Chapter 23 – Reunion
After walking for about ten minutes, we had finally arrived. The academy was at least as big as a small city, and with the students going from one class to another, it was easy to miss someone. However, Lukas seemed to know perfectly Aoban’s schedule as he knew exactly where to find him at this moment.
By the time we arrived, classes were already over. The corridors were now full of students and I could feel curious gazes directed on us.
“Wait here,” Lukas said. “I’m going to check, and then I’ll ask him to come out.”
“Check what?” I asked, furrowing my forehead.
“If everything is fine. Sometimes, there can be some troubles.”
“Troubles? What kind of troubles?”
Lukas didn’t get to answer my question as we were interrupted by a loud clattering noise. The door we were facing suddenly opened and slammed violently against the wall, as a figure appeared. It was a young boy, barely older than me.
Seeing how he so brutally opened the door, he was desperate to get out of the room. However, he had not expected Lukas to be on his way. He avoided him just in time, but he hadn’t seen that I was right behind him as he bumped into me instead. Instinctively, I tried to reduce the impact of the fall by landing on my hands, but I soon regretted my decision. The unknown boy fell on me, crushing my fragile bones with all his weight. For a spilt of a second, I could have sworn that I heard my elbows cracking.
Being pampered my whole life didn’t do me any good. I have zero tolerance to pain. On the impact, I forgot to open my mouth and a cry of pain got stuck in my throat. It is during moments like these that I suddenly remember that being almost completely immune to magic is useless when I get hurt from stupid accidents like this. However, the pain didn’t last long as my elbows healed almost immediately.
“This kind of troubles,” Lukas said with a sardonic smile.
I looked up at the boy who bumped into me. It was a demi-human. Two horns sprouted out of his forehead and instead of having human ears, he had long flurry ears, similar to the ones of a rabbit, but slightly shorter.
Hmm… Is that a goat? A goat-boy? Well, that’s a first.
As he tried to get up, the demi-human boy sent me a deadly glare, clearly blaming me for what happened. Obviously, I wasn’t the one in the wrong but he didn’t seem willing to apologize, even though he was the one who didn’t watch where he was going.
His nose was bleeding. I think it was already like this since he didn’t bump into me hard enough to break his nose, but even if he did… I’m not at fault, right? I mean, he dislocated my elbows. I’m much more to be pitied than him. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone had the time to notice this.
“Don’t let him go! Catch him!”
As he heard a loud voice coming out from the room he just exited –or should I say escaped?- the demi-human boy started to panic, forgetting about me. He quickly got up on his feet and tried to run away. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t fast enough as two older boys caught him before he had a chance to do so.
“Got you! Where did you think you were going?” One of them asked as a mischievous smirk appeared on his face.
The two boys each firmly grabbed the demi-human boy’s arms, making sure he wouldn’t escape.
This situation… Two older students surrounding a junior and keeping him against his will… No matter how I see it, it’s bullying, isn’t it? Thinking about it, it does make sense. In such a huge school where nobles, commoners, humans and demi-humans come into regular contact with each others, I guess bullying was to be expected. No wonder this poor boy was so desperate to run away. But where are the teachers?
“Guys, guys!” Lukas called out, raising his hands in front of his chest in a gesture indicating to stop. “Not now, we have a guest.”
He didn’t look surprised to witness such a sight. I felt disappointment slowly growing within me as I started to consider the possibility that he might be acquainted with the two bullies. It was unexpected. As far as I can tell, Lukas didn’t seem like such a person. However, it didn’t look like a racial issue, considering the fact that he didn’t mind me being a half.
The two bullies definitely heard Lukas but ignored him, focusing on keeping the demi-human boy immobile.
Seeing this, I couldn’t help but pity him a little. I did resent him for hurting me, but it’s not like he did it on purpose. I definitely didn’t want to get involved with this and risk becoming a target instead of the demi-human boy, especially since it's not my problem. However, I was raised with morals.
Surveying my surrounding, I noticed that no one was willing to interfere. Most students chose to ignore the scene, resuming whatever they were doing, while others simply watched, with a small hint of a smile on their face. Damn snobs…
Unable to watch the poor boy struggling any longer, I decided to step in. However, before I could do anything, I felt Lukas’ hand on my shoulder, stopping me. As I looked at him, he simply smiled at me without saying anything.
“Alright, hold him tight!” A voice suddenly ordered, coming out from the same room the two boys just left.
A third boy appeared, seemingly siding with the bullies as he rushed to their side to grab the demi-human boy by his collar. He raised his fist, ready to hit him, while his friends made sure that their victim would not be able to dodge.
I know I should have done something, but my brain ceased working as I immediately recognize the newcomer.
His punch stopped halfway as he heard my voice and looked at me. When his gaze met mine, he completely froze, his eyes wide open.
Ah… It’s him. It’s definitely Aoban. What the hell is he doing? I tried to interpret the situation the best as I can, but none of the conclusions I came up with were good. I was in denial. He couldn’t be my brother. Aoban would never gang up with bullies against a single boy, weaker than him. I tried to convince myself that it was just a misunderstanding.
