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Chapter 16 – Simple Tests

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“Hah,” I yawn. Cold… I pull the blanket over my feet and curl up into a ball. I place my left foot over my right and, while chills race into the left, the right starts to defrost. Better… In the distance, the sound of two foggy voices reach my ears. Too tired… sleep more…

As I snugly lay there on the white, rabbit pelt, tucked tightly under my fur blanket, I hear Revus say, “…go outside.”

Hmm… I roll over. No… Sleep.

Their voices are just loud enough for me to hear, but too quiet for me to make out their words. Urh… Want sleep… I roll onto my back, look up at the stone ceiling, and barely lift my eyelids. …But curious… I sigh quietly and climb out of bed, wrapping my blanket around me.

I stand up, my eyes hardly operable, and feel the frigid air stab my feet and a cold crawl up my legs. “Brrr…” I shiver, rub my eyes, and reluctantly force them open. I scan the room and, as I direct my focus on the door, start shambling forward. Can’t they have secret conversations during the day… I stop moving for a second and slowly blink, pondering the idea. Couldn’t they just speak another language? I continue toward the door leading outside. Since they’re speaking Zoic do they not care if I hear them? Maybe… I yawn and wipe my eyes. …Faraine doesn’t know another language?

“Why haven’t you asked about anyone else?” Faraine asks from beyond the door. Her voice, muffled by the howling wind. Who is it this time?

“There’s no need,” Revus answers, “Knowing that they’re alive is good enough for me.”

I grab the door and, as I open it, the wind pulls it from my hand and it slams against the wall. Bam. Oops… Fssssh. A heavy snowstorm is roaring outside and the two of them are silent. Good thing I wasn’t trying to hide this time… I poke my head around the doorway, enduring the bitter cold. I see Revus and Faraine staring at me wearing their usual clothes, not bothering to wear anything to protect against the storm.

As I squint at them perplexedly, Revus asks, “Why are you awake?”

“Um… W-well,” I shiver, feeling the cold seep through the blanket, “C-can we g-g-go ins-side first?”

Faraine giggles, Revus sighs, and they follow me back inside. How can they just stand in the cold and not feel anything? We walk back in and, while they head to the table, I return to my bed.

“Did you have another nightmare?” Revus inquires.

I find the spot I was previously at and lay back down. Ah… still warm. I sandwich myself between the furry blanket and fuzzy pelt, rubbing my legs to disperse the cold, and reply, “No, but…” I look up at the two of them with hazy eyes. I hope they won’t change the subject now that I’m awake. “I heard you guys talking and… well… I wanted to listen… without earsdripping.” I say, my words getting quieter as I anxiously look away.

Revus sighs and holds up his index finger, “First, it’s pronounced eavesdropping.” He raises a second finger, “Second, go back to sleep.”

“Who…” I yawn, “were you talking about?”

“It’s not that big of a deal,” Revus mutters, “Besides you’re clearly tired, you can barely keep your eyes open.”

“Can’t you at least let me listen… until I fall back to sleep?”

“It’s not a problem if she knows,” Faraine remarks, turning to look at Revus, “Right?”

Revus’ eyes bounce between us for a bit until he concedes, “Fine.”

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“Sleeps,” I murmur as I silently watch them, resting my head on my pillow. They sit at the table and quietly stare at me. “What?”

“Aren’t you going to ask anything?” Revus asks.

“No,” I shake my head, then move my bangs to the side. “I just wanted to listen so…” I yawn, “Please continue from earlier.”

They look at each other and Faraine questions, “Um… Where were we?”

Revus sighs, then states, “You were asking me about why I don’t bother asking about how anyone else is doing.” Good… looks like they’re not going to change the topic.

“Right, and…”

“Like I said, just knowing that they’re alive is good enough.” Is this about the attack at Kāālith?

“They’re alive, sure, but they’re not in great condition.”

“Why’s that?” Revus inquires.

“The stāān is…” Faraine bitterly answers. Stāān? What’s that?

