The Guild – Chapter 155 – Andrei

    After Gwen’s scolding, I have a newfound determination to ensure Kat is getting enough rest. To be honest, I’m feeling the pressure between my mom and Gwen telling me I have to keep her safe. Not to mention the none too subtle hints that Mom’s been dropping about marriage. It’s apparent to me she wants me to marry Kat. I just don’t know if it’s necessary. Of course, I love her, there’s no way I’d want anyone else, but… do we really need to have a party and all? With our magic, I feel like that would just attract the wrong kind of attention… But… I guess she has a point. I’ve already managed to get her pregnant… I should take responsibility for her.

    Besides that, I want to make sure she follows the rules that Gwen’s laid out for us. So, today I walk beside her, holding her hand as we head down to the training rooms. It seems as though Heath has already left before we managed to get out of the room, so this time, we walk alone.

    I tilt my head to the side, watching her as we walk. She seems to be well rested compared to the last few days. I wonder how her magic is doing. I spare a glance at her tummy, wondering also about our child.

    “Yes?” she questions, glancing up at me curious.

    I startle, not realising she noticed me watching. “What? Can’t I look at you?” I wink with a mischievous smile.

    She laughs, “I wonder if you ever stop sometimes, but it looked like you wanted to say something.”

    “Say something? Uhh…” I feel caught in mid-thought. I’m not sure what to tell her. I just… sometimes I find myself caught up in all her gorgeousness, like a spell. But I can’t tell her that. That’d be… weird. “No, just thinking how I’m going to keep you from lifting more than your own weight. That’s all.”

    “I haven’t done that since last week,” she pouts. “It’s not like I have a regular need to.”

    “Sure, sure. I’m taking my job seriously this time. No more of your shenanigans. It doesn’t matter that you’re a fire Guardian, as Gwen says,” I pretend to be a master of the topic, standing straight and lifting my chin.

    “Shen… what do you think I’m going to do?” she raises an eyebrow.

    “Who knows with you. This week you hatched a dragon. Next week, maybe you’ll invent a new way to fight,” I grin.

    She looks up, tapping her chin. “Y’know, now that you mention it…”

    “No!” I stop her, lifting my finger. “I wasn’t supposed to be giving you ideas! No thinking! That’s a rule now!” I wear my serious face.

    She rolls her eyes. “It’s not fair if you make rules I can’t not break.”

    “That’s the point, I think,” I remind her.

    “So, what, you’ll do my thinking for me?” she balks. “How does that work?”

    “Well, I decide when you’ll eat and when you’ll take a break and how much you can fight and stuff. Things like that. I think that’s how it’ll work,” we turn the corner, getting close to the training rooms.

    “Okay… I guess that’s fine,” she hums.

    “And I tell you what you can’t do if you somehow come up with a crazy plan that breaks all the other rules,” I add with a laugh.

    “If you find out beforehand,” she retorts with a smirk.

    “Why wouldn’t I find out beforehand? I’ll be with you the entire time, no?” I raise a curious eyebrow. Sometimes I wonder what she’s got planned. She must have a dozen backup plans for how to mess up mine. I’m sure of it. I eye her septically.

    “So, what’s the plan today? In training?” I ask, changing the subject.

    “I thought it’s about time to see if Heath can manage a weapon without destroying it,” she answers.

    I cough a laugh. “Like last time? He charred that pole to ash if I remember correctly. If it’s wood, I bet he’ll burn it. Metal… He’ll superheat it like a forge no doubt,” I muse.

    “Well, that’s where the control comes in. He’s been working on not doing that,” she reminds.

    “Has he now. Well, I guess that’s good then. Today, will Nik not be there? Will he be sparing with me?” I ask, rolling my shoulders with anticipation.

    “Nik will be there. He’ll be there as a safeguard since I assume I’m forbidden to do that too,” she hums with a hint of sarcasm.

    “Yes, that’s right. Did we tell him to come? Or is it assumed you guys meet every day?” I check with her. I’m not used to the regular schedule since being left out of it for so long.

    “Assumed,” she assures.

    We stop at the training rooms, finding Heath and Nik already inside warming. I hold the door open and wave a hand for her to enter. “After you, M’lady,” I nod my head courteously.

    She blushes, making a curtsy before she walks through. “Why, thank you, sir.”

