In Which Mackenzie Bends Without Breaking

My conversation with Kent wrapped up too early to start the day, but there didn’t seem to be enough time to get a decent amount of sleep. Still, coming off of three nights in a row of pretty dismal slumber, I needed to take what I could get.

“Set an alarm for your first class,” Ian suggested after I helped him relieve a sort of debilitating cramp that’s apparently caused by watching your naked girlfriend talk tough to government agents. “Your first class isn’t until like ten, right? You can get way more sleep that way. I’ll tell everyone at breakfast why you aren’t there.”

“Okay, but… everyone?” I said. “I mean, tell Amaranth…”

“Well, Dee might already know,” Ian said.

I waited a few seconds to see if she’d respond from the other room, but she didn’t.

“I think she’s become pretty reflexive about throwing up a wall of silence when you stay over,” I said. “Anyway, if it’s just people from the suite and Steff, yes, tell, but otherwise, just say I didn’t sleep well.”

“Okay, but I can’t always tell when Two’s friend is there.”

“I guess Hazel’s cool,” I said. “But seriously, don’t talk about this stuff in front of Nicki.”

“Not that I think it’s a good idea to spread this around, but you want to start by keeping secrets from her?”

“I don’t want to scare her off,” I said.

Ian headed back to his own room so he wouldn’t wake me up when he got up, and I settled back down for a few more hours of sleep, mercifully dreamless and mercifully alone.

I didn’t like to skip breakfast because it would be an easy habit for me to acquire. Not having my usual plates of sweet and savory goodness at the start of the day wouldn’t leave my stomach grumbling for the rest of the morning or my body crashing later in the day. Breakfast was a treat for my senses and a chance to socialize rather than a physical need. The intermingling of my immortal and mortal heritages meant that I didn’t actually need to eat or perform any of the other functions associated with eating.

But getting up for breakfast gave me one more chance to see my friends during days in which we’d all be off doing our own things. It gave me a chance to start waking up a little bit earlier than I needed to, so I could be sharper and more alert during my morning class. I didn’t have much advantage over the fully mortal in that department. Some diabolists have stated that demons could go longer without sleep than humans could with fewer adverse effects, but that aside the basic need was the same: about eight hours about once a day.

With the sunlight that managed to sneak in around the edge of the curtains and the sounds of life echoing all around the hallway, I didn’t manage to sleep all the way until my alarm. But with the suite all to myself and nowhere else to be, I was able to enjoy a long, hot soak in the tub… my first of the school year.

I’d had a complicated relationship with the shared bathroom in Harlowe Hall. I’d loved hot baths and showers, but the longer my first year went on, the more the bathroom had felt like hostile territory. It wasn’t just that I’d actually been physically attacked in them. Being in them meant I was sharing space with people who hated me, who felt threatened by me and were a threat to me because of that.

That had been a big part of the appeal of a private bathroom for me. But once everyone else got moved in, I’d started deferring to the others’ needs. The fact that Two and Dee both might need to use the bathroom had kept me from staking a claim to it for an hour or more at a time.

I realized as I sat enveloped in hot water and suds and steam that this had been a mistake. It would be a total dick more to take up the bathroom in the morning, but I had spaced out my classes to make sure I had time to myself during the day. A daily soak was probably not in the cards, but I figured I should be able to manage it once or twice a week and be better for it.

A bubble bath wouldn’t make up for lost sleep, but it was definitely a better start to the day than stumbling out of bed, pulling on some clothes, and staggering off in the direction of my local hazards lecture. I’d left the door from the bathroom to our half of the suite open so I’d hear the alarm in my mirror going off which meant I could forget about the passage of time and just relax, something that I badly needed when I reviewed what had happened in the night… when I thought about what I’d done, what I’d said.

By the light of day… or the light of a windowless bathroom, anyway… my actions did not seem half as clever as they had at the time. Standing up to my father had felt good, but it might have been better to not let him know I was going to be working against him.

I felt that it couldn’t have been helped, though. If I hadn’t acted so defiant in my dream, I couldn’t have acted that way awake. There was no way for me to put on a meek front and just pretend to capitulate to him, because it wouldn’t have been a front. Basically I was a recovering capituholic. I had no resistance to the path of least resistance.

