liquid. Any questions?”
	“How come the glass didn’t turn to liquid too?” A young woman asked.
	The fey-witch nodded, “Excellent question. While glass does not have anti-magic properties it does resist it, making it a great material to hold magical compounds. Similar to how scientists use glass beakers for acids and such,” With the snap of her crystal fingers, a cupboard on the side of the room opened to reveal more glass cups full of sand, “Please get one or two at your own convenience.”
	Galahad settled back into his seat and stripped off his cloak and coat, the sweat still trickling down his body as he tried to let the cool winter air lower his body temperature, “So you’re her duelist and her favorite student too?” A snide comment came from the gnome next to him, “Give you an A last term, did she?”
	“I had one of the lowest grades in this class last term,” Galahad grunted, “If anything, she’s harder on me because she expects more now.”
	The gnome snorted, “I doubt it.”
“Leave the guy alone,” A gryphonite with large wings behind him growled, “I know you’re still in the Seeker’s house, but this is the guy that got us insanely better lab times.”
	“Well, yeah but–” 
	“Just shut yer damn yap!” A dwarf passing by grunted, “Or this whole room’ll be jumpin’ down yer throat!”
	“Maybe we should transmute his mouth off,” A cat-man purred.
	The gnome shrank in his chair, “I-I’ll be quiet,” He whimpered.
	Galahad looked behind him at the few who had spoken up. Those that came to his defence and those who had overheard the conversation gave the duelist smiles, thumb-ups, or just nods of respect. He couldn’t help but smile back before returning to his studies. Like he had demonstrated to the class, he shoved his fingers into the sand and slowly transmuted it into strawberry lemonade again. He turned to see an orc, without touching the sand, turn it into a glass of clear water and then back to sand with ease. Galahad withheld his emotions and went back to practicing. Despite all of the power within him, such simple seeming magic continued to elude him. He resolved to practice more instead of continuing to harbor jealousy. 

	It was a quick jaunt to the duelists' second class. Like the first, it was in the same classroom as last time. Professor Sh’Lak was at the front of the room with her clipboard again and just like last term was directing students to their tables. The elf took one look at the duelist, “Table six again, Galahad.”
	With a silent nod, he made his way to the table and sat down, “Was wonderin’ when you’d show up, Lox,” Blud smiled as he started bringing out his textbook, “Good morning’.”
	“A good morning to you, too,” The duelist replied, “How was the rest of your holiday weekend?”
	“Well, despite my mom’s constant teasing, I hung out with San some more. We went to that new orcish place downtown and we both had way too much to eat,” He explained, “We also got in some dueling practice. Ya spend all your time with Manus?”
	“Not all of it. I actually rested and watched some TV. Every time I saw Miss Manus she wanted me to study or be taught something new,” Galahad smirked, “She’s working me really hard. I got a C in her class last term, to be honest.”
	“Alright!” The elven professor shouted as the second the bell rang, “You know who I am. But as a refresher after your week-long holiday where my precious teaching surely fled your heads as they were stuffed with turkey,” She grumbled to herself as she adjusted her metal visor, “I am professor Sh’Lak. Welcome to my second alchemy course. Last term we worked on consumed potions, this term will be topically applied salves. And poisons. It should be fun!” She threw her arms in the air to try and rile up her sleepy students only for her metal visor to almost fall on her face and bash her nose, “Looks like those stoppers are coming in handy already,” She sighed with relief as she put it up and tightened the screws, “Anyways. Open your book to page forty-seven. If you have questions, let me know, but I think you can all make a simple healing salve without my guidance at this point. We may have a use for them later in the week.”

	To Galahad's surprise, the alchemy class had gone on without any explosions or injury to students or Professor Sh'Lak. Blud had done well making his healing salve alongside the duelist, as did most students who had gotten over the initial shock of the crazed elven alchemist. Now it was time for Evocation 115. It took Galahad a moment to work up the courage to step into the evocation building. He already knew tensions were high between his house and Fritz’Eleo, but he was just another student that wanted to learn. He fixed his cloak and wandered inside. The evocation studies building was warm and the halls were covered with portraits and a few busts on pillars. The sofas and benches of the other buildings were nowhere to be seen, making students loiter around and lean against the walls. The sounds of conversations seemed to end just as Galahad entered the building. Eyes turned to him, most with the red armband of house Fritz’Eleo even glared.
