"Pineapple... does not go... on pizza?" Alexa pieced out in broken English.
Her accent reminded Damien of someone who was from New Zealand, and he did his best not to be excited by it. His own accent had changed as well, he noticed, now that he was actually paying attention to it when speaking the old language.
'So weird how that happens without you even noticing...' he thought.
The three were all in the same small dining area they'd written the letters out in. They weren't sure exactly when Layla was going to arrive and ruin the rest of their day, so they decided to practice a bit with words and the formulation of them in his language. Actually trying to learn and study the meanings of the words would come later.
They sat around their table in their usual uniforms.
"Yes. And don't you ever forget it," Damien responded.
"What does that even mean?" she asked back, confused. "And why is that the first thing you had me say?"
"It is literally the most important thing I could have had you say," Damien said with surety, dropping his fist into his hand. "It's just something to live your life by."
"It's a topping preference for some kind of sauce covered food from his world," Kastra interjected from where she sat on his shoulder.
"What?" Alexa asked, confused.
"Wait, what?" Damien asked a second later, turning to look at Kastra. "You... What?! You can speak English?"
"The Fae are in your world. We can speak every language across the realms. It's as natural to us as breathing," she replied with a grin.
"You... I... You never told- no. Hold on," he continued, stopping himself before turning to look back at Alexa while pointing at her. "It's the most important creed someone can have," he stated, mock-glaring at Kastra quickly. "And wait, if you understand words from other languages, why do you have so much trouble with certain phrases?"
"We know what their literal meaning is," Kastra replied. "If there is another understood meaning to it... it takes time to learn slang," she finished, shrugging her tiny shoulders from where she sat on his.
Damien nodded. "I guess... In any case, this is really neat," he said to himself, admiring the way he spoke. "I've always wanted a sexy accent'''''."
"Pineapple does not go on pizza," Alexa said again, less broken but in a much stronger accent than Damien spoke with as he watched on.
"That's ridiculously hot you know?" he whispered to Kastra.
"Why?" she asked.
"Just... the accent. I don't know how to explain it. It's like the way a Dwarf talks compared to an Elf," he explained.
"You're weird," she replied matter-of-factly.
"Yeah, I know. You like it though. Any response on the wards?"
"Nothing yet. I don't know when she's going to-" she started, stopping suddenly.
Damien looked at her quizzically. Within a second, a loud banging sound resounded from the front door.
"That was perfect timing," the Fae said. "She moves like she's teleporting. Harder to detect, in that there isn't even a warning from a mana signature that she's approaching. Such fine control of the ground when she moves across it that she doesn't even make a sound..." she trailed off.
"I'll go let her in," Damien said to Alexa.
"Ok, I'll head your way after clearing this," she responded, motioning toward the table full of snacks, paper, and books.
"I'll be back to help," he said as Kastra hopped off his shoulder and began to give the Celestial a hand.
Damien stood up from his chair and moved out of the room through a door by his side of the table, entering into an expansive hallway.
"This interior is way too much," he mused aloud as he walked down it, turning left about halfway down the hall and coming out into a large reception area.
He walked through the center of where two staircases began, both curving away from each other to lead upstairs and supported by nothing underneath them, many Alterations in place to keep them suspended. It was a bit mind-boggling how they managed the feat, but less so when he explained it as magic.
More knocking that sounded like a battering ram was slamming into their door sounded out.
"Hold on!" he called out as he moved forward a bit quicker, crossing an ornately decorated rug and opening the front door finally. "Sorry, we were in a back room," he mumbled out.
"I told them you probably would be," Adrenna said as she walked in, carrying a few food items while Emra flanked her and Piper sat on the Brinter's shoulder. "They had everything you asked for except tomato sauce. I don't know what that is, and no one else did either."
A lot of the fruits, vegetables, and meats were similar, to the point of identical in this world, yet there were still more than a few that were different. Everything being so rural and spread out, cooking culture seemed behind the times. There were specialties in some areas but in others... tomato sauce didn't exist back in Carlon and despite how many times he went to the market, he couldn't find it. He'd hoped Adrenna would have more luck.
