Part 2: Chapter 4
Hunting was horrible. The experience was quite different without Aralisa there. She wouldn’t normally have been Guarding that day anyhow, but I knew she wouldn’t be the same anymore. I couldn’t play jokes on her. I couldn’t tease her with my laughter. Inside, I felt strangely hollow.
Teasing her while she was Guarding used to be the highlight of my week. It was a game we both played quite frequently. It broke my heart to know that we wouldn’t ever frolic in the forest anymore. I couldn’t shift in front of her. She would freak out if she saw me in my animal form. I had to stay off to the side and watch because I was sad for the first time.
I remembered how I used to draw her from her Guarding post with my laughter in the trees. She left it all the time, always checking out something that she thought she heard. Of course, none of the other Guardian Instructors knew of our relationship, so when she didn’t come back after a time they would go looking for her.
The link I shared with my fellow Shapers saved us many times from being discovered in a lovers embrace. All of the Day students knew about our love affair. Some believed it to be real love, others just a game, but what they didn’t know was that we were betrothed. Some of the Shapers questioned why I put up with her antics. I never once told them the real truth behind it.
The few who knew about the betrothal now thought it was broken off, because she couldn’t remember who she was. I felt their feelings on the subject radiate out over the Shaper link. Some were wondering who I’d bed next. But I didn’t let them know about how I truly felt. I still needed to keep that a secret.
Getting out of a betrothal is tricky. In the earliest days of our tribe, betrothals were only for the chieftain’s to carry out their legacy with their children. But now, they were uncommon as a new generation of Shapers took over after the Great War. However, when my father perished in the war, my mother wanted her only son to be able to carry on the family’s legacy and that was how I ended up betrothed to Aralisa. The odd thing was Aralisa hadn’t been born yet.
Because of that, only I could break the betrothal. But if I did that, she would suffer from the humiliation that would ensue after breaking my promise to her. She knew of the oath, and the promise. She made it clear to me that if I ever broke it she would kill me herself. But I didn’t want to think about breaking it because she could still choose to be with me. I couldn’t give up on her now. I wasn’t going to break that oath. In some ways, I loved what she was and what we had. I just didn’t love her.
I ended back up at the dorm again. I walked in to check up on her, as she was asleep still. Her face was peaceful, even in the dim light. I took another chance and kissed her forehead again.
As I was walking away, she stirred and whispered my name. I paused, thinking I’d awoken her, but she was still sleeping. I stared at her briefly, wondering if she was dreaming about us, or about me. Some part of me hoped she was remembering me within her dreams. I ended back up in her sitting room thinking more about us. Before I knew it, I was fast asleep.
It was the noise of her slamming the door to her bathroom that woke me up. It was dark outside. Too dark. I realized I had been sleeping in her sitting room, and she hadn’t found me yet. I needed to get out of there, for I knew she could see me through my camouflage if I turned it on. Not to mention that she was late for class and if she didn’t go the Instructors would come looking for her. I couldn’t be here in the room if that were to happen.
I reached the door, opened it and glanced outside. No one was in the hallway. I exited swiftly and left the room. I would’ve jumped out the open windows, but I figured there might be some students in the dining hall on the first floor. I didn’t want them seeing me. I reached the bottom floor and realized that the Night side of the Academy was quieter than usual. I glanced around looking for the students when I realized how late it was.
I quickly ran through the halls, hoping no one heard or saw me pass. I waited to find out where Aralisa was heading. It didn’t take me long to locate her. She was running through the halls as if her life depended on it. Once she reached the main hallway, she turned to exit and made a beeline to the archery grounds.
I followed her from a safe distance. I went into the forest and watched as she made her way to where her friends were standing. They were bickering about sending a search party to find her.
Hasten approached me from where I stood among the trees, watching her. I didn’t know if she’d make her class or not. You two didn’t…
He purposely left the sentence hanging. I stared at him. Most of the Day class was asleep by now, so I didn’t worry about anyone unpleasant hearing our conversation. Hasten wouldn’t have spoken along the link if he felt it was unsafe to do so. No. She didn’t even know I fell asleep in her dorm on accident.
He held back a laugh. It didn’t stop his massive body from shaking. Mirabella was worried about you.
I’m sure she was. It’s the second night I haven’t slept in my dorm.
Hasten raised an eyebrow at me.
I didn’t sleep at all the first night, I explained to him.
