Extracurricular Practice
rating: +26+x

When Professor Legler offered her the chance to join his little "unconventional art studio", Taman didn't exactly expect to be landed in an extradimensional classroom for the study of magical art. Well, not magical, as the professor stressed in frustration. The exact word was "anart", but Taman really couldn't tell the difference. Plus, magic seemed to be just the word to describe the experience. It was like a Sunday Hogwarts for art, with animated pictures and all that. It also turned out that they really did have moving staircases, once Legler decided that they were finally worthy of extra space.

But a whole month in, bathed in all the bizarre and unthinkable, Taman still wasn't able to create anything out of the ordinary. She tried all sorts of art she could think of, from things she was good at to things she hardly knew about, but all the pictures stayed static and all the clay sculptures just collapsed to the table.

And that would be why she was sitting opposite of the studio's "deputy professor", resident anartist Yang, seeking her advice.

"You're stressing yourself," Yang said, putting way too much sugar in her coffee. "Learning this isn't easy, you need to take your time. Which is also why Legler refused to give you any extra instructions."

"Cobalt learnt to do it within a week."

"Seems to me that Cobalt always has had that instinct. It's just that she has repressed it previously; her Flow feels somewhat clunky and awkward," Yang stirred her drink. "Tam, you have to see that many of your classmates have had some exposure to this field. You're new, but that's also a good thing. You're not subjected to faulty misconceptions like the rest of them; your view on this will not be limited. And if that means you'll go a little slower, I think it's worth it."

"Delacroix is also new," Taman protested.

"Relax, okay? You can't hurry this sort of thing. You see, anart block works the same way as normal art block."

"Just that I can't feel anything when doing Legler's assignments. Or even watching the demonstrations. The different approaches, focusing, looking through stuff? None of it works," Taman let out a frustrated sigh. "Normally during art blocks I guess I would go out? But that doesn't really help because I don't know how to do this in the first place."

Yang contemplated for a while. "Ummm. Maybe the studio environment is sort of limiting. It was Legler's work after all, and limited to his perspective. I didn't take notice, but it makes sense that someone new will be more susceptible. A field trip would be nice," Yang drank from the cup, and then shook her head. "But we can't really do that. too much attention, and hard to take care of you all."

"So I'll just have to wait and see?" Taman asked weakly.

"Um, actually," Yang finished the rest of her drink quickly. "Do you have any plans this afternoon?"

"No?"

"Good," Yang stood up, signaling for the waiter. "Let's take a walk in the city."


"This is really… abandoned," Taman said as her gaze travelled around the graffiti-filled building walls. A broken sign at the entrance suggested that it had been deserted for years. A few scavengers moved around the block, but none of them were interested in the building they were walking into. One or two took notice of them, before returning to their respective tasks. "You sure this isn't dangerous?"

"Oh, I do have a few tricks up my sleeves. No worries," Yang turned to look at Taman, "But we can go somewhere else if you want to. The main point is to change the environment; just figured that it would be nice to also have something relevant."

"No, no. It's okay," Taman looked up to see sunlight shining through the thin clouds. It was still early. "I mean, is this place like, important?"

"This place itself? Hardly. But a big chunk of the anart movement actually started in places like this. It was back when there was no market for reality-breaking art and no patrons to support us," Yang approached the outer walls of the building. "Abandoned buildings like this are mostly outside the public view, convenient to mess around and experiment with."

"Wait, are these all magical?" She looked around, all broken shapes and broken colors. Hardly seemed like some place where miracles would reside.

"Only some. But it's impossible for most people to tell. The Flow here is mostly dried up, you have to poke around to make it work," Yang gestured towards a few words of artistic design, which were hardly recognizable. "And that takes a professional to know. We'll just take a look around. These certainly aren't the best, but would serve our tour here well enough."

"Dried up?" Taman eyed the dried paint on the brick walls. A lot of which peeled off, leaving a layer of scrap and dust on the floor.

"Well, the 'magic' in the art can't work forever, just like you can't preserve the colors of a painting forever. It deteriorates over time. The only difference is that normal art's preservation depends on the materials and the environment, and our work depends on, I'd say dedication?"

"So, the more you pour in to it, the longer it works?"

"That and how good you make it. I wouldn't say these were very successful at that. This whole section is dead." Yang's gaze briefly lingered on a poorly drawn owl-man, before returning to Taman. "Let's go in."

Taman nodded. Together, they walked into the bowels of the structure. There were no longer any functional light fixtures, but the broken walls did a poor job of keeping the sunlight out. The rays of bright colors created more shades of grey and black, adding dimensions to the graffiti inside. They were slightly better preserved than their outside counterparts.

Yang strode ahead, inspecting the large, empty building. Anything of value must have been looted years ago, as all that was left were broken pictures and used spray paint cans. She murmured a few times, but Taman hardly caught what she was saying. Granted, she didn't try very hard to listen; she followed the anartist, but her mind had already wandered off.

She had never been to places like this. Going into abandoned buildings, alone or with others, seemed to be a terrible choice on all accounts. But she had heard about the charm of exploring depths of the city from some of her more adventurous friends, and seeing this, she had to admit that there was some truth to it.

Nothing magical had happened so far, but there was this eerie beauty to it that she couldn’t deny. Even though the figures on the walls had lost parts of their bodies, the once bright colors dulled down into an indistinguishable grey, she could not help but imagine what it was like before the erosion of time set in. In some places, paint had peeled off only to reveal older artwork underneath, as if preserving the history under the layers.

It was strange, but in a way, also calming.

