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As the hours crept by with Professor Faust lecturing the same thing he had two years before, Mel truly wondered how he wasn’t killed then. Independent study was still theoretically possible, but you better be paying attention when he asked you a question. Otherwise he would ridicule you then give the proper answer, even though you had answered the question right two years prior and knew it but were too focused on new content to give two shits what was being said at that moment. So you had the option to continue on your own, but it wasn’t an option anyone was likely to take.

So, Mel endured it, listening to everything Professor Faust was repeating... which only made him wonder something else. This was EXACTLY like the first time, down to the little chortle during the explanation of fire and all its wondrous uses. D... did he record it? Mel never had a problem with remembering things, but, for the most part, it was lost to depths of sanity. However, there are certain key moments that trigger those forsaken, tortured memories and salvaged them from the mire. That chuckle, alongside the soft, lecherous cackle when explaining wind sent up huge crimson flags.

Which means...

“‘Alongside the four elements, there are two others. They are both unique in how they act but are distinct in how they are manifested’,” Professor Faust... and Mel both said. They both gave a small cough to clear their throats before continuing. “‘Light and dark are both elements that fall under the Primal tree. Now, many physicists argue that darkness is the absence of light and light is all that matters. That is poppycock! Light is the absence of darkness as darkness is the absence of light. There are varying shades in between, gives und takes. Light and dark are always in a balancing act, moreso than the other elements. If you use dark, then you are taking light to do so, and vice versa for usage of light.’”

Professor Faust stopped. His monitor had been stationed in the port in the center of the room, but it took it no time to dislodge and zoom up to Mel. It had a rather pensive look on it, one Mel didn’t realize could be done with emojis, so... he at least learned something new today.

“VELL, Herr Llorwyn,” he said, exasperated, “if you know so much about the lecture, why don’t you give it?”

“It’ll give me something to do. Aside trying not to fall asleep.”

He stood, and the target of his remark cried out as she fell out of his lap onto the ground. She grumbled, rubbing her head, trying to glare his way, but he doubted she could see through her hungover veil. He walked to the front of the room, and, as if a recording himself, gave verbatim the first lesson he ever took in that class. Down to all those annoying questions to keep the seniors of the class in line. The entire time, Professor Faust’s mood on the monitor only got more sour, showing even more emojis he never knew about.

After an hour, Mel conjured himself up a glass of water. His throat had gotten parch, especially with how salty dear Professor Faust had become. Sparks were flying out of the monitor, the lights in the room flickering. The boards around buzzed angrily, rising to a whine as Mel drank deep from his crystal glass, savoring every last drop.

He finished the glass, crushed it out of existence once more, and inhaled, ready to continue.

“If you do not mind, Llorwyn, I shall take over for my class,” Professor Faust declared. “You may return to your seat.”

Mel did, and Professor Faust no longer surprised him with questions... though... Mel didn’t really remember that last part of the lecture. He had retained it, but he didn’t know it until he repeated it just then. Light and dark? Equal give and take? They really talked about that? It would make sense; equivalent exchange is one of the principles of magic. What you put in is usually the same as you get out... or was it? Was it equal to get a succubus out of a tea biscuit? That would have required a great amount of energy to be equal... just how much did he put in those biscuits? Yet another line of questions to add to his legion of them.

Including the new student.

He looked over at her, enraptured in her studies, too busy to care about their little game of cat-and-mouse... Mel could swear he has never met her before. Ever. He recalled all the faces that he could from high school, middle school, his years here... but not a single one of them was a match. Even then, she was from D.C., so his comparisons were moot. Yet he could not shake that feeling of deja vu.

Professor Faust cleared his throat, pulling hers and Mel’s attention to the front of the class.

“And that will conclude the lecture part of today’s lesson.” He stated, everyone already knowing what he was about to say. They all stood, the desks slinking into the ground, all hissing shut at once. “Now we shall move on to practice. Frau Hod, since you are new, why don’t you observe the others. See what they do, figure out how they do it-”

“I would not recommend watching me,” Mel interjected.

Faust chortled, once again all smiles. “Au contraire, Herr Llowryn, I think you are the most suited. You are primal incarnate! She could learn such great things from you.”

“Yeah. Great, terrible things... Besides, I’m not really in the best mood at the moment.”

Faust floated over to him, still smiling away.

“Don’t be so modest, Mel. I have confidence that you shall demonstrate a spell that shall truly show her the might of primal, the ferocity yet elegance it creates.”

“Elegance?” Saliim said, scoffing. “You’re talking about Mel, right?”

“It’s true. I’m as elegant as a hammer to the face.”

