Spirit of Fire

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Chapter Three: Relations

Coburn

I let Saffire sleep for a while, relaxing after the eventful morning. I’d probably be tired if I were in her shoes. She looks so peaceful, calm.

The bruises from her interaction with Jaxson are prominent on her pale wrists, dark purple spots lining the base of her hand. I hate that I wasn’t able to get to her sooner. I didn’t even see Jaxson follow her inside. I didn’t investigate until I heard her shouting, but the only thing I saw from the whole situation was Jaxson slamming her against the wall. I can’t get the image out of my head; I hate seeing her like that. I hate the thought of it, I hate that he hurt her. I’m glad I got there when I did, but I hate that it even happened. She doesn’t deserve any of that.

I decompress for a moment before taking the opportunity of a free afternoon to read a book I’ve never been able to finish. It’s not very often we get a day off from training or being on assignment. Then again, I don’t know if I’d really count this as a day off, but I’ll take what I can get. I could be in the training room, but sometimes you just need a break.

I take a copy of Dracula off my nightstand and start reading where I left off, somewhere in the middle of Jonathan’s time in the famous castle. The cover of the book feels smooth, the pages like fine sandpaper. New books haven’t been published for years, so the only ones we really have access to are old Victorian novels. I don’t mind so much though. I think they have character.

I listen to people move around in the hallway as I read. It sounds like they’re moving furniture or something; must be Saf’s things. I open the book to a marked page and spiral into the novel, losing myself.

*

I hear Saf start to shift in her sleep a few hours later, like she’s on the verge of waking up. I glance up at the clock on one side of my room reading 4:25pm. Maybe I should wake her up so she can get changed before Luna’s meeting, now that the rest of her clothes and belongings are here.

I sit on the bed, gently shaking her shoulder. She still has her dark red dress on from earlier; I love the way it looks on her.

“Sparks, wake up,” I whisper.

She lets out a small groan and reaches out her hand, like she’s reaching for a blanket. She gives up after not finding anything, bringing her arm back in front of her face, covering part of her cheek.

“Five more minutes,” she mumbles.

I let out a small chuckle. She’s been like this for as long as I can remember. Always loving sleep, like she can never seem to get enough.

“Come on, sleepyhead,” I say softly.

She slowly opens her eyelids, her bright green eyes scanning the room before she looks at me, smiling.

“Hey,” she says quietly, stretching her arms over her head, “What time is it?” She shakes her head, waking herself up.

“Almost 4:30. You were out for about three hours. I thought it best to just let you sleep.”

She grins at me; her smile is infectious.

“Then why’d you wake me up?” She whines jokingly.

I roll my eyes with a smirk before answering.

“Luna wants to have a meeting later tonight, so I figured you’d want some time to get changed before then.”

She sits up on the bed, draping her legs over the side, her feet hovering just over the wood floor.

“What about my stuff?” She rubs her eyes.

“I think everything is in your room. I heard some people in the hallway while you were asleep.”

She springs to her feet, the heels of her shoes clicking on the floor.

I wonder when she got those.

“Okay.” She yawns, likely still half asleep.

“Do your hands feel any better?” I ask.

She rubs them before answering, like she’s lost in thought for a second.

“I can feel all my fingers now, but they’re still a little sore, I guess.”

She looks down for a moment before stepping towards the door. I stand up and walk towards her so we’re facing each other. I’m suddenly reminded of how much taller I am than her. She looks up at me with her emerald eyes, as though she’s trying to read my thoughts.

“Thanks for letting me stay here for a little bit,” she whispers, looking down for a moment, “I didn’t want to be alone.”

I look at her, trying to think of the right thing to say, but I can’t form the words. I want to tell her there’s no shame in feeling alone, that she can always come to me if she needs anything, but I can’t form a sentence. Without thinking, I reach for her, running my hands through her hair, the curls lacing in my fingers. She grins. She’s wearing something to make her eyelashes appear longer, adding definition to her eyes as they buzz with energy.

“Anytime, Saf,” is all I can say.

She smiles a shy smile as I open the door for her. She quickly exits the room, making the short walk down the hallway to her room. I listen to the door shut behind her.

Ugh, Coburn, you idiot!