	Galahad lifted his scarf over his face, leaving only his fiery eyes visible. With haste, he stepped into his first class and found a seat in the front. The rest of the students filed in shortly after, some whispering to one another as they sat in the back of the room. The only students near Galahad had armbands for the Seekers House or Maxamillion. None of them paid him any mind, but he could feel the glares of the Fritz’Eleo students like daggers in his back. He did his best to push it from his mind, thinking of what he had learned in his previous classes as he waited for the professor to arrive. Thankfully, he didn’t have to wait much longer. A tall, lanky half-elven woman with thick glasses resting on the bridge of her nose took to the front of the room. She pulled her crimson hair back and blinked her ruby eyes at her class, “Forgive me for being late,” She brushed ash off of her plum colored robes, “There was a fire in my previous class. I am Ferrow Mjald, ninth-year of Fritz’Eleo. Welcome to Applied Evocation. No you are not in the wrong class, this class is also known as Evocation 115. Though it is a beginner course, I expect you to know how to cast evocation already. Now then–” She looked at the front row, “You in the front. Face coverings and hat off. I do not tolerate either in my classroom. Especially when your hat is so tall,” She heard a sigh before the hat was removed. She knew that face, those flame-colored eyes especially, “Ah,” Her lips turned into a frown, “You. Might I ask why I have you in my class?”
Galahad blinked, “To better help others learn in my dueling–” He grunted as he felt a sudden jolt strike his back. Numerous students behind him snickered.
	“Hmph,” Ferrow turned away from him and grabbed her textbook, “Let us turn to our textbook and begin.”
	Galahad grabbed his from his bag only for it to be ripped from his hands and into the hands of one of the evocationists in the back. All of them snickered as the person who did it smugly held the book up at their victim. Galahad bit his tongue, struggling to keep it in, “You lack the required materials for this class?” The half-elven teacher sneered as she looked up from her book, “You know–” She looked Galahad in the eyes, gasping and stepping back as she stared at the fiery, silent rage in his eyes. 
	From the back, another student shot off a little, near harmless firebolt at the Karak-Albrak wizard. With a screech, the chair he sat on flew back as the wizard stood. He whipped around in an instant, as if he had eyes in the back of his head, before swatting the bolt with his bare hand, reflecting it back at the attacker, striking them painfully in the chest forcing them to double over. With another wave of his hand, his book slammed into the nose of the man who stole it before it flew back to his hand, “Anyone else?” He snarled as he slowly sank to his seat, “No? Damn moss-collectors, the lot of you,” He slowly began to calm down, everyone in the room staring at him with wide eyes, “I don’t see why you all hate me so much. Your president is the one who gambled your precious lab time away.” 
"Why are you even here?" One bold evocationist in the back bellowed, "You come here to brag or somethin'?"
"I came here to learn, same as you," The duelist retorted.
"What's to learn? I bet you just came here to pick on the newbies."
"Why don't you all just shut up so we can all have our class?" One of the abjurationists snarked, the Seeker students grunting their agreement.
"Maybe we should take this outside, instead? Take back our lab time ourselves?" A snide evocationist voiced with only a bold few daring to agree.
Galahad stood up again, finally fed up with them. He stormed from the room, stopping right before the door and turning back with a scowl, “If you want them back so much, how about you come to my club? I’m sure you’ll do so much better than the prince did,” Galahad left the classroom, heading straight to the faculty offices and resolving to change his third class. From what he had been told, he would have to petition the dean to let him change classes. Fair enough, he told himself. He would have to explain himself to Dean Zuccarius anyways.

. . . . .

"So, who here can remember what caused the calamity of the old world?" Miss Manus asked her students from the front of her desk. "Anyone at all?"
One young student raised his hand, "It was caused by the demon Sol Eater, right?"
"Correct, but how did it happen?"
"He and his followers used their combined magicks to blot out the sun so the demon could… consume the world unabated?"
