Chapter 15 can be read below the cut.
It was the seventh of January, and Lillin Syvukala trudged through the snow-covered Tsurennupaiva Military Academy. It wasn’t snowing anymore, thankfully, but the existing snow hadn’t been swept from the paths, and it was deep enough to make walking with her prosthetics somewhat more annoying than usual.
Lillin held up the paper she’d been given. Daidlis Pevasha, 219. She looked around and saw a staircase in front of her. Staircases were always a pain to walk up, but a snow-covered staircase wasn’t something she’d ever planned on dealing with.
It took longer than she wanted to get to the second floor, and Lillin had to pause to take a break before she continued walking down the hall. Room 219 was fortunately not too far away. She knocked on it, and waited for a moment before Daidlis Pevasha answered it. She’d been given a physical description, and he matched it – dark skin, shoulder-length dreadlocks, and a split right eyebrow.
“Lillin Syvukala?” said Daidlis.
“Yes,” said Lillin.
Daidlis gestured at her. “Come on in,” he said. Lillin grabbed the door handle as she stepped into the room and shut it awkwardly behind her. “Do you have all your completed paperwork?” he continued.
“Yes,” said Lillin. She pulled a few sheets of paper out of her satchel. One of them fell to the ground, and she and Daidlis stared at it before she looked back up at him. “They’re all here.”
“Do you need help with that?” Daidlis asked.
Lillin belt down to pick up the paper and then set the stack on his desk. “No, I’m fine,” she said. She quickly sat down in the chair in front of the desk and stretched out her legs.
Daidlis gave the papers a once-over and then set them to the side. “You’re going to be part of my squad, Lillin. Have you read through your handbook yet?” he asked.
“Yes, all of it,” said Lillin.
Daidlis raised his eyebrows and smiled. “Very good! You’re on top of things,” he said. “Now, I was going to have you do a magic test-”
“I already did!” Lillin interrupted.
Daidlis looked more surprised now. “You did?” he said.
Lillin pointed to the stack of papers. “My test results for my magic and spirit weapon are in there, along with my physician’s notes. It was what I had to do to get accepted this semester.”
Daidlis picked up the papers and sifted through them. “Okay, okay…magic alignment, light. Good.” He pulled out one sheet and stared down at it, frowning. “Your spirit weapon is ruby?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Lillin. His baffled reaction worried her a little. “Is there something weird about that?”
“No, it’s just unusual,” said Daidlis. He turned around and looked at the clock. “Well, I hold my introductory classes in room 102. It starts at 8:30, so you’ve got an hour to do whatever you want. Get some breakfast, maybe.”
“Is there a map of this school somewhere?” Lillin asked.
Daidlis opened a desk drawer, pulled out what looked like one of the brochures Lillin had seen in the admin office, and handed it to Lillin. “I’ve got a bunch of these. They’ve all got maps in them with the buildings labeled. You can have this one.”
“Thank you,” said Lillin.
Lillin ended up getting a small breakfast at the canteen. By the time she left, most of the snow had been cleared off the paths and she had a much easier time getting around. Her knees still hurt from the effort, and they’d likely hurt for the rest of the day.
She got to the classroom around 8:15. There were already two people in there – a woman with shoulder-length thick, wavy hair and a dark-skinned person who was lazily leaning back in zer chair with zer arms crossed.
“Is that so?” asked the woman.
“You know I’m not making this up,” said the other person.
Lillin shut the door; both of the other students looked up at the noise. “Um, are you two part of Daidlis Pevasha’s squad?” she asked.
The woman narrowed her eyes. “Who are you?” she asked.
“Lillin Syvukala. I’m joining this squad today,” said Lillin.
The woman raised an eyebrow. “You are? No one told us about this.”
The agender person looked at the woman, then to Lillin. “Because she’s completely forgot her manners, I’ll introduce us. I’m Mihtan and she’s Juno.”
“Hi,” said Lillin. “So, I just spoke to Daidlis and turned in all my paperwork. He told me classes start here.”
“Well, that is correct,” said Mihtan.
