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Alexis pressed her palms against her knees as she gasped for breath. Above her Nate stood holding his sword, lording over her at ease. His shadow towered over her shading her like an umbrella. He seemed completely unfazed by the way that she hacked and gasped for air.
“Ready?” He asked her.
“No.” Alexis glanced up to him, wiping her brow. She sucked in the air, held her breath and kept it in her lungs, and then released it slowly, straightening her spine as she did. Once again she tried to even out her breathing and relax the way he’d taught her before. She then wrapped both hands around the sword and faced him.
Nate shifted his weight tottering back and forth from left to right. Alexis focused on him, and then she felt it. Left. She tossed the whole of her weight to the right as Nate’s sword went from stationary at his side to slicing towards her left. “Better!”
“You are intending to kill me.” Alexis laughed as she tried not to trip over her own feet. Right. She jumped up and placed her hand on his shoulder as he went for the attack. She pushed away from him, insofar as turning around him. spinning away.
Alexis stumbled over the grass racing away from Nate who turned to her slowly. His eyes narrowed as he held the blade up towards her. Alexis focused on him, placing her hand to the ground and waiting for him. She felt his killing instinct raise further and further until it disappeared completely. Heaving, Alexis relaxed. Nate approached her again and offered his hand to her.
“I don’t want to kill you.” He whispered to her. “I’d never do that.” Alexis knew that was the case, but as she felt the danger race up her spine and felt the tip of the sword against her chin, she wondered if that were true. “Ah. So that’s the threshold?”
“What did you do?” She asked him when he removed the sword and placed it back into its sheath.
“I actually tried to kill you.” Nate smiled at her. There was silence for a minute until Nate started laughing and then shook his head. “Good work.”
“You tried to kill me?” Alexis repeated.
“I wanted to see how far your sensory understanding went. So…” He smiled softly. “Sorry. I should have asked.”
“How good am I?”
He smiled bright. “Far from perfect, but potentially the best instinct I’ve ever seen. We can work it up to a level that true blood lust won’t make you freeze. And then you’ll be unstoppable.”
“Only if I can use a weapon.”
Nate laughed. Alexis rested her head against his shoulder and sighed out, not caring if she got him sweaty. Nate was training her to use her ability, as her main instructor, where as Jordan was training Nia with her abilities.
The thing about Nia’s ability was that it stemmed from her speech capabilities. She could speak and understand languages and thus for her, Jordan was attempting to push that as far as he could. He was speaking to her in every language that he knew, and having her learn so many others at a faster speed than she ever had. In the ten days since their training began, Nia had learned to seek two new languages. They were not taught to her in the way that she always had. Instead, she had learned to understand them and speak them through magic. Without the magic she would know the basics but not much more.
Alexis, on the other hand, was learning to capitalize on her sensing. Jordan had been the one to suggest that they work on the danger aspect first. Danger was easier to react to, and Alexis had already made herself naturally attuned to danger. Alexis knew that in times she would be able to pin point exactly which word was a lie when someone spoke, not just that they were lying. She’d be able to understand the natural energy and rhythm of a land and be able to articulate it. Nate said that Alexis’ connection to the natural world and the earth was similar to his own. Witch like she had called it. Natural magic, he had said. Alexis was not inherently tied to the moon or sun, but rather could read them and understand them. She and Nia were of Doors like Nate was, and he said that meant they were of possibilities.
Nate was convinced that in time she’d be able to make spells, and potions, enchantments, and the likes as he could. Nate, who had learned everything he knew from his mother, was enthralled to have someone else to teach. However, in order for her to get to understand the world better, Nate and Jordan pushed Alexis with her danger sensing.
“I have a book for you to read.” Nate told her.
“Oh?” She asked him, lifting her chin to stare out towards where Jim was talking with Nia on the grass. She wrapped her arms around Nate wanting to lean her entire bodyweight on him.
“Books.” He corrected.
“They are herb books. And stone books. You will need to know your properties before you start working with materials.” Nate wrapped his arms around her, supporting her full wieght.
“Do you have them memorized?” Alexis laughed.
