Spirit of Fire

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Chapter Fifteen: Haze

*Trigger Warning* this chapter contains information about sexual assault/violence which may be triggering to survivors.

Coburn

Saf ended up sleeping in my room that night. Nothing more than the kiss happened, but I enjoyed having her company. It was almost as if we fought off the darkness for each other, allowing us both to sleep soundly.

I feel my eyes open as light begins to pour through the window, illuminating my room. The slight chill in the air suggests it will be a bright, crisp autumn day.

I turn towards Saf, who is still fast asleep next to me. Only half of her face is visible, the other side resting against the pillow. Her curly hair surrounds her head like a frozen whirlwind of flames, a few strands hanging in front of her face. Her freckles begin to stand out as the room gets brighter with each passing moment, her body gently rising up and down in a steady rhythm. She looks so calm, so peaceful.

I smile to myself as I gently move the strands away from her face, careful as not to wake her.

I have to remind myself that last night wasn’t a dream, that we admitted we had feelings for each other, that we kissed, that she spent the night in my room again. We both fell asleep pretty fast, come to think of it.

I wonder what would happen if Ehren found out I showed Saf his secret garden.

He’d probably be more concerned about the fact that we kissed, knowing him.

Oh well.

I close my eyes, content, smiling, the light surrounding me blocking out the darkness and fear of yesterday.

After several minutes, I hear the blankets shift as Saf stirs in her sleep, turning towards me and onto her side.

I reach out, noticing the sleeve of her cardigan has slipped. It looks familiar to me; I think it’s the one she was wearing when I told her Luna chose her.

Smiling to myself, I pull it over her arm. I gently skim my thumb over her shoulder for a few seconds before bringing my hand back.

Seconds later, her eyes flutter open and she gazes at me lazily.

“Morning, sleepyhead,” I whisper.

“Hey,” she looks down shyly.

“Did you sleep okay?”

She nods, glancing at me quickly before looking down again, her cheeks pink. She reaches for me and I lace her icicle-like hand in mine.

“Always so cold,” I mumble as I lightly kiss her hand.

She giggles softly, “I can’t help it,” she wines before blinking a few times, waking herself up, “what’s going on today?”

I look down for a moment, “just training, probably. And looking through those books we got yesterday.”

“Hmm,” she nods, closing her eyes for a moment, “I wish I could stay here all day.”

I feel butterflies in my stomach as the words leave her lips, heat rushing to my cheeks, “yah?”

She nods, analysing me with her bright emerald eyes as she smiles.

I feel as though an invisible thread exists between us, pulling me towards her, determined to leave no space between us.

I kiss her softly, my hand running through her hair as her hand moves up my back, holding me close, her fingers pressing into the fabric of my shirt, lightly grabbing the hem at the base of my neck. Her hair feels so soft, the strands like satin intertwining between my fingers.

I exhale shakily as we pull away, biting my lip with a smile.

She hums softly as she takes a deep breath.

“As much as I don’t want to get up, I think I need coffee before I fall back asleep,” she says with a small chuckle.

I grin as she sits up, rubbing her eyes. I hop off the bed and take my shirt off from the night before out of habit, quickly remembering I’m not alone.

I turn and see Saf, blushing hard, blinking several times.

I chuckle, “what? It’s nothing you haven’t seen before,” I say with a playful smile.

She looks to the side before bringing her gaze back to me, “I know,” she whispers shyly, “you look good.”

“So do you,” I say with a wink, throwing a long sleeved burgundy shirt over my head as she stretches her arms over her head, tossing a silly grin in my direction.

“Feeling any better this morning? About yesterday, I mean,” she asks suddenly, running her fingers through her hair.

I think for a moment, “I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest. But I think so.”

“Hmm,” she responds, “me too.”

Silence falls over the conversation for a few moments as I sit down next to her.

She averts her gaze, turning away from me.

“What is it?” I whisper, placing my hand on hers.

She takes a deep breath as she turns towards me again.

“When – er – when we were back there, did you hear me call your name?” She pauses, “I’m just curious.”

I slowly nod, looking down as the memory of her panicked voice rings in my ears.

She lightly laces her fingers in mine, “why didn’t you answer?” She asks gently.

I bring my gaze back to her, her emerald eyes displaying a mixture of empathy and curiosity.

“I couldn’t,” I whisper.

She blinks before her face falls, a shaky exhale escaping her.

“But I didn’t lie to you about it last night,” I start, “it was scary, but nothing came of it. Not this time.”

