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Kirova did. Lissa was led away, and I watched her go, glad the bond would allow me to keep reading her emotional temperature. They actually sent me to one of the guidance counselors first. He was an ancient Moroi guy, one I remembered from before I’d left. I honestly couldn’t believe he was still around. The guy was so freaking old, he should have retired. Or died. The visit took all of five minutes. He said nothing about my return and asked a few questions about what classes I’d taken in Chicago and Portland. He compared those against my old file and hastily scrawled out a new schedule. I took it sullenly and headed out to my first class. 1st Period 2nd Period 3rd Period 4th Period 5th Period 6th Period 7th Period 8th Period Advanced Guardian Combat Techniques Bodyguard Theory and Personal Protection 3 Weight Training and Conditioning Senior Language Arts (Novices) --Lunch— Animal Behavior and Physiology Precalculus Moroi Culture 4 Slavic Art
Ugh. I’d forgotten how long the Academy’s school day was. Novices and Moroi took separate classes during the first half of the day, which meant I wouldn’t see Lissa until after lunch – if we had any afternoon classes together. Most of them were standard senior classes, so I felt my odds were pretty good. Slavic art struck me as the kind of elective no one signed up for, so hopefully they’d stuck her in there too. Dimitri and Alberta escorted me to the guardians’ gym for first period, neither one acknowledging my existence. Walking behind them, I saw Alberta wore her hair short, pixie cut that showed her promise mark and molnija marks. A lot of female guardians did this. It didn’t matter so much for me now, since my neck had no tattoos yet, but I didn’t want to ever cut my hair.
and I found myself laughing and seeing those I’d nearly forgotten about. breaking the tension further. he was nice-looking. Hathaway. Eddie Castile. all eyes fell on me. “Huh. He was also one of the funniest guys I knew. “This is my time. and just like in the commons. and it was time to remind everyone of that. I’m leading today’s session. With red hair that stuck up everywhere and a smattering of freckles. I was one of the novices again. openmouthed novices. “Hey Mason. and Mason Ashford snapped out of his haze. The happy reunion lasted a few more minutes before the adult guardian who oversaw the training came over and scolded Mason for neglecting his duties. We’d been good friends back in the day. If you’re going to think about me naked. They were an easygoing bunch. The class engulfed me. I couldn’t decide if I felt like a rock star or a circus freak. If I was going to be stuck here for a while. Well. I wasn’t going to act afraid of them all anymore. I guess this is a good time to think about me naked. muttering something in Russian that didn’t sound complimentary. through not exactly hot. All right. Everyone wanted to know where we’d bee. Still . giving me a lopsided smile. Scanning the staring. just like that. I couldn’t tell them why we’d left.” “Oh yeah?” I retorted. of course. the reactions of my peers indicated it was anything but. .” “It’s always a good time to think about you naked. so I offered up a lot of taunts and wouldn’t-you-like-to-knows that served just as well. apparently Lissa and I had become legends. I looked for a familiar face. Dimitri shook his head and walked off. One caught my eye. Most of them were guys. less focused on pedigree and politics than the Moroi students. and I could barely hold back my grin. Lissa and I had once held this school’s respect. do it on your own time. Another friend of mine. then. then.She and Dimitri didn’t say anything and walked along almost like it was any other day. When we arrived. But as for me . wipe the drool off your face.” added someone nearby. well. . They were in the middle of setting up when we entered the gym.” A few snorts and snickers broke the awed silence.
I mean. of course you did. . He extended a hand and helped me up from the mat he’d knocked me down on – about fifty times. that man is a god.” . “You’re putting in extra time with Belikov?” “Yeah. “I’ll be ready. “You can be my partner. explaining what exercises to start with.” “Well. .” “Yeah. “Did I mention I hate you?” He flashed me another smile.” he said.” An hour later. That’s something. “Come on. It’s been two years.grinning. But hey. “I hate you. staggering along as the class put the equipment back. so what?” “So. “You’d hate me more if I held back. which quickly faded to something more serious. rubbing a spot on my thigh that was going to have a wicked bruise tomorrow.” I explained. Hathaway.” Mason stopped walking and started at me. Not that it mattered.” I told him. Uneasily. I realized I didn’t know most of them.” I groaned. I planned on getting Lissa and me out of here before these practices really become an issue. you’re still walking. but there’s no way you’ll be able to take your trials in the spring –“ “They’re making me take extra practice sessions. he barked out orders to everyone. “Don’t take this the wrong way .” I agreed. Let’s see what you’ve been doing all the time. he had his answer. momentarily incapable of normal speech. that’s true. you really are a scrapper. taking my arm. “You actually did okay. huh?” “Ow.” “What? I just had my ass handed to me. “Not practicing.” He grinned mockingly. Dimitri.” “Extra session with who?” “That tall guy.
