Chapter 3: Shinogan

“Close the door!” Someone yelled.

I slammed the classroom door shut purely out of reflex, just as a wobbly bat flew towards it, hitting the door with a smack and landing heavily on the ground.

I picked up the bat by the wing. “Tell me this isn’t a person.”

“Susan was just trying out the shapeshifting potion.” Matilda protested. She was a practicing witch. Purple hair, big nose, bigger mouth and liked to ‘experiment’.

“Looks like it worked.” I said, dropping the bat onto a desk.

“Is she all right?” Mitsuo asked. “Why’d she fly out like that?”

“Well, apparently when you shift to a bat, your mind becomes a bat – she kinda, sorta… panicked and tried to escape.”

Oh, for gods’ sake. “What if she flew out the window?” I said. “Were you going to go after her with a net?”

“We would’ve found her.” She said defensively.

“She’d be out the door if I hadn’t slammed it shut.”

“At least you’re good for something other than sleeping in class.”

“I’m not the one turning my classmates into animals.”

Matilda huffed, picking up the ba – Susan – before turning her nose and going back to her group.

Most people thought psychics and mediums and all those mystical people were one in a million. They were wrong. If you included all the other possibilities: exorcists, Onmyouji, priests, volhvs, vauduns, witches, sorcerers etc. etc., it was more like one in ten thousand.

Rare, but not quite as rare as one might prefer. And it was hard to be any of those special people in a society that thought, with the exception of some raving fanatics, these so-called special powers were either total crap or a sign of mental illness. These people – the Gifted – needed training and a safe haven, and if they were lucky, they got it at Shinogan. The school was reputedly formed during the Heian era by Abe no Seimei, the famous Onmyouji. Over the years with internationalism and the Internet, the school had expanded and the range of education stretched until it included the teaching of Shinto arts, exorcism, voodoo, witchcraft and so much more. Currently, it was the place for practitioners to get their studies and education. Hence, bats in the classroom.

I went to my seat and sat down heavily.

“You shouldn’t irritate Matilda too much.” Dominic Giles said from his seat behind me. He was a transfer student who came in at the beginning of term, an exorcist. According to his self-introduction, he was Christian, from London, knew absolutely nothing about Japanese culture and asked if anyone knew how to get rid of those tiny one-eyed plush doll-like creatures that hid in his shoe locker everyday.

“My breathing irritates her.” I said.

“Well, one of these days she’s going to turn you into a frog.” Dominic said.

“Great. I can give her warts.”

He chuckled and went back to scrubbing at his book with what looked to be an old toothbrush. On closer inspection, the book was the Bible he carried around everywhere and it had been liberally graffiti-ed. “What happened?”

“Some snot-faced brat from church vandalized it.” The blond gritted out, scrubbing harder. “With permanent marker, the little…”

Big, block letters were sprawled over the cover in a childish trail of FREAK and BURN IN HELL. “You short-change him or something?”

“He found out I’m attending Shinogan.” Dominic sighed and threw the brush down. “And apparently, our reputation precedes us.”

“Yeah, I’m reminded of the fact I go to a reform school fairly regularly by the neighbors. That’s what happens when you can’t reveal you go to a school for the ‘spiritually gifted’ like the brochure says.” I said.

“That does make it sound like a resort for the mentally disturbed, doesn’t it?” He trailed a finger over the cover forlornly. “I’ll have to have it reupholstered.”

“You call him out on it?”

“Of course not.” He blinked big, blue eyes at me. “I told his mother. Told her how sad I was that he would be so disrespectful of the Lord and His words.” He smiled in a vaguely creepy way. “She’s very devout.”

“I bet.”

“I’ve been at this all morning. I’d ask to borrow your notes again, but I could hear you snoring in Endo’s class all the way from the back.”

“Long night. Borrow Mitsuo’s.”

As if on cue, Mitsuo suddenly appeared, bouncing onto his desk, and nearly toppling over the chair. “Guess what, guess what?”

“What what?” Dominic grinned. He always seemed to find Mitsuo’s energy entertaining.

“We’re going to have a new student!”

My mind flashed to the slimy-looking boy we’d run into in the hallway. Was it him? Were they seriously going to try with that?

“And he’s coming to our class!”

“Our class?” We both repeated, sounding like parrots.

“How is that…how does that work?” Dominic blinked. “I was told class A’s were virtually impossible to get into.”

“They are. We get the ones with too much power and potential to be allowed to roam free and wild in society. It’s the class B’s and C’s who get the students who could pass for ‘normal’, ” I said. “You were a rare case. If they’re just coming now, they probably won’t be like me or Mitsuo.”

“Like you how?” Dominic asked.

“We have legacies. Our families have been producing practitioners for generations; we usually know enough to send them here early on. Is it a guy, girl?” Mitsuo collected information the way antiques collected dust.

“Guy.” Mitsuo replied promptly. “Asian, I think. Name was kind of weird and no one knows what he is. The principal is keeping it a secret.” He said giddily. “Isn’t this cool?”

“You’ve got a weird idea of cool,” I muttered, thinking again of dead eyes. “He’ll be like you.” I said to Dominic.

“Like me?”

“You’re an anomaly that sprang out of your bloodline, luck of the draw, sort of.”

“Right. Luck.” He said flatly, staring at this mutilated Bible.

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