Our final Tale From Switch City features Kickaha. Whenever Kickaha is around either something happens to Kickaha or Kickaha happens to someone. This time it’s a bit of both as he suddenly finds himself thrusts into a magical school where all the kids are doing it wrong.
Tales From Switch City
“Hmmmmmm.” Kickaha was staring very intently at a small drainpipe that was attached to a local school building. The rust and white colored foxyote narrowed his eyes with impatience as he continued to stare with it intently, his short green cloak shifting along his back as he perched on all fours, tail swishing in annoyance. No matter how long he stared the drainpipe remained a drainpipe and nothing special happened with it.
Eventually, his patience wore thin.
“I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE!” He grabbed the drain pipe and tried to shake it. “I was literally seconds away from grabbing you before you found a hole to hide in! You can’t stay in there forever! You have to-” As Kickaha shouted and shook the drainpipe it suddenly came loose from the side of the building, and with a great clattering of noise collapsed onto the school lawn. “Uh… I mean… Probably still in there?” Kickaha released his grip on what was left of the pipe standing up as it too fell to the ground.
“AHEM!” A loud gruff voice sounded directly behind Kickaha. The foxyote turned around and found an incredibly buff and tall woman dressed in rough clothing standing behind him.
“Oh… Groundskeeper Tracy. How good to see you again.” Kickaha made his best attempt at a friendly smile despite running into what could be considered his nemesis. A lot of things could be considered his nemesis. Anyone in charge of keeping wild animals out of places, clever rodents that weren’t the ‘clever’ kind, random people on the street that acted like jerks, elected officials, and bandits that kept insisting that they were pirates and what was clearly a tank WITH TREADS was a boat. When you lived a life as eventful as his you tended to pick up new adversaries weekly. It kept things interesting.
“Shoo! Off the school yards!” Tracy responded with a growl before producing a broom and swinging it at Kickaha.
“H-hey! Come on! Don’t just get dirt in my fur like that! I speak English; you can ask me nicely!” Kickaha jumped backwards away from the groundskeeper, but not fast enough. She grabbed the edge of his green cloak and lifted him up into the air. “I mean… We can talk this out like civilized people right?” Tracy just growled at him in response.
“Squeak.” It was at this moment a small mouse crawled out of the remains of the drainpipe. Its nose twitched as it sniffed the air, and sensing this was its best moment, it quickly ran off as fast as it could, disappearing from sight.
“And now you made me lose my lunch.” Kickaha whined. “Come on… I don’t cause trouble during YOUR lunch. Not on purpose, anyway. Look, that one time wasn’t my fault. I was younger than normal and drunk on sugar!” Kickaha waved his arms. “This time I was helping you! Trying to keep your schoolyard, which you do a lovely job maintaining by the way, pest-free!. And if that just happens to get me lunch in the process, well then, everyone wins, right?”
“Get. Out.” Tracy didn’t talk a lot. But when she did she was straight to the point. She carried Kickaha to the school gate and tossed him over it as if he weighed as little as a ragdoll. He had a rough landing on his rump as Tracy brushed off her hands before walking away.
“She could have at least said please.” Kickaha gave a heavy sigh. Why did these things always happen right before lunch? Would it kill the universe to just once, JUST ONE TIME! Let him have his lunch in peace? He knew the rules. Of course, he would never say so out loud. The universe didn’t like people getting too smart with it and tended to retaliate when they did. But, his life was weird. And either something would happen to him, or he would happen to something. Usually, a combination of both.
He could try sneaking back into the schoolyard. The mouse was probably still somewhere around here. Just taunting him with all of its nutritional value. But… Tracy was likely to be on high alert for him now. Maybe he’d be better off going somewhere else. And-
Wait… What was that?
He slowly stood up to brush himself off when he felt the fur stand up along his back. Someone or something had just done some powerful magic.
Kickaha slowly turned around. The school was gone. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. There was still a school. But instead of the average sized middle school he had just been skulking about, there was now an enormous campus complete with multiple clocktowers and a strange aesthetic of a gothic architecture painted in bright blue and red.
Right on time, it would seem.
Switch City had been built on a nexus point between realities. As a result, there were infinite versions of it existing simultaneously in alternate universes. And because of its location being right on the nexus point between worlds, the boundary between reality was unusually thin. This makes a phenomenon known as a Reality Shift occur quite often, where someone within Shift City would randomly find themselves flung into another version. Universes could have only subtle differences, such as if you decided on a ham or turkey sandwich for lunch. Or they could be vastly different, such as suddenly finding yourself in a land overrun by kaiju being fought by people wearing matching uniforms but in different colors. For most people, suddenly finding themselves in another universe was a mind-breaking experience and they tended to go into denial or try to find some logical way to explain it.
For Kickaha, it was just another Tuesday.
He didn’t know if he was in another reality, or if the school had been replaced with one of those infamous places that always weren’t there yesterday and won’t be there tomorrow. But things like this were pretty much everyday events in his life.
The place seemed to still be a public school, even if it looked more like a college campus. The gates also were much taller with an impressive wall. Kickaha could walk away and decide not to get involved in whatever this was. But where was the fun in that? Besides… Whatever this new school was… It might not have a Tracy, but might still have a delicious mouse with his name on it. In retrospect, if he had just eaten the mouse right away rather than writing his name on it to make sure no one else stole it, he wouldn’t be out a lunch right now. But hindsight was 20/20. Right now, the possible benefits of investigating the new school outweighed the possible costs. And even if they didn’t, it wasn’t like that would have stopped him.
