“Left, Eiren. Go Left!”
I dove right. A dagger grazed my ear just in time for me to get out of the way. My hand immediately flew to my ear, gold blood coated my fingertips. I shrugged it off. I dodged another dagger, but the next one went straight into my knee, the impact knocking me to the ground. I saw the bullet before I heard the gunshot. My hand instantly came up and stopped the bullet in midair, I sent it into the dirt. The golden sparks disappeared from my hands.
“Eiren, this was a no-magic session. Tell me why I saw sparks shoot from your hand.” My dad came over, he was breathing heavily and wasn’t giving me a proud expression.
“Because we also agreed on a no-gun session, too. I thought if you got to break the rules, I did too.” I pulled the dagger from my knee, the skin around it instantly started to seal up. I got up from the ground.
“In a real battle, your attacker won’t stick to one weapon, he’ll use whatever he can get his hands on.” Dad started to gather all of the knives off the ground.
“In a real battle, I’ll be able to stop the daggers and whatever they throw at me with magic. There is no-this no-that in an attack, Dad.” I picked up the one that stabbed my knee. “I’m keeping this one.”
“Unless they have silver weapons, then dodging could be your only hope.” I scowled. I hated when he was right. Dad picked up the knife that got my ear, specks of gold stained the blade. “I told you to go left.”
I shrugged. “Sorry, my gut said right.”
Dad chuckled. We got all the knives and daggers back into their respectful bins. I had to go to school in an hour, but I was really sweaty and blood was running down my neck. I may have fast healing, but the blood still escapes. I took a quick shower and got ready for school.
I wore ripped jeans, a dark purple cardigan, and a gold text-tee that read: I’VE NEVER BEEN NORMAL in black letters. I tied my hair into pigtails and wrapped my head with a gold bandana. My hair was dark purple hair with golden highlights. The purple was natural, but the gold highlights were a choice.
I was an Undefined. A sorceress that didn’t know what her magic was exactly. Kind of like raw magic, but not quite. Using my hands, I could do whatever I knew how to do. I could control the different elements, I could shapeshift, and I could move things with without actually touching them. There was more, but those were the main things I could do. But I wasn’t powerful unless I could access my hands. Otherwise, I had no magic. Every bit of magic I performed had to be done with a hand movement. The movements could be of my choice, but they still had to happen. My highlights were the result of shapeshifting.
I liked gold, it was like my assigned color. The color of my magic was gold. My blood was gold. My eyes were gold. The color of my magic is more of a choice kind of thing, but I still kept it gold. Everything was gold for me. And that is because the human representation color for winning is gold. And even when I lose, I win.
I walked into the kitchen to find my mom, and two sisters getting ready for their days. My mother was the CEO of a famous tech company. She tried not to work too much, but she was away more than she was home. But when she was home, she was lots of fun. I couldn’t ask for a better mother. My mother was also an Undefined and had trained me to use my magic. My father worked with me in weapons training. He was a partial sorcerer. Meaning he could control one of the four elements. Dad could control air, just like my younger sister Belle.
Belle had fiery red hair and crystal blue eyes. The hair was from our mother and her eyes were from our father. Belle was a sophomore in high school. Some siblings shared their friends. We didn’t. Partials were really cliquey. But I was close with Belle at home.
Aravenia was my older sister. She had dark purple hair like me and crystal blue eyes like Belle. Ara graduated high school two years ago, but she stayed at the house and decided to go to a local university. She wanted to stay here because she often helped work with the alter network. Ara was away a lot of the time looking for shattered pieces of the Portal that collapsed twenty years ago. But Ara would be going with me to Hueway Park tomorrow to work as a mentor. She was a fire partial and her temper often resembled it.
All of us were shifters. Or as society liked to call us: inklings. Because way back when, we were only inklings. Small ideas. We all could shift into a mythical creature. The creature was a part of us so it required no magic, but it was really difficult to learn how to do. Mom was a gryphon, Dad and Ara were werewolves. Belle and I didn’t know what we were yet.
Some inklings, however, have a good hunch on what their creature will be because they have a physical appearance that shows it. I will most likely be a gryphon. I have big, black wings that are always in the way. But since I learned how to control my appearance, I am able to make them go away. However, when an inkling is young, they have to wear cuffs that keep them from using magic to prevent any uncontrolled incidents. No magic meant no cover ups. Which meant fifteen years of big, black gryphon wings. People hated it, but I loved automatically being able to sit in the back.
