During my time here at Lixierra academy, I had come to learn a few things about the mystics that surrounded me.
One, they take their titles very seriously. Most of the history lessons I had taken showcased the royal family trees of each kingdom, and as surprised as I was to find out that Chase and Catherine were royal –Chase’s great grandmother was once Agni’s queen and Catherine turned out to be Aline’s second cousin- , nothing boggled my mind more than the realization that even if you are not an heir to the throne, you still get treated like a prince or a princess.
Two, exposing magic to the human world is considered treason. Mystics don’t forbid interaction with the human race; they are not a secluded paranoid bunch. But if you expose yourself as a magic wielder to a human you have no intention of marrying, you will be sentenced to death.
And three, mystics have mastered the art of concealing all emotions. This was particularly true for the royals and the council members. Emotions like excitement, happiness, sympathy and grief were deemed too mundane and so they learned to push them down. And so when Jessica finally came to her senses, the look of utter indifference on her face was eerie but expected.
As we left the closed office of Jessica and emerged into the chilly night, a loud buzz greeted us. It seemed that just like last night, the entire student body was sprawled across the garden, waiting for news of the attack. Jessica had left us as soon as she had gained back her composure, heading for the covenant to make sense of what she saw. Rose, Gabriella, Kira and I said nothing as we made our way through the masses. I shivered as the cold night wind brushed through me and I threw a hateful glance at my gym wear. We had left practice in a hurry and headed straight to the main office, which meant I was still in my sweaty thin gym clothes.
It was obvious that none of the students knew what happened in the underworld, and a secret glance shared between our little group made it clear that we weren’t going to share our knowledge with anyone just yet. It wasn’t exactly a secret that would get us in trouble, but we weren’t willing to risk anything.
The booming voice of Mr. X rang through the intercoms of the academy, snapping everyone’s attention. He announced that the attack was over, and that for the most part, the mystics were successful. He left out the reason behind the attack, the fact that the mystics were risking everything to capture the Grim ones – a fact that only my friends and I were aware of- and declared that the troops made it safely to the covenant for treatment and debriefing. He then instructed the students to go back to their dorms with the promise of more news in the morning.
The students continued to whisper amongst themselves, curiosity taking priority over the cold weather. They were mostly still questioning the decision that led to the attack, the majority of them furious with the covenant’s carelessness for the lives of their subjects. My head started spinning, partially because I was drained, but mostly because of the haunted look on Jessica’s face when she realized her brother had been attacked. What could have happened to Nicholas? Would he be alright? Or was it already too late? I picked up my pace as I rubbed my palms together for warmth. A hot shower and a good night sleep were a much needed escape from the reality of Lixierra. Behind me, I could hear the muffled whispers of Rose and Kira as they said goodbye to Gabriella and hurried to catch up with me.
’Meet me by the lake at midnight.’ I read Kyle’s text as I dried my hair. My muscles were finally starting to relax thanks to the scolding hot shower and my bed never looked more comfortable. It was currently 9 pm and trying to stay awake for three more hours was the last thing I wanted to do. I contemplated declining his offer, but I haven’t seen him since we left the gym and I really wanted to talk to him. Kyle was a great listener, and telling him about my worries and problems always made me feel better and after what we saw -or rather heard- at Jessica’s I had a lot to worry about. So I laid on my bed and tried my best to stay awake until midnight. Unfortunately, my efforts were futile and my whispered objections were drowned by the overwhelming darkness.
“Look who decided to join the living!” Kira’s eyebrows rose as I came down the stairs. She was sipping her black coffee on the sofa and flipping through a magazine while Rose tried to tame her wild blue hair. “We were contemplating burying you in the backyard.”
“I oversleep for a couple of hours and you’re already plotting my untimely death? How did I get so lucky?” I stretched my sore muscles and stifled a yawn.
“A couple of hours?” Rose giggled. “Honey it’s almost 2pm.” She went back to work on Kira’s hair, trying but mostly failing to get the girl to sit still. “For heaven’s sake Kira stop twitching or I’ll pull your hair out!”
“It feels like you already did!” Kira winced and pulled away from Rose with a nasty glare. “I’ll braid it myself.”
“2pm?” My eyes almost bulged out of my skull as I realized that I have slept for most of the day. I guess waking up every day at the crack of dawn to train like the military took more of a toll on me that I had thought. Thank heavens the covenant spared us on weekends.
“Has there been any news of the troops?” My heart picked up its beat when I remembered Mr. X’s promise of news in the morning. Did the royals release the mystics yet? Did they make the news of capturing the Grim ones public? Was Nicholas alright? Did Isaiah make it out? My mind reeled with questions as worst case scenarios started playing on loop in my anxiety ridden brain.
“Nothing yet.” Rose shook her head as she plopped down on the couch. “They’re still being held in the covenant.”
“No detail is too small I guess.” Kira sighed.