I decide to head down to the foyer before the meeting with Saf, suddenly feeling claustrophobic from being in my room all day. I open the door and stride down the hallway, heading down the stairs, where Ana stands, statuesque and serious. She’s changed out of the dress she was wearing earlier, now sporting a black tank top tucked in to dark, high rise jeans. She’s been so distant the last few days it’s been hard to communicate anything with her.

“Coburn.” She nods, “where’s Saffire?”

“Getting cleaned up. She needed a little rest after this morning, I think.”

She raises an eyebrow.

“Why?” She asks simply, frowning.

I look at her, blinking a few times, unsure of how to respond.

“It was a long day for her, she’s not going to be completely adjusted to all this right away. She just needs time.”

She looks to the side for a moment, then back to me, thinking.

“I guess. Did you catch what happened with her and that guy?” She asks, a twinge of curiosity peeking through her voice.

I shake my head, looking down.

“Not really. Just the tail end, I guess. She seemed a little shaken up from it, though.”

She presses her lips together, thinking.

For as long as I’ve known Ana, I haven’t really seen her get shaken up over anything . . . except twice.

“What was his issue, anyways?”

I don’t want to have this conversation right now, especially not with Ana. She’ll read too much into it.

I shrug.

“I don’t know. Probably jealous he didn’t get picked.”

“Was it her ex or something?” She asks, crossing her arms.

I look at her, raising an eyebrow, a little taken aback by her question.

Why would she even ask that?

“No, Saf has always hated Jaxson,” I respond, annoyance creeping into my voice.

She shrugs.

“I was just curious. You don’t have to get defensive about it,” she replies quickly.

I sigh and look down, taking a breath.

“You’re right. Sorry.”

She shrugs again and gives me a look, like I’m hiding something and she’s trying to search my mind for it.

“It’s fine. Want to go train?”

“It’s a day off,” I say hesitantly, unsure of what she’s getting at.

“So?” She presses.

I sigh.

Ana is one of the strongest people I know, but she can be a bit of a workaholic sometimes.

“Maybe another time.”

She rolls her eyes, her expression unchanging. Sometimes I wish I could read minds; it would make talking to Ana a lot easier, that’s for sure.

“Suit yourself. Ehren is in the kitchen, I think.”

She strides past me and up the staircase, turning to the right, disappearing around the corner towards the training room.

I step to the bottom of the stairs and turn, walking to the back of the foyer and turning a corner where the space opens up into a kitchen. It reminds me of the kitchen at Saf’s old house, but bigger. The island in the centre of the room seats five, acting as a bar of sorts, surrounded by light gray cupboards and white marbled countertops that extend around one corner of the wall, the colours complimenting each other. I look over and see Ehren and Luna sitting at the bar, waving at me to come over and join them.

“Hey!” Ehren greets me enthusiastically, making me smile. He was always so unfailingly kind.

I stand at the opposite end of the island, facing the two of them. They’ve changed into more casual clothes, Luna wearing a loose, white, tunic style top with leggings and a fuzzy pair of slippers. Ehren changed into a black athletic style tee-shirt with a deep V neckline.

“How’s Saffire doing?” Ehren asks a few moments later.

Luna takes a quick sip of the water in her glass before returning her gaze to me.

“She’s all right. She’s just changing into more casual clothes,” I reply.

Luna gives me an inquisitive look.

“She fell asleep before she could get changed,” I explain.

She nods in understanding.

Ehren gives me a look.

“How do you know that?” Ehren asks with a mischievous grin.

I blush a little at his question, unsure of if I should lie or not.

Just tell the truth, he’ll know if you’re lying anyways.

“She fell asleep in my room,” I answer quickly, getting a glass of water from the tap before turning back around.

Ehren casts me a sideways glance and raises his eyebrows at me, grinning.

I roll my eyes at him, leaning against the counter.

“Not like that,” I say, annoyed.

I know he’s just poking fun, but I don’t get the sense that Saf’s intentions have ever been along those lines.

I take a sip of my water.

“How do you two know each other anyways?” Luna asks quietly.

“It’s a long story,” I reply without thinking, a tone of finality to my voice.

She shrugs, deciding not to pursue the matter any further.

I’ve never shared the memory of how we met with anyone, except Saf, of course. I don’t know if she’s told anyone, but for me I like to think of it as something special between us.

I met her right after her parents died when we were both kids, so we’ve essentially grown up together. But I know she’s very private about her parents; I don’t think she’d appreciate it if I talked about those things without her in the room.

