Over the next few days, I’m releasing the chapters in order, but if you can’t wait, please feel free to download the PDF, which has all five chapters and the afterword.
3 – New Beginning
Kyle the Static ducked below Garnet the Needle’s practice spear. He dove, rolling back to his feet as sand sprayed around him. Garnet followed him, aiming a precise jab to his ribs. He lifted his practice sword, blocking her attack with the flat of his blade. The power of it made him slide back, but he kept his knees bent to ensure he didn’t fall. Garnet pressed forward with determination, giving him little time to think. He smiled and charged to meet her.
This had quickly become Kyle’s favorite place to spar in all of Soul Gate Academy. Or SoGA, as everyone liked to call it. With winter having turned quickly to spring, he and Garnet had made a habit of crawling out of their beds and meeting on the beach when the sun was just starting to bleed over the horizon. The footing was poor, but he loved the cool smoothness of the sand between his toes and the salty sea breeze. Most importantly, Kyle liked that it brought him out of his room which now served as a constant reminder for Kane, his friend, whom had tried to kill him a few weeks ago.
And Kane the Basilisk had almost succeeded.
Kyle had gotten lucky. He’d envisioned that fight over a hundred times and always came to the same conclusion. He was weak. Kane, on the other hand, was strong and could have killed him if he had really wanted to. Kyle guessed that the traitor was stronger than Kross, Kevin, and Garnet. Maybe combined. And the three of his friends still with him at SoGA were stronger, smarted, and more talented than Kyle. I need to catch up to all of them. Kane included.
Garnet twirled her spear with blinding speed. Kyle’s eyes struggled to follow as he stepped back. She ended the twirl, gripping the spear like a baseball bat. Kyle saw what she was going to do, but had no time to react. She swung, twisting her whole body to drive the spear in to his left side. If the spar had happened anywhere other than Soul Gate Academy, he was sure Garnet would have just broken a rib or two of his. As it was, SoGA locked all weapons while they were on its land. This meant that weapons, whether real or the heavier practice ones, were no more dangerous than cushioned sticks. It also helped that he was an Enderian. Kyle had come to realize that compared to the regular humans from the realm of Earth, where he’d grown up, he was practically supernatural. He and anyone else from Endera could move faster, jump higher, fall from incredible heights, and take much more damage than normal Earth people. Kyle would still have a hard time believing it, if he hadn’t spent most of the last year testing the limits of his body. Of course, that didn’t mean hits like this were painless.
Kyle grunted, moving with the hit. He wrapped his arm around the staff, taking a firm grip to it. He pulled, meaning to throw her off balance and bring down his sword on her unguarded side. Instead, his legs slipped out from underneath him, getting entangled with Garnet’s. He fell on his back and Garnet fell on to him smacking her forehead on this chest. The breath shot out from his lungs and his eyes instantly began to water.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Garnet sat up, breathing hard.
“It—it’s okay,” Kyle gasped, catching his breath. Garnet stared at him, concern behind her gem blue eyes. She’s beautiful. Kyle had never been blind to her looks, but there was something about the way the sun hit her pale skin speckled with sand and cute freckles and her burning auburn hair that stuck to her sweat covered face that made him—warm. She’s warm. Kyle’s face began to burn. Garnet the Needle was sitting on him. He’d never felt someone so warm. He never even thought someone could be that warm. And she sat on the one place that probably would start reacting to her warmness any second if she didn’t get off. “Uh-Garnet.”
Garnet seemed to finally notice their position. “Sorry!” she squeaked. She rolled off him, landing next to him on the sand with a face as red as her hair. She covered her face with both her hands before falling on to the sand. “That’s completely embarrassing.”
They lay on their backs for a moment, both cooling down in more than one way. Kyle threw the weapons to his side guessing they were done for the morning.
“I guess it’s a little embarrassing,” Kyle smiled. “Not that I’m really complaining.”
She gave him a half-hearted punch to the shoulder and whispered, “Me either.”
There was a long moment of silence where they lay next to each other. They’d regret it later. Laying on the beach always allowed sand to find ways to annoying places on their bodies. Still, a peace fell over Kyle as he lay next to her, silent. They had unspoken things to say to each other. He knew it, but how could he put it into words?
Their hands had landed inches from each other’s. Kyle tried to keep his eyes away from her hand but there was a twitch in her fingers that beckoned his own hand closer. He moved it closer and it only took the barest touch for them to come together and lock fingers. His hand seemed to do what neither of them could do. I suppose words aren’t always needed.
“Ya know?” Garnet said still holding his hand. “It’s been a pretty crazy year.”
“Yeah,” Kyle agreed.
“That’s an understatement, I guess.” She fidgeted. “Kyle?”
“Don’t ever forget me, okay?” Garnet squeezed his fingers tight.
Kyle turned his head and looked her directly in the eyes, “Who are you?”
“I’m serious,” She punched him a little harder this time, but with a grin on her face.
“I know,” he smiled. “I’ll never forget you, Garnet. Promise. How could I ever forget the only person I’m sure is real in all of Endera?” He’d meant it more as a joke, but it felt true to him as he said it. He knew this was all real, but sometimes things just felt so unbelievable that he didn’t take it for granted having someone like Garnet—someone from his past—here with him. Man, I hope that didn’t sound stupid.
