Solana pulled me by the arm hastily, then sidestepped in front of me. She gave one last hug to her parents, and thrust me away towards the training tents. As soon as we entered the Castle, she began walking much faster.
Moments before her parents arrived, she was falling asleep in her cereal bowl. How did she suddenly gather up so much energy to go train?
“Why are you in such a rush?” I wondered.
“Because I want to get as much done before lunchtime,” she responded, not even stopping to turn back to me.
A nagging pain ran into my wrist, right at the spot where Solana’s fingers and thumb met. Solana’s Essence solidified as it did when she created weapons. She created a thorn that punctured my skin. It was so tiny; I probably wouldn’t have seen what it was, had it not been coated in cobalt. And, in all honesty, I wasn’t sure if she had even realized what she was doing.
“Ow! Solana, let go! You’re hurting me!” I tried to pull my arm free, but with every yank, the farther the thorn embedded itself within my skin.
“Oh come on! I’m not squeezing you that ha—”
Solana stopped to inspect my wrist. The thorn was so deep at that point that I could feel the intense pain from it scraping against the bone. On the surface, it seemed like a splinter glazed in lapis lazuli.
“Elijah! Oh my goodness! I am so sorry! I wasn’t paying attention! Here, let me get it out for you!”
Solana focused on the thorn, allowing it to dissolve into Essence and return to her body. Blood quickly spilled from the wound, but not enough for me to worry. The pain lingered for quite some time, but I quickly ignored it. Something was definitely wrong with Solana. Her eagerness to take me training, her carelessness right now, her abrupt meeting with her parents. Just what had gotten into her?
I sighed, folded my arms, and leaned against the wall beside me, “Solana, what’s up with you? And be honest with me. I know you don’t actually want to train when your parents just got back after months.”
She returned a steely, assertive glare, “You’re going to have your first exam soon, meaning you’ll need to finish up your training as soon as possible! I’m not going to let you lag behind because we decided to let you have the day off—”
“You’re lying, Solana.”
Her once iron-willed demeanor was swiftly taken aback. Her lips quivered, and she took a few steps backward. A wave of confusion nearly swept her off her feet.
I locked eyes with her, trying my best to remain indomitable. It was Solana who taught me how to be strong, and now, I was going to demonstrate what I had learned.
“This morning, you were complaining about how tired you were. But once the Master brought news that the New Perfi Guardians were returning, you were the first one out the door. The moment your parents stepped out of the forest, you charged them. You were so happy...until I began talking to them. Then, you pulled me away to ‘train.’ And you’re going to tell me that’s not suspicious?”
“So, what is it, Solana? What is it that’s hurting you so much? You’ve done so much for me. Now, let me do something for you in return.”
Solana leaned forward, grabbing her forehead with the muscles between her index finger and thumb. She took a deep breath to gather her bearings, then lifted her head once more. A single tear stained her cheek, and her sapphire eyes twinkled from the moisture.
“I really can’t hide anything from you, can I?”
“Maybe you shouldn’t have been such a good teacher,” I chuckled, hoping to bring a smile back to her face again.
Solana sighed, “Come on. If you really want to know, let’s find someplace quiet where we can talk.”
The air around me chilled, as subtle amounts of Solana’s Essence surrounded her. I couldn’t figure out what she was feeling from it. I was only able to sense more basic emotions: happiness, sadness, anger. But the aura that emanated from hers was a cacophony of pain. Whatever Solana was keeping from me, it was tearing her apart.