Chapter 48

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            The male Magi in front coughed into the silence that had sprung up after Kallai’s words. “Now, we’re not saying you have to leave,” he said, sweat appearing on his brow, darkening his hairline from blond to brown. He impatiently rubbed it away, eyes not quite meeting hers. “We’re simply trying to come up with a solution that is safe and beneficial for us all.”

            Kallai snorted. “That’s not what you were trying to do earlier. And don’t think I’ve forgotten, or will forget that,” she hissed, glaring. “Not now, not ever.”

            “That…we acted in haste, reacted, rather than thought,” said the green-eyes Councillor. “But we have the time now, without the feeling of threat and the immediate response it provokes, and are negotiating how best to go about resolving this.”

            Running footsteps that grew louder as they approached had both Shuu and Kallai closing their mouths and letting their words die unspoken on their lips, their eyes, like the rest of the crowd’s, swinging to face the sound. Three faces, all burned into her memories, hurried closer. Kallai flinched, and tried to take a step backwards. She felt Shuu squeeze her hand, his eyes going to hers, trying to hold them. She flushed and looked away. He grabbed her chin and made her meet his gaze. “Sparrow,” he said quietly, blue eyes intense. “Elemental mage you are.”

            His words were like warm steel, adhering to her spine and letting her stand up straight, without even a tremor to disturb her hands, the warmth of them sparking the heat that lay in her core, giving her something to set her still raw courage on. She still held tightly to Shuu’s hand, hoping the new dampness to her palms wasn’t going to disgust him. As she’d gotten almost used to, Kallai projected a confidence she didn’t feel as Azaz, Eran, and Makol slowed to a stop in front and to one side of them.

            “Please sirs,” Azaz said, bowing to the assemblage in front of him and his compatriots. “Please, are you finally taking her away? When I heard that she was to be arrested, that we would finally be free of her, I must confess to thinking it a dream.”

            Kallai felt her mouth drop open. She’d never heard Azaz be that polite before, or speak so quietly, so hesitantly, like he was afraid. All she could do was stare at him, and listen to the words still pouring from his mouth.

           “She’s dangerous, so you must be careful. She attacked us, tried to burn us alive, even when we ran,” he said, sniffing. “It…it was horrible.”

            “See!” shouted the headmaster, eyes flashing as she went to stand beside Azaz, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. “I told you that having elemental mages around will put the other students in danger. They all have such violent tendencies.”

            Sevilen moved forward, his arms crossing over his chest. “And why have you chosen now to report this, and not earlier?”

            “We were afraid!” Makol cried, before hiding his face, his shoulders shaking.

            “She’s been doing it for years, attacking us,” Eran added, face pale.

            “She’d know it was us,” Azaz said, eyes glittering. “And she’d do everything she could to get her revenge. She doesn’t forget anything. We were afraid for our very lives! You’ve seen what she’s capable of !”

            Kallai, face burning, opened her mouth to snap a reply when she noticed the increased presence of the winds around her and Shuu. She immediately turned to him and saw the expression of contempt that flickered over his face before being replaced with one of polite interest. Both filled her with hope, making her even borderline grateful for Azaz’s presence, if it was making Shuu think about something other than his grief.

            He took a step forward, his blue eyes meeting the lighter ones of Azaz. “You, from her, much torment have suffered?”

            Azaz nodded, screwing up his face as if he was fighting back tears. “She’s made out lives miserable. We’ve been afraid, hiding it as best we could. She pretended not to have magic, but behind the teacher’s backs, she used her power to make us do whatever she wanted. If we didn’t… She trapped me in a circle of flame once, and tried to set me on fire when I ran away from it.”

            Shuu tapped a finger against his lips for a moment, then smiled brightly, the expression all the more ominous for the winds still swirling around him. “Then, simple question for you I have,” he said before pointing at Kallai. “Sparrow’s name, what it is?”

            The boy blinked, then stiffened. “What?”

            Smile widening, Shuu nodded at Kallai. “Her name, what is?”

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