Juno crossed her arms. “I wish he would have told us we were getting someone new! I don’t like this being dropped on me so suddenly,” she said.
“It’s not that weird,” said Mihtan. “We’ve only had seven members in this squad until now. At least it’ll be even.”
“Why is that what you care about?” complained Juno.
The other students trickled in over the next fifteen minutes, and Juno and Mihtan continued their conversation. Occasionally someone else chimed in, and Juno responded in what Lillin supposed was fake outrage.
The door slammed open and Daidlis walked in, looking excited. Lillin flinched. No one else did. Apparently they were used to such things happening.
“Hi everyone!” said Daidlis. “I’ve got an announcement today?”
“No welcoming us back from winter break?” Juno quipped to the blond woman next to her, whose name Lillin had overheard as Saiti.
Daidlis made his way to the front of the classroom. “We have a new squad member joining us today! She’s Lillin Syvukala and she’s right there! Introduce yourself, Lillin!”
Lillin suddenly felt very self-conscious with everyone staring at her. “Um, hi,” she said.
“Please stand up and introduce yourself, Lillin,” said Daidlis.
Lillin awkwardly got to her feet, bracing her hands on her desk. “I’m Lillin Syvukala,” she said. “I’m 18 and I have light magic and my spirit weapon is a ruby lance. I’m from Syvukala in the Southwestern District, in case you’re wondering where my name came from.”
“That Syvukala?” said Juno. “The one that was…”
“Yeah,” said Lillin.
Saiti tilted her head to the side, looking confused. “Wait are you the one who-”
“Hey now,” Daidlis interrupted. “That kind of personal information is personal for a reason.”
“Sorry,” said Saiti. She looked more confused than sorry.
“Lillin, you can sit down now,” said Daidlis.
After the pre-lunch classes were done, Daidlis walked over to Tjara’s office. She sat at her desk with her lunch in front of her. Riskiara was in one of the guest chairs, chatting to Tjara. Both of them looked up at him as he walked in.
“You couldn’t even be bothered to knock?” said Tjara.
“I have some interesting information,” said Daidlis. “That new girl I got. Lillin Syvukala. She manifested her spirit weapon at a young age – early teens.”
Riskiara and Tjara looked at each other. “That’s one of the things the Avatar told us to look for,” said Riskiara.
“Are you sure we should tell her?” asked Tjara. “I don’t feel comfortable following her orders without question.”
Riskiara frowned. “She gets a notification when the database is updated. It doesn’t matter whether we tell her or not.”
Tjara scowled. “I’d at least like an explanation of why she wants to know this information. I’m starting to suspect that she’s trying to create another Hiljachetsu.”
“Who’s Hiljachetsu?” Daidlis asked.
Tjara sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “A regret we all have,” she said.
Five days later, their next lunch meeting took place in an actual break room. Tjara entered the room to find Riskiara and Sajikitin already there, sitting at one of the tables and already eating their lunch. Daidlis was nowhere to be seen.
“She finally arrives,” Tjara quipped to Sajikitin.
“You didn’t get any lunch,” said Sajikitin.
Tjara pulled up a chair to the table. “I’ll get lunch after we’re done with this. Where’s Pevasha?”
Riskiara shrugged. “Who knows? He said he’d be here. That’s all I know.”
“Let’s just start without him,” said Tjara.
“That annoyed by him always being late, huh?” said Riskiara.
Tjara raised an eyebrow. “Annoyed? Me? Of course not. But back to the point – have either of you received any further directions from the Avatar?”
“No,” said Riskiara.
Sajikitin shook her head. “Have you?” she asked.
“No,” said Tjara. She rubbed her chin. “I guess that’s good. Have either of you learned anything?”
Sajikitin attempted to talk through the noodles in her mouth. “None of my students have had any abnormalities with their magic.”
“None of mine either,” said Riskiara.
“What about you? Is it still just Tyvokala?” Sajikitin asked.
“Just? Have you noticed something I haven’t?” said Tjara.
Sajikitin looked a little startled. “No, I was just wondering about it.”
