I walked over to the door and opened it and was surprised to see Cole stood there, I just looked at him, unsure as to what I should be saying. I could see him looking me up and down, probably assessing me to see if I was likely to start shaking or being sick again. I knew I didn't look good right now but i looked a hell of a lot better now than I had when he had last seen me. Apparently happy with my appearance he beckoned me to follow him and then started walking away, without so much as a word as to what we were doing. I quickly grabbed my keys and shut the door before running to catch up with him and he finally decided to explain what we were doing.
"I have been assigned as the teacher in charge of your detention. And although I am aware you have been through a lot in the last few hours I will not be letting you get off lightly. You knew you were breaking the rules when you went out last night and you sure as hell knew the dangers that could face you, but you decided to ignore it as if the four of you were nothing but a group of silly little school girls. But you're not. You've been trained as protectors for a decade and a half and you are all targets to a wide range of people. How do you expect a career in protecting other people if you can't even protect yourself?" He paused and I wasn't sure if I was meant to respond to that or not, if I was I really didn't know what I could say.
I knew how much I had messed up but I had never had an idea of how I would react if faced with real danger. I always assumed that I'd be able to cope and while I wouldn't be strong enough, I would be able to at least put up a fight, but last night had emphasised my weakness to myself, when I hadn't even been able to move, let alone form some kind of attack or defence. Cole didn't seem bothered by my lack of response and he carried on.
"You will spend one hour before classes and two hours after classes each day with me. Plus an additional five hours each day of the weekend. This will make 25 hours of detention a week. 25 hours which will not be wasted. I see from your reports that you've not yet attempted your Class 1 test. You will be taking that in two weeks time, I have had you booked in." I looked at him then, not that he noticed as he continued walking without so much as a glance in my direction. He'd booked me in for my Class 1? You don't just go booking people in to tests without asking them first. But apparently he did. I'd known I was in for a lot of hours of detention but 25 hours on top of regular lessons seemed a little excessive. I wisely decided to keep my mouth closed though.
"We have fifty hours of detention time before your Class test. You should already be at an appropriate skill level to take it but these will be more than enough for me to assess your skill and bring you up to scratch in the areas you are lacking. I will not be taking it easy on you, you will be assigned extra work if we do not complete what I expect during these times and you will still be expected to keep up with your usual lessons and homework. If I find you are lacking in any of these then you will have additional detention time in which you will sit and do your homework under my supervision in my class room. I assume this is not how you prefer to study and spend what little free time you have so take this as the only warning you will receive about keeping up with your class work."
He stopped and I almost crashed in to him, in an eerily similar way as to the way Tia had crashed in to me, and then Accacia, last night. I tried to push all thoughts of last night out of my head and focus on the here and now, I had a feeling there wasn't going to be any spare time for wandering minds. When I looked around to see where we were I was surprised, I'd just assumed he would be leading me to our Defence classroom, the room he seemed to spend the most time in. But instead we were in one of the gyms, the same gym that I'd been in with Cal last week, thinking back on it it seemed a lifetime ago, I couldn't believe it was only a few shorts days.
"We will be spending out five hours today focusing on your defence abilities. Judging from what was written in your essay you seem to have a good theoretical knowledge base when it comes to defence so it seemed the best choice to focus on putting theory in to practice, something that would have come in handy last night." I inwardly winced at his words, even though I'd been thinking about them all night it still stung a little for someone else to mention it so offhandedly, as if I didn't realise that I should have been able to defend myself at the very least last night, but I hadn't even made an attempt. I was just about to ask how he planned on testing my practical defence skills without another student there when I went skidding across the floor where thankfully some soft mats had been laid out.
I pushed myself off the floor feeling a little dazed and looked up at Cole who was casually leaning against the wall watching me with a vaguely disgusted impression.
"You should always be expecting attack, the best Protectors keep up defences at all times, even on occasions where they feel there is no chance of being attacked, because there is always a chance of being attacked, Protector or not. When you sense the danger you should not be putting up your shields for the first time, you should merely be strengthening existing shields." I stood up and was this time ready for him when he sent his power flying at me with a flick of his hand, but I still ended up on the floor. He'd pushed through my shields without any effort at all, clearly my shield wasn't strong enough, but he hadn't given me enough time to strengthen it properly, which I suppose proved his point that the shield should always be up.
I pushed myself off the floor again and put all of my energy in to forming a strong shield, not the rush job like I had just done and this time when he threw his power at me I still stumbled back but I didn't end up on the floor and my shield remained mostly in tact. Instead of taking time to gloat I focussed on pushing more of my power in to my shield, determined to make it as strong as I could. He threw more power at me and I stumbled back again but instead of worrying about that I continued to focus on my shield and filling it with more power. I could feel my own energy buzzing around me and it felt good, it felt strong and I felt strong. I may not have been able to do anything last night but I wouldn't be caught off guard again.
