9. HEDONISM

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Madonna with Child and Singing Angels, Botticelli, 1477
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Stepping off of the bus, Isaac genuinely believed he'd been transported to another universe. Having never been to a forest before, and having lived in the city his entire life, he never knew nature could be so violently green.

     Isaac turned to Asher. "I don't get it. Are we supposed to like...hike and write about flowers we see?"

     Asher paid no mind at first, too enthralled by his surroundings to respond. "...You noticed it, right? That this trip feels awfully pointless."

     "More so than usual, yes."

     "That's because it is." Asher stated all knowingly. "Everyone knows this trip is a way for students to end their second to last year at Eton positively. The teachers think we'll have better things to say when we return home to review our year with our filthy rich and terribly influential parents."

     "That doesn't seem like it'd be very effective. They chose the wrong place. Who of the British upper class genuinely enjoys the wilderness? The only leaves we're familiar with are tea leaves."

     Asher chuckled. "It is effective, but not for the reasons the teachers intended. Have you not heard the stories about this trip?" he asked, crunching leaves and snapping twigs as he walked the dirt path. "How every student releases his most animalistic instincts in these three short days. Personally, I see the wilderness as a perfectly fitting environment."

     Isaac quirked a brow. "What?"

     "It's tradition. During the day, we hike and attend lectures—we're the usual golden students. But at night, oh, at night! all hell breaks loose. Think about it. We have two nights outside of campus, two nights where the adults are at rest in their far too distant cabins. This year especially, they've put so much trust in us because of the damn prefects. So even if you say you hate Beckett, you have to at least give him your gratitude for doing his job so perfectly. We have two nights of pure freedom before we return to our parents with way too much power, time, and ridiculously high expectations of us."

     "Oh? I'm intrigued. Tell me more."

     "The first night, we're expected to meet on the east side of the lake, just past midnight. I've already heard from Elijah that he heard from Nathan that he heard a rumor that Archie and his friends smuggled in bottles of alcohol and cannabis."

     "And if you think that sounds crazy, wait until you hear about the second night. There's another school staying at the nearby lodging site. They're inviting anyone who wants to come, and the best news is that it's not another bloody all boys school. My brother went on this excursion two years back, he said he hooked up with two other girls at the same time. Frankly, I don't believe him one bit, but I guess anything is possible when everybody is drunk and high off their minds."

     "Jesus. Does everyone participate in this?"

     "For the most part, I think so. The prefects vary from year to year, depending on how uptight they are." Asher gasped as if he were struck with a bolt of brilliance. "You know what you should do, Isaac?"

     "What should I do, Ash?" he mocked.

     "You should invite Josiah, get him to come. I really want to see how he acts drunk."

     Isaac smirked, "He's much easier to get along with, that's for sure." He stopped to think. "But I won't bother, I know he'll never put himself at risk."

     "Not even if you ask him?"

"Especially if I ask him."

"Want to make a bet?" the curly haired boy challenged.

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