Shay twitched nervously in his seat as he waited for food. Kallima shot a glance to Ignatius. Catching Kallima’s eye, he smirked, signalling to her that he knew why the spirit fae was so restless. When Sable returned and set his plate before him, he grabbed her hand.
“Thank you, Sable, b-but I have to go. I’m s-s-sorry.”
He kissed her hand, took his plate, and quickly fled. Sable sank to her seat with a rather lost and hurt expression.
“Don’t worry,” Ignatius said. “He’s just distracted.”
Sable nodded but did not seem comforted by it. Kallima scoffed.
“Distracted by what? What did you do?” she asked.
“Nothing! It’s just- I promised not to say anything,” Ignatius said. “He wants to wait to tell you.”
“Tell us what?” Amelia asked, finally joining her friends.
“Shay’s keeping secrets about something,” Kallima said, “and I’m going to find out what it is. I don’t like people hiding things from me.”
She looked at Sable as she said it, and the grey girl crackled, her eyes blackening and skin turning to marble. The redhead pouted.
“Were you going to eat, Say?”
“You still need to eat something,” Amelia said, her own mouth full.
“And you,” Ignatius warned, “need to cut down. We have less than three weeks to adjust to smaller portions.”
“I’ll start eating less Monday,” Amelia promised. “I’m still trying to bulk up first!”
Kallima glared at the girl, who was beginning to get some pudge to her legs and stomach. She glanced at her roommate, who had no fat and barely any muscle, and back at the thickening spirit fae. She grabbed Amelia’s plate with her fork and slid it in front of Sable.
Sable pushed the tray back to Amelia, saying, “I’m not hungry, Kali. Like, really.”
Amelia covered her plate and inhaled the food on it. Kallima pouted, shoving her own pheasant leg at Sable. Sable shook her head, and Kallima grunted, waving the drumstick in the girl’s face. Then she started poking her cheek with the food.
“Stop it, Kali.”
“No. Eat,” Kallima said, knowing how childish she sounded as she did.
Sable sighed and reluctantly accepted the meat. As she munched, Kallima grinned triumphantly. Ignatius chuckled softly, and Kallima’s gaze moved to him.
The golden-haired boy smiled sweetly as he impaled food with his fork. His chin rested on his left hand, and a pink blush occupied the apples of his cheeks and nose. The emerald eyes above twinkled affectionately. Kallima beamed at his expression.
“Did you find a girlfriend?” she asked quietly.
The older boy’s face flushed farther.
“What makes you ask?”
“You look… infatuated,” Kallima said.
“Infatuated? No, I’m crazy about her. And don’t even ask,” he said, pointing a finger of warning at Kallima’s excited face. “I’m not telling. No point in it. I graduate soon, and she’s… special. So far out of my league, and she doesn’t even realize. It won’t last, but… I don’t know. It’s nice, you know? That she likes me.”
“Why don’t you invite her over?” Amelia asked.
“No. I don’t want to ruin her reputation.”
Kallima smirked again and said, “Well, I, for one, am happy for you. Maybe she’ll realize what a good person you are and come introduce herself.”
“I doubt it. Don’t worry. I’ll get over it. Besides, it’s not the end of the world if I’m not dating. I’m probably gonna be alone for most of my life, so I don’t mind.”
“Don’t be so melodramatic, Iggy.”
“Yeah,” Amelia added, “keep your chin up!There are plenty of nerdy girls like you!”
Ignatius glared at her and said, “Thanks. I feel so much more confident now.”
Kallima chuckled as Amelia tried to backpedal over her words. Sable set her pheasant bone back on Kallima’s plate and left the room. The redhead watched her go then stared at her plate. Despite saying she had no appetite, Sable had picked the bone clean. No skin, flesh, or even cartilage remained on the ivory stick.
“Is this what Orphanage is like?” Kallima asked softly, holding up the limb.
Ignatius nodded slowly, sadly, and Amelia whimpered.
“I- I need to write Janie,” she said, retreating from the table in a panic.
Kallima pushed her plate away and laid her head on the table. Ignatius pat her shoulder.
“Hey, it’s okay. It’s not your fault,” he told her.
“Yes, it is. If I wasn’t so careless, I wouldn’t have gotten caught. I wouldn’t have learned about that rebel group, and her parents wouldn’t have been executed. She and Jane would still have their family if it weren’t for me,” Kallima said.
