~x~ Chapter 58 ~x~
Turning, I saw Drew heading towards me with curiosity gleaming in his eyes.
"Training was cancelled to begin with." I told him honestly, relieved that I didn't have to lie to him since he knew the truth.
"You look stressed. Did something else happen?"
"No. I've just been through a really heavy discussion, that's all." I sighed, running a hand through my hair. "I've been meaning to ask, but why didn't you ever let the guardians know about what Eric was doing to those girls?"
"Nothing short of expulsion would have stopped him." Drew explained. "And they definitely didn't have enough evidence to expel him. The girls weren't able to remember what they had been through. It wouldn't have been fair to remind them of the humiliation they might have suffered the night they were with him."
"But you could've at least tipped the guardians off to get them to increase the surveillance around him, right?"
"By the time I knew about it, the guardians were already keeping watch of all the Spirit users. Cooper's the type to get more dangerous and confrontational when people know about what he's doing."
I thought about it for a moment and knew that he was right. If the guardians suspected him more than the other spirit users, Eric probably would've taunted them using any dirty scheme he could think of without actually giving himself away. It would've been a nasty game.
"It must've been a tough choice but I think you made the right one." I murmured, glancing up at the sky.
"You don't suit the stressed out look much. You just look like you want to either find some random cabin in the middle of the woods and stay there the rest of your life as a hermit or destroy the entire world."
I turned to look at him in shock. "What?"
"You do," he told me bluntly with amusement swimming in his eyes. "So what was the heavy discussion that's got you so stressed?"
"As if I'm just going to tell you that easily."
"And why not? You don't have to hide a secret anymore, right? You never know, I might be able to help with whatever the problem is." Drew argued with a serious gleam in his eyes.
Now that I thought about it, I knew that he was right and I hated to admit it. Now that he knew who I really was, I didn't have to be so cautious around him anymore. In a way, it brought a light feeling to my mind and chest. In another, it made the situation a whole lot more dangerous for some reason and I didn't know why I felt that way. Was being open to Drew such a bad and risky thing?
"You know I'm right," he commented when he observed my expression. "Unless there's another grand secret you're hiding."
"If there is, I don't know it." I scoffed, rolling my eyes at his joke.
"What's got you so tense and concerned, Kalani?" he whispered so that no one else could hear. Not that there was anyone passing by but I appreciated his caution and thoughtfulness.
"It's about the attack from six years ago." I sighed, telling him half of the truth eventually.
"I can understand why it might make you upset but tense and concerned? That I don't understand."
"The genius Andrew-Blake Ozera doesn't understand something?" I teased, feigning a gasp.
"There are a lot of things that I don't understand," he retorted with a scoff. "I am going to name you the Queen of Evasion soon."
"Hey, I'm not that bad." I grumbled, smacking him playfully on the shoulder. "The reason why it got me tense is because they suspect that there was foul-play involved too. It wasn't just a simple attack, Ozera. Not like the one during Lissa Dragomir and Rose Hathaway's time where the ward just failed."
"It was something that was well-planned."
"That's the conclusion that we all came to. The toughest questions are: who was behind it and why. Why would someone risk so much as aligning themselves with Strigoi and attacking one of the main Academies, especially during a time when there were so many royals present here?"
"Whoever planned it can't have been aiming for a simple attack on the school. They must've been after something." Drew agreed.
"What would be so important that they'd take such a dangerous risk?"
He hesitated as he stared at me. The answer was in his eyes and a part of me could read what he was about to say. Hesitantly he voiced his thoughts. "The destruction of the Ivashkov family. Whoever planned it can't have anticipated your survival."
"Thus it gives me all the more reason not to let my identity be discovered. When I disappeared, he or she must've let their guard down thinking that I was dead. But if they find out I'm still alive, there's no telling what would happen."
"We can't risk having another attack on the school. It would cause far too much panic across the world. They'll think that no academy is safe anymore."
"So it's down to finding out who was behind the attack before they find out I'm still here." I sighed, running a hand through my hair.
"I hope you enjoy detective work, Valentine, because it seems like you're going to need to do a lot of it. We'll all try to help you out but there's only so much we can do as students."
"I've never tried being a detective before but I generally just follow my instincts to be honest. I seem to have a pretty good sense of when something's wrong. If something doesn't feel right, I'll know."
"Do you have a starting place?"
"Absolutely none at all…" I groaned. "I was thinking of letting my family work it out first. I mean, they have all the clues so far and it's been far too long for us to try and dig up physical evidence now."
"It's only been what? Two weeks? Almost three? How have you managed to get yourself in such a predicament?" Drew mused, slight amusement swimming in his beautiful eyes but they were mostly clouded with caution and anxiety due to the situation we seemed to be caught in.
"How should I know? I didn't ask for this you know. I'm so not cut out to be a detective."
"Maybe not, but you certainly do seem to be quite a little general."
"Little general?" I questioned, arching my brows at him.
