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A Different World Than the Last

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The streets of Vesuvia were cold in the winter. The sky was gloomy as the stinging rain whipped with the wind across Asra's face. The usually fluffy white-haired boy was now wet and soggy. His feet were bare and had new bruises, cuts, and scrapes from running away from a screaming vendor. This was the first time he had stolen something. He felt that there was no reason to be mad at him for what he did. He had no choice.

Before he was stealing from vendors, he had a home. He had a family too. He remembered when he awoke as usual in his warm and comforting bed that was stacked with colorful pillows and stuffed animals. He lived in a homey and spacious flat. It was decorated with the colors of their auras and pictures of the three of them on the walls. The bookcases were filled with textbooks, spellbooks, and recipes for potions. And just regular dinner recipes. He knew that he was going to have the house all to himself that day. His parents, Aisha and Salim, had told him the day prior that they were off on a trip and would also take their familiars, to give the new heir of some company their newest works. His parents were beautiful magicians that excelled at almost all things magic, but with this specific work, it was alchemy. It took them years to make whatever it was the new CEO was demanding. Asra loved them for how hard they worked to support and feed him. He spent that day doing chores and a little bit more than usual. He cleaned the whole house with vigor and excitement. Then he made dinner especially for them around the time they told him they'd be back. Both of their favorites. He was waiting for the proud looks on his parent's faces when they first entered through the door. But instead, the food went cold. They didn't return. 

The next day he started to worry. Usually he wouldn't if they were on some other business trip, but he had an inkling that something was wrong with that job that they took on from the beginning. He tried calling them on their cells first. After many futile attempts, he called their studios phone number next. Nothing. He turned on the news. Was there an accident? He hoped to the Gods that there wasn't. He was grateful after six whole hours staring at the news and looking on his mother's computer that there was no accident related to the train that they took. He looked to the clock. They would've called or something, he thought to himself. Asra finally called the police. He told them everything they could, but Asra didn't think they'd help much at all though. He waited, clutching the phone to his chest with hope. 

After two weeks, he had nothing. Asra tried to use magic several times to call them through pools of water, or even sense if they were anywhere else. But still, nothing. Asra went to look for people his parents knew and asked them for anything. But after many fruitless attempts, he decided to ask his landlord. He looked up at the counter and frowned at the fact that he was so short for his age. He jumped and hit the bell on the counter and adjusted his shawl around his shoulders. His landlord looked down at him from above the counter briefly before sighing and getting up from his chair. He took his sweet time walking around the counter to stand in front of Asra. "Whaddya want, kiddo?" he asked, rubbing his face as if it was gonna rub off the exhaustion that was showing. Asra stared at him for a minute, before starting to answer his question. "I was wondering if-" but the man quickly cut him off. "Wait, wait. What time is it? What're you even doing up at this hour, kid?" Asra sighed, irritation was starting to get the best of him after the long day he had. Despite being a child, he was usually very understanding. I was going to say if you hadn't interrupted me, he thought. His head had been pounding from how tired and hungry he was, but also from his landlord's personality. "I was wondering if my parents contacted you?" Asra asked, trying to be patient. He never really liked his landlord. "Nope. I got nothing from them lately. And I also haven't gotten rent money either, " he said, narrowing his eyes down at Asra. Oh Gods, please no, Asra thought. The man continued despite Asra's thoughts, "I don't want to have to do this to you guys. You all were great tenants. But, if there's no money, then there's no place. You know what I mean?" 

After the frustrating conversation with his landlord, Asra stomped back to his flat. His flat. He and his parent’s flat . He slammed the door and that's when the tears came. He slowly slid down to the floor and fell over. He curled up into a sobbing heap. He thought back on everything: the very first day when he woke up, to the research, to the police (that barely even acknowledged his call), to his search, to his questions, and finally to when the landlord kicked him out. After a whole night of just weeping, Asra stood and packed as much as he could.

Chapter Text

I was pretty young when I was first brought over to Vesuvia. I had no clue about where I was going actually. I stared at the sea before me, it was so vast and open. I saw the horizon and I swore I could see a hint of land. “This is it,” I heard another passenger say, “welcome to Vesuvia.”

I was eleven when I was forced to live with my Aunt in Vesuvia. I had no other family, so there just wasn’t any other choice. And by ‘no other family,’ I meant they were all dead. Or if they were alive, they never cared enough to step forward and take me in. I was all alone. Until I got a call from my distant Aunt. After being invited to come live with her, I quickly packed my things, and with the very little money I had, I bought a boat ticket. I declined her pleas about letting her buy the ticket herself, after everything that happened, I didn't mind. I just wanted to be somewhere new as quickly as possible. 

My Aunt was interested in my, “gifted abilities.” I wondered where she even heard about me. I’d like to think that I was decently educated. I could speak three different languages, I was one of the top in my class before I moved. I also really loved learning about magic. I genuinely loved magic with a passion. Magic was one of the first things I grew up learning from my parents. It was a part of me and my life in such a huge way. 

I stepped off the boat and onto Vesuvian docks. I hurried out of everyone else’s way so that I could just figure out where I was going, finally being on land again. I had my luggage with me, which only was just one suitcase. Despite just getting off a ship, I kept glancing towards the beach. It had very beautiful sand and gorgeous waters. I carried my suitcase down the docks to the sand so that I could get a look at the sunset behind the boat. The sky was a gorgeous array of colors. I just stood there and stared at the view, happy that I was alive. 

“If you keep looking, you’ll burn out your retinas,” someone said. I looked behind me and saw someone who looked to be an old man. He had a weathered face, very white hair, and a deep voice. But, his voice I found a little strange. He was also very short for an old man, just as short as I was. I wasn’t judging him, but I could feel some sort of energy radiating off him the moment he spoke to me. I felt some sort of magic on him. I squinted a little at the man wondering if he had some sort of glamour spell on him. “Well, guess I’ll leave you to it. Kids these days… If they’re not looking at screens all day to ruin their eyes, then they’ll look at something else,” the man grumbled. He seemed to want to get away from me as soon as I was poking magic at him. Hmmm… I wonder, I thought. But before I could think any harder on it I heard my name being called. I looked back up to docks and saw, I was assuming, my Aunt.

When I look back, the man mysteriously disappeared into the crowd of the second dock.

My aunt never told me her name. She specifically told me to just call her, 'Auntie.' I wasn't really curious about it, there was no reason to be suspicious of her. I could tell from her personality and the air around her. From the moment I met up with her back on the docks I could automatically feel her aura. And I knew she could also sense mine. "My, by the Gods, child!" she exclaimed. "You are just glowing with magic. That's quite rare, you know?" she winked at me and took my luggage. She drove me to her shop which wasn't that far from the docks. I looked out the window in awe. It seemed like such a colorful city! There were glimpses of markets that looked like they sold anything and everything you could need or want. It was the complete opposite of where I came from. We arrived at her shop, and I realized I was smiling the whole way there. I walked through the door and I felt instantly at home. The smell of incense, herbs, and plants had hit me all at once. "What do you think?" she asked, grinning, already knowing the answer. "I feel at home here, Auntie. Thank you." The counters had all sorts of artifacts, gems, stones, and jewelry. I could sense the protection charms in the glass. behind the counter, on the wall, I could see potions that had labels and expiration dates. Medicinal Mixture, Legitimate Lotion Potion, Consequently Candid Contraceptive, I read all the labels. "Auntie, what's a Consequently Candid Contraceptive?" I asked. My Aunt sighed at my childish curiosity. 

"Don't bother with that now, dear. You came to Vesuvia on an excellent year," she said, putting her car keys back in her purse. "What do you mean?" I asked as I followed her upstairs. She turned and smiled, her eyes crinkling. "There is someone very special coming to Vesuvia. On the day of the Masquerade!" she explained. I furrowed my eyebrows. Masquerade? My Aunt unlocked the ward on the door that lead me to my new home. She shut the door behind me and continued, "And another- I guess you could say, important person, will be hosting the Masquerade." 

"But, Auntie, what's-"

"Ah-ah! You'll have to see for yourself, darling," she winked with a Cheshire cat grin. 

Chapter Text

Asra walked away calmly but briskly. She almost saw through it, he thought to himself. Asra hurried into the busy crowd of people that had just arrived at Vesuvia. He noticed how happy they all looked to be here. Some looked to be tourists, and others looked to be returning. Another particular thing he noticed sent an instant pang to his heart: most seemed to have family with them. His brow furrowed and his mouth twitched downward in dejection. 

But, she didn’t have anyone. 

The girl he talked to before seemed different in the crowd. The first thing she did was go to the beach to look at the sun setting while everyone was busy going to wherever they needed to go. She appeared to only have one suitcase, which looked battered and old. Her clothes were no different. Her hair was frizzy and a mess from the sea breeze. Asra wondered if she was also an orphan, which is why he confronted her in the first place. 

As soon as he said something, he could feel the inordinate power that was thrumming through her heart. And her eyes seemed to have the same effect as well. It was overwhelming and quite shocking to Asra. 

Another magician, huh. His expression changed when he thought of her. He smiled to himself while walking down the docks. He looked around, making sure no one was around to witness him magicking away his glamour spell. He jumped off the damp wood docks onto the sand below. There, his friend was. Muriel.

They met when a group of kids told Muriel to get Asra to join their "gang." Of course it didn't work out like that, and they slowly became friends. 

“Hey, Muriel,” he greeted, with a little bit of pep in his voice, but Muriel thought nothing of it. 

“Where were you?” he asked. 

“I was looking for a spot to set up my fortune stand. But I think we should look a little bit more into the city. It seems to be where all the tourists are headed,” Asra explained, as he walked towards his entrance to his nook underneath the docks. It wasn’t a usual cave, it was made with magic. Colors surrounded Asra instantly but then shifted to shadows behind him as he entered his dwelling. Muriel trailed behind him, clutching his black cloak like normal. 

His magical nook was spacious but cozy at the same time. His blankets and pillows were from his previous residence. His residence that he was kicked from. 

“I met a girl today actually,” Asra said, “she knew magic. I could feel it.” 

Muriel sat on the ground adjusting his cloak around him, letting Asra speak. 

“I think she could’ve seen through my glamour if I hadn’t walked away.”

His big friend didn’t say anything, but made the look . The look he usually gave Asra when he was worried about him. Asra sighed and smiled, “Muriel, she didn’t see me! And if she did, who would she tell? She looked like she was alone. Just like us.”

There was a pause for a moment in the nook, until Muriel finally parted his lips and spoke, “I just don’t think you should trust people so easily. Or assume that someone is like us, when they probably aren’t.”

“Who said I trusted her?” Asra asked. Muriel just shifted uncomfortably where he sat. Asra heaved another sigh and sat down in front of his friend. “I’m sorry,” he said looking down into his lap, his brows furrowed. 

They stayed like that for a while, in silence. “So… are you ready for the Masquerade?” Muriel asked. He felt pressured to say something because his white-haired friend not saying anything seemed to make him uneasy. Asra’s lips slowly curled upwards, and then he laughed. It was music to his cloaked friend’s ears. “Like you care about the Masquerade!” Asra chuckled. Muriel cracked a small smile in return.


That night, Muriel and Asra set off to go looking for a spot for his fortune stand. Asra mentioned that they should look somewhere where the streets have people, but not enough that he could get caught from vendors he had previously stolen from. 

As they walked underneath the glowing moon, Asra's eyes landed on a peculiar shop sign. It didn't have any letters on it, but it had a picture of a mortar and pestle and snake swirled around it. It instantaneously brought him back to his parent's familiars. Asra always wanted to have a snake familiar, just like his parents. 

"What about there, Muriel?" he pointed. 

Muriel glanced to where he was looking at, but immediately shook his head. "You can't set up a stand right in front of someone else's shop," Muriel voiced. 

But Asra remained still and peered at the shop with curiosity. Hmmm... 

"Anyway, it's getting late. We should go find some dinner," Muriel said, as his eyes shifted from Asra to the shop. Asra slowly nodded his head and finally turned and started walking through the bustling crowds again. 

In front of the shop, no... But what about behind it?

Chapter Text

Asra spent most of the next day finding driftwood on the shore or finding boxes and crates that weren’t being used on the side of the street. After that, he continued finding other materials for his fortune stand. The day of the Masquerade was approaching and he had no time to waste. As he ran down the street with a bucket and wood panels, he smiled to himself. He wondered if his parents would be proud of him for making something that could support him and his friend Muriel. 

He reached the shop that had caught his eye the night before. He slipped behind the building and noticed that it had a back door as well. He looked at the state it was in: dusty, crusting dirt was on the edges of the frame, the paint was flaking off the wood, and there was even a massive whole in the screening. The steps were also preoccupied with dead plants and pots that looked like they weren’t touched in years. He assumed that no one used the back door. Perfect.


Finally, the day I was waiting for had come. “The Masquerade !” Auntie exclaimed while rushing around the shop. She was preparing the shop for the abundance of tourists that would arrive. She seemed to be very ecstatic about it being my first Masquerade. “Darling, I need you to go to the tailors and pick up our outfits for tonight. Here is some money to give to the man, and also a little extra for you,” she explained, handing the money over to me. 

“What do you mean for me?” I asked, confused. She only smiled and went back to work. I lived with my Aunt for only two days, but I already found her to be very mysterious. Sometimes, she wouldn’t answer my questions. And if I kept asking her, she simply said, “Child, you’ll know when you know.” So, I gave up on asking her questions. 

At that time, I did find her to be peculiar. My family dies in a whole other country, and she calls me up right after the fact? I thought to myself. But, I was grateful nonetheless. 

I slipped on my shoes and headed out the front door. Auntie had shown me where the tailors were before. On the night that I arrived she asked, “Oh dear . Is that your whole wardrobe?” Enough was said. 

I skipped my way to the tailors but as soon as I was about to open the door, I felt eyes on me . They felt familiar . I looked all around me, poking my magic out to see if I could feel anything else. Nothing. Strange… 

I walked in and traded my money for the outfits. I was about to leave but then, “Ah! Wait, you have more,” the man said. I noticed that the rest of my wardrobe was laying on the counter. She had them altered. They looked brand new. They used to have patches in them and holes, but they were replaced with beautiful embroidery or stitchings. I sniffed them. They even smell good. The tailor looked at me with furrowed brows and confusion on his face. “I’m sorry,” I uttered and quickly took everything in my arms and left. I heard him saying something like, “ It’s okay…! ” but it trailed off as I walked back home. 

I pocketed the extra money that my Aunt gave to me. I’ll use that for another day.


Asra stood behind his makeshift stand watching the partygoers go by. He felt a little overwhelmed with how many people there were. But, that wasn’t stopping him from continuing his business.

He wore the best clothes he had and even cleaned up around his stand, which included helping the plants on the doorstep flourish again. He made a sign with the best handwriting he could muster. He had a jar at his feet, hidden from anyone who liked to pinch some money. 

Asra wanted to do more than just fortunes, but Muriel did warn him once when they first met that he shouldn’t do magic around just anyone. For whatever reason, that seemed to stick.

“Hello there!” 

A lady was standing in front of Asra, grinning from ear to ear. He was startled at first. Although, he couldn’t sense any magic coming from her. Maybe that’s why I didn’t sense her. “I would like my fortune told, please,” she said, dropping five coins onto the table. “Y-yes, ma’am,” Asra stuttered. She came out of nowhere. 

She looked to be in her twenties, young enough that she had no wrinkles. Her clothes were dull with toned-down colors. They were out of place compared to everyone else’s shiny and new get-ups. 

“What would you like to know about first?” Asra asked as he shuffled his parent’s tarot deck in his hands. 

“How about… my success?” she asked.

He nodded and placed the deck on the table. “Please, cut the deck into three stacks, and choose one of the stacks.”

She did so, smiling at Asra with amusement in her eyes. It wasn’t mocking in any way, but it was indeed strange . It felt like she knew something that Asra didn’t. And it wasn’t about her success.

Asra laid out the cards while he stole glances at the lady. “Please choose six cards.”

Finally, he laid the cards out for the second time and began. He tried to focus on what the cards were telling him and not on the woman’s beaming grin.

The first card he flipped was Death Upright. “Oh dear,” she said, her voice dropped a little with her smile. 

“Oh, don’t worry! Death could mean something positive. In this case, you shouldn’t fear change or transition,” he explained. She nodded. 

He continued with his readings. He found the lady to be kind and understanding. Most people would’ve left at the sight of the Death card.  

“... Lastly on how to gain success,” he flipped the last card, Justice Upright,  “you will have a decision to make, let Justice guide you, and you will find peace.” 

“Wow. You’re quite an amazing child,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye. 

“Thank you,” he uttered, blushing a little at the praise. “No. Thank you, ” she said, and she walked around the corner of the building, leaving Asra confused. 

He took the coins that were still on the table and dropped them into the jar at his feet. He smiled so wide his dimples were showing. I made money!

“E-excuse me?”

Asra immediately looked up, his smile faded, and his jaw fell open. It was the girl he saw on the beach that day. 

“You’re that old man,” she said. She said it more like it was an accusation. 

Asra didn’t even register what she said though. He was too in awe at the outfit she was wearing. She had a traditional dress on, but it also had some modern twists. The embroidery must’ve cost hundreds, he wondered. His eyes dipped to the jewelry she wore around her neck and fingers. Then his gaze went back up to her face. He squinted. Is she wearing makeup too…? 

He clearly couldn’t see the embarrassment on her face. “What are you looking at?” she asked, her voice rising a little. “I-is there something wrong with me?” 

Asra snapped out of whatever trance he was in and finally spoke. “No! No. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

There was a moment of silence between them, despite the street bustling with people. But, Asra started to snicker a bit. 

“What’s so funny?” she asked, furrowing her brows. 

“Someone is staring at you with a strange face and not responding at all, and you ask if there’s something wrong with you .” 

He continued to laugh with her confused face on full display. But, soon enough, she slowly started to laugh along with him. 

Make way! Make way!

The two children immediately stopped when they heard a loud voice shouting at everyone around them to make way. They looked to the street and saw a limousine slowly driving through the crowds. Meanwhile, others yelled to the car, “ Nadia! Nadia! Nadia! ” 

The crowd was growing at the name. Asra noticed that people were starting to push. The girl looked to Asra and roughly grabbed his hand. She seemed panicked. His eyes widened and he snatched up his jar and deck before she could whisk him away. She stepped over the plants as carefully as she could and unlocked the shop's back door with magic. Before he could even ask, she yanked him inside.



Chapter Text

“Whew,” I sighed in relief.

“Is this your shop?” the boy asked, his amethyst eyes exploring the backroom. 

“Well, it’s not my shop. It’s my Auntie’s shop,” I answered. He only nodded and continued to shift his eyes back and forth across the room. “Um, I’m sorry that I just dragged you in here. I don’t really like crowds.” 

“No, it’s fine. I have a friend like that, so I understand,” he said walking around the room with interest in his eyes. My Aunt’s inventory was mostly in the backroom. Inventory included all of the strange jars that were filled with potions that my Aunt brewed every Saturday. Also, crystals, enchanted charms, and ingredients that you couldn’t find anywhere else in Vesuvia. I wasn’t quite sure how she got her hands on them though. She was mysterious like that. 

“I never got your name,” I remarked as I watched him examine the shelves. 

He finally turned his head my way, his fluffy white hair brushing against his brow. I felt the urge to touch it. 

“My name is Asra. And you…?” 

Asra… What a beautiful name.

I told him mine and he grinned, showing his prominent dimples. He whispered my name, trying it out. “Hm. I like it,” he stated. 

I flushed a bright pink, and turned to walk out of the backroom. “Anyway, do you want to join us for dinner?” I quickly asked out of embarrassment. 

I moved the curtain out of the way for both of us, and he gasped. “Whoa!”

He immediately went rushing around the room of the shop. “You have so many magic-things!” he whispered in awe, looking through the glass counters at the shimmering enchanted jewelry. He then looked to the ceiling, and his eyes widened at all of the hanging decorations and herbs. 

I watched on with a warm growing feeling of butterflies in the pit of my stomach as he explored the entire room. Magic-things… 

The shop door opened and I expected another customer, but it was my Aunt. But, she had a glamour spell on her. She looked like a younger version of herself except she was missing her beautifully colored clothes, which were replaced with a duller style. 

“Auntie! Why do you have a glamour spell on you…?” 

Asra shifted his attention from the bookshelves to my Aunt. Then they both stood there and surveyed each other. 

My Aunt had a beaming smile on her face as she rid herself of the spell. What is it with people here and glamour spells? 

I stood there in growing confusion, as I watched the two just stare, my eyes going back and forth. 

“Are you friends with my niece?” Auntie asked, finally breaking eye contact to set her bag on the counter. 

“Um, we just met, Auntie,” I answered. 

“Doesn’t matter, child! I can already feel that you will be great friends.” 

I glanced back to Asra, searching for anything in his expression that might indicate whether or not he would like to be friends with me. He did smile at me.


Things moved quickly from that encounter. “Do you attend school?” Auntie asked. Asra looked up from the food I was serving him to her and shook his head. “No, ma’am.”

“Oh, dear.” And that’s when I knew my Auntie would make sure that Asra went to school, even though Asra didn’t know that yet. Although, I was just as surprised as my Aunt. How come he doesn’t attend? 

“Do you have any other friends?” she asked. I sat down at the table furrowing my eyebrows. Why is she asking so many questions? I wondered.

I didn’t mind, I was just curious as to what she was planning. And it didn’t bother me to learn more about Asra at all. 

“Yes, just one. His name is Muriel.”

“Does he attend school?”

Asra again, shook his head. 

“Ooh, dear. ” 

“Um, am I allowed to eat?” he asked, gaping at the warm meal in front of him. 

“Of course, child! Eat!” 

I swore that I had never seen anyone eat so fast in my life. But it did remind me of myself. I remembered only eating like that back where I came from. When I had no home or family. My heart started to ache. 

He finished his bowl, making sure that he got every last drop of the curry. “Thank you so much,” he said, holding his hands together and bowing his head a little. I immediately grabbed his bowl and asked with a warm smile, “Would you like seconds?” And of course, he agreed.


We all stood in front of the elementary school with our papers in our hands, intimidated by the towering building full of children. I took both Muriel's and Asra’s papers and read them to see if they were in the same class as me. “It looks like neither of you will be in the same class as me,” I said, dejected.

Asra must’ve noticed how depressed I sounded and looked, because all he did next was take their papers from my hands and smiled. “That’s okay. Cause you said that we have recess, right?” 

“I guess so. But-” before I could even finish my sentence, the school bell rang. 

“We have to go,” Muriel said, even though he didn’t look thrilled to go in at all. 

“Okay…” I nervously said. I started to walk away, but stopped after only a few steps. I whipped around and hugged them both. Muriel immediately tensed up and Asra just stood there in shock. “First day, we can do it!” I shouted, letting them go and running toward my classroom.


We did meet each other that day at recess. But, things changed after we all got used to school. 

Muriel seemed to just want to hang around Asra when he didn’t have all of his friends around him. And yes, Asra had a lot of friends. I was genuinely happy for him. Happy that he could go to school with his hermit friend. I was happy that they both always had a place to stay, whether it be with me and my Aunt, or off on their own. 

Even though I was happy for both of them, I found that we never really gravitated towards each other after about a month of school. I wasn’t bothered at all, but I did want to be friends with them both at first. Sometimes they stopped by the shop and said hi, or even asked me if I wanted to go play with them. But, that only seemed to happen maybe once or twice every other month. Although, we did make sure to hang out with each other every Masquerade.

I didn’t know why, but that was the way the cookie crumbled. I wasn’t hurt at all, and I wasn’t disappointed. I thought that was normal in everyone’s life. You just make friends, and sometimes they don’t stick. Yes. I wasn't bothered at all. 

Middle school came around and it was still the same, and instead of playing outside, it slowly shifted to playing inside with videogames. I still talked to them from time to time. But, I slowly sort of stopped for some reason.


I was laying in bed, completely burrito-wrapped in blankets. I just didn’t feel like doing anything that day. And of course , my Aunt came upstairs to let me know Asra was here. 

“Auntie, I don’t feel so good today. Can you please tell him thank you for coming anyway?” She furrowed her brows in concern but nodded anyway. I thought for a moment, thinking of the last time I saw either Asra and Muriel. It's been a while...  

Shortly after, I hear another set of footsteps coming up the stairs. The bedroom door opened and I didn’t even bother to turn to see who it was. I could feel who it was. It was Asra. 

“Hey. Are you okay?” he asked gently.

I rolled my eyes at the fact that my Aunt completely ignored what I said and probably told Asra that I wasn’t feeling well and that he should head up and see me. 

“Yeah, I’m fine Asra, I just-” I stuttered a bit, “I just don’t feel like doing anything today.” 

I didn’t know why I was starting to get irritated. I didn’t want to get mad at Asra, because he was just checking on me and I knew that. But I couldn’t help the vex in my tone. 

“Well, maybe you should get some sun,” he said as he walked over to the closed curtains. The curtains that I wanted to stay closed. 

I sighed in annoyance as the sunlight poured through the room. I exasperatedly twisted out of my perfectly warm blanket-burrito, about to stand and just ask Asra to leave. But, as soon as the chilly air from the air conditioning hit me, I felt like something was wrong. I felt wet. 

I looked down and gasped in horror. There was blood all over my pants! 

Asra turned back around in response, but his eyes instantly went to the blood that was bleeding through my pants. He also gasped but then quickly ran over to me. “W-what happened?!” 

“I-I don’t know, Asra. Please, get Auntie!” 

Tears started to form in my eyes, threatening to spill over. Asra set off and out of the room and went downstairs. It wasn’t even ten seconds until Auntie arrived. She took one look and sighed in relief. That’s when my tears went. “What’s happening Auntie?” I uttered through sniffles. 

She looked grim, but said, “It’s your period, child.” 

“W-what?” I asked. Asra looked even more confused than I was. 

“They call it menstruation, or a period. It only occurs with women. It usually occurs once every month. It’s when you discharge blood and lining of the uterus. It’s completely normal for your age,” she explains. 

That was the most forward answer I’ve ever gotten from her. 

“Oh…” 

“Come on, let’s get you cleaned up. And Asra, thank you for coming to tell me.” 

“N-no problem. She’ll be okay right?” he asked worriedly, looking at me and then back to my Aunt. 

“Yes, dear,” my Aunt answered while smiling at him. 

“Um, thank you, Asra. I’m sorry you had to see-” I gestured to the mess, “ this .” I had a look of pure shame on my face.

“Don’t be sorry. Or embarrassed. Auntie said it’s completely normal,” he replied, smiling at me encouragingly. A small grin tugged at my lips.


We continued to know each other but not talk as much. I noticed that Asra would be there only when I needed him to, which wasn’t so often. 

High school finally came around and before we knew it, graduation was steadily approaching in our final year of school.

It was the first day of our senior year, and I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait for that day that I would graduate, because I planned to continue to learn just purely magic afterward. Trying to keep up with regular studies and magical studies was always cumbersome. 

I walked out the front door and felt eyes on me immediately. It wasn’t Asra or Muriel, because they would just be out front and in the open. Those eyes felt like the same pair that watched me while I was at the tailors way back then. I locked and warded the door behind me as usual, but cautiously looked around at the same time. 

I did the same thing as before: I poked my magic around to see if it could find any other presence near me. Again, nothing. 

I was anxious the whole walk to school, and even a little frustrated. Because I could feel a familiar gaze on me, but at the same time, my senses were just urging me to be cautious. Who are you…?! I kept furiously shifting my gaze anywhere I could. 

I moved a little quicker, up to a light jog. But then I felt arms around me, and I was whisked away from the sunny street to a dark alleyway. A hand came up to cover my mouth from screaming. I kicked and thrashed as much as I could. I bit their hand and whirled around to face them. Then I threw a hard right fist straight to their cheek, knocking them to the ground. 

When I looked back up, there was a whole group of teenagers. They looked to be my age, but I didn’t recognize any of them. Except one . The one that was on the ground.

“Cessair?!” I gasped. 

“You were always, always, a fighter,” the boy named Cessair spoke, slowly standing back up.

“What do you want ?” I asked, aggravated that he even touched me like that. But I was unsettled at the fact that he was the one watching me.

“It’s been so long. I just wanted to say hi, ” he said with a disturbing tone to his voice. He smirked while his buddies snickered behind him. 

I had never seen any of them at school. They must’ve been orphaned too. I knew Cessair was once.

Cessair was one of my closest friends I had back where I came from. He was kind and sweet to everyone around him. Until the war came and took his family and most of his friends. I was the only one that stood by him at that time, because I went through the same thing. But, I had no idea he was here in Vesuvia. The last time I had seen him was when he had a new family. 

What happened…? 

Before I had anything to say I felt a towering figure behind me. It felt like only one person I knew: Muriel.

Cessair and his gang glanced up with wide eyes, like they were deer caught in the middle of the road. Like deer that looked as if they were gonna get run over. 

Cessair gave me one last look before running the opposite direction with his ‘ friends .’ 

I turned around and beamed up at Muriel. He was a tall kid when I met him, but he was a skyscraper when he was a senior. Most people didn’t think that he was a student- they thought he was a whole adult. He also gained lots of muscle. You could just tell

“Thank you, Muriel.” 

He was still looking, more like glaring, towards where they all ran. 

“No problem,” he mumbled. 

We both stepped out of the alleyway, and were finally greeted again with sunshine. But before I could even continue on the journey to school, a wave of energy washed over me. Asra… 

I could sense how worried he felt. And it was just written all over his face while he bolted towards us. 

He reached us and before I could say I was fine, he bombarded us with questions. “Are you okay? Muriel, are you okay? Who were they? Did you fight? Are you h-” 

“Asra, she’s fine. And I’m fine. We’re both fine,” Muriel grumbled. 

It was unsettling to me when Asra’s usually calm composure breaks. 

He heaved a relieved sigh at Muriel’s words. 

“Great. I was waiting for you at school, but I felt what you were feeling. You felt panicked,” he explained. 

I nodded and smiled. I explained further on what had happened on our way to school, because I knew that would help Asra to calm down. At least that’s what I thought I knew. 

“Wait- wait. What does he want with you anyway?” Asra asked, his usual light and airy tone turning dark. He had a look of pure disdain on his face. I could feel him getting heated. Which again, wasn’t normal for Asra. I was starting to get worried. 

Once we reached school grounds Muriel said, “I’ll go to class.” He noticed the change in Asra, but also signaling me to help him calm down. Why won't he come with us...? 

I grabbed Asra’s hand and walked towards a willow tree in the schoolyard, making sure that no one could see or hear us. “Asra, what’s wrong with you today? I’m sorry if I freaked you out-” 

“No, it’s not your fault,” he assured. “It could never be your fault.” 

I frowned in confusion. He sighed again. 

“I…” he began, trying to get his words out. 

“You know how we don’t talk so much? Unless it’s urgent, or when I come to see you?” he asked. 

I nodded, and waited for him to continue. 

“Did that ever bother you?” 

I was wondering how that had anything to do with the events that morning. But, I answered his question anyway. 

“No. It didn’t,” I said.

He narrowed his eyes at me. I knew that look. He didn’t believe me. 

“I wasn’t bothered at all,” I repeated. 

“I still don’t believe you.”

“Ugh. I wasn’t!” 

“Mhm. Sure.” 

Asra.

“It’s okay, you don’t want to tell me.”

He was driving me mad at that point. But this made me think back on those days where I saw him and he saw me, but neither of us ever spoke. It made me think about how disappointed I was. It made me wonder sometimes if he ever really wanted to be my friend or if he was just teasing me. If he ever wanted to be something more…  

Fine. I was a little bothered by it. But, I was happy anyway. Because I knew that you would always come back. I knew you would visit, I wasn’t sure when, but you would always visit. And- and …” 

He waited for me to continue with a knowing smirk on his face. 

“And I knew that you would be there for me, whenever I needed you…” I started to mumble near the end, my cheeks warm and flushed with embarrassment. 

There was a moment of silence between us, which only fueled the butterflies in the pit of my stomach. The butterflies that I always felt when being with Asra. Whenever he talked to me, whenever he said my name, teased me, laughed freely, or even looked at me, I felt like I was floating. And I always wondered if he ever knew that. If he ever really cared.

And all of a sudden, everything was out. Tears were running down my cheeks as I realized that he broke through the wall that hid my feelings. “Dammit,” I muttered, wiping my tears with my sleeve, frowning. 

He chuckled and wrapped his arms around me. “It’s not funny!” I said.

“I also wondered if you wanted to be something more,” he whispered. 

He continued, “I would get close to you, so, so close. But then I would go away. Because I didn’t see the point if you never felt the same. I would find my way back to you though, naturally. But, I didn’t know you felt anything towards me until now. Until I finally broke those magical walls you put up.”

I sniffed and said, “Mm. Whatever.”

When I returned his embrace, I noticed how Asra changed as well. He felt like he had toned muscles, but not as thick as Muriel’s. He was a little bit leaner. He was taller of course. He once told me he was proud that he was at an average height for his age. 

Even though some parts of him changed, I noticed the things that stayed the same the most. I inhaled his scent, trying to calm my emotions. He smelled like the sun, his favorite tea, and sage. Weird how we know each other well... I thought. His beautiful golden skin was so smooth to the touch. His hair remained fluffy with curls as white as snow with a few silver strands. I still had the urge to touch it. 

“Um…” I started, “can I please touch your hair?” I asked, muffled by his clothes and embrace. 

He chuckled again and this time I could feel the vibrations against his chest. It made me smile a bit. Music to my ears… 

“Yes.”

I step back and gently run my hands through his hair. He breathily sighed and closed his eyes, seeming to enjoy my touch. It was indeed as soft as it looked. 

My hand came back down to rest on his cheek. My face felt like it was on fire because he was returning my gaze. His eyes were still such a gorgeous amethyst with little specks of lavender. He was beautiful. 

His hands moved up my waist as he nuzzled into my hand. He whispered my name and I could feel his adoration behind it, which lit a fire within me I didn’t know I had. My heart had felt like it was gonna burst. He began to lean in, his arms tightening only a bit to pull me closer. Our eyes closed, naturally deciding it would be less awkward.

At first, his lips brushed against mine so softly, but then they finally crashed. At first, I didn’t know what to do with my lips, but he slowly guided mine to move. And then it happened so smoothly and tenderly. How does he make it feel good?

I let out what sounded like a moan, which made me pull away. I gasped for breath. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, my self-conscience getting the best of me. He only smiled at me with a half-lidded gaze, hitching my breath. “What’re you sorry for?”

I ignored his question and asked, “Aren’t first kisses supposed to be weird and awkward?” I leaned my forehead against his shoulder so I could hide my face. 

“You’re saying that wasn’t awkward?”

Yes .”

“Hm.”

“It felt… right. I don’t know!” 

“Ah, see? This is the awkward part.” 

We both laughed and hugged each other tighter. I didn’t care where we were, or who saw anymore. I didn’t even care about class or when it started. I was happy, right in his arms.

Chapter Text

Asra .”

Said person had my hand in his firm, yet warm grip. My cheeks were tinted pink as he pulled me along. We’re going right back where we came from! 

He seemed to be in a hurry. “I know you don’t want to miss the first day. But we’re already late, and do you know anyone that will truly miss us?” 

“Muriel will!” 

Asra chuckled at that. “I think he’ll enjoy a day alone,” he expressed. 

We stopped in front of my Aunt’s shop. “Will your Aunt be home today? I know you said something about her being on a trip.” 

I shook my head, squinting my eyes at him. “What’re you planning ?” I asked with suspicion.

He only smirked and nudged me to open the door. I frowned, but did it anyway. “You know, we might miss a lot of good information at-” 

I was cut off by Asra’s hand turning my head to look at him, and his lips crashing against mine. He shut the door behind us and I could feel him trying to push me against the counter. I was completely taken aback, unable to think.

My back made gentle contact with the counter while Asra’s hands held me by my waist, close to him. When we eventually parted, I gasped, filling my lungs with air again. My heart was beating so incredibly fast. “Asra,” I breathed. He instantly said, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it.”

I paused and thought for a moment. “What are we, Asra?” 

He looked into my eyes, furrowing his brow in confusion. 

“I mean, are we together? Or…” I trailed off, not even wanting to say the rest. Especially not to Asra. But, I continued, “O-or are we just, you know… hooking up?” 

There was a long pause and the whole time I was wondering what was going through his head. I couldn’t read the expression on his face or his emotions anymore. Everything stopped. Say something, please… 

“You think that all I want… is the physical part ?” he asked, leaning back from me and gesturing between us. I could hear the hurt in his voice. I instantaneously felt a stabbing feeling in my chest and a growing pit in my stomach. 

“N-no! I just…” I could barely finish my sentence, pure regret creating a lump in my throat. Tears began pricking at my eyes. “I-I know you’re not that kind of person. It’s just, all the people that we go to school with… They always break up after what seems like only two days. Over something stupid. But afterward, all they do is brag about the sex. Like it was nothing more than that.” 

I honestly thought he was going to just leave. And I thought that I would deserve it. But instead, he cupped my face in his hands, ever so gently, and leaned his forehead against mine, his fluffy hair brushing against my eyes. “Did that happen to you?” he asked, barely above a whisper. 

“No. I never wanted it to happen. I never liked anyone other than you…”

“We’re not like them, and you know that. I could never do that to you. And I don’t think you could ever do that to me either.”

“What happens if we fight over something stupid too?”

He smiled, “We already do that anyway. And look, we’re still together.”

“What happens if… if you don’t like me anymore? Or what happens if I don’t like you anymore? What if we don’t even stay friends afterward? What if-” 

He planted a soft kiss on my lips, cutting me off completely. His thumbs gently wiped my tears away, as I looked into his eyes. “ We’ll be fine .”

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Hearing that from him calmed me down. It felt like I  got through another wall. My tears ceased as I leaned into him, breathing him in, deeply and slowly. “And to answer your question, we are together .”


After everything that happened that morning, we decided to just chill and watch some movies upstairs. I walked into the kitchen, perusing around while asking Asra, “What kind of snacks do you feel like?”

“Hmmm… How about I just cook some brunch?”

My cheeks reddened. Asra cooking a meal. It feels almost… domestic. 

“Um, okay… Do you need help?” 

He smirked at my embarrassment and I knew it. But I begrudgingly didn’t say anything, not wanting to make a fool of myself. 

He shook his head and said, “You can pick out a movie, and lay out some of my comfy clothes that I left here,” while washing his hands thoroughly. I nodded and strolled into the living area. After picking out a movie I made my way to the bedroom. Whenever Asra visited, he would make sure to leave some of his clothes in case he stayed the night. I picked out my off-white pajama shorts and a white, button-up, oversized shirt to wear. And for Asra, I picked out his cozy sweats and a soft purple t-shirt. 

I paused while changing. He won’t notice that I’m not wearing a bra, right…? It was really hard to care, especially after I had already taken it off. I shrugged, and went back downstairs with Asra’s clothes in hand. 

When I got downstairs, I noticed that he put both of our plates on the coffee table in the living room. But, the most adorable thing was that he used his favorite colorful ceramic animal plates. I remember when my Aunt first got those for him. He never has a meal without them… 

I smiled and hugged his clothes to my chest, lost to nostalgia. 

Asra came out of the kitchen and noticed me staring at the coffee table with a goofy smile on my face. Before he could tease me about it though, I shoved his clothes into his arms. “ Oh . You want me to change here ?” he asked, shooting me a seductive look. I blushed and was about to tell him off, but he was already stripping before me. “Asra!”

I whirled around, covering my eyes. I could feel how hot my face was. I heard him chuckling behind me along with clothes falling to the ground. 

After he was finished, he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me close. “Are you wearing my shirt?” he asked, his voice was toned down a bit, and his lips close to the shell of my ear. 

My hands left my eyes and I exclaimed, “This is your shirt?!” 

“Yeah, but I don’t mind. I think it looks good on you.”

But, this shirt was always my nightshirt… I could feel his lips pulling into a smile against my neck. His breath against it was sending a blush to my face and shivers down my spine. 

Let’s start the movie ,” I could hear the mischief in his voice. He knew what he was doing to me.


Why did I pick this? 

Of course, the movie I picked had a love scene in it, and of course I forgot about it. 

“Ahh… Oh, Ethan…!” 

My cheeks and ears were tinted a deep dark red. I tried to cover my face with my hand as best I could, just wanting to disappear. “ So …” Asra began, “ this is what you like to watch, huh?”

I grabbed the throw blanket that was on the couch and wrapped myself up the best way I knew how: into a burrito. Asra laughed in amusement, “You can't just phase into the couch with a blanket.”

“Watch me.”

I settled in and covered my head with pillows. I laid there in embarrassment, waiting for the scene to be over with but all I could hear were desperate pleas and moans. But then they stopped. “If it makes you feel uncomfortable, we can watch something else,” he offered. 

That’s when I peeked out of my throw blanket cocoon. “It… doesn’t make me uncomfortable. It makes me feel…” I shifted in the blankets nervously as I trailed off. Asra started to slowly crawl on top of me, making sure to give me every chance at pushing him off of me. He never wanted me to feel uncomfortable. 

“Feel what?” he asked, smirking with his beautiful lips on display. They made me want to kiss them, and maybe even bite them a bit. I finally mumbled, “ Horny .”

Before I could get his response, I pulled him down onto my lips. He moaned into my mouth a bit before his tongue slipped through my lips. I let his tongue glide across mine, and I wondered what else his tongue could do. When we pulled away for air, he gave me a questioning look. Permission… I eagerly nodded for him to continue.

He moved one of his hands down my torso, slowly. It reached my shorts and his fingers hooked underneath them and my panties. He looked to me for permission again, wanting to make sure. “ Yes… ” I whispered.

I lifted so that he could take them off. Despite me being so desperate, I abashedly closed my legs. His gorgeous amethyst eyes gazed into mine, pupils were already blown wide. He gently pushed my legs back open, wanting to see my sex. I grabbed his hands and moved them to my breasts, wanting his attention there first. Mostly so I could get adjusted to everything that was happening. 

He gently grabbed them and massaged them in his hands before he moved to unbutton my shirt. He took his time with each button, never rushing. 

He looked at me again: permission . It made me feel so cared for every time, no matter what level my patience was at. I nodded, letting his hands roam my breasts. His thumb gently rubbed across my sensitive nipple, hard from the sudden cold air. I couldn’t help but moan at the feeling. I had one hand gripping the blankets beneath me, and the other I was going to use to stifle my moans. When Asra’s eyes moved back up to my face he saw this. He grabbed my hand and put it to the side and whispered, “Let me hear what I’m doing to you.” 

I sighed in pleasure as he slowly bent down to kiss my right breast. He opened his mouth a little more, letting his tongue glide. I let out another moan as his tongue slid over and around my hard and reactive nipple. Making sure my other side wasn’t being neglected, his fingers gently pinched and played with my left. 

We both kept on for a while. Asra touched my chest with gentle fingers and kisses, and suckled with his tongue. “Asra, please…” I pleaded, getting more and more desperate for my sex to be touched as well. He stopped and shifted to my right side. He leaned down a bit, while slowly moving his right hand towards my dripping slit. He moaned at the fact that he did that to me. That he made me wet. His index finger completely missed my clit, which made me whimper. 

I grabbed his hand, wanting to show him how to make me feel good. I made him use his thumb to brush against my sensitive ball of nerves, while I slowly guided his middle finger inside me. I gasped and sighed his name with pure pleasure. I let go, letting him figure it out on his own. Which indeed he did. 

After a few minutes of me adjusting to his finger, he gently started to move. Asra looked to me, and it was a sight to see. His face was flushed and his half-lidded gaze kept shifting from my wet slick to my face. I looked down at his pants, and I moaned his name again. Just seeing his bulge sent a wave of pleasure through my system. I wanted it inside me.

He slipped in a second finger through my slit, only waiting a few seconds before gently moving them. I then felt his fingers curl just the slightest, causing me to whimper out loud. His thumb, covered in my wetness, easily rubbed and played at my clit, while his two fingers pumped in and out of me. It was all too much to handle. 

“A-Asra…! I think I’m gonna…” 

It only made him quicken his pace. The squelching noises had gotten louder, making me flush even harder. My breathing quickened and my sobs as well. I felt tears for the second time that day well up in my eyes. 

“I want to feel you come around my fingers, baby. Come for me.

My tears had finally overflowed, as I cried out his name in utter ecstasy. 

He pulled out his fingers, covered in my arousal. I watched, my eyes almost slipping closed, as he brought it up to his mouth to taste. He moaned and closed his eyes, licking his fingers. “You taste so good…” he whispered.

I pulled him back down to kiss him and taste for myself. 

After I confirmed, I glanced back down at his bulge again. “I… I wanna taste you ,” I said, voice heavy with lust. 

His eyes widened in surprise. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” he assured. But I shook my head, readjusting our positions. I got onto my knees while Asra sat up on the couch. I got in between his legs. “I want to make you feel good too…” I looked shyly up at him, then back down to his hard length that was begging to be freed. 

He nodded and lifted himself so I could pull both his underwear and pants down. His dick bobbed back against his stomach. Now it was my turn to have my jaw slacked in awe at his sex. 

I looked it up and down with hazy eyes and licked my lips, also eyeing his precum. I looked up at him, just like he did with me, silently asking for permission. He gulped and nodded quickly, his curly hair bouncing. He must’ve been holding it in that whole time… I thought, which only made me adore him even more. 

My fingers slid around his thick cock, gently pulling it towards my lips. I looked up at him while I kissed the tip. He whimpered in response, making me feel like I should continue pulling those from his pretty lips. 

My tongue licked around his tip before slowly taking him into my mouth. I deep-throated him as far as I could, pushing my gag reflex to the back of my mind. He moaned, and it sounded so beautiful and airy. I came back up and wetted his cock a bit more with my mouth. 

I continued to try my best sucking him off, and drawing out his moans from deep within. I felt like I was getting the hang of it. 

So, I didn’t stop. “Mmm… Ahh… I think I’m close now,” he whispered, then he moaned my name while he wrapped his hand around my hair. His hips began to thrust up into my throat. They were already erratic. His grip on my hair tightened. I wanted him to come so bad, I didn’t care if I was gagging or not. I let him take control, wanting, yearning for him to come as well. I began to moan at just the thought, which sent vibrations to his thrusting dick inside my throat. My hand went to fondle his balls as well.

It only pushed him further to the edge. He cried out my name at one last and final thrust. His warm seed rushing into my mouth and some down my throat. He let go of my hair, and I pulled off of him. I looked at him while he was high off of his orgasm. So ravishing… He looked back at me with the same hazy look in his eyes that I had. I swallowed the rest of his come while he watched, his eyes widening. 

“Mmmm… You taste good too, Asra.”

Chapter Text

Asra walked down the bustling hallways at school. He was looking for her. His heart.

The events from the other day kept replaying in his head. His face flushed, as he thought of what she did to him. How she made him feel. But, more importantly, how he made her feel. Her face was clear in his mind as he reimagined her, on the couch, with her wet heat clenching around his fingers, and her crying out his name. 

Dammit… 

Asra stopped walking, feeling his hardening member grow at just the thought of her. He tried to ignore it and find his way to her class before there was a noticeable bulge, but the images continued. Her looking up at him from the floor, and adoringly kissing the tip of his cock, then taking him into her mouth. The sounds that came from her sucking his cock were lewd and loud in his ears as he rushed through the classroom door. 

And there she was. 

She was sitting in the far corner of the room, staring out the window absentmindedly. Asra smiled and thought, Typical… Asra took a textbook from one of the shelves in the room and discreetly covered his lower half with it, just in case. Before he could make his way over to her though, everyone else’s eyes were on him.  “Asra!” a girl exclaimed. Her name was Emilia, but most people called her Emily. Asra waved to her only to quickly brush past her. He didn’t want to be rude, he just didn’t want to talk. Not to her at least.

“Ah, wait, Asra…!” Emily called, grasping his arm. He stopped in his tracks and narrowed his eyes toward Emily, and then to her grip on his arm. They didn’t know each other that well and they only talked once in astronomy club. It’s not that Asra didn’t like her, it was just a bad time for him. 

“I just wanted to ask you something,” Emily said, letting go of his arm reluctantly. 

Asra nodded for her to continue. 

“Um… Did you want to go to Masquerade with me this year?” 

So this is why everyone was staring… 

This caught the attention of his love. “I’m sorry, Emily, but I can’t. I’m already going with someone this year. I promised them,” Asra explained. 

“Oh. Is it with her ?” Emily gestured to the far corner of the room where his love sat. Her voice had sudden malice as soon as she said ‘her.’ Almost as if his childhood friend was a problem. 

Asra only smiled, but it was a cold smile. Asra answered, “Why yes , it is. And it always was with her, and always will be.” 

He turned away from Emily, his fake smile completely faded, and continued towards his love. He didn’t care about all of the stares he had gotten, he only cared about the girl in the far corner of the room. 

Asra finally sat down next to her and smiled. A real, genuine smile.

“Hey,” he said, taking her soft hand into both of his. And he loved the way she beamed at him. 

“Hi.”

Before he could say anything else, he was pulled into her warm embrace. “Asra. I’ve got to tell you something,” she whispered, so close to his ear. His heart was pounding and her touch sent shivers down his spine. “Yes, love?” 

Asra could feel her tense at the term of endearment. She pulled back and looked at him with an adorable expression. Her cheeks were a flattering red which he longed to peck with kisses. 

She leaned back in and whispered again into his ear,

“I love you.”

This only fanned the flames that were deep in the pit of his stomach. He practically purred her name in response, and he knew she could feel his yearning. “I love you too,” he said, a little breathlessly.


And that’s when Asra and his love left school for the second time that year, to go love each other. 

As they both walked in the direction of the shop, Asra explained that he was carrying the textbook with him to ‘cover-up.’ His love laughed until tears began to form in her eyes. He didn’t mind though. He’d do anything to keep that smile on her face. 

They rushed into the shop, and the first thing Asra did was throw the textbook to the floor, and then he wrapped his arms around her. Again, she laughed at his neediness. His lips practically smashed to hers, desperate for her. 

Not too long after he overwhelmed her with kisses, his lips kissed along her jawline and down her neck. She moaned his name softly, “Oh, Asra…” 

“Oh dear…!” 

The two teens, startled, swiveled their heads with lightning speed to see where the gasp of horror came from. Asra hastily took his hands off of his love when he saw her Aunt.

Chapter Text

“I’m sorry, Auntie…” said the teen magician. Asra’s heart wrenched at the sound of her voice. She sounded ashamed

“I’m not angry with either of you. I’m just disappointed. From the moment I met Asra I knew you’d both be together. But, my child, you two are too young! To be together like that!

“You knew we’d be together?” Asra asked, covering himself again with the textbook. 

“Yes, it was obvious! I didn’t even need the cards to tell me. But, Asra dear, you both need to wait until you’re married. It’s just too soon.”


“I didn’t know my Aunt was that traditional,” I said, drying my body off with a towel. 

He was on speakerphone when he replied, “Well, I understand her concerns I suppose.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think she cares because of, um… she doesn’t want little ones running around her shop again.”

I immediately had crimson tinting my cheeks and ears. “Well… we haven’t even done that , yet. We only sort of… touched each other,” I muttered the last part under my breath.

But I continued to explain, “A-and we’d use protection or something.”

Asra’s laugh filled my room, and he repeated my words jokingly, “Protection or something.”

“Well, yeah! Isn’t that what we should use? Like- like condoms… and…” I trailed off not wanting to dig myself a deeper hole of embarrassment. 

Before he could respond, my voice cracked out another subject, “Anyway, are you ready for the Masquerade?” 

I was expecting him to call me out on my change of subject, but he didn’t. Instead he said, “Of course. I plan on going into the mansion this year.”

“Auntie didn’t want to drive us. It’s always been so hard to get there. We were never able to go.”

“It is far. But, I finally have a spell we could use…” 

“Like what?”

“My mentor taught me a spell where all we need is some water. And the mansion has plenty of fountains,” he explained, with a mischievous lilt to his voice. 

“What about Muriel?” I asked, changing into my pajamas. 

Asra chuckled again and answered, “You know Muriel never wanted to go into the mansion. He barely even wanted to be in the streets with all the people. He also said he wasn’t going this year.” 

I frowned, a little saddened. It would still be fun if he came… 

“Don’t be depressed about it, love.” He apparently knew what my reaction was going to be to the news. 

“I know. It’s just that he always came with us, despite always wanting to avoid people…”

The rest of the night was spent with both of us talking. And there were times when we’d both just be quiet for a few moments, either thinking of what to say next, or just enjoying the others company. Even if it was only on the phone. 

I think we both wished that we could lay together, side by side, limbs intertwined with the sheets, and just chat about nothing in particular. I hoped that there would be a time when we could do that.


After a few months of school, the day of the Masquerade arrived. I told my Auntie that morning where Asra and I were going. “But, child, that’s so far. I’d be worried,” she said, clear concern in her voice. 

“But Asra said he has a spell for travel. A spell with water.”

My Aunt furrowed her eyebrows in contemplation, before her eyes widened in realization. “That is brilliant…” she mumbled. She looked at me again, except, this time she wore her gleaming smile. “Alright then. Now, go pick up our outfits for tonight, here is some money and a little bit extra for you!” She handed me the money and winked at me, then went downstairs to decorate some more for the tourists that’d be arriving. 

I yelled my thanks down the stairwell, and walked into my room. I grabbed all of the money that I’d saved from previous Masquerades. The money that my Aunt says is a little extra for me. I left the shop as usual, and rushed to the tailors. 

My Aunt wasn’t the only person that was decorating for the Masquerade. Neighbors and other shopkeepers were all outside, working together, and decorating the streets with beautiful banners, ribbons, and flowers like always. This made me feel even more excited. 

