The Guild – Chapter 97 – Andrei

    My consciousness shifts and I suddenly feel the heaviness of my body laying here in my bed. I crack my eyes open and regret it as a bright white light shines into my face. I don’t recall my room having such a light. Then, it dawns on me, I’m not in my bed, I’m still in the infirmary. That would be why my body feels heavy, or…

    I try to sit up and find that there actually is something on my chest, weighing me down, how could I forget.

    A splay of orange-red hair covers my chest and tickles my chin. I don’t know why I am surprised to find her here, but I find my heart flutter with excitement and happiness at seeing her again. I lift a hand to stroke her hair, revealing her sleeping face. She looks so peaceful, I can’t bear to wake her up.

    I find myself lying there, watching her as she sleeps. She was up for a long time, waiting for me. I think I’ll let her rest a while longer.

    My thoughts drift to the dream, though the details have already begun to go fuzzy, I recall enough that brings a smile to my face. Kaitlyn sure is adventurous. I had no idea those things were possible while I slept.

    I quickly turn my head to see if anyone else is here as I blush with embarrassment at the memory. Thankfully were alone.

    As I was taught, I attempt to focus on the amount of built up time energy. Despite being asleep for nearly 11 hours, I’ve barely managed to store any more than I had before I fell asleep. My teacher wasn’t lying when she said it takes longer in the dream realm. I’ll have to try and stay awake if I can.

    Another half hour goes by when the door suddenly bangs open against the wall and Cliff barges in, followed by Caroline and Gwendalyn.

    “My friends! I have heard of your trying adventure and I became so pained that I had to come – oh…” he stops suddenly as Kaitlyn’s head raises in surprise. Her whole body tenses and she seems ready to leap off the bed. “You were asleep… I am deeply sorry,” Cliff apologizes, raising his hands and backing away slowly.

    “No, don’t be,” Caroline interjects, stepping out from behind him and into the room. “They’ve had enough sleep for one day. I think it’s time we got them out of bed and moving about,” she smirks, crossing her arms over her chest, a clear power pose.

    Gwendalyn steps up to the bed with a warm smile and places a firm hand on my forehead. I flinch, unsure of what she’s doing. “Don’t worry. I’m just doing a general reading of your health. I’d like to prepare a draught for the both of you, to help you heal faster,” she explains.

    I feel a tingle run over my skin as she reads my health. It’s a strange sensation, similar to the electrical feeling I get when I’m about to jump, but when she’s done she straightens with a nod before doing the same with Kat.

    “Well, you’re both physically well, though your magic is low. I can help with that too, thankfully. I’ll come find you when it is ready,” she smiles. Turning to Kaitlyn, she adds, “you’re both doing well. I was worried there for a bit. I wasn’t sure what a full fire form would do to your child, but they seem to be in perfect health. The rest was well received.”

    Kat rubs her eye and props herself up. “I figured if it was going to be a problem, there wouldn’t have been anything for you to sense…”

    “Yes, however, we will both learn from this new experience, won’t we?” she smiles.

    I wrap my arms around Kat, pleased with the news. I hadn’t even thought of how our magic might affect a baby not yet born. There are a thousand more risks I can think of, compared to a regular couple having a child.

    She looks down at me with her brilliant amber eyes. “Are you feeling better? Do you think you’re okay to leave here?”

    I think about it and nod. I’m sure I’ll feel better if I get moving. Kat smiles and slips out of the bed. She turns and holds her arms out for me if I need help. I take them gladly, using her assistance to sit up. As I do, my stomach makes an awful racket that brings a flush to my cheeks. I can’t believe it… at a time like this… and everyone just heard that. I laugh nervously.

    Kat raises an eyebrow with a teasing smirk. “Sounds like you’re hungry.”

    “It has been two days, right?” I ask.

    “Three,” Caroline corrects. “You woke up but didn’t eat, so today is day three.”

    “Oh my God!” that would be why I don’t feel good.

    “Looks like we’re heading to the caf then,” Kat giggles, waiting by the edge of the bed for me to stand up.

    I swing my legs over, placing my feet on the cold tiled floor. As I throw off the sheets I realize I’m still in my clothes from Africa. I’m covered in sand and I see rips and tears in my shirt. “No one bothered to change me?” I ask.

