Chapter 25:

Chapter 25: Letting It Out (Blake)

The Heir of the Dragon

“Fire Elemental Magic?” When Reed had asked Blake at lunch to meet her in the library after class, that wasn’t what he’d been expecting. But the glowing, energetic look on her face as she suggested he learn a new magic intrigued him. He had some time before he had to go to see Miss Esterwind about his first private sword lesson.

“I was thinking about what you said, about wanting to protect your dragon eggs better,” Reed explained. “Now that you’ve got that shiny sword.” Reed nodded her head at Blake’s duffel bag. He still wasn’t ready to wear it openly yet.

“And you thought Fire Elemental Magic?” Blake asked curiously. He’d heard a little about Elemental Magic. It was a very advanced type of magic.

“Are you not interested?” Reed coyly asked, temptingly holding up a book with a flame drawn across the cover.

“Of course I’m interested,” Blake said, scowling. “Elemental Magic is a really strong class of magic, right? If I could do it, then I would be able to protect those kids so much better! But… isn’t it really difficult to learn?”

“Absolutely!” Reed nodded, but her voice was eager. “You need a lot of mana, and an affinity for the element. And of course, a lot of practice! But you’ve got all those things, so no worries there.”

Blake still wasn’t sure.

Reed smirked. “Oh, I see, so you just wanted to take the easy way out! I understand, I guess if you don’t have it in you to study hard in order to protect your dragon eggs, there’s nothing that can be done…”

Blake knew she was goading him, but that didn’t keep him from getting angry.

“Fine, I’ll show you that I can learn it,” he growled. Reed’s face brightened, and she pulled the book away.

“Ah, ah, ah! Let’s see if you’re ready!” She chirped.

“What now?” He sighed. Her flightiness was irritating sometimes.

“Just a little test, to see where you are in your magic studies,” Reed giggled. “Explain spellcraft to me, please!”

That… that was it? Blake could do that, no problem. “Spellcraft is how we sculpt mana into a physical spell.”

“…Hoooow?” Reed purred, batting her eyelashes in a smirk. So she wasn’t letting him off that easy.

Blake sighed in exasperation. “Look, I don’t fully get it myself…”

“Just give it your best, it’s easy!” Reed assured him with a wink and a thumbs up. “You’ve learned a few spells by now, how are you handling the spellcraft?”

“Well, when I use Fireball, I begin to focus my mana. And then I direct it through the spellcraft,” Blake calmly explained, trying to keep from sounding annoyed that she was making him go into this much detail. “The professor said that all spells are different, they all have different wavelengths. Like different songs. And that’s the formula for a spell, the spellcraft. So moving my mana through the proper wavelength results in the spell that I want, like how playing different notes on an instrument results in a different song.”

Soooo… what you’re saying is that mana is sound, and spellcraft are the notes, and the resulting spell is the melody?”

Reed’s patronizing tone of voice pissed him off.


“Yes! Exactly!” Reed applauded him with a bright smile. “A billion points!”

He got a billion points for that out-of-the-textbook answer?

“Now then, question two! How do you learn spellcraft?” Reed asked, immediately jumping into the next question. Blake resisted the urge to groan. Seriously? Another question? Couldn’t she just teach him how to use Elemental Magic already?

“Well, I mean… I learned the Fireball spell by getting a feeling for the spellcraft using the wand,” Blake said hopefully. That’s what she was looking for, right? “Then, I just sort of kept practicing attuning my mana to that wavelength until I got the spellcraft right.”

Reed nodded encouragingly. “Anything else?”

“I guess there’s also spells you learn from books? You chant the invocation and that bends your mana for you, into the spellcraft. With either method, you reach the point where you can just attune to the spellcraft by saying the name of the spell, or even without saying the name at all.” Blake wasn’t at that level, but he felt proud that at least he could use Fireball without an invocation.

“And the last way?” Reed leaned in and propped her chin up on her hands, her smile stretching like a cat.

“There’s… another way?” Blake’s confidence crumbled. Besides practicing the spell yourself after being guided how to use it and learning a spell from the textbook, Blake didn’t know other methods. He stared at Reed, hoping she’d give him the answer somehow.

The light in Reed’s eyes grew brighter. She raised her finger, and the air around it began to twist and spin into a portal.

“You create it yourself, obviously!” Reed laughed, dismissing the portal with a wave of her hand. “Manipulate mana into a new wavelength and pioneer your own spellcraft.”