I opened the door to the tailors and greeted them like I did every other year. The man smiled and handed me the outfits. “Your Aunt asked for a special twist,” he said. I gave him a questioning look, yet I was still smiling. “She said that you’ll know when you know. And that it was a graduation present,” he further explained. 

I left, wondering what the ‘special twist’ was. I lifted my outfit in my arms to see what it could have been. I gasped when I got a closer look. It was different from all the other dresses I had before. The color was my favorite color in all sorts of different shades. The outfit wasn’t too heavy, but it was still flowy. It also looked to have many little gems embedded in such a beautiful way. They ran up the back of the dress and wrapped around toward the front. I wondered if they were actual diamonds. It didn’t look gaudy at all and didn’t show off too much skin. It looked to be just the right amount of modest yet stunning. After gawking at the dress for thirty minutes, I went to the nearest beauty store to get makeup for the new look with the extra money.

When I got home, I looked up tutorials on a soft yet glamorous makeup look.


Asra waited downstairs with his dates Aunt. “Thank you so much for my outfit,” he said, nervously. Asra was dressed in a contrasting outfit that went perfectly with his skin tone and hair. It was a flowy dress with dark purple colors, but it also had a bit of light purple accents. It had the same gems that were on his loves dress and was the same sort of style. He had a sash tied around his waist to close the top he wore. It showed a bit of his toned chest, just the right amount. 

He pushed his fluffy hair back, taming it only a little. He also had just a dash of highlighter on the high points of his face, giving his perfect skin more glow.

Auntie made sure to get him and his love separately to tailors. She wanted it to be a surprise for both of them. 

“No problem, child. I have a feeling that you’ll have a great time this year. But, promise me you won’t lose her in the crowds. And to watch her. I already told her to do the same with you.”

“Of course, ma’am.”

“Oh, stop calling me ma’am! You call me Auntie from now on.”

Asra grinned and nodded.

That’s when his love began to descend the stairs. He watched in awe, and she did the same to him. They both felt a familiar warmth flowing through them at that moment. She almost tripped and fell cause she was so enraptured with Asra. 

When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she grinned from ear-to-ear and took Asra into a loving embrace. “You look beautiful,” she whispered, kissing him on the cheek. 

“So do you,” he said, kissing her forehead. 

Her Aunt coughed and said, “Alright, alright. I have another gift for the both of you.”

She walked over to a drawer behind the counter and pulled out two masks. “When I heard that you were going to the mansion, I thought that you couldn’t possibly go without a mask,” she playfully smiled, walking back over and giving them both a mask that matched their outfits. “Now. Go have fun!”


Asra pulled me along through the rowdy, celebrating crowd. We both continued to walk until we reached a park. As soon as a fountain came into my vision, I felt Asra’s magic flowing all over my body. “To protect our outfits,” he said, jumping into the fountain. He smiled and held out his hand for me to follow. 

I shook my head in disbelief. “You’re unbelievable,” I whispered. 

“I know.”

I grabbed his hand and he helped me into the fountain. It was a strange sensation. I could feel the water at my feet, but I wasn’t wet at all. 

“Ready?” he asked. 

I nodded and I moved to hold his other hand. 

Light started to shine below us in the water. It slowly began to crawl up both of our bodies and cocoon us.


The water was indeed a strange sensation, but not as strange as the dizzying travel part of the spell.

Before I knew it, I was standing in a grand outdoor fountain, very much different than the parks. The teen magician stepped out of the fountain, leading me carefully out as well. 

“Are you okay?” he worriedly looked over my features. 

“I love you,” I replied. He laughed and kissed my cheek adoringly. 

I looked around us and noticed all of the perfectly trimmed bushes and trees. The grass was lush and very healthy. The fountain had a sculpture of a goat with its bottom half all tail. Fishtail. The water in the fountain had a romantic pink hue to it. 

“Wow…” I gawked at the beauty of it all. 

After a minute of us just staring at the mansion gardens Asra said, “Let’s go inside,” pulling me along. 

My jaw was slack at the huge building before us. It was practically a castle. Its architecture had all sorts of cultures mixed to make one beautiful palace. 

We finally made our way through the grand doors of the mansion, but were instantly hit with stares from everyone in the room. My heart started to beat faster, my anxiety starting to get to me. It didn’t look like the people were normal visitors for the Masquerade. They looked like people with money. People who were celebrities, or politicians. You could tell simply because of the way they carried themselves. The way they looked at us too. 

I tightened my grasp on Asra’s hand. 

He seemed to ignore everyone’s stares. He continued into the room, his composure completely the same. I could feel everyone’s harsh gazes: judging, questioning, and perhaps curious. We were so, so close to the next set of doors to the hallway, when someone stepped in front of us. 

“And who might you be?” 

The person who asked didn’t have a mask on like all the others. He carried a glass of wine in his right hand. His hair was in a loose braid, draped across the front of his shoulders. He had a look of- not disgust, but a look of vex. As if he knew we didn’t belong and it annoyed him. Although, I had a feeling that everyone in that room knew. 

“We were just leaving. We came through the wrong entrance,” Asra said, calmly. 

“You didn’t answer my question ,” he said, his brows furrowing deeper. 

“Well, now why should we tell you who we are? This is, after all, a masquerade. You’re supposed to leave it to your imagination,” Asra retorted, smirking. 

That’s when we both brushed past the man, leaving.


“Now that’s out of the way, we just have to find other rooms to try.”

I nodded and smiled at him. He handled that so smoothly… 

We explored almost every single enchanted room the mansion had to offer. Asra kept using magic to skip the lines, which I tried to tell him that we might get caught. But, we never did. Every room had its theme and its quirks. We both laughed so much that our cheeks were starting to hurt. I never imagined the mansion to be that fun. The last room we were headed was the ballroom. 

The ballroom was magnificently built with marble floors and columns that towered over me. The archways were decorated with expensive velvet ribbons. The ceiling was a divine dark purple, filled with lights that twinkle. It reminded me of the stars. The stairway was huge and opulent and was the focal point of the whole room. 

Asra mentioned that he was going to quickly use the restroom before we danced, leaving me. I stayed where I was, gaping at the masterpiece that was the ballroom until I noticed the music had stopped. Also, everyone’s stares were on a man with a golden arm and pretty much golden everything, walking straight towards me. Now what did I do…? 

He was very well dressed. Meaning, he dressed very expensively. He had no mask on, but that didn’t seem to matter. I felt like everyone would know who he was with a mask anyway. The man’s silver eyes were on me, looking me up and down like I was food. His hair was blonde and pushed back, showing his defined features. His makeup was also extravagant and fit his outfit perfectly. 

When he finally reached where I stood, I could smell his cologne. It was a little heavy, almost giving me a headache. “May I please have this dance?” he asked, holding out his hand. 

“I’m sorry. But I already have someone to dance with.”

That’s when I could hear everyone gossip and whisper around me. My heartbeat was steadily rising with each leer I had gotten. Did I say something…?

I could tell that this man was important in some way. But, I didn’t know who he was or what he did. And even if I did, I would’ve still probably said no.

His expression was laughable. He looked completely startled, as if he wasn’t expecting my words. 

“My dear, do you know who I am?” 

“I’m sorry, but no,” I answered, feeling my face flush at everyone’s judgmental faces. 

He looked completely baffled at my answer and said, “I am Lucio! I practically run this city. I am also the host of this Masquerade and all the ones before. I own this mansion,” he explained, even though it only sounded like he was bragging. 

I blinked at him, not knowing what to say. 

“So, I’ll ask you again. May I please have this dance?” 

“No. I’m waiting on someone else.”

“Is that so? Then where is this person?” He made a show of looking all around the room and then he continued, “I want to meet this person. This person who has you so bewitched.”

“Well, that would be me.

Asra walked through the crowd of people and appeared behind me, wrapping his arm around my waist. He looked Lucio in the eye with a scowl, clear as day, on his face. 

Lucio’s eyes widened at the two of us. “Fine then. Enjoy each other …” he muttered. He walked off, flourishing his cape dramatically. Who has a cape these days…? 

With a wave of his golden hand, the music began to start and everyone went back to their own business. 

Asra instantly grabbed my hand and went to the center of the ballroom.

“Come on. Let’s dance,” he said. He seemed a little heated, which made me worry if Lucio had gotten to him in some way. 

He stood with me in the center of the room, and took my waist in his left hand. His right hand grasped mine and we both began to sway. Asra whispered in my ear, a little calming spell. His magic washed over my senses, completely soothing my nerves. The music began to pick up and he led me so well. I was so focused on his extraordinary eyes, that I didn’t even notice our dresses beginning to light. 

Both of our flowy dresses were flourishing with specks of our favorite colors. Asra twirled me again, and my magic appeared with his. Light was floating all around us in sync with the music. Everyone else watched in awe of our light show. And when the song finally ended, there was surprisingly, a thundering applause.

Asra kissed me deeply and passionately, never breaking our embrace. It was one of the best Masquerades I’d ever had.


A figure on the stairway was watching the two teen’s act. He pouted at the fact that everyone’s attention wasn’t on him, but on the two magicians that were only dancing. 

He couldn’t deny the prominent white hair and amethyst eyes that the second magician had. They were just like Aisha’s. They did tell me about a son, but I never knew him… His gaze then fell onto the girl. He wondered what she looked like under that mask. He’d never admit it to anyone, but he did think she was breathtaking from the moment he saw her. He just wished she could've danced with him.

Chapter Text

Even though the Masquerade was one of the best nights I’d ever had, things slowly began to unravel into chaos. 

After the Masquerade, there was the first case of a new virus in Vesuvia. It hit the news quickly, and they talked and talked about how rapid the spread was, how politicians were reacting to it, what celebrities had possibly contracted it, and most importantly: how to contain it. The new virus was deadly. It killed in a matter of days. 

The virus did spread around the world, but every other country’s cases and deaths steadily died down after a while. Whatever this virus was, it was centered in Vesuvia. 

Schools were closed in all districts of Vesuvia. Little did I know that the day school closed, it would be last I would see my friends, except Asra and Muriel. My Aunt made them stay in self-isolation with us. She couldn’t bear the thought of either of them becoming a number on the death toll. She closed the shop as soon as the school closed.

We were forced to finish the year with virtual learning, not that anyone complained. We didn’t have a traditional graduation at the end of the year. It was, again, virtual. But my diploma didn’t matter to me as much as it once did. 

After six months, it didn't stop. The number of infected people was increasing and they were doomed to die. There was no cure still, despite several doctors always being on the ball, working day-in and day-out. Everyone on the news started to call it, the “Red Plague.”

When walking down the streets of Vesuvia, it was so different. The usually bustling and loud streets of Center City were empty and desolate. The vendors that were always shouting at locals and tourists trying to sell their wares were gone. The street lights grew dim and some even went out since no one had replaced them. The grocery stores were always a hassle, understandably so. We all had to remain at a certain distance from each other when buying our needs. And only our needs. Ships and planes stopped coming to Vesuvia, meaning, we would have to use our lands for food, water, and other necessities. Which we didn’t utilize quick enough. Everyone thought that this was the end of their days, and nothing would ever be the same.


“What?!”  

I stood there, completely frozen at Muriel’s words. 

“What do you mean you’re leaving? To go where? You’re not going into the city, right?” 

I bombarded my tall friend with questions, confused. Asra and Auntie stood stock still as well, not knowing what to say. “I’m not going into the city. I’m leaving for the countryside. I think it would be safer there,” he explained, keeping his strong composure. “You all should come with me.” His bags were already packed and ready. 

Most people left for the “countryside.” Meaning, they all went to places that weren’t as populated around Vesuvia. Like the Catclaw Desert, Bulan Mountains, Shining Steppe, and even more dangerous lands: the Scourgelands. 

It seemed great. It seemed so great. But, something was itching in the back of my mind about the rest of the people that were still in Vesuvia. Still struggling. Those families didn’t have enough to leave. They weren’t as fortunate.  

I looked to the newspaper that was on the dining room table, and tears began to prick at my eyes. 

 

Anyone for hire for help with the "Red Plague” !!!

Requesting for any healthy assistance available, from researchers to magicians. 

Please help Vesuvia through these dark times. 

If you are interested, please call 190-445-0234

 

After a few moments of silence, thinking, I finally spoke. 

“I… feel like I’ve been swindled.

I sniffled as tears began to slowly fall down my burning cheeks. 

Muriel stared for a minute before slowly starting to chuckle. “Swindled?” he asked between chuckles. Asra started to smile as well. 

I rushed over to Muriel and hugged him tightly, sniffling again. I could feel the vibrations of him laughing. It was deep and genuine. It’s so rare to see him smile sometimes… 

“Who uses that word?” 

“I do!” 

"It doesn't even make sense.”

I could smell the myrrh on him. Myrrh can range from a lot of different smells, but his smell was always warm and sweet. I reluctantly leaned back from him and wiped my tears. 

“I can’t go with you. Everyone else can, but I can’t .” 

That’s when the air went still and everyone’s smile dissipated. 

“My child, what do you mean? The city has gotten worse, we should’ve left months ago!” Auntie exclaimed. She sounded more stern than her usual softer voice. 

I stepped away from Muriel, with tears still cascading down my cheeks and further down my neck. 

“I-I just want to help them, Auntie. I can’t just leave without doing something .”

I felt Asra’s gaze. And I already knew exactly what his view was on this. 

“You couldn’t possibly help that much, you just graduated high school! You’re barely an adult!” Auntie said.

I felt something slowly starting to bubble in my chest. Something that was steadily rising. Frustration. 

I didn’t want to feel that way at all. Especially around the people that cared about me most. Probably the only people that would do anything for me at the drop of a hat. But, I made my decision, and I was sticking to it.  

“I hope I see you again, Muriel. You were one of the only people that I could trust. And I appreciate that…” I gave him one last hug and before he could say anything, I rushed upstairs to my room.


After a while of crying in my room, I heard the front door shut, and my bedroom door open. 

One door closes, another door opens… 

I was wrapped in my burrito-blanket, eyes closed, and burning from the constant tears. Asra gently called my name, walking over to my bed. 

After no reply, he simply sat down next to where my body was. He gently rubbed my shoulders with his warm hand. I sniffled and finally looked up at him. 

I knew I must’ve looked like an utter mess, but he didn’t say anything. I don’t think he saw that. He saw just me. Instead, he smiled. “Muriel said thank you too…” he whispered. 

That’s when I twisted out my blankets and held onto Asra, so, so tightly. “You’re shaking,” he said, clearly worried. 

I didn’t respond, again. I just wanted Asra. I just wanted to stay like that with him. “I… have someone I would like you to meet,” he said. 

I frowned in confusion, but he let go of me and walked over to the bathroom. He returned with a container with several holes poked at the top. He gently set it down on the blankets and opened the lid. I gasped a little when I saw an egg. It was partially dug into some damp dirt at the bottom of the container.

It certainly wasn’t a chicken egg. I looked to Asra and asked, “What’s inside?” 

“A snake. A baby snake.” 

“When did you…?”

“A magician was selling it. He seemed pretty persistent on me buying it. I didn’t mind though. I felt like… this egg was special in some way. He said that it was going to hatch sometime around this month. I’ve been trying my best to take care of it-”

Before he could finish, something caught his eye. “Oh my goodness…!” he gasped. 

I looked back into the container and noticed that there was a lavender-colored head sticking out, with red eyes staring at the both of us. I gasped for the second time, not knowing what to do. “That was so quick…! I thought snakes were slow coming out of their shells,” I said. 

The snake was indeed the most adorable thing I had ever seen. I grinned and looked back up to Asra, only to find that there were tears in his eyes. “She’s so awesome…” he mumbled with a smile on his face.

“I think… she’s your familiar, Asra.” 

He leaned over and kissed me while he cradled his container. “I love her. And I love you,” he said, wiping his tears away.

“What do you want to name her?”

“I haven’t thought of it yet. I want her to love her name, so I might wait a while,” he explained.

That night, Asra kept his container close. He warmed it a little with magic so that his new friend wouldn’t be too cold coming out of her shell. We both drifted off to sleep, content with what we witnessed that day.


I woke up the next day and looked to my right. Asra’s eyes were closed and his breaths were even and calm. I got out of bed, trying not to wake him. I glanced at the container, making sure the snake was okay. She was completely out of her shell, flicking her tongue out adorably. Such a beautiful snake… 

I walked into the kitchen and realized my Aunt wasn’t there. And that she wasn’t in the house either. But, there was a note. A dreaded note… 

 

Dear children,

You may have noticed that I am not in the kitchen cooking breakfast as usual. There was no food to cook anyway. But, no worries! I stocked the cabinets with enough food for two weeks for the both of you. Please, don’t argue about who gets what. 

You may have also noticed that all of my things are gone and that I have left you. I didn’t leave you because I didn’t love either of you anymore. I didn’t leave because you were getting to be too much. I didn’t leave for any reason that you might be thinking. 

I left because of my love. It may be a shock to you, but I have a wife. We were planning to divorce a long, long time ago, but it never happened. Instead, we wrote each other emails or texts every once in a while. We could never leave each other despite being so argumentative. 

I left to go see her because I was worried about her. I didn’t want to wait any longer for her reply since it had already been two weeks since I sent my last email. She usually replies faster. Much, much faster. 

Now, I did write the address down for the both of you in case you wanted to come, but I can’t be for certain that she hasn’t caught the plague. And if she has, then I will have gotten it as well. 

This might be very heartbreaking for you. But, she once was my very first love. And if she needs me, I cannot possibly ignore it. Just like my niece with the city that she loves most. And Asra with my niece. I knew you’d always be a bright, and brave magician. I taught you well. Asra as well. I remember both of you and Muriel always playing together every Masquerade! 

But, both of you must promise to each other, that you’ll never part from each other, no matter what. I’ve been down that road before, children. You both might only have each other during these times. 

I’m sorry that I didn’t wake either of you for my parting. But, looking at the both of you sleeping so peacefully, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Remember that I love you both. And of course Muriel as well! Please, take care. 

Auntie

 

By the time I was done reading the letter, part of it was drenched in tears. Something deep down told me that she wasn’t going to make it. I could feel her magic attached to the paper. I could feel her connection to it. And soon, it would break.

Chapter Text

“Are you the one that called for hire?”

The voice had a cold whisper to it, as if it didn't have emotion. From what I could tell, it almost sounded… malignant.  

“Yes.”

“You’ve been accepted. Please come to the hospital next week to get more details on what you’ll be doing to help.”

“Okay.” 

“You’re the only person that’s called. I must say that I’m surprised… You must be a very interesting subject.”

“I’m sorry?”

And then they hung up. I heaved a great sigh and flopped down onto my couch. Am I the only one…?

I glanced over to the refrigerator. There was a magnet that held the note that Auntie had left. Her connection was long broken, and my mourning had long gone as well. At least I thought it was. Asra stuck with me even though I know he wished he could leave. It hurt.  

I knew that he’d be safer away from Vesuvia. I even told him. But, Asra being stubborn as usual, refused to leave unless it was with me. We started to argue a lot and break apart after Auntie had died, despite her written promise that she asked us not to break. He always wanted me to just leave with him, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.


The sound of the glass shattering in the sink startled Asra from feeding his snake familiar. He looked over worriedly at his love in the kitchen. 

“Dammit…”

She sounded so frustrated. She didn’t sound like her usual self anymore. She was stressing over the will Auntie had left her and the courthouse. Asra didn’t think that she cared about the will. He didn’t think she cared about anything anymore. She stopped eating as much but she always said it was because she was trying to ration out the food more and save fewer trips to the grocery store. But Asra knew she was still mourning. He understood. Her Aunt was the only family she had left. 

He walked over to the sink to check and see if she was okay. She was picking up the glass that had fallen to the bottom of the sink, not seeming to even acknowledge the large cuts she was getting from it. Asra quickly grabbed some paper towels and grasped her hands. 

She breathed a sigh of annoyance and said, “Asra, it’s only some glass.”

“You need to be more careful.”

She ripped free from his hands, her brows furrowed. 

“I was careful!”

There was a long, long pause. Asra hated fighting. He hated arguing with the person he cared for the most. He knew that she hated it as well. But neither of them said it. These arguments would always progress and by the end, one of them would cry and sleep alone for the night. Almost every night. No. Just every night. 

She lifted her hands a little so that she could look at them. She looked so emotionless. As if she didn’t even feel the cuts or see the blood dripping onto the kitchen tiles. Asra figured that she didn’t have any more tears to cry after everything that had happened. He figured.

“Why are you still with me, Asra?”

“Because I love you.”

“You still love me after all of our arguments?”

“Yes.”

“You still love me whenever I push you away and scream at you to leave me alone?”

“... Yes.”

“You still love me when we both sleep separately and don’t talk to each other until something comes up? Like this?” She raised her hands a little higher, showing Asra her gashes. But he wasn’t looking. He didn’t want to look anymore. 

He didn’t want to answer either. 

“I can’t go with you, Asra. I’m sorry, but I can’t.” 

This hurt him. It hurt him more to see her hurting herself though. 

“Can’t you see that I only want you to live?” he asked, growing more and more fed up. 

“Well can’t you see that I’m only trying to help people here? People that we knew? I was so fortunate to come here, Asra! I came here when everyone was so happy and giving . And I don’t want to just take from them and leave with everyone suffering.”

“I want to leave with you!” Asra shouted.

She stood there, tears threatening to spill for the umpteenth time that month. He figured.

“Am I that selfish? Is it too much to ask for you to come with me?! Just this once?!”

She shook her head and finally the tears spilled. But she wasn’t the only one crying. 

“No… No it isn’t. But please, Asra… You have to-”

Asra wiped his eyes and stomped upstairs. He grabbed his backpack and started shoving all of his belongings into it. 

What am I doing…?

He threw his bag over his shoulder and went back downstairs. He walked back into the kitchen and grabbed the container containing his familiar. 

Why am I leaving her…? 

“Where are you going?”

Ignoring her question, he went downstairs to the shop, his jaw set tight. She followed, and he could hear her cries and pleas. 

It hurt… Seeing her stay and hurt herself… And for who…?

He wiped his eyes again with his sleeve. He started shoving on his shoes when she gripped his arm. “Asra, I’m sorry…”  

It was because of the arguments… It was because of everything… But not her… 

Asra shrugged her shoulder off and looked into her eyes. “I hope you’re happy here. Dead like the rest! ” He regretted it the moment it left his mouth.

Her teary eyes widened and she very reluctantly let go of him. And then she backed away and nodded slowly. “Fine. This is what I deserve anyway…” 

Before she could say that she loved him, he opened the door and slammed it behind him. And he never looked back.

Chapter Text

One door closes, another door opens… 

Which that door would be to my new boss’s office in the hospital that I was asked to go to. Red eyes peered curiously at me as I approached the chair opposite the desk. I sat down, not enjoying the stares. They were looking at me as if I was prey, but they were deciding how to pursue me first. 

They didn’t look normal. Their skin was a deathly pale green. And their sharpened teeth would show every time they’d give a disturbing smile. How did they get their job…? What they wore was the only thing that wasn’t too surprising. They wore a lab coat with gloves, every inch of sickly skin covered aside from their face. 

It was very hard not to judge considering the aura they gave off. I could only describe it as evil. 

After a few moments of pure, awkward silence, they spoke. It was the same malignant, and scarily calm voice that was on the phone, except even more unsettling. 

“Welcome to our facility. And thank you for deciding to help with the cure.” 

“Uh… No problem.”

Their eyes scanned what looked to be a document. Then their blood-red eyes widened, reading something that piqued their interest. 

“You’re a… magician? ” 

“Yes.”

“Hmmm…” 

I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, wanting this “little interview” to be over. I just wanted to forget everything and work for the cure. I didn’t care if I wasn’t directly going to help with it or not. As long as I could do something, I’d die happy. And I knew that my new superior saw right through me. I started to think about what they thought of me. Who could do something like this… ? 

At first, I wanted to help because of the people that I cared for in Vesuvia. I still did feel that way, but something changed. Something was missing. Asra.  

When he left I swore that I’d work as hard as possible, that I’d have nothing else to even care about except for the cure and the other sufferers in Vesuvia. Anything to just forget him for at least a while. 

I snapped out of my thoughts when I heard my boss get out of their chair. 

“Follow me,” they said, walking briskly through the door. 

I got up and did as I was told. 

We walked towards the elevator and I mentally sighed at the fact that it would be another quiet and uncomfortable experience with them. Before I could start to grimace, they said, “You can call me Valdemar from here on.”


We reached what I thought was the basement of the hospital. I could tell because my ears were adjusting to the pressure. And obviously, there were no windows. The only lights that were there were the annoying LED lights that flickered every so often. Some just didn’t work and weren’t seen as important. Nothing was more important than finding a vaccine of some sort. 

Valdemar walked quickly and surely, knowing exactly which ways to turn in the confusing hallways. They almost looked... excited. Eventually, we reached a door. I didn’t know what to expect when they opened the door, but I certainly wasn’t expecting a room with see-through glass that overviewed an operation. A woman laying on a table with several doctors surrounding her, poking and prodding at her insides. Thankfully she wasn’t alive. I was shocked and a little disgusted. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to see any of that since I was only a magician. If Valdemar said I could then… 

“You should get used to what we do here,” they stated, looking through the glass and down at the woman, blissfully. “We not only have labs that are working on a vaccine, but we also have subjects that submit themselves to clinical trials if they’re alive. And if they’ve died then they submit themselves- or their families, to dissection and testing for further research,” they explain, a happy lilt to their creepy voice. I didn’t see anywhere on the news or newspaper about that at all… Suspicion was growing along with my nausea. I swore I started to smell blood.

Valdemar glanced my way and said, “Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it in time. You really should.

Before I could question them on what they meant, they brushed past me and ushered me to follow them once again. We walked down the twisting hallways and finally reached another door. The sign read, “Janitors.” But when Valdemar opened the door, I was met with a tiny office that I expected to just be mops and brooms. The sight of auburn curls caught my attention. They belonged to a man with sharper features. His complexion was very pale and he had dark circles under his eyes, but he didn’t look bothered at all. As if he was used to it. 

His grey eyes shifted from Valdemar to me, and then back to Valdemar. “Doctor 069, I have an assistant for you.”


When they said that I was his “assistant,” I think they meant that he was just supposed to watch me so that I didn’t screw anything up for anyone. Which I did see myself doing, I suppose.

Valdemar left both of us in the tiny janitors closet. Or really, tiny makeshift office. 

The man blinked at me, as if he was surprised that I was even here. Not that I was signing up for the position, but for simply just being in his office. I don’t think he knew about me… 

I wanted to strike up some conversation, but I wasn’t sure what to call him. I awkwardly tried anyway. 

“Um… Hi. I didn’t know that I was going to be your assistant either.”

After a moment of awkward quietude, he coughed a clear fake cough to ease the tension. 

“Uh, yes. You indeed weren’t planned.”

… 

Wait. That sounded bad. What I- so what I meant was-”

Before he could finish his explanation I snorted and shook my head. 

“I know what you meant,” I assured him, finally smiling after what felt like weeks. 

“Oh, okay. Just so we’re clear,” he said, awkwardly trying to stand up from his desk in the small space he had. 

I didn’t realize how lanky he was. His long limbs stretched and I heard a few pops. I ignored them though, since I was involuntarily gaping at the muscles that he had underneath his white button-up shirt. I looked away before he could notice. Hopefully he didn’t notice. 

“Ah, anyway… I guess you’re my assistant now.”

“Yup.”

“Did they show you the operating room?”

“Yeah…”

He sighed and shook his head, his eyebrows furrowing a little. “No nausea? Headaches? Dizziness? Cause if so, you could, um…” he trailed off as he pointed to the corner of the room, showing a bed that couldn’t possibly hold all of his lankiness, and continued, “You could take a rest there if you’d like.” 

“No, it’s okay. I feel better now that they left.” 

He nodded and motioned for me to part a little, to let him through to the door. He attempted to leave but tripped over his chair while doing so, causing some of his pens and papers to fall off of his desk. I gasped and asked, “Are you okay?” 

“Ah, yes. Thank you, but no worries. I’m a doctor! ” he said, all of sudden confident, comically lifting his head to only reveal a bloody nose. “Your nose is bleeding!” I exclaimed, desperately looking around for something to stop the bleeding.

“Oh.” His hand brushed against his lower lip and he just looked at the blood.

 I grabbed a few tissues and shoved his head forward. He grunted and tried to ask what I was doing, but I clamped the tissues below his nose and said, “Pinch your nose.”

“Huh…?”

“Pinch your nose!” I was more insistent. 

He did as I asked and I let go of him when he took over all of the tissues. 

“Wow…” he said, voice a little nasally. 

I tilted my head in confusion and he chuckled. “That was the second time this month that that happened. And of course it happened with you here to witness it.”

I started to slowly laugh along with him. It feels so good to laugh…

"My name is Julian by the way," he said.

"Julian..." I repeated, trying it out. It could've just been the embarrassment from falling in front of me, but I swore I could his ears flush a bit. 

"Um, yes. That is my name." 

I nodded and smiled down at him, thinking that the job wasn't going to be too unbearable. 

Chapter Text

Julian was always kind and never wanted me to push myself too hard, despite him never sleeping when I asked him to. 

Speaking of asking questions, he would never get annoyed by how many questions I would ask him. I think it lightened up his mood a bit. 

“Well you should count the respiration rate when we check on patients because if it is increased then it shows signs of an illness, and it also is important to check if they have difficulty breathing beforehand because that’s a red flag…”

 And he could pretty much go on for hours. But I didn’t mind.

After he finished explaining I asked, “We do house calls?”

“Only for people who ‘claim they need them.’” He did finger gestures and all, rolling his eyes to boot.

“Like who?”

“Celebrities, politicians, CEO’s- people who have money. You have to pay to get house calls. They should just call them check-ups, because they usually just want to see if they have it or not, but I guess they don’t understand that if they had it they wouldn’t even be able to decipher between their paper money and their coins.”

“What are you two talking about?”

We both whipped around to see Valdemar standing stiller than a statue with they’re piercing eyes just staring at us. 

“N-nothing, Doctor. I was just informing my assistant on the check-ups that we do,” Julian replied, not looking Valdemar in the eyes. Big mistake when lying… 

It was obvious he lied, but they spoke nothing of it. 

“Doctor 069, speaking of check-ups, you have one scheduled today, don’t you? With the regular caller?” they asked, and I could tell they were smiling underneath their mask. 

Julian looked at me since I was in charge of handling that kind of business now that I was his assistant. I shrugged my shoulders and shook my head. “But I swore that no one had called in today,” I said. 

“Well… get on with it then… ” 

They finally walked away, leaving both of us in utter confusion.


“Great.”  

Julian didn’t look too thrilled to be standing at the gates of the mansion. 

We both wore the necessary garments for the trip: our usual lab coats with another protective coat on top, surgical hair cap, gloves, boots, and masks. Even goggles. 

“I hate coming out here like this,” he muttered, noticing the stares from the very few people that were out. 

Before he was about to go on another ramble, I grabbed his hand and looked him in the eye through the red-tint goggles. “Julian. I know we look like fools. But at least no one recognizes us. And at least we can put someone’s mind at ease.” 

He nervously looked at his gloved hand holding mine and back up to my eyes. I could feel some of his heat through the latex. His ears were painted a beautiful pink. “Uh, yeah. Yeah that’s nice. The way you put it is, ah… nice.”

I smiled and let go of him. “Let’s go in, shall we?”


"Now, listen. I know this guy from a while back. About two weeks ago was the last time I saw him. He calls all the time. Now, he might be a little… egocentric… So let me know if-"

“I knew him.”

“Wh-what…?”

“I met him at the last Masquerade. I don’t think he’ll recognize me though.”

Before he could utter out a response the grand mansion doors opened, only to reveal a person who looked to be a butler. “Would you both be the doctors?” 

Their pronunciation of the word “doctors” was so drawn out and sounded slightly snobbish. Doctoooors… 

Julian and I glanced at each other’s get-up and looked back at the butler. I asked, sarcastically, “I don’t know, who else would we be?”

They rolled their eyes and opened the doors further for us to come in. They led us to what looked to be just a sitting room on the second floor, and told us to wait for their “master.”

The first thing I did was walk towards the window. It showed a gorgeous view of the city. “Julian, I’ve never been on the second floor before. Look at the view!” 

“I’ve seen it too many times to count… But at least you’re making light of everything.”

The doors slammed open and none other than Lucio himself entered the room. “Jules!” he exclaimed as if he was an old friend. 

“Don’t call me that.”

Or not an old friend. 

“Come here, bring it in!” Lucio said, his arms wide open.

“No.” Julian retracted his lanky self, looking like a praying-mantis that was retreating.  

“Why not?”

The doctor clicked his tongue in annoyance and sighed for the hundredth time that day. 

Because of social distancing.

I know he only said that to get away from the man because he didn’t seem to mind us holding hands just a moment prior. 

Their banter continued while I observed. I looked at Lucio’s figure and noticed that he seemed quite healthy. I can see what Julian meant…  

Lucio was about to start hugging Julian again before his eyes caught me and did a double-take. “You brought a friend I see…” he looked none bothered whatsoever. He looked thrilled that I was there, laying his eyes on me, shifting them up and down my body, as if I was his favorite meal. 

“Lucio,” Julian sounded like he was scolding him.

Said man ignored him and ambled over towards me. “And who might you be?” 

I found it a bit strange how he could still hit on me with the kind of get-up I had on. It only showed that he didn’t care who anyone was.

I rolled my eyes and I knew he could see it despite the goggles. “You’re one of those aren’t you?”

His face twisted into a frown and something else was there as well. Confusion. I bet he didn’t understand why I wasn’t sugar-coating anything like everyone else around him usually did, except for Julian. And I could tell he wanted me to explain further on my point. “A playboy, right?”

Lucio’s nostrils flared and his face went red and his frown twisted even deeper. Before he could stomp any further and protest I said, “Social distancing.”

“So what? You came into my home anyway.”

“Yes. And on your orders. Trust me, we wouldn’t come here willingly unless it’d be for the Masquerade.”

He growled in response. Growled.  

The tension was getting thicker and thicker. Julian, worried for my safety, casually cleared his throat and said, “Let’s just get you checked out, alright Lucio?” 

Surprisingly, there was no response.

Instead, Lucio kept his silver eyes right on mine, as if we were standing off with one another. I wasn’t afraid in the slightest. I had nothing to be afraid of then. Not even death.


After Lucio’s check-up, which came out perfectly fine, he offered us some dinner before we left. I felt like he was planning something because of how polite he was to me. I wasn’t falling for any of it and neither was Julian. 

But before we could decline his offer, another figure entered the sitting room. And she was gorgeous.

She had perfect skin and makeup, and her outfit was on point. It was office wear, but ten times better than the usual wear. She had gold rings, bracelets, and necklaces that went excellently with her skin tone. It was all designed for her, but it wasn’t gaudy like Lucio’s luxury, name-brand clothing. It was original. I could tell that she was someone important, and my intuition pointed to a CEO. 

“Nadia,” Julian whispered, as if she was our savior. The woman named Nadia was indeed a hero. She had an air about her that was so confident and in control. 

“Julian,” she greeted, giving one of the most breathtaking smiles I’d ever seen. She looked at me and remembered to keep my jaw closed. She chuckled a bit and I flushed soft pink. Her smile completely disintegrated when she looked to Lucio. “Why did you keep them so late?” she asked, her brows furrowing in annoyance. 

“Why, for you , Noddy. I was waiting until you came home.”

She pursed her lips and rolled her eyes. “You didn’t even need to call them. You would know if you had it. And besides, you never go anywhere.”

“But you do, Noddy. I asked them to come just for you.” 

If her eyes could roll back even further than before, they would.

“I was just inviting them to eat with us tonight,” Lucio smiled like a wolf. 

She looked at her watch and asked, “Are you both hungry? I feel terrible that you came here to deal with him.

“Well, we were just going.”

“Oh, Julian. I know you’re just gonna show her the hospital food. And then you’re gonna work yourself until morning.”

“How did you know she was-”

“Because I just know, Julian.”

That's when Lucio's plan set forth. 

Chapter Text

Even though Lucio and Nadia were married, they weren’t the average married couple. I couldn’t feel any love or passion between them. It felt like they were only roommates. And it clearly showed when we all sat for dinner. Nadia sat on one far end of the dining table, while Lucio was on the other. Opposites… Julian was across from me. We both sat dead center because of distancing rules. But, although Nadia was an excellent host, I wondered all through dinner why we were still in the mansion. It would’ve been safer if we just left. I couldn't complain though. The food was delectable. I'd take it over any kind of hospital food. 

After dinner, she even offered for us to stay the night. So really, she convinced us. And of course, she brought up the sleeping arrangements in the hospital. They most certainly weren’t the best and distancing rules didn’t apply in the basement where we both worked. When Julian showed me the room in which all of the doctors slept, I noted how crowded it was. Beds were on top of beds and were all only a foot apart from each other. There were sleeping people there, obviously, but it looked almost as if they were dead from exhaustion. I thought of how ironic it was to have a bunch of people working with a deadly virus and to let them be so close together. I understood why Julian slept on the tiny mattress in his closet. 

I said goodnight to Julian and thanks to Nadia, then the snobby butler showed me to my room. They also left me pajamas to wear for the night, which I wasn’t expecting. The room was beautiful. There were silk sheets and pillowcases that were softer than anything I’d ever felt. The window was large and let in tons of moonlight. The rug was of the highest quality, so high that I felt like I shouldn’t have even walked on it. There was also a bathroom connected. And it might as well have been bigger than my living room back at the shop. The showerhead had polished chrome and pristine marble tiles with luxury shampoos and conditioners. The tub was practically a pool with a bunch of bubble bath products that I could only ever dream about. I felt overwhelmed yet very, very satisfied. 

I walked further into the bathroom and started undressing out of my protective gear. I sighed happily, finally undoing the tight updo that had stayed in its place the whole day. I took a quick shower and scuttled over to the tub to have a relaxing bubble bath.

When I was finished pampering myself with almost every product there was, I finally changed into the pajamas, which also felt so incredibly soft. I flopped onto the bed and got situated under the sheets. But, despite everything I did, I couldn’t fall asleep. Nights were always the time where I’d think of Asra.

I wondered what he was doing, then it developed into wondering if he was still safe. The connection between us had broken ever since he left, and I couldn’t feel anything. No emotions, nothing physical, and nothing he could see. And depending how far he went, I’d doubt that I’d feel anything even if we were connected somehow. 

I grabbed my phone off the end table, silently cursing myself for it since I knew it wasn’t good before bed. I checked my emails for any other house calls that Julian and I would have to do the next day. At least, that was my excuse. It was an excuse to just see if Asra had sent an email. But nothing. I swiped over to text messages. Nothing. 

I didn’t know what I was expecting, I figured I deserved it. Everything I had said to him in the moments we were fighting was way worse than the last words he spoke to me. I felt guilty and torn. I wanted to text him, email him, call him, anything. But I knew he wouldn’t answer. I didn’t have the merit to receive that. I thought that I’d be ready to die whenever my time came and I’d be happy, just like Asra said. 

It was never what we argued about that hurt the most. It was always the times we had before the Red Plague. When we were so happy. 

I blinked out of my thoughts when someone knocked on the door. I slid out of bed, my bare feet hitting the soft rug. I opened the door and there stood Lucio. He was leaning up against the door frame with his arms crossed, a scowl across his face. His eyes snapped to me and I assumed that he was going to ask me in his jersey accent what took me so long to answer. But he didn’t. I thought that he was just surprised to see me for the first time without the protection I had on. 

Instead, what he asked was, “Why are you crying?” He sounded kind of bothered by it.  

My eyes widened for a bit and returned to normal. I didn’t even feel the tears until he pointed it out. I didn’t wipe them, I just ignored his question and waited for Lucio to continue. I didn’t feel like being a smart ass about anything.

He shifted and brushed past me. I rolled my eyes and shut the door. “You gonna answer me?” he asked, even more bothered than before. I wanted to know what he wanted from me so late in the night, but there was a lump in my throat. My eyes started to burn as they filled with more tears. Not now… 

I always cried whenever I thought too much about Asra. And I especially didn’t think Lucio had the right to know anything about our relationship. My hand was still gripping the handle of the door, tightly. I was frozen still. I didn’t want to turn and have him ask me any more questions. I just wanted him to leave.  

I heard him click his tongue in annoyance and his heavy footsteps approaching. He grabbed my shoulders and spun me around to face him. He shoved me against the door, not too hard but not too soft either. 

Please, just leave me alone.” I sounded so small. As if it hurt to speak. 

“No.”

“Why do you have to be so complicated?” 

I’m complicated? Right, ” he said sarcastically. 

“What do you want from me anyway? You shouldn’t even be in here. You have a wife.”

“Oh, please. I know that you know there’s nothing there.”

“Then why’d you marry her?”

“Business, sweetheart.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Or what?”

I couldn’t answer. What would I do? 

He looked so confused when I finally looked at him through the tears in my eyes. 

“What happened to you?” Lucio asked, his brows furrowed and mouth twisted into a frown.  

“What do mean ‘what happened to me?’

I mean, what happened to the girl that was full-on challenging me in the sitting room?” 

When he didn’t get a response he squeezed my shoulders a little tighter, as if he was gonna squeeze the answers out of me. I chuckled a little and shook my head. Instead of giving him what he wanted, I barreled him some of my questions.

“What, did you like that? Were you excited that you found someone who doesn’t take any of your crap? Or was there something more to it? Wh-”

He cut me off with a kiss. My eyes were wide as saucers, and my breath completely hitched in my throat. I was of course shocked by the kiss, but what startled me the most was how soft and gentle it was. I figured he was a rough kisser. 

Lucio pulled away after only a few seconds, his cheeks tinted pink and his mouth slightly agape.

“Yes,” he whispered, breathless.

My heart was beating a mile a minute with the way he looked at me. His eyes were half-lidded and he looked like he could’ve taken me right then and there. He was just waiting for my signal. 

For a split second I thought that I would let him. But, fucking Asra. He drifted back into my hazy mind like a ship coming in from a distant foggy sea. I couldn’t do anything with Lucio, no matter how much I would want to. No matter how good it felt to finally be touched and wanted in a long while. Because I knew it wasn’t Asra. And I knew that Lucio would only fill the void incompletely, and would just be used to help me forget about Asra for only a short period. Even though that’s probably what Lucio deserved, I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I couldn’t get trapped in that kind of cycle. 

“Get out. Please, ” I whispered. 

He blinked out of his lust, his eyes wide. He finally let go of me, very reluctantly, and I opened the door. 

I was confounded when he didn’t say anything. He just left without a word, accepting my decision. When I closed the door for the second time that night, I realized I wasn’t crying anymore. 

Chapter Text

Asra was wide awake in his bed, the sheets kicked off the bed and onto the floor. The room was filled with sounds of his heavy breathing and airy moans as he fucked his hand. The images in his mind kept replaying over and over again of his love, sprawled across the bed back at the shop, touching herself. He remembered that day so clearly.

She had a sheen of sweat across her brow and down her body. Her breathing was synced with Asra’s. She repeatedly rubbed over her dripping slit that soaked through the sheets. He could hear her so distinctly in his head, calling his name, almost as if she was in the room masturbating with him. But he knew that was too good to be true. 

“Asra… Please.”

Her fingers started to rub a little closer, just barely touching her hole. She was starting to sound so, so desperate. Desperate for Asra to touch her, kiss her, anything. But he knew what she desired. What she was begging him for. But he couldn’t ever give it to her, no matter how much he wanted to. They never had the chance to go buy condoms with her Aunt keeping a very watchful eye over the both of them. When she discovered their relationship, she threw away any sort of contraceptive, hoping that it would tame the horny teens to be more “ responsible. ” But on this particular day, her Aunt was out, much to their satisfaction. 

“I’m sorry, baby. You know we can’t.”

She whimpered and retracted her fingers from her aching pussy. “ Touch me then. Please. I can’t come on my own anymore… Not without you.

Asra crawled over to her and kissed her passionately, their tongues exploring each other’s mouths. He then trailed his kisses down her body, savoring every moan and plea that slipped her pretty lips. Once he reached her sex, he laid on his stomach. She looked completely hazed with lust for him, but she was also unclear on what he was about to do. 

His mouth landed on her slit and she practically saw stars. Asra’s tongue circled her swollen clit while his fingers slowly made their way to her entrance. She moaned even louder, begging him until he finally filled her with two fingers. He continued to work his hot mouth on her sex while he fucked her flowing pussy. He looked up and he watched one of her hands fondle her breast, and her second coming down to pull at his fluffy hair. 

Asra groaned as she pressed him a little bit closer to her sex. She unconsciously clenched around his fingers, showing Asra that she was so, so close. He was just as desperate for her to come as she was. He curled his fingers, just slightly, and that sent her over the edge. Her body shook as she tightly clenched around his fingers. Asra couldn’t wait to have that feeling around his cock. 

But there he was, guilty, rubbing his cock at the thought of her. He missed her so much. His yearning mixed with the sexual memories of his love sent him over the edge. Asra moaned her name, his come spilling over his hand and all over his stomach. He continued until his dick was soft in his sore hand.

His breathing evened out after he came down from his orgasm. Asra looked down in disgust at his stomach. He hated himself for thinking of her like that, especially with what he said to her.

“I hope you’re happy here. Dead like the rest!”

He rested his arm over his eyes, tears welling. What if those were the last words that I ever said to her…? 

Asra wanted to return to Vesuvia, but he still couldn’t.

“Fucking coward… ” he choked out to himself, his whole face burning because of the tears.


Lucio slammed his bedroom door behind him, just wanting to be alone. But to his dismay, Valerius was sitting on his luxury lounge chair sipping his usual wine from a crystal glass. Lucio only sighed in frustration. “What are you doing here?” 

Valerius narrowed his eyes toward Lucio, his brows furrowing as he said, “Oh, I’m sorry, ” sounding not sorry at all, “I thought you were the one who wanted me here, every night, at the same time. Remember?”

“Well not tonight.”

“Was it that witch that came to give you a ‘check-up’ ?” 

Lucio snapped his silvery eyes to Valerius, anger bubbling in his chest. “ Don’t call her that.” His voice was a clear warning to Valerius to not touch on the subject of Julian’s assistant. He rolled his eyes and continued to sip his hundred-year-old wine, staring into the fire. 

Lucio shrugged off his clothes and stepped into the bathroom, Valerius assumed for a shower. But he only seemed to get more frustrated at the thought of Lucio going for some skank that came out of nowhere. What did he see in her anyway? What was it about her that was so intriguing to him. He knew that Lucio was the type of guy to hit on almost anybody, and he was used to it. But that was considering he had no real feelings for anyone. But he could tell that the assistant was much different. And this pissed him off. 

Lucio returned out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his lower half. 

“What should I call her then?” Valerius asked, pure vex in his voice. 

“What?” 

“I said…” Valerius threw his glass of wine to the floor, crashing against the wood, and stood, “... what should I call her then?”

“What are you mad about now?”

“I’m mad about this wench that seemed to cause you to just swoon!

Shut up. You’re drunk.”

“Was she that good, huh? What’d she do for you in that guest bedroom? Did she show you some of her fucking ‘magic tricks’? ” 

Before Valerius could ask him any more questions, a hand found its way to his throat. A cold, metallic hand, piercing its claws into the back of his neck. His eyes widened in shock. His face that was once filled with rage was replaced with fear. 

No. She didn’t. She didn’t stoop as low as you did and become something desperate and can’t stand to be alone.” 

Lucio finally released his grip, leaving Valerius to collapse to the floor, holding his throat and gasping for air. 

“And for the last time, don’t fucking talk about her.


Months continued to pass, just the same as the last. I was always being called back to the mansion to give Lucio a check-up, but Julian would always come with me just in case.

The only thing that changed was how the plague victims would be treated after they died. There was no more room to bury the dead and even if there was, no one could bury them in a safe amount of time. So, there was an island off in the distance of Vesuvia that had a place constructed rather quickly. It was supposed to give some sort of comfort to the dying victims and burn the already dead ones. Sort of like Hospice except it was hell. 

I went there, full protection of course, with Julian. He was assigned to go there to administer new treatments to dying patients. Valdemar called it an “experiment.” It felt wrong to go there and test something on a person who wasn’t conscious enough to give any permission to a clinical trial. But, we did it anyway. We knew that if we brought something up to Valdemar about unethical experiments, they’d easily find a way to “silence us.” We didn’t want to know how they would. 

I was a coward. I wanted to help cure this virus as much as possible, but I didn’t know if I could continue with how everything was so off.  

There were beds upon beds of sick people in the room. It didn’t look too different than where all the doctors slept in the basement of the hospital. Everyone was so cramped together and the people who were talking to themselves sounded as if they just wanted everything to end. I almost puked at the smell of something burning. Human carcasses, burning.

Weeks passed and none of the treatments worked on any of the groups we assigned. Julian was starting to lose hope, but I always tried my best to encourage him. 

Another few weeks passed and I was starting to feel a little strange. My throat felt so sore and I had a cough as well. These were the things that I feared the most. I went home immediately and called Julian and told him what I was feeling, and what would eventually happen to me. I knew all of the symptoms and I knew the precaution I had to take. I let him know to inform the staff to disinfect everything as soon as possible.

After I was done explaining, there was nothing but silence over the phone. But then I heard a choked sob. 

“Julian, please don’t cry.” It hurt to speak, but I didn’t care. 

He ignored my plea and continued to weep. 

“Julian, you have to do what I told you, okay? I don’t want anyone else to get infected. You can do it.” 

He finally hung up and did what I asked.


Days passed with Julian talking to her on the phone, instructing her to do anything that made her feel comfortable. Even when she was too hurt to speak and there was only silence on the line, he never hung up. He gave up on his work just to talk to her. She was all alone. He didn’t want her to die alone. 

“I wish I could be there with you right now,” he said. He got no response, but he knew she was listening. Julian continued. 

“I just wanted to let you know again… that you helped me so much.” Tears welled in his eyes. He was trying to say everything he could to make her feel even the slightest bit better. 

“You always made everything much better than it seemed. And when I was tired of everything, when I didn’t want to…” he trailed off, knowing that she knew what he was talking about. 

“You kept on yelling at me to keep trying. That we were almost there. That I could find a way to cure everyone.”

Again, no response. He wished that she could reply and say that everything was fine. That everything was just a joke, a prank to get him back for stealing her coffee that one day. Oh, he wanted her so desperately to say anything. But he knew she couldn’t. And that there was nothing he could do, except find a cure. Which couldn’t happen in time anyway. He sat at his desk and continued to sob with nothing but silence on the phone.


Julian was dressed in a hazmat suit with the other people who came to take her away, his assistant. He wasn’t supposed to be there, but he wanted to see her just one last time. He opened the door of the shop and entered, the others followed, thinking he was a part of their team. 

He rushed to the bedroom and found her there, looking like all the other plague victims. Her sclera was damaged and an angry red. Her eyes were glazed, looking at nothing but the ceiling. To Julian’s surprise, she was still breathing. They were very short breaths and he could hear her wheezing, struggling to continue. In three long strides, he was by her bed, holding her hand. 

Julian called her name a few times, just wanting to talk to her like normal. She looked at him and blinked very slowly and said something so soft and quiet that he strained his ears to hear her. 

“You will find a cure, Julian.”

He nodded and said, “I want you to know one last thing. My name is Ilya. I-I wish I could’ve told you sooner, but I forgot…” He began to cry behind the glass of the suit. 

She only smiled a small smile and nodded. 

The team that came into the bedroom began opening their stretcher to take her away. “You gonna help us?” one of them asked. 

Julian didn’t answer, still holding his assistant’s hand. They all just shook their heads and continued. But when two people approached her to lift her onto the stretcher, Julian said, “Wait. Just wait. She’s still alive, she doesn’t have to go yet.” He sounded so sure. 

“Buddy, you know that people go there if they’re alive or not, right?” 

They gave a second attempt at removing her, Julian slapped both pairs of hands away. “ No! I don’t want her to die there!” 

“Hey, be careful! We don’t want to get infected and end up like her.” 

Screw you! She’s not leaving.”

“You asked for it, pal…” 

The others strode over to Julian and grabbed him roughly by the arms. He kicked, bit, scratched, punched, and screamed as much as he could. He was taken outside in front of the shop while the others carried his assistant over to the car. 

“No! Stop! You don’t understand what it’s like for them there! Please!”  

His voice was so distant in her ears, as if he was shouting at her from a ship. She didn’t know what he was saying, but she assumed that he, Ilya, was saving her from drowning. But it was too late. But that was okay. She knew she’d die happy, just like Asra wanted.


I could see the sky, but it wasn’t like normal. It wasn’t like the days before the virus hit. It was filled with smoky, black clouds, with dark clouds behind them. I could feel a light sprinkle of cool rain on my face. 

They rolled me into the room where all of the victims were, but something was wrong. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, whoever “they” was. I wasn’t phased though. I continued to look at the ceiling, wondering what death had in store for me with the little consciousness I had. 

They rolled into another room, which I didn’t recognize. They lifted me and placed me in what felt like a mental holder. Someone grabbed my arm and injected something into my arm, and I instantaneously felt completely numb. They wrapped me tightly in a white sheet, obscuring some of my vision, and they began to roll me over somewhere in the room.

I could see some through the sheet. I could see them arguing again, right above me when they stopped and eventually placed me onto a cold surface. 

I’m being cremated… Now…?

I felt disgusted at the people who put me there, but I didn’t have the strength to do anything. A conveyor belt rolled me into the still warm cremator. I gagged at the smell. 

Next, I just remembered Auntie, Muriel, Ilya, Lucio, and Nadia. All the memories I had made with them from before. But the person who I reminisced the most was Asra. From the first time we met, to the first day of school, to all of the fun we had during every Masquerade, to highschool, to our first kiss underneath a willow tree, to our love, to when we danced for the last time together, to even virtual graduation, to the hatching of his adorable familiar, and finally to the door that Asra shut behind him, leaving me. 

