I stood in front of the mirror and sighed as I brushed my fingers through my hair. The Healers had been able to heal the burns and scars from the fire that patterned over my skin but they weren’t able to do anything for my hair. Since my once waist-long hair had been burnt, the healers had no choice but to cut the singed ends and now my hair reached just below my shoulders.
“You still look beautiful” Derrek soothed me. He had been saying that ever since I found out how much had been burnt off but I knew on the inside he was probably rolling his eyes thinking ‘it’s just hair, it’ll grow’.
“I know what you’re thinking Sparky. I know it’s just hair... but it just sucks that it got burnt off. I mean, I can still smell the scent of burning hair” I pulled a face and tied my hair up in a messy bun. “Come on, let’s go get the others before heading over to Mr Obsidian’s office”
He grabbed my hand and we left the infirmary walking towards the apartments. We walked in comfortable silence with the echoing of our footsteps being the only sound to accompany us as we walked through the maze of hallways. We rode the elevator up to our floor and the first stop was at Derrek’s apartment. With the click of metal against metal, he unlocked the door and we walked inside hoping to find Blake in there but when we found his apartment silent and void of anyone we figured he was with the other Elementals.
“I’m sure Helena’s in our apartment, she very rarely goes out since the grounds are still all covered in snow” I mentioned. With that, we tried my apartment and, as I thought, I found Helena sitting in her meadow. She had her head bent as she sat against the trunk of the tree and had a little crease between her eyebrows as she read through her history book. At the sound of our entrance she looked up and her lips turned into a bright smile.
“Val! You’re okay! Thank God you’re awake, I was down at the infirmary for hours when Derrek brought you down but the nurse made me leave after a while” she scrunched her nose in distaste. “How are you feeling?”
I shrugged my shoulders, “Fine. I’m a little angry about my hair being burnt short but other than the left over tingles that being healed leaves I’m completely back to normal”
It was true. I’d only started my second year at Abled University but I’d had my share of being healed and the sensation that lingered afterwards was a mixture of pins and needles and that numb feeling when someone sits on their ass for hours. It didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t as comfortable I thought it would be.
“Oh, I bet you look great with short hair, don’t worry”
I rolled my eyes and remembered why I came back here in the first place, “Oh Helena, you need to come with us. We’re about to round up the Elementals because Mr Obsidian says he needs to see us urgently about some assignment... do you know anything about it?”
Her eyebrow quirked and she tilted her head slightly, “No idea... but I guess it must be serious” She shut her book quickly and the air that flew out from between the pages made the flowers around her sway and bend before standing upright again.
She grabbed a jacket and we all headed back out again and walked down towards the Elementals apartments. To make things easier they were all sitting in Sophia and Bree’s apartment studying together. After explaining ourselves and where we were supposed to meet Mr Obsidian we all began to make our way to see the dean. It was already late and I hadn’t seen any other students out and about. We turned up Mr Obsidian’s staircase that led up to his office and knocked. It was flung open and a grim faced dean met us at the door.
“Good, good you’re all here” He said as he ushered us to several chairs that had already been set up for us. “Have a seat everyone. Now there is no time for polite chit chat, so I will just get straight to the point. I have been notified of a ‘strange passing’, as I was told, in a small town several hours away from here. It was noted that the group that passed through had been made up of close to fifty people all wearing hoods and one who wore a maroon cloak”
I stared at him with a raised eyebrow, not understanding where he was going with this at all. So what if there was a group that was passing through a random little town? Mr Obsidian looked around at us before asking, “Does anyone know what this means?”
I honestly didn’t. I looked around and saw that Helena and Derrek shared the same confused expression I was wearing. “Malum and the other Elementals” Blake announced with a blank look on his face.
My eyes widened and flew over the Elementals. Their eyes were hard yet their faces were blank, I couldn’t tell what they were thinking or how they felt about this new piece of information. Mr Obsidian nodded his head and I turned to look over at him. “So what does this mean? And what does this have to do with us?” I asked curiously. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why Mr Obsidian was telling us this, unless it was just for a precaution.
Mr Obsidian breathed in a deep breath and sighed heavily before rubbing his tired eyes. “This was the assignment that I wanted to tell you. I am not certain why Malum has decided to continue to be on the move instead of hiding out like we initially thought he would, especially in his weak condition and with such a large crowd. You eight have the most experience with him and understand what he is capable of the most. Believe me, if I was not needed elsewhere at the moment I wouldn’t want to involve you all in this”
“So what exactly is our ‘assignment’ Mr Obsidian?” Derrek asked through clenched teeth. His hands were balled into fists and orange flames were lightly flickering over his knuckles.