He was still leaning against the wall but he didn't look disgusted with me any more. He didn't move to throw any more power at me and I wondered if I should still be holding my shield or if I was expected to lower it. It only took that flicker of doubt to form in my mind and my shield was temporarily weakened and before I could get it back to its previous strength Cole had noticed the weakness instantly and thrown enough power at me to completely break down the power that was forming my shield.
He pushed himself off the wall and walked over to me and held out his hand to help me up from where I was once again lying on the floor. I tried to work out if this was some sort of trick to prove my lack of defence once more but when I grabbed his hand he simply pulled me up and smirked when I rolled my shoulders around to try and work out some of the soreness in them.
"Your shoulders are sore?" I nodded. "We've been in here for five minutes. How do you think they're going to feel in about five hours time?" I just looked at him. He expected me to keep throwing up shields for five hours? I doubted I could last for another five minutes. I'd never had so little time to put up shields and when I hadn't been protecting myself against attacks from a teacher, but from fellow students who were a lot weaker and had to wait longer in between attacking my shields. Apparently that was the point of today's lesson though. Get used to being unaware, outmatched and being thrown against the wall.
We'd been in the gym for just under half an hour the first time I failed to even get something resembling a shield around me and he called me over as I'd just gone flying across the room and apparently it made more sense for the injured person to walk over to him than for him to walk to me. I contemplated exaggerating my limp in an attempt to end today's session early but as we were only an hour and a half in I doubted he would appreciate that much. And knowing him he'd probably add an extra hour just to annoy me so I walked as normally as I could manage while all of my bones were aching.
"What was that?" he asked.
"What was what?" What was he talking about? He was the one that has just thrown me across the room, not the other way around. And there was no way he could have expected me to block that attack after forming shields constantly for almost half an hour.
"Your shield was non existent. I gave you more than enough time to form another one and by the time my attack came you should have at least had something ready. You formed shields in much shorter times only minutes ago." I looked at him like he was mad. He really expected me to be able to block that. I'd never spent more than a couple of minutes forming shields to prevent attack. When we were in class there wasn't the time to do long term attacks, this half an hour was probably one of the most exhausting ones I'd ever had in my life and he didn't seem to realise it. He was looking at me and I realised he was actually waiting for an answer.
"I've been forming shields practically non stop for half an hour. I've never had to do it for that long before, I've not got enough energy to form any more." He frowned at that as if he thought I was lying. Well, that was just great. I had a teacher than I had to spend twenty five hours a week with that thought I would rather be thrown across the gym instead of forming a shield. How messed up did he really think I was?
"As a Protector there may be instances in which you will have to form a shield over not just yourself, but several others and you will have to keep this shield up until you have enough energy to fight the enemy or until help turns up. Forming a defence should use a minimal amount of energy so that you can keep it up long term, keeping a shield up should use as much energy as you use when you breathe. It needs to be something that you do automatically, something your body does for survival all the time, not just when you throw power in to it." He considered me for a moment and I didn't really want to know what he was thinking, probably more about how I was clearly a complete failure. I was actually a little hurt, I thought I'd been doing good with fending off his attacks, apparently not.
"How much power do you currently have at your disposal?"
"Not a lot?" I didn't get what he was really asking but I felt really weak and faint so my answer was probably pretty accurate. As accurate as he was going to get anyway. Apparently it was not an acceptable answer though as he sighed and gestured for me to sit on the floor as he crossed his legs and sat down opposite to where I would be.
"You should always know exactly how much power you have, if you don't know then how are you supposed to know what attacks you can attempt? You could attempt an attack you don't have enough power for and waste valuable time. Time that could be the difference between you, or those that you are protecting, and death." Well, that was a cheery thought.
Cole held out his hands to me and I made the correct assumption that I was supposed to hold mine out as well. He took hold of them gently when I did and his hands were surprisingly soft for someone who spent so much time fighting other people. He closed his eyes and I took the chance to study him even though I was probably supposed to take the hint and close mine as well, it was too good an opportunity to miss. He was actually pretty good looking, for a teacher. At the moment he didn't really have the scary or creepy vibe going. Maybe that was just his eyes, so when they were open they were all you could focus on and you missed the rest of him. Or maybe it was just because he wasn't that pissed of with me at the moment. Though I kind of doubted the latter, he should be more angry with me now than ever before. But I took him for the kind of person that didn't really hold grudges, which was a good think I suppose, but after what I'd done I think I kind of wanted him to hold a grudge. I wanted to feel like I was being punished. And I know I was, twenty five hours of detention a week was not to be taken lightly, but it just felt more like a lesson than a detention. I suppose that was the point though, no point in wasting all of this time if it could be spent doing something constructive.
