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Higher Learning (Bronte Academy)

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Drothe by Sarctic.deviantart.com on @DeviantArt

 

Benjamin had never been to school, or at least he had never stayed in any one school for very long; and he had definitely never been to any institution of higher learning. When you spend your childhood moving from town to town so no one learns your family secret and come after you, education just isn't a priority. He hadn't become fully literate until well into young adulthood, and he still loathe math with a burning passion. These days though he had managed to accrue enough knowledge through study and experience enough knowledge to be of just above average intelligence. Above average wouldn't normally cut it at a place like Bronte Academy, but luckily for him, there was one area of magic study where he shined.

Alchemy had been taught in his family for generations, possibly even before their bloodline was altered, though no one was really sure. Their signature alchemy was the potion known as Atavism, a formula that brings normally dormant portions of a persons ancestry to the fore. While this was there specialty, the complicated nature of the formula required an extremely advanced knowledge of the discipline; which meant that anyone who could brew it was a master of alchemy. Ben had hit upon the idea of using this to Infiltrate the academy, and get close to the headmistress, Bodice Brouchard.

This led to the problem of not knowing what an educator would look like. His normal look was usually somewhere along the lines of mercenary barbarian, which he was fairly certain wouldn't blend in on campus. So he had spent a few nights people watching in bars frequented by faculty, and he finally got a decent idea. He had shaved and dyed his hair, put in contacts to make his eyes look normal, and then chosen some fitting attire. The black dress pants, dress shoes, white dress shirt, and brown coat. 

Now he waited outside the Headmistress' office while he waited to be seen.

 

@Jotnotes

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Bronte was, at the present, the picture of progress. The school had been impressive before Bodice's arrival, but it'd been old-world impressive. Its architecture had been proud and traditional, but faded and worn as years took their toll. Though the school was meant to be the sister academy of the military school Inir, it'd received far less attention then than it did now. In many ways, Bodice's rise to the title Headmistress had re-birthed the school. It was a regal thing now--with its beautiful designs re-imagined and updated. The original school house had been remodeled entirely, and the building Ben had entered, the Faculty Building, hadn't existed. 

Passing through its interior, it gave a certain impression of what was to come. The entirety of the building was well-cleaned, and groomed to perfection. Subtle red wallpapers lined the halls, and rich dark wood flanked doorways, matching the furniture within. The ceilings were vaulted and spacious; just about everywhere you went, natural sunlight dominated the halls, either through windows, or skylights, or some undetected sorcery aimed at mimicking the same effect.

None of that would prepare Ben for what laid behind Bodice's doors.

Bodice herself was feeling quite unwell that morning. The trio of emptied bottles of Merlot resting upon her desk were testament to that. The Headmistress was awake, certainly, but she'd only been awake for a handful of minutes at that point. It'd been the small polygonal crystal, and its little pedastal on her desk, that had awoken her.

Grumbling in her native tongue, Bodice had slipped out of the warm, thick covers of her bed and walked across her bedroom towards the heavy double doors. On the other side, the impertinent little crystal chimed insistently. Bodice pushed the doors open--her head pounded in response, as the crystal's chiming grew louder when they opened up for her. She took a moment to compose herself, and reached for the crystal.

"Oui?"

"Bonjour, mademoiselle. Vous avez un visiteur." Her secretary's voice lacked much of the dour, tired and bedraggled tones that currently fouled hers. Bodice was envious of the woman's fortitude; the headmistress knew for certain that the young woman behind the desk drank just as much as she did on her down time. 

She grew tired of carrying the crystal herself, and let her hands drop to her side. In their place, a seething mass of...darkness...kept it afloat there. The crystal didn't seem to mind.

"Tres bien." The tendrils dropped the crystal, and she looked to her desk. She wouldn't have time to bathe, certainly, but she'd still be able to get dressed, and get the desk cleaned up. She walked back into her room, snatching the bottles up with one of the tentacles sprouting from the back of her neck and carrying them along. She tossed them onto the bedsheets and turned to her dresser, pulling it open. Two neat lines of well-pressed and carefully kept suits, dresses and uniforms awaited her. Several drawers in the bottom of the dresser held fast to her undergarments, garters, stockings and so forth. Hanging off the door were a number of tasteful options in sleepwear, most of them lace and silk.

