Part Three

    Schuldich couldn’t say that he was happy to be back inside of Rosenkreuz, but he was extremely happy to get Whitey off of his hands. The Rosenkreuz staff that had come to greet him had taken the boy with them to clean up his face and set about working on his mind. Schuldich had expected to receive orders to turn around and get on a plane to Iceland, but they brought him back to the school with him. He figured it was so they could hear what Schuldich had to say about the Irish kid. They had not called upon him yet, so he had wandered down the hall to the bedroom he shared with six other paths, only one of them a telempath like himself. They still had two years left to go before they joined the Inquisition, as they had not skipped ahead like he had. He sprawled out on his bed, noting that it was as hard as he remembered it, and stared up at the ceiling.

    The school hadn’t changed in his four and a half month absence, not that he had expected it to. The halls smelled of fear and death and everything around the school for a mile was dead. The halls were crowded with kids of all ages and Talents, all dressed alike and all with a hungry, malicious gleam to their eyes. They were in various stages of being twisted and broken by Rosenkreuz, the good kids gone as far bad as possible. Schuldich had drawn stares as he wandered down the hall, dried blood on his shoulder and streaked through his hair. He was well known at the school, one of few that did not just become another face and rival in the crowd. Everyone knew him because he was one of the instructors’ favored ones, because he had jumped two ranks to become part of the Inquisition at the age of sixteen.

    They all wondered what he was doing back early; he could hear the suspicion and questions in their thoughts. He had offered them a lazy smirk and cold eyes and they had pretended to go back to their business. Their thoughts had lingered on him, however, as they wondered what could have called the youngest member of the Inquisition home before his circuit was through.

    At length he pushed himself up from his mattress and grabbed at his bag, pulling another shirt clean so he could get out of the bloodstained one. He chucked his dirty one aside and tugged his hair to his face, examining the locks. The bathrooms would be empty at this time, he knew. Showers were done at specific times depending on what rooms one lived in, but there were a few hours when none used the bathing facilities. He didn’t have the luxury of showering, as he could be called upon by the medical staff or the head instructors at any time, but at least he could wash the blood out of his hair in the sink. Shoving himself off of his bed, he made his way down the hall to the showers.

    He managed to get the drying blood out of his orange locks by leaning over the sink and dousing the strands with water. When he was satisfied with it, he made his way down the hall again. It was late afternoon and he had not eaten since early morning, but the dining hall was open only at certain times and this wasn’t one of them. It hadn’t meant anything to him before, because his classes always catered around those times, but now he found himself annoyed by the inconvenience. He supposed he had gotten used to life outside Rosenkreuz, where he could eat whenever and whatever he wanted.

    The outside certainly smelled better, anyway.

    He wandered down the halls, wondering what he was to do with his time. In the end he opted to look for Herr Zimmermann to talk about being reassigned to a different Inquisition team. He didn’t think the man had classes at this hour, so he made his way to the professor’s office. Zimmermann was one of the instructors that liked Schuldich the best. He had had Schuldich in several classes, as he taught both beginning and very advanced lessons. Schuldich had started at the bottom and bounced quickly to the top, so that instructor had been one of his main teachers. Schuldich didn’t care much for the older man, but it helped to be liked when one wanted a favor done.

    He knocked only once before opening the instructor’s door, a trick that had gotten him both beaten and yelled at many times in the last five years. It was something he hadn’t changed, and he figured the professors should just be glad that he thought to knock.

    Zimmermann didn’t have to look up to know who had just entered his office; none others were so bold. “Schuldich,” he said, looking up from the papers he was going over. One hand reached up, pulling the small glasses off the bridge of his pointy noise. Schuldich closed the office door behind him and moved to a seat, standing before it until he was gestured to sit. He lowered himself to the hard chair in a lazy move, crossing his legs at the knees and folding his arms over his chest. It was a damn uncomfortable chair, and had been one for five years. Schuldich visited this office more than any other, as Zimmermann was the main instructor for telepaths and therefore was sometimes in charge of handing out punishments. Liking Schuldich had never stopped the man from trying to beat some obedience into the German’s hide. “What sort of trouble have you gotten into this time? You aren’t supposed to be back here for another month.”