“Where did Analia go?” Luna asks to no one in particular.

Luna is the only one that calls Ana by her full name; she’s never been one for nicknames, I guess. I could see that getting on Saf’s nerves eventually. She and I have had the Sparks inside joke for as long as I’ve known her, but I think she prefers being called Saf by most other people.

“To train,” I answer simply.

Luna rolls her eyes.

“Of course, she is,” Luna mutters under her breath.

Her face lights up in the next moment, like she remembers something. “Oh, Ehren, I have an assignment for you in the Shadow Realm tomorrow.”

He gives her a look before answering.

“What’s going on now?”

“Keeping the Darkness at bay. I’m sending Analia too. We need to be cautious, especially in the wake of what happened to Ryker.”

I look down, emotions consuming me as the memories come flooding back.

*

Ryker came through a portal, landing facedown in a heap on the ground, unmoving, bleeding.

I was the only one in the room.

I rushed up to him, trying to shake him awake, shouting Luna’s name.

I rolled him onto his side, his skin like ice, lifeless, chilling my fingers as I moved him.

Please, please, don’t be dead. Come on, wake up. Wake up!

Luna and Ehren rushed into the room, the colour draining from Luna’s face, covering her mouth with her hands, asking what happened as she cleared off a table.

Ehren hesitated for a moment, frozen, eyes wide with fear before he and I moved him onto a table.

His blood stained the bottom hem of my shirt, soaking through the fabric.

A few moments after setting him down he sprung to life, coughing blood.

Luna remained calm as she tried to heal him, but I could tell she was nervous. She always got quieter when she was worried about something, and she was dead silent.

This couldn’t be good.

What if she couldn’t heal him?

“Hey, can you hear me?”

My voice was shaking.

He turned his head towards me slowly, his blue eyes glazed over, like he wasn’t entirely there.

Could he hear me?

Did he know where he was?

A pit formed in my stomach, like part of me knew he wasn’t going to make it.

I ignored the feeling in the moment, wanting him to be alright, wanting him to respond, wanting to know how this happened to him.

His breathing was haggard, strained, like it was taking all his energy to keep himself alive.

He was deathly pale, making his dark red hair look even more pronounced.

“What happened?” I ask, hopeful that he’ll be able to say something, anything to let me know that he was still there.

He didn’t answer, staring at me blankly, blood on his chin, dripping to his throat.

He coughed more blood and his breathing became even more laborious, heaving, panting.

Luna lightly pushed me to the side, looking at me intently.

“I need space if I’m going to help him. I can handle this,” she said coldly, looking at me with a stony gaze.

I nodded.

Ehren and I slowly left the room, and moved into the connecting foyer, the last I saw of Ryker was him bleeding on that table.

Helpless.

Ana ran past us and into the room before we could stop her.

She let out a blood curdling scream that echoed through the building.

Ana backed away slowly as her legs gave out from under her.

Ehren rushed to her before she could fall over, leading her to a nearby couch.

Ehren’s eyes welled with tears, her head leaning against his shoulder as he sat next to her.

I sat on the other side of her, leaning against her, rubbing her shoulder with one hand, comforting her any way I could.

I was frozen, tears pricking at my eyes, falling halfway down my cheeks.

We stayed like that deep into the night, falling asleep so many times I stopped counting.

Hours later, he was dead.

*

“Coburn?” Luna’s soft voice pulls me back to the present day.

I shiver, shaking my head out of the memory.

“What?” I snap, anger in my voice.

She looks taken aback for a second before continuing. I absentmindedly run my hand through my hair.

I look over at Ehren, sadness filling his eyes. He must’ve been thinking about it too.

“I know Ryker’s death hit us hard, but we can get through it together. We can do this.” She smiles, taking both our hands.

I can’t stop myself from smiling back.

We all pause for a moment before Saf peers around the corner, her eyes lighting up when she sees the three of us. She’s changed out of her dress, now wearing a pair of black leggings and a dark blue long-sleeved shirt with a wide neckline. We smile at each other as she enters the room.

“Saffire. How are you feeling?” Luna greets her warmly.

I can see thoughts buzzing through her head as she pauses to respond, joining me on the other side of the island. I glance at her before looking back to Luna.

“Better,” she says simply, resting her hands on the table.

