Midterms were to come up soon. Ever since the last day, Narice and Rei had been studying like usual and finding ways to spend time with each other. He decided that after midterms- based on the results- they would celebrate with a trip to the movies.
She sure was taking up his money however, he thought as he frowned at the money in his wallet. He wanted to make sure he’d have enough to get some other foods in addition to the ticket prices.
His parents were foster parents- the fact that he got anything at all was a luxury probably.
He went to school with pencil ready and a stick of gum to help him think.
“You’ll do fine,” Rei responded.
Three long hours passed of different tests. Two days later he got back the results.
Two C’s, two B’s and an A! He came back with a B average!
“What did you get Rei?” he responded curiously- hoping to show off his grades.
“Meh…” Rei responded and showed him her grades. Everything was perfect. 100% in every category- not to mention the extra credit.
Narice sighed. he wondered why she was even in school. she probably could graduate already.
“Why are you even here?” he spoke jokingly.
She seemed a little hurt by the comment.
They were able to watch the movie that Rei wanted to see. Once again they had a fun time. It was the least he could do.
It had been a couple weeks so far of straight studying- and he gratefully could say that he no longer had to take ESL and knew English fluently.
Even though he may still feel a bit of a challenge facing classes at the moment – he thought that with enough effort, he’d be able to manage even better grades.
The were taking a walk outside after the movie. Since it was a matinee, it was still afternoon when he got out.
“You gonna buy me anything?” Rei said pointing at an ice-cream stand.
Narice took the last of what he could scrounge in his pockets and bought two ice creams.
Even though he’d just spent the last of his savings over the past few months, he was pretty happy.
He thought about it for a bit. Soon, he’d be able to get a job… it may make things easier – learning to be more independent.
They walked along a sidewalk of a park next to a stream. The ice cream trickled down his fingers and got sticky.
It would have been smarter to order a two scoop instead of a three. As he tried to adjust the napkin and the ice cream a realization came to him.
He’d been so engrossed in his studies and having fun being a human… he’d forgotten… for two whole weeks… his real mission.
He tried to broach the topic fluidly.
“Hey Rei…?” he spoke to her.
“Don’t worry..” Rei repsonded with a smile, “I know that you’ll still need my help studying even though you can’t treat me too much.”
She did a stretch, “You can just owe me one for now.”
“No, it’s not about that…” he gave a smile.
“Has Marx said anything?”
“Ah that…” she seemed to be in deep thought about something.
Narice didn’t know what that meant. He knew that he didn’t actually have magic, so to be elected as a guardian was probably a longshot. Even still… he thought he’d done ok during the mission and that he showed promise to Marx so he could hope. What he really wanted was resolution.
After her moment of pondering, the sun began to breach the horizon. She turned her face to his and gave him a smile. Then she gave him a quick kiss on the lips.
“I’d better get back,” she responded to a startled Narice as she started to move from her leaning position against the hillside they were on.
“What does that mean?!” Narice shouted. He had been so startled he’d forgotten about what he’d asked her. He spoke after she’d already walked a far distance away.
She waved at him with her back turned as she walked down the path.
Marx looked at Rei as she relayed the day with him.
“Ah…” he responded, “very well- we’ll introduce him to the council room.”
Narice wasn’t quite sure what to think as he went back to class the next day. Once again, his and Rei’s relationship seemed to have simmered out- with her barely acknowledging him. That was pretty much how it had always been. Narice was just surprised that she was able to maintain her same persona after what she did yesterday.
He started to drift in thought as he looked out of a window.
“Hey Narice…” Rei said after class.
“Yeah?” he responded unsure of what she would want to speak about.
She smiled to him and motioned with a slight nod of her head for him to follow.
He wasn’t sure about what she wanted to talk to him about now.
She guided him outside of the classroom and once again found a quiet place.
“We’ve convinced the council to speak with you and consider what you have to offer, I’ll pick you up tonight if you’re up to it.”
“Really?!” he said enthusiastically.
“Yeah, but don’t get your hopes up too high…” She gave him a sympathetic smile, “they’re old and used to doing things a certain way…”
“I have to try,” he replied. It was what he’d been waiting for this whole time. A chance to prove himself and be on the front lines against the darkness from the Ancient ‘Ka’atra’. Perhaps he could fill the role and be a defense against the uncertain enemies to come.
“Are you really sure that this is what you want?” she spoke concernedly.
“I can never forgive Ka’atra…” he replied, “I want this more than anything.”
“Yeah,” she smiled, “well, I’ll see you this evening ok?”
“Ok,” he returned.
She seemed to be going over a checklist in her mind- which just made him smile.
“Bring everything you need for a couple days ok?”
“And don’t forget…” She began to list off all the different things he would need once they got to the city.
“Ok,” he smiled hardly able to contain his enthusiasm.
He gave her a heartfelt hug as she finished her list.
Rei gave him another smile as he released his embrace.
“Well,” Narice spoke, “we’d better get back…”
Rei nodded at him. For some reason she looked a little sad. Narice thought about it… If he were chosen for the council, where would he go?
Perhaps Rei felt alone without him- he thought as he presumed that this was the reason for her sad look.
Narice faithfully packed all that he could remember to bring. Two days in the Aqayan capital. He wondered what it would be like there. His heart was beating heavily in his chest as he attempted to finish his homework early.
Narice’s mom, Wendi called him from his room. “Narice, someone’s at the door!”
Narice quickly rushed to the front door and he saw Rei there, “hey.”
“We can go to your room first…” she said.
“Uh sure,” he replied.
They walked up the stairs into Narice’s room.
She picked up a book, before he noticed it was his diary that he’d kept since he’d arrived.
“Hey, that’s mine!” he said snatching it up from her.
“Aww…Little Narice liked to draw…”
“What’s actually in it?” she asked curiously.