Being a small three-foot-tall critter had its advantages. There was no way Kickaha was getting over the gate without sprouting wings, but he could easily wriggle through the bars. And just like that he had infiltrated the new school. He waited a few seconds to see if Tracy would show up, or some alternate version of her, but no one appeared. He was safe, or whoever was in charge of keeping wild animals out was busy elsewhere. Time to find this school’s version of the mouse he had been chasing!
He headed back in the direction of where the building with the drainpipe had been. A much more impressive spiraling tower stood in the building’s place. And no pipes on this one. That meant no place for a mouse to hide. Assuming it was still around here. Kickaha dropped to all fours and began to sniff around, trying to pick up the familiar scent of rodent and see if he could find his prey.
But he was distracted as he felt a charge in the air.
Magic. At a school. A school with impressive gothic architecture. It wasn’t hard to put two and two together and get five here.
Not nearly as powerful as the Reality Shift, but there was magic in the air. Someone nearby was using the Art. Considering the education department insisted there wasn’t enough funding to purchase both math and history books for the schools, he was fairly certain it was unlikely they had approved an Arcane Studies program for the students. If the people in charge of education were willing to teach kids useful things like that, he had to be in another universe. Well, that was one mystery solved. But what kind of magic could possibly be going on?
Kickaha temporarily forgot his pursuit of a meal and crept to a window, climbing the bricks of the tower until he could see inside a classroom. What he saw, horrified him.
On the other side of the building was a classroom. Inside the classroom were a bunch of humans, one older male and the others all middle-school age, presumably the teacher and his students. And all of them were looking at the blackboard, reading instructions on it, reciting an incantation, waving their wands in the exact same pattern and all getting the exact same result. Making a textbook float in the air.
This was wrong! This was all wrong! If thirty students all casted the same spell in the same way they should be getting thirty different results! What were they teaching at this school? That the Art was some easy to control thing, that you could rely on it to predictably do whatever you wanted. There was no universe in existence where that was true! The teachers at this place were setting their students up for failure! Once they were out in the real world, and learned that magic was less of a tool and more of a wild untamed beast that did what it wanted and occasionally took requests, they’d be helpless. Someone had to do something! Someone had to tell the kids the truth! Teach them about the unpredictable nature of the Art. At least half the class should have turned into random animals. Others should have set the book on fire. Only one at most should have gotten the book to levitate as an example. Because sometimes magic actually did what you wanted just to get you to let your guard down so it could sucker punch you the next time.
But who? Who could possibly teach these kids the truth? Who could warn them before it was too late, that they were trying to mess with forces they understood when they should be messing with forces they can’t comprehend instead!
And deep in Kickaha’s heart, he knew there was only one person who could set these kids straight. Himself. Today, Kickaha was happening to something else. But it was for the greater good and to secure these children’s futures.
Alright, it was time to scheme. He had to become a teacher fast. There was no guarantee the school would be here tomorrow or that he’d be here tomorrow. So he couldn’t afford to go through the process of applying for a job, showing his credentials, waiting for a callback, and hoping he got a spot. He needed a way to become a teacher right now.
But how was he to do that? Teachers tended to have credentials and degrees that Kickaha currently lacked. He technically had experience as a teacher, but he doubted whatever academy this was would accept “trained random kids out in the forest to turn into animals” as work experience. Besides, he had no references. At least none that would help his case in an interview. And for that matter, the kids were being taught the Art wrong right now. Any pretense of doing things the proper way was going to take way too long.
There was no choice. He was going to have to resort to a zany scheme. One that would require all of his cunning. And when things inevitably went horribly wrong, all of his luck. So… What was the fastest way to get into the school?
Of course! It was simple! A substitute teacher! Becoming a full time teacher might have required a degree, but becoming a sub was a much faster and easier process. Especially if he left out the part where he told the school he was doing it. The plan was flawless! Except for the fact that the teacher in the classroom was clearly in good health and so had no reason to stop teaching anytime soon. Which meant, Kickaha was going to have to take out the teacher from the equation. Temporarily, of course. Probably. Things would probably work themselves out. Hopefully. Either way, the less Kickaha thought about it, the more likely it was things would be fine. That was just how the universe worked. So long as you didn’t acknowledge the universe worked that way. Which was why Kickaha never spoke such thoughts aloud.
Alright! It was time for the plan! Kickaha had been trying to catch lunch when all this happened. Judging by the height of the sun in the sky, it was still around lunch time. In theory, the kids should either have just gotten back from lunch or be heading to lunch soon. As they appeared to be in the middle of a lesson, it was unlikely they just got back. So, if Kickaha’s deductions, or at least wild guesses, were correct, then the kids should leave for lunch at any time. The teacher would naturally take his own lunch. And at that point Kickaha would inconvenience the teacher for the rest of the day, slip in and teach the kids magic properly. He might only be able to give them a single lesson before he was found out and banned from yet another school for doing absolutely nothing wrong. But he could at least make that lesson count.
That meant, now all he had to do was wait. Well that was boring. Plans were fun when they were happening, not when you were waiting for them to kick in. If only he could speed up time. Well he could, but due to the unpredictable nature of the Art, it was wiser not to mess with time. Despite what many believe, Kickaha did in fact have a certain level of common sense, and daresay even wisdom to his character. He just seldom chose to listen to them except for when it really mattered.
