The Warmth of the Hearth

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A knock on the door is heard, followed by a familiar voice. “Laisren, are you there?” Claire? He gets up to open the door, nearly fumbling on the backpack he had just set down. Luke finds Claire in her over sized robes, her pretty face had cuts and bruises in places. She speaks, her voice low unlike before when she mostly hit Luke with sarcastic remarks. “Hey, I’m sorry for barging in.” Luke simply smiles, gesturing for her to come inside.

Claire accepts the invitation, sitting down on the unused bed of the room. She sees Luke leave the door open, an act that exemplifies why she loved him in the first place. She speaks, embarrassed about what she was about to say. “C-can you please close the door?” She stutters, flushing red as Claire looks at Luke who seems to be confused. “Please?”

Luke shuts the door, confused by Claire’s sudden request. He looks at Claire on the bed and leans on the wall opposite to her, making sure to let her know that he wasn’t going to try anything funny. “Hey Claire.” He smiles, happy to see her despite knowing that she never really liked him. Luke sees Claire’s eyes tear up as she stands up and embraces him with her right arm. Luke does not answer immediately, as this was not something Claire would do. He answers her embrace and he feels her flinch as he does. Luke notices her left arm, or rather the lack of it. There was nothing there.

Claire speaks, wiping her tears away as she breaks from the embrace. “I’m sorry for being so rude to you Laisren.”

Luke simply smiles. “Claire, I understand why. No one would like to involve themselves with me.” He pauses, his smile now gone. “I’m just happy to be back, tha---”

Claire jabs him on the shoulder before he could finish, amazed at how dense he was. “That’s not the reason you dumbass.” She blushes, but Luke only looks at her in a more confused way. “R-remember when you saved me back then? When we were younger?”

Luke chuckles at the thought of something so long ago. “Yeah, you were really annoyed with me. I’m sure you could’ve beaten them up without me though.”

Claire shakes her head, knowing that it wasn’t like that. “That’s what I thought too. I thought I hated you and your reckless antics. You have always been unaware of self-preservation.”

Luke feigns injury, giving exaggerated gestures. “Ouch, you really know how to hit.”

The young Blaise simply shakes her head, smiling. “Smartass.” She pauses, thinking well before continuing. “I looked up to you Laisren. For your bravery and determination even when everybody didn’t bother to give you a chance.” Claire doesn’t look at him. “When nobody bothered to see you, I looked at you all the way and…”

Luke sees her voice falter, a rare occurrence for Claire. “And?”

Claire continues, “And before I even knew it, I realized that I loved you way more than I thought.” She looks at him in the eye, searching for any sign of rejection. Claire finds none and she decides to continue. “I love you, Luke Laisren.”

Olin Laisren finishes unpacking his stuff and he sits down on the bed provided for him. Soft. I wonder how this was made. He looks around the room, the lamp giving it a magnificent yellow tinge. A force tugs from within him, a burden he and his brother had to undergo. Ifrit.

Ifrit, a powerful being born from the pure flames of Agni, was within both of their mannas. When Olin and Laurent were younger, they were part of an expedition to uncover the secrets being held by a powerful detection of manna that was threatening to engulf Ezicion. There, they met Ifrit, a being resembling a minotaur with a coat of pure crimson flames. It was unstoppable, rampaging from village to village as it made its way to Ezicion. For they could not kill it, they decided to seal its soul within themselves, halving Ifrit’s manna.

This decision proved to be both a blessing, and a curse. Their magic became more powerful than anybody’s almost matching Kayden’s individually. However, Ifrit screamed inside of them with each manna they expend, begging to be let loose once again.

Upon Laurent’s death, his half of Ifrit surged into Olin, now one being within him. “This is proving to be quite the problem.” He mutters as he tries to figure out what to do. Olin takes off his tunic, revealing his toned upper body despite his age. On his chest was the Mark of Ifrit, seared into his skin. A symbol of pure power, unable to be controlled by anybody. Olin sighs, as he never thought that a day like this would come. He knew it was only a matter of time before Ifrit, one of the primal descendants of Agni, would consume him.

“Claire, I don’t know what to say.” Luke responds, his thoughts buffering after what Claire said.

Claire flushes red, stuttering as she speaks. “Y-you don’t have to say anything!” Her eyes divert from Luke’s gaze as she feels like she might melt if she looks at him for too long.

Luke smiles as he watches the startled Claire. “Does your brother even know about this?” He looks at Claire nod, her pale face now beet red. Luke won’t deny it, she found Claire to be pretty admirable. He looked up to her for her ability in both magic and as a person. For someone as wonderful as that, falling for someone like him, it was a shock to Luke.

“Hey Claire?” Luke calls out to her, causing her to look up at him. He embraces her, putting her head on his shoulder while softly patting her hair. “I’m here. I’m sorry for what you had to go through.” Luke pauses, before pulling away from the embrace. “Tell me everything that happened.”

Claire proceeds to tell Luke about everything that’s been going on. How she found him in the arena, the rebellion, the loss of her arm, and the loss of Kayden. She procceds to take off her cloak, wearing a white shirt beneath with an empty left sleeve. She feels Luke’s stare on her missing arm, making her blush. “It isn’t pretty to look at.” She says as she quickly tries to put the cloak back on when Luke stops her.

Luke shakes his head, seeing nothing wrong with it. He smiles, which gets him a smile from Claire as a response. She was pretty, he always knew that. “Claire, lift up your sleeve.”

This request startles Claire, caught off guard by the sudden random command. “Uhm, what for?” Luke answers with a very vague response. “Trust me.” She nods, lifting her left sleeve to reveal a line of stitches. Luke puts both hands on top of it and his eyes suddenly glow a bright white. White? Claire looks on, confused by the different glow in Luke’s eyes. White flames swirl around her shoulder and an intense comfortable warmth engulfs her. A bright flash fills the entire room and she closes her eyes shut from the sudden brightness. She opens her eyes, a trail of the warmth still felt on her skin. She looks at her left shoulder, her missing arm now present. She looks at Luke as she tries to lift it up, shocked by it. “How?”

Luke simply grins, proud of what he had just done. He responds, not knowing what to say other than, “It’s a long story.”

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