"What a lovely home you have, Charles!" Fiamma smiled at her brother-in-law as she looked around at the tidy and cozy house.
"Thank you, Fiamma. You are all always welcome in this home." Charlie nodded warmly to Fiamma and Demetrio as he and Dante carried in the luggage from the car.
"Forks is a peculiar town!" Demetrio laughed, shaking the ice off his curly hair before hanging up his coat.
"Forks is a special town, I can assure you." Charlie responded, his eyes twinkling happily, closing the door behind Dante.
Although Charlie and Demetrio were brothers, they looked nothing alike; Charlie was tall, lean, and muscular, with short trimmed dark brown hair, hazel eyes, and a growing stubble; he was reserved and disciplined.
Demetrio on the other hand was of medium height, with light brown curly hair that fell right behind his ears, he had dark brown eyes, a whimsical face with an impish smile. He had large broad shoulders with large muscles, and wide large hands.
He had a loud voice that made him incapable of whispering, his loud voice made it seem like he was always yelling.
Demetrio's wife, Fiamma, was elegant and petite; although she was short, she had strong presence that commanded respect. She had wavy light brown shoulder-length hair with light hazel eyes, she had little brown freckles scattered across her face, and an eccentric smile.
She always dressed professionally and elegantly, even during trainings.
Their son Dante was slim and tall, with wavy voluminous dark brown hair and bright icy blue eyes. He had a strong pointed chin and dimples whenever he smiled or made a face.
He was prim and prissy, always dressed in the latest designer clothes and very meticulous about his appearance.
Bella was never sure how Dante would acquire designer clothes if he technically didn't have a paying job. Either way, Bella thought he was pretentious.
"It is so good to see you." Fiamma murmured, turning to smile at her niece again, patting her head gently, "I can't believe how much you've grown!"
Bella thickly swallowed the lump forming in her throat, feeling emotional and trying not to let it show. "It's good to see you too, Aunt." Bella managed to let out, "I've really missed you."
"Aw, sweetie, I've missed you too." Fiamma hugged Bella to her again.
"We are going to have a BLAST training, Bellissima!" Demetrio teased; he ruffled Bella's hair playfully, his large hand causing her hair to tangle over her face.
"Hey!" Bella protested laughing, waving her hair out of her face.
"Of course, it will be challenging," Fiamma interjected, shooting a sharp look at Demetrio, not wanting her niece to take the trainings lightly, "Remember you are being trained, not just by your family, by the most skilled of Elementals." Fiamma finished proudly, playfully tapping the tip of Bella's nose.
The three of them laughed, Charlie chuckling quietly with them, happy to see his daughter reunited with the family again.
Bella's nose scrunched in disgust as she spotted her cousin standing at the entrance of the living room, his face impassive and his posture stoic and erect as usual.
He was eyeing her haughtily, not understanding why anyone would be happy to see her, especially after all the trouble she caused.
Demetrio and Charlie shared a glance.
Demetrio and Charlie had discussed this prior; they knew about the animosity that grew between their children over time. It had been difficult deciding on whether or not to include Dante on Bella's trainings and mentorship.
Dante was a skilled prodigy in the Water Element; being a Castelli himself, he was creative and innovative, and, at only twelve years old, he created his own unique Water Element methodology and technique.
He was undeniably the best teacher for Bella.
So, Demetrio and Charlie decided to take the chance, Bella needed the best teachers, especially for Water Element since it was not her forte.
And perhaps things would be different between Dante and Bella since they were far away from their regular environment and away from the eyes of the Council.
"Dante, won't you say hi to your cousin?" Demetrio coaxed his son.
Dante looked Bella up and down in distaste. "Hi, Isabella." Dante greeted smoothly, tossing his head haughtily.
Bella caught Charlie's gaze, groaning inwardly, knowing she should be polite and say hi back to her cousin.
"Hi." Bella sniffed.
Dante ignored her, turning to Charlie, "Uncle, where are our rooms?"
"Right this way. I'll help you with the luggage." Charlie picked up a few of the large suitcases.