“Shouldn’t that have healed by now?”

“Normally sure, but…” Faraine pauses, “My aunt’s been too active. Never allowing herself time to properly heal.”

“And I’m the idiot,” Revus hisses.

“Something’s wrong with Novaraine?” I inquire, “And what’s stāān?”

As Revus’ gaze drifts from Faraine to me, he sighs, “Stāān is… a type of infection that can spread and kill a fairy.”

“But it can heal?”

“Not completely, but it can be almost entirely mitigated if properly handled,” Faraine explains. “The problem is my aunt, and many others, don’t have the time, resources, or personnel to treat it. Lately, my aunt-”

“Why do you call her that?” Revus interrupts.

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“Call her what?” Faraine questions.

“My aunt,” he states, “It sounds so formal. So… distant?”

“Um… I,” Faraine hesitates, “Mmmm… My parents… Nevermind.”

I roll over and look at Faraine. Again her parents and the whole sad stuff. I chuckle.

“What’s so funny?” Revus asks, turning to me.

“Faraine’s just like us,” I smile, “She gets sad and stuff too.”

“You’re happy about her being sad?” Revus comments.

“No. I’m happy because it’s relatable.”

Revus shakes his head, turns back to Faraine, and refocuses the conversation, “Anyway, what were you going to say about Nova?”

“Oh, um, her, Ellalyn and,” She looks at me, “her cousins have been straining themselves, trying to deal with the surges, leaving them with little time to recover.”

“Is that why you were out here,” Revus inquires, “Because of the surge?”

Faraine flatly smiles, “Yeah… Something like that.” She’s lying.

As I pout, a yawn forces its way out. I blink a few times, my eyelids heavy. I close my eyes and continue to listen. Their conversation persists, but, slowly, their voices grow quieter until neither one is saying anything. Are they done?

“Should we go back outside?” Faraine asks.

“It’s cold out there… so just stay inside,” I mumble, “I’ll be asleep… soon.”

I hear them laugh but remain inside, and the sound of their chatter soothes me until I fall asleep.

“Mmmm…” I roll over, pulling my blanket toward my face. Better…

“Do… e… norm… leep… is… ong…” Faraine’s says. Mmm… Too early. Sleep more.

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“The… wou… ou… ke… me… elp… ith… fast…”

“Mgh,” I grumble. They’re being too loud. I slowly open my eyes and scan the room from behind my bangs. I stare at them for a moment, then bolt upright and hastily question, “Why’re you both awake? Didn’t you go to sleep after me?”

“Good morning,” Faraine remarks, holding back a laugh, “You look like you slept well.”

“U- Morning…” I reply, moving my hair out of my face.

“We did,” Revus answers, “But like I’ve explained before, you sleep too much.”

I puff my cheeks, then bark, “If that’s so then why don’t you wake me?”

Revus starts his preparations for breakfast and, with his back turned away from me, states, “Two reasons. First, I’ve tried and you usually don’t wake up. Second, you’re grumpy when you don’t get enough sleep.”

“Am I really that difficult to wake up?” I inquire as I turn to Faraine who is sitting at the table.

“I’m not sure,” she answers, “but Revus seemed pretty certain about not trying.”

“Enough about the nonsense,” Revus interrupts, “We’ve got a busy day today.”

I look over at the front door and comment, “It’s still winter though. What’s so important about today?”

“Faraine’s agreed to help me protect you until we arrive at Folian,” Revus announces.

I face Faraine and smile, “So you are coming with us?”

Faraine bashfully nods, “If you’re okay with-”

“Yes!” I shout, “but only if you say we’re friends.”

“That’s… a bit much,” Faraine mutters.

“Evetta,” Revus calls, “I know you’re attached to the idea of having her around but-”

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“Oh yay, the fun patrol is here,” I murmur in Sveltish. “Ow!” I blurt as something hits my forehead. Tears fill my eyes as I place my hands on my forehead, rubbing the sore spot. What hit m- “A rock?” I remark, seeing a pebble on my blanket in front of me. I glare at Revus and bark, “Did you just-”

“That’s what you get,” He cuts in.

