The fireball coming straight for my face was likely one of the reasons for our school’s feared reputation. I guess for a school of demons to be feared was a good thing. It kept us safe. Or at least that’s what our teachers said.
“Layla, move!” Claude snapped, reaching for the nearest water source.
The fireball was rapidly growing in size, there was no way I’d be able to dodge. A wall of fire engulfed the hallway, a loud voice bombed throughout, “Who threw that?” Kieran snapped, glancing around with no one in sight to blame.
“Dude! I can’t handle this much!” Claude whined drawing Kieran’s attention as he flung his arm at Kieran’s wall of flames, “what are you going to do about it?”
Kieran drew his hand to his neck, “Sorry, I’ll get-“
“Kieran, Claude, Layla.”
My head snapped up to the stern voice, a blonde in a bun glared at the scene, “My office. Now.”
I sighed shuffling for my bag, taking one last glance at the impressive wall of fire, flames licking the roof, and followed her to the principal’s office.
“I didn’t-“ She shot Claude a glare. He stumbled behind as other teachers scurried around us to put out the flames.
“We didn’t do anything wrong!” Kieran snapped, throwing his bag down near the door, and standing behind my seat, Claude taking this chance as an invitation to sit in the chair beside me instead.
“I understand, but your outburst in a school of students learning to control their powers was uncalled for.”
“Am I supposed to just let her get hurt?”
I glanced towards the principal, who remained silent. The other teachers had been extra-wary and careful that I wasn’t involved in any dangerous activities. Majority of the time I wasn’t even allowed in the hallways by myself, but since Kieran had begun walking me back and forth to class the patrols started to back off ever-so-slightly.
“Layla doesn’t have any powers!”
“Well, Kieran, maybe if you let her spread her wings every once-in-a-while her powers would develop.”
Kieran shuffled to a seat on my other side. Claude leaned forwards, a hushed tone of concern in his voice, “Mame’, Layla doesn’t have any wings. Also, with all due respect don’t seventy-five percent of people discover their power through trauma die within the week?” Claude glanced in-between me and the principal.
She in turn let a quick glance escape towards Kieran, “Not all. And besides its why she’s here, so we can observe each of you, so you can make a successful career in your futures. Alive.”
Kieran shuffled, grabbing his bag, “The lecture was great. Make sure to pencil me in for next week.” He stormed out.
I shuffled grabbing my own books, dusting off the ash that was beginning to settle on them, our next class would be starting soon. “It’d be great if you received your abilities soon.”
You and me both lady.
After sending a nod at Claude, I found myself in hot pursuit of Kieran, “Kieran, wait.” I stumbled to him, jumping over a few frogs and their demon-made puddle. I stumbled snatching his hand as I went down. Kieran enclosed his hand around mine continuing to class. His hand was warm, normal for a fire demon, but normal wasn’t not make you sweat on contact. “It’s okay, this lecture is normal.”
“It’s not. And instead of focusing on your education or anything of any importance they focus on something you can’t control and don’t even have yet.” He muttered. Annoyance steaming off of him, steam literally exiting his mouth.
“I don’t mind. They’ve never had someone take so long to get their powers. They’re just worried.”
Kieran let out a low grumble, “I’m worried. They’re afraid and condescending.”
I tightened my hand around his. I wasn’t quite ready to admit my own fears. It was easier to let him voice his. He wasn’t the ticketing time-bomb after all.
“Kieran! Layla! You’re late!” The teacher snapped. Kieran’s groups’ eyes shifted between us, one sent a wink. I pulled my scarf up, heat running through my face second to only Kieran’s body temperature. The teacher sighed returning to her lesson. I shuffled to my seat. Someone nudged it, a tiny hissing noise coming from them.
“Lillian, I’ve got to catch up.”
“Just borrow my notes later,” Lillian whispered, “More importantly where were you and Kieran? What were you doing?”
I sighed, resisting the urge to spin around, I wished she was next to me or in front of me, the conversation would’ve been so much easier, “There was a fireball. Kieran and Claude decided to stop it. The principal blasted Kieran, Claude, and I.”