"Thank you, Uncle." Dante nodded graciously, throwing Bella an inconspicuous glare of disgust before carrying the rest of the suitcases. Bella stuck her tongue out at him, glaring back at him.
Dante scowled back at her before following Charlie up the stairs.
"I made ossobuco for you! Let's eat before it gets cold." Bella waved for her aunt and uncle to follow her into the kitchen.
"Oh, that sounds delicious!" Fiamma hummed delightedly, pulling her husband along.
"Wow, this looks amazing!" Demetrio cried, his mouth watering upon smelling the ossobuco.
"This looks great!" Fiamma seated herself at the table, grinning proudly at Bella, "I didn't know you knew you how to cook!"
"I learned a little here and there, Aunt." Bella replied cheekily, serving their plates.
Fiamma and Demetrio laughed.
"I wonder what other tricks and talents you have up your sleeve." Fiamma hummed, her eyes narrowed playfully.
"Eat, eat!" Bella prompted, waiting for them to eat first, eager to see their reactions to her cooking.
Upstairs, Dante eyed the guest bedroom critically, sighing internally.
Charlie quietly let out a small breath; he wondered again how the trainings between Dante and Bella would go, and if they would be able to get past their animosity to effectively train together.
Charlie noticed Dante had only brought a small backpack, all the other large cases belonged to Fiamma and Demetrio, he found it odd considering they were staying for a month.
"I'm surprised, you seem to have packed lightly. I would have thought all these suitcases belonged to you for your many outfit changes." Charlie joked lightly.
Dante let out a light laugh that sounded more like a scoff, "I'm only staying a week, Uncle. The Council and I have plans back in Naro, I am sorry, I cannot stay the full month."
Plans? Charlie wondered. Neither Renee nor the Council mentioned anything to him about Council plans involving Dante.
"A week?" Charlie raised a brown, concealing his surprise. Demetrio hadn't told him about this.
"We had agreed on a month of trainings. I understand you have plans, and I do not wish to interrupt the Council's plans or dispute that in any way, however, how will Bella effectively and thoroughly train with the Water Element in seven days?"
Dante chuckled darkly, his icy blue eyes gleaming.
"I understand your concern, Uncle, and I can assure you, with my methodology and technique, Bella will receive thorough instruction, regardless of the time spent training. As long as her willingness to learn and be disciplined," he shot Charlie snooty look, "is there, we will have no problems."
Charlie simply grunted in response.
He sincerely hoped Bella was willing to learn and be disciplined; they had been getting along well enough so far, he hoped she wouldn't resent him for pushing her to complete her trainings.
Dante had always been very skilled, even as a child, a prodigy, and, although Charlie hadn't seen Dante's skills lately, he heard many great things from Demetrio and Fiamma; perhaps Dante would be able to effectively train Bella in only one week.
Dante looked around the room again. He sighed, tsking wistfully, "This is nothing compared to the Council Headquarters, but I suppose this will have to do." He placed his backpack on the full-sized bed near the big window.
"Actually Dante, this is your bed right here." Charlie deadpanned nodding towards the narrow twin sized bed against the wall in the dark corner of the bedroom.
"Ungh?!" Dante exclaimed incoherently in disbelief and disgust.
How am I supposed to sleep in that!? Dante thought angrily to himself, he had never slept on such a small bed before.
"The bigger bed is for your parents." Charlie explained impassively, setting his brother and sister-in-law's luggage near the full-size bed.
I cannot believe I have to share a room with my parents! I am so glad I am only staying for a week. Dante thought to himself indignantly.
"Of course," Dante nodded sourly.
Charlie made his way to the hallway, pausing to glance back at Dante, "Bella prepared ossobuco, let's have some."
"Thank you, Uncle, but I'd like to rest for a moment, I'm tired after the long trip. I'll be down in a few minutes." Dante sniffed, turning away, crossing his arms sourly as he walked over to his twin-sized bed, resisting the urge to kick it.
Dante wondered if he could talk his parents into switching beds with him but decided not to push it. His enormous father would never fit on such a small bed anyway.