“Err… I’ve recorded things that’ve happened to me since I was about twelve.”
Rei seemed to grow disinterested after Narice failed to explain anything else. There were two reasons he didn’t want her to actually look through it. For one, it held the details of his past that were both sad and personal. For two, he’d written a bit about her.
“…Anyway…” She got back to the reason she’d come-after a small discussion about the random things and his homework. It had been another thirty minutes or so attempting to help him through it and a simple conversation about people in school.
He then watched as she seemed to become more serious and pull out a unique book from her backpack…
“Right,” he said just as seriously.
“We’re planning on stop by Marx’s first, he’ll actually take us there, so I figured it was just easier making a portal here.”
“Ok,” Narice said in return. “Do you mind erasing my parent’s memories of me for the time being?”
“Sure, I’ll be right back,” she left for a minute.
Narice heard a knock on his door and opened it back up.
“This is a basic spell-guide-” she said, referring to the book “it’ll let you mark this territory and save it as a portal point so you can come back here from the city that we’ll be heading to.”
She began chanting some words and outlined a circle with her hand in the carpet.
Narice watched her then cut the portal into the castle again. For some reason, it was different then the last time.
“How does this work where we can use this system if we don’t have earth magic?” he figured he may as well learn about the different workings of magic since he was planning on being a guardian anyway.
“Actually, we’re tapping into the city’s magic to make the access point, until it’s used- it’s really just a marker,” she replied and then opened up the portal.
“It’s called access-magic, permission from another to use their magic, works on a magic source. supplied from workers in the city.
“Oh?” Narice was impressed that that was possible. It all sounded pretty advanced.
“Anyway, we’re going to make a separate portal to Marx,” she said as she drew a line in space again, once again cutting open access to the ‘castle’.
“Well, let’s head on…” she replied.
“Ok,” he followed her into the portal.
It was already breaking dusk by the time that they’d reached the island. Narice looked around at the familiar woods which seemed a little larger now that it was nighttime, however the castle light led them to the steps without hindrances.
They walked up the steps, this time Narice followed alongside Rei.
Jarrod was standing outside of the castle doors as they approached the entrance.
“Welcome,” he said and opened the door.
“What brings you outside?” Rei asked.
“Trying to be hospitable…”
“Let’s go inside…” Narice said. The air was a little more frigid.
Jarrod opened the door and Narice followed the other two as they entered into the castle.
“Hey guys,” the warlord spoke. Narice looked at him dressed up more in travel clothes.
Rei and Narice bowed.
“Hello my lord,” Rei said.
“Hey Sir,” Narice said.
The warlord opened up the portal and dove in.
Rei motioned Narice to follow, “I’ll pick up the tail.”
Narice looked at Jarrod as he nodded.
“I’ll be holding down fort while you guys are gone,” Jarrod spoke behind them.
Narice followed into the portal.
Narice looked around expecting to see a grand city. Instead the room he was in was dark.
In front of him Marx seemed to shift into another shape. Someone he recognized from a long time ago.
Rei followed behind him.
Narice watched on as Rei walked beside Ka’atra standing in Marx’s clothes.
He looked behind him and saw Rei coming behind him. She didn’t seem the least bit surprised.
“This is my favorite part…” Ka’atra spoke, “the utter hopelessness.”
Narice watched as Rei walked up to Ka’atra and bowed.
Feeling the need to explain herself, “You’re cute, but I wasn’t planning on anything steady.”
So Rei was just pulling him along… OK then, he thought- “well, I didn’t expect much to come from it anyway.”
She stepped behind as Ka’atra walked forward.
“I’ve been watching you- Narice,” Ka’atra began to talk as he stood in front of him. “It seems you could be a formidable enemy if I drag you along too long. I have no need for you anymore.”
Which probably meant Marx was Ka’atra, but did that mean Jarrod was in on it?
“So then…” Narice reponded.
“Yes yes,” Ka’atra replied. “I’m not really Marx… I trapped him away a long time ago.”
“So all of you were in on it?” Narice spoke.
“No- in fact. I fooled the council into thinking i was Marx years ago- we had fought, and he had lost. Rei has always been my daughter… but the rest of the guardians were actually placed under my service years ago.”
Something told Narice that there was a lie somewhere in this. A light inside of him guiding him away from the darkness- but at this point, it seemed things were bleak.
All of the sudden- Jarrod came up beside Narice while throwing a fireball at Ka’atra.
“Take this and get away from here!” Jarrod said as he stood in front of Narice and threw him something. He threw down a ball that exploded and a portal opened up.
“Quickly,” he said as he held the sword out ready to defend the space.
“That’ll take you to my last portal, I’ll hold them off while you escape.”
Narice looked at Jarrod for a moment. The most skeptical friendship turned out to be his truest. Rei in the meantime, had betrayed him. “Jarrod- don’t die for me…”
“I’ll do what I can…” Jarrod replied. Narice watched as Rei dove in front of Jarrod, Jarrod holding up his sword enchanting it, “but i don’t have the power to stop him. so you have to live… so you can…”
Narice watched as Rei’s true nature began to surface. Rather than a little girl- Jarrod was attacked from a girl that turned more into shadow than human. The shadow ferociously began to claw him as Jarrod attempted to hold off the shadow with light from the blade and emitting an aura of fire.
“You silly servant… to think that after the four years we’ve spent together, you’d betray your own master,”
So Marx was Ka’atra in disguise…
“I’ll make you pay for taking advantage of me,” Jarrod said.
Narice wasn’t sure what to do but he knew if he died now, Jarrod’s sacrifice, and the supposed power inside of him would be worthless.
Narice dove into the portal, not waiting for them to come at him next. Not looking back at the struggle as he heard Jarrod getting torn into pieces by Rei.