I hoped he forgave me. Because I forgave him for everything he said. I hoped that he’d forget about me too. I hoped that he’d never return to Vesuvia to find me. I wanted him to be free of me, even though I still loved him. I still loved him as the flames started to consume my body.

One door closes, another one opens…

Chapter Text

Vesuvia was even more barren than Asra remembered, and much darker. The normal clouds were blocked from the black smoke and ash in the air from the distant island. What is that...? 

Asra shut the back door of a stranger's truck and thanked the person before they sped off, not wanting to be in the depressing city for any longer than they should. 

He stood in front of the old shop, just staring at all of the things that changed. The paint on the sign was chipping away with age and neglect. The door didn’t look much better either, with its ripped screening. Asra’s heart stopped when he saw the windows. They looked as if they were smashed. Somebody must’ve robbed the place that Asra called home. His love’s home… His worry grew tenfold and he was about to bust open the door to see if his love was hurt until he heard his name. 

“Asra?”

The white-haired magician looked towards an old woman, who he recognized to be one of Auntie’s old friends. He wanted it to be his heart... But he smiled and bowed his head a bit, slightly surprised that she made it so long in the city. Both of them stayed where they were, realizing that would be for the best. 

“Hello, Mrs. Fernsby.” He was speaking fast, not wanting to talk to the old lady, but not wanting to be rude either.  

“It’s been so long since I’ve seen you! Do you have any idea what the commotion was a few days ago?” 

“I think somebody must’ve robbed us. I’m just going to-”

“Oh, no! Not that, dear! I think someone was being taken away from Auntie’s shop. I think it was your friend.”

Asra’s heart stopped. The old lady was about to continue, but Asra had already bolted through the shop. He sprinted upstairs and to the bedroom, but no one was there. He looked desperately around the whole shop,  hoping that his love was just playing some sort of prank on him. But there was no way, and he knew it. 

Mrs. Fernsby was still standing outside when Asra returned, looking wide-eyed and desperate for answers. 

“Where did they take her?” he asked, sounding more and more panicked. 

“I-I think they took her to the Lazaret.”

“The what?”

“The island over there,” she pointed to the island that had billows of smoke coming out of several chimneys, “It’s for all of the plague victims,” she said. 

Asra felt as if he couldn’t breathe. He felt his chest get heavier and heavier, not wanting to believe what she was saying. He could hear her talking, but it sounded muffled. He couldn’t hear anything other than the feeling of something wanting his attention. Compass. He quickly shrugged off his backpack and pulled out a golden compass. 

Where is she…?

Asra clenched the compass tight, hands shaking, watching the pointer spin this way and that before finally settling into place. And it pointed to the very place he didn’t want it to. 

He followed the compass anyway, hoping and praying to any of the Gods that she’d still be alive. The few people that were out on the street waved or said some sort of hello to him as he sprinted by. But he didn’t acknowledge them, he was solely focused on finding his love. 

He reached the docks and asked someone if they could ferry him over to the Lazaret. They were one of the only people that were out on the docks that were working an old rowboat. But of course, they said no. Asra sighed in frustration and started shouting at the man. 

“Take me to that island, now! I’ll give you whatever you want, please!”

His desperate, angry demands and pleas fell on deaf ears. Asra never liked to resort to violence, but he had no choice. He pushed them off of the docks and jumped into their boat, using magic to move it. The person screamed and shouted curses at Asra, but he could care less. All he wanted was his love back. 

He reached the island and he landed on the black, oily, ash-covered beach. His heart couldn’t stop pounding, his breathing increased and he started to tear up. Because the compass wasn’t pointing to the building, it was pointing towards the bushes. He slowly walked, babbling to himself. 

“P-please, no. No, no, not her.

He stopped when the pointer was going in circles. Asra dropped the compass and stared at the ground, tears rolling down his cheeks and a lump in his throat. He called out her name, as if she was just under the sand and dirt, sleeping. He fell to his knees and put his weight onto his hands, talking to nothing but ash. 

“It’s me, love… I’m back. I’m sorry for what I said, so please…” he wept, “Please stop this. Just come out...  Just come out!

Asra started to dig with his hands, frantically, while tears blurred his vision. “If you’re joking, it isn’t funny, love. Just come back… ” 

He choked out a sob, crying for her. Pleading her. A part of his nails started to slowly break and rip off but he didn’t even feel the pain or notice his fingers bleeding. Because his heart was suffering the most anyway. It ached and felt as if it was stabbed repeatedly, over and over again, when he realized that nothing was there but ash and bone. Her bones…  His eyes and face burned with tears and snot was also dripping from his nose, but he didn't care. He had sweat across his brow from all the running he did. The running he did to find her. Ashes, dirt, and bones.

Asra screamed. He screamed at nothing, but to him it was everything. He was screaming at the Gods, at the virus, at his few close friends that didn’t even let him know, but mostly at himself. 

“I hope you’re happy here. Dead like the rest!” 

“No, no… I didn’t mean it, love. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean it! ” 

The whole time he was there, he kept feeling nothing from his love. He used his magic to feel for anything that would have any connection to her, but nothing but the remains of her body. Which only felt empty, alone, and barren. He wondered if that's how she felt when she died, all alone. 

The security around the premises found him still screaming and sobbing. They tried to take him away, but he never wanted to leave her. He didn’t want to leave her ever again. So, the security guards gave him an urn. The urns were used for all of the families who claimed a victim. 

They watched with pity as he slowly filled the urn with as much of her bones and ash as he could muster. 

“I won’t leave you here, okay? Not ever…


Julian was working relentlessly for a cure. He was working so much more than what his assistant would’ve wanted but he couldn’t stop. Not after her death. 

“Doctor 069.” Valdemar stood outside the janitors closet, watching Julian scribble furiously across the paper in his journal. 

“You have another check-up for the regular.”

“I don’t have time,” he said, sounding irritated at the fact that Lucio was bothering him. But that’s when he realized something: Lucio didn’t know about his assistant’s death. He knew they talked to each other once in a while at the check-ups, but he didn’t think they were that close. 

Julian felt as if Lucio, who was a playboy, and a selfish, spoiled man deserved to know. It was startling to him to say the least.


Julian watched in horror as Lucio coughed, sneezed, and groaned. Did he get it from her...? 

“Looks like I’ve got it, Julian. And you were right. I would know if I had it all right,” he said, and coughed harder after he got the words out. “Where’s your assistant?”

Julian gulped and took a deep breath. This made Lucio give him a questioning look. 

“Um… Lucio, she passed away.” 

The room was so silent you could hear a pin drop. At first, Lucio thought that Julian was just making a sick joke. A terrible joke. But Julian’s expression remained grim and he saw some tears welling up in his eyes. Lucio was about to cry as well, but he looked down at his sheets, willing his tears away. 

There were all kinds of emotions flooding through Lucio. He felt sad, frustrated, confused, scared, and the list could go on. He couldn’t believe that this one girl was getting to him so much. He only knew her for a short while, but he still wanted to get to know her. He still wanted to be able to bug her about calling once in a while. He still had a closet full of gifts he was planning to give her. But that didn’t matter. None of it. Because she was dead.  

Lucio noticed a stray beetle scuttling across his red, silk sheets. He glanced up at Julian, noting that he wasn’t looking because he was dealing with his tears. He snatched the scarlet beetle and kept it trapped in his palm. It's cause of you fuckers, isn't it...? 

“And you just… let her die? ” Lucio asked. One emotion seemed to be more prominent than all the others. Anger. 

Julian’s eyes snapped to Lucio, his eyes puffy, but wide and shocked at what Lucio had just said. “I couldn’t do anything, Lucio! She was already dead!” 

“What do you think of beetles, Julian?” Lucio asked, slipping out from under his sheets and standing. He approached Julian like a predator, waiting to strike. 

“What?” 

“I said, what do you think of beetles?”

Lucio snatched Julian’s shoulder with his golden arm and slammed him against the wall. His flesh hand ripped off Julian's mask, shoved the beetle past his lips, and clamped over his mouth. 

He kept yelling at him to chew and swallow, repeatedly shoving the doctor, hard, against the wall. 

After a few minutes of struggle, Lucio threw Julian onto the floor like he was nothing. 

“I’m not letting you sit and watch me die  too.  Work as if your life depends on it.”

Chapter Text

All Asra could hear was the booming bass of the club he was in. He didn’t even know why he was there. To get drunk? High? He didn’t seem to care either way. He didn’t care about anything anymore. And all he could see were people, just waiting to catch the plague with how close they were. They were dancing, smoking, drinking, kissing, and in the corners of the club they were probably having sex. Asra assumed that these people didn’t have any care in the world left either. 

He was sitting in a booth of the club, just observing everyone while he drank his fourth beer. He said to himself that he’d only have one and leave, because he didn’t like to drink that much. But here he was, drowning in his sorrows. He wasn’t only one though. He could tell because of other people at the bar, all weeping and babbling to themselves as if they’d get their loved ones back. But that just wasn’t going to happen, no matter how much you drank, danced, or even fucked. Asra knew this. But he was just like the rest, just wanting to forget.  Even if it was just for the night. 

He downed the last of his beer and stood up to go stumble a little to the bar to get his fifth. He pushed past all of the other drunks, which he realized he might become, and ordered his drink. While he waited, a woman approached him, or at least he thought, with his vision steadily getting blurrier. 

“Hey, gorgeous. You here alone?” she asked. Asra rolled his eyes and shook his head in response. 

“Oh? Then where’s your date?” she asked, trying to be cute and sly. Asra didn’t think she was either of those. 

Her question only made Asra ten times more depressed than he already was when he walked into the club. His date. His mind immediately went to his love. If she were still alive, she wouldn’t want him to go where he was. She would tell him that he should stay at home and be safe with her. Even if it meant starting another argument. 

His heart ached again at the feeling of knowing what his love would think of him then. He began to feel the all too familiar tears form in his eyes. He knew the lady in front of him saw, but he doubted that she really cared about him. Asra knew what she wanted. He knew that she was probably watching him the whole time at his booth, waiting for the perfect moment to strike while he was intoxicated. 

He didn’t answer her question. He didn’t want to feed her whatever it was she wanted from him. Instead, he waited patiently for his drink, trying to ignore her. 

“I know you’re hurting, you know?”

Again, no response. He just let his tears fall. He almost blended in with all the other people at the bar. 

“It’s okay. I can take care of you,” she cooed, rubbing his arm up and down seductively. 

The bartender finally gave Asra his beer. He shrugged off her hand and stumbled back to his booth. 

He wondered if she would approach him again. Except when he was really drunk. So, before sitting, he turned and went towards some stairs. He figured the higher he went, the further he could get away from her. 

Finally, he reached the roof of the building. He sighed and staggered over to the ledge. He sat down, not minding the height at all. He drank his fifth beer in peace. Well, as much peace as he could muster. His vision was getting worse and his stomach didn’t feel so good. But he didn’t care. 

Asra tried. Asra tried to never think of her. But he did. It was just natural for him because everywhere reminded him of her. The park, the streets, the shopping district, the docks, the beach, everywhere. He began to think about what would happen if he left Vesuvia again. Maybe then he would feel better? No. He would still feel guilty no matter what. He would visit many other places and countries, thinking about how much he wished she was there with him. So either way, he was screwed. He furrowed his eyebrows and felt anger bubbling up in his chest. He gripped the beer bottle tightly. 

No matter what he would do, he could never escape her.

He threw the glass bottle towards the concrete floor of the roof, loudly cursing at himself. It shattered, leaving several fragments everywhere. In the light, they almost looked like stars to Asra. He slowly picked one up and inspected it. If there is no escape… 

He shook his head and dropped the fragment. 

No… 

He finally felt his stomach churning at his idea. He fell onto his knees and shuffled around. He bent over the ledge and threw up all of the contents he was drinking, pitying whoever was down there. He stayed there for a while before starting to sob to himself. Asra stared at the sidewalk below, wondering. Just wondering…  His hands moved on their own. They moved just slightly over the edge. 

Until-

“Asra!”

Arms wrapped around him in seconds. Big, strong, warm arms. Muriel’s arms. 

Asra couldn’t remember the last time he called, texted, or emailed Muriel. He realized that he completely forgot to tell Muriel about her. Which only caused more guilt to erupt within him, which led to more tears. He turned around in Muriel’s arms and hugged him so, so tightly. He was holding him as if he was a life-line. He technically was. 

“Asra, what were you thinking?!” His white-haired friend never heard Muriel say anything so loud and worrisome. 

“I-I’m sorry, Muriel…” 

He stayed in his arms and inhaled the calming scent of myrrh. 

“She wouldn’t want you to do this, Asra,” Muriel said, his voice a little shaky. 

Asra’s eyes widened and he leaned back from Muriel. “You knew?”  

He noticed that his green eyes were puffy and filled with tears. He slowly nodded. 

“How long did you know?”

Muriel shook his head, his expression grim. This gave Asra his answer. 

“You knew when she was infected…? And you never called me? Texted me? Emailed me for God’s sake?! ” 

“It was too late. She was going to die…” 

“I still wanted to say goodbye, Muriel!” 

“I wanted to as well, Asra. I didn’t want either of us to get infected. And I knew she wouldn’t have wanted that.” 

“What about what I want, Muriel? Every day, I wake up and wonder why I’m still here. I see her everywhere! No matter where I go, she’s there. All I want is for it all to be over, Muriel. I-I can’t…” he trailed off. 

“I’m not letting you.”

“Why not?!”  

“Because she loved you ! She would’ve never wanted any of this for you!” Muriel gestured to the shattered glass on the ground and the ledge. He continued, “You’re not the only one who’s suffering here, Asra. I miss her too… ” 

Then there was just a moment of silence between the both of them. Asra looked up to the stars, and blinked away his tears. 

“What if we brought her back…?” he whispered, pained. He had thought of the idea many, many times. But always talked himself out of it. 

Muriel glanced back to Asra, eyes wide. “ No. Her Aunt said to never mess around with necromancy. Even the greatest magicians said the same thing. And even if she was back, you don’t know if she’ll be the same.” Asra brought up all of those excuses before. 

“I don’t care. I’ll do whatever it takes. I just want her back. So badly… ” Asra choked out a sob. 

That’s when Muriel knew that he could say nothing to persuade Asra. He gave up. He never agreed to Asra’s plan, and pledged to never offer any help unless Asra asked for it. Muriel also knew that Asra would never be the same.


“I’ve been in here for more than the regular amount of time, Doctor MacQuoid,” Julian mumbled tiredly from behind the glass that was quarantining him. 

“I can’t help you Jules. Valdemar’s orders.” 

Julian groaned and slid down the floor. “Look, I’ve practically purged the damn cockroach he shoved down my throat, bleached the inside of my mouth, and around it, stayed here for more than fourteen days- I’ve followed all of the rules! So please, let me out of here!” 

“I sure hope you didn’t bleach your mouth.” 

Julian sighed in frustration and muttered, “ No, MacQuoid. I didn’t actually bleach it. It was a metaphor. ” 

“I sure hope it was a metaphor.” 

Julian was literally about to go off, but he heard the locks click. His eyes snapped to the door and there was his colleague, a smirk on his face. “Come on out now. You’re clean.”

Julian smiled and jumped so high up, that he hit the ceiling tiles causing one to pop out and fall to the ground. 

… 

“I, ah… I’m sorry about that, MacQuoid. But, hey! Don’t worry, I’ll send somebody on it, right away. Cause I’m free! ” he shouted, skipping to his janitor closet. 

But before he could reach the knob, he heard the malicious voice of Doctor Valdemar. “Doctor 069… You have another assistant.” 

Julian figured that Valdemar would ask about why he was out of quarantine and who let him out. But, they ignored it. As if, it was what they expected to happen. 

He was even more puzzled at what they had said. Another assistant…? 

He wasn’t sure how to feel. But one thing was certain, he was scared for the life of this new assistant. He didn’t think that they knew what they were getting themselves into, just like her… 

Valdemar moved out of the way of the new volunteer. Julian’s jaw dropped. He had beautiful sun-kissed skin and pearlescent white hair. His complexion was perfect, but what had Julian the most, was his eyes. They were a gorgeous amethyst with speckles of lavender. 

“This is Asra Alnazar. He specializes in magic, just like your former assistant.” 

Julian’s jaw returned to normal when he heard the word “former.” the guilt he had been trying to rid himself of kept crawling back to his mind like a spider. 

He was so lost in his thoughts he didn’t even realize that Valdemar had left. Asra stood there, just silently appraising the doctor. So he knew my love… he pondered to himself. His mind then went back to the news he saw that morning. Reports were saying that Lucio, the very man he hated, had caught the virus. 

And this man also knows Lucio… Just what he needed.

Chapter Text

Asra sat in the sitting room with Julian, waiting on Lucio. The whole time Julian kept stealing glances as if the magician didn’t notice. He did.  

“So…” the doctor started, “what did you need to see Lucio for again?” 

Julian still remembered when Lucio stuffed a cockroach- or a beetle down his throat. At that time Julian thought that the virus must’ve made Lucio lose it. Or it could’ve been the dreadful news… Either way, he didn’t particularly want to be in the mansion again. He only came because of the attractive magician. He just found him so alluring, and seductive in some ways.

"I found a way for him to be cured," Asra replied.

The lanky doctor wondered why Asra would help the most disgusting man in Vesuvia. 

“I’m not helping him,” Asra answered. As if he was reading Julian’s thoughts. Or he could just tell from the constant glances his way. 

The doctor’s grey eyes widened in shock. 

“How’d you-”

“You’re so easy to read.” Asra shook his head and gave a breathy chuckle.

“Oh…” Of course. But he tried to push the conversation a little more. First, because it sounded as if he was plotting something against a very powerful man. And second, because Julian was curious about how to help. 

“Well, ah… What are you planning then?” 

The doors opened before Asra could answer. Lucio ambled over to a couch, away from the two, not that he cared. He thought it was unfair how Julian could get away from the virus so easily. Slippery man… He silently laughed at how much protection they had on. It was more than usual, more difficult to rip off… 

Next, he turned his pink eyes over towards Asra. He was told why Asra was here, but he couldn’t believe a single word the butler told him. There was no way that Asra had good intentions toward him. 

But he wanted to listen, and judge his proposition. 

“Hello, Asra, ” Lucio greeted, sounding sick and tired. He coughed into his elbow and sighed in frustration. He didn’t want to look weak in front of the people he hated. 

“Hello, Lucio. You have the plague, I see.” The white-haired magician had a smirk on his face, relishing the man's misery. Julian thought he looked like a cunning fox that had a plan set in place, and will be smartly achieved. 

“I could still give it to you, witch. So don’t get cocky.”

“Oh, I know. But what if I had something that could make it go away?”

“Impossible. There’s no cure.”

“No. There isn’t. ” 

Julian felt like there was something more to what Asra said. Something with deeper meaning… 

“So? How are you gonna help me in the slightest?” 

“By replacing your body, with another's.”  

The air changed, it turned much thicker. All the doctor could do was watch in shock, eyes darting between the two. 

Lucio chuckled until falling into another coughing fit. But he continued. 

“You know that’s illegal, right?”

Hypocrite…  

“I know the law, Lucio. I’m just asking if you could find a way to bend them.”

“I’m not a politician.”

“But you know some. You might not even have to bother if we could keep it all covered up.” 

“What’s in it for you, Asra? I’m not stupid.”

“Well… that’s debatable…” Asra mumbled, smiling, his eyes filled with amusement. 

“Shut up and get on with it!” 

“To give you a new body, we’ll have to follow an old ritual. It’ll involve other people as well.” 

“Go on…” Lucio muttered, getting steadily impatient. 

“And to achieve the ritual, everyone has to make a deal. ” 

Lucio blinked and grinned like he had everything in the bag. That was right up his alley.

In fact-

“Deal."


"That was much easier than I expected,” Asra said, satisfied after working out all the plans for the ritual. It was going to occur during the next Masquerade, and he’ll sabotage it. That body will be hers… 

While the magician kept thinking and pondering about his glorious plan, Julian just followed behind him, worriedly furrowing his eyebrows. It’s not that he cared about Lucio, not after everything that he’d done to him. He was worried about Asra, and what this ritual would cost him. A deal, by definition, is when two or more parties agree for their mutual benefit. But it also means a trade of some sort. 

When he listened to both of them brainstorming to make a deal with something, he was curious about what they would trade for something they wanted. Julian was no magician, he might as well have been the complete opposite. But he knew for certain that a brand new spanking body was gonna cost something big. Something important. What did Asra want with all of this? It wasn’t to cure Lucio, so it must’ve been for his want. So what is his want…?

“I can hear the cogwheels turning in there,” Asra remarked, snapping Julian out of his thoughts. 

“Oh! Uh, yes, I was just thinking.” 

“About what?”

“This whole… thing.

Asra stopped walking and pulled out his house key. But there was one problem. It was at his former assistant’s house. Before Asra could stick the key into the keyhole, Julian snatched his arms away. “Don’t go in there! A victim died there!” 

A look of disdain was clear as day on Asra’s face. Or at least what Julian could see through the mask.  

“I know.” He glared at where Julian was gripping him, and shrugged him off. 

The doctor stood there, startled. “You knew her?” he asked in disbelief. 

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. And I’ve cleaned and have been living here for weeks and nothing’s happened to me.” 

He proceeded to open the door and take a step inside. Julian followed along, wanting more information on how he knew his former assistant. 

But he immediately collapsed as soon as he entered, a thick, old, oily magic reeking through the whole shop. Julian’s senses were overwhelmed all at once, and Asra just watched. He didn’t move to help or anything. He just… watched. He was pondering, appraising, and deciding something. Julian could see it behind his beautiful eyes. The lanky man finally knew how dead-set the magician was on his plan. He could feel the magic coursing through his body. He couldn’t describe it as “good” magic either. It was darker. And a little bit of something like… desperation  and persistence .

That’s when Julian finally started asking whatever came to mind. 

“Asra. What is this? How long have you been planning this whole thing? And what is it that you’re getting out of this plan? Is it about-” 

“Don’t.” Asra’s voice was deeper, more commanding. “Don’t say her name.”

Julian stayed on his knees, flushing at the fact that he was excited by the change. He kept his head bowed, not wanting him to see. 

Until, he felt Asra's warm hand grip tightly in his auburn curls. He groaned at the feeling, enjoying it. But he ceased when Asra pulled him roughly back, revealing his blushing complexion. “Maybe you could help me, Ilya…” 

Julian’s member started to harden at just the sound of his real name coming from Asra’s beautiful lips. “Anything. Anything at all.” His breathing started to pick up. 

“Follow me.” 

Asra let go of the doctor and walked towards the back room. Julian whimpered a little in response, wanting more of the magician’s touch. But he did as he was told. 

He stared as Asra shucked off the heavy hazmat suit he had on. He felt embarrassed and a little guilty at how much this magician was turning him on. But he did the same, hoping that his hard-on wasn't too noticeable. 

He could tell the pungent feeling, taste, and smell was coming from the backroom. It was even more suffocating after he took off his protective gear. Asra had all kinds of textbooks open and sprawled across the floor. There looked to be some sort of chemistry set off in the far corner as well, but he knew it most certainly that it wasn’t being used for its purpose. Everything seemed to look ancient, like everything belonged in a museum of magic. 

It was getting more and more difficult for Julian to keep standing but he didn’t want to fall to his knees just yet. He was waiting for Asra’s orders. 

“Bones, blood, sweat, and tears are some of the most powerful things you could ever use in magic. Which means they’re the most dangerous.” 

Julian’s hair stood at the sight of a knife in Asra’s hand. 

“How much are you willing to give me, Ilya? For me?” 

“What… what does this all mean, Asra? What do you need it for?” 

“I don’t need to tell you anything. All I’m asking for is your help. Please, Ilya…”

Julian wanted Asra from the moment he met him. After spending weeks together, only working, but Julian also wanting, and yearning, he couldn’t say no. 

“I’ll… help you with anything you want.”

Asra’s warm hand grips Julian’s and he cuts, deep, letting the blood flow onto the floor, but soon into a bowl. After a few seconds of silence, amethyst eyes met grey ones. 

Asra yanked, hard, and pulled Ilya into a deep kiss. 

The magician was more shocked than the doctor at this. He… didn’t feel like it was wrong at the time. He wanted help from Julian, that was true. But there was something else he desired. He desired to touch. He wanted to feel something, anything at all. Even if it was only for one night. Asra was so used to feeling alone and without his love, he didn't realize that he was also yearning. He didn’t feel guilty, and he didn’t want to let go. Not yet. 

He didn’t have any feelings for the doctor. He was annoyed by him most of the time. But Julian made it so easy. And Asra knew that, whatever this relationship was, it was going to end badly. But he didn’t stop. And neither did Julian. The cycle began. 

Chapter Text

A few days before the Masquerade.

All you could hear in the motel room was Julian’s loud and desperate moans. Asra’s hips slammed against Julian’s at a rough pace. The magician was breathing hard, close to his climax as he watched Julian’s erotic expressions. His fingernails dug into the doctor’s arms where he was pinning him against the mattress, causing Julian to whimper. 

He was already a complete mess. Asra had been edging him the whole night, not letting him come once. Precum dripped down his aching, hard cock. There was some drool coming out of his mouth, enjoying every minute of the sweet torture. All his attention was directed towards Asra’s thick length, pounding into him relentlessly. His pupils were blown out with lust as he watched Asra’s beautiful face, so concentrated, on fucking him like he wanted. 

“Asra… I-I’m close. Please… ” 

“Please what?” 

He struggled to speak more because of how good everything felt at the same time. And also, it felt embarrassing to say what the magician wanted to hear. 

“Please, let me… Let me come.”

Asra only smirked at his flushed skin and averting gaze. He suddenly pulled out of Julian and started to rub his own member, causing his come to shoot out all over Julian’s stomach and chest. 

“What did I tell you about looking me in the eyes, Ilya?” he asked, groaning because of his orgasm, but also at the sight of Julian's squirming body. 

The doctor was so close to tears as he whimpered at the loss of Asra’s cock. He wanted to come so bad. The sex session had already been four hours, four hours of not having the permission to come. He started to beg, becoming an even more desperate and babbling mess. Finally, when tears began to fall, Asra roughly grabbed his cock. Julian jumped at the sudden feeling of warmth around him. 

“Go on then. Come for me. ” 

His hand rubbed his precum all over his dick, utilizing it as lube. It didn’t take much friction for Julian to finally come, loudly moaning Asra’s name over and over again, until he rode out his orgasm.

After they both came down from their high, Asra stood from the mattress and went into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him. 

He always leaves afterward… Julian thought to himself, sadly. He slowly sat up from the sweaty sheets, catching his breath. He tried to not move too quickly, grabbing a towel he had gotten before they started. Asra never did aftercare for Julian. Which was surprising, because he didn’t seem like that kind of person to the doctor. At least at the beginning of their physical relationship. 

Right… Only physical…  

He sighed and cleaned himself off, but eventually just stopped. 

Am I too selfish…? 

Julian wanted Asra from the beginning, that much was true. But, he wanted it to be more than just sex. More than just staying and fucking at a motel near the hospital a few times a week. He wanted it to be an actual relationship. But, he knew that that was never going to happen. Asra stated it after the first time they had sex together in the back room of the shop. 

“This isn’t going to be more than just this, Ilya. Is that okay?”

At first Julian didn’t care. He was satisfied with taking anything Asra would give him. Helping Asra however he needed. But… he felt much different in the motel room, as tears began to fall down his cheeks. Julian’s face burned at the fact that Asra wouldn’t want him any more than just a hookup. 

Asra came out of the bathroom, clothes on and ready to go. But he froze in his tracks when he saw Julian. 

“Ilya? What’s wrong?” 

“Like you care…” muttered Julian. 

Asra’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion at his sudden change in attitude. “Of course I care, Ilya. What’s wrong with you? Did I hurt you?” 

Julian shook his head, wiping his tears. He stood and grabbed his clothes, not sparing one glance in the magician’s direction. 

“No, Asra. Of course you didn’t.” 

After he dressed himself, he started heading towards the door. 

“Wait, wait. Can you please tell me what’s wrong? This isn’t like you.” 

The doctor only sighed in frustration and turned to Asra. 

“I… I want to be more with you, Asra. That’s what’s wrong.”

“No. I thought we went over this. I asked from the very beginning if it was okay. I continuously kept asking you too.” 

“I know that, Asra! But, it’s getting to the point where I want feelings and not just sex.” 

“Look, I understand-”

“No, you don’t. You couldn’t possibly understand. You knew that I loved you. And you knew that I’d do anything for you!”

“I didn’t! I thought you were okay with just sex, Julian. You never said anything about it. You’re just being selfish! ” 

That’s when the doctor just gave up and stormed out of the room, leaving Asra. The magician never saw him after that. He didn’t see him at work and he never called or texted to tell anyone where he was. He was just gone.


The night of the Masquerade. 

“Are you ready, Asra?” Nadia asked. 

Asra was looking out over the balcony of the mansion, watching the cities bright lights and celebratory fireworks. He was all dressed for the Masquerade and ready to execute his plan. Nadia was with him on the whole thing. He knew that she and Lucio were married, but Nadia could see how horrible and corrupted he was inside. She knew first hand. 

Asra, Julian, and Nadia were pretty close. They hung out on nights where they didn’t have work, avoiding Lucio at all costs. They all were pretty great friends, until the argument. Nadia never got any reply from Julian, and even when she sent people to look for him, he was nowhere to be found. 

“I hope so,” he answered. He was so, so nervous. He remembered pouring the ashes of his love all over their bed at the shop. Asra didn’t know if she was going to come back the same, or even come back at all. But if she did resurrect, he figured it’d be safer for her there, to be somewhere she recognized as home. 

“I still can’t find Julian.”

“It doesn’t matter. The magical pull will make him show up to the ritual anyway.” 

He felt something tickling his hand while it rested on the balcony railing. It was his familiar’s little flicking tongue. “Hey,” he smiled and gave her a little chin scritch. He still didn’t know what to call her. He was putting it off until she found a name that she liked. He had already fired off several names, seeing if she would like them. But, to no avail. 

“Back?” Her voice was like a faraway whisper. 

“Yes. Tonight is the night,” he answered. Nadia stood next to Asra, smiling at the adorable snake. “Have you found a name for her yet?” 

“No. She’s either fine with no name, or she just hasn’t been looking for one.” 

As if on cue-

“Faust!”

Asra’s eyes widened. “Faust? You want that name?” he asked. As a response, the snake only wrapped herself around his arm. 

“She proved you wrong,” Nadia smirked.


The room that Lucio constructed was hidden from the rest of the partygoers in the mansion. Not just anyone could enter, or at least Asra hoped. He obviously didn't plan on getting arrested. 

Everyone sat at the table, everyone who had identified most with a certain arcana. Lucio was at the head of the table, looking worse than when they made the deal. But he still had a wide grin on his face. Asra knew that it wouldn’t be there much longer. 

Asra began walking around the table, stopping at every person’s seat to pour in “Lucio’s blood.” It was pomegranate juice, thankfully. Once Asra stopped at Julian’s seat, he noticed something that shook him to the core. One of his eye’s sclera was red and damaged. But despite that, he looked perfectly fine. Did he find a cure…? 

The virus was different for everyone. It killed some people in only two days once the symptoms hit. And others would be after two years. Some people wouldn’t have the same symptoms as other people. 

What scared Asra the most was if he had the virus himself. He silently cursed to himself. It had only been a few days since he last saw Julian. Which means he did have a high chance of having it. He’d have to make a stop at the hospital before checking to see if the ritual succeeded. 

Asra finally sat at his seat and poured the pomegranate juice into his cup. Nadia looked at him and nodded. 

“Now everyone, let’s drink,” Lucio said, grinning like a wolf.


Asra pushed and raced through the streets of Vesuvia towards the hospital. 

He bolted downstairs to where all the other doctors were. He spotted one of Julian’s coworkers. 

“MacQuoid! I need your help! Could you please test me for the virus?”

“If you think you have it, then why are you down here? ” He immediately brought up his shirt, covering his mouth and nose, backing away. 

“MacQuoid, I swear to the God’s-”

“Okay! Okay! Don’t hex me or anything! Follow me.” 

It was such a long and tedious process for Asra. All he wanted was to go back to the shop. He kept screaming and shouting in frustration at the coworker. After getting tested, he was perfectly clean. But, MacQuoid made him disinfect himself before leaving for further measure, irritating Asra even more.


The magician finally burst through the bedroom door. And his heart stopped. 

There she was. 

His love was lying on the bed, naked. She looked as if she was in pain. She kept trying to open her eyes and see who Asra was, but it hurt to see. She groaned and closed her eyes. 

Tears were rolling down his cheeks. He couldn’t believe how normal she looked. How much she looked like her old self. She looked a few years younger than him. It was as if time stopped for her body when she died, and was brought back again. 

He walked over to her, sobbing her name. 

“I’m here, my love. I’m here.

Asra crawled into the bed next to her and held her in his arms. 

She tried once more to open her eyes again. She tried hard to focus on Asra. 

She furrowed her eyebrows at him and tried to speak. But all that came out were slurred noises. Asra looked at her in shock, while half of his heart broke into pieces. 

She was looking at him, like she didn’t know him.

Chapter Text

I remembered waking up in someone’s arms. I could describe them as warm, protective, and tight. Instantly I could feel their love, passion, and soon, sadness. It was overwhelming at first. It hurt to open my eyes and my head was pounding, but I did get a good look at this person. 

His hair was an ivory white. His skin was a gorgeous tan, kissed by the sun, but no imperfections. What had me the most was his eyes, which were a beautiful amethyst color. But tears were rolling down his cheeks. Why is he crying…? I felt horrible that I was probably the reason why. 

He looked so familiar, but I didn’t know where I met him. Or where I was for that matter. But everything felt… nostalgic. Especially his scent, which smelled of herbs, spices, and incense. I tried to ponder on it longer, but my mind felt like it was going to split in half. I groaned and furrowed my eyebrows at the throbbing pain. 

I tried to ignore it, and lift my hand, which felt so heavy to lift. As if there were bricks tied to it. I caressed his cheek, wiping some of his tears. I wanted to tell him not to cry, but I couldn’t form the words in my mouth. When I kept trying, all that came from my lips were incoherent mumbles. 

He gently grasped my hand and nuzzled into it, looking as if his heart was being ripped to shreds. Mine ached at the sight of him. And the rest of the night, he never stopped crying. He eventually fell asleep next to me. I didn’t know who he was, but I felt so strongly that he was trustworthy. So, I fell asleep in his arms as well, wondering where and who I was.


The next morning I woke to only the pillows. My head felt like it was aching from just the sight of the sun creeping through the curtains. I tried to sit up, but everything felt so hard to move. It felt as if I never used my muscles. It’s not like I remembered using them. 

I heard the bedroom door open, and my eyes slowly drifted across the room to land on the person who wept the night before. He was carrying a tray of something that smelled appetizing, and also little white pills next to a glass of juice. 

His eyes were still puffy, and his expression was also still as grim as it was before. Something about the way he looked made me have the urge to just embrace him and say I was sorry for whatever I did. But I couldn’t, no matter how much I wanted to. He walked over to me, and set the tray next to me. 

“Do… do you remember me?” he asked, even though he looked like he knew the answer. 

Even his voice sounded familiar, despite it sounding so pained. Again, I wanted to respond and say something, anything. But to no avail. I sighed in frustration, my headache getting worse. I just shook my head, angry at myself for not being able to form a simple two-letter word. 

I could see tears forming in his eyes and I started to mumble again and shake my head, insistent, hoping he’d get the way I felt. But he just looked even more confused. 

I whimpered in disappointment. Not at him, but myself. My face started to flush and burn, and tears also welled up in my eyes. I was just so aggravated at the fact that I couldn’t make this person, whoever he was, feel any better. And my head wouldn’t stop pounding to boot. 

“Wha- what’s wrong? Don’t cry.”

I was trying to tell you that this whole time… 

He gently helped me sit up in bed. He took the pills that were on the breakfast tray and handed them to me. “These will make you feel better,” he explained, reaching for the glass of juice. I nodded, not even questioning anything. One, because I couldn’t even talk. And two, because there was no reason to not trust this person. I still felt one of his lingering emotions, and it was the most powerful over all of them. It was love.


A few days later I felt so much better, I thought that he was starting to lighten up, even if it was only for a short amount of time. I still felt guilty letting him practically wait on me. He also had to help me get to the bathroom since I couldn’t even walk properly. It was a little embarrassing but he always reassured me and respected my privacy. 

I wanted to know his name. Those nights when he’d sleep right next to me, I stayed up and wondered what his name could be. I made all sorts of names up in my head, trying to see if any of them fit him. But none could. Deep down I felt like I once knew his name, but no matter how hard I tried, I would always end up getting another head-splitting migraine.

He opened his eyes and I was instantly embarrassed that he caught me just ogling him. But he didn’t seem to mind. 

After a few moments of just staring into each other’s gaze, it was like he read my mind. 

“My name is Asra,” he whispered. And for the first time, I saw him smile. My heart practically leaped, and I beamed right back at him. Without even thinking, I tried out his name. 

“Aah… As-ur… As-era.”  

His eyes widened and his smile faded. Mine did as well, and I started to worry if I made a mistake. I couldn’t read his expression. I couldn’t tell if he was sad, happy, or disappointed. I couldn’t feel much from him either, until something so suddenly overpowered my senses. 

Adoration…


A year passed and I could form sentences and walk properly. My migraines continued to pursue me whenever I tried to remember anything from before I woke up, which was irritating. I wanted to know who I was before I woke up in Asra’s arms. Did I know him before? Were we friends? Why was he taking care of me in the first place? I asked him these questions many, many times. He never answered them, because he didn’t want to cause any more pain. I understood that, but I always had a deep curiosity for who I was before. 

I wondered if I had gotten into some sort of accident and maybe I couldn’t remember much. I daydreamed about what my life with Asra was, and if I made any other friends. It felt like there were just large gaps missing and I couldn’t fill them in. 

Especially when it came to where we lived. Asra ran a shop, and it wasn’t just any random shop. It contained all things magical. I always offered to help him around the shop, as much I could. 

One of the few things that he could tell me about was magic. Every night after he closed the shop, he’d teach me a new basic spell. He told me how proud he was of me, and how fast I was at learning all the time. But I always denied it, saying that it was just because they were beginner spells. 

Despite all the praise, there were plenty of times when my magic would get out of control. If I could describe my magic at the time, it would be nebulous, indefinite, and unclear. I was never able to truly predict what would happen with every spell that I cast. 

Asra’s magic was the complete opposite. It was like water, knowing, suggestive, and distinct. It could flow so easily and there were very rarely any mistakes.


One day, I observed the crowds of people outside on the balcony of the shop. In the whole year, I never asked Asra if I could go outside, only sticking to the balcony. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for the loud and bustling streets of Vesuvia. But there was still a curiosity and an itch for adventure in the back of my mind.  

“Done feeding your plants?” Asra asked, picking up the watering can on the floor of the balcony. I silently nodded my head, eyes never leaving the street. He came up and stood beside me, trying to see what I was looking at. 

I finally asked him, “Can… Can I go outside?” 

Asra looked at me, his brows furrowed. “You never have to ask me for permission.” 

“I-I know! I just wanted to go alone though.”

I could feel an immediate worry in his emotions. I understood what he was worried about, but I knew he had to open the shop that morning. “I’ll be careful. And I’ll come back in an hour. I’ll time it!” 

Hesitation…  

Asra breathed a deep sigh and smiled at me. “Okay. But, since it’s technically your first time, I’m going to bind myself to you temporarily. You remember that spell?” 

I nodded eagerly, loving whenever Asra did magic on me. His magic felt refreshing and smooth as it washed over my body. I could feel the invisible bind he was talking about.

“I want you to tug it if you’re ever in trouble. Just in case my phone isn’t on me. And use your phone for directions, okay?” 

As an answer, I threw my arms around his shoulders, hugging him tightly. 

“Thank you…” I said, muffled by his scarf, and my heart pounding.

I let him go and went to get ready for the day.


I stepped out the front door of the shop, looking left, and then looking right, wondering which way I should explore first. I got stares from a few passersby, already unsettling me some. But I was mentally pep-talking to myself, reassuring that everything was okay. So, I continued on my small journey. 

I walked along the beautiful streets of Vesuvia, enjoying the sunshine and light breeze. I admired some of the little riverways and canals that ran throughout all of Vesuvia. There were plenty of gondoliers waiting on anyone to pay them, despite all of the cars on the streets. 

I decided to pay one of them, knowing that they probably needed the money. I sat and watched as the gondolier rowed throughout a few districts. Eventually, he said that he needed a break and dropped me off in a shadowy alley. I said that I would return shortly, wanting to explore some more. He only nodded in response, downing his bottle of water. 

I followed the noise of rushing water and soon came upon a giant waterfall in the middle of a random district. The water looked as if it was pouring on top of a dilapidated house, rolling off the ruined roof. That’s when I realized that everything around me looked neglected and run down. I also noticed that I was standing on a makeshift sidewalk. The actual sidewalk was below the water of the canal, meaning it was overflooded. 

The streets looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. 

I stood there, wondering what could have happened to this neighborhood to let it get so bad. Until I felt arms around me and then somebody yanking me behind a building. I tried to scream but their hand over my mouth, while I struggled. Their arms were tight around my wrists.

When they finally released me I whipped around, only to see a tired-looking man. He shouted my name, sounding desperate. 

“It’s me, Cessair! Do you remember me? I-I thought you died, I coulda swore-”

What…? What is he talking about…? Did he know me from before…?

“I-I’m sorry, but I don’t know you…”

“What? Of course you do! Don’t you remember us back in our country? You helped out when I was a kid?” 

I shook my head in confusion, not understanding. 

“Y-you know me, right? It can’t be the drugs getting to me…”

Drugs…?  

All of a sudden his hands grabbed my wrists, so tight that I knew they would bruise. He started to shake them, desperately trying to get me to remember somehow. Scared, I pulled on the binds, hoping Asra could feel it. 

“Cessaire! Remember that name? I just- I wanted to see if-” 

“No! I don’t remember! Now please-”

He slammed me against the brick wall, hard. Before I knew it, light shot from my fingertips, so bright that it blinded both of us for a few seconds. I heard the man named Cessair scream to the top of his lungs in agony. Once my vision focused on him, I saw a huge burn across his face, his left eyebrow burned off. Some of the hair on his scalp was burning away. I could see the sizzle and smoke rising from his burnt skin. I was horrified. Not of him, but myself. How could I do that…?  

“I’m so sorry…! L-let me-”

“Get away from me, you witch! ” 

He pulled out a pocket knife, and started swinging. I tried to dodge and put my arms up to summon a shield of some sort, but it slashed my arm. I started to sprint and run back to where I came from, but the gondolier was gone. 

What…?!

I was completely panicked, and when that happened there was no way I could summon any magic well. I looked back behind me and saw Cessair screaming and stomping towards me. 

But then, there was Asra. He stood in front of me and whispered something under his breath. And then several ropes slithered out from underneath his sleeves and wrapped themselves tightly around Cessair, letting him fall to the ground with a thump. 

“Goddamn you!” he cursed. 

Asra turned towards me, worry written all over his face. But I couldn’t even see him clearly, because of the tears that blurred my vision. “I’m sorry, Asra…” 

He embraced me, glancing at the struggling man. “We have to call the police now,” he said gently. He pulled out his phone and did just that.


When we got home, he closed the shop for the day. We went upstairs and Asra made some of my favorite tea to calm me down. 

I was on the couch, wrapped in the throw blankets. Just like a burrito. 

Asra set the tea on the coffee table and sat next to my body. I could tell he didn’t want to rush anything. He wanted me to take my time. 

“I hurt him, Asra.”

“You had no choice.” 

“B-but that scar… Every day, when he wakes up and looks in the mirror, he’ll be reminded of what I did to him. I can’t imagine what he could be feeling.”

“How do you have empathy for someone like that?” 

There was a moment of silence. I didn’t know how to answer his question. So instead, I brought up what the man said to me. 

“He knew me.” 

And the air felt so much more different. Much more still and thick. 

Asra knew about my past. And if Cessair claimed that he was a part of it, Asra must’ve known him as well. But I knew he would never say because he didn’t want to hurt me. And it would stay like that for another two years.

Chapter Text

The news reported that the virus numbers were decreasing rapidly after the ritual took place. Also, Lucio was reported dead, murdered in his sleep. Burnt to a crisp the night of the Masquerade. But Asra wasn’t complaining. He had bigger problems. 

First, it was to report that his love was indeed, not dead. This was fairly easy, because, with how many people that died during the Red Plague, there were multiple times where people would make mistakes in their computer systems. All he had to do was call a few people and notify their mistake. Done. 

The second problem was his love’s memories.

For the whole first year, Asra had to take care of her and teach her the most basic things. Not just in magic, but also the fundamental things about being human. He didn’t mind if it meant one step closer to communicating and living with her normally. Also, it would help him understand how she felt about her memories. 

Does she even want to remember…?  

He asked her this one day, and she said, “Of course. I think a person’s past is very important. Not so much for other people, but mostly for themselves. But… I’m okay with just being me too…” She mumbled the last part, a little embarrassed. 

Asra still loved her, so very much.

But he understood how she wasn’t the same person he fell in love with. He knew that coming back to life would change anyone, even if it was just in small ways. To herself, she was only a person who just started all over again, without any memory of Asra, Muriel, Nadia, Lucio, and Julian. She was her own person that didn’t remember anything about her old self, and Asra knew that. But he didn’t care. He learned to fall in love with her all over again, after only one year. 

The third problem was his desire for her. 

One day, Asra was tending to the shop, reading people’s cards, showing them certain charms, telling their fortunes just by the palm of their hands, and declining anyone who offered to take him out on a date. You know, the usual.

His love wasn’t helping that day because she was busy signing up for college. When Asra brought the idea up to her, she fell in love with it. She was curious about college and wanted to learn more about how to handle a business. She begged him to join the same college as her, which he did, he just wanted to take online courses. And when he brought that up to her, she nearly had another migraine because of all the possibilities that were flowing through her head. 

Asra went upstairs, greeting his lavender familiar that was cozy in her knitted snake sweater, relaxing on the couch. 

“She made another one?” he asked her. 

“Love!”  

He smiled and went further upstairs to the bedroom. Once he opened the door, he paused, and took in the sight before him. 

She was sprawled across a yoga mat, her chest rising and falling with her heavy breaths. She was wearing a loose t-shirt that was showing a part of her stomach, and some leggings that fit perfectly around her ass and thighs. The skin that was exposed, glistened with sweat. Her face was flushed with a pretty pink as well.  

Her arm that was resting on her forehead moved so that she could look at who was standing in the door frame, just staring at her. 

“Asra…”  

Her beautiful lips formed his name in an airy sigh, and then turned upwards into a glowing smile. 

Said person’s pants were feeling tighter the longer he looked at her. She was exercising more often since she felt like she wasn’t moving around as much as she should. Asra just happened to walk in on her session. And he thought she looked perfect. And what does he say?

“Hey there.”

… 

He mentally face-palmed himself. He thought that he sounded like a total weirdo. “Hey there…?”

She seemed completely oblivious to what he said though. She only laughed and sat up, grabbing a towel she laid out beforehand. 

“I know I must look a mess,” she said, dabbing the towel across her brow. 

“No. I think you look really good. ” 

… 

Ugh… Maybe it’s just my tone…? 

He was starting to hate the way he was talking to her. The reason why was because he sounded no different from the people that would constantly try to ask her out whenever she helped out with the shop. 

Those were the kind of people that were his fourth problem. 

The very first time she was being hit on, was with this one person that came in and asked her how she was doing, and other simple and innocent things at first. Asra was in the backroom, giving readings and fortunes while he watched out the corner of his eye. He couldn’t help it.

Then they asked if she had a specific book they could look at. And that specific book just happened to be on the top shelf of the bookcase in the shop. So, his love had to climb up the ladder to get it. But apparently, she couldn’t do it on her own, so they grabbed her waist to “help steady the ladder.”

Then literally hold the ladder… 

Their hands rubbed just slightly higher or lower, very discreetly, trying to make it look as if it was an innocent reposition of the hand. Their eyes raked over her body, making Asra’s veins practically bulge in anger. 

Once they finally had the cursed book, they thanked her and dragged her around the shop some more, milking all of her attention. And when they stayed long enough, they got cocky and held her waist with one arm and whispered in her ear their question. She blushed and said no, too embarrassed to be with them any longer. She tried to part with them and focus on her work, but they continued. 

What really got Asra going was how many times she said no, but they continued what they were doing anyway. And that’s when he excused himself from his reading and confronted them. 

Asra never liked confrontation or violence. But when he saw his love being taken advantage of, he couldn’t just sit around and pretend it wasn’t happening. Especially when she was only brought back to the world for only a year. 

“Excuse me, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

“Why?” 

The look of pure disdain on Asra’s face told them all they needed to know. You know the look.  

And when they turned to leave, Asra whispered a small hex under his breath, making sure they got what they deserved. 

He turned to his love and pulled her aside. 

“Whenever someone like that keeps bothering you or if they make you feel uncomfortable, you tell them to leave. You shouldn’t have to put up with that.” 

“What happens if they don’t leave?” 

“Well… those poor unfortunate souls…”


There were plenty of times when Asra just wanted to leave because of how much he wanted her. He never wanted to make her feel uncomfortable with his feelings. The magician also felt like she could love whoever she wanted to love, even as painful as it was for Asra. And even if he did tell her his feelings, he worried that it might cause her headaches. 

He was going to bring up the idea of taking trips more often the second year, wanting her to gain more confidence in handling the shop. But after the incident with Cessair, he didn’t know what to do. 

He was laying in bed with her, wanting to hold her in his arms so badly. Asra wanted to feel her hair between his fingers, gently playing with it while she slept. He also desperately wanted his erection he had in his pajama pants to go away. 

Asra found himself in a bit of a pickle. He never wanted to leave her, but he also didn’t want her to discover how much he wanted her. At least not like that. 

Her ass was pressed right up against his hips, right where his arousal was. He was too scared to move because he didn’t want to wake her up. He thought of how mortifying it would be to have her find his hard cock pressed up against her. He felt disgusted with himself too. How could he think of her like this? Especially when she was sleeping. 

But, Asra’s self-deprecation with himself wasn’t going to help him at that moment. 

He knew that there was no way he was going to make it the whole night. So, he made the move. 

Asra gently lifted the sheets and got up so, so very slowly. The bed creaked and he thought it was all over. But she only resituated herself in her sleep. Thank the Gods… 

He tiptoed his way over to the bathroom, his bulge prominent, and wanting to be relieved. 

The magician turned the knob and closed the door, making sure there was no clicking noise. He sighed, leaning against the sink. He looked up to his reflection and then back down to his obvious erection. 

Asra slipped off his pajama pants and shirt. He decided that taking a cold shower was what he deserved. How could he just masturbate to her while she was sleeping in the room right next door? 

He was about to walk over to the shower, but something caught his eye.

The mirror. 

It started to change. 

At first, he thought he was just tired from the long day he had. He rubbed his eyes and squinted his eyes at the mirror before him. But no. The reflection was still changing. 

He wondered if he should be alarmed, or if this was a new spell he didn’t know about. 

The reflection changed and altered from Asra to his love. Except, she was touching herself. He wasn’t sure where she was, but it looked like another bathroom. 

She was rubbing her clit when her half-lidded eyes drifted to Asra, and she immediately gasped when she saw him, startled. She instantly closed her legs and scooted back on the towels she was laying on. 

“Asra… I’m sorry…” She sounded so small and ashamed. Asra didn’t even know what was going on! Wasn’t he the one invading her privacy in the mysterious mirror world? 

“What are you sorry for?”

It took her a moment to respond. “I… I was thinking of you while…” She shifted uncomfortably on the tile floor, not wanting to continue. Asra swore he could see tears in her eyes. 

“Don’t cry! It’s perfectly fine,” he said, wanting her to feel better. 

Her cheeks were flushed a deep red while she gripped the towel tightly around her body. “Asra… what is that?” Her gaze kept darting to his cock and then back down to the floor of the bathroom she was in. 

He looked down and instantly he was also blushing. He didn’t even notice he was just presenting himself to her. Asra didn’t even know she could see it. 

“Ah… Um, I’m sorry,” he said, starting to grab a towel off the rack to cover up. But before he could she said, “Wait!” 

He froze in his tracks, waiting for her to continue. 

“Um… Can I look at it?” she asked, clearly embarrassed. 

He wondered if she was thinking he was just a vision in the mirror. That he wasn’t real. Cause Asra was thinking she must be just a vision. A very beautiful and tempting vision. The magician thought that perhaps it was another reality, or another time. 

The magician reluctantly obliged, flushing from his ears to his chest as he watched her stare at him. She laid back down on the towel, propping her head up, just observing him. After a few moments of silence, her hand slowly let go of the towel she was gripping so tightly. Then it traveled back down in between her legs. The sight of her in a huge bathroom, lying on a marble floor, the sun shining through the windows, making her look angelic. He wasn’t sure where she was, but he wasn’t complaining. 

Her movements made the towel wrapped around her body fall around her, revealing her gorgeous skin and body. Asra’s cock twitched at just the vision of her. 

His hand also moved to his arousal. He wiped the pearl of precum from the tip of his dick and began to rub at a slow pace. She moaned and repositioned herself into a more comfortable position. She was lying on her back, her legs open, revealing her dripping pussy. Her eyes kept drifting all over Asra’s body, taking all of him in at once. 

“Asra… I want you so bad…

He groaned and felt his desire unconsciously falling from his lips as well. 

“I want you too…”

Her fingers rubbed over her bundle of nerves, causing her to arch her back. Her other hand played with one of her breasts. 