Well, he supposed there was one thing he could do to pass the time. If this was another universe, there might be an alternate universe counterpart to that mouse. Meaning, he could still fit his lunch in before the students and teacher went on lunch.
The foxyote dropped to all fours and began sniffing around, trying to find any lingering trace of the familiar scent of rodent. He caught something, but it was weak. There was a mouse here recently! But it had left! However, now he had a scent trail to follow. He’d follow the nutritious meal to wherever it had gone, have a fine meal and then put his plan into action. Everything was working out perfectly.
Wait! Shoot! Why had he had that thought!? Some things you didn’t say. Because the universe hated a wise guy. But some things you didn’t even think, because somehow the universe always knew when you did. Never think anything was perfect! That was a guarantee for everything to fall apart.
And as if on cue, a loud bell rang throughout the school. Having a pretty good idea of what had just happened, Kickaha gave a heavy sigh and went back to the classroom window. Peeking inside he found that the students were all grabbing bagged lunches from their packs and heading out of the classroom. Which meant… Kickaha’s lunch was going to have to wait. He needed to infiltrate the classroom while the teacher was alone before he left to have his own lunch, somehow.
Step 1. Get into the classroom alone with the teacher. Step 2 would be decided on upon completing Step 1. Kickaha didn’t really have a full plan outlined. Nothing ever went according to plan. So it was much simpler not to have one and just learn to work with whatever chaos the universe threw at you.
A nearby door to the tower Kickaha had been peering into opened as kids began to pour out. This was his chance. Kickaha pulled his cloak’s hood up over his head and pulled it tight so that his face was barely visible.
Even with his face hidden, the sight of a three-foot tall foxyote, with his tail and most of his body clearly showing, would be enough to alert anyone. But, one does not question the cloak. Literally. It produced a magical field that caused people to overlook Kickaha. As a result, as students marched out the tower door, Kickaha simply walked in the front door and no one paid him any mind. Of course, as with all magic, there were drawbacks. Causing everyone to overlook him meant that no one was careful around him. And most of these kids were bigger and heavier than Kickaha. At least three different students stepped on his tail, and he had to ignore his first two instincts to yelp and to give them a tail of their own so they could see what it was like. The cloak’s powers had their limits. If he did anything to draw attention to himself, accidentally or on purpose, that would be enough for people to notice him. Which meant no sassy comments, no casting spells, and no screaming. Sometimes, he wondered if this magic was really worth the cost.
But he couldn’t deny the effectiveness of it. He was inside the school tower now. And thankfully, most of the students were outside. Now, he just had to get rid of that teacher so he could become his substitute teacher. Though, at this point a thought occurred to him.
Whatever teacher he was about to replace. There were far more teachers than him in the school. At best Kickaha would likely get a single afternoon with one class. This meant he would never see the vast majority of the students. Could he actually make any significant impact to correct the course of this school with only a single class? Or was this a pointless endeavor?
No! He had to believe in the children. Adults were stubborn and inflexible. But kids were still willing to change how they thought about things. He didn’t need to change the minds of the entire school. He just needed to plant the seeds of creativity in a few student’s minds and trust that they would then spread it to their other friends at the school. It would be like a chain reaction. If each student in the class talked to two students outside the class, the number of students who understood the true nature of the Art would increase exponentially.
Though… There was a small risk he supposed. Kids didn’t always repeat information correctly to other kids. Anyone who had played a game of Telephone knew this. Pass a phrase to one kid and have it go around a circle, and a completely different phrase comes out by the time it gets to the original person. Though, this could work to his advantage. As the Art was unpredictable and chaotic, perhaps the random ways that children spread information would match its chaos and be the perfect instrument for instruction.
Yes. As long as he had confidence in the kids, he was sure that everything would turn out fine. Or at the very least interesting. Which, honestly, was a much better state than ‘fine’.
As silent as a ghost, Kickaha made his way through the halls till he found the classroom he had seen from the outside. He slipped in without the teacher taking notice at all. Thank you, magic cloak. At the time he arrived the teacher was getting his own boxed lunch out from his desk and preparing to leave. Which meant, no time like the present to get things started.
Kickaha lowered his hood.
“Excuse me. Mr? Professor? Sensei? Going to be honest I’m not 100% sure honest what your title at this school.”
“W-what!?” The teacher was caught off guard by the seemingly sudden appearance of the foxyote. The portly man jumped a full foot back and bumped into the wall when he saw the foxyote. After taking a moment to recover, he finally addressed Kickaha. “It’s ‘professor’.” He adjusted his glasses and tugged on the sleeves of his black suit nervously.
“Ah good professor!” Kickaha continued. “I couldn’t help but overhear part of the lesson you were giving your students. And as a concerned member of the magical community I felt it was my duty to come here and help set things right.”
“The magical…” The professor eyed Kickaha wearily but slowly began to calm down. “I get it now, you’re a magical creature. Some kind of… Fox? Are you a yokai? A bit far from home for a kitsune.”
“I’m a foxyote.” Kickaha stated bluntly. He tried not to be too mean. It was an honest mistake, the professor didn’t know. But a kitsune? Come on! He only had one tail!
“A foxyote? I’m not familiar with such a creature…” The professor muttered.
