Tavia wasn't sure if the Artificers of RIOAR were resilient or crazy, but not even a day after the attack, they were already back to their research and testing. According to Izak, even Audri was back at work. It made it easy to find her at least, since Tavia wasn't sure how else to track down the woman.
Evos didn't ask if he could come along but Tavia brought the sword with her, and as soon as she was in the convei and heading to RIOAR, he returned to his human form. He didn't say much, only asked her about the city as he watched the streets through the window.
According to him, the last time he had seen the city, it hadn't been nearly as developed.
Assuming Evos was right, and at this point Tavia was about ready to believe anything, including the that he might be the actual sword used by the Grand Hero, then he probably hadn't seen the city in centuries. The legend of the Grand Hero was half truth and half fiction, and the legend itself was known to vary depending on the source. The only consistency was that the Grand Hero fought in the Caldrin War, and fought a terrible monster known only as the Time Eater, defeating it at the cost of his life. She'd asked him about the Grand Hero last night, but unlike when she asked about Evos, when asked about the Grand Hero, Evos was reluctant to share anything.
Seeing him watch the city through the windows made her wonder. What had Edelheiss looked like two hundred years ago? The Caldrin war had taken a toll on the area, but the city itself had already been in place. No conveis, that was for sure, and the few skytowers in the city would have been much shorter, barely topping fifty stories. The noble district probably hadn't changed much, but the business district, and especially the industrial district, with all the factories producing devices for daily life would be completely different.
Evos looked interested in the changes, but there was no time for a tour of the city today.
When they arrived at RIOAR, Izak was outside, already waiting for her despite the early hour. Tavia hadn't particularly wanted to involve him—she was only here to ask Audri something, after all—but she probably wouldn't be able to get in without him. Even when they hadn't been subjected to a violent attack the day before it wasn't as if anyone could just wander into the building. Izak could at least use the excuse that he was there to visit his mother.
The lobby entrance was still closed off, and from the looks of the rubble outside the building, it would be for quite some time. Instead, they used a side entrance, the same one they had escaped through the day before. It opened directly onto the sidewalk with a quaint café sitting on the opposite side of the street. The wall beside the cafe was still burnt black from the Warden's attack the day before, but at least it seemed the cafe itself had come to no harm.
Izak gave Evos a strange look as Tavia approached. She didn't have a good explanation for why he was with her, but Evos was quick to introduce himself as a distant cousin, on her father's side, which explained the lack of resemblance, there was no Terrisian blood on that side. Izak was a little surprised—but it was a good story, better than telling Izak Evos was actually the personification of a magic sword.
After the introduction, Izak told Tavia he had already told Audri to expect them, and then took them into the institute to find her. He led them straight to the testing area where Audri had been the day before. A helpful Artificer directed them to a nearby waiting room, and they found the blond woman inside, lounging on a couch like she owned the place. She was watching something on her vox when they found her, laughing at whatever the video was.
"Oh," she said as they filed into the office. "Didn't think you'd all really come back."
Audri stood and slid her vox back into a bag at her feet. From what Tavia could see in the brief moment the bag was open, it looked like everything else in there were snacks.
"Who's this?" Audri asked when she noticed Evos.
"Evos is a cousin," Tavia replied. "He's just visiting for a bit."
Audri shrugged. She seemed to be one of those people who was only interested in things so long as they piqued her curiosity.
"So, Izak said you wanted something when I talked to him?" Audri asked.
Talked to him? Now that Tavia thought about it, when had Izak gotten Audri's vox-ID? Yesterday after Tavia had left the room? Hadn't that been their first time meeting? And they were already sharing their contact IDs? Well, he was moving fast.
"I wanted to ask you more about that thing you mentioned yesterday, the try outs?" Tavia asked.
Audri stared at her as if she had started speaking Jitan.
"But...I thought—" Audri began, and then she looked towards Izak, "You said she..."
So Izak had told Audri. Tavia wasn't really surprised, but that didn't mean she liked it. It wasn't necessary for everyone to know she was a null-aura.
"Some things have changed," Tavia said. "I want to try."
"Uh, well..." Audri looked a little lost for words, but the moment of confusion passed and she continued. "You're lucky, the trial is tomorrow, you almost missed it. It's supposed to be an open event, so you don't need to register beforehand."
"Do you know where and when?" Tavia asked.
"The secondary arena at Avel'lier, and it starts at one tomorrow. I'm not sure what the try-out will involve though. The prince didn't release any information about that part."
"Thanks," Tavia said. "That's what I needed."
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Audri asked. "I don't mean to doubt you, but, even if it's just a trial, depending on what they have you do, it could be kind of dangerous."
Tavia bit her lip and glanced back at Evos. She had to try this. The first semester would start soon, and at the rate she was going, she was never going to make it in this year. Her test scores hadn't been quite good enough to make up for being a null-aura. Maybe if she had been able to apply to another school, Tavia would have been accepted just fine, but no, her mother had made it clear, it was Avel'lier or nothing. The university was the only one prestigious enough for someone of her status, or so Septia claimed.
"I know, but I'm still going to try," Tavia said.
"What are you saying?" Izak growled.
Tavia looked over at him. He had been watching the conversation the entire time with a growing snarl, but Tavia had ignored him. This didn't affect Izak, and she didn't care that he didn't like it.
"Did you hit your head on something yesterday?" Izak asked. "What makes you think you can suddenly pretend to be a Martial?"
"Why do you care?" Tavia snapped. "It's not like this affects you any."
"You'll get hurt," Izak said. "Those trials aren't anything nice like you're thinking. The Althiest ones had them fight a Scarver. A real, adult Scarver. It wasn't even a larva."
"Izak," Tavia said, but he wasn't listening.
He launched into a graphic description of the trial he'd watched, and Tavia frowned. Why did he have to let himself be bothered so much by this? It was Tavia's choice, wasn't it? And besides, if Tavia hadn't been born a null-aura, she would have been trained to be a Martial anyway. This was what she was supposed to do with her life. It was what everyone had wanted, but what she had never been able to do.
Why did he have to get mad at her? Wasn't she the one who should be upset?
"I don't think this test will be quite that bad," Audri said. "I mean, it's not like it's a top tier team or anything."
Her attempt to be helpful was ignored by all parties.
"Why are you being so reckless?" Izak shouted. "Just wait until next year."
"I can't wait that long," she shouted back, matching Izak in volume. "I'm not going to wait another year to get out of that house."
Izak's shoulders shook, but before he could say anything, the door to the waiting room slid open and a disgruntled man stepped into the room. He looked a little familiar. No he looked very familiar. The man was Abram, the Artificer who had gotten her into yesterday's mess. Abram stopped and looked around the room, his eyes lighting up ever so-subtly as he recognized Tavia, and when he took a look at Evos, Tavia was sure she saw a smile on his face for just one moment.