"Close, William. Sol Eater's ambition of total world domination was so vile, so mad that he plotted to extinguish all life in the old world and wipe the slate clean, leaving he and his followers alone to rule. He and his demons didn’t wish to simply blot out the sun, but to devour its mana entirely, thus his name ‘Sol Eater.’"
“Oh, right…” The young student blushed, embarrassed that he had forgotten something so obvious to his peers.
"Why would he do that?" Another student asked.
"No one knows why, many have surmised he was a madman and left it as such, but there are others who claim he was driven mad by another yet unknown force. There are some who theorize Sol Eater was once a man, not too different from ourselves, but his lust for power led him down a dark path that eventually brought him to chase our ancestors across the stars to this very world, where he was ultimately defeated and destroyed."
"Who defeated him?" One very attentive halfling student asked.
A half-elven boy snorted, “You must really live under a hill if you don’t even know that.”
Many of the students giggled at the halfling boy, only for a chill wind to run through each of them along with the flicking of the light switch, on and off. All eyes were on Miss Manus, who’s expression was a piercing  stare that was colder than any Fairgarland snow, "There are no foolish questions in my class.” She sternly announced, before looking at the halfling with a warm smile, “That brings us to the next topic, Radgild! The heroes of the old world and new! Often referred to as The Eight or even The Big Eight, they dealt with the demon Sol Eater. The great heroes of our time, some of which this very academy you all now attend celebrates, were some of the most wise, brave and powerful men and women the world has known. From all walks of life, they came together to put a stop to Sol Eater’s ambition. Some of you may already know who I speak of, but to belabor the point, House Maximillian and House Faith are both named after two such heroes, Arthur Maximillian and Nambra Faith, a grandmaster abjurationist and a fierce sorceress - both of which are still alive today, if you can believe it,” Manus smiled, watching the faces of her students disbelief at such a fact.
“The other six members of The Eight are as follows: Reece Grathar, the leader of The Eight and a paladin who hails from one of the old world kingdoms known as The Holy Empire, Vaelyn. He resides in the Holy See in the Vatican today.” 
“He’s alive, too?” A student wondered aloud.
“As an elf, he enjoys a long and youthful life,” Explained Manus, before turning to the other half of her class, “Then there was Thr-lack, an Orcish warrior coming from the East. Even to this day no one knows much of him, but he was one of the strongest of the Eight. Next was Heldir, a dwarven cleric who came from the dwarf hold Karak- Morgenthuul in Finland. Shine Bolt-Wrench," The mention of the name had every goblin student cheering, forcing Manus to wait for a moment before continuing, "she was an artificer and technomancer from Kentucky, some say she invented technomancy as a school of magic."
One of the goblin students raised his hand, which Manus quickly called upon, "Why don't we have a technomancy house?”
“Fairgarland Academy teaches the traditional magicks as opposed to the new advent of technomancy-- but on top of that, it is very expensive. You think your tuition is hefty now, but should Fairgarland fund a technomancy house your fees would likely double,” Manus turned and paced back towards the other students, "Seventh was Karl Farfanx, a ranger from the old world who sadly gave up his life in the effort to defeat the demon. His gravestone marks the edge of the Great Crack in the French countryside. And last but certainly not least was Ludolf Woodbarrow, a halfling cutpurse who managed to steal away the very materials required for the enemy's ritual: The heart of Fargoth the Divided. So you see Radgild, even smallfolk can stand up for themselves and the ones they love." She smiled at the halfling student, who sat up and seemed to look a little more confident in himself, “You will find a short assignment at the end of this chapter of your book. Please spend the rest of class working on it. It will be due on Thursday.”

	Manus finished her tea and watched her students all leave her class a short time before the noon bell rang. She took up the papers on her desk and swiftly sorted them before stashing them in a binder and bringing it under her cloak. The fey-witch adjusted her hat and cloak and stepped from her classroom to find someone waiting for her. For once, it was not Loxley, it was Prince Babarry. The princely wizard didn’t look as confident and regal like he usually did, Manus would even go as far as to describe him as disheveled, “Harold?” Miss Manus frowned.
	“President Manus. Have you seen your student and council member Galahad acting strange?” The wizard asked.
	“Hm? No. He has not acted off at all,” The fey-witch replied, “Why do you ask?”
