By the end of the first week, I was beginning to feel bottled up. It was fortunate that I finished my homework on Saturday because by Sunday, I could hardly sit still. I asked my guards if we could go for a run. They made me stop after four miles; it wasn’t helping anyway, so I hit the weight room. I used all the apparatuses until my muscles burned. The manager finally made me quit that too, fearing I might hurt myself. He was probably right, but I didn’t think I could do much damage to myself that way.
On the way home, I succeeded in talking one of the guards into crossing swords with me in the hallway outside my room. At first, it was fun and even a little exhilarating, but my edginess soon took the fun out of it, as I began to play a little too hard. The man had half again my weight and a few inches reach on me, but more than once I was able to press my attack too close for his comfort.
Then I decided to do something I hadn’t done since my first few weeks of lessons under Tsan. I conjured fire around my blade and held it there. The very act was like a balm on a burn. Spending magic in this way, holding flames around my blade without letting the metal get hot, was meticulous magic and it felt so good to be doing it.
My guards, however, weren’t nearly so pleased with my endeavor. They both drew their stun guns and leveled them at me. “Stop that right now,” said one.
I did. “Why? I’m not going to use it on you. I just needed to flex a bit. If it got too hot for you, I was going to shield you from the heat.”
“Emperor’s orders. You’re not supposed to use . . . magic.”
“I’m not? Why? I’m not dangerous. You should know that by now.”
“We know nothing of the sort. Put your sword away and go into your room.”
“You could have told me, you know,” I said before I closed my door. I was angry. I paced my room. Why would the emperor want me to stop using my magic? That was a stupid question; I knew why, he didn’t want me to be dangerous. He was afraid he couldn’t control me. I had news for him; he couldn’t control me. I had enough trouble with that myself.
But, he was my emperor. If he didn’t want me to use magic, I would do my best to comply with his wishes. I paced my room some more; in fact I hadn’t stopped yet. I sat down and tried to read one of my assignments and found that I had difficulty understanding it and had to read it again. Then I stuck my head out of my room again. I was greeted by the wary expressions of my two guards. “I want to go running again.”
Their expressions turned dubious. It must be near dinnertime, but I hadn’t looked at the clock. “You ran four miles this morning; you don’t need to run again.”
“Come on guys, this is hard for me. I need to do something.” I was almost ready to start pleading.
They let me run two miles this time, but it helped even less than this morning’s run had. On the way back to my room, I felt like I was walking with my shoulders hunched and my hackles up. It was a strange and dangerous feeling.
At my door, before entering my room, I said, “I’m sure you report to the emperor. Tell him that I don’t think I can do this, but I’ll try my best.”
My supper was waiting for me on the table, but though I picked at it, I couldn’t eat it.
I did better than I thought I would at the time. I didn’t think I would make it through the next day, but I actually made it all the way through until English class on Thursday morning. I’m not even sure what it was that set me off; some snide remark about my penmanship I think. He was always saying something about that, since he seemed to be unable to find anything else to complain about. First, I welded his teeth together so he couldn’t talk anymore, then I set his feet on fire.
Three stun blasts later, and I was huddled in a corner barely conscious of my surroundings. I had enough sense though, to undo the damage before they took him out of the room. I almost had enough sense to regret my actions, but I figured I didn’t like him enough for that.
After he was gone, the guards came back into my room. They saw I was still conscious, though barely, and aimed their stun guns at me again. I tried to tell them that if it hadn’t worked yet it wouldn’t, but they figured it out soon enough, and getting my tongue wrapped around words just then, was quite a challenge.