Luke found his wings flattened to his back. “What does my wife have to do with anything?”
Nehara held up both her hands. “Not your wife, sir. Gabriel. It’s just that, of course Mystral talks to her father, and of course the professor talks to the rest of the teachers…” She shook her head. “I just wanted to say, you’re not as much of a cipher, sir, as you might think. I did some studying.”
“I am beginning to guess that I should have expected that.” Mike would say he’d gotten his feathers ruffled. Luke took a breath and tried to smooth himself down. “What did you learn?”
“You know,” she changed the subject with a bright smile, “I think maybe there’s someone you need to see before you see Professor Lily’s class.”
“Not Gabriel? I see plenty of him.”
She chuckled politely. “No, sir-“
Luke coughed. “By this point, I think it’s probably politer if you call me by name.”
“Certainly, sa’Hunting Hawk.”
Luke flopped against the wall, acknowledging with a wry salute that she’d won that round. “You were saying?”
“I think you ought to see Professor Inazuma’s class. He’d be very disappointed if you traveled all this way and didn’t see him.” She took his hand and Luke, startled, let her. “This way, come on.”
“Yes, ma’am.” She was going to be a beautiful terror for someone or ones. When she was old enough. He resisted the urge to snatch his hand back. “Lead on.”
“Follow on, soldier.” There was something suddenly old about her voice. Luke focused on the school uniform, the red cloak and the plaid skirt. She was a kid. A student.
‘Fina had been a Student. Mystral had been a student.
Inazuma. Think of Leo. It was as good as thinking about baseball, and had the side effect of reminding Luke why he was here. “It’s been a while.”
She glanced back at him. “I imagine it has, sir.” She sounded as if she’d been through the wars. And Luke, of all people, knew what that would sound like. “I’ve heard some of the stories, of the war.” She glanced down at the ground.
“Yeah.” Luke let out a breath in a huff. “Yeah. His class is -” The school was quiet, the students already in their next class.
“Right here. First floor. Science building. Well, science and math, though sometimes we call it the Alchemy building.”
There was clearly a joke there, from her smile, but Luke had asked for more than enough explanation already. “Onward,” he said, hoping this wasn’t going to blow up in his face.
Nehara watched him for a moment, seemed to brace herself, and opened the door.
Luke was too busy paying attention to his guide’s body language – now, now she had to brace herself? – and thus almost missed where they were.
Leo’s enthusiastic “Luke!” brought him right back. “Luke! I didn’t know you were coming!”
“Surprise visit.” He couldn’t help but smile, and, at that, he noticed Nehara was smiling as well. He turned his attention on Leo. “So, I hear Professor Inazuma has a reputation around here.”
Stupid, stupid. He wasn’t here to challenge the kid. He folded his wings and kept talking before Leo could take too much offense. “It looks like you’ve done good things here.”
Mike would have been proud of him. Well, probably not, considering he’d made the mess in the first place, but Leo grinned. “Isn’t it awesome? Nehara’s been showing you around?”
“She has.” He nodded at Nehara. “It’s been quite the education.” He looked around the classroom. “Science, then?”
“Earth science! We’re studying climate and weather today. Do you want to sit in?”
Luke glanced at Nehara, who shrugged cheerfully. “Yeah. That sounds fun.” Much to his surprise, there was a chair waiting near the back that could comfortably accommodate his wings.
“Great! All right, class, this is Luca Hunting-Hawk. He was my Mentor back in school…”
“In Addergoole?” A dark-skinned girl in the front row turned to stare at him. Luke didn’t see any Changes – but that could mean anything. “You teach at Addergoole?“
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