“Doesn’t the blood spray when it hits? Doesn’t the bone crackle and sing from the hit? Even in the most brutal and primitive of actions, there is beauty to be had,” Professor Faust said. “You say you are not in the best of moods, Herr Llowryn? Then harness those feelings! Use them to fuel your fire. Stoke the winds, churn the tide, rumble the rock! Make something beautiful out of all that is ugly at the moment.”

“I really don’t think I should,” Mel mumbled.

“If he doesn’t want to,” Janice began, shaking her head and clearing her throat. “I mean, I wouldn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable.”

“He’s just a bit nervous is all,” Professor Faust said, chortling. “Afraid to appear lacking to the lovely new lass?”

“That’s not it at all,” Mel said. “It’s... I don’t think now is a good time.”

“Now, come, Mel. That’s not the attitude a student should have in class- wait! Where are you going, Frau Hod? He simply needs a bit of- come back.” The face on the monitor turned to an exasperated sigh, matching the sound that came from the speakers. It changed into a dull appearance after, bearing down upon Mel. “Come on, Mel. You were making such beauty before; why do you refuse to paint now?”

“I... have a lot on my plate.”

“Which is exactly why you should unleash it! Let go of that stress. Explode outward instead of inward. Shake this Institute to its foundation with your stress and misery. You were cooped up all that time; now’s the time to shake free!”

“That’s all very motivational, but I just don’t feel like it.”

Professor Faust heaved another sigh and finally left him be. Mel simply stood there, leaning from foot to foot, waiting for the door to unseal. Saliim managed to find her feet at last, using him as a crutch, and how could he not? She was just asking for it... he took a step back, and she fell with a yip, grumbling as she worked to stand on her own two feet, instead.

Mel spent the time watching the other students, but grew quite bored. Sure, there were your fiery pyres and your towers of ice, but they only fit in the room. None of them were able to go outside the box... or, rather, wanted to risk it. Give and take; primal was the clearest example of the principle. You make a fire, it flickers and dies with as much energy as you put into it. You conjure water, and it remains in the air and “solid” until you let it go. Wind whips as you desire, earth moves enough; give and take.

That, however, carries over into the damage it can cause, too. You can’t just burn a house down with a single spark. You have to will the entire house to raze. You couldn’t just encase somebody in ice. You need to grow the ice on them, condense it, and hold it for as long as necessary. Give and take... Professor Faust returned to him, the smile on his screen flickering from a tepid smile to that same, dull look.

“Still not feeling up to it,” he asked Mel.

“Why are you pushing him so hard?” Saliim cut in. “He told you he wasn’t feeling it, yet you continue to pester and prod him.”

“Because I aspire to see the best from my students, and yet none of them are willing to take the leap and sacrifice what is necessary to truly become great. None of them save Herr Llorwyn.” The dull look changed to... the cat face. “Come on, Mel. Surely you are growing bored of simply watching, jah. Look at that pillar of flame; barely a candle compared to what you can do. The ice might as well be a cube in a cup of iced tea for the hoarfrost you can conjure. What kind of example are these students setting for their newest colleague? None of them are truly trying; they’re doing the bare minimum, if that.”

“You just want to see something blow up, don’t you?”

The cat face didn’t change. Professor Faust didn’t say anything, but Mel knew all too well that was the case. He heaved a heavy sigh and cracked his knuckles, knowing all too well Faust was now anticipating an answer with glee.

“All right,” he said, red lighting snapping and crackling between his fingers as he unlaced them. “I’ll do the stuff for the thing.”

The cat face changed to a cat face in absolute delight.

“Oh, wonderbar! What are y-”

The next thing Mel knew he was waking up in Professor Klan’s infirmary. It had gone down the shitter since he was last in here. Most of the stained glass was gone, with shards hanging on by a thread, blackened by soot. The walls, the frames they were housed in had crumbled, slowly rising again as smoking faeries, literally, grumbled and tirelessly put the hall and Institute back together. Guess Benjamin hit his quota for the month and it was only the first day... at least, Mel hoped it was still the first day.

He groaned as he sat up, his bones crackling and popping, the new ones forced to work with the others, given their trial by fire at last. His hands and arms were paler than he remembered; he picked up the mirror on the nightstand beside and saw that his face was, as well. His hair was once again a clean buzz cut, but then he saw his ears and how a bit of burnt flesh stuck to the lobe. It was wiped off with ease, but he couldn’t remove the scent of sizzling bacon from his nose.

