XVIII: Middle Lines

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"I can't say that I'm happy to see you again."

It took a lot of persuasion to get Miss Calyx to leave Nalin alone after assisting him to the medical office. She had wanted to come inside as well, but seeing as the infirmary was growing full of injured students that were resting, Nalin didn't want to disturb anyone or add to the stress of the nurses with how dramatic Miss Calyx could get.

Nalin doubled back to fully regard the unfamiliar doctor. "You know me?"

"You don't remember, it's fine. I treated you quite a while back when you were still considered to be a prisoner. I'm Eliran, the head physician."

Dr. Eliran wrapped Nalin's torso tight after he finished cleaning the wound and fresh traces of blood bled through the white bandages. Nalin pulled the white long sleeve over his head, finding comfort in the freshly washed fabric that was soft against his skin.

"If your opponent had thrown an attack slightly more powerful than the one that had hit you, you would not be able to participate in the next two matches, so be grateful. Do you still feel any pain?"

"It doesn't hurt as much as before, the wrappings help." Nalin fingered the loose piece of bandage that hung dejected and Dr. Eliran was quick to tuck it underneath the rest.

"It won't hurt now, but it will later on once you start moving. You're already starting to heal, but do not get too cocky."

"Then I guess I'll be seeing you soon?" Nalin offered a lopsided grin, to which he scowled at.

"Don't joke." He flicked the tip of his nose before returning back to his place at his desk. "Be careful, Nalin. While I admire your optimism, it's only going to get harder from here on out. Hurry off now, curfew is close."

"Thank you, I will be sure to." 

That was a lie. Nalin was expecting to meet Miss Calyx at their usual spot to continue with their training, but he still waved on his way out the door nonetheless, closing it softly to not disturb the peaceful silence. Excited for the night, he quickly rushed through the dorm halls of the academy, his mind rushing along with him as he swung around a corner— only to crash into another person in full speed.

His brain seemed to rattle in his head as the tall person steadied him, and when he looked up, the kind eyes of Atticus regarded him in concern.


"I apologize for nearly knocking you down. Are you well, Nalin?"

The halfbreed brushed off his shoulder. "Yeah, I'm fine. Sorry for crashing into you so suddenly."

He gave Nalin a charming, closed-eyed smile. "It's quite alright. Did you forget something somewhere? You looked like you were in a rush."

"Ah, my jacket," Nalin smiled up at the tall guy. "I accidentally left my jacket in the courtyard."

Nalin internally cringed. The jacket he had 'lost' in the courtyard was, in fact, right in his hand, hanging by his side. Still smiling, he ever-so-slowly moved his hand behind his back, hiding the damned thing from sight.

Atticus didn't seem to notice, much less question the boy's weird antics. He grinned softly and stepped past. "Well do hurry, curfew is just in a few minutes. You wouldn't want to be caught outside your chambers once the dimmers are on. I'll be off."

Nalin nodded and smiled sweetly, watching his back disappeared past the corner before speed-walking through the double doors out into the courtyard and into the forest.

Like usual, he used his hands and the trees to guide him within the darkness to their usual spot.

"Miss Calyx!" He called out. "Are you here?"

"Yes?" A disembodied voice sang at his ear that very moment and frightened, he jumped with a shriek.

Miss Calyx had her fit, openly giggling much to Nalin's irritation all the while she sat cross-legged in front of him. Scowling, Nalin followed and crossed his arms in agitation.

"Why must you always scare me?"

"Oh dear Nalin, it's because your reactions are the best!" She wiped a sparkly tear from her eye before she finally collected herself and smiled back at him in contempt.

"Alright then, let's get this started, shall we?"

Nalin nodded and closed his eyes, inhaling and then exhaling deeply. His muscles relaxed and his mind resided to relaxation. Somewhere far away, Nalin felt Miss Calyx's soft hands on both sides of his head, her presence warm and comforting.

The process of Miss Calyx's spell working on him wasn't exactly pleasant, so to say. It felt like something was pushing its way into his mind, an unwanted presence that had been drawing closer and closer to this sacred spot, protected in the boy's head. He could tell that whatever Miss Calyx had been trying to do, it would be finished with this final try.

He could feel it, and he wasn't exactly sure if it was a good thing.

But before he even had the thought of pausing, the deed had been done. Something in him relinquished, its presence now tamed. Nalin felt unsettled, but he tried to look past it once Miss Calyx leaned back and finally opened her eyes. A big smile blossomed on her face. "There, all done."

. . .

Nalin walked along the narrow hallway that would take him into the pit, where the few students awaited the next match. The crowd's reverberating cheers rumbled the ceiling from above, serving as fuel to the sparks of adrenaline coursing through the boy's body.

"Are you certain you are ready for this, Nalin?" Miss Calyx questioned from behind him. "They will not stop the fight unless one of you backs down or is too injured to continue on."

They reached the end of the hall, one more step left to finally throwing himself to the audience hungry for the battle. Nalin was surprised to have seen Miss Calyx right at the arena entrance when he'd first arrived and was greatly relieved to have her on the sidelines during his second match.

Nalin turned around and offered up a brave smile. "I can do this. I know I can do this. I won't back down."

Miss Calyx smiled right back. "Win the fight, will you?"

Nalin snickered in irony, shook his hands, took a deep breath, and stepped out. 

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