Luna looks at her wrists, frowning. She reaches out and grabs Saf’s hands before she has a chance to react, examining them as Saf’s upper body falls on the island.

“When did this happen?” She turns her wrists around, exposing two large, purple bruises at the base of her palms.

Ehren quickly looks at me, making a face before turning his attention back to her. She moves to snatch them away, but Luna holds her grip, looking at her intently.

“Earlier, when Jaxson was here. It’s fine though. Really,” she says, her voice shaking a little.

Luna raises an eyebrow before letting go.

Saf moves her hands under the table, grimacing for a second. She knows that Luna could heal her, she’s just being stubborn about it.

“So, when is this mysterious meeting?” Saf quickly changes the subject.

Luna looks at Ehren, then to me, thinking.

“Actually, we could probably do it now. Ehren, do you want to get Analia? We’ll meet in the living room.”

He nods in agreement and leaves the room, his footsteps quickly moving up the stairs a few moments later.

Luna gets up from her spot, picking up her glass of water.

“Is Ana’s full name Analia?” Saf quickly whispers to me as Luna exits the area.

I look over at her and nod, pressing my lips together.

“Mmhmm.”

“How did I not know that?” She mumbles to herself.

“It’s not really common knowledge. Luna’s the only one that really calls her that. It’s her thing, I guess.” I smirk at her as we follow Luna around the corner.

We walk into a well-lit room with two large cream coloured sofas with a satiny sheen: more than enough room for the five of us. A large oak coffee table sits in the middle of the space, colourful coasters littering the surface. Luna grabs one and sits down, placing her glass of water on the table. Saf sits on the other couch, leaning against the edge, sitting cross legged. I take the spot next to her, my fingers grazing over the back of her hand for split second as I sit back. I can’t tell if she noticed or not.

Ana and Ehren join us a few moments later, Ana sitting on the other side of me and Ehren taking a spot next to Luna.

“Okay, I guess we’re ready. Saffire, is there anything you’re dying to know?”

Her lips part for a moment, like she’s trying to say something, but no sound escapes. She sighs and looks at me briefly before answering.

“What’s the Shadow Realm?” She shoots me a quick mischievous grin.

I look down for a moment, grinning, before Luna answers her. Ehren raises an eyebrow at me and I quickly wipe the smile from my face.

“It’s essentially what it sounds like. The best way to describe it is like a dark version of our world. It’s where most of the assignments happen. It’s our job as elemental leaders to prevent the darkness in the Shadow Realm from spreading into ours,” she explains slowly, like she’s trying to choose her words carefully.

“What lives there?” Saf asks curiously as she leans forward, placing her elbows on her knees.

Luna tenses for a moment, opening her mouth to respond when Ehren interrupts.

“Not very much, honestly. It’s Nox and Midnight you have to watch out for,” he answers.

Saf gives him a puzzled look, frowning.

“Who?”

Ana pipes up before anyone else can respond, still emotionless. “They’re brother and sister. They run the Shadow Realm together.”

I’ve told Saf about them once or twice, but I don’t like talking about the times I run into the two of them. They’re notorious for playing mind games, and Midnight . . . she has her own agenda.

I shiver at the thought.

Saf looks at me for a moment, concerned.

I give her a quick grin and she places her hand on mine for a second, as if to reassure me, before she turns back to Luna.

Saf pauses, biting her bottom lip, thinking about something.

“How did Ryker die?” She asks slowly.

No one answers and we all look at Luna, who looks down, lost in thought. It’s only fair that Saf should be curious, I know I was about the previous Spirit of Water I replaced. This is the first time an elemental leader has died in a long time and it happened so suddenly. None of us have really had time to process the whole event; none of us have ever worked through the death of an elemental leader before. At times, it still like I’m in a limbo of some sorts, like my mind hasn’t caught up to the events of real life. I can still see the dazed look in his eyes, the sound of him falling to the ground, unmoving.

A pit forms in my stomach. I have to stop myself from getting thrown back into the memory again. I have to block it out.

I shake my head.

“I don’t know,” Luna whispers.

“Well, what happened to him?” Saf presses.

She’s always been full of questions. I love that about her, but I think she might be flying too close to the sun with this one. I look over at Luna, who is trying to collect her words, and glance at Ana, seeing anger in her eyes. Oh no.

“No one knows, okay?” Ana snaps, her slight Latina accent peaking through her voice, “one second he was here and the next he was gone.”