    “We’re not your mother,” Caroline huffs, rolling her eyes. “Besides, your room is locked and we seem to have left your bag in Africa. So there was nothing to change you into.”

    Great. Now I’ve lost my bag and that journal… maybe I can figure out how to jump back using that space spell I’ve just learned and get it back… priorities.

    “Whatever. Let’s get something to eat,” I smile, standing a little shakily. After not using my legs for three days, I feel like the rooms spinning slowly. I grip Kaitlyn’s hand for support, but I don’t want to worry them, so I don’t say anything. They’ve worried enough already.

    “Maybe you can borrow a wheelchair?” Kat hums, looking around the infirmary.

    I look at her with alarm. “God, no. I’m fine. I can walk,” I assure her, though I’m not sure if I’m convincing enough. I take a deep breath, straightening my back to look like I’m more steady than I feel. Kat rolls her eyes.

    “Seriously, I’m fine!” I repeat for effect. “Let’s go!” Slowly but surely, I make my way to the door. I’m determined to get food. It’s ridiculous how hungry I am. Kat follows closely at my side, worry plain on her face. I really wish she wouldn’t worry about me. I woke up and all. I’ll be fine, once I get some food. She has more important things to worry about than whether or not I can walk.

    I get passed the infirmary door, the others still inside. Before they can follow I place a hand on the wall to steady myself… I might need to take some breaks. How far is it again to the caf from here? I quickly remove my hand as Caroline exits next, followed by Cliff and Gwendalyn. Looks like I have an entourage.

    Kat leans close, her voice drops so the others don’t hear. “You don’t need to push yourself. You’re always saying we need to rely on each other, right?”

    “This isn’t the same…” I hiss softly. I don’t know why, but I feel a twinge in my chest as I contemplate asking for help. Why should I need help to walk to the caf? That’s a little pathetic, isn’t it? “I’m not pushing myself. I’m fine,” I repeat firmly. I know she means well, but I need to do this.

    She leans back, annoyed. “Fine, remember this next time you’re lecturing me then,” I frown at her hard and take another step, then another. I try moving faster, proving I can do it on my own.

    By the time we reach the caf, I’m practically out of breath, unable to hide it as I lean against the wall. “See…” I huff. “I did it, just…. Fine,” I whisper as she crosses her arms. I don’t even have the energy to glare at her until I catch my breath and enter the caf.

    “Shall we order today?” Caroline asks, looking up at the board for ideas.

    “I think I feel like a cheese burger,” Cliff beams.

    “What? A cheese burger? No way. If you’re going to have a burger, you gotta hand make it. Cliff, I’ll make you burgers,” I offer.

    “Andrei!” Kat whines. Her lip quivers like she’s about to cry.

    “What?! Now you think I can’t cook?” I almost yell. Everyone looks at me, frowning. It’s the thing I always do though… I always… cook for them…

    “Just…” Kat’s shoulders sag. “Stop being so stubborn… Please? Just take it easy today.”

    I ball my hands into fists at my side in frustration. I know I’m tired, but… I can’t stand the idea of ordering food. It’s not that hard to stand in a kitchen and cook. I exhale slowly before trying once more to convince Kat that I’m fine to cook. I open my mouth to protest but she cuts me off with a curt look.

    “Please,” she stresses again, begging. Her eyes glimmer, threatening to overflow. “Let someone else cook, just this once.”

    I look at her for a long drawn out moment, studying her earnest face. “Fine…” I grumble, giving in. She lets out a huge breath of relief. Why is she so worked up?

    “Wonderful! I’ll go order us all burgers!” Cliff booms.

    “That’s not what I said,” Kat snaps at him, eyes going wide. “One of us can do the cooking, right? Andrei can supervise. That’s fair, right?”

    “But who’s good enough to cook something that’s edible?” Caroline asks. I know she’d burn anything she touches in the kitchen, I hope she doesn’t offer.

    Gwendalyn smiles. “I could make us all a healthy gruel,” Kat grimaces.

    “I can make toast,” Cliff grins. “I am not a good choice. What about Kaitlyn?” he asks, clapping her on the shoulder with a firm grip.

