"Limbo again, huh," I muttered, looking at the darkness that surrounded me.
"So it would seem," A static-filled voice replied.
Shaking, I turned around to look at Thunder, Covenant of Mortality was still on his armored wrist, the red path connecting me to it. Gritting my teeth, I forcibly tried to control my breathing and whistling heart, it didn't exactly work out but I felt that there was some progress.
In a quivering voice, I said, "Could you stop haunting me? Or at least give that back," I pointed at CoM with my chin.
"Do you think I have nothing better to do than communicating with a human child?" Thunder asked me, his electric eyes spewing out sparks. "Ash will descend into the world soon. If you want this divine tool back, seek him out."
The world twisted around me before I could reply, back in bed and drenched in sweat I gasped for air and jumped to my feet. It took me a moment to recall where I was, in a different plane, in my own tent. I didn't want to sleep anymore, not after the pleasant meeting I had in dreamland, after clothing up I walked outside.
It was early morning, at least I thought so based on the intensity with which the orange sky glowed, the dense fog that set in the ravine was chilly so I pulled up my collar and seated myself next to the fire. My breath transformed into little clouds of steam, the air was refreshing enough to jolt me awake, the sounds of the waterfall in the distance and the crackling fire were pretty relaxing.
I was zoning out until Eina sat next to me, startled I nodded my head to her.
"Problems with sleeping?" She asked me.
Shrugging, I replied, "Bad dream."
"I think I understand," Eina said, warming her hands near the fire.
"Did you hear about Balera?" I asked her, picking up a stick and poking in the fireplace.
Eina stiffened and glanced at me before replying, "You were there, right?"
"Yes. On the first line of defense." I threw the stick into the fire, sighing.
Eina grabbed my arm and whispered, "Then your heart?"
"Thunder took it." I squeezed out, taking a deep breath. "I see him every other dream. People dying too."
Saying this to someone took a load off my mind, it felt as if a great weight that has been pressing on my heart was lifted, even if just so slightly. I lightly smacked my cheeks to focus on reality, just talking about it made me recall their faces. The flame sizzled, water droplet fell into it; followed by many others as the skies opened.
"Let's go back to the tent," Eina said, standing up.
I shook my head and said, "I need a moment, go first."
She gave me a hesitant look before running to hide from the rain, I stood up and spread my arms, closing the eyes, I let the raindrops fall on me. The sound of heavy water droplets tattering against the foliage and the tent drowned out everything else, only whistling of my heart poked through as a reminder that I was still there.
As the waterdrops collided with my face, I thought that the rain could wash away everything if given enough time, maybe it could take the memories too. I stuck out my hand in front of me and almost absentmindedly guided my Essence to blossom from my fingertips.
The rain no longer touched my body, opening my eyes I understood why; an umbrella, no, a flower of pure gold light sprouted from my fingers, guiding the water away. I stared at it in amazement, the realization that I managed to summon so much light excited me. The flower shook, the light crackled and transformed into lightning, it exploded towards the skies, accompanied by a loud thunderclap.
Startled, I took a step back and slipped on the wet grass but someone's hands caught me, I looked up to see Eina's amazed face, she was completely drenched as me. Propping myself up on her arm, I stood up and gave her a wry smile, this was my best spell so far.
"Why are you so wet?" I asked her as we rushed to the tent.
Pouting, Eina replied, "Because I tried to copy you."
"Did it help?"
"No, it felt stupid." She said, slipping into the tent.
Laughing, I followed her and shook my head, splashing the water everywhere, on Eina too. She looked like she wanted to complain but bit her tongue in the end and did the same, shaking her head and then taking the wet clothes off.
Pretending to be bashful, I said, "Striping so soon? But we only met..."
"Oh, shut it! I don't have other clothes like you and you've seen everything already anyway," Eina snorted and started wrestling with her shirt.
Chuckling, I threw her a dry towel and walked off to a different room to change into dry clothes, when I came back she was sitting on the sofa in a towel, her scarred legs crossed and resting on the table.
"Nice manners, Argent," I said, sitting opposite of her and plopping my legs next to hers.
She rolled her eyes and replied, "Look who is talking. Anyway, why do you always walk barefoot?"
Pouting, I muttered, "Because I like it."
"I think you have some obsession," Eina said, suspiciously eyeing me.
Setting my jaw, I glanced at her feet and said, "I guess you have nice soles, cute toes too."
"I knew it!" Eina exclaimed, taking her feet off the table and nervously pressing them against the floor.
I slapped my thigh and laughing, I said, "Calm down, I am just messing with you!"
Well, not exactly but she didn't need to know that. Still suspicious, Eina put her feet back on the table and stretched, my womanhood peaked at the sight of her curvaceous body flexing, I had to awkwardly look away, shame about her scars though.
Yawning, Eina asked me, "What now?"
I stole her a glance and replied, "Now we wait for people to find us. Do you want something to eat?"
"Yes," She said and after seeing my disapproving face added, "Please."
"Now that's like it," I said to her and took out some food and drinks.
Because of the rain, we had to spend the rest of the day inside the tent, the downpour only stopped in the evening but there was still not much to do. Eina's beautiful platinum hair gave me an idea and after some convincing, I pulled out a Portable Barber and started stylizing her hair into various hairstyles.
"This is unbelievable, you could make a lot of money doing this in our dormitory," Eina said, touching her now curly hair.
Shrugging, I said, "I don't need money, what's next?"
"Just make it normal again, I can't let people see me like this," She said, pulling on the springy curls.
Next day nothing much happened so Eina proposed to start teaching me Oulic, both written and spoken, I instantly agreed, even if just to kill time. The Oulic alphabet had twenty-nine letters, a few more than English did, it was also relatively simple with most letters looking unique. I pulled out a notebook and some paper for Eina along with two pens, then, we went to work.