“For what?” I bellow.

“For speaking Sveltish,” Revus roars, turning around and scowling at me, “I told you, no Sveltish.”

I rub my forehead and bitterly pout, “Sorry. I didn’t know the word though.”

“That’s not an excuse,” He states, “Try to explain it that way you know for the future.”

“Yeah yeah,” I complain, waving him off, “So, why’s today important?”

Revus sighs, “Because I’m going to test Faraine’s abilities.”

I look to Faraine then back to Revus, “Is that important?”

“I’ll be able to properly include her in my plans going forward,” Revus answers, “So yes, it’s important.”

“Do you want me to do anything?” I inquire.

“You’ll be watching and learning.”

I tilt my head, “That’s it?”

Revus sighs heavily, turns to me and points with a spoon in his hand, “At least try to learn something from this.”

“Fine fine,” I affirm, “I’ll do what I can.” Even though I don’t know what I can learn from just watching. “As long as it’s not more of your lessons, I’m fine with anything.”

“Oh, thanks for reminding me,” Revus comments, “Two things. First, if you don’t properly pay attention then you’re going to get extra lessons.”

“How’s that fair?” I argue, “I don’t even know what I can learn from watching.”

“I’m not asking for anything specific,” Revus replies, “Just watch and think about how it might be for you doing the same thing.”

“Fine,” I sigh, “What’s the other thing?”

“Second, the better Faraine does on her test, the fewer lessons I’ll give you from now on.”

I burst from my bed, “Faraine!” I dash over to her side, grip her hand, and plead, “I don’t care what you have to do, but please, get a perfect score!”

“Uh…” Faraine timidly pulls back, “I’ll… do what I can.”

“Please, do your absolute best!”

“That’s enough from you,” Revus orders, “Go brush your hair and clean up, I’ll have breakfast ready shortly.”

“Sure thing,” I smile.

I organize my bedding, clean myself up, and return to the table sitting down next to Faraine. Not long after, Revus arrives with our meal and, once we finish cleaning up, we sit back at the table.

“I know we’ve talked about this before, but I’m going to explain it again anyway,” Revus states in a serious demeanor.

“Go ahead,” I reply, resting my chin on the table.

“You getting captured…” He starts but goes quiet for a moment, “I’ve thought about what I could’ve done to prevent it and how I failed to protect-”

“Yeah yeah,” I interrupt, “Don’t get all depressed now. It’s already happened so-”

He takes a deep breath. “As true as that may be, there are other decisions that I could’ve made that would’ve led to a different outcome,” he explains, “For example, we could’ve waited instead of me luring them away.”

“If I recall, I did mention that,” I remark.

“Why did you leave her alone?” Faraine inquires.

“Because I felt that luring them away was the best way to keep her from being put in danger,” He answers, “but looking back, waiting for them to go away likely would’ve been the safer option. However,” he continues, “there will be times where we won’t have that luxury and we’ll be forced to confront the issue head-on.”

“You mean that there will be situations where you’ll be forced to leave her side?” Fararine questions.

“Correct,” Revus answers, “and it’s during these times that she’ll be powerless.” Revus looks at me, “At least until she’s able to use the elements.”

“And until then,” I elaborate, “Faraine’s coming along to keep me safe, right?”

“Correct,” Revus replies, then faces Faraine, “I know you’ve got your circumstances, but,” he lowers his head, “Thank you for helping me protect Evetta. At least until we get to Folian.”

I glance up at Faraine, whose eyes meet mine. I shrug and mutter, “I don’t know why you’re being so serious about this.”

Without raising his head, Revus answers, “Because your safety is a serious matter.”

“Um…” Faraine gulps, “Yeah, if it’s until Folain then… I can repay you guys for rescuing me this way too.”