Charlie simply closed the door behind him and went downstairs to join the rest of his family.
"Bellissima, you must give me the recipe!" Demetrio was begging, serving himself a third plate.
"Demetrio, you don't even cook!" Fiamma argued but hummed contently as she took another bite of her meal.
"You really like it?" Bella asked eagerly.
"Bella, it's perfect!" Fiamma assured Bella, patting her arm.
"Thank you for the meal, Bella." Charlie murmured as he entered the kitchen. He patted her shoulder gently before seating himself.
Charlie shot Demetrio a glance.
Demetrio nodded slightly to his older brother, understanding that they would have to talk later.
The family exchanged pleasantries over dinner, keeping a light conversation.
Bella was overjoyed that her Aunt and Uncle were there and that they still seemed to love her. They weren't treating her differently; they weren't chastising her, reprimanding her, scolding her, or treating her coldly, they were still warm and funny, just like the old days.
She couldn't believe it; she was so happy they were here.
Demetrio patted his full stomach lazily after dinner, grinning happily. "That was just amazing, Bellisima! I'm looking forward to tasting more of your cooking!"
"You can't just assume Bella is going to do all the cooking for the rest of this month," Fiamma scolded her husband, throwing him a glare. "Bella, I am so sorry, please ignore him. We are family, and we will contribute to the household while we are here. We're not the best cooks but we can learn like you did." Fiamma apologized, squeezing Bella's hand.
"Don't worry about it!" Bella laughed, "And thank you, Aunt, I'm happy to cook for you all, I'm really glad you enjoyed the meal."
After dinner, Bella cleared the table, wiping the dishes down while the elders continued to chat on the table.
Fiamma glanced towards the sink area where Bella was, leaning in forward to speak quietly so she wouldn't hear.
"Charles," Fiamma half-whispered, "How is she?"
Charlie inhaled quietly, glancing over at his daughter, feeling his throat tighten.
Demetrio could see the emotion build in his older brother's eyes. "We are here for you, Charlie."
Charlie swallowed, nodding, and exhaled to get himself together. "I'm trying my best." He choked out quietly, trying to disguise it as a dry cough.
"We know," Demetrio assured, squeezing his brother's shoulder, waiting for him to continue.
"She's adjusting to so many things right now, living with me for the first time, going to a public school. She doesn't say much but I can see it hasn't been easy for her. Everything changed for her so suddenly. The ice between us has melted some, I'm still trying to get close to her." Charlie finished with a quiet sigh.
Fiamma nodded in understanding but she knew they would need more time to talk so she turned to face where Bella was. "Bella, how about you prepare some coffee for us?"
Bella's face brightened at the request, happy to serve them. "Of course!" She beamed, turning back to rummage through the cabinets for the coffee and the coffee filters.
Fiamma turned back to face Charlie. "Could you tell us what happened exactly?"
Charlie frowned, clearing his throat. "Bella burned twelve humans alive. She was after members of a mafia in Naro who had tried to hurt her friend. She had no control over her powers trying to protect him. Someone got her out of there before the firefighters could arrive."
"Who take her away after?" Fiamma questioned.
Charlie frowned. "Renee told me it was a local, a young boy. He was also friends with Bella."
"Euh, I didn't think Bella had many frie…?" Demetrio let his question trail off at Fiamma's glare.
Fiamma kicked Demetrio under the table.
It was no secret that Bella was a loner, she had no friends in the Community mostly because everyone her age envied and ostracized her for her special position as the future Elemental Leader, or they were too afraid to fraternize with her.
It was a surprise to everyone to find she had two friends, especially regular human boys as friends.
Charlie looked down at his clasped hands, exhaling quietly.
He had been absent for many important stages of Bella's life; he didn't know much about her life in Naro until recently.
Charlie knew all too well what it was like to lose friends to death, his heart ached for her, knowing the pain she was going through.
"You know…" Fiamma began hesitantly. "The story keeps changing back in Naro."
"People are spreading rumors." Demetrio nodded gravely.