Tjara crossed her arms. “It’s just Tyvokala. I thought Rozenbarr might also be showing weird signs, but it seems like that was just part of the normal learning process.”
Riskiara smiled, seemingly in relief. “That’s good. We only need to keep an eye on him.”
“It’ll certainly be easier to keep an eye on him than with Hiljachetsu,” said Tjara. She noted how uncomfortable Sajikitin looked.
“Definitely,” said Riskiara.
Daidlis opened the door a couple of minutes later. “Heeey,” he said casually.
“You’re really late,” Sajikitin remarked.
“I know that,” said Daidlis. He grabbed a spare chair and started pulling it toward the table. “Did you start without me?”
“Of course,” said Tjara. “Any updates on your new girl?”
“That depends on what you mean by ‘news’,” said Daidlis. “I tested her magic. Got some pretty dramatic results.”
“As in?” Tjara asked.
“Her census data and ID card already said she had light magic, but I tested her myself just to see how she’d do,” said Daidlis. “I have to say that I’ve never seen anyone manipulate magic that well or that easily. And remember what I said about her manifesting her spirit weapon early? She was fifteen, and apparently she’s always been able to manipulate magic like a natural. I’ve never heard of anything like it.”
Sajikitin and Tjara shared a glance, Sajikitin wide-eyed and Tjara frowning. “It’s not unheard of. It’s just rare,” said Tjara.
Daidlis narrowed his eyes. “I see that,” he said. “What aren’t you telling me? Is this related to Hiljachetsu?”
“Yeah,” said Sajikitin quietly.
“Are you going to explain why?” Daidlis asked.
“No,” said Sajikitin.
Daidlis let out a sigh of frustration. “But why!? What about this is so important to keep secret? Why are you trying to make it harder for me to deal with my own student?”
“This is information that no one is suppose to know about, let alone talk about,” said Riskiara. “”We’ve already taken a huge risk just mentioning this to you.”
Daidlis did not look happy to hear that. “Okay, okay. I get it. You can’t talk about it. But one of you knows how to handle this kind of magic. And you need to give me direction on this, because I have no idea what to do here,” he said.
“She has light magic,” said Riskiara. “It doesn’t really matter how good or bad she is at controlling it. It’s never going to be a threat to anyone.”
“I’m not convinced,” said Daidlis.
Riskiara sighed and rubbed her face. “If she asks you for help, come to us with a description of the situation and we might be able to help you,” she said.
“Might?” said Daidlis. “I don’t like the sound of that at all.”
“That’s how it’s going to be,” said Tjara. “Get used to it.”
Daidlis received a knock on his office door after classes were over for the day. He opened it to see Nymue Rozenbarr and Ariana Rhodynn standing in the hall. “Oh, you two,” he said. “What are you here for today?”
“Turning in our applications to work for you,” said Ariana.
“Both of you?” asked Daidlis. “That’s interesting…come in.”
“Yeah, both of us,” said Ariana. She held out her application to him.
Daidlis took the application and looked down at it. “I understand you, Ariana. But Nymue?”
Nymue held her application out to Daidlis, looking serious as usual. “My interest is actually in early Tseurennupaiva History, but there isn’t a professor here who specializes in that subject. But there’s some early settlements that are outside our current borders, so I thought I might be able to go on some expeditions to those sites eventually.”
“Ah, that’s true,” said Daidlis. He took her application and set it on top of Ariana’s. “You’re applying to work with Professor Jukikynai? That’s not what I expected.”
“It was Professor Jukikynai who…” Nymue started. She frowned and shook her head slightly. “I’ve talked to her about things. I think it’d be easier to work with her.”
Daidlis looked up at the two of them. “You’ll know by the end of the week if your applications have been accepted. I can’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t be,” he said. “Was that all you came here to talk about?”
“Yes,” said Nymue.
He wondered what she’d been trying to say at first. Daidlis suspected that there was something Nymue wasn’t telling him. From what he had seen and heard of her behavior, she was a naturally suspicious person and kept quite a lot of her own feelings to herself.