She suddenly moved in closer and kissed Kyle. He almost yelled in surprised. But Garnet’s lips on his took hold of him completely. If he’d felt her warmness earlier, now he knew what it was like to feel her fire. And it made his heart spin. Their lips moved a part a little while later and Kyle almost wanted to protest, but when she placed her head on his shoulder all his complaints evaporated.
She sighed. I think that’s a cue of some sort, right? Right?
“Everything okay?” Kyle asked hoping his intuition wasn’t leading him astray in an attempt to ruin this moment. Did I kiss her badly?
“Everything’s fine,” Garnet said. “It’s just that the school year is done and I’m just not sure what to do.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” her face scrunched up in a pout. Cute. “Don’t you think about what we’re supposed to do over this break we have? Like almost everyone is going to leave tomorrow morning after this pool party thing tonight that the Grandmaster likes to throw every year. Except for everyone like us who has to stay for the ShiftDoor test. Rayne has asked me to go spend the break with her and I want to, but I don’t know. And then what happens after we complete our courses here at Soul Gate Academy? Should we stay here as Eternal Title Tyros? You know, they explain it as though it’s the last title we’ll ever receive, but it’s really more like we’ve earned a high school diploma and we’re being allowed to stay on to get a bachelor degree with our Eternal Title acting as a sort of official identification. Then we would receive more hands-on training. Kind of like what we did in the Forger’s Tavern, but a lot less messy. It’s not a bad system, but it weird to me that people were just fine with earning their final title while they’re teenagers. As though nothing interesting is supposed to happen in your adult years. And then there’s the fact that we’re sort of alone in this world. We don’t know much about our parents. I know you have some information on them, but I’m more of a mystery and it doesn’t help that I was a reader who everyone was supposed to forget. There’s just so much. Don’t you think about all that?” She has all this on her mind?
“I—” Kyle’s mouth hung wide open. He was unsure how to respond to any of that. He had been so focused on training and what had happened a few weeks ago with Kane. In fact, he’d been doing his best to not think about anything. “That doesn’t sound like everything’s fine?”
“I guess not,” Garnet admitted. “I’m just sort of worried, you know?”
Kyle nodded, “Yeah, I get that. I can’t say I’m entirely on the same page, but I guess I just haven’t thought about it as deeply as you have. Maybe I’m just dumb?”
“Probably,” Garnet teased. “That makes the most sense. So, you think it’s a good idea for me to go stay with Rayne?”
“Yeah, why not?” Kyle said. “She seemed cool.”
“Just cool?” Garnet raised her eyebrows.
“If you’re trying to get me to say something about her looks, don’t. Even I’m not that dumb. Plus, I’m actually kind of a fan of this whole us thing that happened today.”
“Coward,” she laughed. “But a smart coward. And I sort of like it too.”
Kyle leaned in, kissing her, “I’m guessing you’ve already decided to go?”
“Yeah,” she said, smiling. “I just thought I’d see what you said about it. What do you think you’ll do?”
Kyle wondered about that himself. If he was completely honest, he wanted to visit his home in Grayling. It’d almost been a year since he’d last seen Nana and Paps and he missed them. It’d been longer for Garnet, who’d missed them an extra two years while she trained to be a reader. But it didn’t matter. Seeing them wasn’t a possibility. Not yet.
“It’d be nice to go home for some of Pap’s cooking.” Kyle said, hoping that didn’t make him sound childish.
“Nana would fuss over how tall you’ve gotten,” Garnet smirked. “Then she’d attack the Grandmaster Dante and Master Proculus if she ever saw that scar on your chest. That’d be a battle for the ages.”
Kyle moved his free hand over his chest. Even with his shirt on, it felt like lightning zapped his fingers as he trailed the scar beneath. “It wouldn’t be too bad to hear her fuss.”
“You were always her favorite.”
Kyle shrugged. “I think she just felt sorry for me. No one other than you liked paying attention to me.”
“And now I’m paying extra special attention to you,” she sat up, separating from him. “It’s good to see you’ve stopped weirding everyone else out, though.”
“I don’t think that’s true,” Kyle sat up, too. “Mostly everyone here still thinks I’m a weirdo because ‘I’m the boy from the other realm,’ remember? It seems like some kind of sick joke. First, I’m weird because of my key unlocking things like it has a mind of its own. Now, I’m weird because I lived in a place where keys aren’t so magical. Little does everyone know that you were there with me, too.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you sound a little jealous.”
“Nah, I get why they all love you.”
“Oh? Why is that?” Garnet’s eyebrows rose.
“Well, you’re a little pretty. And smart too, I guess.”
“Only a little pretty?” She crossed her arms, feigning anger.
“Only a little,” Kyle grinned.
“I think you need to work on your complimenting skills, Kyle the Static.”
“Are you sure? I said you were smart, didn’t I?”
Garnet kissed him and it filled Kyle with warmth again. It just felt so right.
“Thanks,” Garnet said as she pulled away. “For not telling anyone that I’m from the same realm. I know it’d probably be easier for us both to be the weirdos, but—well thanks.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Kyle smiled. “It’s really not something that bothers me. Although…”
“Well, I was just wondering. When we were in Grayling. Why weren’t you accidently unlocking stuff like me?”
“I don’t know,” Garnet frowned, taking a handful of sand and letting it spill between her fingers. “I’ve been thinking about that lately. It might mean that I’m just a late bloomer or maybe there’s something different about me. It might even have something to do with my parents, whoever they are. Enderians are the only ones that can be readers, so it shouldn’t have anything to do with that, but maybe there’s something I’m missing.”
