Standing under the castle’s shadow still daunted me, even though I grew accustomed to its inner corridors. Beside me were Solana, Keith, and Melodie, all with their necks cocked forward and eyes squinted. They scanned the open field for their friend Celeste.
Keith was the first to spot her; he pointed out into the meadow, “Over there!”
I turned immediately, and there she was. Just a figure in the distance trudging towards the castle doors. Solana and Melodie shouted at her while waving their arms above their hands.
In a few moments, the figure was larger, with discernible features appearing from the once clouded space. She was a light brunette, dressed in a black T-shirt and camouflage cargo pants. Her legs were long, and she was lean. A seasoned athlete.
She was not too far now, and I could make out her entire face. Her eyes glistened a light hazel, like two drops of honey. A spot of dirt was splattered across her left cheek, and mud stains dispersed over her clothes.
Solana ran to Celeste first, preparing for a heavy embrace. The two girls shared a hug, then greeted each other.
“How have you been?” Solana asked.
“Messy, as you can see,” she replied with a playful disposition, but the tone was stark, as if humor wasn’t her specialty.
Solana wiped off the dirt from Celeste’s face, “How’s New Perfi?”
“Tense. Rogues completely occupied the city.”
Melodie approached them quickly, “What!? B-but there are people—”
“They evacuated long before the Order got there. Rumor has it that the Rogues were the ones that ushered the people out.”
Solana pondered, “That’s ridiculous. What the hell do those brutes care about the populace?”
“Don’t know, and right now, don’t care. I just want to see them out of New Perfi,” Celeste clenched her fists.
Keith walked over to her. He motioned me over, but I opted against it. I wanted to wait for them to introduce me, because clearly, Solana and Celeste had some catching up to do.
Celeste caught sight of Keith, “How’s your face feeling?”
“Fine, thank you,” he replied with a comical hostility.
A collective laugh broke out between Solana, Celeste, and Melodie. It seemed like all of the Guardians had been friends for a long time. I enjoyed their company, their light-hearted jest, their warming aura. They knew how to make someone feel at home.
“Oh! Celeste,” Solana shook with child-like excitement, “While you were gone, we picked up a new recruit! And you won’t believe what he can do!”
“Is it the boy that’s been watching us funny for a few minutes?” she pointed towards me quizzically.
I returned an awkward wave, “Yeah, it’s the awkward kid...standing not too far from you all.”
Celeste giggled, and Solana spoke again, “This is Elijah. He came here from Old Tenebris.”
“Old Tenebris?” Celeste’s fists clenched, but her voice was calm, “I thought the Master abandoned it years ago.”
“Abandoned? The Master told me that it was too dangerous for us Guardians because of the climbing Dweller population.”
Celeste quickly changed the topic with a lingering agitation, “Nevermind. Well, it’s nice to meet you, Elijah. I’m Celeste.”
She reached out for my hand vacantly, as if it was merely for courtesy. I returned it, and our Essence vibrantly blended together. My white brightened her deep emerald, combining into a pale mint.
Celeste’s eyes widened, “White?”
“Autographs can be taken at dinner time,” I responded jokingly.
“Elijah...from Old Tenebris...Say, what’s your last name?” Celeste wondered.
“Oliveira. Elijah Oliveira.”
“Oliveira?” her grip tightened around mine. I had forgotten we were still shaking hands.
Her Essence glowed stronger, overpowering mine completely. “Is there something wrong Celeste?” Solana asked.
She let go of my hand, and took a deep inhale. “I...I need some time alone.”
Solana nodded, “Sure, go ahead. We’ll catch up with you later.”
Celeste walked past me, and I managed to catch a glimpse of her expression. Distressed, angry, a grimace of conflicted emotions. Her pace sped up when she slid past my shoulder.
“What was that about?” I asked.