The Mildpowered Virgins of Novylion High
‘Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone. I know it might be a sensitive subject for you. Well, it’s time to part ways. I’ll see you again tomorrow.’
And he jogged away, hands still in the air.
⁎ ⁎ ⁎
The next day, he was harassing me again. Using my guṇa again was a headache.
‘Have you told anyone?’
‘No. Of course not.’
‘Good. Because if you do, I’ll poison you and chop up your body into little pieces. And I’ll bury those little pieces under a mountain where they won’t be found for a thousand years. When future archaeologists dig them up, they’ll be very confused and, possibly, terrified.’
‘At least I’ll get to be in a museum.’
‘Does that mean you’re thinking about telling someone?’
‘Heavens no. I’m not that kind of guy. I’m not like Rushil, you know. My words aren’t mushroom sperm.’
‘Mushrooms release spores. And don’t utter profanity in front of me. I think that way of speaking is vile.’
‘So are you saying that as long as I don’t say bad words in front of you, you’ll let me talk to you?’
‘I never said that! Get away from me or I’ll scream. And don’t insult Rushil in front of me. He’s a good friend of mine.’
‘But only a friend, right?’
‘Absolutely not. I do not have space for such things in my life. And even if or when I do, the suitor will have to be worthy of me.’
‘That goes without saying. But do you have space for another friend?’
‘I’ll never consider you my friend. I don’t even want to be seen standing next to you. So get lost!’
‘Alright. I’ll let you sleep on it. Maybe when your mind’s rested, it’ll expand and make room for someone else. Maybe a friend. Maybe someone more than a friend.’
‘How dare you utter such brash words?’
‘Ha ha ha. I don’t know why I said it either. I think I just love the feeling of danger.’
‘You have precisely zero good qualities, Puna Maiwal.’
‘I do have one good quality. I’m keeping your secret without any expectation of reward.’
‘And so you’re punishing me by talking to me? And deriving pleasure from it? Are you one of those sadists that all the girls keep talking about?’
‘Girls like sadists?’
‘No! And don’t feel all high and mighty just because you managed to maintain the minimum level of human decency. And don’t ever think about threatening me with my secret. If you reveal it to the school authorities, it’ll only reflect unfavourably on you. Not me. I am not scared of being expelled from this school for something that is not my fault. I will find a way to recover and achieve even greater heights.’
‘If you weren’t scared of being expelled at all, you wouldn’t be hiding your ears. Food for thought. Bye.’
And he ran away before I could physically hurt him.
⁎ ⁎ ⁎
On the third day, he was even more inappropriate.
‘Does the blood from your heart not reach your brain because you are so tall? Or is it all used up in raising your hands?’
‘I’ve changed my mind. You should be a sushi chef, not a surgeon.’
‘What do you want?’
‘I wanted to ask: are those cat ears or dog ears?’
I could hardly stop myself from strangling him at that very moment. Unfortunately, I did manage to calm down.
‘You vow-breaking oaf! You said you wouldn’t tell anyone.’
‘I didn’t know that included you. I didn’t tell anyone else if that’s what you’re concerned about.’
‘They’re dog ears.’
‘They look like cat ears to me. I’ve never seen ears like that on a dog.’
‘Then why did you bother to ask?’
‘I just wanted to confirm it.’
‘So you possess no resolve either. I do not need to see the depths that mankind can sink to to feel better about myself. Stop following me.’
‘You talk about mankind as if you were separate from it.’
‘I am part of it. Yet above it. Any other questions?’
‘I don’t care. Leave.’
‘That kind of attitude is certainly more akin to that of a cat than that of a dog.’
‘Make as many idiotic inferences as you want. Just don’t speak in front of me.’
‘It’s surprising that you hang out with Rushil all the time. You, who’s so reserved and unconcerned with the rest of humanity. And he, who sticks his nose into everybody’s business like a dog sticks his—’
‘I know the rest of that simile and I do not want to hear such an obscene phrase. I already told you that I will murder you in cold blood if you talk like that within my earshot.’
‘But you have heard the rest of that phrase somewhere. So you have been around people who don’t talk as formally as you do.’
