Authors: Lola Lebellier
Corin blushed, clearing his throat. “So everyone wears those types of restraints?
“Sort of. We all have one around our necks,” Aless explained, pointing to his neck, “but the others’ locations depend on the demon. They also vary in material. Mine are silver, Piers’s are gold, Cyril’s are ebony, Selena’s would be silver, and I believe Kateline would also have a gold set.”
“I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I don’t think that’s right,” he stated. “I’ve never seen any rings on Master Selena’s neck. And Kateline has been wearing a black ring on one of her arms—I saw her in a corridor this morning.”
“Unusual on both fronts,” he said, pausing.
unusual, in fact. After his restraints had snapped off, he’d had a different set for a
short amount of time, but after that he had returned to his normal silver set.
Beyond that he had, from a few of the books he stole, heard that some guardians, ones with an immense amount of mana, had been able to use only their neck restraints to seal their demon, but none who would have managed without even that. Corin had to be making a mistake.
Corin looked at Aless curiously. “I’m sorry for bringing it up.”
“It’s fine. I’ll look into it at some point. We’ll talk later this week, I promise. I think we got a little carried away. Up for a spar?” he asked, offering his hand to Corin.
Corin smiled, taking Aless’s hand and standing up.
sighed, trying to stretch his muscles under the table at breakfast. For all that Aless had been kind in the early morning, when they had begun sparring he certainly had meant business. He left no room for mistakes, and was constantly calling out advice during, not allowing the young apprentice to take a single moment to recuperate. Corin was sure he was bruised in more places than he even knew existed.
“Did you pull a muscle?” Adelle, Corin’s friend, asked, glancing at him curiously. “I can try a basic healing spell, if you want. Master Zephyr isn’t normally this rough, is she?”
“I spent the morning researching,” he insisted. “I accidentally knocked my pile of books onto my back. It was a little bit painful.”
“You should’ve mentioned it to me! I would’ve come and studied with you! Master Zephyr should give you more time off. I miss being able to talk to you,” Adelle insisted.
“It’s fine,” Corin insisted, glancing between Adelle and the other students at the table. He rarely got a chance to interact with them, he realized. Adelle was a childhood friend of his, having also been raised in Central. It was the only reason he still knew her.
“No it isn’t,” Adelle replied, frowning. “I love my training as much as anyone else, but I never get to see you anymore.”
“We can study tonight for a bit,” Corin offered, giving Adelle a weak smile.
Adelle frowned. “I can’t tonight—there’s a spell I’m trying to master that works on night air. I just miss you. You’re barely even here during meal times anymore…. Master Zephyr is—”
“Corin!” Selena called out, gesturing for her apprentice to follow her, walking through the doors away from the main dining hall.
“Sorry,” Corin muttered, chasing after his teacher.
do extraction spells today, just like yesterday,” Selena began, speaking a mile a minute and stepping quickly, approaching her training circle swiftly. “I know they were hard for you earlier, but—” She turned around. “You’re walking slower than normal. Are you all right, Corin?”
Corin took a few deep breaths. The training earlier had really taken a lot out of him, more than he realized. His ankle was in immense pain, he noted, having been on the receiving end on a particularly hard kick. “Ah… I’m fine,” he insisted.
“There’s no need to hide being in pain, Corin. Especially not when I can heal you with a simple spell,” Selena retorted.
Corin instantly felt warmth flow through his body. “Thank you.”
“It’s nothing, but you do need to tell me when you’re in pain,” Selena reminded, smiling slightly. “You wouldn’t be able to train if you hurt yourself. How did you injure yourself? I thought you were studying with Kateline.”
“I was. I knocked a pile of books onto myself,” he lied.
Selena laughed, giving a full smile. “Don’t overwork yourself yet, apprentice. If you want, I can talk to Kateline about giving you less work, at least at the beginning.”
“It’s fine. It was my mistake. Master, would you mind if I asked you some things, before we trained?” Corin answered, hesitating slightly. Selena was in a strangely good mood, he noted.
“You’ve been working very hard. I’m sure we could take a few minutes,” she agreed, leaning against the pew. “What’s on your mind?”
“Where do you hail from?” Corin asked, looking at his master with curious eyes.
“I was raised in the monastery from birth,” she explained. “My parents came from Far North, though they left me here once they realized the military knew about my natural connection to Alvah. At least, that’s what Master Alvah—well, the old Master Alvah told me. Not that I mind, really, but why are you asking?”
“I was curious,” he answered, pausing. “I was reading and I found something interesting…. Master, I was wondering, may I see your restraints?”
what Kateline started you off with. Not surprising, but this will take a bit of time,” she said. “I suppose the easiest answer is I don’t wear any.”
“What?” Corin asked. He instantly clamped his hand over his mouth. “I apologize, Master, I meant to ask what you meant when you said you didn’t wear any restraints.”
“If you’re learning about it anyways, you may as well hear it all from me,” Selena replied, sighing. “Each of the spirits has a different level of strength, as I’m sure you’ve heard.”
“Alvah is the strongest, isn’t he?” Corin asked, trying to recall one of the few lessons he had attended so many years back. “Then it’s Corona, Serac, Petra, and last is Zephyr.”