	“Well, it would surprise you to know that he got into an altercation with some students in my house yesterday,” Harold explained, “Reflected a minor fire bolt and bashed another in the nose with a book they stole from him. He has been warned, as have my students.”
	“So he was retaliating. I will speak with him, but I still do not understand why you have seeked me out. To be honest, the absence of your courting made last term mildly pleasant,” She frowned.
	Harold leaned in and began to hiss, “He is NOT who he says he is. I am not sure who exactly Loxley may be yet, but he must be found out for the safety of all our students.”
	Miss Manus’s frown turned to a glare, “I care not who he truly is. He may be hiding his lineage, but I trust him.”
	“Are you sure? There have been whispers of a cloaked, bloody figure on campus. Could he be butchering people from the nearby towns?” 
	Manus turned heel, “I will not hear such baseless claims. Especially from you. Good day to you.”
	Harold grabbed the witch’s shoulders to keep her from leaving and spun her around, “Manus. This is not between you and me. This is about you. I am worried that man is up to something. I am worried about YOU.”
The fey-witch used four hands to slap him off, her eyes darkening as they looked into his, "I have never told a soul my true name, Harold, do you think me a murderer? Dean Zucarius knows who he is, and that is enough for me. I say again. Good. Day. Sir,” The force in her voice made Harold step down. He shrunk away from her, quickly retreating into his own mind. Manus found no more resistance as she left the building.
	The fey-witch stepped through the cold and across the heated, clear paths across the campus. How could Harold stoop so low to accuse her student of such a vile thing? Galahad butchering poor townsfolk? Such a thing wouldn't go unnoticed by the authorities. Zucarius himself, with his ever watchful eye, would never allow it! Other students hurried past her, freezing in the cold air as they wrapped themselves in their cloaks. Miss Manus sighed, the cold didn’t bother her much. Her breath, unlike the others around her, did not vaporize in the chilly air. She stepped off the path and onto the snow to let a crowd of students pass. The fey-woman’s lineage let her walk atop the snow rather than sink down into it, keeping her shoes from filling with the cold powder.
As she exited the frigid outdoors and into the cafeteria she sighed again, the heat of the building was apparent due to all the students crowding together and the heaters placed around the room on the walls. Manus quickly put in an order for a few cuts of sweet ham with steamed vegetables before looking for her usual spot. Galahad and Suzie were both already there, talking in hushed voices as they looked at a laptop over their food. Suzie had a plate of spaghetti and a salad while Galahad’s plate was piled high with a veritable mountain of fries and chicken strips, “Hello, friends,” Manus called from a distance to get their attention.
	Suzie slammed the laptop shut, “Hey, Manus,” She chuckled nervously.
	“Good to see ya,” Galahad smiled, acting a little more inconspicuous.
	“What were the two of you doing?” Manus wondered as she sat across from them.
	“Just watching a video,” Suzie hastily explained, “How has your new term been so far?”
	“Quite well, but I did learn something strange today.”
	“Oh?” Galahad idly ate a few fries, watching her carefully.
	“Galahad, did you get into a fight with some of the Fritz’Eleo students?” Miss Manus asked.
	Galahad nearly choked on his food, coughing for a few moments and drinking some water before finally speaking, “Yes. I did. Did Zucarius tell you?”
	“No, Harold did. What happened?” 
Suzie shook her head, “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me about this,” She smirked. 
	Galahad took a deep breath and bowed his head, “Well. I took an evocation class. Applied Evocation specifically. Of course, they weren’t accepting of me.”
	“Any of us would have told you not to take this class,” The gnome groaned as she swirled up her spaghetti, “Did you at least give them a good beating?”
	“Eh, I bashed one in the face with my book they stole and mirrored a fire bolt back at someone else before that. Zucarius let me off with a warning since I was acting in retaliation,” Galahad explained, “He gave them warnings, too, since I struck them back, but they did start it.”
Manus nodded in understanding, “I will not reprimand you, Galahad. But I do not want you to resort to violence against other students like this outside of the arena. Not only will it make you look bad, but our house as well. Am I understood?”
“You are,” Galahad reached into his bag and revealed the mirror talisman. He put the necklace on and sighed, “I’ll stick to barriers and illusions to get myself out of any situations I may fall into. I just hope Rita can’t see me through this.”
