Lucy ran aimlessly down the halls of the main building, keeping her head low so as to hide her eyes from anyone who might see her. Though, of course, no one was present at the moment. Another period of classes had begun, and the halls were empty. Lucy was alone.
As she ran, the weight of her deal with the Headmaster continued to press itself against her mind. Win her next match, or be expelled. And to make matters worse her opponent was Nora. Entitled, stuck-up, pampered, Elefrian-blooded Nora!
Lucy stopped herself only a few steps from the building’s exit, her head hung low, aware of what she had just thought. Nora being an Elefrian had nothing to do with this, even if it was one of the things Nora used as an excuse to bully others. Nora was Nora. Strong with magic, but for whatever reason, cursed with a rotten personality. Lucy refused to stoop to her level.
But still, it wasn’t fair. For the Headmaster to make such a deal… did he know that her next opponent was someone she had no chance against? Was the deal they had made just an opportunity for him to seem merciful and still get rid of her?
No. She shouldn’t think like that. The Headmaster was a good person, and thoughts like that would only make her feel worse.
Lucy walked the rest of the way, passing through the building’s exit and to the outside. Of course, nobody was here either. A surge of mountain wind caused Lucy to shiver. She couldn’t stay outside, it would be too miserable. Looking around, she looked for some options. Back to her dorm? No. It was too far, and surely she would be found out along the way. Somewhere closer, she figured. And then she remembered.
“The library…” Lucy thoughtlessly whispered.
The campus library was in clear view from where Lucy stood, its lavender shackled spires made it stand out at any point from the campus. Lucy quickened her pace, passing in front of another building of classrooms to get to the library’s entrance. Thankfully for Lucy, the windows on the faces of this building didn’t belong to any of the classrooms—those were all on the opposite side—so she didn’t have to worry about being spotted. Soon enough, Lucy made it to the library’s entrance.
Lucy awed at the consistently awesome architecture of Greidwhen’s buildings. The doors alone were a nice, deep brown finish, both carved with an intricate pattern of shapes while the wall itself had several scenes from history sculpted into its surface. Lucy gripped one of the door’s brass handles, pulling it hard with both hands. She wasn’t used to having to do this… usually the doors just sat ajar. Though to be fair, she had only been to the library two or three times since the year had started… an admittedly bad record.
With a heavy drag, the door was open, allowing Lucy to slip inside before it shut behind her. The inside was magnificent. The opposite wall was probably five-hundred feet away, while the walls to her sides were even farther than that. Walking further in, the entrance’s low ceiling opened up, revealing the brilliant series of cathedral windows that let in the entirety of library’s light. A long balcony ran along the walls of the library, acting like a second floor, and any part of the library’s walls not occupied with structural integrity was plastered with bookcases, all rising higher than any person could normally reach.
Using the stairs near the entrance, Lucy went up to the second floor with the intention of getting a better view. Because the library’s tall walls were occupied with books, the ground floor itself was merely a vast spread of tables. Some of the tables had dividers for privacy, and others had none at all to allow for group work. Lucy found herself mesmerized by the way the light shone down onto the main floor, but her attention was soon broken by the apparent movement of a shadow down below.
Lucy quickly focused on the shadow, tracing it to its source. It was a person… sitting alone and reading with a rather sizeable stack of books on a trolley behind them. She couldn’t tell much about them, the hood of their robe was drawn, completely concealing their face.
Was it another student? Or perhaps… Oh no! Was it one of the Academy professors?
Not taking any chances, Lucy instinctively ducked. Sure, there wasn’t anything wrong with being in the library… but the small detail of her not being in class might be enough to warrant a meeting with the Headmaster, which Lucy couldn’t afford at the moment.
In the midst of Lucy’s panicking, a commotion began to sound from another side of the library. The sounds were faint, until the boom of a door being slammed open shocked Lucy, whom could now see three boys chasing down a fourth to the center of the library.
“C’mon Wiggs! Don’t be scared,” the apparent leader of the three, a tall, red-haired boy, shouted at their lone victim whom seemed to stumble into every table that crossed his path. “You should be proud, giving me a chance to practice my latest spell!”