“You saved Sable’s life, Kali.”
“So what? I got your dad arrested-.”
“I got Dad arrested, not you.”
“I killed Mum.”
“No,” Ignatius said sternly.
“No?” Kallima said, raising her head. “Let’s recap, shall we? She died because she was drunk. She was drunk to deal with the Fever. She had Fever because she was stuck in the Mortal Realm. Why was she in the Mortal Realm, Iggy?”
“To... to protect you?”
“Because of me! Because, somehow, before I was even born, she knew what I was, what I would do, and how many people wanted me dead!”
“Satu specialized in divinity,” Ignatius said. “Uh, Dad told me. She- she probably foresaw what you were.”
“So I’m right. Because of me, she went to the Mortal Realm, caught Fever, started drinking, and killed herself. Because. Of. Me.”
“No. I don’t believe that,” Ignatius said again. “Auntie Satu was better than that. She-.”
“What did you say?”
“Did you just call my mum,” Kallima asked, “‘Auntie Satu?’”
“I- Y-yeah. She’s my- was my godmother. She introduced my parents,” Ignatius said, tugging his ears roughly. “I barely knew her, don’t remember her at all, but Dad told me all sorts of stories about her.”
“How... she introduced your parents?”
“Uh-huh. Dad was maybe ten years older than her, looked after her while she was at Orphanage, made sure no one bought her. Said some lady told him to keep her safe, that as a descendant of Merlin, it was his job to protect her. Then, a little before Titanus bought her, Satu introduced him to my mother. When I... when I was born, Dad asked her to be my godmother.”
“That’s... amazing,” Kallima said.
Ignatius smirked at her, and she smiled back.
“I… guess. But I should still make amends with Amy,” Kallima said.
“How? Tell her that you’re the snitch? She knows. The rumors, how you acted when they were arrested… She knew right away,” Ignatius told her. “But she also knew you were scared. She was only mad at you for a moment, then she says she just felt sorry for you. You’re an outsider, Kali, and you were dropped here- she says, not me- with no warning, no preparation. Satu sort of… well, abandoned you to figure it out for yourself.”
“It’s not like I wasn’t always an outsider,” Kallima said, brushing away the comment about her mother. “Even in the Mortal Realm, people knew there was something off about me. I started fights with anyone who said a bad word about my mum or dad… They all knew, see? That he wasn’t my real dad. But I didn’t know that. I thought I just looked like Mum. But… I didn’t have friends. Not before I came here.”
“Must have made it easier. To leave it all behind and come here, huh?” Ignatius said.
“I suppose. But it was really lonely.”
“Tell me about it. Dad and I moved so often, it was like he was afraid I would make friends. And the whole time, he was looking for my mother. The hypocrite.”
“Yeah, I know how that feels,” Kallima laughed, sliding into a milder accent, “‘Kali, Princess, don’t you ever give yourself to someone unless you’re sure you want to spend your life with him.’ And what did she do? Ran away, that’s what she did.”
Ignatius grinned sadly, glanced around the emptying room, and offered Kallima his hand.
“Come on; I’ll show you what Shay’s up to,” he said.
Hesitantly, Kallima took the offered hand and followed Ignatius from the room. He dragged her down the hall, up the stairs, and into the freshman boys’ lobby. Kallima gagged on the strong odor of fifty teenaged boys with freedom they should, perhaps, not have been allowed. Two satyrs and a human-looking boy took turns launching food at a sleeping troll until one landed in the slumbering boy’s mouth. The “scoring” satyr leapt up, shouting, “Five points!”
Unfortunately, this woke the troll, who smacked his lips, trying to figure out what he was tasting. He growled and charged the trio. Kallima followed Ignatius lead and tried to ignore the resulting fist-fight.
Ignatius pulled Kallima down the long hallway to one of the far rooms and knocked on the door.
“W- One minute!” Shay’s voice called.
The golden senior pressed his ear to the door, blushed, and pulled away again. Kallima raised a brow.
“Yeah, you don’t, ah…,” he said, “you don’t wanna know.”
“Sable’s in there, isn’t she?”
Ignatius blushed harder and nodded, and Kallima shook her head.
“Make it f-five!”
“Okay, but you’d better be keeping an eye out, Shay,” Ignatius shouted back. He waved Kallima to a corner, sat down, and said, “So. They’re doing well.”