She analyses me, something resembling anger and sadness in her face.

“Do you – do you mind if I ask what happened? I just,” she sighs.

“It’s okay,” I tuck a stray curl behind her ear, “I don’t mind telling you.”

I close my eyes for a moment, bringing myself back to the memory.

*

I turned at the sound of a slamming door.

But the hallway was empty.

“Saf? Where did you go?”

I ran down the hall, what seemed like a million doors lining the walls. They all started to look the same, the pointed arches, the gray wood, the metal linings. They all blended together, making the hall seem longer and longer the more I searched. I didn’t even know what I was looking for. I wondered if the doors were soundproof; perhaps that’s why I couldn’t find any trace of her.

At this rate I’ll never find her, I thought.

I remember thinking it made no sense. One second she was right behind me, the next she was gone.

I stopped, trying to look at this as logically as I could.

Where could she be? We can’t portal out of the Manor, so that can’t be what happened. She has to be behind one of these doors, but which one? Why would she do something like that without saying anything? It’s not like her at all.

Unless . . .she was taken there.

But why?

What took her?

Or should I say . . . who took her?

A pit formed in my stomach, making home for some kind of monster that felt like something mixed with fear, worry, hatred, anger. It made me want to throw up.

“Saf!”

Nothing.

My heart began to pound out of my chest.

The darkness loomed around me, the temperature of the hall seeming to drop with every passing second. Not to the point of making me freezing cold, but just enough to keep sending chills down my spine.

I focused the negative energy within me into finding her. She had to be around here somewhere.

She had to be.

My vision tunneled as I looked out for any sign of her, any sound that might tell me she’s here, that she’s okay.

I turned the corner in my search, coming face to face with Midnight.

Her presence hit me like a thousand daggers piercing into my soul as her lips curved into a sinister grin.

Everything I felt before morphed into fear. I froze as it enveloped me, feeling as though it was hollowing out my body as her dark gaze locked on mine. I could feel my heartbeat in my throat, my hands vibrating.

I swallowed hard and forced myself to block out the fear out as much as I could, focusing on the task at hand.

“Where’s Saf? What did you do?” I demanded, getting into an attack stance.

Midnight scoffed dramatically, “so rude! I didn’t do anything.”

“Then where is she?”

She sighed loudly, casually running a hand through her short black locks, “if you must know, lover-boy, she’s with my brother.”

My heart sank to the floor as she spoke.

She’s – oh no.

Besides,” she steps closer, “I was hoping to get you alone anyways.”

The fear trickled into me again as I backed up, “stay the hell away from me.”

“I’ll do no such thing,” I dodged a shadowy beam she tossed my way, “It’s been over a year since you’ve been back here, that’s a long time to keep a lady waiting, you know.”

I felt the colour drain from my face, unable to form the words to respond to her.

I instead sent a small wave in her direction. She dove out of the way, the attack still hitting her leg, but she managed to stay on her feet.

A surge of a feeling I didn’t recognize suddenly washed over me. It felt like fear and anguish mixed as one, acting as a warning that something terrible had just happened. I had a feeling it had to do with Saf, but I couldn’t be sure at the time.

I brought my attention back to Midnight, ignoring the feeling, trying my best to focus on getting out of this . . . somehow.

I could make a run for it.

“Just - just stay away from me, please,” I stuttered, the terror beginning to take hold of me again as her gaze pierced me.

She sends another shadowy attack my way, and this time we were too close for me to have enough time to dodge. Instead, I put my arms out to block, but the attack still forced me backwards. In the midst of everything, my heel caught a loose stone in the floor, and I fell onto my back with a thud as my heart sank.

Before I had a chance to do anything, she climbed on top of me, pinning my arms down.

“Get off,” I said through my teeth.

“See, here’s the problem with staying away from you,” she contemplated casually, ignoring me, “it’s that deep down, we both know you wanted it.”

“Shut up,” my voice shook.

“You’re mine. You know you wanted me,” she whispered.

“I said shut up!”

She rolled her eyes.

“Coburn!” I heard Saf’s panicked voice ring through the air.

A small wave of relief rushed over me.

She’s okay.

I was about to call back to her when Midnight quickly covered my mouth with one hand, “I don’t think so.”

As soon as she freed my arm from her grasp, I remembered how I could get out of this.

I swept my other arm down and pushed myself up, causing her to lurch forward, giving me a chance to escape.

She got up, ready to attack again.

Out of sheer anger and fear and everything else I was feeling, I sent a massive wave in her direction, watching as she got swept up in the current. It quickly sent her to the other side of the hall, away from all this, for a little while, at least.

