The Professor of Jolas
The thirteenth Professor of Jolas worked in the University of Jolas and Obstan. He taught four subjects, had all the characteristics of a good man, all the makings of a great leader, and the thought patterns of an exceptional mind. Unfortunately, he did not -- could not -- connect with people. There were few that cared for him, and among those, even fewer that he cared for himself.
But there was somebody that he cared for very much.
He gathered his courage, and finally asked for her name and what she did. She was the fourteenth Professor of Eire. She taught six subjects, but she was confined to one corner of the 53- story university. She didn't know many of the 4000 students that didn't take classes inside her halls. But now, the professor thought, she knew one more person.
After that, the professor slowly gained her trust. He started by wandering into her halls, on the pretense of "administrative duties." He helped her when he could, and tried to help when he couldn't. In the end, he finally gathered his courage again.
She said yes.
The professor was elated. After all, in an uncertain world, there are no guarantees in life.
The boy caught the ball again. "Come on, dad! That's the best you can do?"
His father laughed. "You wanna bet?" He ran towards the boy and picked him up. "Give it here, son!"
They fell onto the grass, still laughing, and they were still laughing before the boy's brother opened the door and fixed them with his strange gaze.
The boy and the father eventually stopped laughing and sat up. The father managed to speak. "Okay then. Do you want to play?"
The brother was silent for a few moments. Finally, he spoke. "Mother wanted me to tell you. Dinner is ready."
Then he promptly shut the door, leaving the father and the son outside. A stifling silence persistedfor a few minutes.
"What is with your brother? I'm trying to help," the father managed.
"Dunno," the son said, getting up. "But I'm hungry. Race you there!"
"You're kidding," the father said to himself, getting up as well, his thoughts already far away from the boy's brother.
The professor thought about how she would react to his newest paper. It was about the unlawful practice of driving with a gasoline-powered car. Then he sighed and replaced it into his folder. There was no point in killing himself over what might happen, he thought.
He turned out the light and got into bed. There would be plenty of time to refine it tomorrow.
In later years, the father would continue to ask himself, "what have I done wrong?", even bringing himself to ask the boy's brother a few times. Each time he tried, though, he was met with steely silence and a vague answer. Sometimes, he would push harder, and when he did, the silence he received was even more stifling. He would be forced to leave him and retreat to his own quarters. Oftentimes he wept; now he could only sit down and try not to think about him. After a few times, the father couldn't even cry if he tried. He was incredibly sad now. He stopped asking, and instead tried to focus on the budding relationship between himself and the boy.
Then, suddenly, one day, the boy's brother was ready to speak, and though he did it awkwardly, as if he could not handle emotion of any kind, the father was thankful for his explanation. He knew there were no guarantees in an uncertain world.
The professor drove home from work, excited. Even the rain couldn't stop him: he had learned something new. That was the kind of thing that happened once every two years or so. And even more, it was about his paper.
No sooner than he had thought about his paper, though, the smell of gasoline reached his nose. He wondered where it was, decided it was somewhere to the northwest, then called the police.
Because he was eager for the chance to learn something else, he kept driving towards the smell. He finally stopped at an alleyway. The smell was coming from inside. He peered inside, then froze as he recognized what it meant.
Ten men... surrounding a blue car with double stripes in the front. As the professor watched on in horror, he saw one of the men bang open the door in the front, on the left side, then drag a woman out of it.
The fourteenth Professor of Eire.
The father hadn't known that the boy's brother had actually known his father before his father died. From then on, he took care of the boy's brother, if not as a father, then at least as a friend. The brother actually tried to build relationships, he saw, and he was extremely thankful. He'd even managed to get the boy and the brother to take martial arts lessons together.
They were even warming up to each other, until the father did the unspeakable.
Galvanized into action, the professor grabbed a broken pipe hanging by the alleyway and tested the balance. It would do. He charged into the alleyway, startling the ten men. He swung the pipe at the first man, knocking him out, then started at the second, who was only just coming to his senses. "Run!" he screamed to the fourteenth Professor of Eire. "I called the police just outside!"