“Can you teach me how to… put them in?” she asked.

Asra gripped the sink again, wanting something to keep him from slipping from reality. 

“Yes,” he whispered, trying to keep his voice down. 

She sighed happily and smiled at him, and it took him all his might to stop rubbing because he could’ve came from just her reaction. 

“First, gently put one finger inside. And let your body adjust.” 

“Will it hurt?”

“No, it shouldn’t. It looks like… you’re wet enough.”

She did as instructed and moaned loudly at the feeling of her finger in her heat and her hand just slightly rubbing her clit. Instinctively, she started to move on her own. Her body twitched a little at the new feeling. Eventually, she added a second finger. 

“Good… So, good…” he moaned, his pace picking up. 

He watched her gently pumping her fingers in and out. Her moans were echoing throughout the bathroom she was in, or it could’ve been throughout Asra’s. He didn’t care. They were heavenly. 

“A-am I doing it right?” 

“Yes, baby…” 

“Am I making you feel good too…?”

“Yes you are. You’re doing so well.”

Tears started to well in her eyes again, but this time, because of pleasure. At least Asra hoped. 

“It feels like- I feel…” she trailed off, picking up her pace. He could hear the lewd echoes of her wetness, which only pushed him closer and closer. 

“You’re getting close, love.” 

“Is-is that good?” Her voice was getting higher, and he could tell she was desperate to come. Tears finally fell from her eyes. Asra couldn’t make it much longer, and he wanted her to come before him. 

“Yes. You’re so good, baby. I want to watch you come around your own fingers. Let me see you come, love.”

The praise, the instructing, and the want to come all pushed her over the edge. She moaned his name so loudly and did exactly what he wanted. Not long after, Asra closed his eyes and finally came as well, his come spurting all over the sink, whispering her name in return. 

After he came down from his orgasm, he opened his eyes again, only to find his reflection staring back at him.


“When will you be back?”

She sounded so worried and it made Asra want to hold her. But of course, he couldn’t.

“I’ll be back in about two weeks,” he said. 

Her eyes widened and then they glanced all around the shop. She was getting overwhelmed. But then something changed in her eyes. There was all of a sudden sadness in them, like she came to an awful conclusion. 

“Oh… I see,” she mumbled. 

“What’s wrong?”

“You don’t… want to put up with me anymore. It’s okay, I get it. I have to learn.” She tried to smile, but he could see how broken it looked. 

“No, that’s not it. I just… need to get more supplies and be on my own for a while.” Asra knew he should’ve left the last part out. 

“It’s fine. I understand. I hope you have a safe trip, Asra.” 

And she went upstairs, leaving Asra at the front door of the shop. She didn’t sound angry, she sounded disappointed. He wished he could’ve gotten at least one hug from her and a real smile before he left. And he wished he didn’t break her spirit.


The first week I was fine on my own. The only problem I had was sleeping on my own. I missed sleeping next to Asra’s warm body at night. His calming scent was fading on his side of the bed. I missed everything about Asra, and I was only one week in. I wanted to text him but I didn’t want to bother him with any more questions. 

The second week came and I woke up like usual and readied the shop. As soon as I unlocked the door to flip the sign, a person confronted me, a short and angry-looking man with a beard. 

“Where’s Asra?” he asked, his voice like gravel. His wrinkles were deepening with his growing scowl.

“He’s not in, sir. He went off on a trip.” 

He clicked his tongue and rolled his eyes. 

“Of course he did. Right when rent is due.” 

Rent…?!

Asra always handled the money the shop earned, which meant he also handled the rent that was due every month. At least I thought he did. 

“Um… How much do we owe you?” 

The landlord looked at me as I was from another planet. 

“Don’t you live with him? Or did you really die and come back to life?” 

My head was starting to ache, not from a memory problem, but from the conversation itself. 

“I do live with him, but he’s the one that deals with the rent,” I explained, just wanting to throw money at the angry man so he could leave. 

“Right, well, you both owe two thousand and two hundred.” 

My head spun just thinking of how much that was. Was rent that expensive, or was he just pulling my leg?

Before I could ask he shouted, “I’ll be back after this week! And you better have it! Cash!” And he was gone.


I texted and called Asra for a whole hour and I got no reply for the whole day. He was the only one who knew what to do.

I was sitting at the dining table, my head in my hands. But then I felt something cool and smooth moving at my feet.

Faust slithered up my leg, and she almost looked as if she was smiling. She knew something I didn’t.

“Hey, Faust.” 

“Bank…!” she whispered. 

“Bank? You want to go to the bank?” 

I picked her up with one arm and gently placed her on the table. 

“Money!”

My eyes widened and I raced to put my jacket and shoes on. I slipped out the door with Faust wrapped around my shoulders. The whole time she was giving me directions to the bank. I wondered if Asra smuggled her into the bank without them knowing, the idea making me grin. 

When we reached the building, the familiar hid herself in my jacket, getting cozy. 

I nervously walked up to the front desk, my wallet in hand. 

“Hello there, ma’am!” A woman sat behind the desk, widely smiling at me. 

“Um… Hi.”

“We’re about to close soon. Is there anything I could help you with?” 

“Well I- um….” 

Faust’s voice echoed in my mind again, “Account…” 

“I would like to see my account!” 

“Don’t you have the app, ma’am?” 

“No… I guess I’m a little old fashioned.” 

She laughed, her eyes not smiling at all. She asked me for all my information so that she could open my account on her computer. 

“It looks like you have four thousand three hundred and thirty-two in your account.” 

“Can I just withdraw two thousand and two hundred?”

“Why so much?” 

“Rent. You know how it is.” 

She squinted her eyes at me suspiciously, but did it anyway. 

“You know, there’s someone else that comes in here for your account. The same amount too,” she said, handing me the cash. I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion.

“Someone with white hair. Very handsome. He had to do all sorts of paperwork to get access to your account,” she continued.

“He’s my roommate.” 

She eyed me enviously before saying goodnight to me. I left and took in a huge sigh. But there was still something bothering me. 

Why was Asra accessing my account for money? Didn’t he have his own? I thought that the shop was his and his alone, so he should’ve had his checking account where all the money would go. Also, I was running out of money!

I assumed that the shop was doing well. But when she told me how much money I had, it didn’t seem like much at all. Not enough for the next month’s rent at least. So if Asra has been using my bank account this whole time, that means he could’ve been using it for food as well. When did I even have money…?  

I had to come up with a way to find more money, and fast.

Chapter Text

Asra walked through the front door of the shop, feeling worried as ever. He noticed that his love called and texted him several times while he was away. He replied and called back as much as he could, but she didn’t reply at all. Asra was scared that he had made another wrong decision. 

He returned a little earlier than what he said. It was very late at night, she would’ve been asleep by then. He went all the way upstairs and went into their shared bedroom. 

To his horror, she wasn’t there. 

As if on cue though, he heard the front door of the shop being opened. He rushed back downstairs and found his love, exhausted, shutting, locking, and warding the door. 

“Where were you?” he asked. It was never like her to be out so late at night. If anything, he always teased her about being such a grandma that went to bed so early. 

She looked startled, as if she didn’t even hear his footsteps from before. She looked so tired.  

“Asra. You’re back.”

He repeated his question, a little more insistent and stern. He didn’t forget about what happened with Cessair. 

She blinked her tired eyes for a moment and slowly walked up to Asra. His love gave a happy sigh while she hugged the magician. She took a deep breath, inhaling his scent, her tense muscles calming. 

“I’m sorry that I worried you. I was just picking up our textbooks,” she mumbled. 

She leaned back to shuck off her heavy backpack. Afterward, she rolled her aching shoulders and neck, relieving some of the soreness. 

“This late? Anything could’ve happened to you.”

“I had Faust.” She wearily smiled as said familiar slithered out from her denim jacket, flicking her tongue as usual. 

Something wasn’t right. It was ten o’clock at night, but she was only picking up textbooks? And there were online textbooks he could’ve used. 

Asra looked to Faust for confirmation, and the lavender snake bobbed her head a little and whispered, “Books!”

He narrowed his eyes at the both of them suspiciously, but decided not to push it. 

“So the landlord came by?” he asked. 

She nodded in response and rubbed her eyes before she replied. “Yeah I went to the bank with Faust the other day. I already paid him.”

“You went there to withdraw some money?” 

She nodded and started to walk upstairs. “How come you have access to my account?” she asked, opening the door to the shared apartment. 

The magician knew that one day she would ask him that question, but he still didn’t know how to answer it without hurting her. If she tried to remember her Aunt, she would surely have another headache. And that was the last thing he wanted. 

“We’ll talk about it tomorrow. I can tell you’re worn out from the day.” 

“Wait.”

She completely froze in the living room and turned back around towards Asra. Her gaze fell to his bandaged left arm and her heart nearly leaped out of her chest. His love’s eyes were as big as saucers.

“What happened?” she asked. She clearly couldn’t believe how she didn’t even notice his injury. 

Asra glanced back down at his arm and then mischievously smiled back up at his love.

“I got a tattoo.” 

… 

“Oh.”

He slowly unwrapped the bandage and she just gaped at the piece of art that started at his wrist and ran up to his shoulder. It was a little red, but she could still see the beautiful colors he used. They went so well with his sun-kissed skin. The tattoo had a beautiful snake that looked a lot like Faust that wrapped around his arm. It wasn’t too big, it was subtle. What also got her attention, were the flowers and plants that were around the snake, all in a perfect sequence. 

His love just kept gawking at his arm, and he was slowly starting to get a little embarrassed. 

Did she like it, or…? 

“I love it,” she whispered, a wide grin on her face. 

“You do?”

“Of course. It’s perfect for you. And… I think it looks very attractive…” she mumbled, cheeks flushing.


Two more years had passed, and neither of them ever brought up the accounts like they said they would. Probably because there wasn’t a money issue for them anymore, so there was no point.

His love was always leaving him after dinner. Every time Asra would ask, she just said it was a night shift at a fast-food restaurant. 

Whenever he went to the ATM he would see more money in her bank account. But, unusual amounts of it. One week there’d be one thousand and then another week only five hundred. 

She was making way more than an average fast-food restaurant paid. 

Asra was growing more and more suspicious, but he never confronted her about it. Surprisingly, she seemed happy about whatever she was doing, despite always being so tired at the end of the day. She said it made her feel productive and more responsible. 

Her college wasn’t too far from the shop and she would try to attend as much as possible. And if she couldn’t make it, she’d stay at home and work on her laptop all day. Even though they both went to the same college, Asra mostly preferred online classes. He had to handle the shop, and also, he was a little lethargic. He loved his afternoon naps too much. 

Asra still left her though. 

She was never happy about him leaving, but she never pushed it. She knew she wouldn’t get an answer. At least, not one that would satisfy her. Asra would always say that he was leaving for herbs and spices, or maybe a few trinkets and artifacts. But most of the time, he wouldn’t say anything at all. Not where he was going, not what he was getting, and not when he’d be back. 

She got used to it, despite how much it hurt whenever he left. She wondered if it was just something he did. Something he had the urge to do and he couldn’t control it. And then her mind would always drift back to the first time he left. She wondered if it was her doing. Maybe he didn’t want to be with her longer than he had to. 

But that couldn’t have been the reason he left so much. 

His love never bothered thinking about it too much since she was so busy either way.


It was my first day off since I started my new job. It was a weekend so we didn’t have school, and the shop was closed as well. It was these rare and random days that I loved the most, since we both got to spend time together. These days made me realize how much I loved the little things Asra would do.  

I loved waking up to him every morning and seeing his adorable bed head. And making him breakfast just because, even though he always told me not to. Also, the plates that he loved so much. They were animal plates meant for kids, but he didn’t care. He couldn’t have one meal without them. 

And he’d always forget to clean up after whatever we would be doing

When he’d get dressed, he would throw on whatever was comfortable, not thinking twice about what it looked like. But he always managed to look great in everything anyway. 

I loved texting him throughout the day, because he’d send me all sorts of weird memes and gifs that made me laugh so hard in the middle of lectures. 

I loved to watch him work. He always furrowed his eyebrows in concentration and his eyes would dart around the screen of the laptop. Or whenever he was so interested in a book he would bite his lip sometimes with the same look of intense focus on his face. The best was watching him search for a makeshift bookmark. Sometimes it would be bobby pins, birthday cards I gave him, or some of his scarves. 

When he worked in the shop I felt the same way. I loved watching him interact with customers because he always knew what to say at the right time. Asra also had good taste in everything, so he was just that weird, relatable, attractive, and cool guy that worked in the magic shop in Center City. He was just naturally likable. 

I seriously pondered whether or not he felt the same way. 

But it always ended with, no. Of course he couldn’t feel the same way.

Chapter Text

Asra was leaving, once again.

“Do you need anything while I’m away?”

I tried to hide my disappointment with a smile, but I had a feeling he saw right through me anyway. 

I shook my head and answered, “No. I just want you to be safe.” 

“Of course.” 

I hugged him like usual, wishing him a safe trip. I didn’t want to let go of him. If anything I just wanted to tell him my feelings. I wanted to tell him the truth as well, about my job. I hated lying to him about where I worked, but I knew he wouldn’t like it at all if I told him. And I didn’t want to quit yet since I was making really good money to help sustain us. We couldn’t always depend on the shop for money. Some days it would be great, and other days it’d be a very slow and tedious day. 

We both reluctantly parted from our embrace. 

“How about… you give me a reading before I go?” he asked, a grin spreading across his face. 

I nodded, still thinking that my abilities weren’t up to par at all. Asra knew that I doubted my magical abilities, but he always encouraged me to believe in myself when it came to it. It sounded cliche, but he was right. 

We sat in the backroom, and I began to shuffle his deck of tarot cards. Asra made them himself, his power imbued in between each card that represented the Arcana. And he liked to think that I was talented. 

I laid out three cards and picked one of them to flip. 

The High Priestess. 

“What is she telling you?” he asked, watching me with interest. 

The Arcana never spoke in any human tongue. But somehow I could still understand what they were saying. 

“You’ve… shut her out. She says you won’t listen to her. And-” 

We both jumped at the sound of an insistent knock at the door. 

“Well… I guess that’s my cue to leave,” Asra said, shuffling around for his things. “I’ll miss you…” 

“I’ll miss you too. Now go.”

He smiled one last time and slipped out the back door.

I sighed and trudged to the front door. I wondered who would have been knocking since the shop's sign was flipped to “closed.” It must’ve been the light that I left on. We sometimes had people come when the shop was already closed, and they were always a hassle since they were usually the stubborn type. 

I opened the door to the stranger and said, “I’m sorry, we are currently closed. I can help you tomorrow morning though, so-”

“I’m sorry, magician. But I cannot wait any longer.” 

I was taken aback by the mystery person’s voice. It sounded so strong and sure, as if it was made to lead. It also sounded smooth and a little sensual. The person pulled back the hoodie they were using to shadow their features. 

My eyes widened at who it was. I remember seeing her on the news. She was a very successful CEO of a company that made luxury products. She was previously the daughter of a famous family who also had a lineage of businesses. Her name was Nadia.

“May I come in, please?” she asked politely. 

With no hesitation whatsoever, I let her in. 

“I’m sorry to intrude on your time, but I had to come to you immediately.” 

I let her go on, too in awe of the beautiful woman that graced my presence. Her hair was a gorgeous tyrian purple and flowed down her back as she flipped all of it out from her hoodie. 

“Huh… You looked different in my dreams,” she said thoughtfully. 

Before I could ask she continued, “I heard of your reputation, magician. No matter the person, no matter the class, they all speak very highly of you.” 

I was even more puzzled at her words. I wondered if she was mistaking me for Asra, but before I could ask she requested, “A reading, please.” And of course, I couldn’t say no. 

“R-right this way,” I said, walking over to the backroom. “What would you like to know?”

“I want to know… if the time is right.”

I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion. But, I shuffled Asra’s tarot deck again and placed three cards down on the table. I flipped one over and it revealed The Magician. 

I listened for a moment, wanting to focus as much as possible. The Magician was always hard to interpret for most people. But surprisingly, they gave a clear answer for Nadia. 

“Yes. It is time for you to take action…” 

“Then that’s that.” The CEO abruptly stood up walking back over the front door of the shop. I tripped over the chairs just trying to keep up with her. She gave me an amused smile while she waited for me to open the door for her. I scrambled for the doorknob and obliged. 

“I want you to visit the mansion tomorrow. The one that used to host the Masquerades. I’ll let people know to let you in. Thank you, magician. You’ve opened my eyes.”

And then I watched her figure disappear into the foggy night as she walked down the streets of Vesuvia. 

What just happened…? 

I returned inside, wanting to brew a cup of tea to mull everything over. 

“Isn’t it a little late for you, witch?” 

My heart nearly stopped when I heard someone else’s voice in the room. My eyes darted around the shop, looking back and forth for the intruder. When I whipped around to look behind me, there was a lanky figure looming over me. He was wearing a black coat and jeans, with an eye patch. 

I backed away towards the counter, gripping an empty bottle that was supposed to be for potions.

“Oh? En garde then, witch! Give me your worst!” 

He advanced and I instinctively brought the bottle down over his head, causing it to smash into pieces. 

He fell to his knees and groaned. 

“So… you’ve got some strength,” he said, wiping the blood off of his brow. 

“What do you want?” I asked, muscles tense with anxiety. 

He stood and his height made me even more fearful. “I was wondering where the witch was. I assume that you’re learning from him.”

He glanced around, clearly seeing that Asra wasn’t anywhere. 

“Oh.” 

I was about to ask him for more information but I was startled by his sudden statement. 

“I want a reading! And then I shall leave you alone in exchange.”

I squinted my eyes at him and looked at him as if he was joking. He broke into the shop, tried to fight me, and then all he wanted, in the end, was a reading?

“What?” 

Some of the intruder’s theatrical confidence withered away at my question. “A-a… Well, I would like my fortune told. It seems.” 

He looked around the shop awkwardly, before walking into the backroom and plopping on one of the chairs. “Don’t be shy now,” he said, smiling. 

I hesitantly walked into the backroom as well, sitting across for the intruder. 

“What’s your name?” 

“My name?” 

“I need to know your name for the reading.”

“Oh. Of course. Um… You can call me Julian.”

I furrowed my brows at him, my lips pursing a little. The man named Julian, watched me shuffle the cards closely. 

I, for the third time that night, laid out three cards before me. I flipped a card over and my mind started to race.

Death.

I tried to listen to it’s whisper, but Julian interrupted. 

“Death?” he firstly said. And then, “Death!” He started to cackle with a burst of loud laughter. 

He stood from his seat and started for the door. I rushed after him. 

“D-Death could mean many things!” 

“It’s okay, shopkeep. I understood. And when the witch returns… come find me.” He turned to leave but then said one last thing, "Don't be fooled by him too, shopkeep." 

And yet another person slipped out the door into the misty night, leaving me positively confused.

Chapter Text

I was riding in a cozy van that smelled of incense and cinnamon. Asra.

I was in the front seat and when I looked to my right, my eyes gazed from the black painted fingernails to the tattooed wrist that was gripping the steering wheel, up to my roommates' amethyst eyes which were wholly focused on the road. I noticed that the headlights were on and it was late at night. The perfect time to travel for him. 

“Where… are we?” I asked, watching the road ahead of us. 

“Far from home, I believe,” he answered, whilst switching lanes on the highway. 

“Are we leaving?” 

Something flashed across his eyes and he took a glance at me before returning his attention towards the road. 

“No. Not for long.” 

“Then… why?” 

“For answers. We’re going to need them.”

“Why?” 

His lips turned upward into a smile. 

“Always asking questions…” 

I flushed a little and said, “I’m sorry…”

“It’s not your fault.”

“Right. It’s your fault.” I laughed a little. Asra gave me a questioning look and I explained further, “Maybe if my roommate wasn’t so mysterious all the time, I wouldn’t be asking so much.” 

I could tell he was trying to think of the right thing to say. But I knew he’d just deflect like usual. 

“Anyway… I think something is coming. There will be different paths to take soon,” he whispered. 

I looked on to the horizon into the distance, but all I could see was a thin line shifting colors. 

“What do you mean?” 

“You’ll know. For now… rest.”

His soothing voice erased all of my nerves, and I drifted off into a deep slumber.


When I woke, I was laying in our shared bed. Well… It was supposed to be shared. Asra left so often that he barely slept next to me. He is traveling a lot more these days…  

I rolled over to the other side of the bed, Asra’s side. It still had the same scent as his van. I gripped his pillow and breathed the sweetness in a little deeper. I missed him. I wanted to text him or call him about the events that took place the night before, but I knew he’d take forever to reply. Also, I thought that I had to deal with it on my own. 

But… How come trouble always comes when Asra decides to leave…?  

My mind went back to the first visitor. Nadia. I tried to ponder what she could want from me, practically a mere apprentice. I was sure that she wanted Asra though. And what I wasn’t so sure of was if she knew that I was just his roommate handling the shop while he was away. Her red gaze seemed so sure, like she wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer anyway. 

Then mind drifted to the second person that visited, or really- intruded. Julian. What caught my attention was his curly auburn locks and eyepatch. He was indeed… eccentric. I thought that he would’ve been great working at the community theatre, because of his eccentricity. It puzzled me to think of what he could’ve wanted from Asra though. Did he know Asra…? Before I knew Asra…?  

Everybody is just looking for Asra…  

One thing that both of these visitors had in common, was how I found them somewhat familiar. I felt like I met them in a different time or world and that I just couldn’t remember. My head started to ache a little and I sighed in frustration. I hated my headaches. I mean, nobody liked them, but they always made me feel like I could never learn my old memories ever again. And maybe that was the case. Either way, it hurt. 

I finally swung my feet over and onto the soft shaggy rug that Asra loved so much. I yawned and did my normal morning routine, but pausing once it got to the dressing part. I was completely stumped on what I should wear to the mansion. Did Nadia care…? Even though she looked like she knew fashion very well, she didn’t seem like the type to judge someone on their looks. She seemed much kinder than that. And I felt like she would’ve wanted me to be myself in front of her anyway. So, I dressed normally, remembering to grab a bag full of magic-things, just in case. 

After the events last night, I had the urge to lock all three of the front doors locks. After doing so, the urge was still not satisfied. I pressed my hand to the door and whispered a cross-me-not spell, hoping that the shop would remain safe while I was away. 

I turned to my left to begin my trek but paused at the sight of a huge man. Like, seven-foot-something huge. They wore a dark hoodie- and what is it with everybody wearing hoodies? 

I couldn’t make out their face in the evening light because of the tall buildings surrounding us. But I could make out his physique, even through the thick hoodie. I could tell that he was muscular and strong. For some reason, I didn’t find this man to be frightening. He certainly startled me, yes, but I could feel a different side. Though, it was hard to feel any further. He had so many casted protections on himself. He smelled of myrrh, one of my favorite scents.

He was just… watching me. 

I walked on, trying not to stare too harshly at him, despite him gazing at every move of my own. I caught a glimpse of beautiful forest green eyes and almost gasped. 

“You’re in danger,” he said, his voice like thunder. 

I stopped and looked him in the eyes this time. 

“He will give you a gift and offer something in return. Turn it away or you will become just like the rest of us…” he mumbled. He turned away and briskly walked in the opposite direction. 

… 

“Okay then.” 

I wanted to think about something. I know I did. But I couldn’t remember. I could’ve sworn someone was talking to me. I shrugged off my confusion and started for the mansion. 

While I was walking past the marketplace, I could hear the sea of vendors shouting their wares. But I could pick out a familiar voice in the crowd. Selasi the Baker. I smiled at his floured face and sat down at his counter.

“Hey! I have pumpkin bread in the oven if you’re hungry,” he said, his usual friendly self. 

Asra always got bread for me on his way home from his trips. One time we both came to eat lunch there and soon enough, we made acquaintances with the baker. But, I still liked to consider him a friend. 

“Yes, please. Your bread is the best in all of Vesuvia, Selasi.” 

“Thank you so much! That means a lot.” 

The smell of nutmeg, sugar, and pumpkin had my mouth watering. I hadn’t had the chance to eat anything that day except for a hot pocket. 

The Baker handed me a mug full of delicious mintiness. “Where’s Asra at?” 

“A journey again,” I answered plainly. I sipped the warm cup of tea and inhaled the steam and the scent, relishing it.

“Where’s he at this time?” 

I shook my head. “You know I never know, baker.” 

“Why doesn’t he ever tell you where he’s going?” He folded his arms over his chest, furrowing his eyebrows in confusion. 

I only shrugged and said, “He’s been… acting a little weird lately.” 

He gave me an odd look, but then it quickly faded into a smile. “Well… he’s off on a mysterious journey- nothing new. What about you?

I snapped out of my thoughts of Asra when I heard his question. And that’s when I realized that I was pretty much going on an adventure. My own adventure…  

“I’ve heard rumors all day! I heard that Nadia dropped by your shop, magician.” 

I could tell he was just fishing for gossip, but I didn’t give in. I used Asra’s method: deflect.

“So where’s the bread, huh?” 

The baker clicked his tongue and shook his head. “Sometimes you can be just as mysterious as Asra, you know?” 

He walked over to the oven and took out a fresh loaf of mouth-watering pumpkin bread. He gently set it on a paper towel and wrapped it up for me. I handed him the mug back and paid him. 

“Now, go tell Nadia I said hi!” 

I nodded and waved to him, clutching the bread to my chest with my other hand. I ambled over to the stairs and climbed them, but something caught my eye. There was a fortune-teller stand right up against the stone wall. Something about it… made me want to remember something. As if, I forgot something at the shop. I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn’t even realize a person was coming my way.

Both of us, unfortunately, weren’t paying attention when we both crashed into each other. I was teetering on the edge of one step while a bunch of pomegranates fell out of a grocery bag and onto the concrete stairs, which lead them to sadly fall to the bottom. 

“Oh, just terrific!” the stranger said. I couldn’t tell if they were talking to me or just to themselves. I noticed how the color of their eyes reminded me of the sea. Their hair looked very familiar, curly, and ginger. They also had cute freckles speckled across their cheeks and nose. 

I went back down the stairs and picked every one of them up, carrying them in my makeshift pouch that I made out of my oversized t-shirt. I picked the last one up and carefully walked back to the stranger. 

“O-oh! Thank you so much! That was really sweet of you.” I blushed at her thanks and helped her put the pomegranates back into her shopping bag. 

Afterward, I noticed that she was just oddly staring at me.

“I know you! You’re the magician Nadia wants to see,” she said, her eyes widening in excitement. 

I wasn’t sure what to say to that since there were all sorts of rumors floating around that day. 

“I work for her. I’m her assistant, Portia!” she explained. At first, I almost didn’t believe her. “I swear, I do! I have her phone number, and I’m for certain that she’d pick up.” 

How could I not believe her?

We got more used to each other on the path to the mansion.

“I’m really glad that you decided to help her. And… you also seem like a good person to me.” She winked at me and grinned happily. I nodded and thanked her. 

We reached the towering gates of the mansion and met two security guards, Ludovico and Bludmila. Portia introduced me to them so that they could recognize my face. They both quickly nodded their heads at me before opening the gates for the both of us. 

Both of us walked over a bridge and I swore that I could hear something lurking in the watery depths below. 

We approached the grand doors and my nerves started to settle back in. I was going to meet with Nadia, a very popular and influential person that was pretty much treated like royalty. I didn’t know the proper etiquette when it came to the higher class. Sure, they’d come to visit the shop because of all the gossip around Asra’s fortunes and readings. But… that was Asra’s thing. And he always handled it so well.

What awaits me beyond these doors…?

Chapter Text

The mansion’s towering walls and expensive decor only made my anxiety rise. Portia, on the other hand, looked indisputably calm and put together. Someone suddenly came rushing down the halls, sweat across their brow and their eyes wide with distress. Despite his state, he looked elegantly dressed with some black slacks and an ironed, white, button-up shirt, with a stiff bow tie. 

“Hello, Mr. Dankworth,” Portia greeted, slipping off her jacket. “How is Nadia doing?” 

Terrible! She is dreadfully unhappy!” 

As Portia was hanging up her jacket on the mahogany coat hanger, she rolled her eyes at the theatrics. She gave Mr. Dankworth the shopping bag of pomegranates and also began giving requests. 

“Can you please fetch us a bottle of Golden Goose?” 

“Oh, a perfect choice, Portia!” he exclaimed, dashing away through a portal in the wall. I wondered how big the mansion was if the maids and other servants had to use portals to get around. 

Portia gestured for me to follow her to the dining room. She was a fast walker and she knew exactly where she was going through the maze of a mansion. 

Soon we reached the dining room, which looked overwhelmingly huge to me. Crystal chandeliers were hanging from the high, decorated ceiling. The table was grand and long enough to hold at least twenty-two people. It was decorated with candles that were placed on what looked to be pure gold holders. My mouth was starting to water at the lingering scent of food that was present in the room. 

Nadia was leaning on her right hand, her fingers gently massaging her temples. 

“Ah, hello,” she said, her eyes widening a little. I felt a growing guilt in the back of my mind. I shouldn’t have kept her waiting… “You’re unfortunately too late for dinner.”

Portia then led me to my seat across from Nadia. She followed along and plopped into her seat next to me. A servant took the remnants of what could’ve been my plate.

“I was starting to think that you forgot my invitation. But, maybe you just aren’t accustomed to the long ways here.” 

Another server came and poured all three of us a glass of Golden Goose. Nadia took a sip and she made a hum of approval. 

“Portia, did you choose this?” she asked, her eyes lighting up at the taste of the elegant drink. 

“Yup. I thought that you worked really hard today,” Portia answered, a bit of blush dusting across her cheeks. 

I discreetly glanced between the two, silently thinking how great they’d be together. I was about to try the drink myself before I stopped in my tracks. I noticed an odd painting of several people who had heads of beasts, dining at a table full of small animals that looked to be dead. But there was a clear focal point in the painting, and that was the goat sitting in the center. It had a red gaze that was prominent and present. And I could’ve sworn that it was peering into anyone who stared hard enough. 

“Do you like the painting?” Nadia asked, her body shifting to observe it as well. 

“No… I don’t think I do.”

“No? My late husband loved it. It was one of his favorites. But… I will admit that he had some strange tastes in art.” 

Lucio, the party animal, and former host of the Masquerade that everyone in Vesuvia once lived for. In the three years I remembered, I’d never been to a Masquerade. 

“Everyone loved him for the yearly Masquerade, his birthday. Many wanted him to become a politician with how much power he had over this city. But he always declined, surprisingly. Maybe it was because he could be worshipped by the people where he stood, as a rich and successful CEO who had a monopoly over everything.” 

I took my eyes away from the painting and focused on Nadia. She set down her glass and folded her hands. 

She continued, “It was such a shock to the people of Vesuvia when the news reported him murdered. A brutal murder at that. He was burned alive in his bed, on his birthday too. Ever since then, not many guests have come by. Not any at all really.” 

Her gaze drifted from the painting and fell onto me. It was keen and strong, wholly focused. 

“But now you’re here,” Nadia said, with more confidence in her already strong voice. 

“What do you mean?” I asked, puzzled. 

“I want to host Masquerade again this year.”

The air stilled for a minute at her statement. The nearby servers stared while I did the same. 

“But before that, there is just one more thing that remains on my mind. Lucio’s murder.”

Goosebumps rose on my skin at the sudden mention of his name. I felt a shallow breeze in the room, as if someone was just casually walking by behind my chair. But no one was there. 

Nadia continued, “I want the person who murdered him in jail. And that man’s name is Julian Devorak. He was a physician that constantly came to help Lucio with the virus he had. He even confessed before when police caught him. All that we need now is his sentence. With the crime he committed, he might be executed.” 

Of course it’s the guy that broke into my shop…  

My thoughts were interrupted by the unexpected shatter of Portia’s glass. It looked like it just dropped out of her hand and onto the wooden floor, the remnants of the drink spreading. I glanced back up to her face and it was stricken with horror. 

“Portia?” Nadia asked, concern laced in her voice. 

“O-oh! I’m so sorry, Nadia! Butterfingers,” she laughed nervously, wiggling her fingers a little. 

“It’s okay.” 

The servers rushed in to clean the mess and Portia was sure to say thank you with multiple apologies. 

Nadia gave Portia a look I couldn’t describe before looking back to me. “The police have lost him again, but I will admit that our police force here in Vesuvia isn’t the best. I want you to find Julian.”

“How?”

“Rumors are saying that you have surpassed even your master, Asra. I know you can find this slippery murderer.” 

Master…? But he’s my roommate…

Nadia gently rose from her seat. “Portia… Portia?” 

“Huh? Oh, yes, Nadia?” 

“Can you please show her to our guest bedrooms?” 

“Sure. No problem.” 

Another indescribable look from Nadia before she gracefully left the room, her delicious smelling jasmine perfume trailing behind her. 

Portia and I rose from our seats as well. We left the room quite differently than when we entered. Portia was a lot less bubbly and unusually quieter. I didn’t know her that well, but I could tell something was wrong. 

We were walking down the long hallway before I spotted a grand staircase to my left, with the most beautiful dogs perched on the steps. They had the purest white fur and I instantly had the urge to pet it. Their eyes were a crimson red. Both were rather large but I wasn’t intimidated. I slowly walked towards them and held out my hand, letting them sniff it. I swore I could see them smile after they got a few good whiffs, their breaths tickling my skin a little. 

“Wow… They usually don’t like strangers,” Portia said. “I’ve never seen them act like this.”

The dogs continued to sniff until they were satisfied. They drew back, both of their tails wagging happily. I reached out, just slightly, so that I could pet one the two’s silky coat. 

“Wait!” Portia shouted. 

Both of them reared back. Either from me, or Portia’s alarmed tone. 

“I’m sorry… They can just be a little unpredictable. I’ve seen these dogs change on a whim before.” 

… 

She gasped, “I haven’t fed them their chamomile cakes!” 

Before I could even ask, she was already hastily running towards what I could assume was the kitchen. And then I was alone with the adorably cheeky dogs. I wasn’t bothered at all until I heard a deep whisper coming from the stairs. 

“You’re new…”  

Another breeze cut through the air and my goosebumps from earlier returned. The dogs that were at my feet began to tug on my clothes with their teeth. They were tugging me up the stairs. I tried to protest and yank away, but their grip was strong and stubborn. 

Once we reached the top of the stairs, they both left me in the dark and daunting hallway. But, that wasn’t the part that frightened me. It was the smell of ash that was truly unnerving to me. My heart was hammering and I was surprised that I could summon a small ball of light. 

“Come here…”  

My ball of light flickered a little at the voice, probably because I was startled out of concentration. 

You know… I wasn’t going to be like that one person in horror movies and investigate, so immediately whipped around and hastily made my way back down the stairs. 

Meanwhile, Portia was looking behind corners and underneath the staircase for me. When she heard my footsteps she glanced up at me and smiled. 

“I was looking for you!” she said, placing her hands on her hips. 

I gave her an exasperated look and she said, “You look pale. Maybe we should get you to your room.” 

I nodded and kept glancing all around me for an apparition, ghosts, anything! I didn’t want to say anything to Portia because I honestly didn’t think she would believe me. I followed close behind Portia’s heels and luckily, my room wasn’t too much further. 

Portia swung the wide door open and my jaw dropped. There was a modern, gorgeous, hanging lantern from the ceiling. The window was huge and so were the expensive and soft-looking curtains. The bed was twice as big as the shared bed back at the shop. I even had my own bathroom. 

“Breakfast will be at sunrise. Someone will probably be here to wake you,” she said, as I shrugged off my backpack. It hit the floor pretty hard, but it was really hard to care. Portia noticed my fatigue and said her goodnight. She mildly shut the door behind her, leaving me to my thoughts. 

I didn’t know what to think of the days to come. But what I did know was that I missed Asra so much. I took out my phone and checked for messages, missed calls, and emails. Nothing…  

I sighed and fell into the sheets, my arms wrapping around a soft, silk pillow. I was still hesitant to reach out to him. Because I was stubborn. I felt like I should’ve been able to handle all of… whatever the universe threw my way on my own. I was sure Asra was done with me leaning on him like a crutch, just like in the beginning. Well… nevermind, I couldn’t have been sure about that. But it certainly felt like that was the case. 

My eyes slowly started to droop until they completely shut. And I drifted into sleep, hoping that I’d see Asra in my dreams.

Chapter Text

The wind whipped across my face, unsettling dust and sand from the highway. It was night again when I saw Asra in the far distance, his van off on the side. But there was a fork in the highway, one way going east and the other going west. Asra was heading west and I somehow knew that that wasn’t the right way. 

The howling winds were hard to yell through. “No! That’s the wrong way, Asra!” 

He turned, whispering my name, as if I was a ghostly presence. I walked closer to him and realized that he couldn’t see me this time. How come he can’t see me…? 

I knew that he could feel though. I tried to call out his name again, desperate to tell him not to go down the wrong path, but the rugged and stubborn winds kept on. Asra’s gaze fell to the ground before he turned and got back into his van. He started up his engine and reluctantly drove down the westward path, leaving me in the dust. 

“Asra!”

And then I was awake. There was sweat across my brow and my muscles were tense. I was calling out for him here, wasn’t I…? My face flushed at the fact that someone could’ve heard me shouting out Asra’s name while I was in bed. But I noticed that it was still early morning, and the sun hadn’t risen yet. The moon was still shining brightly through the cracks of the thick curtain. I sighed in relief, knowing that I’d get a head start for the day. At least… until I actually got up. 

My mind was still stuck on the magician, Asra. 

I always dreamed of him at night. Some dreams were great, some were real, and some were… not real, but pleasurable. I wished with all my heart that those dreams were real. But they weren’t. All of the images of Asra doing things- sexual things, were probably fabricated from my deepest subconscious. 

I thought about sex a lot, especially ever since I got my job. I knew that it wasn’t right to fantasize about Asra, but it was so difficult when I was just surrounded by everything that was him. His scent, clothes, books, pictures, plates, drawings, and everything else in the shop reminded me every day of him. But when I was in the mansion, there was nothing to remind me of Asra. And I felt lonely and even more desperate for him than usual. 

My body all of sudden felt much warmer, and the heat between my legs began to get wetter and wetter. I flushed a darker red in embarrassment. It didn’t matter how much I masturbated and touched myself, I knew I wouldn’t orgasm. I would always get to what felt like the edge, but then I’d be stuck there in a sweet, sweet torturous limbo. I tried to come many times before with many different things. I tried watching porn while Asra was out grocery shopping, the thrill of him coming home to find me thoroughly turning me on, but nothing. When Asra was taking a nap in the bedroom, I was using a vibrator on the couch, muffling my mewls. Nothing.  

I read about the delicious feeling of an orgasm and what it was like to come in smut novels that I hid under the bed from my oblivious roommate. At first it started mild, but then picked up and got more intense, and when they finally felt it, it was described as such a rush for them. It looked and sounded like it felt so good. But it was like I was always missing something, no matter how much I thought and fantasized about Asra. I needed his touch. I needed his… 

“Good morninnng!” Portia said, opening the door with a little twirl. 

I blinked my eyes open and looked to the window, shocked at the fact that I didn’t even realize it was sunrise. 

I must’ve been thinking about sex for hours… 

The ginger plopped a tray of breakfast onto the bed while I slowly sat up. 

“Wow. You look like you have a fever.” She placed the back of her cooling hand on my forehead, concern in her eyes. I shook my head and smiled, mentally willing my embarrassing blush to disintegrate. “I-I’m fine,” I stuttered. Um… Didn’t she say that a maid or butler would wake me…? Not that I’m complaining… Portia was a wonderful person to see in the morning. 

“Well, if you say so. Nadia wants you to meet her in the library after you wake up a bit.” She then placed a neatly folded pile of lavish clothes next to the tray of delicacies. “I’ll be waiting out in the hall!” she said as she ducked out of the room. 

I quickly got out of bed and snatched the delicate pastries off the tray and stuffed them into my mouth. Afterward, I went into the bathroom to swiftly do my routine and dress. 

I finally opened the bedroom door and hesitantly stepped into the hallway. 

“Ohh! You look so nice! Nadia always knows good fashion,” Portia said, her entire face brightening.

We walked down the hallway only for a bit before pausing at another breathtaking door. It looked like a tree but its fruits were all kinds of jewels and stones alike. The door itself was huge and looked like it had the colors of honey itself. Portia then took out a large key and put it into three different locks, the roots of the tree starting to unwind from the door. 

When we entered I was immediately surrounded by books upon books! The walls were much taller than the hallways walls, and it was lined with books, any book you ever wanted to read. After I was done gawking at the massive library, Nadia coughed a little, getting my attention. She had an amused smile played on her perfect lips. But her scarlet eyes raked over the outfit I was wearing, and she hummed in approval. 

“You look very beautiful,” she said, closing her book and placing it on a nearby end table. She stood and motioned for me to follow her deeper into the chasm of books. She soon stopped at a certain alcove. There was a desk in the middle and an office chair. It was littered with papers and composition notebooks. But what had my attention was the laptop perched on the far right corner. Even though it was cluttered, it was still somewhat organized. The little space itself looked cozy and warm, but I could feel a distant feeling… dread, desperation, and the want and desperation to know… 

“This was where Julian would go whenever he visited my husband. Most days, Lucio would make him work from here for the virus. And Asra would be here sometimes as well. But that was only a few times. I’m not sure how much stuff the Julian left here, but I can assume not much.” 

I’ve only heard a few things from the epidemic that took place in Vesuvia three years ago. Asra never wanted to talk about it whenever I asked him, which I could understand. Millions of people died from whatever that virus was. Some people still called it the Red Plague. It’s cases slowly diminished following the three years that I was with Asra. And then thankfully, it was almost nonexistent.

“Lucio funded the search for the cure for the virus with his company. Magicians, scientists, physicians… all worked very hard for the cure at that time.” Nadia’s gaze drifted to the window. She walked over to peer out, her eyes glazing over a large willow tree in the gardens. 

“I’ve had police investigate the desk and they took whatever they could find, but they weren’t successful in finding anything useful. Not surprising. Even if that’s the case, I have a feeling that you’ll find something that they couldn’t.” 

She drew back out of the small alcove, turning once more to finish, “The case in your hands now, magician. Do what you see fit. All I ask is for you to join me for dinner this evening.” 

Nadia smiled one last time before leaving with Portia following at her heels. And then I am left alone at the desk. 

The first thing I start to investigate is the laptop. It still had dust on the top of it, and it looked as if it hadn’t been used in years. I glanced at the plug, and it was surprisingly still in the wall charging the computer. I opened the laptop and of course I was hit with it asking for a password. I peered and inspected at the papers and books, searching for anything that could resemble a password. Nothing. 

I sighed and moved my attention back to the screen. I clicked “forgot password?” and was taken to a security question: “What was the name of your first pet?” I immediately went back to the composition book, remembering the messy drawing of a lanky, wrinkly, adorable, old dog. There were scribblings at the bottom, and I had to strain my eyes to read it. “Brundle, my good old friend.”

I involuntarily smiled at the words and moved back over to the laptop. I typed in the dog’s name and I reset the password, allowing myself access. I opened the files, just on a whim, and it brought me a few folders. I clicked on the folder that was labeled, “V Studies.” The very first thing I saw was a scanned drawing. I couldn’t understand what it was supposed to be, but it looked precise and meticulous. 

I could’ve sworn I’ve seen this before…  

I tried to touch the screen and peer into it a little more, but then an echo of feeling washed over me. I could feel what Julian felt at the desk. I attempted to ignore the feeling and emailed the picture to myself on the old laptop. After checking on my phone for the picture, I closed the screen and left it as it was. 

Great… Now the hard part…  

The hard part was trying to constantly look at the picture and have the same desperation and single-minded purpose that Julian had. Remembering his feelings at the time. This was what I could use to find the doctor again. I didn’t understand why the cops couldn’t find him before with the trick. Are they not allowed any magicians on the force…?

Chapter Text

The sun was already dipping in the sky once I left the mansion to search for the man who claimed he murdered the well-loved Lucio. I kept trying to focus my magic on finding him, but my anxiety kept growing in the back of my mind. I hadn’t done magic without Asra, at least not without his supervision. I closed my eyes and tried to remember his soothing voice in my mind: “Remember to breathe… Follow your heart, and be in the present… I’m here for you, no matter what’s going on…”  

I gathered all of my magic after I found my calm, and looked back down at the phone in my hands. The tingling sensation was growing at the base of my neck but I continued down the narrow streets of the Flooded District. I remember here…  

While I gaped at everything around me I could hear bars full of people having a good time. But I didn’t know that a particular bar was right beside me, and I was surprised that the front door of it swung open and hit my face. 

“Oof!” My poor forehead began to throb with pain. I tried to back away, but I only fell into a nearby cardboard box. And then my eyes were met with the beautiful skies of Vesuvia. I didn’t bother to move, I just wanted to stay there for a minute and forget that I was there. I could hear heavy, but hurried footsteps approach me while I just stared into the sky.

“I’m so sorry! Are you alright?” 

My eyes drifted over to a handsome man that had the most vibrant ginger hair. Julian was in a more casual outfit than when I met him. He wore a black tank-top and over it he wore a nice brown cardigan that looked perfect against his pale skin tone. The doctor also wore some black jeans, similar to the ones he wore from before. I just sighed and looked back up to the sky. 

Julian’s eyes widened a bit when he realized who I was. “Shopkeep? What are you doing around in these parts?” he asked, both of his gloved hands reaching out for mine. I accepted them and with a firm grip, he yanked me out of the box. But the yank was a little too hard, and I was stumbling forward into the man's broad and toned chest.

I flushed a little but it wasn’t anywhere near as noticeable as Julian’s. He awkwardly pat my shoulders and stepped back, avoiding my gaze.

My spell worked, which was great, but I didn’t think of what I’d do when I found him. 

I looked around, taking the time to see my surroundings. The place he came out of was a bar and it had a sign with a cackling raven, reclined on a crescent moon. The Rowdy Raven…  

“Might I ask what brings you to the south end of town?” 

I wasn’t sure what to say. I did my job and found the “murderer,” but I didn’t know how to explain to him that he was going to go to jail and be executed. Well… maybe I knew, and I just didn’t want to tell him. I knew he probably did terrible things, but he was so… likable. 

When I didn’t answer he gave me a knowing look and glanced back at the Rowdy Raven, then back to me, his voice lowering a little.

“I’ve heard rumors all day about how your working for Nadia, the rich CEO. She sent you to find me I presume?” 

I nodded my head. Yup… Pretty much…  

“Then that means that you’ve heard her side of the story. But not mine. Correct?” 

I nodded once more and he gave me a friendly smile. 

“Well, come on in then!” 

It was really hard to not trust him. He gestured to me to follow him and he even held the door open for me. 

I was surprised to see how many people were in the bar considering the time of day. It wasn’t even sundown! There were plenty of people playing card games, drinking, talking, and just having a good time. 

My escort guided me over to a corner booth in the back of the tavern. 

“Alrighty. Just get comfortable and I’ll be right back.” He left and casually walked up to the bar. Meanwhile, I was wondering how he could be so comfortable with the cops wanting to hunt him down. However, Nadia did say that the police in Vesuvia could use some work. Maybe they just… aren’t good?

Several other thoughts were rushing through my head that I barely even acknowledged the person that was standing in front of me. And it wasn’t Julian. 

“Hey. Hello?” they asked, a pint of whatever sloshing around as he bent over closer to me. I could smell the liquor off of their breath. They were someone from another table and I couldn’t tell whose. Regardless, he was blocking my view of the bar, where Julian was. Unless they were there as a distraction for him, so he could make a break for it. 

“Um… excuse me, I just need to-” 

“Ha! I have seen you before! Remember me? I was at your shop!” they exclaimed, a wide grin spreading across their face. 

I squinted a bit at the person, willing my brain to remember whoever this person was. “Oh… You were that one person that helped me with the book? Two years ago?” 

“Yup! That’s me. And I also was the person that your boyfriend cursed, ” they said accusingly, their smile diminishing. Everyone’s eyes were suddenly on us. The music stopped and everyone’s talking was replaced with very subtle whispers. My anxiety was steadily rising. 

This cannot end well for me…  

“He’s not my boyfriend.”

“Pffft… Whatever! He obviously had something for you, cause I had pimples all across my face for months! Painful ones at that!”

“Well, I’m sorry but-”

No! I don’t want to hear it from you! I want to hear it from that fucking witch! ” 

My brows furrowed and anger began to steadily grow inside of me.

Don’t call him that!”

“Well why not? That’s what he is, isn’t he? A cheating, lying, lazy, good-for-nothing witch!

Before he could say another disgusting word, a light suddenly shot out from the candle that was at the center of the table. It’s flame. And the once romantic candle was engulfed in its flames, its wax quickly turning into the consistency of water. Then, all of the melted wax shot out of the candle holder and straight onto the person’s skin. They let out an ear-splitting scream, full of pure pain. Their pint crashed to the floor. 

Their eyes were filled with anguish and their hands began to reach for my throat. 

Until long and lithe arms wrapped around them. Julian yanked the person throughout the tavern and shoved them out the door, slamming it shut. 

“Whew…!” 

… 

And then everyone began to heartily laugh. And I was just sitting there in the middle of it all, completely confused.

Chapter Text

People all around the cozy bar began to talk. 

“Haha! The magician ain’t a force to be reckoned with, huh?” one man asked at the bar.

“That asshole deserved it anyway!” the lady replied

“Hey, good job, Julian! Perfect timing! You too, magician. That guys been ruining everyone’s vibe,” an old fellow said. 

“Vibe? You don’t even know what that means!” shouted a youngster. 

“Eh, whatever!” 

Julian laughed along with everyone else, calmly walking back to our booth. He plopped down, his long limbs spread out. “Good job, shopkeep,” he said, giving the most brilliant smile. 

“I… I thought that everyone would hate me for that.”

“Oh, of course not! If anything they love you for it.” 

I had a mix of emotions going through me. I felt guilty for what I did, but at the same time I felt like they deserved it. And I was also anxious at the rumors that were going to spread, since apparently everyone in the city of Vesuvia talks and gossips. 

I suddenly felt a gloved hand place itself on top of mine. It was Julian’s. 

“Are you alright?” he asked, thick brows furrowed with concern. It feels nice to have someone hold my hand…  

I nodded but he didn’t retract his hand. He only hummed in response and took a big gulp from one of the pints he brought. When my eyes darted from him to his hand he looked at me for a minute with confusion before his eyes widened in realization. “Oh! Um… I’m sorry.” His hand gently patted mine and he awkwardly let go. 

I sat up a bit and took a whiff of my pint. It smelled faintly of fruit. Then I reluctantly took a sip and was surprised at how pleasant it was. 

“I um… I never got your name,” Julian said, taking another gulp from his drink. When I told him my name he tried it out on his tongue. “It’s a beautiful name. A musical one at that.” He lifted his free hand and held it out for me. I shook his hand, my face flushing a bit. 

“Your name is nice too…” I awkwardly avoided his gaze and took another sip from the refreshing pint. “Anyway, you said that you’d tell me your side of the story.”

“Oh, right! Of course. Ask away, darling.” 

I gave him a dubious look before I pulled out my phone from my jacket pocket. I unlocked it and handed it to him. He took it, confusion clear as day on his face, and he examined the picture. His friendly smile slowly faded when he looked closer at the picture, focused on the precise lines of the picture. “Where did you find this?” he asked, his one eye on me. 

“I found it off of a computer in the mansion. Nadia told me that was where you worked whenever Lucio called you over.” 

He set my phone down on the table, a flash of pain in his eye. He couldn’t stand to look at it any longer. 

“Well… this was a drawing of a slice of a human brain. The patterns are unique to every individual.”

He didn’t look like he wanted to speak any further on the subject, so I didn’t push it. He was a physician during the darkest times of Vesuvia. He probably saw things that he couldn’t unsee. And here I was, bringing it all back. A feeling of guilt crept back into my mind. 

“Excuse me,” he mumbled, before whisking our steins away and back to the bar. 

When he was on his way back he went over to the table that was playing a card game. He patted a lady’s shoulder and pointed to a card she had. She threw it down on the table and everyone erupted with yelps and laughter. The other player tried to douse him with beer before he tried to sidestep and dodge. He got wet anyway, but he chuckled along. 

The doctor returned, grabbing a few napkins from the center of the table. 

“You aren’t worried about being seen?” I asked. Julian wiped himself down a bit and gave me a toothy grin. 

“No, not here. Folks around here aren't really obliged to the wants of the wondrous Vesuvia police force. The raven is always on the lookout for them anyway.”

“Raven?” 

As if on cue, a raven burst through the open window of the bar, squawking and shrieking in distress. Everyone in the bar erupted into chaos. 

“The cops are coming!” the bartender shouted. Everyone was leaping out of windows and rushing through the back doors. Julian lifted me into his arms, bridal style, and rushed to the back door as well. Once we made it outside to the alleyway he gently put me down. 

“The police aren’t after you. You’ll be alright?” 

I nodded and he gave me the most heartwarming smile. “Thank you. For- well… everything.”

He turned and vanished into the foggy alleyway. 

Did I just… let him get away…? I didn’t get his side of the story…  

“Hey! You there!” 

I whirled around and saw two policemen rushing over to me. But when they saw my face they stopped. 

“Oh. You’re the magician Nadia hired, right?”

How does everyone know me…?


The police gave me a ride back to the mansion. After I said my thanks I entered the gates. Portia was waiting there for me, but she wasn’t talkative at all, which kind of unsettled me a bit. I kept silent though, my mind swirled with all of the questions I had unanswered. 

When we reached the dining room, I was taken aback by all of the elegant food that was placed neatly on the long table. The room smelled of rich seasoning that I couldn’t recognize, but it did smell delicious. Nadia was sitting at the end of the table, smiling at my expression. 

“You’re right on time,” she said. Her hands interlocked and she leaned forward in her seat. 