Garnet fell silent, but it didn’t seem like her mind had stopped talking. She scrunched up her nose, deep in thought like she was focused on an invisible book. Kyle knew that look well now. Garnet spent most of her free time buried in books she’d borrowed from the personal library of their history teacher, Master Oisin. There was something she was looking for and he guessed it might have to do with her parents. He wanted to ask her about it, but he knew she would bring it up when she was ready to talk about it. It was an unspoken understanding between them—finding out who our parents were, that was something we needed to do on our own.
There was a part of Kyle that thought he should dedicate some time searching for his own answers. It would be easier for him, considering his parents had both been at Soul Gate Academy. He knew Grandmaster Dante and Proculus would be more than happy to share what they knew should he ever decide to ask about them. But he didn’t know if he ever would. Why should I dedicate any brain power to finding out about them when they obviously left me? He shook his head. He was dedicating brain power to them right now. I’ve got more important things to worry about.
“Garnet?” Kyle could tell she was thinking hard. “You still with me?”
“It’s nice that we can talk to each other easier now,” she said, abruptly. “You know? It wasn’t like this before I was in the coma.” This was true. The year had given them both plenty to focus on, but furthering their personal relationship had never really been a part of it. There was no denying that they’d always been attracted to each other, but it’d become much solidified these past few weeks. I guess almost dying really helps get rid of the awkwardness.
“And the kissing thing is new, too,” he tried to say this confidently, but his face turned warm. Well, not all the awkwardness. “I guess we’ve grown up a little.”
“Yeah,” Garnet kissed him, again. “That’s nice, too, but maybe it’s a little overdue.”
“We have been dealing with all this,” Kyle spread out his arms, presenting everything around them. “Being brought to a whole new realm has a way of keeping a person occupied. I think I’ll cut us some slack for not moving quicker.”
“Thanks,” she rolled her eyes. “Glad to see one of us is okay with procrastinating.” She stood up. “But the shower is calling my name and I can’t procrastinate that anymore. Sand is going to permanently lock to my skin if I don’t wash it off now. You coming?” Her face reddened. “I mean—not with me—but—like your shower—um—you know what I mean.”
“I think I’ll stay behind,” Kyle laughed, trying to hide his desire. He knew she hadn’t meant it that way, but part of him, a very large part of him, did want to go with her to the shower. He needed to change the subject. “It’d be good for me to practice my lightning mediation while no one else is around.”
“You don’t have to push yourself so hard, Kyle,” Garnet kneeled down back to his level, the red in her cheeks disappearing as her blue eyes stared into his.
He gave her a peck before she could say anything else, “I know.” But I do. I have to get stronger. His desire seemed to disperse. The warmth still filled him, but there was a coldness lingering in him and it became hard as steel.
He needed to be stronger.
Garnet sighed, knowing there wasn’t anything else to say. She stood up, “Make sure you leave yourself enough time to shower. If you show up to breakfast and get sand all over me, I’ll have to pin you to the ground again.”
“Was that what that was?” Kyle mused. “I think you head butted me first. Going to do that again, too.”
“Obviously,” she smiled and turned away. “And don’t think I’ll be giving kisses to make you feel better afterwards?”
“But it worked so well,” he said, grinning.
“I’m talented like that. See you later.” Without another word, she took off at a jog toward the castle.
“Later,” Kyle watched her go, enjoying the view of her bouncing red hair and her good-looking backside. He smiled. She’s so awesome. Determination began to swell in him. She almost died because I was weak. Because I am weak. I won’t let that ever happen again.
Kyle crossed his legs, resting his hands on his knees. He steadied his breath with practiced calmness and then closed his eyes to shut the world out. The moment took hold of him. Nothing else mattered other than the motions of taking in a breath and exhaling it. The world became still, so that even the sound of the ocean’s waves fell away to nothingness. He moved his hand in front of him, turning it as though he had a key in it. He used to actually need a key in his hands to do this, but this like so many things had changed at the King’s Temple. He and all his friends had found Key of Throne Arms. Or Kota as they were more commonly referred to. They were special key weapons that acted as both a key and weapon. This gave them the obvious advantage of only needing one thing in your hands to unlock powers and use as a weapon, but there was more to it. Kotas were connected to their users somehow even when they weren’t physically together. It was like an invisible line of aura kept him and his Kota always within reach. If Kyle wanted to, he could summon it instantly to his side. That, however, wasn’t necessary now. Even without it in his hands, he could use the Kota to unlock his powers. It just required a little focus.
He flicked his eyes open and lightning sprang to life around him forming an electric halo which danced around him like a zapping, yellow hula hoop. A year ago, he might have jumped out of his own skin if he saw lightning circling around. He’d grown used to it now. In fact, unlocking lightning to control and do his bidding had become as much a part of him as breathing.
Well, control is a strong word.
He turned his hand again, giving life to a second halo. This one, however, was neon blue. It orbited around him at an angle, hovering above his left shoulder and almost touching the ground near his right knee. Energy drained from him at a steady pace. It wasn’t ideal to use his lightning like this. He was more accustomed to releasing it in wild burst. Which meant little control and it was dangerous to those around him when he used it. Both friend, foe, and anyone else.
It fought against Kyle like a wild dog on a leash, pushing when he pulled and pulling when he pushed. When he relaxed his concentration, even momentarily, the different halos would hit each other and green sparks would erupt from where they touched. Letting go for a second more than that would allow both halos of lightning to shoot into the air to splinter in a sudden flash of power. It wouldn’t hurt him—he was immune—but anyone hit by this kind of power would have a hard time walking away from it unharmed. If he ever wanted to be more than a dangerous lightning rod, he’d have to learn to control it.