"That's fine, thank you," Damien said. "Them?" he asked, referring to the word she'd used as she entered.
"Them," Lemshire stated as he invited himself into the house, brushing past Damien. "Beautiful home! I can't believe we allow Golds to live like this. Layla dear, make a note of that," he finished, examining the floors, ceilings, and many other aspects of the mansion.
"Of course," Damien sighed under his breath, drooping his head slightly as he raised his eyebrows.
The older man was wearing grey pants and a red cloak today with a white undershirt. His short white beard was well kept while his face contorted into more than a few wrinkles as he smiled wide.
"No," Layla responded, staying outside the home until Damien stepped aside and invited her in with a sweep of his arm.
His instructor looked the same as she usually did during class: baggy shorts and a tank top that hugged tight to accentuate her core and chest muscles. Damien had seen other Kreels yet none looked quite as intimidating or angry all the time.
"Rude," Lemshire responded with a shrug. "But true to your character. I'm glad you never change. Well then, shall we go out back, or will you give us a tour?"
"Why are you here?" Damien asked, closing the door and watching as Lemshire oogled the house like he'd never been in it, yet navigated straight for the corridor that would lead him directly out back.
"You think I'd set up a private tutoring session using many of the best Combat instructors from around the school on a daily rotation that have all sworn an oath to me not to reveal certain information to anyone should I ask them not to so that you and your club of misfits can practice with the actual skills you'll be using outside of this school," he paused, taking a deep breath, "and NOT watch?"
Damien stared as the man gestured wildly and then spun around at the end of his tirade.
"You want to know something fun? A thought I had the other day which led me to this," Lemshire said after a few moments of Damien not speaking, completely changing his attitude. "When someone communes, there is no way to tell. It's a secret to them or anyone they inform. But! There is one very specific thing that gives it away. Do you know what that is?"
Damien cocked his head at the man slightly. He'd seen Alexa use it time and again and it was always so obvious when she switched over because of her eyes. Hell, even the way she used her mana changed so drastically it was practically obvious.
"The eyes," Damien responded confidently. "I don't understand w-"
Damien stopped speaking suddenly.
"Exactly!" Lemshire said with a wide grin. "The eyes. Always glowing through any type of Enchantment or Alteration and sometimes, even Illusion spells cast on someone to change them or hide them. They glow the color the element, or magic, represents when you use their gift. It's always a very bright glow. It's funny. According to Layla here, yours never changed the other day. They also didn't change in my office. I wonder wh-"
"I get it," Damien said abruptly, looking tiredly into the man's excited expression. "Fine. I get it. What do you want?"
"To watch," Lemshire said as he sat down in the air, on nothing. "Just to watch."
Damien continued to look at the man for a few moments longer. There wasn't much to think about, really. If Lemshire wanted him dead, Damien would be dead by now. He wouldn't offer ways to keep Damien alive longer otherwise. He already knew Damien had more hidden than he'd always let on...
"And that's it. You get to watch, and that is the payment I have to give for us to train privately?" Damien asked for confirmation.
The last thing he needed was to be coerced into anything else because of a debt. Especially not when magic and this particular man was involved. Damien wanted to be completely sure this was all the Dean wanted, at least at this juncture.
Layla stood off to the side watching on bored as Kastra kept quiet.
"That's it," Lemshire confirmed merrily.
Damien nodded while holding up his arms.
"Alright, alright. Fine. I don't know why you're being so giving, but if that's really all you want, I'll gladly accept. I'll make a deal with the Devil," he finished, moving between the two staircases once again to follow the man out back.
"The... Devil?" Lemshire said questioningly, eyes lighting up at a word he'd never heard before while Damien cringed slightly.
'It's been so long since I've slipped up like that. In front of him too... Damien you idiot,' he reprimanded himself.
"Nothing, just a childhood story," Damien responded as he moved for the hallway once again. "I'll go get Alexa."