"I suspected." Charlie shook his head in disappointment and disgust. The Community members could be very nasty when they wanted to, relentlessly spreading gossip regardless if it was about their future leader.
"What happened then that resulted in the Council deciding to send Bella to you?" Demetrio asked.
"The Council was going to settle on a punishment they thought was appropriate for Bella- "
"What was the punishment?" Fiamma pressed.
"Mons Poena." Charlie let out, clenching his jaw.
Fiamma and Demetrio let out a breath, shocked.
Mons Poena, or the Mountain Punishment, was a prison on the mountains that had been created nine-hundred years ago by Elementalist Leader Piero. He proposed the invention of the prison to give the Community a sense of peace for if an Elementalist ever decided to use their powers for evil, they would be impossible to stop.
The prison was built by Elementalists for Elementalists. The Council saw to it that every Elemental Leader born throughout the centuries added their power and guard to the prison. Powered by the four Elements: Fire, Water, Air, and Earth, the prison had enough pressure to render even an Elementalist powerless.
The Council was very strict about its rule to never expose their existence and to never use the Elements for harm. The prison punishment was seldom ever used as no Elementalist ever used their powers for evil, so the fact that they were going to place this punishment on Bella, a seventeen-year-old who had a committed what was a considered a "first offense", showed Charlie just how cruel the Council could be.
"Do you want milk in your coffee, Aunt?" Bella appeared next to them, setting down cups of black coffee on the table.
Fiamma and Demetrio composed themselves quickly.
"Yes, please, Bellissima." Fiamma managed to give Bella a half-smile. She turned her gaze to Charlie once Bella went back to the kitchen.
Charlie took in a breath. "I was able to convince them to send her to me. Her discipline and training are imperative," he finished. Fiamma and Demetrio nodded firmly. "We are happy to be of service. We will train her well." Demetrio promised.
"We need to talk about Dante." Charlie murmured, giving them a pointed look.
Fiamma's face became furious. "What happened?" She growled, "Was he disrespectful?" She clutched Demetrio's arm, ready to shake him to agree with her for whatever punishment she found fit according to what Dante did.
"He is staying only for a week?"
Fiamma and Demetrio jolted in surprise.
"No, we agreed on a month." Demetrio objected.
"He said he and the Council have plans back in Naro," Charlie raised a brow.
Just then, Dante sauntered into the dining room, his hands in the pockets of his designer jeans.
Fiamma immediately turned to him angrily. "Why didn't you inform us about this prior to promising a month of trainings for Bella?" She hissed, the vein on her forehead bulging in anger, her cheeks flushed.
"Sorry, mamma, it was a last-minute change." Dante apologized smoothly, seating himself at the table.
Fiamma looked ready to scream at him, her breath becoming shallow in anger.
Bella came back with the milk and sugar, pausing in confusion when she saw Dante had joined them at the table.
"What's going on?"
"We will talk about this later." Fiamma glowered at her son, gritting her teeth at him before taking in deep breaths to calm down.
"Bellissima, we are sorry, we had promised your father we would train with you this whole month, but it appears as if one of us will be heading back home in a week." Demetrio responded, apologizing to Bella, shooting a sharp look at his son.
"You're going back home?" Bella questioned, turning to her cousin, her eyes wide.
"The Council and I have … plans." Dante grinned widely, his icy blue eyes gleaming gleefully. "Oh, and I'll have some coffee, too, cousin."
Bella kept herself from screaming at him. But she simply set down the milk and sugar on the table a little too loudly before going back to the stove to prepare a cup of coffee for Dante.
Why does he get to go back home and travel back and forth so freely but not me? Bella couldn't help but think childishly to herself, stirring the coffee angrily. She contemplated spitting in it.
Fiamma couldn't help herself.
She reached over and swatted the side of Dante's head, his wavy voluminous hair bouncing with the motion.
"How is anyone supposed to learn anything about the Water Element in one week, Dante?!" She hissed angrily.
But Dante was unfazed, he simply sniffed before prissily fixing his hair.