“I don’t like it,” Kallima said, crossing her arms.
“They’re too young! Sable just turned fifteen. They shouldn’t be… well, you know!”
“So, uh… You and Blaze…?”
“God no!” Kallima shrieked. “Well, maybe someday, when we’re older, if we’re still together. I like- I love him enough, but- No, I am not… having… s-sex. With anyone.”
“It’s cute how you trip around that word.”
Ignatius held up his hands and said, “I know. I know. Stop flirting with you.”
“That’s right. Or else I’ll have to find your little girlfriend and tell her what a wanker you are,” Kallima said with a smirk.
“Hey! I’m not flirting,” Ignatius laughed. “I’m teasing you. Besides, you’ll never figure out who she is.”
“You’re a gambler, aren’t you?” Kallima asked.
“I’ve made a bet or two, yeah.”
“I bet I can figure out who she is before the end of the term.”
“You think you can? In three weeks?” Ignatius chuckled.
“Mm-hm! And if I win, you have to… visit Greston with us in a dress.”
“In a dress? Really?”
“Yes. I’ll loan you one of mine.”
“Alright then. What if I win?”
“Well, what do you want?”
“Yes. What is it?”
Ignatius rubbed his neck and turned away.
“If I win,” he whispered, “you… You have to kiss me.”
Kallima laughed rather loudly at this.
“I’m sorry, if I can’t figure out who your girlfriend is, I have to kiss you?”
“You don’t even have a girlfriend, do you?”
“Is that your answer?”
“Good. Because it’s wrong,” Ignatius said. “I do have a girlfriend. She’s… not really interested in me, though. She’s interested in what I can be.”
“Well, don’t let her hear you say that.”
“Is she a blonde?” Kallima asked nervously.
“Oh, good. And have, er, you two…?”
“Coincidentally, we are also waiting,” Ignatius said. “My father believed in Einaga, my godmother believed in Einaga, and I believe in Einaga. So. I’m doing the least masculine thing possible, according to my peers, and waiting.”
“Do you ever get… impatient?” Kallima asked, pointing a thumb towards Shay’s room.
“This one’s worth waiting for,” Ignatius told her, grinning and blushing.
“But not worth passing up a kiss for, apparently.”
“Ha! Anyone would back me up, stealing a kiss from you. Besides, it’s not like I’m asking for a lot. A simple peck on the cheek would be fine.”
Kallima narrowed her eyes and said, “I’m not sure Blaze is going to like this, either.”
“Oh, come on? A cheek kiss? That’s like, when you see a close friend for the first time in ages, you would do that.”
“Fine,” Kallima said. “I accept your terms. May the more clever prevail.”
Ignatius rolled his eyes and began to speak, but, at that moment, Shay’s door opened and he popped his head into the hallway.
“Are you done?” Ignatius asked, raising a brow.
“Yeah,” Shay panted, “and just in time. It’s happening.”
“Really?” Ignatius screeched.
“Come on, Kali! You gotta watch this!”
The excited blonde tugged Kallima towards the room. Unsurprisingly, Shay had a private room, with only one bed, one desk, and a massive bookcase filled with atlases, textbooks, and scrolls. Sable knelt silently at the foot of the bed. She smiled at Kallima and Ignatius and pointed towards the desk.
Inside a ceramic dish, kindling crackled and snapped around a small, amber stone. A stone that pulsed with light and life like a heartbeat. A stone that jostled every time the red embers touched it. A stone that emitted a soft tapping noise.
“Oh, my God… Is that the egg?” Kallima asked, hovering over the bowl.
“Yeah. She’s gonna be so beautiful. I can feel it.”
“Males have more color,” Ignatius said.
“Oh. Well, it’s a girl. I can tell. She has a beautiful aura,” Shay said.
“This is what you’ve been neurotic over?” Kallima asked.
“Well, yeah,” Shay admitted, rubbing his neck, “the pulsing started a couple days ago. And this morning, she started wiggling. But you hear that? Under the popping?”
Ignatius leaned in to listen and gasped.
“She’s really going at it, huh?”
“Uh-huh! She’s been pecking at that shell for a while now. She’s close, Ig. She’s gotta be,” said Shay.
“No, shouldn’t be long now…”
“Do you want us to back off?” Kallima asked. “It might take a bit for her eyes to open, but, just in case…?”
“You guys can watch! I might ask you to back up once she gets out, but you can watch her hatch. Sable?”
