There is just one thing I wish to know; was there any way I could have avoided this? Thinking back, I don't think I ever had the chance.
17th Day of Soluna, 162nd Year of the 3rd Age, Elora, Mercania
I opened the window to let the smoke clear out. I coughed a bit and waved my hand towards it, only to hear heavy footsteps coming down the stairs. I winced to myself, as a gentle voice from behind me said, “What were you trying to do, Miki?” I turned around to see Ren, looking rather tired. I sheepishly looked away.
His robe had been hastily tied on, and it was partially slipping off his shoulders. He raked his fingers through his dusty blond hair, which came just above his shoulders. He walked over beside me, and saw what was supposed to be breakfast, which was now burnt and charred. “I was going to make you something, but it didn't really turn out that well.” The next minute he began to laugh. I felt my face flush with embarrassment.
“Well, I'm going to get ready. Oh, and Miki,” he gave me a sideways look as he walked up the stairs. “Thanks anyway.” I felt my heart beat wildly. I would be lying if I said I didn't have any feelings for him, my tutor and best friend.
Ren had been my tutor for the past eleven years, teaching me how to control and use magic. Not everyone is gifted with magical abilities, but if you are, you are gifted in one of the eight elements. My affinity lay with light magic. There are also five levels; novice, basic, mid-tier, master, guardian.
In addition to having light-based abilities, each element had its own special gift. For light, it was the power to heal. The reason I'm still at such a low level of light magic is simple...I hate fighting, and I hate violence. Because of that, though, I've been called dumb, and that I'm just insulting Ren, who as a master wizard, is stuck with a student like me. Yet, I've practiced hard at my ability to heal. I'm secretly very proud of that fact, since there's not a lot I'm very good at (yet.)
I walked into the small study adjoined to the kitchen and gathered a few books and my own personal notes while waiting for Ren. I read over a couple of the basic incantations for a few spells we'd been practicing. At the level I was at, it was dangerous to perform spells without them. Of course, someone of Ren's level didn't really need to worry about that...
I lightly placed my hand on the filmy, light pink scarf I always wore. Ren had given it to me on my eighth birthday. It was the first thing he ever gave me, so I always took care of it, and never left without it. What made it even more special was that he made it himself. Although neither of us were very good with domestic chores, Ren was actually pretty good at sewing.
I smiled to myself as Ren came down the stairs, carrying his own books. “What are you smiling at?” I felt him place his hand on my head. “Come on, let's go.” That's one of the reasons I liked him so much. He never got angry with me when I messed up; at least, that I ever saw. He opened the door as we walked through the small village.
Elora was a small village that was surrounded by a large forest to the south, and then a lake that seemed to stretch out forever. As much as I loved the scenery, the people here didn't much care for magic users, or me for that matter. Not that I could really blame them. A few years ago, I blew up the town hall and a few homes around it. Thankfully no one was nearby or got hurt, but most of them got pretty mad, and wanted nothing to do with 'that magic stuff' anymore.
In spite of that, Ren had managed to keep face, somehow. At the very least, the people had respect for him, even if they didn't like the fact that a famous master wizard lived in town, which meant students from all over would come to the small village.
As for me, I tried to help them as much as I could, both as a way to apologize, and so no one would think poorly of Ren. Mostly people would come find me when they were hurt, or one of the many farm animals had gotten ill. They didn't have much use for magic beyond that.
As we were walking through town, the inn keeper, a rather lanky man, ran up to us. “There you are, Master Ren!” He bent forward and pressed his hands against his knees to catch his breath. “I received a letter for you at the inn. According to the woman who delivered it, it's rather urgent.” Ren frowned.
As a dedicated tutor, he hated to have to skip lessons, but it seemed that he didn't have much of a choice in this case. “Miki, I'm sorry. Perhaps if I have some time later, we can go study. In the mean time, why don't you practice on your own. However, only practice what I've taught you.” A bit disappointed, I nodded. Not that he needed to remind me. “Now then, Aeden, let's go discuss this further.”
I watched him walk off with Aeden. Why did I get such a bad feeling about this?
Later that same day, Guardian's Tower, Helvetica, Mercania
Amira sighed and closed her book. Her gaze turned towards the small window, in which she could see the never-ending rolling green hills, below her the large city. People milled around, quite unaware of any problems besides their own.
Amira had lived in the tower for about a thousand years, with her brother, Zakerai, and Ari, together as the three Guardian Wizards, until a few years ago when Ari suddenly disappeared, without so much as a good-bye.
Ever since Emperor Alexis' bride went missing, everyone in the palace has been so busy. Brother is too occupied waiting for Hisame to come back with news about Ari. I wish they'd just come home, where they belong! Amira thought, a bit sadly.
