Chapter 15: For gifted youngsters

"Mmm... Ben?"

"Don't drool when you say that!"


"Last I checked in the mirror I was still Trine. Your sister, you know? If you haven't forgotten me completely."

"Sorry. I dreamed I was back in the manor."

"Go on, rub it in. Who gets to walk in shining marble halls with the world's mightiest mortals? Who is invited to the Starborn's sleepover? The one, the only, the fantastic Tom Lithus, chaser of pretty boys and severely underage girls!"

"You could have gone too, you know, if you hadn't been hiding from Ben since the first time you met."

"You mean since the first time I fell on my face in front of him with my worn-out slept-in pajamas bottom in the air, and then later ran him down and lay on top of him in a slippery bath towel."

"Actually it was you who was slippery. The towels are quite fine."

"How could I possibly see him again ever?"

"By sending a telegram. That's why there's a keyboard on the phone, you know. I also happen to know that he has a pocket telegraph."

"I happen to know that we're both going to be late for school."

"Oh no! It's Monday! Crumbs!"
"Oh no indeed."

Stranden, the homeroom teacher, is looking serious today again. Well, more formal at least. In the past, this has heralded the introduction of a new student. Tom fully expects there to be more of them. With Ben being not just a Very Important Person, but also very attractive ... not that Tom would know anything about that, of course, but it is obvious, right? You don't need to be a girl or a sissy or anything unusual to notice that a boy is going to be liked by the girls. And besides, it's not like he could avoid noticing, with his own sister collecting pictures of Ben as if they were banknotes ... Stranden is talking already?

"...several new students, and there will be several more coming before Christmas, it seems. Now, I enjoy being a teacher and I have felt fine with teaching this class. But with a class consisting of more and more international students, who have had access to more resources than most during their earlier education, it might be a good idea to bring in someone with special expertise in this area. This concern coincides with a sudden offer from a large university. As some of you know, I have always had an interest in history, especially ancient history. It so happens that I am offered a research grant for a project analyzing data about the pre-Sumer coastal civilization in the Euphrates-Tigris delta. This is simply too good an offer to ignore, especially when someone else may be better qualified for the job I hold today."

Euphrates-Tigris delta? Since when has he even mentioned that before?

"So an agreement has been reached. I will still teach this class for a few more days, but your new homeroom teacher will be sitting in and assisting me, starting today. Please, welcome your new homeroom teacher, Mrs Loliko Wattababe!"

The door opens, and a shapely woman in her late 30es enters. She is a bit smaller than the average Norwegian woman, but not extremely so, and at least the normal size for an East Asian woman, which she clearly is. The eyes would give it away if nothing else. She has a nice face, nothing special apart from the ethnic traits, but the rest of her body clearly is a combination of the best from nature and nurture, and she does not dress to hide it either. Her movements are confident but not quite exaggerated, as is her smile. She walks to the blackboard and writes, first in some Japanese or Chinese script and then in plain letters: Watanabe Roriko.

"Thank you, Mr. Standen. Now, as I am sure some here know, it is customary in Japanese to first mention the family name, in this case Watanabe, which is incidentally a very common family name in Japan. My given name can indeed be pronounced Loliko rather than Roriko. In Japanese, the sounds for the letters L and R are the same, and varying by dialect and gender it may be closer to one or the other. However, I would much appreciate that those of you whose native languages differentiate between the two sounds, follow the official, written version of my name."

It is probably a good idea, reflects Tom, that the two of them won't be teaching together for any length of time. This is hardly love at first sight. Although, looking quickly at some of the boys in class, the same may not be true for them. In a way, he can understand that. She looks much like a teenage boy's fantasy of the ideal mature woman. But for himself, he realizes that looks don't mean as much as they used to. Perhaps it is Ben who is starting to rub off ... not in any literal sense, of course.

"I have been undergone special training to work with gifted youngsters, who are often misunderstood by the world. Because these young boys and girls function on a higher level than others of their age, they naturally need to connect with intellectuals that are more advanced in age. Since the human intellect is not a function purely of genes, but also of training and experience, a trained mature person will be able to connect with the gifted youngsters in a way that others of their own age can not. That is to say, due to their superior genes, the gifted youngsters are already advanced to the same age as a mature adult, mentally. Of course, although intellect is the primary component, we are also incarnate creatures with a body. If the difference between bodies exceeds certain limits, interaction still becomes awkward and unnatural. Therefore simple life experience is not enough. A wide range of experience must be contained within a still youthful body and mind. This comes naturally to the extremely gifted, but is a rare thing to attain for anyone else, even for the higher range of natural talent. You should think of such a person as a bridge between the lonely world of the unusually gifted and the larger but blander world of the natural humans. There are many ways in which such a bridge can be useful, including ... emotionally. An important part of growing up is to release one's bonds to the birth family in order to take the first steps toward forming a new family. This is a trait that all humans share, and also those we might call superhuman, those born with abilities beyond the reach of most men and women. I trust that this will be clear to whom it most applies."

That was a pretty abstract speech, but the expression in her eyes as she looks to Ben is familiar. Too familiar. So, she is not after all an accomplice to Aiko. It is all too clear from those eyes that a new contestant has entered the arena. And one more skilled and experienced than the young girls. She is out to get her hands on Ben, and she won't let 20 years age difference stand between them.