Professor Mamta moved quickly, turning on his heel and hurrying down the stone path. The class followed behind him and he talked rapidly while they walked. "This is the garden, you see, you see? Every student contributes to it once. End of year, yes, yes, you will each plant your own seed. When you come back, come back, next year it will be ready-ready to grow. You will feed it, nurture it, and care for it all your school life here, yes, yes."
The professor turned back to glance at the students, his grin returning. "When you're done here, say your goodbye from here, if you did well then it will stay forever. If you did poorly, the others will eat it up! Yes, yes, good fertilizer it will make at least!"
Professor Mamta stopped short of one of the greenhouses and opened up the double doors at its front. He gestured for the students to come inside. "Go in, go in! Lots to do, yes, lots to do."
Everyone filed in, and the smell of dirt filled Rose's nose. There were several rows of empty pots on wooden tables, and shelves filled with fertilizer, seeds, tools, and other typical gardening items. Rose headed towards one of the tables, noticing how the pots were grouped in five. They all had a different colored dot on them: there were five red-dotted pots, five blue, five green, five pink, and so on. Rose's pots sported pink dots.
"No magic today, no magic," Professor Mamta said. "You need to know what to do before you can tell your magic what to do! Everyone ready? Ready? Good, good. Very good. Green Magic is the magic of life! It is not exclusive to plant-based magic, but plants are the nicest to work with. Older, when you're older we can learn how to self-heal, and heal others, but that's not for everyone, no, no. That's okay, though, everyone can do plants. Plants are very nice to work with. We have lots of good starting plants to choose from, too. School is very generous.
"Flowers are not very nice sometimes, though," Professor Mamta warned, his big round eyes narrowing with frustration. "They are very arrogant! Think the best of themselves and if you ignore them they get very passive-aggressive, yes, yes. They never tell you what they want right away either, mm-mm. No flowers this semester for us, no, no. Too mean. Vegetables are the best! Yes they are. Good to eat, good to grow. They like warm pots, so today we're going to prepare our own vegetables to grow. This semester we will grow them without magic, and next semester we will grow them with magic.
"All you need to do is to keep it alive, yes, keep it alive without magic this semester. That is your first big project, yes indeedy! How exciting, yes? We will learn about different kinds of vegetables, and we will learn about what grows wild: poisons, herbs, mushrooms! Read up, read up, and keep a notebook. Notebook! Yes, can't forget to tell you this year. Keep a notebook on all the plants we learn, because fourth year we go camping! You will have to grow everything to eat and find rare plants in the Fae Kingdom. Fun, yes? You can only take your notebook! So, keep up on it, yes, keep up on it!
"Okay, okay, enough talking. Let's make homes for our vegetables, then we will talk about what kind of vegetables we should grow this semester, and what you need to do to keep them alive. Be sure to visit them and talk with them outside of class, because they may not be flowers, but they do get sad if ignored. Sad vegetables do not taste good. No, no. Very bad. Yucky."
Professor Mamta gave them that wide, wide smile again, his eyes never fixing on a single student. He kept shifting his posture and fiddling with his fingers as he talked. "Watch me, then you do. Watch me, then you do."
Rose watched as the professor put together five pots to house his seeds. He continued to talk about how nice plants were, and when he was done potting everything, he continued to talk for another ten minutes about which vegetables were the nicest. His lecture—if one could even call it that—was mildly interesting, but Rose didn't see much relevance for it.
At long last, the eye-twitchy professor said they could fill up their pots themselves and start the fertilization process. He told them that in the next class they would plant whichever vegetable they chose, but for the rest of the class, he would talk about the different kinds of vegetables they could choose.
He talked about the medicinal properties of some, and the magical benefits they contributed when added to potions, which Rose found the most interesting throughout the entire class. Then he ended the lecture abruptly and instructed the class to spend the rest of the hour and a half reading from their texts and enjoying the garden.