Unsure of what was going on, the demi-human boy took advantage of the confusion to free himself from the loosened grasp of his captors and wiggled his way out, pushing the bullies.
“Shit, he’s getting away!”
As one of the boy was about to run after him, he was stopped by the other.
“Give it up. It’s a demi-human. You won’t match his speed,” he said, shaking his head.
The boy clicked his tongue as he watched his victim slowly disappear from afar, before venturing his frustration on my brother.
“What the hell, Aoban?!”
Brother did not answer but somehow managed to pull himself together.
“You!” He exclaimed, pointing at me. “What the hell are you doing here?! Don’t tell me you ran away from home?”
His sudden fuss attracted attention as his friends exchanged an inquiring glare and a few students started to gather around us, curious to see what was going on.
Without giving me a chance to respond, Aoban immediately shifted his attention to Lukas as he noticed him.
“’Sup?” Lukas simply answered with a nonchalant smile.
“What are you two doing together?! And how in the world did she end up here?!”
Lukas shrugged. “Don’t know. I found her wandering here. She said Aunt Nora kicked her out.”
“Haha, just kidding.”
Aoban did not find this really amusing. I could tell that he was still confused and was not in the mood to joke around. He really had no idea I was coming, huh?
“Hey, Aoban, what’s going on?” An unknown boy approached, trying to calm him down. When his eyes fell upon me, he blinked several times. “A chosen one? I’ve never seen her before. You know her?”
A smirk slowly stretched on the face of one of his friends as he studied me.
“Is it her? Your secret lover, that is.” He asked with a teasing tone.
“Lover my ass, she’s my sister!” Aoban immediately corrected him, clearly annoyed by this last remark.
At his revelation, the boy widened his eyes. He looked at brother, his eyes full of suspicion, before turning his attention on me, and then to brother again. “Seriously? But… She’s also a chosen one.”
As curious students kept gathering around us, I felt the need to clear this awkward misunderstanding. I didn’t want people to mistake me for my own brother’s lover. That would be just… wrong.
“Uhm… Hello. My name is Lynett Maedis Whiteheart, I’m Aoban’s sister. Nice to meet you all,” I introduced myself.
For a few moments, everyone became completely silent. It was so sudden that I even thought that I had become deaf for a second. However, this hypothesis was soon refuted as a notification sound rang in my ears.
Wh… WHAT?! WHY?! What have I done?! How in the world introducing myself made me infamous?! I demand an explanation!
Hearing a small chuckle, I shifted my gaze on Lukas. His lips were twitching. He was definitely fighting a smile. He had this “I told you so” expression on his face. Thinking about it, he did tell me to avoid mention my family name. Could it be because of that? Just because of one name? This damn household… What in the world did they do to be so infamous?
“S-Seriously?!” A voice suddenly exclaimed, breaking the silence. It was the same boy who mistook me for Aoban’s girlfriend. “But… You’re a chosen one. She’s a chosen one. Then it means… You siblings were both blessed? Is that even possible?”
Aoban let out a loud sigh. “Why are you so surprised? I already told you about it.”
“But I thought you were lying!” He blurted out. “I was so sure that you were just bragging!”
Brother’s eyelids twitched, clearly upset to learn that his own friend took him for a liar. Taking a look at the others, they all adverted their eyes, exposing their inner thoughts. Obviously, they all shared the boy’s opinion. None of them seemed to have considered the possibility that brother was telling the truth.
“But Aoban, I thought you said your sister didn’t attend a school,” someone noted. “What is she doing here?”
Brother furrowed, as he turned his attention back on Lukas and me. “That’s what I want to know…” He muttered, loud enough for us to hear.
“Don’t look at me like that, you’re going to scare me,” Lukas said, half-joking. “She transferred here today, so I volunteered to show her around the school.”
I could hear some “Ooooh !” coming from amongst the crowd, but brother didn’t seem convinced.
“Transferred?” He repeated, raising an eyebrow. “How the hell are you aware of this and not me?”
Lukas shrugged. “Beats me.”
Aoban kept staring at Lukas, seemingly expecting more from him. Eventually, he turned his attention on me.
“Is it true?” He asked.
I nodded. Brother brought his hands to his head and started massaging his temples, clearly trying to get rid of the new headache assaulting his mind. I was a bit disheartened to see him so bothered by my surprise arrival. I knew I couldn’t expect him to treat me the same way he did at home, but I didn’t think he would be so upset by my presence. Maybe I was wrong, but this is the feeling I got.
“Well, I guess it’s fine,” he said. “But how did you get in? I thought the academy didn’t accept new students in the middle of the year.”
“Uncle Jack he… Uhm… Actually I’m not sure either. Bribes, I guess?”
Aoban squinted his eyes and tilted his head.
“I don’t think that’s the case. The school doesn’t give any special treatment, not even to royal families, so I don’t see why they would do one for us.” He commented. “Besides, uncle doesn’t spend money thoughtlessly. If you wanted to join, he would’ve waited for the next year to enroll you, instead of paying the full fees when there is just a couple of months left.”