Ana had a relationship with Ryker that was akin to what Saf and I have, and I know his death has been especially hard on her. I think it’s part of the reason why she’s been so serious lately, like she’s pushing her emotions away, dissociating from them.

Saf’s eyes widen, frozen, before leaning back onto the couch, taken aback.

“I’m sorry,” she says softly, looking down.

Luna looks at her calmly.

“It’s all right, it’s just a sensitive topic right now,” Luna whispers.

Luna is already a closed book when it comes to sharing emotions, so it’s been hard to figure out how she feels about the whole situation. Just from knowing her I can tell something about it is bothering her, I’m just not sure what.

“Have you been to the training room yet? Ehren asks, eager to change the subject.

Saf shakes her head, “not yet.”

Luna looks at her for a moment.

“Actually, that’s a good segway to my next point. Your first visit to the Shadow Realm acts as an initiation, so to speak. If you can make it through that with minimal injuries, you’ll be fine.”

Saf’s eyes widen for a moment.

“Don’t worry, you’ll have a few days to train before you head there for the first time,” she pauses, “I’m sure you know this already just from Coburn,” she glances at me, “but you need to be ready for anything.”

She’s shifted to a more business-like persona, like she is putting away the sadness, at least for now.

Saf nods.

“Well yah, I figured that went without saying,” she responds quickly.

“Good. But one thing I want to make clear is that there are no off days, especially in the wake of recent events. If Nox and Midnight decided to burst through the front door and attack right now, would you be ready?” Luna asks, her voice dropping several degrees.

“I don’t know, I guess, I mean . . .” Saf fumbles over her words. “I’d like to think so,” her voice shakes a little. Not a lot, but enough for me to notice.

Luna softens her gaze a little, like she can sense her nervousness.

“What I’m trying to say is that ninety percent of your time is going to be dedicated to training and assignments. We’ll wait a few days before sending you to the Shadow Realm to scope it out so you can get adjusted to everything.”

Saf breathes a sigh of relief before Luna continues.

“But, we’re the primary protectors of this world, and we have to act as such. It’s up to us to keep Nox and Midnight at bay so that everyone, both in our society and the outside world, can live peacefully. Can you do that?”

Saf nods quickly.

“Yes,” she breathes, glancing over at me before looking back at Luna.

“How much of our history are you familiar with?” Luna asks.

Saf looks at her with a puzzled expression.

“Something about natural disasters? That’s as much as I know.”

Luna nods, “about a hundred years ago, natural disasters ravaged the Earth as it was. Fires blazed across the lands, Earthquakes broke continents apart, windstorms uprooted structures, and water flooded the many areas of the world. Out of these disasters, some people developed elemental skillsets. Others who did not have these abilities began to fear us, so for our own safety, the world leaders decided to send everyone with elemental abilities here, where we could live in peace.”

“I didn’t know it was that involved,” Saf whispers to herself.

It only makes sense that she would be unaware of all the details of our existence. Her and I make up the second generation of elemental wielders, so our parents were the first to build this society as we know it. Our whole generation is a little oblivious to our history, the only reason I know about it is because Luna told me all about it when I got picked as Spirit of Water.

“Yes,” Luna continues, “the leaders of the world still know of our existence. They are the ones that send us resources each month, and in return, we protect our world and theirs from the threats of the Shadow Realm.”

“Doesn’t that put them at a disadvantage? Sending their resources to us, I mean,” Saf mentions.

“Not in the way you’d imagine. When the disasters ended, a mineral we call white fornz was unearthed, which has great technological capabilities, and gave the world the power to rebuild quite quickly. We have this mineral here too, it’s what gives us electricity, running water, most things we use on a daily basis. So, because the world was able to rebuild so quickly, the outside world still has everything they need to sustain themselves. Along with that, our society is fairly small in the grand scheme of things. The outside world is made up of millions of people, so sending resources for ten thousand people isn’t that much of a dent in their system.”

“Oh. . .” Saf says, trailing off.

“Saffire, do you know why I picked you?”

Saf shakes her head.

Luna tilts her head to the side a little, kindness in her eyes.

“I chose you because I knew you could handle this. You’re stronger than you know,” she says reassuringly, smiling, before moving on, “by the way, did all your things arrive okay?”

I look down.

Knowing how close Saf is to Katya, I know that moving to HQ is going to be the hardest part for her.