“Make it good Colin!” One of the other two boys cheered as they continued to pursue the lone boy, Wiggs, as they called him. Finally though, Wiggs tripped to the ground with a thud, having only enough time left to turn his fearful gaze towards the others.
“That’s it, now hold still.”
A gross smile on his face, the red-haired boy, Colin, brought his hand back, where a colorful aura began to crackle violently at its palm. Unable to bear the ruthlessness of what was happening, Lucy moved to stop them, but hesitated upon an unfortunate realization. She had left her bag back in the hall outside her classroom, and with it her totem necessary for casting spells. Lucy was helpless to stop them now. In a last ditch effort to defend himself, Wiggs took out his own totem, a wand, pointing it back at his attackers.
The three boys all broke into laughter.
“Just leave me alone Colin! Please!” Wiggs pleaded.
“You know that’s not going to happen, Wiggs!” Colin shouted, throwing his violent lightning spell towards Wiggs.
At the same time, a surge of wind shot from Wiggs’s wand and met the ball of lightning with a thunderous clap, diverting it to the balcony where Lucy was hiding. The lightning exploded as it met the balcony railing, forcing Lucy to shield her eyes from the dust while the remnants of Wiggs’s wind spell merely caused the three boys’ robes to sway.
“Fighting back now? That’s new.” Colin said.
Wiggs didn’t respond. In fact his attention seemed to be occupied elsewhere as Lucy noticed him cradling a stone in his other hand that wasn’t there before. The stone’s color appeared to pulse with blue light in a strange pattern, almost like it was speaking.
Speaking? The thought caused Lucy to instinctively look over to the hooded figure she had seen earlier. Just as before they were sitting alone, drawing no attention to themselves. This time however Lucy noticed them resting a hand over their jaw, where another pulsing light could be seen barely shining between their knuckles. Noticing the light from the figure’s fist to beat with the same pattern, Lucy confirmed her suspicion. It was something she had learned during her first week at Greidwhen. The hooded figure was using a whispering stone to talk to Wiggs.
“Don’t ignore us Wiggs!” One of Colin’s lackeys shouted.
Wiggs expression was more confused than fearful as he looked over to his attacker. The stone in his hand, the one hidden from the other boys’s views, pulsed once again. A moment later Wiggs stood up, still neglecting to answer Colin, choosing rather to point his wand towards the other boys, all of whom burst into laughter once again.
“What’s gotten into you Wiggs?” Colin started, “You haven’t forgotten about our deal have you? You let us get in some real practice with our spells, and we promise not to make it hurt too much.”
Wiggs remained still while the stone’s light continued to pulse in his hand. After seeing him making a hard swallow, Lucy knew that the hooded figure had just told Wiggs to do something outrageous.
“I… I don’t want to be a part of that deal anymore…” Wiggs stammered.
Colin looked at Wiggs with a bit of shock but quickly showed an arrogant smirk. Carefully, he began pacing around one of the library tables near him, hiding the ring shaped totem on his right hand that began to glow—signaling a build-up of magic within it.
“I see… I guess I’ll just have to stop—”
Colin took a final, hard step that echoed throughout the library.
Colin turned swiftly to face Wiggs, bringing his arm back to throw the spell that had begun to crackle at his palm once again. Lucy let out a yelp, cursing her helplessness to stop him. In a flash however, Wiggs stomped forward, releasing a bullet of wind at Colin that was far bigger and faster than the one he had released before. Before Colin had realized it, the bullet of wind clashed with his body and launched him several feet backwards.
Colin hit the ground with a thud. Wiggs’s eyes grew wide in surprise at the power of his spell, though neither of Colin’s friends could notice it as they shrieked, scrambling over to their friend who had just been tossed into the air like a ragdoll.
“Oh man, Oh man!”
“Get him up!”
“Is he breathing!?”
The two boys ceased their panicking to listen for a sign of life from their friend whom hung practically limp between them.
“We gotta get him to the infirmary!”
The two boys ran for the closest exit, carrying their dazed leader whose heels dragged across the floor as he continued to groan.
“It’s gonna be okay Colin!”
“What the heck is wrong with you Wiggs!?”
