“Solana, Elijah, hey!” Keith greeted Solana and I as we approached the table.
“Hey Keith,” I replied. “How’ve you been?”
“Hungry, but other than that, just fine. What about you two? I’m sure Solana is excited to see her parents again.”
Solana beamed joyfully, “Are you kidding? I haven’t even slept.”
Keith and I chuckled at how cheerfully she said that. I didn’t think anyone could run so efficiently on fumes alone.
“Maybe I can actually manage a victory today,” I chuckled.
“Underestimating me, are we?” Solana smirked. “Please, Elijah. Just because I’m missing a few hours of sleep doesn’t mean I still can’t beat you to a pulp. You’ve got a long way before you can even think of beating me.”
“Yeah, yeah. We’ll see about that,” I returned a smug grin of my own, only to be smacked on the back of the head.
“You two are really something,” Keith said jokingly.
After a few moments of eating our breakfast, Keith began observing the rest of the cafeteria. “Say, where’s Celeste?”
It was very hard to hide anything from Keith. I squeezed tightly to my quivering hands beneath the table, and Solana continued to focus on her food, as if she didn’t hear what Keith had asked. Thanks Solana, I thought to myself.
“I’m not sure,” I answered, trying my best to inflect naturally. “She’s probably still sleeping.”
Keith pursed his lips, “That’s odd. She’s usually the first person up all the time. It’s not like her to oversleep.”
No one needed to know what the three of us went through yesterday. Damn Keith’s inherent curiosity. I turned to Solana for assistance, but her head was slowly falling towards the cereal bowl. I couldn’t tell if she was actually falling asleep, or if she was using her supposed lethargy to dodge Keith’s questions.
Rather than coming up with a solid counter, I decided to redirect the conversation, “Why would she need to be up so early? There’s not much to do around here in early IE, unless you’re one of the Castle guards. And even then, it seems like we never get many visitors, or any for that matter.”
Keith shrugged, “I have no clue. I’m not that close to Celeste. Do you know, Solana?”
Solana’s head was shrouded by a mountain of hair that fell from her scalp. The ends of hair dangled just over her cereal bowl, only centimeters away from sliding into a pool of milk.
I held onto Solana’s shoulder and shook her a bit, “Solana?”
Solana’s neck jolted upwards, her hair resting on the curvature of her cheeks, “Huh? Who’s there?”
Keith and I burst into laughter at the sight of the disoriented Solana. Confused by our sudden hysteria, she watched us nervously.
“What’s so funny?”
“You might want to watch out for all that milk,” Keith warned, unable to collect himself.
Solana looked down at the bowl in front of her and quickly slid her hair behind her face, “How did that happen!? Why do I look like such a mess?”
Maybe Solana wasn’t acting after all. “You fell asleep, Solana,” I told her.
“I did? How long was I out for?”
“Couple minutes. You dozed off after Keith asked us about Celeste.”
“Oh! Good thing I didn’t get my hair all soggy.”
The three of us shared a laugh, until an oscillating chime bounced off the walls of the mess hall. It vibrated powerfully against my ears, sending me into a stupor. When the ringing dissipated, Solana and Keith turned to the source of the clanging. A few seconds after, I managed to regather myself and do the same.
Standing on one of the center tables was the Master. He held a small gong in one hand, and a soft mallet in the other. This was the first time I had ever seen him away from the throne room, besides the time he had me register in the archive.
“Why is the Master here?” I whispered to Solana.
“The Master does this when he has announcements. Since a majority of the Guardians eat around the same time, he usually comes during meals to share news with everyone.” Solana took a quick glance around the room. “Aside from Celeste and Josef, it seems like all of the Guardians that aren’t out on missions are here.”
“What do you think he wants to talk about then?”
Solana shrugged, “I’m not sure.”