“…Can I just learn Fire Elemental Magic?” Blake sighed exasperatedly, shaking his head. Why did she have to waste time like this by teasing him?

“Sure thing!” Reed said, shifting around the table to slide in next to him. She flipped open the textbook. “So, the first thing you need to know about Elemental Magic is that it’s different from stuff like Conjurations. For one, it doesn’t involve spellcraft.”

“Wait, it doesn’t? I thought all magic used spellcraft,” Blake asked in confusion.

“Naaaah, not at all!” Reed said, waving her hand. “Sure, most spells use spellcraft, but Elemental Magic is totally different, which is why it’s so complicated to learn! There aren’t any incantations or anything, you have to directly attune your mana to the element in question!”

Reed sounded a lot more excited than Blake felt.

“Wait, then why did you ask me those questions about spellcraft?!” Blake protested angrily, nearly jumping from his seat. He had to force himself not to yell at her.

“Because it’s important!” Reed puffed her cheeks up in a pout. He smile quickly returned. “I wanted to see if you understood how to attune your mana properly, dummy. According to the book, it says that the methods for using Elemental Magic are similar to spellcraft, just, you know, without the actual… spellcraft part. Rather than attuning your mana to a specific spell, you attune it to the element itself. But if you don’t understand spellcraft, then you wouldn’t get it.”

Blake was still confused. He stared suspiciously at Reed, not sure if she was putting him on. “So… instead of trying to weave my mana through a particular spell, I’m trying to weave it through fire?”

“All things are made up of mana, that’s the basis of Elemental Magic,” Reed explained. She held up her hand and created a fireball. Blake jealously noted she could also do nameless conjurations that he couldn’t. “Even this flame. Elemental Magic attunes to the existing mana of an element, allowing you to control it as easily as you move your mana.”

“So how do I do it?” Blake asked. He was starting to get a little excited. Controlling fire as easily as he moved his mana… “Is there a trick or something?”

Reed shook her head, her smile dimming slightly. “No tricks, sorry. There’s a reason why it’s so difficult you know! I think out of all the first years, only Lancelus and Ark are able to use it. For the prince, Metal Elemental Magic is in his blood through the queen. And Ark is a genius, so it makes sense due to how strong he is…” She sighed in disappointment. “It’s really going to be a struggle, but I believe in you!” Her voice filled with confidence as her face blossomed. “You can do it. I’m sure.”

“And you’ll show me how, right?” Blake asked hopefully.

“…Weeeeell, I can’t exactly use it myself…” Reed admitted, sheepishly averting her eyes towards the textbook.

“What?!” Blake exclaimed. “Then what was even the point of all this, then?!”

“How rude! You don’t want to spend time with me?” Reed wailed, almost sounding legitimately sad. Blake clenched his jaw. Her shenanigans were getting annoying. Reed had gotten his hopes up and everything, but she couldn’t help him at all.

“Wait, don’t go!” Reed skipped after him as he stormed towards the exit. “I can still help!”

“What can you do?” Blake growled, turning back to her.

Reed’s answer was a smile. She showed him the book.

“It says Fire Elemental Magic is best learned through hands-on experience!” She excitedly explained. “Trying to control fire directly. So you need to practice a lot!”

“…Thanks, I don’t think the library would appreciate us trying to control fire here,” Blake dryly replied.

Reed giggled, raising her hand to snap her fingers. Blake’s heart sank in a fraction of a second. “Wait, Reed, don’t-!“


Blake tumbled out of the portal dry-heaving, curled up on the ground of the Magic Practice Field. Reed landed beside him, laughing.

“I told you…” Blake rasped through coughs of nausea, “never to do that…!”

“It was faster this way!” Reed breezily replied, apparently unfazed by the anger he directed towards her. She lifted his duffel bag and handed it back to him. “Miss Esterwind’s coming to meet you here soon, don’t forget! Until then, I think a few attempts at trying to control fire should be perfect!”

Blake scowled. Sometimes Reed could be a real piece of work.

Smoke was billowing off of Blake’s singed clothes by the time Miss Esterwind strolled onto the practice field, twirling a practice sword in her hand. Reed had left a few minutes ago and now it was just the two of them.

“I admire your punctuality!” Miss Esterwind complimented him. “You made it here early I see! Although… you look rather… charred.”

