Of Space and Bachelor’s Degrees Chapter 23

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XXIII

Richard wasn’t sure if he was becoming paranoid. He felt that was a fairly reasonable reaction after being told he was cursed, but being paranoid wasn’t a good thing. After all, if there really were dangers suspecting everything was just going to cause him grief, and he wouldn’t be prepared for whatever actually happened. Richard always considered himself a somewhat rational person, so even if he was cursed, not everything would be out to get him. However, since he was now noticing more things, he seemed to have gone too far and was worried how they might affect him. Instead of dismissing things that obviously weren’t a threat immediately, he would linger on them for some time.

Then Richard came upon a different situation. With his new awareness, he had noticed some people more often. People being around often wasn’t strange, but Richard’s thoughts kept focusing on two. He felt like they were watching him, but Richard took that feeling with a grain of salt. After all, that was exactly how paranoia worked… at least, the way people talked about it. Still, he could actually see them looking in his direction. There was the human who had entered school later, and he could often be seen looking at Richard, though only when Richard was watching with his second senses. When Richard looked over at him with his eyes, he looked away. That was actually fairly normal behavior… and Richard found that this person spent a good amount of time watching everyone. Looking at people wasn’t a problem.

However, the other person Richard noticed was the Noxian. Again, it wasn’t strange to see people around often on a campus, since both people would be more likely to end up in the same places. However, the Noxian was definitely watching Richard. More specifically, he was spying on him. Richard didn’t know what else to call peeking around corners, though he was generally more subtle than that. However, he was obviously going to some effort to conceal what he was doing. At the distances he stayed, Richard found it hard to see facial expressions, especially with the veils that Noxians wore, but Richard didn’t feel any good intentions from him. Richard felt there was still a chance he was seeing things incorrectly, but he was fairly certain. Richard wasn’t actually sure what to do about the situation, but he considered reporting him to school security. He was also considering asking Jot for help to confirm his suspicions weren’t just paranoia.

—–

All of Richard’s decisions or lack of decisions were made for him. One day when he was walking between classes alone, a situation that didn’t happen very often, he was approached by the Noxian, who strode confidently toward him. Richard put up his guard.

“Stop spending time with the princess.” This person didn’t seem to know what tact was. What an abrupt statement. Besides, Richard didn’t even know any princesses. Then, he thought for a second.

“No.”

Not exactly an elegant response, but Richard wasn’t feeling generous.

“It is not right for one of low birth such as yourself to spend time with the princess. You and your large friend would do well to leave her be.”

So, he was one of those. It was Richard’s thought that anyone who spoke of low and high birth was only technically a member of high birth. Generally, if they phrased it in such a way, their status in Richard’s eyes fell. Especially when they meant it as an insult. Very few titles of nobility remained throughout the galaxy, but apparently Noxians were one species who held on to it.

“Threatening people isn’t the optimum way to get what you want. Why don’t you let your betters make their own choices on who they associate with?” Richard normally didn’t insult people he’d just met, but something about this person riled him up.

“You’ll regret that.” The Noxian took off his glove, and slapped Richard in the face.

Richard just glared at him. He wanted to punch this person in the face, but something stopped him. He didn’t really fear the consequences, and he didn’t feel it was uncalled for or wrong. However, he felt that he wouldn’t get the results he wanted. So, he glared with as much force as he could muster. Apparently, the Noxian was done, or it was effective, because he walked away, slipping his glove back on as he did so.

Richard waited for him to walk around a corner before collapsing on the side of the hallway. Noxian toxins. Truly, an unpleasant feeling. However, it wasn’t as bad as Elena’s. Maybe it was because he’d gotten her blood on him too, or maybe this Noxian just had weak toxins. Richard chose to believe the latter, although he knew he had some resistance as well.

Richard watched his body as the toxins spread, and were slowly cut off at various points. Then, he saw and felt the spread receding. It took a long time. Finally, after what seemed like an hour, but was probably only half of that, Richard felt better.

It was strange and frightening to watch what had happened inside his body. He had felt his body adapting, and he felt cells changing form as it happened. The strange thing was, some of it had seemed natural. That is, he had not felt his energy changing it. It was just a small part, but it was strange. Of course, Richard didn’t really know how it was happening at all, so his understanding was limited.

Richard stood up shakily, then heard a voice from behind him. “Are you alright?”

Richard turned around, then sighed. First it was the Noxian, and now this guy. The human. Richard somehow hadn’t managed to learn his name, even though they shared several classes. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just feeling a little sick.” Well, he had felt a lot sick, but he was decent now. Richard decided to be cautious in what he was saying, since he was still on guard against this person.

“That was an interesting application of ki.”

“Wha-? Ki… like the mystic, martial arts stuff?”

He shook his head. “Forget I said anything. Want me to go beat up that Noxian for you?”

Richard’s only response was to stare blankly.

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