To say Wen was pissed off was an understatement. Yet to say that he was extremely infuriated was hyperbole. It simply wasn't the boy pilot's nature to get worked up about anything.
“Mr. Tynan, didn’t you ever have to submit reports for missions in your old job? Reports that include essays and diagrams? Now get to work.”
The black-haired boy rolled his eyes. “No, sir,” he said, leaning back and sticking his hands in his pockets. “I’m a pilot. I take the assassin to the damn place and then I take the bitches back when they’re done. No paperwork involved.”
“Watch your language, young man. What would your mother think?”
“She’d be very damn proud of me, sir. Actually, I think I’m disappointing her a bit—”
“There you go.”
“—By not blowing this shithole up.”
The teacher—not to mention most of the students, turned around to stare at him. The transfer student smirked.
“Is this the way your father taught you to behave, Wen?”
“You assume I grew up with him. You assume wrong.”
“In any case,” the substitute said stuffily, “You signed up for this program so you should do your best to do well in it. The rest of you, back to work.”
It started as a request from one of those crazy people that I went on that one crazy mission to find some girl that had wandered off in search of the Heart of All Realms. Kenneth, yea. I always knew it’d be a bad thing to have a lot of friends.
Five is five too many.
Anyways, so when the five of us got back from our search with Kenneth’s mom—that’s who we were searching for—we all split ways again, thank goodness. I had directions to find Erin and Dennis again and the others had whatever the heck they wanted. That was my third time in the Heart of All Realms—the first two times I found it was by accident—and hopefully my last. Maple-Ann Lewis gave me her contact information and Jing Long invited me to stay with him. That wacky whatever-the-heck-her-species-is went off without a word. Violet the phantom girl had stayed behind—for a while at least-- as a part of a deal with Eria Briallen, the strange Keeper of the Heart of All Realms.
And then Kenneth came up to me and asked if I would mind switching places with him for a few days.
Told you it’d be a stupid idea.
“Here’s an assignment our guest might enjoy,” the substitute said pointedly. “Depict a battlefield, if you would.”
The entire class grumbled and one student raised his hand. “Sir, we’re supposed to be working with watercolors—”
“Then draw a battlefield with watercolors.”
“—On our self-portraits.”
“Well, think of this as a break then,” the substitute insisted petulantly. “Use anything you like. Just take a break.”
A few students grumbled and others cleaned up reluctantly. The girl next to Wen cleaned the water in her glass with a spell.
Wen pulled out a palm-sized gadget and within a few clicks he’d found a famous picture of a battlefield. Two sparks jumped from his fingers and he took the picture off the hologram screen and transferred it to the canvas. When the substitute came around, he was leaning back in his chair, boots flamboyantly on the table, playing a game on his minicomputer.
“Wisconsin’s fine” He didn’t look up from blowing a digital ship into splinters.
“There will be no game-playing in class.”
“Game-playing?” he looked up innocently and set his feet down. “But sir, I’m not playing. I’m making. Are you to say that this class doesn’t embrace the digital arts and game design?”
The teacher frowned. Wen smirked. “And I’m finished with the assignment anyways.”
“A fair replica of another artist’s painting I grant.”—Wen raised an eyebrow— “But there is to be none of this nonsense. Save your fascination for video games for after class.”
To everyone’s relief, the bell chose that moment to ring and the class filed out, some tossing glares at their temporary classmate, other muttering about the poor substitute teacher. After clearing the canvas, Wen simply swung his jacket over his shoulder and followed the others.
Let’s see: If a university asks you —pays you—to paint a mural for their school when you’re freaking 10, it’s probably a good idea for you to stick to painting and drawing and all that artsy-craftsy stuff. And if you can fly any odd warship by the time you’re 18, it’s probably a good idea to stick to flying warships.
“I heard you were a cocky little brat today” a voice said behind him. “Again.”
Wen whirled, a hand reaching for his pocket when he recognized the figure. His expression faded into a pleasant smile and he approached the girl leaning against the wall. “What’re you doing here? Kenneth’s done?”
“Just say it. You’re thrilled to see me.”
He only raised an eyebrow at her. “Sure. About as thrilled as I was to take that dumb art class for Kenneth.”
“You must have been pretty excited to learn to draw then.”
“How was it?”
“Teacher didn’t like me. Took a vacation. Substitute liked me even less.” I think I boosted Kenneth’s grade though.”
It was Maple-Ann’s turn to quirk an eye.
“By a few negative points I mean,” Wen clarified with a shrug.
Maple-Ann laughed as they picked their way over to where a badly-beaten aircraft stood in the center of the field before stopping. She leaned against the ship’s flank, catching her breath. A few of the straggling art students shot her queer looks and she just laughed at them. “Scat!” she commanded, her expression still maniacal. When they didn’t heed her, her lips turned devilishly up again and she raised a hand. If they had been paying close attention, they would have seen a red spark dance over her fingers before setting the hand aglow. A half-second later, the section of the field they were on exploded, sending the offending students flying into the air.
“Careful now, Maple. If one of those bodies land on my ship you’ll be the one cleaning it up.”
She laughed and sent another spark into the air, catching her victims in little white bubbles. By the time they landed on the school roof, they were without a scratch or drop of blood and very much alive. The gruesome little mage turned to her fighter friend with an evil smirk. “Their nerves’ll be a little racked up but they’re fine, dear. I’m surprised you care though.”
He eyed her for a second. “I’m usually a little cleaner with my kills.”
“It’s not as fun, dearest. Don’t you like explosions?”
They both laughed at this one, and another voice approached them.
“Wen likes explosions all right. Really likes explosions.”
“Hiya Kenneth. Wen here was just complaining about polishing his little baby. Looks like he’ll have to be cleaning up anyways,” Maple noted with a smirk. “Where’d you go? A volcano?”
Kenneth scoffed as Wen inspected the belly of the ship. “I wish. I just ran through his “training module” on the mountains.”
“Well,” the bad artist said, sitting on the floor and letting his legs hang off the edge, “You did pretty well for a first time flyer. The hard range, one, right? The one with the giant birds and the gunners and bombs?”
“I tried out the one labeled ‘easy’ on your map.”
Wen’s expression froze and Maple backed away, giggling. “Good work little Kenneth. Don’t worry, I’ll attend your funeral.”
On second thought, just don’t let strange people fly your ship. Even if they’re supervised by a destructive little witch.
Artist's Note: :) Part two of three of the little Wen-arch.
Anyways....I think I've gotten over the whole putting my name on the internet. But SilverInk stands as my alias for now. Anwyays..I also got over the put-the-character's-surname-in-every piece thing :)
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