“Fire Elemental Magic,” Blake growled, so completely DONE with today. “Don’t ask.”

“Well, that’s not my concern,” Miss Esterwind laughed, shrugging it away. “I don’t much care if you’re a pile of cinders! It’s not every day that someone signs up for private lessons, but when they do… I get all excited.”

Blake wasn’t used to feeling fear. But the menacing gleam in her eyes and the smile on her face told him he’d better start getting used to it, fast.

“Take out your sword, Harker!” Miss Esterwind barked at him. Startled, he quickly set down his bag and pulled the sword out from within it, grabbing the hilt and holding it towards her. As he felt the power flood into his body, the exhaustion from his earlier failures at learning Fire Elemental Magic were forgotten. He was ready to keep going!

Miss Esterwind gave out a long whistle as she stared at the blade, walking around him. She struck her practice sword against the ground. “Stance!”

“Yes, Miss Esterwind!” Blake quickly got into the standard position she’d shown them in class.

“’Master’ to you, Harker!” Miss Esterwind growled. “And you call that a stance?!”

She pushed on his shoulder with the hilt of her sword and he fell over.

“You’ve to balance your weight properly that’s the first step,” Miss Esterwind shoved him from behind, next, causing him to plunge forward. Getting pushed around by his teacher while she admonished him so matter-of-factly was really pissing Blake off. But he couldn’t rebuke her, knowing that she was right. He was a novice at using the sword; his classmates had reminded him of that a few times now.

“Okay, that’s better,” Miss Esterwind said, nodding her head and giving him an approving thumbs’ up. “But still, why are you standing like that?”

Blake looked down at his stance. His hips and back were straight, just like she’d insisted, his feet were a shoulder’s length apart, and he had his sword raised with his right hand to point at his opponent’s throat, while his left foot was forward.

He gave her a questioning look. “This is how we learned in class, right?”

“In class, I taught you guys how to fight with a sword and a shield,” Miss Esterwind explained. “You want your weapon foot back to lead with your shield. But… you don’t have a shield. So I’m going to show you a different stance.”

“Why the hell don’t I use a shield, then?!” Blake snapped. His master shot him a warning look and he flinched. “M-Master…”

Miss Esterwind sighed. She pointed her sword at him, or more accurately, his sword. “Your sword’s handle, see that? It’s for a two hand grip. But can you can swing it with one hand?”

Blake didn’t know there were different kinds of swords! He swung it, it sailed through the air finely, cutting a red slice through the sky.

Miss Esterwind rolled her eyes and cursed under her breath. “Magic swords, I swear… okay, fine, you can use a shield I guess! But it’s not like you need one.” She smirked, waving her stump of a left arm playfully. “After all, it’s not like I need a shield or anything! And I’m one of the best you’ll ever meet!”

Blake didn’t comment on the stump. No sense in pissing her off, he figured.

“Anyway, sure, you can learn the one-handed style like I use, but I was thinking of showing you something else. How to fight two-handed! You’ve got the sword for it, see, and that bad boy looks like it can do some real damage!”

“…And my shield, master?” Blake asked.

“Why do you need a shield if you never get hit?” Miss Esterwind asked, like it was the most obvious question in the world. Blake muttered under his breath. First Reed, and now her, too? Did people just enjoy treating him like an idiot or something?!

Still, he wouldn’t air his grievances. Instead, he asked how he should change his stance.

“With a two hand stance, put your dominant leg forward,” Miss Esterwind instructed. She stepped around him and swatted him on the back. “Straighten… there we go… now, bring both hands forward and grasp the hilt of the sword.” Blake followed her directions and gripped the sword tightly, pressing forward and aiming the tip at the throat of his imagined foe. It felt right, standing like this. He could feel his power surging. He looked to her for instruction.

His master smiled. It wasn’t a good smile.

“Now that you’ve found your stance, we’ll begin! Slash!”

Blake wasn’t sure how many hours he had been training. It all seemed to be a blur. All he knew was the sky was dark, his body was unbelievably sore, and his master was still yelling at him.

“You call that a strike? Think you can hurt anybody with something as fucking pathetic as that?!” Miss Esterwind shouted, her voice filled with a surprising amount of rage as Blake swung at the target she’d set, striking the stone golem with a slash. “Come on! I want you to put some fucking heart into it!”

Blake was mad. That was the other thing he was sure of. He’d been training for hours, and she was still yelling at him, treating him like shit. He lunged at the dummy and swung, hitting as hard as he could. He barely made a dent.