‘Unlike pampered rich kids such as yourself who’ve never experienced hardship and think that it’s cool to adopt the manner of speaking practised in the slums, I’m someone who’s actually lived there. And there’s nothing cool about that world. It is filled with woe, desperation and savagery. The average person who lives in that situation never does anything meaningful to try to get out of it. He only spins pipe dreams that never come to fruition and he curses his family and the entire world for his misfortune. I saw quite a few men and women like that when I was there and their speech was littered with words so vulgar and obscene that you can’t even imagine them in your puny life. I could tell immediately who was serious about getting out of the slum and who was destined to spread its poison for generations to come just by the number of curse words in that particular person’s vocabulary. Swearing is the tool of a weak man who has no ambition. You share that vice with those lowlifes in the slum. And if you keep up and propagate this behaviour then if not you, your children or maybe your grandchildren will end up living alongside said lowlifes someday. I am lucky that my father and grandfather had the determination to move up in society and took responsibility for their own destinies. And I bear the burden of their hard work. I cannot disappoint them in the slightest.’
‘It is all too clear to me what your intentions are. Forcibly conversing with me every day and putting down Rushil, my only male friend – you’re not the first one to try such tricks and I know you won’t be the last one. But most men have the decency to take the hint and they leave me alone. You don’t; so let me make it clear for you. I will only ever, if at all, recognise a man as a suitor worthy of consideration if he: adheres to strict standards of propriety, plans ahead, has clear goals, depends on nothing but his own talents and abilities to achieve them and is from a respectable family with a legacy that he has the capability to carry, or, failing that, the capability to establish a legacy of his own. And you don’t fit the bill on any of those counts. So stop wasting my time. I do not care what you do with yours.’
This time, I walked away from him.
⁎ ⁎ ⁎
‘I don’t think you understood any of the words I said to you yesterday,’ I said to him as he hobbled up to me for the fourth time.
‘I have a proposition.’
‘I do not want to hear it.’
‘I really did listen to your words carefully. And I decided to change my life. I always thought that my swearing was a result of my environment.’
‘The badminton team. They’re really nasty. But listening to your experience made me realise that I was wrong to blame my environment. It really made me aware of all the privileges I have. I understand now that to swear or not was always my decision and no one else’s. I won’t lie. I do want to be a suitor worthy of your consideration. Your criteria of entry are very strict but the least I can do – as a start – is stop saying bad words. If I can do that, will you allow me to talk to you?’
‘I don’t think you can do it. But if you can achieve it then I will perhaps think about allowing you to become an acquaintance of mine.’
‘That is all I needed to hear.’
‘Wait. The terms of this agreement are not the same as the one you proposed the day before yesterday. I won’t consider it a success unless you stop swearing altogether, not just in front of me.’
‘That might be a little difficult. And I don’t think I can quit cold turkey but I’ll do my best. I won’t disappoint you.’
‘Don’t even think about cheating. I’ll be observing you. And I have very sharp ears.’
He smiled. ‘Of course.’
‘Best of luck.’
We went our separate ways again. I was optimistic. If this man can turn his life around bit by bit because of me, I will have done the world a great service.
But I was proven wrong three hours later. The new imbecilic transfer student had made friends with Puna Maiwal’s group. Associating with such a person was worth a penalty. In fact, I’m disgusted that the quality of students admitted to our school has dropped so low. The very fact of his enrolment into the school spits upon the hard-earned money my father spends on my fee, which is exorbitant, even after the two scholarships I receive for excelling in sports and academics.
Puna Maiwal, Umito Dishahara, Hagesh Malumaru, Tan Talaragi, Ashukami Momokani and the transfer student were all sitting together during recess. I was listening to them intently to catch Puna making a mistake. I couldn’t hear too clearly but I understood that they were talking about Jitsu Satanetra.
A Satanetra being the principal of the school is one of the major factors that helped me decide to aim for it. The Satanetras, much like the Nekoraktas, were persecuted by Archemperor Axgott and were cast away by their own people. In their heyday, the family had given rise to great men and women who had made invaluable contributions to the development of our country’s philosophical tradition. In the past one hundred and fifty years, however, they had suddenly re-emerged, this time as merchants of upstanding reputation. They were en route to reclaiming their lost status when all was ruined by Jitsu’s mother, who was born to a commonblood father. Jitsu himself was born out of wedlock.