It didn't take her terribly long to determine what she'd need to put on, but before she did any of that, she paused, and reached into the folds of her mind. It was easier to do this now; she turned the tendrils of darkness upon herself, and slowly split her psyche apart. Those tendrils--the long, dangling limbs of the malnourished parasite dwelling in her head--plied carefully through her memories and thoughts, rifling around for what she sought. After a small delay, she found what she was looking for--the chemical imbalances in her brain that were currently making it impossible to maintain focus and stability. The mindflayer fetus didn't resist--didn't protest, when she forced it to accept the sensation instead of her. The hangover cleared up almost instantly.

She exhaled in relief, and straightened up, mood immediately improved. The headmistress eyed her wardrobe and quickly grabbed what she needed, slipping into it quickly, and tossing her old laundry aside. As she worked, her tendrils worked through her hair with a brush, another sprayed her down with a small bottle of rose petal water. Satisfied with her appearance, she set both the brush and bottle down, and exited her bedroom, taking a seat at her desk. Her tendrils collapsed together behind her head, appearing almost like hair extensions for the time being.

She fidgeted in her desk, and spoke aloud. 

"You may enter."

The doors swung open on their own, and Ben was treated to the sight of Bodice's office space, not to mention Bodice Brouchard herself. In contrast to the more mild red wallpaper of the rest of the building, Bodice's walls were a dark, carnal red. The windows were not covered, the two that flanked the wall to his right, yet no sunlight entered the room from them, through some charm of some kind. Her carpet was lush and full, and added a small spring to each step as he made his approach to her broad oaken desk. Behind this marvelous piece of furniture, in her red leather chair--more a throne than anything--the Headmistress rested patiently, both hands resting on her desk. She gave him a look of frank appraisal, as if he were a meal, more than a visitor. 

Silence reigned. Bodice slowly raised her hands, palms facing outward, spread a little more than shoulder-width apart. 

"Welcome," She greeted him warmly, in a voice that sounded like red velvet dipped in dark chocolate. "My name is Bodice Brouchard, and you, mon amour, are?"

 

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Ben had met women like Bodice Brouchard in red light districts all over Genesaris, but there was a key difference between them and her. The sex workers had obviously been trying to project an air of carnality; whereas the Headmistress simply radiated a subtle aura of sexuality without even having to think about it. Her eyes roamed over him unabashedly, making no secret of the fact that she was sizing him up in more ways than one. It was almost intimidating to be standing across from such a confidant individual; one with the unmistakable bearing of a predator. But Ben was hardly some frightened babe with the misfortune to end up in the lions den. He was a predator in his own right, and he knew he had to establish that fact if he wished to be seen as anything more than prey by Bodice.

So he walked to stand in front of her desk, his gait stopping just short of crossing over into a full-on swagger. As he moved, he made sure that his clothing occasionally strained against his muscular physique. When he reached her desk he flashed a grin that showed a bit more teeth than necessary before flowing into a bow with unnatural grace. Instead of speaking in his more formal tone, he let his voice drop into the baritone that he could effortlessly manage when he wanted to.

"Good day, Madame. My name is Benjamin Shawcross. It's a pleasure to meet you."

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"Likewise." There was no sarcasm, no irony to her reply. In fact, it practically dripped with eroticism, not that this was news to Bodice. Already the headmistress' eyes roved across his body once more, studying him a second time in search of whatever it was she'd missed in him. After all, she was typically very good at reading new visitors; he hadn't seemed like the aggressive type when he'd first approached. He was...different, surely. At a second glance, not much more stood out to her about him. She assessed him again, but this time masked her inquisitiveness with hospitality, in the form of a bottle of wine. She pulled it from one of her drawers, and set it atop the desk, along with two crystal glasses.

"Would you like a drink, mon cher? It's a bit early for my tastes, but I can't let this port go to waste." She thumbed over the label, admiring the brand. Go to waste, indeed. If she'd left it stoppered a while longer, it would have  been worth a fortune to avid collectors. Bodice didn't collect wine, however--she drank it. Religiously. 

She poured two glasses, and slid one across the desk, drinking in his appearance again.