Pain shot through his back and he stopped, his eyes flashing angrily as he whirled around. Miss Esterwind glared at him, pointing her sword at his throat. She slashed him across the back while he was attacking?! What the hell was up with that?!

“What did you do that for?!” Blake shouted, stopping himself from lunging at her blindly. “I was attacking, and-“

“That wasn’t a fucking attack!” Her sword sang, hitting Blake in the side so hard the wind flew from his lungs. He curled over, coughing, his sword tumbling from his hands as he clutched his stomach. Air! Air! He needed to breathe but he couldn’t seem to grasp where the air was! His master’s mocking voice chastised him from above. “I’m not teaching you some pathetic dance! You know why I agreed to help you, brat? Not because Reed Rivers or Damien asked me to, no fucking way!”

She grabbed his hair, the hilt of her sword pressing down painfully on his skull as she pulled him up, staring him in the eye with those piercing green eyes of hers. Already choking, he found it even more difficult to breathe.

“I thought you had some fire in your belly,” she growled. “I thought you’d show me something! Like when you fought Lance! But all you are is a bunch of hot air! Come on! Swing it again!”

Pushing her back, Blake turned and grabbed his sword, tempted to just swing it at her face instead of at the target dummy. He pulled himself back, taking a ragged breath, trying to keep his anger under control-

“I’m not teaching you how to breathe, you pissant! Stop it with all this calm-down meditative bullcrap! That’s for later! First, we gotta get that killer instinct! Come on! You want to be strong, right? Well, why the fuck you want something like that?”

Blake tried to ignore her. He swung his sword, his arms throbbing with pain from the hundreds of times he’d done it.

“I need to protect my dragon eggs!” Blake shouted, the sword hitting the dummy and wedging itself into the matted clay. He ripped it free and swung again, this time slicing it in half.

“Not bad, not bad!” Miss Esterwind grinned, her eyes glowing dangerously in the dim light of the orica surrounding the warded field. “But not enough. Where’s the rage? The passion? Where’s that fire that you’re putting in your strikes, huh?! What I hear, that sword of yours burns with your soul, so why’s it so fucking pathetic, huh?!”

“What do you want from me, huh!?” Blake shouted. “I’m giving it everything I have! You showed me how to swing, and I’m swinging it! I’m putting everything I’ve got into it, isn’t that fucking GOOD ENOUGH?!”

“NO, IT’S FUCKING NOT!” She brought her knee up, kicking him in the leg. Surprised, he stumbled over, and she kicked him in the side next. “Because you’re still fucking falling like fucking this! You know what happens in a real fight when they got you on the ground, huh?”

Miss Esterwind kicked his shoulder, and he felt like he heard something crack, pain shot through his arm and he splayed out across the ground. He had just a couple of seconds to see the stars in the sky before his master blocked them, her shadowed face taking up his entire world as the cold hiss of the practice sword pressed to his throat. But it was nothing compared to the hiss in her voice. “You fucking die.”

“Get up, Harker!” Miss Esterwind- no, that fucking bitch Aria barked out, the blade pulling from her throat. He struggled to stand, his shoulder still sore as hell. Before he could get to his feet and find his sword again, pain exploded through the back of his skull and his vision blurred, and he tasted the pain of the stone ground again. “I said, get up! Aren’t you listening!? That was an order!”

“You hit me,” Blake growled, the world slowly returning to normal. But he was still seeing red as he fumbled on the ground for his sword. His fingers touched the hot metal of the guard, but before he could wrap them around the hilt, Aria kicked it away.

“You’re fucking right I hit you!” Aria barked in his ear, her voice so loud it made his head ring. “Because that’s what a fucking fight is about! You win! You win, and you keep winning, you keep hacking at the guy until he’s DOWN! You fucking GET THAT? And when he’s down, you KEEP hitting him until he doesn’t fucking stand up!”

A blow to the collarbone sent Blake down to the ground again, pain blossoming in countless places on his body. So intense he could barely think straight, all he could focus on was how much he wanted to tear that fucking bitch apart!