    She flinches, flushing pink. “I-um… I’ve only helped cook a couple times… I don’t know…”

    I give her an encouraging smile. “I think you’re better than you give yourself credit for. I’d love to have whatever you make,” I smile. I actually feel a flutter of anticipation as I imagine Kat bringing me a plate of whatever she’s made, wearing an apron. My fantasy goes wild in my head and I have to slam on the breaks before I lose focus. Thankfully my stomach reminds me of the most important thing. “Anything you make will be fantastic.”

    She looks around at the others and back to me. “I’ll do my best, as long as you sit and rest.”

    I nod happily. “I promise,” she grabs a chair and heads into the kitchen while the others go and find a table. I follow, albeit, slowly. As I pass through the caf I attract a few stares. I realize my clothes aren’t in the greatest of shape. I spot Selene and Nik off by the window with what looks like the new Asian girl. I wonder briefly how she’s doing. She looks a little… scared, with wide eyes, staring at Selene and Nik, a pencil and notebook out on the table. I wonder what they’re doing.

    I finally make it to the kitchen and Kat gestures to the chair. I reluctantly take a seat and watch as she gathers the utensils. “What do you want to make?” I ask her, curious.

    She looks back at me, curious wide eyes. “Cliff said something about burgers, right? Sounds simple enough.”

    “Good idea. So we’ll need ground meat and some spices, buns, and condiments. Let’s start with the patty’s,” I explain. She nods, pulling out a tube of ground beef from the fridge.

    When she’s got the burgers in the pan frying, she jumps as they sizzle, looking a little frazzled. I instruct her to lower the heat a little and step back. Everything else she seems relatively comfortable with, though she asks me a million times if it looks ok.

    I’m tempted about half the time to take the spatula from her and show her how, but every time I move to stand she glares at me. I’m not a dog, asked to sit and wait… but maybe I am.

    Finally, the burgers are done and she plates them and walks over to the others at a table, not far from Nik, Selene, and the new girl. I get up and follow slowly.

    “Wow! Kat, you really made this all by yourself? You sure he didn’t get up and take over?” Caroline jests, admiring Kat’s handy work.

    Kat just blushes, taking a seat as I show up. “I swear I didn’t lift a fork. I only watched,” I assure her. Car gives me a skeptical look.

    “Wow, I’ve never had burgers before. I am looking forward to trying them,” Gwendalyn eyes them hungrily. Cliff’s already grabbed two. Kat takes one, putting only cheese and ketchup on it. I watch closely as she takes tiny bites, watching the others nervously.

    “What’s up?” I ask her, taking a burger for myself and loading on the condiments. She looks surprised, turning red as she turns away with a shrug.

    I frown. Why has she gotten so nervous in front of me, all of a sudden? I try again. “Kat, you can tell me anything,” I say looking at the others who are completely distracted by their burgers.

    “Nothing, really,” she mumbles. “Is it… Okay?” She glances between me and my plate.

    I raise a curious eyebrow as I take my first bite. My mouth explodes with flavour and I can’t believe how good it tastes, and I don’t think it’s from being the first thing I’ve eaten in three days, nor the first normal food I’ve had since we left for Africa.

    “Oh my God, Kat, Thish ish amazhing!” I say through a full mouth.

    She stares at me with hopeful eyes, a nervous smile on her lips. “Really? I’m glad.”

    “Ish that what you were worried about?” I ask, wiping my mouth with my hand as the juices from the perfectly cooked patty drip into my beard. She drops her eyes to her plate and quickly takes a bite to avoid answering.

    I smirk, taking another bite. She’s so cute. Damn this is good.

    We polish off the plate of burgers in no time, wiping our faces and fingers off with the napkins on the table. Everyone praises Kat for the good meal.

    “Oh, Cliff. I saw that there was a greenhouse on the grounds, though it hasn’t looked used in a while. Do you think I could fix it up to house my plants in?” Gwendalyn asks Cliff as he stands to leave.

    “Oh, yes. Of course! No one’s really used it since the last plant expert. We’ve never really had a Life Guardian before, but a few talented magicians in the past have had a knack for plants. I can show you where everything is and help you get started. Why don’t we head there now?” he offers. He’s always so kind, helping all the new people get settled.

    “Thank you, that would be wonderful. Don’t you worry, Kaitlyn and Andrei, I’ll have your drought ready in no time!” she winks as they walk away from the table. I wave goodbye and lean back in my chair, satisfied with that meal.