That’s when I realized that I was going to have to explain what happened and what I learned throughout the day. I didn’t learn much, and all I had to offer was more questions. But, Nadia didn’t bring it up when I sat next to her. Instead, she said, “For tomorrow, I want you to meet my board of directors. They work for my company, and when I told them about you today, they seemed deeply interested. But, I would choose words carefully when it comes to them.” 

I nodded, savoring every bite of food. 

“And also for tomorrow, I will send out a tweet that the Masquerade will be held. Words will carry on their own, and the message will be out.” 

And Julian would have to be brought to justice. My heart ran cold at the image of Julian in handcuffs, being taken to jail to be executed. I hoped that it didn’t show on my face. 

“For now, I have questions,” Nadia said, taking a sip from a delicate glass. 

“Questions?” 

Oh, geez…  

“Yes. I just want to get to know you better.”

Whew… 

From that point on we chatted about simple things. How I enjoyed the city, my favorite color, and my favorite thing to eat. I always asked her in return, and learned that her favorite food was spice swordfish. Which then led to the talk of where she came from, Prakra. 

“Do you ever miss living there?” I asked out of curiosity. 

“Hmm… Sometimes. I don’t think I’d ever go back to Prakra, but there are things that I miss there. Like the beautiful white beaches, the sand was so soft. Taking walks on the beach would always make me feel better.” She had a bittersweet expression as she reminisced about the city she came from. 

“What about you?” Nadia asked. She gave me an encouraging smile, but when I tried to reply, nothing would come out. In three years that I could remember, Asra never told me about my home country, or if I was Vesuvian. I understood why, but it was still frustrating whenever I got asked those questions. Where are you from? What high school did you go to? Can you speak another language? What about your parents? Siblings? Pets? Do you have a familiar? 

I don’t know…  

When I didn’t say anything, Nadia didn’t push it. Instead, she kindly said her thanks and her goodnights. Portia led me back to the guest room and it looked like she was dying to ask a question, but I waited until we got into the room. 

“Portia… Are you okay?” 

“What? Of course I’m okay. I just heard a lot of rumors about Lucio’s case today. You know… I think he had a lot of enemies too, maybe it wasn’t just the doctor. I wasn’t working with Nadia when he was murdered, but those rumors still float around. But… just keep your eyes peeled for anything strange, okay?” 

I nodded my head and her whole face went from stiff and concerned to her usual warm smile. She said goodnight and left me to my thoughts. 

I sat down on my bed and sighed, fatigue spreading from the feeling of silky sheets. I flopped onto my back and began to nod off. And like always, the thought of Asra was there as I drifted to sleep.

Chapter Text

I woke the next morning and someone who worked at the mansion gave me my breakfast. After finishing it, I went into the bathroom to take a shower. I felt like I needed it after everything that had happened in the past few days. 

I happily sighed when the warm water fell onto my bare skin. Then, my mind slowly meandered back to Asra. What would it be like to shower with him…? My mind raced at all of the lewd things that could’ve happened in the large marble shower.

Asra behind me, with my hands and body, pressed up against the glass… Him pounding into me and all you could hear was skin slapping against skin with the shower raining over our flushed bodies… Also, our moans that we would try to keep down just in case a maid came into the bedroom, which we would forget about anyway because of the oncoming orgasm that would await us… And when we’d finally come, I’d feel Asra fill me with his warm seed while I would tightly clench myself around his cock…  

When I got out of the shower, I felt the urge to at least try one more time to get myself off. I never tried putting anything inside me because I was too afraid of it hurting. And I didn’t know if I had done it before I lost my memories or not. 

Wait… Have I ever had sex before…?

It was true that I thought about sex a lot, but only with Asra.

I never thought about if I already did it with him… or with someone else… 

Either way, I was horny at that moment. I made a little pile of towels on the floor and plopped onto them. I reclined and made myself comfortable. Well… As comfortable as you could get on a bathroom floor. I unfolded the towel off of my body and slowly moved my hand down my collarbone, past my breasts, my stomach, and then down to my sex. I spread my legs and began to teasingly circle my clit, already wet from the shower and my own slick. My hips bucked a little, instinctively wanting more friction. But I liked to tease myself, until it got to be too much. 

My fingers finally slid over my clit, causing me to moan. I suddenly felt like I was being watched. My half-lidded gaze drifted over to the mirror on the other side of the bathroom. And there he was. The one person I didn’t want to find me in that situation. Asra.

Oh gods… He saw me, he saw me, he saw me…! 

My heart practically stopped at the sight of him in the mirror, eyes wide and confused. I gasped and closed my legs. I sat back up and scooted back with the tightest grip on the towel around me. I felt shame in the very pit of my stomach begin to grow. It was already a little shameful of me to touch myself while fantasizing about him, but to see him witness such a thing… was almost too much. 

“Asra… I’m sorry…” It was all I could say with how embarrassed I was. I looked at him and he still looked completely befuddled, which was expected. But… it didn’t look like he intended to contact me. 

“What are you sorry for?” he asked, concern in his eyes. 

I shifted uncomfortably on the towels, not wanting to answer. “I… I was thinking of you while…” 

My eyes began well with tears. I was so afraid of him not wanting to deal with me anymore. I thought that he couldn’t possibly love me for what I did. 

“Don’t cry! It’s perfectly fine,” Asra said, desperate to try to make me feel better. 

Before a single tear could fall, I noticed something in the mirror that sent a rush of heat through me. He was leaning on something but I could see his member, hard and throbbing for someone to touch it. My face flushed an even deeper red at the sight of it. He didn’t look like he knew that I could see it at all. 

“Asra… what is that?” I shyly asked, trying not to make him uncomfortable with how much I was staring at it. 

Asra’s brows furrowed in confusion before he glanced down and saw his erection, precum already at the tip of it. I’d never seen him look so embarrassed before in those three years of knowing him. His face was blushing and he stuttered a few words before trying to reach over to get a towel to cover it up.

“Wait!” 

Asra froze in his tracks and looked back over to me. 

There’s no way this is the real Asra, right…? I don’t feel his magic coming off of the mirror at all… And if he did contact me, it would be through water… 

“Um… Can I look at it?” I asked, humiliated, but curious about his arousal. 

The magician blinked once and returned to where he was, blushing from his ears to his chest. He watched me lie back down on the towels with my head propped up on one arm. I reluctantly moved my hand back to where it was. The towel around my body fell, revealing everything I had to him. I saw his cock twitch at the sight of my body. 

He also moved to touch himself, his beautiful, dilated, amethyst eyes on me. I moaned and shifted into a more comfortable position. I was on my back and my legs were spread, my pussy exposed to him. I took in all of his body and how it moved with his heavy breaths. 

“Asra… I want you so bad…

He groaned while he palmed his member. 

“I want you too…”

Those words sent a shock of pleasure through me. My other hand came up to fondle one of my breasts while the other continued to pleasure my clit. 

“Can you teach me how to… put them in?” I asked, desperate to come from this weird experience I was having. 

“Yes,” he whispered, breathless. 

I couldn’t help but smile. Even though I knew that it wasn’t the real Asra.

“Fist, gently put one finger inside. And let your body adjust.”

“Will it hurt?” 

“No, it shouldn’t. It looks like… you’re wet enough.”

I was still a little hesitant but I did what he told me to do. I whimpered at the foreign feeling of something inside me. My hand was just barely brushing my bundle of nerves, sending small shocks of pleasure throughout my body. Instinctively, I added another finger, getting greedy for more.

“Good… So, good…” he praised. 

“A-am I doing it right?” 

His eyes were filled with love and lust while he watched pump my fingers in and out of my pussy. 

“Yes, baby…” His sweet smile and the adoration in his voice began to push me closer and closer to the edge. The tears came back but they were because of a completely different reason. Because of the new feeling, because of Asra, and because it felt like I was finally going to come.

“Am I making you feel good too…?” I asked, watching his stroking hand pick up the pace.

“Yes you are. You’re doing so well.” 

“It feels like- I feel…” I couldn’t even finish what I was saying, the rapture of it all getting to be too much to handle. For some reason, I was getting so turned on from his praise.

“You’re getting close, love.” 

The term of endearment though…!

I could hear his voice changing and it made me wonder if he was also going to come from watching me. 

“Is-is that good?” 

“Yes. You’re so good, baby. I want to watch you come around your own fingers. Let me see you come, love.” 

As if on cue, I curled my fingers, just slightly. And that’s all it took. My body shook at the rushing feeling of my climax. I moaned his name while she watched his cock spurt out his seed, his eyes closed in pleasure, his pretty lips forming my name. But then, he slowly faded from the mirror, leaving me to look at my freshly-orgasmed glow. 

“Of course… You’re only a figment of what I desire…”


I left the mansion to check on the shop and afterward I had plans to meet up with Portia. She was going to take me to meet Nadia’s board of directors. I didn’t understand why they wanted to meet me so bad. Does the investigation affect them at all…? 

My mind was swirling with thoughts as I walked up to the front door of the shop. I almost didn’t catch the small leather pouch in the corner of the stoop. I picked it up and opened it. Inside it smelled of many different kinds of herbs, but the main one was myrrh. Sweet and warm…  

I recognized it as a protective charm. A strong one at that. Who could’ve left this here…? 

I pocketed the bag and lifted my hand to release the cross-me-not spell on the door. And just when I reached for the door handle, it swung open to reveal-

“Julian!” 

After a few moments of awkward staring and me giving him an incredulous look, he cleared his throat. 

“Well, ah… Hello there. Fancy seeing you here. Ahem… at your, um… house, of all places.”

… 

“Julian… If you needed something, you could’ve asked me.” 

“Oh, I hope you don’t think I’m a thief. I’m a lot of things, but not definitely not that! ” 

I looked to my left and right, glancing all around for any nearby policemen. I didn’t want them to think that I was harboring him. I shoved the lanky doctor inside and for a moment he looked like a praying mantis… I shut the door behind us and turned to him, narrowing my eyes. “How do you keep getting in anyway? Unless you have a-”

Key. Um… Yes, I have a key,” he said, pulling said object out of his coat pocket. “It seems I won’t be needing it anymore.” 

I took the key from his gloved hand and compared it with my key. It was indeed a perfect match. 

“Who gave this to you?” 

Julian’s face instantaneously turned pink. His gaze was everywhere but on me. He again, cleared his throat and explained. Sort of.

“I guess you could say that I made a few house calls. Um… Yeah.” 

Was Asra that sick that he needed to give a doctor the key…? Is… he okay now then…?

Concern must’ve been clear on my face, because Julian gave me a reassuring smile and said, “Don’t worry, shopkeep. I think he’s in perfect health.” 

I sighed in relief and returned his smile. “So… You didn’t steal anything?

“Of course not!”

“Prove it to me.” 

He shucked off his coat he was wearing. Julian lifted his arms and just… presented himself to me. 

“You can check for yourself! I have nothing on me, shopkeep!” he confidently said. 

I found him to be so strange. There were times when he was so awkward but other times he could be so self-assured and eccentric. I thought it was wonderful. 

I knew that he was thinking that I wouldn’t search him for anything. But who could deny?

My eyes raked over his body, wondering where I should start patting him down. Guess I’ll start from top to bottom…  

My hands made their way to his broad chest first. Julian didn’t say anything, instead, he looked kind of startled at the sudden contact. His body shuddered at the touch. “Did you think I wouldn’t do it?” 

“Ah, well… Not really.” The doctor’s ears were a beautiful bright red. 

I chuckled a little and went back to searching. My hands roamed down to his sides and he made a whimpering noise. He backed away from me and said, “No, no, not there!” 

… 

“I… I’m a little ticklish there.”

“Did I say you could move?” 

His eye widened at my change of tone. 

“Uh… No.” 

“Then stay still and don’t move unless I tell you to.” 

Julian nodded his head, his auburn curls bouncing a bit. His face was completely flushed while my hands continued to roam over his body. 

I froze when I felt a hard bulge in his pants. I went into his pocket and found a pocket knife. “That’s just in case, um… you know-” 

“Just in case what, Julian?” I looked up at him from the floor, my gaze piercing through him. He gulped and looked away clearly embarrassed. 

He didn’t reply. Or rather, he couldn’t. I returned the pocket knife and continued. Nothing else was on him. 

Before I could say anything, he was already putting on his coat. “Well, since you found nothing, I guess I’ll get out of your hair.” 

He took a wide step over to the door and I followed. He hurried out the door as much as he could with how long his figure was. “Wait! But-” 

“Ilya?” 

Portia…?  

“Pasha?”  

And all three of us just stood and stared at each other. Who’s Ilya and Pasha…?  

When I looked to Portia, or Pasha, she looked like she was close to tears. “Ilya…?! What are you doing here?! Don’t you know you could get caught, you idiot!” she yelled. She stomped right up to him and grabbed him by the ear. He grunted a little but didn’t push her away. 

“Pasha…? You’ve grown strong. I’m sorry that I wasn’t there to witness it…” 

Portia glanced my way, tears rolling down her freckled cheeks, and said, “I’m so sorry! I’ll catch up with you later!” And the assistant yanked the lanky doctor along and disappeared into the foggy afternoon.

Chapter Text

Portia texted me to meet her in a cozy coffee shop somewhere in Center City. I stepped through the door and was instantly hit with the smell of warm coffee and tea. I glanced around and my eyes landed on Portia’s vibrant ginger hair. She smiled and waved me over.

I sat down at the table and she took a long sip of her tea. The assistant heaved a great sigh and looked me straight in the eyes. 

“Julian is my brother.” 

I blinked and just stared at Portia. My mind was replaying the events of yesterday. They did seem like family, but I still had more questions for her. 

“Nadia doesn’t know?” 

“Nope.” 

“And… why haven’t you told her?” 

There was long a pause before she spoke. 

“I… Well, I just heard about him admitting to the murder not too long ago so I'm taking everything in! And if I told her, she would fire me? Or maybe she would put both of us in jail? And maybe she wouldn’t care?”  

Portia sounded like she was questioning herself rather than answering my question. I thought about Nadia, and her character. She didn’t seem like the type of person to do any of those things to Portia. If anything, I thought she would understand Portia’s feelings if they would’ve talked about it before. 

“I don’t think she would do that to you.” 

“B-but-” 

“Portia. I don’t think she’s that kind of person. I think if you just sat down with her and talked it out, she would understand you.” 

“Really?” 

“Yup.” 

She sipped her tea, looking pensive. She gave another sigh, but this time it was more like a weight was lifted off of her shoulders. Portia smiled once more and said, “Alright. I’ll tell her. But… can I do it on my own time?” 

I nodded my head. “You can tell her on your own. I won’t say a word. But, you have to tell her sometime this week. Promise?”

“Pinky promise!” 

She held out her pinky and I couldn’t help but chuckle a little. I latched my finger onto hers and we both shook our hands, sealing the deal. 

After we talked for a few more minutes, we both got up to leave. When we left the coffee shop, the smell of roasted coffee beans turned into the smell of myrrh. That smell…  

My head swiveled around until it landed on a large, hooded figure briskly walking away from us. “I’ll be right back,” I told Portia. 

I rushed down the sidewalk and turned the corner where the person was. “Wait!” 

He was on his way down the stairs but froze at the sound of my voice. The man turned very slowly to me, and again, his face was overshadowed from his hood. 

“The Masquerade again… Go on then, follow him, just like the rest of them.” His voice sounded so deep, but it was somehow very calming to me. 

“What does that mean?” I asked. 

“What does it matter if I explain it to you?” 

Myrrh…  

“A-are you the one that left the protection charm at my door?” 

The stranger didn’t reply, instead he began to shuffle away from me. I took a step forward and asked, “Do you know Asra? Did… he ask you to do that?” 

Again, no reply. He gave me one last dreadful look before turning on his heel and leaving.


I was sitting in the car, watching the buildings go by as we drove. My anxiety was rising at the thought of meeting some of Nadia’s important coworkers. Portia was driving but she took a quick glance my way and laughed. 

“Are you excited to meet them?” she asked. I knew that she knew my answer. 

“Um… Just a little nervous about it to be honest. Could you give me a headstart on them though?” 

“Oh! Of course. Well, there’s Volta, Vlastomil, Vulgora, and Valdemar, who are all shareholders of the company. And then there’s Valerius, the chief financial officer. Nadia only seems to like- well… Maybe not like, but handle Valerius more than the others.” 

Oh, geez… Those are a lot of v names…  

I felt like she could sense my worry from the driver seat. “If you need help in there, just give me ‘the look.’

‘The look?’

“Yup. And I’ll tell you what they look like, just so you’re a little bit more prepared.” 

“Thank you so much,” I said, feeling ten times better. 

Angel…

Chapter Text

When we arrived at the mansion, Portia led me to a room I hadn’t been before. Elegant music was being played by the large window of the room. It looked like a large sitting room, and on the rooms chairs sat five people, cackling at some joke, which I assumed were the board of directors. My eyes went from them to the source of the music. 

Nadia was playing a pipe organ with her golden brown fingers dancing across the keys. I watched in awe as she played and looked at me at the same time. A beautiful smile graced her luscious lips and her crimson eyes looked amused at my expression.

“Welcome back,” she said, turning a page of music. “Portia, can you introduce our guest?” 

“This is a friend of Nadia and the apprentice of Asra the magician.” 

Roommate…  

I tried hard to put the room's faces together with the names. Portia thankfully described them all to me beforehand.

The board stood from their comfortable chairs. One of them was short and kind looking. She gave me a toothy grin before she said, “Oh you’re so cute! ” I flushed a little at the compliment. Volta…  

“Wow, what a surprise! We were just talking about you,” another of the five said. He had a nasally voice. He also looked a little lanky and his skin was sickly looking. Vlastomil…  

“Sit! Not with them, dammit!” This person just looked angry, but maliciously so. As if, they enjoyed being aggressive and angry all the time because of the reactions they got from others. Vulgora…  

I didn’t expect them all to be so welcoming and… enthusiastic. I sat down anyway, Nadia giving a few glances from the pipe organ. “Portia, how was the announcement on twitter taken?” 

“Everyone who commented sounded excited! The word is being spread more by the media," the assistant answered.

“Such a surprise from Nadia! Another Masquerade!” Volta exclaimed, her small hands wringing themselves in excitement. 

Hah! And we don’t even have to do the work!” Vulgora said, clenching her fists with an all too eager smile. 

“I think our guest would be so lucky to get a word in with you all.” Nadia was still behind the pipe organ, playing with nimble fingers. 

“Oh, yes! How lucky our guest is to be asked to do such an important investigation for Nadia, our blessed CEO,” Vlastomil replied. 

“I think it’s rather risky. It’s very unlike Nadia,” Valdemar mumbled. I shivered a little at their voice. It was soft… But it had something more to it, an underlying tone. Malice. I swear I could’ve heard their voice somewhere before…  

“Nadia, maybe you could explain how exactly you stumbled upon this witch’s doorstep,” Valerius muttered. He was circling the couch, looking down his nose at me. He was looking at me as if I was a bother. A nuisance. 

Or… the witch would like to explain it herself?” he asked. I noticed that the music stopped. Everyone was waiting for my answer. I nodded and looked Valerius in the eye. 

“I’ll explain. But don’t ever call me that again.”

“What? Witch?

“Yes. Times have changed, Valerius. Or are you letting the wrinkles get to you?” I asked.

His scowl deepened and he clutched his crystal glass of wine a little tighter, threatening it to break. 

The music started back up again and I ignored his reaction, continuing with how Nadia and I met. 

“First, she knocked on my door.”

Volta gasped and questioned, “Oh my! Was she desperate? Was she crying? ” 

“No, she wasn’t. But it was kind of late. And she seemed very insistent on giving her a reading…” 

They all seemed to love gossip and stories. They were on the edge of their seats the entire time I was explaining. When I finished, Nadia ended her music with a pleasant trill. She sighed and gave her board of directors an arched brow. 

“If you all were that curious, you should’ve just asked. I had another headache and my sleeping was getting worse so I-”

“It always seems to be getting worse, Nadia!” Volta cut in. 

“Yes, Volta. On that night I woke from a haunting dream. It felt like I had no escape. So, if you think about it, I was the one who was lucky to find our guest that night. Without her, I wouldn’t have had some peace of mind. Right, magician?” 

I stared into her meaningful gaze and smiled. But, the moment was broken by Valerius’s sigh. He was narrowing his eyes at me through his glass. 

“Well… It is really sad to hear that you had to find someone else to sympathize with. Just so you know, you can always count on all of us!” His arms rose with a flourish, which then led to a glass being knocked from an end table, and onto my clothes. The liquid seeped into my clothes while the rest of the room gasped. Except, of course, Valerius. He had one of the most subtly smuggest looks I’d ever seen behind his glass. 

Nadia rose from the pipe organ, her expression livid. 

“Oh. I can’t believe I was so clumsy,” Valerius mumbled, taking a long sip from his wine. 

“Enough. All of you. Out. ” Nadia’s voice was so stern and commanding. Everyone else except Portia shuffled out of the room. 

The CEO came over to me and lightly rested a hand on my shoulder. Her look of lividness was replaced with an apologetic one. “I’m so sorry about that. I’ll get your clothes laundered and we can find something for you to wear. Just tell me what you would like. And it doesn’t matter what it is. Spare no expense,” she said with an encouraging smile. Portia was right by the door to the sitting room, ready to get a worker at the mansion whatever I asked for. 

“Well… I don’t think I need anything special.” 

“So humble. Are you sure?” 

“Yes, and I appreciate it. But, I’m fine with what I have.” 

She chuckled a little and said, “Don’t ever hesitate to ask me for anything. It’s okay to be a little selfish sometimes, you know?”

I nodded, said one more thanks, and stood to leave the room with Portia.


That night, after I bathed, I noticed a note on my window sill. 

Please, take this emerald. I could’ve sworn that it was calling out to you. And remember, it’s okay to be a little selfish… 

It was from Nadia. 

When I looked at the gorgeous emerald necklace I gasped. The emerald itself was huge, and the chain looked like it was made of shimmering gold. But when I held it tight in my hand, I felt a thrumming magic radiating off of the gem. Asra’s magic. 

I remembered the picture that I found on Julian’s laptop and how I found him. I wondered if I could’ve found Asra with the gifted emerald. The thought alone made my heart swell with hope.

So, I waited. I waited until it was around midnight. Usually, I liked to go to bed early, so I could have more dreams of Asra. But, to hear his real voice again would’ve been so much better than listening to my subconscious’s desires. 

I snuck down the empty hallways and out onto the veranda of the mansion. It overlooked the massive garden of the estate. I descended the grand stairs and followed the garden’s path. I heard a distant trickle of water. 

It was a large fountain, soothing lights glowing around it. Just above it was a lush and voluminous willow tree. After gaping at the tree for a few moments, I realized that a branch on it was moving. It swung down and hung off of another branch. With closer inspection, I realized that it wasn’t a branch.

“Faust!”

I was beaming with happiness. It felt nice to see a familiar face. (I swear, no pun intended. )

The lavender snake flicked her tongue, as if she was greeting me as well. 

“Didn’t you go with Asra? What are you doing here?” I asked. 

She slid off of the branch and slithered around my shoulders, giving me a friendly squeeze. I smiled and gave her a few chin scritches.

I sat on the edge of the fountains pool and peered into the reflective water. I laughed a bit at the sensation of Faust’s flicking tongue on my neck. She took a liking to the emerald. I took the pendant off and held it over the water. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. Then, I dropped it, a green light glimmering from the water while sunk. The color changed and shapes began to take form. I concentrated harder. The shape of Asra’s face was fresh in my mind.

Soon, my reflection changed and there he was. He was grabbing handfuls of water and splashing it onto his face. The drops rippled through the connection. Asra stopped and blinked away the water in his eyes so that he could look at the stars above him. I just gaped at the beautiful vision of him, too afraid that making any sound would break the spell. 

His white brows furrowed for a second, and his gaze drifted back to the water. Until his eyes landed on me. The magician’s lips parted with surprise. 

“Asra?” I asked, a little hesitant. 

Asra’s surprised expression changed to pure happiness. He chuckled and breathed, “Incredible.” I flushed a little and averted my eyes. He looked a little closer and saw his familiar, his eyes gleaming. “I see Faust found you too… I wasn’t sure if I should’ve left her there. But after the reading you gave me, I decided to trust my intuition.” 

Faust slid down my arm and onto the edge of the fountain. She dipped her tail into the water, causing a small ripple. “Faust, you’re looking lively. Being around her does that to you doesn’t it?” 

The familiar bobbed her head in reply. 

“I’m glad she’s here,” I said, giving her more chin scritches. “And um… I’m glad you’re here too, Asra.” 

I could’ve sworn I saw his face flush, only a little. 

“Anyway… How come you didn’t just call me or something?” he asked. 

“I don’t know. Sometimes you don’t reply until a few days later. This way is more fun…” 

Asra nodded, something flashing across his eyes. Too quick for me to tell what it was. 

“I see a willow tree… Are you at Nadia’s mansion?” he asked. I nodded and explained to him everything that happened while he was away. 

After I finished he gave a depressing sigh. “I can’t believe it. The day I left was the one day you needed me the most.” He looked genuinely crestfallen, but it quickly shifted into a proud grin. “But then again, you didn’t need me at all.” 

Asra continued, “I’m glad that Faust is with you at least. If anything happens to either of you, I’ll know. And I can live with that.” 

I smiled and nodded. “Where are you right now?” I asked, curious. I wasn’t sure if he was gonna answer or not, but it didn’t hurt to try. 

He looked over his shoulder at the swirling galaxy above his head, and then back to me. “A place that I created in my head, my gate. Who would’ve thought that you’d be able to reach me here? I think that now… you’ll be able to go all the way.” 

Faust slid across my lap and flicked her tongue at the water. “Faust is opening up to you… Maybe it’s time I do the same…” he said, a hopeful look in his amethyst eyes. 

My expression must’ve been priceless because he chuckled on the other end of the connection, amused. “It’s true. I want to start being more honest with you. What’s on your mind? Ask me anything. All that I ask is that you’re honest with me too,” he said, his smile revealing his adorable dimples. Something in my heart clenched at his words. More honest with each other…  

“Well um… Who is Julian to you?” I asked. 

“Julian…? Oh yeah, I forgot. He goes by that name too.” Asra’s once gentle eyes changed to something completely different. “He was… a friend once. Then more than that, and then something else. Who is he to me? Whoever he needs to be to get what he wants. To be blunt, he’s a hack doctor who still has a lot to learn. Nothing good can come of him until he does…” 

Asra gave a deep, calming sigh, and smiled, changing the mood entirely. “Any more questions?” he asked. 

“What about Nadia?” 

I noticed the way Nadia spoke of Asra. Did they know each other before…? 

“Hmm… We were great friends once. We could talk about anything and everything for hours on end. But now, we’re strangers.” 

I furrowed my brows in confusion and questioned further, “How?” 

A moment of silence passed, as if he was choosing his words carefully. It hurt sometimes to see him tiptoe around what he could say to me. But I understood… 

“Something happened and… You’d be amazed at what people can forget, when they don’t want to remember.” 

I was left even more puzzled by the end of his answer. Especially with his sad expression the way it was. “Is there anything else you would like to know?” His gaze slowly drifted back to the galaxy overhead. 

I gulped and nearly shook my head no. But I didn’t. 

“Um… Asra, d-do you… have visions? ” I stuttered, my face burning from embarrassment. 

The magician tore his eyes away from the stars and looked at me questioningly. He grabbed his flask of water and took a sip, waiting for me to continue.

I tried to explain further, without giving too much away. “Like, maybe visions in the water or perhaps… a mirror? ” 

Asra instantly began choking on his water, spitting it out and coughing it up. His face and ears were flared a deep rose red. The magician’s eyes were as wide as saucers when he looked back at me. I sat on the edge of the fountain, concern written all over my face. 

“A-are you okay?!” 

He cleared his throat one last time before replying. “Yeah! I-I guess it was the wrong pipe. That’s all.” 

“Maybe that’s a sign to say goodnight then,” I said, trying not to sound too disheartened by it.

“Right. I hope you’ll find me again. No- I know you will.” 

“Of course.” 

“Goodnight…”

Asra reached his hand toward me, causing a bunch of ripples throughout the fountain’s water. And he was gone. Only my reflection stared back at me. I stood and noticed a disappointed looking Faust. She was curled up, gazing longingly into the water. 

“I miss him too, Faust.” 

She reluctantly slid over and up my arm, resting on my shoulders. Her presence made me feel much more comfortable about being in the mansion. She gave me a tight squeeze as we both stared into the pool of water, hoping the magician on the other side missed us too.

Chapter Text

The next day I woke for breakfast as usual. Portia told me that I had the day off because of Nadia’s headaches. 

I trailed back over to the garden, to clear my mind for a while. I decided to sit underneath the massive willow tree. It had the perfect amount of shade and the perfect amount of sun. I gave a deep relaxing breath and opened my eyes once more. 

“Worried…”

I could’ve sworn I heard a small and faint whisper. Faust… I wondered sometimes how I could hear her at all. 

“I’m worried too, Faust. I wish he was with us as well…” 

Suddenly, I felt my phone vibrating in my back pocket. I pulled it out, knowing exactly who it was. Fantasia…  

I swiped right and answered the call. 

“Where are you?!” he asked, clearly upset. 

“I’m sorry, Fantasia. I-” 

“You were supposed to be at practice yesterday. And you are supposed to perform today! ” 

“I know, I know… Just let me explain.” 

I explained all of the events that occurred over the past few days to my coworker. He interrupted half the time, but I did finish. 

“Wow! You’re so lucky! Are you getting paid for it?” 

“No, I don’t think so.”

What?! You’re doing all that work for nothing?

“I think this is something much bigger than just a job that I have to do, Fantasia. So… can you please cover for me for the next two performances? Please?”

I heard a heaving, exaggerated sigh on the other end. 

“Fine. Only cause you’re the sweetest person at work…” he muttered. 

I smiled warmly. “Thank you so much, Fantasia!” 

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. You better call me to tell me everything that happened!” 

“I will.”

After we both said our goodbyes, Faust dropped from the branch and onto my lap, her red eyes staring into mine. 

“I want to tell Asra, but… What if he gets mad at me?” 

I felt guilt and worry in the pit of my stomach and it was slowly growing with every conclusion I skipped to. But all of it melted away when I felt Faust’s warmth and trust radiating off of her as she wound her tail firmly around my arm. 

I took one more deep breath and listened more closely to the nature surrounding us. It was peaceful. The spot where I was felt perfect for Asra. 

Faust began to squirm a bit, insistent about something. I gave her a questioning look and she slithered her way up my arm and to my shoulder. I turned around and she bobbed her head a bit, her crimson eyes set on a particular spot on the tree. When I followed her gaze, I noticed something familiar. Too familiar. 

It shocked me to see my name carved deep within the thick bark of the willow tree. I raised my shaking hand and felt the grooves of my carved name. I instantly recognized the magic laid over it. Asra’s magic…  

It looked years old, but I only knew Asra for three years. At least, I thought I did. 

“See…”  

Faust's tail wrapped a little tighter around my arm and she peered into my eyes. Suddenly, the world I was in began to fade, and a different world overlapped it. After the dizzying feeling, I saw Asra. What…?  

I wanted to speak, but I couldn’t. I felt small and I felt that I wasn’t myself. I was looking through Faust’s eyes. A memory…?  

Asra fell onto his knees and scooped me- or Faust up into his warm arms. He smiled and asked, “Where have you been, hm? Not squeezing a certain doctor…?” 

“Squeeze…!” Faust replied. 

“Well… I can’t blame you for that. He doesn’t make it hard. Then again, he doesn’t make it easy, either,” he said, his brows furrowing and his smile fading a little. “Don’t have too much fun with him, Faust. He’ll start to think you like him. Ilya’s started to think I like him. But…” he trailed off, standing up and walking over to the willow tree. And there I saw the carving, looking a lot more new and prominent in the bark. “My heart belongs to her…” he said. He looked so crestfallen while gazing longingly at the carving. What...? 

He continued, “We had our first kiss underneath a willow tree like this. We were teenagers then. Back when everything was much more simple… I miss her so much. I miss her beautiful smile. I miss her voice and the way she called my name…” 

“Where…?”  

“She’s somewhere I can’t follow, yet. We’re getting close. I can feel it.” 

“Asraa!” someone called. 

“Ugh.” 

It was very rare for me to catch Asra looking… annoyed.

A tall, lanky figure called down to us, leaning over the sill from the library window. Julian…  

He had a grin on his face while he waved a piece of paper in the air. “Are you seriously taking another nap? While you were away daydreaming under your precious tree, I made a breakthrough. If you don’t hurry I’ll cure the whole city without you!” 

“Hmmm… I highly doubt that. Out of all the doctors they hired at the hospital, I doubt that you found something in that library that has anything to do with the cure,” Asra said. He sighed and shook his head. He turned to go deeper into the garden, ignoring Julian’s beckoning call.

Then I was being swallowed by the shade of the forest. Soon it was just black, and all I could hear were the tweeting of birds. I opened my eyes and was met with the sun shining through the thick branches of the tall willow tree. 

What…? What was that…? 

I realized that I was lying flat on my back, puzzled. We were... together...? My heart was beating so fast. I wasn't prepared for anything like that! I sat up and blinked for a moment before I felt another urge. It wasn’t my own, but it felt friendly and helpful. Faust… 

“Help…” she whispered. 

The familiar was bobbing her head again, except this time, towards the library window that I witnessed in her memory. 

“Is there something in the library that I should see?” I asked, standing up and brushing off some grass. 

I glanced toward the fountain, conflicted. I wonder if I should talk to him and ask him some questions… But it only seems to work at night… 

I shook my head, knowing that I shouldn’t waste my time.

“Alright. Let’s go to the library.” 

Maybe it’s time that I get some answers on my own…  

I scooped Faust up and went toward the library. When I reached the familiar but intricate doors, I sighed. They were locked. Frustrated, I looked left and then right and walked up to them. I let my magic feel around the locks of the door. It was a magical door… It had very specific locks for very specific keys. And it didn’t look like I was going to get in anytime soon. It’s not right to just pick it with magic…  

But I tried anyway. 

After I unlocked one, I moved onto another. And after that one, I was stumped. It was like a puzzle you couldn’t solve. 

“Hey there! Watcha doing?” 

I jumped at the sudden voice, my heart leaping out of my chest. It was Portia. 

“Portia? I was just, um…” I trailed off, not knowing what to say. 

“Wow! You got through two different locks! That’s impressive. Not many people can do that,” Portia said, her warm smile comforting me. 

“Well… It’s not anything special,” I replied, my ears feeling warm. 

“Nothing special? Like I said, not just anyone can do that. Nadia designed these doors herself, and here you were working away at it. I bet with just enough time, you could get through it on your own. But, I’ll unlock it for you.”

She pulled out a keychain of keys and unlocked the last two locks. 

“You have the keys to everything here?” I asked. 

“Yup. I always come to Nadia’s place when I can. Work or not! Anyway… I found this in the fountain last night,” she said, handing me the emerald pendant Nadia gifted to me. I took it, Asra’s magic still thrumming through the gem. 

“Thank you!” 

I must’ve forgot…  

“No problem. See you later!” 

And then the assistant walked off, a little bit of pep in her step. I wanted to ask her if she talked to Nadia about Julian being her brother, but she sped off and turned down another hallway. I decided I would talk to her about it another time. I turned back towards the grand doors and walked into the library full of memories.

Chapter Text

When I entered the library I realized that I could hear absolutely nothing but silence. It was a comforting sort of silence, with little tickles of magic all around the room. Asra’s magic. It flowed so easily throughout the massive library, like water. It was just as true and sure as the pendant I wore around my neck. 

“Find…”  

I wasn’t sure what she wanted me to find, but I went ahead and searched. I closed my eyes and cleared my mind. I felt a familiar magic gently pull me towards a shelf. I spotted two different books that had Asra’s touch, long before I woke up in his arms. But it still thrummed with his rhythm of magic. Steady and balanced. 

I picked the older looking text first, a tome. I opened it and plenty of dust was disturbed from its place. I let out a quick sneeze and Faust whispered a blessing. I felt along the old pages, searching for anything. But nothing was there except Asra’s lingering touch. As pleasing as it was to feel, it was kind of frustrating. What am I looking for…?  

Faust could probably sense my frustration, because she slithered over my arm once more and firmly wrapped her tail around it. And then the world warped once more.

“Asra… Please don’t go. You're just feeding into what he wants,” a gruff voice said. I felt like I knew the large, dark figure that was standing before Asra. 

“Mmm. There you go again with the pessimism. The mansion is the only way I can get more old texts for the ritual,” Asra explained. 

“What if… What if he rips your heart out?” 

Asra chuckled a little and smiled like a fox. “He’ll have to catch me first, Muriel. And with the state he’s in, I don’t think I have to worry about anything. I understand that he was dangerous before, but now… I know I can handle him, Muriel. Really.”

The man named Muriel lifted his hand, as if he was trying to rest it on Asra’s shoulder. But, he hesitated and let it drop to his side. He heaved a deep sigh and turned towards the door. He awkwardly squeezed through the doorway on his way out. 

“I’m sorry, Muriel. Some things you just can’t run away from,” Asra mumbled, still staring at the closed door of the shop. 

And then I was back in the library with Faust boring her crimson eyes into mine. I wanted to hear these memories from Asra himself. But I knew that would be wishful thinking. 

I picked up the second book, something smaller and more elegant than the other book. It was light, but when looking at the pages it looked dense with information. The text was small and bunched together, with little scribbles on the sides. I recognized it to be Asra’s handwriting. When I was flipping through the pages a pressed fern fell from somewhere between them. I felt Faust’s tail tighten again, and I was sent into another memory. 

“And see here? The way the stem curls around itself? It’s a neat variety of fern,” Nadia said, smiling while her hand gently caressed the stem. 

Asra smiled, amused, and said, “You seem to be very interested in it.” 

“Well… I do enjoy learning about plants. They’re interesting.” 

“I see… So do you know if I  can eat this fern?” asked Asra as he lifted it to his mouth. 

Nadia laughed and shook her head. She stopped him with a gentle touch and said, “If you do that, I’ll have to call the funeral home. This variety only becomes edible with intense preparation.” 

“Ahhh… So they’re difficult. They don’t want to make it easy for you. Admiring tenacity.”

“Yes. For sure…” 

And again, I woke from the memory in the library. 

I still wasn’t sure what to make of any of this, or why Faust was showing me.

I moved again to where the magic was pulling me. It was another bookshelf with the same genre. Magic. I picked one up from the shelf. It was massive and heavy, but I still opened it, eager to see more of whatever Faust could summon. 

I was in the mansion hallway. 

Julian. Get. Out!! ” 

I heard an angry and frustrated voice come from the top of the staircase that led to Lucio’s wing. And I assumed it was Lucio himself, screaming something about Julian. I heard a crash, like glass being thrown across a room and shattering. 

“Oh? Is he throwing another fit?” Asra asked, clearly amused by it. 

He paused in the hallway, listening in on the commotion that was happening. His lips twitched upwards, silently laughing at the antics. 

“Lucio, if you’d just let me- Oh, ah-!” 

And then another crash was heard. This one sounded more like an entire table being lifted and thrown over. Next, I saw Julian hurriedly stepping down the stairs, a ghastly look on his face. It was partly covered by a mask, but I could still see the panic in his grey eyes. 

When he noticed Asra was there, he paused, his face going red. He cleared his throat, trying not to be awkward I was sure. “Asra. What, ah. What are you doing here?” he asked. But before the magician could answer he kept on, “I mean, uh. You look like you’re doing very well. Well- you always look well. Of course. And well, um. You’re practically glowing-” 

“Seems like Lucio wasn’t happy with you today, huh Ilya?” Asra interrupted his babbling. 

“DON’T COME BACK UNTIL YOU HAVE SOMETHING WORTHWHILE, JULIAN! I’LL NEVER FORGET WHAT YOU DID!” 

“Well, I’d say… that, ah. That it’s a no for leeches.” 

“Are you sure you went to med school?” 

“Y-yes, I’m sure and-”

“And to help assist in a war?” 

“Yes, I-I think-”

“Okay, Ilya. Okay…” 

When I came back from the memory, it felt more natural than the previous times. I was getting more used to it. I picked up the next book and the process repeated itself. 

Except… I was me. At least, I thought. I could hear the outlying cheers outside of the shop and bustling crowds. 

“Okay then… What about this?” Asra asked, holding up a gaudy and revealing costume. There was barely any fabric. He had the smuggest look on his face, his eyes dark. “It’s your color.”

Asra! W-where did you even get…?” I trailed off, choosing not to ask. I continued, “Auntie would kill me if she saw me in that! And then you next since you chose it for me.” 

I felt like I was watching through someone else’s eyes. 

“Hmmm… I’d take the risk just to see you in this,” he said, his seductive smirk almost too much to handle. He laid the costume onto the counter I was leaning on. Asra placed both of his hands on either side of me, trapping me in, and looking at me the entire time. 

I could feel my face burning at his gaze, my heartbeat was steadily rising the closer he got. I averted my eyes, not knowing what to look at. Suddenly, his lips seized mine. It felt warm and soft. This person that I was watching the memory through, which was me, had kissed him before. It’s just that I was never used to it. 

His kiss deepened and I moaned into it. His tongue was seeking entrance and the past me obliged. His body was pressing against mine, eager. Asra in the past seemed a bit more… excited. And… I felt guilty for enjoying it.

I hesitantly lifted my hands onto his shoulders, his tongue searching my mouth. My hands traveled to his thick white curls. He groaned and pulled back, breathless. 

“I… I want more.” I was trying to gently pull him back. 

“I know, love. But… I think your Aunt will come back right when we begin to go further. She’s… peculiar like that,” Asra said. 

I felt myself grow slightly disappointed.

Asra must’ve sensed it and said, “Don’t worry… We’ll have plenty of chances when we’re older.” 

I felt myself flush at his words. 

He returned to picking out outfits for me and asking my opinion about them, always saying a flirty remark after every one of them. 

When I returned from the memory once more, I didn’t know what to do anymore. So many thoughts were swirling all around my head. If… we were together, why didn’t he say anything about it…?  

There was only one answer to that question: headaches. 

But there was something else that was on my mind. How did I lose my memories in the first place…? 

I felt Faust’s pull, snapping me out of my thoughts. She guided me towards Julian’s desk in the library. 

“I’ve searched here before, Faust,” I said, clueless on what else could be shown to me. 

She slithered onto the desk and off of my arm, her noodle body circling another book. I picked it up and examined the title. Composium on the Stupendencies of the Fabric of the Human Form…  

That’s a mouthful…  

I opened it and noticed that there were writings and a few precise drawings on the sides and over the text itself. This one had handwriting that looked mostly like hurried scribbles. I had to strain my eyes just to read it. From just skimming it, it didn’t seem like any spellbook I knew of. 

I felt the familiar, cool tail wrap around my arm. 

I wasn’t expecting a sudden thick, deep magic to take over my senses. I was in the shop, but the memory I witnessed before was the total opposite of this one. Magic was oozing out of the backroom and it felt heavy, oily, and dark.  

I noticed Julian on his knees. He looked overwhelmed. Another thing I noticed was what was tied around his waist. It looked like a jumpsuit. But, if this was taking place during the virus, then it must be a hazmat suit… Asra was standing before him, suited with hazmat gear as well.

“Asra. What is this? How long have you been planning this whole thing? And what is it you’re getting out of this plan? Is it about-” 

“Don’t.”  

Asra interrupted. His voice was much different than what I was used to. It was deeper and commanding. I’ve also never seen him look so tired. 

The magician continued, “Don’t say her name.”  

Julian shivered at his words and kept his gaze on the floor. Asra walked over to him and ran his fingers through his dark auburn curls and pulled, tightly. The doctor groaned. I wasn’t sure if it was in pain or pleasure. Perhaps both. 

Asra looked at him appraisingly before he said, “Maybe you could help me, Ilya…” 

Julian replied almost instantly. “Anything. Anything at all.” 

Asra’s eyes drifted over Julian’s flushed complexion once more before he let go of him and walked over to the backroom. The doctor whimpered at the loss of touch. My heart nearly stopped at the sight of something bulging in Julian’s pants. 

“Follow me.” 

Julian got up on long, wobbly legs and obeyed. 

The backroom was littered with all things related to magic. I recognized some of the books and remembered seeing them once. Asra was insistent about never looking at them because of my headaches. From seeing the memory, I wondered if it was because he didn’t want to bring up his past. At least, not this part of it. 

Asra shucked off his suit and went over to a drawer.

“Bones, blood, sweat, and tears are some of the most powerful things you could ever use in magic. Which means they’re the most dangerous,” Asra explained, digging through the drawer in the corner of the room. 

Julian’s eyes widened at the sight of the knife in Asra’s hand. He stood there, not sure what to do. But all he got was a question from the magician.  

“How much are you willing to give, Ilya? For me?” 

The doctor hesitated. “What… What does all this mean, Asra? What do you need it for?” 

“I don’t need to tell you anything. All that I’m asking for is your help. Please, Ilya…” 

Julian slowly began to nod his head. “I’ll… help you with anything you want.”

Suddenly, Asra’s hand gripped Julian’s. With the knife, he cut deep into the doctor’s palm. The blood trickled onto the floor, but Asra kicked a bowl under the dripping blood. Amethyst eyes met grey ones, and they looked into each other, searching for something.

And the memory stopped. 

I blinked, pondering for a moment. I was trying to put the timeline together, but all of it was missing something. I turned away from the desk and glanced out the window. The sight of the city with the setting sun was gorgeous. The dusky rose colors expanded across the distant horizon. It was getting late. My gaze went to the fountain in the garden. Asra could be waiting for me…  And I have plenty of questions…

Chapter Text

I walked over and sat on the edge of the fountain. Faust slithered off of my arm and curled up on the cool concrete. I took off the pendant and held it over the pool of water. But before I could drop it, the reflection changed on its own. And then there was Asra. 

“Hey. I was just thinking of you,” he said, brushing some of his wet hair back. He looked like he just went for a swim. There were still water droplets in his white eyelashes. But what I noticed the most was his regular white shirt, soaked. I could see his toned, tan muscles through the transparent shirt. And water trailed down his complexion and past his smiling lips and further… 

I flushed and averted my gaze, hoping that I wasn’t gawking for too long. 

“I was thinking about you too…” I mumbled, fiddling with the hem of my sleeve. 

“Hmmm… You’re fidgeting. Is there something wrong?” 

I shook my head and continued to look at my sleeve. 

I wanted to talk to him about what I saw, but I didn’t know where to start. And also, I felt like I was asking too much. I was sure he was sick of all my questions. 

I was snapped out of my thoughts from his airy voice calling my name. He sounded concerned and his face showed it when I glanced back over to him. 

“Is everything okay? You’re looking very serious. If you have more questions, don’t ever hesitate,” he assured. 

“I… I just don’t know where to start.” 

He gave me an encouraging smile. “Well… Why not start at the beginning?” 

I thought back to the first event that occurred. 

“There’s a tree here. A big willow tree. You can see it from the library window,” I said. 

“I remember that tree. I used to nap and dream for hours underneath it…” He frowned and shook his head. “What about it?” he asked. 

“It… has my name carved into it.”

“It does? Oh… It does. I completely forgot about it. I was so lost back then.” 

“Did I forget, too?” 

I knew that trying to remember would be painful for me. My headaches were sharp and could overtake me just by trying to think about my past and what it could’ve been. Asra taught me how to calm myself. And that would mean, trying not to remember, and forget. 

I saw several emotions flicker through Asra’s eyes. He sighed my name, a wistful look on his face.

“If I told you, and it hurt you…” He shook his head, not wanting to even think of it. “What if I can’t fix it, this time? What if something goes wrong? I can’t answer these questions on my own…” 

There was a beat of silence before he continued. “I think… you’re ready. You’ve probably been ready for a long time now. More than myself…” he said. 

The magician nodded to himself and then looked me in the eyes. He had a smile playing across his lips when he asked, “I think this would be easier to talk about in person, don’t you think?” 

I’m sure my face was priceless because he laughed at my clear confusion. He held out his hand, as if we weren’t separated by the fountain. 

“Take my hand.” 

What…?  

I stared into the water, brows furrowed because of how puzzled I was. 

“Trust me. You’re ready for this, I promise. Just… reach out and take it,” he said, eagerness in his eyes. I could feel his confidence and wonder for me through the reflection, emanating more now that he said that I could do it. 

I dipped my hand into the fountain, his belief in me urging me to do so. At first, I felt cold water surround it. Until, a warm hand firmly grasped mine. I was pulled down into the cooling darkness. 

Arms wrapped around me when I was being tugged from the water. I stumbled into Asra’s warm and inviting chest. He hugged me, so tightly. We stayed there for a moment, enjoying the others embrace. Asra pulled back, deep rose blush painting his cheeks.

“It’s good to see you. I missed you…” he said, before clearing his throat. 

I smiled and laughed a little. Asra gave me a curious look in response. 

“We couldn’t have done this if we were only on the phone,” I explained. 

He nodded, returning my smile. “True.” 

The magician stepped back a few spaces, but just far enough from me. I already missed his touch… 

When I looked around me, I was instantly hit with the most vibrant colors I’d ever seen. It was hard to believe what I was seeing. The colors swirled around in the sky, chasing each other and shifting. Fish that I had never seen before were jumping out of the water, their fins and scales glistening with light. Little creatures flew around the small pond, also emanating their glowing color. The plants that surrounded us undulated and moved, stretching and shrinking at the same time. 

“Where are we?” I asked, breathless at the oasis before me. 

“It’s a gate, from one world to the next. I’m surprised that you could contact me here. A magicians gate reflects themselves more than anything else. I wonder if it calls to you since you’re here,” Asra said. 

He offered his hand to me, his grin brighter than the colors of the gate. I took it, intertwining our hands together. 

“There is so much I could show you here… or things this place could show us. I wonder what it has in store? Just remember to keep close to me though.” He winked at me and then led me towards the pond. He took the first step and I expected his foot to sink into the glistening water. But it didn’t. Instead, the surface of the water shimmered a bit before holding his weight. 

He chuckled at my astonished expression before tugging me gently to follow him. I wobbled a bit at the foreign feeling, but quickly regained my balance. When I looked down and past our feet, the water itself looked deep and fathomless. I then looked to the sky, gaping at the stars that echoed and slowly changed every few seconds. 

When we reached the other side of the pond, he began again, “Alright. Let’s try this again. But if you start getting a headache, I need you to tell me immediately. We should be careful.”

“Why?” I asked. 

“If you force the memories too much, you’ll hurt yourself. Maybe beyond repair.” He had that look again. It wasn’t a look of pity, it was more like worry and a little of something else. Something that I couldn’t figure out. 

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a lingering shadow in the bushes. But when I turned, nothing was there. 

“I thought that maybe this place could have more answers. A place where reality isn’t reality… There’s so much to learn here,” he said, his hands traveling up my forearms and to my elbows. He was close… “But there’s danger too… So we need to be careful. Especially if you want those memories back. If that’s something you still want…?” 

“But… Why did we wait until now?” I was reluctant on asking him. But I still wanted to know.

Asra nodded, understanding. “I’ve… tried to tell you many times before. And it was the worst mistake that I had ever made…” he said, bending down to dip his fingers into the water. The fish happily swam around his caramel fingers, investigating. They glowed a bright pink, causing a smile to slowly spread across Asra’s lips. But then it faded when he continued. 

“The first time I tried to tell you everything, you became… unresponsive. And you didn’t move. I thought that…” He let out a shaky breath, letting himself trail off. 

He sat onto the sandy edge of the pond, eyes gazing at the stars overhead. “So, I took your memories away. And when I did that, you were back to normal. And when I tried again, the process repeated itself. I didn’t want to keep anything from you. I always wanted to talk to you about it, but… I couldn’t. No matter what I did, and no matter which way I put it. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. Maybe you just weren’t strong enough…? Or maybe I wasn’t strong enough…?” 

Asra’s smile slowly returned. “But now you’re here. Stronger than ever. Coming through the fountain and into here… It’s amazing.” 

He stood up and leaned towards me, humming, as if he was thinking of what to do next. “I don’t know how much time we have left here… But I want to make the most of it. We have a whole oasis to explore. If you wanted to…?” 

Asra clasped my hands into his, an excited look in his eyes. He had never offered to take me anywhere other than places around Vesuvia. And… I also wanted to make the most of it. 

“Yes!” 

… 

I blurted it out, sure, but I didn’t think it would sound so… eager. 

Asra’s eyes widened a bit before he gave a soft laugh. “Ahhh… I’m excited about what we could find. But first, let me take you to my favorite place,” he said, leading me in the direction of a jungle that wasn’t there before. 

The lush foliage brushed past our sides as we ducked under oversized leave and climbed over thick roots, Asra never letting go of my hand. 

The trees give way to a small opening, more luminescent creatures flying around us. Asra observed the welcome they give me, one of them landing on my nose and tittering excitedly. Meanwhile, I watched them settle into his partly-dried curls, getting situated. 

“They must like you,” he said. 

His gaze held something more to it, but I could tell what it was. He never looked at me like that before. 

“What could they like about me?” 

He made another humming noise, pondering, before he answered. “Well… They must feel like they can tell you anything. And that they’re comfortable around you…” 

He sat down, sprawling his limbs every way before getting comfortable. He continued, “Maybe they make you feel like they’re home.” 

The creature that was settled on my nose flew around my head before twirling away. 

“There’s something about you that calls to them. And maybe… they just can’t take their eyes off of you. Or, they don’t know why they like you… There’s so much to like when it comes to you…”

The whole time he was talking, my heart was beating faster and faster by the minute. My face flushed at his words. I never wanted to embrace him so badly before. Now that he was there, physically there, I wanted nothing more than to- 

Boom!