"My methodology is unique and thorough. I am the best Water Elemental in our Community. If I want Bella to learn in a week, she will get it."
"This boy!" Fiamma cried in disbelief, slamming her hands on the table, her chair scraping back loudly as she stood.
Demetrio grabbed her arm, "Fiamma, calm down!" He said lowly, not wanting to make her angrier.
"So disrespectf-" Fiamma started to say, ignoring her husband to tower angrily over Dante.
"Fiamma." Charlie called.
She turned to fix her angry gaze on Charlie. His face, as usual, was impassive but Fiamma could see from his thoughtful silence that he had something he wanted to say.
She shot one last glare at her son before sitting down and crossing her arms as she waited for Charlie to speak.
"I do not wish to interrupt or dispute whatever plans the Council might have with Dante; when we spoke, you both assured me Dante has honed his skills in the past years and is considered one of the best Water Elementals. He's here now, that's what matters, I will trust that he will do his best to train Bella in a week." Charlie turned to his daughter. "Bella, we have to adjust. Are you willing to work hard with discipline towards completing your Water training with Dante?"
Bella jumped, snapping out of her upset and envious thoughts. She walked back over to the table, sourly handing Dante his coffee.
"Yes." She muttered lowly, plopping herself down into her seat.
"Please start right away." Charlie nodded to Dante, "Tomorrow after Bella is out from school."
Dante's icy blue eyes brightened in gleeful amusement. "School? As in-" he chuckled, "As in public school?" he stifled a laugh.
Attending public school was considered an enormous downgrade in education quality and development compared to the private and advanced education the Elemental Community provided its members.
Bella blushed in embarrassment; she gritted her teeth, looking away to avoid screaming at her cousin.
She knew Charlie wanted her to behave, she would try to be on her best behavior to not disappoint him.
"Dante..." Demetrio warned.
"Excuse me," Dante choked out, trying not to laugh, composing himself.
Fiamma shot Dante a dark glare but ignored him before turning to Bella.
"Demetrio will help you with the Earth Element after you and Dante are done with Water. I will train you with the Fire Element last, from what I've heard, you need more practice with that one in particular." She gave Bella a pointed look.
Bella blushed furiously, looking down at her hands in shame. She swallowed the lump forming in her throat, not wanting to cry in front of her family.
The conversation was light and short after.
Dante clearly thought himself too above his family to be there, but he had no other choice; Bella was feeling all kind of emotions ranging from guilt for her loss of control, jealousy at Dante's freedom to travel, pressure to not disappoint her father, and happiness that her Aunt and Uncle were here with her.
Fiamma had calmed down but was still shooting angry glares towards her son throughout the conversation. Demetrio was not cracking jokes like he usually did; he was quieter throughout the conversation.
Charlie was cool and impassive as usual.
The conversation was interrupted as Charlie received a phone call. "Excuse me." He apologized, stepping out of the dining room.
Dante fixed his cool and haughty gaze on Bella. "Where is the nearest ballet studio?"
"Huh?" Bella was thrown off by his question.
"I said where. Is. The. Nearest. Ballet. Studio?" Dante repeated loudly and slowly, with exaggerated enunciations.
Bella resisted the urge to snap at him but responded, "There's one downtown, a couple minutes away. Why?"
Dante simply grinned smugly. "Meet me there tomorrow after you're out from," he paused to stifle another laugh, "school."
"That's it," Bella slammed her fist on the table, making to get up and talk back to her cousin but was interrupted by Charlie breezing back into the dining room.
"I apologize, there's been an attack. I have to go." Charlie explained breathlessly in a rush, his eyes wide and alert.
An attack? Bella's stomach tightened anxiously, disturbed; it hadn't occurred to her that a boring small town like Forks could contain danger.
She remembered again her father was Chief of Police, he had to deal with all emergencies and dangers directly.
Demetrio nodded. "Be careful, Charles."
Charlie shrugged his sheriff coat on hurriedly, buckling his gun belt. "Good night," he called to his family as he opened the door, a gust of freezing wind blowing into the house. "I'll see you all tomorrow." He closed the door behind him.
