The “honeymoon” ended with little fanfare. Henri only realized it was over when she got an email from herself reminding her to actually get some sleep that night. According to the email Henri had to go to work tomorrow. When she got the email, it was Sunday night and the orientation period for her new job started the coming Monday.
Henri couldn’t help grumbling to herself wondering what had possessed her to send such a message to herself. Bemoaning her ingrained goodie two-shoes nature as she informed her team in the shooter she was playing that she’d have to log off in a few minutes.
She slept fitfully that night, spending most of that evening staring up at the ceiling telling herself that she was worrying for nothing and that everything would probably be okay.
Eventually blissful unconsciousness came, but it only lasted as long as it took for the alarm clock by her bedstand to suddenly glitch and start blaring. According to the clock it was six a.m. by then but of course the clock was glitched. According to her windows the sky outside was already beginning to brighten, glowing a glorious golden orange but naturally both the sky and windows were glitched too.
Still just in case she was wrong and all of reality “wasn’t” broken, Henrietta dragged herself out of bed. Heading into the shower and using up pretty much all the hot water in the house so she could feel human again. Which was pretty much simply impossible to do when one was a ghost.
She managed to get to feeling at least halfway human before the water started to run cold. Then she got out and hurriedly dressed. Then she looked at herself in the mirror, decided that she didn’t like what she was seeing and dressed again. This went on for a few minutes more till she and the girl in the mirror called a truce and decided that a conservative pantsuit with a favorite t-shirt worn for good luck beneath the blouse would be a fair enough outfit for her first day on the job.
She headed downstairs to the ground floor. She went through a sitting room and saw the maid, Jack. The quiet little girl who somehow managed to keep the house cleaned all on her own. She went into the kitchen and saw that someone had made breakfast.
She considered eating but her unsettled stomach and a chirrup from her phone warned that that would probably not be the best of ideas. Instead she settled for a coffee fresh from the pot. Poured for her by a strange handsome, dark skinned, man, with pink hair, red eyes and small horns. Still warm and smelling slightly cinnamony.
She was sipping that coffee from out of a thermos as she passed through the living room. Her purse on her shoulder, her keys in hand.
“Bye….” said a voice.
“Bye.” said Henri. Slightly startled by the interruption in her train of thought.
She was already in her car and out of the driveway before she realized that that strange man had in fact been her husband.
Then she was startled by the reminder that she did in fact “have” a husband. First she’d expected to be taking on a burden, another responsibility. Then it turned out that burden could talk and was completely aware of all that was and had been happening around him.
Typical of her cowardly nature she’d run away and hid from the issue by holing up in her room. Forgetting all about it till now. Now as she drove she couldn’t help thinking about what on earth it meant, or if it meant anything at all.
She thought so much that she ended up stopping at a light just a tad too long. Long enough to get horned at by the driver behind her.
“Oops, sorry…sorry.” muttered Henri as she continued on her way. Compartmentalizing and putting her personal issues away for later.
They say the caliber of a man can be seen by looking at the things that he cherishes. Unlike most other leveller sects, the Moon-fire Mages Sect, was more focused on academia and research than its fellows who focused on wealth and power accrual. However despite being a sect of middling size and power, they held a reasonable measure of influence over most of the continent.
Mainly spreading their name through affiliate schools that either catered to ordinary folk, levellers or most often some mixture of both. As well as through research groups, libraries and brain trusts that were usually nested within those schools.
Henrietta’s new place of employment was within one of those schools. She was to be an assistant-Teacher at the Aybek Preparatory Academy. It neared the bottom rankings for all the country’s schools.
The Sect’s only real reason for keeping the school running being to use it as tax right off, as well as a place to store the sects’ unwanted cast-offs, orphans, as well as any cultivation servants that they’d purchased but had turned out to be of little worth.
Rumor had it that there was a chance that the sect might just cut their losses and walk away any point in the near point.
Rumor had it those rumors were maybe more than rumors. Henri could believe that since she couldn’t see either the sect or her family tossing her anywhere that they still cared for.