A thundering sound echoed from the distance, interrupting my coveting thoughts. 

“Rain…? Wow… You must have brought a storm with you.” 

Asra stood up, grabbing my hand once more. The place where we were turned into a thick jungle that shifted around us, guiding us to where we wanted to go. 

While I was taking in everything around me, I heard a low, deep growl. I looked to my right to ask Asra if he had heard it too, but no one was there, and my hand was empty. 

I looked back towards the noise, straining my ears to hear it once more. The leaves rattled as the winds picked up down an eerie path. The growling turned into an unsettling and wailing moan. And it was calling my name. 

I saw something lurk in the thick bushes, urging me to follow. It was a painful whisper saying my name. I felt a pull, a temptation to move towards it. I went to take the first step, in a trance. 

Until warm arms wrapped themselves around my waist. An alarmed voice snapped me out of whatever bewitching feeling I was having. Asra.  

I glanced behind me and then back to the path. But it wasn’t there anymore. It was just trees and leaves.

“Okay… The first thing about this place is that it shouldn’t hurt you. As long as you’re careful. And going down a dark path like that… Next time, just turn away,” he said, putting one of his arms around my shoulders. “Come on, let go see the rain.” Asra took one last glance at the leaves before leading me away. 

He stayed close to me the entire walk, similar to how we were in crowds. 

We took one last turn and Asra stopped dead in his tracks with a sharp intake of breath. His eyes were wide with surprise and wonder. 

“Is this all… because of you?” he asked. 

There was a cliff in front of us, mist rolling down into the deep chasm and towards the black, thundering clouds. The rain was racing up from the clouds and towards the sky, in spirals. 

“I’ve never seen anything like this…” Asra whispered, reaching out to touch the rain. Once the water danced across his fingers, the world flipped, the clouds shooting straight to the sky and spreading. We were completely drenched, as I kept watching in awe at whatever this was. But when I tore my eyes away from the clouds at the sound of my name being whispered, I noticed Asra wasn’t watching them with me. He was looking right at me, his face flushed and his mouth parted ever so slightly in amazement. 

His arm that was on my shoulders, slowly slid down to my waist, his body turning fully towards me. My heart began to beat harder and faster at the sight of him, raindrops trailing down his cheekbones and to his lips. I couldn’t look away. And neither could he. 

He had something like hope and eagerness in his eyes. And something deeper… I wanted to find out what it was. I placed my hand on his chest, and gently pushed him underneath a palm tree. My face was growing a deeper red by the second, but I tried not to let my embarrassment show and ruin the moment. The tree grew and took shape to protect us from the drenching rain. And then I leaned in, closed my eyes, and kissed him. Featherlight, since I didn’t know what I was doing. 

His lips were so soft and plump, making me want more. Despite that though, I pulled back, opening my eyes to see if I could go further. Then I saw it. The other emotion behind his beautiful amethyst eyes. Desperation…  

Asra’s hand went up to cup my cheek. I placed my hand over his, nuzzling into his warmth. How is he always so warm…?  

This time, Asra leaned in, pressing his lips against mine, and guiding them. As soon as I got somewhat used to it all, his hot kiss went a little bit deeper. My hands hesitantly went to his shoulders, and that’s when I felt him trembling. Asra’s lips trailed down towards my jawline, and down to the crook of my neck. And he pulled away, his eyes reflecting mine. Adoration…

“Y-you’re shaking,” I said, my one hand sliding up to his cheek. 

He smiled and nodded a little. “It’s just… I-” 

Boom!

The thunder sounded louder, and the lightning was brighter. The clouds were spreading across Asra’s oasis. The winds were picking up as well, making me huddle closer into his embrace. The storm was changing itself to a more threatening one. 

Asra’s eyes darted around until his gaze landed on me. I knew that expression he was making. I was going to have to go back… 

My heart ached at the thought, but I knew that it was smarter to leave than to be sorry later on. I hugged him tightly, never wanting to let go, but had no choice. 

“I promise… I’ll see you soon,” he said, holding me just as tight. 

I looked up at him, and asked, “See me soon?” 

But he didn’t answer. His hand covered my eyes, and I felt a gentle kiss on my forehead. The world began to shift and warp until I felt myself lying on my back, the cool concrete underneath me. I shot straight up, intaking a sharp breath. Faust looked at me with her crimson eyes. 

“Asra…?” she asked. 

I nodded. “He said that he was going to see us soon…” 

She happily slithered up my arm, her tongue flicking against my neck. I gave her a few chin scritches, and made my way to my room. Asra was still fresh in my mind, the sight of him in front of a spiraling storm and reaching out to touch it. And of course, his desperate kiss…

Chapter Text

I woke earlier than usual. The sun was barely rising. I stayed in bed, still thinking about what happened the day prior. About Asra… I never expected us to kiss. I thought my feelings were only one-sided. My heart swelled with happiness because of the feelings that were returned… My hand slowly made its way to my lips. 

I began daydreaming about Asra's lips and his flushed face. Until I was suddenly interrupted by my phone’s obnoxious ringing. When I looked I noticed it was Fantasia again. He was probably wanting some more juicy details. 

I answered the phone with a groggy, “Mmm… Good morning.” 

“Get up, sleepyhead! You know what I called for,” he said. I silently sighed at how Fantasia was an early riser as well. He was always the type to be chipper in the morning though. 

“Okay… Fantasia, you wouldn’t believe it if I told you.” 

I heard an exaggerated gasp on the other end, then something falling, and crashing. 

“Did it happen?” he asked, wholly invested in the conversation. 

I smiled and hugged my pillow to my chest. I wasn’t sure what to say since I was so happy. I never found myself in a “kiss-and-tell” situation, at least not from what I could remember. Should I tell him or no…? 

I wanted to know if Asra would like it if I told him. I didn’t know if he was comfortable with that, or liked his privacy. And… I didn’t know what we were. Were we dating…? 

Fantasia didn’t seem to like the silence on my end. I could tell because of the loud, dramatic groan he let out. “I won’t tell anyone, sweetie. Just answer my question, pleeease…” 

“Okay, okay… It happened.” 

Fantasia let out the highest pitched squeal I’d ever heard from him, despite his voice being so deep. I chuckled a little at his excitement. 

“I knew it! I knew it would happen!” he exclaimed. He clapped his hands a few times and let out a happy sigh. “To be honest… I thought you guys were already together when I met you.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“Just the way you talked about him at work. You always had the most adorable look on your face whenever you talked about him. You talked about him like you loved him. Which, you obviously do! You knew his favorite foods, colors, etcetera… I was so surprised when you told me that you weren’t together with him at all,” he explained. 

Wow…  

He continued with a chuckle, “And now it happened. I’m so happy and proud of you! Now… it’s my turn to find a beauty like that.” 

I laughed and agreed. We talked more about the moment leading up to the kiss and the ending of it. When we were about to say our goodbyes, Fantasia made a noise like he remembered something he had to say to me. 

“By the way, the boss is getting a little irritated that you’re not there. I don’t know how long he’ll last.” 

“I’m sorry that you have to deal with him alone…” 

“Oh, don’t be worried about me! He’s the least of my worries. I just want you to keep giving me details.”

After we said our goodbyes, I noticed the shadows in my room looked more defined than when I woke. The sun was shining through the cracks of the curtains and I could hear the distant chirping of birds outside my window. As soon as I sat up, there was a brisk knock at the door. 

Portia strolled on in and said, “Morning! Nadia said that we have a lot to do today since we missed out on yesterday. She’s upset with herself about it. And I told her that…” the assistant continued, but her voice was slowly growing distant in my mind at the sight of movement above the door frame. It was Faust, flicking her tongue more than usual. It was like she was anxious about something. 

I tried hard not to stare at the lavender noodle, but Portia noticed my darting eyes. “Hey, are you okay? Is- is there something behind me?” she asked, turning around before I could say anything. 

She gasped at the sight of Faust dropping to the floor and quickly slithering away. 

“Did you see that?? Did you see that snake?? Oh no! What if it gets to the menagerie?” 

“The what?” 

“Th- the…! Nevermind!” And the assistant dashed out of the room and down the hall, chasing after the familiar. I practically flung my body out of the bed and followed the train. Portia’s remarkable speed had me sweating. 

We reached the end of the hall, to different ways to go. 

“Did you see where it went? I can’t-” and she cut herself off with a gasp, “Aha!” 

We looked to our right and we saw the purple tail wriggling down another corner of the hallway. To Portia’s horror, the familiar was headed towards the balcony. 

“It’s headed for the garden! What about the birds?! ” 

I could see the image pass through her eyes of all of the chirping birds in the garden. I didn’t want to send her into another frenzy so all I could say was, “I’ll take care of it.” 

She let out a sigh of relief but I could still see some of the worry in her eyes. “You’re so competent! Snakes are pretty hard to catch. Well, I’m not so sure about the magic but-” 

Her sentence was cut off by a hustling butler brushing past us. 

“Oh, I’m so sorry! But there is a visitor!” the butler uttered before dashing down the hallway, dabbing at his sweaty brow with a handkerchief. 

Portia and I gave each other nervous looks before following along. 

All three of us burst through the doors of the veranda. We all looked the complete opposite of Nadia, who was calm and collected, staring out into the garden. She was already dressed for work and she had a steaming mug of tea resting on the railing. She turned and her eyes widened at the sight of us. 

“Wow… You all look like you’re in a hurry! Portia, is there something going on?” she asked, concerned. 

“We, uh- Well, um… How are you already dressed for today? I heard someone was coming, right?” 

“Yes, I heard as well. David?” Nadia took a long sip from her mug before setting it back down. 

“Uh, yes! He said that he’d enter through the garden… He also says his name is Asra,” the butler explained. 

After his words, I could feel a familiar magic. Slow, calming, and refreshing. Just like water. He began to climb the stairs and I could hear the stomping sounds of security guards rushing towards him. I was about to intervene, but I knew Asra had a trick up his sleeve. He wasn’t easy to catch… 

I could hear Nadia’s short gasp as soon as six security guards crashed down upon him, a hazy purple mist swirled around them. It continued up the stairs and began to take shape once more. Into the form of my magician roommate. The guards were left with nothing but themselves on top of the other, baffled. 

The butler rolled his eyes and lowly growled at the security. “I thought I notified you all! Check. Your. Phones! ” he exclaimed. 

Asra calmly took off his baseball cap that he wore for travel and said, “They usually don’t… Hello, Nadia.” 

The CEO looked almost as baffled as the guards, whispering his name as if she was on a spell. But she quickly returned to her normal self. “You don’t know how long I’ve been trying to put that name with a face… You look younger than I thought you would be.” 

“Really? You look even better than I remember,” Asra said, smiling. I realized that Faust was slowly moving across his shoulders, basking in the presence of her friend. 

“Remember?” 

“Yes… I remember when you came into town. And your limousine. You were even on the news. This time, I’ll try to make a lasting impression. But, if I could just do this…” he trailed off, his longing gaze pouring over me. 

Nadia quirked a brow as Asra approached me. His arms wrapped around me, and I was enveloped in his tight, warm embrace. I could feel his heart pounding in sync with mine. His scent was something I could always remember as a soothing factor for me. 

“You missed your roommate, I see. She was very entertaining,” Nadia said, smiling at the two of us. 

I could feel Asra’s lip press against my forehead, quickly, but lovingly before he replied. “Yeah… Wherever she goes, trouble follows. There’s never a dull moment. I was wondering if I could take her out for the day…” 

A rosy blush dusted his cheeks while he averts his gaze to Nadia. 

“Hmm… We lost time yesterday. But that wasn’t her fault…” 

“I know what she is here to do, but I’ll be helping her with her magic throughout the day. Surely that will help with the manhunt.” 

“Then of course. But, first…That’s such a beautiful morph. Where did you find her?” Nadia asked. Faust flicked her tongue happily at the CEO before Asra answered. “She… was sort of a gift.” 

“A fine gift. Both of you, enjoy your day together,” she said. 

It felt strange to turn and walk down the halls of the mansion with Asra, hand in hand. I went into my room to change and get ready for the day while Asra waited patiently in the hallway. 

After that we went to the front of the mansion, looking over the railing of the bridge and into the waters below. 

Asra let out a long exhale, lifting his eyes to the horizon. 

“This place has changed. The butler remembers me… I’m not sure about the security,” he said, a wistful look on his face. What about Nadia…? But before I could even ask, his entire expression changed and he started again. “So, I was thinking we could stop for some bread before we go on… a little journey.” 

I gave him a quizzical look and he was just about to explain when my phone began buzzing and chiming in my back pocket. I mentally sighed and cursed my phone for not being on silent. I quickly apologized, awkwardly taking out my phone to see who it was. I knew it couldn’t have been Fantasia again… Right…? 

And it was. 

Asra’s eyes glazed over my screen for a split second before they returned to the horizon. He and Fantasia never met and I never talked about my coworker with him. I felt guilt crawling back into my mind and down to the pit of my stomach. Maybe… it’s time I told him…  

“Maybe you should answer that…?” Asra said, snapping me out of my thoughts. 

“Oh! Right.” 

I swiped right and as soon as I lifted the phone to my ear, I could hear Fantasia’s all too familiar deep and dramatic voice on the other end. He wasn’t on speakerphone, but I knew Asra could hear what he was saying anyway.  

“Ugh! Honey, I’m sorry. But the boss is pissed. I just talked with him but… I think that you should call him tonight or something. He didn’t want to hear anything from me. How dare he?” 

The white-haired magician beside me glanced back over my way. I gave him an awkward smile and turned away. 

“Ah… I see. I’ll make sure to call him. And, thank you so much, Fantasia!” 

“No problem, sweetheart! Okay, I’ll finally let you go now.” 

We both said our goodbyes for the second time that morning. 

I gave out a deep sigh and turned back around. My heart ached at the sight of him gazing longingly at the eels that swam below. 

"Coworker?" he asked. 

"Yeah..." 

A few moments of silence passed and finally, I decided to ask. “Asra… Can I tell you something?” 

I already knew the answer though. 

“You can tell me anything…” he whispered, giving me an encouraging smile. My heart picked up its rhythm at the sight. 

“It’s about my job… I know I never told you before but… I just don’t know how to explain it,” I said. 

He grabbed my hands and pulled me a little towards him. “You don’t have to tell me now if you don’t want to. You can tell me whenever you’re ready.” 

Gods… Why can’t I tell you…?

I could feel my face strain from the frustration that was steadily growing inside me. I guessed that I wasn’t ready to tell him, but I didn’t like hiding anything from Asra. Because… he didn’t deserve that. Not after everything he had done for me in the three years that I knew him. He was so selfless when it came to me. And while we were standing on that bridge, looking into each other’s eyes, I wasn’t even brave enough to tell him that I was-

“Hey…” 

Asra’s soothing voice was like the moon on a foggy night. The fog was clearing and the moon was shining through. His warm hand came to cup my cheek, his eyes pouring into mine. All I could feel at that moment was his love and understanding. 

“I get not being able to do something, but wanting to do it at the same time…” he said, his thumb brushing my cheekbone, calming my nerves. Everything melted away whenever I felt his touch. And it was just like magic. 

I nodded and wrapped my arms around him again, tightly. “Thank you, Asra. For everything…” 

He chuckled a little, his laugh music to my ears. “I think you need Selasi’s pumpkin bread. You’ve had a rough few days.”


We made our way over to the marketplace, the setting completely different from the quiet and peaceful mansion. Crowds bustled around, everyone wanting to get a head start on their shopping. And some passing through while looking for a good, cheap breakfast to have on their way to work. The smell of coffee was in the air, but what I truly smelled was cardamom, clove, nutmeg, and pumpkin. Bread.

Asra turned to me, a slightly worried look flashing across his face. He knew that I didn’t really like crowds and that I always got lost in them. I hummed, curling my fingers around his. He gave me a flustered smile and mumbled, “I’m not as paranoid about losing you as much… And I know that you know your way around…” Despite his words, he also curled his fingers around mine.

The crowd parted for us as we made our way over to the bakers. Selasi gave us a wide grin, dusting some flour off of his hands. 

“Well, look at that! Together again!” 

Asra leaned on the counter, smiling back. “That’s right. How’s business?” he asked. 

“Well, much better with you two around. Have a seat!” The baker made his way to the back, brewing up a cup of mint tea. We both sat at a counter, enjoying the aromatic scent. 

“I know you didn’t come back from wherever you were for just my bread. Right, Asra?” Selasi asked, smirking while giving us our drinks. 

I saw a faint blush dust across Asra’s cheeks and he shook his head. “We’re about to go on another trip.” 

“You’re bringing your roommate this time?” 

The magician nodded, making Selasi grin ear-to-ear at me. He went back to the oven, checking on the loaves. 

Asra and I sat in comfortable silence, enjoying the scenery around us. I sipped the last of my drink and leaned back. I took a deep breath, taking in the spices from around us, mixed with the sweetness of the bakers cooking. 

“This smells familiar…” 

Asra’s eyes widened a bit in interest. “Does it remind you of something? I heard scent is connected to memories,” he said, leaning in. 

The baker returned with two wrapped, warm loaves of bread. “One for you, and one for Asra.” 

The magician gently grasped Selasi’s hands, turning them over to examine the stiff pink scars on them from his daily work. Asra closed his eyes and rubbed his thumbs over them until they disappeared and healed. The baker grinned and said, “Thank you!” He waved at the both of us and wished us a safe trip. 

On our way out of the marketplace, we both passed by a dusty fortune tellers booth. I tried to just ghost past and continue walking, but Asra gave me a sneaky smirk. “Whaat? You don’t want to get a reading?” he asked. Not from them… We’ve both known who this person was and we also knew that they were swindling their customers with obvious information. Asra continued, “I thought I told them to lay off, but… I heard that they give a good love reading. Hmmm… How about I glamour us? Then we’ll have nothing to worry about.” 

I was kind of surprised that he wanted to get a love reading. But I didn’t mind being glamoured by him. His magic was so invigorating… 

“Let’s do it.” 

“That’s the spirit!” he said, gently guiding me to a corner. I was wondering what he was going to make me look like. Asra was very imaginative when it came to glamouring. He never taught me how to do it since teaching me to hide who I was would’ve been painful for him. But… he did give me the resources to learn on my own. Which I did, because of my job. I couldn’t ever show my true self there… 

The corner where we were hiding had stacks of tightly rolled carpets, perfect coverage. “Hmmm… I wonder,” he hummed to himself. His warm hands lifted to cup my cheeks and his eyes closed. I followed suit, knowing his rules about peaking. His thumbs lightly brushed over my eyelids. My heart was racing and it was hard to keep my eyes closed from his unpredictable touch. Soon I calmed myself, enjoying his touch rather than being flustered about it. I could feel his magic, like water, trickling down my face and body. I could only describe it as cool and soothing. 

“And… Done. You know, I’d still know you in a heartbeat,” Asra whispered before whipping out his phone. He opened the camera and showed me what I looked like. “What do you think? Is it you, or is it you?” 

I was certainly surprised. I was never used to glamour magic, no matter how many times I used it. I had a curly beard, half of it gold and the other silver, flowers twisted into them. My eyes had long lashes and my lips were an emerald green. Even my outfit changed. I was wearing colorful hiking gear with a large backpack on my back that looked as if it had everything I could ever need. But it was a strange sensation. It was completely weightless. 

“I was going for a wandering traveler who was looking for a fun time,” Asra explained. When I took my eyes off of his phone screen to look at him, my eyes widened at how different he looked. He had hair that was also half silver and half gold, twisted into a braid draped across his broad shoulders. His rounder face was exhibiting his signature smile. I had a feeling that even though I never saw his smile on that face, I would still know it was him from a mile away. And I could see his shimmering magic aura around him. When I looked hard enough, I could still see him as his usual self. 

“Ready?” he asked, offering his hand. I could tell he was internally laughing at my reaction to his new voice. It was a deeper voice, a low croak. I began to reply, but stopped when I heard the nasal tone. Asra finally let out a chuckle and said, “Come on, don’t be shy!” 

We both came out of our hiding spot and walked over to the fortune-tellers booth, hand in hand. They noticed us right away and gave us a toothy grin before beckoning us to sit and relax. “Oooh…! You two look like you’ve seen the world. What brings you here to my booth?” they asked, wringing their fingers together. 

“Oh, just a little thing called love. Why say anything? Why do anything for anyone? Love,” Asra replied, lifting my knuckles and pecking them. My heart stuttered a bit in surprise. The magician continued, “So, this relationship is pretty new. But, it just feels like it’s meant to be, you know? The one! It only makes it more difficult thinking if whatever we have isn’t real. That… maybe it isn’t meant to be. We were just about to hit the road, but why pass up on an experts opinion?” 

Wow…  

The fortune-teller didn’t look like they cared about anything Asra was saying, but they nodded along anyway. “Of course, of course! Lovers on the road. Beautiful. Now, give me your hands,” they said, their fingers wriggling for ours. They tightly enclosed both of our hands in their grasp. 

The fortune-teller began to make noises, as if they were thinking…? 

“Weehhhh… Mmmmmmmmm…. Yes, yes… It’s getting clearer and clearer…!” 

They repeatedly tapped their long fingernails against the crystal ball. “Wow… It must be difficult to look so far into the future,” Asra said. He shot me a sneaky grin, telling me that he was having fun with this. 

“Ooooohhh…! I see it! You both are going on a journey, yes?” they asked. 

“Yes, we are going on a journey! What else do you see?” 

“This journey… is not the first, and it will not be the last,” they answered, waving their bony finger at us with every word. “Every journey you take together, you’ll fall in love with each other all over again!” 

Really…?” Asra asked, faking a surprised tone before laughing. He pulled my hands into his again and said, “That’s amazing. You’re the real deal. Does this cover it?” 

Asra pulled out a dry lizard foot and a handful of pearls from his bag, which didn’t surprise me as much as the fortune-teller. They looked at us like we were crazy for a split second before reluctantly nodding their head. “Uhm… Yes, that should cover it… The future has high hopes for the both of you!” they shouted as we walked off together. Asra’s arm wrapped around my shoulders, his face leaned into the crook of my neck. I could feel his smile against me. 

While we were leaving, my mind kept wondering whether Asra meant anything he said during the fortune. Is that how h e feels…?  

Eventually, we reached the forest, our glamour spell long gone. The path we were on was familiar since we’ve been there to collect ingredients for potions that our customers specially ordered. I could still feel Asra’s excitement for the day ahead of us as we made our way on the dirt path. We made a different turn than usual though. I looked over to Asra, and all I could see was his calm, yet knowing smile. It wasn’t just a normal walk in the woods. We were looking for something more. 

Chapter Text

It felt nice to listen to the sounds of nature with Asra as we veered off the path. No electronics, no cars, no people. Just me and him. It felt much different than the other times we went together, and not just because of the change in direction. I felt closer to him and stronger than before. I could walk on my own instead of having to constantly lean on him. I liked what we were. Walking side by side, not following the other or leading. Just going together.  

He must’ve noticed my goofy grin because he asked, “What’re you thinking about?” 

I shrugged, glancing around us while we walked. The leaves crunched underneath our sneakers. “About you…” I replied with a smile. 

Asra hummed, bashfully looking away before continuing with another subject. “We’re going to a place you’ve been before,” he explained. 

Eventually, we stopped, his arm resting itself on my shoulders once again. His gaze fell on something up ahead, and he softly asked, “What do you see?” 

His breath on the shell of my ear made me flush, just the slightest. I focused my sight where he was looking. The sun streamed through the canopies overhead. Three beautiful birds were resting on different branches, their dark eyes staring into ours. They were all placed in a perfect triangle. 

“The last time I brought you here, you were new to magic,” Asra said. I could feel Faust move her body out from the collar of Asra’s shirt, slithering around my shoulders with her friend’s arm. It was something I noticed over the years. The familiar always came around when we talked about the past. I wondered who sensed the need for comfort first, him or her. Either way, I was grateful. 

Asra’s free hand took mine, his thumbs gently brushing over my knuckles. “We’re going to a cave. It’s a special place for magic, not just for its natural energy. People have been going there for as long as time. To open their eyes and to experience another side of reality. You’ll see what I mean… It’s really beautiful there. I’ve been wanting to take you but…” he paused, his eyebrows knitting together. “I, again, told myself it was too dangerous for you.” My heart skipped a beat at what could’ve happened before that was so dangerous. 

Faust returned to Asra as he finished his sentence. “I’m not gonna hold you back anymore. You’re going to do fine,” he assured. I wasn’t sure what we were going to be doing, but I wholeheartedly trusted him. When he looked at me with those encouraging eyes and spoke to me in that voice, how could I not? 

I could feel his admiration and love just from the way he held me. But I could feel something else. Something difficult to sense. From what I could gather, it was something like… worry.

We finally reached the cave, the hot and dry air changed to cool and a little humid. I didn’t mind though, it was refreshing. Asra lets out a happy exhale as he moves the fronds out of the way to enter. The sun still shined through, showing the glittering wall of the cave. Faust slides down Asra’s arm and onto the cool stone. I swore I could’ve seen a satisfied smile on her face. 

“Ahh, the air is humid. That's a good sign. Do you feel the energy?” he asked. I was so caught up in the beauty of the cave, I didn’t even notice the waves of calming vitality, echoing off of the walls. I nodded, taking it all in. 

“It comes from the spring up ahead. That’s where we want to go. Even so, there are hundreds of ways we could get lost… But, I’m going to ask you to lead us,” he said, his eyes searching mine for any sort of sign that I didn’t want to. 

“I can do it,” I said, confidently gazing down the dark path of the cave. Asra smiled in response. 

“I know you can. You have something different about you today… It's, hmm… dazzling. Maybe I should thank Nadia later.” 

Faust found a spot in the vines overhead, getting comfortable until we would return. Asra reached up to give her a few chin scritches. “Make sure to get comfortable, Faust. We’re going to be gone for a while.” 

He nodded at the darkness ahead, his hand finding mine with an easy smile. “Ready?” 

I honestly wasn’t sure, but I had a feeling that I would find the spring he was talking about. We interlocked our fingers together and descended into the dark cave. The tunnels were growing narrow and then wide, narrow then wide again. It was so quiet, aside from the peaceful dripping of water around us. There was no way to tell time other than to look at our phones, but I wasn’t concentrating on that. I was focused on where we were headed, and the moment. 

Asra only spoke when he had to, his even breathing almost silent.  Ran my hand across the stone wall, feeling out magical shapes and patterns that I couldn’t see, but I knew they were there. I used those as my guide, following along with the gentle pull of energy. The pull grew steadily stronger and stronger until we reached our destination. 

It was a cavern with a gorgeous spring, just like Asra described. The effervescence was coming off in waves all around us, tingling my senses. Asra was close behind me, his amethyst eyes gazing up ahead at the spring that was softly bubbling. 

“It hasn’t been like this in years,” he whispered, his eyes widened at the trickling spring before us. He finally turned to me to explain further, his smile golden. “The water’s back.” 

There wasn’t any water here before…? 

He goes up the rocky steps and on the edge of the pool, pressing one foot onto the surface of a thick lilypad. The water rippled beneath it as Asra took his foot away. “Feels strong enough. You can walk on these. They lead towards the center, with the flower. That flower is what we are here for… You’ll need to get it alone,” he said. 

I thought it was interesting, but I could sense his worry slowly growing. But he remained calm and composed. “Try not to overthink it. Just keep moving forward.” 

I had felt my confidence from before faltering just a bit before I stepped up to the edge of the pool. My limbs hesitated, but I ignored it and stepped onto the first broad lilypad. It was surprising how it could hold my weight, but also reassuring. I moved along, hopping to the next and continuing. They bounced back, creating ripples of water beneath me. I almost forgot that Asra was watching, lost in my world of focus. I almost forgot.

I looked behind me, just to see his face, but my heart leaped at the sight. He was so far away from where I was. I swore that I only took a few steps, hesitation returning. But Asra’s expression was clear as day. Keep moving…  

I turned and continued, the pit of my stomach telling me that I shouldn’t have looked back. I finally hopped off of the last buoyant pad before taking a few steps to the center. I cupped the beautiful flower in my hands. My mind returned to the conversation with Asra. “...a place you’ve been before…”

Maybe, I could try… 

Before I could even finish my thought, I felt the pad beneath me tremble, ripples around me getting larger. I quickly leaned down and smelled the aromatic flower, before I was sent into another memory.

I remembered doing this before… Except, I didn’t reach the center. I looked back and panicked at how far he was from me. Asra’s expression matched my emotions as I plummeted into the water. I was clawing through it, reaching the little island. Asra was right behind me, his arms encircled around my waist in no time. 

I was scared… 

“Asra… You got so far away!”  

“Maybe you weren’t supposed to look back… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought you here. Please, let me teach you a spell. Right now. If you remember it, this will never happen again…”  

I could hear all of the steps, echoing in my mind. When I returned to the present moment, I felt the pad shake harder, more persistent. I took a deep breath, visualizing it spreading throughout my body, and finally sunk to the depths. I was completely submerged in the warm pools water, and for whatever reason, I felt safe. The water splashed above me, Asra hurriedly swimming towards me. He drew me into his embrace, his eyes searching for signs that I was okay. 

I was. I didn’t need to breathe. 

His eyes softened, hands caressing the skin on my face. His ivory-white hair waved slowly and peacefully through the water, his expression proud. We broke to the surface and paddled over to the edge. Finally, we rested our bodies on the warm stone. I lifted my head, glancing back at the flower in the center. It was just as it was before. 

I rolled onto my back, while Asra gave out a breathy laugh. “You remembered! I was so worried the whole time. All I want to do is hold you,” he said, smiling at me adoringly. 

I could feel the tension leave his body once he shifts in the water and lifts to lean over me. 

“Then, please… Hold me,” I whispered. 

Asra looked shocked at my words, only for a second though, before he laughed once more. It sounded like soft bells, pleasantly ringing through my ears. “Heheh, lucky me.” I snorted at his words, shaking my head. 

His hands helped pull me up before they glided across my back. I rested my head against his shoulder, closing my eyes. “You did so well. Why was I worrying so much…?” he asked. It sounded like he was asking himself the question. “I’ll have to stop underestimating you someday.” 

Asra’s arms tightened around me, enveloping me in his warm hold. He gave out a long humming sound, satisfied. “It feels good to hold you like this. It’s been pretty tough wondering if I would ever get the chance again,” he whispered, his eyes glazing over my chest before averting away. A soft blush crept across his face and ears. His forehead nuzzled into my temple. Why would he think that…? Did he think I would refuse…? 

We’ve held each other before, but not like we were in that cave. Not when there was no space between us, and not when his lips brushed across my cheek. Asra searched my face, nose to nose, his hair tickling my forehead. He asked, “Are you okay? Your breath… Too tight…?” 

He pulled back, but not too far, and apologized. His hands ease their way to my waist. “Wow… First, I led you to a cave and could’ve gotten you hurt. Now, I have to squeeze the life out of you.” He sighed to himself and shook his head. His body sunk a little lower into the water, one of his hands moving to my thigh, making my heart skip a beat. Asra rested his head on my left breast, and I was hoping that he couldn’t hear it pounding. 

“It’s just… been a while since I’ve got a scare like that. I’m the one that’s supposed to keep my cool. But I didn’t even think when I jumped in after you. Pfft…” he said, turning his face into my chest. “Now, I need your heartbeat to soothe me,” he whispered, his lips brushing over my heart. Asra’s lips and breath was so warm. Always warm…  

“What I wouldn’t do for this heartbeat. I love this sound.” His arms suddenly tighten around me as he planted his lips to my chest. I gasped, his words and actions filling my heart with love. He whispered my name, and I could feel a familiar heat between my legs begin to grow. He was just so much of a sight to see. Asra’s eyes, gazing up at me while he kissed my knuckles. His translucent shirt revealed what was underneath because of the water, and I had a feeling he knew it too. He whispered my name after he smirked into my hand.

“Do you know what would happen to me, if I let something happen to you?” he asked. It wasn’t something he asked on a whim. It was something deeper. 

My heart ached at his question. I didn’t want to know what he would do. And I never wanted to think about being the cause of what he would do to himself. 

“I’m just glad you’re here, Asra…” I said, gently kissing him on the forehead. 

He let out a shuddering breath before saying, “I’m glad too. So glad. But… It’s just…”

“Just what?” 

“I’m not always going to be here. It’s hard knowing I may be gone at a time you need me. Like before… Whenever I bring you to a place, or wherever I take you that’s safe, I…” he trailed off. He looked so sadly conflicted. I slid down off of the edge and into his lap, looking him in the eyes. 

“Then just stay with me.” 

My lips seized his, both were wet and easily gliding across the others. I felt bad wondering what else he could do with his mouth. He moved with my mine in sync, caressing me while I gripped his shirt. I needed something to keep me from losing my senses. 

When we reluctantly broke apart, out of breath, I said, “You’re… a worrywart.” 

“I know… Sorry for being so gloomy. I’ll find a way to make it up to you on the way back.” 

That’s when I kissed him again, more desperate than the last time. It was only a few seconds before I pulled away. “Asra… You don’t have to apologize. Because…” I couldn’t finish, my heart thumping in my chest and my face burning from embarrassment. I shook my head, and while doing so I noticed a luminescent glow out the corner of my eye. 

When I glanced over, I gasped at the sight before us. I was so wrapped up in Asra, that I didn’t even notice the gorgeous shapes and patterns on the walls, glowing all sorts of different colors. Those were what I was feeling…  

“Do you see it?” Asra asked, smiling happily. 

Everything was so much different. More vibrant with all kinds of markings. Some looked older than others. Some were meticulous designs while others were just for fun. Declarations of devotion for lovers and depictions of the unknown for seekers. My eyes couldn’t keep up with all of the stories being told in the cavern. But they all lead the same way. Towards where we came from in a glowing light. 

“Your eyes are opened, only for a little while. Let’s not waste it,” he said, before giving me a quick peck on the corner of my mouth. Asra helped me to my feet, almost slipping. I gripped his shirt so tightly, an instant reaction. We laughed at each other before clasping our hands together and following the guiding lights and colors. I tried hard to ignore the desire I had for him.

I wondered where the cave would lead us next…

Chapter Text

We climbed up the slippery ground of the cave, the glowing lights still leading us. We both gave a sigh and a stretch from everything we’d been through that day. Once we reached outside, my breath hitched in my chest at the sight around us. Not only did the cave change, but also the forest itself. There was radiance everywhere around us, from the grass on the ground, to the glittering blue fog that whorled around us, to the trees that were decorated in purple patterns. 

Asra gave out a ringing laugh after he took in the scenery before us. “Wow. I thought it was still day for a second. I thought we were in there all night,” he said. I could tell he was just as astonished as I was. I didn’t know how long we were in the cavern, but when I looked up at the sky, it was late. 

I had to rub the flashes of luminosity from my eyes for a second. Asra rested his hand on my shoulder. 

“Your magic is running up through the cave water. It finds the tiniest crack and comes through. Like light,” he whispered the last part in amazement. Everything around us was so brilliant, but my eyes couldn’t take themselves off of the person that was in front of me. I could see his radiating aura, a purple hue emanating off of his half-dry pearlescent curls. 

The longer he looked at me, the brighter it grew, and the deeper its colors went. He looked angelic. I was about to say something, something that I wanted to say for the longest time, but an echo sounded off in my mind. A whisper, a ripple in the energy we were standing in. I could hear it so clearly, as if it was right next to me. 

“There you are.”  

I felt a shiver run through my spine, and my hair stood straight up. Asra’s expression changed from reverence to shock. I could feel a sudden change in his emotions. I could feel a sense of dread. 

“Did you just hear a voice?” he asked, his eyes darting around us. 

I nodded, doing the same. He hand reached for my elbow and he drew himself closer to me. Whatever it was, its echo began to ripple louder and louder through my mind, raising its pitch. It sounded angry, so angry that it was almost unintelligible. 

“If you can hear him, I’m sure you can see him too… He isn’t far. In the hills, maybe. We’ll be able to get a look at him,” Asra said. 

Him…?  

How did Asra know who this person was? Maybe he knew him from before, and I had a feeling that I knew him as well. But, I just couldn’t remember who’s voice had that… garbled quality. I tried to wrack my brain around the voice, trying to remember. But of course, my head was on the edge of thrumming with pain. 

“Don’t try,” Asra said, his grip on my elbow tightening, only a bit. I finally nodded and gave up on it, silently asking myself why I would even try since I knew the consequences anyway. It was probably because of all the memories that I had gotten from before… 

“You’ve been at the mansion for a few days… and a few nights. Did you encounter anything you couldn’t explain? Maybe a voice, a creature that disappeared when you looked close?” 

Well, that’s very specific…  

I remembered hearing a voice on the stairwell to Lucio’s wing, and immediately ignoring it. Why? Because horror movies…  

“I did hear the voice,” I answered. 

“I hope you didn’t hear it too often. It’s not a surprise, considering the circumstances. There’s something in the mansion. Something that only exists between worlds. It started with him. Lucio.” 

I could see his face change to one of either disgust or anger. Probably both and much more. He continued, “I haven’t seen him yet. I have plenty of protections on me. He can't come near me. And he’s weak. He shouldn’t be able to hurt you, but…” he trailed off, shaking his head. “Did he scare you?” His voice sounded so fragile, as if he was wounded. Not by me, but by himself. His gaze remained soft on me, and I could feel his internal blame for himself. My heart ached that he felt that way. 

I shook my head, and replied, “He didn’t scare me. And he never will.” I said it firmly, assuring him that I was confident in my answer. Sure, I was startled when I heard his voice for the first time, but with my knowledge of movies, I knew I would be safe. (Right…)

“Of course you weren’t scared. You’re the bravest person I know. Always watching horror movies late at night with a stone-cold face, and completely devoid of fear,” he chuckled. I smiled, nodding my head. 

“Of course.” 

“Not everyone can brush him off so easily… But there’s one thing I want you to remember when you deal with him, okay?” The air returned to a more serious setting. “ Don’t listen to him. I know it can be hard, especially once he knows how to find you. I’m not saying don’t hear him, you can’t help that. I mean, don’t listen. He’s going to try to get to you, whatever way he can. He’s starved for attention,” he explained, his gaze intense. 

And of course, my stomach chose the most perfect time to growl in hunger. Asra looked down at my stomach, and then his eyes fell onto my elbow. He must’ve noticed how tightly he was holding it. He took a step back, his face flushing a bit. 

I was also embarrassed, but I tried not to show it. 

“There’s a good place to stop up ahead. Maybe you can finish up the bread there,” he said. We both started walking a little deeper into the brightly lit forest.


We reached a small, circular clearing, Asra stopping to gather stones. I looked around the clearing, seeing the seven-sided stars made from braided grass hanging from the branches. They were Asra’s work, but less practiced from the ones I had seen him make before. 

Asra noticed me closely examining the charms. “I made this spot for safety years ago… You know things are bad in the city when you need to hide in the woods… Here, you can finish off the bread. I’ll start a fire,” he said, giving me the end of the loaf. I plopped next to him, shrugging off my backpack and nibbling on the bread at the same time. I sat there, wondering what could've been so bad that he had to move out into the forest for a safe space. Asra arranged a circle of stones, and then placed his hands above it. 

I could never stop being amazed by magic. 

Fire suddenly burst out of his palms, a roaring blue. Asra gave a sound of surprise at the action. The flames luckily receded in an instant. The fire was calm and steady in the makeshift hearth. 

“Hmm… My magic is a little more potent than usual… That’s right. Yours is, too. Want to try it out?” he asked, waving his hand over the flames and putting them out. Smoke billowed from the leftover crisp branches. He moved aside, giving me his signature encouraging smile. We didn’t practice fire magic as much before, since it could be dangerous it got out of control. 

I held my hand over the circle of stones, expecting it to take a while despite how potent the air was with energy. But to my surprise, a large crack could be heard and an almost blinding light jets from the center of my palm, reviving the flames in only a second. 

Asra laughed at my expression when I stared at my hand in disbelief. “Don’t use it too much. You’re already starving,” he said as I finished the last of the bread. 

He continued, “Anyway… about the thing in the mansion. You should probably stay away from Lucio’s old wing. Unfortunately… I can’t promise that he won’t come to you.” 

Asra again, looks kind of guilty about it. I dusted the last of the crumbs off of my hands and held his. “If he does, I’ll tell him off.” 

He gave me a smile that melted my heart. 

“I’ve got a friend who lives out here in the woods. He said he’s seen it, sliding through the branches. He said it used to look like a trick of the light, but then it appeared as a shadow. And from what he told me… it’s kind of goatlike, walking on two legs. White, with red eyes,” he described. 

My mind immediately went to the painting in the dining room of the mansion. Nadia said Lucio was the center of it all. The goat… 

“I’m definitely gonna lay some protection spells on you before we bring you back there. But first… I want you to see him. Once you have, I don‘t think he’ll be able to hide from you again…” he said, getting up from his spot and looking over my shoulder. I follow his gaze and notice leaves on the ground rustling around, straight towards Asra. I saw a hint of lavender before I heard a frantic familiar whisper, “Him!”  

“I know… Where is he now?” Asra asked. She only gave a wordless reply while quickly snaking her way up his arm and into his sleeve. I had never seen her look so panicked. 

“The field? Hmm… I thought so. Let’s climb up this rock. We’ll be able to see him from there,” he said, turning to the large, jagged boulder we had both been leaning on. He interlocked his fingers together as a foothold for me to climb up on top of the rock. Once I pulled myself up, I blinked from the breeze and squinted my eyes for what Asra described. 

The trees peacefully swayed with the wind while I observed the field ahead. My eyes glazed over to the mansion, an obvious and pungent red aura surrounding the building. The aura itself was fog-like, oozing itself past the gates and towards the field. Whatever this was, it wasn’t good. 

I scanned further over the moonlit fields, looking for a white goat-like figure. And I did. He was there, A red foggy trail following him as he walked through the long grass. Suddenly, his head turned, looking directly at me with crimson red eyes pouring into mine. I saw his shape, but it wasn’t too defined. It was translucent, and certainly not human. 

I could hear his echoing whisper from where I stood.

“Yesssss… You know me.” His shape was changing itself to a more solid figure the more I focused on it. “And I know you…” he whispered. My name sounded out in my head, slowly, unsettling my nerves. It grew louder and louder, making me shiver once more. 

Then I felt both of Asra’s warm hands clasp firmly around my right hand. He was beside me, staring Lucio down with a scornful look. I had never seen him look at anyone like that. His voice was low and cold when he said, “ Go away, Lucio. ” 

The creature shifted his attention towards Asra, expression matching his. Lucio turned away, giving both of us one last look, before dissipating into the air. Into nothing. Once he was gone, Asra’s hands sadly slipped from mine. 

After we scaled back down to where we were, Asra immediately asked me questions. “You heard him in your head?” 

I nodded. 

“I did too. What did he say to you?” 

“What did he say to you? ” I countered. 

Asra’s eyes widened for only a fraction of a second before they returned to normal. I guessed he didn't expect me to ask. After a short pause, he answered, “Something he thought would scare me… And the something he thought would make me feel sorry for him. He hasn’t changed. I don’t think he ever will… He’s not as weak as I thought he was though. But, I know you’re stronger than he is. No matter what he says, he has no power over you…” He cleared his throat a bit. “Does that make you feel any better?” he shyly asked.

How could it not…?

My heart began to beat faster and on some strange urge, I hugged him. “You always make me feel better, Asra… And remember, I’m a horror movie warrior.” 

The magician’s chest vibrated from his chuckle, his arms returning my embrace. “Ahh, yes,” he sighed. “But… I don’t think it's a good idea to return to the mansion. At least not until I put protections on you. Not many though. And just for now, okay?” 

We ambled over to the fireplace and sat back down in our spots. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. I could feel his hands hover over me while he placed his cooling, protective magic over me.

Chapter Text

All you could hear in the dead of night was our laughter and the cracking of the fire. We were joking about how many times we clumsily slipped or tripped in the cave. The fire was occasionally being fed branches as the night went on. I sat close to him, despite how warm it already was. It felt nice to be with Asra, and to be able to go on a small journey with him was even better. So I wasn’t expecting the next thing he suggested. 

Asra’s face changed from a carefree look to a serious one. Faust stilled her movements, waiting for her friend to speak. “I… I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go back to the mansion.” 

He was right, but I knew that I had to return to Nadia eventually. I didn’t forget what she originally needed my help with. Was he suggesting that we just… leave?

He continued to explain. “I’m more worried about what would happen if we stayed. I don’t understand what Lucio is yet. I don’t know what he’s capable of… So how can I just… let you out of my sight?” 

Asra’s hands took mine while he looked deeply into my eyes. My heart was practically beating out of my chest at his expression. There was so much emotion all in one beautiful face. “Let’s just get away from here. Only for now,” he softly said. 

My mind went back to Lucio, his gleaming crimson gaze pouring into mine. Claws clenched in frustration and anger. And something else… 

“Okay… But let me text Portia first, to let her know,” I answered. 

He looked surprised at my answer, but only for a second. Asra smiled happily at me while the tension left his shoulders. Faust made her way up his shoulder, flicking her tongue a few times. “Faust, would you stay here and keep an eye on Nadia?” 

“An eye?”

“Just let us know if anything changes. If she needs us, we can always come back. And be safe.” 

“Be safe!” the familiar excitedly whispered before slithering up a tree and out of sight. Then we both stood and put out the fire.

Curious, I asked, “Where did you park?”

Asra paused for a moment, and then continued to pack up his things. “Hmmm… I think it was in front of the mansions gates…” he mumbled. He sounded like he was asking more than answering. It wasn’t unusual for Asra to forget where he parked his van. He always forgot whenever we went shopping at the mall or just went out to eat. It was one of the reasons why we chose to walk everywhere and keep the van parked at the shop for his trips. 

After we put the fire out and had all of our things, we headed straight to where Asra thought the vehicle would be. 

And it was where he remembered it was. 

Except he was blocked in.

“Oh, great…” he muttered, looking at the tightly parked cars in front of, and behind the van. It looked like Asra just casually pulled in when he got to the mansion, but he stopped way too close to the other vehicle. 

I could hear him mumble something else about parallel parking as he opened up the vans side door. I followed along, peering into the vehicle myself. I was assuming he was searching for things that he might’ve just left in the car for the trip. But something caught my eye. 

There was a pair of underwear resting on the backseat. My underwear. I didn’t know what to say at the moment, and it didn’t look like he noticed them either. I wanted to just back away and not address it, but it was too late. 

“Ah, I found the chestnuts. You know-” He froze. He turned around from the trunk of the car and saw me with my eyes darting from him to the underwear on the seat. “Oh…” 

… 

“Um… Maybe it got mixed in with the other clothes. The ones that we took to the cleaners last Saturday…” I said, trying to hide my embarrassment. I took the panties and shoved them into my backpack as quickly as possible. “Anyway, what are we going to do now?” 

Change, change, change the subject…  

Asra nodded his head, redness clear as day on his ears. He awkwardly cleared his throat before answering, “We’re just going to meet a friend of mine. They can help us.” 

It was a long walk towards the fields in the outskirts of Vesuvia. But I never grew tired since Asra had plenty of stories to share from the previous trips he had. I was so interested in them that I didn’t even notice the long grass brushing up against my sides. I wondered who this friend was, because there wasn’t any sign of the highway or other cars. The only road there was, was a dirt path leading off into the horizon. 

Asra’s voice snapped me out of my thoughts. “So I think that we should still work on your magic. At least until things change at the mansion. I don’t know how long we’ll have. I wish I could give you a chance to relax though,” he said, slowing his pace. His curls bounced as he shook his head, trying to keep the mood light. “If we are leaving, where would you like to go? Somewhere more remote, or maybe a big city?” he asked. 

“Hmm…” I knew deep down that I wanted a more remote place to go. But… Despite that, I still felt like I wanted a challenge. Asra knew that I didn’t like crowds all that much, but I wanted to break out of my shell. Just a bit though. 

“Another city,” I answered. 

“Oh? Well, I would love to go to another city with you. I could help you take the shop on the road.” 

I smiled and shook my head. It wasn’t impossible. He bubbled with laughter at my expression before continuing, “I’m happy that you’re coming out of your shell. I’ve been spoiled, having you to myself for so long.” 

He gently nudged my side with a teasing smile as we slowly walked along. Soon we came upon a pile of dry, golden grass curled up in a spiral. It gleamed in the moonlight. Asra hummed before digging into his bag, “Still sleeping…” 

He pulled out a handful of water chestnuts, moving a little closer to the pile of wheat. At least, I thought it was a pile of wheat. A red snout poked out, sniffing the air. I froze reflexively when the round pile unfurled itself into a big animal. It’s big, heavy, and sleepy head turns to the handful of chestnuts. Its tongue flopped out to slurp them out of Asra’s hand. 

“Morning, sleepy hooves,” he said, smiling at the beast. 

Sleepy hooves… Adorable… 

The beast replied, its voice sounding like old groaning wood, “Asraaa.”

It was strange, but the large animal reminded me of Faust, despite how different they looked. It also looked older, as if it knew the lay of the land. I noticed its snout turning in my direction, sniffing some more. I let it sniff some before sniffing back. It was a sweet scent… 

Its heavy eyes opened, revealing deep purple irises. It groaned my name as well and asked, “Do you remember me?”  

I was sure that I did, or at least, my heart did. The sweet smell of the animal had brought a feeling of lightness in my chest. “I know you… I just don’t remember the time we met,” I said. The beast’s eyes blink a few times, slowly. Its snout approached me to sniff me once more. 

“You have a new smell. But I still like you,” it said. I could’ve sworn that its eyes were smiling at me. 

“A lot has changed since your first meeting. It’s been a while. I probably have a new smell too, by now at least,” Asra said. The beast took a whiff before giving a huff. 

“The same. Hope and pain.”

Well then… 

“Huh. Well, uh, speaking of hope… I hope you’ll help us out. We’re trying to get away from Vesuvia… For now.” 

The animal rolled over onto its side, folding its two front legs and stretching the two in the back. “The way you worded that…” It looked as if it shrugged its shoulders and asked, “Where will you go?”

The magician looked out onto the horizon, the breeze softly blowing his fluffy hair. “To Nopal. If it isn’t too far.” 

The beast gave a big yawn before stretching its short limbs. “Not far. I am well-rested. Hop on.”

“You’re the best,” Asra said, practically beaming. Asra slung a leg over the beast, fondly stroking its silky, golden fur before holding his hand out for me. “How do you wanna sit? In front or behind?” he asked. I thought for a moment, before deciding that I wanted to see as much as possible on the trip. So… 

“In front.” 

Asra pulled me up for me to sit in front of him, his hands holding my hips as I got situated. My face burned from how close we were and from the fact that I was enjoying his hold on me. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was smirking. His arms wrapped around me, the warmth of his body making my heart rush. 

“Comfortable?” He whispered the question into my ear, his breath making a shiver run through my spine. 

Asra. ” 

He chuckled at my response as his legs hugged the beast’s sides. His arms moved, only momentarily, to guide my hands to the animal’s fur. “Make sure to get a good grip here,” he said before returning his arms to my waist. 

“Ready?” the beast asked, huffing a deep breath of air. 

“Ready.” I could hear the eagerness in Asra’s voice. 

The wind picked itself up, the horizon revealing a peak of colorful light in the distance. 

“Beautiful sunrise.”  

The animal took a deep breath, its belly expanding under us. I tightened my hold, not sure what to expect, but excited for what was to come. The beast took off with a huge burst of speed across the field of golden grass.


I felt like everyone was exhausted when we reached our destination. We were windblown, our eyes dry from the constant wind. Some sand was in our hair and clothes, but we weren’t bothered at all by it. We slid off of the animal, our legs sore from our tight hold. 

There was a small adobe house that looked very quaint and inviting. The beast shuffled off to the side of the house while Asra took a look at the garden of yellow-looking desert plants. 

“Well, this all looks thirsty. Looks like I’ve been gone too long,” he mumbled. I could tell from his voice that he was tired as well. He rubbed the sand from his eyes before ambling over to what looked to be a small fountain. He held his hands over it, and all of the dried sand turned into a golden liquid, then a pond water green, and finally a clear, sparkling blue. Water rose from the top, overflowing the fountain with water. He filled a nearby watering can before glancing my way. 

“You’re probably exhausted… You can wash up inside if you want. There’s a shower. After I’m done with this, I’ll join you.” 

… 

Wait…  

Asra paused, and I could see him rethinking what he just said. “I mean- I will take a shower after you. There’s also a bed inside, and I will come inside to go to bed… With you.” 

That sounded much more complicated than it had to be... 

I stood there and blinked a few times before blearily nodding and walking inside, too tired to react to his words. I could feel myself passing through a barrier that Asra must’ve put up and into a warm entranceway. I didn’t look around too much since I was tired. I placed my backpack on the floor by the bed. The bed that I just wanted to crash in as soon as possible. Too bad… Shower first…

Chapter Text

Asra’s heart nearly stopped when she noticed the panties in the back seat of the van. He was silently cursing himself for not putting them back where they belonged. Yes, it was true that it was leftover from the clothes that they took to the cleaners that last Saturday. But, he didn’t do anything about them at first. Not because he was lazy or anything, mostly because he was torn about them. 

After the passionate kiss that he had with his love, and after he returned from the gate that day, he was incredibly horny. Asra hated that he felt that way since he had only kissed her, and he was getting the same feeling he had when he was a teenager again. 

He carefully sat up after returning from his gate, his cock hard and wanting. Asra sighed, getting up, getting dressed, packing, and leaving the hotel room he was in. He knew he was being dramatic, but he was irritated that he couldn’t control his desire for his roommate. The magician, again for the second time in his life, held something discreetly over his obvious bulge the whole time so he could check out of the hotel. 

Asra opened the side door of the van in the parking lot, regretting leaving the hotel without taking a cold shower first. He threw his bag onto one of the seats before his eyes fell upon a pair of panties. 

