Chapter 24:

Chapter 24: Masks (Eve)

The Heir of the Dragon

Sabine was in a bad mood. That was what Eve noticed when she sat down for breakfast with the redhead and her friends. While she always acted calm and dignified, if not more than a little haughty, it was easy to see the anger in her eyes even when she was smiling.

There was nothing odd about this of course. Sabine had been in a bad mood a lot recently. But what had surprised Eve was the fact that since the incident with Elly and Derek Lyder, Sabine had stayed far away from the half-elf.

She hadn’t picked on Elly even once since she’d been let out of the infirmary. And when she saw the girl in the halls, it was Sabine who turned to go the other way! She hadn’t even uttered a disparaging word about her in private. In fact, she hadn’t spoken about Elly at all.

Eve suspected that the reason for this was due to a confrontation with Audrey Angelique that had occurred the day after Elly’s beating. Audrey had quite calmly told Sabine that she knew Sabine was involved in the incident with Elly, and would do whatever she could to make sure she never hurt Elly again. The way Sabine’s face had paled at the threat was stunning. It had been a relief for the redhead when the faculty reported that the issue was closed with just a citation for Derek Lyder.

But that hadn’t changed Audrey’s treatment of Sabine, or stopped the cold red-eyed glares every time the Sabine was in her sight.

That made things easier for Eve. While she didn’t like Sabine very much, she had grown fond of the cheerful Mindy and the dour-yet-kind Jasmine. And even Sabine was tolerable, if a bit overbearing. If she wasn’t going to harass Elly anymore, that would only improve Eve’s image of her.

“Can you believe what my father said?” Sabine growled, stabbing her fork into the thick sausage she’d taken for her breakfast. “That I should ‘reconsider being so hasty in my rejection of Calum Arslow’s engagement request’, can you believe that?! I’m being harassed by this lecherous annoyance who won’t keep his hands to himself, and my parents think I should actually marry him?!”

Sabine’s situation with Calum had been an increasing source of stress in the noble girl’s life, and one of the few areas that Eve agreed wholeheartedly with Sabine about. Calum’s advances were showing no signs of slowing down, even as Sabine expressed more and more directly that she was not interested.

Sabine continued to rant about how unfair it was that Calum could continue to harass her without her being able to do anything about it, about how her parents should just leave her alone and let her find a fiancé “worthy” of her greatness.

When Mindy had once said that Calum was “totally kinda hot though” and also “like, you can’t do much better than a duke, right?” Sabine had shot her a look so venomous that for once Mindy stopped smiling.

Sabine carried on, angrier and angrier with each word to the point her hair was practically smoldering. When a familiar look of disgust crossed her face, Eve knew she had just seen the boy himself. Turning his way, Eve concentrated her mana and conjured the perfect illusion just for him.

A superficial person like Calum who was only interested in Sabine’s body and face wouldn’t think twice about four plain, dowdy girls eating breakfast. Indeed, he walked by without a word.

“What a waste! I don’t know what that fiery babe doesn’t see in a hottie like that,” came an obnoxious whine from above Eve’s head that sent an involuntary twitch of annoyance through her body.

While Eve loved Asmo, the Demon Queen of Lust was not a person that she was all that comfortable with around others. To start with, Asmo made everything about sex, and that was a topic that Eve would just as soon leave to her private affairs. She didn’t need the twin tailed blonde to point at a cute girl and tell her to “make a move” she had other things to concern herself with!

“I know you’re not into boys Eve, but you really should make an exception for a pretty face like that,” Asmo cooed, her red eyes flashing with lust. “Maybe bring little miss priss and prim along for the ride?”

Asmo circled around Sabine and framed the girl’s heart-shaped face with her hands, conjuring the odd image of a winged girl with a pointed tail scantily clad in strategically-placed leather strips rubbing up against a stuck-up noble who didn’t even know she was there.

Eve’s own attraction to the demon made this whole experience so much more humiliating, and she found herself leaving breakfast early just to purge the scene from her mind.

