My body was tensed, my hands were in fists and my arms were high protecting my face. My left foot was in front, ready to attack or defend myself. My gaze and full concentration were on my opponent. Cassius was in the same position as I was, his gaze on me. His eyes were observing me, like a predator watching his prey. I tried to do the same, but it was a fail attempt.
Suddenly without any warning, he launched at me. I avoided him barely, my arms receiving the blows that were meant for my face. I got out of the danger and kept my position. I steadied my breathing and concentrated on the task at hand. His eyes were on me, but then his gaze moved to something behind me and he looked surprised.
Confusion was clear on my face and I turned round to see what he was looking.
“What is i-”
I didn’t get to end my question when something strong knocked down my legs and I fell to the ground, thankfully putting my hands to prevent my face from hitting the ground.
I turned around to see a smirking Cassius watching me struggle on the ground.
“That’s cheating!” I said glaring at him while rubbing my hands, who were the ones who received the impact of the ground.
“I told you. No distraction can take your eyes off the opponent.”
I groaned in annoyance and stood up. I moved my head to reduce the tension in my neck and went back to my fighting position.
Taking me by surprise, he started attacking me in no time. I moved with speed avoiding all his attempts to hit me, and with a fast move, I kicked him hard in the ribs. He took a step back and narrowed his eyes at me. I smirked at him and signalize with my finger to get closer. His punches and kicks were now faster and more accurate, making it a difficult job to keep him at bay.
After a whole minute of being in defensive, I decided to try my luck and be the offensive. I started to throw punches hitting the target on his arms and once in the ribs. But my luck didn’t last long, and he grabbed my wrist in one of my attempts. I looked at him wide-eyed and cursed internally for getting too close. He grabbed my other wrist and put both of them behind my back.
“And with that, you are dead.” He whispered in my ear, making me bit my lip in nervousness. He let go of me and I rubbed my wrists. I stuck my tongue at him in a childish way and he looked amused.
“You did pretty well. You still have to work on the offensive part.” He said in a professional way that made me roll my eyes internally.
It was already past lunchtime, and we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast and my stomach was protesting for food. The growling sound was clear for everybody to hear, and I smiled in embarrassment at Cassius.
He rolled his eyes. “Let’s eat. We will continue after.”
I smiled eagerly and the both of us started walking side by side to the back of the cabin.
The sun was hitting pretty hard and the sweat was rolling on my back like a waterfall. It was one of the hottest days since winter-fall had started, and I was eager for some cold water, and give a proper goodbye to the warm sunny summer.
At the back of the cabin, Lucy was rather looking happy. I sat beside her and started to pet her. Her broken leg was looking better each passing day as well as her swollen wing. The wooden cast I invented was working perfectly on both cases and I was happy that in a few more days she was going to be able to walk again and then fly. Even though it was sad she was going to leave, I knew it was for the better.
Cassius brought two bowls with meat and passed me one. Lucy didn’t like his proximity and huffed in annoyance. I looked amused at her and then at Cassius, who was glaring daggers at her. He sat a few feet away, keeping his distance from Lucy. Even though I had shown him that she wasn’t dangerous, he hadn’t done anything to amend his wrong actions of trying to kill her.
A cold breeze passed that made me shiver, signalizing that winter was coming soon.
“When am I going to start using a sword?” I asked after a while of silence, which consisted on both of us too focused on eating to say anything.
“If you keep doing well like today, then very soon.” He said with a hint of proudness.
I smiled and fist-bumped the air. “Yes, baby!”
Cassius looked at me like I had just lost my mind, but I shrugged and kept the smile on.
He shook his head, but I could see the ghost of a smile on his lips.
We started talking about different subjects, and I tried to learn as much as I could from this world. I learned that days were longer here, but months were shorter. That meant years were also shorter, which explained why Cassius looked younger than 25. I learned also that diseases were very rare and people had a very long life expectancy.
“What about wizards? Do they exist?” I asked curiously.
Something changed in his mood and his jaw clenched.
“They were supposed to be extinct, but they are coming back.” He said between clenched teeth.
“How do you know they are coming back?” I asked curiously, looking at the meat on my plate not feeling really hungry.
He chuckled humourlessly. “I have already had encounters with many of them. It didn’t end well for them.”
“So...they are not good?” I asked trying to understand the whole view.
He shook his head. “They believe in the purity of magic, which doesn’t include humans. Since the existence of humanity, they have tried to liquidate us. In each generation, there was a powerful mage that led them to the ultimate power, but it was only for a while. Before the war ended, a mage called Ascanius appeared, claiming he was immortal and the chosen one to guide them to glory. After the ultimate battle, we thought he was dead, that everything he said was a lie. A couple of years ago I realized he wasn’t. He is alive, and building an army.”
