Authors: Lola Lebellier
And then it all stopped.
The room instantly reverted back to normal, so quickly Corin could’ve missed it had he merely blinked. Aless was still crouched on the podium, clutching his staff to his chest, breathing deeply. The water was gone from around the room, no longer raining over him, and the only way he could even tell it had been there was his damp, heavy hair hanging over his eyes.
Aless stood up, smiling and wandering over to the altar and placing the staff back in its original place. He turned around, once again facing Corin. “It’s done,” he said. “Did you enjoy it?”
Corin rushed forward, his eyes jumping between the podium and Aless. He couldn’t believe what he had just witnessed—it had been incredible! He felt a vacancy in his chest, momentarily. He craved that attachment to one of the spirits—the whole ceremony seemed overwhelming.
Corin then realized Aless was still staring at him and expected an answer. “It was more intense than anything I have ever witnessed,” he answered.
“It’s a powerful feeling,” he confessed, leaning against the altar to catch his breath. “The others are more or less the same, just with different effects during. I almost died during Piers’s—lava was everywhere.”
“How often do you do this?” Corin asked.
“About once a week,” Aless answered, looking back toward the podium. “As I said, it’s a very strong feeling. Doing it more often would kill me, I think.”
“You’re really connected to Serac, aren’t you?” he asked, lightly touching Aless’s staff.
“Not any more or less than the other guardians to their spirits,” he answered, looking to the ceiling.
“Master Selena rarely goes to Zephyr’s temple—only about once every winter, if that.”
Aless shrugged. “That’s unusual. Selena’s a rare case,” he replied, suddenly placing a hand on Corin’s forehead. “Are you feeling all right? Even watching one of the ceremonies can overwhelm people, particularly their first time.”
“I think I’m fine,” Corin replied. “Wet, but otherwise okay.”
Aless smiled. “Guess you really are more powerful than we thought. People with less mana have been known to go into week-long sleeps.”
Corin’s eyes widened. “Really?”
“Really. I have a lot of mana and I was throwing up for a few days,” Aless confessed, smiling.
Corin stared at his hands, wondering if he should be feeling some sort of side effect from the ceremony. He tried to determine if he even had a slight headache from it. Instead he felt more invigorated than before, as if he could take on any force that was thrown at him.
“I guess you’re right,” Corin replied, looking at Aless, “but I feel fine—better than fine. Like I’ve had a long sleep or eaten a nice meal.”
“Really, now?” Aless asked. “That is the first time I’ve heard of that effect. I suppose there’s a first for everything, though. Look, I don’t want to overwhelm you, but I have an offer for you.”
Corin looked up with curious eyes. “What do you ask of me?”
“Well,” Aless began, trying to word this as tactfully as possible, “I think we can both agree on one thing—wind is not where your talent lies. And from what you’ve said, neither do the other elements. However, there was no Water Guardian to train you, was there?”
“Master Selena said she didn’t sense any spirit of Serac within me.”
Aless snorted. “Now isn’t
an interesting statement from her. You’ll never know if you don’t try, Corin. If you would be willing, I’d be interested in taking you on as my apprentice,” he offered, giving a smile.
Corin flushed a bright red. “I….” On one hand, he would love to discover where his talents lay, as it clearly was not with any of the other elements, but he felt guilty. Master Selena had worked with him for years, never once losing her temper at his slow grasp of the various spells. “I couldn’t do that to Master Selena. I’m sorry, Aless,” he replied, looking to the ground.
Aless frowned at this. He could admit he had been at least partially suspecting this would be the response. “At least offer me this,” he began, “I could train you in the early mornings, before breakfast.”
“Master Selena normally trains me—”
“Then tell Selena you need the time for your studies. It’s not that hard,” Aless countered. “Don’t you want to try out all the options? I want you to succeed, Corin, I really do.”
Corin sighed. “I don’t understand why you guardians are so interested in me.”
“You must stop putting yourself down,” Aless scolded. “Show me something,” he commanded, reaching over and unbuttoning Corin’s shirt, exposing the marking on his chest and splaying his palm on it. “Release whatever mana you can.”
Corin clenched his eyes shut, trying desperately to summon whatever mana he could to the surface. Aless admired his expression momentarily; the way his brow furrowed when he was focused was adorable in the guardian’s opinion.
Then Aless suddenly felt a burst of power rush through him, and he found himself clinging to the altar to hold himself upright.
He couldn’t help himself, releasing a loud moan and clenching his fist tightly around the staff, causing his knuckles to turn white. He had simply
felt this before—not during his prayers, not from the other guardians, and never from an apprentice. There was warmth immediately filling him, causing a buildup in his lower abdomen. White dots began to flood his vision, forcing him to release another moan.
No other force had ever caused this for him—not water, which tended to cause a refreshed feeling in the other party, not fire, which would cause a strong tingle to go through the receiver. Air caused the receiver to become lightheaded—similar to the effects of drugs—chaos gave confidence, and earth would calm the receiver.
reaction didn’t fit any of the above categories. He moaned again, feeling his pants tighten further. He generally prided himself on having some stamina, but it felt as though an aphrodisiac had been spilt in his blood. He couldn’t pry his hand away from Corin, he found, no matter how hard he tried, collapsing onto his knees and biting his lip, causing blood to begin drizzling down his chin.
He finally let out a loud, low groan, feeling the energy pushing him over the edge and leaving a sticky mess in his waterlogged pants.
Suddenly the energy flow stopped, and Aless tugged his hand away, splaying it out in front of him, propping himself onto his hands and knees. He took some deep, gasping breaths, finally managing to look back up at Corin.