Not long ago, the would-be bride, the princess of Scavadia had just vanished. Not that it had been a great mystery she was unhappy with the upcoming marriage, no one had expected she would just take up and leave. Yet for some reason, Emperor Alexis was quite taken with her, though no one knew quite why that was. To find her, he had discretely sent out several spies to try to locate her. The emperor decided he'd rather keep this matter 'private', which was why so few knew about what had happened.
Zakeria himself was also trying to find someone, although after almost eleven years with no luck, he was near ready to give up, until he had happened to meet Hisame, a young elven boy trained specifically for the purpose of hunting people down. It was no mystery to mostly everyone that Hisame's real reason at doing this was for a certain young girl; Amira.
Looking directly at the door, Amira heard it creak open as Zakeria came it. He looked like he hadn't slept in weeks, which wouldn't really surprise her. Bounding from the window towards him, Amira practically jumped into his arms. He caught her with ease, knowing she often did this when she hadn't seen him for a few days. She nuzzled her face in his chest and hugged him tightly. “It's been lonely up here, with you gone so much.” Her voice had a hint of sadness to it, but she was used to him being away often.
“I'm sorry, Amira,” he said quietly. “However, until Ari is found, I'll be busy much of the time.” She knew that. Yet she couldn't remain angry with Ari. To her, he also had been like an older brother. She simply nodded, as Zakeria put her on the ground.
Zakeria was a tall, intimidating sort of person. Both he and Amira shared the same sea-green eyes, and flaming red hair (although he was more of an auburn,) but that was where the similarities ended. Unlike Amira, whose skin was a dark olive color, Zakeria's was terribly pale. Her eyes always were brimming with curiousity and excitement, where his often appeared cold and practical. Yet, like Ari, his one weakness was his little sister. She was the one person who never had to experience his wrath or impatience, which, according to some people, was something you never quite forgot.
Coming back to her own world, she forgot her brother was still speaking. “So, I'm expecting Hisame to be back at any time now. By this point, he should have at least some idea of where Ari is. He's had far too much time to have found nothing.” His annoyance could be heard in every word he spoke. Whether it was directed at Ari, Hisame or both, Amira wasn't quite sure.
Like all siblings, they had their fair share of arguments, which usually was her wishing her brother was a bit nicer to people, and she had told him so many times,and always ended the same way, 'If they don't have the time to do it right, why should I bother?'
Racing towards the window upon hearing some commotion coming from below, she saw Hisame hopping off his horse and racing towards the tower. “He's here!” She practically pushed past her brother and ran down the several flights of stairs to the foyer in the tower, where he was coming in.
Hisame had no time to even say hello, because before he knew it, he was on the ground, with Amira on top of him, letting her excitement get the best of her. His whole face turned a dark crimson as he looked up at her. “Ahh...hi Amira,” he said sheepishly, while laughing at the same time. However, he felt his whole body freeze the moment he saw Zakeria come down the stairs. With a frustrated look on his face, he walked up beside Hisame, but said nothing. He just glared.
Amira had helped him up after knocking him over, and silently gave him the message, Can't you at least not look like you want to smack him around? Just like she had thought, his steady gaze did not change. Hisame cleared his throat, and began speaking, “I didn't find him. However, while I was nearing the small border cities near Scavadia, I did notice several Presence which were far stronger than any I've felt before.”
He held his breath as Zakeria just sighed. “When you have rested, you are to search all of those border cities. Do not come back until you have done so.” With that, he wasted no more time and pushed past Hisame as he walked towards the palace that was adjoined to the tower.
Looking at him, Amira placed her hand on his shoulder. “I think that's his backwards way of saying he's glad you found something. You know he'd never directly say so, but, he's not angry with you, Hisame.”
He gave her a small smile. “Thanks, Amira. It's always easier coming back here knowing you're around.” She returned the smile, knowing what he meant.
Back, long before she and her brother had left Setareh with Izayoi, they had been born of mixed parents; a Scavadian mother, and Setarian father. As a result, their appearances were different from the other Setarian people. It was common knowledge that any and all the countries heavily frowned upon inter-racial marriages, and preferred to keep it between their own people, yet in many cases, love won out and people married whomever they chose. Of course, that was before this sort of thinking was changed.
Of course, that was only one of the many reasons that the two of them had left with Izayoi when they met her. She had always remembered feeling welcomed and loved whenever she would return back to Izayoi, who did nothing but shower her with affection, something she never had from the people back at home. That was one of the reasons she treated Hisame so well whenever he would come back; it was her way of saying, 'Welcome home.'
20th Day of Soluna
Even though it's been three days since Ren walked off with Aeden, he still hasn't told me what it was they had to discuss. The cold shiver that had gone up my spine that day still hasn't gone away. It always surges the moment I look at him. He wants to say something, but nothing ever comes out of his mouth. And I don't have the courage to ask.