“Half fox, half coyote, all magic. I mean it’s kind of right there in the game.” Kickaha wagged his tail, proud of his foxyote heritage. Even if he wasn’t sure if he actually inherited his heritage from anyone.
“Wait… That can’t be right. No such creatures exist.” The professor scoffed at Kickaha.
“And yet here I stand before you.” Kickaha waved a paw in annoyance. “Which brings me to my problem. You’re teaching these kids that magic is all formulas, and things you can expect. 2+2 = 4. But sometimes it equals four, sometimes it equals five, and sometimes it equals a slice of pie.”
“I’m not sure I follow…” The professor, if nothing else, seemed curious about the magical creature before him. That was good, it meant Kickaha had the opportunity to do more talking.
“Okay to make things easy. I’m a foxyote. But you don’t think foxyotes exist because you ‘know’ they don’t exist.” Kickaha pointed to different parts of his fur pattern to show where he differed from both a normal fox and a coyote. “And yet I exist, so what you know is wrong. Because you assume if you put two and two together you’ll always get four. As a result when you meet the unexpected your brain shuts down and rejects it. You’re teaching the same flaws to these children now and in doing so they’ll soon reject the reality right in front of them. So many missed opportunities. Not to mention so much cluelessness on how to handle the true nature of magic.”
“Not a whole lot of what you’re saying is making any sense…” The professor muttered. “Maybe you should slow down and explain how you even got here.”
“Hmmmm.” Kickaha jumped up onto the teacher’s desk so he could look at the teacher at eye level. “You don’t seem like a bad person.” Kickaha muttered after a few seconds. “And your mind isn’t completely closed to new ideas. The doors are mostly closed, but there’s a tiny crack where new ideas can still get in. But it’s so small…it’s near impossible for them to get to you.”
“Again I’m afraid I -still- don’t understand.” The professor had a hard time returning Kickaha’s stare. Kickaha doubted it was out of any form of fear, but merely because Kickaha’s existence denied what the professor knew as ‘truth’ and thus made him hard to accept.
“Just, things would have been easier if you were a jerk, or a terrible person in general.” Kickaha jumped down from the table and thrashed his tail, somewhat irritated. “I mean if you were a complete jerk who refused to hear me out at all, I’d have no problem temporarily sending you on a little karmic journey while I taught the class for an afternoon. But, while you don’t understand, you are willing to listen and let me talk. That… Puts me in a bit of an awkward position. I need you gone for the rest of the afternoon so I can be a sub for your class. But, you’re not terrible enough to justify me just getting rid of you, even temporarily. How do we resolve this?” Kickaha gave a heavy sigh. This was one of the biggest issues with education. The educational system wasn’t completely screwed up. There were quite a few teachers who actually were doing the best with what they had and were in fact, not terrible human beings. It wasn’t like teaching was a job you could fall into, or choose for the salary. It required a certain level of dedication, and even the worst teachers were usually ones that gave up after the system broke them, rather than those having been born with natural malice. Teachers that existed solely to make the lives of children miserable were fairly rare exceptions.
And so now what was he to do? He could have just turned the teacher into a raccoon or something and had him kicked out of the building until the spell wore off. But now… He was going to have to play nice while still getting rid of the guy.
“Umm… is something wrong?” The professor took note of the fact Kickaha had fallen silent and was pacing back and forth atop the desk.
“It’s fine, just an unexpected occurrence, But that’s ok, nothing is ever expected really.” Kickaha mused for a moment. “AHA! I think I figured it out! Your kids need a different view on magic besides what you’re teaching them… And you need to see there’s more to it than what you’ve been teaching! So… Why don’t we kill two birds with one stone? I can arrange for you to get some new experiences to broaden your horizons, and you let me talk to your students for one afternoon to teach them about the truth of the Art.”
“The Art?” The professor seemed true.
“Magic! Do you not even refer to it as the Art?” Kickaha asked in disbelief. “You should! And don’t forget when you speak it, the A is always capitalized.”
“I’m not sure what you’re offering…” The professor shook his head. “Meeting a real live magical creature, and one capable of talking at that wouldn’t be a bad experience for the students. But I can’t really just leave them with you.”
“It’s fine! I’m qualified to teach! Probably.” Kickaha shrugged. “Not really sure what the standards are here but if they’re as low as they are where I come from it shouldn’t be too hard.”
“Now that’s uncalled for!” The professor huffed. Then, under his breath he added. “Even if it is true.”
“I heard that!” Kickaha pointed to his ears. “These aren’t just for show you know. Can hear all kinds of things! Come on! It’ll be fine! I promise I won’t do anything to hurt anyone. As for you… I think, you’d do best to spend some time in the forest and meet other magical animals. Get their viewpoints, then you can see the flaws in your methods.” Kickaha paused. “Um… Is there a forest nearby? I assume there is because ‘magic school’, but I don’t actually know the area.”
“Why do you assume a school teaching magic would be near a forest?” The professor asked.
“Well, isn’t it?” Kickaha asked.
“Well, um yes…” The professor paused. “And come to think of it so has every school I’ve taught in the past.”
“See! I know things!” Kickaha couldn’t help but stick out his tongue to tease the professor. “So come on, let me teach your class! You get to spend a day in the forest with a proper disguise so that the animals won’t recognize you and will open up! And I get one afternoon to teach your students. Besides, if it turns out I’m completely wrong, how much damage could I do in one afternoon?”