I took a few deep breaths in an attempt to calm down as I made my way into the kitchen. Living with a caffeine addict like Kira meant that coffee will always be hot for the taking so I poured a cup and added some sugar and cream.
“Your pancakes are in the microwave.” Rose pointed out.
“Thank you!” I gave her a warm smile and started pushing the device’s buttons to heat up my breakfast.
“So what are we doing today?” Kira asked, her hair now separated into two Dutch braids. “Gabby is coming by in a few minutes, anyone fancy a trip to the beach?”
“In this weather? No thank you!” Rose scoffed. “Besides, Lilith probably has plans with Kyle anyway.”
I choked on the pancakes as I heard my boyfriend’s name. Kyle! I was supposed to meet him last night but I fell asleep. Damn the mystics and their rigorous training and my body for not being able to stay awake. A tiny ‘Oh my God’ escaped my lips as I ran upstairs to fetch my phone. 10 missed calls. Holy hell he must have thought I stood him up. I debated calling him to apologize but I decided I better just go to his house and do this in person. I quickly changed out of my pajamas and into some warm clothes. I wrapped my hair in a bun, put my coat on and ran downstairs to get my boots.
“See? I told you she has plans.” Rose nodded towards me as I frantically put my shoes on.
“Oh come on Lilith we barely get to see you anymore.” Kira whined.
“I’m sorry girls but I kind of was supposed to meet Kyle last night but fell asleep instead.” I said in between breaths.
“Oh you stood him up!” Kira let out with a smirk.
“No I didn’t! Not on purpose anyways.” I grimaced at my feeble explanation. “I’m going to his house to apologize and explain.”
“Well, good luck with that.” Her smirk intensified. It was no secret that my two best friends did not approve of my choice of boyfriend, and so it was very easy to detect the signs of their approval every time I told them about an argument or a misunderstanding between me and Kyle. They never told me why they hated him so much and I decided I wasn’t going to ask. With my previous experience when it came to secrets of the mystics, I decided not knowing is way better.
“Thanks.” I scoffed and made my way out of the door.
As I walked towards the royal housing quarters where Kyle and his friends Eli and Kevin lived, I started to wonder if showing up unannounced was a good choice. He could be still asleep, or out with his friends. What if he didn’t want to see me after last night? Would he slam the door in my face or get one of his roommates to answer instead? I shook my head in an attempt to clear it before my paranoia pops its ugly head and fished my phone out of my coat. ‘I can explain. I’m on my way.’ I finished typing and hit send. I figured I should save my apology until I see him.
As I rounded the corner, I heard what sounded like two people fighting. There was no on in sight however so I kept walking. But with every step I took the voices got louder and clearer. I recognized them both instantly, it was Chase and Catherine. A few more steps and they finally came into view. I quickly debated whether I should keep walking but I remembered my last encounter with Catherine in the gym and I decided I should probably avoid her wrath for a while. But for some reason, I couldn’t just turn around. I mean the academy’s power couple were fighting, and in public mind you. Granted there was no one around but me to witness this but still. I was never really the gossip type and I never bothered with high school drama but something about Chase’s pained expression made me want to stay and figure this out. I swiftly ducked behind a bush, making myself as tiny and undetectable as possible, and listened.
“Oh for Heaven’s sake Cat, I thought we were done with this.” Chase said, an exasperated look on his pale face. His hands were pushed into his coat pockets and his untamed hair was prey for the merciless wind.
“You would love that wouldn’t you? Every time I bring this up you can’t wait to run away.” Catherine’s voice was low and menacing; every word she spoke was dripping with venom. I shook my head as I looked at her. How can someone so beautiful be so bitter? She had a ruby red coat on, a color that brought light into this dark gloomy day. Her cheeks were flushed, either from the cold or anger I couldn’t be sure, and the sight of her swollen blue nose brought a smirk to my face. Her blond locks were tied up into a perfect ponytail and her icy blue eyes gleamed with malice. If looks can kill…
“We have been through this so many times.” Chase’s voice was louder, his tired look turned into a glare.
“Then why do you insist on putting me through it again?” Catherine’s voice was just as loud. “You know how I feel about her and yet you insist on being around her!’
“How many times do I have to say it Catherine? There is nothing going on between us! She is just a friend. We barely even talk for God’s sake.” Chase yelled, his hands flying out of his pockets.
“I don’t believe that for a second. I see the way she looks at you, and with a face like hers, I bet you want to be with her too.” Catherine spat out. “What is it about her anyway? Is it because she looks like your dead girlfriend, is that it?” She was frantic, face red and eyes bulging out.
So this was about me? Great, another reason for the school’s main bitch to go after me and I didn’t even do anything.
“Are you even listening to yourself right now?” Chase cursed under his breath, his hands balling into fists. He took a few steps back, his breathing loud and ragged. “Don’t you dare bring Aline into this.” He growled, glaring daggers at his girlfriend.
“She’s dead Chase.” Catherine let out nonchalantly. “You would do yourself good if you remember that. Come find me when your head is screwed on right.” And with that, she turned on her heels and walked away.