That afternoon, once our lessons had been finished, Ren walked into the small sitting room and sat on the seat beside me. “Miki, we need to talk.” He sounded terribly serious, which was unlike him. I nodded, but didn't say anything.
He handed me a letter. “Read it.”
I humbly request that you accept me under your tutelage. Word has come from far and wide about you, your skills, and expertise in the teachings of magic. I wish to learn only from the best. I am willing to pay any price, or answer to any request you may have in exchange for studying under you.
I let the letter slip from my fingertips onto the ground. The script was so elegant, and the wording was flawless. “The writer of the letter is a young woman named Eira. Apparently, the reason she's so vague is due to some...circumstances that Aeden notified me about when we last spoke. I don't know quite what they are, but he informed me that the young woman is quite adamant about studying magic under me. I've decided to met with her later on today, and discuss these things through before I choose to accept her or not.”
I could feel my heart sink. Of course he had had other students in the past along with me, but all of them were uncomplicated people who only wished to better their skills. This girl, it seemed, had some sort of ulterior motive. That, and I was jealous. I never really felt jealous of anyone, but the feeling this time was so strong, I felt I was having a hard time trying to contain it.
“I'd like you to come too,” I hardly noticed that he had since held my one hand in his, with a sincere look on his face. “I trust your judgment.” All feelings of jealousy and worry flooded away when I saw his face so close to mine, and felt his large hand over my small one. I felt so silly after that. I don't even know Eira, and here I was making assumptions! My face flushed with embarrassment.
“I'll go, that is, if you really want me to,” I said quietly, looking away. I decided that until I got to know Eira, I wouldn't judge or assume things about her. Ren smiled and gave my hand a pat before he stood up.
“I'll go get ready, then. I'll only be a while anyway.” I watched him walk away and decided I would, too.
I closed the door to my room and let out a long sigh. Opening my drawer, I pulled out a long, white gown with golden embroidery along the sleeves and the neck of the dress, which came up to my neck. I tied the gold sash that went with it around my waist and then put on the red robe I usually wore with it. The sleeves of the robe only came to my elbows, with a gold trimming around them.
As usual, I kept my mid-length black hair tied into a thick braid, with the small circlet I always wore woven into it. I wasn't what anyone would call pretty, but with my light gray eyes, black hair and slightly snubbed nose, and terribly pale skin, people had said I had a sort of 'soulful' look to me. I didn't really know what that meant, but Ren said it probably just meant that I seem innocent, and always seem to be looking at things which can't be seen. I was rather short, too. The only thing about me that stood out was my bosom, which was a bit larger than most girls'.
I walked down the stairs and waited for Ren, who, was sure taking a long time. Well, it was to be expected. He always wanted to look his best when meeting potential new students. To me, Ren would have looked good even if he came downstairs wearing a potato sack.
After about thirty minutes, I got a bit worried and quietly knocked on his door. “Ren...are you ok?” It was then that I heard several crashes, things falling over, and a loud “OOF” coming from the other side.
He opened the door, looking more disgruntled than I'd ever seen him. His bangs were sticking every direction possible, the robe practically falling off his shoulders, his sash hanging over his shoulder because he couldn't find the others...and his room...everything knocked over, his drawers were laying on his bed with clothes laying everywhere. A vase with a few small wild flowers had fallen over, and his bedsheets laying on the ground.
I burst out laughing the moment I saw him. He just gave a small, embarrassed laugh. “Maybe...I need a bit of help...” I walked in, stepping over his things, making a mental note to clean it up later. “I guess I just got so nervous, I wasn't really paying attention to what I was doing.” I gave him a small smile. That sounded just like him. He always got like this before meeting students, or anyone new for that matter. He just didn't like meeting new people, though he was always fine once he got to know them.
To save anything else from breaking, I told him to sit down on his bed. I brought him over a matching robe and sash from underneath his pile of clothes, and then sat down behind him and started brushing his hair for him. It was so soft and silky, too. “Just tie it back for tonight,” he said, knotting the sash around his waist. I tied it back with a small ribbon. I was just so glad I was sitting behind him. My whole body felt hot.
Once I'd finished, he turned around, and hugged me. Not that it was the first time, but... “I'm so glad I have you by my side, Miki. You're the greatest sort of friend anyone could ask for.” Friend. Not like it was news to me, but I'd hoped that maybe...he thought of me differently by now.
No, it was enough that he cared about me this much. For now, it was all I needed. With a contented sigh, I hugged him back.
The two of us walked into the small tavern at the edge of the village. Walking behind him, we made our way to a table in the far back corner where a young woman sat. She had long, blonde hair that she let flow loosely around her face, and dark, green eyes. When she stood up to greet us, she was a bit taller than me, with an almost elegant aura about her. Probably what people would call the average Scavadian look.
