The Warmth of the Hearth

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A Ball to be Remembered

There was rustling in the air, a busy wind soaring over the Academy grounds as everybody becomes busy with setting the preparations for the Welcoming Ball. Huge banners were now tapered at the top of the school’s looming gate, numerous caravans filled with the most luxurious of food make their way through the grounds. The sky shone a mystifying pink as the sun starts to kiss the day goodbye, paving the way for dusk to settle.

An anxious Elizabeth steps out of the carriage, her beautiful black hair braided, adorned with numerous jewels that shone brightly. Her skin glowed, a nervous smile etched on her small face. Her dress flowed elegantly behind her as she takes the outstretched hand of Ethan Skye, dashing in his suit and tie. “This is so not my thing.” She whispers, struggling to keep her composure as her feet grow sore from her heels.

“Let us hope that they fail to notice. You are after all, the apple of everybody’s eyes.” Ethan whispers back as Elizabeth puts a hand around his arm. They walk together through the gates as numerous eyes look at them, heads turning as they enter the school grounds.

Bit by bit, the sky above them grows dark, a beautiful full moon now shining above them. Mages put their arms out, palms pointed towards the sky as a beautiful dance of Agni and Zephyr Make pillars of bright light that beamed like beacons, illuminating the entire scenery. Students cheer, lively at the sudden spectacle.

The doors of the main hall open, revealing a bright opening that led to the ballroom. Elizabeth sees Principal Loft step out, accompanied by a handsome man dressed in black, accentuating Loft’s elegant white dress. The man’s face looked oddly familiar, a memory Elizabeth couldn’t seem to remember. Loft speaks, her eyes glowing a bright white as the wind carries her words, strong yet pleasing. “My dear students, I thank you all for your help in preparing this joyous celebration.” Clapping erupts, accompanied by numerous whistling and howling. “I dedicate this night to all of you, for we have achieved what generations past have failed to achieve. Unity, our citizens under one banner, living in harmony as we continue to reach greater heights. So without further ado, sing and dance to your hearts’ content, for the night is yours to claim!” She pauses, raising a glass which gains a respond from everybody, including Elizabeth. “For Ezicion!” Students respond, shouting at the top of their lungs in youthful, patriotic glee. “For Ezicion!”

“Only a few more moments until cue, remain on standby.” Noah Skye speaks behind a white, rigid mask, one foot on the small platform on the concave roof of the church overlooking the Academy. “I have eyes on target, how are things on your end?” He speaks, a low buzzing noise emanating from his earpiece, a tether of manna connected to everybody involved in the operation. Kein stands beside a talking Loft on the other end of his binoculars, prim and proper in his attire.

Carson takes a seat on the ledge, on leg dangling in the air as his arm is rested on the other. He takes point alone on the building opposite of Noah’s. “All set.” A dozen more confirmations respond through the line, signaling the start of the operation. The air was stuffy behind the mask, causing his breathing to go uneven.

“Can we really trust the lad, Skye? For all we know, the bloke’s gonna get us all killed!” Rolan Alder’s disapproving voice speaks through the tether, a strong accent coating his words.

“The boy’s got no other choice Alder, we got him cornered.” Varsha Mistral talks, responding to Rolan’s outburst. “If he tries to do anything funny, that’ll be his sister’s head.” She giggles, taking joy in teasing Carson.

Anger boils within Carson, trying his best not to step out of line for Claire’s sake. Noah speaks in Carson’s ear, his voice final. “That’s enough. It’s almost time to move” A loud cheering erupts from within the walls of the Academy, bright lights zooming through the night sky. Carson focuses on the gap in the wall, the same gap that he and Claire used once. It was still there, waiting for anyone to use it as a method of entry.

A bright pillar of light rises to the sky from the school grounds, a large concentration of manna, slithering upwards. Noah smiles, excitement overwhelming him as he sees his plan come to fruition. He speaks, giving one more command that will solidify his place in history. “Go.”

Luke wakes up to a jittery Xylia, fluttering in and out of sight as the darkness of the tunnels greets him. “Xylia?” He asks, confused as to how she was here.

“That’s Savior to you, you dimwit!” Xylia screams, causing for Luke to flinch. “You Laisren and your irritatingly reckless urghhh!!!!” She screams in frustration, gripping at the air like an angry mother. “Won’t you please try listening to me for once?! Or I don’t know, try to avoid getting killed again?!”

“But I’m fine.” Luke hops on his feet to prove a point, shifting his balance from one foot to the other. “See?”

Xylia rolls her eyes at him, now calming down as the redness of her cheeks starts to disappear. “You almost weren’t.” She turns around and proceeds to flutter away, only turning her head once she realizes Luke wasn’t following. “What are you waiting for? That Blaise boy needs your help, there isn’t much time to waste.”

Luke watches Xylia with wide eyes as he fails to comprehend how her mind works.

“I may be cold, but I am not heartless. Those children have gone through enough, and I am not going to just sit here and do nothing about it.” And also because I promised I would keep an eye on you. Xylia waits for Luke’s response, anticipating.

“Thank you, Xylia. That means a lot to me.” Luke walks towards her, focusing his senses as he moves. A huge gathering of manna can be seen pulsing from the Academy, different bodies of colors clustered together. A faint blue glow catches Luke’s attention, coming from the opposite direction. “We’re getting Claire.”

“The boy is on his own with Noah Skye, which puts him at a bigger risk. And besides, who knows how many people you’d have to go through to get to the girl.” She pauses, trying her best to give sound reasoning as to why it was a bad idea. “If you get captured as well, it would be bad for the boy.”

Luke shakes his head, able to tell how lax the security around Claire was. “Noah can’t hurt Carson, at least not until he gets what he needs from him.” He now climbs the metallic ladder leading to the surface, a mask now covering the bottom half of his face. “We get Claire, we free Carson as well.” Luke lifts the round metal cover up, shifting it to the side as he hops his way into an empty central street, Xylia fluttering behind him. Hang on Claire, I’m on my way.

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