And to do that, he meditated. I will get stronger.
A couple hours later, Kyle sat in the Dining Hall enjoying breakfast with his friends. Kross the Monk sat directly across from him, working his way through a bowl of cold cereal. He was slightly taller than Kyle and a year older. He had short buzzed hair and wore his student uniform of a black shirt paired with an ocean blue vest and matching pants with a certain professionalism that might only be seen in courtrooms. His eyebrows were pressed together as he looked over his notebook that lay next to his cereal bowl. Kyle had never seen him go anywhere without the notebook. It listed the various grades Kross liked to bestow on summons. And people. The grades represented Kross’ opinion on how useful and skilled they were. As far as Kyle knew, he was barely a C, but grades could go up to A-plus-plus. So, there was still a lot of room for improvement where Kyle was concerned.
Well, I haven’t been graded after the incident at King’s Temple. I’ve probably gone up since then…I think.
He had seen little of Kross during the last few weeks. Their mission to save Garnet had led them to find a book filled with information regarding Kotas. Kane, knowing its value, had stolen it and taken it to the King of Dawn, Seltios. Fortunately, all had not been lost. Kross had seen some of its contents before it was taken. So, he’d been working with the masters in an effort to remember what he saw. Skilled work with MemoryBending and Kross’ quick reading skills had given them much to process.
Sitting next to Kross was his roommate, Kevin the Bison. He was tall, muscular, and strikingly good looking with his long coal-black hair that he almost always tied back in a ponytail. He was also the only person Kyle knew who was deaf. This was always a source of awe to Kyle who couldn’t imagine being without his hearing. Kevin never seemed to let his disability sadden him, though. He smiled more than anyone Kyle knew and it tended to be infectious. Even more impressive was that Kevin could talk and hear in his own way. His eyes, which glowed yellow and had cat-like black slits, had been specially locked to pick up speech visually. To talk, he used small notepad that always hung around his neck. He could write on it and the notepad would speak for him in a computer-like voice. Without the notepad, he was limited to saying, “Ah,” in a child-like voice. He did this often.
“Ah,” Kevin piled eggs and bacon on to his plate as though it was to be his last meal, before writing on his notepad. “Can you pass the bread please, Kyle?”
Kyle, unable to answer because he was chewing on a sausage he’d just stuffed into his mouth, nodded.
“Ah,” Kevin said in thanks as Kyle handed him the steaming loaf of bread. There was some mind reading that usually needed to be done if you were Kevin’s friends, but it was never for anything complicated. He sliced off a thick slab of bread and began inhaling his meal like vacuum picking up crumbs. Kevin, like all of them, had been training harder ever since they’d returned from the King’s Temple. For him, that meant less time dedicated to wooing the many SoGA boys and girls who were his admirers. And more time spent with a large battle axe in his hands.
The last in their group was Garnet, now clean of sand and sweat. She sat next to Kyle, topping her plate of pancakes with a dozen plump strawberries and syrup. She dove right in to her meal, not caring that there were lots of eyes glancing her way. The do love her, Kyle smiled as he thought about earlier this morning. No one could deny that Garnet was popular. The simple fact was that there weren’t many girls, or boys, who were as talented and as stunning as her. On top of that, the secret that she had once been a reader had come to light. This only made seemed to make her more admirable in the eyes of the students.
Kyle received glances, too. More like glares. Too often, other students aimed looks of disdain his way. It made sense. He was the outsider. Why would someone like Garnet spend so much time with the boy from the other realm? Unthinkable! Kyle took one last bite of his breakfast. They’d probably all have a heart attack if they knew we’d kissed. Maybe I should tell them.
“So, what’s the pool party supposed to be all about?” Kyle said trying to get his mind on a different topic. Thinking about kissing Garnet again made his cheeks warm. “You said it happens every year, right?”
“Yes,” Kross let dropped his spoon into his empty bowl. “Every year since Grandmaster Dante became the Grandmaster. And there’s nothing to tell. It’s a pool party.”
“We don’t have a pool, though,” Garnet pointed out the obvious. “Unless there is one in the Master’s facility? Will we get to visit that maybe?”
“No,” Kross answered. “Well, maybe there is one there, but we won’t be getting to see it. Instead, we’ll be getting our own pool. It’ll be made by the Masters. It is kind of like a show they put on.”
“They’ll make it?” Kyle asked. Modifications, maybe? “How?”
“You’ll see.” Kross said, simply.
Kyle and Garnet shared a glance and shrugged. There was no point in knowing beforehand.
“You both shouldn’t worry about the pool party tonight.” Kross went back to looking over his notebook. “It’s tomorrow you should worry about.”
“The ShiftDoor test?” Garnet said.
“No need to worry about it as much as Kross,” Kevin said with his notepad. “He’s been prepping for it all year.”
“Of course, I have,” Kross said with no hint of embarrassment. “I failed it last year. It’s perfectly normal that I would make sure I’m prepared this year.”
“Being prepared is one thing,” Kevin smiled as he wrote. “Overkill is the word I would use for you.”
“I think Kevin is probably right, Kross,” Kyle stretched his arms over his head. “No use in thinking about it too much.” They’d gone over how to open a ShiftDoor in a few of his classes. It didn’t sound all that challenging. Well, compared to all the other stuff we do.