I wondered if the other's were doing something similar. I kind of doubted it really, the other teachers were more likely to make us write essays during detention rather than have a practical session. But I also think the twenty five hours was Cole's decision as well so they had probably got off a lot more lightly in terms of time in detention.
Cole cracked an eye open. Whoops. Apparently he could tell when I didn't have my eyes closed. He watched me wordlessly until I closed mine and I assumed he closed his as well, but there was no way to check. I suddenly felt the desire to see if he actually had his eyes closed as well but didn't risk it, best not to piss him off. He then started murmuring quietly to me.
"I want you to relax and usually I'd tell you to lower any shields you may have in place, but that clearly isn't necessary in this situation." Smart ass. "I'm going to gently push my power inside you to try and feel how much power you have and what you are using it doing, because there's no way you should be so weak at the moment." Well he was going to get disappointed but I wasn't going to tell him, he could find out for himself. I wasn't using my power for anything, he'd just have to accept the fact that I didn't have a whole lot of it to spare and his half hour of playing with shields was more than enough to wear all of my power out.
I felt it the moment he started feeling for my power, it wasn't the nicest of sensations and I actually had to fight the temptation to put up another shield, even though I was pretty sure if I tried I would have failed anyway. I got the feeling that he knew everything about me when I felt his power surround me and I wasn't sure if it was a nice sensation or not. It was getting deeper and deeper within me and I was getting dizzy, but it wasn't from feeling weak this time. The amount of power he had at his disposal was amazing, I could feel so much around me that it was making me light headed, like I was buzzed. And even through that I realised he was using probably only a very small percentage of his true power. I felt myself relaxing in to his power and letting it surround me, it no longer felt uncomfortable, it felt right and I wanted it to go on forever. And then it hit something.
Obviously it wasn't a physical hit, but I felt a mental block to his power. Where moments before it had been flowing freely within me it was now still. It pushed gently at the block but nothing happened and then pushed a lot harder, I felt some mild discomfort but the block stayed strong. Cole then dropped my hands and his power rushed out, leaving me feeling uncomfortably empty and still a little light headed from the rush of power. I opened my eyes expecting him to be looking annoyed as usual, but he was smiling.
"Looks like we've found your power." What power? He didn't find anything, or nothing that I noticed.
"What?" He looked exasperated with me once more. Well, at least it was a familiar expression.
"Your power. Did you not feel the block?"
"Yeah..." The block was me? I looked him in the eyes and had the strong suspicion I'd almost caught him rolling his eyes at me. It was not the kind of thing I ever expected him to do, too childish for him. But maybe I didn't know him at all.
"That block is a bundle of most of your power. Instead of having it flowing through your body like most people do your power is focussed within you to prevent any kind of mental attack. I tried to push through it and failed. I would be able to manage it, but not without hurting you. That makes it a powerful block and if you can let it go you will have a large amount of power at your disposal. You must have formed it to protect you from what you are scared about the most. Not physical attacks, but mental attacks. A clever idea, but you need to put that power to other use, it's not getting used in your mind, you could form a block just as effective with a fraction of the power, leaving you free to use the other power for other defences and attacks." I looked at him and wasn't sure what to say. It was kind of hard to tell your teacher that he was totally wrong, but it was best to set him straight now.
"I haven't formed any kind of block, that's not me." And this time he definitely did roll his eyes and when he started speaking to me again he was speaking slower in a slightly patronising tone of voice. But from the look on his face he was doing it on purpose to try and get a rise out of me though why I don't know.
"It's rare, but some people can form spells without realising they are doing so. If you had some kind of fear of being attacked mentally then it is possible that you unconsciously sent your power to block that at a very young age. As you've got older and stronger the power has grown but it has all been growing in the same place and that's the reason for your lack of power to push out of your body. You are so used to having it all trapped inside of you it feels wrong to push it out, which is also why you use so much energy forming shields, because you're fighting against yourself to take the power away."
I looked at him. It did sort of make sense. The teachers had always emphasised that we could be attacked not just physically, but mentally as well. I'd always been far more scared of a mental attack than a physical attack. Just the idea of someone being able to get in my head and see everything that I could see, feel what I feel, scared me so much. Plus the fact that when inside my head people could take my power away from me, and when I'd been younger after the deaths of my parents my power had been all I had. Some realisation must have shown on my face as Cole once again had that little half smile on his face. I doubted he ever had a full smile, he couldn't make himself look totally non-threatening at any point in time, that would just be weird.