“You have a good stance, Harker, but is that what you want? That gonna keep safe what you want to protect?! Because if you want to learn swordsmanship like the rest of those fucking brats, you can do that in the fucking classroom! You can lie there and take a little nap like the fucking shit you are!” Aria’s voice was getting louder and louder, and Blake wasn’t so sure it was for his sake, anymore. He heard some pain there, rawness, like she was truly enraged by his performance. “But if you want to FIGHT? If you want to fucking win?! Then you get yourself up off that ground any way you can, and you fucking fight! Because if you’re not fighting you’re fucking dead already! Focus and grab that sword, and come at me!”

Aria was shouting louder and louder as he scrambled to get away from her. His hands touched hot metal and he turned, swinging up to block her strike. His sword flashed red in the night as blunt iron met sharp steel with a spray of fiery sparks, lighting up the furious look in her eyes.

“You think that’s enough?!” She barked, bringing her leg up to kick him in the gut. But he managed to turn away from her, stumbling to his feet and pointing his sword at her. His head was throbbing in pain as his heartbeat filled his ears. Every breath stung and he tasted iron in his mouth. All he saw was that one-armed bitch, all he wanted was to fucking hurt her!

“RAAAAH!” Blake swung, but not a wild, violent slash. He swung the way he’d done all evening, putting his full force into a blow right at the jugular. It was only after she dodged that he realized what he’d done, he’d nearly cut her in half!

But Aria smiled. A wild, savage smile that made him shiver with primal rage, like she was laughing at him!

“What’s the matter, pissed off enough yet?!” Aria shouted. “That’s what gets you going, right?! Makes you swing like you mean it?! That’s the rage that’ll keep you alive in the war! That’s what kept me going! Come on, what are you angry at, brat? Forget what you’re trying to protect, whose fucking meat does that sword want to taste?! Come on now, all that rage in you, you’ve gotta be mad at somebody!”

“Shut up!” Blake shouted, swinging at her again. Her voice was pounding in his head and he just wanted to SHUT IT UP! This time she blocked it, rather than dodge. With one arm. It just pissed him off more.

“Come on, Estvalians killed your family, didn’t they?! Every last fucking one! Didn’t they? DIDN’T THEY?!” Aria shouted, the images of Blake’s parents flashing through his mind. He lashed out again, still hitting nothing. His flame was ablaze in his hands, a raging bonfire that lit up the night with every swing.

“SHUT UP!” Blake shouted. “SHUT UP!”

“Come on, that’s what they fucking do, you know that well as I do! That’s who you’re angry at, right? Well, come on then! Think about what’s happened, how far you’ve fallen! You know who’s to blame, don’tcha?!”

The more he remembered the faces of his mother and father the more the flames of hatred burned in his chest. Murdered by Estvalians. Leaving him alone. Forcing all this onto him, taking EVERYTHING from him! He’d been pushing the anger down so long, it felt so good to just let it out. Let it breathe, let it burn! He wanted it to burn so badly.

“Come on now boy!” Aria’s voice sang out over the flames, stoking his rage with every furious word she spat out. “Rage isn’t enough, you know that! You gotta take that anger, and shove it all into that sword! Swing it like you hate the person you’re swinging at, that inhuman piece of tree-fucking garbage! The fucker who took everything from you! What are you going to do to him!? HUH?! TELL ME! FUCKING SHOW ME WHAT YOU’RE GONNA DO!”

The world spun around him and Blake saw Aria’s figure among the flames. He yelled, and lunged at her, but hit nothing.

“NOT FUCKING ENOUGH!” Aria shouted in his ear, hitting him in the back with her sword. He hit the ground hard but he didn’t drop Soulfire. He focused his rage, focusing it up towards her, hearing her voice. He needed to get up or he was dead. “You’re on the ground now, boy! And that tree-fucking bastard’s coming for you! The monster who killed your mommy! Who killed your daddy! He’s coming closer! He’s going to kill you, kill your friends, smash those eggs, He’s going to take everything away from you unless you GET THE FUCK UP AND SWING THAT FUCKING SWORD RIGHT FUCKING NOW!”

“GRAAAAAAAAARGH!” The world around Blake burst into flame as he shot to his feet, swinging with everything he had. The flames roared, bursting from his sword in massive blast of destructive flame, he put all of his hatred towards Estval and the monsters who had slaughtered his family into the attack. The flames soared towards Aria and she ducked out of the way, just barely avoiding getting reduced to charcoal. Blake panted, seething with anger at her.

Aria just smiled, admiring the blaze. Her furious eyes were lit up with awe, and she nodded with and approving smirk.

Now we’re getting somewhere.”

Real Aire