"Chise," Elias abruptly interrupted his apprentice, lowering the book he had just opened moments before. "What did we just speak about?" He crossed his arms and cocked his head to one side, looking at Chise from his chair in the living room. She was positioned in the corner of the room, but turned and looking at him with a small pout under a deep crimson blush.
Chise sighed and turned back, facing the unsurprisingly immaculately clean wall. She studied the pattern in the wallpaper Silky had put in, watching the light of the fire make the designs dance. She shifted her weight and looked down, fiddling with her ring.
"Eyes forward," Elias spoke up before bringing his book back up and continuing where he left off; legs crossed, chin resting on his free hand, a mindful eye on Chise.
This is so embarrassing. Chise felt tears welling up in her eyes. This is a punishment for children. Not 16 year old mages.
Nothing. This was something she was tasked to go through alone. What did Elias tell me to do?
"Think about your actions and their consequences."
She groaned internally, her stomach in knots thinking back to this morning.
"When you're finished with those orders, continue on with the next chapter or so of your book. Write down your questions and we'll go over them when I get back." Elias took a sip of the tea Chise prepared for him. His apprentice nodded and grunted out an mmh hmm as she chewed the last bits of sausage from her breakfast. She covered her mouth, still full, with her hand and asked when he'd be returning. "Tonight, before bedtime but probably after dinner." Elias paused, watching her swallow and move on to finishing her own cup of tea, which Silky promptly refilled.
She sat back and took a deep breath as if she came up out of water to breathe. "Thank you, Silky." She smiled politely at her brownie and was taken aback by a loud grumble from her stomach. Silky stared at her briefly before quickly preparing another plate for Chise, who was holding her stomach and looking bewildered.
Elias studied her facial expression. Why was she so puzzled? "You are still hungry, Chise."
"Famished, actually." Silky placed another plate in from of her and Chise continued eating. "But thank you for your observation. I just don't know why. Normally I can't finish a plate this big and I'm on my second. I think I'm being spoiled." She turned to Silky who hurriedly turned to clean up the counters.
"You have been practicing much more lately, focusing on control. It can serve as an intense workout. You're exercising yourself in ways you never had before, it's understandable." Elias stood up and straightened his shirt. "I have to be going." He walked over to her and placed a gloved hand on her red head. "Be a good little puppy while I'm gone? He leaned down and nuzzled her cheek. She placed a hand on his skull and turned, giving him a gentle and loving peck on the side of his head. She grinned up at him.
"I always am." He chuckled at that. "You never told me where you're going or what you're doing."
"Just business with a-"
"Just business with an acquaintance." Chise interrupted him, finishing his sentence. The Magus placed his hands on his hips and playfully glared at her. "Goodbye Elias."
"If you need me-"
"I know, I know."
"Remember our rules."
"Mmhmm" Chise waved at him as she stuffed her mouth again. "Goodbye Elias." And with that, he flipped his facial covering over his skull and headed out. As soon as he got just out of sight Chise hopped out of her chair and padded over to the window to see him leave. She felt a chill move up her spine and a pang of loneliness. Already. It had been months since he left her for so long and even though she was used to his secrecy in his business, it still made her uneasy not knowing who he was seeing and why. She tried shaking the feeling and went on with her day.
The medicine making went well. It was a recipe she'd done ten times over and a newer one she only needed to redo twice. Okay, three times. But she needed the practice. She spent time in the forest replenishing her herbal stock she had used for the medicines and enjoyed a picnic outside with Ruth and Silky at lunch. Afterwards, Chise helped Silky clean and Ruth went to take a nap in his sunny spot on the porch.
Chise took a seat at her desk and diligently began studying. She made sure to write down every question that popped into her head. She was learning if she didn't ask a significant amount of questions Elias took her materials from her and tested her on the spot, usually resulting in a magical blunder. The last time she assumed understanding, the entire upstairs ended up overflowing wth ladybugs. She wasn't even sure how it happened, but the Silver Lady was not pleased and Elias demonstrated his grasp of the concept of being annoyed, especially when the bugs decided he smelled enough like the forest to cling to him like moths to a light. Chise giggled remembering how he nearly stripped naked and jumped into the river, gargling with the water because they were everywhere. Everywhere.