“I do. But I doubt that you’ll need to.” Nate pushed her back a bit and placed his forehead against her’s. It was sticky. “You’ll be able to sense the properties, I think. The thing is, you’re going to want to know how to distinguish them. You won’t need to memorize, but you will need to know what does what.”
He had learned fighting from his father, and enchantment through his mother. Unlike Alexis, Nate had capabilities to do far more than she thought that she may ever be able to accomplish. Yet, he was certain she might be able to do more than him. His fingers traced her cheek, and she sighed, closing her eyes. Being near him was enough for her at times, but still summer was ending, and soon she’d have to address that.
“I wonder if your musicality will add to it. You describe it as an internal tempo and vibe, but that means that there is a further version.” Nate was off again wondering how he could press her to help her grow.
“When I go to school. I’ll have a lot to work on,” She said, knowing she could not avoid the conversation for long.
He paused and looked at her. “Alexis…”
“We need to talk about it.” She told him. Each day they got closer to the end of summer. The fact that she and Nia were learning magic was amazing, but all the same she and Nate needed to address what it was between them.
Nate looked into her eyes for a long while, before he called out to Jordan. “Hey! We’re going to walk out back!”
Jordan did not answer directly but wove his hand off, and Nate pulled on Alexis’ had to lead her towards the treelike that separated the property from the rest of the world.
“Where are we going?” She asked him once they walked into the forest.
Nate led her further in, but not too far, that she could not see the white of the house from behind the trees. If anyone there wanted to see them, they would be able to. “Here.”
The two stared at each other, and Alexis felt her heart racing. “I… I’m going back to Boston.”
“I know.” He said stepping away from her and meeting her gaze. He was taking it more seriously than she had planned.
“And we’ll visit?”
“You want to try Long Distance?”
He paused for a moment and she felt her heart sink. “Alexis. Have you realized the way you look at Jordan?”
Alexis felt her heart leap from her chest. “I do not—“
“No?” Nate paused and sighed.
“Are you jealous of him?” She asked unsure of where the comment had even come from. She did not like Jordan. Yes, her magic called to him. However Nate had explained that. It was the mystery. She had to understand the mystery in order to protect herself.
“Jealous?” Nate shook his head. “No. Alexis. I just know you are…”
“I do not like him!”
“No? You got close to everyone because you were drawn to him. Your eyes follow him. I know that you like me, but I also know.”
“I do not…” Did she? As she looked at Nate, however, she realized that there was something to what he was saying that she could not understand. “He has no aura and that’s it. You know that. It’s the mystery.”
“Yes, it’s masked under layers and layers of spells to hide himself. Alexis, you’re drawn to his mystery, and the void within him. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t something else…”
But what else was it? What did he know that she did not? “Are you breaking up with me?”
“No. Because I know it’s your magic resonating with his.” He huffed. “I just also know… When magic resonates, people tend to choose that person and while I know that we…”
“I like you.” Alexis said the words but she was not sure why they felt wrong to say in a way. There was no way that Nate was right. Right? Nate stared at her for a long moment and then kicked up the dirt. “How can I prove that to you?”
“You don’t need to. I just need to trust you,” Nate said. “I just…” Nate starred up at the sky. He then shook his head and looked back to her. “I need more time for that.”
What had happened between him and Jordan in the past? Had Jordan been a relationship wrecker? Nate and Jim always acted as if Jordan could not help himself but was there more to it? Was the compulsion more than that? Could it control other people too?
And why did the void in Jordan exist to begin with? Because he wasn’t in Soluna when he should have been? Why couldn’t he go there if it was better for him?
“Are we breaking up?” Alexis asked again.
“Not unless you want to,” Nate answered more certain. “I don’t want to.”
“Good.” How could he doubt her? Why was he sowing seeds of discord between them both? As they starred at each other, Alexis felt perturbed until she wanted to cry. She was so confused in that moment. She liked Nate, yet… There were so many thing she had not told him. They had only just met… She knew him but did not know him.
“We should go back.” He looked to the house.
“Nate.” Alexis reached out to him. She did not want to lose him.
“We’re going on a date tonight.”
“Okay.” He looked at her a bit relieved as if he was worried she’d leave him, as if he really loved her but was afraid of saying it. She wanted to make sure he looked at her like that forever.
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