I ran in the opposite direction, desperate to get out of the area, to leave the experience behind, when I ran right into Saf.

*

Saf wraps her arms around my waist as I finish telling her what happened, the action catching me off guard a little.

“That bitch,” she mumbles as I hold her close, “I hate her so much.”

“Me too,” I lean my cheek on the top of her head, “I don’t want you to worry though, I’m doing okay. Really,” I let out a shaky exhale, “it didn’t get very far. If anything, the fact that it didn’t makes me feel better. That I’ve gotten stronger or something, I don’t know.”

I realize as the words tumble out of my mouth that I’m saying these things for myself as well as her.

She pulls away a little and looks up at me, “you’ve always been strong. Hell, you’re the strongest person I know. Her – none of what she said is true. None of it was ever your fault, she’s the only one to blame for it,” she says definitively, scrunching her nose in disgust at the mention of Midnight.

I pull her close to me again, “I know. But hearing you say that means more than you know,” I breathe, kissing the top of her head.

Maybe it’s one of the reasons I’m attracted to her. That I can seemingly spill my heart and soul to her and she won’t look at me like I’m broken. That she’ll offer support and just be there for me. I don’t know if she realizes how much it means to me.

We quietly exit the room moment later and head downstairs, the silence of HQ ringing in my ears. It reminds me of when I lost Saf in the Manor, how deathly quiet it was, how she seemed to disappear with no trace.

Don’t.

Block it out.

I shake my head a little as we head into the kitchen to make coffee. The earthy smell seems to hypnotize Saf as she puts two slices of bread into the toaster, closing her eyes for a moment as she leans against the counter, a small grin on her face.

“Saf?”

She jumps as she raises her head, “huh? What?”

“Still tired?” I ask with a chuckle, tilting my head to the side.

She runs a hand through her hair, “yah, you could say that,” she breathes with a grin.

I notice her cheeks go pink before she goes to get herself a cup of coffee. After several moments of holding the pot over her cup, her gaze becomes fixated on the ground, her overflowing cup pulling her out of her daze.

I let a small snicker escape as she curses under her breath.

“Shush, you,” she says with a playful scowl, quickly wiping up the excess coffee on the counter.

“A little lost in thought there?”

She looks down shyly as she nods.

“What were you thinking about?” I tease.

Her cheeks turn pink as she looks at me, “last night,” she whispers.

I bite my lip, taking her hand, “what about it?” I grin, running my thumb across the back of her knuckles.

She presses her lips together, smiling, “just, everything about it, how perfect it all was,” she closes her eyes for a moment, content, “did you really mean everything you said last night?” She looks at me hopefully.

I tilt my head to the side, running my other hand through her hair, “of course. Why wouldn’t I?”

She shrugs, “I don’t know,” she replies nervously, “I guess it just felt so perfect that my mind keeps questioning whether or not it was real. Obviously, I know it was, just – er – I don’t know, probably just my anxiety, or processing or something, I don’t know,” she explains.

“It’s okay,” I respond lightly, pausing for a moment, “did you mean everything?” I look away shyly before my eyes meet hers, watching as they buzz with energy.

She nods, biting her lip with a grin, “every word.”

She looks away as her cheeks turn pink again, “you’re a good kisser, by the way.”

I smirk, raising my eyebrows, “oh?”

She wraps her arms around my waist, bringing her gaze back to me before pressing her lips to mine. I lace my fingers further into her hair, feeling the curls lightly wrap around my hand as I take her waist with my other arm, holding her close. She feels so small, as though I could break her if I’m not careful, but she’s never given me any indication such a thing is possible.

I exhale shakily, about to kiss her harder before the sound of slow clapping echoes through the large room.

Saf inhales sharply as we back away from each other, seeing Ehren lean against the doorframe with a smug look on his face.

“How long were you standing there?” Saf breathes, leaning against the counter as her cheeks turn a darker shade of pink.

“Long enough, hon,” Ehren chuckles, “so when did all this finally happen?”

“Finally?” I ask.

Ehren raises an eyebrow at me, “answer the question, you two. Inquiring minds need to know these things!”

“Last night,” I respond.

A wide grin stretches across his face as he sits down, “well, I’m glad,” he turns towards me, “I guess I have no chance with you now, huh?”

I lightly smack his shoulder as Saf looks between the two of us, a confused look on her face.

Ehren snickers at her reaction, “I’m joking, he’s all yours girl,” he says with a wink, “besides, I’ve been talking to another guy anyways.”