“So…” I muse, “If we never go to Folian then-”

“Don’t even think about it,” Revus barks.

Faraine chuckles, “I don’t know if I’d stay if that was the case.”

“Oh well,” I sit up and smile, “But I’m glad you’ll be joining us.”

“Temporarily,” Revus adds.

“Temporarily,” I mock.

“Could you be any more annoying?” Revus bites.

“Sorry, can’t help it,” I sassily retort, “It’s something I’ve come to enjoy.”

Revus places his left hand over his face and sighs, “I thought I let you get enough sleep.” He lowers his hand, “Guess not.”

“I think that’s enough,” Faraine chuckles, then looks to Revus and asks, “When do you want to test me?”

“At least one of you stays on topic,” Revus scoffs, “You could learn a few things from her.”

“Hmph,” I turn away from him.

Revus sighs, takes a breath, and asks, “Just to confirm, what elements can you use?”

Faraine answers, “Water is my primary and fire is my secondary.”

“So you are planning on becoming an undine.”

“That’s right,” Faraine mutters, then glumly continues, “I couldn’t rightfully call myself a member of the Raine clan if I wasn’t.” That’s…

“Isn’t that,” I pause and tilt my head, “Sort of… rude?” I don’t think that’s the right word.

“Is what rude?” Revus questions gazing at me with only his eyes.

“Her family, clan, whatever…” I shake my head, “It sounds like they won’t accept her if she’s not an undine.”

“It’s not like that,” Faraine states. I turn to her as she continues, “Sure, my family is prideful and would prefer to have more undines, but if I wanted to be a hearth then they would have accepted that decision.” She pauses for a moment, “I want to be an undine to make my family proud and if I choose anything else, especially now, then… It’ll feel like I’m running away.”

I rest my cheek on my hand and sigh, “If you say so, but it still sounds wrong.”

“Everyone expects you to become a skryver,” Revus remarks, “Faraine’s family expects her to be an undine. There’s no difference.”

“Then would I not be a rightful member of my family if I chose to not be a skryver?”

“No. Whether you become a skryver or not won’t change your relationship with you family,” Revus explains, “And Faraine just said that it should be the same for her clan too.”

“Hmph,” I pout, “Well, I still don’t like how it sounds.”

“Ignoring little miss cranky,” Revus sighs and faces Faraine, “This doesn’t have any meaning now, but do you think you’ll ever cultivate more elements in the future?”

“Perhaps. Though right now, I’m only planning on sticking with the two,” Faraine claims, then lowers her head, “I may be lacking with fire but…” She raises her head and claims, “For those my age and younger, I don’t think there’s anyone better than me.” Doesn’t that make her kind of incredible.

“You almost sounded confident,” Revus mutters, scratching his chin.

“I never said I wasn’t good, just not good enough for… Minerva,” she replies.

“With a bit more confidence, you’d fit in with the Raines.”

I stare at Faraine and, upon her eyes meeting mine, she bashfully looks away, her semi-confident demeanor disappearing instantly.

Cool for a moment and now she’s back to normal. I chuckle.

“Well,” Revus chimes, “let’s see what you can do then.”

“Are we going to have a duel?” Faraine inquires, glancing at Revus.

“You guys are going to fight?” I blurt.

“I’d prefer that, but we don’t have the space inside and,” he glances at me, “It’s too cold outside for Evetta to properly watch us.” Why can’t you show the same concern when it comes to your lessons? He continues, “There’s also the chance that we’ll draw unwanted attention to ourselves, so instead, we’ll test your power, speed, and control.”

“And how are we going to do that?” Faraine asks.

“Light screens,” Revus answers as he conjures a square sheet of light and holds it in front of his torso.

Faraine turns her head but keeps her eyes locked on Revus and asks, “That’s it?”

“That’s all that’s needed. We’ll conduct three separate tests using them.” He states as he projects it away from the table. As it hovers in the air, Revus explains, “First, I’ll create walls of light. Your job will be to maneuver your water through the course without hitting any of the screens.”