    “Got sent back early,” Schuldich answered, casting his hair over his shoulder with a shake of his head. “Found a Talent that needed to be taken back with accompaniment and the staff didn’t put me back on another plane to Iceland. Figured I’d stop by and see if you missed me,” he said with a wide grin. “Sir,” was a belated addition.

    The aging man regarded Schuldich with a steady look. “And what, might I ask, do you want from me now? You’re an insolent thing to come asking your instructors for favors, you know. Anyone else would be kicked from our offices before they got the words out of their mouths.”

    Schuldich just smirked, leaning backwards against the unyielding back of his chair. “I want a new Inquisition group.”

    “Is that so.” Zimmermann put his papers onto his desk and leaned back into his own chair.

    “They’re going to need new members, anyway,” Schuldich said, lifting one shoulder in a shrug. “Our new Talent killed Timon. It’s not like I’d be the only change made to the group. Besides, the medics made me stay here to wait on this new kid and the team’s going to need members quickly before they fall behind on the circuit.”

    “It killed Timon?” Zimmermann asked, arching an eyebrow at the many years younger telempath. A frown curved his lips- not in regret over the death of a former student, but in interest that the telepath had been murdered. “What, pray tell, is it?”

    “Haven’t got a clue,” Schuldich answered, baring his teeth in an unpleasant smile.

    That, if anything, got the other man’s attention. Zimmermann’s frown deepened and Schuldich felt a brush against his shields. It would be no trouble for the man to get through them, being several ranks above Schuldich as a telepath, but the professor rarely broke anyone’s shields unless he was punishing them or proving a point. No one would dare refuse his entry; he wasn’t really asking to be let in, he was ordering that they lower the shields. So Schuldich let them drop, let the man come inside and see what kind of person Schuldich had brought back from Ireland. Schuldich hated the feel of letting the other telepath into his mind, hated the disorientation it brought, but it wasn’t like he could tell the man no. He still needed the professor’s approval to be reassigned.

    He kept his eyes glued on the teacher’s, refusing to close them under the mental rummaging. He stared at the instructor and the instructor stared through him, sifting through the past few weeks. When Zimmermann was done he lowered his gaze to his desk, studying his glasses were they were placed to one side. Schuldich pulled his shields back up, waiting for the professor’s response. At length the older telepath rose from his seat, reseating his glasses on the bridge of his nose.

    “I am going to go see this child for myself,” he said, his gray eyes meeting Schuldich’s once more.

    The younger telempath rose from his own chair at the obvious dismissal, grateful to be standing again because the hard wooden chair had been hurting his ass. He frowned, studying his professor as he started towards the door. He had the strong suspicion that the other Talent knew what Whitey was, and only the knowledge that he would be fussed at for asking kept him from voicing the question. It burned the tip of his tongue and he opened the office door, letting Zimmermann through first. At length he asked, “And my request?”

    Zimmermann wasn’t really listening to him; he dismissed the words with a wave of his hand. “I’ll think on it,” was his absent response, and he started down the hall. Schuldich watched him go before pulling the office door closed.

    “Feh,” he declared, crossing his arms over his chest once more. He felt dissatisfied with the meeting. Zimmermann knew what Whitey was but he wasn’t going to share that with Schuldich, and while he had said he would think about requesting Schuldich to be reassigned there was no guarantee that he would do it. He hadn’t seemed overly pleased by the favor, probably because there was paperwork involved and no team wanted to have Schuldich on it. Pleasing one team by removing him meant annoying another, and while no one would refuse him, it could cause problems.

    But damn if Schuldich had to go to Iceland. He scowled, leaning against the wall. His team had only two telepaths now; they would either be there forever as they tried to get the work done or the added members would be shipped out tonight. If his team was flying out tomorrow morning, they would need the extra paths tonight or tomorrow morning. That didn’t give Schuldich a lot of time to convince Zimmermann that it was best to put him on a different team.