Ara had fun at her camp. The camp I would be going to was called Hueway Park. That was where I would learn how to shift. There was one camp in each state. And ones accordingly placed within each country.
Ara had known she was going to be a werewolf , her fangs gave it away. And Ara was not an Undefined or a shapeshifter, so she couldn’t hide her fangs. Belle didn’t have any appearance that really gave away her shift, she would have to figure it out on her own.
Or when she went to her inkling camp.
I sat down at the table.
“You have one more breakfast with us, Eiren.” My mother announced. “Are you excited?”
“Try nervous,” I laughed. “It’s my last day before I leave for two months. I don’t know what to do.”
Mom smiled. “You’ll do great. Now off to school.”
Belle and I got our bookbags and went outside where Mazin was waiting for us in his car. We didn’t talk much, Belle often openly expressed her disappointment in my leaving. But I had to go.
Belle had crystal blue swirls that covered her face, arms, and legs. They went underneath her eyes and across her forehead. Belle wasn’t particularly fond of them, but I thought they made her unique. She rubbed at the ones on her cheeks as if they would come off. I touched her wrist and shook my head
I got into the passenger’s seat and Belle got into the back. “Good morning, girls.” Maz said.
“How are you, Maz?” I asked him, trying to keep my spirits up.
“I’m managing, you?” Mazin pulled out and headed for the school.
I nodded. “Me too.”
Mazin glanced at his rearview mirror. “Belle?”
Belle didn’t respond, she just scrolled through her phone.
“Tomorrow.” I said, as if that guaranteed any type of explanation. But Mazin knew what it meant.
“You’re going to have a ton of fun, Eiren.”
I sighed. “I certainly hope so.”
“You will.” Mazin smiled slightly. “And then after that, you can tell me all about it as we sit on the campus of UVA sipping our coffee.”
“Eiren!” Belle said, aghast. “You haven’t told him?”
“Shut up,” I hissed. I clenched my teeth and picked at my already-ruined nails.
Mazin frowned. “Tell me what.”
I shook my head and waved him off. “It’s nothing.”
He glanced down at my hands, then placed his hand on top of mine to get me to stop. “It doesn’t seem like nothing, Eir.” I didn’t say anything. “Come on, you can tell me.”
“You’re going to get mad.”
“Just tell me.”
I took a deep breath, searching frantically for the right words. “Maz, I’m not going to UVA.” I let the words sink in, mainly because I didn’t know what else to say. Socializing, even with the people I was most comfortable around, was not my forte.
We pulled into the school parking lot, Mazin still had not said a word. The car was filled with this awkward silence. I was too scared to say anything. His expression was unreadable. That’s what scared me the most. Belle took this as her cue to get out of the car. When she was gone, Mazin finally spoke. “How long have you known?”
I kept fidgeting with my hands. “A month.”
Mazin ran his hands through his platinum blond hair. “What the heck, Eiren? And you didn’t tell me sooner?” Anger clouded his eyes.
“Maz, you know me. I was scared. I mean this is a big deal!”
“What were you scared of? I’m your boyfriend!”
“You! How you would react, how much you would hate me after you found out.”
“So what, you were just going to go off to Hueway and plan to never see me again?”
“Because that’s what it seems like to me.”
I clenched my hands into fists. “Don’t you want to know where I’m going, or why I’m going?”
Mazin stopped and took a deep breath. “Okay, fine. Where are you going?”
I took a deep breath too. “I am going to UCLA to study biomedical physics.:
“All the way across the country,” he said quietly. “You are going all the way across the country. Los Angeles.” I only nodded. Next thing I knew, he was yelling again. “Eiren, you’re going to one of the most populated cities in the world and you still didn’t think it was important to tell me?”
“Of course I thought it was important, that’s exactly why I didn’t tell you right away. This is so big, I didn’t know how!”
“Well maybe you need to just get over yourself. The world isn’t out to get you, you know. No one is going to bite your head off just because you walk into a room.”
“Fine, you be in my shoes. Maybe the world isn’t out to get me, but some of the students at this school certainly are. Look at me, I’m a freak to them. You should be happy for me. The fact that I even got this scholarship is rare for anyone, much less an Undefined.” I got out of the car and slammed the door, heading for the school.