Realization crosses her face, “oh, you . . .how did I not know that?” She mumbles.

He shrugs, “I never told you. Props to you for not making assumptions,” he reassures.

“So, who’s the guy you’ve been talking to?” I pry.

Ehren gives me a sideways glance, “you wouldn’t know him.”

Saf scoffs, “that’s not fair! You know about us.”

He bites his lip with a smirk, “that’s because I live here, hon. Also, you two had a very obvious crush on each other from the start, don’t try and tell me otherwise.”

I feel my cheeks get hot as I look away.

“I suppose that’s fair,” she presses her lips together with a small grin.

Ehren laughs, “my God, you two, what I’d do to have a camera right now. You don’t have to be so shy about it, just pretend I’m not here.”

Saf’s eyes widen as she blinks at him several times, before all three of us start laughing.

“What’s so funny?” Ana asks as she gracefully strides into the room, her hair in a loose messy bun on top of her head.

“Oh, these two finally got together,” Ehren says nonchalantly.

“Hey!” I protest as Saf hides her face with her coffee cup.

Ana looks between Saf and I, smiling with a light nod.

“I guess it’s true what they say about how opposites attract, regarding your elemental skillsets, I mean,” she muses to herself.

“Huh, I never thought of that,” Saf contemplates.

I suppose it never crossed my mind either, now that I think about it. Maybe it’s because I’ve known her for so long, who knows.

Luna walks into the room a few moments later, sitting down after we say good morning to each other. Her hair is down today, the strands cascading over her shoulders.

“Are you two feeling any better?” Luna asks.

She glances at me, smiling, before we both nod in return.

Ehren covers his mouth, like he’s suppressing a laugh.

“Do you mind?” Saf gives Ehren a sideways glance.

Luna looks at him before bringing her gaze back to us, confused.

“Did I miss something?”

“I just caught them kissing about five minutes ago,” Ehren says smugly.

I shoot Ehren a quick glare before running a hand through my hair.

Sometimes I don’t mind how upfront he can be, but right now, it’s starting to get on my nerves. Part of me is honestly surprised he didn’t come bursting through the door last night to call us out.

Luna blinks several times, “oh, I see,” she says softly, “well, I’m happy for you two, just as long as your romantic life doesn’t get in the way of your position.”

“Of course,” I respond, quickly squeezing Saf’s hand to reassure her.

“What’s going on for today?” Ana pipes up, playing with the sleeves of her baby blue sweater.

“Right,” Luna straightens up, pulling her hair over one shoulder, “part of the day will be dedicated to training, and then we’ll spend some time working through some of the resources that Saffire and Coburn obtained yesterday. You two,” she looks at Saf and I, “take it easy, I know yesterday was a lot, do what you feel comfortable with today.”

We all nod in agreement.

“In that case, is it okay if I go see Tess today?” I ask.

Luna nods with a warm smile.

*

We finish up breakfast and I clean myself up a bit more, meeting Saf at the doors of HQ before heading out.

“You sure you don’t want to come?” I ask as I give her a quick hug.

She shakes her head with a grin, “another time. I was hoping to talk to Luna, actually. With everything going on, I haven’t had a chance to talk to her about the fire wielder biases yet,” she says with a small chuckle, running her fingers through her hair.

“It feels like so much has happened since then,” I think out loud.

She pauses for a moment before realization crosses her face, “I guess so, hey?”

I gently take her hands, “Luna will listen, and she’ll know how to combat something like this. I promise,” I reassure.

She smiles, “thanks for being there with all that. I know it’s not a lot of fun,” she trails off.

“Of course. I know it’s important to you.”

Her cheeks turn pink as she grins, standing on her tiptoes to give me a quick peck on the lips.

I bite my lip with a smile, “good luck, I’ll see you later.”

I give her hand a quick squeeze before heading outside.

As I walk to my old house, I find myself thinking about yesterday, now that it’s finally starting to sink in.

It feels as though a lifetime of events passed over the course of a few days. I’m still wrapping my head around it all.

The interaction with Midnight was scary, but the image I can’t get out of my head is seeing Saf in pain like she was. It killed me to see her like that. To watch her be in so much pain she couldn’t speak. I just felt so . . . helpless in that moment. I wanted to take the pain away from her somehow, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what to do. I hate Nox for getting into her head like that, for trying to manipulate her.

