Chapter 22:

The “Counselor” Mage

The Cat-Eared Historian Mage on the Crumbling Planet

The atmosphere on the second floor was disturbingly normal. A few mages were chatting calmly a short distance away, and a lone gynoid sat at the reception desk. Unlike the first floor, there were no broken windows, the floor wasn’t covered in debris, and there were no bloodstains in sight.

“I am sorry,” the gynoid said as Ashtin approached the reception desk, “this facility is in lockdown. I will have to ask you to leave.”

“This is an emergency,” Ashtin said, placing Ginevra’s brain on the desk. “I need access to a facility where I can repair this electronic brain.”

“Certainly,” the gynoid said, leaning over to look past Ashtin at Wincent and Dr. Shreburn.

“They’re with me,” Ashtin said, stepping to the side to re-center himself in the gynoid’s vision. “I require their assistance.”

“On whose authority?” the gynoid asked.

“On my authority as a historian mage,” Ashtin replied. “I will also assume full responsibility for their actions.”

“You are not old enough to assume that kind—” the gynoid started.

“We don’t have time to quibble over trivialities,” Ashtin interrupted. “I need you to prepare the facilities. In the meantime, I will require the assistance of these mages,” he said, handing the gynoid a scrap of paper with the suspects’ names on it.

“Why?” the gynoid asked.

“It would take too long to explain,” Ashtin answered. “Please, there’s a life at stake.”

“Very well,” the gynoid said. She pulled a tablet from her desk drawer and tapped a few times on the screen before handing it to Ashtin. He breathed a sigh of relief. It showed the locations of all three mages, and it appeared to update their positions in real-time. They were all still within the building. “I will meet you in the north wing on the fifth floor,” the gynoid added, picking Ginevra’s brain up from the desk and walking quickly towards the stairs.

Dr. Shreburn was beginning to fall behind Ashtin and Wincent as they walked quickly towards the room the first suspect occupied. Not wanting to get too far from her, lest he fall victim to hypnosis without her protection, Ashtin slowed his pace. By the time they reached their destination, he was bouncing up and down with impatience. After checking the tablet to make sure that the suspect was inside, Ashtin pulled open the door.

On the other side of the door was not a typical, plain mage’s office. The walls were painted in calming hues, but they were mostly obscured by bookshelves packed with hardcover books. Between the bookshelves, there was a small, clean desk with a potted plant one one side and an incense burner on the other.

The room’s sole occupant was a mage in her late twenties. She had long, tightly-braided hair, and her outfit looked more like a dress than robes. Although mages were required to wear robes in order to be easily identifiable, there were no explicit regulations as to what qualified as a mage’s robe. Because mages tended to eccentricity, a fair number of them designed their own robes, and it was especially common among those who wished to be fashionable. Still, Ashtin couldn’t help but wonder whether this mage’s dress violated the spirit of the rule.

“Excuse me,” she said, turning her head to look at the intruders, “this is a private office. Please knock before entering.”

“Sorry, but—” Ashtin began.

“No, I’m sorry,” the mage interrupted him, “but I don’t work on other mages. It hits too close to home. And I don’t take patients in this office. I can tell from a glance how much you’re in need of help, but I suggest you find another counselor.”

“You’re not a counselor,” Ashtin stated.

“Well, counselor in training,” the woman said, looking away from him.

Had he the time or mental capacity to spare, Ashtin would have been embarrassed for her. Mages did not become counselors. Only the most trustworthy of biological humans were admitted to the council. Mages who could be so trusted were more useful as historian mages, but this woman was not a historian mage. At some point in their lives, all mages wished they had not been gifted with a control of magic, and many of them tried to escape from reality by pursuing other careers in their free time.

If a counselor pressed him on it, Ashtin would admit that his obsession with anime, and his attempts to become a catboy, were partially born of the same escapist desires, but the subject seldom came up. The counselors were aware of his motivations, and they were waiting for him to feel comfortable talking about it during their counseling sessions. Ashtin knew this, and he knew that they knew that he knew. What they didn’t know, however, was whether he would admit the same about the gynoid he had decided was his mother. Neither he nor they had ever broached the subject.

“Rorthi Axseer,” Ashtin addressed the woman, “we are in a state of emergency, and I am assuming command of all the mages in this building. You will come with us.”

“I will not,” Rorthi dismissed him. “You cannot order a counselor around.”

“You are not a counselor,” Ashtin repeated, “and I am a historian mage.”

“You don’t look like one,” Rorthi scoffed.

“Enough,” Ashtin shouted. “General, point the gun at her. Ms. Axseer, I don’t have time to argue. If you do not come with us now, I will splatter your brains all over the floor.”