After scribbling down the alphabet, we started with basic words that I translated back to English using Golden Spectacles and Ring of Tongue, I had to put them on and off many times. The spoken practice was not that easy, mostly because Eina kept laughing at whatever I said.
"You stopping laugh," I said without the ring, pointing at her.
Snorting a laugh, Eina squeezed out, "I can't do this!"
"How!" I said, frowning.
Almost rolling off the sofa, she replied, "Your... is too funny!"
Confused, I put the ring on and asked, "My what? I didn't catch that word."
Wiping the corners of her eyes, Eina said, "Your lisp, you can't say 's' and 'gh'. You sound like a child, it's adorable."
Grimacing, I took the ring off and said, "Repetition!"
Slapping her thigh, Eina took a deep breath and we continued with the practice. The more time I spent chatting with her, the more I couldn't believe it was the same person that tried to beat me up with her goons. There was only one thing off about her, it was some kind of resignation poking through regular behavior.
Something happened on the third day, a deafening explosion rumbled through the world, jolted awake, I ran out in my pajamas to see what was happening. The orange sky in the distance was twisted but it soon returned to normal.
Eina ran out of the tent only wearing her shirt, she asked, "What was that?!"
"Rescue team, dress up princess," I said to her, stretching with a yawn.
She froze before replying, "Yes." She was about to walk away but added, "Thank you."
"For what?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.
Taking a deep breath, Eina said, "I know we are not friends, and that we won't see each other again but I am really thankful for this time. It was different."
"Oh, you are so silly," I chuckled and gave her a quick hug, "Remember your promise."
"I-I will!" She blurted out and dashed into the tent.
My smile melted when I looked in the distance, everything depended on who was in the rescue team and if my words carried as much weight as I thought. Sighing, I went back to clothe up and tell Eina to get out of the tent so I could get it back into my bag of holding. With this done, I turned to the absentminded Eina and poked her side.
Jumping, she snapped, "What?!"
"Let's get up there, you will need to craft something with your glass, " I said to her, pointing at the air vent above us.
We climbed out of the ravine and I instructed Eina to create another tall pole, she gave her all and collapsed onto the ground, massaging her aching forearms. This pole was much taller than the previous one she created, it was also thinner but still had the same crystalline structure. I sat down in front of it and pressed my palms against the glass, taking a deep breath and focusing.
I calmly released Essence through my palms, transforming it into particles of light that lit up the pole.
"Great idea," Eina commented from the side.
Afraid of losing my focus, I didn't reply and continued illuminating the pole, combined with the kite above us it should have been visible enough even from greater distances.
When I was reaching my limits, something cracked next to us and I winced, my magic dissipating. With a whistling heart, I looked at in that direction, a tall man I've never seen before was standing there. He was middle-aged, cleanly shaven with short combed grey hair, he could be even called handsome if not for his stern expression and cold azure eyes, devoid of any emotion.
He looked at me and then at Eina, "You can't even stand up to greet me?" He said, coldly.
The man raised his hand and released a small red crystal-like ball that floated up and tore through the air, disappearing on the horizon. I glanced at Eina, her face was pale and she was trembling but she still stood up while avoiding the man's gaze. Before I could react, the man approached her and slapped her in the face, he must have broken her jaw because the crack that reached my ears made me shudder.
Eina fell to the ground, grabbing her face and quivering but not letting out a single noise.
"What the hell?!" I shouted out, I couldn't stop myself and dashed up, trying to punch him.
He easily dodged by taking a step back, his face as expressionless as before, huffing for air, I stood in front of Eina, not giving him a chance to approach. Before he could say something, there was another crack and a familiar figure appeared next to us.
"Principal!" I shouted at Awyn.
"Good morning," Awyn replied, he glanced at Eina and then at the man, sighing.
"I'll be taking my daughter, you are expelling her, Awyn?" The man asked, turning to look at Awyn.
"For what?!" I asked them, shaking in anger.
They turned to look at me and Awyn said, "Repeated offenses. This was the last straw."
Taking a deep breath, I knelt next to Eina and hugged her. Clenching my teeth, I hissed out, "It was my fault. I tried to get back at her and we had a little brawl near the portal."
Eina shuddered but she still didn't let a sound out.
Awyn exchanged glances with her father and asked me, "Why were you near the portal then?"
"I tricked her into opening the doors. I am ready to get punished." I replied, the whistling in my ears grating on my nerves.
"No matter, I am taking her away anyway. She shouldn't have been tricked in the first place." Her father said, taking a step forward. "Get away." He said to me.
"No!" I denied, tightening my arms around shaking Eina.
Awyn sighed and said, "Marie, you can't deny him this, it's his right as the father."
I was about to snap back at him when a husky voice said, "I can."
We turned our heads at the same time, a tall man wearing a long black coat was standing there, with hands in his pockets, he looked like a Victorian-era gentleman, at least his clothes did. His hair was slightly wavy, swept back and black in color, a single silver streak cut through it like a lightning bolt. He looked to be in his early thirties, with handsome chiseled features and a neatly trimmed but short beard.
His deep-set eyes were... Silver in color.
He looked at me, specifically into my eyes and smiled encouragingly before looking at the two men. Awyn was already bowing, trembling in excitement, Eina's father was unsure what to do with himself, he looked slightly afraid, it was the first emotions that seeped out from his cold eyes.
Struggling to mask his excitement, Awyn said, "Master, I didn't expect you so soon." His voice was thick with emotion.
Sighing, Nec replied, "I've told you in the past Aw, a wizard arrives precisely when he means to."