    As he turned around, debating what to do now, he caught sight of another man loose in the halls. The man had to be several years older than him and wasn’t wearing the uniform Rosenkreuz required. He wasn’t a student or a member of the Inquisition, nor could he be a professor. He wore nothing that declared his rank or gift, and was dressed in khaki slacks and a dark gray dress shirt. Schuldich frowned, reaching out towards the other man’s mind to figure out who he was and what he was doing there.

    His brush slid along a cool shield, and he blinked in surprise. He couldn’t hear the other man’s thoughts. He couldn’t read anything from him. After dealing with Whitey dropping out these last few weeks, it irritated him that someone else could shield himself so completely away from Schuldich’s touch. He was used to being a powerful telempath; he had seen through and broken through many shields in his years here. But the man’s shields were cold to the touch, almost, and another brush told Schuldich that they weren’t coming down any time soon.

    The man felt his mental touch and turned his head in Schuldich’s direction. Cool golden brown eyes met Schuldich’s. There was an assessing look in those eyes that Schuldich could feel even from this distance of fifty feet, and he sent the other man a cold smirk. They stared each other down for countless minutes, and in the end, Schuldich saw the ghost of a smile curve the other’s mouth and the other man turned and walked away. Schuldich’s smirk gave way to a sneer and he decided to head to the library. It was the only place he could go, really, besides his bedroom, and he didn’t want to head back there.

    He let himself through the double doors, making his way to the history section and wandering the aisles there. He flipped through several books before settling on one to bury himself in, taking it to one of the tables and losing himself in the pages. The library had its own shield around it to help the Talents when they chose to study there; it dimmed the voices for the telepaths, the emotions for the empaths, and so on. Such things were very distracting when one was trying to read a book, and many Talents wandered here not just to study but also to take a break from their gifts.

    The shields didn’t keep Schuldich from hearing his summons, however. He had just made it to the second chapter when a deep, gravelly voice inserted itself in his mind and ordered him down to the Cabinet’s chambers.

    “Ah, shit,” Schuldich muttered, flipping his book closed. What could the Cabinet want with him? The three made up the ruling body for Rosenkreuz, and being called before them was a very serious matter. Schuldich had gotten himself in trouble many times in his five years, but never had he done something so serious that he was called before the three. Those that went before them were never the same afterwards, and most tried very hard to keep from catching the Cabinet’s attention.

    He wondered if this had to do with Whitey and he abandoned his book to the table, vanishing out of the library and heading towards the Chambers with quick strides. Maybe they were dissatisfied with him- maybe he was useless and Schuldich should have known that. Maybe they were mad that Schuldich hadn’t stopped him from tearing his own face open. Maybe they were mad that Schuldich hadn’t stopped Whitey from killing Timon, not that the telempath had had much control over that matter. The Cabinet’s punishments didn’t always have to be reasonable; they just had to be an example so no others would cause problems.

    The door was opened for him as he approached, swinging inwards to allow him into the Chambers. The three of the Cabinet were at their seats, sitting at desks high off the ground. Stairs led up to the platform their desks rested on, and they stared down at Schuldich as he entered. The metal door closed behind him and he stepped further into the room, trying not to cross his arms over his chest lest he look insolent and settling for making fists at his side. Whitey was sprawled out on the floor at the base of the stairs, and several medics and Zimmermann stood around the prone figure. The blood had been cleaned off his face and stitches lined the gashes that traveled from eyebrow to cheek bone on the left side of his face. His mind was silent, lost in the strange sleep he had used in Ireland.

    “Sirs…” Schuldich offered in uncertain greeting.

    The Second, Amalthia, beckoned him closer, leaning over her desk to point down at the still form. Schuldich closed the distance between himself and the Irish teenager in obedient silence, stopping just beside the younger Talent. The rest of the staff moved away, stepping off to the sides so only the white-haired youth was between Schuldich and the Cabinet. “You don’t know what this is, do you?”

    Schuldich wondered if that meant they were displeased with the find. “No, I do not, sirs.”

    “He is a Nightmare,” came the response. It was the First that spoke this time, propping his chin on his elbow as green eyes stared down at Schuldich.

    Schuldich wanted to say “That’s an understatement,” but he managed to bite the comment off before it got uttered. He didn’t think the three would appreciate sarcasm. Instead he said, “I have not heard of them before.” They had been taught about the Talents in their classes, but there had never been lessons on Nightmares.

