“He's not listening... Here, throw this at him,” was the last thing I heard before Enari began her assault. I only had one free hand to deflect the junk she was throwing my way. The other I was using to give Rhys the finger.
“Profanity is frowned upon on school grounds,” Rhys said astutely.
I managed to catch hold of a can Enari had flung and nail Rhys in the forehead with it.
“That was kinda cool...” Enari whispered.
“Don't encourage him,” Rhys said, rubbing his forehead. “Well, you have his attention, now. Go on and ask him.”
“Oh, uh... You seem really distant today.” Her face was red, and she wouldn't look me in the eyes.
“That's what you wanted to say? For crying out loud. I almost died helping you just now! Have a spine, woman,” Rhys scowled.
I just shrugged it off. I didn't think I was acting any different, but I never really gave my own actions much thought anyway. People take my indifference as rude or cold, and I suppose I am. It's not on purpose... Not usually.
“Ahem, allow me to translate, Laine,” Rhys continued. He placed a hand on his heart, and with the other clutched above his head, he spoke... Dramatically...
“Laine... That new girl in general studies, what was it about her that enamored you so...? Why don't you ever look at me li- Ack! Ah! Enari cut it out!” His monologue was cut short as Enari desperately tried to cover his mouth. As she struggled with him, she looked over her shoulder at me with an awkwardly forced smile.
“So, uh... yea... that new girl. Do you know her... or something?”
The new girl? Had I really been staring at her? I must’ve, if these two took notice.
“No, I don't know her,” I replied.
“Oh, I see,” Enari said. She looked relieved.
“...But I think I'm supposed to,” I said. “I'll say something to her next time.” Her relief quickly melted away. Did I say something weird?
“Laine, you never say enough, but when you do, it's always too much,” Rhys said.
“That doesn't even make sense,” I said flatly.
“Come on, idiot. We're going to be late for class,” he said as he tossed me my bag.
I'm missing something. I can tell...
“Laine, could you give the class an example of an expanding pyro field and explain how it can be integrated into a weave?” Professor Hemming asked. The students around me began to fidget uncomfortably, and some even stood up and walked away.
I'm not so dense that I don't understand what that's supposed to imply.
“No, I cannot.” I said. Hemming looked irritated, but the others were clearly relieved.
“Let me rephrase that: Do it,” he said. His eyes were daring me to deny him.
Whatever. I warned him.
I stood up and rolled my sleeves up. I could feel the eyes of my classmates as they stared at the burn marks on my hands. Years ago, before the runes ever manifested there, I had burned my hands horribly in a fire. Now, the burns are mostly masked by the fire runes that engulfed my hands and wrists. It's such a fitting place that it's almost poetic, not that I would care anything for poetry.
I raised my arms out in front of myself and laid my right hand atop the left. I closed my eyes and clenched my hands. “Ignis,” I whispered. As I did, I felt the familiar red glow of my runes burning in the palms of my hands. The magical flame began to flow across my wrist and whisk away into the air around me.
“You see class, some people develop trigger phrases or actions to help them initiate the flow of mana. In Laine's case, he uses both,” I heard Hemming say, but his words were distant now. I wasn't focused on him, I was focused on keeping the fire within. The flames that tore my life apart were locked within me now, and it was everything I could do to contain the chaos in me.
“Professor, he's crying...”
“Yes... It would seem so, let's observe. It may be part of his method, after all.”
My Method. I suppose even bombs have a bit of method to the madness, though. Focus, Laine. He wants to see a small expand effect, and he knows you're the worst student for it.
Nothing unusual there. After all, he hates you.
Satisfy his narcissism.
I said it as softly as possible, but the flames erupted from my hands, the inferno within escaping once more. A red aura immediately appeared around me, entrapping the flames within. I felt my skin begin to burn. The flames had nowhere to go, and just like before... I can't find the will to cry out.
“Professor, you're going to kill him!” Rhys exclaimed.
“He'll kill you all if we don't contain it!”
“You're too cruel, old man,” Rhys barked as he approached me.
The fire rune on his back began to glow as he warded my body from the flames around me. The wind rune around his eyes shimmered to life as he sucked the air away from me.
I couldn't breathe, and worse still, I could feel my fire suffocating, too. Though I was shielded from the heat of the blaze, I could still feel a dark, cold, empty feeling as the fire within me died out.
In moments it was over. Rhys rested my head in his lap, and the world seemed to spin all around me.
“Professor Hemming,” Rhys said. “Don't ever do that to him again, unless you’re keen on having me end your life.”
“Feel free to die trying, boy. But if he's to be a Fire Artemis, he needs to confront himself sooner or later,” he said.
It was all over as quickly as it had begun. I wondered if other classes were like this. No... other Artemis have practical uses for their magic. Fire Artemis can only destroy.
I hate Hemming, but he isn't wrong.
If I don't learn to contain my power... well...
“You know, Laine... Most people in our class struggle to produce a flame strong enough to light a cigar,” Rhys said as he examined my burns. “The day you enrolled at Kleinenkade, I bet their insurance went through the roof.”
“Not my bill, nor my problem,” I replied. “They didn't have to accept me.”
He was staring at me again. Trying to understand me, as if his digging will one day unearth the hidden mystery of my being.
“Are you done?” I asked.
“I like to watch,” he said quietly.
Together, he and I sat and watched as my charred skin slowly healed. Steam gently flowed from my wounds, filling the small room he had brought me to.
This ability so far has been unique to me. I have never seen a Fire Artemis capable of recovering from such grotesque burns.
As a Fire Artemis, burns are not uncommon. Many of us have been burned by our own magic, and the old mages are usually covered in scars. But not me.
The scars of my hands are the only marks of my failure. If I ever lost control and took the lives of those around me, the only reminder of my sins would be these hands...
“Alright... Show's over,” Rhys said. “It's almost time for us to go to the club room. If we're late, Enari will cry.”
“You go. I'll catch up,” I said.
He released the door and took his seat by me once more.
“Pretend I'm not here if you like, then,” he said.
His kindness was as boundless as it was unneeded. His sentiments lost on me. I lost the capacity for emotions years ago. A simple Thank you would likely suffice, but what meaning do words without feeling carry from my cursed soul to his kind heart?
It's better if I say nothing at all, and let the moment escape us.
If you liked it, leave a comment at the bottom, please. I have no way of knowing if people are reading and enjoying any of this otherwise!
Krism, a quirky young Elf, finds herself sent to another country to study magic. Her family name rests on her success there.
But don't hold your breath, because unlike the long line of Life Artemis that came before her, Krism is terribly inept. To this day she has never cast even a single spell.
She quickly finds herself locked in a heated battle of raw stubbornness with the school's prodigy.
He may have intellect, but she has... something! Probably.
It's a long story.