Nope, that wasn't going to happen again. She'd pass his next test with flying colors. It wasn't until Ruth nuzzled his wet nose on her cheek that she realized she had fallen asleep where she sat. With a start, she straightened up and yawned, looking towards the window. It was still light out.
"How long was I asleep?" She patted Ruth's head and ran her fingers over his soft, velvety ears.
"Only about an hour." He knocked her hand with his head when she stopped, urging for more pets. Chise obliged. "I only just now came up to wake you. I figured you could use the rest."
"Thank you, Ruth." The mage-in-training turned back to her studies and sighed. She'd only made it half way through the chapter she started and looking over her notes she didn't remember any of it. She frustratingly set her forehead on the desk, sliding her work away from her. "I wonder where Elias is?" His words from before rang in her mind...he was only gone on business. She couldn't help but want to ease the burning curiosity. What was he hiding from her?
"Ruth, could you run a patrol around the estate?" Her familiar eyed her cautiously, knowing exactly what she was planning on doing. "Please?" He narrowed his red eyes at her.
"Don't do anything stupid." Chise stared at him. "I'm serious, too! That Magus of yours will have my pelt in a second if you were hurt under my watch."
"You're not responsible for me when he's not here, Ruth. Stop being so dramatic. We both know that would never happen." She opened the door and motioned him out. He complied with a grumble and a knot in his stomach.
Chise found herself creeping in to her teacher's study. She'd not been barred from entry, of course, but she'd never gone in without Elias with her, save for the few times she was sent in to retrieve certain books. Or when they were cleaning the study together, where she had gotten quite familiar with the collection he had and noted a few books she knew were probably too advanced but wanted to peek at anyways.
One in particular: Tacitus Noverim.
It was an old book. An OLD book. Not exactly ancient as it's collector, but still old. She knew exactly where she put it and withdrew it from the top of the shelf. Setting it on the desk, she sat herself down in the oversized chair and ran a finger along it's spine and cover. It was bound in a dark brown leather with a red silk ribbon lining the edges. It's title was neatly hand written on the front in a shiney metallic material she didn't recognize. She cracked open the front page and thumbed through it carefully, the pages thick yet fragile to the touch. She almost wondered if it would be better to use magic to turn the pages.
Her wondering was cut short when she fell to the page she wanted: Aperire Viam. Her Latin wasn't nearly as fluent as her English but she was learning more every day. She dug in and began digesting the information. It clicked with her and she grew excited when she realized she had all the materials to perform the spell.
She scribbled down the instructions and quickly but carefully returned the book to its place. She hurried to her room and closed the door, locking it, drawing the curtains and readying her materials. She stopped and took a deep breath before slowly pulling on her cloak. She rarely wore it but it meant more to her than just some fabric and gave her more confidence in her magic abilities. Especially since Elias wasn't there to oversee her, she wanted to be the real deal.
Truth be told she was nervous. If this wasn't so easy she may even have started reconsidering but she knew she could do it. And if it failed, no harm done. Either way, nobody would know. Well, save for Ruth. She hoped he'd be more trustworthy to her than to rat her out.
I'll be fine.
She grasped her wand and knelt before her bundled dried herbs she had lit red-hot and blew on until all that remained was smoke filling the room. She consulted her notes, dipped the end of the bundle in the small plate of white sand and began her incantation.
Singing robin, dancing vines
Seek the sun, find the wind
Play the stories of now
Celeritas et celatum
Revelare a fumo.
She held her wand with two hands in front of her, head bowed towards her notes. As expected, when she finished and looked up, the smoke was growing thicker and began swirling above her. She focussed her magic and thought of Elias, wishing to see him. She raised her wand into the thick spiraling smoke and felt magic wash over her. She closed her eyes and held her breath as it filled her body and spirit.
Suddenly she felt weightless and her ears rang a deafening pitch. She opened her eyes and looked at her surroundings. She wasn't in her room, or on the ground for that matter. She was outside in an area she'd never been before, hanging in the air. She looked down and spotted Elias in his human form leaning against a post on a dirt road in some village. Two people were next to him, definitely human, both in long overcoats. One was conversing with her teacher, the other was absent mindedly using a cell phone in one hand and holding a large cloth bag in the other. She saw Elias placing an envelope in his jacket pocket.