“Good. Now that that business is out of the way, we should work on scheduling our next house meeting,” Miss Manus suggested, “I have you all to thank for reelecting me this year.”
“Of course. Who else would we vote for?” Suzie chuckled, “Holmit is in no way a good pick.”
	“I believe you or Fredrik would do just fine,” The fey-woman assured her, “Todd or Galahad could do some of the work in my stead as well. But I do agree that Holmit is a little too headstrong, but he is a valuable asset and wonderful debater. Speaking of, I shall need to appoint one of you as my successor once I graduate,” She noted, “I would not like to be your president while I am a teacher.”
	“And a master of transmutation, right? Isn’t that the goal?” Galahad quickly checked.
	“Of course. Though I am not incredibly worried about that. Could you two decide on a day for the meeting? I should be free any evening this week,” Manus asked as she was called for her food.
	“Let’s do Friday. Maybe we should do the usual?” Suzie decided, “You’ll work up a big appetite at your club, Loxley.”

Manus trudged up the steps of the transmutation building, heading for her master level transmutation class. She had just left her class on learning to teach. It had gone smoothly as it always did, but the constant back and forth was more draining to her than the mana she had to expend in her final class: Master Transmutation two. Behind her were Fredrik and Suzie, the latter of which was complaining about the stairs as she always did.
"Just lift your knees," Fredrik teased her, the gnome scowling at him before they both made it to the top. Manus was already waiting at the door where Headmaster Crixx greeted her.
"Good morning, Miss Manus. Suzie, Fredrik."
"Good morning, Mizz Crixx," Suzie smiled, still trying to catch her breath.
"A very good morning to you, Headmaster," Fredrik bowed his head before entering the classroom. Jasper Crixx turned to Manus with a wide smile on her porcelain white face, "It happened again!" She excitedly whispered to the pale, blue fey. 
Manus cocked her head to the side, looking up at the headmaster, "What happened again?" She asked cautiously, her mind racing at what the construct could mean. 
Jasper leaned in close, cupping a hand around her mouth, "My secret admirer left me another letter. Whoever he is, he is head over heels for me. Would you like to read it while we wait for the others?"
Manus eyed the letter that Jasper had drawn out of her robes, its broken wax seal looking oddly familiar to the fey, though she could not quite tell from where she had seen it. The sigil was of a hawk spreading its wings and soaring. Manus decided it wasn't worth thinking about, and instead took the letter her headmaster offered. The contents were full of flowery language and sweet nothings with piles and piles of compliments. It was no wonder that the construct professor was so cheery after every letter, they were very in-depth about her as a person, from the way her very form changed with her emotions down to the way her hair looked and felt almost real, a true wonder of artistry and magic. Even Manus blushed at the flattery in every word, but the last sentence mystified her.
"Professor, did you read this part here…?" Asked Manus, holding it up with three hands and pointing to the end with a fourth. Crixx squinted at the line, clearing her throat.
"I look forward to seeing you teach again."
"Could they be one of your students?" Manus inquired. Jasper put the letter back in her robes and thought for a moment.
"It could be, but I teach so many classes, it could be anyone."
"I disagree. The writing in that letter is much too elegant for any young student to have thought up."
"Do you think so? Perhaps it is one of the men in this class?" Crixx wondered, watching as several other students finally made their way up the steps and into her classroom. Manus eyed each of them as they passed by, recalling that none of them, while all attentive, were focused on much more than their mastery. Perhaps it was a facade, or perhaps it was a charismatic young student who could put words together on paper better than most could speak?
	Manus found herself shrugging, “I do not think I can place a name," She fibbed, as one such individual quickly rose to the top of her list of suspicions. She dared not ruin his plans however, as it was his secret to tell. Manus walked inside the classroom and saw Fredrik and Suzie idly chatting to one another, the golden wizard chuckling about something. Manus took her seat beside him and thought more and more about it. It would make sense he would be Professor Crixx's secret admirer, it lined up. But what if it was only obvious to her because of coincidence?
"So, Miss President, do you think we will pass with flying colors?" Fredrik leaned over to ask, breaking her train of thought.