“The answer to that question actually scares me a lot.” The professor muttered.
“Trust me, it’ll be fine!” Kickaha assured him.
“I will admit, you are an interesting specimen and character but…” The professor shook his head. “You have given me no reason to actually trust you.”
“Ugh! Why do you have to be so reasonable!” Kickaha jumped down from the desk as his fur bristled. “I could deal with unreasonable! I could deal with rude! But reasonable! That’s so difficult to work with!”
“I’m afraid you’ve lost me again.” The professor gave a sigh.
“Exactly! That’s my entire point! You don’t understand how magic works! And I can’t just explain everything! That’d be too dangerous!” Kickaha flailed his arms.
“How is it dangerous?” The professor asked.
“Well…” Kickaha stopped and tried to seriously consider how to answer that question. The problem was it boiled down to the fact that again, the universe didn’t like when people decided to get too smart with it. Just explaining that notion would definitely qualify as doing that. And it was pretty clear the guy wasn’t going to simply take ‘Trust me’ for an answer. Why couldn’t the teacher have been a jerk? It would have been so much simpler. “I uh… Can’t say, it just is… Which I know you can’t just take my word for but! Aha!” Kickaha’s tail wagged happily. “Ok, surely even you know high level magic carries certain dangers with it! Right?”
“Well of course, that’s why we work so hard to teach our students to avoid those dangers.” The professor nodded.
“Right!” Kickaha slammed one paw into the other’s palm enthusiastically. “So… I can’t explain things, but you can assume we’re working with some pretty high concept magic related to why I can’t explain.”
“Okay…” The professor rubbed his temple. It was clear he was struggling as much to follow Kickaha as Kickaha was to explain things. “Let’s… Say I believe you. What exactly is your plan? I mean… What would you want me to do? And what would you be doing to my classroom?”
“For you, I’d be giving you a temporary animal form to go explore the forest that is definitely magical because they always are, interact with other magic creatures and learn things from them they’d never tell a human.” Kickaha crossed his arms and nodded energetically. “As for me, I wouldn’t be doing anything much different than normal. Having the students practice spells, some of the very same spells you had them practice. Just, teaching them that they’re going to get different results sometimes.”
“That… Sounds harmless enough… But…” The professor was still hesitant. “I’ve known to be careful of any kind of magic that sounds harmless.”
“Oh, good! We’re closer to being on the same page than I thought then.” Kickaha grinned. He was sure he had the teacher hooked now. “That’s kind of my entire point.”
“And… I could learn from magical animals in the forest, things I could bring back and teach to the kids?” The professor asked.
“I wouldn’t openly advertise you were planning to take everything you learned back to a human school and teach human kids, but yes.” Kickaha nodded.
“You know this is the type of thing I could get fired for if I agreed to.” The professor asked.
“And I could get magically tazed and thrown over the fence just for being here.” Kickaha retorted. “You wouldn’t be the only one taking risks just to help the students.”
“Hmmmm.” The professor looked Kickaha up and down as if sizing the foxyote up. “The entire time you’ve been talking I’ve been trying to get a read on you. And while most of what you say makes no sense to me… It does feel like you actually care about my students and that your intentions are to help them. I can’t say if those intentions will bear fruit or not but… I’m not sensing any malice from you. And I suppose you are correct, you’re taking a risk just by being here. Technically, I should have reported you being on the grounds the second I saw you.”
“And yet you didn’t.” Kickaha grinned.
“Well you caught me off guard just appearing before me…” The professor admitted. “And then you said some curious things. How did you get in here anyway?”
“Oh well that’s simple. I came through the door.” Kickaha pointed at said door.
“But… I would have noticed! How? Invisibility? Except I would have noticed the door open!” The professor tried to figure it out.
“It’s simpler than invisibility but far more effective. However.” Kickaha held up a finger to his muzzle. “It’s a secret. But maybe someone in the forest will teach you my wily ways.”
“You do know how to tempt people.” The professor whined. “Ugh, this goes against all common sense… But alright, fine, I’ll do what you want. But you have to swear that none of my students will be harmed.”
“Everyone will be fine!” Kickaha held up a paw.
“Swear it!” The professor demanded.
“Yeesh, no need to get loud.” Kickaha sounded defensive, but part of him had to respect the fact the guy was actually concerned about his students. “Alright, I swear, that I, Kickaha of the Art, shall ensure that none of your students come to any harm under my watch.”
“So your name is Kickaha then?” The professor seemed curious. “It doesn’t sound like any name I’ve heard before.”
“Yeah you might say we’re from completely different universes.” Kickaha snickered to himself at his little private joke, having figured out a large part of what was happening today.
“So what now?” The professor asked.
“Now, I disguise you as a magical animal so you can go into the forest and talk to the other animals and learn as much as you can in one afternoon.” Kickaha held up a paw and began to prepare his spell. “Um… Do you want to like… Take off your clothes or something before we start?”
“What? WHY!?” The teacher turned beet red.
“Ok first off, why are you embarrassed? I’m a magical animal, who clearly does not care about nudity. I only wear a cloak, so no reason to be embarrassed. I mean it’s not like those things serve any purpose anyway… And they’re either gonna rip or fall on top of you and tangle you up when you change.”
“I’ll keep them on…” The professor nervously twitched.
