Tavia and Evos arrived at the lab bright and early the next morning. Though Tavia was still sore and tired after the events from the night before, she was eager for answers.

As she entered the lab, for once with Evos in tow, she found Alvis waiting near the door way, leaning against a counter, as if he was waiting for her. More surprising than Alvis’s attentive appearance, was Jaiden sitting on a nearby stool. He waved at Tavia as she entered, his blue eyes flashing with some kind of amusement, but as he spotted Evos, he frowned and looked away.

Why was Jaiden here? Alvis wasn’t likely to involve someone unrelated to what had happened last night, and unlike Tavia, he’d been allowed to stay in the lab when Valorie visited. Maybe he knew something?

Tavia sighed and took a moment to step away from the door, venturing deeper into the lab. She pulled a stool free from one of the side counters, sliding it towards Evos, but he shook his head, preferring to lean against one of the counters like Alvis. With a shrug, Tavia sat, perching atop the stool as she waited for Alvis to broach the topic.

“Are you… doing all right?” Alvis asked. His gaze moved to where the injury on Tavia’s side was.

“It wasn’t very deep,” Tavia said. “I’m fine. It’ll heal up in a couple days.”

Jaiden stirred, his gave moving from Alvis to Tavia, and then back to Alvis, a frown spreading across his face.

“You didn’t mention she was injured,” he said.

Alvis gave his friend a guilty look, and then shook his head.

“She said it’s fine,” he said, gesturing at Tavia. “There’s no need to dwell on it.”

Jaiden’s gaze then moved to Evos, and then back to Tavia as if he wanted to say something. Tavia glanced at Evos, but to her surprise, Evos was watching Jaiden in turn, confusion in his silver eyes.

“You told him?” Tavia asked Alvis. “I’d rather the fewest possible people—”

“I already knew,” Jaiden said.

His sudden announcement stunned Tavia, and she froze, staring at him as she tried to process his words. He already knew what? About the Ageless Sword? About Alvis? As Tavia stared back at him, wordless, Jaiden gave a wry smile.

“I saw it, you know,” he said. “Back during the test to join the squadron.” He pointed at Evos. “I saw you using the Ageless Sword.”

Tavia’s body stiffened, and she stared at Jaiden, words failing her as she tried to think up an excuse, a reason he shouldn’t believe what he saw. All that filled her silence was a heavy sigh from Alvis.

“So that really was the Ageless Sword,” he said.

Tavia’s gaze moved to Alvis, but she was still too stunned to speak. Jaiden had known this entire time? Did that mean Alvis had? She scrutinized the Artificer, but as Alvis rubbed a hand against his face and shook his head, she realized this news was coming as a genuine shock to him.

“Why didn’t you say anything if you knew?” Evos asked.

He folded his arms across his chest and glared at Jaiden. Jaiden looked askance, and then back at Evos, biting his lip for a moment.

“Ah, well, I thought if I had said something, you might run away,” he said. “The Ageless Sword is very distinctive, honestly, you’re just lucky no one else saw it, or if they did, that they didn’t know enough about the sword to recognize it.” He then shook his head. “I haven’t told a single soul about what I saw, not even Alvis, as you can see.”

“Such an asshole. Why would you hide this from me?” Alvis snapped. “The Ageless Sword? Not only that, it can turn into a person?”

He looked at Evos, and then shook his head.

“I don’t think Tavia will let you study him,” Jaiden warned. “So keep that Artificer curiosity to yourself.”

Alvis scowled at Jaiden, and then turned the scowl on Tavia, but he didn’t say anything more. The cat was out of the bag now, so there was little reason for Tavia to hide what she knew from either of the people before her.

“Do you… know what Demis are?” she asked.

Tavia wasn’t entirely certain what kind of reaction she was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t the firm and certain nods she received from both men. Still, not having to explain the impossible Demis would save her time. Especially if she’d had to explain it to Alvis, there was likely no way she’d ever manage it to his satisfaction. It did raise the question of how, and why, both men knew what they were though.

“I’m not really certain what they were after either, but the people who attacked us last night are part of the Wardens,” she said. “I’ve dealt with them before, back over the summer.”

She glossed over her previous encounters with them— Alvis only needed the facts that applied to the current situation.

“What about the leader? The one we saw last night?”

“His name’s Elijah,” Tavia explained. “I first met him a couple days ago, he was actually waiting to talk to your mother once she was done with you, and after she left, Ikarios, the Warden’s leader showed up.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Alvis asked.

“Say what?” Tavia asked. “I didn’t know you knew what Demis were, and honestly your mother seemed to be handling things on her own. If you needed to know, wouldn’t she have told you herself?”

Alvis fell silent, folding his arms across his chest. He glared at the floor beside his feet, and then shook his head.

“Alvis explained most of what happened,” Jaiden said, “but what exactly were they after?”

“Elijah kept asking about his soul,” Tavia said, “but I’m not certain what he really meant.”

“Even if we understood, it’s not like I know anything about it,” Alvis said. “Just as I told him last night, it’s not like I know everything about my mother’s research.”

“Does she work for RIOAR?” Tavia asked.

The Royal Institute of Artifact Research was by far the largest organization for developing magic. As the name implied, they claimed to focus on developing knew magic and Althieology based on Artifacts, and there might have even been some truth to that. Not every Artificer or Althiest working for RIOAR was involved in the dark underside of their research, but if Alvis was aware of Demis, and his mother was clearly also aware, then she was likely a member of the team doing studies on Demis.

Alvis gave a nod.

“My mother is one of RIOAR’s Artificers working in their underground Demi Research he said,” he said.

A note from GracelessLiar

Apologies for the late updates. Something unexpected came up this weekend, and I don't normally set up updates in advance, because that would be smart. This will be a double update to make up for the missed Friday update.

That aside, Jaiden's been keeping secrets.

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