    I smile smugly as I spy Heath rolling his eyes. “Good morning Chaps. Today, we’ll be using weapons! What joy!” I call out from the door. The two of them stand there, gawking as if I spoke another language.

    Kat rolls her eyes. “I thought it’d be worth another try if you’re feeling up to it,” she looks to Heath.

    I frown as I see his eyes smirking. “Of course, I can handle more than a stick,” he says, staring at Kat. I frown. What’s that supposed to mean?

    She narrows her eyes, raising an eyebrow. “Which weapon would you like to try?” she asks slowly, a warning in her tone.

    Heath maintains a grin as he eyes the rack. “A sword, perhaps?”

    Unlucky for him, that’s my specialty. I walk to the rack, pulling out the Longsword. Feeling the weight in my hands brings back memories of training in Camelot. I pull the second one out and walk over to Heath, handing it to him, hilt first. Heath takes the blade, feeling the weight in his hand as I move to the centre of the room. Katilyn waves Nik over to her to help monitor from the side.

    I begin instructing Heath. “This is a two-handed blade. You’ll need to grip it with both hands, firmly. Why don’t we try a few actions like this first?” I ask.

    He smirks, mimicking my actions. He seems… different today, somehow. He manages to copy my motions well so I move onto the positions and actions used to spar. I show him how to parry and block using the longsword. He seems to catch on quick, faster than I expected. Together we manage to exchange a string of blows where he expertly blocks my attacks. I correct his posture a few times, reminding him about the grip he should maintain on the hilt. When we drop blades, he grins.

    “For a time mage, I thought you’d be faster,” his eyes shift to Kaitlyn and back.

    “What? This is a lesson, Why would I go faster? You wouldn’t be able to keep up,” I frown, a little confused by his remark.

    “Oh, you don’t need to go easy on me. Kat doesn’t like a gentle sparring. She prefers it hard and fast, don’t you?” he smirks.

    “Heath,” Kat calls out with a scolding tone. 

    He glances at her quickly. “Fine, I’ll go harder on you,” I affirm.

    “Good,” he replies.

    I launch into a stronger attack, forcing my blade through his openings. To my surprise, he manages to push me back, blocking my forward attacks. If he wants it harder I guess I’ll have to give it to him.

    I start to use my footwork, spinning around him and coming at him from odd angles. He barely manages to block these attacks, so I pause, showing him how to anticipate the blow from the opposite direction. When I give him the instructions, he seems to take things, as usual, nodding and correcting his stance and grip, but when we stop sparring, it’s like he’s a whole nother person.

    “That’s more like it, now I’m working up a sweat. It’s getting hot and sticky,” he narrows his eyes, sparing Kat another look.

    What’s his deal? “Look, pay attention. I’m not done sparring with you,” I try to call him back.

    “Mmm, another round sounds good. I could go all day, an night,” he growls playfully.

    I engage again, this time, in my agitated state, I use a bit of time magic, speeding up my moves. He can barely keep tabs on where I’m coming from. His blocks become sloppy and frantic. His eyes grow wide in panic. A sense of calm comes over me as I maintain a steady launch of blows for him to block, trying to get him to anticipate me rather than react to me. As time wears on, he finally clicks into my rhythm, so I speed up again.

    I watch his grip as he blocks, wondering if he’ll be able to keep control over the lava as Kat said they’d been working on. I see the black inching up his arms as I press the speed. His footwork is sloppy and I make notes on how I can correct that after I prove a point. I’m irked by his snide comments and I get a strange feeling he’s directing them at Kat. The only thing is, I can’t figure out why. I don’t remember him being like this before. Could this be something she hasn’t told me about?

    I finally give in, catching him on the shoulder and making him cry out. It’s hardly a hard blow, but I think the shock of it is more surprising to him than the pain of the tap. He rubs his arm where I struck him, panting. The black starts to recede again.

    “That was good, but your feet need work. You need to maintain a wider stance,” I start.

    “Mmm, spreading wider for a deeper thrust?” he smirks, jabbing his sword at me.

    I dance back, out of reach. “No, so you don’t fall over,” I frown. “If you trip up, your opponent can land a killing blow while you’re on your knees, easily,” I point out the obvious.

    “Indeed. On their knees is the easiest way, if you’ve already pierced them,” he says, hand on the wooden blade, eyes admiring it as if to gloat. Kat groans loudly, hands over her face.

