Chapter 66: Diamond on a Landmine

"I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers."

~ Khalil Gibran (1883 – 1931)

It took James a while, but he was finally able to focus on his school work enough to finish a few questions. Similarly, it took the author of this story just as long to focus enough to get that line written. After that James started to get hungry. He left his room to find Teddy and ask what he had in the fridge, but the house was seemingly empty. James wondered if Teddy had left without saying anything, but when he looked out the window Teddy's car was still in the driveway.

He walked through the house some more and called Teddy's name. It wasn't until James put his ear against the basement door that he heard music playing from downstairs. He opened the door and as he tiptoed downstairs James tried to recall the familiar melody. It was an alternative rock song that sometimes played on the radio... Everything You Want by Vertical Horizon. Teddy hadn't noticed James yet and currently sat in the middle of the dimly lit basement in a meditation pose.

It was weird to see Teddy looking so still. James would have believed that the man was dead if he couldn't see Teddy's chest move up and down with each breath. James wondered what Teddy was thinking of.

"Teddy?" James questioned softly, hoping not to startle him.

"Huh?" Teddy's head shot up and looked James in the eyes. James now noticed that the man's cheeks were wet. He must have cried during his meditation.

"What were you doing?" James asked, breaking eye contact and walking to the radio in order to turn off the volume.

"Just... meditating..." Teddy said sheepishly, his face turning red. "I like to reflect on the past sometimes. Have you ever tried it? Just put on the music and reflect on whatever comes to mind."

James shook his head. "I'm afraid I'd rather not."

"James..." Teddy stood up and looked James in the eyes again. "You asked me to train you in non-magical potions and hand to hand combat, but to do that you have to first be able to defeat your past. If you're still haunted by memories from your past you won't know how to conduct yourself when new struggles arise. That's what my master taught me. So I try not to forget my pain."

James felt like arguing, but a new thought came to him before he could say anything. If he told Teddy that he'd try meditation on his own then he could fake doing it without having to reflect on the memories he'd rather forget, in particular James wanted to forget any memories involving Krebs Projekt. James sighed, and put on a straight face in order to make what he said next sound more believable. "I'll do it... but later on my own. Besides, I don't want to meditate on an empty stomach!"

"A-alright..." Teddy said, pretty hesitant. His tone returned to normal as his mind shifted to food. "I'm getting pretty hungry myself. How do you feel about tacos?"

"That sounds great!" James followed Teddy upstairs as they walked James tried his best to keep the conversation going. "You mentioned you have a teacher. What's he like?"

"Gunnar Andries? He's a pretty nice guy." Teddy said as he rummaged the fridge for the taco ingredients. "He's really level-headed which makes him good at tactical combat. Do you want hard or soft tacos?"

"Soft please. So where is he now? Is he still alive?"

"Gunnar is on a secret assignment."

"Oh okay." James said calmly. He really didn't care much about the details anyways. He was mostly just making conversation to keep his mind off of how hungry he was. But Teddy went on.

"Since it's a secret I can't tell you a thing about the mission."

"I got that."

"I mean, I suppose I can tell you if you really want to know! But you've got to keep it secret!" Teddy said. For the first time in a long time Teddy was showing his usual smile from the time before James knew anything about him.

"You want to tell me don't you?" James asked. He couldn't help smiling a little too at just how childish Teddy was.

"Uh-huh." Teddy nodded; his Cheshire cat smile now fully visible.

"Tell me."

"His mission is to befriend and study three powerful wizards all responsible for the deaths of many. He's going to try to persuade them not to kill anymore, but if they won't listen to reason our organization has granted Gunnar full permission to kill."

"But they're wizards. How can Gunnar kill a wizard?"

"It's not going to be easy. There's a good chance Gunnar won't make it out alive, but a lot of Gunnar's combat was specifically designed to counter magic. So he has a good chance of at least killing one of the wizards on his own."

"I hope so." James agreed. "It would be great to meet Gunnar someday."

~ phantom130 5 (July 2014)