"You have that air about you. Like mother like daughter, it appears," he chuckled.
"Nah, I'm more like my father. Little kids adore me." I boasted cheekily.
"Don't you go stealing my spot, little sky." Ali grumbled jokingly as he approached us.
I turned around just in time as his arm draped around my shoulders surprisingly protectively. I glanced up at him curiously, wondering why he did that. Surely Ali knew that Drew was no danger to me? If anything, I would deck him – royal prince or not – if he tried anything on me. Both Drew and I knew that for a fact.
"I'm not stealing your spot." I scoffed. "Don't be ridiculous. However, I just might steal your spot in Trace's case. He's just too darn adorable."
"He's a little Dragomir prince, of course he's adorable."
"Heritage doesn't necessarily define looks, you know."
"True, but most royal families tend to look rather beautiful or handsome or both." Ali shrugged lightly.
"I can't remember enough of them to make a justified statement. Are you ready to head over to the Elementary Division?"
"The Elementary Division? Do you still have the detention?" Drew mused.
"No, but with all this tough thinking, I thought I'd find simplicity and sanctuary in little Trace."
"Try not to let your mind explode, Valentine." Drew chuckled as he brushed past me. "Do you think we'll see you at dinner or will you be staying there all night?"
"Nothing keeps me away from dinner. If I'm not at the dining hall then I'll probably be at the H.E. lab cooking up my own meal."
"It's so unfair that you get to use it whenever you want to. I'm getting bored of take-aways."
"Then learn how to cook properly, Ozera." I joked.
"These years of learning have not been kind to me."
"I'm sure some Spartan training might get you to a passable or at least decent level of cooking so that the food is at least edible."
"Are you offering?"
"I'm not a teacher. But I know someone who's got some serious Spartan training techniques."
"I'm not kidding."
Drew took a moment to think about it before realisation dawned in his eyes and he blinked at me in surprise. "As in Guardian Valiere? The really gentle and kind guardian who has the motherly vibe about her?"
I nodded with a grin, glad that he caught on so quickly. He would have to now that he knew my secret and there was no point in me addressing the others of my family in a formal way around him. "That's the one."
"I don't think she qualifies as a Spartan trainer, Valentine."
"Just wait until you see her true colours. As motherly as her vibe may seem, she's vicious if you get on the wrong side of her." I shuddered, remembering just how scary Maria could get if she really got angry.
"Considering Guardian Valiere is part of your family unit, I'm not sure if I want to know."
"You're not as reckless as I'd thought." I laughed, smacking him playfully on the shoulder. "I'll see you around, Ozera."
Ali and I headed off for the elementary division and Ali took me towards the small training ground where I had first reunited with him and where I first met Trace. We found a whole bunch of kids, including Trace, training in concentration as he tried to defend himself against the guardian they were sparring with.
Trace spotted me almost straight away and his face lit up in delight. "Kylie!" he squealed and sprinted towards me, ignoring Guardian Black.
"Trace!" I beamed, giggling as he launched into my arms. "You're in the middle of training, Trace. You shouldn't dash off from the nice guardian like that."
"Hey there, Valentine. Why don't you train with Trace? I'm sure he'd be happier that way." Guardian Black chuckled. "He's been pouting and sulking since you haven't been here."
"Aw, I've missed you too, Trace." I laughed and swung him around. "Trace, let's train until your lesson is over and then we can relax." I suggested, setting him back down onto his feet.
"Will you train with me?"
"Of course I will. But don't think I'll go easy on you. I'll have you be a little prodigy in no time."
Trace gave me a fearful look and I softened my expression. "It won't hurt. Too much. As the bizarrely wise saying goes: 'No pain, no gain.' It's true you know. Hardly anything worth gaining or achieving has a painless path."
"Spoken rather wisely, Valentine." Guardian Black commented. "I'll leave you two guys to it and check on the other kids. Sometimes, they start fighting pretty recklessly and seriously with each other if we don't keep an eye on them carefully enough."
"They're just little kids, do they really have so much power to seriously harm each other?"
"When a few of the kids in question are magic wielders, they can do surprising damage despite being so young and inexperienced. In a way, that's what makes it more dangerous."
"That just means that they're total naturals. With the right training, they could learn to use their powers correctly, more effectively, and for the right reasons"
"You know what would be fantastic, is if you came along and helped out with the little ones' training."
"Would that mean I get to see Kylie more often?" Trace piped up enthusiastically.
"That's right, Trace. You'll get to see her in the afternoons as well." Ali confirmed.
"Stop conspiring to rope me in!" I protested semi-seriously and semi-playfully. To be honest, as much as I was complaining about it, the idea of helping out with the elementary training did sound quite interesting to say the least. Not to mention, it would be pretty awesome to see Trace more often.
"Kylie, stay and spend more time with me." Trace pleaded with those adorable eyes of his and my heart just about melted at the sight of it. I crouched down and hugged him tightly, kissing the top of his head.