“Ah,” Kevin agreed.
“Easy for you to say,” Kross snapped at Kevin. “You passed it on your first try. As for you, Kyle. I don’t know how you can be so relaxed. It’s easy to mess up on your first try. I think I was too distracted last year. It likely played a major role in my failure. This year, I’ll be focused. Very focused.”
“You’ll pass,” Garnet assured him. “And at least you don’t have Kyle’s problem. He’s hardly got enough places to travel to for a test.”
This was true. The test required that he open three different ShiftDoors. Kyle’s limited traveling in Endera made this a problem. ShiftDoors could only open if he had been there before. Of the places he had been to, the King’s Temple and the Forger’s Cavern were too dangerous. Something or someone would probably try to kill me if I tried opening doors there, anyways. He’d also been to the Mirror Forest, but that was too close to the King’s Temple making it a useless option. That left Dilu Village and the first place he’d ever been to in Endera, Arragin Mountain. Luckily, he’d been granted permission to open two doors to Dilu Village. One would open outside the village and the other would open inside Mayor Nova’s house.
Just like Soul Gate Academy, opening a ShiftDoor inside Dilu Village was not normally possible. Locks prevented such easy access to towns and their people’s homes. The exception had been made when Garnet asked Rayne the Floret, Nova’s daughter, if this could be allowed to help Kyle. Mayor Nova had been more than happy to say yes. Or so Kyle was told. It was Garnet who had received the letter in reply, after all. Kyle had grown curious about all the letters. The two girls had been writing letters to each other ever since they’d met. He guessed that he was often a topic of their letters and this had helped into pushing Garnet and his relationship forward. Which was good, because of the kissing. He liked the kissing. But what else do they talk about? He sighed silently. It was none of his business. It had helped with the ShiftDoor test and he was grateful for that. And he was grateful for the kissing, too.
Now I just have to make sure I don’t fail the test. Or the kissing. Kissing’s not a test, though, so I should be good there. Unless it was a test this morning. I don’t think I failed if it was. Right? Probably not. She seemed like she like it. Maybe I’ll get another one later…
“Huh,” Kyle realized he’d been staring right at Garnet, running a hand through his hair.
“Something on my face?” Garnet wiped her mouth. “And you’re doing your thing.”
“Um, no,” Kyle’s stopped. It was getting too long for that, anyways.
“I think I’ll have to get going soon,” Kross stretched his arms amusement filling his brown eyes. “The masters wanted to see me one last time to make sure we didn’t miss anything.”
“Haven’t they checked a hundred times already?” Garnet asked.
“Feels like it,” Kross agreed. “But I don’t blame them. This could really change things if it gets into the wrong hands. And to be honest, I think there is more to the Kotas than they’ve let us know.”
“Like what?” Kyle felt the sudden urge to bring his Kota out right there, but he stopped himself.
“I’m not sure. They haven’t exactly told me. It’s just a feeling I have. There’s something else to them. Something more than just being a key and a weapon.”
“Ah,” Kevin started writing. “I think you’re right. And I think that’s why it is good for us to focus on our training.”
Kross nodded. “Things do feel like they’re getting more dangerous all the time.”
Curiosity began to stir in Kyle. Was there really something else to the Kota? Maybe it was something that could make him stronger. Then again, maybe it was something that would get him killed. If he had to guess, it was probably the latter.
Excited conversation suddenly erupted near the doorway to the Dining Hall. Nova, Mayor of Dilu Village, walked into the room wearing a light traveling cloak. She wasn’t tall, but she carried herself in a way that seem to tower over everyone anyways. Her stern pink eyes pressed into the room looking determined if not intimidating.
To her right was a young woman Kyle had never seen before. She had short bronze hair spiked up and held back by a wide blue bandanna with two white eyes crudely painted on to it. Her own eyes were big and pale grey. She’s blind, Kyle realized. He could hardly believe by the way she walked. Each of her steps fell with such poise that it was like she had spent hours planning each step before taking it.
To Mayor Nova left was her daughter, Rayne the Floret. Her bright blonde hair fell to the sides of her rosy cheeks. She had a heart shaped face and the same pink eyes as her mother that seemed to draw in looks. She was beautiful. Not even Kyle could deny that. But I would if Garnet asked me.
“Rayne,” Garnet stood up rushing to greet them.
“Garnet!” The two girls hugged.
Kyle scratched his head in wonderment. If he didn’t know differently, he would have guess Rayne and Garnet had been friends for years. I guess writing letters to each other must have made them closer.
The room returned to its normal level of chatter quickly. Many tyros knew who the Mayor of Dilu Village was on sight. They had likely seen her one time or another since her village was so close to the academy. Garnet, Rayne, and the blind woman moved toward their table, sitting down. Mayor Nova strode on by, giving Kyle, Kross, and Kevin a kind nod and smile before climbing the stairs to meet with the masters.
“I’m Terra,” said the woman as she sat. “And I like you!” She pointed directly to Kevin without a single hint of embarrassment.
Kyle’s mouth dropped open and he noticed Kross reacting similarly. Garnet tried to hold a giggle back, but it escaped muffled into her hand.
“Ah,” Kevin said, grinning. He was as unembarrassed as Terra.
“Terra!” squealed Rayne. “Can’t you act normal for a single moment?”
“That’d be boring,” Terra said. “So, what’s your name, handsome?”