    As I stare at Kat from across the table, I spot Kaede walk into the caf. He makes a beeline for Selene and Nik and the new girl and I watch with interest. He shows her something, then takes her phone and works with it for a bit before handing it back. The new girls face seems to light up, looking a little less scared.

    Kaede seems to nod then thumbs towards us, making everyone’s head turn in our direction. Suddenly, Nik is standing, dragging Selene and the new girl along as they approach our table.

    “Oh man! You guys ate without me?! No fair!” Kaede complains, gesturing to the empty plate that once had a tower of burgers on it.

    I grin evilly. “Yup, and I didn’t make them. It was all Kat.” Kaede gawks and then fake cries as he heads towards the magic paper to order some food.

    “How long have you guys been sitting here?” Nik asks jokingly as he steps up behind Kat. He grabs her shoulders in his massive hands. She jumps with a squeak. He laughs heartily as her face turns beat red.

    I bite my lip, holding back a laugh. “Not long. Just had my first meal in three days. How about you? What are you guys up to?” I ask as the new girl hovers awkwardly behind him.

    “English lessons,” Selene answers, sitting next to Kat. “You’re looking much better, both of you. I assume you were finally able to rest?”

    Kat nods slowly. “Um, yea… Thanks,” she twists in her seat, leaning to see around Nik. “I’m sorry I left you in the library like that… I wasn’t thinking straight.”

    The new girl looks confused staring at Selene. They seem to be getting on well. “So, I’m Andrei. What’s your name?” I ask her.

    Her jaw moves but she says nothing at first. When she finally does speak it’s so quiet I have to lean forward to hear her. “My name is Nijiyama Hitomi. It’s nice to meet you,” it sounds very rehearsed. I roll my lip, stifling a chuckle. That would be rude.

    “It’s nice to meet you too,” I respond in kind. “Hitomi san, I can see you have an aura, what kind of magic do you have?” I ask her. She looks at me with wide eyes and I wonder if I frightened her. Her eyes though, they catch my attention. Her irises are not a single colour, but a rainbow. I stare in shock and realization. “You’re… her, aren’t you?”

    She looks at me, silent and confused. I vaguely recall a distant voice as I look into her eyes, a Japanese woman telling me… her decedent would have rainbow eyes and command the wind as she did. I lean closer. “Would you happen to be in control of the wind?”

    She takes a step back, looking to her right nervously. The hair on my arm tingles as a sudden gust of wind sweeps through the cafeteria, blowing some papers off the tables and knocking over someone’s cup. She claps her hands to her mouth in surprise.

    Nik raises an eyebrow at her. “Aha, so you knew about magic this whole time, huh?”

    She turns to him, frightened. She starts to shake her head no, then changes and bows and slips into Japanese. “Sumimasen!” she bows deeply.

    Caroline purses her lips. “Don’t scare her. Can’t you tell she’s terrified? Let her be,” she moves to stand.

    Nik holds up his arms in surrender. “I wasn’t trying to scare anyone.”

    Kat slips out of her seat and around Nik. “It would be quite a strange coincidence if she’s the last Guardian we need, don’t you think?”

    “Not a coincidence,” Selene disagrees. “That is exactly the reason my brother took the girl in the first place.”

    “Wait, what?” I ask in surprise. “Took her? You mean he found her and kidnapped her?” Maybe I’m a little slow on the uptake.

    “Yes,” Selene answers simply.

    “So is she officially a Guardian? Or unawakened like Caroline and I were?” I ask.

    Kat tilts her head, humming as she studies the girl. Hitomi seems to shake on the spot. “Dormant,” Kat smiles, holding her hand out. “It’s okay. It’s a good thing, I promise.”

    She looks at her hand, confused, tilting her head to the side as she looks between Kat’s hand and her face.

    “I have magic too,” Kat explains. “See? Feel how warm I am?”

    She reaches her hand out tentatively, touching Kat’s finger lightly. She’s barely touched it before she snaps her hand back. “Hot!” she says simply. I chuckle softly to myself. “You have fire,” she states.

    “Yes,” Kat grins. “You remember.”

    Hitomi nods slowly, turning to Nik. “You have earth,” then Caroline, “you have water.” Finally, she looks at me, pausing for a moment. She seems to be listening for something. “You have … time,” she says.