Corin stood there, worried expression on his face. “A-are you okay?” he asked, crouching down and putting a hand on Aless’s back.
“Y-yeah,” Aless replied, taking another large, gasping breath. “Has that ever happened before?”
“I’m so sorry!” he exclaimed. “No one’s ever had me do that to them… I should’ve told you….”
“It’s fine,” he replied, trying to stand up, grimacing at the mess in the front of his pants, silently hoping Corin hadn’t noticed what happened when he had been flaring his mana. “There was probably a damn good reason for that. I should have listened to them.”
Corin flushed, offering his hand to Aless and pulling him up. “You’re bleeding…. Oh, by Zephyr I made a guardian
…. One I wasn’t even supposed to
to…. Master Selena is going to kill me—”
“Hey,” Aless interrupted, placing a hand on Corin’s shoulder, “it wasn’t your fault, okay? I made you do it. It was practically an order.”
Aless rolled his eyes. “No, you didn’t.”
Corin stared at the ground. “I’m so sorry,” he muttered. “I… I swear on Zephyr I didn’t know that would happen—”
“Look, if it’s really making you feel that bad,” Aless began, “and if you want to make it up to me, train with me in the early mornings. It’ll just be for a month, I assure you, and then you can decide if you want to become my student.”
It was the least he could do, after all, especially after he had already made Aless bleed. He still couldn’t believe he’d done that! It was one thing to injure someone while training, sparring, or even learning a new spell—Corin had been on both sides of that several times before—but he had just injured a guardian who wasn’t even training him. According to the clan’s rules, he should be on lockdown for a
from that. And if Master Selena discovered it was with
of all people….
“Yes! Of course I will, but… what should I tell Master Selena?” Corin asked. “And where could we do this…? If Master Selena sees us, she’ll be furious.”
“Tell her you want to assist with whatever research project is going on here. Piers said there was one—though Alvah if I know what they ever are looking into…. Also, if you want to make sure she agrees, ask her in front of Piers. He’ll work in your favor, I’m sure.”
“And where should I meet you—” he asked before being interrupted by a loud bell, drowning out all of his words. “Oh Zephyr…. We’ve been gone that long? I need to get to the dining hall! If Master Selena doesn’t see me not there she’ll—”
Aless patted him on the shoulder. “It’s fine. Meet me in front of here tomorrow as soon as you rise. I’ve never been one for late mornings.”
“S-should we leave at different times so we don’t arrive at dinner at the same time?” Corin asked.
“Good thought, but no, it’s not necessary. I should probably get dressed before I attend. Imagine everyone’s faces if one of the guardians came in like this,” he joked, gesturing to his soaked, barely there pants.
“I-I’ll see you tomorrow then?” he asked.
“Tomorrow morning. I’ll make sure Selena doesn’t catch you,” Aless replied, watching as Corin ran out of the Water Temple at a shockingly fast speed.
to burn another guardian’s clothes off!”
“Only one as pretty as you.”
“Master Alvah, this shouldn’t be allowed! Are you listening to him?”
“I was only
Aless opened the door to the guardian’s private dining room, staring at Selena and Piers’s loud argument.
Kateline looked up from her meal with a bored expression on her face. “You’re late,” she deadpanned.
Selena finally sat down, pouting and ignoring the food placed in front of her. Piers sat down across from her, flashing a cheeky grin and sending a small orb of fire in her direction, only to have her dissolve it immediately, glaring.
Cyril cleared his throat at the head of the table. “Well, Selena, Piers,” he began, “I’m inclined to say Piers is not deserving of punishment at this time. I’ll agree his actions were inappropriate, to say the least, but his intent was not to harm you in any fashion. You won’t do it again, Piers?”
“Swear on Corona, Master Alvah,” he replied, placing his hand, and clearly crossed fingers, on the table.
Selena stood up, slamming a palm down. “This is
wrong, Cyril! He doesn’t mean a word he says!”
Cyril sighed, rubbing his temples. “I’m closing the issue for now, Selena. We have other things to concern ourselves with, as I’m sure you know.”
“If I were the head of the clan,” she growled, “I would
let this sort of thing go unpunished.”
Aless leaned back in his chair, rolling his eyes. After knowing Selena for under a day, he was already sick of her. “So trade Zephyr back to Cyril and take Alvah into your body,” he answered. “It seems like an obvious solution to me.”
The entire table stared at him, as if he had just tried to drown the entire room. Even Piers looked offended by his words, muttering a few curses under his breath.
Selena paled, her eyes flashing pure white momentarily. “Wow, thank you
much!” she shouted, gusts of wind beginning to flutter through the room. “Because we would have never thought of it, unless, oh wait, we did! We can’t, and I think we all know whose fault that is! I’m going off to train, don’t wait for me,” she muttered, using wind to throw open the door and storming through, not even bothering to call for her pupil.
Kateline sighed, laying her fork down and standing up. “I’ll go after her,” she offered, giving Aless a tired look. “As a note, please try not to anger the dangerous, unstable little girl who will likely hold a higher rank than you in the future. I’ll go stop her from destroying all the wildlife in the area,” Kateline finished, following Selena out of the dining area and muttering curses under her breath.
Piers buried his face in his palms, shaking his head. “I can’t believe you said that. Wow… I’ve never seen her that upset before. Why did you saythat, Aless? That was just… wow.”
Aless flushed. “She was upset to begin with! Surely it can’t be entirely my fault.”
“She wasn’t upset! I’d never go
far, I know her limits,” Piers rebutted, turning to Cyril for reassurance.
“Why was she so offended, then? It’s not as if I insulted her or anything.”
Cyril coughed. “It’s a sensitive topic,”
“Why?” Aless asked, looking between the two other men.