“She what?” Lillian snapped, jumping out of her seat. She glanced around the room, quickly lowering her voice, and herself back into her seat. “That’s totally unfair, but I mean Kieran’s one of the handful of fire elementals in our school.” She whispered, glancing towards Kieran’s group. The small corner in the back of four or five fire-elementals made up majority of the school’s population when it came to fire-elementals. Lililan wasn’t wrong, but most were here due to the lack of control of powers. Well, that’s why everyone was here. They’re lack of control of powers was just as valid as my lack therefore of powers.
“Lillian! Are you paying attention?”
I glanced towards Lillian, the tips of her hair fading into a sky-blue, a side-effect of her powers. Lillian, while finding the inability to control her powers, had been blessed. She was a shape-shifter, her form seemed to be a dragon with a spherical body. We had settled with calling it half-frog, half-dragon, although it was more of a basketball than a frog. And the terminology frog didn’t really do the form justice. Currently it was the only form she was capable of taking and her parents were quite ashamed when her first shift came. And they’re not exactly quiet about their shame in town either. I glanced towards the board; we were going over “current events”. Of twelve years ago.
“In the explosion the ice queen and the elder fire-princes died sparking the fire-ice demon war.” The teacher continued pecking a few notes on the board, “It’s important you learn to control your powers, the elder princes were blessed with immense power, but we can only conclude that something went wrong when the ice-queen drew them close to murder the two, taking all three of their lives in the process.”
I glanced towards the window, the fire-ice war wasn’t anything new, it had been ragging for twelve years after all. And on-going. Previously, the fire and ice elementals had a poor relationship, but the queen and the elder two princes had started forming a friendship. The queen had reached out to them and the three of them were in the midst of building a treaty and establishing a relationship between the countries. Until an explosion led them to their deaths. The fire clan had two other children. The throne now sits as the responsibility of the third prince. A teenager likely to be an adult next year. I glanced towards Kieran wondering his opinion of the situation. It couldn’t of been good, smoke was coming off his pencil. Even the most open fire-elementals were uncomfortable with the topic. A lot of people’s hopes were shattered that day. It not only had taken their pride of the elder prince’s from them, but it had embarrassed them. The situation ashamed the entire fire-kingdom as they took it personally, letting it represent their inability to protect our kingdom. The war had accelerated. The elder princes were so close in age they could’ve been considered twins. They had agreed to ascend to the throne together as to make fair decisions in regard to the fire elemental kingdom. Including the people outside the elemental district’s wall. The fire demon clan consisted of three territories in the capitol. The Royal Palace, The Inner City, and The Outer City. The palace is where the royal family, their workers, and less than a handful of close friends seclude themselves. The Inner City is where majority of the fire-elementals live. They could come and go as they pleased, but anyone without a fire-elemental or regular admittance was denied. Then there was the outer city: where everyone else was. No walls and likely weaker of the choices. We were the fodder if the ice demons decided to attack to prove if they were really strong enough.
Kieran glanced back sending a wave, the teacher snapped, I snuck a wave back, a smile snuck onto his face.
I knew Kieran would do everything he could to get us through the barrier, but I had no powers. I was a threat, a hindrance. And they didn’t have time for that. Also, what was he supposed to do? Plead for an audience with the king? Over outsiders? Him and a hundred others. I glanced between the teacher and the clock. There was still a handful of minutes she was managing to drag out.
“Who can tell me about the current hierarchy?”
Kieran raised his hand.
“Someone who won’t criticize the queen’s fashion choices or spin tales of affairs.”
“I never said it was an affair, I said the elder princes and the ice queen had a close relationship. Agreed upon even by both the kingdoms as you see-“
The teacher let out a sigh, obviously exasperated, “And that’s what got them killed.”
“I don’t think-“
“I know. Now, someone else?”
Kieran snapped his pencil in half, choosing to glare towards the window, as he attempted to ignore or likely didn’t notice the sizzling of his own pencil. I returned to my paperwork, Kieran was serious. The bell rung chiming to our escape. I took Kieran’s hand pressing close to him in the crowded hall. His body temperature was still warm, but there was no reason he should’ve still been mad about the fireball. I glanced towards him, his eyes looked distant, far away, “Hey, Kieran?”
He tightened his grip. Whatever it was he wasn’t ready to talk about it. One of his groupies waved him over: hand on the back of his neck, red lining the cheeks of their face. “Hey, I think it’s personal.” Kieran twitched, an unapologetic look in my direction.
