When it came to social awareness, Tavia couldn’t claim to be any kind of expert. Unlike her siblings, who had gone to private schools and learned to socialize, Tavia had been kept home and tutored by a series of adults she could hardly remember. She’d only had a few friends outside her family growing up, but despite that, her meager skills at interacting with people still managed to surpass Evos’s. When together with Tavia, he didn’t seem to do too poorly, but when alone, she’d been told he turned into a stumbling mess.

“I was going to go out to visit Iza—someone,” Audri said. “I didn’t really want to leave him alone.”

Though Audri caught herself at the last moment, it wasn’t as if she’d managed to deceive Tavia. The Martial was planning on visiting Izak, but because Audri thought it would bother Tavia, she’d been trying to hide their growing relationship. She needn’t have bothered though, Tavia was so caught up in catching up, she didn’t have time to worry about her Izak’s affairs.

“He’d probably be happier if you just left him alone,” Tavia said.

Audri gave a small pout as she stood up. She began gathering her homework, sliding the papers into a messy pile that she then shoved into a binder she picked up off the floor. Tavia watched the sight, trying to suppress a scowl. Between Alvis and Audri, Tavia just couldn’t understand why people didn’t just pick up properly. Wasn’t it worse to deal with the mess later when it got bigger?

“I guess,” she said after a moment. She turned to face Evos who was watching Audri with an uneasy grimace. “I just wanted to get to know him a bit, since he’s around all the time.”

From Audri’s perspective, that wasn’t an exaggeration, and she’d never realize just how right she actually was. Though Evos possessed a body and consciousness, it wasn’t as if he was really a person. He was reliant on Tavia for the Althier he needed to maintain his form, and he didn’t have anywhere else he could really go. As such, he’d been pretending to be a student at Avel’lier around other people to have an excuse to hang around Tavia. His living arrangements weren’t near as clever though. Currently, he was just living in Tavia’s closet, spending the bulk of his time as a sword hidden behind a particularly heavy coat.

“Aren’t you in a hurry?” Tavia asked, looking at Audri.

Audri frowned, confusion crossing her face. Her expression turned serious, and she took a step towards Tavia.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

Tavia stared back, caught off guard by the sudden question, but from the way Evos was staring at Tavia with a worried expression, it would seem it wasn’t just Audri’s eerie intuition. She’d hoped she was doing a good job hiding it, but the encounter with Ikarios and the others still had her shook. Though it hadn’t been all that long since she’d last met Ikarios, she’d really hoped that was all behind her. No, it was behind her. This was just a freak accident, a chance meeting that wouldn’t happen again.

“I just…” Tavia looked at Evos, “met someone I know earlier. It left me with a lot to think about.”
Audri bit her lip as she stared at Tavia, but after a moment, she shook her head, her blonde braid shifting with the movement.

“Right, well then I’ll see you later,” she said, her expression changing to a smile.

She raised a hand in a lazy wave, and then turned towards the door. Tavia watched her go, waiting for the door to shut behind Audri before she turned to Evos.

“You’re going to have to figure out how to talk to people without me around,” Tavia muttered with a sigh.

“Not sure why I have to talk to anyone other than you,” Evos replied as he stood up from the couch. “More importantly, what did you mean?”

Tavia moved further into the living area and set her book bag down on the table. Audri’s mess was half cleaned up, but Tavia’s books had clearly been moved about. It must have been Evos reading again, she’d found him reading through them for no apparent reason on more than a few occasions.

She turned back to Evos. He was waiting for her with concern in his silver eyes, and Tavia shook her head.

“Nothing… happened,” she said. “But I did run into some Demis on the way back from the lab.”

“Demis on campus?” Evos grimaced. “I mean, I suppose with the number of people here on campus, it would be stranger if there weren’t one or two.”

“They weren’t students,” Tavia said. “One of them was one I’ve never met before, a man named Elijah, and the other one was—“ she muttered Ikarios’s name under her breath, hoping Evos wouldn’t hear it and she could just gloss over the subject.

Unfortunately for her, Evos was easily able to hear what she’d said, apparent from the sharp breath he took in and then frustrated grimace that appeared on his face.

“Ikarios was here?” he asked in a low voice. “On the campus? Why?”

“He and the other one were here to talk to Alvis’s mother,” she said. “And before you ask, I don’t really know why. Elijah said something about freeing him and they both called her the ‘hinder’ or something like that.”

The whole conversation had been strange, and even though Tavia had been left with a mountain of questions, that hadn’t been the time or place to ask. She held a hand up to her chest, feeling as her heartbeat raced at the memory of Ikarios’s threat. If Elijah hadn’t stopped him, would he have killed her then and there?

“I knew I shouldn’t have left you alone,” Evos said. “I should have—“

“It’s not like you could have known this would happen,” Tavia replied. “I was just unlucky. In the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s not like either of us could have predicted this happening.”

“I don’t recognize that name,” Evos muttered. He seemed overly concerned that he didn’t know who Elijah was, but as he stood there, muttering to himself, Tavia shook her head.

“Why would you? You were sleeping for almost two hundred years before I woke you up, and it isn’t like you could possibly know every Demi, right?”

After the Ageless Sword’s previous wielder died two hundred years ago, Evos had been essentially sleeping, laid to rest in the tomb of the Grand Hero. That was partly why he’d been reading everything he could get his hands on, trying his best to learn about the things he’d missed.

“I just think we should be careful,” Evos said. “You should practice your Jumps some more. You need to master them.”

“You don’t really think I’m going to run into them again, do you?” she asked.

“Maybe not, but it’s better to be prepared for the worst.”

What had him so worried? According to the man Tavia had gotten the Ageless Sword from, there was about one Demi for every five thousand humans. They were exceedingly rare, but still more common than null-auras. Tavia wasn’t likely to run into anyone like herself at the school, but considering there were nearly thirty thousand students on the campus— as Evos had said, it shouldn’t be impossible for there to be Demis taking classes here too.

Ikarios was a problem, and there were sure to be other Demis out there Tavia needed to worry about, but that didn’t mean she should start jumping at shadows.

“Tavia,” Evos grimaced as he stared at her.

“I’ll keep practicing like normal,” she assured him, “but I can’t just toss aside my other work to spend more time in that basement.”

Evos sighed, and the nod he gave was reluctant at best. Tavia frowned back at him.

It was going to be fine. She didn’t have any reason to get involved with Ikarios or his plans ever again. Everything was going to be just fine.

A note from GracelessLiar

These poor, socially awkward main characters. Wonder if they're gonna get any better at the whole "people" thing.

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