But then she said she thought of me, and that’s how she got past it. So maybe I did take the pain away, in a roundabout, indirect way. Perhaps. But it’s hard for me to see it that way. Maybe I pushed her in the direction of being able to dissociate from it, but she was able to get through the pain all on her own. I didn’t do much.

She’s stronger than she gives herself credit for.

I bring myself back to reality as I come up on my old house. It’s a very light gray colour, with a dark brown sloped roof and windows framed by dark wooden siding. The steps wrap around the side of the house, decorated by a side railing with a few hanging baskets. Like all the other houses on the island, the grass in the front is a rich green colour, with a few white dots throughout from flowers that I don’t recognize.

I walk up and give the front door a few gentle knocks, before being opened by my little sister a few moments later.

Tessa is several inches shorter than me, around Ehren’s height, I think. Her long dark hair is pin straight, falling over her shoulders and complimenting her light olive skin tone. Her large brown eyes are a similar colour to mine, perhaps a touch lighter, verging on an amber colour.

She blinks several times in shock as she sees me, before a wide grin stretches across her face and she hugs me tightly.

“About damn time,” she giggles.

“Hey, Tess,” I say as I hug her back.

She lightly smacks my shoulder, “it’s been way too long! Come in, how have you been?”

I step inside, “I know, I need to find time to get away more, the last few weeks have just been a lot.”

I take in the familiarity of our childhood home. The dark wooden floorboards creak slightly, giving a hint to their age. The off-white walls have a cool tone to them, reminding me of how the blue of the sky can sometimes peak through clouds drifting by on a summers’ day. Minimal decorations fill the walls, with a photo of the ocean taking up the biggest space, hanging above a light gray couch with multicoloured pillows scattered around the cushions. A few potted plants are scattered around the room, their large, dark green leaves glistening in the cool outdoor light coming in from a skylight.

She scoffs as she lays down dramatically on the couch, “you’re telling me! I’m not even involved in it and I’m exhausted.”

I laugh a little at her comment, “it’s been crazy, that’s for sure.”

“What happened on the roof?” She asks suddenly as she fidgets with her fingertips, throwing small amounts of water into the air and catching the drops with the same hand.

“What?” I give her a confused glance before my mind puts the thoughts together, “oh, that, I can’t believe that was only a few days ago,” I murmur.

“Mmhmm. Is Luna going to make an address about it soon, like she did with what’s his name who committed arson?” She analyses me.

I blink at her, “wait, slow down, how do you even know about the roof thing anyways?”

She gives me a dubious look, “people talk. A few people heard what happened, it’s been going around.”

I bite my lip, “I didn’t know people could hear what was happening up there,” I trail off.

She looks away for a moment, “I don’t know, I wasn’t there. I’ve only heard about it. But I was there for the big windstorm. Which I guess makes sense, since a few people said they saw Ana up there. What was going on with her?”

I run a hand through my hair, “Tess, slow down. What are people saying about Ana?”

She shrugs, “I heard someone say that they saw her on the ledge of HQ. That she was shouting something, but they couldn’t hear what. They’re thinking she was wanting to commit suicide, or that’s what it looked like,” she sighs, “so tell me what really happened! You were there, weren’t you?”

“If I tell you, promise it doesn’t leave this room?”

“My lips are sealed,” she reassures, running her finger along her lips like she’s sealing them shut.

I give her a quick rundown of the situation, leaving out the parts about Saf. That is a whole other topic I know she’ll grill me for.

I pour out everything that happened, how scared I was that I wouldn’t be able to help Ana, that I am still in disbelief that I was even successful in the first place.

She blinks as her jaw drops.

“I – I don’t even know what to say, oh my God,” she breathes.

“You don’t have to say anything,” I reassure, “she’s doing much better, it wasn’t entirely her that lead her to those actions in the first place.”

“So is Luna going to say anything about it?” She presses.

I think for a moment, “I’m not sure. I haven’t heard her mention it. Why?”

“People are saying that the pressure of being an elemental leader was getting to Ana and that’s why she almost jumped. They don’t know it wasn’t entirely her.”

My eyes widen, “I had no idea people saw Ana during that. I don’t think Luna does either. That’s probably why she hasn’t said anything,” I contemplate.

Tessa looks down, “people are scared, Coburn. I mean, what happened with Ryker was one thing, but this is three big things that have happened in a matter of weeks. People are starting to wonder if something is up. Some people are starting to pin it on Saffire, which is bull, I’m sure. Not to mention people have been saying really mean things to Mia for her fire abilities. Her and I might not be super close, but she’s still my friend, and I hate that people are treating her that way.”

My heart sinks as I comprehend her words.