Anyway, it was done and there was no way to undo it. If I got back to Kent and told him I’d changed my mind, I had no doubt that I would have to pay dearly for him to consider recalling the arrow I’d loosed. Rather than worrying about where exactly it would land when it came back down, I decided to focus on the present and my immediate future.

Ian wanted to assert more dominance… the thought of that left me tingly in interesting places. Submission might have been a close cousin to capitulation, but it was far more useful and it left me feeling full of direction and purpose rather than adrift and at the mercy of the winds and tides.

What would it mean in practical terms? Right now the answer seemed to be sex more often but with fewer orgasms. Then I thought back to how he’d phrased his suggestion about sleeping in… forcefully and matter-of-factly. It had also been reasonable, though, and definitely the right move.

I could definitely like this.

As long as I was comfortable and alone, I decided to work on my breathing, too. It helped that the air inside the shower curtain was warm and smelled like cinnamon and vanilla. I closed my eyes, slowly pushed a breath out, and then even more slowly drew one back in.

Submission.

I’d always had an easy enough time throwing myself into my schoolwork when it was subjects I cared about and classes I wanted to be in. Other times it was a struggle… a struggle that could be managed, but one that was easier to manage when the rest of my life wasn’t giving me anything else to fight against. That didn’t seem like it would be the case for the next while.

Was it possible that I was overlooking an easier way?

My day would start nicely enough, but the rest of it was made up of classes I didn’t particularly care for, that I had as a result of obligations that were forced on me. Okay, I’d agreed to take this second class with Coach Callahan in order to save my grade point average during my first semester, but the chain of events that had led me there had started with the requirement to take a weapon proficiency class.

But neither her class nor Professor Swain’s was really all bad, and even if they had been completely pointless and terrible, I still had to get through them and I had to do so with a decent grade.

I breathed in and out and thought about how it felt to to be under the palm of Amaranth’s hand, to be under Ian’s control. I thought about how good it felt to be following a process, to be given clear instructions… to have clear lines of authority.

Professor Swain was my teacher. She didn’t want to cross over to the main campus to teach a delving class three times a week any more than I wanted to be taking one, but she did it all the same… she did it, and that meant she was my teacher. She probably didn’t get a lot of respect as a gnome among humans, but she was a professor and she deserved it.

Callahan… as much as she clearly relished what she was doing, something in her seemed to chafe at it, too. Possibly it was the effort it took her not to kill any of her students. Whatever it was… well, she seemed at least mildly squicked out when I acted submissively in response to her, but she’d never complained about the results.

I worked the way that I worked.

By the time the alarm ended my bath, I’d managed to work myself into a state of utter calm and confidence that I didn’t break my concentration or start blushing when Acantha stopped and stared at me as I came into her classroom… later than I normally would have arrived, but still a couple of minutes before class began.

“Is something wrong?” I asked.

“Not a thing that I can discern,” she said. “Did you sleep well last night?”

“Actually, no,” I said.

“Whatever you took for it agrees with you.”

“That would be a bath,” I said, and she laughed.

Somehow she seemed a lot more relaxed than normal, too. That probably had more to do with the fact that some of the more unruly voices were gone from the room and in their absence the rest of the class seemed slightly more willing to treat her more like a knowledgeable professional than a substitute teacher in elementary school.

Twice during class Acantha said something to me about my attentiveness to the safe handling procedures. Attentiveness was not something a teacher had ever specifically recognized me for. It felt good… not just like a compliment, but like praise. I beamed more than I blushed.

I thought it was a good sign, too. She’d given me a perfect score and extra credit on my first assignment for exceeding the bounds of it, but she’d also told me she wanted to see my ability to work within confines… or as she’d put it, to show her I could be prudent.

I was hoping to see Nicki at lunch, but she wasn’t there and Ian told me she hadn’t joined them for breakfast, either. Maybe she wasn’t an early riser, but I had a feeling she’d need a dose of reassurance the next time I saw her. Hazel and her suitemates were with us, and so I didn’t want to get into the whole subject of who knew what about my nocturnal dealings at the table. Amaranth told me that Ian had said I had something to tell her about, and she suggested we wait until the evening when we could do it behind closed doors.

