Sonea gave an exasperated sigh, and slammed her book shut. A few novices glanced up from their notes, brows knitting in annoyance. By her count, there were less than ten of them scattered around the tables placed before the massive shelves along the study area. She packed her belongings, irritably, returning them into her box somewhat more forcefully than intended. As she strode out of the Novices' library, she made a point to avoid the slightest eye contact with any other person, not realising that everyone else was as reluctant as she was to look at one another.
Outside, winter losing her icy grit was evinced by the melting snow and the retreating cold. Clearer the February skies were. And a lovely afternoon it was to enjoy the warmth outdoors. Indeed, the Guild was as deserted as it usually was on a Freeday, especially so with most of the magicians and novices off to celebrate a special day. That being so, for those who had no better place to be consider it a much dreaded occasion. While as much as Sonea hated to admit, she shared the plight of those people, in one way or another.
Not that it bothered her spending Valentine's Day alone when it was of her own choosing. Yet, it wasn't a choice made with complete willingness either. Several invitations had she rejected; for she was not at all inclined to create false hopes for some guy hoping to catch her interest. She had her reasons, of course. Truth was, despite having learnt exactly what motivated and necessitated Akkarin's claim on her guardianship, she was still under his supervision. At the beginning, his constant monitoring of her whereabouts and her movements was necessary in keeping away those threats that would bring about the destruction of the Guild. But those appalling knowledge became hers to share eventually. And her loyalty was now with him.
Or was it more than just loyalty….?
Her thoughts were interrupted when she caught a splash of black from the corner of her eye. Her heart skipped. Holding her breath in anticipation, she listened intently to the soft rhythm of his footsteps closing the distance between them. She paced herself as she walked past the University's entrance while he climbed down the stairs moving closer and closer towards her. Sonea stole a glance at the imposing figure striding beside her to see Akkarin curled his lips into a smile she had come to love.
Her heart leapt.
Where did the thought come from, surely I'm not...
"Good afternoon, Sonea," Akkarin murmured.
The careless brushing of his robes against hers set her pulse racing and that for a time, her cheeks coloured. And her mind emptied of courtesies and manners. Strange, he seemed to have such an effect on her these days. More often than not, when her attention wasn't occupied by the threats posted by the Ichani, Sonea would find herself pondering wistfully about Akkarin if he was nowhere to be seen. Yet her voice and her intelligence would fail her, whenever he showed up at odd places, unexpectedly.
"Is your silence defiance against me for being a guardian so frightening that you dare not go out with any of your fellow novice?
Sarcasm that marked his choice of words was too obvious to be missed. Sonea groaned inwardly with embarrassment, cursing wondrously at the same time that nothing ever escaped her guardian's notice.
"Good afternoon, High Lord," Sonea managed hastily. "Forgive me, I was…." She lifted her nervous gaze to meet his, wanting to explain herself, but her voice dwindled when his eyes glinted with amusement. And she couldn't help but to steal a smile as she looked away, her heart spluttering. Not wanting to appear like a person lacking of wit or the ability to speak, she composed herself and said, "It is exactly you said it is."
The edges of her mouth lifted slightly.
"Is that so?"
She smiled, but said nothing.
He took a sideway glance at her as they strolled through the Guild gardens. The paths were skirted with hardened snow. And those icy flakes shaken loose by the early spring winds glittered under the afternoon sun as they fell slowly from the bare-branched trees.
It was breath-taking.
The scenery, and the moment where Akkarin reached out to brush the delicate flakes off Sonea's hair gently.
Foolish it might seemed. Sonea had secretly wished for the slightest possibility that she would get to spend this day with Akkarin. Not for a date. No, that wasn't what she had in mind. Just a normal day, she had wished for, without having to give a thought about spies or the Ichani and the troubles of the harsh reality. For once, Akkarin could just be him, not defined by his title and certainly not the arrogant High Lord who had once intimidated her. While Sonea could simply be who she was, not his favourite novice nor the slum dweller, but a normal girl who dare indulge in a fantasy or two of falling in love.
Could that be happening?
She asked herself as she looked at him.
"Yes..." she said, but only to reply to his earlier question. And she continued. "That is why I spent my last two hours in the library, tormented by the misery of those who had nothing else better to do on this day than to bury their faces in books."
Akkarin snorted softly, and stopped walking. He raised his brows, appraised her with that thoughtful frown on his face, not moving. He stayed like this for a while. His gaze finally became too intent for her to continue to gaze upon.
"Would you accept my invitation then…" he started speaking the second she was about to glance away, "for a jaunt to another hiding place that I found during my novice's days?" He paused for a while, waiting for her answer, but she was too shocked to speak. "As an apology….," Akkarin added slowly, "for causing such…inconvenience in your life?" His dark eyes twinkled as he said those words.
A spark of hope brightened up Sonea's face like sunlight breaking through the dark clouds after the rain.
"And where would that be?" She asked, curiously.
He shook his head.
"You would have to say 'yes' before I can show you that place." He took a step closer, his eyes upon hers.
So close was he that Sonea could almost feel his breath on her cheeks. Her heart began racing. She lowered her head, blushing.
"Yes," she answered quietly, but ever so gladly.
Hello all, I hope you've enjoyed this fic. I haven't written something for a while and I'm really glad that I managed to complete this despite the crazy months I had, and many more to come.
As always, reviews are most welcomed!