The storm that once raged across Chase’s face vanished and a look of hurt and despair took its place as he just stood there, his eyes conveying pain and loss I could never begin to understand. His once tense shoulders slumped down in defeat as he watched Catherine storm away. The look on his face mirrored my inner turmoil. I knew Catherine was your typical mean girl but I never imagined she could be this cruel. How could she even say something like that? And to her boyfriend of all people, it seemed unbelievably cold. I finally understood now why everyone referred to her as the ice queen; she was the iceberg that sank the Titanic.
As soon as Chase’s back was to me, I moved away from my hiding spot as silently as possible. From where I stood, I could slip past him and get to Kyle’s house without him noticing me. He looked in no state to be paying attention to his surroundings anyway so I could pull this off. But that little voice in my head, the one that usually supplied snarky comments about my ambiguous feeling about Chase was feeling chatty today. ‘You’re not seriously leaving are you?’ She purred. ’What kind of friend would you be if you just walked away from him right now?’
God I hated her sometimes.
“Hey.” The greeting came out before I had a chance to think about what I was doing and I found myself walking towards a surprised Chase.
“Hi.” The look on his face made it clear that I was the last person he was expecting to see at the moment and I began to wonder if I made the right choice here. “How much of that did you hear?” He asked.
“Enough.” I answered with a small smile.
“I’m sorry.” He said, his voice barely a whisper.
“You have nothing to apologize for.” I took a few steps towards him. “I believe it’s your lovely girlfriend who has to apologize, but I don’t expect hell to freeze over anytime soon.” I made my way to a bench close by that was thankfully dry and sat down, patting the space next to me. Chase followed suit and took a seat, shoving his hands in his pockets for warmth.
“No offence”, I began, “but I honestly don’t know what you see in that girl.”
Chase laughed lightly, some warmth made its way to his face at last. “To be honest, I don’t even know anymore.” He continued with a chuckle.
We sat in silence for a moment, watching the grey clouds as they swam by and the trees as they swayed with the cold harsh wind. Summer was truly gone and my hopes of Coleste being an island of eternal summer vanished with it.
“How are you?” Chase spoke suddenly, and I looked at him in confusion.
“I’m fine?” I said. Shouldn’t I be the one asking him that?
“You don’t sound so sure about that.” He chuckled again and I decided that his laughter was a sound I wanted to hear more often.
“I don’t know. Everything is seemingly okay but…” I trailed off.
“But what?” He asked, his face displaying genuine interest. I remembered the look that haunted his features a second ago, so if my problems would distract him from his, I was willing to talk.
“With everything that is going on, I can’t be sure. I am an anxious goof you know and with everything that has happened, there is a lot for me to worry about. First it was the attack and the fact that the Grim ones found it exceptionally easy to infiltrate a heavily warded island. Then came the royal meeting with King Ajay pushing to train us for war, and now the counter attack that the royals launched last night which turned out to be a covert mission to capture Grim ones for questioning.” I was about to carry on but Chase cut me off.
“Wait what?” He was bewildered and I realized that that fact was probably still a secret. So I took a deep breath and went on a detailed explanation of what happened at Jessica’s office and what her vision revealed.
“Wow, that actually makes more sense that a retaliation. I can’t believe the covenant kept that a secret.” Chase admitted.
“Well, I guess it is to be expected since they believe we have a traitor in our midst. It would make sense for them to keep their decisions secret until they found out who aided the Grim ones in the first place.” I explained.
“That’s true.” He pondered for a minute. “What else is bothering you?”
“What?” I was confused once again.
“You weren’t done with your little rant before I cut you off.” He laughed and my inner voice purred again. “What else are you worried about?”
“Well, my magic.” I admitted. “Before all of this happened, Mr. Blackthorn and I were working on my magic together, I had even managed to manifest my second element. But now that he had been summoned by the covenant and the academy has been focusing on training us like mindless soldiers, I’m afraid that I’m losing whatever control I had over my fire.” I took a deep breath, glad to voice out my worries at last. I was surprised I told Chase about this, Kyle was the only one I even thought about sharing this with, but chickened out every time, so why was I telling Chase?
‘That’s a good question.’ My inner voice was apparently a bitch.
“Well,” Chase started after thinking for a few minutes, “I could help you with that.”
“Huh?” I was too busy trying to shut up that tiny voice that I thought I imagined what he said.
“I am a fire mystic after all, I could help you learn more about controlling it.” He gave me a warm smile.
Was the weather suddenly warmer?
“Really?” I beamed. With Mr. Blackthorn gone and my roommates and boyfriend mastering everything but fire, I was running low on options. “I don’t want to burden you.”
“You’re not. It’s actually a welcome distraction.” He stood up. “Come on then.”
“Oh what you meant right now?” I asked as I stood up.
“What, you have better plans?” He laughed once more. Oh my heavens.
“No.” I smiled.
‘Are you sure about that?’