That afternoon I wasn’t moaning in my head about having to go to Local Hazards… I wasn’t even telling myself that Eloise’s geomancy would make it worthwhile, though I was still looking forward to that. I’d say I didn’t have any feeling about the class itself one way or the other, except I did… I felt ready for it. Not happy and not grumbly, just ready. It was coming up and I was prepared for it.

“Hey there!” Eloise said when I walked in. “Looks like someone got up on the right side of the bed this morning.”

“Yeah, and it felt so good I did it again a few hours later,” I said.

“Well, you look like a thousand gold,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you walk in with your head like that.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Up,” she said.

“Oh,” I said.

“Nothing wrong with keeping one’s eyes to the ground,” Professor Swain said. “You can miss a lot of things if you aren’t watching where you put your feet. Of course, you miss a lot covering your feet up, too.”

“I like to go barefoot,” Eloise said. “But human culture frowns on it.”

“Shoes are a conspiracy to sell more carpets,” the professor said. “You’d get years’ more use out of your carpets if you didn’t wear shoes.”

“You won’t hear me arguing with that. I don’t wear shoes inside my own home,” Eloise said. “But the university actually requires them.”

“Mark my words, someone is getting a kickback there.”

By the time it was nearly the end of the day, I was starting to feel a little self-conscious for the first time since I’d woke up… but mostly I was aware of all the things that were missing. I was used to having a certain amount of background anxiety, a nagging doubt that I didn’t belong in whatever place I was or that whatever I was doing, I was doing wrong. A full calendar year at college had diminished my fears and made them recede from the front of my brain, but they’d always been there.

For the first time they’d left me completely alone for the day. As soon as I realized that, I kind of felt like I was due to get completely knocked on my ass by life… but then, I’d already faced my father and a government agent who would probably have no qualms about killing me in my sleep if he had orders to or if he thought it would further his cause. I’d already had my wake-up call, and I’d dealt with it, gone back to sleep, and got on with my life.

Coach Callahan reminded me near the start of her class that she wanted to see me taking more chances… pretty much the opposite of what Acantha wanted from me.

“The point of class is risk mitigation,” she said. “You take the opening that’s in front of you, you end the fight without messing around. But I know you have enough brains in that skull to not lose sight of that for part of a week. What I don’t want is for you to get too comfortable while you’re using your demon strength to blow past defenses. So today, tomorrow… you find other ways to take your classmates out, and you figure out how to do it as fast and hard as the obvious way. Clear?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said… which got me a raised eyebrow, but Coach Callahan was the queen of doing what needed to be done, and I needed to be in that head space to make doing what she told me to second nature.

I could think on my feet. I could solve problems. But when someone was coming at me with an axe or sword and the problem involved hurting them before they hurt me, I needed to be completely in the submission zone.

By telling me she wouldn’t be counting how well I did for the next two days as long as I pulled out something by Friday, she’d given me the freedom to experiment. I started by trying for less direct victories… making opponents come to me and knocking their legs out from under them and then finishing them while they were down. That was something that would have been completely against my nature if I’d been doing it for myself.

As it was, they went red before the second blow about half of the time that it worked… but I made myself follow through anyway, because stopping to see if the extra blow was needed was not what Coach Callahan wanted to see. It was not the point of the class. If they were red, my phantasmal weapon would pass through them like the phantasm it actually was. No hurt, no foul.

That’s not to say that it worked every time. I hit the floor sometimes, and some of my classmates were agile enough to avoid a low blow without losing momentum. I received my first jump-kick that day. Even though it was real and not phantasmal, I couldn’t complain because it didn’t harm me any more than an illusion would have and I think the girl who did it was probably reacting in the moment. It took me by surprise, though, and gave her enough time to finish me off.