“Sorry Eve, but I’m booooorred!” Asmo whined, floating after Eve as the illusionist stormed out of the dining hall. Did the demon HAVE to twist her body into all those alluring poses just to hold a conversation?! “I can’t flirt with anybody as a spirit! I’m so pent up right now-“

“Shut up!” Eve hissed. She’d been so distracted by Asmo’s antics she had nearly missed a rare sighting of Reed Rivers alone.

“What? Who’s she?” Asmo blinked, no longer splayed provocatively across a bench but now watching the tall girl with interest. A smirk crossed the demon’s face and she turned to Eve, eyes blazing. “Quite a beauty… I can’t deny that I’m interested in having some fun with that rack, and I know you’ve gotta be-“

Dispersing the pervert with a snap of her fingers, Eve crossed the short distance between herself and the older student, making her presence known.

“Reed Rivers,” she called out, keeping the tone of her voice even. She was growing increasingly suspicious about the older girl’s interest in Blake over the past few days. It seemed like Blake was no longer resisting Reed’s advances, which concerned her. She didn’t trust the third-year, and she understood well the threat that someone with bad intentions getting her hands on a dragon egg could be.

“Oh! You’re… Eve Moonshadow, right?” Reed chirped, flashing Eve one of those fake smiles that turned her stomach. “How can I help you? It’s not often that a first-year calls out to me.”

“It’s about Blake Harker,” Eve said, taking care to sound honestly curious but not overly so. “I hear you’ve been spending a lot of time with him recently.”

“I know, isn’t he just the best?” Reed asked. “Did you know, just the other day, he actually awakened the Sacred Arm of House Harker, Soulfire? It was amazing!”

Eve gasped, her perfect mask falling before she could catch it. She hadn’t expected that. Blake had… awakened the Sacred Arm? That… that changed things. She had initially meant to just ask Reed a few surface-level questions about her interest in Blake, to come across as a concerned classmate. But with the knowledge that Blake was now the chosen wielder of a Sacred Arm…

“That is… a surprise,” Eve said, pausing to regain her composure. “He has a lot of power. But I… am more concerned with the other treasure he possesses.”

“You mean the dragon eggs?!” Reed gushed. It hadn’t been the transformation Eve had suspected she’d see after bringing the dragon eggs into the conversation. Reed didn’t behave suspiciously at all. She didn’t look surprised, or suddenly serious, nor had she gotten tense. Her smile hadn’t faltered one bit, it had only grown brighter. And unlike her previous smile, this one looked genuine.

While Reed was gushing about the dragon eggs (Eve couldn’t quite understand what exactly about them she found “cute”) Eve took a moment to consider what to ask next. She wanted to know what Reed’s business with Blake was, while at the same time not trying to draw attention to herself or make the older girl suspicious of her intentions. If Reed was up to something, and Eve was growing increasingly suspicious that she was, then she couldn’t falter.

“I was… concerned for them,” Eve interrupted, regaining the flighty girl’s attention. Staring into those shiny gray eyes flecked with color, Eve pressed on, knowing that Reed’s passion was the best card she had to play. “Those dragon eggs… they’re a relic of history. In fact… I actually touched one, my first day here.”

Reed’s eyes widened at that. “You did?! You’ve touched one too!? Which one? Was it the red one? Or that spiky brown one?! Aaaah, the blue one’s my favorite, though, it’s so soft and cool…”

It was true, Eve had picked one of them up after it had fallen from Blake’s bag, an egg that was sleek and black and speckled orange. It had burned her hand when she touched it, she could still remember the sting. She wasn’t a fan. But she could pretend to be one.

“I picked up the black one when Blake dropped it,” Eve said, putting on a fake smile copied from Reed. “It was so hot! I couldn’t believe it! It… It felt so alive!”

“Oh, the black one!” Reed swooned. “The pretty one, like the night sky… And you’re right! They’re totally alive, aren’t they!? You can just feel them! I had no idea that there was another dragon lover in Blake’s cohort!”

She gasped in realization.

“So that’s why you came to save him when we were playing Dragon Hunting!”

“…Yep, that’s right!” Eve said, nodding in faked pride. It was a little too close to the truth for comfort, but then her master had always taught her that the most convincing lies had a hint of truth in them. A master illusionist could turn truths into lies with the wave of their hand. “I’ve always been looking out for him, since those eggs of his are so precious. And I absolutely can’t let them fall into the wrong hands!”

