My hand aches.” Keegan paused. “But last night was the best sleep I’d ever had. The beds are extremely comfortable! And the showers? I didn’t think I could ever get out!”
In the hall, a chorus of scornful laughter sounded upon Keegan’s admittance.
Micah looked apathetically at the group of blond-haired students as they gestured towards him and Keegan. Their expressions ranged from hilarity to aversion as they watched the two scholarship students pass.
Talia stood amongst their group, positioned at the outskirts, desperate to be a part of them but no doubt an outsider. She looked at Micah, her mouth scowling and her eyes averting.
“Enjoy it while you can,” one of the boys remarked spitefully. “You and pretty-boy may be smart, but as soon as we start the physical assessments, you’ll be eliminated and sent back to the desert.”<
“Stop… shifting.”At the cold command, Keegan abruptly realized his knee bounced uncontrollably and he hastily stopped moving. “We’re going to get expelled from the academy,” he explained in a high-pitched tonKai Edlen had already exited the office a few minutes earlier. Besides the dark expression on Edlen’s face, Keegan couldn’t discern what had transpired inside that office. Not only did they face possible banishment from the academy, but the man inside that office also petrified Keegan to the point of nauseJosiaThe true King to the Igni peopl“We’re not going to get expelledKeegan rubbed his sweaty palms across his trousers and looked at the younger man sitting beside hiAs usual, Micah was the picture of serenity and composure. He ran a critical eye down Micah’s f
“I acknowledge what you did for me.”Micah and Keegan both turned toward the voice, their mouths full of food. Aiden approached them purposefully, having found their hidden alcove within the maze of the academy’s massive layout.Instructor Candace had called for a short recess after Kai and Micah’s duel.Food, in massive quantities, was made available for the cadets as they waited for the instructors to deliberate the teams. The observers from earlier were sent home and the students, who did not make the final cut, were told to pack their things.Having both succeeded in the trials, Keegan and Micah had grabbed a heaping plate of food and ducked out of the dining hall before the other cadets made an appearance. Micah had wanted to eat without disruption and Keegan was more than willing to accompany him.Across the room, Aiden focused intently on Micah as h
“Where is Edlen?”They didn’t seem to hear him. Otherwise, they were intentionally ignoring him.Undoubtedly, it was the latter.Micah watched Cain and Viktor fly hurriedly across their side of the room, stuffing things haphazardly into their school bags.Both their uniforms were askew, and while that was nothing new for Viktor, whom apparently favored the unkempt and nonchalant aristocratic appearance, the prim and proper Cain seemed just as disheveled.Almost as if they were in a hurry to avoid Micah completely….Next to Micah, Keegan shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t think they heard you, Micah.”Under the watchful eye of Aiden and Keegan, Micah crossed the room and abruptly cut off Viktor and Cain as they tried to exit their quarters. He appraised the two Unda cadets, sensing their awkwardness.
Another week went by, as did another.The nobles remained stubborn.As did Micah.He kept busy avoiding Josiah and concentrating intensely on his schoolwork. He also read up on modern technology in his free time and made a few more feeble attempts to get to know his teammates. All of them, with the exception of Keegan and Aiden, continued to ignore his efforts at unification. Edlen, and his three loyal aristocrats, remained elusive.If the other boy’s mission was to avoid breathing the same air as Micah, he’d excelled beautifully these past four weeks.Despite his exasperation, Micah was reluctantly impressed.Who knew someone could be so immature and childish to the point of skillful and impressive elusion? The boy and his trio of Unda cadets ate at different times, showered at different times, and stayed up late to study in living quarters belon
Once a month, Concordia Academy held liturgy.The academy expected all cadets to attend.Today was their first liturgy and Micah couldn’t imagine better timing. His team hadn’t slept well the past few nights, still haunted by their mission and their comrade’s gruesome death. News of the incident traveled quickly across the academy and gossip eagerly raged.Enduring the looks, the talks, and the accusations hadn’t been easy for some members of the team. While Micah could shoulder the attention, he knew the others had trouble dealing with Wayde’s absence and functioning under the negative scrutiny.Liturgy would at least soothe their troubles, at least for an hour or two.Micah wasn’t so fortunate.He wasn’t a religious individual. While he acknowledged the existence of the gods, or, more appropriately, the
The barbed wire was like a crown of thorns and a cruel mockery of manipulated twine. With the wire wrapped tightly around his arms, his captors lifted his limbs in a ridicule of a broken marionette, pulled by relentless and cruel strings.A punishing puppet master.Micah was past the point of scheming up poetic metaphors to his abductors’ intentions. All that mattered was that he’d lost feeling in his limbs long ago due to their painful and purposeful arranging.Positioned on the ground next to the dying and gnarly maze of the academy’s gardens, Micah could only stare blankly at the other side of the hedge. One leg curled inward and the other, by painful contrast, curled outward. His left arm stretched far above his head while his right arm angled awkwardly to the side.A fitting position for a discarded toy.He’d tried to move to a more comfortable position long ago, but the bindings were tight and the barbed wire dug agoni
“Yes?” Micah inquired wryly when he felt the stares. “What is it?Looking up from his eggs, he gazed at the trio of Unda students who’d sat across from him that morning at breakfast. Their faces were a mix of frustration, anger, and guilt. Micah didn’t find he had much, if any, energy to decipher the reason behind their mood.“We may have found a lead to who was behind your attack,” Viktor informed.Micah lowered his gaze to his breakfast, suddenly uninterested. “Oh?”The situation, or more appropriately, theattack,as his team liked to call it, happened several days ago.He’d been too weak to move during his first day of consciousness. His second day of consciousness, Healer Destan and Kendra refused to let him leave the infirmary. The two Healers fed him enough tonics to upset his stomach. He spent most the day kneeling in front of the toilet and was far too fat
“Councilman Devereux will see you now, Mr. Edlen.”Kai nodded sharply to the butler.He stood from one of the several chairs positioned on either side of the long corridor. A rich, mahogany wainscot clashed opulently with the deep cherry and gold-patterned walls. As he straightened his tailored coat, his attention lingered on the gold frames hanging on the walls, focusing specifically on the largest painting.Stilling, he stared.He’d seen it a dozen times before, yet in the past, he’d always walked by without a second glance. It was an old adornment to the wall, as noted by the use of oil paints. If it had been newer, it would have been a colorless photograph like some of the other pieces in its immediate proximity.Kai was glad it was an oil painting.Photographs, though entirely realistic and lifelike, did not possess the color oflife.He stared into the blue eyes of his lost friend, feeling t