"Alright, first show me what you can do," Layla demanded, stretching while standing twenty feet away from Damien, Alexa, and Kastra. "In what capacity will you each be acting?"
Alexa glanced at Damien to let him speak first. Regardless of the fact that she was older and higher ranked, he was always the one that led when it came to the three of them. It wasn't that she couldn't lead, nor that Kastra couldn't, it was that he always seemed to make the most objective decisions.
Alexa knew that she herself was prone to rash moves. She often acted based on her emotions and instincts. Whenever she tried to think things through, it would get overcomplicated, and she'd worry about the smallest details. She'd miss the forest for the trees. Damien, in her opinion, seemed to somehow know the right balance.
Alexa looked at Kastra next.
Kastra just didn't care much about other people or what the three of them did at large. She'd offer to counsel and explain what she thought was best but ultimately always left the decisions up to Damien and Alexa. So long as she was able to stay with them both, she didn't care.
Alexa looked back to her man and waited for his answer.
Her man. Another weird change. They grew up together, but both were way more mature than their years had let on. It was like they'd been in a relationship all along, minus the physical parts. When she looked back on how many baths t-
"I'll probably be acting as the one attacking, I think," Damien explained, interrupting Alexa's thoughts and causing her to jump slightly. "Kastra is obviously excellent at wards and from what we've spoken about, that translates to other defensive magic as well. I think she'll be in charge of protecting our physical person. Alexa would be that step in-between offense and defense since water is so variable. I believe when we fight in the future, the ideal way would b-"
"Don't do that," Layla interrupted him with a sigh.
"What?" Damien asked, confused. "Don't do-"
"My job for me. I'll figure that out later. For now, hit me with something. Show me what you can do. Each of you, one at a time," she finished, taking a forward stance.
Alexa took a few steps back and covered her ears while Kastra flew towards her to do the same. They'd been around him more than enough to know what was coming.
He was getting better and better at adjusting the voltage levels, as he called it, of his magic, slightly dampening the intense boom that would resound, but the fact remained that it was extremely loud and piercing. It was a miracle none of the noises leaked outside of the barrier on the mansion or the wards Kastra had in place. If not, they'd no doubt constantly get complaints from the entire school.
She watched on as Damien began to prepare his magic, the bluish-white energy cascading across his shoulders and around his arms. Such raw power harnessed and contained by his frame. He'd always been attractive physically to her, but whenever he had that energy rippling around his body...
"You want me to shoot it at you?" Damien asked after Alexa had chided herself, taking a stance himself as the energy coiled around him.
"Yes," Layla responded, staying rooted in place.
"I'm not su-"
"Hit me, you pussy," Layla interrupted, rolling her eyes.
Alexa watched Damien deflate slightly and let a bolt fly. It slammed into her chest and singed a few body hairs disappearing into the ground if his explanation of how that magic worked was to be believed. The Kreel didn't budge an inch or change her expression. She indicated in no way, shape, or form that she'd even been touched by it.
Then again, it hadn't been too loud of an attack. From what Alexa knew from his explanations, that meant it wasn't too strong.
"That was weak as hell and slow," Layla taunted.
It may have been weak, but it looked to Alexa like it had hit her within the same second he'd launched the magic.
"That was slow?" Damien asked. "It looked like it hit you instantly."
"Yeah, sure, it looked like it," Layla said with a shrug. "But it didn't. I could sense when you built up the energy and sense when you were releasing it. Shoot it again," she demanded.
Damien did as he was told and launched another explosion of lightning at her.
The bolt traveled the same as the last one, leaving his body at insane speeds toward the Kreel. A loud booming sound rang out and Alexa took her hands off her ears to observe the situation, seeing Layla a foot to the right and untouched while the tree behind her had a large black mark gouged into it.
"Cute, but slow. Do better," the Kreel said.
Alexa felt as all the energy, electricity, as he called it, left his body in an instant. This time there was no travel speed, no delay, and no direction. It appeared as if a bolt of energy simply manifested itself between Damien, Layla, and the ground behind her, lighting up in a single line of energy between the three points as the electricity traveled through and over the Kreel's body in the way.
