All four of us turned towards the new voice in the hallway. A lanky boy approached the group, recognizable by his sallow complexion.
“Josef! W-what are you—?”
“I had the same thoughts as you at one point, Elijah. I used to think that Essence was just the world’s way of screwing with me. When my Essence manifested for the first time, I couldn’t control it. Father worried that my Essence was much too powerful for his own good. So, I was isolated from everyone for some time, in favor of rigorous, endless training. It was rare for me to leave my training room. It was sad and lonely. I couldn’t make friends, and the ones I did make drifted away so easily.”
“It was Melodie who taught me to value the Essence within me. I would spend those scattered hours away from training with her. One day, I talked to her about how infuriated I was because I couldn’t control my Essence. I always felt like a bomb waiting to go off, until she said something that I will hold near my heart for the rest of my life. She told me—”
“That you were given that much power for a reason,” Melodie continued his sentence. “And that with it, you’ll be able to protect those that you love, like your parents and friends.”
“Gee, thanks Josef,” I rolled my eyes. “But I don’t think I’ve protected anyone. If anything, I’m the one who always needs protecting.”
“Aren’t you trying to help Celeste now? Aren’t you trying to get rid of her pain?”
I looked away and pursed my lips in search of a rebuttal.
“That’s what Essence is for, Elijah: to protect those who cannot protect themselves. It’s why the Order was founded, because we’re the only ones that can put an end to the Solar Convergence. Now Keith,” Josef directed his attention to him, “If we’re going to find Celeste, we need you to come with a plan.”
“Wait!” Solana yelled. “You’re helping us? You do realize your father is willing to charge us all with treason, right?”
“Come on, Solana. Do you really think Father would let his son be executed? If anything, I can be your insurance policy. Besides, I haven’t left the Castle since my visit to Old Tenebris two months ago. I’ve been dying for some fresh air.”
“I can’t argue with that,” I agreed. “Any help is good to me.” I turned to Keith, who was deep in thought, “Keith, please. We need you. There has to be something stirring in that head of yours.”
Keith lowered his head submissively, “Fine. I’ll figure something out right now.”
He kept his head hung low and closed his eyes. His body expelled a warm citrus light. After a few moments, the Essence rushed up to his head, enshrouding him in a helmet of energy. Solana tapped her foot impatiently for Keith to finish, while Josef and Melodie held each other and observed quietly. I watched him in awe. It was the first time I ever saw Orange Essence in action.
Soon, the shield of light surrounding Keith faded, and he opened his eyes slowly. “I’ve got something, but...we need a Yellow to carry it out. If Celeste is really as angry as Elijah says, then a powerful Yellow should be able to sense her anger from quite the distance. We need to find one fast though. For all we know, she could already be out of range.”
“My mom!” Solana cheered. “She’s one of the strongest Yellows I know! She’ll help us, I just know she will!”
“Perfect!” I smiled. “Keith, you’re a lifesaver!”
“You can thank me later. For now, we need to find Mrs. Valenti.”