“That doesn’t sound too difficult,” I mutter.

Faraine looks at me and replies, “It’s not as easy as you might think.” She then turns to Revus and asks, “Are you going to be moving the screens?”

Moving them? I glance at Revus and he smiles. “The course will be a ring, and every successful rotation, I’ll increase the difficulty. We’ll keep going until you hit a screen or until I’m satisfied.”

“I hope you’re ready to admit defeat then,” Faraine smirks.

Revus laughs, “I may have underestimated you. I hope you don’t disappoint.”

They’re being weird… My eyes bounce between their smiling faces before I cough, “Um… What about the other two tests?”

They both turn to face me, then back at each other, and then they relax. Revus continues, “For the second, I’ll create screens around the room. All you need to do is break them as quickly as possible.”

“What’s the catch this time?” Faraine shoots, a slight boldness present.

Revus chuckles, “The screens will vary in durability, size, distance, and visibility.”

“Testing my speed,” Faraine mutters, “Sounds more like you’re checking my judgment and accuracy.”

“Those are also going to be a part of the test,” Revus remarks, “But the end goal is how quickly can you destroy the targets.”

“Are these ones going to move too?” Faraine asks.

“No, but I’ll time each one,” Revus grins, “And each one that takes you too long will lower your score.”

“Fine by me,” Faraine affirms, “And the final test?”

“The third test will be the most simple. I’ll create ten screens. All you have to do is break as many as possible in one attempt.”

“Easy,” Faraine confidently claims.

“Shall we get started then?” Revus inquires, standing up.

“Eager to lose?” Faraine asks in response, getting up and walking into the middle of the cavern.

Revus turns to me and, as he holds his hands out in front of him, says, “Make sure you pay attention.”

“I will,” I reply as yellow pillars of crystal shoot out of the ground and surround me and the table.

“This will keep you safe in case anything happens.” As he turns around, he mutters, “Looks like this will be fun.” He walks toward Faraine and declares, “Don’t hate me later for this.”

“Me?” Faraine questions, “I just hope you’re not a sore loser.”

I tilt my head and rest my chin on my hand. Well, at least they seem to be getting along. Hopefully nothing bad happens though.

While Faraine stands in the middle of the room watching Revus, he walks past her to the opposite side of the room from me. He then sits on the ground, crossing his legs, and placing his hands on the ground.

“You ready?” He asks.

“Whenever.” Faraine affirms.

A soft yellow glow surrounds Revus’ hands and, instantly, a circular, yellow path appears on the ground surrounding Faraine. Several walls of light also appear within the path. The screens vary in size, shape, and location from the ground. The distance from one wall to the next is pretty large. Some of the walls are thin and tall, while others are wide and short. Many of them are touching the ground, but others hover in the air.

This doesn’t look that difficult. Even I could avoid those if I could fly. I turn my head for a moment at my wingless back. They’ll come back soon. I return my attention to Faraine.

She has conjured a ball of faintly-glowing, red water roughly the size of her head. Looks like blood. As it hovers in the air, Faraine asks, “Is this big enough?”

“That’s fine,” Revus states, “Begin whenever.”

Faraine nods, smiles, and holds her arms out in front of her. Following her directions, the liquid sphere travels toward the light screens. At first, the ball travels slowly through the course, going over a wall, then in between two, before lowering toward the ground to glide beneath another. Faraine slowly spins, maintaining concentration on the water.

It doesn’t look difficult but, I guess I shouldn’t say that considering I can’t even grace my soul yet. I sigh.

Steadily, Faraine increases the speed of the ball of water and it begins to weave itself through the yellow sheets of light. After completing a full loop, more walls appear throughout the course, cutting the distance between each wall in half. Faraine does not appear to flinch as she continues to navigate the red sphere through the yellow obstacles.

“I suggest increasing the difficulty a bit more,” Faraine boldly remarks, “Otherwise we’ll be here all day.”

“Don’t worry,” Revus retorts, “We’re only getting started.”