He was handsome man, certainly, and not like that of a boy, like she was used to seeing around her so frequently these days. He was masculine, and proud, no trace of the meek or arrogant expressions that lingered upon the faces of her students, her lovers, her accomplices. He was, for all intents and purposes, confident in purpose, and doubtlessly aware of the circumstances of his current environment. For that, he earned a fraction of Bodice's approval.

She sipped upon her wine, and exhaled, pleased, her hangover gone for good at this point. Her free hand drummed against her desk slowly, and she smiled welcoming at her visitor.

"Well, I must say I am at a loss. You don't appear to be a merchant--you aren't flirty enough for that. You're not a solider--not enough face scars. You're a bit too old to be a student, and a bit too young to be a teacher." She paused, and asked, half-joking. "Are you an assassin?"

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"Au Contraire, my dear Headmistress," Ben said, taking his glass and sniffing the liquid, "I have actually been all of those things."

He left it purposefully vague whether or not he included being an assassin in his statement. Truthfully while he often did do the work of an assassin, that was only one part of his job. The Omagatoki were all warriors of the highest caliber; sworn to do whatever was necessary to serve the interests of their Emperor. While this service often did include killing, it was by far not the only thing that they did. The fact that he was here now was proof of that. 

Ben leaned back in his chair, and adopted a coy grin, "I was born the son of a merchant, and I often ran the shop. I've been a student of the discipline of Alchemy all of my life, and I've taught it to others once or twice."

His grin turned a shade more predatory, "My face may not show it, but I've been a soldier too. All my scars are simply in more... interesting places."

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Hmm. She thought she had a good read on him by now. 

The headmistress leaned into her desk and took another slow drink of her wine, mulling over opportunities and ideas, fussing over the ideal course of action. None of them panned out in her mind's eye, however, and instead of toying with them any longer dropped them wholly, in favor of being blunt. She set her wine down and, just once, ran her tongue across her lips. Slowly.

"Mm...you have piqued my curiosity, mon cher." Her voice was, most decidedly, a low, carnal purr. She rested her hands upon the desk before her and gestured towards him.

"Tell me, if you'd be so kind. Why do you sit before me today? What is it that I can....help...you with?" It was less an invitation, and more a question. She wouldn't pretend that she wasn't interested in the handsome visitor, but she also wasn't eager to throw aside all pretense and consume him, as-is. She needed context. An explanation of some kind. There would be time to satiate her needs later, but she was a headmistress first and foremost, and a woman second. She could wait his intentions were clear.

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Ben made no effort to conceal his enjoyment of the view afforded to him when Bodice leaned into her desk. He drained his cup, and leaned forward in his chair to place it on the desk. The Headmistress was hard to read, though he was fairly sure that he was doing well. Now he just had to give her a good reason for why he wanted to be at Bronte in the first place. He didn't think this would be hard, as his reason actually was something that he wanted.

"Oh, there are a number of ways you could help me," Ben replied, smile turning wicked for just a moment, "But as for why I came in the first place..."

Trailing off, he pulled a book out of his coat pocket, and old leather bound tome that looked well used. He slid it across to Bodice in an effort to show that he had nothing to hide.

"As I said, I've been studying alchemy my entire life.  My family comes from a long line of alchemists, and we've developed our own methods and techniques, while also learning what we could from other styles. The entire history of our alchemic research is contained in this book. For centuries, we have kept this knowledge to ourselves, but now that it has been passed to me, I believe that it is time to share our knowledge with the world."

Ben stood up and looked Bodice in the eye, "What I need from you, is the opportunity to pass this knowledge on to a new generation, something that Bronte Academy is in a unique position to do."

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Ah, there it was.

Looking back on this moment later, Bodice would probably (drunkenly, perhaps) berate herself for not immediately recognizing her company's intent. She was no stranger to his type, after all. Handsome, well-dressed men and women wound their way into her office often, looking for work of one type or another, and Bodice had seen her fair share of resumes and applications before. In many of those, she'd even managed to remain professional and avoid flirting. Not so the case with this one here.