Layla's teeth grit as the energy ran over her for a half-second. The sound was ungodly, as if a dragon wouldn't stop roaring directly next to your ear even though Alexa was covering her ears. She crouched to the ground with Kastra and the Fae immediately put a sound dampening barrier up around them, miraculously stopping most of the booming from getting through.
Finally, it stopped.
Alexa lifted her eyes back up and scanned the area. Behind Layla was caved in and destroyed, leaving jagged shards of glass covering the ground. The plants and trees that had once been there were all either burnt to a crisp or completely eradicated, showing no signs of having existed before.
Looking at Layla was an interesting sight. Sections of her body were smoking, some patches of her skin underneath her fur were visibly showing and blackened, while her fur was mostly gone. Her clothes had remained intact most likely due to an Alteration she'd had placed on them, but the rest of her body had paid the price. It was all visibly healing at a rapid pace.
"Better," Layla stated eventually. "Not avoidable by me, at least, if I wasn't sure what it is you were doing. But I could tell the energy connected at the two points just after one hit. I could get out of the way of it ten out of ten times in the future," the Kreel stated. "I could. That's not to say everyone could. Not that it would matter. There wouldn't be a second time depending on who you did that to. It felt like being struck by a naturally occurring lightning bolt, but the pins and needles lasted far, far longer. You don't look like you can do that often," she finished.
Alexa glanced back to Damien and saw him nodding while breathing hard, struggling to create more of his electricity.
'Wait, did she just compare that to natural lightning? She's been struck-'
"Kastra, Alexa, could you?" Damien asked interrupting her musings.
They nodded. Both immediately began to generate their own lightning, the energy shooting across their bodies before it traveled into the ground and was ripped from their control.
Layla's eyebrows perked up as they all watched him pull the energy up out of the dirt and into his grasp, along with ripping it off their bodies and out of their control. It looked like the energy would form, travel partway down their bodies, then lift off them and coalesce into the growing layer he'd made around his own person.
They'd learned he could do this a while back. While taking control of someone else's raw mana was impossible, fighting for control of an element with your own was very doable. Usually, depending on distance, knowledge, and density of mana used, it was easy to keep ahold of your own energy, and also to freely give it away.
In this case, though, they didn't have to freely give it away. They had no choice but to let it be ripped free of their control because they simply didn't understand it. Or, Alexa had no choice. Kastra didn't need to understand how something worked to wield it. She just had to see it and get a 'feel' for it.
They stopped giving him fuel and watched him shoot a few more instantaneously disappearing ones out, several all at the same time while trying to hit Layla and failing. He alternated between those and regular guided bolts on occasion to throw her off.
Alexa turned to Kastra. "Since when could you dampen sound like that?"
"I figured it would be smart to work on that specific magic," Kastra replied. "He can do a lot, but that has always been extremely loud. I think it goes to say he would have fixed the problem easily by now if it could be, so I decided to work on my sound barriers a little. They need touching up, but they're handy all the same."
The Fae was wearing the same blue dress as always, silver eyes sparkling in the sunlight. Alexa stared at her entranced for a few moments before shaking her head and focusing back on Damien.
"Thank you for it," she muttered, receiving a light kiss on the neck from the small Fae.
"Is that it?" Layla asked, perturbed. "You can only shoot them straight? You can't branch them apart? Split them off? Turn them mid-air?"
"Do you know... how hard it is to... control the bolt," Damien panted out, hands on his knees. "Not to mention creating and using mana... that fast," he added.
"Seems stupid if someone can just read where you'll shoot it and sidestep," Layla said with bite in her tone. "Even someone from this school could do it with enough practice."
"They'd die if they messed up," Damien threw back after a large breath. "You're just... a monster. Plus, that's what I have Eira and Kiara for."
"There are more of you?" Layla asked in an agitated tone, throwing her arms up in the air.
Alexa smiled and took a seat against a boulder she was near. Kastra chuckled from her shoulder.