I let go of his hand, “It’s okay, it’s important you take care of your friends.” I turned hurrying for class, at least I like the next one.
“Hey, are you okay?” I turned to Claude as he was filling up his water bottle in the hallway. Claude was here due to his inability to manifest water from nothing but was otherwise as powerful as Kieran. Heck, water elementals were super rare, so majority of the time the teachers had no idea what the standard was and Claude was able to get away with just doing little things even though I had seen Claude practically drown Kieran in an ocean on last year’s fieldtrip.
“Yeah. I’m fine. I was heading to my next class.”
Claude glanced towards Kieran, held up by one of his groupies, “I’ll walk you. We’re going to the same place anyway.” I paused waiting for Claude’s bottle to finish. It would be better than the teacher yelling at me for being in the hallway alone, “So, you’re dating Kieran?”
“And your necklace?”
“I’ve had it since birth a gift from my grandfather’s close friend.” I glanced at it; it was held up by a black collar, blue ran throughout it almost see through against the diamond shape. If I hadn’t had it since birth I’d probably have questioned it too.
“If your grandfather was close friends with northerners how’d you wind up here?” Claude opened the door, letting me go around him.
“My mom’s job had something to do with it.”
Claude nodded, “Did you have any friends there?”
“You know I’ve been here since I was a baby.” I laughed as Claude nodded, settling a crossed from me at my table. He shuffled the books a crossed the table, distributing what would otherwise be considered contraband if we weren’t in this class with the guidance of our teacher. “I don’t understand why you like this class so much, it’d be different if you could prove their existence, but-“
I took the book, “I’ve always been curious about the human-demon pacts and how they were created. Plus, with my physical attributes I don’t have to worry about glamour just etiquette. All’s I have to worry about is clearances.”
Claude turned to the last page the class had been working on, “Suppose I believe humans are real and not a section used to cover up shady dealings. You do realize how hard it is for those clearances right?”
“They give special training for situations like that.”
Claude laughed, “And when the barriers down I can ask you to be my bodyguard, at least there’ll be someone I know on the team.”
I laughed, “I guess I could always use a side-hobby.”
Claude glanced a crossed the room, I shuffled, turning to follow his gaze: Kieran entered the room. I shifted my gaze back to Claude, he had pulled a pair of glasses out and was nose deep in today’s lesson.
Kieran sent a quick wave, I nodded returning to the books. I glanced at Claude. He was a water-elemental. They weren’t as large of a group as ice and fire, but he held a lot of power. It made me curious if Claude only interacted with me due to Kieran’s presence. It was likely that Claude would’ve never given me a second glance if it weren’t for Kieran. Connections among elementals were important. So important they’d go out of their way to talk to a powerless being. I was lower than someone with a weaker power, but my connection to Kieran was vital.
I glanced towards Ms. Eve, the book opened in her hands. Heat moved through my face. My favorite subject and I had been distracted by my least favorite subject.
Claude coughed, I glanced at him tapping in the Chapter’s title.
“The human-demon pact?” I whispered turning back to Ms. Eve.
“Correct, creation and laws.”
Kieran shuffled behind her, for anyone else it was likely an unfair question. To me, Ms. Eve knew my knowledge made the questions fair.
“Created approximately two to four centuries ago the human-demon pact consists of eighty-two rules on basic etiquette of the explored areas, but three major rules that during the barrier being down count as laws.”
Ms. Eve nodded, “Your grandfather although not a creator of these laws took several journeys to the human world. Human’s time is apparently much faster than our own. Although, if a human was placed in our world there’s been theories, they would absorb the magic through the atmosphere and their skin and have a longer lifespan. Other effects we aren’t sure, but our connections aren’t strong or long enough to ask for a volunteer.” Ms. Eve continued, turning to the chalkboard.
“Ms. Eve, your presence please.” The principal stood at the door.
“Oh dear.” She glanced back towards us. “Please review the chapter, the major laws might not be important now, but it will open future opportunities-“
Ms. Eve set her chalk down, “Remember I’m here as the last survivor you need me, not the other way around.”
“Ms. Eve, please.”
The class shuffled immediately moving to their friends, Kieran flopped into the empty seat beside me.