Her smile didn't waver, however, and she kept her attention on him as he explained himself to her. Even with his intentions known, it was still quite evident that he was taking in her appearance just as much as she'd been taking in his. It wasn't an unfamiliar gaze that he held; she'd seen it before, and she'd doubtlessly see it again.

She took another sip of her wine, and her 'applicant' passed a journal of some sorts towards her. For a moment, the parasite writhing in the dark places of her brain squirmed, instigated by the prospect of knowledge; she had no immediate desire to sate its craving. Instead, she chose to focus on his words, in particular how he spoke about his talents in Alchemy. As it stood, she'd recently lost her own alchemist, though she couldn't quite understand where she'd gone. She'd never been successful in finding Abigail; the woman had been well-off, come from money and for some reason had abandoned it all when she quite working at Bronte. Nobody had seen her, and nobody had found her. Worse still, the position she'd filled in the school had never been filled after she left. That made Ben's approach a little more enticing.

She glanced down at his journal, but did not touch it, favoring her wine glass instead. The last of the crimson liquid splashing around in the crystal glass vanished behind ruby-red lips, and she uttered a soft sigh as she set it back down. There was a lot left in the bottle--she'd be visiting it again, soon enough.

But for now, she needed to respond.

"You've come at an interesting time, then." She replied slowly, easily. She crossed her arms and rested them against the desk before her, and leaned into them a bit. "As it stands, there are very few people in my employ able to teach alchemy. i have a couple members of the staff who can help the students--lab safety, gathering ingredients, that sort of thing, but nobody dedicated to the task."

She paused on the last word, letting the 'k' linger on her tongue like a dollop of liquid velvet, then continued.

"However, as you can understand I did not get into this position by simply hiring anyone who wandered into my office. I'll need references, oui? Letters of reccomendation, birth certificate, things of that nature."

She caught the way he started to react, and quirked a small, nearly sadistic smile. "You're applying at one of the finest schools in the world, mon cher. Best not forget that."

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However Bodice thought Benjamin was going to react, he felt sure that it wasn't how he actually did react. Ben may have been a warrior first and foremost, but he was no fool; and he had known this moment was coming. Any kind of bureaucracy was going to practically revel in paperwork, and he knew that he didn't have any of the documents that most people in a civilized world probably would. When your born in the wilderness, and spend your childhood wandering from one backwater town to another, a birth certificate is hard to come by. Thus, he had taken appropriate measures before setting off on this mission.

Before coming to Bronte, he had paid a visit to the best forgers in the empire, and had them give him the works. Birth certificate, passport, college degree, all indistinguishable from the genuine article. In the case of the schools he used for his alma mater and references, he had made sure to pay the institutions a visit. Through bribery or threats, he had convinced people to back his story, should Bodice do her due diligence on him.

Ben reached into his jacket and produced a folder thick with the requested documents and placed it on the desk in front of her with a smile.

"Here you are. Is there anything else I might... help you with?"

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The Headmistress took her time looking over his folders, and hid the smile that crept across her face as she did so. 

There was just something delightful about talking with Benjamin. She suspected it was multifaceted; Obviously, Benjamin was handsome, quick-witted and certainly well-prepared, but there was more to it than that. Perhaps it was the fact that she'd just shrugged off a hangover, and still had the euphoria of a rising god complex somewhere in the folds of her head. Perhaps it was the time of day; she'd effectively escaped the consequences of decadence, only to stumble across the possibility of further decadence immediately after. As if the woman in the garden had vomited up the apple, only to find another, similarly tantalizing apple immediately afterward.

Euphemisms aside, Bodice certainly wanted to take a bite out of this apple. However, before she could, she needed to behave like a professional, and in this case, that meant going over the rest of his application, which was already looking promising. His letter of recommendations were shining, of course, boasting names Bodice had heard in passing (well, she might have known one or two in a more biblical sense, but not all of them. As it turned out, there still existed faithful men and women out there, who weren't interested in indulging the Headmistress' capricious appetite for casual sex and recreational drug use.) Moreover, everything else checked out. It'd be easy enough to hire him, certainly. The fact that he was so eager to move onto more...immediate matters was appreciated, too. Instead of indulging that however, she glanced up from his resources, and flashed him a tempting smile.