Faraine completes a second rotation, then a third, and a fourth. Each lap, Revus adds more screens, each time growing more complex. Sometimes reducing the distance between walls, other times restricting the space the sphere can fit through. Upon finishing a fifth lap, the walls start moving, varying in direction and the speed that they move. While maintaining the constant pace, Faraine persists in manipulating the sphere flawlessly through the course.

“Are you sure you’re trying to test me?” Faraine asks.

Revus grins, “You’re quite talkative.”

Now things are starting to get interesting. I smile watching the two of them. As much as I’d like Faraine to win, I can’t imagine Revus losing. “Come on Faraine!” I shout, cupping my hands around my mouth, “Don’t lose to him!” Please… I really don’t want him to make my lessons any harder.

Lap after lap, the track grows more difficult. The sphere fits through a small hole that is barely large enough for it. Then it rises high into the air and slides diagonally down between two walls until it reaches the ground where it swerves left and right around pillars, all while going up and down to avoid screens that are sliding left and right.

As Faraine finishes another lap, Revus comments, “You’ve been quiet for a while now, starting to struggle?”

“Not… at all,” Faraine replies, her words muffled slightly.

Really? I focus on Faraine and see her fingers shaking slightly. She is also biting her lower lip, and her previous confident demeanor has disappeared. Is it going to end soon? I move my eyes to the sphere and see it slowing down, its shape trembling.

Faraine finishes another lap and Revus announces, “Alright, this will be the last one. Good luck.” Upon finishing, all of the screens shift in some way. Some grow in size, reducing the area the sphere can move drastically. Others start to move, while those that were already moving increase in speed. Isn’t this kind of… extreme.

The sphere gradually weaves around screens of light. She makes it to a section of moving walls and stops the ball. Is this where it ends? I hold my breath and see Faraine nodding her head rhythmically to the movement of the wall. Suddenly, she zips the sphere forward and manages to avoid another part. She made it… As I take a breath I hear Faraine exhale.

She refocuses herself, but as she starts to move the sphere down a tube of screens, Revus announces “It’s my win.”

“What?” Faraine shouts, turning to Revus.

Revus stands up, walks through the light screens, and stops at the ones where the red sphere is at. He holds his hands out and a sheet of light lowers down into his hands. As he turns to Faraine, he holds the red-stained screen in front of him, and states, “In the last moment you didn’t stop in time and hit the screen.”

“Urgh!” Faraine huffs as she stares at red liquid running down the sheet. “I thought I stopped in time! Ugh!” She sighs heavily. “I thought I had it…” Her words trail off.

“You were better than I expected actually,” Revus says, “I didn’t think you’d make it to the tenth rotation. Consider me impressed.”

“Hmph, I still lost,” Faraine retorts.

“Indeed,” He affirms, “Are you ready for the next test or do you need a break?”

Faraine breathes deeply, then asserts, “No, I’m good to keep going.”

“If you say so,” Revus mutters, “As I said before, the goal for test two is to shoot the targets before they disappear.”

“Great,” Fararine huffs, “Should be easier then.”

“So you say,” Revus mumbles as he returns to his previous location. He sits down again, places his hands against the floor and, a moment later, the screens of light disappear. “You ready?”

“Whenever,” Faraine claims.

The circular, yellow path starts to expand. “Wow,” I whisper watching the yellow field grow until the entire floor is covered. Ksh. I look up hearing the sound of something breaking. Ksh. Ksh. Ksh. Ksh. Ksh. Ksh. Faraine is scanning the room, her head moving about as she slowly spins around. Her attention is drawn to the multitude of light screens appearing throughout the room. A moment after she sees one, a small orb of water appears above her before rapidly launching toward the screen and shattering it. Ksh.

Each time a screen breaks, the fragments dissolve into golden dust, while the water fades into red mist, both disappearing before reaching the ground. Streaks of red fire off from above Faraine as she pivots on her heels, the gold and red particles glittering down around her.