Chise's vision went cloudy and she realized she couldn't breathe. She couldn't hear anything either.
Panic set in quickly. She opened her mouth to suck in air but could not. She could feel her veins growing tight in her body, her eyes felt like they were going to pop out of her skull. She was stuck and couldn't move. How do I end it? She realized in her haste to perform this spell she neglected to learn how to stop it. She closed her eyes tightly, feeling consciousness slipping from her body. She pulled on whatever magic she could muster and begged to be released. Her last sight before she fell to the darkness was Elias placing a hand on his ringed finger. She swore he looked up, but was already gone.
Elias was on his knees in her room, cradling her small frame against his. She was blue in the face, lips purple, and completely limp. The Magus observed her body and their surroundings, quickly comprehending exactly what had transpired. In one swift motion his right hand waved and the curtains and windows flung open, sucking the remaining smoke out and flooding the room with the light of the late afternoon.
Elias placed his large hand behind her head and lowered her to the floor. He moved one leg over her body and straddled her on his knees. Still in human form, he raised her chin up, pinched her nostrils closed and brought his lips to hers, pumping air into her lungs thrice. He pulled back and stared at her. Nothing.
He did so again and again. Still his wife's body lay there, lifeless.
Adeep growl emitted from inside his own body and he knelt down again, breathing air into her once more while simultaneously ripping a glove off and then tearing through her shirt, revealing the top of the her chest. With the glow of magic forming in his palm, he put one more breath into her and placed his deep violet hand on her skin, firmly between her breasts.
Success. Life came back to her pale skin and her chest rose and fell violently as it sucked in much needed oxygen. Elias sighed a deep sigh of relief and pulled her back up to him, morphing into his usual form. He held her to him tightly, her head resting on his chest. Her cold body slowly found it's warmth again. The Magus ran his ungloved hand through her red hair, which was matted down with sweat. Resting his hand on her cheek, he saw his apprentice's green eyes slowly open.
Then came a scratching at the door.
"Chise?!" Ruth whined.
Elias glanced at the door and looked back at his wife. Chise was still in a bit of a fog but she knew two things: one: she failed and two: everyone knew it. The redhead's green eyes filled with tears. She was scared, disappointed and pained from the whole experience. She looked up at her teacher, her husband, and buried her head in his chest.
Elias flipped down his cloth over his face, putting a barrier of sorts between him and Chise. He was going through a rollercoaster of intense feelings he couldn't comprehend but he did know one of the feelings was anger. Anger with Chise. And he hated it. Calming the storm inside him, he spoke deeply and carefully.
"Chise, did you lock the door?" He pulled her away from him and tilted her chin up to face him.
She could hear the hurt in his voice. She couldn't see it, but she could hear it and it ignited a storm of her own inside her. "I-I..." She nodded and looked down at her hands. Then at her bare chest, puzzled. Before she could ask or act, Elias picked her up and set her down on her bed. "Huh?" He knelt down without saying anything more and picked up her materials she used, including her notes. His suspiscions were confirmed...
"Who gave you this information?"
"..." She couldn't bear to answer him.
"Please finish cleaning this up. We will talk about this after dinner." He stood up and spun around on his heel, refusing to look at her. He swung the door open and Ruth stumbled in, having been propped against it listening in. He started a trot towards Chise but Elias stopped him, grabbing a handful of the scruff of his neck. "Come with me, Ruth." He released him. Ruth stared at Chise a moment, ensuring she was okay before following Elias out of the room with his ears dropped back and head hung low.
"Elias!" Chise jumped out of her bed and towards the door. "Wait, he didn't-" Her bedroom door closed, rather forcefully, in front of her, causing her to jump back.
It's okay, Chise. He's just talking to me. She knew he'd never hurt her familiar, but she hated to think of Ruth catching Elias' fury on her account. ...that was beyond stupid.