"Like a dog waiting for a bone, aren't you?" She was almost joking. She slowly closed his folder and crossed her arms across it, silently declaring it 'her' property for now. However, the gestures was more intended to silently defend herself for the time being. Wordlessly giving him an answer, before following up with a statement of her own.

"You understand that this will take some time for me to go over, mon cher. While I cannot make any great promises, I do think we have need of someone of your stature. I would be very interested in seeing where such an arrangement would take us, but...we aren't there yet." Yet. She gazed at him across lidded eyes, and offered another smile, impish and bespeaking of her own opinion on such a turn of events.

"You are dismissed, then. I'll go over this once again, perhaps check a few of these references, and...get back to you sometime this evening. Over champagne."

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Ben stood, and bowed gratefully, "Of course, Headmistress. I eagerly await our next meeting."

With that, he stood and walked out of the room, not looking over his shoulder as he made his way out of the room. He was fairly certain that the interview had gone well, and that he would likely be hired. The references and history he had created for this identity was airtight. It would stand up to scrutiny, he was sure of that much. The only thing that concerned him was the Headmistress herself. She was obviously far more perceptive then she let on. Ben doubted that she would be able to guess exactly what was off about him, but he did wonder if that sense of wrongness would cause her to turn him away.

On a more personal level, he found himself intrigued by Bodice, and the air of sensuality that she so effortlessly cultivated. What most people took great care to hide, she presented for the world to see. Before joining the Omagatoki, he had often lived that way; proudly flaunting his nonhuman attributes. Even though he knew it was critical he keep a professional detachment, he found himself eager to get to know her.

He continued to ponder the question as he made his way back to his hotel.

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Her applicant bowed and and strode away quickly, and just as soon as their interview had started, it had ended. 

The Headmistress sat in her desk for hours--or perhaps minutes--staring into nothing in silent reflection. The air was still, yet again, and nothing remained, except for her thoughts. The papers still waited at her hands for her to investigate further, which she probably--definitely would. Bodice hadn't gotten the job by being a slouch, after all; she'd follow through on her claims, make sure that he was genuine--but those results would take a little while to accrue, and the headmistress had no intentions of waiting that long. Especially not when she was able to just destroy him if he irked her.

Bodice blinked, and reached for the bottle of wine, startled by the sudden ruthlessness that had invaded her thoughts. That was...unfamiliar. She took a sudden swig straight from the bottle, in an effort to drown the ugly thoughts that had surfaced, and with it, the meaning behind her words was a little clearer, somehow. Ben, as she was probably never going to call him by his last name, or even his proper title, was a curiosity right now. He'd weathered her voracious advances, and even mirrored them to an extent, without missing a beat. It didn't happen quite often, and that made it worth taking note of. It made it exciting, a rarity worth consuming right away. The catch, then, was that she was tempted to put it before her work, which she understood would have...consequences, if she was discovered doing so. So then, if she were to act on her impulses, if she gave him the job, and then gave him her as a prize for the evening, it would only be appropriate to guarantee that the decision didn't come back to bite her. She didn't believe there would be any complications; in fact, glancing down at the papers once more, Bodice was all but certain the documents were genuine, and if they were they presented a very enticing image of the man's career so far. 

But if it did come back to bite her--

Bodice drained the last of the bottle, and brushed it aside, exhaling sharply. The tartness of the wine lingered on her tongue, sending little chills down her spine as she reveled in the taste. Once again, she marveled at the mindflayer fetus' capacity to absorb punishment. She didn't even feel drained after offloading her hangover, and the oncoming tipsiness onto the pitiful creature. She was clear-headed, and euphoric, even. She turned her attention back to the pages, and stifled a grin at the thoughts that invaded her head once again. She could have such fun with Ben, should she choose to. Manipulating her senses as she pleased, perhaps even manipulating his senses, like the Goddess of Indulgence she'd all but declared to be. When Ben would come back to her later that evening, she could guarantee it was an evening he wouldn't be able to forget, no matter how hard he tried.

She reached for the little crystal on her desk, and gave it a poke. It hummed to life slowly, lighting up as it did so.

"Oui madame?" Her secretary prompted.

"Get a hold of someone, would you?" She asked, barely containing her mirth. "I'm going to need a rare brand this evening--something that'll get me laid."