“I get what you’re saying and you’re right.” Mazin said, chasing after me. I turned to listen. “It is a big deal that you got this scholarship. Because you inklings are bound to fail at some point. After all, this is human territory. It’s a rare exception that you’re mom turned out so successfully. Even if they only keep her around to help with the other inklings. But we both know how well your dad turned out. Rumor has it that—”
I slapped him. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t know I did it until it happened. And I didn’t regret it. I felt the sting of the slap still on my hand. It felt good. “You don’t speak a word against my family, you hear me?” Gold sparks began to dance around my hand. Mazin eyed them worriedly, struggling to keep his pride in tact. “Do you hear me, Mazin Ward?”
He nodded stiffly. “Good.” I yanked the necklace from my neck. Mazin gave it to me when I turned fifteen two years ago. It had a gold chain with a purple gem in the center. I shoved it back into his hand. “We’re done here.”
I walked off, tears streamed down my cheeks. How dare he? How dare he? He should have known that he crossed the line when he spoke ill of my family. Mazin could say all the crap he wanted about me, but he hit the limit when my family was brought up. My hands trembled as I continued to pick at my ruined nails. They were never painted and always ugly. I searched and searched for an excuse as to why I was crying. Breaking up with my boyfriend seemed a little petty.
“Woah! Eiren, what’s wrong?” Rayla said, coming from out of nowhere.
I shook my head and wiped my tears. “Nothing. Nothing at all.” Rayla scanned my face and pouted, knowing that was a lie.
“Fine, don’t tell me.”
We walked over to my locker, I had managed to get my mind off of Mazin and onto Rayla’s latest family drama. Her older brother Kyle told them this morning that he was going to work at Hueway Park tomorrow with Rayla. Rayla didn’t like that because this was finally her chance to be rid of him, but there he was. Rayla felt that at some point she would get over it, but she was still mad at her brother.
Rayla had been my best friend since forever. I couldn’t remember a single day without her. She was really pretty. Rayla had curly, light turquoise hair—that was natural, of course. She had bright lavender eyes. She had nice, dark skin that brought out the brightness of her other features. Rayla always wore the craziest outfits. She loved to paint and that was a major contributor. Today, she wore a white, long-sleeved blouse with a large skirt that had ‘Starry Night’ by Vincent Van Gogh printed around it.
I admired Rayla. She was pretty, had a lot of friends, was good at swimming and painting and everything. There was almost nothing she could do wrong.
I flicked my wrist, gold sparks shooting from my hand. Instantaneously, my locker opened.
“No magic in school, Miss Brantley. Next time it’ll be detention.”
Mrs. Lavinsky said that every day. Just as I opened my locker the same way every day. I had never done detention with Mrs. Lavinsky. She paused. “Never mind. I guess there won’t be a next time, will there?”
I shook my head sadly. “Nope.”
Mrs. Lavinsky opened up a small notebook and began to write something. She ripped it out and handed it to me. “Congratulations, Miss Brantley. You’ve got detention.” The slip was marked ‘Late to Class – Fifth Tardy.’ Using magic in school was a rule that had serious consequences. But I went to a small school that let small magic go. The teachers didn’t care. The students didn’t care. Not even the school SRO. So giving me detention for using small magic to open a locker could lead to more trouble than it was worth.
I went through the whole day without thinking of it being my last day. No more high school. After this I’d be off to Columbia University in New York City. But there was still one more stop on that train. Hueway Park. That was tomorrow, and I still hadn’t packed. I’d just do it when I got home.
The last bell rang, dismissing everyone to go home. Of course, I had the detention slip from Mrs. Lavinsky. I felt that it was time to honor it. I went to her room and took a seat in the front row.
“What are you doing here, Miss Brantley?” She said without looking up from her computer. “The day is over.”
“You gave me detention, Mrs. Lavinsky. I thought I should probably show up for it.”
Mrs. Lavinsky stood up from behind her desk and took the detention slip from my hand and read it over. “You’re right. Don’t be late to my class again.” She dismissed me with a wave of her hand.
“Yes, Miss Brantley?”
“How come you have never turned me in for using magic? I mean you know I’ve used it at school for much more than just opening my locker.”
