Home > Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3)(15)

Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3)(15)
Author: Richelle Mead

"If I had been a Strigoi," he growled, "these two would be dead."


MOST DISCIPLINARY ISSUES AT the Academy went to Headmistress Kirova. She oversaw Moroi and dhampirs alike and was known for her creative and oft-used repertoire of punishments. She wasn't cruel, exactly, but she wasn't soft, either. She simply took student behavior seriously and dealt with it as she saw fit.

There were some issues, however, that were beyond her jurisdiction.

The school's guardians calling together a disciplinary committee wasn't unheard of, but it was very, very rare. You had to do something pretty serious to piss them off to get that sort of response. Like, say, willfully endangering a Moroi. Or hypothetically willfully endangering a Moroi.

"For the last time," I growled, "I didn't do it on purpose."

I sat in one of the guardians' meeting rooms, facing my committee: Alberta, Emil, and one of the other rare female guardians on campus, Celeste. They sat at a long table, looking imposing, while I sat in a single chair and felt very vulnerable. Several other guardians were sitting in and watching, but thankfully, none of my classmates were there to see this humiliation. Dimitri was among the watchers. He was not on the committee, and I wondered if they'd kept him off because of his potentially biased role as my mentor.

"Miss Hathaway," said Alberta, fully in her strict-captain mode, "you must know why we have a hard time believing that."

Celeste nodded. "Guardian Alto saw you. You refused to protect two Moroi - including the one whose protection you were specifically assigned to."

"I didn't refuse!" I exclaimed. "I... fumbled."

"That wasn't a fumble," said Stan from the watchers. He glanced at Alberta for permission to speak. "May I?" She nodded, and he turned back to me. "If you'd blocked or attacked me and then messed up, that would be a fumble. But you didn't block. You didn't attack. You didn't even try. You just stood there like a statue and did nothing."

Understandably, I was outraged. The thought that I would purposely leave Christian and Brandon to be "killed" by a Strigoi was ridiculous. But what could I do? I either confessed to screwing up majorly or to having seen a ghost. Neither option was appealing, but I had to cut my losses. One made me look incompetent. The other made me look insane. I didn't want to be associated with either of those. I much preferred my usual description of "reckless" and "disruptive."

"Why am I getting in trouble for messing up?" I asked tightly. "I mean, I saw Ryan mess up earlier. He didn't get in trouble. Isn't that the point of this whole exercise? Practice? If we were perfect, you'd already have unleashed us upon the world!"

"Weren't you listening?" said Stan. I swore I could see a vein throbbing in his forehead. I think he was the only one there as upset as I was. At the very least, he was the only one (aside from me) showing his emotions. The others wore poker faces, but then, none of them had witnessed what had happened. If I'd been in Stan's place, I might have thought the worst of me too. "You didn't mess up, because 'messing up' implies that you have to actually do something."

"Okay, then. I froze." I looked at him defiantly. "Does that count as messing up? I cracked under the pressure and blanked out. It turns out I wasn't prepared. The moment came, and I panicked. It happens to novices all the time."

"To a novice who has already killed Strigoi?" asked Emil. He was from Romania, his accent a bit thicker than Dimitri's Russian one. It wasn't nearly as nice, though. "It seems unlikely."

I dealt out glares to him and everyone else in the room. "Oh, I see. After one incident, I'm now expected to be an expert Strigoi killer? I can't panic or be afraid or anything? Makes sense. Thanks, guys. Fair. Real fair." I slumped back in my seat, arms crossed over my chest. There was no need to fake bitchy defiance. I had plenty of it to dish out.

Alberta sighed and leaned forward. "We're arguing semantics. Technicalities aren't the point here. What's important is that this morning, you made it very clear you did not want to guard Christian Ozera. In fact ... I think you even said you wanted us to be sure we knew that you were doing it against your will and that we'd soon see what a horrible idea it was." Ugh. I had said that. Honestly, what had I been thinking? "And then, when your first test comes around, we find you completely and utterly unresponsive."

I nearly flew out of my chair. "That's what this is about? You think I didn't protect him because of some kind of weird revenge thing?"

All three of them stared at me expectantly.

"You aren't exactly known for calmly and gracefully accepting things you don't like," she replied wryly.

This time, I did stand up, pointing my finger at her accusingly. "Not true. I have followed every rule Kirova laid down for me since coming back here. I've gone to every practice and obeyed every curfew." Well, I'd fudged some of the curfews but not willfully. It had always been for the greater good. "There's no reason I'd do this as some kind of revenge! What good would it do? Sta -  Guardian Alto wasn't going to really hurt Christian, so it's not like I'd get to see him punched or anything. The only thing I would accomplish is getting dragged into the middle of something like this and possibly facing removal from the field experience."

"You are facing removal from the field experience," replied Celeste flatly.

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