“Who else knows?” I asked in a whisper.
He shook his head. “Nobody else.”
Some seconds passed in silence.
“Remember the story I told you? About the war between wizards and humans? It was real.” He said suddenly, breaking the short silence.
I looked at him wide-eyed. “Really? That’s horrible! I can’t even imagine how it must have been...”
He was looking at something else distantly, engulfed in his own thoughts. His eyes expressed frustration and anger, but a wave of anxiousness and fear passed through them. He was worried, probably thinking about all the things that could go wrong.
After some silence, things started to connect in my mind.
“You thought I was a wizard, didn’t you?” I asked, interrupting his thoughts.
“What?” He said a little perplexed at my question.
“When we first met, you thought I was a wizard. And now I realize, the dangers of this woods aren’t the creatures, is them.” I said my thoughts out loud without realizing it. “The question is, why haven’t I seen them or why aren’t they here...”
“I have taken all the precautions to keep them away, and lately they have been keeping a low profile,” he said but then looked at me warily. “But I think you had an encounter with magic.”
I looked at him, surprised by his statement. “When?”
“That creature that took you in the woods, it was a Vextalon. They are creatures that can control time and well, they feed on blood. They are controlled by mages, so it’s not a casualty that it took you. Someone had been watching you.”
My whole body froze and a shiver ran down my spine. Fear returned to me in a rush and I couldn’t avoid the sudden feeling of vulnerability.
“They are very dangerous people Lib, and I wouldn’t forgive myself if something bad happened to you...” he said in barely a whisper.
My heart melted and I acted before even thinking about it. I left the bowl aside and hugged his waist. He hugged me back almost instantly as if he didn’t think it twice.
“I think you know that this bitchy place has tried to take me down more than a couple of times, and yet here I am. I think those guys are going to have to try harder than that to take me down and believe me that I’m going to make it hard for them. Same as you. I won’t let them mess with you any longer.” I said this with confidence, but on the inside, I was unsure and afraid. I had never met these wizards in person so I didn’t know if I could even last a second against them. Even the Vextalon almost killed me. Yet, all I wanted to do was to ensure Cassius that everything was going to be alright, that he could take this heavyweight off his shoulders, that he could rely on me whenever he needed. That’s what friends are supposed to do, right?
He looked at me with that unreadable look that made me wonder what he was thinking.
“Let’s have the rest of the day free. What do you think?” he said with a smile that made my stomach churn.
I nodded happily and grinned. “Actually, I wanted to do something. Do you want to go to the river? The day is pretty hot to have a swim.” I said hoping he will say yes to my proposal.
“Yes, sure,” he said shrugging.
I stood in a Flash and pulled his hand with me.
“C’mon, let’s go! I want to enjoy the day as much as I can.”
I started running with him trailing behind me, soon getting into the woods. I ran as fast as I could trying not to crash into a tree or trip with a tree root.
We got to the river and I had to catch up my breath with all the running. The training had definitely good results; in my previous physical state, I would have collapsed the first few meters.
“You didn’t even move your damn feet before, and now you run like a mad person,” Cassius said catching his breath also from the run. A teasing smile was on his lips and I couldn’t avoid teasing back.
“Are you regretting accepting to train me?” I said with a hand over my chest, as if I was offended.
His smile got wider. “Not at all.”
I chuckled and looked at the river. The crystal clear water was flowing slowly and it seemed like it was calling me to take a swim. Without thinking it twice I took my shirt and pants off fast and run to the bank of the river, leaving me just in underwear. And I realized too late what I had done. I stopped midtrack to look behind me.
“Fucking Stupid!” I cursed myself internally for being too impulsive and not thinking anything at all.
Cassius’ eyes were wide, and he didn’t try to hide the fact he was checking me out. My cheeks were instantly red and I looked in front of me to avoid looking at him. I cleared my throat and just gave him a glance.
“Are you coming or what?”
He didn’t answer, and I turned around to see why. Bad Mistake.
His shirt was off, leaving exposed to everyone, or well just me and my perverted self, his abs and hard chest. He had various scars, but that just made him look sexier, Oliver Queen* sexy. I had to close my mouth to stop drooling and had to force with all my might to move my gaze from his perfect body. I stared at my feet trying to take all sinful thoughts of my head and to control my blush. I was starting to think he was sculpted by Greek gods if he wasn’t one himself.
“Thank God he left his pants on or else I would have had a real struggle trying to control myself. Damn hormones.”
He walked until he was at my side, and I looked up to see his face with a cocky grin. He knew I was checking him out, and that just made me blush even more.
