‘It’s time to go,’ Ms. Yera, the Serra-blessed nurse, said, opening the door. She looked at Gael adoringly. ‘I hope this is going to be the last time you end up here.’
Gael smiled and nodded. ‘I hope so to.’ His body still hurt, but most of the wounds on the surface had healed. He didn’t have to be worried of infection. ‘Thanks for the care, Ms. Yera.’
‘It’s my pleasure.’ Ms. Yera shook her head. ‘Honestly. You do know how to make friends with the staff. I heard from Ms. Welewa that you sometimes helped her organized the books in the library. You even helped me treating the student patients here when you had free time. You’re a remarkable student, Gael.’
Gael maintained his smile. As he left the medical room after taking the special pass from Ms. Yera, he pondered over her words. It’s not surprising, really, he thought. My father’s a doctor, my mother’s a scholar. They always brought me to their working places. While he wasn’t from a Great House, House Xestari could be considered wealthy. His parents reminded him to treat everyone as equal as all of them were people at the end. He was glad with the way they raised him.
Maybe Baris becomes a bully because of his parents’ influence, Gael thought idly, walking toward Serra dormitory. Although he had classes today, he had just been released from recovery. The special pass would give a reason to any prefect or staff catching him around the castle of why he didn’t go to class today. As much as he wanted to resume his study, he thought more rest would serve him better.
As he reached a corner, his eyes on the floor, he bumped on someone. ‘S-sorry!’ he said and looked up. A male student with a fair skin and light blond hair raised his eyebrows on him. He wore a sleeveless tunic, which he meant he was a Fighter student. Gael hadn’t seen Haka. Did the Combat class end early?
‘It’s okay,’ the boy said, smiling. ‘Where are you going? I’m Veris, by the way.’
Gael expected - and wished for - Veris to walk away after saying ‘It’s okay’, but now that he asked Gael something, it seemed rude to ignore him. ‘Um, I’m going to my dorm. Serra House.’
Veris raised his eyebrows. ‘You have a House? I thought -’ The smile, now apologetic, returned. ‘Sorry. I’ve heard rumors.’
‘That I’m a Loner?’ Gael said dryly. ‘That I’m zero-blessed?’ Did all students now know he couldn’t use magic? Well, Natural magic, at least. He could still use blood magic after some practice. How about those people who came before the Naturals? Those old folks weren’t called Loners, were they?
‘It’s - I don’t mean it in an offensive way,’ Veris said, now walking alongside Gael. ‘I just thought it’s interesting to have no blessing. It makes you less dependent on it, doesn’t it?’
‘You can’t depend on it at all,’ Gael said, frowning. ‘Not to mention, I wasn’t like this at the first place.’ He cursed himself as soon as he spoke it. No one knew what really happened to him except for his parents and Mrs. Venaria. They told him to keep it as a secret. He didn’t know why. It wasn’t like people would get mad of him once they found out what happened to him.
‘What do you mean?’
The gears in Gael’s mind worked furiously. ‘Well, my parents are blessed, so I should be one too. It seems like an error. Serra might’ve forgotten about it.’
Veris chuckled. ‘She can’t be. It’s genetic, after all.’
Gael shrugged. ‘It’s still an error, whatever that was done to me.’ He glanced at the boy. ‘Shouldn’t you be in Combat class?’
‘Mr. Haifei’s class ended early.’ Veris raised his eyebrows. ‘I’ve heard about Baris and you too. How are you?’
Why are you such a busybody? Gael thought, suppressing the urge to let out a groan. ‘Rumors travel fast, and those aren’t the good ones. I’m fine, thanks for your concern. Still a bit sore. Baris’s suspended for a while.’
‘I also heard Ilami saving you from them. Is it true?’
Now that a stranger asked him about it, he felt slightly embarrassed having a girl rescuing him. It wasn’t like he minded it - anything to avoid the torture - but people snickered when the girl was the one who saved the boy, not the other way around. Despite that, Ilami deserved the credit.
Gael nodded. ‘Yes, she saved me. Thank the gods she was passing by at that time.’
‘What do you think of her?’
Why do you want to know? Gael thought. He didn’t want to voice it out, though, worried about what he would sound like. He needed to overcome this worry of people judging him. ‘She’s fine, though a bit harsh. She understands the academy quickly; I guess being the principal’s daughter helps. She promises to teach me how fight and I promise to teach her how to make advanced Natural spells.’ Urgh, I tell to much.
Veris hummed, his eyes distant. For a while, silence lingered, and Gael wondered what was the boy thinking. He had an interest on Ilami, that was for sure, but why? Now that Gael had considered Ilami as a friend - more so when she had Aleveri to heal him - he should treat her accordingly, which meant he had to be careful if someone like Veris wanted to know more about her.
‘We’ve arrived at your dorm,’ Veris said, tilting to the door of Serra House. ‘You know a lot about Natural spells, eh? I think we have something in common.’
The last part grabbed Gael’s attention. ‘You mean, Natural magic in general? I’m also interested in blood magic, you know. I spent years learning old and modern Esteese as well as Natural language.’
Veris chuckled at Gael’s enthusiasm. ‘I’m not much of a linguist, but everything about the Naturals intrigue me. They establish themselves as deities, after all. I focus on their magic and religion, Nerecia.’
Gael nodded as Veris spoke. Finally, someone with whom he could share his passion. He did wonder about Nerecia a fair bit. He turned to the dorm’s door and mentally scratched his head. Should he invite Veris in? He did plan to rest so maybe he shouldn’t? The soreness of his body reminded him he wasn’t fully recovered yet, and with a heavy heart, he surrendered to it. It was time to say farewell to -
Let him in, the voice whispered, making itself known again.
Why? Gael thought.
He is necessary as an intermediary between Ilami and Felaris.
Gael frowned. Who’s Felaris? What does she have to do with all of this?
Veris grabbed Gael’s shoulder and turned Gael to him. ‘Gael? Are you okay?’ he said, frowning.
Let him in. Trust me.
Gael paused before he let out a heavy sigh. Then, he put on a smile. ‘I was just thinking. How about you come to my room? We can talk about the Naturals more there.’ He looked around. A few students passed, signifying that most classes hadn’t ended yet. Haka should still be in his. ‘I think I need company.’
‘Coincidentally, I have nothing else to do,’ Veris said.
Gael opened the door and the smell of salt and seawater greeted them. Veris blinked before he resumed his composure. They entered with Gael leading Veris. You’ll better not be evil incarnate and set me a trap, Gael thought to the voice. While he had some worries about why it wanted him to spend more time with Veris, he couldn’t help but be intrigued with the reason. It seemed like his curiosity was the only thing that overcame his worry.