What the hell am I doing here?
Newt’s eyes shifted around the room in contempt. He’d never been to a dance before, and now that he was attending the Mysidian Water Festival Dance, he wished anything would come along to relieve his suffering. Like someone falling off the balcony, or maybe the building catching on fire.
What I wouldn’t give for just one Fire spell.
He pursed his lips.
Sometimes it sucks to be a White Mage.
Most people were surprised to see the healer’s band on Newt’s Mysidian uniform because everything about him reeked of hostility. Not a kind word passed his lips and nothing gave him greater joy than seeing the disgust that a few well-time insults won. The shock of his fire-red hair contrasting with ice-blue eyes only added to the inconsistency.
Sometimes people’s stunned reactions were enough to off-set Newt’s discontent at not possessing the ability to cause mass destruction with his power. This was not one of those times.
He lifted his glare to the Black Mage standing next to him. His full name was Alexander Cromwell, but he was better known by his nickname “AC.” Though AC was a good three years younger than Newt, his tall lanky form was superior in height. This was, however, the only mark of superiority he had over his White Mage roommate.
His young face was soft and boyish, often expressing a mute concern or cheer tinged with quiet sorrow. A warm, gentle nature reflected in the depths of his violet eyes. Small clumps of black hair peeked out from under the rim of his wide-brimmed hat. Even at the festival ball, he was dressed in full uniform.
Dammit, AC! Is this girl really that important?
Newt resolved that he only came to the dance to laugh as his roommate got blasted out of the water. The annoyance would be well worth seeing AC’s crushed expression when the girl told him where to go. Or better yet, when she stood up his invitation.
After all, she’s the Elder’s pet. Way out of his league. He should know better than to stick his heart out like that. Every girl keeps a little knife up their sleeve for this opportunity.
AC’s face showed nervous expectation as his eyes scanned the room over and over. The White Mage couldn’t help but feel all the more contempt.
What a dumbass…
Still, it was because of the Black Mage’s docile nature that Newt dealt with having AC around. Usually, just standing within five feet of most people gave the White Mage an acute desire to retch all over their self-righteous faces. Sometimes it was a shame that he couldn’t comply with that desire — the shock he’d receive would have been worth a burning throat.
It wasn’t possible to find an absolutely selfless individual in the world. Such a thing defied all his street-wise learning… it defied all common logic… it defied the very nature of humanity. He was cynical. Very cynical.
There’s no such thing as pure kindness without a desire for reward. Not even in AC.
The Mysidian Elder took Newt into the Academy about a year ago for training. At first he was placed under “special living arrangements.” However, after proving that he had no intention to actually harm any of the other students, he was transferred into a normal dorm.
That was when Newt found himself with AC as his roommate. So far, this setup lasted a total of two months – longer than most people would considered possible.
The old geezer thinks he’s clever… well he’s got another thing coming.
Newt’s eyes flicked coldly to the Black Mage. AC was fidgeting, still staring across the room.
I eat kids like this for breakfast.
“Do you think she’ll come?” AC finally broke the silence.
“Why should she?”
“What do you mean? I wrote her a letter.” Violet eyes turned with an almost frightened look.
“Who in their right mind would want to be seen with the biggest loser in all the academy?” Newt smirked.
AC choked. His face flushed ten shades of red before it finally settled on one.
That should keep his whiney mouth shut.
The Black Mage worked his jaw, trying to say something and failing in finding the courage. Which was nothing new.
“Face it kid, you’re a piss-ant wuss,” the White Mage continued, warming up to the topic. “The sooner you own up to it and get these stupid ass ideas out of your head, the easier your life will be.”
“I…” AC struggled, and then finally blurted, “I don’t think Miss Porom is like that!”
“Heeellooo! What rock are you living under? They’re all like that! Everyone’s like that!” Newt gave a barking laugh, waving his hand to indicate the people at the ball.
Some of the guests nearby paused to look at him strangely.