    “We do not teach the students about them,” the Second confirmed. Schuldich wanted to ask why, but questioning the Cabinet on the way they ran their school would probably be a dangerous thing to do. He remained silent, keeping his blue eyes on the child he had brought back from Ireland. “When you found him, he was like this?”

    Schuldich suspected they had already gotten answers from Zimmermann, but he answered the question anyway. “He was. The doctor told me that he had been in full restraints for six years and had been catatonic unless approached, upon which he would wake and try to kill whoever had intruded on him.”

    “You woke him up.”

    Were they mad at him for waking the child? “My orders as part of the Inquisition were to find Talents and bring them back for Rosenkreuz, sirs. I woke him up because I did not know what he was and I thought it would be easier if he was awake for the trip.” He had figured the boy would wake anyway once he was freed and moved…It wasn’t like he went out of his way to wake the boy from such an unnatural rest. “He slept again once we reached Dublin, lying down the day after we arrived and waking up when telepath Harriet returned.”

    “What woke him then?”

    How should he know? “We were talking about him. That is my only guess, unless it was the presence of a third telepath that made him wake.”

    “He killed Timon.”

    It wasn’t a question but it required a response anyway, and Schuldich wondered how to answer it without putting the blame on himself or overemphasizing that it wasn’t his fault. “Timon wanted to know what gift the Nightmare had. I had told him I could not recognize the mental signature and he chose to investigate for himself. I had touched the Talent’s mind before and knew the consequences of doing such a thing, and warned Timon against it. He did not heed the warning and he died shortly after touching his gift to Whitey.” He glanced towards Zimmermann, trying to read the man’s expression. The instructor’s face was carefully blank, and Schuldich returned his eyes to the Irishman. “He did not stir.”

    A Nightmare? What was a Nightmare? He supposed the name went well with the gruesome images the child had shared with the Inquisition team, but there had to be something more that made him a Talent worth acquiring. Or was he not worth it? Was he a gift gone mad, a waste of their time? Had he brought a powerful Talent here who could just hurt others like he had attacked Schuldich’s team? Even if he hadn’t known any better, it could be counted as an offense punishable by the Cabinet. He wondered if he could ask for more information about the gift but he wasn’t suicidal enough to present the question to the Cabinet. He would have to wait until later; perhaps he could get answers out of Herr Zimmermann.

    Silence stretched between them. Schuldich stared down at Whitey, wishing he could give the body a hard kick for the past few weeks, for the gory images that would haunt him the rest of the life, for the power that was so great it had put his entire team on edge. He didn’t want to wake the boy, though, and somehow he doubted the Cabinet would like it if he acted on his desire. But then, he didn’t even know if the three wanted the Irishman here.

    “Did I act wrongly in bringing him back?” Schuldich inquired at last, gathering up his courage to ask. If he was in trouble, he’d rather know now than sit through an entire interrogation before getting punished.

    There was a soft, amused laugh from the Third. “Not this time,” came the dry response. The relief that followed such a comment was almost painful. Schuldich kept it from his expression, allowing himself to gloat mentally even as his expression remained calm. “You will, perhaps, be disappointed to hear that you will not be traveling to Iceland.” Schuldich’s gaze lifted from Whitey to the Third’s desk, picking a spot a few feet down from the Cabinet member’s desk to stare at. “A brush with a Nightmare is a dangerous thing, and the medical staff will need to have a look at you. You spent the most time with him out of your team. Your team needs telepaths immediately, and you will not be finished in time. You are still a part of the Inquisition, but you will be assigned to a different team.”

    Schuldich couldn’t hide the way his mouth quirked into a pleased grin and he lowered his face towards Whitey once more in an attempt to hide the expression. “As the Cabinet wishes,” he said. So something good had come out of the powerful brat after all.

    “You will accompany these men to their rooms,” the Third said, gesturing to the doctors. The three started towards the door and Schuldich followed after them. Only after the metal door was closed behind him did he laugh and stuff his hands in his pockets, rather delighted with the way things had turned out. Whitey was under the Cabinet’s control and he would find a different team. He would never see the white haired bastard again and he would not have to return to Harriet and the others. Life was good.