“Stop acting like you don’t know me, Terra,” Kevin wrote. Before he could write more, Terra leaned in and grabbed on to Kevin’s face to tug it down to plant a kiss fully on his lips. Kevin, Kyle noticed, was happy to return the kiss in full. Looks like I’m not the only one to get a kiss today. The thought made his cheeks warm.
Rayne gasped and so did many others around them. Others cheered. People seemed to always be watching Kyle and his friends. Everything they did always merited an immediate reaction from everyone around them. It didn’t bother Kyle, but it did sometimes leave him scratching his head. Don’t they have better things to do than watch other people kissing. Of course, at that moment he was also one the people watching, but that was different. The two of them were sitting right in front of him. Plus, Kevin was his friend.
Kevin pulled out of the kiss and began writing, “We’ve known each other forever.” His finger continued scribbling across the notepad as though the kiss had never interrupted his writing. “Through my grandmother actually. And we are kind of dating and not dating.”
Those who had gasped now looked horrified. One girl with curly black hair looked like she was on the verge of throwing her cup at Terra.
“Dating and not dating?” Kyle asked.
“It depends on my mood,” Terra said. “And I’m in the mood now.” She moved closer to Kevin, snuggling in so close beside him that they might have been sewn together now.
“Terra!” Rayne said, her cheeks going red. “Seriously.”
“You’re just like Rayne said,” Garnet giggled. “Completely and utterly unembarrassed.”
“And blind,” Terra smiled. “I’m sure she mentioned I was blind.”
“Blind enough to walk through a Gatekeeper’s funeral laughing the whole while,” Rayne muttered.
“That I am,” Terra’s smile grew even wider.
“You’re strong,” Kross said flatly. If he’d been shocked by Terra earlier, he was composed now. There was a light of amusement hiding in his eyes, though. “I think I’d grade you at an A just based on how you walked.”
“Are you hitting on me?” Terra tilted her head in his direction. She could tell right where Kross was just by where his voice had come from.
“No,” Kross laughed. “Just acknowledging that you are more than you seem.”
“I am,” Terra agreed. “Smart friend you have, Bison.”
“Ah,” Kevin nodded.
“I’ve missed that,” Terra ran a finger across Kevin’s cheek. She cleared her throat, pulling her hand away and seeming abashed for the first time since she walked into the Dining Hall. It was as though she finally realized that she wasn’t alone with him. “It’s very nice to finally get to meet you, Kross the Monk.”
“It’s nice to meet you, too, Terra the Gargoyle.”
“You know me,” Terra’s eyebrows shot up. “Kevin wouldn’t have told you, so how? No, wait. Don’t answer that. Not here.”
Kross nodded. He had called her Gargoyle. Nothing seemed obviously remarkable about the title, but there had to be something.
“And you are Garnet,” Terra said, shifting focus. “Rayne has told me about you. I hear you used to be a reader?”
“I am and I was,” Garnet answered.
“And you are the boy from the other realm,” Terra said moving on to Kyle before Garnet could say anything else. “Kyle the Static. You’re practically famous in Dilu Village. Well the four of you are. But you, they’ve got this story about how you’re a hero who’s destined to m—”
“I think that covers the introduction,” Rayne interjected, red faced. “Don’t you think we should probably get out of the Dining Hall? Maybe we can all go for a walk?”
A hero? He had helped in saving Garnet, but calling him a hero was going overboard. He’d gotten lucky more than anything else. That doesn’t make me a hero.
“Shouldn’t you at least tell us why you’re here before that,” Kross said bluntly. “It seems odd for you two and the mayor to show up today.”
“Mother wanted a private word with the Grandmaster,” Rayne sighed. “She didn’t tell us why, but I’m pretty sure it has to do with the Lunar Tournament. I think the Grandmaster wants to push for Dilu Village Academy to be included as the third school, but my mother is against it.”
The Lunar Tournament was a common topic nowadays. Nearly everyone spent time speculating about which three schools would participate for the Kingdom of Dusk. Dusk Academia was certainty. That apparently was the capital’s academy where lots of noble teenagers attended. Soul Gate Academy was expected to be second of the schools representing Dusk. It was the third school that seemed to spark debate. Nobody had the faintest idea on who would be the third.
“Wouldn’t she want Dilu Village to be involved?” Garnet asked. “It’s supposed to be a big deal, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is,” Rayne said. “But it’s not exactly a popular idea politically. Especially in Dilu Village. Dawn and Dusk have never gotten along and the last few years have been especially tense. My father’s death is almost certainly linked to that tension and buddying up with them for some tournament isn’t what most people have in mind as an acceptable response.”
“I see,” Garnet said solemnly. “It must be really difficult for you and your mom. I’m sorry.”
“I didn’t mean to dampen the mood,” Rayne said, shrugging. “Plus, that’s not the only reason we’re here. I’m officially reentering Soul Gate Academy.”
“You’re allowed?” Garnet squealed.
Rayne nodded, beaming. The two of them burst into fits of incoherent happy babble. At least, that is what it sounded like to Kyle. How did her father die? That certainly wasn’t a question he’d ask, but he couldn’t help but be curious. Maybe Garnet knew?
Hearing that she was going to attend Soul Gate Academy was great news though. He liked Rayne and it would make Garnet happy. It did, however, raise a question.
“I thought people had to be chosen to join Soul Gate Academy,” Kyle whispered to Kross. “Is it different because she’s the mayor’s daughter?”
