I looked at my teachers weathered, battle scared face for long moments, unsure of what I had just heard. From the moment I had entered the Academy, it had been drilled into my head that everything was to be done by the Book. My life had revolved around the Text for over three years, and now, here was this Instructor, a representative of the very organization that had written the Book, telling me to break the rules.
"Sir, I don't understand the request, Sir…" I said, unsure and showing it. The other students around me gasped, and tried to inch away from me without seeming to. No one had ever questioned authority like this in our class. But, then again, no one had been asked to break the rules until now. Try as I might, I just couldn't understand why I was being asked to do what he had asked me to do.
"Is there something wrong with your ears, Captain?" he asked, saying my rank as if it meant nothing, as if it was a trivial thing that could be changed at any moment. Dark anger flashed through me, darkening my tan cheeks. He noticed, but said nothing, though I could see in his eyes he knew exactly what kind of affect he was having on me. "I said, strike this boy down." He motioned to the male in question with his foot; the child, no more the twelve, was an Outsider unlucky enough to have been captured.
"But Sir, the Book clearly states that you are never to engage a child under fifteen, no matter what the race, and that you are especially not to strike someone when they are helpless." The resounding slap could be heard throughout the camp. I quickly brought my head back to it's original position without a word, glancing at the child as I did.
The boy looked up at me with so much gratitude in his yellow, cat like eyes--eyes so much like my own, only his were nearly shut because of swelling; I had not been the first to be asked to strike him, and I would not be the last. "He is nothing to you, why do you resist?" my Instructor asked, shoving the boy lower with his boot. I had to look away.
"It clearly states in the Book-" I was cut off.
"It clearly states in the Book that you are to follow the orders of your superiors, doesn't it? Half-Blood?" Again the class gasped, this time at his words.
I felt the world melting away in a haze of rage, and fought to keep myself under control, succeeding with only the barest of muscle ticks in my jaw. "Sir, I was stating a founding Rule, and-" This time I was struck with the small baton that all Instructors carried at their hip. The blow caught me by surprise, right across my right cheekbone, and I had to struggle not to touch it.
"You will strike him thirty times with your hands, or you will take thirty lashes of the whip." the old man growled, barely containing his own fury. I clenched my jaw, then winced at the pain that lanced through it. Maybe I should just… I looked again into the boys eyes, and saw real fear, as if he knew what I was contemplating.
I was a lot bigger then he, even if I wasn't much older. He hadn't been fed properly in a long time. I could do a lot of painful damage, even if I kept the blows light. I was strong, and he was not, through no fault of his own, other then being born an Outsider, and, no one would ever actually choose that…
"I will not break the Rules," I said monotone, though I gazed defiantly into my Instructors eyes, and sent the message that I was not disobeying simply because of the rule anymore. I now believed in the wrongness of the action. But, instead of shouting, the man simply smiled, white teeth flashing in the sunlight.
"Good," he said, nodding twice. "Very good, you understand." Then, the good humor melted from his face. "Thirty lashes," he proclaimed loudly, and immediately I was seized from behind. I struggled to keep my face from showing my confusion and fear. "You passed the morale test, but failed the obedience test." he added, smiling again, this time cruelly. I realized that there really was no way to win.
As I was dragged past the boy, he reached out and brushed my hand with one of his own, slightly larger, longer fingered ones. "Thank you," he whispered sincerely. Then, we were hauled in separate directions. I looked into his eyes through my entire punishment, and when at last I was released, I calmly walked over to him.