“Humans always get so weird about pants.” Kickaha gave a hefty sigh. “Suit yourself.” He held out a paw. “And anyway… since you’re a professor I feel like the wise owl is the best form for you to take.” Kickaha closed his eyes and focused. “Kicka Kicka Kicka Kicka Kicka Kicka…. HAAAAAAAAAAA!”
“What… are you doing?” The professor raised an eyebrow.
“Well, all your students were using incantations!” Kickaha wagged his tail happily. “So I felt like I should get into the spirit and be all dramatic too! I mean I don’t need them because it really just goes like this…” There was a bright flash of light from Kickaha’s paws and for a moment the professor was completely enveloped in it.
Then, the professor disappeared from view. He shrunk into his own clothing, as pieces of the suit fell apart and landed on top of him. After a few seconds a tiny lump moved around beneath the pile of clothing trying to find a way out.
“I did warn him.” Kickaha rolled his eyes. Then he paused. “Wait… That lump is a bit too small to be an owl… Unless I somehow did a baby owl?”
After a couple of minutes the professor finally emerged from one of his sleeves. He had become a black and white colored mouse. He slowly stood up on two legs, looking at himself and was surprised to see despite being a mouse he still had the use of thumbs.
“Everything is so big… And… I thought you said an owl.” The professor blinked. He seemed to be in a dreamlike state as he was having a difficult time processing what actually happened.
“You were supposed to be an owl!” Kickaha exclaimed. “But instead the universe continues to taunt me!” The foxyote fumed. Why had his spell misfired like this? Like a spell misfiring itself was nothing special. But there typically was a reason for how it misfired. Was he still too distracted by his thoughts of lunch and his mind accidentally slipped to delicious rodents instead of avians? Or was the universe just mocking him. Because right before him right now was a mouse he had dead to rights. And he couldn’t eat it. You didn’t eat clever mice. That was, mice who were self-aware or could talk. The professor was strictly off the menu, and now Kickaha had to stand there knowing the only mouse in the area he had found was one he could specially not have for lunch. Why did the universe continue to mock him?
“I am… Um that is to say…” The professor took a few steps uncertainly. “Things are a lot more intimidating now…”
“I’ve been smaller than a mouse before.” Kickaha tried to force his mind on other things. “It’s not that hard to get around tiny. You’ll find you can run much faster than you think… And that climbing thing is easy. Just make sure you use tall grass and bushes to avoid bigger animals and you’ll be fine. As long as you stick around the other clever animals that can talk, no one should bother you.”
“Right…” The professor approached a wall with a window. Unsteadily he grabbed the side of the wall and tried to climb it. He made it up a couple of inches, and growing more confident quickly scaled all the way up to the window. “Hey… Could you… um open this for me… I don’t think my current body is strong enough.”
“Of course, I’ve lost count of how many times a window has made a handy exit.” Kickaha moved towards the window and quickly slid it open. “Seriously though, be careful of larger animals.”
“I may be a mouse but I’m still a wizard.” The mouse professor responded. “I can handle myself.” With that he skittered down the edge of the outside wall and vanished into the grass.
“Hope you’re right.” Kickaha sighed. Why a mouse? Hopefully, even in that small form, the guy still had enough time to make it back by the end of the day. Well, he supposed the spell would wear off eventually anyway. Probably at some point where it would be funny, with no regard for if the professor had his clothing with him or not.
But now it was finally time to prepare with the kids. Kickaha had gotten rid of the professor for the afternoon, and even her permission to sub, which he did not see coming, so now he just needed to prepare his lesson and teach the kids. But, there was one problem. The professor had looked at him and only saw a magical creature. So too would the kids. He needed something to distinguish himself. Something that proved he was a man, well foxyote, of education. And considering how long he had spent talking to their teacher, it was doubtful he had a ton of time to figure it out.
Wait, the teacher would have had teachery things on him! Kickaha turned to the discarded pile of clothes on the floor. Today was truly an odd day when that was what he would look to for his solution. But there had to be something. The foxyote dug through the clothing, checking the pockets and every accessory the man had. Finally, he came to a conclusion.
The professor had worn it with his suit. Kickaha wasn’t thrilled about the idea of wearing a tie. It felt unnatural. But, while some people might see him as just a wild animal or magical creature in his normal form, if he was wearing a tie no one could deny he was there on business. And the only business here was teaching. That’d prove he was a real teacher and everything else would take care of itself.
Kickaha quickly grabbed the tie and put it around his neck. Only for it to slide right off. At that point, he spent an embarrassingly large number of minutes trying to figure out how to actually put the tie on and keep it there. WHY HAD HUMANS INVENTED THIS THING!? It might actually be worse than pants! At least those knew how to behave. But, eventually the foxyote emerged triumphant and had a striped tie hanging from his neck.
And just in time soon. The bell rang not 30 seconds after he was ready. Students began pouring into the building and then into his classroom. Most of the students froze and stared at Kickaha when they entered, clearly unsure of what’s going on.
“Good afternoon class.” Kickaha spoke up. “I am Kickaha of the Art. But there’s no need to be formal. Just call me Kickaha. Your professor had an urgent matter to attend to, so I’m going to be teaching you for the rest of the day.”
