Chapter 5: Graceful Exit

June smiled as the Ifrianian in the group, Ramaz,  told a joke. She didn’t get it. Something about the way the light reflected off water. The others in the group were roaring with laughter. Weird senses of humor. 

Fingers brushed her hand and turning June was relieved to see Master Hadrian at her side. He leaned down and whispered. “It’s time to leave.” His voice was pitched low meant for her ears alone. 

June nodded and set her cup on the tray of a passing serving man. 

A Padiarian stepped in Master Hadrian’s path as he turned. 

“Stealing your pupil away so soon Master Hadrian? You mustn’t hold her to yourself.” The Peadarians voice, while deep, was feminine in nature. 

June wasn’t sure, but she felt like the Peadarian was looking right at her. Studying her. Cataloging everything about her. But with perfect black mirrors as eyes she could never be positive. 

Master Hadrian didn’t move, but his body held a posture of alertness and respect. “An urgent matter requires her attention.”

June reached with her mind, feeling at the Peadarians power. It was vast. The woman was old. 

The woman nodded. “There are always matters that require our attention.” Her posture relaxed. “You must learn to let some tasks fail so the more important ones can succeed.” 

Master Hadrian stiffened as if struck across the face. “If you’ll excuse us.” Master Hadrian gave the woman a rigid bow. 

The Peadarian woman inclined her head a fraction of an inch. 

June remained where she was for a heartbeat longer before she also gave the Peadarian a bow and followed Master Hadrian. As they left she felt eyes on her back. She didn’t have to turn to know it was the Peadarian. 

Once they had turned a few corners June glanced back to ensure they were alone before she asked, “Who was that?” 

The blow that snapped across her back made her miss a step and stumble to her knees. Throwing out a hand she caught herself on the wall.

Master Hadrian paused. “Do not forget your training June.” He turned to look at her. “Now that you have graduated it is important that you use the honorifics.” He glanced past her. “The other Immortals will kill for a perceived insult.” 

June nodded, heat flushing her face. Pushing herself to her feet she said, “I apologize, Master Hadrian.” 

He looked away, and bracing his hands behind his back continued walking. June fell in, half a step behind him. 

She couldn’t remember a time he’d ever struck her outside of the training ring. Not like that. Not ever. As they walked she opened her mouth several times to ease the tension between them, but everything she thought of sounded stupid. So, they walked in silence. 

June could feel the bruises forming on her back. The strained way the muscles on her back responded to the movement of her arms. It would be a solid line across her shoulders. She considered healing them but decided not to do so until Master Hadrian gave her permission. The last thing she wanted was to anger him further. 

Around them the perfect black stone still seemed to be cut of one piece. Not a single line marred any surface she saw. The walls themselves were unadorned with artwork. But no sounds bounced off them. 

Master Hadrian’s soft words caught her off guard. “I shouldn’t have struck you like that.” His voice was strained. “I’m sorry.” He paused and turned to face her. He reached out a hand and set it on her shoulder. 

It was everything she could do not to flinch from the pain. 

Healing coolness flowed down from his hand and to the ache in her back. The stream of energy stopped, but he didn’t remove his hand. Instead, he was looking in her eyes. As if waiting. 

June blinked as she realized he was asking for forgiveness. But there was something more. It was forgiveness for the blow he wanted, it was for something else. 

“It’s fine.” She grinned. “You’ve hit me harder in the ring, Master Hadrian.” 

Sadness settled into his eyes and he turned away. 

June hesitated, watching the stiff way he held himself before following him.

They walked the rest of the way to the traveling grounds in a silence she found strained. As if Master Hadrian wanted to say something or wanted her to say something. If she was supposed to say something specific she didn’t know what it was. 

More than once she thought he was about to say something, about to tell her something. But every time he slowed for a few paces, he would shake his head and resume his long strides. It resulted in a quickened pace for a few feet before a slowing. 

She was relieved when they finally entered the traveling room. 

It was like the rest of the building. Cut from one piece. Perfectly black. 

Master Hadrian grabbed one of the flat disks and held his hand out to her. June put her hand in his and was unsurpassed when he pulled her closer and put his arm around her shoulders. In order to travel the way they were, proximity to the Quissm and the Immortal using it was a factor. 

The general rule was that anything that could be lifted could be transported. People. Small objects. Maybe a medium sized box. But not a building. 

Master Hadrian was warm. Not for the first time she imaged what it would be like to wrap her legs around his waist. June banished the image from her mind. And focused on the scuff marks and spots of blood on her boots. After he’d taught her to shield her thoughts from prying minds, he didn’t read her mind. But spillage was always possible. 

And when you thought about an Immortal it had a tendence to draw there attention to you. Especially if they could hear thoughts. It would be like shouting their name in a quiet room.

Energy swirled. June closed her eyes as energy pulled at her core. Only when the energy faded did she open her eyes. 

They stood in another travel room. Its walls were dirt and when she glanced up she was surprised to see wood planks. 

Regret seeped into her as Master Hadrian pulled his arm away. She wanted his arms wrapped around her waist. She wanted to feel his lips pressed into her skin.

The glance he gave her told her that he’d heard those thoughts. She felt herself color. But as he turned his back on her she thought she saw the beginning of a smile on his lips and in his eyes. 

The light outside blinded her for a moment. She gasped when her vision cleared. They were on a cliff overlooking the sea. On the plateau far below them, stood a town with high city walls. The people inside swarmed like a kicked ant hill. They were running and screaming, fighting to get to higher ground as a wave of destructive water swept toward them from the ocean.

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