Nonetheless, it is a great honour to be in the same class as someone belonging to a family with a deep history. And in the time I’ve observed him, he hasn’t done anything to sully his family’s reputation. He, like me, carries a great burden. Of reviving and revitalising an entire clan, in addition to his own personal goals. I admire him for it. He is the only boy in this school that I’ve met that I have respect for. I believe he has what it takes to become the Head Boy (when the time comes, obviously). And I will be by his side, as Head Girl.
But even he was faltering, according to what the transfer student was saying. If he could be believed, that is. He said that he had seen Jitsu talking to a junior of ours and Hagesh Malumaru had accused him of having the intent of fornicating with her. The discussion then devolved into meaningless chatter until Puna Maiwal suddenly shouted a curse word and they all shut up.
But he had failed my test. And there was nothing else that I needed to listen to. So I stopped eavesdropping and finished my food and went for a walk.
⁎ ⁎ ⁎
The next day:
‘Don’t come near me. I heard you swear during recess yesterday. You’ve failed as a human being. Forget you ever talked to me. I’ve already forgotten who you are.’
‘I know I messed up. And I know you heard it. And there is no excuse for it. But I’ve made amends since then. And this time I’m confident that I can keep it up for a week at the least. And I’ve made sure that I cannot cheat. Or I’ll suffer devastating consequences.’
‘You couldn’t even last three hours yesterday. How will you last seven days?’
‘Do you know Ashukami Momokani?’
‘I’m keeping a secret for you so I trust you’ll keep one for me. Don’t ever say this to anyone. A demonic bear resides inside Ashukami.’
I froze in my tracks. The Bear and the Cat in the same class. This was more than just a coincidence. What had led to this chain of events? And what did it mean for the future? For the first time in a long time, I was truly, utterly scared.
‘Choose your words carefully, Puna Maiwal. The Bear is not to be taken lightly. Do not mention him so casually. Don’t joke about the Bear. It can be deadly.’
‘I am not joking. Yesterday, in the evening, I met the Bear, although I do not remember it. And I had him place a curse on me. If I swear even once during the next seven days, I will have to call every female teacher in our school “mommy” for a year.’
‘You idiot! Dolt! Fool! Duffer! Ignoramus! Is nothing sacred to you? You blaspheme the Universe and the natural order of things. Do you think a curse is a childish game? I have had experience with these things and it never goes well. My whole family has suffered for thousands of years because of it. And… something so insulting to the immense powers of the Bear! How could you? Calling female teachers “mommy”… Are you out of your mind? Take me to Ashukami and we’ll find a way to resolve this. This is so irresponsible. You’ll die otherwise. And it won’t be pleasant.’
‘I won’t die. If I were going to die, I would have died yesterday. Ashukami wouldn’t have agreed to help me in this way if he had doubts about the safety of the procedure. The Bear has been constrained by the Talbot Corps. It cannot harm mortals anymore. Still, some risks were involved and I was aware of them. But what’s been done has been done. I wanted to show you my resolve. The lengths to which I’m willing to go to to fulfil my promise to you. The lengths to which I’m willing to go to for you.’
I couldn’t look at his face for another second. I ran away and I had tears in my eyes. That dimwit might die and it’ll be my fault. I stopped crying by the time I reached the changing room but I couldn’t get him out of my head. The fool. The fool.
But as soon as I reached the classroom, my outlook changed suddenly. I cannot explain it. It was as if someone had cast an evil spell on me. I started seeing his positive points. His sense of humour, his courage and his seemingly genuine feelings towards me. He was right about one thing. None of the boys who had approached me so far had done something so crazy and so reckless. Maybe, just maybe, he had a chance of succeeding this time. Maybe he could stay clean for an entire week.
In class, when I was sitting in my seat next to Rushil, out of the blue, he came to me and asked me, ‘Can I sit next to you today, Pushpako?’
He's so bold! And he wasn't avoiding Rushil now. He was taking responsibility. Well, if he sits next to me, I won't have to spend any energy in observing him. I think I could let him sit next to me. My presence would scare the thought of cursing out of him. Maybe, just maybe, he had a chance of succeeding this time. Maybe he could stay clean for an entire week.
Little did I know then that he’d fail to even break his previous record of three hours.