“Exactly,” Selena confirmed. “Although aside from Alvah, the others are the same when they’re out of their vessels. You know how we choose guardians, don’t you? It’s based mainly on the natural mana inside a person.”
“You need to be really naturally gifted to house a spirit, don’t you?” Corin asked.
“Yes, spirits that aren’t strong require lower amounts of mana to house properly,” she answered.
“Properly?” Corin asked.
“To properly house a spirit is to do it purely based on someone’s mana. The restraints are to make up for not having enough of it,” she elaborated. “People with mana lower than mine would lose their minds.”
“So, you don’t wear your restraints because you don’t need them?” Corin asked.
Selena sighed. “I’ll let you know one of the clan’s secrets. We trust you here—but you can’t tell anyone what I tell you, unless someone researching asks you.”
Corin felt a wave of guilt wash over him for his training earlier that day. “I promise.”
“I am not supposed to house Zephyr,” she stated, taking a deep breath.
“You’re not?”he exclaimed.
“You may have noticed,” she explained, “that my talents lie more with Alvah’s domain. Cyril’s talents, on the other hand, are with Zephyr. When I was younger, I was supposed to take over as Alvah’s vessel… but, Alvah would be too much for my body to handle without restraints.”
“So why do you not house Alvah?” he asked. “The books said there were five sets of restraints, one for everyone.”
“That may have been right for a bit,” she began, “but this is where the secret lies, and I need to say it again, you are not to speak of this to anyone. Not the other guardians, not your friends,
, unless it is a part of your research
“I promise,” Corin said, watching Selena anxiously.
“I house Zephyr because no one else is powerful enough to house any spirit without restraints, and, starting about nineteen winters ago, at least that’s what my master told me, the restraints we do have haven’t been working.”
“Pardon?” Corin asked, raising his eyebrows.
“The sets had five pieces each, as you may have read,” she explained. “One for the neck, two for the arms, and two for the thighs.”
“But they don’t now?” He asked.
“I don’t know what’s causing it—no one does, it’s what we’ve been researching—but over the past nineteen winters, the restraints have been crumbling into ashes.”
“If they all are destroyed, how are we to keep the guardians sane?” he asked. “What is left of the five sets?”
“We don’t know,” Selena answered, sighing. “And we have four collars—one silver, two gold, and one ebony. We have the thigh bands and one armband for ebony, two armbands for gold and one thigh band, and only the thigh bands for silver.”
“The others just broke? This is dangerous! What happens when they’re all gone?” Corin asked.
Selena sighed. “They all crumbled during various moments, and they’ve only increased in speed. There is an actual reason I’m allowing you to research with Kateline instead of training—this is really important to our clan.”
Corin paused, finding it difficult to digest all of the information Selena had passed onto him. He wondered how much he could get her to explain. “…Did… did Aless’s exile relate to this at all?”
Corin flinched, watching as a dark look fell over Selena’s eyes. “That is forbidden to talk about,” she answered, “and for referring to Master Serac by his common name, take a few laps.”
Corin sighed, beginning to start a light jog, thinking Selena’s story over in thorough detail. How could the restraints be failing? They had existed for over one thousand years, so why now? Maybe tonight he’d make good on his lie. The clan’s curfew was fairly early, but he almost always saw many other members arriving far later than they should have, especially when Corin often wandered back many hours past the bell with Master Selena.
He would investigate the library sometime this week. He was used to harsh training—he was sure he could do it on less sleep.
night Corin found himself by the door in his barracks, anxiously waiting for the bell to ring and signify curfew. Master Selena had allowed him to take an early night due to Piers’s constant interference with their training. Most of the students didn’t respect curfew, and the bell really was more a guideline at this point, rather than something the students were actually expected to follow.
However, Corin still made a point of at least attempting to follow the bells, and he felt a little bit rebellious sneaking out of his room. When the bell tolled he gave a small smile, opening his door and slipping out, wandering between students rushing back to their rooms.
It was easier to blend in with the crowd, he noted with a smile, especially since he had access to sets of student’s robes to match every element except water, a fact that came in handy when he needed to hide. It proved to work to his advantage—no one stopped him in the halls as he passed through Zephyr’s barracks.
He began climbing the stairs, slowly, trying to attract as little attention as he could. So far so good, he noted with a smile, the only problem he could foresee was if he managed to bump into Master Selena. Corin was sure the others wouldn’t truly care, especially since he was only a few minutes off curfew.
Corin climbed to the top of the stairs and promptly collided with a large, solid chest. He immediately lost his balance, making an embarrassing squeaking noise as he did so. Oh Zephyr—falling down those stairs was so painful; whenever he did, he almost never escaped spending a week in the infirmary as a result.
However, before he managed to slip past the point of no return, he felt a strong arm grab his lower back, pulling him upright once again.
Corin flushed, seeing both Aless and Piers standing before him. Ah… that would explain the hard chest, he noticed. Corin bowed quickly. “T-thank you….”
Aless smiled. “It was no trouble,” he replied, before squinting. “Wait, Corin? Any reason you’re wearing Corona’s robes?”