She listened and quickly ducked out of the alleyway.
Soon, the professor was overwhelmed by the remaining six men. They searched him, finding only his half-finished paper.
"Who are you?" one man, clearly the leader, questioned him.
The professor met him with a steely silence.
The leader nodded to the man holding his left arm, and the professor's arm was twisted. He grunted in pain.
"Let me try again. Why are you here?"
The professor met him with an even steelier, stifling silence.
The leader nodded to the man holding his right arm, then he noticed a paper sticking out of his jacket. It had been his secret compartment. Secret no more, the professor thought, briefly turning the sides of his lips up.
The leader didn't notice, and picked up the paper, reading. "The fourteenth Professor of Jolas, twenty-nine as of July third, two thousand fifty-two..." He looked at the professor again, seeing the defiance in his eyes, then hearing the sound of sirens.
The criminals promptly complied, smashing his head against the ground and fleeing.
It was Saturday morning. The two brothers had had an extremely successful test last night, and were both masters of at least two martial arts now. They were eating corn flakes, like usual. The boy simply liked eating them, while the brother had nothing else to eat. They chatted quietly, waiting for the parents to wake up after who-knows-what they did the night before. And the one before that. And the half-week before that.
Their conversation was stopped as they heard footsteps coming down the stairs to the kitchen. The boys knew who it was: the father was walking down, and he seemed to be dreading it.
"Why the long face?" flew out of the boy's mouth before he could stop it.
"You haven't seen my face," the father retorted, but a quick glance confirmed that he indeed had a face with dread written over it.
He stepped down and sat down at the table. "Children, I have something to tell you."
Minutes later, the ambulance found the professor and the four men he had knocked unconscious. They took him to the nearest hospital. Sick, bleeding, and dying, life flashing before his eyes, he croaked out words that only made sense to himself.
They meant that he was sorry for pushing his brother to the side, sorry for treating his stepfather like that. He was sorry for pushing away his little sister, because his stepfather had promised not to hurt his mother more, and in his eyes, that meant not getting her pregnant. It was unspeakable.
They meant that he was glad that his father had helped him, that he was glad that his stepfather had done the same. And they meant that he was ready to go. He was strangely at peace. In an uncertain world, there are no guarantees...
But then something disturbed his peace. Memories that he must've forgotten, in his madness.
The fourteenth Professor of Eire. Why had he forgotten?
As the medical team struggled to save him, he did the same, never forgetting the face of the Professor of Eire.
The boy's brother was happy, for the first time. He had people who looked up to him, and he was proud of himself. His new title -- the Professor of Jolas -- represented all of his work through the years, represented what he had learned, and represented what he still had to learn. It was what he had been striving for almost his entire life. He was there, and he didn't know what he would do now.
Maybe, he would make a new goal for himself. He might meet someone... no, even if he did, there was no guarantee that he would be able to gather the courage. Then the newly named Professor of Jolas shook his head, smiling.
Maybe he should just enjoy life for once, even if for a little bit.
In the morning, the professor awoke to find himself in a hospital bed. He felt something by his bed, and tried to crane his neck to look at it. No, it was a person, he realized, as the said person stirred and opened her eyes.
"Yv-vette?" the professor croaked out, calling to the fourteenth Professor of Eire.
"Yvette," she confirmed blankly, blinking the sleep out of her eyes.. Then, as understanding dawned on her, she stood up.
"Nicholas?" she started slowly, then began rapidly spewing out words. "How? You were going to die! I was so worried! You need a rest! No, wait -- you need a lesson! No, you've already had one..."
As she finally got caught herself, she finally asked again: "How?"
The professor answered slowly. "Y-you.... Prom-mised."
"Yes..." she said, then walked around, rang a bell, and sat down again. "Not today, though. You need rest."
She continued talking until the professor fell asleep, then she stared at the sunrise. It was her favorite part of the day. Now, she thought, it would mean even more to her.