He kept walking, which gave me a perfect view of his back, and I had to force myself not to faint. A hard muscled back was my number one weakness, and I was trying hard to not seem affected.
“Are you coming or what?” I heard him say the exact same words I said with a teasing tone in it. I glared his perfect back and walked fast to catch up with him. Both of us stopped at the edge of the water and I touched the water slightly with my feet to feel the water’s temperature, to find that it was slightly colder than usual.
I grimaced at the touch and started to contemplate if it was a good idea to take a swim. Before I could think more, I felt strong arms engulf my waist and lift me up, leaving my feet dangling in the air. I gave a squeal of surprise and started to struggle knowing immediately Cassius intentions.
“Let me go you donkey ass!” I screamed at him, but he didn’t budge.
He started walking towards the deepest part of the river and I stopped struggling in fear he could drop me. I gasped when the water level was raising and I turned around to get a hold of Cassius.
“Stop it! Turn around you idiot!”
I put my arms around his neck and my legs around him trying not to touch the water, but we seemed to be getting deeper and deeper and when the water touched my thighs I knew I was helpless.
“Ah! It’s cold!” I shrieked when the water touched my belly.
Cassius chuckled and I felt his chest vibrate with it. He pulled me back a little so he could look at my face.
“You do know you are exaggerating, right?”
“I’m not! It is cold.” I objected like a child.
I looked at him, and before I could stop it, I got lost in his eyes. The hazel was darker than usual, and his pupils were dilated. His gaze was on me, or more specifically, my lips. He inched closer and closer, and I took this as my opportunity for revenge. As much as I wanted to kiss him, my revenge was first.
I inched closer and just when our mouths were a breath away from kissing, I rapidly got off his hold and splashed water all over his face.
I laughed at his surprise reaction but then decided against it when his murderous glare was directed my way.
“You are going to regret that.”
I turned around and dive as fast as I could to get away from him. My legs started moving fast and my arms moved forward to increase my speed. The current helped me get deeper and deeper, but it also helped Cassius swim faster, and just when I was running out of air, I felt his hand grip my ankle and pull me towards him. I didn’t struggle since I was out of oxygen and I was desperately trying to reach the surface. When both of us resurfaced, I took a big mouthful of air trying to fill my lungs with oxygen.
Cassius had his arms around my waist once again, but this time, his grip was firmer. I put my hands over his chest trying to create more space between us.
“Okay fine! You got me. I’m sorry about before, I just couldn’t avoid doing it.” I said with a guilty smile on my face, not feeling guilty at all. It was worth it. His glare made me laugh and I tried to control it quickly but failed miserably at it.
“You asked for it,” he said in a husky voice that made me shiver.
He started tickling me and my laugh could be heard loud over the water’s current noise.
“S-stop! P-p-please!” I begged in between my laughs. He started tickling me harder, and the sides of my stomach started hurting. I tried with all my force to get away from him, but his grip was iron like.
“I-I’ll do anyt-thing.” I said trying to get off the tortuous situation.
He stopped tickling me and put a thoughtful face.
“Tempting, but no thank you.”
“No, no, no ple-” my beg was interrupted with another round of laughs coming from my mouth.
“H-hurts,” I said and he stopped instantly.
“Shit, I’m sorry. Are you okay?” He asked with concern showing in his voice and in his expression.
I let out a breath and tried to control my breathing. “I think I just did a year's worth of crunches.”
He laughed and shook his head. “It was worth it.”
I glare at him. “Really? Worth it? I almost peed myself!” I said annoyed.
He threw his head and laugh at my statement, and he had a true smile on his face.
“I meant it because you look beautiful when you laugh.”
I froze in place at the statement and blushed deeply. Suddenly I was aware of the closeness and the little space between us. His arms were still around my waist and we were even closer than before.
I bit my lip in embarrassment and looked down.
He swiped his thumb across my bottom lip, releasing it from my bite and leaving tingles in its place. My breath was instantly caught in my throat, and I couldn’t breathe. My heart was hammering against my chest so hard, that I thought he could hear it. I looked into his eyes, and I was hypnotized.
The intensity of his look made me want to squirm in my place, but I couldn’t move by the simple fact that I was frozen. He inched closer and I did the same. At this time I was shaking, and I didn’t know if it was because of the cold or the excitement.
Suddenly, a thunder resounded around us and I jumped in fright. I put a hand over my racing heart, and let me tell you, that it wasn’t because of the thunder that my heart was beating like crazy. I took the opportunity to put some space between Cassius and me.
The sun had disappeared and the sky was covered with big grey clouds. We were too caught up in...whatever the hell happened to realize a storm was coming.
“Holy crap, we almost kiss.” I thought.