I’ve forgotten that Tessa has social connections to most conversations happening throughout the island. I should have come to visit her sooner; I had no idea things were starting to get out of control like this. I hate that people are seeing Saf in that way too. If people only knew that she and everyone else is doing everything they can, maybe they wouldn’t feel that way.

The thought frustrates me.

I sigh, “It’s not Saf, that’s for sure. She’s been doing everything she can. Um, do you mind if I let Luna know about all this? She’ll want to know.”

“Totally.”

I take a deep breath, “I had no idea all that was going around.”

“Well, at least I’m here,” she flashes me a silly grin, “besides, how could you have known? You guys are busy going off to the Shadow Realm every five seconds, it feels like.”

“Ha, that feels pretty accurate sometimes,” I laugh.

She chuckles before a grim look replaces her smile, “speaking of the Shadow Realm, I assume that’s what’s up, yah? Like that’s why so many strange things have been happening?”

I nod, “we’re still figuring everything out, but basically.”

“Hmm,” she nods, “maybe Luna should tell people about all that,” she thinks aloud.

I press my lips together, “I can’t see her doing that. She wouldn’t want to scare people any more than they already are.”

She tilts her head to the side for a moment, “I can see that, but especially with what happened with Ana, people feel really in the dark right now. I don’t think that’s exactly helping.”

I sigh, “it’s not my place to say what she would or wouldn’t do. I’m not her.”

She puts her hands up in a surrender formation, “I know, I know. Just my opinion on it all.”

I pause, “I’m sure she’ll do an address on Ana, especially with so many rumors going around. But I’m not sure if she’ll give details about what’s happening in the bigger picture. That’s for her to decide.”

Tessa nods, “true enough. I think people just want her to be open with them. At least, that’s the sense I get from people. But she’ll know what to do, I’m sure. Like you said, she didn’t know about all this happening.”

“I know Saf was planning to tell her about the fire wielder stuff today. She’s been going through that too.”

Anger bubbles within me at the thought.

“Well, that’s good. How’s Saf doing with all this, by the way? She’s only in what, like week three?”

I nod, “around there, yah. She’s still adjusting but she’s been kicking ass so far. She says hi, by the way.”

Tessa smiles, “that’s good. I’m glad she’s doing okay. Nice to finally be able to see your best friend every day again, just like when we were kids.”

I feel my cheeks get warm, “it’s been nice,” I mumble, averting my gaze.

She raises an eyebrow, “let me know when you get together, okay?” She laughs.

“Tess!” I exclaim.

She blinks, holding back a laugh, “I was joking.”

I bite my lip with a grin as silence falls over the conversation. I’m surprised she didn’t pry any further, but maybe she’s decided not to push it right now, given everything that she’s told me.

“On that note, I think I should head back, they’ll be wondering where I am,” I explain.

Tessa gets up, “can never stay away too long, hey?”

I chuckle, “I guess not.”

She smacks my shoulder lightly, “promise me you’ll visit more, okay? I miss seeing you.”

I smile, “I’ll try, I promise. I miss seeing you too,” I muss up her hair, “maybe during the Winter Festival or something, that’s only a few weeks away.”

She gives me a playful dirty look as she smooths out her hair, before she perks up, “oh, speaking of which, is there still the gathering at HQ on the first Saturday of December?”

I think for a moment, “I’m pretty sure.”

One occasion I always look forward to is a gathering during the Winter Festival, when all of the elemental leaders have the opportunity to socialize with each other’s friends and family. Tessa has come every year since I got picked; it’s one of the events I look forward to the most.

Her eyes light up, “well that’s something to be excited about!” She says as she gives me a hug in the doorway.

“I’ll see you soon, okay?” I say as I back away from her, “I love you.”

“Love you too,” she grins.

She nods before dramatically shutting the door, a silly grin on her face.

I’m not sure if it was the weight of the conversation we just had, but a palpable darkness seems to hang in the air as I walk back to HQ.

Maybe it’s all in my head.

Or maybe there’s more to it.

As I pass people by, I notice the unease in the energy surrounding everyone.

Tess was right; people are scared.

I can’t help but wonder if that was part of the twins plan all along. Maybe they’re trying to create unrest in our society. But why? What reason would they have to do such a thing? It makes no sense. They’re not here, how does it impact them at all?

Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s just a side-effect of what they’ve been doing over the past few weeks. But even if it is a side effect, Luna will want to know.

I glance up at the overcast sky, the sound of my footsteps echoing in my ears.

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Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.