Saf nods, “I think so,” she pauses for a second.

Luna takes the opportunity to grab Saf’s hands again, examining her wrists, which now take on a much darker purple colour.

“What are you doing?” Saf snaps.

“Helping you,” Luna says simply. “Are your hands numb at all?”

Saf quickly shakes her head, trying to pull away.

“Yes – I mean no – I mean, they were, but not anymore. Really, I’m fine,” she stutters.

Just let her heal you!

Luna gives her a disapproving look as she places one hand on her wrists where the bruises are darkest.

“You’re in pain, and don’t try to tell me otherwise.” Luna says sharply.

Luna closes her eyes and focuses for a few moments, her hands hovering over the bruises. Slowly, Saf’s natural skin tone starts to peer through, pushing through the dark purple colour until no trace of any damage is left. Saf freezes for a moment, bewildered, before slowly taking her hands back, looking at where the damage used to be. Her eyes are wide in disbelief, though I can’t tell if she’s shocked about the healing process, or if she’s surprised that Luna went ahead and healed her anyway.

Seeing her reaction reminds me of the first time Luna ever healed me; I think I got a cut on my leg or something. It felt like she was somehow pulling the pain away from the area, like a ball of yarn that’s unravelling before the pain is suddenly just gone.

“Saffire, let me be clear about one thing,” Luna continues, “part of my job as a healer and one of the few that can wield Ether, is to make sure that injuries and damage are dealt with swiftly. By you resisting, I can’t do that. I need you to trust me.”

There’s a tone of finality to her voice, like there’s no arguing with her.

Saf looks at her, blinking a few times, like she’s trying to decide how to respond. She sighs and looks down.

“I understand.”

Luna’s gaze softens before Saf’s eyes light up with realization.

“Wait, one of the few? I thought you were the only one who could wield Ether.”

Luna sits back in her chair, looking away, clearly uncomfortable.

Oh no.

I can already tell what’s coming, and it’s not good.

“I’m not,” Luna mumbles.

Saf opens her mouth to say something when Ana interrupts, halting the conversation.

“Nox and Midnight can wield it too. They’re her brother and sister,” Ana states simply.

Luna shoots her a dark glare, clenching her teeth for a second.

Leave it to Ana to drop a bombshell while showing zero emotion.

Saf’s jaw drops in shock and Ehren bites his lip, like he’s excited to see what happens next.

“What?” Saf almost shouts.

Luna’s eyes remained locked on Ana.

It’s still hard for me to imagine Luna being related to those guys, and I know it’s something she doesn’t like to make public. Not that I blame her; if I was related to Nox and Midnight I wouldn’t be shouting it from the rooftops either. I’ve never really asked her about it, mostly because it’s a sensitive topic for her, but I’ve also never felt like it was my place to comment on it. It’s part of her story, not mine.

“Thank you, Analia,” she says harshly.

Her tone softens in the next breath, turning to Saf.

“Yes, they are my brother and sister – technically – but I don’t think of them as such. I never have. Strictly speaking, Ether does have to do with wielding dark energy, but I use my abilities for good. My brother and sister don’t do that in the slightest, and nothing would make them happier than killing all of us and taking over our world. Which is why we must always be ready for anything. I know them better than anyone, and I know they’ll do anything to get their prize.”

A wave of panic passes over Saf’s face, her hands shaking. Luna quickly gives her a reassuring look, like she can sense her fear.

“Right now, we’re okay. Nox and Midnight can’t leave the Shadow Realm, but especially now, we need to be ready in case they gain strength and find a way to infiltrate our world.”

Saf nods quickly.

“Great. Is there anything else you have questions about?” She asks, her soft demeanor returning.

Saf shakes her head.

“Onto other business before we end. Analia, you and Ehren are going on an assignment tomorrow. Coburn, you can help Saffire with the training room and get her acquainted with everything.”

I grin and nod.

At least I can spend more time with her now.

Her fingers brush across mine for a second as she adjusts her hands.

I nudge her for a second.

“It’s fun, I promise.” I shoot her a devilish grin and she rolls her eyes with a chuckle before looking back to Luna.

“I’m calling it. It’s been a long day for everyone, and we need to be well rested for tomorrow.” Luna says to no one in particular.

