Chapter 11

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Dyson was dripping with sweat. He had been harder on the ascendants this week, training them to their utmost limit. The disdainful stares proved that they weren't ready for the trials yet, they had no idea what was coming. Even if he could never prepare them mentally, he wasn't going to fail them on the physical component. One day they might thank him for being so persistent. Being as involved in the training helped him too though, simply because it was the only time he could ever shut off his brain. He had been haunted by images of the past again, while simultaneously being frightened of what his future might hold for him. When Kasia first slid into his consciousness, he had thought it was only a cruel trick or a sort of waking dream, but he quickly understood what she was trying to tell him. He couldn't believe that they were finally able to communicate, no matter the rudimentary level of it. He didn't know what good it would do to meet on a different plane of existence, but being able to talk face to face must hold some sort of advantage for him. He couldn't help but be baffled at the fact that it was her who figured out how to contact him in the first place though. After hours of research, it had all been so simple in the end. Unfortunately, there were consequences to their new discovery. The more they opened up their mental channel for each other, the more exhausted they became. There were times he couldn't reach her at all, but from the glimpses he did receive, he could at least puzzle together that she had help. He was infinitely grateful for that. It pained him to think she might have had to go through this all by herself. But now he was running out of time, he had to find the geographical equivalent to Kasia's meeting place in Arcadia and he had to sneak away without anyone noticing. It wasn't his only problem either, because his meeting with the Council was just around the corner and he had to present his final decision to them. Exhausted he tried to calculate how many days would pass in his world during the 48 hours Kasia had in hers. For the first time, he was glad that time was passing differently for him.

Suddenly a fist connected with Dyson's face, slamming him into the dirty ground and with it right back into reality.

"Wow, dude, are you okay?" It was Leo's face that appeared blurry before him and offered a hand to help him up.

"Yes, all good."

"Are you sure?"

A stern look instantly silenced him. "Let's go again, that was almost a decent punch."

The sparring resumed as if nothing had happened. He shouldn't have gotten hit. None of them had ever gotten ahead of him before, but it was his own fault. Dyson knew better than to get distracted in front of the recruits, but then he knew better about a lot of things he didn't seem to be able to follow through on. Despite the promise he had made, Dyson had found himself gravitating towards Leo in his lessons more and more. He showed promise and unlike the others, he still had that faint glimmer of hope in his eyes. The boys all missed their home, some more than others, but none of them could deny that an entire strange world and no prospect of returning to their former life was how they imagined their future. With time, they all began to harden themselves, you could see the resolve in their eyes, their fate grudgingly accepted. But never Leo. Dyson had found him wandering the grounds, sunken into some odd daydream more than once. He wondered if anyone else noticed, he hoped no one did. It was dangerous to be a dreamer in this place, even if he had to admit that, once upon a time, he had been one himself.

The silver of nightfall was upon them sooner than expected and Dyson sent the recruits to their quarters. All of them left relieved, all except for one.

"Leo, what are you waiting for? Get out of here. You've done enough for today."

But he didn't leave. Instead he helped clean up the court and store away the weapons. They didn't exchange a single word, they barely even shared a glance. Dyson knew that something specific was pressing on Leo's mind, but he did not know what. He had his own problems to deal with, could he really take on those of another as well? Curiosity won in the end.

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