Authors: Lola Lebellier
“Master Corona, do you have a good reason for coming here?” she asked, silencing further questions.
“Cut the crap, Lena,” he replied, smiling and ruffling her hair. “You’re just with us; it’s not like anyone follows the stupid formal titles besides you.”
“Do you have to do that every day?” she snapped, glaring at Piers and Aless.
“Of course,” he answered. “You’re just too fun to annoy.”
She rolled her eyes. “If that’s
you came here for, I need to train.”
“Fine, you caught us. I brought our dear Master Seracto meet the talented Corin,” Piers stated, pointing at Aless.
Corin turned around from his post, having heard his name. Piers often came to bother Master Selena during their training, Corin noted, but he hadn’t expected him to bring Master Serac along. He could hardly believe that after so long the infamous Water Guardian had returned to them! He remembered hearing the whispers from the scribes in the library, but seeing the man in the flesh was an overwhelming experience. He had been myth for so long, Corin almost thought he didn’t exist.
Selena crossed her arms over her chest. “You shouldn’t. He doesn’t need a distraction—I’m just about to teach him a new spell…. By Alvah, Corin! Go back to training—do you want to run laps?”
Piers rolled his eyes at her antics, yawning. “Corin, a
order from Master Corona, turn around and greet the Guardian of Serac immediately.”
Corin turned around, and his eyes immediately widened as he glanced between Master Selena and Master Piers. He was disobeying a guardian no matter what he did, and while he was curious about the Guardian of Serac, he really didn’t want to have to run laps around the monastery.
“Poor kid looks like he might explode, Lena. You should probably make your decision quickly.”
Corin bit his lip, bowing his head and turning between his exercise and the guardians. Selena finally sighed. “Fine. Come say hello to Master Serac, Corin.”
Corin immediately stepped forward, staring directly at the Guardian of Serac. He had been close to the back of the room while Master Serac had been introduced earlier, and even then he could see the man was beautiful. He stood taller than Corin himself, but shorter than Master Corona, whom Corin was always uncomfortable around for that exact reason. Bright-blue marks stood out on tanned skin, giving the man an interesting look, complemented by his bright-blue eyes.
Corin bowed immediately, crouching down and lowering his head. “It is an honor to be in your presence, Master.”
“Please rise, apprentice,” Aless commanded, smooth voice making Corin’s stomach fill with butterflies. The fact that this guardian, on his first day back, had voluntarily sought him out was extraordinary and flattering. He couldn’t begin to hide the blush covering his face.
Corin stood up, doing his best to look Aless in the eyes. He bowed again. “Uh… my name is Corin, Master Serac. I am a student of Zephyr.”
“You need not concern yourself with formalities. Aless is fine, apprentice. May I call you Corin?” he asked, offering his hand.
Corin reached forward, enthusiastically shaking Aless’s hand. “Thank you for this honor, Master Aless.”
“Pleasure’s all mine, I assure you of this,” Aless replied, drawing his hand to his side and giving Corin a large smile.
Corin felt his heart drop low in his chest. Master Aless was being so polite, especially compared to the casual nature the other guardians now greeted him with. And those eyes—Corin couldn’t describe it, but he felt as though they were drawing him in, and suddenly he couldn’t look away. His throat dried, and he tried desperately to form words.
Selena glared at Aless. “Can you stop trying to hypnotize my student?” she snapped, pulling Corin back and placing herself between them.
“I apologize, Master Zephyr,” he answered. “It’s been a while since I had a chance to communicate with people.”
we really need to go back to training,” Selena replied, gesturing for Corin to return to his exercises.
“Oh come on, Lena. He just wants to get to know the kid. That mana would stand out in any room,” Piers pleaded. Aless suddenly felt very grateful for his friend’s ability to cope with Selena’s attitude.
“Even if that is true, Piers, I still need to continue
training. If he really wants to meet Corin he can do it on his time, not mine,” Selena stated.
Piers grabbed her hand, kissing the back of it and giving her a wink. “As you wish, my lady. You win,” he teased, grabbing Aless’s shoulder and pulling him away. “We’ll leave you and your dear apprentice to your training. We’re gonna be sparring pretty soon, though. You and Corin should take a break to watch. I promise it’ll be worth it.”
Selena turned around. “I don’t think it would help him to watch two brutes hit each other, but I’ll consider it.”
Piers tugged Aless to a nearby training circle. Selena watched out of the corner of her eye, making sure they were out of earshot before immediately approaching Corin.
“I want you to stay away from Aless,” she snapped, louder than she had intended to, causing Corin to jump in surprise. He knocked the bottle to the side with a more powerful gust than earlier.
“W-what?” Corin asked, turning to face his teacher.
Selena took a deep breath. “I’m sorry for yelling,” she began. “I won’t punish you for today—Piers forced you. But it’s an order. Do not talk to Serac’s guardian at all. If he tries to talk to you, say I told you not to, if it will help.”
Corin felt a wave of disappointment flood through him, his expression immediately falling. Serac’s guardian—rather, Aless—had been so polite. He couldn’t understand Selena’s command. He knew that Aless had been banished for quite a long period, but he seemed perfectly normal now.
“If I may ask, Master,” Corin began, keeping his tone low, “and I’ll obey either way, don’t misunderstand, but why must I avoid Master Aless?”
“Firstly, you will call him Master Serac, not Aless,” Selena ordered, “and it was before you came here, but Master Serac’s exile should have been longer—he threw the entire clan into chaos, believe me. You heard what Cyril said, didn’t you? The details aren’t important, but Aless is dangerous. Should I catch you talking with him, I’ll make you run laps until your feet bleed.”