” I felt my cheeks burning. “What’s this? No one told me we had a guest speaker here today. earned a few sympathetic smiles from my friends. I’m pretty sure my face must have delivered that message. I stopped myself from telling him to fuck off.” A thick silence enveloped the room. I’m serious. but I hoped protecting Lissa in the real world had given me some insight. I then noticed I had a larger audience than expected. “You don’t really mean –“ The taunting smile dried up. but when he fights . Refusing to crack. I mean. Hathaway. That meant I was behind in this class too. wow. I strode up to the front of the room and turned to face the class. but not nearly as tall. That class covered the essentials of being a bodyguard and was required for all seniors. it was the third in a series that had started junior year. Actually. Today. Stan was a scary instructor. . that look intensified when he walked into the classroom and saw me sitting there. Outside the Academy. His eyes widened in mock surprise as he circled the room and came to stand beside my desk. “No. He was a little older than Dimitri. he’s all quiet and antisocial usually. however. because his sneer increased. but in a great show of self-control. “I mean exactly what I say.“Exaggerate much?” I asked. A few guardians – including Dimitri – lingered in the back of the room. Rose Hathaway. Out instructor was Stan Alto. Something else to improve my day. guardians had a lost more people to protect and . whom we referred to simply as “Stan” behind his back and “Guardian Alto” in formal settings. Go to the front of the class. I elbowed him and went on to second period.” I sank into my seat.” Great. come on. and most of the class was too awed to laugh at my disgrace quite yet. He gestured for me to stand up. If you think you’re hurting now. Don’t sit there! Come up to the front so you can help me lecture the class. What a privilege! How very generous of you to take time out of your busy schedule and share your knowledge with us. . and he always looked pissed off. come on. you’re going to be dead when he’s done with you. “Well. I gave them a bold look and tossed my hair over my shoulders.
. I suppose you slept during the day and stayed on guard at night.they had to train novices.” I swallowed back more swear words. . “We never ran into any Strigoi.” I said.” he repeated in a high-pitched voice.” “Er .” “My . but after getting beat up in the last class. I now suspected I couldn’t have survived an attack by Mason. seeing as how you’re still alive. . strolling back up to the front with me.” I replied stiffly. “So what’d you do? How’d you make sure she stayed safe? Did you avoid going out at night?” “Sometimes. Did you use Carnegie’s Quadrant Surveillance Method or the Rotational Survey?” I didn’t say anything. “Enlighten us about your protective techniques. Stan started pacing in front of the class.” I wanted to shout that maybe I could have defeated a Strigoi. you wouldn’t know that because you weren’t here.” said Stan cheerfully. techniques?” “Of course. .” he said with a snicker. “Obviously. “So Hathaway.” It was the Kirova lecture all over again. making my answer sound incredibly stupid. Oh wait. let along an actual Strigoi. “I already figured that out.” That was true – especially when we’d first run away. So rather than follow any one person around. except with more witnesses. “I watched the area whenever we went out. “Sometimes. When I didn’t say anything. no. “Well than. Because presumably you must have had some sort of plan the rest of us couldn’t understand when you tool an underage Moroi royal out of the Academy and expose her to constant Strigoi threats. needing to defend myself.” “No? but that’s one of the first things mentioned in the chapter on solo guarding. . We’d relaxed a little after months went by with no attacks. “Oh? Well that’s something. they worked shifts guarding the school as a whole and monitoring classes.
I’m guessing you used the Hathaway Glance-Around-When-YouRemember-To Method. Some Moroi don’t ever wee the point of running anymore and are simply turning Strigoi by choice. You might have more speed and strength than a Moroi or a human.” “. Looking away from him. Desperate Strigoi have attacked Moroi in public. “Yes.” I shot back. so do the dhampirs. . nothing. “Moroi blood. “I didn’t catch it. I tried to focus on something else. “Because you got lucky. . I could smell coffee on his breath.” He nodded in satisfaction and took a few steps back. My eyes rested on Dimitri and the other guardians. There are Strigoi who have lived for thousands of years and fed off generations of Moroi. isn’t she?” He walked back up to me and leaned towards my face.” “No!” I exclaimed angrily.” “Strigoi aren’t lurking around every corner out there. “That’s not true. It makes them stronger and harder to destroy. . and they are powerful. They’re almost impossible to kill. stone-faced. They’ve turned to the dark side to gain immortality. compared to a Strigoi. She’s still alive. And that is why Moroi numbers are dropping. They seek it. and they want to do whatever they can to keep that immortality. “It’s not like what we’ve been taught.” “Safer? Safer? We are at war with the Strigoi!” he yelled. They were watching my humiliation. but you are nothing. They are deadly.“Ah. They’ll kill and drink from a human or dhampirs.” I whispered. I watched her. They aren’t strong enough – even with guardians – to protect themselves. And do you know what makes them more powerful?” No way was I going to let this jerk make me cry. “Moroi blood! Moroi blood makes them stronger. “What was that?” asked Stan loudly. “One of them could walk right up to you and snap your pretty little neck before you even noticed him – and he’d barely break a swear doing it. Groups of Strigoi had raided academies exactly like this one. he was so close. but they want Moroi blood more than anything else. And as the Moroi disappear . “ I finished. It does. .” I spun back around to face him. . It’s safer than you guys make it sound.
“It looks like you learned something after all. We’d have no classes for half a semester. The senior-year field was the best part of a novice’s education. Instead.” Ouch. Now we’ll have to see if you can learn enough to pass this class and qualify for your field experience next semester. I spent the rest of that horrible class – in my seat.” he said. . licking sprayed spit off his lips. thankfully – replaying those last words in my mind.“Well.
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