I’m struggling to focus on what Aine is saying. I know these thoughts are counter-productive. I need to concentrate if I am to master untamed magic. But I can’t help it. L Faba has always had a way of creeping into my mind, ever since we met.
Which is logical, I remind myself. I am in her debt for everything she’s done for me, right from the beginning. I’d still be lost if she never showed me the way into the magic realm, but now I have a purpose. Potential.
Yes. It’s logical.
She’s just so… At first, I thought she was too good to be true. And it seemed to be the case – she said I’d see her again if I went through the portal, but then months went by, and she never showed up in the realm. Even when I subtly asked around, nobody really knew much or was willing to share.
I figured that was that, and then she suddenly appeared at the fair looking amazing. There I was, trying to impress her with my barebones knowledge of the realm, and she just casually announced she’d be around from then on, just like that. The whole year since has been a whirlwind. She changed my life for the better again and didn’t even know it.
And now she goes and does it for the third time, makes everything fall into place somehow, in that breezy way of hers. How is everything she does so effortless? She’s like the opposite of me; I feel like I’m constantly trying to contain a tornado in a glass jar.
I still sometimes think she’s too good to be true. Just yesterday, when she showed me where she lives. An actual fairy tale meadow.
It should not be real, but it is. And L Faba is real.
And she wants to be with me.
Aine flashes her charge in front of me. “You of all people should be paying close attention when I talk about magical charge.”
“I wasn’t-“ I stop myself. If I give her an excuse, she’ll just turn it against me somehow. “It won’t happen again.”
“I suppose you are distracted by the upcoming ball.” She says. I try to gauge her tone. Aine never outwardly shows anger. I could hazard to guess why.
I stay on the cautious side. “I suppose.” I repeat her words.
“It’s only natural, it will be quite the event, after all.” She nods. “With Haruka retiring and L Faba taking her place…”
“What?” I lose my composure.
“Oh, Luella didn’t mention? How odd, I was under the impression you two spend quite a bit of time together.” Aine’s eyes are on me as she speaks.
This is bullshit. L Faba is becoming a sage? Why would she not tell me?
“Perhaps she did not want you to get jealous.” Aine offers an explanation. “She did only formally become an apprentice after you, after all…”
She does not need to remind me. How did L Faba manage that, shoot up to becoming a sage so quickly? I know Aine wants me to feel jealous… and it’s working. Don’t let her.
“I’m happy for L Faba.” I manage to say. And it could be true. It should be true.
I was blindsighted, but why would I not be happy for her? I have fantasised about the two of us eventually becoming sages, side by side. I just never imagined she’d get there first.
But I suppose she has been training with the sages even before she was formally an apprentice, wasn’t she? And she does deserve it…
“That’s very generous of you.” Aine cuts into my thoughts. “Especially considering what she had to do to in order to secure the position.”
“What do you mean?”
I regret asking instantly. I should just ask L Faba. Would she tell me, though? She didn’t even say she was becoming a sage in the first place, and that’s not exactly something she could keep a secret forever. Of course she would tell you. This is L Faba. You know L Faba. Stop giving Aine what she wants.
“One of the old traditional ways to ascend to a sage role is to complete a challenge given by a current sage of the discipline.” Aine explains. “Used to be that this was an actual daunting task, in extreme cases even a duel to the death. Nowadays, it’s more of a formality. Like in this instance, all that Haruka requested was for Luella to master the Infatuate spell. Are you familiar with that one?”
I’m not, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the spell might do. And I don’t want to hear any more of it. Why can’t I go back to not concentrating on what Aine is saying?
Unfortunately for me, she doesn’t seem to have any intentions of moving on.
“Only mischief sages would base succession on something as petty as a love spell. Surely there’s worthier ways to name a sage than by the ability to make some fool think they are in love…”
No. She wouldn’t. She didn’t. Stay calm. This is useful information. Make it productive.