Luna gets up unceremoniously, bidding us goodnight with a yawn as she exits the room. She’s always liked going to bed early when she can, so I guess she’s taking full advantage of the opportunity.

Ehren takes a deep breath, exhaling loudly.

“Yikes!” He says sarcastically, “that was quite the standoff at the end there.”

Saf chuckles at his comment, still shaking a little, like all her nerves from the meeting are being let out.

“Word of advice though, don’t mention the sibling thing again,” Ana says coldly, looking over.

Saf shoots her a glare, her bright eyes full of intensity.

“How was I supposed to know? I was just curious, you’re the one that said it,” she snaps back.

I put my arms out between them.

“Hey, cool it you two. Fighting is the last thing we need,” I say as calmly as I can muster.

Saf can be a bit of a hothead sometimes, no pun intended, but Ana certainly isn’t helping the whole situation.

“Whatever. I’m going to train some more; I’ll see you guys tomorrow.” Ana gets up swiftly.

“I thought you already trained today. Take a break, girl,” Ehren comments innocently.

She turns around quickly, looking at him coldly.

“Are you writing a book?” She snaps back.

Ehren quickly shakes his head, apologizing as Ana locks eyes with Saf for a moment before leaving the room.

Ehren gives Saf an inquisitive look.

“So, what do you think of all this?” He asks, leaning forward.

She shrugs.

“I-er-give me a few days and I’ll tell you.”

Ehren chuckles.

She looks around for a moment before continuing.

“But what’s Ana’s problem?” Saf continues, a little quieter than before, like she’s worried that Ana could be closeby.

Ehren looks down for a moment before responding.

“She kind of hates everyone right now, so don’t take it too personally,” he says lightly.

I nod in agreement.

Ana has been irritable lately, but she has been especially cold with Saf now that I think about it. I wonder where her head is at. I know she’s probably feeling sad about Ryker, so that might be contributing to her demeanour, but I have a feeling there’s more to it than that.

“She’s just had a rough couple of days. She’s really not that bad once you get to know her,” I add.

Saf raises an eyebrow at me, like she doesn’t believe me.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” she mutters under her breath as she gets up.

Ehren and I follow suite, the three of us walking to the foyer.

“I can talk to Ana, if you want.” Ehren nudges Saf, a warm smile on his face.

She pauses for a moment, thinking, before responding.

“No, that’s okay. Thank you, though,” she replies as we walk up the stairs, my eyelids starting to feel heavy.

“Goodnight you two,” he says as we reach the top of the stairs, Ehren turning the other way towards his room.

Saf and I walk down the hallway, silent until Ehren is out of earshot.

“I’m glad today is over,” she says with a sigh.

I think back, remembering how exhausted I was the day I got chosen.

I was ready to fall asleep every five seconds.

“I know. Honestly, the first week or two is the hardest. If you can get through that you’re golden,” I reassure with a grin.

We’re silent for a moment before her voice breaks through the air again.

“What are Nox and Midnight like?” She asks slowly, “are they anything like Luna?”

I tense for a second before answering, thinking about the two of them for a moment. Chills run up my spine.

“Not even a little bit. You’ll have a better idea once you see them in a few days,” I whisper.

I don’t have too many run ins with Nox, but I see Midnight almost every time I go on assignments. I’ve opened up to Saf a couple times about it, but I don’t tell her the full details because I don’t want to make her uncomfortable.

“I didn’t even know there was two of them. You always talk about Midnight whenever I asked you before.” She looks at me with a curious expression.

I look down and take a deep breath, thinking for a moment, feeling a mixture of anger and fear bubble inside me.

“That’s because I see her more. Literally every time I go on an assignment, she seems to find me.” My voice breaks for a second.

I pause for a moment, reeling my emotions in, “sorry. It’s just not fun to talk about.”

She looks over at me, rubbing my shoulder with one hand. I feel some of the tension in my body release at her touch.

“I know, it’s okay.” She says softly.

She gives me a grin as we come up on the side by side doors to our rooms.

“Thanks for everything today,” she says, looking down shyly.

“Of course. I’m always here,” I say with a small smile, feeling warmth in my cheeks.

I pull her into a quick hug as we say goodnight.

How is she always so cold? It’s a common trait in fire wielders, so I’m not surprised, but she seems to run especially cold.

We pull away seconds later and retreat into our rooms, where I fall asleep on my bed before my head even hits the pillow.

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