Chapter 44

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            The upswing in volume didn’t bother Kallai, her hand still gentle stroking Shuu’s head. It wasn’t until the tramping sound of heavy boots against the stone floor joined the voices that she looked up. The General was striding towards them, but what had her staring was the people behind him. There had to be nearly ten soldiers, all of them wearing the goggled helmets, their uniforms bright, their pistols and swords hanging one over each hip as they marched forward. In seconds, they had her and Shuu surrounded.

            An inarticulate shout broke over the general babble, Kallai recognizing it as Sevilen’s. He rushed forward, shoving his way between the soldiers, not stopping until he was back by her side, glaring at the encircling wall of flesh. The General looked at him, face set in hard lines. Sevilen’s face was a match for his, a sharp frown pulling his lips down, his eyes narrowed. “What is the meaning of this?”

            “As a military man I can’t simply ignore a threat of this magnitude. That boy is dangerous, and has the kind of power that could kill us all, without any kind of warning. I won’t allow that. My reinforcements and I are here to neutralize him.”

            Kallai felt her anger surge inside of her again, but her cousin beat her to vocalizing it. “Neutralize him? He’s a boy!” Sevilen snapped. “And may I remind you, that he is under my personal care. If you persist in attempting to harm him, I will be forced to consider you my enemies. And you especially, should be aware of how I deal with people I consider to be enemies.”

            The General and half his soldiers blanched, hands dropping automatically to their weapons. Sevilen nodded, folding his arms over his chest. “Now, kindly remove your men, and I won’t be forced to do so myself.”

            While the other soldiers only tightened their grips on their weapons, one of the men, his round face bare of even stubble, jerked his pistol out of its holster and pointed it straight at Sevilen. “Don’t,” he said, voice shaking though his weapon remained steady. “Don’t move, don’t open your mouth.” He swung the gun in Kallai’s direction when she shifted so she sat straighter. “That goes for you too. If you even move your lips, I’ll shoot. Don’t think I don’t know how Magi work!”

            “Soldier,” the General began, but Kallai didn’t let him continue. She wasn’t about to let someone threaten the only two people she cared about in the world. She reached for the heat inside of herself, letting it rise up all the way to her face. She could feel her cheeks flush as the fire reached them, but she only glared at the soldier who had turned the pistol back towards her cousin. She let the power gather in her eyes even as she focused on the gun’s metal shape.

            Before he realized what she was doing, she flooded the weapon with fire, making it go from cool to red-hot in less than a heartbeat. The soldier yelped, the pistol dropping from his burned fingers to skitter across the floor. Her jerked around, eyes wide as he grabbed the wrist of his injured hand, his face pale.

            Kallai swept him and the other soldiers with a harsh gaze, not bothering to keep the digust and anger off her face. “Shuu isn’t the only one with power,” she growled. “He’s protected me when no one else at this school would, and now it’s time that I return the favour. Anyone wishing to harm him will have to go through me first. And I will use every bit of fire in me to stop that from happening.”

            Mouths dropped open and a few of the men took steps away from her, as if driven backwards by her acidic words. “My name is Kallai of House Magan,” she continued, her back straight and her head held high. “I am an elemental mage of fire and if you press me, if you continue to threaten me, Shuu, or Sevilen, I’ll teach you exactly what that means.”

            With their attention still on her, Kallai reached for her power again. Behind those who hadn’t already backed away from her she set eight foot pillars of fire to burning for several seconds, making them jump. Then she sent a line of fire to forming a circle of fire that sprung up into a waving wall of flame around her, Shuu, and Sevilen. She let it stay there for a moment, to ensure they’d all seen it, before she let it disappear.

            Holding up a hand that she ignited, Kallai held the General’s eyes, the sweat she could see beading up on his forehead telling her that her demonstration was having the right kind of impact. “Don’t push me,” she said.

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