He knew who they belonged to. 

And his mind immediately went to his love. Except, he was involuntarily imagining her in the underwear. Only the underwear. 

Was he really gonna do it then? In a hotel parking lot? 

“Gods…” he muttered before crawling into the backseat and slamming the door shut. Asra nervously looked around him, looking for any signs of people. None. The parking lot, luckily for him, was almost vacant. And it was late at night. 

Of course, no one would be out here this late… They would be sleeping, like normal people…  

Asra cursed himself again before stealing a glance at the panties. He slowly began to palm himself through his jeans, the thick fabric making a tortuous barrier for him. But he knew he deserved it. His other hand, seemingly having a mind of its own, crept towards the underwear. As soon as he had them in his grasp, he felt the soft material in his hand. 

He gave out a guilty whimper when he raised them to his nose. He inhaled its scent, unbuttoning his pants while doing so. His mind raced with the vision of his roommate. She was on her knees in front of him, only wearing the cloth he desperately held in his hand. Her own hands fondling her breasts in front of him, while her lips formed his name in a pleasurable whisper. 

Now his cock was out, his thumb already rubbing the pearl of precum at his tip. Asra reluctantly let his other hand with the panties slide down towards his dick. He wrapped the fabric around himself, shamefully enjoying the feeling of it. His hand began to move, and he tried to imagine her wetness around his cock instead of her underwear. He tried to imagine what she would sound like while she would ride him. 

It wasn’t long before he felt he was close to the edge, his hand picking up its pace. His moans were growing louder, his thoughts racing with only the image of her. Only her. 

The guilt, the shame, and pleasure of it all was almost too much for him. Finally, he came, his come shooting out across his shirt before spilling itself over the rest of his cock. The panties, only slightly stained with his semen as he lifted them from his softening member. He threw them haphazardly onto the seat next to him, trying to come down from his orgasm. After that, he cleaned up and headed to the mansion. And dammit, he forgot the panties.

Asra, of course, didn’t say anything when his roommate quickly stuffed them into her backpack the day they decided to leave Vesuvia. He wanted to say something, anything, but he couldn’t find the words to explain how he fucked his own hand with her underwear.

Instead, he decided to hide his embarrassment and guilt, and continue with the trip.


When Asra tiredly walked into his adobe house, he immediately noticed his sleeping lover on the bed. She looked so beautiful. He also realized that she was wearing some of his clothes that he left there before. He didn’t care though. As long as she was safe and comfortable. 

Asra picked up her clothes from the long trip and threw them into the washer before stripping down and throwing his clothes in too. He took a quick shower, got dressed in some fresh clothes, and tried to gently get situated on the bed. He didn’t want to wake her when she looked so peaceful. 

As soon as Asra was close to falling asleep he heard a few mumbles from the other side of the bed. Is she… talking in her sleep…? It wasn’t unusual for her to do that, but what she was saying… 

“... Alone together… Two of us…” 

He hoped that she was having a good dream. She rarely ever got those. Asra’s heavy eyes shut themselves to the sound of her soft voice, and he finally drifted off to sleep.


My eyes fluttered open from the warm sunlight pouring through the window above the bed. The ornaments and necklaces that were on the shelf cast soft shadows against the creamy white walls. I didn’t feel like I slept for too long, but at the same time, I wasn’t tired. 

My gaze drifted from the shelf to the sleeping person next to me. Asra… His white lashes looked so long, and his hair was a curly mess. It still looked soft though… 

The magician’s eyes fluttered a bit before he stretched his back with a groan. Asra’s beautiful eyes opened and his sight was filled with me. He gave a charmingly sleepy smile. 

“Good morning.” His voice was a little groggy from sleep. 

I mirrored his expression before replying. “Good morning, bedhead.” 

He huffed a small laugh and propped his head on his hand. “Did you sleep well?” he asked. 

I nodded. 

Asra hummed in response while his hand came up to caress my cheek. “I heard you talking in your sleep again when I came in…” he said. 

My mind tried to think of what I dreamt about, but nothing came to mind. I knew that it was important, whatever it was. I just couldn’t remember. But Asra said what he heard. 

“Something about the two of us…?” 

All in a flash, my mind brings back a weary warning. The dream. I remembered a large man, his voice rumbling deep in his chest. And for some reason, I could smell the familiar warm scent of myrrh. 

“Just the two of you… Always just the two of you. When he’s with you, nothing else matters. Now it’s only a matter of time before you vanish into your world together…”  

And then I was back, Asra looking at me with a hint of worry. “You okay?” he asked, his fingers playing with the hair close to my scalp. It tickled… 

“Yeah… I just remembered what I dreamt about. I think it was a bad dream…” 

“Aww, about what?” 

I could feel the edges of the image I just saw beginning to fade away. The mysterious man’s words were steadily disappearing from my mind. “It’s really hard to remember… Something about vanishing into our own world together,” I answered. 

Asra’s eyebrows knitted together in confusion. “Hmm… That doesn’t sound so bad to me,” he mumbled. There was something deeper in his voice. A deeper meaning. He blinked a few times, looking as if he didn’t mean to say that out loud. But, he changed the subject to food. 

“Well… We should eat. I’ll go see what’s in the cabinets,” he said, crawling out of bed. There was a small kitchen opposite the bed. While he checked the cupboards, I looked around. I took notice that the whole room was filled with succulents of almost every kind. They were in adorable terracotta pots, decorated with paint and patterns that had his magic charm. 

“So we’ve got all of these sweet spices. These cardamoms… better than the ones we have at home. And rice. I could make rice pudding?” 

My stomach decided to answer for me, a large growl filling the peaceful room. I flushed in embarrassment, while Asra grinned fondly at me. He began to take out the bowls and other necessary ingredients. “Do you want to do the grinding? The mortar and pestle are on the window sill.” He opened the fridge, looking for some milk.

When I grabbed the tool I saw a bunch of little clay animals next to it. All of them had different colors, but each one was vibrant. An owl, a snake, and a fox. It reminded me of the ones he brought me, from one of his trips. Maybe this place, Nopal, is where he had been getting these…?

I took the cardamom pods and began to grind them, their sweet and spicy aroma was released into the air. I loved the days where we cooked together. 

“Hmm… I need to come up with a way to work on your magic today. If you want, you can go outside and do some deep breathing. Or… you could stay and help?”

“I’ll help.” 

Asra didn’t look like he was expecting that. “Really? Well then, lucky me. Can you start the stove for me?” 

I did as he asked and put a pot over the gas burner. He gathered all of the ingredients and put them in, adding the charmed milk into the aromatic mixture. He stirred gently while I stayed by his side. I soon leaned into him, wrapping my arms around his waist. He gave me a sidelong glance, his eyes filled with adoration. “Here, tell me how it’s tasting.” 

He takes a spoonful of food and blows gently on it before holding it out for me to eat. It smelled delicious, but the taste… 

“More spice.” 

He hummed, smirking. He leaned in, his lips seizing mine. My heart had skipped a beat when I felt his tongue asking for entrance. I hesitantly obliged, unsure of what to expect next. His kiss went deeper, his tongue exploring. He must’ve noticed that I wasn’t breathing because he pulled away. I was indeed, breathless. 

He licked his lips, oh so sensuously, before saying, “Mmm… You’re right. More spice… Can you grind these cardamoms some more? You do it so well…” 

I flushed a bright red and snatched the pods out of his hand before using the mortar and pestle once more. Tease…  

He watched me the whole time, his eyes casting themselves up and down my figure. He knew what he was doing… After he added some more cardamom he took another slurp from the pot and then proceeded to teasingly lick his lips again. “Hmm… That’s more like it. Wanna try?”

Asra held out another spoonful of the pudding, but I completely ignored it. My eyes were set on the spot he missed. My kiss was so close to his luscious lips, but not quite on them. I could feel the warmth spread across his face from being so close. “You, uh… missed a spot…” I awkwardly said. 

He put the spoon down and immediately wrapped his arms around my waist. His lips landed on mine, more passionate than the last. He groaned as it got more and more heated. I could feel my core beginning to wet and thrum with desire. I wanted him so bad. I wondered if he felt the same way… 

We both reluctantly pulled away, our hearts beating hard and fast. He was short of breath when he asked, “Uh… Is it good?” 

I mirrored his little lip trick, his blown out eyes hungrily staring at the action. “Good. Let’s leave it then,” he said, his hand traveling up to the base of my neck. As soon as he was about to dive in for another make-out session, he noticed the pot of pudding boiling over. “Ah, um…” 

My hands roamed his torso, slipping under his white shirt while he tried to tend to the stove, his face a deep rosy red. I could hear him mumbling something under his breath. Something like, “Oh goodness, oh Gods…” I couldn’t help but chuckle as he struggled to turn off the stove. 

As soon as the flame went out, my stomach growled for what sounded like the final time. It was long and drawn out. 

We froze. 

Until we both collectively began to laugh.


Asra noticed how hungry I was and decided that it would’ve been best for me to eat. I tried to hide my slight disappointment. Was I getting too excited…? I thought that maybe he felt the same…?

We both sat outside and ate, the sun was still shining over on the horizon of the desolate adobe house. We enjoyed the comfortable silence and our rice pudding. After we finished eating, Asra started to talk about the future.

“This is just the beginning. There are so many places I’ve gone without you,” he said, bringing our bowls back inside. 

“Places you’ve gone without me?” I asked. 

He emerged from inside and said, “Places we haven’t gone together yet.” 

That sounded a lot better. I beamed at him, excited for what our future would hold. 

“Do you want to work on your magic?” he asked. 

There are a lot of things that I want to work on…  

He continued, “You remember what I did when we first came here? Turning sand into water.” 

I nodded. But I could never pull it off as easily as Asra could. I was always much better at anything related to heat. “I found out that it’s not something everyone can do, but maybe we could try it again.” He gave me an encouraging look before making his way over to a basin in the garden. He filled it with sand and plopped it back onto the ground. We both crouched over it, ready for magic. 

“Alright. Imagine this sand has a seed inside. It needs water to sprout. Now, hold your hands over it, and imagine surrounding the seed with water.” I focused all my energy on this basin filled with sand, but it only darkened in color and belched. 

Asra patted my shoulders, his eyes lighting up. “Not bad! Try to imagine the feeling of water under your palms…” 

There’s a lot of things that I can feel under my palms…  

The sand looked like dirty water in the basin. “Hmm… Maybe it’ll help once you feel it first,” Asra hummed. He laid his hands on top of mine, his magic melding with mine. It was already hard to focus with how hot and bothered I was around him a few minutes prior. 

But I prevailed, closing my eyes and focusing only on the task at hand. Asra leaned into my back, his aura surrounding me. Soon, I could feel the surface tension of water at my palms. 

My eyes opened at the sound of the familiar groaning of the beast. “Someone is coming this way.”  

Asra slid away from me, my body shivering at the absence of his comforting aura. He peered out onto the dirt road that continued past his house. 

“Coming this way…? Weird,” Asra mumbled, his eyes spotting a person walking down the road. I wondered who could’ve been since it didn’t look like Asra got many visitors where we were. 

The person was wringing their hands, nervous and desperate. They looked lost at first, until their eyes spotted the three of us. They gave a huge sigh of relief before they began jogging over to us. 

“Oh, Gods…! Asra! You’re back! Do you remember me?” they asked, wiping the sweat off their brow. 

“Maybe I do. Who’s asking?” Asra’s expression remained neutral. 

“You don’t remember? Saguaro! We met at the painted daisy festival? The guy who works on the dam.” 

“Oh, Saguaro? Wow, it’s uh… it’s been a while. How have you been?” Asra asked, his shoulders releasing a bit of tension. 

“Getting by… Everyone’s just been getting by in town. I kept coming around, hoping you’d be here. Asra… The dam has stopped running. There is no electricity left, and the old irrigation for our crops isn’t working. The town isn’t getting any water like we used to! This… This isn’t a job for anyone else but you. A-and it takes so long for anyone else to get out here! Please, understand!” 

He sounded very desperate. As if, he had no one else left that would be able to help. I wondered why the workers couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the dam. Or… they probably did, and they couldn’t handle it on their own. 

Asra’s curious gaze fell onto me, and the visitor also seemed to take notice that I was there. Asra was asking me. How could I say no?

“Let’s go.”


Saguaro visibly glowed from my words, hopping up in the air once before we gathered things that we thought we would need. Asra kept looking at me with affection in his eyes the whole time we walked towards the small adobe town. 

I could see the heat waves coming off of the stones the dam was built with. The cactus crops that we passed looked dry and yellow, obviously in need of water. The town itself looked sunbaked and empty since it was blazing at noon. We hiked up the trail to the dam, drinking the last of the water we had. When we reached the entrance of the dam, Saguaro paused in his tracks, wringing his hands once more. 

He looked afraid to enter… 

“This is where I can let you go on your own…” he mumbled. 

Asra gave him a quizzical look before asking, “Is there something we should know?” 

Saguaro took a moment to respond as if it was hard to say what he wanted to say. But, he answered. “Beetles. There are beetles in there. Big, red ones. So many of them… I think they’re the ones messing up the system.” 

… 

Beetles…?

Asra and I exchanged nervous looks. He whispered my name, and I could tell he was worried again. But, more worried than usual. “I have a bad feeling about this. I think I should just do this alone. You don’t have to come along…” he said. I could feel so much… anxiety coming from him… 

“But… I want to help you.” 

Whatever this was, it wasn’t normal. And I didn’t want Asra to face this alone. 

He didn’t say anything after that, his brows knitted together with worry. I turned my attention back to Saguaro. “We’re gonna need your help. Can you please come with us?” I asked. 

He gave a deep sigh, and hesitantly nodded.


I didn’t expect it to end up like a horror movie, but it did. The power wasn’t running, because the dam wasn’t running. So Saguaro gave us flashlights to see in the dark and humid dam. The hallway was long and eerie. We kept our pace brisk and stuck together with Saguaro leading us to where he thought the main problem was. 

I wasn’t sure what we were going to do about the beetles. Any normal insect wouldn’t cause this much trouble. At least, hopefully not. I came up with theories in my head as we continued to walk. I assumed that these beetles were part of a darker kind of magic… 

Saguaro opened another door that led to the main room. It was for the power that the dam was supposed to be creating. It was large, at least from what we could see with our flashlights. 

“Did you hear that?” Saguaro asked, his voice a barely-there whisper. He was shaking. 

Both Asra and I paused, straining our ears for sound. And there was. A low scuttling sound. I closed my eyes, sensing more with my magic. All I could see was red. A lot of red… It was moving, chittering… My hair stood up at the sound. I was completely unsettled. 

As soon as I opened my eyes to explain to them what I saw, the floor beneath us began to tremble. At first, I thought it was an earthquake, but no. What we saw next was even more terrifying. Thousands, probably millions of beetles crawling from the huge barrels of power generators and past us. I could even hear violent hissing sounds from all of them. I was frozen still, my mind was completely blank. I’d never seen anything so petrifying before. A sea of bright red bugs heading straight towards us. 

I felt a firm grasp on my hand, yanking me. Asra hurriedly pulled me up on top of one of the heavy-duty shelves, and I was sure he used some magic to help. Saguaro was up as well. We watched in horror as we felt the dam shake once more with the beetles scrabbling out of every possible exit. 

And then, I heard another sound. Rushing water and the power flickering back to life. The whole room was lit, and yet we couldn’t see another angry red beetle in the entire room. And the same was said the whole way out of the dam…

Chapter Text

The door to the dam had shut behind us and I gave a huge sigh of relief. But Asra… 

“Look at me,” he said, his voice panicked. He cupped my face in his hands, his eyes desperately searching mine. I could feel him trembling. 

“Asra?” I asked, concerned. 

He didn’t say anything. He exhaled deeply, closing his eyes. I could feel his anxiety slowly drifting away. I was puzzled, but I was happy that he was feeling better. Asra’s arms wrapped themselves around me, tightly. As if he never wanted to let go… 

Saguaro piped up, “I don’t believe it! You see the dam?” He sounded excited as he raced down the trail, leaving a trail of dust behind.

“The dam?” Asra mumbled. We both heard the roaring sound of water and felt the mist billowing up from the bottom. I took Asra’s hand and guided him down the trail to get a look. Waiting at the bottom were all of the townsfolk, cheering and rejoicing at the beautiful sight of the sparkling water, falling to the depths of the once bone-dry riverbed. 

“Thank you two so much! We’ll never forget this! Please, let us cook you up a feast you wouldn’t believe,” Saguaro said, giving us a toothy grin. We were instantly hit with the crowd, but I wasn’t bothered at all. My heart was swelling with happiness for the town. I stole a glance towards Asra, and thankfully he looked the same. His laugh, music to my ears as we were swept away to the center of the small town. 

While the feast was being prepared, Asra and I were invited by an artist to pick a clay animal they made. We spent so long trying to decide which ones we identified the most with. I was surprised when Asra didn’t choose the snake. Instead, he chose an indigo fox. And I could most definitely see why he chose it. 

“The food is ready! Pile your plate, you two!” Saguaro shouted from behind the table where all of the barbecued food was. All of it smelled and looked delicious. 

“Yessss,” Asra whispered. The crowd parted just for us, and when he realized that, his ears grew red with embarrassment. “Um… It smells great. I can’t wait to eat it alone under that aloe tree.” I internally laughed at how quickly he gathered his food and politely left. 

When I stepped up to the table, paper plate in hand, Saguaro gave me a wide grin. “Once everybody’s fed, we’re going to break out a couple of instruments. Do you dance like Asra? When he was here before, he pretty much danced all night long.” 

I had no idea that Asra could dance at all. Never danced with him in the three years we’d been together. I glanced towards Asra, sitting underneath the aloe tree. After gathering my food, I made my way to where Asra sat. I plopped down next to him, his gaze was soft and distant. The music began to play, two people excitedly strumming their instruments. 

“Saguaro told me that you can dance. Did you want to dance with me?” I asked. 

“Sorry, what? I was communicating with Faust. Portia just told Nadia about your text. You told me about her before…” 

Well… 

I sighed and shook my head at the magician. I was still smiling though, fondly gazing at him. “Do you want to dance with me, Asra?” I repeated. 

“Oh… So that’s what you said. I thought I imagined it. I’d love to.” 

I took a quick bite of my food and stood up with him. He led me to the edge of the dancing crowd. His hands weaved together with mine, and we began to move. It was a lot easier than I thought. It was like we knew how the other moved. We danced until we began to glow in the setting sun. 

Saguaro thanked us again, his jovial smile never leaving him. Until Asra brought up the beetles. They were quite a surprise though… 

“Right… I forgot to tell you guys. A few years ago, some Vesuvians came into town. They offered us some sort of deal. A business deal… One of them was named Lucio, I think. They wanted to build something where our cactus crops grew. In exchange, they’d buy all of them for the plot of land. We declined, of course. But one night, there were the beetles, scattered all across town! They were everywhere! The Vesuvians said they would take care of it in exchange for the plot of land. But it only got worse and they burrowed wherever they could. And then they just… left us. But, they never built on the plot of land either…”

“And… the dam hasn’t been working for that long?” Asra asked. 

“Well, you two came and saved the day! Our town is finally turning around!” 

After we said our goodbyes, we both slipped away unnoticed. Asra didn’t speak the whole way back.


When we reached our little getaway house, the beast gave a thirsty groan. “Waterrrrrrr.”

Asra nodded, both of us heading over to the basin. I wanted to try doing it on my own one more time. Asra seemed to have the same idea. The beast rested itself on the ground beside us, patiently waiting. 

Asra took a minute to think before turning to me. “This is a little different from what we practiced before. But I couldn’t stop thinking earlier. I was always giving you words to use, but the strongest spells are words of your own… So this time, try to empty your mind. The words will come…” 

He was right. I placed my hands over the basin and took a deep breath. I closed my eyes and cleared away any other thoughts. I became slowly aware of all of my senses. The smell of Asra next to me sent a sudden warmth through my heart, relaxing me even further. I imagined water itself. The feeling of it, the dams roaring sounds. And then finally, being surrounded by it. 

When I opened my eyes, I was surprised to see the water was there. But even more surprised at what it looked like. Something went wrong… I could see to the bottom, but the water was red. I felt bad for the beast that was lying next to me. I didn’t want to drink it either. 

Asra looked surprised, only for a moment though, before he asked, “Do you remember what you were thinking of?” 

“I was being surrounded by water…” 

“Surrounded… We did just get surrounded by those beetles. They were red too. It’s probably just fresh in your mind. It’s fresh in mine… So, don’t worry, okay?” 

He waved his hand over the water, turning it completely clear and normal. The beast flopped its tongue out to drink. I ran my fingers through the hair of the beast before noticing Asra went inside without a single word.


Asra let his bag slip off his shoulder and onto the floor. He couldn’t describe what he felt while in the dam that day. His love, and the crimson beetles heading straight towards her… His heart nearly stopped at the sight. If Asra didn’t yank her up the shelf, what would’ve happened…? If her sclera changed from white to blood-red, what would he have done…? Asra knew that he would've absolutely lost his mind… 

He heard the front door shut, and the light padding of his love’s feet making their way over to him. What could he say to her without giving her a headache…?

She stopped in front of him, concern clear as day on her face. Asra’s hiding skills were faltering… 

“I know I told you not to worry, but… those beetles are a sign. I haven’t seen one is so long. When… Well, they used to be a big problem in Vesuvia. And I’m sure you know by now, but they’re not of this world. They can cause a lot of damage… We should head back to the city…” he explained. 

She could tell from the deep sigh he gave that he didn’t want to go back at all. The magician wistfully smiled at his roommate before softly caressing her face with his warm hands. His thumbs affectionately but gently rubbed over her eyelids. “I wish we could stay longer. Maybe someday we’ll have the time…” he whispered. 

And it was the truth. He wished he could’ve had more time with her, all to himself. But he knew that would've been selfish. Asra took her hand in his and brought her knuckles to his soft lips. 

He didn’t expect the words that came next. 

“We have the time now…” 

She was bashfully looking at him. The same look she gave him earlier that day while he was teasing her. She wanted to continue… At least, Asra wished she wanted to. But he didn’t want to push it. 

“I was hoping you would say that. I think we need some rest after what we did today.” 

They both fell onto the bed, moonlight already streaming through the window overhead. The cool night breeze was refreshing after the long day they had. But neither of them were tired. Not even a little bit. 

Asra’s roommate turned to him, looking hopeful. She could see every hint of emotion just from his eyes. And he knew it. First, the adoration, then the realization, and then the love. He shifted closer to her until their lips connected. 

At first, it was slow, gentle. Then his tongue began to explore her mouth again, the kiss naturally getting deeper and more heated. It wasn’t long until Asra was on top of her, taking her breath away with his passionate kisses trailing down her jawline and towards her neck. 

It felt like the clothes they wore were in the way. While Asra was nipping at the sensitive skin of her neck, the hands of his love were grasping at his shirt. She kept pulling it up his back, wanting to feel more of his skin on hers. 

They continued like that, undressing themselves as much as they could without breaking apart for too long. She could see Asra’s arousal when he got down to only his underwear. It was difficult for her not to stare… 

She took off her bra, but instinctively covered them with her hands afterward. 

Her name fell from Asra’s lips, her averted gaze traveling slowly back to him. He paused everything he was doing, and it didn’t look like he was going to move unless she said so… And it was true that he wasn’t. He would never forgive himself if she felt pressured by him. It was a look for permission. Somewhere deep in her heart, she felt that he had done this before. She just couldn’t remember it… 

She nodded, inching her hands away from herself. Asra’s eyes glazed over her, pupils blown out with lust. Gods, he missed it so much. But he still didn’t move, still patiently waiting for her words. 

“Can you… Can you touch me?” she asked, bashfully looking anywhere but at him. 

Asra’s heart swelled with love for her. He lovingly kissed her forehead before his hands slowly trailed up her stomach. Once his right hand reached her soft breast, his thumb brushed over her sensitive nipple, already hard from the chilly room. She let out a noise, something close to moan, but not quite. She was holding herself back… 

Asra was sure she saw his cock twitch through his underwear at the sound. He couldn’t help it… She felt a sudden rush of heat sent through her core at the sight. While he was fondling her left breast, he leaned down towards the other. She wasn’t sure what he was gonna do, but she didn’t expect his hot tongue to swirl around her other nipple. She let out another small moan, still trying to hold herself back.

Asra noticed this and his eyes locked onto hers, his hand slowly making its way towards her underwear. But he stopped, just a centimeter above her desirable heat. He was waiting again… His love knew that he must’ve been doing it for her permission, but she had a small inkling that he knew it would tease her. 

“Please…” she begged, desperately wanting his touch. He couldn’t say no to her, not when she looked at him like that. 

Asra’s warm hand drifted down, feeling her panty-clad wetness. His middle finger easily slid over her clothed clit. She gasped at how elevated it felt when he touched her. No matter how many times she masturbated before, it never even compared to how good Asra made it feel. 

She wondered if he had done it before, or if they had done it before… But she was sure they did. His nimble fingers touching her in just the right places said it all. 

Asra’s thumb hooked underneath her panties, very slowly pulling them down. He was giving her every opportunity to stop him from doing anything she wasn’t comfortable with. There was a growing warmth spreading through his love’s chest every time he did that. She appreciated it and loved him for it. 

“How are you doing?” Asra softly asked, pausing for a moment. She could hear the heavy desire in his voice. Asra was a little surprised by it as well… It was deeper, a little less airy, only sending another thrumming reaction throughout her arousal. 

“I’m fine… Are you okay?” 

Asra gave her his glowing smile, his amorous gaze making her heart skip a beat. He couldn’t believe that she was asking him how he was doing. It was her first time after all… But he nodded his head, his charming curls bouncing a bit. She gave him the most beautiful smile in response. He felt so blessed to even be with her… 

Asra dropped her panties onto the floor with the rest of the clothes. He didn’t want to move, not until she said so. His love, slowly opened her legs, revealing her already dripping pussy. 

Asra… Please touch me more…

Asra wasn’t sure how long he could last. The moonlight across her bare body, with her smoldering gaze, and her sexy voice… It was almost too much for him. 

Asra laid on his stomach, wanting to taste her. But before he did, he trailed a bunch of hot kisses down her inner thigh, slowly. When he made it to her sex, his left hand came up to rub at her sensitive clit, causing his love to gasp his name. He loved the sounds she made, music to his ears. He imagined her moans in his head for so long, but it didn’t even compare… 

The magician’s tongue delved into her arousal, which earned him another pleasurable gasp from his love. The taste of her made him groan into her pussy, the vibrations causing another raptured whimper from her. When he opened his eyes to look at her, he felt his cock twitch at the vision of her. She was playing with her breast, eyes closed, partially swollen lips parted in pleasure… 

Asra enjoyed watching his love, but he froze his actions once more. His fingers were right at her wet entrance. His beloved roommate opened her eyes to see what he wanted. She hurriedly nodded her approval before one of Asra’s lithe fingers gently, and slowly entered her desperate pussy. She sighed his name in response. 

After a few moments to let her get adjusted, he began to move, his thumb still brushing over her bundle of nerves. She looked like she was in pure ecstasy. And she was. She wondered if they had been together sooner, would they have been so… passionate… 

Asra added another finger, repeating the process. He so desperately wanted to at least palm himself through his underwear and touch himself. His cock was hard and throbbing for him to do anything. But he wouldn’t allow it. 

She had two fingers inside of her, pumping in and out of her. But that wasn’t enough. She wanted him. She wanted him inside. Her pussy kept clenching around his fingers at just the thought. She looked into his eyes and pleaded. She wanted his cock… She thought that just being with him was enough. But all the pining and wanting was catching up to her. Just like her orgasm. 

His love’s fingers intertwined with his pearly-white curls, desperate for more of what he was doing to her. He had the same idea. Asra’s fingers picked up their pace, his tongue coming down to taste her sweetness once more. He wanted to feel it again… To feel her pussy clench around him while she called out his name. 

Oh, Gods, she was so close. Her hips bucked, wanting more friction. She felt so selfish, wanting more from him. But it just felt so good. 

“Asra… I-I feel like…”

Come for me, love. Please… ” he whispered. Immediately after, his mouth continued its magic, desperate for her. 

Asra curled his fingers, only ever so slightly. Just the way she liked… She gasped his name once more, before letting out a rapturing moan. Asra felt her pussy clench around his fingers, and he couldn’t help but want that feeling around his aching member.

He let her ride out her orgasm, his amethyst eyes watching her face of pure bliss and ecstasy. After a few moments, he carefully pulled out his fingers, dripping with her come. She whimpered in response to the loss of his touch. He sat up, revealing his chin, nose, and mouth, glistening with her wetness. 

“Asra, please… I want more…” 

Asra knew that face all too well. Desire, and want… And just then, he realized. He realized that unfortunately, he still didn’t have any fucking condoms… He figured he should’ve had them, but it had been so long since he ever even did anything, so there was no point in buying them. And Asra didn’t think they were going to have sex any time soon. But here they were… Irritation with himself began to grow deep in his chest. He still couldn’t give her what she wanted… 

“I’m so sorry, love… I don’t have-”

“I’ve taken contraceptive pills, so Asra, please…

Well, then. 

There were so many questions that popped up in Asra’s head at her words, but he didn’t want to ruin the moment. Or at least, what was left of it. He decided that he would ask later, his throbbing member aching for his love’s wet heat. 

“Ah, um… Hang on…” he mumbled, awkwardly shifting around. He reached for his bag, pulling out a bottle of… lube? He also took off his boxers, revealing his cock, dripping with precum. 

She just couldn’t stop looking at his arousal. She was so curious about it. He made her feel so good, but she wondered how she could make him feel good as well. What he would taste like… She wanted to see him come as well.

Asra poured some lube in his hand before rubbing it up and down his length, but not too much. He hissed at the coolness of the viscous liquid. His love was watching in awe the whole time, only turning him on more. She would never tell him… but she liked watching him like that. 

“Okay… Please, tell me if you feel uncomfortable, or if you want me to stop, anything. Anything at all…

The magician was getting kind of nervous too. His body was so close to trembling, but he didn’t want to show it. He thought that had to be calm, and soothing. For her. For her… Right… Which position did she want? Gods! Asra must’ve been losing it. How could he forget and almost dive in without checking if she was comfortable with their position? So many worrying thoughts were swirling in his head.

And she could tell he was nervous. Just from the sound of his voice alone…  

“Wait, um. W-which position did you want, love?” he asked, his face adorably flushed. He was so serious at the same time, making his love smile with pure affection in her eyes. 

“This ones fine…” she whispered, her hand coming up to his cheek. Her thumb rubbed across his cheekbone reassuringly. He nuzzled into her touch, kissing her soft palm in the process. She looked calm to him. Like she trusted him. Of course… His heart filled with so much tenderness, that his lips passionately crashed into hers. He loved her so much…  

She could feel him shaking a bit with him so close. When he pulled away, breathless, he gave her one last look for permission. Which she nodded her head, pulling him close again. She held him like she never wanted to let go. 

Asra’s cock was lined up with her wetness, poking at her entrance. She was looking him deeply in the eyes. Trust and love in her beautiful irises. As he slowly pushed in, both of their eyes closed at the foreign feeling. She felt like she was tenderly being filled with him, in all the right ways. He was so gentle, making her love him all over again… 

They both let out a pleasurable exhale from finally connecting. Asra’s hips paused, despite how badly they wanted to move. But he would have never forgiven himself if he moved even a millimeter without her word. 

“Asra… Thank you.” 

He opened his eyes to find hers staring right back at him. 

“For what?” 

For everything you’ve ever done for me… ” 

She took his breath away with only a few words… She looked so heavenly, glistening in the moonlight while looking at him the way she was. They locked lips once again, feeling the irresistible and unconditional love they had for each other. Both were longing , and yearning to be together, and to finally connect so intimately. 

After they broke the kiss, their hearts beating hard in sync, she nodded for him to move. His thrusts started out being very careful, slow, and compassionate. They gradually built up, taking their time. Unhurried, unrushed, still drawing out moans from the other. 

It wasn’t too long until they picked up the pace though, Asra’s kisses trailing down from her jaw. He nipped at the sensitive skin again before groaning into her neck. He was close… But he didn’t want to come until she did. 

But she wanted the opposite… She felt since she already did, that it was his turn. She wanted him to this time… 

Asra… ” she moaned, her fingers intertwining themselves in his curls. “ I want you to come… Please, inside. ” 

Oh, Gods… He knew that he wasn’t going to last long, but with her moaning in his ear like that, with the way her flushing red face looked, and her purposeful clenching pussy pushing him further and further… It was unavoidable. He groaned her name at the final thrust inside of her wetness, his cock finally filling her with his seed. She whimpered at the sudden rush of warmth in her core. “ Yes, Asra… ” 

Asra rode out his orgasm, catching his breath. His roommate’s soft hand came up to his cheek, lifting it for her to lock eyes with him. They both were glistening with sweat in the moonlight, trembling with how good everything had felt. Asra’s curls were sticking to his brow, his eyes heavy with fatigue. “Let’s get some rest, huh?” she asked, letting his head rest on her chest. 

He hummed, before saying, “Thank you, love…” 

She sleepily smiled, kissing the top of his head, his curls tickling her nose. Then they both drifted off to sleep, embracing each other, and never wanting to let go.


The large man was there once more, except I had more of his surroundings. He was on a peak, casting stones to get a specific answer. The rumbling voice still echoing in whatever dream I was having. 

“Just the two of you, just like before…” 

“Hello?” 

He didn’t answer, still casting the stones that he was reading. “Nothing else matters… Only a matter of time…” 

I decided to approach him, just a bit. I wanted to see what the stones were saying so I could understand what was happening. 

“No,” he suddenly said, “Not this time…” He turned to fully face me, his forest green eyes piercing right through me. “You won’t disappear together. I won’t let you.” 

And then I was startled awake from the thundering sounds around the two of us. Asra’s pearlescent curls were tickling my chin. He was nuzzling further into me, giving a deep exhale in his breath. I felt... so happy. My heart was racing at what we finally did together. And being able to wake up with him in my arms was a blessing. I wanted to enjoy the moment for at least a bit longer. But, my phone began to annoyingly ring. The magician in my arms shifted a bit, groaning at the sound. 

Asra rolled over onto his back on his side of the bed, letting me sit up. I felt a sudden, but short, cramp hit me. I made a small whimper, causing Asra’s eyes to immediately pop open. I’d never seen him get up so fast from bed before. The sight of his glorious naked body just casually walking across the room, sent me to a blushing mess. He grabbed my phone from the pocket of my jacket that was resting on a chair. He returned to bed with a glowing smile, despite how early it must have been. He handed me the phone before falling back into bed with a flop. 

I snorted with laughter before reluctantly turning my attention back to the phone. And when I say it was reluctant, it really was reluctant. His sun-kissed skin looked so smooth that I just wanted my hands to roam across his body. His lean muscles were being highlighted from the shining light of dawn peeking through the window. Asra’s lips were curled into an amused smirk, knowing exactly how he was making me feel. 

“You gonna answer that, love?” he asked, a playful lilt to his voice. 

Right, my phone…  

“Oh, yeah. Thank you… Tease… ” 

He chuckled in response, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

I thought it was Fantasia at first, so I just went ahead and answered with my groggy voice and only a hint of irritation to go with it. 

“Fantasia, it’s too early right-” 

“You wish it was Fantasia.” 

That voice was hair-raising. It sounded so… slimy, yet persuasive in some ways. Like there was always something behind his words, creeping. 

My boss… Ugh…  

Calvin. He wasn’t the best of people, that was for sure. You could tell simply from his aura. It was red, blood-red. It was evil, immoral, and wrong in so many ways than anything that I had ever felt before. He always hit on his own employees at practice, occasionally inviting them for a drink. Everyone knew he was only doing that for sex, obviously declining every time. He was pissed whenever someone didn’t agree to go out, but he never fired them. Why? 

His words, and I quote, “You all are my little moneymakers. You’re lucky I can’t fire you and let the streets have you. I give you a chance that no one else can. Just remember to be grateful that you’re even here…”  

Calvin would use his power to his advantage in sick ways just to get what he wanted, according to Fantasia. And honestly, it wasn’t hard to believe at all

I had never met him myself, not even for the job interview. Job interviews were handled by Fantasia. It was probably better that way… Fantasia went over everything at the interview. How I would be treated by the others, the pay, tipping, the boss’s advances, the audience, and etcetera. He said that it was because he was more experienced than the others, one of the first to work there. He said that he knew the games Calvin would play, very, very well… Too well. 

“Um… Good morning, boss.” 

Asra’s ears perked up at my words. 

“Is it really a ‘good’ morning? Especially when you ditch all your performances and shove them over to other people…?”

I internally groaned. I wished that he hadn’t chosen that morning to finally decide to talk to me. I figured he wouldn’t be able to tell that I was missing, considering he barely ever showed up to rehearsals and performances. It was strange… 

“Yes, sir. I’m sorry… I told Fantasia that I’d be there when I got the chance.” 

“That’s not how jobs work. I’m debating whether or not you deserve this job. Such a shame really, you’re such a favorite to the audience…”

At this point, I was also debating. I was beginning to think that I didn’t even want the job anymore… But what if the shop doesn’t do as well…? What about Asra…? 

“I understand, sir. But, if you’d let me… I’ll be there next week.” 

“Hmm… Fine. But this will be the only time, since you’re one of the best.” 

“Riiight… Um, thank you, sir. Have a nice day!” 

Finally… That’s over…  

When I glanced back towards Asra, he looked worried again. His head was propped up on one arm, his brows knitted together with concern. 

“That was your boss?” 

I nodded and said, “It’s fine. I’ll just go in next week. He said it was okay.” 

“I’m sorry if I… took you away from work.” He looked genuinely guilty, which made my heart twinge.

“Asra. You don’t have to apologize for anything. I’m the one who forgot to call it in…” 

I could still sense something else was bothering him though… 

I let him take his time. After a while of just caressing his skin, and playing with his morning bedhead, he finally broke the silence. “How long do we have to go back for?” he asked, his eyes downcast towards the sheets. “How can I send you back there when I don’t know how safe it is for you?” 

I swung a knee over his legs, looking deeply into his eyes. “We’re stronger together, right? I think we can accomplish anything when we’re together… And you don’t want to leave me here, do you?” 

“No.” He didn’t even hesitate. 

My thumb brushed over his creased brows, which smoothed out in response. “So… we’re okay then?” I asked before softly pecking him on the forehead. Asra nodded, his concerns melting away at my touch. 

Later that morning, we packed all of our things. The beast willingly took us back to Vesuvia, dashing across the land. I wondered what could’ve happened next…

Chapter Text

As we approached the city in the mid-morning sun, we both gaped at the towering skyscrapers from afar. I couldn’t help but think how different it was in Nopal. It was quiet, no service aside from Asra's place, and remote. Whereas in Vesuvia, it was the complete opposite. 

My thoughts paused at the sound of Asra digging through his bag in front of me. He took out a flask of water, drinking half of it before passing it back to me. After I finished it and handed it back to him, he finally spoke. 

“I forgot to ask, and you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to… It’s none of my business…” 

“Is it about the pills?” I asked. 

From behind, I could see the magician slowly nod his head, reluctant. I could understand why he would be curious. I forgot to tell him beforehand when I was first prescribed… 

“The doctor that we go to for our yearly check-ups recommended it to me. She said that it would help me with my monthly cramps, since I told her how bad they were…” 

“Ahh, I see.” 

“I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you…” 

Asra suddenly turned around, looking me straight in the eyes. “Now you’re the one who’s apologizing?” His lips were curled with that same teasing smile. I huffed a laugh while he turned back around on the beast. “You don’t have to apologize for that, love…” 

My arms were wrapped around his torso, and I felt his hand grasp mine. I hugged him tighter in response as we moved closer to the city. After a while of comfortable silence between all three of us, we said our goodbyes and parted ways with the beast. I hoped that I would get to see them again. We walked along the tall grass together, hand in hand. 

Asra’s eyes widened a bit at the mansion in the distance. “Huh. Look at that…” he mumbled. Despite the daylight, we could still see dark, rosy clouds gathering above the building. It felt like it was going to storm, the energy churning, and charged. 

“We don’t necessarily have to go straight back to the mansion. We could… go home and rest,” he said, ears flushing red. “You did pass out on the ride back. And we only got a few hours of sleep last night…”

His eyes slid from me then back to the palace. The clouds were steadily darkening and spreading, but not where we stood then. We both slowed our pace towards the mansion, and he turned to me for my word. 

“I think we should go to the palace,” I answered. What he was saying was indeed tempting, but I felt as though Nadia needed to know where we were. I didn’t forget the job that I was asked to do. 

“We should. I would burrow into bed for a week, but those beetles… I’m not sure where they were headed, but I think we should let her know about them. And also… the goatman, too.”

I almost cackled.


We came across the forest that we needed to get through to the mansion. The forest thankfully had some coverage from the rain that was bound to fall. The fog was at our feet, blinding us of what could’ve been on the ground. 

I bumped into Asra’s side when he stopped walking. He blinked. But before I could ask him why, a lavender familiar shot out of the fog. She slithered and wiggled over his surprised form. Is he… ticklish…? He laughed while she found her way to the top of his head, curling up in a tight pile. 

“Found you!” she said, happily flicking her tongue. 

“Hahaha, stoppp!” 

The sight was so wholesome to me. Faust peeked around towards me, giving me a contented wave with her tail. 

“Well, now that we have everyone accounted for… We’re heading back to the palace. I know. Blame her for being responsible.”

I heard a roaring thunder that sent chills down my spine. I didn’t mind the rain, but I wasn’t sure how bad the storm was going to be. 

Asra paused as if he was sensing something. “Can you feel the ground moving? Every animal in the forest is finding shelter.” I took a moment to feel what he felt. Another crackle of thunder rolled through the dark and heavy clouds once more. I could feel such a subtle vibration. Maybe we should take shelter too…?  

Asra weaved his fingers through mine, making my heart thrum with the same excitement he was feeling. 

“There’s a place we can hide, where my friend lives. It’s not far. We can wait it out there,” he said. And finally, the clouds broke, bringing a heavy downpour of rain on our heads. With our hands remaining intertwined, we raced through the forest. 

I didn’t mind the rain. And it certainly didn’t look like Asra minded it either. If anything, he was enjoying it. His laughter rang through my ears like the most beautiful song I’d ever heard. We were already soaked after just a few seconds, but the feeling of running with him through all of it… was an exhilarating feeling. 

Soon, we reached a small cabin in the woods, made completely of logs and stone. It didn’t look too inviting. Asra tranced his finger across the wood of the door, glowing patterns coming together to unlock the ward. I drew close to him, absorbing his warmth before asking, “Your friend does magic too?” 

“Yes, these things are his strong suit. Locks, barriers, protections… Some of these are new though.” 

As soon as he opened the door, a huge wave of coldness enveloped all three of us. I shivered as we stumbled in and shut the door behind us. I took a deep breath and looked around us. It was dark. 

Asra cast an impressive orb of light, illuminating the single room we were standing in. He paused for a moment and looked at me. “Is that your teeth chattering? Let’s get a log in the fireplace,” he said, his brows knitted with worry. 

I crouched in front of the fireplace while Asra placed a log down. “Would you like to light it?” he asked. Even though I was cold, I felt a small smile grow at the corner of my lips. I lifted my hand and immediately the log sparked and caught fire. We settled as close as we could. 

“Are you… wondering who this friend is that you’ve never heard of until now? It’s complicated, but… he’s under a spell. A lot like you. Instead of forgetting, he’s forgotten. Nobody remembers meeting him. So you’ll be meeting him for the first time… again. I’m glad though. He’s my oldest friend,” he explained. My heart immediately warmed at his words. He wanted to introduce me to his oldest friend… 

“I’m happy…” 

“So am I. I want you two to hurry up and become friends too. But he’s… shy. We might need to get him used to the idea of three people in the room first,” he said, leaning into my side. Somehow, he was still warm… “You’ve gotten me to open up. If anyone can get him to open up, it’s you. Anyway… his name is Muriel.”

“Muriel…” I whispered his name, trying it out on my tongue. My mind wandered but it couldn’t find what I was looking for. That name… I could’ve sworn I heard it before. I didn’t try to remember since I knew what the outcome would be, but that name echoed in my mind as something familiar. 

Asra watched carefully, situating himself in front of me before grabbing my hands. He softly blew on them, warming them. 

“Ringing any bells?”

“Yes,” I answered, blushing a bit at his gestures. 

“Hmm. Then his spell might be slipping on you,” he said. His smile was glowing golden from the flames in front of us. I couldn’t help but want to be closer to him. Not just because he was a really warm person, but because I had the urge to embrace him. 

I burrowed into his side, relishing his heat through our sopping clothes. He welcomed me under his arm, while Faust slid down his sleeve and curled up at the edge of the fireplace. 

“Careful. Don’t get too close,” Asra softly said, gazing fondly at the familiar. 

“Warm,” she whispered contentedly. 

This was peaceful… Listening to the fires occasional crackle and watching the sparks billow up the hearth while being so close together was so nice. Asra’s smile was golden in the warm firelight. His eyes drifted to me, his wet hair letting drops trail down his features. Trailing down to his lips… 

“That looks nice. I wish I could do the same, but… we need more firewood. That log is going to burn down fast. Muriel has a woodshed but it’s kind of far away. I’m not feeling the cold though. I’ll bring back plenty.” 

He gave me a quick kiss to my knuckles and released my hands to the frigid air. I almost whimpered at the loss of touch, wanting more… I was also worried. It was storming outside, but he was going to get more wood. 

He stood up though, his eyes glancing between Faust and I. “You two keep warming up. I’ll be back soon,” he said as he made his way to the door.

With the magician’s warmth gone I could feel the cold quickly settling in. I began to shuck off my jacket, shoes, and pants, feeling better that they were off. I noticed Asra, lingering with his hand on the door. His gaze was glued to me. A smile tugged at my lips as I teasingly struck a seductive pose while laying myself across the soft rug. 

“Don’t tempt me,” he mumbled, his eyes reflecting my mischievous ones. 

“Why don’t you come… lay by the fire. ” My hand lifted and my finger did a come-hither motion. Asra huffed a small laugh before letting go of the door handle. 

“Ohh, how could I resist…” 

He crossed the room in only three steps and collapsed next to me. His arms wound around me, and suddenly, I could see a wistful look in his eyes. “How did you get this cold? You’re so cold…” 

“I don’t feel it right now…” 

“Really? Your feet are cold too.” He smiled as his feet brushed up against mine, equally as cold though. As soon as I giggled, his lips seized mine, deeply. I was immediately flustered, a familiar warmth spreading throughout my body. When he broke the kiss, I pressed my head into his chest. I wanted to hear if his heart was beating as hard as mine was. 

And sure enough… it was. 

“Why don’t we take those clothes off and grab one of those blankets? I feel bad disturbing the bed, but half of those are mine…” he said, shedding his clothes as well. There was a small drying rack by the fire that he used to hang our clothes. He was only wearing his underwear and shirt as well. 

We both got ourselves situated in a blanket that was furry and soft to the touch. “This is so nostalgic. We both used to do this in the wintertime, sometimes.” 

“You and Muriel?” 

“Mhm. That was back when we still barely knew each other.”

“You and me?” 

“Yeah. When I started living here, I wondered if I’d ever see you again… I would have done anything to be with you, like this.” I could see his face flush red at his own words. I could tell he wanted to tell me more about our past, but I knew that he wouldn’t. I leaned closer into his side, relishing the moment. We were content with each other. 

I looked into his eyes once more and then trailed my gaze across his features. He did the same, which made me realize how crazy I must’ve looked. We did just run in the rain, and I could tell my hair was probably tangled and in disarray. 

“I must look a mess,” I said, nervously laughing a bit at the end. 

His brows slightly furrowed and he shook his head. “Not at all. I was just thinking the opposite… You look amazing.”

I smiled bashfully and hid my face in his chest. “Stop…” I mumbled, muffled from his shirt. 

He laughed and planted a kiss at the top of my head while his hands warmed my arms, tenderly rubbing them for friction. They ceased and slid up to my chin, so he could guide me back to his gaze. 

“It’s true. I was thinking of it when I was looking at you. I was too dazzled to say it,” he explained. I shook my head at his words and lightly pecked the corner of his mouth, too shy to go deeper. I wanted to initiate a real passionate kiss, but I wasn’t sure where it would lead us…  

“The fire is almost out…” he said. “I’d better go get more. Here. It can get chilly in here fast.” 

He snuggly wrapped me in the fur blanket. Asra gave me a languid kiss before standing and getting dressed once more, his clothes smelling of fire. He put on his shoes and headed towards the door. “I’ll be right back, okay? Don’t you two stop being adorable. And don’t open the door.” 

“Not even for you?” I asked. 

“Especially not for me. I’ll open it myself. If I can’t do that… it isn’t me.” 

A shiver ran down my spine. And just as he was about to open the door I blurted, “Asra! Um… Make sure to be careful.” My words steadily sounded smaller at the end, out of embarrassment. 

He gave me a fond smile and nodded. He slipped out the door, leaving me and the familiar together. I locked eyes with Faust, still curled up near the low fire. She made her way over to me, resting her head in the crook of my elbow while she wound around me. I stood, wanting to keep moving since it was slowly getting colder in the small room. 

I realized that the room had a warm and earthy scent. It reminded me of someone, but I didn’t get to think about it after I heard a pained howl echoing through the forest outside. Faust went still. I felt a little nervous about Asra, but I knew that animals loved him. My teeth began to chatter again, the fire was down to just a glow. 

I cupped my hands together to form a small orb of light. It followed me around the room. It got bigger in one direction of the room. This never happened before… I reluctantly followed its lead, walking towards a small nook in the corner of the room. There was an alcove carved into the wall. Inside was a small figure of a bear, carved from wood. I felt a familiar energy around it… 

As soon as I reached out to touch it, a thundering boom echoed throughout the room. It wasn’t the storm though. It was the door. I whipped my head around to see a large man with the most piercing green eyes. At his side, was a wolf with hair that was hackled high because of me. 

His unforgiving stare traced from me to the figurine. “Don’t touch that.” His voice was so deep and rumbly. In only one stride he was across the room, towering over me with his height. I could instantly smell a hint of myrrh. He didn’t look me in the eyes, he was watching my movements instead. “You’re not welcome here,” he grumbled. 

He froze and backed away a bit when he saw Faust poke her head out from out of the blanket, her tongue flicking out in greeting. This was Muriel…  

My eyes caught a glimpse of white hair behind the man. It was Asra, shouldering the door open. His arms laden with firewood. “Who’s not welcome where?”

Chapter Text

“You know… Asra…” 

Said person rolled their eyes at the pitiful sounding voice that he despised the most. It was nasally, rough with sickness, and annoying. Lucio…  

Asra wasn’t facing the man, he was too focused on the documents Ilya had given him for the cure. Was focused… 

“Your friend is awfully close to becoming the most infamous person in all of Vesuvia. Considering how long this ritual is taking. When will I get my new body?” Lucio asked. Immediately after though, he began to disgustingly cough, hacking up something from the pit of his lungs. 

While Asra didn’t like Lucio and didn’t care if he suffered, he was the most irking person he’d ever met. Thankfully, he was wearing protection. 

They were in Lucio’s bedroom, reviewing what was recently done on the work for the cure. To Asra’s dismay, Ilya couldn’t make it because of Valdemar that day. He didn’t even know why he was there. To begin with, all he would hear from Lucio was complaints and questions that, most of the time, had nothing to do with the documents. Because only Lucio was going to get cured. At least he thought... And that was all Lucio cared about. He didn’t care about Vesuvia. All of his fundings were for him  and he didn't even care about the vaccine anymore. 

“Aren’t you gonna answer me?” 

A few more moments of silence passed before Asra finally turned around. “Can’t you keep Muriel out of it? I already gave you a promise to a new body, a new life. So, why him?” Asra asked, tightly clutching the papers in his gloved hand.

Lucio didn’t answer at first. His damaged red eyes just stared Asra down. Then slowly, the corner of his dry, chapped lips began to curl into the most devious smirk Asra had ever seen. 

“Because. It’s effective, don’t you think?” 

Asra’s face was twisted with anger at his words. He couldn’t even stand being in the same room with Lucio. Just as he reached for the golden doorknob, he heard a name fall from those disgusting lips. Such a beautiful name that belonged to someone Asra knew and was working so hard for. And such a beautiful name shouldn’t have even been whispered from Lucio. 

Asra slowly turned his head back to the blood-red bed where the CEO sat. Lucio still had a smirk across his face, but it slowly faded as he asked, “Did you know her?” 

It was obvious that Asra did. But the real question was, how did Lucio know her? Did he know that they were in a relationship? Did he know Asra’s plans? Did he know something that Asra didn’t? 

Impossible. Impossible. She couldn’t have dealt with him. 

No. She did. 

She was Ilya’s assistant before. And then Asra was. So they would’ve been doing similar jobs… 

“She was so much better than you. She treated me way better than you do now. I actually miss her… A lot. It's a shame that Jules just... let her go... So, did you know her? I’m just curious.” 

Asra’s mind was completely blank. He didn’t know what to say or do. All he could see was red in the room they were in. Everything was red… Lucio was saying something, but it was muffled from the pounding in his head. His heart maybe...? Or his head...? The vision of Lucio was melded together with everything else in the room. 

He realized that he wasn’t even breathing, snapping him out of his blank spell. Instead of answering, he finally opened the door and slammed it behind him.


Asra stood in the doorway, his eyes shifting to Muriel, me, Faust, the wolf, and then back to Muriel. It was kind of awkward, but Asra was best in these kinds of situations. 

“Muriel. You look well. You too, Inanna. Did she… catch something?” the magician asked, making his way over to the fireplace. I took a second glance towards the wolf named Inanna, and realized that her mouth had some smeared blood around it. Muriel watched my actions before hesitantly looking away to his old friend. 