Rose enjoyed that part the most. She went to the edge of the garden—where it overlooked the vast sky all around them—and sat down on the grass. The sun was perfect and delightfully warm above her, and she could no longer feel the perpetual discomfort of her classmates' gazes that even throughout the Green class lesson, hadn't relented.
She flipped open her textbook—it was the largest one compared to all the other classes, history included—and was unsurprised to find the first chapter talked about vegetables. Chapter two was fruits, then chapter three was mushrooms...
Wow, there are a lot more vegetables than I thought. Not exactly a happy thought since the girl detested vegetables with a quiet passion. Mortem plopped down beside her, laying back in the grass. Rose barely spared him a glance as she tried to read one of the weirder named plants.
Chrysanthemum? Summer purslane? What the heck is a Shepherd's purse? Who comes up with these names? Rose mouthed 'Chrysanthemum' a couple times before attempting to pronounce it. "Kr—Kreh—Cries? Cries-anth-ee-um? No, wait. Kris-anth—EE—mum? Ugh, that doesn't sound right either."
"Chrysanthemum?" Mortem asked, pronouncing the odd word correctly.
Rose repeated after him. "Is that it?"
"Is what it?" Chester asked, as he and Keinan took a seat on the other side of Rose. Rose held up her book to him, pointing at the word. "Chrysanthemum? Wait, are they really defining that as a vegetable? Have you seen one before, Rose?"
"The only vegetables I know about are carrots, spinach, and lettuce," Rose told him. "What's a Shepherd's purse?"
"More of a weed than a traditional vegetable, and chrysanthemums are more like a flower... I wonder how they're defining a vegetable, then. Is it literally anything you can eat that's not a fruit or mushroom?" Chester flipped through his own book, muttering quietly to himself. "Looks like the first chapter only covers stuff from the Surface Realm—that's Earth, Rose—and that humans see. Guess he really meant no magic, yet."
"Green Magic is the most dangerous if it goes wrong," Mortem said quietly. "If you can't guide your magic to encourage proper growth, it'll mutate and turn cancerous, or worse. It's not as flashy as Red or Blue, but it's the most likely to backfire on the user, and undoing Green-fueled cancer is difficult and painful."
That made Rose a bit hesitant in trying Green Magic. Anything that caused something like cancer ought to be avoided, but it was magic. Mortem said difficult and painful, not terminal. So maybe it was dangerous like driving a car was dangerous? If you were careful about it, you would be okay? Maybe. Hopefully.
Rose would be careful. She promised herself to treat Green Magic with extra care.
Wanting to change the subject to something not as dreary, Rose commented, "It's a very pretty garden. So, all the flowers here were put by past students?"
A gentle breeze passed through, ruffling Rose's hair and carrying the many pleasant smells of the garden. It made Rose's toes curl and a smile graced her lips.
Chester nodded. "Yeah. My brother's year group is over there. We'll probably have ours over by the fountain."
Rose looked over further down to the right where there was a decently-sized stone fountain. At the top of the fountain were two statues embracing, one of them was some kind of big warrior, and the other, a smaller soldier. They looked oddly familiar, and Rose asked, "Who are they? At the top?"
"Elder Wyrd and Elder Sylvania," Mortem answered her.
"Oh, I see."
The four of them fell into an odd kind of silence, it was neither awkward nor companionable. Mortem and Keinan were both lying back in the grass, seemingly dozing, while Chester and Rose flipped through the textbook. There were a few more odd things to pop up that Rose couldn't pronounce, but Chester always seemed to know how.
About half an hour in, Rose heard soft snoring from Keinan. It made her pause in her work and she looked over at the small boy with unabashed curiosity. She would have never been brave enough to fall asleep during a class, even if it was such a peaceful and relaxing experience. Class was class.
Chester didn't even pause in his reading, his brow furrowed as he intently studied the text. Rose looked over at Mortem, wondering if he was asleep, too... then she recalled how he shocked her repeatedly.