"Ok Faye. You're going to have to relax and focus on the block. While you probably couldn't feel it before today now I have pushed against it you should be able to feel it clearly if you focus. Once you've found it you need to concentrate on the individual threads of the spell and loosen them to allow the power to come out. You will feel the power rushing out but you should also still be able to feel the power within your block and you will know the moment that you need to close the block again. When you feel that go with the power do what it's telling you to. You want to close the block at this point and it will still be effective as ever, but you'll also have all of the excess power that has been trapped inside at your disposal. Then we can get to work with properly developing your outside shields."
He moved back a little bit but stayed sitting opposite me and I guess he was waiting for me to do what he'd said. As if it was that easy. But he seemed to believe in me so I was willing to at least give it a shot. I just wasn't sure how to begin, I'd never even read about doing something like this, let alone actually tried it out.
I closed my eyes and tried to ignore the fact that I knew he was sat close to me and watching me intently and thoughts of him so were not helping. I decided to focus on my breaths as I took them in and out, like Rhett taught us to do when feeling our magic. I'd never really understood the whole meditating to feel your magic thing, but maybe it was just because Cole was right and I didn't have enough power on the outside for it to feel good. I listened to my breaths going in and out and focussed first on feeling the magic that was outside me as this at least was something I was used to doing.
I picked up a thread of my magic in my mind and followed as it circled the air around me and gradually got closer and closer to my body until it was touching me and then inside me. I lazily followed it towards the spell, not rushing or pushing it along, just travelling along at the same speed. It felt nice, relaxing, like I was floating along a gentle river in the summer breeze. Where the hell did that thought come from? I seriously had a problem with similes. My change in thoughts had affected my hold on the thread and I felt it slipping so I focussed on my breathing and magic once more and was once again to get a firm but gentle hold on it.
I'm not sure how long I carried on following it but I felt it when we were there. The buzz of magical energy was incredible and I couldn't believe that all of this magic was mine, that it was all going on inside me, it felt amazing. After I had got used to the feeling of the magic I focussed on finding the spell, it was there, a strong impenetrable wall that even Cole admitted he couldn't get through without seriously hurting me, so how was I supposed to do it.
The answer came to me instantly, I didn't need to break through it with force. The magic was mine, I just had to tell it what I wanted it to do. I touched it gently and the energy sizzled, I managed to pull out a single thread of the spell and gently pull it out, the whole left in the spell was tiny but I could already feel the trickle of magic escaping the block. I gently worked on the spell some more and was rewarded by the feel of a steady stream of magic escaping the block. When I was happy that the hole in the spell was large enough I let the magic come out at its own pace, I didn't want a massive hole as I knew I wouldn't be able to cope with such an onslaught of magic. All my life I'd thought that I was used to my own magic, that it could do nothing to surprise me. But the sheer volume of it was incredible and even now I felt like I was getting high on it, if I let out any more in one go I wouldn't be able to keep control of it.
Slowly I felt the path of the magic slow down and I realised that the block was now trying to cling on to the power, it couldn't lose much more without the spell collapsing, so I worked on patching the block back up until I was satisfied there wasn't the tiniest hole in my defence before I followed the last trailing threads of magic out in to the world again. I opened my eyes and saw Cole looking at me with an amused expression.
He was still in the same position he had been when I'd closed my eyes. It had felt like I'd been inside with my magic for an eternity but by the looks of him it couldn't have been for more than a few minutes. And then I noticed the windows. Where they had had sun shining through them when I had closed my eyes they now only showed the outside world with a greyish tint. My eyes searched out for the clock on the wall. It was almost 5pm. I'd been inside my own head for hours.
Cole followed my gaze and grinned as he watched me work out how long I'd been out for. It had felt like a while, but not like hours. It was disorientating to say the least. He pushed himself off the ground and held out a hand for me. I grabbed it and he pulled me up and I was thankful that he had. I was weak and felt dehydrated, which was probably true considering the fact that I hadn't had anything to et or drink all day. I couldn't seem to care though because I could feel the happy buzz of power swimming around me and I momentarily forgot about everything that was going on around me besides the feel of my magic.
"I think we better get you back to your dorm so you can get something t eat and drink. You'll have to spend the rest of tonight trying to get used to the feel of the extra power. I will come to you at 9am tomorrow and we will work on controlling and channelling the power and then we'll go back to the exercise with the shields, I'm sure you'll find it a lot easier the next time." He continued talking as we walked but I tuned it out to a dull buzz as I focussed on everything around me. Everything seemed different now and it was hard to concentrate or more than one thing at a time. I couldn't believe that I'd been missing out on all of this for my life, it was incredible. And for the first time in my life I felt like maybe I could make it as a Protector. It was something that I'd always wanted but the realistic part of me had always been talking at the back of my head telling me how few people made it.
And I knew then with an absolute clarity that I'd never felt before, I would be one of those few.