Emra came bouncing up from behind them and jumped into Alexa's lap. She began scratching her loveable Sylphen behind the ears as the animal let out a content sound, a mix between a purr and a coo. Emra clearly loved Damien the most out of all of them, but appreciated attention from anyone all the same.
Refocusing on Damien, Alexa saw just as he began to withdraw his swords from their sheaths. If there was anything Damien practiced his magic most with, it was those swords. It was like he was trying to make them as alive as he could with the way they'd move. He was convinced they would be an asset somehow, and she agreed, yet that was only if the enemy came within twenty-five feet of them. So long as they stayed out of that range, they could just be killed from afar. If Damien developed a strong close-quarters magic enchantment though...
"Those are pretty," Mr. Lemshire's voice whispered from beside Alexa.
"Hell! Sorry," Alexa said, immediately nodding in deference after screaming into his ear. "Please don't do that, sir."
"Don't call me sir, and I'll consider it," Mr. Lemshire responded. "Though I love scaring people, so I probably won't stop," he said with a chuckle. "So, what are your guys' plans?"
Alexa looked at the man inquisitively.
"What do you mean? For the rest of the school year?"
"No," Lemshire shook his head. "I mean for life. What are your plans after you graduate? Will you stay to teach at least until Damien is done here? The spot is still open."
Alexa stared at him for a moment before smiling.
"That could be an option, actually. I'll have to talk with him about it, but I'd like to stay near him," she admitted. "He needs us to ground him after all, or he'd just blast from place and idea to place and idea. Most likely end up getting expelled."
Mr. Lemshire nodded to the response and they stayed quiet for a moment longer. Alexa watched on as Damien controlled his two swords to strike and nip at Layla in an excited fashion. They looked alive and acted the part, feinting, striking from odd angles... all of it. They could be flowing in one direction before immediately and abruptly changing that direction in an instant, slicing at the Kreel as she tried to dodge the initial angle.
They were beautiful.
"And what happens when you both graduate? What are your future plans, Ms N'moran," the old man next to her added on.
"We..." Alexa started before pausing.
They actually hadn't spoken about that yet. She had always assumed she'd help with the family name, run the house, or just continue to study magic here. Now that the three of them would be deciding that together...
"We'll stay together and figure it out," Kastra declared with a shrug. "We aren't sure on the specifics yet."
"Yes," Mr. Lemshire stated. "Staying together is obviously a prerequisite for you three it seems. But what do you WANT to do, Ms. N'moran? Kastra here is content just being by Damien's and your side. Are you? Do you have any goals? Aspirations?" he continued inquiring. "Your goal until now has been getting through our schooling. Why stay as a teacher just to be near him? Are you not an individual?"
Alexa stared blankly at Damien's swords as they whipped around, Layla diving in and out of them.
"I'm not trying to say you shouldn't be with him all the time. But I am saying you should figure out what you three want to do in life. Will you adventure? Join an army? Start a shop? A school? What will you do with your infinite potential and likely time? Don't forget to answer this question. I'd be so disappointed if you ended up doing something mundane. How is he controlling those swords so finely..." he finished, mumbling.
Alexa turned to respond to the man but found he was no longer next to her. Glancing around, she saw him nowhere.
"He teleported out of the wards, I don't know where he has gone," Kastra declared. "Probably to confuse more of his students," the Fae finished, wrapping her arms around Alexa's neck. "We will figure that out together. Don't feel like you have to do something big and important because someone demanded it of you. Continuing to get stronger while adventuring, sitting at home having sex, or opening a shop is all perfectly fine. Just get so strong no one can tell you otherwise," she said with a grin and a peck.
"Yeah," Alexa responded, trailing off.
'It wouldn't hurt to talk about it though.'
Support "A Gentleman's Curse: Arc 2"
Wildland Helicopter Firefighter from northern California. I'm writing during the winter but plan on returning to my job in the summer. I'm enjoying writing more than I thought I would. Will be posting frequently, but once I start work in the summer posts will slow down. Hopefully I'll have a cache of chapters built up by then and I won't have to scale them back too much though.
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