    “Alright, enough with the innuendos. It’s distracting and frankly, annoying. Can you focus on the task?” I growl with frustration, on the verge of anger.

    “Oh, I’m focused. Trust me. Focused and to the point,” I see his jaw clench and his eyes shift ever so slightly. “Right, sorry,” he mutters, his character shifting. “So, wider feet?” he confirms. I tilt my head curiously and then direct his feet.

    “Stop,” Kat orders. She marches across the mats, her eyes fixed on him. She gets right up to us, almost in his face. “Listen, we’re teaching Heath, not you. Back off.”

    I stare at the both of them, confused.

    Heath clicks his tongue, eyes gleaming. “You’re right, he could use a little training in that area. Why don’t we give it a go, the three of us?” he smirks.

    “What the hell?!” I raise my voice.

    “What he said,” Nik raises his hand, hovering a few feet away.

    “Oh, I’m sorry, you could join us too, earth boy,” Heath grins wickedly.

    “That’s not Heath talking,” Kat sighs. “It’s his element.”

    “What? Since when do elements talk for us?” I shout.

    “It seems to be unique to him,” she muses.

    Heath chuckles to himself. “Well, I am a unique individual, as are you, sweet flame, even in this lifetime. You’d remember that now, wouldn’t you?” he cooes.

    I feel a fire in my chest and the ticking becomes ever so slightly strained. “What’s that supposed to mean? What’s been going on?” I ask them both.

    Kat lashes out before I can blink, knocking Heath down with a solid punch to the face. As she shakes her hand after, she looks at me and shrugs. “I dunno, apparently our elements knew each other in a past life.”

    “Oww… What the hell was that for?” Heath whines from the floor, rubbing his nose, seemingly unaware.

    “It was annoying me,” Kat huffs, unforgivingly. I stare, flabbergasted.

    “Ya didn’t have to punch me!” he moans.

    She frowns. “Sorry. It looks like it helped though.”

    “Yea, in more than one way,” he mutters as a drop of blood trickles out of his nose.

    I grab Kat’s wrist, pulling her away. “That’s it. We’re done here,” I turn for the door.

    “Andrei! What are you doing?” Kat complains, resisting. “We’ve barely started.”

    “I’m not in the mood to train someone who’s going to make weird jokes and not take this seriously, and I don’t want you hurting yourself. He may be able to control his heat but if he can’t control his tongue, I won’t have anything to do with this, and neither will you,” I say sternly.

    “I can’t just quit. I’m his professor. There’s no one else on this island who can deal with the lava if it gets out of hand,” she digs her heels in.

    I pause, considering it for a moment. The look of determination on her face plain as day and I let out a groan, letting my shoulders sag. “Fine, but no talking,” I point my finger at him like a parent scolding a child. “You hear?” I motion zipped lips with my fingers. Heath nods his understanding.

    Kat sighs heavily, sharing a look with Nik. She turns and moves back to the edge of the mats.

    I retrieve the sword and wait for Heath to get into stance. “Your feet need to be wider,” I remind him. He adjusts without a word.

    I re-engage in a block and parry. I want him to try finding an opening, so I make my movements wide and sloppy. He doesn’t catch on right away.

    “Try to attack me too, don’t just go on the defense. A good spar involves both parties interacting.”

    He nods, eyes searching as he tries to keep his footing. Finally, he swings to hit. He misses by a wide margin, but I repeat the motions so he sees it again, telling him to keep his arms tight and fast.

    We spar like this for another hour, taking a breather halfway for some water. It’s nearly ten in the morning now and well past breakfast. My mission to keep Kat fed and healthy returns to the forefront of my mind. “Alright. That’s good for now. Review the stances on your own and tighten up your motions. Next time we’ll move faster.” Heath nods, an uncertain look on his face. He refrains from commenting.

    “Kat, it’s time to eat,” I state.

    “It’s still early,” she frowns. “We usually go until noon.”

    “You haven’t had breakfast and it’s nearly ten. We’re eating now,” I say, closing the space between us. I replace the sword on the rack and turn to her, expecting her to move.

    She hesitates, looking over at the other guys. “But…”

    “No ‘but’, remember?” I wrap my arms around her faster than she can react and throw her over my shoulder. She shrieks in surprise. “Time for food,” I say as she pounds my back with her hands.