By the half hour mark, my record for the day was four and three and my opponents were less willing to come at me. Since I wasn’t being graded, I tried throwing my staff at one of them. It spun into his sword with enough force to knock it out of his hands and send it flying, but I didn’t have a follow-up and he had my staff. He didn’t have enough strength or skill with it to score a quick victory with it, and so I was able to wrench it back from him after taking a blow to the head and one to my arm.

The arm injury kept me from doing a one-hit kill. I wasn’t coordinated enough to swing the staff in my off-hand very effectively.

I won that fight, anyway… eventually. I might have had a harder time letting go of my feelings about conflict and violence and just getting down to what needed to be done if I hadn’t been deep in my submissive state, but by the time I finished I was way out of it. Battering a guy into submission required me to let go of my own… my altered mental state was able to carry me right up to the door and even knock on it, but it couldn’t carry me through it.

Being purposefully submissive instead of just bending with the most aggressive source of pressure could make my life easier and better, but it seemed submissiveness was not going to be the answer to everything.


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31 Responses to “Chapter 65: Submission Bout”

  1. Hey, folks! Those of you who primarily read the story for the explicit and/or kinky content might be interested to know I have a new erotic novelette called Kitty: Love Caged currently available in the Amazon Kindle store (note: Kindle format is readable in the browser or using an app that’s available for most platforms), with other options coming soon.

    Check it out, and if you like it, please leave a review. Buying anything from my Author page and leaving a positive review is really one of the cheapest ways to give me a serious boost. For those of you who don’t want to give even a dollar to Amazon for various reasons, I am moving into Smashwords. Slowly. It takes me a while to get into new things.

    Current score: 0
    • Lyssa says:

      Nice. I’ll snag it, and I see you have a few others up there that I just hadn’t noticed, so I’m grabbing them too. 🙂

      Thanks for the heads up!

      Current score: 0
  2. Alex says:

    “be a total dick more to take up the bathroom” perhaps replace ‘more’ with ‘move’?

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  3. Alex says:

    “I’d managed to work myself into a state of utter calm and confidence that I didn’t break my concentration” I suggest ‘into such a state of…’.

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  4. David says:

    I feel like there’s something missing at the start. They go from talking about setting an alarm to “Ok, but everyone?” without any mention of the fact that the topic has changed to who Ian is telling at breakfast, or something to that effect

    Current score: 0
    • Oh, yes. I re-wrote the beginning a bit just before I hit post, and apparently I dropped a line in the process. Fixed now.

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  5. Daezed says:

    Looking forward to reading this; I’m just now on 21 and starting to get to stuff I hadn’t seen before.

    I’m still hoping to see more Semele… ( wondering how that interview went… And where that whole sub-story has gone, in the form of, ”more please, AE, pretty pretty please with a cherry/whipped cream/sprinkles/gummybear–laden sunday for desert?” Kind of way.)

    Looking forward to the stuff I missed during the last few months!

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  6. TearsTheWingsOffAngels says:

    “I had no resistance to the path of least resistance.” ~ Love that phrase!

    Current score: 1
  7. Oni says:

    “By the time it was nearly the end of the day,”
    Jarring jump in time is jarring. Just saying.

    Actually, I kinda regret that jump; Local Hazards sounds like it could do some interesting world building, and the upcoming field trips sound like very choice opportunities for excitement.

    CeeCee’s class sounds like it ended with the sterotypical victim’s-pov of a raging girl hollering as she bashes some phantasmal brains out over and over. Izza like.

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  8. Zathras IX says:

    Mackenzie knows the
    Value of starting the day
    With a good breakfast

    Current score: 1
  9. Lyssa says:

    Wow.

    This chapter was really well done. It actually made me feel calmer, which is something that I could use this week so I appreciate that, AE. Beyond that, it’s nice to see how Mack is using her submission to Ian and Amaranth to empower her in other parts of her life.

    Definitely digging this.

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    • Lunaroki says:

      I was majorly frustrated when I came in to read, and this chapter helped put me in a much better mood. This was something I very much needed tonight. Thank you Ms. Erin!

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  10. Zergonapal says:

    By the end of the day she was feeling anxious about not feeling anxious…? That is some complicated head space there. I am sure Teddy would find that interesting.