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Waiting for something to happen was always the worst part of an operation like this, Ben reflected from the bed in his hotel room. In the middle of a fight, or during an infiltration, you were too busy focusing on the task at hand to think about anything else. But now, as he stared at the ceiling of the darkened room, he had plenty of time to second guess himself, to wonder at all the little things that could have gone wrong. What if one of his references had decided to get brave, and ratted him out? Or what if, somehow, someway, they managed to find out he was a member of the Omagatoki? Neither was likely, but it was the kind of thing he couldn't stop thinking about.

So he had forced himself to stay distracted by working out, then by going over the details of his cover identity. When that was done, he cleaned his axe until it practically sparkled, and brewed a few vials of Atavism. Once all that was through, he went and took a long, relaxing bath, a tumbler of whiskey in hand as he soaked for a while. By the time evening rolled around, he was finally relaxed; just in time for one of the hotel staff to knock on his door and hand him a note, summoning him to the Headmistresses office.

Getting dressed, Ben rushed out to the University, feeling like he was swimming upstream through the bustling evening crowds. Eventually he found his way there, and greeted the receptionist, who asked him to wait while she notified Bodice that he had arrived. 

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Bodice awaited in her chambers with an almost surreal patience. In fact, Bodice seldom had visitors throughout the day. There was paperwork, sure, and once or twice a week she might get a message requesting her to act, but Bodice had done a superb job so far of regulating much of her workload to other people. This mostly meant that she lurked around in her office drinking, shopping, trying on her clothes and--of late--pushing and poking and prodding at the dangerous infant lurking in the dark reaches of her mind.

She stood before her mirror. She'd been doing that for a while now; how long, she couldn't quite tell, she didn't care to know. Instead, she was regarding her appearance. The way her hair fell down around her shoulders, the way her features rested on her face. The way her soft, porcelain skin looked in the comfy lighting of her bedroom. She was beautiful, of course. Was there ever any doubt?

And yet, and yet, she still found...impossible faults in her visage. Hairline fractions in perfect porcelain, that might not exist at all. She over-analyzed her appearance to the point where those flaws seemed tangible, and from there became amplified to unrealistic degrees. 

Most notable was her eyes, she decided.

She could cover up fictional blemishes with a careful brush and some creative cosmetics. She could 'pretend' she was beautiful if she had to, blotting out any cracks in the facade, but those damnable gateways to the soul, her beautifully terrible eyes, she couldn't fix them. They were a bit too wide, and too betraying of her nature. They invited people to look in, and see who she was. All of her flaws, the effort she put into looking the way she did or how she even got to this position. That was dangerous, she decided at long last. As the hangover she shelved onto her parasite began to clear up, it remained docile, much to her delight. Her friend's effort in restraining the animal had been key in giving her a chance to manipulate it. Now, she hardly had to exert any effort in restraining it. That didn't mean it was gone, however, and it lurked in the dark parts of her head, even still. Worse still, somebody might look into her eyes, right into them, and see that teeming, terrifying mass resting there. They could expose her as a fraud, or worse. 

That couldn't happen. If her eyes would be her downfall, then they had to go.

Bodice stepped away from the mirror and paced her room now, and then her office following that, like a caged panther. Her clothes, half on, half off, trailed behind her like a specter's rags. She could still see, which affirmed the problem wasn't going to magically go away.

She had to ruin them. Destroy them, maybe. She glanced up, across the office and into her room, where just the faintest ghost of her reflection stare back. Chlorine in the eyes? Too painful, and not guaranteed. Liquor? Same idea. There was also the dangerous implication that her eyes would remain intact. That was unacceptable.

She approached her mirror again, and with each step her furious stare grew more and more defined, until she stood, nearly seething at her eyes. She had to be sure, she had to destroy them. She had to...breathe, at least for a moment.