    Schuldich was at Rosenkreuz for three days. He was told the name of his substitute and Timon’s replacement the first night and he watched them leave with not a little satisfaction. For three days he was in a sort of limbo. He had nowhere to go and nothing he was required to do outside of the daily visits to the medics’ hall. Everyone was still talking about his return. Very few things were secret between the students considering the gifts they all had, and everyone knew that he had not returned to his team and was making frequent trips to see the doctors. The guesses and rumors were all far off, and most dealt with the idea that Schuldich had finally fallen. They liked the thought that the telempath who had risen so quickly through the ranks and who had made a good majority of the students’ lives hell had been finally pulled down a peg or two. That first afternoon there Schuldich had been told by the doctors that he was not to tell anyone about the Nightmare, which left Schuldich with no real explanation for why he was back inside the school’s halls. On the one hand, he resented it because he had to listen to a constant murmur of amusement and was sent derisive looks when the others thought he wasn’t looking.

    On the other, he’d rather not get into it because he himself didn’t even know what a Nightmare was. It would be hard to justify his return and the approval of the Cabinet if he didn’t even know what Talent he’d brought back. He’d asked Zimmermann a couple days ago but the professor had simply told him to forget about it. When Schuldich had opened his mouth to protest, he’d gotten a mental zot for the effort and had retreated to his room to sulk.

    He had spent the majority of his three days in the library, since he had no desire to wander the halls aimlessly and had no classes to attend. He had been moved to a different room, taking the spot his replacement had abandoned, because he found out the first day that someone else had been moved to his old bed. He didn’t care much at the rotation, as he didn’t like his old roommates. He didn’t like anybody at Rosenkreuz, come to think of it, but very few people here did form real attachments to classmates.

    He was reading in the library the second day when two other students sat down at the other side of his table. He didn’t recall inviting them, so he lowered his book and lifted his gaze to their faces. One was an empath, a student who was supposed to be a rank above him but instead was a rank lower due to Schuldich’s jump. The other was a pyrokinetic on Schuldich’s standing who was on a brief break between his Inquisition circuits. That was what Schuldich could tell from the pins on their shoulders and the outer edges of their thoughts; he did not know either of them personally and couldn’t remember seeing either of them in the hall. He thought he might recognize the empath’s mental flavor but he had bothered to learn very few people’s names here. They were all prey and toys, and he didn’t want anything to do with them except fuck them over.

    “Schuldich,” the pyrokinetic greeting, a thin smile curving his lips. He couldn’t hide the amusement from the cool brown eyes that met Schuldich’s gaze, however.

    Schuldich wasn’t surprised that they knew his name. He may not know anyone else but the others couldn’t help but know him, both by reputation and by name. He’d been in trouble several times and caused enough trouble that even the newest students knew who he was and what he’d done. They knew that if they crossed him and he broke the rules to get them back, if Frau Adeline was present she might just watch with amusement. She was just another one of the professors that had taken special interest in the orange haired telempath, and she was one of the two that wouldn’t punish him for anything he did.

    Schuldich returned the smile with a cold smirk, feeling his face smooth into the familiar expression of one who had just found a new toy to play with. Blue eyes were half-lidded and lit with lazy delight as he looked from one to the other. His gift pressed outwards, melting up against their shields. They were decent shields, more so on the empath than the fireball, but they wouldn’t be any trouble for him. “Did you want something?” he asked.

    The empath was watching him, and Schuldich knew the other teenager was judging his aura. Schuldich’s smirk widened as he turned his attention back on the pyrokinetic, placing a small aural mirror within the first layer of his shields. He had very good shields; he’d started them himself and built them as thickly as he could, and two of the telepathic instructors had taken extra time to help him put another layer on it. With a gift as strong as his was now- and that was still growing- he needed to have thick shields. His empathic guard wasn’t as strong, but there were ways around it. The mirror was one of those, taking the emotions of the one searching him and relaying them back, albeit a bit tweaked. He added a bit of cold amusement to the pool and put the mirror where the empath could find it. The other teenager was young enough that he wouldn’t think to look further.

    Idiots. They were all idiots.