Manus looked at him, his eyes barely visible through the holes in his mask, "Do you fancy the headmaster?" She quietly blurted out, watching for his reaction. To her shock, Fredrik's eyes betrayed nothing as they merely smiled back at her.
"Manus! You can't just ask him that!" Suzie hissed, more surprised than annoyed with the fey-witch.
"If you mean to imply my muse is in this very classroom, you are close." Came Fredrik's sly retort. "I never imagined Miss President would be interested in such things."
"Me neither," the gnome agreed.
Manus stared down at her desk, wondering just who he could have meant, "Neither did I," She squeaked out. If he wasn't after Headmaster Crixx's heart, then who was? Before she could think on it further, the construct in question took her place at the front of the classroom, her 'skin' practically glowing with glee.
"Alright everyone, today we will be practicing a technique I like to call division," With the wave of her hand she magically placed in front of each student a simple mechanical clock. Manus studied hers for a brief moment, its wooden finish over the metal gears and screws, the glass cover over the clock's face, most of the components of this clock were of a different material.
"As usual, I shall first demonstrate what I mean by 'division,' then I will instruct you on how to perform it yourself," Explained Crixx, taking hold of a clock of her own. She held it aloft, focusing her mana on the clock. After a few seconds the clock began to pull apart and float in the air before her, the materials sorting themselves from one another. Wooden panels from the clock floated to one side, the adhesive to another. The metals divided themselves up according to their elements, brass with brass and aluminum with aluminum. Screws, cogs and gears, even the hands of the clock were sorted by metals. As all the parts were sorted, Crixx waved her other hand, each of the sorted components clinging to one another before quickly melding together. Each of the metals fell onto the table with a THUNK, having been transmuted into small blocks of their respective elements. The glass was turned into an orb, which Professor Crixx placed between the metals. Lastly the wood, which was quickly turned into a single plank. After all the pieces were placed on the headmaster’s desk the class gave a round of applause.
	“The execution is quite simple really: you all know how to separate out different materials already. Same as always, feel out the different materials with your mana. This is similar, but you will be needing to manipulate small, fine materials rather than one large, mixed block of elements. Careful not to overcompensate for the gaps in material or you will likely destroy your clock. This is your task for this week. We will work on progressively more difficult objects. Next term, we will end with dividing objects and then turning them into new ones. Take your time today, figure out a way to divide that works for you,” Crixx instructed.
	Manus was quick to grip her staff. She set the clock on its back. First, she removed the wooden exterior, morphing it into a small wooden duck for fun and setting it aside. Next the glass face came off and was made into a small cube. The hands, face, gears, screws, and all other components were carefully pulled apart and sorted before being broken down to its base materials into little bars. Fredrick’s clockwork was floating in the air, each piece one by one was stripped off and put into a block of each respective material. Suzie used a powerful spell to conjoin every material into one large cube that swirled with each material slowly being drawn out into its own section of the large block. When the gnome finished, she waved a single finger, separating each into their own long, perfectly angled, rectangular bars. She grinned at Fredrik who chuckled at her flaunting among other would-be masters. Each student had their own way of performing the task at hand, few taking much time at all and even fewer struggling to perform as instructed. Jasper Crixx smiled at each of their skillful demonstrations, “Good, good, I see everyone has a firm grasp of division. I expected nothing less from you all. As I said before, we will be moving up in difficulty, so now we will try something a little more modern.”
	Soon enough each student found themselves staring down a digital clock that had been placed on their desk. Fredrik picked his up first, examining the exterior of the device before putting his hand to the chin of his mask, “Rubber and plastic,” He grumbled.
	Miss Manus looked across the device as well. There was a screen, most likely some form of clear plastic and a simple display behind it, “Do not try to break down the battery. We do not need a fire,” Professor Crixx warned, “The chemicals within can be volatile. And yes, magitech could have been even worse. The aetheric crystals can be volatile when taken out of its carefully made housing.”
	Fredrik was first to attempt to break down the clock with most others simply watching him. He easily removed the screws holding the device together. Plastic, rubber, and other man made components were placed to one side. He quickly removed the metals from the circuitry and placed them into neat stacks of raw material. He discarded the battery as instructed then turned to the rubber. It floated in the air before him. He removed the gauntlets from his hands and raised his hands to manipulate it. He brought his hands together, his fingers curled in and swiftly moved apart, rending the rubber to pieces. Next, he heated it up with a quick spell and formed it all together as a sphere. 