She took a deep breath in, and out, and in, and out. She let her gaze drop, and let her body temperature drop with it. She felt the icy cold pricks of sweat on her neck as she calmed down. She glanced down at her clothes again, and wondered if she had an appropriate wardrobe change, or time to find something new. Then, satisfied with how much time she'd spent avoiding the topic at hand, she reached up, and pressed her fingers into her eyes, close to the bridge of the nose. Two fingers was almost too wide, but she managed. Light popped before her eyes as she pressed against her eyelids with force, and pain shot through her head. She didn't have time to slow down, didn't have time to force the pain onto the mindflayer, and so she pressed on. She pushed harder and harder, and as she did the eyes gave way, pushing to one side, being crushed neatly in the prospect. It was really hurting now, but she couldn't stop. She was behind the eyes now, and with a final push got her fingers all the way behind them, and just as her digits filled the space where her eyes used to be, her eyes displaced.

Outside of her skull.

The world went dark immediately, and Bodice wailed in agony and relief, falling backwards away from her bureau and onto the floor. She screamed good and long, before the pain finally died into racking, angry sobs that almost seemed to resemble hysterical laughter. Eventually, she got to her feet, and wobbled unsteadily for several moments. 

The world was dark, and her face was dry. It appeared that Bodice could no longer cry, likely due to damage to her glands, or something along those lines. She reached up and felt along her face. There would be bruising, certainly, and she couldn't hide that with makeup. She felt along the walls, to the edge of the bed and patted the side of her night stand (probably). She knocked over an empty bottle and it rolled away slowly, but she found what she was looking for, regardless. Namely, a very appealing blindfold made of lace and black leather, for those exhilarating evenings when she didn't feel like seeing the sweating, hulking men or women poring over her body. Now, it would serve a grander purpose; keeping her disfigured face hidden from the world at large. 

Not that it would remain disfigured for long. Rather, it would suffice until she could find a replacement, and until then, she had to do away with the pain.

Yes, the alien, throbbing phantom pain of her severed eyeballs was still remained, in the bored hollows of her eye sockets. She touched, and fondled them with disapproval, probing into her head with disdain. It was surprisingly soft and fleshy within her head still, but that would likely dry out as time went on. Bodice put on her blindfold, and focused on the pain...except she couldn't. Her eyes didn't exist, and she couldn't pinpoint where the pain was coming from in her mind. It was more of a psychological matter, that she couldn't quite get the hang of. She felt her way carefully along her nerves, even the damaged ones, but couldn't do much except alleviate the actual pain residing there. The rest was beyond her, it seemed.

With that taken care of, it didn't appear as though Bodice could do much more about it. She put the blindfold back in place, and carefully made her way to her desk, and took a seat. It was surreal, really. Her other senses weren't much better now, so she was almost always disoriented, but her office felt familiar once she found one object that she recognized. She sat there patiently, and wondered what time it was.

It occurred to her that she'd forgotten to check.

She sighed, audibly, and waited patiently for about five minutes. A godsend occurred then, as her little crystal on the desk lit up again (supposedly, as she couldn't see).

"Bonsoir madamne. Il arrive." Her secretary intoned.

"Yes..." She stopped, and cleared her throat. There was a particular tone of pain in her voice still, and she attempted to correct that. She tried again.

"Yes...send him up, s'il vous plait." Gods, her head was going to kill her for quite a long time now, she realized. She'd have to offload so much of this pain onto the fetus, when she had a chance. For now, though, it was bearable. Perhaps.

The door swung open (she just barely hurt it) and she gave a thin, amused smile, inviting him in.

"So good to see you again, mon cher." She purred at him. She wondered if he could recognize the irony of that phrase.

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The scent of blood hit him like a landslide as he opened the door to the Headmistresses office, underlined by the salty smell of tears. When he looked at Bodice, the first thing he noticed was the blindfold covering her beautiful eyes. Part of him was excited, and not on a purely physical level. Something in the air seemed to stir his blood into a near frenzy, and he could feel his eyes turning black unbidden, and his canine teeth lengthening into sharp points. Indeed, this was more than just a physical response; confirming to him that something had happened in this room, something quite violent.

As soon as the thought went through his head, it struck him; her eyes. He had assumed that perhaps she had tied the cloth around her head as part of some kind of game, but now the truth dawned on him. There were no other scents besides hers in the room, so he knew that no one else could have attacked her. That left only one possibility, and it was the most troubling one of them all.

Ben stepped forward and spoke, voice a low rumble, "What did you do?"

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