“Yes, I was just about to get to that part. The task I’m assigning all eight of you to is to travel over to the small town called Crane’s Hollow and ask around if anyone saw anything odd or different about the group that passed through. They supposedly already left but if that bit of information is wrong and you see them, you do not make any contact and come straight back here. I do not want to lose any of you but we need to get as much information about Malum and the other Elementals as we can. Ask around, investigate, don’t make contact and return back here in three days”
My eyelids almost crawled into my skin while my eyeballs tried to escape the confines of my skull. The dean wanted us, mere students, to travel towards the psychotic Stinger’s last known whereabouts. The same Stinger who tried to either kill, torture or manipulate us without a seconds hesitation?!
I could feel a slight burning in my throat and lungs as I began to hyperventilate and hear the blood rushing around my body. Little black spots dotted my vision and suddenly Derrek was staring straight at me holding my face straight at his so I couldn’t look away. I could see his lips moving but I could still only hear the rushing and whooshing that drummed against my ear drums. He acted out for me to take deep breaths so I copied him, matching my breaths with the rise and fall of his chest.
“-kay now Tadpole?! You kind of lost us there for a second” I finally heard his deep voice say. I nodded and rubbed my temples, pressing harder when I got to the scar left over from last year when Malum forced his essence into my mind. The Healers, for some reason, wasn’t able to heal the scar like they were able to for other normal scars and it always hurt the most whenever I had a headache. It was only a circular scar and looked almost like I was burnt by a cigarette on my temple, close to my hairline, so it wasn’t too obvious.
Derrek looked back over to Mr Obsidian and shook his head furiously. “Mr Obsidian... Val can’t go. Look at her! What if she has some sort of relapse... or Malum senses her and attacks? She should stay here where it’s safe-“
“No!” I was staring at Derrek as I stood up from my chair and looked over a shocked Helena and the still blank-faced Elementals, “I can’t keep trying to avoid situations that might make me relapse or something. I need to face them head on and if I do, for some reason or another, relapse then you know what to do”
Our steely gazes connected and he opened his mouth to answer me back. I readied myself for an outburst of furious rebuttals, for him to fight me on this, but I saw Derrek do something that I hadn’t seen him do in a fight... he backed down. My eyebrows shot up, it wasn’t in Derrek’s nature to back down in an argument or fight but he must’ve seen how much this meant to me.
Then his face hardened, “I don’t like this Tadpole. If something happens then just know that I’ll be there for you... but I’ll also be there to say ‘I told you so’”
He crossed his arms and leaned back into the seat avoiding my gaze. I nodded and let out the breath I didn’t realise I was holding and sat down. “Excuse me Mr Obsidian” Helena spoke up. I looked over to her and she looked a little pale with a worried expression etched into her face, “Why do you want us to go? Why couldn’t you send out the teachers? Wouldn’t they be more, well, equipped for this kind of situation?”
A small smile lifted the corner of the dean’s mouth, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “We have no teachers to spare for this kind of situation Helena. Though you are correct, they would be much more equipped, I cannot have the rest of the university wondering why several teachers have gone missing for several days. Plus they don’t know Malum the way you eight do”
We all fell silent and I could practically feel the gaze of Mr Obsidian burning into us, waiting for the answer we all knew we would give eventually. I looked straight into his eyes and nodded, “You already know I’ll go Sir” I needed to do this, even if I didn’t get to face Malum I needed to be able to face my fears and find out if I will end up relapsing and turn back into the person who haunted my nightmares.
I heard a low groan from beside me and Derrek sat forward, “I’ll go Mr Obsidian”
“And me too” I looked over at Helena, a little shocked that she willingly volunteered to go as well. Helena had spaced out a little over the last few months and ever since she went down into the caves last year she’d been different, more subdued. I was proud of her for taking this step.
I looked back at the Elementals who were eyeing each other, almost as though they were having a conversation in their heads and I wondered if it was a good idea to have them come along with us. On the one hand they would come very much in handy in trying to read into anything that concerned Malum. They were the closest connection we had to him and if we did happen to come across them, their abilities would definitely help against the other Elementals.
On the other hand, bringing them with us could end up being a huge mistake. What if they ended up being a liability instead of being helpful? So many questions were rushing through my head and I didn’t have the slightest clue on what was the right answer. I supposed we would have to rely on the answer they gave us.
Blake turned to face us and nodded curtly, “We’ll go too. You might need our help, and we’re here to offer it”
Mr Obsidian beamed at the eight of us and clapped his hands together. “Brilliant! Now, get back to your apartments and have an early night. Crane’s Hollow is about ten hours away. I’ll supply you with money you need for petrol and accommodation but otherwise you’ll need to drive there”
He proceeded to give us maps and the directions on how to get there. Crane’s Hollow was indeed very small and very remote. I’d never heard of the town before and if he hadn’t pointed it out on the map I wouldn’t have even been able to find it. We decided to leave at five in the morning so we could arrive there, hopefully, at three in the afternoon and do a little questioning and investigating before night fell again.