Besides the Moonfire Sect had plenty of other schools operating under its banners, school where people from richer families went. Schools that taught students with talent and potential, students worth cultivating.
Henri didn’t really care about any of that. She was more concerned about whether she was going to be terrible at her new job or not.
Henri was a Lvl. 98 Mage, with a master’s degree in Spellcraft and Warding from Cyrillus’ Imperial Moonfire University, this plus the online teaching certificate that she’d earned a few months prior meant that, Henri was technically qualified enough to teach magical physics, regular physics, spellscripting, advanced mathematics, oceanography and meteorology.
Having said this, the real question that Henri was worried about had nothing to do with her technical qualifications and everything to do with whether she’d be able to actually play the part of a teacher.
On the upside, she was pretty sure, she had the background. Now all she needed was to make sure, she didn’t have to talk to anyone, speak in front of more than two people at a time, and she’d probably do perfectly fine in her new position.
Henri reached her workplace on time, she maybe had to skirt a few traffic laws to do it, but she did reach the school on time.
The only parking space was one at the very back end of the lot, in a corner that wasn’t clearly marked. Honestly she wasn’t entirely sure that it was an actual parking space and not, let’s say, just a piece of drab lawn that happened to be spattered with asphalt and ruined by bulldozer when they were making the rest of the lot.
The inside of the school was clean and tidy, but it was the kind of drab, vaguely dingy sort of clean that one usually saw in businesses that had either just closed or were about to close.
The floors were a gray-tan. The walls were a diamond-patterned, faded sort of sea-foam green.
Hanging above entrance was a banner that said “Welcome Students” but still had a layer of dust on it that said, “this probably should have been laundered before we put it up but we couldn’t be arsed to do so”.
Henri crept inside, unsure of herself, feeling like she was new student rather than a new teacher. Her heart rising out of place, moving into her throat.
Right by the entrance there was a booth, a little office that was shaded by a sort of plastic awning. Within that office sat an admin, a clerk. A portly woman with light red, panther print skin, and sharp triangular ears on top of her head. Her auburn hair pulled into a tight bun.
“Um…excuse me. I uh…I’m new here, there’s supposed some kind of staff orientation? I don’t suppose you could tell me which room it’s in?” said Henri. Asking for directions.
The woman looked up from magazine, looking like she was barely resisting giving the girl the eyeroll of all eyerolls because this was the thirty- somethingth time she’d been asked that question in the last hour or so.
“Head straight, look to your right. The auditorium will be right at the end of the hall. You can’t miss it.”
“…Thanks.” said Henri. Meaning it.
She got to the auditorium and saw someone who looked a lot like a badly aged version of the picture that school site, had of their principal standing on the stage. A sweaty looking point-eared man in a plaid suit, who was working with some techs to make sure that the speaker and microphone were in order.
In the seats of the auditorium there were about a hundred or so, teachers and staff members, all them having roughly two hundred separate conversations. The sound of their voices collecting into an almost hypnotic drone that hung heavy in the air.
At the back of the auditorium there was a table set up with a couple coffee machines at the ready and a few mostly empty boxes of donuts.
With her stomach still roiling and a thermos of coffee in her hand she only gave them a single cursory glance before looking down at the seats.
With the seating being enough for the schools thousand plus students she was very tempted to sit apart from the crowd of teachers near the front. It was only knowing that it would make her seem to much like a loner that made her sit near to the clump of teachers at the front of the auditorium, rather than by herself off to the side.
Between fifteen and fifty minutes went by while Henri sat fiddling with her phone. Occasionally making awkward conversation during the rare times that someone came by and stopped to say hi.
At some point she looked up and saw that the principal and a stern looking woman standing on the stage. The principal took the podium, tapping the mic, the sound of his thumb thudding through the speaker.
The sounds of the conversations that were taking place in the room gradually calmed down.
The man waited, standing there for a few minutes more till he had the room’s attention and then he finally spoke.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Teachers and Staff Members of Aybek Preparatory Academy. I am Principal Howard Redfang and once again, at the start of this new term, I welcome you to my school.”