"How could I ever say no to you, Trace?" I mumbled. "I guess I might as well say goodbye to my free time, huh?"
"I guess it's all set them." Ali chuckled. "I'll inform Belikov. You'll probably be given a new timetable soon."
"Alright." I nodded in acknowledgement. "Now, Trace, let's get training! I'm going to whip all you kids into shape!"
"We're going to take you down, Kylie!" Trace declared with a proud and bubbly voice.
"Maybe in a few decades time, Trace." I teased as I stood back up.
For the next hour or so, I trained the elementary novices intensively but in moderation, taking into account how young and tiny they were. There was only so much they could take after all. It wouldn't be good or productive to push them further than their little bodies could actually handle.
My younger days' training came back to me as I remembered how Mum and Dad used to train me. Whilst both of them were pretty intense with the training, they never did push me too far. They would be able to spot when I was struggling too much or was suffering. They knew just when to pull back and relax a little with the training.
After training, Trace and I relaxed on one of the training benches and we chatted enthusiastically about the dinner with the royal families in a couple of night's time. He was just as excited as I was about it since he hadn't attended one before. He never had the courage to since he had still been under the impression that the twins really disliked him. Those were the days when he was still fearful of the two.
Before I knew it, time flew and it was dinner time. I bade Trace goodbye and promised to return the next day. The promise instantly brought a smile back to his face and he gave me a tight hug before eventually letting me go.
I found the others at our usual table in the dining hall and made a beeline for it after collecting my food. The next day or so whirled by and it was time to get ready for the dinner with the royals. Els, Roxy, and Ingrid crashed into my room just as I walked out of the shower in just a towel.
"Guys! Seriously, you've got to stop doing that!" I protested, slamming the main door of my room shut to make sure no one else saw me.
"Then remember to lock your door next time," they retorted at the same time.
"What are you guys doing here?" I wondered.
"Helping you get ready, of course!" Els stated bluntly like it was the most simple and obvious thing in the world.
"Please don't go crazy, Els. I want to look normal and presentable tonight. I don't want to look like I'm trying to suck up to them."
"Don't worry about it, we'll keep it totally natural." Ingrid reassured but I was still doubtful about it.
"Fine, but only if you guys don't go over the top." I warned them firmly. I was anxious enough about the dinner itself, I didn't want to have to think about the make-up as well. I grabbed my clothes, headed back into the bathroom and quickly got changed. When I stepped out, the three girls eyed me with approval and they gestured at the bed.
Warily, I sat down on my bed, crossed my legs, closed my eyes, and let the girls do their work. For three quarters of an hour, I sat anxiously, waiting for them to tell me it was over. I opened my eyes a couple of times but they smacked me and told me I had to keep them closed until the end to see the final result. Eventually, the three stepped away and I was allowed to look. I jumped off the bed and dashed straight for the mirror.
I stared at my curly hair, bronze shadowed eyes, red lips, slightly tinted cheeks and I spotted the new earrings in my lobes as well. The look was less natural than I had hoped for but I had to admit, the make-up and hair-do went incredibly well with my outfit. I turned around to see them staring at me in anticipation. Sighing, I gave them an approving smile and a nod causing them to cheer in delight and victory.
If I hadn't adjusted my stance at the last moment, the three of them would've tackled me to the floor. I wrapped my arms around them gratefully and kissed each of them on the cheek.
"Thank you. Now I feel like I'm prepared for any terrifying situation." I told them honestly.
"You're welcome, Kai. It's time to show them who St. Vlad's female prodigy is!" Roxy declared, pulling away to give me a light smack on the back.
"Sorry, but we took longer than we thought we'd need. The guys are waiting at the car for you." Ingrid apologised.
"Here is your jacket. Have a good night, Kai." Els told me, handing me the garment.
"I'll tell you guys all about it when I get back, alright?"
"We're counting on it," they chorused.
When they finally let me go, I made a dash for the dorm entrance and found the guys leaning against the van. Joe and Crispin were waiting there as well and I stared in disapproval at the cigarette between Joe's lips.
"Smoking is bad for you, Guardian Maxwell." I reprimanded as I approached them.
"It's a tough habit to break."
"If it wasn't, it wouldn't be known as an addiction." I scoffed, rolling my eyes.
"Alright, people, let's go. We wouldn't want to be late, would we?" Crispin suggested.
"Kylie! You're really coming!" Trace squealed in delight.
"Of course, I wouldn't let you down, now would I?" I chuckled, leaning down to give him a hug.
"Be prepared for a feast, Kai." Dan warned me.
"Knowing our parents, they've probably over done it again," the twins sighed.
"If there is too much, we could always bring some food back like always." Drew shrugged.
"I'm looking forward to having a good meal." I smiled in delight.
We piled into the van, Trace instantly taking the seat beside mine, and we set off for wherever this dinner would be taking place.