“You must be Ren,” she said, holding her hand out, probably to shake, but instead Ren kissed it! “Quite the gentleman, aren't you? I'm glad you're as I thought you'd be. I'm Eira.” I stood quietly behind him, remaining silent. She looked behind Ren at me. “Oh, who's this? Is this the mage the villagers were talking about earlier? The one who blew up the town hall a few years ago?” I looked down. If the villagers told her that, they probably didn't have much good to say about me.
I was about to speak, but Ren spoke before I could. “It's lovely to meet you, Eira. And this is my student, Miki.” Before he sat down, he pulled out her chair, and then took a seat across from her. She smiled at him from across the table. “Now, I'm sure you wish to get down to business.”
Her smile disappeared as she looked at him with a grim expression. “I have heard of you, your teachings. You are unparalleled in this region. I decided that I wanted to see this wizard for myself. I can't say I'm disappointed. However, the problem is, no one knows where I've left to. If they knew, they surely wouldn't have let me. As for where I come from, I'd rather keep that confidential. As stated in my letter, I'll pay you extra for any problems that may arise.”
“Why is it you can't tell me? That's a bit...much to just expect me to take you on if things are that restricted for you.”
With a sigh, she explained, “There was some place I was told to go, but I decided I didn't want to. So, I ran away. I figured if I was going to run away, I might as well do something worth while. And this seemed like a good place. Small, peaceful. In addition to that, I've always wanted to be taught by you.”
Ren moved his fingers through his hair. “You're putting me in a difficult situation. I can understand wishing to do what you want, but running away...I'd rather not get myself mixed up in something that could have serious consequences for you and I.”
“I can assure you nothing would happen to you. If anyone even tried, I could easily order them not to. The blame would be on me.” She didn't seem to want to take no as an answer. As for me, I couldn't trust her. “Please.”
“Give me a few days to think it over. I'll come back then and let you know my decision then.” She grabbed his hand and held it in hers.
“Thank you. I'm glad you're at least considering the offer.” She stood up and, looking back, “If you wish to find me, I'm staying at the inn.” She waved and walked away, leaving the two of us.
I remained silent, trying not to let Ren see how upset I was. It would only make things worse for him. “Miki?” He lightly touched my arm. “Are you alright?” I nodded, quickly putting on a smile.
“I'm fine. It's really you're choice. I'm sure she has her reasons why she's being a bit secretive. I'll...I'll let you decide. So, if you need me, I'm going back to the house.” I don't know how I even sounded convincing. I was really forcing myself to sound happy, and I'm sure he could tell. He might be oblivious to some things, but he can always tell when I'm not happy.
I quickly walked out of the tavern before I began to sprint home. I shut the door to my room and sunk to the ground before I was crying.
“Miki?” At the sound of my name, I looked outside of my window to see someone sitting on the ledge.
“Kyaa!” I quickly pushed the person sitting on the ledge off the roof, to which I heard a thud come from the ground. Thankfully, it wasn't a high fall, only about ten feet. I hopped from the window, and down beside the person, who turned out to be a guy. “Are...you ok?” I lightly touched his shoulder. Sitting up, the man slid back the hood he was wearing, only to reveal he had...pure white hair, tied back in a loose braid that flowed down to his mid-back. His skin looked terribly pale, though his eyes were so blue, they almost looked black. He was tall, but had the most serious look on his face that I'd ever seen. Overall, I decided that, as odd as it was to say about a guy, he was gorgeous.
“That was uncalled for,” he muttered, readjusting himself. “Although, I wasn't expecting much from you anyway.” I blinked a couple of times, unsure of what he was evening talking about.
“Well...you were sitting on my window ledge. I didn't mean to hurt you, I really didn't. But, it'd have startled anyone to see some strange person staring at them like that.”
He kept a very stoic expression on his face. “Perhaps to you, I'm a stranger. Yet I know you quite well. I've been keeping watch over you for quite a few years now, but never felt it necessary for me to reveal myself to you until now, that Eira's arrived.” I froze.
“Eira...? How do you know about that...? Just who are you? And what do you mean, watching over me?” I had more questions to throw at him, but I wanted those ones answered first.
“I know about Eira. Have for quite awhile, in fact. I was just surprised to find her here, of all places. She's up to something, so keep an eye on her. Which is why you might want to tell that teacher of yours to take her in. As for why I've been watching over you, that's something you'll figure out at the right time. I'm just doing as I was told to.” He stood up, and held his hand out to me, helping me up. “Things are finally about to happen, I can feel it. And I'll be needing you when the time comes. Don't forget that.” He walked off into the darkness. “And my name? I'm called Ari.”
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