“Yup. I overdid it,” he said, voice crackling like an eighty-year-old chain smoker that never missed a minute. He coughed, turned to hacks, clearing his throat of more delicious human bacon, but it didn’t taste that good coming up. Thankfully, there was also a bottle of water on the nightstand, quenching his raw, dry throat. He spoke WAY too much in Professor Faust’s class –speaking of, where was everybody else? He scanned the other beds of the hall, ignoring the angry Swiss-turned-German in white robes as she stormed over to him, and... yep. Everybody was there, though they were nowhere near as complete as him. Or were they? He didn’t look under the blanket, after a- “Where’s my dick!”

“You need to settle back down, Herr Llorwyn,” Professor Klan said, pushing him back, forcing him to lie down in bed again. “You have several hours still until you are fully healed.”

“But doctor,” Mel exclaimed, clawing at her arms, panting. His heart hammered in his chest, everything far brighter than it needed to be –and Mel realized he was still in shock. “What about my dick? Can it and his two pals be salvaged? Wait! Is it still Monday?”

“Just passed noon, and, sadly, they will be. After this stunt, I should have left you as a smoldering husk like your succubus.”

“All I feel is pain!” Saliim shrieked from the cot beside, slowly piecing herself back together.

“Guess all that alcohol only made her burn better,” Mel said, chuckling, wincing as the pain finally started to make itself known. It started off as a slow throbbing, but quickly rose into the kind of pain your whole body cringes at when you imagine somebody taking a pair of toenail clippers and crunching them down on your front teeth. Hearing them creak a moment before splintering and cracking off as your mouth fills with blood; it’s enough to make even the burliest of men cringe in terror.

Thankfully, Professor Klan abated it with soft, blue mist, lazing from her right hand onto him. It rested a moment before slipping into his pores, into his mouth and down into his lungs alongside its dissipation through his entire system. Though it was only a moment of that toenail-front teeth pain, it was enough to sap him of what energy he had left. He was fading fast back into the ether, but he still had a few more things to say.

“I need to at least be good to go by five,” he said, forcing his voice out.

“Oh really? In that case, I’ll make sure to take my sweet time... Sheisse, this went too far. Damned be nepotism, you need to pay for what you’ve done this t-”

“It wasn’t my fault this time, I swear.”

“You casted it, did you not? You should be held accounta-”

“I didn’t want to cast shit, but... Professor... Faust goaded me into it.”

The mist faded in that instant, flooding his pain with body. How dare the evil body invade his pain! He shall send the birds of flock on it for daring to pox such a deliver. Did that make sense? Why does it matter; he’s in such excruciating pain he might as well have been thinking in Japanese. She wasn’t that cruel, however; in fact, her removal of the blue mist was not out of some morbid sense of justice... but curiosity. She reinstated a touch of it, just to take the edge off, and he wasn’t sure if it was the fire still roaring outside the wall or that her cheeks were truly flushed.

“You have a class with George?” She said, and he could tell that her voice a touch higher... Softer, too. “You didn’t harm him, did you?”

“As he told me, his actual body is far, far below, so, technically, no. His current monitor is most likely fried, though. Probably jerking off his e-peen to the chaos I created.”

“So he endorses these bouts of destruction... Would you say that you two are rather close?”

“In a favorite student-fetishist teacher sort of way.”

“Good! Er, I mean, intriguing... Would you, per chance, find out what he likes?”

“Aside big ass explosions?”

“Jah wohl! I want to know what things interest him.”

“Why not ask him yourself?”

She scoffed... was that sadness in her eyes. Was there a soft side to the Klan, after all?

“I tried, but he finds my name detestable. States it has too much of a stigma for him to even be around me.”

“Now that’s just rude. What’s in a name?”

“A grand dragon, an army of wizards, and plenty of hate.”

“But we’re actual magus. We don’t care about that sort of thing –at least, we shouldn’t... unless we are, also, responsible for their rise, but I haven’t gotten that far in Poppin’ Molly’s lessons... or won’t for a long time now. Oh God, we have to start all the way at the beginning in Professor Molly’s class... Is it too late to ask you to revert me to a burning husk?”

“Afraid so. You now have a way to pay for what you’ve done... It’s good to hear you don’t like, as you called her, Poppin’ Molly, either. She and George have been growing ever closer, while she is married to Hector!”

“So... what? Want me to run clam jammer or something?”

“If you would be so kind, as well as I want you to help me get closer to George... I can show him not everything is bad with the Klan. Especially once you’re inside them.”

“And with that I’d like to be knocked out again. Did not... need to... hear...”

And he was out, ladies and gentleman and everyone else in that technicolor rainbow in between. He had two hopes for when he woke up: one, forgetting that last statement. And two, she makes good on her end and gets him all patched up by five for his date... Considering how red her face was, there was little worry about the latter, and all the dread for the former. Amazing memory, for better or worse.

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