    “Andrei! What are you doing?!” Kat snaps. I hear the squawk of the dragon as it falls off her shoulders. “I can walk!”

    “Nope,” I say simply, catching sight of Heath’s fuming look as I near the door. “I’m taking you to breakfast and that’s that,” I say, throwing the door open and leaving. The dragon scrambles to keep up. The look alone was worth the spectacle of carrying Kat out of there. I still don’t get what his deal is.

    When we’re far enough down the hall, I stop my determined walk and set her down lightly on her feet. “Now, you can walk,” I grin, resting my hands on her shoulders.

    She smacks her hand on my chest, but not hard. “Was that really necessary?!”

    “Of course it was! He was irking me, and it was fun,” I blush, glancing sideways. “So, what should we make?” I ask, “Did you bring the tea?”

    She sighs. “Yea, I have a bag in my pocket,” she moves around me, walking back toward the training room. “You could have at least waited for her to catch up…” I barely hear her mutter. A few feet back, the little dragon sits on the floor. Kat gently scoops her up and cradles it in her arm.

    “Sorry,” I mutter as she passes me with the little dragon. It gives me a look that I swear says, ‘I will eat you’. I pucker my lips at it.

    “Don’t antagonize her,” Kat warns, not even looking back.

    “Little does she realise, I’m the one cooking for her,” I sigh, matching my pace to hers.

    Kat snickers. “Which is why she hasn’t bitten you… yet.”

    “That’s comforting to know,” I frown. “So, what shall I make you?” I ask again.

    “I thought you were supposed to be doing all the thinking,” Kat glances at me sideways, a coy smirk on her lips. Makes me want to kiss them.

    I grin. “Fine then, I’ll decide what you eat. But you’ll have to eat it, no matter what then,” I smirk.

    She laughs. “Yeah, I kind of assumed that much.”

    This is going to be fun.

***

    I stand in the kitchen, frying up a steak for the dragon and a balanced breakfast of plain yogurt parfait with berry granola and orange juice. On the side, I’ve prepared a rolled Japanese style omelet for each of us. As I place the finishing touches, I leave the kitchen to deliver the masterpiece.

    I freeze when my eyes find Kat sitting at the table, a large mug of tea in hand as Heath sits beside her. He’s leaning in close, hand up and petting the dragon. He catches my eye and I see him smirk as his hand trails down Scoria’s tail, continuing down Kat’s arm. I suddenly remember Selene’s words, ‘if you don’t man up, someone else will.’ Could she have possibly meant something like this? I feel the time cringe within me and I quicken my pace.

    I reach the table with a glare, setting the tray down between them, forcing my way between Heath and Kat with a little too much pizah. The glasses clink dangerously and Kat looks up with wide, innocent eyes.

    “Miss me?” I say with gritted teeth.

    “Always,” Kat replies without missing a beat. “Are you okay?”

    “Never better,” I force a smile, giving Heath a sidelong look. He slides back, a bashful look on his face. It seems a little obvious now that I see it. I doubt he’s as innocent as he appears. I place the steak opposite us and wave my hand at the dragon. “Go on, eat,” I say a little roughly. She barks at me with her little high-pitched voice as she clumsily hops off Kat’s shoulder, gliding across the table.

    Heath reaches for the spare cutlery and proceeds to help tear off chunks for her, feeding her with a smile. Kat watches fondly. I frown, suddenly losing my appetite.

    “Sorry, it took so long,” I say, trying to calm my nerves. “What’s he doing here?”

    Kat looks up, brows pulling together. “What do you mean?”

    “Thought we left him behind in the training rooms. Who said he could join us?” I glare at him as he feeds Scoria. He seems blissfully unaware of my glare unless he simply doesn’t care.

    “This is a communal space. You ended his training early. He can go wherever he likes until the afternoon when he goes to work with Markus,” Kat shrugs, lifting the mug to her lips.

    “He could’ve stayed with Nik, no?” I pick up the spoon, dipping it into the parfait.

    “Not really up to me. You didn’t give me time to leave instructions,” she muses bluntly.

    “So it’s my fault?” I ask. I should have expected this. She makes a point to not answer, focusing on the tea.