“Oh,” Kross said. “I guess no one ever told you. Rayne was here the year before this one. That’s why she’s re-entering. She missed this year because of what happened to her father. It has nothing to do with her being the mayor’s daughter. She was already—”
“You really did live in another world, didn’t you?” Terra said suddenly. “That makes sense.”
“I did,” Kyle said, slowly. “I—why does that make sense?”
“You’re different,” Terra studied him, looking him up and down with eyes that didn’t work. “You smell different and sound different. And…your aura feel’s different, too.”
Smell? I don’t smell. Right? Of course, not. Kyle became a little warm around the neck. Why is she smelling me anyways? He inhaled a little deeper than normal just to make sure. He was certain he was clean. What was that she said about my aura? He thought it might have been the light but he could have sworn her eyes glowed when she mentioned it. Or maybe I really do smell and her eyes were tearing up? His neck grew warmer.
“Don’t take it the wrong way,” Terra rolled her eyes. A weird expression from a blind person, but it looked natural. “You don’t smell bad. Just different. Everyone has a smell. I can just tell better than most people. Call it a talent. I’m super impressive that way.”
“Oh—well, I don’t know,” Kyle said, relieved. “You’re hardly the first person to notice I’m different.” If she had told him that he was perfectly normal, now that would be different.
“Of course,” Terra said. “Still, it is interesting. Did you know that I’ve probably only met a little more than a dozen people with as distinct auras as yours?
“Really?” It was definitely more about the auras than the smell. That’s good. “Is that—”
“And five of them are sitting at this table,” Terra drummed her fingers softly on the table. Garnet and Rayne stopped talking, turning their focus to Terra. “Garnet’s I understand. She was a reader. I’ve met two readers and I see the similarities. Though I’d say Garnet’s is the most impressive. Kross here, might seem modest, but his parents are two of the most famous key sages to ever unlock Medications. The whole country knows who they are even if Kross seems to think he can hide the fact. Either way, the son of two masters like them having a distinct aura is hardly surprising. But who knows, maybe there is something more to it.”
It was surprising to Kyle. He eyed his friend curiously, but Kross wouldn’t look his way. He looked uncomfortable, like he was trapped and trying to find a way out of the conversation. He’d hardly talked about his parents, so Kyle didn’t know much about them. The way Terra talked made them sound like celebrities.
“Kevin is a genius,” Terra continued. “Plain and simple, but so is his grandmother so there might be the connection there. The rest of his family has auras that are normal as they come, though.”
Kevin nodded, affirming Terra’s words. He had mentioned his grandmother earlier. That was how the he and Terra knew each other. And his grandmother is a genius? Like Kevin? Kyle was really starting to feel like he barely knew his friends it all. It made sense. They had never really talked about their life outside of Soul Gate Academy. That was, in some ways, why Kyle liked Kevin and Kross. They never pestered him with questions about the world he’d left behind. Kane had, now that he thought about it. Not really pestered, but he had talked about it with him, hadn’t he?
“As for Rayne…everyone on Endera knows about Rayne,” She smiled. “That is, unless you lived under a rock or in another realm. “I doubt they’ve gone over it in your history class since it’s relatively recent, so I’ll explain it to you if Rayne doesn’t mind?” Rayne gave a quick, silent nod that Terra was somehow able to pick up. More and more, Kyle was feeling like she wasn’t blind at all. “To make a long story short, Diego the Moonrider—that was his official title, but people often referred to him as Gatefinder—along with Nova the Windrider and two others, Leonardo the Sunrider and Jade the Moonrider, made the biggest find of the century. They found one of the Lost Gates.”
Lost Gates? It sounded familiar somehow. Maybe, Kyle had heard someone talking about it before. “So, does that mean Rayne’s parents passed on their special aura to her?”
“Not at all,” Terra said. “Nova’s aura is normal and so was Diego’s from what I can remember. I only met him a few times before his untimely death, though. May the sun set kindly so the moon can follow. May the winds flow tenderly to lead the clouds on. Over mountains and ocean do riders ride. Let the rider ride one last time. From this dream until the next dream. Continue on, Diego.”
Rayne smiled sadly, looking grateful. Kyle would have to ask about it later. What exactly are riders?
“Rayne was born at the Lost Gate. Mayor Nova has never known how to take time off, so she was pregnant when they found it. My theory, and I’m pretty sure I’m right, is that having a baby next to that gate affected her in unforeseen ways. Probably why she likes drinking so much. But from what I hear, the four of you know all about that.”
“Ha ha ha,” Rayne said sardonically. Her cheeks were red again. “Very funny.”
“But what are the Lost Gates?” Kyle asked.
They all looked at him like he’d lost his mind. Even Garnet had her eyebrows raised. Not for the first time, he envied her. Even though they’d been together before coming to Endera, she knew so much more than him. The two years of reader training had apparently been spent filling her head with everything she needed to know about being a proper Enderian. Kyle had no such luck.
“Boy from another realm,” Terra nodded, understanding coming over her. “Children probably know more than you.”
“Yeah, well,” Kyle muttered. “Bet you guys would lose your mind if you saw a car or something.” Proculus didn’t seem to think much of them, though. But he’d been there for whole month, before he met me, so who knows.
“There are four Lost Gates,” Garnet supplied, kindly. “At least, that is what most scholars believe. The Mind Gate, Body Gate, Soul Gate, and the Balance Gate. Each of them are supposed to be able to open the realms to one another. But they are said to have been lost during the Titan War hundreds of years ago. When Rayne’s parents found one it was a remarkable discovery.”
