The teacher appears, but the student is NOT ready. (From the anime Mamotte Shugogetten.)
Despite my age, I still occasionally dabble in the art of creative writing. It is less than before, for sure, but still sometimes I come up with a compelling idea or two. Unfortunately, you need seven compelling ideas and a lot of hard work to make a novel, according to the voices in my head, so I will not finish this latest attempt either, unless some serious inspiration (and transpiration) strikes. Still, making notes for later. (And because while I work on a story, it is not uncommon for someone else to actually write it, and then I come later and say “I thought of this too” and the world is like “riiite”.)
“When the student is ready” is, of course, a title inspired by the famous saying of Lao-Tzu, the Old Sage of ancient China: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. It is generally quoted as a Buddhist proverb, but unless I dreamed this very vividly, the Old Sage said it in a very specific context, namely regarding the immortals or angels. (Some translations say, “…the master will appear”. Not a big difference, ideally. If not all teachers are masters these days, sometimes far from it, that does not apply to this situation.)
In fact, the striking contrast between the original meaning and modern school life was probably what motivated me to start on this story in the first place. And of course gigabytes upon gigabytes of high school anime. The anime / manga inspiration will probably be obvious if one knows it, but not to the complete outsider. The story takes place in Norway, but a Norway in an alternate timeline where the English and American cultural influence is at least partly replaced with Japanese cultural influence. (This actually was something I lifted from a dream I had a couple years ago.) For a foreign reader it is not easy to say what is Norwegian and what is Japanese culture if you know neither.
In anime, the sexy high school teacher is a common stereotype. I can’t say there weren’t any in real life either, althought they were pretty rare. I’d say my biology teacher qualified, but I did not spend much time thinking about it, as I was trying to stay pure. Well, mostly. Anyway! This is not about me, of course. When you first start writing fiction, you may have a lot of personal subconscious stuff that leaks into your story. But after 40 years (I started early!) I like to think I draw more on the collective subconscious than my own.
So we have a slightly Japanized (Nipponized?) Norway. We have a high school boy who is a bit of a bookworm. Not the caricature nerd that trips over his own feet and is painfully shy. Rather, he just has a high opinion of books and a low opinion of people in general, although he has a few good friends from grade school that are still hanging together. The three of them who are still single is Johan (the above mentioned bookman), Ove (the horny type) and Cecilie (standard childhood friend with romantic potential). And then comes the teacher (tentatively called Gudhild Hoshiyama, unless I come up with something better.) And yes, she is an immortal, or as close as you come.
The teacher is actually there for our main character. The immortals have divined that he has the potential to become one of them, something very few humans in each generation have. So she is there to keep track of him until such time as he is ready to begin on the Path, and help him make that decision.
Due to the beauty and perfection of the teacher, or simply because she has breasts, several boys are strongly attached to her, most of all Ove (the best friend of main character). Johan (still main character) has a very different reaction. Apart from being less interested in romance generally, he can somehow notice that she is immensely powerful, and is scared. He is also confused that no one else sees her strength, or generally that she is too good to be true.
So as the story begins to move, we have two love triangles both involving the MMC (male main character, for the non-romance-writers out there). His best friend is drooling for the teacher, who only is interested in the MMC. Jealousy arises when that interest starts to show. On the other hand, we have the childhood friend, who has vague plans for MMC and suspects teacher is out to get him. More jealousy arises.
And of course there should be supernatural stuff and tasteful preaching of Religio Perennis. The “immortals” actually spend much of their time on a slightly higher plane of reality, which they (unlike yours truly) visit physically. In order to survive that trip, our hero has to undertake various mental and physical exercises that seem pointless and conceited to those who don’t know what’s going on, that is to say, all mortals.
The device I have invented for their bodily transition is a pilgrimage to the mountain of Hoshiyama (Star Mountain) from which the FMC has derived her name. The path at the foot of the mountain begins in the mundane world, but after walking through the layer of fog or low clouds that always hang around the mountain when there is a pilgrimage, one arrives in the higher world. Magic and tasteful preaching ensues. Or perhaps I should postpone that to the next book and end this one as our hero enters the fog, thus leaving the reader in doubt as to whether he really is destined for greatness or is just plain insane. I love that. In fact, I think there are times when my journal conveys some of the same confusion…