“Dude, you seriously fucked up.”
That was Terry’s friend's reaction when he talked about his encounter with the Serprent family.
They were seated for the first class, History with mister YYY. It was about to begin. And yes, that was his real name.
“Yes I know, but it could have been worst. I want to do something to apologize, but I don’t know what could work.”
“I’d say just go back and see what happens, you live next door so eventually they will get to know the real you.” Malik advised.
“Hoping the real me is better than the one they already know.”
“Okay class, let’s begin.”
M.YYY had arrived. Terry liked History, but this particuliar teacher could make anything sound as interessing as staring at a fish in a fish bowl for three hours. Or even less when he was in a good day. There were rumors in town about him that said he had a second job in hospital as sleeping help for intensive care and that the hospital recent renovations had been made possible by the economy on drugs he made possible.
The class was about half passed, so only about three pupils were not either asleep or daydreaming when the headmistress disrupted the class, waking up all the students.
“Hello everyone, sorry to interrupt your exciting lesson but I have good news for you. From this day on, there will be a new student in this class. I trust you will give her a good welcome and help make her feel home.”
She waited a bit for the commotion to subside before calling:
“You may come in.”
The dark stripped scaly girl shyly entered the room head down to not risk seeing anybody's eyes.
Terry glared at her like everyone. They were one of the few classes without obviously non-human students, so her appearance and her look understandably surprised everyone. Even the non-human students were looking at her intently.
“You may introduce yourself.”
“H-hello m-my name iss Rozzerta Sserprent and I jusst arrived in town witth my family, and… uh... I’m new.”
She didn’t precise her species as imposed by social conventions. You should only tell it in one to one and face to face conversations or to little group of people if needed, and the other had to reveal theirs after. It was considered as very impolite to simply tell it in a crowd or not to tell it back if someone told you. It was also very rude to ask for or to tell someone about someone else’s species.
Terry recognized the voice and the name and nearly jumped out of his skin, but from surprise and not from fear. He didn’t think they would see each other again so soon. He could finally put a face on her voice. Not her real face, it was a bit changed by her potion, but it was better than nothing. And it was good looking too.
Rozzerta slowly raised her head and her eyes immediately fell on Terry. She blushed madly without understanding why. Fortunately her scales made it nearly invisible for anyone not specialist of scaly people, and there was none in this class.
“Thank you captain obvious!” Someone shouted.
The class laughed, but it was more good-heartedly than mockery. Rozzerta fidgeted uneasily and lowered her eyes again but didn’t reply.
“Very well, thank you Miss. You can sit at the free chair there. We’ll talk about your current level and catching up with other after the class.” The teacher said with his usual unexpressive voice.
When Rozzerta was seated, two seats behind Terry and just behind his friend, every eyes were still set on her. Then the headmistress went out and the lesson resumed.
“Now back to the triangular plane, as I said…”
That’s about here that everyone ceased to take heed of his voice. The new scaly girl was way more interesting. She would have been even if the teacher was at least mildly enthralling. The class still buzzed when the bell rang and the students went to the next.
Rozzerta quietly followed after her talk with the teacher but she was a bit too far behind and she lost sight of every one. The time table she had been given didn’t helped much as she didn’t knew where the room was. She wasn’t even sure it was in the same building. She didn't dare asking someone and wondered what to do when someone cleared his throat nearby.
She turned and jumped a bit.
“I figured you’d get lost so I went to help you. Kind of my way to apologize for last time. Do you agree?” He asked a bit uneasily.
“Oh-uh-hem-yess! Tthank you Terry.” She stammered.
“This way if you please.”
Terry couldn’t help to be delighted she remembered his name.
They went to the classroom in a heavy silence that neither of them dared to broke.
The morning passed the same way. Terry would lead Rozzerta to the next lesson in an awkward silence, fortunately there wasn’t any optional class today so they would not be separated, then Rozzerta would introduce herself to the teacher, class would begin and so on. The first times, Malik tried to tease Terry about it but all his jokes failed and some like the one about him being heavy on the new scaly girl backlashed against him, in this example he tripped on a fat boy in their class that didn't take it well, so he gave up picking on his friend. Terry knew it would resume again soon but was glad for the break.
Sometimes Rozzerta would drink a bit of the flask she always kept on her. Terry was about to ask her about that but then he remembered the altering potion only lasted a few hours.
This followed until lunch time. Being what she is, Rozzerta’s meals were only made of little or medium mammals twice a week so she didn’t go to the cafeteria this day. Instead she went in the schoolyard to try and see if Irene was there.
Irene wasn’t there, so she began searching in the school corridors. She searched for a while but didn’t find her sister. Problems found her instead.
In each school there is some trouble makers, and this one was no exception. Before realizing it, Rozzerta was surrounded by four thugs displaying big guns and makeshift weapons, the one just before her smiling smugly.
She froze instantly.
“Well well well, what do we have here? Some new freak in our school? Don’t you know that monsters like you have to pay special fees to be allowed to breathe our air? And no credit for lizards either.”