Are you finding trees to sleep in? He smiled at me.
I didn’t answer the question. Instead, I turned back to stare as Aralisa dodged a volley of arrows. She ran right across the archery grounds, as she didn’t bother to watch where she was going. I sucked in a breath and let it out when I saw she was safe. It took a lot of energy to not make myself move to protect her. Did she have any idea what she was doing?
Don’t go rushing off to save her. He eyed me. See, she’s fine. She could’ve moved a bit slower though.
Hopefully they didn’t notice. I really hoped that none of them noticed that she moved so quickly she looked like one of the Shapers on the field. She dodged the three arrows with such grace and finesse she made Mir’s quickness look awkward.
Isla, her friend, was pulling her off the field, unloading questions onto her. “Mallie! You could’ve been killed!” Her voice pierced the clearing from where we stood. “How did you find us?”
Hasten and I listened to the conversation playing out before us.
“I summoned Air to find your voices for me. It carried me right to you guys.” Aralisa was smiling at them.
She didn’t look phased that she was just shot at by a bunch of people using arrows. She was calm, just like when I first came across her.
Air magic. She’s using Air, Hasten spoke to me through our link.
Yeah, then again she was always adept at using magic, Air in particular, I explained.
He shook his head. To Isla and Trayen, she achieved a summoning spell of a high rank in one night with little practice. I wonder if Branella thought about this when she allowed her to partake in learning the Guardian’s abilities.
I stared at him briefly. What do you mean?
Surely you can see it? The confusion is written all over Trayen’s face.
I glanced at the boy. He did look a little unnerved. It could just be that she’s better than he is at dodging.
No, that’s not it. I think he’s beginning to suspect that she’s not a Guardian. This can’t be good.
I stared back at him. What he said might be true. What would happen if he found out before she did? I asked Hasten. The professor of the archery class was speaking to Aralisa about practicing archery instead of swordsmanship. I was surprised to hear that Aralisa chose to still practice with the sword. Although, if she did choose archery, everyone would know there was something not quite right about whom she was.
I don’t know. Whatever it is, it won’t end well. He turned away from me and ran off into the woods towards the school. I need to report this to Branella. She’s a little further away than we are at the moment. I’ll be back soon.
So, he was reporting things to her about her daughter’s instincts. I wondered if she was covering for her in more than one way.
Isla and Aralisa were sparring with each other using swords. I watched them. Isla was better at it than Aralisa, but then again she had more experience. Aralisa had never been great with weapons in her hands anyhow. She was excellent at archery, but that was because she could hit targets from great distances. Up close combat, her skill was dodging blows. In this case, she was trying to block the blows and not doing it very well.
Trayen approached her and asked her to a duel. I tensed up, wondering why he would ask such a question to her. He knew as well as I did that she wasn’t any good. What was he playing at?
Hasten, I called to him. He was still close. Trayen’s going to duel Aralisa.
He paused in whatever it was he was doing; I could feel his hesitation. I’m coming back. I’ll be watching from the other side.
The link was gone as I watched the sparring begin. Everyone that was near them stopped whatever it was they were doing to watch the two.
It was funny to watch her dodge his swings and attacks. She looked like a small animal. I noticed closely how she moved, as I saw it all happen with the grace and poise she was born with. She danced with him, literally.
I leaned up against a tree and watched this continue for a long time. I laughed out loud at one point because when she danced away from him she looked like an unbalanced monkey holding a sword that she didn’t know what to do with. It was comical to me.
Then she froze. I barely had time to notice the sword as it was flying towards me with great speed. I jumped back in alarm as it hit the spot where my feet had just been moments before. I glanced up to see her frustrated. Trayen looked worse. He had just been beaten by a girl without a weapon.
I realized I had made another mistake again. She heard me.
Caiden, she aimed that at you, didn’t she? Hasten asked me through the link. You must’ve annoyed her. Did she get you?
No, I sent back the answer along with an image of the sword sticking up out of the ground in front of me. My laughter annoyed her. She realized that I was watching her. I smiled and headed for the Aurora Grove. I should be thankful she didn’t do worse.
She moved too quickly again. Trayen’s still scratching his head at her speed.
I nodded in agreement with his words. When I reached the great oak tree in the Aurora grove, I jumped into the branches. Sorry.
You need to stop doing that.