There was a murmur of confused whispers among the students. But, they continued to pour into the classroom and return to their seats. Kickaha had been accepted as their substitute teacher. So that was why humans invented the tie. It had this kind of power to make people just accept things. And he supposed it also doubled as a torture device should the need arise. But, he didn’t believe in corporal punishment so didn’t see that happening. It was unethical to force students to wear ties.
“Alright class, settle in!” Kickaha puffed up his chest and tried to speak in the voice he imagined was most teachery. It wasn’t. But it was what he imagined it would be. “I know you were doing some routine practice earlier before lunch and I want to revisit that.” This was met with a series of groans from the students, not surprising. Casting the same spell over and over again and getting the same result was broken. “Don’t worry, I promise this isn’t just busywork. See, you’re all lacking a very important understanding of the most basic fundamental rule of magic. And we’re going to work on that today. Trust me, it’ll be much more interesting than you think it will.”
“He really is just a lousy sub.” One student muttered.
“Just trying to keep us busy.” Another added. Wonderful! They were treating him with the true disrespect that all teachers received but didn’t deserve. Kickaha really had this teaching thing nailed down.
“Now then, I just want you all to repeat the same spell to levitate a book again, but only once. Do not do it more than once. This is very important for reasons that will soon become apparent.” Kickaha beamed. “You can begin.”
About fifteen minutes later Kickaha had finished putting out the fires. A few desks had permanently been reduced to ash and they had to open all the windows to let the smoke out, but the flames had been contained within the classroom. Not too bad for a first attempt.
When the students had attempted to cast their spells again, each of them had been wildly surprised when the spell didn’t work as normal. One student had turned into a squirrel, another had turned into a wolf. The two students instantly developed a rivalry, and Kickaha had to move them to opposite sides of the classroom. Then one student had managed to open a portal to some kind of interdimensional fast food drive through where an ancient voice not meant for the ears of mortals kept asking a question no one could understand but struck fear into all of them. While Kickaha did not speak the language of elder gods. He was pretty sure the question translated to: ‘Would you like fries with that?’ After the portal was safely closed by putting the book the spell was cast on in a box, and then that box into another box, and then that box in a third box covered in chains and throwing it out the window, the portal had vanished.
Then there was the book that had come to life and kept insisting it was the teacher. Leading to a large argument, which Kickaha won on account of the fact the book wasn’t wearing a tie. These things were the worst, but considering how powerful they were, he might have to start keeping one stored in a cloak pocket just in case. Another book launched itself through the ceiling, into the classroom above theirs, kept going, into the classroom above that, and presumably kept going until it escaped the building and the stratosphere. Kickaha had some students break down some cardboard boxes to cover the hole so as not to disturb the other classes.
Another book had randomly started spinning in the air and then exploded into bright colorful sparks just like fireworks. It was partially responsible for the room being on fire. Another book opened up and a fire breathing dragon emerged from it (who was the chief culprit in the fire) before they managed to shut the book and close the dragon’s entrance to this world. One student was now half the age he used to be, and another was a twentieth the size they used to be. Another student’s skin had turned purple. And then yet another student had somehow absorbed the book’s properties and now every time they spoke magic leaked from their mouth and caused wildflowers to bloom wherever it landed.
And those were the normal cases. The weird ones. Well, there are some things you’re simply better off not knowing. But at least no one had been harmed! Provided you understood that your species or shape changing wasn’t harmful.
Eventually, order was restored to the classroom after the madness that had come from casting a single spell.
“Alright, who can tell me the very important lesson that- HEY!” Kickaha shouted. “You two, stay away from each other! Stop trying to pull that wolf’s ears! No, you can not pick the squirrel up by his tail and toss him! I told you two to keep on opposite sides of the rooms!” Kickaha snapped at two of the students. Wolves and squirrels, eternal enemies. If they felt the rivalry this strongly there was a good chance the two were wereanimals now but that was a lesson he could work on later. “Right as I was saying. What did we all just learn from this experience?”
“That you’re a complete psychopath who cursed all of our textbooks?” One of the students tried.
“Nope! I didn’t do a thing.” Kickaha grinned. “I really didn’t have time to do anything like that. The only thing I’ve done is stand here. Unless you’re somehow implying my very presence caused these things to happen, I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. Try again, what’s the real lesson?”
“That you can cause these things to happen just by being here?” Another student tried.
“No, no, no, stop focusing on me! It was all of you that cast the spells!” Kickaha insisted. “How would I have had any effect on what you did?” He shook his head. “The point of it all is chaos.” Kickaha waggled a finger. “Allow me to explain in a bit more detail. Up to this point, you’ve probably been taught that magic runs on a rigid set of rules. And while that is one way of casting spells, it is rebelling against the very nature of magic in doing so. And the whole lot of you did a lot of rebelling today. So, magic does what it naturally does when someone uses it in ways other than it’s intended. It did whatever it felt like.”
“What does that even mean?” A student asked.
“It means that a spell will only do what you want it to do some of the time, and so long as magic is in a good mood.” Kickaha paused. “Also don’t do anything to upset magic.”
“Wait… are you saying magic is a sentient entity?” Another student asked.
“Well, no, it isn’t…” Kickaha sagged.
“How does it get upset then?” Another student demanded.