    “I’m Uralin, member of the fifth circuit of Inquisitions,” the pyrokinetic said. The real Inquisition was made up of only the telepath and precognitive teams, as they were the ones who could find other Talents the easiest. The others that were chosen for Inquisition duty, such as the pyrokinetic sitting before him, were generally given clean up duties. It was closer to the real work that everyone was fighting for, and perhaps more entertaining than the work the telepaths were forced to do, but the Cabinet favored the telepathic teams.

    Schuldich arched a brow at the older man, propping his elbow on the table and perching his chin on his hand. “You have three seconds to tell me why that’s important to me.”

    “Word in the hall is-”

    “Bing, time’s up.” Schuldich lowered his arm and picked up his book, blue eyes searching for his spot. The pyrokinetic didn’t stop, but Schuldich wasn’t really paying attention to him. The man was just voicing everything that had been in everyone’s thoughts the past few days, and Schuldich let it drift in one ear and out the other as he went back to reading. He let the man go on for a minute or two longer before finally peering over the edge of his book. “Are you still here?” he asked, interrupting the older teenager easily.

    The man smirked at him. Schuldich gave him points for being bold even if he scored negative on the brains scale. “You might as well stop pretending to be ignoring me,” the pyrokinetic said. “Everyone knows-”

    Schuldich set his book aside. “Look, Urethra, whatever your name is…” He was given a Look for the name but he ignored it, unconcerned blue eyes locking with smug brown. “Maybe this is hard for the uneducated to grasp, but I’ll speak slow so you don’t miss anything. I like reading. Reading is hard to do when there’s a brainless fuck sitting across from you talking. Do you understand that concept or do I have to break it down again for you? I do? Let’s simplify it again. Go jack off somewhere else and leave me alone before you start annoying me, because you don’t want to see me when I’m upset.”

    The pyrokinetic considered this for a long moment, studying Schuldich’s blue eyes and trying to judge just how close the other was to lashing out at him. Taunting was fun until the telempath actually retaliated, and he’d heard plenty of stories of what happened when Schuldich had used his gift on others. The fact that he had come here and actually baited Schuldich to his face spoke wonders of his stupidity, but there was only so far the pyrokinetic would push before he decided it was time to back off.

    He judged that time to be now and rose from his seat, giving his chair a push under the table that rocked the whole desk. Schuldich’s book slid off the edge and landed on the floor, flapping shut. Schuldich eyed it, tilting his head to one side to consider it and ignoring the parting sneer the pyrokinetic sent him. The empath rose and set his chair back more carefully, starting after his companion towards the door. Schuldich reached down and picked up his book before getting to his own feet. The pyrokinetic was feeling a bit smug over what he’d done.

    Schuldich’s mouth pulled into another smirk and he blurred out, reappearing right in front of the two as they were almost at the door. He was almost a three-power Talent, only a double because his speed was not considered a gift. It had been worked on for five years but although it had gotten faster, it remained several steps down from teleportation. He wasn’t the only one who had fallen short there; teleportation was rare and produced many more speeders than it did pure Talents. Using both the speed and his gift, he could create the illusion that it was such, however, and he did that now to materialize out of nowhere in front of his newest targets.

    That was something they never remembered, he noted at the startled look on the pyrokinetic’s face. They were all so worried about his telempathy that they forgot that he was also one fast little prick. He laced his arms behind his back, fixing cold blue eyes on the pyrokinetic as a colder smirk pulled at his mouth.

    It took just a push and he was through the older man’s shields, just in time to sense that he was about to get something set on fire. He blinked behind the pair, watching the flames explode out of nowhere where he had just been standing. A fierce kick to the pyrokinetic’s ass sent him crashing forwards. The library doors gave way under his weight and he went sprawling in the hall. The empath was trying hard not to be noticed and for now Schuldich was content to ignore him. He caught the door as it swung back, pushing it open and stepping out into the hall. It was perfect timing- the classes were ending for lunch so the halls were full. They all stopped and got out of the way when they realized what was happening. Those that started to push in annoyance were told to shut up with quick hisses and all eyes were on the pair. The pyrokinetic got back up to his feet but Schuldich knew it would be a while before he could sit down without it hurting. He would bet money if he had any that there would be a boot shaped bruise on his rear for a while.