I grimaced. It was funny to watch her progression. I waited in the shadow of the trees for the Night students to disperse and head off to lunch. It was funny to watch them all walk around the sides of the Arena to avoid the paths through the Day gardens.
But then Aralisa, who wasn’t paying any attention to where she was headed, ended up walking right into the Aurora Grove. She glanced around her as she walked, taking in the change of scenery.
Watch it, Mir’s voice pierced my thoughts this time, and I glanced up to see her watching me from her bedroom.
I sighed to myself and went back to watching Aralisa.
She walked right under the branch of where I was sitting. I jumped down and landed close behind her. She froze, but she didn’t turn around or even attack me. I leaned in and whispered my words into her ear. “It’s been a long time since you’ve thrown something at me.” The more I saw her in this persona, the more I wanted her to remember us.
She didn’t move. “Shouldn’t you be in bed?” she retorted to me.
She was refusing to turn around towards me. I walked around to see her face. “You nearly took my toes off,” I explained as I made my way around her still body. She had almost taken them off.
We were so close to each other I wanted to throw everything away in that moment and kiss her, knowing that she wouldn’t respond to me in the way she used to. That thought alone kept my feelings in check, it kept me at bay. But soon I would give in and not care what the outcomes were.
She looked away from me. “I hope it’ll teach you not to laugh at me.” She stared at the ground before she glanced back up into my eyes.
I tried to not laugh so I settled for a smile. I bent nearer to her.
I wasn’t ready for her reaction. Her eyes glazed over and she began to lean towards me.
I was suddenly frightened by what she was doing. I don’t know why. I jumped up into the trees and went back to gain control of myself. This was what I wanted. I wanted us to be together. So why was I faltering? What was wrong?
I didn’t want her thinking I was laughing at her. Well, I was, but not at her, just at her techniques. “I wasn’t laughing at you.”
She turned around to stare up at me. She looked surprised and disappointed at the same time. “Then what were you doing?”
“I was watching to see how you were progressing. It was clear earlier this week you did not know how to duel. I see you have improved in one area.” What I said was true. She really was horrible at fencing.
She scowled at me. “Why are you so concerned with me improving? Shouldn’t you be worrying about Mirabella?”
I smiled. She had heard us talking. And Mir had her thinking that we were together. That was just great; no wonder she didn’t try to kiss me right then and there. Then again, maybe this could work to my advantage. I didn’t want Mir like that, I wanted Aralisa. “She’s perfect. There’s not much she can improve on.” That was true. My sister was pretty much perfect.
Thank you, came the response.
“Then why follow me?” Aralisa spoke up to me.
“Because I like you.” I sighed and jumped down to her. “I’ve always liked you.” I wanted to know what her reaction would be. If she screamed at me and ran off then I would have a very sad answer. But she just stood there. She didn’t scream. She didn’t run away.
“And Mirabella?” she stumbled the words out. I took a step closer to her.
Was she actually considering being with me? “She’ll deal with it.” Mir would deal with it. Even if we weren’t family I would dump anyone in a heartbeat to be with Aralisa again. I felt a magnetic pull that linked us together. It was stronger now, that I was closer to her again. It was stronger now than before she lost her memories.
“It’s forbidden,” she whispered.
She still hadn’t moved.
You’ve got company heading towards you. Mir’s voice was warning me of intruders. She could see them, whoever they were, as they approached. I grumbled at the thought that someone would disturb us, when we were so close to each other. This was almost a perfect moment.
I came closer to Aralisa and stared at her. I leaned in and whispered the words I knew were true the moment they left my mouth. “Not for us.”
She wasn’t paying attention when I left her. Her eyes were shut again. I had to get out of the grove quickly. I passed Dayona Nightfall on the way into the Day dorm. She was the only one near us. And she was an Initiated Guardian of all things. She wouldn’t have known about Aralisa and me before and she didn’t need to know about it after.
She wants you, Mir spoke up in my head. Keep seducing her like that, and you’ll be back together.
As I walked to where Mir was I realized what she said was true. But it felt wrong. For the first time in my life, I felt that I was approaching Aralisa in a hateful way. I never liked it in the beginning how she used to tease and manipulate me and here I was doing it back to her.
I took a detour and headed back to the grove in case she was still around. I didn’t want her thinking ill of me.
She wasn’t there when I returned so I jumped up into the branches again to think about us and what I should be doing, not what I was doing.