“We’ll get you back for this!”
The boys continued to shout at Colin, Wiggs, and each other as they headed out. Lucy, who had managed to remain hidden from everyone involved, was trying her best keep from breaking into a fit of laughter. Finally, however, the library was calm again.
Lucy looked over to Wiggs, whom, to her surprise, was standing face to face with the hooded figure from before. The figure stood at the same height as Wiggs, and as he drew back his hood, the youth of his face revealed that they were near the same age as well.
“You—you’re the one who spoke through the stone?”
“Yes. I’ll be needing it back now.” The boy said flatly, holding his hand out to Wiggs.
“Ah… yes of course.” Wiggs fumbled with the stone, giving it back to his savior. “Those adjustments you gave… I… the—they were really great. I didn’t think I was able to use a spell that strong.”
Wiggs found it difficult to maintain eye contact with the other boy, who seemed not the least bit interested in speaking with him.
“It was nothing…” The boy placed the whispering stone into a satchel that hung from his belt where Wiggs caught a glimpse of several other stones. Some of them he knew of—others he didn’t recognize.
“Now if you don’t mind.”
Wiggs was caught off guard by the sudden end of their conversation. Already the other boy had turned away and was walking back to the table he had been at since the beginning.
“W—wait!” Wiggs started. “May I have your name?”
The other boy stopped, letting out a annoyed breath just quiet enough for Wiggs to miss. Lucy noticed it however, and continued to watch as the boy procured a pair of mustard colored glasses from his robe pocket. Putting the glasses on, he turned to Wiggs with a solemn look in his eye.
“Are you sure?” He asked.
Wiggs’s eyes suddenly widened with fear. Lucy noticed and was quickly confused at Wiggs’s sudden change in attitude towards the other boy.
“I… uh…” Wiggs tried to speak, but found it difficult come up with anything. His frightened gaze remained locked on to the other boy. “I have to… have to…”
Wiggs neglected to finish speaking, breaking into a brisk walk towards the library’s main entrance. Lucy watched him until the last edge of his robe rounded the corner. Just like that he was gone…and Lucy was left with nothing but questions.
Footsteps echoed in the library once again. The other boy—the one who had apparently done something to help Wiggs and in the next minute leave him terrified enough to leave—was making his way to the library wall just under where Lucy stood on the second floor balcony.
Careful not to be seen, Lucy leaned in to get a closer look. Something was up with this boy. Clearly he was responsible for Wiggs’s fantastic wind spell earlier. Yet why did Wiggs leave in such a rush after the boy put on his glasses?
Lucy couldn’t come up with an answer. Yet there was one idea that intrigued her. If he helped Wiggs cast a stronger spell, could he do the same for herself? Just the notion of such a thing distracted Lucy enough to carelessly lean onto the balcony railing where Colin’s previous spell had struck. Damaged from the spell its support was weak, and Lucy was too late to notice before it gave out with a loud crack under her weight. Suddenly, she was falling. But there was just enough time before hitting the ground for her to look down towards the boy… whom was looking straight up at her and standing in the landing zone.
The debris of the broken railing hit the stone floor with a clash. After everything had settled, Lucy opened her eyes. Luckily enough it appeared that she was completely fine, at least for someone falling twelve feet to the ground. Looking down, however, Lucy realized why she had such a soft landing—she had landed right on top of the other boy, whom was lying under Lucy and looking up at her with a bewildered stare.
“Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry!” Lucy leaped up effortlessly.
The boy grunted, having a harder time just trying to sit himself up.
“Are you… okay?” Lucy asked.
The boy breathed in short huffs while he began pressing around his body to check for any damage.
“I—I don’t think anything is broken… Ah—!” The boy winced after feeling a sharp pain near his ribs.
Lucy stood there helpless, not knowing what to say. Surely a simple, “Sorry I fell on you,” wouldn’t suffice.
The boy opened his satchel of stones and fumbled through them, mumbling to himself about what Lucy figured were insults directed at her. Finally he procured a yellow stone. It was far larger than the whispering stone Lucy had seen in Wiggs hand. Carefully the boy held the stone up to his wound where it began to glow. Instantly the boy’s breathing steadied and his wincing expression was relieved.