Yep, that’s my brother. He sure is a thinking boy.
“It’s because I need to enter the tournament,” I explained.
As he heard this, Aoban’s mouth dropped open. He drew his head backwards, staring at me in disbelief. A few students, who had listened to our conversation, burst out laughing. However, brother gave each one of them a threatening glare and their laughs subsided as they looked away.
He grabbed my wrist and pulled me away from the crowd, far from the indiscreet eavesdroppers.
“Hey, where are you going?” One of his friends called out. “Leaving already? You need to introduce us!”
“Later,” Aoban replied. “I need to talk to my sister.”
“Oh, come on! You always talk about her, and now that she’s here, you won’t even let us talk to her?”
“Are you sure you’re not trying to keep her for yourself? You sis-con!”
This time, brother did not pay attention to the teasing remarks of his friends. He was much more focused on getting me away from the others. Only Lukas was allowed to follow us. Once we arrived to a remote corner, he let go of my wrist. His expression was sterner than ever before.
“Lyni, are you serious about that?” He asked.
“Y-You… Do you even know how dangerous it is? Do you not know how many people get hurt?” He inquired, outraged by my recklessness. “How could uncle allow something like that?”
Actually, Uncle Jack is the one who asked, so…
“Besides, you can’t even fight!” He added.
“I can,” I retorted. “I can use magic.”
Aoban furrowed his forehead, clearly not believing me.
“No you can’t.”
“Yes I can.”
“Uh… Not long ago. I learned it from a magician who was passing by. He saw potential in me and took me as his disciple,” I explained, trying to match my story with the one my uncle told the headmaster.
“Really? That’s impressive!” Lukas exclaimed.
Brother, however, was not as naïve. His eyes were telling me that he didn’t fully believe in me.
“Even if it’s true,” Aoban eventually said, “how can you expect competing against the best fighters in the world? A lot of people have been preparing for this tournament for years. Do you really think you stand a chance, even though you just learned magic?”
Ah, dear brother, if you knew… First of all, it’s not the world we’re talking about, but just one continent. Secondly, I’m pretty sure I can kick the ass of any kids out there, without even using divine magic.
“Why would you even do that? That’s not like you…” He added, as his expression changed. There was no longer any trace of anger on his face. Instead, he looked full of concern.
“I just felt like it,” I shrugged.
It would have been easier to explain the whole thing to Aoban, I’m sure he would have understood, but it seemed too risky to talk about it in front of Lukas. As clueless as he may be, he was still Uncle Jack’s son. There was still the possibility that he might be siding with his father, and I didn’t fully trust him yet. So for now, I decided not to talk about my deal with Uncle Jack.
However, I knew that Aoban would not believe in me –I didn’t expect him to. He probably could tell that I was lying. He was my brother, he knew me. He was perfectly aware that I didn’t like to fight, that I wasn’t competitive, and that I surely wasn’t looking for notoriety. Wanting to enter the tournament was completely out of character. Still, he didn’t push the matter any further. He probably understood that I couldn’t talk about it, not now at least.
“If you’re so worried, you’ll just have to protect me!” I suggested, half-joking. “You will be entering the competition too, aren’t you?”
Brother sighed, before his lips curled into a small smile. “You don’t have to tell me that, kiddo.” He said, as he started patting my head.
“You two sure get along,” Lukas noted, with a hint of jealousy in his voice. “Aoban, won’t you share your sister with me? I haven’t seen mine ever since she got married.”
“Absolutely not,” brother retorted.
The two of them burst out laughing, exchanging a knowing glance. I wasn’t sure why, but their laugh was infectious so I started laughing along with them. I had missed such a relaxed family atmosphere.
“Good to see you, sister,” Aoban eventually said with a broad smile, continuing messing up my hair with his hand. “I never thought you and I would be attending school together one day. You totally caught me off guard.”
Relieved to hear that he wasn’t displeased to see me, I became unable to hide my smile and let him spoil me a little. I don’t really like being treated like a child, but brother is an exception.
However, this short moment of happiness didn’t last as I suddenly recalled something: the demi-human boy. I looked up at Aoban.
“Uhm, brother…What was it all about?” I asked, a little apprehensive.
“What about?” He inquired, completely clueless.
“The demi-human boy…”
Aoban fell silent for a few seconds, not breaking the eye-contact. Then, he exchanged a quick glance with Lukas.
“Did you become a thug?”
Brother shifted his gaze back on me, as a sad smile drew on his face. “Of course not,” he said. “You misunderstood. You know I’ll never do anything that would make mom sad.”
Before I finished, Aoban bent his knees to be on the same eye-level than me and placed his hands on my shoulders.
“You don’t have to worry about it Lyni. I definitely won’t let anyone harm you.”
His eyes were so serious; I could tell there was something worrying him.
I felt relieved to see that he was still the same brother that I ever knew, but he still hasn’t answered my question. What was it all about, and who was that demi-human? Aoban would never harm anyone without a good reason.