“So what kind of a task might an untamed magic sage give their prospective successor?” I ask. I will not let Aine get to me.
“That is completely irrelevant.” Aine replies curtly. “I have no plans of retiring. Not now, not ever.”
“Not ever?” I repeat her words before I can stop myself.
“Thanks to untamed magic, I will live forever. And keep what’s mine forever.” Something flashes in her eyes for a split second.
She doesn’t say anything else. And then it sinks in. I’ll never be a sage. And L Faba… no, I refuse to believe she did that. She wouldn’t.
Aine finally speaks again. “Apparently, Haruka has no issue with practically throwing her title away. And now that she’s verified Luella’s spell… I suppose you’ll be back to being the only apprentice again.”
She wants to deliver the final blow to my ego, no doubt. Probably would have worked too, except I can’t focus on anything but what she said about Haruka. She verified the spell. So it happened…
How does one even verify that? Did she measure how in love I am?
My chest is burning. My head is burning. Shut it down. Be rational about this. You know you have to be.
I have to get out of here.
“Can I… can I be excused?” My voice is barely a whisper.
Aine agrees, or at least I think she agrees. I can barely see her. I stumble out of HQ. I run straight to my safe haven. The old gardens.
I first came across them early after arriving the magic realm. Most of the magical plants are kept in the HQ botany wing these days, so the old gardens don’t get much traffic. They’re a safe place. A place where I don’t have to worry about not showing weakness, unlike when I’m in Aine’s vicinity.
And damn I feel weak right now. How could L Faba do this?
There has to be some kind of explanation. Think. When would she even have even done it? We have practiced magic together, but she never hit me with a spell of any kind. She’d have to somehow do it in secret, without me looking.
I think back to our time in Sylvan Glade last night. It was so peaceful there we both fell asleep in each other’s arms at one point. Or at least I thought we both did.
Imagine that, feeling at peace. Distant memory now. What did you think, that you could feel at peace? How delusional are you?
Was it just me that drifted off? Would she really cast a spell on me while I was sleeping? No, she would never do something so low… And there’s no other time she could have done it. So she couldn’t have. She wouldn’t have… She…
She did hit me with a spell, the very day we met. And I haven’t stopped thinking about her since. It suddenly makes so much sense now. That’s why it’s effortless. Because it’s not real.
Maybe she’s been an apprentice all this time, and this was just her final trial. All an elaborate lie.
My whole body is burning now. I was such an idiot. What was I thinking? That it meant something? That somebody actually understood me?
My head feels like it’s going to explode.
Oh no. No no no no…. This can’t be happening.
Calm down. Stop it. You know how now.
I’ve never used the Chillio spell on this scale before, but it has to work. If I have enough raw magic to cause this, I have to have enough to stop it, right? Just calm the hell down.
I finally manage to contain the fire. It’s ok. My legs give out underneath me, making me fall back to the ground. I breathe out.
Have you forgotten? This is what happens when you let feelings rule you. The demon of destruction rears its ugly head.
Shut it down. Shut it down. Before it’s too late, like last time. You can’t burn down the whole magic realm.
If not for any other reason, she’s in it…
No. Shut it down.
You were fine on your own. Controlled. The demon contained. The way it has to be. You knew it back then. You were stupid to allow yourself to go there again in the first place.
Then again, I had no choice but to go there, didn’t I? If she put a love spell on me, I couldn’t really fight the conjured feelings, could I?
Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe I would have loved her anyway. How could I not love her?
But the real question is, would she have loved me? Does she love me?
Doubtful. It was just a game to her. A task, checked off so that she could ascend. Of course she doesn’t love me.
Get out of this damn loop. Stop this.
Do you really need more times to see the demon in action? What would the cost be?
What if something happens to her?
This can’t happen again. You can’t set the damn world on fire. The demon must die.
Conjured or not, you will find a way to kill it, once and for all.
Even if it kills you.
I am so scared.