“Soul Gate?” Kyle said. “Does that mean—”
“The academy’s name pre-dates the find,” Rayne was obviously familiar with the question he’d almost just asked. “It is a rumor that the lost gate is located within the school. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true, but I think it’s probably a little too obvious.”
“You don’t know where it is? Or which one for that matter? You guys only keep referring to it as a lost gate. I’m guessing that means nobody knows which one it is.”
“It’s a guarded secret,” Rayne whispered. “That’s probably why they—” She coughed, trying to stop her eyes from getting watery. It worked, but only just. Kyle wished he could take his questions back. He hadn’t meant to sadden her, but it was obvious the answers to those questions had something to do with the death of her father. She regained her composure a heartbeat later. “Anyways, my aura might be a little different because I was born near the gate. It’s not really a big deal.”
“Well it’s not when you two try to take over my story,” Terra sniffed. “I was doing just fine without you two teaming up to school the new kid.”
“I’m not exactly new, you know?” Kyle said.
“You’re new to this world,” Terra insisted. “Not even a year old. Just a baby, really.” His friends grinned, trying not to grin too obviously. Even Rayne seemed to cheer up. Kyle sighed.
“So,” Terra continued. “You’ve all got weird, distinct, and obviously different auras to anyone who knows their auras like I do. And like I said, I’ve barely ever met people with these kinds of auras. It’s rare.”
“What’s your point?” Kross said.
“Haven’t you been listening? With Kyle’s other-worldly aura, that means together there are five of you. And you just so happen to be friends. Sitting at this table. Coincidence? I doubt it. There’s something more going on. Like wicked destiny fate heroes at the end of times kind of thing.”
And what about Kane? The thought came to Kyle before he could stop himself, but somehow, he knew that if Kane were with them he’d have an aura that was different, too.
“I doubt that,” Kross said. “Coincidences do happen.”
“That’s the problem with all you normals with your working eyes and such,” Terra sighed. “You have eyes, but you don’t use them to see anything. I felt it as soon as I walked in this room. This means something. Things are going to change. New doors will begin opening. And you five will be involved somehow. Obviously.”
“Ah,” Kevin nodded. This was one of the times where Kyle had no idea what he meant by it. And it didn’t seem like Kevin was going to bother clarifying himself with his notepad.
“Obviously,” Kross said sarcastically. “I hope this isn’t a rude question, but how is it you can see an aura?”
“Not rude at all,” Terra smiled. “Ask me later, though. I’ve just noticed I’ve been talking so much that I’m starting to sound like a master.”
“I see,” Kross said, thoughtfully. “I’ll ask you at another time, then.”
Kyle’s thoughts lingered on what she had said. Was there something important about their auras? It sounded almost as vague and prophetic as Gatekeeper October. But he was known as the Oracle. He was supposed to give you vague prophecies. Terra the Gargoyle could just see that their auras were different. That hardly seemed like something to base predictions on. Then again, what do I know?
“You haven’t told us what your aura is like,” Kross looked up from his notepad. “Perhaps there are six at this table instead of five?”
“You’re definitely hitting on me now, aren’t you, Monk?” Terra said. “That’s like asking me what my underwear looks like? As luck would have it, I’m not wearing any so I won’t answer.”
“Ah, ah, ha,” Kevin burst out into a raspy laughter that was completely unique to him. He usually only smiled when he thought something was funny. Garnet and Kyle both followed suit once they got a look at Kross and Rayne, who had both went completely scarlet in the face.
“Seriously, Terra,” Rayne muttered. “It’s not…lady like.”
“Sort of the point, my dear,” Terra sighed. “In all seriousness, Kross. Including me, there are six. That’s what makes me even more certain.”
“I see,” Kross said, his face returning to its normal stoic calm. “I suppose that’s worth keeping in mind.”
“I think so,” Terra agreed.
“Ah,” Kevin nudged Kross in the ribs, then wrote on his notepad. “Master Logan has asked me to inform you that the Masters have decided that it is no longer necessary for you to make a visit today. They feel confident that the information they have retrieved is all that there is to retrieve. Please enjoy the rest of your day. And have fun tonight. Meet a girl or a guy or both and ask them about their underwear. Also grade your friends higher. They’re the best of the best.”
“Well, there goes the rest of my day,” Kross said. “And if Master Logan said that last part I’ll eat your socks after a climb.”
“Ah,” Kevin said before writing. “I climb barefoot.”
Kyle laughed. It might have seemed odd for Kevin to tell them a message he’d received from a Master that wasn’t near them, but Master Logan sat on second level looking down at them. He must have worded the message to Kevin knowing his eyes could pick the words and as they came from his mouth. His eyes were much better than a normal person’s. He could read a whisper from a mile away.
“Well, if your all free,” Rayne said standing up. “Let’s go do something. We’re allowed to stay for the party tonight. We might as well spend the day together, too.”
The rest of the group stood making their way toward the door. He had planned to do some more training before the night, but hanging out with his friends wouldn’t be a bad way to spend his time. It was just then that Kyle thought of something.
“Wait a second,” Kyle said to Terra. “Neither of you have mentioned why you’re here with Rayne?”
“Ah,” Kevin nodded in agreement.
“Oh, that,” Rayne blushed. “Well, she’s my…guardian.”
“That I am,” Terra said cheerfully. “That I am.”
Kyle Demore and the Falling Moons – First Five Chapters
Copyrighted © 2017 by Samuel J. Vega
All rights reserved.