“Pretty…” I murmur. I shake my head and dart my eyes around the room, watching screen after screen shatter. This is crazy. Is she actually hitting each one? I can’t keep up.

Gradually, more and more screens appear, painting more and more of the room yellow. As time passes, the screens grow more varied in size and distance.

“Now this?” Faraine suddenly scoffs.

Why’d she- I look around and notice some of the screens are barely visible. “Revus!” I holler, slamming my hands onto the table as I stand up, “Isn’t that cheating?”

“I told her that they’d vary in visibility,” he declares.

“It’s fine,” Faraine urges, “It wouldn’t be a test without at least this much.”

“If you say so,” I mope, sitting back down.

Ksh. Ksh. Ksh. Faraine continues her dance, launching several attacks at a time in different directions. The screens are scattered throughout the room, some being near the ground, and others, closer to the ceiling. Most of them are about the size of the front door, but mixed in are a couple that are only a fraction of the size of the others.

The smaller ones have a deeper glow, making them more visible, while the more common screens are fairly translucent. Amongst them, are a handful that are barely visible, being almost entirely transparent. If not for her hitting these, I don’t know if I’d even find those ones.

A couple of minutes pass by and the screens gradually grow smaller, increase in amount, and become more difficult to see. Ksh. Ksh. Ting.

“Tch,” Faraine clicks her tongue.

What was that? I examine the room and notice a screen that is cracked but not broken. It didn’t break? A moment later a red stream hits and shatters it. Is Faraine getting tired?

“You almost didn’t get that one,” Revus states.

Without a moment of hesitation, Faraine searches the room for the next targets and within seconds, attacks a cluster of screens. Her attacks start to shift from two and three spread throughout the room to four to six aimed at groups of screens located near each other. Ksh.

“That’s one,” Revus announces.

Ksh. Ksh. Ksh. Regardless of how many Faraine attacks or how many projectiles she shoots, the number of screens progressively grows. Ksh. Ting. Ksh. Ksh.

“That’s tw- Nevermind three.”

Come on Faraine, you can do it. I interlock my fingers and tighten my hands.

Ting. Ksh. Ting. With each cluster attack, the number of screens that survive grows. Ting. Ting. Ksh. Ting.

“Eight… Nine…” Revus pauses for a moment, “…and that makes ten.” He lifts his hands from the ground and the field of yellow radiating from the floor disappears.

Faraine lowers her arms and slumps forward. While remaining on her feet, she wheezes heavily, “I… lost…”

“I wouldn’t consider that a loss,” Revus replies, standing up and walking toward her. “That was far better than I anticipated. If anything I’d say that one is your win, but about midway through, I decided to see how long you could last.”

“I still… failed…” Faraine huffs, “If those were shadar… then I would’ve-”

“You saying that impresses me even more,” Revus interrupts, “However, if those were shadar, you wouldn’t have been alone.”


“How are you holding up?” Revus asks.

“I’m alright,” Faraine answers, “Just… give me some time.”

“Go ahead,” Revus says as he walks away from her and approaches me. Now what? He stops in front of the crystal barrier and asks, “What’d you think?”

“It was…” I pause. What’s the word? “Pretty?”

“Pfft,” Revus laughs.

“Sorry. That’s not what I meant,” I quickly blurt, “Um… It was incredible. She was hitting so many of them and I could hardly keep up just watching. I didn’t even see her miss once.”

Revus glances back and mutters, “Yeah, she might be incredibly useful.”

I pout, narrow my gaze, and grumble, “Do you have to talk about her like that?”

“I’m only stating my opinion.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t like it.”

Revus laughs lightly before walking away. He heads to the door and begins to construct more light screens. Steadily, he creates one after another, placing one in front of the door. Each screen thereafter is placed in front of the previous one. After a few minutes, ten thick barricades of light are set up between Faraine and the front door.

“Your last test is by far the simplest,” Revus says, “Using as much power as you can muster, attack the screens and break as many as possible in one attempt.”