Chise tried calming herself. She cleaned up the rest of her materials and set them on her desk, grabbing the book she was actually tasked with studying and taking it to the bathroom with her. She passed Elias' study where she could hear a hushed conversation and continued on to draw her bath. She sank in the hot water and melted, gazing up at the sky through the open windows. It was a soft orange and purple, though still bright. Evening was about to set in.
By the time she was finished reading her assignment the sun had just about set. She could smell the scent of a roast being served below and her stomach growled. As if on queue, a soft knock came at the door and Silky stepped inside with a towel and change of clothes for Chise. As silently as she entered, she slipped away and Chise quickly dried off and go dressed, feeling refreshed.
Dinner was quiet. Elias was late. Ruth stayed in his Grim form and sat at her feet. The couple played a game of sneaking peeks at each other, but neither said anything other than the occasional "can you pass the butter?" Or "would you like some more water?" And of course "thank you Silky."
As dinner ended, silence in the room was broken by Elias. "Your scolding will be different tonight, Chise." She blushed and lowered her head, wondering what exactly he meant.
"Yes, sir." She was ashamed. Once more she peeked a green eye up at him and saw his red orbs staring at her intently. "Are you mad?"
"I was angry, yes." He stood up and towered over her. Chise felt small next to Elias.
"I'm sorry." Her voice broke. Of the few times she's known him to be angry with her, this time seemed to really hit home. She almost died. He outstretched a gloved hand toward her.
"Come." She grasped it and followed him across the hallway into the living room. The fire was already lit, warming the house from the chill of the English night. On the coffee table Chise spied a familiar tome, but was perplexed when he led her passed the sofa, table and even his chair. He took her to an empty corner in the living room and rested his hand on the top of her back.
"What are we doing here?" She asked, confused albeit nervous. Her green eyes darted back and forth around the area they stood. Was she supposed to see something? What did he have planned? Of the few times he's ever scolded her she always sat on his lap while he lectured her. It was never pleasant but she didn't mind the closeness to him - even if he was delivering a strict reprimand at the time. The Magus placed both hands on the back of her shoulders now and turned her around.
"Chise, you are to stand here until I tell you you are finished, do you understand?"
This isn't happening. She hid her face in her hands, his still on her back. She felt him bend down to her level and press the tip of his skull on her cheek. An Elias kiss.
"Hands down, eyes forward, back straight." She shakily looked up to him and he backed away from her, crossing his arms and taking in the sight of his little apprentice. He was livid earlier, but after having a long conversation with Ruth and having time to calm down and contemplate his actions, now he almost found this amusing. It would be if the issue at hand wasn't gravely serious.
The picture of her lifeless, pale and cold body replayed in his mind. When she didn't respond to his resuscitation attempts he almost lost it. He remembered that feeling, one only felt a handful of times before. His limbs had gone cold, his heart raced, time was flying by but standing still at the same time. Was this what fear was? The Magus stopped looking at her as his little puppy in the corner and looked at her again as his wife who did a very foolish thing against their agreed upon rules.
At some point during his pondering she turned back around and obediently kept her body as he instructed. Hating every second of this. She shivvered.
"Are you cold, Chise?" She shook her red head. "What's wrong?"
"This-" she turned to meet his gaze. "Elias, I'm not a five year old."
That caught him off guard and he chuckled. She narrowed her eyes. He finds this funny?
"Then why, Chise," her teacher spoke to her thoughtfully, "did you behave like one?" Her eyes grew big and she gasped audibly.
I did not-
The Magus interrupted her thought by gently patting her on the head and guidng her view back to the corner. He stepped back again, paused, and took his place in his seat.
"You are to think about why you're standing there, Chise, while I freshen up on this spell you half hazardly decided to do against the promises you made to me. Our actions have consequences. It is clear my lectures to you have not sufficiently done any good. I would be a fool to continue them if they did not work. Think about your actions and their consequences. Then we will talk."
"Okay." The apprentice knew she was not in the position to protest or make demands .The pang of guilt welling up inside her told her he was not wrong. But still...