No flinch at that one, either. She felt like she was dealing with her master, someone who could deflect her attacks and see through her intentions so easily. She forced herself to restrain her heartbeat, to keep from letting anything on.

Did she… Did Reed already suspect her? She might have been too direct, she needed to switch to another course of action.

“And you know, I’ve wanted to spend time with him, to get to take another peek,” Eve sighed disappointedly. “But he always treats me so coldly, with that mean stare of his… I want to be his friend, but he’s so… guarded, you know?”

“Definitely, definitely,” Reed nodded in agreement, crossing her hands over her chest. “But can you blame him, having to protect those eggs? You’re totally right, we can’t let them fall into the wrong hands!”

Eve was certain that Reed’s hands were exactly the wrong hands, but she continued to smile. “To be honest, though, I’m a little jealous of you, Reed.”

“Hmm?” Reed blinked, apparently surprised by Eve’s admission. “You’re jealous of me? Why?”

“Well, I mean, you and Blake are spending so much time together, and it seems like he’s finally getting to open up to somebody…” Eve said, glancing down at the grass in an appearance of disappointment. “I’m just a little annoyed it wasn’t me.”

For the first time, Reed’s smile changed. Her joyful glee was gone, replaced with one of her calm, fake smiles. And the look in her eye was all different. She’d seen that look of suspicion on people before, like she was trying to figure out what Eve wanted.

Eve tensed, wondering if she had stepped too far. Reed had finally showed a taste of her true colors, but Eve might have ended their dance prematurely.

Something must have occurred to the older girl, because her eyes narrowed and then brightened, and her smile curled into a wider grin. Still tensing, Eve stared cautiously at her.

“You have a crush on Blake? Why, that’s the most adorable thing ever!” Reed gushed.



Eve had to fight back the urge to throw up. Was that what she honestly believed?! That the reason she was protective of Blake, the reason she wanted to get closer to him, spend more time with him and protect his dragon eggs, she thought those were signs of romantic interest?! WHY!? Because Eve had said she was jealous? Her intentions towards Blake were platonic at best! Eve knew that Reed was a little loopy in the head, but she never could have imagined she was this crazy!

“I have no such feelings!” Eve angrily insisted. Lying might have helped reduce Reeds’ suspicions, but no. She couldn’t do it. Some things were more important than others, and pretending to have a crush on Blake? A boy? Absolutely not. “I’m merely concerned as a fellow cohort member and dragon enthusiast that someone might be out to take the eggs from him!”

Reed gasped, her body language changing in a way that reminded Eve of when she was preparing to fight. Was she getting… defensive at the insinuation that someone might be targeting the eggs? Or protective? Eve couldn’t be sure if this was a tell of guilt, or simply Reed reacting to a potential threat.

Then, the smile she wore took on a tinge of menace and Eve felt a shiver run down her spine. The way she was staring at her, the dangerous look in her eyes… Eve didn’t know if she’d been made, but either way, now she was certain. Reed was a threat.

“So you think that someone might actually be a threat to Blake?” Reed asked. Her face still smiled, but her voice held no levity in its low timbre.

“No, not at all!” Eve franctically protested, using her finest acting skills to make it seem like nothing was wrong. The smile she wore was a masterpiece. “I’m just saying that I’m concerned about him, because it’s always a possibility. It’s why I want him to become stronger, and why I want him to make more friends. So he doesn’t have to worry about anything!”

Lie with the truth. Lie with the truth.

It seemed to work. That menacing look in Reed’s eyes was gone, her smiling face all cheer and sunshine, even if it was fake.

“You’re definitely right!” Reed nodded her head in agreement, her eyes eager. “Blake’s tough, especially now that he’s awakened his Sacred Arm! But he could always get stronger… Thanks for your concerns, Eve! I’ll definitely see what I can do! And don’t you worry, I’ll keep our little talk private from Blake. I won’t give away your secret!”

Reed gave Eve a knowing wink. She still thought Eve had feelings for Blake.

The feeling of throwing up returned, and Eve was grateful Asmo wasn’t around to hear it. Reed’s laugh rang in Eve’s ears as the tall girl skipped away. She was gonna be sick.

Real Aire