The wizard put his gauntlets back on as he noticed everyone watching him, “It is much tougher than it looks,” He admitted.
“As you all know, some man made materials such as rubber, glass, and plastic are resistant to our magicks,” Crixx explained, “And unlike glass, rubber and plastic need much more work to manipulate with our transmutation spells. Class is nearing its end. Please take one or two clocks with you to practice on until Thursday. Please have a good rest of your day. Class is dismissed.”

	Manus was eager to get to her last appointment of the day: Galahad’s tutoring. As usual, the fey-witch made her way to the library. The chilly darkness of winter made most students retire early for the night, most simply checked out a book and returned to their dorms after a hot meal. Not so for the duelist and his tutor, as it was the perfect place now to study undisturbed. Miss Manus had made a quick stop to collect a small bag of sand to instruct him with. She also had the clock from her earlier class to do a bit more practicing. Upon her approach to the usual table, Manus spotted a second person chatting with Galahad. They were swiftly recognized as Fredrik, obvious from his golden garb. The two spoke quietly, going over something on Fredrik’s phone, “Ah, President Manus,” The golden wizard gave her a small bow, “I feel as if a joke about not expecting you here would be unwelcomed.”
	“May I ask why you two are meeting in secret?” She eyed them both warily. With Harold’s warning and her student’s sudden bout of secrecy, Manus was starting to feel worry creep into her mind.
	“Simply forming some plans. Can two friends not do that?” Fredrik asked with a shrug. His president’s icy gaze made him nervous for once, “Well, we wanted the choice for our meeting place to be a surprise. Galahad, Suzie, and I have narrowed it down to three places.”
	“We’re going into town for it,” Galahad added quickly, “A little time out on the town as a group then get some food. Rald knows the town well and I thought you could use a break from academics. Even over the holiday break you were working on your schooling!” The duelist sank into his chair with shame in his voice, “You don’t feel like I’m going behind your back, do you?”
	Miss Manus took a seat and removed her hat with two hands before a third gently rubbed her forehead, “No, well, I do not want you to think you cannot have your secrets. Your identity and background are both shrouded in mystery afterall. I merely have a lot on my mind.”
	Galahad frowned and bowed his head, “In due time you’ll both know,” He quietly said while twiddling his thumbs, “But not now.”
	Fredrik was sensing his guilt quite easily and pat his friend on the back, “Please do not beat yourself up. I do not understand your need for this, but we will not pry. Good day to both of you,” He took his leave quickly.
	Miss Manus gripped the hem of her hat before putting it back on, “Is Galahad your real name? Or are you a fey avoiding using your real name?”
	“I promise you that I’m a man– a human man,” He assured her, “Galahad is my real name. But Loxley isn’t a last name,” He whispered, “What were we practicing?” He returned attention to their real purpose for the meeting.
	Manus blinked, “Of course. We are attempting to increase your speed with transmutation. You did well today, but I wish to get ahead of the curve by speeding up your work. Please, show me your casting.”
	Galahad nodded and stuck his finger into the sand filled cup. Slowly, each particle turned to a liquid, red and tart smelling. At the end the fledgling transmutationist was left with a bitter cup of cranberry juice which he taste tested, “Could be worse,” He noted.
	“You are not focusing on all of the sand. You are focusing on them one by one to change them,” The fey-witch noted, “Go wider, expand your focus, expend a little more mana, focus on every little grain of sand at once.”
	He nodded back quickly. He stared at the glass of sand, examining all of it before shoving his finger into it. The sand glowed and Manus stared excitedly at it, eager to see her student succeed only for the sand to explode into a shower of cranberry juice all over the wizard. The two looked at one another for a moment before Galahad burst out laughing at himself as he looked at the sticky juice covering his robes, “Could you lend me a hand?”
	“Of course,” Manus chuckled as the initial shock subsided. With a spell, she pulled almost all the juice from his clothes and returned it to the cup, “You managed to do it all at once. But you were too overzealous with your mana use. Try again, would you?”
	“Yeah, I got this.”

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