A wicked thought popped into her head. It took a surprising amount of self-control not to cackle out loud. Trying to move as discreetly and quietly as she could, Rose fished inside her backpack for a marker. Finding one, she then gently placed her textbook on the ground and slowly turned to the seemingly sleeping Chasm kingmate.
There was no purple light glowing in the dark underneath his hood, so Rose thought he must have had his eye closed. She reached toward his hood, a wide grin stretching over her face as she did so.
Just as her fingers brushed the hood, she felt a jarring shock go through, and while it didn't hurt her in the slightest bit, it surprised her so terribly that she yelped and lurched backwards, tumbling into Chester who then fell onto Keinan.
Keinan let out an 'oof' as Chester's elbow dug into his diaphragm and Chester gave a startled shout. Rose immediately pulled herself back up, her face burning hotter than the sun.
"S-sorry!" Mortem's taunting chuckles made Rose turn back around to glare at him. "You should apologize, too."
"You were going to draw on my face. I was merely defending myself," Mortem retorted, still chortling. "Ah, the look on your face, though."
Rose flushed hotly and abruptly turned away from him. Remembering how she fell, she turned towards Chester and Keinan and asked, "Are you guys okay? I really am sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you."
"I've woken up in worse ways," Keinan said, rubbing his eyes and giving her a smile.
"I was only a little surprised. Don't worry about it," Chester informed her.
With their reassurances, Rose relaxed a bit more and tried to resume studying. She decided against trying to prank Mortem soon, though. At the very least, she had to make sure there weren't innocent bystanders around to get caught in the crossfire.
Rose's mind wandered a few times while she read. She did her best to remain focused on her book, but sometimes when the wind blew strongly and she caught all sorts of odd smells, it pulled her mind away.
She wondered what created such a symphony of smells. She knew it was the garden, certainly, but in her experience, so many scents ought to have clashed in one way or another. They usually fought for a dominant scent, and the effect was a place that smelled like some kind of heavy perfume. It would normally give Rose a headache being surrounded by so many floral and heavy smells, but not in Gardenia. It was odd, and it tugged at the back of Rose's mind.
Was it simply due to magic? Or was there something else going on?
Focus, Rose told herself, trying to avoid going off on a tangent. She had work to do. She forced herself to stare back down at her textbook, rereading the paragraph she had reread five times already while her mind wandered.
Then the wind blew again, and Rose caught a new scent.
She couldn't resist looking back up and glancing around the utterly gorgeous garden. While she did so, she noticed a petite girl sitting some little ways from them and staring intently at their group. She was a pretty, albeit unremarkable, girl with pale blonde hair, pale skin, and pale purple eyes. She was like washed out lavender. Rose could see she was a Hero kingmate from her uniform, but that was about as much as she knew about the girl.
Keinan looked up at that moment, catching Rose's curious gaze and looking over at the girl. He grinned and nudged Chester. The moment Chester looked up, the girl turned ten shades of red and abruptly looked back down.
Keinan snorted out a quiet laugh, laying back down and wheezing. Chester glared sharply at his friend. "It's not funny."
"Yes, it is," Keinan chuckled.
"What's not funny?" Rose asked.
"Nothing," Chester stressed, swatting his best friend on the chest. "Ignore this moron, Rose."
Rose looked back over towards the girl—Viola, she remembered Professor Yūei calling her in class—before shrugging and trying to focus on her textbook again.
What's a dragon supposed to smell like? Rose wondered. Ah! Stop it! Read, you stupid girl. Read! Bad girls don't do their homework.
A shiver ran down Rose's spine.
Bad girls don't get supper. Bad girls sleep outside. Her fingers tightened around the book. And I'm a good girl. Good girls do their work when they're told.
Rose nodded to herself, determined to do her classwork. Soon enough, class was dismissed, and the quartet went off to their final class for the day.