After applying the stone quickly to a few other areas, the boy looked up to Lucy with an unimpressed expression.
“Look…” The boy said, lifting himself up, “I don’t know you… and frankly I’m not interested in getting to know you.”
Lucy suddenly felt insulted, though a small part of her wondered if that feeling was justifiable given the circumstances.
“And I’m pretty sure you’re not interested in being anywhere near me,” he added as he fixed his glasses. “So… can we just pretend this didn’t happen?”
Lucy stood there, dumbfounded. She’d never had encounter like this, and before she had any time to think of a response the boy had already started walking away.
“W—Wait!” Lucy shouted.
The boy turned to face Lucy again, his patience wearing thin.
“Um… can I ask?” Lucy scrambled for something to say. “Actually, let me first say that… I’m really sorry about falling on you.”
“I walked in earlier before all that… stuff… happened. And then the railing got hit by a spell. Then I leaned on it just as you walked under it, so…”
The boy continued to look at her with a bored expression.
“So… it was an accident! If you’re going to be upset at anyone it should be that Colin guy!”
Lucy finished her opening statement, which had taken an unintended accusatory direction. If it was any consolation however, the boy no longer had a bored expression and instead was just confused.
“Uh… sure,” he replied, walking away yet again.
“Wait! Can I ask you something?” Lucy asked.
The boy sighed. “What?”
“…You were talking to that one boy through the whispering stone. Did you say something that helped him cast that last spell?”
The boy seemed hesitant to continue the conversation. His eyes showed a hint of skepticism.
“…I gave him some adjustments to make on his technique. His back wasn’t straight enough and was hindering the deep breath you need to take for that spell. Also… he needed to widen his stance to absorb the recoil and keep the spell from diverging.”
“Wow…” Lucy marveled, “You could tell all that from where you were sitting?”
“Anyone can do it if they learn what to look for.”
Lucy couldn’t tell, but the boy’s eyes had begun to show much less of an annoyance with her than before.
“Then… do you think you could teach me how to cast spells like that?” Lucy laid her intentions out clearly. It was all she could think to do.
The boy was surprised at Lucy’s request, though he soon looked solemnly at her as he gave his reply.
“I’m sorry, but I have to decline.”
Lucy felt a tightening in her chest—somehow she had forgotten about the possibility of being rejected.
“Oh, I understand,” Lucy said, trying to hide her disappointment. “Sorry, it was probably rude of me to ask you out of nowhere like that… especially after causing you trouble.”
“No, it’s not that. It’s… well I just don’t think it’s in your best interest… to be taught by another first-year, I mean. There are plenty of professors who would provide better help than me.”
Lucy felt that something was off, remembering back to Wiggs’s strange reaction earlier. Though she figured it would be rude to inquire about it.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Lucy said, trying to give a sincere smile. “Um, can I ask… will you be here again tomorrow?”
“Oh! No, I won’t bother you about teaching again! It’s just that… there’s a class I’d really rather not go to. It’s the reason I’m here right now as well.” Lucy said, somber. It was bad enough having to remember her encounter with Nora earlier. She didn’t know what she’d do if they met again.
The boy gave a look as if he was about to regret his next words. “Yeah, I’ll be here. But if you’re going to come, you can’t bother me too much. Okay?”
Lucy smiled, “Thanks.”
Giving each other one last look, the two turned their separate ways. Lucy headed back to the library’s entrance, figuring she would just go back to her dorm until her next class started. Before she left for good, however, she remembered something and looked back to the boy whom was back to sitting down at his table.
“Hey! My name is Lucy!” She shouted out to him.
“Cedric,” The boy said back after a long pause. He didn’t sound too enthusiastic, but it was still a response she was happy to hear.
Satisfied, Lucy turned back and headed out of the library. For some reason she felt just a little bit better about the whole day. The cold air seemed less miserable and a small confidence filled her as she thought about her upcoming practice with Rosseau later that day. Heading towards her dorm, she realized she would have to come up with an apology to Rosseau for skipping class today… and another for skipping on him tomorrow as well.