The White Mage just glared and hissed, “What the hell are you looking at?”
Eyes turned away instantly.
AC looked like he was about to die of mortification right there. Just as he began to sink away behind the entrée table, the expression on his face shifted from horrified to even more horrified to absolutely petrified.
Newt traced his roommate’s line of sight across the room. Straight to the proper figure of the very girl that AC had been waiting for.
“Well I’ll be damned,” the White Mage muttered. “The little fancy pants actually came!”
The Black Mage was too far in his own world to even hear. His violet eyes were fixed on her as she came through the door.
She was a pretty enough girl — in a 14-year-old way. Her hair was a soft mousey color, swept back in a high-hanging braid. Her eyes were large and deep brown, her face reflecting a sense of serenity and what seemed to be kindness. She wore the dress of a White Mage. Still, everyone knew that Porom was the top student in the Academy and the special apprentice to the Elder of Mysidia.
None of this was lost to Newt as he watched AC flounder to find his breath.
I betcha she only came to humiliate him. Why else would a girl of her stature answer a letter from a flunked-out Black Mage?
The object of AC’s agitation seemed not to even know that he was there. She waltzed into the room with an air of amazement, dragging her twin brother around by one hand. The two of them visited groups of friends, picked up a few drinks from the table and generally looked to having a great time.
I knew it…
Ever so slowly, the Black Mage’s face drooped more and more.
“She snubbed you, eh?” Newt chided.
For a long moment, AC didn’t reply.
“I told you she was no different than anyone of them. Welcome to life, kid.”
“There… there has to be some misunderstanding,” the Black Mage croaked. “She just isn’t like that. I’ve seen her…”
“You’ve been watching her?” the White Mage smirked.
“Not like that!”
“Sure, sure! That’s what they all say!”
Newt loved to watch his roommate boil over the top. Most of the time, it ended in a round of mortifying tears on AC’s part. Nothing was more amusing and disheartening than making a 16-year-old cry.
“I said it wasn’t anything nasty!”
Once again, the people nearby turned their eyes toward the two mages. AC colored in a hot flush. Newt simply glared them back into their own business.
“Okay, listen,” the White Mage muttered, “I believe you. So this is what we’re gonna do.”
“If I have to take you home and hear you moaning about this girl for the rest of the night, I might be tempted to rip your tongue out and feed it to you bit by bit.”
AC choked, face turning green.
“So I’m gonna help you out.”
“Help me?” the Black Mage perked up. “How?”
The boy just has too much naive trust in people. Most of all myself.
Newt snorted and grabbed his roommate by the wrist. The pressure applied was not painful but neither did it allow struggle. A terrible look of realization flashed over AC’s face as the White Mage began to lead him in a no-nonsense manner across the room. Right towards Porom.
If she’s gonna turn him down, she damn well better have the class to do it to his face.
“Wait! Newt! What are you doing?” he protested in a tormented hiss.
I’ll show her for what she really is…
“Newt! Newt, no! This isn’t how it should be done!”
He’s gotta learn the hard way that people aren’t worth shit in this world.
Porom was standing with her brother and a group of her friends. In one hand she held a glass of kantal. Her back was to the both of them.
“Hey,” Newt projected at her gruffly.
She paused and slowly turned around, bright eyes blinking at the two of them. There was a look of surprise on her face.
Her brother turned around, too.
With a shove, Newt thrust AC in front of Porom. “He wants to talk to you.”
The two of them stared into one another’s faces, both mirroring complete and utter shock at the situation playing out before them. The Black Mage was the first one to break away. He stumbled back with a choke.
“I’m… I’m so sorry Miss Porom.”
A look of discontent slid over Newt’s face.
Sorry? How can you be sorry? She’s the one that’s totally pissing on your feelings.
AC turned on his heel and tried to push his way back across the room. The crowd was so thick that he only managed to bump into a few people as he staggered forward.
