“You teach there?” The girl was staring at him. Luke twitched his wings and met her gaze. She was maybe thirteen or fourteen, a bit of baby chub on her cheeks, and a face shape he’d seen before.
Addergoole had had something like two thousand students; he’d seen any number of faces, even if a tenth of them had looked like Aelfgar and another tenth like Ambrus. He couldn’t place the face. But the glare was definite and right here in front of him.
He flapped his wings again. “I helped found Addergoole.” There was no point in denying it.
“You made that – that – that torture-hole, and they let you walk around like a person?”
“LaKeziah.” Leo cut in, sounding adult and stern. “You can talk to sa’Hunting Hawk after class.”
“Oh, I’ll talk to him.” She gave him a nice long glare before turning back into her seat, muttering things about torturers and baby factories.
Luke pulled his wings in tight. At the front of the classroom, Leo shifted his posture. “As I was saying, Luke sa’Hunting Hawk was my Mentor, back in the Dark Ages when I was a student.” He smiled at the class, inviting them to take part in the joke.
Some of them chuckled. Some were staring at LaKeziah. One of them, a ginger boy with wide, blue eyes, was staring at Luke. He nodded politely at the boy and turned his attention back to Leo.
“He taught me how to fight.”
Leo nodded at Luke. Luke nodded back again, feeling like a bobble-head.
This was not putting on a good show. Mike would glare at him. Luke cleared his throat. “Ah. Yeah. I teach martial arts, physical education, self-defense, and basic weapons training at Addergoole. Your professor Inazuma was my student, back before the…” the world ended. But it hadn’t, had it? Not for these kids, who could have grandparents born after the conflict. Luke coughed. “Back before the Collapse.”
One of the kids, the ginger one, saved him. “What was it like? Back then?”
“Well – if it’s okay with Professor Inzuma?”
“Sure, of course.” Leofric pulled up a chair. “Chemistry will still be here tomorrow – probably.”
“Probably.” Luke took a chair from an empty desk and sat backwards in it. “You all know that fae – Ellehemaei – live a long time, right?” He saw nods, even from the angry girl. LaKeziah. He needed to remember that name. “So I was born over two hundred years before the Collapse, and my friend Mike was born more than two hundred years before that.”
The ginger boy was counting on his fingers. “So… before the discovery of America?”
“Before the white man discovered America, yes.” Luke grinned. “I think Nehara’s people – and some of mine – would say it had already been plenty discovered.”
The ginger kid coughed. “Sorry, sir. Just – that’s a long time.”
“Maybe if he’s very good, I’ll have Mike visit you.”
“Don’t you mean ‘if we’re very good?”
Luke found his grin stretching. “Nope. Not when it comes to Mike.”
“That one’s never good,” LaKeziah grumbled. Luke ignored her, in part because it too close for comfort. He nodded at the ginger kid instead. “So… what was your name?”
“So, Rueben, it really is a long time. And it’s a really long time when you’re looking at the way civilizations rise and fall.” He looked around the room, both at the students and at the room itself. “I was born in a longhouse, before telephone, television, running water, or electricity. And here we are, where most places don’t have any of those things again.”
One of the other children shifted in her seat. Luke nodded at her. She had deep green eyes and dark brown hair. “You have a question, Miss?”
“Banyan, sir. It’s… was there really a time when everyone had telephones and running water? I mean, in the enclave where I grew up, they said those things had always been rationed.”
“I’m beginning to think the enclaves teach a lot of bad history.” Luke tried not to grumble it; it wasn’t the girl’s fault. “But the truth is, there was never a time when everyone in the world had electricity or running water. But when the collapse came – when the Old Gods came back through the rifts from Ellehem – there were something like seven billion people on the planet.”
He watched their faces. They hadn’t flinched at Old Gods, although some of them made various gestures of protection. One girl even crossed herself. But at seven billion people, they balked.
“No way.” Reuben shook his head. “Seven billion? Professor Lily said three hundred million.”
“Don’t be a dork, Reuben.” One of the other boys in the year punched the ginger boy in the arm. “She said three hundred million in America.“
“Oh.” Reuben sank back down in his seat. “Sorry, sir.”
“That’s quite all right.” Luke couldn’t help but smirk. “Lots of people have made the mistake of thinking America is the world. But now – the giant nations are gone. And ‘America’ isn’t a bastion of technology anymore.”
“Do you think it ever will be again, sir?” Banyan was leaning forward in her seat. Luke took a breath and gave the question the consideration it deserved.
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