    I freeze. “How do you know that?” I ask. It can’t be that obvious… can it?

    Again, she looks to the right. Why does she keep doing that? No one’s there.

    “The wind spirit told her. He remembers you, from when you met the Queen all those centuries ago,” Selene muses, leaning back in her chair.

    “The Queen? Oh man. He remembers from that far back?” I ask, a little embarrassed.

    Hitomi nods, not taking her eyes off me. I shift awkwardly under her gaze. “Kaze sama says you look the same. How do you?” she asks. I chew on her question, trying to figure out what she means.

    “Well, I can jump back in time. So for me, that was only four or five months ago. She told me about you, you know. She said I’d see you,” I tell her. She just stares at me, not saying a word. She looks… saddened, I think. I look to the right, where she keeps looking. “So he is called Kaze sama?” I ask her.

    She nods. “In English, Kaze is wind.”

    “Yes, and with this, we now have all the pieces. Once she is awakened, we can restore Markus,” Selene muses, looking at the girl. “I suppose we’ll have to perform the ritual again. Twice.”

    “Twice?” I ask, “You mean the ritual you did with Caroline?” Caroline nods beside me.

    “Yes. Kaitlyn will need to lead us there, but I suggest she sit out of the ritual, given her condition,” Selene rubs her chin in thought. Kat pouts, looking like she wants to argue.

    “No, she’s right,” I agree with Selene. “You should rest. We still have Nik, Caroline and myself. Either of us could help Selene, though I don’t know what it is we do,” I say.

    Selene nods. “It’s quite simple, and it may even go quicker with more of us there. We also have those other two, from the past.”

    “Oh right! Ceph and Eli! Where are they by the way? I haven’t seen them yet,” I muse.

    “Around somewhere,” Selene shrugs.

    “If we do this, it’ll have to wait,” Kat states quickly. “Andrei needs to recover his energy. He can’t cast the ritual like that.”

    “Agreed, but we could do it without him,” Selene replies.

    Kat glares at her. “Only if you plan to find your way there without me,” Selene narrows her eyes.

    “What! No way! I want to help! Please!” I beg.

    Selene sighs. “Very well. I suppose it will have to wait.”

    “We don’t have time,” Caroline says. “We needed to find the artifacts and the last Guardian as soon as possible. We can’t wait forever. We don’t know how long the ritual could take. We can’t do two at the same time, can we?” she asks.

    “No, but it won’t take more than a few hours,” Selene assures. “We have all the pieces now. There’s no imminent threat at the moment. We can afford another day.”

    “Good, it’s settled then,” Kat claps her hands and looks at me. “Let’s go back to the dorms?” Everyone seems to agree so we make our way back to the rooms.

    I stop by my room to get a change of clothes before insisting that I shower before I do anything else. Kat pouts when I refuse her offer to help. I don’t want to disgust her with my three-day-old grime.

    I take my time, using this chance to trim my hair which has long outgrown my personal style. I also shave the hint of a beard that has begun to grow back while I was out cold. When I’m satisfied with my appearance, I check my time reserves again. I frown with frustration, it’s still very low. I doubt I could even speed myself down to the caf for a drink. I let out an exasperated sigh as I leave the ensuite, clean shirt and fresh jeans, damp hair falling to just past my ears. It feels good to be clean.

    Kat is standing there, waiting with nothing on, hair draped over her shoulder. I bite my lip nervously and she smiles. “My turn,” she says with a mischievous smirk as she walks past me into the shower room. The scent of her campfire hair wafts by and I turn and watch as she shuts the door with a wink.

    Oh God! Why? Why did I not let her join me? I feel like a fool. I tiptoe to the door, hoping she hasn’t locked it. I silently twist the doorknob and pull it open, peering inside through the crack. I spy her in front of the mirror, hand on her belly as she tries to measure it. She turns from her front to her side, then back to the front.

    She’s gorgeous, no matter what she’s thinking. I hazard the crack a little wider. Her gaze shifts in the reflection and she freezes. Her bright orange eyes grow wide, like a deer in headlights, and I know I’ve been caught. She spins around, hands over her mouth and face like a tomato.

    I slowly back away from the door, letting it click shut, as I silently snicker on the other side. I’m so dead…

By Kayla West

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