Her voice trickled over the din of the room. The word was soft, and encouraging. Encouraging enough to make the Black Mage freeze in his escape.
“You’re Alexander Cromwell, right?”
“Y-yes?” AC turned his head to peer at her, his face a tumult of surprise. Obviously he didn’t think that the girl was even aware of his existence, much less knew his name.
The girl was smiling. “I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced. I’m Porom.”
“I… know…” he choked. Then a flush of color rose to his cheeks. “I mean…”
She was laughing, unaffected as she took his hand for a warm shake.
AC looked like he might die right there on the spot.
Newt’s eyes narrowed. There was someone else who looked ready to see AC dead.
“So you’re Cromwell?” Porom’s brother shoved his way forward. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Palom!” she gasped slightly, looking shocked at his behavior.
Instantly, AC jerked back. “I…”
Silence fell over the area around them. Everyone had stopped talking, eyes turning toward the two Black Mages, who were facing each other.
Palom looked about ready to rip his adversary’s head off. AC looked about ready to pass out on the floor. Porom looked about ready to strangle her brother for his behavior. Newt decided the turn of events was worth coming to the dance for.
Palom’s face was dark. One finger jabbed forward, “If you think a good-for-nothing flunky like you can hit on my sister, you better think again!”
Normally, Newt would agree with such a statement. But for some reason, it made his hackles rise. Involuntarily, one fist clenched as he watched the younger Black Mage zero in on his silent roommate.
Nothing but damned hypocrisy no matter where you look!
With a snap, Newt shoved himself in the middle. “You stuck up little prick!”
Palom’s eyes darted to White Mage’s face with a startled look. It was an expression of distant recognition.
So even these snub-noses have heard about me…
Though Newt was not particularly tall, he was strongly built from many years of living on the streets. If that didn’t dissuade others from tangling with him, the scars on his face were usually a deciding factor. The air of intimidation was heightened by the dark rumors that drifted around the Academy since his arrival. Rumors that held a powerful grain of truth.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” Palom finally sneered. The boy decided to pick his fight, and it wasn’t a good one.
“I was about to ask you the same thing, kid,” Newt sneered back.
“This is none of your business.”
“It is now.”
“On what means?”
“Cromwell here is my roommate.”
For a moment, Palom looked as if he wanted nothing more than to back out, but he stood his ground. “Oh, really?”
“Palom, no! Don’t fight here, please!” Porom begged, seeing her brother’s moment of hesitation.
This only seemed to resolve him all the more.
“Come on, boy. You better do what your little sister says. It would be a shame to mess up your pretty face,” Newt sneered.
Here he comes…
With a bellowed curse, Palom lunged straight for Newt. The two of them came together in a blur of fists and swears so unexpected that it was hard to tell who was exchanging what. A crowd pressed in around them, giving the mages just enough room to duke it out.
This is too easy.
In the flash of light between blows, Newt could see Porom’s horrified face.
Hardly even worth my time.
Somewhere in the distance, AC was apologizing to her over and over again.
What a wuss…
Palom, on the other hand, was faring only slightly better than Newt thought he would. He was a tough enough kid, but not nearly strong or fast enough to protect himself from streetwise blows.
Time to teach this punk a lesson.
The boy’s pride didn’t let him back down. Time and time again, he swung out at the White Mage. Palom’s punches grew clumsier as he took more abuse, until he was doing very little, if any, damage to Newt at all.
If he doesn’t learn how to pick his fights better than this, he’ll end up dead.
Just as sudden as the group had closed in on them, it began to disperse. At first, Newt paid little attention to the motion around them. Not until a sudden, clear voice rang through the room, a voice so strong that it resounded in the depths of his mind.
“Newton! Palom! This will end now!”
The two froze instantly. Except for Palom who decided to get one last lug in.
Newt grunted as his eyes turned to the owner of the voice.
The Elder of Mysidia stood over them, a half frown pasted on his bearded face.