    Flames erupted out of nowhere, and Schuldich twisted his gifts to make another illusion. He left an after image behind, relocating to the windowsill behind the pyrokinetic. The other man didn’t notice for a moment, as he was watching Schuldich’s image burn. Then the colors faded until the flames were burning nothing, and the moment the pyrokinetic realized he’d been tricked Schuldich him dealt another harsh kick to his shoulder. There was a sick pop of his arm being dislocated, and the pyrokinetic snarled as he turned to face Schuldich. One hand held onto the arm that hung limply at his side and brown eyes glared hatred up at the telempath.

    /I would stop if I were you…/ Schuldich murmured into his mind, a suggestion and an order all at once. /You don’t really want to push this any further, do you…?/

    He could see a fight on the other man’s face as he tried to force away the mental voice and the way he found himself obeying it. He let the pyrokinetic struggle, tilting his head to one side to offer a lazy smirk. The crowd was watching, enjoying the show. Schuldich had been gone for four months, and while there were other fights and troublemakers, they loved Schuldich’s fights the most regardless of how much they hated him personally.

    He stepped off the windowsill, landing lightly before the other man. /See? You’re not interested in fighting at all. Get down on your knees for me./ His empathy broke through the other man’s shield, following the holes his telepathy had made. /You want to listen to me, don’t you? Good for you…/ He gazed down at the now kneeling figure. Hatred still gleamed in the brown eyes that glared up at him; Schuldich had not made him want to obey but had made him need to, so the man could hate him all he wanted but he couldn’t get back up. /Put your hand out on the ground, palm down./

    As soon as he did Schuldich reached out, putting the heel of his boot on the offered hand. He reached down, curling his fingers around the man’s chin tight enough that they would leave bruises and tilting his head back. Blue and brown caught and held.

    “Do you still think me incompetent?” he asked the other man. The question was directed to the crowd as well. The answers were mental considerations as they watched. The answer from his current target was a heated whisper of hatred. Schuldich leaned forward, pressing all of his weight down onto the heel of his shoe until he felt bones give way. His empathy flared up and the pain was increased several times over so that the man screamed.

    Satisfied, Schuldich released his chin and rocked backwards onto his other foot, lifting his boot free. A hand flicked orange hair behind his shoulders and he planted his shoe against the pyrokinetic, giving him a push so that he fell backwards onto the floor. With that, he turned and headed back into the library. The empath fled before him; Schuldich let him go with just a violent stab of emotional pain. He could hear the hoots and excited yelling from the hall as the students continued to lunch, pleased by what they had just seen. No one helped the pyrokinetic up; he had to fight the crowd alone to get to the medics.

    Schuldich had a feeling he would be called upon later to answer for such behavior, but his amusement was too great to worry about the consequences as he started for his table. Someone was already there, standing behind Schuldich’s chair and holding the book he had been reading. Schuldich recognized the cool mental shields- it was the man he had seen when he had first gotten back. He went up to his table, standing on the other side where the two had been just a few minutes ago, and fixed blue eyes on the older Talent.

    He was ignored for a minute; the other was reading the back of the book to see what it was about. Schuldich held out a hand demandingly. “That’s mine.”

    “Not at the moment,” came the calm response.

    Schuldich touched his shields, confirming once more that it would take more than he had to get through them. It irked him, and he folded his arms over his chest. “What is with people trying to piss me off today?” he wondered, tilting his head to one side to eye the other man. The man didn’t have much of an accent to his voice, which made him harder to place. He was obviously not German or Austrian, however. He had raven hair that was trimmed neatly, save for the spiky bangs that dangled in his face. Glasses were perched on his nose to guard honey colored eyes, making him look intelligent rather than like a nerd. His face was smooth with youth even if his eyes were as guarded as his mind, and he was dressed up just like he had been the other day. Today he wore dark gray pants and a white top, and Schuldich wondered if he was someone on the administrative level, perhaps part of the staff that worked with their political branches. Fine clothes would be required for such a position, even if the man was obviously younger than the ones generally chosen for such a job.