The group sneered at their leader’s bad joke. They barely had the fun to bully people since weapon holding was legal. It happened soon after the First Unveiling' to make humans feel a bit more secured. It may have helped a bit, and the reglementation was very strict to prevent incontrollable uproars and crime uprising, but now it was too dangerous for common thugs humans or not to attack a human, even with weapons of their own, and non-humans were dangerous enough without. Non-human could hold weapons too, but for most of them it was a liability when they were not in altered form.
But a frightened and alone scaly girl was no treat to four armed humans in a desert corridor.
“So now you’ll have to learn not to mess in our territory.”
Rozzerta was not moving an inch. She wouldn’t have any problem dealing with them in her real form and maybe in this one too, but in her mind the past year was back, the fear of being killed on sight, the hatred of others, the constant fleeing... She was too terrified to even think, let alone move.
The thugs pushed her between each other like a ball or a rag doll and reviled her with mocking laugh when a voice calmly said:
“Do you know that’s not a good idea?”
Terry was back, and not alone. The gang stopped their beating and two of them immobilized Rozzerta, still paralyzed.
“Malik, go get a warden.”
“You sure? Even if it’s Roderick’s gang, they are still four.”
“Sure. But be fast.”
Now he was alone.
“Ah yeah? And why’s that Snake Freak? You plan to do something to stop us? We’ll be done with both of you way before your slave come back!”
“Me? No. But I’ll let you know that the girl you are bullying is on edge on lashing out from fear, and she is poisonous.”
Roderick’s smug face wavered for a second, but he answered:
“Even if it's true that just mean we’ll be legally allowed to put her down with those cute babies.” He said pointing at their guns with an overexagerated and obviously rehearsed motion.
“If you do that I’ll be legally allowed to draw mine too.”
It was a side effect of the weapon holding legalization. Almost everyone had at least one when out door, because now even other humans were dangerous. But most hid theirs either to have an edge on potential attackers or by courtesy.
The thugs lost their confident faces instantly. They knew Terry was a very good shoot.
“I also remind you that I know your names and she knows your faces, and that it’s more than enough to find your houses and private phone numbers.”
The thugs fidgeted. They began to look scared. Rozzerta had calmed a bit and looked surprised at Terry. She found him pretty impressive in that moment, he was so calm and cool.
“Boss, it’s not worth it, we should fall back for now!” one of the thugs, wearing a hoodie said.
“You still can, but not for long. I heard steps coming, probably Malik and the supervisor”
Indeed, steps could be heard.
“Let’s go!” Roderick shouted.
The group fled hastily, but before they disappeared the pair heard:
“We’ll see you again, you can be sure of that!”
“It would be way more convincing if they weren’t fleeing with their tails between their legs. Like last time. And the time before. You okay, Rozzerta?”
Terry offered his hand to help her up and she took it just as Malik and the supervisor arrived running.
“They heard you and fled, thanks for the safe guys.” Terry said.
The supervisor looked at Terry and Rozzerta before asking:
“I bet you intimidate and treatened them again. Is everrything alrright girrl? You'rre shiverring.”
“Yess, I’m fine. Jusst a bit shaken.”
Terry and Malik didn’t manage to suppress their giggle.
“What? What can you find funny rright now?” The supervisor asked.
They stifled their laughs to reply:
“She reacted the same way than me when we first met. I was so embarrassed that I wanted to hide in a mouse hole. So now we are sort of even I guess.” Terry said.
“A talk between a canine accent and a hissy accent is very fun to hear, I bet you two could make a super comic duo. Picture it: “Rozerta and watch dog”- no it’s lame…“The lizard and the wolf, or how to talk without biting your tongue”.” Malik said.
Then they burst out laughing, but Malik stopped suddenly:
“Wait! So that's her? She is your new neighbor? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“So it’s not “The lizard and the wolf” but more like “The naga and the werewolf, or why you can’t have a cool bite and enunciate”.”
“I’m not a werrewolf.”
“I know but it’s funnier this way.”
“It'ss Rozzerta with two 'Z'.”
And their laughs came back, ignoring the offended looks of the two in front of them. But after a few seconds, they began to smile, then they laugh too. Objectively, it was pretty funny.
And since their laughs looked more like a hiss and a growl, it became even more hilarious.
Once they were calmed enough, the wolf-man supervisor noted Terry’s and Rozzerta’s deposition down and the next class was about to begin.
The rest of the day followed normally, but now Rozzerta was more open than before and other students began to approach her.
By the end of the day, she had a few friends and was not, or at least less afraid to talk when she had something to say, even if she didn’t know the person.
An excellent day, even with all the tease about her already having a boyfriend by the name of Terry. Some wanted to tease Terry too, but his ophiophobia prevented the fun in that now that everybody knew she was a naga.
When the last class finished, Terry told her he had to go for his sister and proposed her to accompany him, but she told him she had to go for her own sister.
She went to the meeting point they had agreed on in the morning, but once there she had a big surprise.
Her sister was not alone.