After what seemed like hours (but was actually about 2.5 minutes) Chise turned and tried talking her way out of this, and was again reminded of what she was tasked to do. With Ruth absent from her, she had no choice but to think about where she went wrong. The clock tic-toc'd, the fire crackled, the sound of a page turning every now and then disturbed the relative silence. She thought the day over once. Twice. And again. The house was warmed thoroughly from the fire but she felt cold. She felt alone, even though her entire family was with her. The longer she stood there in her guilt and shame the more she understood how foolish she truly was and how selfish she had been. She figured she must have scared Elias and hadn't even thought how her decisions affected everyone around her. She vowed to do better, to be better, and desperately wanted to tell her husband and teacher. But she was still there.
Chise noticed no pages had turned in quite a while.
Did he fall aslee-
Elias scooped her up into his arms. Chise was beyond relieved and grabbed his shirt tightly, soaking up his warmth as she got as close to him as possible. He took his seat with her cuddled in his lap, placed a gloved hand on her cheek and she took it and hand on tight to that, too. He had missed her company as much as she missed his.
"I'm ready to talk, Elias." She broke the silence of their cuddles.
"Did you complete your task?" She nodded. "What did you learn today?"
She sighed and recalled her actions of the day. She noted how she was quick to assume, did not trust him as she thought she had, needed to work on her communication and admitted her magical blunder was irresponsible, to say the least. She promised to be better, apologized and asked for his forgiveness.
In return, Elias described to her the way he felt when he held her lifeless body and asked why that was, if it was fear. Chise confirmed the emotion.
"Do you still not fear many things?" He asked her, remembering a conversation they had in the past. "We've seen a lot, you've seen a lot since you have come here. Does none of it frighten you?"
Chise thought for a moment. "The only thing I'm afraid of is being without you, Elias. Even when were meters away from each other, I miss you."
A red orb look down at her, intrigued. "Ah, so you felt the same coldness I did, then?"
"Let's hope this does not happen again Chise. It was dreadful to have to discipline you in that manner."
"What do you mean?"
"Why the corner? Do you think of me as a child?"
Again, Elias chuckled. He patted her head. "You are a child."
"I am not."
"See? A child." Elias wrapped his arms around her. "I remember seeing Angie being put in the corner more than once as a child, and again with her own daughter this continued. It is much preferable than how children used to be disciplined. Or how owners discipline their slaves." Huh?
"So you're saying it can be worse?" Briefly Chise recalled a moment in a foster home she'd been at once. A monster she'd seen caused her dinner plate to fly off the table and shatter. Her Foster mother caned her for it. Her hands, bottom, thighs and feet. Honestly she was partially expecting THAT kind of treatment when she decided to sell herself, she was told as much before signing the contract.
"I would never do anything to hurt you. I'd hoped you'd know this by now." She matter-of-factly told him about her previous treatment. He held her head to his chest. "I'm sorry you experienced that. Is that something that scared you?"
Hmm. "Kinda." Chise wanted to change the topic. This wasn't exactly the best cuddle talk. Of course neither was the other topic at hand - "Where did I mess up?"
"With the spell?"
"All of it."
"I reviewed your notes. Since you didn't read the entire book and other supplemental studies, you only pulled a snippet of that field and tried putting it in to play. You had no understanding of that type of magic. Your control isn't there yet. So while you had the basics of the spell you had no foundation, and it almost took you from me." He tightened his grip on her.
"What happened? How did you find me?" Chise yawned and rubbed an eye. Her husband held on to her hand and lightly tapped the ring that adorned her ring finger.
"When you stopped breathing I knew something was wrong. It was just a matter of finding you."
"But how did we get back here? You were out...somewhere with other people. I was there, above you." Elias shook his head.
"You were still here, just split between two planes. Your body couldn't withstand the soul split and your mind had no comprehension of how to perform it properly. So you were essentially a locked between the two." Chise's brows raised. This was a lot more serious than she'd thought.
"I'm so sorry." She apologized again.
"I forgive you. It won't happen again?" The young mage shook her head. "Lesson learned?" She nodded. "Are you ready for bed?" She nodded again, climbing up his chest and resting her head on his shoulder. "We'll see to your test tomorrow, then." And with that, he picked her up and carried her to bed.