Corin looked at the ground. He couldn’t believe Selena’s words—how could she speak that way of Master Aless? He seemed perfectly nice, perfectly calm. He bit his lip. “I understand, Master. I apologize for my questions.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Selena replied. “Now, in order to do a successful extraction….” She droned on. Corin looked over her shoulder, watching Aless and Piers.
?” Piers asked, stripping out of his shirt and stretching his arms over his head, attempting to warm up for their upcoming spar.
Aless leaned against one of the pews. “Not even close. Is there a reason Selena refuses to allow me more than a few moments?”
Piers turned to him. “You were trying to hypnotize him. And yeah, I could see it too—don’t try to lie your way out of it. You didn’t reallyexpect her to allow that, did you?” he asked, unlacing his boots and throwing them lazily to the side.
“I don’t know,” Aless replied, removing his footwear. “I expected to receive the benefit of the doubt from her, you know? I really haven’t done anything wrong. I was more polite than she deserved, at the very least.”
“Hey now, let’s not be rude about it,” Piers scolded.
Aless snorted. “Selena gets a free pass and I don’t?” he asked, folding his coat and placing it to the side and unbuttoning his shirt. “Let me guess, if I grow a pair of breasts you’ll begin running to my defense?”
“Look, you’re my oldest friend, Aless, but you have been gone for ten years,” he explained. “Kateline and Selena are also my friends. We’ve been working with each other for a very long time—it’d be impossible not to care for her a little bit.”
“You know me well enough to know I’m not trying to hurt her,” Aless replied, folding his shirt and placing it on top of his long brown overcoat. “I’ve served my time, damn it! She could at least give me a chance.”
“It’s not as if I don’t agree with you,
,” Piers explained, tightening his restraints, the golden rings standing out brightly on his skin, “but Selena’s got a reason to act the way she does.”
“And if you’d tell me, I’d do my best to correct it,” Aless countered.
“And if I was
to tell you, I would,” Piers retorted, “but trust me on this, Aless, it really is not anything you’ll have the ability to fix.”
Aless looked at the ground. “That student of Selena’s is intriguing, I must say….”
“You’ve got that right,” Piers agreed.
“When I was closer to him I got a better look at his mana. There’s something so incredibly unusual about it; could you feel it too?” he asked. “I couldn’t determine which element would suit him best…. Have I really been so out of touch?”
“Ah, so you felt it too, then.” Piers replied. “Something’s off about it, isn’t it?”
Aless replied, “I know this may sound strange to you, but I was intoxicated by it. I wasn’t intending to hypnotize him—I wasn’t. I’m not going to lie to you about that. It just happened, it was the strangest feeling.”
“Same thing happened to all of us, Aless. Myself included,” he admitted.
“And here I thought you didn’t fancy men.”
“There’s something about that kid that makes
want him,” Piers replied. “Really, Selena’s the only one who’s been able to keep herself under control, as terrible as that is. I mean, as I said before, Corin has no elemental aptitude for fire, earth, air, or chaos as far as we can tell, but we all thought it was safer to have a guardian watch him than not.”
“I could understand that,” Aless replied, looking back toward Corin and Selena for a second. “Has anyone tried him with water?”
“No one strong enough to train someone with that amount of sheer mana,” he answered. “Why? Did you sense he’d have a knack for it? If you did, you really should tell us—we’ve been searching for his element since he first arrived.”
“No, I couldn’t sense what element he belonged to,” Aless confessed, “but it seems like an obvious choice—no one with that much raw mana would be without an element.”
“So ask him to train with you,” Piers suggested, walking over to one side of their training ring. “Ready to spar?”
“Physical or elemental?” Aless asked, carefully examining his bonds, ensuring the silver rings on his thighs and neck weren’t close to falling off.
“Elemental is so much more fun,” Piers replied.
“I’m set, in that case. You prepared to be beaten once again?”
“Not in your lifetime!” Piers declared, summoning a fire barrier around himself, his eyes flashing bloodred.
Aless lunged forward, covering his arm with an icy shield, tearing through Piers’s fire and slamming into his side. Piers hissed, reforming the blockade with vigor and burning Aless’s arm.
Aless allowed his spirit to take partial control, flashing his eyes much like Piers had during the start of their spar. A few nearby students approached their circle, attempting to get a glimpse of their fight.
Piers threw a punch, but Aless was too fast, managing to grab his hand and release a thick cloud of steam toward the crowd. Piers leapt back, allowing larger fireballs to be conjured in his hands. He gave a small smile.
Aless slid across the ground, attempting to use his feet to knock Piers over. However Piers managed to predict his kick, sidestepping the ornate move and gripping Aless’s arm, twisting it back at a painful angle. Aless let out a cry, strengthening his water skin and sending more steam into the sky.
Piers dropped Aless’s arm and leapt.
was definitely what he had missed about fighting with Aless. The two were largely evenly matched—Aless having more skills in regards to spells and Piers having more raw, physical power. It made for interesting spars, and seeing the steam released by their clashing elements made it very satisfying.
Aless looked out toward the crowd, raising an eyebrow when he saw Corin staring, even from the next training ring over. He let his mind wander back to Corin, sidestepping one of Piers’s kicks and throwing a wave of water to counter.
How could such a young man even be present on their grounds, he wondered, and how did Corin manage not to have a guiding spirit? His essence had been intoxicating, Aless could sense that much, but he had never felt a spirit quite like that, even before his banishment.
Piers suddenly threw a punch, hitting straight against Aless’s stomach and leaving a large, blackened burn. “Focus!” he barked, raising his arms to counter Aless’s retaliation.
Aless tried to get his mind back into the spar but found his concentration waning. Corin looked unlike any others he had ever seen. Piers’s assessment of his genealogy had been accurate, as far as Aless could tell. The young man was gorgeous, having almond eyes, pointed ears from the Far Eastern islands, and a ruddy skin tone from Central. It was unique, and not a look very common—