Chapter 32

“I must admit, I did not see this coming,” Mr. Transport remarked.

“I did, eventually,” Mr. Numbers admitted. “Though this is far sooner than I expected.”

The duo was standing outside of the recovery ward where Roy was asleep. Mr. Transport had gone and fetched Mr. Numbers while Roy was being tended to by the healer on duty. Thanks to Roy’s natural toughness and swift healing, he would be fine. Truthfully, this was, to someone with his power, the equivalent of stubbing a toe. It hurt badly when it happened, but there was relatively little actual damage done. The only concern anyone had was a fear that he would revert back to Hershel before the wounds could be treated fully.

“So Mary coaxed him into it somehow,” Mr. Transport said in curiosity. Mr. Numbers had filled in Mr. Transport on the game of chess they had played during Roy’s fight and the conversation that had occurred within it.

“It would appear that way,” Mr. Numbers confirmed. “In all fairness, Roy is hardly the most difficult member of our dormitory to manipulate.”

“Agreed,” Mr. Transport said. “Still, she did an excellent job of tearing down his pride. She talked him into fighting one of the few students in the class who could utterly trounce him.”

Mr. Numbers nodded his agreement. “Roy would never accept his loss in the ranking matches as a genuine failure on his part, since his opponent used mental abilities and dealt no actual damage to him. This time, though... this time he lost on his home turf, in the area where he was certain he reigned supreme.”

“I imagine there is another stage to this plan,” Mr. Transport speculated.

“Certainly,” Mr. Numbers confirmed. “But it’s time for us to start moving proactively on our own. Contact the dean and humbly request to put our new idea into action. Much as I may dislike the way she did it, Mary was correct in what she told me. Right now we’re dealing with pieces that don’t yet see their full potential; they’re reined in by their own perceived limitations.”

“How do we help them with those?” Mr. Transport asked.

“For now we delegate and see how the telepath does at handling it. If she proves unable, we will step in as needed. Our concern is not to help them with their personal demons right now; it’s to get them to start looking at each other as a team, or at least as mutual assets,” Mr. Numbers answered. “We need them to have a group mentality, and the sooner we achieve that, the more effective it will be.”

“You’re right,” Mr. Transport agreed. “I do wonder if this incident will sow any dissent in the group, though. After all, Mary did essentially trick one of the team into being mercilessly beaten.”

“Yes, but it was the member no one liked,” Mr. Numbers pointed out. “How this is perceived by the group depends on her actions and their effects from this point on. Hopefully she has a good plan in place.”

*          *          *

“I feel achy,” Hershel said as he stirred in one of the oh-so-very uncomfortable recovery room beds.

“Roy was beaten pretty severely,” Mary said from her vigilant perch on a stool next to the bed. She had never left Roy’s side since he was brought here, and when he shifted back into Hershel she had stayed by his side as well.

“I remember,” Hershel said, pulling himself up to a sitting position. “That last kick was a doozy.”

“Yes indeed,” Mary agreed. “They removed all the physical damage, though. What you’re feeling now is essentially residual impulses from the nerves that know there should be pain and recovery in a certain area, even though there isn’t.”

“Hey, I’m not complaining,” Hershel said quickly. “Compared to what he did to Roy, this is some pretty minor soreness.”

“Yes... well... I’m sorry about that,” Mary said slowly. “I knew it would be rough, but it was the only way.”

Hershel leaned forward a bit, wishing he was the sort of person who was confident enough to rest a hand on her shoulder when trying to assure her. “None of that. You gave both Roy and me ample warning about what would happen. Roy was too stubborn to listen, and this is what I was hoping for. I mean, he was pretty groggy at the end, but I could already feel the hammer blow to his pride from that fight. Plus, he lost the bet. You did the right thing.”

“I know,” Mary said with a small nod of the head. “That doesn’t always make it the easy thing though. I hate seeing people get hurt.”

“Well then, let’s make sure it wasn’t in vain,” Hershel replied. “I assume you have some sort of plan now that Roy has to listen to you?”

“Oh yes, indeed I do,” Mary said, a small grin tugging at the corner of her mouth. “Roy will remember this conversation, correct?”

“Yup; we share memories of when the other is in control,” Hershel confirmed.

“Good,” Mary said. “Then listen well, you arrogant moron, because as of now you belong to me. So let’s go over just what you’ll be doing for the rest of the year.”

Even though Hershel knew she was no longer speaking directly to him, the tone of her voice and the glint in her eye compelled him to gulp. Later on, when Roy woke up and remembered the conversation, he would reflect that for once he and Hershel were in agreement.