    “I caught your show,” the other said, the edge of amusement lacing his voice. The eyes that finally lifted from the book to meet Schuldich’s stare echoed the sentiment, even if Schuldich couldn’t read the emotion from his aura. He offered the older man a disinterested stare, gazing at him through cool blue eyes. He had the feeling he was being judged and wondered who the man was to judge him. “Quite impressive. I’d ask your name.”

    Schuldich wasn’t used to not being known, though if the man was older than him by enough years he had not been at Rosenkreuz while Schuldich was here, it was an understandable lack of knowledge. “Ask anyone else and they’ll tell you.”

    “Ah, but I’m talking to you right now.”

    “That means what to me?” Schuldich wanted to know, arching a brow at the older man.

    The other uttered a soft laugh, holding out the book in offering. Schuldich reached out and took it, but for a moment his strange companion’s grip didn’t loosen. Blue eyes flicked up to meet that gaze once more as the book linked them together, held by both. A faint smile ghosted across the other’s mouth and he inclined his head slightly, as if satisfied with the exchange. With that, he moved around the table, sliding his hands into his pockets as he headed away. Schuldich turned to watch him go, a light frown pulling at his lips.

    “Who do you think you are?” he asked.

    The man paused, glancing back at him. “I suppose it depends on who you ask.” When Schuldich’s frown deepened, he offered, “For now, you can call me Oracle.”

    “Ch’.” Schuldich gave him a slanted look. “You speak as if we’re going to see each other again soon. Hate to break your heart, but I’m leaving soon for another Inquisition circuit.”

    “A bit young for the job, aren’t you?” came the amused inquiry. The man definitely had no clue who he was. Schuldich wasn’t sure whether to be offended or interested. He just offered a smirk in response, and another faint smile curved the other man’s lips. “Don’t get comfortable,” were his parting words, and he turned away again. He let himself out of the library into the hall. Schuldich tapped his book against the table, pulling his chair back and sitting down.

    ‘I caught your show.’

    Was he referring to the fight in the hall? When Schuldich came in from it, the man had been on the far end of the library. He might have been able to hear the noise, as the library shields only guarded voices on a mental level, but he was too far away to have seen it through the doors. He wouldn’t have known what happened, and therefore there would be no real reason to assume Schuldich was responsible. He hadn’t been in here when Schuldich had started the fight and brought it into the hall. Schuldich dismissed it with a sigh, fingers searching out his place in the book again. Damn pricks, all of them, for underestimating him.


    “What now?” he demanded, turning to look over his shoulder. He found himself facing Herr Thomas, one of the empathic professors and one of the teachers that did not approve of Schuldich at all. The man gave him a cold look for such a rude greeting and Schuldich muttered a few dark words mentally as he smoothed out his irritated expression. “I didn’t know it was you. Sir,” he remembered to add.

    “Let’s go.” The order was sharp.

    Grumbling because he’d just gotten comfortable and had been going to read, Schuldich got back out of his chair. He left his book behind, shoving the chair under the table with his foot. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, starting across the library with a lazy stride. Thomas’s eyes were disgusted; he rather hated how lenient some of the other professors were towards Schuldich. Schuldich was pretty sure the pyrokinetic- whatever his name had been- had stopped by Thomas to report the fight before going on to the medics’ hall. Thomas’s dislike of the German telempath was as well known as some of the others’ favoritism.

    Well, as long as he was going to get punished for putting someone back in his place, he might as well earn what he was going to get. The blue eyes that met Thomas’s gaze were disinterested to the point of insolence, and Thomas’s lip curled in a snarl. If he had had his way, Schuldich would have been killed years ago for his arrogance and disregard for authority. He turned and led the way out of the library. Schuldich followed behind him, a smirk playing on his lips as he let scorn for the professor dance through his mind. It was strong enough that he knew the man must be able to pick up on the edges of it; his suspicion was confirmed at the way the man’s shoulders tensed. They were drawing stares as they headed down the hall. Word of the fight had spread quickly, Schuldich noted with some satisfaction.

    Fuck the punishment. It was just one more in several years of it, and the fight had been worth it.

Part 4
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