    “Okay, fine. It’s my fault. Next time I’ll make sure to eat in our room,” I say, waiting for her to try the food.

    She rolls her eyes. “Or you could let me leave instructions for them to continue without me.”

    “Fine. That too,” I grunt. She heaves a sigh, placing the mug on the table and reaching for cutlery. I watch with eager anticipation.

    She takes a bite with no apparent reaction. As usually, she takes small amounts, eating slowly, seemingly distracted by something. I force myself to continue eating so she doesn’t feel like I’m watching while I hazard the occasional glance at Heath as he cheerfully feeds the dragon.

    I don’t understand how this can’t be bothering her. Isn’t she the least bit mad that he’s crashing our time alone together? I certainly am. It makes me wonder if maybe I’ve missed something while I was not coming to training, reading those stupid journal pages.

    I decide to let it slide to the back of my mind as we finish the meal. I wait for Kat to stop eating before I take the trays away. Before I leave, I see Heath lean across the table and ask, “Want a coffee before I head to work?” I chew my cheek, waiting for her to answer before I go out of earshot.

    “You don’t have to do that,” she says with a sweetness in her voice.

    “I feel bad, for earlier. He can be… brash. So if you want one, I can make you one,” he offers.

    “To be fair, I did punch you in the face,” she hums. “But I wouldn’t mind one.”

    “I’ll be right back,” he smiles, standing up and joining me to the kitchen. I watch him with suspicious eyes.

    “You don’t have to glare a hole into me. I’m not trying anything,” he whispers as we enter the kitchen.

    I dump the dishes into the sink and start washing as he starts up the coffee maker. “I don’t know what you and Kat do when I’m not around, but if there really is any funny business, it’s going to stop,” I say bluntly.

    Heath doesn’t respond right away, grabbing a mug from the cupboard and setting it in the machine. “Nothing’s happening,” he says stiffly. “I’m just trying to be nice.”

    I observe him a moment longer before returning to the dishes. “I’ve never heard of an element speaking for a host before. How do I know you’re not making it up and you’re actually bipolar or something?” I ask.

    “I’m not… bipolar. It seems to be getting worse only recently since you were passed out. I can only think that Lava and Fire, in past Guardians, knew each other. I’m seriously not trying to start anything,” he says defiantly. I have a hard to not believing him when he insists so strongly. I want to believe him and I’m sure, if anything had happened, Kat would have told me, and she’s a horrible liar. I’d know.

    I finish up the dishes as the coffee starts to pour, filling the kitchen with its rich, bitter scent. I wonder just how much of that Kat should be having when she’s pregnant. Maybe I should start reading up on it or something, or maybe I can ask my mom. I blush at the thought, that sounds like an awkward conversation just waiting to happen.

    “So you have work with Markus after?” I ask, drying the dishes and putting them away.

    “Yea, we’re rebuilding one of the old wings, seems to be a good idea with the influx of magic users. We also work on some stonework and iron working in various sites around the castle that has been neglected for decades,” he explains.

    He seems to know his stuff, not to mention it proves he’s out working after training. I sigh, trying to let the tension go. “Sorry about earlier,” I say, putting the tray away. “I may have overreacted,” I admit.

    “Don’t apologize. It’s my fault I can’t control it. I would hate to get on your bad side. I’ve seen you with a rapier. I know you could probably kill me,” he says as the coffee machine beeps. He takes the cup, adding cream and sugar, just as she likes it. “Do you have any plans this afternoon?” he asks.

    “No, not really. Gwen’s ordered Kat to rest. So, I’ll make sure she’s resting. Thanks for looking out for her when… you know, my head was all messed up,” I admit.

    “No problem. She’s my teacher, after all, and I’m just glad she didn’t get more seriously hurt. Have a nice afternoon,” he nods, taking the cup out to Kat. I follow him out as he sets the cup down and leaves.

    “Hmm, maybe I was wrong,” I mutter softly. Kat looks at me with curious eyes, trading the tea mug for the coffee. I notice a little black tail along the base of her neck, poking out from under her hair.

    “So, what should we do now?” Kat asks, tilting her head.

    “Want to watch a movie in the library?” I suggest.

    She smiles. “That sounds good.” Time for a nice relaxing afternoon. I want to take this seriously. I smile as I take her hand in mine until she finishes the coffee, then we head for the library.

By Kayla West

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