“I used to know a student like you. He was always using magic. Opening his locker, throwing away his trash, writing without his hands. Using his magic was second nature to him. I know that sorcerer inklings cannot go too long without using their magic.” Magic in a sorcerer was constantly refueling itself. That refueling can only go so long before it overwhelms the sorcerer and they explode. Quite literally. “I looked into his background and his parents had died when he was young. He lived with an old human couple that detested his magic. At home, he had to wear the suppression cuffs. I let him use his magic at school because he needed it to be released. Using his magic here was the only way to keep him alive. So I allowed it. And so did everyone else. They allowed it because I allowed it.”
“Ma’am, that still doesn’t tell me why you let me do it. My father trains me at home.”
“Yes, I am aware. I let you use your magic because I know that you have a lot of it. And it would be very frightening to see your magic truly suppressed. But I feel this way about every Undefined I come across. Every inkling for that matter. One day, you could be a terrifying threat.”
“Do you think I’m frightening?” The words tasted weird. It was something I never thought I would say.
Mrs. Lavinsky considered my question. “I’m not sure any sane person wouldn’t. But overall, try unstable. No amount of training can prepare you for the real thing, or even the smallest things. You and your friends, Miss Ingemar and the Charoensuk twins, you all have a lot of power. Like I said before, you all could be a real threat to your enemies. “You leave tomorrow afternoon to go to Hueway Park.” It wasn’t a question. “You’ll have a lot of competition. Be careful, Eiren.” Mrs. Lavinsky’s hand glowed green. “You never know when someone will try to make you explode. Now go, I’ve got a summer break to get to. I’m going to the Bahamas.”
I said a quick goodbye and left the building. I called Rayla.
“Grab the twins and meet me in the treehouse.”
The treehouse is where the five of us grew up. It was behind Rayla’s house. At first it was a playhouse for the five of us and then it became our central go-to hang out. I climbed the ladder and opened the latch. Rayla and the twins were already there. “Hey guys. Ready for tomorrow?”
They only mumbled. I didn’t know how to be optimistic about this. I felt the same way.
“Come on, guys. We’ll probably love it. My brother did.” Rayla added a tinge of bitterness in her last words.
Ben rolled his eyes. “I’m glad you’re excited. I’m still not ready to leave the Elements behind. Those four are a handful.”
Alex nodded his agreement. “I’m not sure Mom and Dad can handle all of them.”
I laughed. “Those four are dangerous little girls, that’s for sure.” The twins’ little quadruplet sisters were all elemental partials like Rayla. Rayla could only control water. For the quadruplets, there was one to control each element: water, air, fire, earth. We often only referred to them as the Elements.
“It’s one summer, I’m sure they’ll be fine.” Rayla said.
“Maybe,” Alex retorted. “But if we come back to a burnt down house, you have to help rebuild it.” Rayla saluted him playfully.
“So why are we here?” Ben asked. “I haven’t even started packing and neither has Alex.” His twin looked Ben in the eyes and we both could see a conversation—probably an argument—going between them.
Like Rayla, the twins had been two of my best friends since before I could remember. It had always been the five of us. Me, Rayla, the twins, and Mazin. But I wasn’t counting Mazin anymore. He knew his limit and he surpassed it. The others could count him, but I certainly wasn’t.
Ben and Alex had Thai parents and spoke it fluently at home with their parents and sisters. They had black hair, Alex’s was a little messier. Their eyes however, was how you told them apart. Ben’s left eye was bright red and his right eye was black. Alex’s left eye was black and his right eye was bright red. One color for the privacy of their mind, one color for the privacy of someone else’s.
I snapped my fingers to get their attention. “Hey, if you’re going to communicate in your head, then you need to quit making it obvious.” The twins had telepathy and telekinesis. They absolutely hated being the most cliche people in the room.
The twins smirked. “Fine.” They vanished. Ben and Alex could become invisible whenever he wanted. Because that’s what he and Alex were. Telekin. There were lots of things they could do with their minds and they were family. Ben and Alex could teleport and become invisible whenever they wanted just by thinking out whether or not they wanted to be seen or where they wanted to be. They were basically a type of metamorph. Their magic is derived from air magic, but it is only down to that area of specifics. These were basic lessons we learned in elementary school.
Rayla tilted her head. “Why are we here, Eiren?”
I crossed off the last day on the calendar we had marked since we were five. We came up here almost every day. “Because tomorrow we go to Hueway Park.”