Anathema at the Academy

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Compensating Acceptance

Aiden sat in his corgi form on Mina’s bed, watching as she packed. She was so silent that he grew a little worried and changed back into his human form, laying back on the bed.

“I’m sure you’re full of questions, Mina.”

She paused, looking as if she’d forgotten he was there. The surprise morphed into a gentle, reassuring smile. “I do, but I think I should take it a little slow.”

“I haven’t met many who would leave their life behind as easily as you’re going to do.”

She looked at him again, and he could see a flash of something. “Don’t get me wrong, it hurts me to leave, but if that woman is going to give Gramps a hard time ... it’s just easier this way.”

Aiden fell silent, watching as she continued to pack. His human presence didn’t seem to bother her, so he rested against her headboard and continued observing. She was pretty, with the darkest shade of red he’d seen anywhere, and multicolored eyes that started at gold on the inside, to light blue, to a dark blue rim. He’d heard some mean things from Beatrice, and he saw nothing that indicated the monster she and others implied.

“Since you have no questions, I want to know who Mina Crow really is,” Aiden said suddenly.

She laughed. “Who am I? I’m sure Aunt Beatrice already filled you in quite enough.”

“I don’t think she did. Far be it from me to speak ill about my locus’s wife, but she wasn’t very forthcoming about you, except that you’re a curse.”

“Hm,” was all she said in response. “I’m in high school, a junior. Until very recently, I was going to be a dance instructor. I’ve been involved in dance since I was in middle school and was in color guard only last year. I like to start my day very early, with a run before breakfast. I don’t have many friends, but I also don’t have many enemies, either. I like animals, but I think my favorite is my family’s namesake. Gramps comes off as a gruff old man, but I love him to death and he has a heart of gold.” She shrugged. “There’s not much to me other than that.”

Aiden doubted that, but he nodded. “Well, when you’re at the academy, you can come see me any time. I’m the genius to the Crow family headmaster, the one who insisted you attend Umbra. He’s much nicer than Beatrice.”

She had mixed feelings about the information. For now she decided to assume that the headmaster had the best of intentions forcing her to this academy, although she wouldn’t lie that it wasn’t wanted.

Cora walked in, a white long-haired Siamese with big green eyes. She found Sebastian on the couch and hopped up with a gentle mrow.

He looked at her and gave her a small, sad smile. “Hey, Cora-bell.”

“Where’s Mina?” she asked through their link.

“Gone. You just missed her, actually. Beatrice came by, and out of concern for me, she went with her without so much as a struggle.”

Cora shifted to her human form, with coral hair and the same green eyes. “I know your concerns, Sebastian, but she’ll have to learn eventually. Have faith, and be there when she needs you.”

He sighed. “At least Saul’s genius is there with her.”

Cora lit up. “Aiden was there? How did he look?”

Sebastian smirked. “As young as he was when I first saw him.”

She pouted. “No fair. Some genii just age so well.”

He rubbed the top of her head. “You’re still very pretty, Cora. You’ve always been pretty and you know it.”

She gave him a mischievous look. “Oh, I know, but I just like hearing it.”

He chuckled, but his mind wandered back to Mina. “She took it all into stride, as if it were the most normal thing, and she’d lived with the information her whole life.”

“She’s a Crow, first and foremost. You know this, Sebastian. She’s also Graham’s daughter, and your granddaughter. Whether you like it or not, she was born for this.”

He sighed. “You’re right. Again. Just ... bear with me. It’s hard, and I know she’s going to have a hard road ahead of her.”

“Be proud. Your line of the Crows changes things, sets records, and breaks free from the norm. You forged a peace treaty between the Boundary’s Sentinels and the human hunters. Your son managed to bring the lower empyreans to a reasonable agreement to keep to the shadows and feed off the criminals in the street. The list goes on.”

“My granddaughter managed to free a terrible monster from the cells underneath the academy. She’s already off to a great start.”

Cora laughed. “The look on that prickly Headmaster van Helsing’s face was completely worth the price of admission.” She rubbed his back. “It’ll be okay. You can’t keep a Crow in the nest forever.”

The trip to what Beatrice called the Waypoint was situated on a hill that Mina never knew existed. She was currently riding Aiden, who had shifted into a horse, materializing a small cart to carry her luggage.

At first, he was giving her little cues through what he called a projected link to help her adjust to riding a horse. After only a while, she’d gotten used to it.

“So, you’re a genius, and you mentioned locus. What are those?”

“Genii are ... a little hard to explain. Little is know about our origins, but through what we call a lineage test, certain umbrae who pass it are able to select a human and allow them to use their power. There are many different relationships, just like normal human ones, but the most common is monogamous. It might sound like marriage, but it’s just simpler using those terms even though it’s not. Bigamy is taboo, and polygamy is rare. Genii are very territorial.”

“Is there such a thing as divorce, then?”

“Yes. A genius can leave their locus at any time, but a locus must have help to force a bond-break from a genius. That’s why polygamy is so risky.”

Mina hummed in agreement. A simple sentence could break the strongest bonds of trust.

They arrived on top of the hill, Beatrice waiting impatiently. “About time,” she growled. “Let’s go.”

There was nothing special about the hill, no markings or anything. Aiden, still in his horse form, whinnied, and they disappeared.

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