They moved through rooms filled with broken sentences, a giant set of teeth that were no longer able to chew, and a dragon breathing a patch of grey that must have been flames. Yang inspected the rooms one by one, some of them blocked by broken walls, some incredibly large, and some others shrouded in darkness. There was a mostly intact picture of a giant eye that Yang stared at for a long time, an impossible staircase she kicked at a few times, and a weird statue of a man she frowned at. But finally, they stopped at a large wall filled with seemingly random splashes of faded colors.

"So," Taman suggested. "Finally found the magical art?"

"Well," Yang answered. "More like finally found a safe one to poke with."

Before Taman could ask, Yang quickly changed the topic: "Want to give it a go?"

Taman stared at the piece. "What should I do?"

"Hold on." Yang said, walking up.

Taman watched Yang hold up her hand, and tapped at the picture gently. Then all of a sudden, it all changed.

Yang was no longer there, and she was alone in the building. A perfect silence fell through, and the place appeared even more lifeless. But the walls were now new and the graffiti were bright and colorful. For a moment, the world seemed extra clear to her, with every detail visible. Before Taman could comprehend what was going on, the colors on the wall moved and merged, crawling down onto the floor and spreading to the ceiling.

In a few moments, the floor melted and the ceiling collapsed. But Taman didn't fall down, as she was now standing on a swirl of colors. The walls, and the building itself had all disappeared, and the art pieces that once dwelled on their surfaces all broke free to join them. She had risen above the ground, looking down at the city below.

But it was not her city, as all the buildings moved and changed, pulsing with life. As the color patches lifted her higher and higher, the city too blurred into lines and shapes and colors. The art pieces accompanying her had all converged together, their features no longer distinguishable. Then, the abstract city dimmed, the ground disappeared, and even the sky had been converted into simply blue and white.

There was no longer any sense of height or direction, and Taman was lost in a world of mere colors. They moved and flowed and swirled around her, as if an ocean, and she felt like drowning in a bucket of paint.

The next moment, the ocean dried up, the paint retreated, and she was able to breathe again. She looked up to see Yang still standing next to the wall of colors, the dull paint peeling off to reveal the bricks behind. Yang smiled and waved at her.

Taman breathed heavily. A few moments later, she stuttered: "I, I… I really like this."

Yang chuckled. "It's pretty standard hallucination. We showed something like this in class a week ago."

"Yeah," Taman said, her mind still filled with the colors. "But… I just really like this."

Yang nodded, and waited till Taman regained her composure. Exiting the room, they found some more or less clean and intact stairs to sit. Taman's head was still spinning, while Yang casually looked around. The sun had begun to set. The rays of light reduced as the shadows started to grow.

A few more moments passed before Yang turned to Taman: "It's getting late. But there is something else I can show you."

Taman looked at her expectantly.

"Legler would say I'm disrespectful, but this place is long gone anyways." Yang gave a short laugh, and approached one of the walls. A large snake coiled on it, mouth open wide only to be cut through by a crack on the concrete.

Yang pressed her hands against the wall: "You live near the campus, right?"

"Yeah."

"Um, should be enough." Yang examined the picture once more, closing her eyes.

For a full five minutes, Yang stayed still and reached into the broken artwork, feeling its barely moving Flow, its intents and compositions. Taman stared intensely, but hardly knew what was going on.

Finally, Yang reopened her eyes and started to rework the painting. Centering on the crack on the wall, she scraped off layers of paint with her hands, getting rid of the unnecessary colors and pieces. Peeling off more colors to reveal the black background underneath, she began to create lines spiraling towards the crack. She worked for the next ten or so minutes, obscuring the detail of the snake and reducing it to shapes and elements. Her new additions slowly worked their way in.

By the time Taman started to grow bored and shifted her gaze around, the large snake suddenly began to melt. Another moment passed, its coiled body expanded, meeting the out-stretching lines and turning into a vortex. Amazed at this development, Taman turned back to see the green of the snake's scales darken and the red from inside its mouth subside, leaving only a deep shade of black. The solid crack expanded and seemingly liquefied, its darkness merging with the black paint surrounding it. As Yang stepped away, the vortex started to spin. Before long, a space opened within, allowing a few rays of light to shine through.

"Here's your shortcut," Yang let out a deep breath of relief. "I think this can last an hour."

"Holy shit," Taman's mouth opened wide. "You can do that?"

"Well, we work with ‘perfectly normal materials’," Yang grinned towards Taman. "Meaning, no actual restriction on what can be used to make anart. Which would include this."

Yang turned back towards spinning vortex as it started shaking slightly. "Do know that this is not a good way to go about this. Others' Flow will interfere with yours, so it usually doesn't turn out well or last long. Pretty sure Legler can do this just by staring at it; I had to make modifications. But why don't you hurry up now; I think I overestimated its stability."


Taman flipped through the pieces of art she had done over the past month, and realized Yang was right. She was really stressing herself out; and more than that, she was not really enjoying it. In fact, she had more fun with Yang in that one afternoon than for the entire month she spent going to magic art school. The wall of colors was no match for Professor Legler's transforming classroom, and yet she was unable to really appreciate it.

She put her works aside, and took out the clay she had gotten from the classroom. Remembering how she played with plasticine in her youth, she started molding it. For now, she decided to not be concerned with what she made, but instead to just have fun. A few crude castles and weird monsters later, she reshaped the clay into a ball and set it back down.

It was fun, and it should have always been like this. Thinking this, she left the room to clean herself up.

A few minutes after she closed the door, a crack showed up in the clay sphere. Moments later, it split into two, releasing a swarm of colorful butterflies.


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