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  11. Readaholic says:

    Nice personal development and self-awareness for Mackenzie.

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  12. Ermarian says:

    Since I wasn’t being graded, I tried throwing my staff at one of them. It spun into his sword with enough force to knock it out of his hands and send it flying, but I didn’t have a follow-up and he had my staff.

    Yeah, that’s mistake #197 on the Evil Overlord List. 😛

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  13. Jane says:

    “a sort of debilitating cramp that’s apparently caused by watching your naked girlfriend talk tough to government agents” – love it!

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  14. Dani says:

    > The arm injury kept me from doing a one-hit kill.
    > I wasn’t coordinated enough to swing the staff in
    > my off-hand very effectively.

    Too-narrowly focused. He’s disarmed and she has an uninjured hand that the school defines as a weapon. Why is she trying to hit him with a staff instead of a fist?

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    • Lunaroki says:

      Because she’s trying to mock-kill him, not kill him for real. Her fist isn’t mocked, therefore death my fisting would be death for real. Also, all things considered, I’m not sure whether Callahan would be inclined to stop her in time if she did that.

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      • Burnsidhe says:

        Death by fi… *coughs* You want to rephrase that. Death by punching. 🙂

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        • fka_luddite says:

          Oh, don’t rephrase that. A guy fisted to death by a girl sounds quite impressive.

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  15. Bilbo says:

    Oddly enough I get where Mack was…

    I learned to Lucid Dream a few years ago.

    But it can have a side effect.

    If you’re good at Lucid Dreaming, so the story goes, you eventually learn to be totally detached, seeing the world at a distance.

    It’s called “The Witness”. It may take years to to achieve.

    As you take charge of your dreams real life becomes less real.

    You start to wonder when you’re awake if this life is really a dream…

    You don’t feel anything directly.

    Not happy, not sad, no worry, no joy.

    Understand, this is supposed to be good. And if you’re shy about public speaking, it’s perfect, because it’s not you.

    Someone else speaks, and they seem smarter than you, braver.

    The medical term is “De-personalization Disorder”.

    It happens from drug exposure, from injury, etc.

    Usually it’s temporary. Rarely, it’s permanent.

    Well, in a week I achieved The Witness.

    Like I said, it has it’s good points.

    But it left a permanent haze over everything, so I stopped Lucid Dreaming and chose unconsciousness.

    My main complaint is that when I tried to grow Wolverine claws they came out as Sabertooth claws.

    I’m afraid if Mack proceeds with this she could become trapped, or walk in front of a carriage…

    Current score: 1
    • Lyssa says:

      Um. Interesting. I’ve been lucid dreaming since I was a child, and I haven’t had anything like what you describe. Are you sure you’re not talking about something mystical?

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    • Burnsidhe says:

      “The Witness” is a mode of thought. It shouldn’t be permanent if you don’t want it to be.

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  16. arsenic says:

    I love the chapter! I can really see how, even tough she’s been growing and changing, she definitely is the same Mackenzie we know and love.

    Also, I am jelly: I wish my professors could read auras! Actually, I wish I could read auras. That would be super-cool. I guess I’ll have to settle for merely paying attention to people’s moods and body language haha.

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  17. Anne says:

    Love, love, love it!

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  18. Sapphite says:

    Just wanted to say the last four or five updates have been incredibly good (and diverse as well). Bravo!

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  19. pedestrian says:

    Please notify us when your books are available at Smashwords. I just wasted more then an hour in futile attempts to buy your books on Amazon. What horrible experience!

    Their executive delusion of corporate adequacy really pisses me off.

    Current score: 0
  20. The Beerslayer says:

    Just curious: why is Shiel tagged in this chapter? So far as I can tell she never makes an appearance within.

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    • Seajewel says:

      Hazel and her suitemates (Nae, Shiel) were at lunch.

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  21. Mickey Phoenix says:

    It’s interesting–I almost get the sense that what Mack is calling submission is what I would call “centered”. Which state, by the way, I can get to with meditation, breathing exercises, or submission (in the kink sense). But both her method of inducing it (in this case), and the effects it seems to have on her, read to me much more like being centered than being in sub space.

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