“That was so cool. I want to be like Ms. Eve.” He mumbled, paging through my textbook, “I mean you were cool too, I would’ve never have gotten it.”
“If you’re paying attention Ms. Eve sets up all the questions to our personal skill level.”
Kieran nodded continuing to page through the book, “See, cool.”
I glanced towards Claude, “Thank you.”
Claude nodded towards me, “Also, I would’ve talked to you, with or without your connection to Kieran.” He picked up his pile of books moving to the next class. Kieran moved closer, reaching to carry my own stack.
“It’s okay.” I moved for the books.
Kieran paused, “Come on, Layla, I’m your boyfriend. Let me show off for at least a little.”
“You showed off plenty today. The wall of flames was cool.” I reached wanting to at least carry something.
“I understand. Claude meant that you were worried about the elemental situation.”
I nodded. It wasn’t exactly the easiest matter to bring up or discuss. It wasn’t like he could control it. “It’s not like we have any power, besides if we did that doesn’t change what they think.”
Kieran nodded, but remained quiet, “So, have you been hanging out with Claude?”
“He just walked with me to class since he saw you were busy. Our tables together anyway.”
He shuffled the books to one arm, reaching to take my hand with his now free one. A paper slipped form the books. Kieran snatched it up, “Human-Demons Relations Committee?”
I glanced towards the lockers, away from Kieran. He had too much to deal with for us to be discussing this.
“You really were interested.” Red lit Kieran’s face, “How could Claude know, but not me?”
“We were looking at the club brochure at the same time.”
Kieran nodded, “Sorry, I’ll-“
“There’s nothing to apologize for.”
I glanced towards the teacher’s lounge. They were all standing around a television, flabbergasted likely over its contents.
“Layla, we’re going to be late.”
I nodded, quickening my pace. Upon entering the gym Kieran set our books down at the edge of the stadium’s bleachers. Lillian charged towards me, scales growing and disappearing on her arms, “Late, again, huh? I wish my boyfriend was that intimate.”
“Lillian! We were literally just talking! Besides you don’t even have a boyfriend!”
Lillian puffed her cheeks.
“Settle class. Why is it like this every time?” Our gym teacher stumbled into the room, exhaustion flowing off of them in waves, “Pair with people who have similar abilities.”
I shuffled to the bleachers. It was no wonder I was excelling in human studies, it was a though I had two study periods. Someone flopped down next to me. I flinched, Kieran had basically burned the last guy who suggested to use me as target practice to a crisp. It took four teachers for three days straight to get the fire out. No one would dare. I glanced: A child. They ran their hands through my hair and brushed my cheek, “What are you-“
“Burns. Gone now.”
I nodded that must’ve meant this was the principal’s child. A prodigy healer not quite ready to see the world. A bit socially awkward, borderline mute, highly intelligent and a sweetheart.
“Thank you. It must be strange to be in a class of combatants with powers like yours.”
I nodded in reply, glancing towards Kieran arguing with another from his group. Apparently, consider the other group’s leader was in Kieran’s headlock, was losing. I glanced towards Ms. Eve opening the door. I stood shuffling my books. The panic on her face unmasked as she rushed to the gym teacher. I moved beginning to go towards Kieran. Claude grabbed my wrist, “I wouldn’t go in there. Ms. Eve is from thousands of years and has been through hundreds of battlefields, she’ll be fine. You?” He glanced towards my signed hair snuffing the fire out. I nodded. Claude was right: If I didn’t want to be crispy enough to be called dinner I’d stay out of the battlefield. Ms. Eve called, clapping her hands, the class shuffled attention immediately shifting towards her, “We’re evacuating. Everyone’s been ordered to return to their homes in their pairs.
Claude glanced between me, Lillian, and Kieran. He was currently closer to me, but his partner was Lillian for emergencies.
“Layla! Claude!” Lillian waved, bouncing over, the floor cleared, it was yet unknown if Lillian contained the powers of an actual dragon. No one was ready to upset her and find out, so the floor cleared, “Hurry up! Whatever it is I think we should go already!” I nodded swiping up my books. “I wonder what’s happening. Lillian bounced, moving to my side and hooking arms with me, Kieran moved to my other side. I took his hand.
Claude glanced towards me, “Layla, what’s wrong-“
The school shook.