“Thank you Mr Obsidian, we’ll be back in three days” I nodded to him. I gathered the maps and money but Derrek moved forward to take them from my hands so he could carry it. We all stayed quiet as we left the dean’s office and made our way down the hallways to our own apartments. When we reached our floor I turned to face the others before they walked off, “Okay guys, we need to leave by five o’clock so I think it’s best if we could meet out at the front of the university by quarter to five”
Everyone nodded and agreed that it was a good idea. I just hoped they set an alarm or something because I was not looking forward to playing mother and having to wake them up at five o’clock. Everyone walked off and before I could follow after Helena Derrek grabbed my arm and pulled me back.
“Everything okay Sparky?” I asked with a tilt of my head. I was actually pretty exhausted, even though I’d been unconscious most of the day, and just wanted to sleep. There was probably only six hours until I would have to wake up and start packing what I was going to bring.
Derrek was silent at first. His hand slipped down from my arm to hold my hand and I felt his thumb brush over the top of my hand. As always his skin felt like I was standing right beside a campfire. The heat from him flowed out like a heatwave and coupled with the heat inside the building, it was actually getting a little hot.
“Are you sure Tadpole?” He finally asked.
I stared at him and slowly nodded my head, “Well, yeah... everyone said that five was a good enough time to get sleep and still get to Crane’s Hollow before it gets dark. You should’ve said something while we were all together if-“
Derrek just rolled his eyes and covered my mouth with his hand, “Think Tadpole. Do you really think I was talking about waking up at five?” He sent me a dry look, “Tadpole, I was talking about you heading to Malum’s last known location. What if he’s still there?”
He let the question linger in the air and his other hand came to stroke the circular scar that would always remind me of the torture Malum put me through, the fact that not even healing abilities could remove it from my skin.
It was bad enough having it scar my mind.
“Sparky... I’m going to say this one last time” I stared straight into his golden eyes that seemed to hypnotize me and hardened my voice. “I need to do this. I have to know that I can do things and go places without the fear that I’ll relapse and lose my humanity. I don’t want to be afraid of going around corners in case the monster I was pops out”
His jaw clenched but he sighed and nodded. “Let’s go. You need to rest”
He didn’t look at me when he began to walk and pulled me along with him. We strolled past his apartment and instead he walked me to mine. Helena left the door slightly open for me, probably thinking I was just behind her, and I turned to face Derrek.
“Relax Sparky, where’d that hard ass, cocky bad boy I met last year go?” I joked with a smirk. His hard face relaxed and he chuckled.
“Don’t worry, he’s still here. Just remember, I’m not scared to say ‘I told you so’ or even just stand to the side and point and laugh for a little bit” He winked gently me inside before pecking my cheek and turning to walk back to his apartment.
I chuckled and shook my head, “Idiot”
I closed the door and didn’t see Helena in the main area so I figured she’d already gone to sleep. Even though I was exhausted I couldn’t find it in me to sleep. I had so much running through my mind I just needed let some stress out, just clear my mind.
I grabbed a glass of water and walked to the balcony. As soon as I slid the door open the chilly air whipped around my face and I smiled at the light frost that clung to my skin. The clouds still covered the moon leaving the entire university grounds pitch black and the snow a dull grey. I walked over to the railing and sat the glass down, digging it in the snow to make sure it stayed put, and dipped my fingertips in.
I brought my fingers out and flicked them, splattering the water droplets into the air. As soon as they left my fingers I focused my eyes on the glistening water and, like pressing buttons, I froze each droplet in the air. I watched as they fell into the snow and left tiny little dents as though I was poking little holes in it.
I continued to do this several times, trying to make my reaction time faster and faster until the flat grey-looking snow below the balcony looked as though it was a pin cushion. When the water in my glass was half gone and starting to freeze around the edges I gulped the rest of the water and swished it around my mouth as I set the glass back down. I took a few steps back and spat the water out, using my whole body to send it flying further out.
The stream of water flew through the air and I rotated my wrist pointing my finger at the water. As the water fell, I shaped it into a snowflake and, with a flick of my finger, froze it into solid ice. The ice ‘snowflake’ fell and landed on the snow below with a muted thud. As I hoped it would, my mind had cleared somewhat and I felt a little more relaxed. I breathed in the cold air, feeling it rush down my throat and sighed it back out leaving a puff of fog in the air.
With one last look at the blank sky, I picked up the frosted glass and turned to walk back inside the warm apartment. After setting it in the sink, I changed into my PJs and snuggled between the cool sheets while my eyes flicked over to the window. I pointed at the window and closed one eye. I pointed my finger around the edges, pretending to trace the frame and watched as frost grew to cover the clear glass before I closed my other eye and fell instantly asleep.
And I finally uploaded another chapter!
Yeah... finally lol. Despite a crap load of well... crap happening here you go! It’s kind of a filler but yeah.
Dedicate to @brightviolet for going crazy and commenting me A LOT! I loved it! Hope this makes up for getting chased out of the room by your cousin =P
But I’d also like to dedicate every chapter I write to my loyal readers and fans who understand that I have a life and other priorities besides writing. You’re the people who I write for and give me that extra push. Thank you!