“It just does! It’s not… aware but it does have a sort of will! Like the universe does! Not necessarily self-aware but will try to carry out things the way it was meant to.” Kickaha searched his mind for a suitable metaphor. “Ah! Think of a waterfall. The water falls from the top to the bottom because that’s what it’s meant to do. The waterfall doesn’t have to be able to think. But if you built a dam and blocked it, the pressure might eventually crack the dam and cause water to come exploding out as if the waterfall itself was angry! So basically, think of it like that. Wild untamed explosions from bending it outside of its intended nature.”
“That’s… A little confusing.” One student complained. “Doesn’t that make all spells useless?”
“Not quite.” Kickaha wagged his tail. He had anticipated this question. “See a spell is designed to do a specific thing. And most of the time it will do that thing, especially if magic is in a good mood and it’s working the way you want it to. But the problem is that at its core magic is always a wild untamed beast. Think of it like… A cat! A cat that loves to be petted yet also randomly bites you sometimes when you’re petting it. Sometimes, a spell works. Other times it bites you. Figuratively or literally. It depends on how the spell goes wrong. Basically, the number one rule of magic is never assume you know what you’re doing because you’re probably doing it wrong.”
“Then why are we even in school for this?” Another student asked.
“Because just because you’re doing it wrong doesn’t mean you can’t do it wrong the right way!” Kickaha exclaimed happily. “See, the more aware you are of magic’s unstable nature and expect the spell to go wrong, the more likely it is to go right. Unless you’re counting on it to go right. Then it’ll go wrong anyway, because the universe doesn’t like a wise guy.”
“So… wait… are magic and the universe sentient or not?” One of the earliest students demanded.
“They’re not! But they still have opinions! Yes I know it’s confusing but that’s just how it works!” Kickaha’s ears flattened. He didn’t have a better explanation than that. “The point is to always expect the unexpected! Sometimes you try to turn a teacher into an owl and he turns into a mouse instead. A delicious looking nutritious rodent as if the entire universe is taunting you.” Kickaha didn’t realize he had started to drool a little.
“Did you eat our teacher?” One of the students sobbed.
“What!? No! That’s disgusting! You don’t eat clever creatures!” Kickaha sounded horrified. “He’s just in the forest learning more about wild magic from other magical creatures. He’ll be back and likely mostly human tomorrow. Or he might not. Maybe it’ll last a long time and he’ll teach the class as a mouse. I don’t know, that’s kind of the point. You never know. I mean, if I knew any of your books were going to cause a fire, I would have taken all of you outside to do this activity.” Kickaha paused. “In hindsight, it was poor foresight on me not to assume this wouldn’t end in something on fire.”
“So basically, we can cast spells but sometimes they’ll randomly do completely different things, and there’s no possible way to tell when that will happen?” One student asked.
“Yes! There we go! Gold star for you! Does anyone know where your teacher keeps the gold stars? If not… I’ll leave a memo and…” Kickaha didn’t get to finish as there was a knock at the door.
Before anyone could move to answer it, there was a woman who was a dead ringer for Groundskeeper Tracy. But was dressed in heavy leather armor with a robe thrown over it and had a sword and warhorn tied to her belt.
“There were reports of a fire in this classroom.” The Tracy lookalike spoke up.
“Oh. Um. We put it out. is fine.” Kickaha tried to give the most innocent smile that he could. “Hi.”
“You… What is an animal like you doing inside the school?” AU Tracy asked.
“H-hey! I’m not just an animal. I’m a substitute teacher! I got permission and everything! And for once I’m not just saying that; I really did!” Kickaha held up his tie. “See I’m even wearing a tie to prove it and- GAH!”
Kickaha wasn’t able to finish as he was grabbed by the tie and dragged out of the classroom, and then out of the building and all the way back to the gate.
“Come on Tracy, be reasonable, I was in the middle of a very important lesson.” Kickaha pleaded.
“How did you know my name was Tracy?” The woman stopped dragging him to give him a cold glare.
“Well… In order to explain that first we’d have to talk about parallel timelines…” Kickaha started.
And didn’t get to finish. AU Tracy grabbed him by the tie, lifted him up off the ground, spun him around and then tossed him over the gate leaving him outside the school.
“And stay out!” AU Tracy shouted.
“How rude… And I was just trying to help.” Kickaha stood up and brushed himself off. Now he was back to square one. Outside the school, and no class or source of lunch to be found. “I can’t believe she saw right through the tie?” He could at least remove that torturous device from his neck. Apparently, it wasn’t as powerful as he believed. But, he stored it in his cloak pocket just in case there was a use for it in the future.
After all, it could have been a demonstration of what he had been trying to teach the class. The magic of authority the tie came with was working, and then suddenly it didn’t and instead became just something for AU Tracy to grab and use to throw him over the fence. Magic items, just like spells, sometimes randomly didn’t work the way you expected. So perhaps it was still powerful, but the universe had decided it would be funnier if at that exact moment it stopped working.
“Hope the kids will be alright.” Kickaha looked back over his shoulder at the school. Most of the spells would probably wear off over time. Probably. Except the wolf and squirrel. If they were werecreatures they’d likely have to learn how to tap into their natural shapeshifting magic to change back. Still, even if he didn’t finish, Kickaha was pretty sure he had gotten his point across. Kids were smart. They could put it together fromhere. Just hopefully whoever came in to substitute next had a good plan in place for exploding books when they did their next round of practice.
For now, Kickaha was banished from yet another school, so he supposed he might as well return to his original intentions of finding lunch. A foxyote has to eat.
And so Kickaha strode off, looking for any signs of prey and his next meal.