Shay waved the grey girl closer to the small group. Silently, she obeyed, slinking rather gracefully to Shay’s side and cementing herself to his arm. Ignatius squealed when a tiny piece of shell popped out of place. He and Kallima held their breath as the clicking grew louder. Rubbing Sable’s arm gently, Shay leaned in closer to the tiny egg. The small hole grew into a large crack, and soft cheeps escaped the shell, making Shay coo excitedly back.
“C’mon, Pyra. You can do it! Come on, girl,” he said, cheering the little bird on.
“Pyra… I like it,” Kallima said.
“No, no, no, no…” Shay murmured.
The chirping faded, as did the pulsing light of the shell. Shay scooped up the bowl and held it close to his face. Then he shoved the platter at Ignatius.
Ignatius took the dish sadly, keeping his hands on the bottom. Kallima pulled Sable from Shay and hugged her tightly.
“Is she okay?” the short gargoyle asked.
“I- I don’t know,” Kallima said.
Ignatius sat, placed the dish on his crossed legs, and covered the animal with his hands.
“Come on. Come on…,” he said, shutting his eyes.
He growled, bringing his hands to his lips and blowing hard into them. Flames jumped out from between his fingers, making Kallima flinch. Shay, though, knelt down in front of him as he placed his fiery hands over the chick again. Whimpering and crying, Shay started to reach for Ignatius’s hands but thought better and drew back. The fire fae sighed.
Ignatius lifted his hands with a smile, and the strong cry of a bird filled the room.
“She wore herself out,” Ignatius said as Shay plucked the egg from the dish and held it close to his chest. “Got too cold.”
“Come on, n-now, Pe-Pyra…”
After a few big rolls from the tiny avian, its feet freed themselves from the amber shell and kicked desperately in the air. Shay laughed and set the bird on his desk, peeling the protective layer off of it.
To Kallima, it actually looked quite ugly and slimy, with very few brown and maroon feathers on its back and wings. The eyes looked massive under the translucent lids. Shay shielded her from the others, his eyes glowing in the light the phoenix gave off and his own adoration of the creature.
“Hey, Sable, get me that jar of sardi- thanks.”
Shay lifted his head and took the jar of fish from Sable, kissing her hand gently before she backed away. Like a mother bird, he chewed up one of the slim sardines, making an assortment of sour faces as he did, spit it out, and dropped bits into the baby’s mouth, chuckling when they sizzled in her beak. Ignatius set the dish, once more filled with burning tinder, near the chick. Once it had eaten its fill, Shay urged her into the flames, where she folded her bare wing over her head and fell to sleep. Shay picked up the dish and again pressed it into a stunned Ignatius’ hands.
“Look after her, Ig? Please. Just until Summer Break?”
“I- Shay, I don’t know about-.”
“Please? I’ll pay you! I have this… Hold on.”
He rushed to his bookcase and began rooting around in a box disguised as just another book. When he turned around, a long, thin chain dangled from his hand. On it was an ornate gold ring with a large diamond and a pair of smaller diamonds flanking it. Sable covered her mouth when she saw it, and Ignatius gaped.
“What’s that? A wedding band?” Kallima asked.
“Mm-hm. It was my great-grandmothers. And my grandmother’s. And my… It’s been in my family for ages, Ig. It’s very special. Precious, even. As long as you have Pyra, I’ll let you hold onto this as well,” Shay said. “Just to get her healthy again. I’ll come visit her, but… You’re better suited for it! Please?”
Ignatius pressed his eyes shut tightly, then said, “Yes. I’ll nurse her, and return her and the ring at the end of term. Deal?”
“Deal. She should be able to make her own flames by finals, right, Kali?”
“Er, right. Two weeks, Jun said.
Shay handed over the ring along with the sardines, smiled lovingly at Pyra once more, and yawned.
“Oh, man. It’s only seven, and I’m exhausted,” he said.
“I could only imagine,” Kallima said, rolling her eyes.
Ignatius chuckled, headed to the door, then froze.
“Don’t tell Kali one word about my girlfriend, okay?” the golden senior said, smirking. “We have a bet.”
At this, Shay laughed.
“Oh, Kali,” he said, “I hope you didn’t wager anything important.”
Kallima blushed, grabbed her roommate, and pushed past her tutor and towards her own room, embarrassed by the bet she had made.