“The state of an aura?” Tavia asked as she looked down at the cube in her hands.
Alvis glared at her, as if her questions were wasting his time.
“Whether or not the aura has suffered damage from overuse, or if it’s grown stronger, or if there are any abnormalities,” he said. “That kind of thing.”
She ran a finger along the edge of the cube. A damaged aura? What kind of feeling was that?
Alvis reached a hand out, and Tavia handed the cube over. Once it was in his hand, he channeled, his aura, a dark violet glimmered around his hand before fading. A moment later, the cube was surrounded by a silvery light that seemed to distort the light of its surroundings into a glitter of iridescence.
“This is Jaiden’s aura,” he said. “As you can see, his aura is working perfectly.”
Tavia opened her mouth to explain that, no, she couldn’t see, but Alvis scowled, realizing she was about to ask for a further explanation. He shoved the cube back into her hands.
“Just leave it on one of the tables and get back to work,” he snapped before turning back to his own work.
She set the cube down on the center the table, the only one with any free space and resumed cleaning.
She had been at it a while, and the lab starting to look more like a lab and less than a trash collection, when a knock on the door made her glance at Alvis. He didn’t move, so Tavia set down the bag she’d been shoving random papers into and returned to the door, opening it after a second, more impatient knock reverberated through the room.
As soon as she twisted the door handle, the door was pulled free from her hand and a pair of girls burst into the lab like they owned the place. Tavia’s surprise at the intrusion was quickly overshadowed by her shock at the identity of the second girl to enter the room. As the first girl bounded past Tavia, heading straight for Alvis, the other stopped, staring at Tavia with just as much shock.
“Tavi?” Tavia’s younger sister stared at Tavia in utter disbelief.
Melora Renegarde was younger than Tavia by two years, but despite the small gap, their upbringings had been drastically different, and Tavia had never really thought of them as being close. Melora was slightly taller than Tavia, but otherwise, the pair were almost like mirror images. Melora kept her hair, just as dark and wavy as Tavia’s, short, barely to her chin, but her dark eyes and dusky skin were a match for Tavia’s. Like Tavia, her ears were slightly pointed, not nearly as long as full-blooded Terrisian like Ikarios, but still a clear indicator of their heritage.
“Mel, why are you here?” Tavia asked.
“Didn’t Izak tell you I was visiting? Why aren’t you answering your vox?” Mel sent a pouty look at Tavia, before glancing over at the other girl who had come in with her.
“He did, but how did you know I was here?”
“We didn’t,” Mel replied with a giggle. “We came here to see Khristi’s brother.”
Though Khristi was excited to see her brother, Alvis’s reaction to the frail looking girl was hardly as enthusiastic. After a moment of shock when she leapt on him from behind to give a hug, he began scolding her in a low voice. Tavia couldn’t make out the words, but despite Alvis’s serious demeanor, Khristi’s beaming smile didn’t fade. Khristi’s coloring and features were similar to her brother’s, but they were softer, and there was something about her movements despite their energy that seemed off.
“They seem really close,” Tavia said.
“It’s been a while since Khristi saw him last,” Mel said. “I think she’s just really excited.”
After a minute of his scolding, Alvis noticed Tavia watching him. He looked her direction and let out a frustrated groan. As he and Khristi made their way to the door, Mel took the chance to introduce everyone, from the looks of things it seemed Mel had already met Alvis at least once before.
“What are the chances our sisters would be friends?” Tavia asked, giving the annoyed Alvis an awkward smile.
He didn’t have a chance to answer before Khristi shoved her way past him to stand before Tavia.
“I’ve been looking forward to meeting you,” she said. “Melora talks about you all the time.”
“Ah, is that, so?” Tavia murmured back, giving her sister an awkward look.
Khristi was taller than both Tavia and Melora, but somehow she seemed to stare at Tavia with the over eager expression of a child staring at her idol. A shiver crawled down Tavia’s back, and she tried to return Khristi’s smile, but she couldn’t help but wonder what kinds of things Mel had told this girl to warrant that kind of an expression directed at Tavia.
“Khristi, you should have told me you were coming,” Alvis said. “Why didn’t you call me?”
Khristi scowled, the expression disconcertingly similar to the one her brother was wearing.
“Because you’d come up with some stupid excuse about why I couldn’t come,” Khristi replied. “That’s what you always do.”
“No, I tell you you can’t come, because I’m always busy,” Alvis said. “Unlike some people,” he sent a side-long glance at Tavia, “I actually have work to do.”
“You can’t always be busy,” Khristi replied. “You just don’t want me to come all the way out here.”
Alvis’s annoyed expression changed to one of seriousness, but he didn’t say anything, only stared at Khristi. After a moment, Khristi’s smile drooped at the edges, and she lost the burning enthusiasm she’d had. The sudden change was striking but no one said anything. Even Melora’s excitement had dimmed, but she was just watching in silence.
After a moment, Alvis shook his head.
“Tavia, you can leave for the day,” he said.
Well, she wasn’t going to wait around to be asked twice. She’d have to finish cleaning the lab another day, but when Alvis made a mess almost as soon as she cleaned it up, it wasn’t like she wasn’t going to have to do this all again in a few days anyway.
“Ah, wait,” Khristi said before Tavia could even nudge Melora towards the door. “We wanted to invite both of you to come with us the day after tomorrow.”
Tavia and Alvis shared a short look before they both returned their gazes to Khristi. For the most part, Khristi was looking at her brother, but she was sending small glances towards Tavia, as if she was too nervous to look at Tavia openly.
“Where to?” Alvis asked, already looking as if he was going to say no.
The day after tomorrow was a weekend. No classes, but Alvis would still be working here in the lab, and Tavia would be expected to come check on him.
“There’s an exhibit at the National History Museum that opens that same day, Melora got us the chance to visit a few hours before it officially opens.”
“A museum?” Tavia muttered.
“I’m not inter—” Alvis began, but as if she was expecting it, Khristi cut him off.
“It’s about engraved weapons through the history of Marquest,” she said.
As the two siblings began to bicker about whether or not to go, Tavia turned to her own sibling with a bitter taste in her mouth.
“A museum? Really?”
“You’d like it if you gave it a chance,” Mel said. She looked askance, and then sighed. “We have to get you a hobby.”
“As if I have time for something like that,” Tavia replied.
“There’s going to be all kinds of exhibits about weapons and engravings, it should be interesting even to you,” Mel said.
Though to some extent, that was interesting, Tavia didn’t care for all the history that went along with it. Mel seemed to realize her enticing hadn’t work, so she put on a frown and switched tactics.
“Please? I haven’t seen you in ages.”
Her dark eyes met Tavia’s, doing their best to look wide and innocent. Tavia met her desperate look for a moment before looking away with a sigh.
“I’ll think about it,” she muttered, trying to ignore the bright smile splitting her sister’s face.