The heavy wooden door at the back of the room slid open, and Sayara walked in, letting in a ray of light through the dank, odorous room. Her hair was in a neat side braid, finished with a white hibiscus flower as milky as her skin. Will remarked again on how enchanting she was, and in her presence he felt something he discounted as the Elemental bond, like a string around his rib was pulling him towards her. All eyes fell on her, including those of Alkimia, who looked intrigued and overjoyed.
'Your Highness, how lovely you could join us,' he called cheerfully. Sayara's cheeks flushed and she tensed. Everybody in the class looked surprised, it was uncommon for the Elementals to be called by their appropriate titles. It was unnecessary, and in a sense, embarrassing, Will imagined it was as irritating for them as when he was being called his full name.
'Sayara is fine, sir,' she said, retaining her politeness. 'I'm sorry I'm late. Mrs Hogston sent me with a note, we ran over my private lesson.' She held out a folded piece of parchment, but he waved it away.
'Oh, not a problem. I can hardly complain if you were at an Elemental lesson. Just take a seat, you haven't missed anything.' She did as instructed, between Will and Andrel, passing Tayna a note across the table.
'Your lesson is tomorrow, free time,' she said.
Tayna groaned, 'ugh, why can't I miss a boring lesson? Like this one.' Alkimia circuited, handing out a tray for each of the tables, with contents including jars of ingredients, circle drawings on parchment and a thick piece of chalk. Tayna lowered her voice so he couldn't hear her. 'I don't want anything to do with this stuff, it's self-interested and addictive.'
'Well,' said Andrel, 'you'll have to. The rest of us suck at chanting.'
Alkimia finished his circuit and addressed them again. 'I'm going to assign you different jobs on your tables. One student may draw the alchemical circle, one pair can attempt the "nigredo" phase, and the others can work on the chant. You may begin.'
Will's table quickly decided on their duties, whilst Andrel took the chalk and began drawing doodles on the tiles, Tayna and Laguna began scribbling down rhymes, leaving Will and Sayara to work together.
Sayara pulled the tray of ingredients towards them. 'This part's quite easy,' she said kindly. 'It's all about turning this stuff into black powder, trying to break something down to its basics before you can build it up to something new.' His head already buzzing as he glanced at the strange herb names, Will followed Sayara's lead, burning and grinding each of the ingredients in a black, dusty substance.
'So,' she said, interrupting the concentrated silence. 'How are you finding your lessons so far? I'm sorry I haven't talked to you much, you were unavailable in the infirmary, and,well, the rest is my fault.'
'Err,' said Will, 'they're good. Everything's been interesting, to say the least. I like learning about cryptids more than anything.' He wouldn't be able to forget Eirian easily.
She nodded, 'good. Same here, maybe it's because of our elements. We have a connection to the lands and its animals, plus, a lot of them are adorable.'
'Speaking of elements...' Will felt his throat narrowing with nervousness, '...I heard from a lot of people that you're my...mistress?'
Sayara giggled, it was a sweet sound that instantly relaxed him. 'That's one word you could use. Most scholars call it being "Bonded", that's how I would put it. You might say we're associates, I suppose calling it Bonded implies we're a couple.'
Andrel prodded Will on the arm across the table, gesturing to another table. 'I bet you a copper piece that Pyrus will blow something up by the end of the lesson.' Will smiled as if he understood, but when Andrel returned to drawing the circle, he looked at Sayara questioningly.
'Which one is Pyrus?'
'You haven't met all of them yet?' Will shook his head, she turned with him and pointed. Her finger landed on a blond haired boy, with a long side fringe that was dip-dyed red and orange like flames, shadowing one of his eyes. He was handsome, but his boyish looks were betrayed by boredom and disinterest lingering in his eyes. His arms were crossed and he leant back on his chair, his long legs levying him against the table. He held a china bowl filled with ingredients, and with a look which made his brown eyes shimmer red, the ingredients ignited and began to burn away. 'That's Pyrus. He's sweet once you get to know him.'
'And if I don't?'
She shrugged unknowingly, looking at how Pyrus had voluntarily detached from the rest of his table. 'I suppose you've met Marinia and Valda?'
Will glanced their way, grumbling, 'they're hard to ignore.'