Interlude: Manira

Manira found herself staring at the closed door long after Jamian and her friends had left. The little goblin was tasty, so sure he was hated that the slightest bit of affection would make him hop with joy. If she survived this, perhaps she’d turn her attention to him, or his friend with the tusks.

If she survived this. That was, of course, the question. Regine would be well within her rights to challenge her over this, and hampered as she was by this body, Manira would probably lose.

Of course, this body was still a Student, which meant that the matter was in the hands of Manira’s Mentor, who happened to be in Regine’s coterie. But Linden-Blossom, too, would be well within its rights to hang Manira out to dry.

How had everything gotten so messy? She paced her room, feeling at the edges of the geasa Regine and Solom had wrapped around her. She’d never anticipated, when she swore those oaths, that she’d end up in a situation that could threaten all of it. She’d never anticipated that the real Manira was anything more than simply human.

Well, here she was, and here it was. If Regine or Linden-Blossom somehow didn’t kill her, they might expel her. Then all she’d have to worry about was her mom – Manira’s mother. And hope that, somehow, Mom wasn’t also a half-breed. Outside the school, it should be easier to keep up appearances.

If she survived. If Regine expelled her. If she wasn’t forced to break her oath and divulge what she really was. If Reid didn’t manage to repair enough of the damage done to Ambrus’ mind so that he divulged what she really was.

She hadn’t thought that repair was a possibility. Her skill with minds wasn’t very strong, so she’d settled for bashing as big a hole as she could, hoping that she’d eliminate any part of his understanding of what she was, hoping just a little bit that she’d left enough mind left for him to recover his personality eventually.

But there Solomon had been, painstakingly repairing the boy’s mind. She’d refused to tell them what she’d done, thinking that without a road map, he couldn’t undo it. But he wasn’t, so much as he was simply recreating a mind that he had, apparently, spent a lot of time inside over the last twenty years.

“Furious” didn’t begin to explain the Math professor’s emotions towards her. She’d never encountered anyone as angry as Solomon had been, burning low and cold and implacable, but then she’d tasted Regine’s emotions. The fury inside that dry-toast exterior had bowled Manira over. How did she keep that much emotion locked away normally?

She’d stood in front of them, holding on tooth and claw to her sweet-farm-girl persona, lost and befuddled and oh so apologetic. She hadn’t expected the cameras, any more than she’d anticipated anyone being able to fix Ambrus. She hadn’t thought Regine would care at all, either, more than the minor inconvenience of having to retrain her pet. Certainly not that much.

She had, she was forced to admit, not really thought through much of this very well. Life as Manira, out there in the real world, had been a pleasant vacation, with a few privations that had been well-balanced by having her every need well taken care of. She’d actually enjoyed the 4-H club, the quiet farm life much like a childhood left behind in the dust of history. She’d found being sweet and innocent a novel challenge. She had, for the last few years, nearly forgotten about the larger world of the Ellehemaei.

She’d gotten soft, and, as her first Mentor had told her, ages ago, as she’d then told Linden-Blossom’s parent, getting soft led to getting squished.

She stared at her closed door. She’d made several mistakes, underestimated the Director, the half-breed boy, and the rest of the staff. Any one of them could get her killed. Worse; any one of them could cause her to break her oaths. How was she going to get out of this?

“Think, Manira.” When she applied herself, this little half-breed human mind was brighter than she remembered being as a Daeva. That shouldn’t be possible, should it? Did the little whelp have Grigori blood in her? And, if so, should that even matter?

She shook her head, clearing the distractions, and planned.


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