Faraine takes a deep breath, closes her eyes, and exhales. She opens them and asks, “One attack?”


“Alright,” She replies as she brings her palms close together, resting them near her stomach.

Revus walks over to me, places a hand on the crystal walls, and a section of them slides down into the ground. He removes his hand, walks inside with me, and returns his hand to the barrier. The crystal walls rise once more and, upon closing up, he sits down at the table across from me.

“How many of them do you think she’s going to break?” Revus asks.

I face him and ponder, “Hmm… Not sure. I guess saying all of them isn’t likely, right?”

“If she breaks them all,” Revus chuckles, “I’ll give you one week without any lessons.”

“Hah,” I sigh looking back at Faraine. I guess her breaking them all isn’t going to happen.

“You don’t seem happy about that. Would you rather have more lessons?”

“Absolutely not,” I bark, glaring at him, “It’s just…” I focus on the red fluctuating liquid hovering between Faraine’s hands, “…I know that’s not going to happen. So it sounds like you’re just…”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Revus comments.

“What do you mean?” I ask, looking at him.

“She’s surprised me thus far,” Revus states, “If she manages to break all ten then…” Revus looks at me, “She might be…” He goes quiet.

“She might be what?”

Revus nods toward Faraine, “Looks like she’s ready.”

I turn to Faraine. A red radiance moves erratically between her hands. She pushes her palms together, points her fingers at the screens, and slowly pulls her hands away from one another.

FSH. KSH. Krk.KSH. Krk. Immediately a red, water-beam bursts forward and instantly shatters several screens. Yellow glitter explodes in all directions. As the beam remains for a moment, a few more screens crack and break. Steadily the attack forces its way through another screen, leaving two left. Krk. As the ninth screen cracks, the red beam fades and disappears.

I stare at the lone fairy that just displayed a ferocious attack. “Wow.”

Faraine falls back and lands on her butt, placing her arms behind her to prop herself up.

Revus laughs lightly, stands up and, as he shakes his head, mutters, “Magnificent.”

“What was that just now?” I inquire.

Revus walks forward, places a hand on the crystal and, as it starts to retreat into the ground, he answers, “Water. Fierce, yet controlled.” He glances at me and adds, “I can see why she was considered for pagehood.”

We walk toward Faraine. She is breathing heavily on the ground. Revus claps his hands, “Congrats, you exceeded my expectations.”

“But… I failed… each test…” Faraine huffs.

I look up at Revus as he continues, “True, but that is only because I pushed you to your limits.”

“What… do you…”

“For the first test,” Revus cuts in, “You passed merely by getting past the fifth rotation, but you made it to the tenth. For the second test, you lasted far longer than I predicted. I started adding far more screens than I wanted and in response you changed your tactics to compensate for the increased screens.”

“Well… I didn’t see… another way to…”

Revus holds up his hand and continues, “As for the last test,” He points at the remaining two screens, “You passed by breaking five. Currently, I can’t even break ten of those screens.”

“Wait,” I turn to Faraine then back to Revus.

“If we’re using strictly water, then you’re likely better than I am.”

“Ha,” Faraine wheezes, “That… doesn’t make… me feel better.”

She’s better than Revus?

“You use… all twelve elements…” Faraine mutters as she lays on her back, “I use… one and a half.”

“True, but even when I was your age,” Revus retorts, “You’re vastly better than I was. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Also, I look forward to having more matches with you, it was fun.”

“Yeah, me too,” Faraine says.

“So does that mean that I won’t have lessons for a week?” I ask looking up at Revus joyfully.

Revus glances down at me, then points at the remaining screens with his thumb, and asks, “Did she break all ten?”

“No,” I whine.

“Then no,” Revus bluntly replies, “But… A few days doesn’t sound too bad.”

“Yes!” I exclaim, turning to Faraine. “Thanks, and good job.”

Faraine pulls her bangs in front of her eyes and mumbles, “Sure.”


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