There was a pause as the family processed Charlie was going to be in potential danger.
Bella turned back to her aunt and uncle, her brown eyes wide, her anxiety evident on her face.
"He's going to be alright, Bella," Fiamma soothed, clasping her hand.
"He's a strong and smart man." Demetrio added, "He'll be just fine. Besides, he and I used to get into worse trouble that any human could possibly cause. He's one tough guy."
The night would have ended without further drama if Dante hadn't taken half an hour hogging up the bathroom for himself before bedtime.
Bella stood near the bathroom door, huffing grumpily pausing to glance over to the guest bedroom's door her uncle and aunt were staying in, making sure it was closed, before angrily trying to turn the locked doorknob.
"Dante, hurry up!" She half whispered half yelled, not wanting to wake her aunt and uncle.
Dante started humming condescendingly, turning the sink water higher so it was louder in the bathroom, ignoring her. Bella's face twitched with rage.
"Dante!" She hissed, starting to push the side of her body against the door, trying to force it open.
She fell over as Dante abruptly opened the door, wearing a turquoise headband and Moroccan blue silk pajamas, his skin sheer and shiny from oils and serums as he stared down impassively at her. "It's open." He stated unnecessarily.
Bella jumped to her feet, scowling, rubbing her sore arm from the impact of falling to the cold tile floor.
The restroom smelled incredible, like lavender and grapes. Dante had the bathroom cabinet full of small travel-sized bottles of expensive skincare products that Bella didn't know the name of. They looked fascinating and alluring but she was determined to hate anything Dante loved.
"Move over." She shoved him out of her way, grabbing her toothbrush.
Dante continued patting his cheeks and forehead with serums, watching her every movement with disgust. "Try not to stay up too late, get a good night's rest, it may be the last bit of good sleep you get while I'm here. I will not go easy on you with trainings just because we are related." he warned, beginning massaging his face with a jade roller.
"I do not expect special treatment," she rolled her eyes, brushing her teeth faster, annoyed. "Besides, I'm pretty sure you have to rent out the ballet studio if you intend to use it for training purposes."
"Oh, cousin," Dante paused his massage to laugh at her, "I am the complete oppositeof you. I think ahead, I plan ahead. I've already called the ballet studio and set up the reservation for all day tomorrow."
"All day tomorrow?" Bella echoed, "I thought we were training after I was done with classes?" Her words muffled from still having her toothbrush in her mouth.
"Ugh," Dante made a face at the toothpaste dribbling from her mouth. "And the ballet studio will be in use because I'm going to be, you know, training until it's time to teach you. I make it a point to consistently keep myself disciplined. That's the key to being an effective Water Elemental - or any kind of Elemental - to consistently train, Isabella!" He waved his jade roller with his expressive hand motions.
Bella scowled at the lecture, scrubbing her teeth harder, growing even more annoyed. "Whatever. The lessons and trainings start tomorrow so save for it then. And we cannot leave a mess from the Water trainings at the ballet studio." She warned.
"We will not make a mess as we will not be using Water." Dante replied dismissively, now absorbed on his reflection in the mirror, removing his turquoise headband and carefully combing through his hair.
How are we not gonna use Water for a fucking Water training? She wanted to ask but kept her mouth shut, having had enough of conversing with him.
Once in bed, Bella could not sleep, worried about Charlie. She wondered what the attack. Who got attacked and why? By whom? Was the victim alive?
She opened the internet browser on her cellphone, searching up the crime in Forks. The crime was low due to the small size of the town, everyone knew each other.
There were a few articles of muggings and assaults in the bigger cities like Port Angeles and Seattle, but they were at least forty-five minutes away from Forks.
There was one recent article of sightings of an enormous bear in the woods, between the border of Forks and a native American reservation nearby.
The cold wind howled outside, little tree branches softly scratching at her window. Bella shivered, spooked, hugging the blankets over her shoulder tighter.
Maybe it was a bear attack. Bella shuddered, turning her cellphone off before trying to sleep.