“No,” he answered, drawing back the hood he was wearing. It was a large black hoodie with some holes in it, but it wasn’t too worn out. The hood revealed long, thick dark hair. His face looked like it had some faded scarring underneath his subtle beard. I wondered from where, but I wouldn’t ask about it… 

The wolf, Inanna, skulked over to Asra and pawed at his foot until he placed the wood where it belonged so he could scratch between her fluffy ears. 

“It got away. You look exhausted…” Muriel mumbled. That voice too…  

“I am. We just got back from Nopal. The beast at the edge of the desert gave us a ride, since I was blocked in again…” Asra muttered the last part under his breath as he carefully placed another log into the hearth. “Inanna, what did you get a bite out of?” he asked. 

He scratched between her round brows while looking into her intelligent green eyes. I felt like the air changed from tense to a little bit more friendly. I peeled myself off of the wall and took only a step forward. 

“I didn’t see it. It ran by. She said it tasted foul…” Muriel explained. The wolf made her way past me and rested herself onto a pile of furry blankets in the darkest corner of the room. I could feel Faust release some tension, going limp around my shoulders. I raised my arm so she could be with Asra, happily flicking her tongue in thanks. 

“All right, well. Should we get introductions out of the way?” he asked, standing. “This is Muriel. Muriel, I’m sure you know who this is.” 

The old friend didn’t say anything. I couldn’t feel anything from him either. He had protections… Lots of them. Asra smiled encouragingly, looking between the two of us. We exchanged a long, apprehensive look. I tried to think back on his scent, his voice, and his gaze. He felt so familiar to me. Like I knew him before, not just memory-wise, but also in the three years I’d been in Vesuvia. 

“I know you.” 

“...Huh,” was all he said before he swung his head to the magician. “It doesn’t work on her?” he asked. 

The spell…  

Looking at him, my mind drifted back in only flashes of memory. A memory from a dream…? I tried harder to picture him in places that I would’ve seen him before in Vesuvia. 

Asra gave me a wistful look, knowing precisely what I was trying to do. “It’s harder than usual to remember him, huh? It’s not you. It’s the spell. Muriel’s… curse. ” 

Curse…?

I could’ve sworn I saw Muriel roll his eyes in only a fraction of a second. “My gift. It lets me be forgotten. Completely alone. Exactly like I wanted.” 

My roommate almost, almost, pursed his lips, but he didn’t. “Uh-huh. People see him, can talk to him, but they don’t remember him when he leaves,” he explained. 

I knew spells that were similar to what Asra was explaining, but to have it all the time… ? I glanced over to Muriel, his eyes on the flickering fire. His thick brows were furrowed in contemplation, a heavy shadow over his face. I wondered what could’ve made him want that kind of spell. To be alone… 

“Sorry we dropped in on you like this. Why don’t we get some water and clean Inanna’s face?” Asra suggested, trying to get rid of the awkward silence in the room. Muriel nodded his head, reaching for a bowl and filling it with warm water. I sat back down on the soft rug, and I could feel his heavy gaze on me. He placed the bowl a few feet away from me before going to the corner where Inanna was. 

Asra sat down next to me, giving Muriel a questionable look before turning his attention to me. I asked, “How do I know him?” 

“He’s been my friend forever. You may not remember but… I asked him to check on things for me when I'm gone for a longer time than usual.”

“How often?” 

“Too often…” Muriel said, his expression still grim. 

“He doesn’t like to be out in public much,” Asra said, his expression downcast. 

They knew each other pretty well from the way they talked to each other. I wanted to hear the kinds of stories they shared, but I had a feeling that Muriel wouldn’t be doing the talking. He made his way back over with Inanna, only a few small steps. 

“We lived around the wharf, mostly. There were a lot of orphans living there back then, none of them in the system for foster care. It was… hard to be lonely. And sleeping on the beach is fun when you’re a kid. It wasn’t so bad,” the magician said, giving a small but positive smile. 

“It was bad.” Muriel muttered, continuing, “Kids are capable of fathomless cruelty.”

“That’s for sure. Especially when they’re hungry…” 

All of this… made my heart pang with a sense of sadness. But I knew that I was glad that they were living better lives.

Asra spoke once more, changing the subject, “Speaking of food… I don’t see any anywhere.” 

“I don’t have any food anywhere.” 

“Okay. Have you eaten today?” Asra asked, yanking his bag and handing it to his old friend. He was always prepared. Muriel took the bag and searched for some food. Meanwhile… 

The wolf came trotting over to where I sat, licking her lips. She either was curious, or she was trying to tell me to leave. Like Muriel, her aura was guarded and obscure. I couldn’t determine how she was feeling… 

I reached out to pet her, and her ears instantly drew back. But, soon she let me stroke her stoic brow. My hand went to scratch behind her ears and she leaned into it, her tongue licking my wrist. I smiled at how ticklish it was and pulled away. I thought she was satisfied, but she fell to the floor next to me for more scratches. I went ahead and did so, while Asra watched me with a look of surprise. 

“Oh, look who’s being friendly!” 

“Friendly?” Muriel asked, his gaze flickering to Inanna and I. He wandered over, apprehensively watching the two of us. 

“She’s nice,” I said, smiling up at the man. 

“She bites.” 

Well, then…  

Asra nodded but responded, “True, but she loves to be pet.”

“Only when you spoil her.” Muriel’s eyes accusingly pointed straight to the magician as he said the words. 

“When I spoil her, huh?” Asra smirked. Oh, shoot… “Remember how you used to say that you let her take up half the bed because you slept better on the floor?” 

Muriels face instantly went red as he scowled at his white-haired friend. “The floor makes her joints ache…” 

Asra only hummed in response. Muriel grabbed a cloth from a nearby drawer while I resigned from giving her pets. Instead, I just plopped down next to her. She gave a short huff while Muriel dipped the cloth in the water and began to clean her mouth. 

The magician’s eyes gazed into the fire. “So I’m trying to understand how the goat is physical enough to bite… Before we left it wasn’t physical enough to see. Have you checked the protections around this place?”

“That’s what I was just doing. I sensed something unwelcome in the woods,” Muriel mumbled. He cast a suspicious expression my way, but I gave him a perplexed look in return. 

Asra gave a long, thoughtful hum. “Did you check all of them?” 

“Yes.” 

“Even the one at the top of the tree?” 

Muriel sighed, his expression changed to one of dour. Well, more dour. “No…” 

“Well. Let’s go check it? Are you warmed up?” Asra asked, not even waiting for an answer. He grabbed my hands, checking the temperature himself with a small grin. His thumbs brushed over my wrists before his lips planted a kiss on both of them. 

“Put the fire out. It’s hot,” Muriel grunted, a blush painted across his cheeks. 

I got dressed with Asra’s help, even though he knew full well that I didn’t need it. We got all of our things and made our way out the door. There was very little light outside, a small drizzle dusting across my face. The forest smelled like rain and mist, fog even more prominent than before. 

We followed Muriel's brooding back as we trekked through the woods. We occasionally stopped for a few enchanted spots that were put for protection purposes. Each spot had something to gather. Asra was busy collecting berries, herbs, mushrooms, and greens… 

“You haven’t picked any of these? You love orange birch boletes…” he said, safely storing everything in his bag. 

“I can’t cook them like you do.” Muriel turned and went further down our meandering path. We followed along, but Asra whispered in a voice so low that I could barely hear him. “I… never really told you about all this, did I? My childhood circumstances. Mine and his.” 

I did wonder why he never told me about it, but it was a long time ago. In the past. And it sounded like it was difficult for both of them. So I understood why they wouldn’t want to talk about it. 

He continued, “It was hard. Nights where there was nowhere safe to rest, and we did everything we could not to sleep. Having this place to stay out here changed the whole world for us…” 

I imagined it did. I could tell from the distant look in his eyes that that place meant a lot to him. “It’s good that you had each other,” I said. 

“Yeah… It is a good thing. It was definitely harder for both of us alone. Nobody makes it on their own. Everybody needs somebody…” 

His fingered weaved with mine, securely holding my hand. Asra looked sincerely into my eyes and whispered my name. “The reason I haven’t talked about my past is because yours is still hidden from you. I… guess I didn’t want you to be alone.” 

My heart warmed at what he was saying. 

Muriel froze in his tracks. “Stop. We’re here.” 

My deep thoughts were interrupted by his rumbling voice. We reached the tree that Asra was talking about. It was old but sturdy and had a thick trunk. Muriel pulled off his hoodie, handing it to Asra. I respectfully averted my gaze from his muscular figure. 

“Don’t look down,” Asra said, worriedly looking up at the tree. 

Muriel mumbled something about knowing what to do, his ears slightly reddening. He began to scale the tree, strong arms grasping the hefty branches. 

“All that being said… I worry about him.” 

About him? I glanced up at the tree, and I could see Muriel vigorously climbing the tree with powerful arms. 

“He never liked being around other people. But he didn’t hate them. Until… Lucio came along. Muriel had to do a lot of things for him that he didn’t want to do. That I didn’t know about. To protect me. And of course, he didn’t know about the things I was doing. For Lucio, to protect him…” 

What...? 

We both suddenly heard a roll of thunder in the sky, and then a doleful whine. Inanna was looking up at Muriel, her whine turning into an echoing howl. Muriel descended from the tree, his expression formidable. “I saw it.” 

“Are you sure it was him?” Asra asked.

“Yeah. It was him.

Chapter Text

After Muriel spotted Lucio, we immediately made our way through the forest to seek answers. We trampled over dead leaves and thick roots of trees with a slightly hurried pace. Muriel was a few steps in front of us, flanked by Inanna. Asra’s voice was low. 

“Muriel must be warming up to you, to take us to his runecasting spot. Did we ever talk about that? He asks questions, throws the stones, and interprets their answers. Like we do with cards. When he wants the clearest answers, he goes to the top of the mountain…” Asra explained, looking up at the massive mountain that we were trekking to. “I have some questions too…” 

“From the cards?” I asked. 

Asra grinned, his eyes drifting over to me. “Yes. But not the usual way.”

What does that mean…?

The whole way up the heavily wooded mountain, my head was swirling with questions as to what he meant. I didn’t ask, knowing full well that he would probably beat around the bush again. 

I let out a huff of air when we reached the top, my legs aching. Muriel crouched down, Inanna sitting beside him. Asra gave me his flask of water. I easily drained half and gave the rest to him. 

After taking a gulp he asked, “Remember the place I took you at the fountain, on the other side of the water?” He plopped down onto the ground and I followed suit. I remembered how beautiful everything was there. The vibrant colors, the sky that changed so quickly and unpredictably. And the storm… “As a magician, you make your own gate into the deeper planes of reality. Within your mind. The place I took you was my gate. I don’t know how you were able to cross into it, but… In time, we’ll work on opening yours.”

Wow… Who needs virtual reality when you go deeper into yourself to find a reality that isn’t even reality…?

My heart was racing at the amount of amazing information I was getting. It all sounded so incredible when he said it, but a little overwhelming. He must’ve sensed it. He took my hands in his, his thumbs brushing over mine. He began to do some deep breathing to calm my nerves. 

“You’re taking her in,” Muriel suddenly said, shifting on his feet to look at us. 

“I need to ask my mentor some questions. And… I think it’s time they meet,” Asra answered.

Mentor…?  

We were going into a realm. He looked deeply into my eyes, firmly holding my hands. The sky was dark behind him, making it easier for me to see his lavender-purple aura, emanating from his body. I could feel his magic pulsing through his hands, steady and calm. He was beautiful.

“Try not to be afraid. We’ll be together the whole time. And Muriel will be watching over us here. His aura is the strongest when he casts,” he assured. I took a glance towards Muriel, and honestly, I wasn’t worried about his strength at all. “All you should have to do is close your eyes. Breathe deep, and empty your mind…” 

I followed his instructions, closing my eyes, breathing deep, and emptying my mind. Eventually, the sounds of stones falling onto gravel began to fade. I could feel the world we were in begin to fade as well. The air, the energy, changed around the two of us. 

I opened my eyes, and we were in Asra’s gate. It was just as dazzling as I remembered it to be. The sky was still changing colors and luminescent fish were flopping out of the water at our arrival. Asra was still in front of me, his gaze locked on mine for my reaction. He led me towards the edge of the water, walking over it like the last time I was there. 

“It’s still so weird to see you in here. I can’t get over it. I was pretty young when I made this gate. It’s a little juvenile…” he said, his ears flushing red. “No two magicians imagine it the same. I wonder what yours will be like.” 

Mine…?  

I couldn’t even imagine opening up a gate inside my mind, let alone what it would look like. But I was still tingling with excitement at the thought of it. What would mine look like…?

“Well… come on in. Don’t be shy.” Asra went into the water, all the way up to his shins. I took one, then two steps into the water, the invigorating feeling sending my body aglow. We slowly made it into the water, my body adjusting to the newfound effervescence conducting through it. My expression must’ve been goofy, because Asra laughed beside me. 

“If you want, you’ll be able to breathe. But there’s no need,” he said. The water moved around us, flowing between our bodies. Eventually, it started to take on the colors of both our auras as the water reached our chests. Asra looked to me, smiling with excitement. 

“Ready? Here we go.”


We both went into the water, bubbles tickling my body as they went up to the surface. My ears were filled with the roiling of water rushing around my ears. I felt weightless while we floated into the depths. Suddenly, I felt the sensation of soft sand underneath my feet. Then we reached the surface of the water as we walked forward, only for me to realize that it was a gorgeous beach. The sand was pink and purple, the sky above us had glowing galaxies. The water was a glittering blue with gentle waves pushing us to the surf. 

At first, I was amazed at the vision around me. But then worry came immediately after. I thought I was alone. I whipped my head around, and I saw that Asra was just right beside me. But I couldn’t feel any warmth from him like usual. The bodies that we had then, were different than the ones in the physical realm. 

My expression of slight panic didn’t go unnoticed. “Are you alright?” he asked. 

It was hard to say. Many sensations that I would’ve normally felt before, were much different. As if, they almost didn’t exist. It felt like I could slip away at any moment. But I knew that I was safer with Asra there. 

“We’re here to ask questions?” I asked. 

“Yes. We’re going to ask the communicator of all magical knowledge, the bridge between humanity and the infinite,” he responded. 

Okay, then…  

He must’ve noticed how confused I was, so he shortened it. “The Magician. I wonder what form they’re going to take when they meet you.”

The Magician… The card…? No, the voice from the card…  

I had many questions for Asra, but before I could ask-

“Ah. They’re here.” 

I followed my roommates gaze to a slowly swooning palm tree that shifted into a half-moon curve. I saw deep indigo footprints move down a winding path down the trunk. They ambled across the sand, a figure slowly appearing. One that I recognized. 

“Asra, you’re back so soon,” they greeted. Their voice sounded so calm, soothing. Not a whisper, but not too deep either. They looked just like the card. Their gaze fell on me, and I could feel a spark of interest from them. 

“And your apprentice… do you recognize my voice?” they asked, their mouth curling up into a smile. I had heard that voice many times, though it was never in words. 

Apprentice… 

I noticed how everything in the realm I was in, felt older, and purer. More wise and ancient. 

“There’s an entity manifesting at the mansion. We saw it. We have questions,” Asra said.

The Magician was quick to respond. “If it’s answers you seek, you’re at the wrong place. If it’s more questions, come with me.” Their clawed hand peeled back an invisible ripple, like a tent, and stepped inside. Asra and I were left outside. I was utterly amazed. 

“That’s the Magician. From the card.” 

Asra smiled. “Try not to get too starstruck. They love to play tricks. Especially on new blood…” 

Hmm… 

I threw back the curtain and stepped through as Asra followed. It was dark at first, but then familiar shapes and colors filled my sight. We were in the backroom of the shop. I began to question how we were even there, but then I quickly realized that of course, it wasn’t really the shop. There was no scent of incense or tea. And it looked more empty as well. 

I sat down on one of the stools while Asra did so across from me. The Magician sat between us to form a triangle, shuffling a deck of cards. 

“There’s an entity manifesting at the mansion. That’s vague, isn’t it? Is it something you’ve never seen before?” they asked.

“It’s… Lucio,” Asra replied. 

“Lucio? Lucio appeared before you? You don’t trust appearances, do you, Asra? Looking like Lucio is easy.” Their deep indigo gaze fell upon Asra, their grin was prominent.  

“It doesn’t look like him. But I… know it’s him.” 

Their eyes slid over to me and they stopped shuffling. They spread the cards before me. 

We saw it? You saw it too? If this creature doesn’t look like Lucio, what does it look like?” 

“A goat.” 

“Like I look like a fox?” 

The Magician gestured for me to choose a card. For whatever reason, I was anxious about what it would show. 

It was the Magician. 

“Fox-headed Magician. Like goat-headed Devil, a powerful archetype. A fox has a unique place in the ecosystem. Predator and prey. Because I am not invincible, I have to be clever. I am curious. These were the traits Asra associated with the Magician card when he made the deck. They’re also the traits he identifies with the most. We major Arcana are archetypes, forms of pure and ancient energy in the human subconscious. You may not know me well yet. But we speak often, don’t we? The more we communicate, the more familiar you will become with my character. And then you’ll know me from an imposter taking my shape. Taking shapes is easy magic…” 

A plume of vibrant blue smoke erupted, the Magician transforming. They transformed into none other than Asra. My roommate sitting across from me looked surprised.

“Say… How well do you think you know your master?” they asked. They had almost the same smile as Asra. Almost… 

“He’s not my master.” He was my roommate…  

“He isn’t? But hasn’t he taught you everything you know?” 

“Not everything. She’s curious too. She learns from her own experience, not mine. I want to help her on her own path,” Asra explained. 

“Interesting. You do seem to know each other well. It makes me wonder… How well do I know you, Asra? As well as she does? Better? Surely then I could imitate you and fool her, don’t you think?” 

Hmm… I wondered if they were trying to trick me, just like Asra said. Or, it may have just been a test. My mind was racing with ways to tell how they were different from each other. The Magician turned to me, they’re eyes glinting with amusement. 

“What do you think? Would you know your Asra from mine?” 

I sincerely hoped that my answer didn’t backfire. My heart was pounding from what I was going to ask. 

“Let me feel you,” I said, face flushing only a bit. It felt weird to say that… 

Asra whispered my name with widened eyes. The Magician on the other hand looked delighted. “Ah-ha! Good idea. Let’s try it.” 

With only a twist of a hand, the Magician sent me spinning in my stool. After I was done whirling around, I realized that we all changed positions and swapped places. I tried my best to feel, not just physically, but emotionally. 

I could feel the left's intense gaze as I approached the Asra on my right. They held out their hand and I took it, feeling the way their fingers gently intertwined with mine. My hand slowly made its way to their chest, feeling a mystery hidden within, fickleness, and a sense of teasing at my palm. My caress wasn’t returned. This Asra held a playful silence, inviting my touch with a poker face. That can’t be Asra…  

The Asra I knew, had a different kind of feeling. I finally let go and rounded the table to the Asra on my left. As soon as I made contact, I could feel a powerful ache of longing being sent to my core. A need to know something about me that I don’t yet know myself. I placed my hand on their chest, and was hit with only a painful feeling. I almost winced, but I suppressed it. I lifted my eyes to theirs, seeing the way they looked at me.

Both of them were similar, for sure. But one of them stuck out to me. The one that was so overwhelming to me. My thoughts were interrupted when I heard a voice that sounded just like Asra, asking me, “So… do you know?” 

“Let me kiss you.” 

“Wow! Another good idea.” The right made an expression of delight once more, smiling at me.

“...Go ahead,” the left said, their cheeks blushing a furious red.

“Not so fast. Why don’t we up the ante? Now how can we do this… First, we’ll cover your eyes.” 

An indigo shade came over my eyes, obscuring my vision. Almost immediately afterward I heard footsteps moving towards me. There was a pause before their lips sealed mine. Pure emotions were coursing through my being as unconsciously pressed back. I wanted more, even when we parted. That must’ve been Asra… I was left breathless, my face burning with embarrassment. 

Without a moment’s hesitation, I was kissed again. I deepened the kiss once more, the emotion coming in waves. The desire for more… When we parted, I felt a strong pull to follow. 

But… They were no different…  

“Do you know?” 

I… didn’t. 

“I don’t know…”

The shade was pulled off of my face, both of them standing before me. One with a playful smile, and the other with a fond one.

“Well, I’m just glad you’re honest,” the Asra on the left said.

“Yes, very honest. Well, you may not know him as well as you think. Or maybe you know him too well, and he simply couldn’t bear to part from your lips.” 

The left’s scarlet cheeks reddened even more, their eyes looking anywhere but towards me. 

The Magician transformed again into their fox-headed form. “It was a trick question. I’ll let you figure out the answer.” 

What…? Wait…  

But we were already back to business. The Magician tapped the card that was flipped over and it faded into the table. 

They continued, “When any two beings become familiar enough, the line between them can seem to disappear. To connect with one of the Arcana on a personal level can awaken a wellspring of power. But if the connection is too deep, you run the risk of losing your individuality. Becoming your archetype. Lucio tried to become one of the Arcana, but he failed.” 

“He tried to… become the Devil? How?” Asra asked, interest, surprise, and worry all in one expression.

“Why don’t you ask him?” the Magician asked. They snapped their fingers, giving me one last grin.

The action sent the room spinning and the world shifted. The air changed from thick to clearer. I could smell something like fresh morning dew. I could feel a few soft raindrops fall on my face, making me flutter my eyes open. I felt like I was awaking from a dream… 

Asra was sitting in front of me, holding my hands just like when we left. Muriel was right beside us, Inanna as well, patiently waiting. We all watched as Asra’s closed eyes twitched and slid open. Faust poked her head out of his shirt, flicking her tongue in greeting.

Asra took a deep breath and blinked a few times before turning to his old friend. “Did you get any answers?” 

“Did you?” 

“Lucio… tried to become the devil.” 

“Are you surprised?” Muriel asked, not shocked in the slightest. 

“I guess not. I just want to know how… ” 

“I don’t like the sound of that…” he grumbled.

Muriel gave me a pointed glance and stood, followed by Asra who helped me up to my feet. 

“The rain feels good right now. If we’re fast, we might be able to make it to the mansion before it gets bad. Ready to go back now?” 

I was certainly ready. After everything that had happened, we needed to tell Nadia. We’ve been away for too long… But I couldn’t forget those two kisses that I received that day. Both were the same. Sly Asra…

Chapter Text

Asra and I stood at the large brick wall for the outer parts of the mansion. The golden light of dawn was shining across the golden fields in the distance. My roommate ran his hands along the wall, vines being pushed aside so he could find a door that led inside the premises from the forest. 

The leaves crunched underneath our dirtied sneakers as we continued down the wall. Until Asra paused with a small smile. 

“Found it,” he said, ripping some overgrown vines that were partially covering the rusty door. He tried the knob and gave me a look of disbelief when it turned. “Unlocked? This is the servant’s door… It’s always locked. The security guards must be swapping shifts now. Our luck is unusually good today…”

He gave a glance my way before opening the door and letting me through. As soon as we made it through, there was a sudden shriek above us. We both immediately looked up, the unspecified sound easily getting our attention.

Perched on a thick branch on one of the trees was an opalescent owl. It’s perfectly circular face cast shadows from the shining sun above us. 

“Chandra!” Asra whispered. The bird named Chandra focused on the both of us. I could feel her gaze pouring into mine, seeing the very essence of my mind. But then she took flight, straight towards the mansion. 

“...Chandra?” 

“She’s an old friend of Nadia. She’ll tell her we’re here. We might even get a private audience. That’s good. Trying to explain everything we need to explain to her will be… delicate. My first concern is the swarm that we saw in the dam. I think we should warn her, and that’s pretty straightforward. We’ll need to be careful with what we say, how and when we’re gonna say it… when we talk about him. ” 

I noticed that his piercing gaze went right past my shoulder, and onto a marble arch at the end of the path. His stare was cold, and the air whirled and churned from the force of it. The twin goat heads seemed to leer back. I gave him a puzzled look.

He said, “There are eyes and ears everywhere within these walls.”

We made our way through the maze and it didn’t take that long to find the mansion gardens. We stopped underneath the large willow tree, Asra looking at our surroundings. 

“Nadia hasn’t been sleeping well?” Asra asked. 

Faust’s body slowly moved along his shoulders. “Tosses and turns,” she whispered. 

“Right. Chandra might have trouble waking her. Why don’t you stay in the garden for now, Faust? Find somewhere to hang,” Asra said, extending his arm a bit to let her slide off. She slithered into a hole underneath a tree and out of sight. I rounded the willow tree’s thick trunk, my hand brushing against the bark.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Asra shudder. “Woah… I just felt your touch,” he said, an incredulous expression on his face. 

I furrowed my eyebrows and looked down at my hand, still on the tree’s bark. Right on top of my name. Magic still pulsed through the carving, my magic joining to make the letters glow. Only for a second… 

Asra came up beside me, wincing at the carving. “You know by now, don’t you? That your first memory of me… wasn’t the first time we met.” 

There were many signs in the shop that led me to believe that throughout the years. Old photo albums that were dusty with age and neglect. There were pictures of Asra when he was younger, maybe a teen. He looked so happy… He was with some woman in the pictures, smiling while stirring up a potion next to her. She held an empty bottle in her hand that had my name on it. She felt familiar to me when I saw her. But before I could even try to remember, he snatched the album away. 

And with that, went all the other memories of my past. I knew that he didn’t throw them away, but I didn’t know where they could’ve been either… 

But when I first opened my eyes… I knew deep down that he was someone who cared a lot about me. He knew me. And I think it hurt him… The sight of his crying face, his pained expression… is something that I never wanted to happen again.

I answered, “I know.” 

Asra softly nodded and took my hand. “If you knew how carefully I tried to hide it all from you, thinking it would hurt you… And then this is right here. Amazing how I could forget. The place my mind was in, the last time I was here… I missed you so much,” he said, looking so… heartbroken. “When it rained loud enough, I could lean against this tree and call out for you as many times as I wanted.” 

Then… Where was I…?

I had a lump in my throat, I couldn’t ask. The vision of him, in the rain, calling out for me, made my heart pang with overwhelming sadness. He leaned against the tree, his thumb running across the grooves. 

“I should heal it over…” His voice was low and quiet. I could barely even hear his words. 

“Don’t.” 

My voice shook him out of his reverie, his eyes wide with surprise. 

“Why not?” he asked. 

“It connected me to our past together. I don’t want to lose it.” 

There was a moment of silence, Asra’s gaze drifting across the willow tree. He slowly nodded, and said, “That’s a nice way to look at it…” He let his hand fall to his side, and let out a deep sigh. “I tried to keep the past at a distance, and not fall back into it. I guess I’ve always wondered… is it really better for you to know? There’s still so much to tell you, and I don’t know if you’re ready to hear it…” 

He looked so forlorn. Looking at him, I wasn’t sure if I was ready either. But I wanted to know, just what happened. What happened that left him with this scar, that was erased from me…?

Suddenly, we heard a sharp cry coming from the fountain. Asra quickly looked and took me by the shoulders. He looked me straight in the eye. “She’s here. Remember, even if all we want to do is explain… you never know who’s listening. Eyes and ears.” 

Are there cameras around or something…? Why would anyone want to listen to us…? 

When we emerged from the willow, we found Nadia and her owl, waiting patiently on the balcony. As soon as we came into her line of sight, she gave a beautiful smile. 

“Welcome back, magicians. I hope you have a wealth of secrets to share,” she said, her friend Chandra moving off of her arm and onto the balcony railing. We climbed the stairs and Asra was the first to speak. “Yes. If it was only good secrets…” 

Her eyes widened a bit. “Whatever they are, I’m ready to hear them. Here, sit. This is last night's tea, but I have not stopped drinking it.” As we moved to sit, I could feel Asra’s aura shift and change to one of calm and neutral. 

“Forgive me if I am not at my best. Preparation for the Masquerade has been tiring. I have to make arrangements with the mayor about the funding. My sleep last night was… particularly disturbed. Tell me, then… What did you find? The doctor, maybe?” 

I could see hope glimmering in her eyes at the last question. I could feel it too. But I felt a little guilty that what we had wasn’t what she wanted to hear. Asra and I gave sidelong glances at each other. I decided to answer. 

“We found something worse.” 

Nadia’s brows furrowed. “Something worse?” 

Asra also spoke. “Potentially. But we seem to have made it here before the swarm.” 

And then Nadia’s brows lifted in surprise. “Before what?

“We found red beetles. You know, the ones that everyone thought were gone,” Asra explained, his face just as worried as Nadia’s. 

“Red beetles…? I have never gotten my hands on a live specimen.”

“Well, our hands might be full soon. We discovered a whole nest of them northeast of here.”

“They crawled down a power generator in a dam and straight towards us. Then they left,” I said.

“And I think they’re headed this way. Can’t know for sure, but, you know…” 

… 

“Well, then. That is a thousand times worse than I expected. I may have to quarantine you both. The Masquerade and the mayor… And the guests have already arrived… what can we possibly do to stop a swarm of insects?” I could see her shoulders tense at all of the things that she was going to be busy with. I wished that there was something that would make those beetles disappear for good. But they weren’t normal beetles… 

“Did somebody say a swarm of insects?” 

Two of Nadia’s board of directors arrived, their presence making me feel uncomfortable. These directors aren’t normal either… I began to wrack my brain for their names. The first one, short and petite, with a toothy grin. That was Volta. The second person, bigger with a strong clenched fist, and a devious smile. That would be Vulgora. 

“My house has been infested with those things. They’ve been coming in from the east,” Vulgora said, smiling with sharp canines.

Nadia looked baffled that she didn’t know that. “They have??? For how long?” 

“For about an hour. Which is why I came to the party early and furious.” 

“And I have arrived early since I am so, so hungry, ” Volta said, her eyes drifting over to Asra and I. “Oh, what’s this? Your magicians are multiplying.” 

“Volta… I remember you. You have a sharp nose. You could smell the virus…” 

… 

What…? She could smell… people’s demise… I guess that’s one way to find out if you have a virus…?

That proved everything that I thought about Volta and Vulgora. They knew things and could do things that nobody should’ve been able to do. They weren’t like magicians either… 

I was snapped out of my thoughts when Volta’s semi-nasally voice answered, “Yes, the scent of oncoming death makes my mouth water.” 

“Ah, yes. Volta, your nose was quite a study in helping the doctors with the virus. Somewhat. And Vulgora your… enthusiasm about your hobbies helped as well. Perhaps you would like to go figure out how to exterminate them?” Nadia asked. 

“You’re right. Now that you mention it, I’ll go look up how to destroy every single one of them,” Vulgora said, already making her way towards the doors. 

Volta quickly piped up, “A-and I’ll make sure to ea- I mean, dispose of the remains!” 

“Perfect. Can you please keep me informed for the mayor as well?” 

As soon as Volta turned to leave, Asra suddenly called out from my side. “Volta, before you leave. Smell us for the virus. Please.”

My heart began to beat a little harder. What if we do have it…?  

Volta slowly turned and blinked her watery eye. The other was covered with a hospital patch. She made her way back, Asra offering his hand. She took it and let her nose rove over it, sniffing deeply into his palm. “Nothing,” she said. 

Asra nodded and sighed with relief, but I could feel a whole new wave of worry wash over him when he turned to me. I swallowed, my throat was suddenly dry. I held out my hand to her, which she repeated the process. Except, she did it more thoroughly with me. She sniffed everywhere she possibly could sniff on my hand. We all waited with bated breath.

I was kind of startled when she suddenly sneezed. She smiled up at me. “Smells sweaty.” 

Nadia nodded. “Quite true. Maybe both of you can shower as soon as possible. Thank you, Volta, and Vulgora. Let me know later how things are being settled at work too.”

They both nodded and left, skittering away. Nadia took a long sip of her tea, before giving a deep sigh. “So… a swarm of insects. I have to admit, of all my nightmares, I never saw this coming.”

“You said your sleep wasn’t great last night. Was it nightmares?” Asra asked. 

“Yes. I believe they may be related to stress. The Masquerade is only days away… The closer it is, the more my subconscious haunts me. The images become more… vivid.” 

Asra was gradually leading her to the subject of Lucio. “Do you remember them when you wake up? Can you describe them?” 

Nadia leaned forward, her voice low. “It sounds really silly. The places aren’t always the same, but the creature-” 

“Creature?” 

“A goat. White, with red eyes… Does it sound familiar to you? In my dreams, it’s wandering the mansion. Screaming, punching the walls… I swore I saw it in the kitchen last night. Bent over the leftovers from dinner. Drooling… It felt so real. Like I said, I must be too stressed these days…” 

“I would trust your subconscious…” I said. 

Her eyes flicked up to me, a flash of understanding between the two of us. Until her eyes widened. “You don’t mean…” 

“What you’re seeing is no dream. I see it too.” 

Asra nodded. “We both do. As much as we’re excited for the Masquerade, no one forgot the past… I guess it would make sense that the preparations are stirring up the old energy.” 

Nadia set her teacup down and gave a thoughtful expression. “Now that you mention it, the master bedroom was recently renovated. I wonder if that may have agitated the… energy.” 

“If it’s alright with you, we could do a blessing on the room. The whole wing if you want. We brought back some very potent myrrh.” 

Before she could answer, all you could hear was sneezing. A series of sneezes coming from the bushes below the balcony. And then, an angry whisper. It was honestly the loudest whisper I’d ever heard. “Quiet, you fool!” 

“Blekh! Bluhg! Oh, that smells terrible!”

Nadia stood from her seat and walked over to the railing, bending over and calling, “Volta! Vulgora! Did you get yourselves lost in the maze?” 

Vulgora was quick to answer. “No!” 

But then Volta said, “Yes.” 

Then we heard an angry growl. Vulgora made her way up the stairs, hauling Volta with her. She barked at a passing person that was setting some more tea on the table. “You! I’ll be back for the Masquerade. My room better be ready!” 

It was Portia. “Wow, okay fine. But I’m not a servant… Ah! Nadia, you’re up so early!” Her gaze fell onto me and Asra, her smile beaming. “And the magicians are back!”

“Good morning, Portia. We have so much to do,” Nadia said, ready to head through the doors.

“Nadia, wait.” At Asra’s words, she stopped and turned. She watched him curiously as he quickly went to her side. 

“Yes, Asra?” 

“There are a couple of arrangements we’ll want to make for the blessing…” He whispered in her ear, something fairly long. She gave a surprised expression, only for a bit. 

“Interesting. I suppose that can be done.” 

I was curious as to what he would have mentioned, but all he gave me was a subtle smile. We all were led inside, the cooling hallway sending a chill through my body. “Ah, you both can use the bathroom to freshen up. Mine is the best in the mansion. You are welcome to use it… both of you,” Naida said, her lips curling. 

Portia smiled and said, “That’d be nice. Where did you guys go anyway? You look like you’ve been through a lot.” 

My only response was a groan at the thought of hot water soothing my aching muscles from the long trip we had. Asra groaned as well before he answered, “It was somewhere nice. But a shower sounds perfect to me… What do you want to do?” 

He turned to me, an obvious smirk on his face. “Let’s go together.” 

Nadia and Portia grinned with a knowing glance my way. “Lovely.” 

“Lovely is right. We’ll clean up nicely, don’t worry.” 

“Oh, I don’t doubt you will.” 

We waved goodbye to both Nadia and Portia as they made their way down the hall. Asra finally looked at me, taking my hand in his. We then made our way to the bathroom.


When we reached the bathroom, I realized how much different it looked from the bathroom I had in the guestroom. It was larger, with a big open window, a light breeze billowing through the curtains. The ceiling was higher and grander. The only similar features were the floors and the mirrors. 

Speaking of mirrors… As soon as my gaze landed on one of them, I smiled and laughed at my reflection. Asra’s shirt was already off when he turned and gave me a fond look. “What’s so funny?” 

“There’s mud all over my face. Why didn’t you tell me?” 

“I don’t see that kind of thing when I look at your face,” he answered, making his way over to me. My face felt like it was burning at the sight of him.

“Then what do you see?” I asked as I rested my hands on the marble counter, looking at him through the mirror. Asra came to stand behind me, his arms wrapping around my waist as he rests his chin on my shoulder. 

He hummed, and his lips seductively smiled at me. “Well, those lips always hypnotize me. They form the most beautiful words. But it’s really the eyes that get me. The rest of the world fades… and nothing else matters.” 

Then he kissed me, and I could tell that he meant every word he said. I turned, my body facing his. His hands came up to cradle my head as his kiss deepened. I let out a small moan, my body feeling warmer than usual. I could feel my core thrum with a familiar desire for him. 

When our kiss was broken, he opened his eyes and he must’ve finally seen the mud on my face. He laughed through his nose, and said, “You do have mud on your face.” 

I snorted and shoved him half-heartedly before making my way over to the shower. My heart was racing at the fact that I had to get undressed in front of him, but we had done it before… So why was I even nervous? 

I took off my shirt, bra, socks, and jeans, letting them fall to the floor. I could hear the remains of his clothes being taken off as well. I gulped and took off my last article of clothing, my heart hammering in my chest. 

I stepped in, the cold tiles making a shiver run through my spine. I turned on the showerhead, and the crisp water was slowly turning warm. I closed my eyes and sighed at the refreshing feeling. I could feel Asra’s eyes on me. I opened my eyes to see him through the glass, his face flushed. 

He entered the spacious shower as well. After he was completely wet, Asra grabbed some soap and lathered it up between his palms. 

"Let me clean it off," he said. I stood before him, so that his gentle thumbs could wash the mud from my face. After he washed a part of my face, I received a gentle kiss afterward. I felt so pampered. His hands began to roam a little more, making their way down my neck and then my shoulders. His touch only made me want him more.

“Are you all right?” he softly asked. 

I nodded. “Yeah… I, um… I want to do it again…” 

Asra nodded, kissing me once again on the forehead. I noticed that his pupils were already blown out with lust. But he didn't rush. He took more soap, slowly running his hands down my arms. He pulled me closer so that he could wash my back too. As he was doing that, I also began to wash his broad chest and shoulders. Then I felt his lips on my freshly rinsed neck. Asra nipped and kissed at the skin while his hands went lower and lower. His hand lovingly rubbed the curve of my ass before he subtly grabbed it. My core was throbbing for him.

His other hand found its way to my front, just barely touching me where I wanted it to. My lusty gaze fell onto his arousal, already hard. Asra was still busy with his ministrations while I grabbed some more soap. My fingers just brushed his tip, and he froze. Then, my fingers drifted along the rest of his length. I could hear a low, sultry sound coming from him in response. 

I gripped his cock in my hand, rubbing up and down, wanting more sounds from him. I wanted to make him feel good. My thumb brushed over his tip once more, making him groan into the crook of my neck. Asra whispered my name into my ear. 

I couldn’t wait any longer. I turned around and pressed my soapy hands against the glass of the shower. “ Please, Asra… ” 

We both were breathing hard from this new experience. I could feel his tip press against my dripping entrance. He slowly pushed in, still being so blessedly gentle. I wanted to suppress my moans, since I didn’t know if anyone could hear. But it was so difficult when he began to set a pace. He was tenderly thrusting into me, his tattooed arm coming around my torso. His hand slid down to my sensitive clit. My legs were shaking at the two amazing sensations I was feeling. 

I was getting greedy again… 

“Asra, h-harder please…” 

His hips stuttered at my words, but picked up the pace. The bathroom echoed with our moans, gasps, breaths, and the sound of skin slapping against skin with how hard he was thrusting. I couldn’t control what was coming out of my mouth, his actions kept drawing out my voice. And he was drinking it all in… 

It wasn’t long before I was getting closer and closer to the edge. And he could tell. I turned my head, just a little, to get a glimpse of him fucking me from behind. His hair slicked back from the shower, droplets of water dripping down his toned body. Just one glimpse of Asra.

But his other hand holding my hips tightened its grip, fingernails slightly digging into my skin. The hand that was rubbing my clit, ceased. I whimpered at the loss of touch. He came up close to my ear, his thrusts growing more ragged and desperate. 

Did I say you could turn around?

Chapter Text

Asra could feel her clench around him as she orgasmed. The feeling was pure bliss. After all of the years of just imagining, dreaming, yearning for that feeling... It was only a few thrusts later when he came deep inside her as well, groaning at the feeling of her coming around his cock. His name fell from her lips as she rode out her orgasm. After his cock softened inside of her wetness, Asra gently pulled out of her, his come slowly dripping from her pussy. 

His love reluctantly turned around, her cheeks a deep rosy red. Asra deeply kissed her once again until she was breathless. After he broke the kiss, he grabbed some more soap to wash the rest of her body. Asra noticed that she was leaning against the side of the shower, slightly trembling.

“Are you okay?” he gently asked. 

“My legs feel a little wobbly…” Her voice was still heavy with sex, but he still worried... 

Did he take it too far?

Concern must’ve flashed across his features, because she looked at him with a glowing smile and said, “It’s fine, Asra.” Her hand cupped his cheek, warm from the shower. He nodded and continued to rinse her soapy body, his fingers brushing over her sensitive body. 

The magician turned off the shower and grabbed a towel for him and his love. As he was wrapping her in the soft luxurious towel, she suddenly said, “You did it twice.” 

Asra was confused at first. They… did it twice…? Or something else? 

She explained further. “In the Magician’s realm… You kissed me twice, didn’t you?” 

He wondered when she was going to bring it up. He knew that she wasn't the one to be tricked so easily. His cheeks felt hot just thinking back on what happened. 

Asra already felt strange with the test the Magician thought up for her. But he wouldn’t say that he didn’t like it. He understood the message the Magician was trying to get across. But when she said, “Let me kiss you,” Asra’s heart skipped a whole beat. He thought she would know just from the feeling of them… 

 Either way, he didn’t say no to her. 

“Wow! Another good idea,” they said, giving Asra a subtle glance. They had a playful glint to their eyes. Asra’s heart raced at the thought of her kissing his mentor, the Magician, a Major Arcana. He didn’t say it, but he didn’t exactly want that to happen… 

“...Go ahead,” he reluctantly said. 

His mentor magicked up a shade to cover her eyes. Asra felt like they did that for a reason, and not just to raise the stakes. The Magician gave Asra the most cunning grin he had ever seen. 

Who was going first?  

The disguised fox took only one step towards her, and Asra instantly seized his oblivious love’s lips. His heart was hammering in his chest as he passionately deepened the kiss. He could feel the Magician’s gaze respectfully look away. But he never wanted to part from his love, especially when it was their turn next. 

But… he did. She was near breathless. Her cheeks flushed a bright red. Her lips also looked so captivating… Immediately after he parted, Asra’s lips crashed into hers once more. 

So, yes. He did do it twice. But he couldn’t help it… 

She stared at his expression in the steamy bathroom with a goofy grin, knowing full well what his answer was. But she wanted to hear it from him. Asra felt kind of embarrassed about it for some reason. 

“Yes…” he mumbled, turning towards the grand bathroom door. His love only hummed in response, following along with him to the guest bedroom. The luxurious slippers they had on their feet patted along the marble floors. The chilly air in the rest of the mansion hit them, instantly making a shiver run through their spines.


As soon as we reached the bedroom, Asra opened the curtains to let in some warm sunlight. He glanced at the bed and noticed two elegant robes neatly folded side by side. “Looks like our old clothes are going to get laundered. These aren’t exactly the outfits I imagined, but they’ll work,” he said, casually taking off his towel to reveal his dewy smooth skin underneath. 

He grabbed the silky material and put it on. Its translucency was the most intimate thing about the robes that we were offered. He looked amazing in it, as expected. I changed as well. I was starting to get used to being naked around Asra. There were times when we changed in the same room together with no problem at all. But, we weren’t completely nude during those times… 

Asra gave a glance my way, his eyes drifting across my body. He continued, “Well, if I look as tempting as you do in yours, they’ll definitely help.” 

“Help with what?” I asked. His hand lifted and caressed through my locks, drying them in only a few seconds. The way his cooling magic felt on my scalp was exhilarating. He did the same to himself, except he was more focused on our surroundings. Asra’s magic poked around the room. His newly dried hair gained its fluffiness back, causing his bangs to brush against his brow while his sight shifted all across the room. Until it finally returned to me.

He leaned close to my ear, whispering. “I thought we would feel more of a presence here, but no one is watching us right now. Out of a guy like him, it’s suspicious. It’s almost like he’s… hiding…” he said, leaning back a bit. “But Nadia will need to see for herself what we’re dealing with. I planned to lure him out. And she's been generous enough to make the arrangements. That’ll be the hook, but we’ll still need to bait him.” 

He gave me a playful smile. “Leave that to me.” 

I wondered what he was going to do to draw Lucio out from the shadows. Asra must’ve known him well… 

“Anyway… Are your legs okay?” he asked, a blush tinting his golden cheeks. He gestured to the bed for me to sit before I could give him an answer. “I know you told me before, but… I was worried that I may have been too… much.” 

“No, you weren’t. I liked it a lot,” I mumbled. I abashedly looked away from his adoring amethyst eyes. 

“You like it when I’m a little rough?” he asked, his lips curling into a devilishly seductive smile.

“W-well, sure. I think you do it very well…” 

Suddenly, we heard a brisk knock at the door. Without even a millisecond to spare, the door opened. It was Portia, peering between the two of us with interest. 

“Hey there, you two. Nadia said the room’s ready with your specifications. I have no clue what you have planned with all that food, but don’t waste it! Especially the Golden Goose.” 

“We won’t,” Asra responded. 

“That’s all I ask. Here, I’ll show you to the master bedroom.”

I wondered what that old wing had in store. 

Chapter Text

We walked down the long and elegant hallway to the ominous stairs that took us to the haunted wing. Nadia slowly paced back and forth just in front of them, her heels creating a low clacking sound. She looked deep in thought. She lifted her crimson eyes to the three of us and smiled. 

“Are the robes okay? I know you requested comfortable clothes,” she said, looking at the clothes with a satisfied expression. 

Asra was first to answer, “Very comfortable, Nadia.” His eyes shifted around the hallway. “I don’t feel his presence down here. As far as I can tell, no one is listening.”

Nadia hummed before asking, “Then I have many questions. What exactly are we going to do up there?” Her eyes flashed a hint of interest and curiosity. 

“We’re going to make him come out,” Asra responded. 

“Well, that is what you said. But, I guess I mean, how do you plan on doing that? And why?” 

“You’ll see how we lure him out. And the reason why is to see what we can learn. The creature from your dreams isn’t just Lucio. I’m not sure what it is yet. It’s not a ghost, but it has his personality…” he explained, “If we can tease his ego, he’ll come out. And if that’s not enough… That dream of yours gave me an idea. Whatever form he’s in, he feels hunger.” 

Of course…  

We all exchanged looks and nodded to each other to go along. As soon as we took the first step, we heard an unsettling moan echo down the staircase. It was so strong that it shook the chandeliers above our heads. I felt a shiver run down my spine and goosebumps spread across my skin. I could tell that Asra felt the same way, but he slowly took another step. 

Nadia’s eyes were wide and her lips were parted in disbelief. “...You both heard that.”

Asra and I nodded, reassuring her that it was just her that was spooked. Nadia narrowed her eyes into the darkness of the hallway, her face returning to its stoic expression. The hall was stagnant, cold, and dry. The walls were lined with pictures, photos, and artworks that must’ve cost thousands. But there was a main theme for all of them. Gold, red, white, and black. A main focal point to every one of them too.

Lucio. It was kind of hard to tell at first glance, since all of them were slashed with what looked like claws. “When did this all happen?” Asra asked. His eyes were just as wide as mine, dumbfounded at the damage that had been done. I didn’t stay in this wing for long when I first came to the mansion. I was so startled by the voice of him that I didn’t even notice the destroyed decorations. 

“I don’t know. Sometime after I woke from my sleep. Though I had a dream… The goat was shrieking at them. It went on for days,” Nadia answered, exhaustion in her voice.

“You’ve been having nightmares since you woke up?” 

“Yes.” 

We arrived at the large doors of Lucio’s bedroom. There was a red glow under the door, unsettling us even further. 

Asra continued, “He must’ve been pretty weak, then.” 

“When?” 

“It took him days to chew a bunch of holes in his paintings? A normal goat could do much worse. His tantrums when he was alive were way worse,” Asra said, a small smirk on his face. There was a low, aggravated sound coming from the room we stood in front of. As if someone was sucking air in through their teeth for tolerance. 

The red color from underneath the door grew brighter and stronger, but then faded just as quickly as it came. Asra and Nadia exchanged looks, nodding once again to each other to move on. She reached out and opened the creaking door. 

It was strangely warmer in the room than it was out in the hall. The air was thicker as well. The red glow was a grand chandelier above us. It was quiet. But there was no mistaking that something was in there with us. A presence that was closely watching us. 

Asra began to arrange the magical supplies around the room while I stuck by Nadia’s side. She made her way over to a magnificent painting that was adjacent to the bed. It was a large picture with a golden frame. It wouldn’t have shocked me if it was real gold. The picture was much bigger than the ones we saw before. And by the looks of it, it was more important as well. 

He looked glorious in the picture, striking a powerful stance. His prosthetic golden arm was hard to miss, a piece of spectacular art in itself. Lucio wore expensive clothes in the photo with all of his main colors. 

“That’s strange. I thought that I might’ve recognized him if I saw his whole face,” Nadia said, her voice low and distant. 

“Recognize him?” I asked. I glanced at the CEO, my brows knitted with confusion. From what I heard from Asra, she had spent six years married to Lucio. So how did she not know his face? 

“Yes. There is… a little I recognize here, since I woke up.” 

So she must’ve forgotten…  

Asra set down the last candle in the room, easily flickering it to life with only a snap to his fingers. “If you don’t recognize that face, I don’t remember him like that either.” 

He took a seat on the spacious bed and crossed his legs. Across a partition of the bed in front of him, were the most delicious foods the mansion could offer. Each a special delicacy from the kitchen. There were slabs of meat with fragrant herbs, grilled vegetables that were seasoned to perfection, and rich chocolate dipping for the fruit that was laid out most beautifully. Everything gleamed in the red light, tempting all of our appetites. 

“Let’s try and connect with the residual positive energy here. Believe it or not, we weren’t always miserable,” Asra said, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. 

“We?” Nadia asked. 

The magician’s eyes opened, a melancholy glint coming and going. “You, me, Lucio, and the doctor. Do you have any memory of that?” 

She furrowed her tyrian brows and slowly shook her head. “...None whatsoever. And yet… I can imagine it very clearly.”

“Well, when Lucio used to lay in here all day like this, he often demanded our company. But I could never pity him too much. Look at this bed. It’s enormous… and so plush,” he described, running his hand over the luxurious fabric of the pillows. He made a show of spreading his lean limbs, stretching them with a low groan. He looked tempting to me… As soon as I made my way next to him, I could feel a small breeze across the nape of my neck. Like, claws trying to snatch me away. Nadia followed. 

“You’ll be in the middle. You’ll be in the place of Lucio for now. All you have to do is play games and spit out the food you don’t like,” Asra said, propping his head up with a sly smile. 

I settled myself between Asra and Nadia, realizing that the temperature of the room was rising. It could’ve just been me… 

“I do love games. I can’t recall any that Lucio may have preferred,” Nadia said, going along with the plan. 

Asra hummed. I couldn’t tell he was having fun with this. “Well, let’s see… He did love to play truth or dare.” He gave me a pointed look, silently asking for my permission. 

If it’ll help, then I don’t mind… I nodded my head, despite Asra’s teasing grin making me reluctant. Nadia smiled and resituated herself on the bed. “So, who goes first?” she asked, her eyes peering between me and Asra. I swore I could’ve seen a hint of mischief in them. 

Asra asked, “How about you, Nadia?” 

She nodded and her eyes shifted from Asra, then to me. “Hmm… Truth or dare?”

“Dare…” I was feeling a little risky. 

Right after I answered she instantly said, “I dare you to feed Asra these grapes. Sensuously.” It was like she knew what I was going to choose. Or, she was just prepared. She slid over a silver tray of fruit across the red silky blanket. The grapes were plump, and a deep purple. I could feel the familiar burn of red across my face at the dare, but I prevailed. 

Asra looked amused and satisfied with the dare. “Mmm, lucky me,” he mumbled. I plucked a few grapes and swung my leg over him. I gently pushed him onto his back and straddled him. His eyes widened for only a moment, but returned to a half-lidded gaze. His eyes drifted from my lips and down towards my body. I rested a hand on his chest, his hot skin making my heart pound through my chest. I leaned down a little and fed him with my other hand. 

His tongue slipped out to take the plump fruit into his mouth, his blown out eyes looking into mine the whole time. I took the second and repeated the process, except it left him licking my fingertip. His tongue made me think of the time back in Nopal. I couldn’t help it… The last grape he swallowed with a groan. “So delicious,” he said, his hands rubbing my thighs slowly and lovingly. It took all my might not to move my hips.

“Do you want more?” I asked. 

“Please.” 

“Oh, come now. He can’t be satiated so easily,” Nadia said, offering me a dish to try. I climbed off of Asra and tasted the delectable chocolates. Soon, we all were lavishing the dishes, enjoying every bite. 

“Mmm… You should try this mousse, love,” Asra said, holding out his fingerful of whipped sweetness. My heart warmed at the term of endearment. I took his finger into my mouth, relishing the richness. 

“Wow…” he whispered, his face going red. “Was it good?”

“It’s indescribable.” 

“YOU COULD AT LEAST DESCRIBE IT.”

Well, then…  

I knew that I couldn’t have been the only one to hear the agitated whisper of someone losing their temper. I looked to Asra, but he didn’t seem to mind at all. His plan was working… 

Nadia spoke after she finished a dish of strawberries. She turned to me and said, “I believe it’s your turn.” 

I hummed, my eyes falling back over to the magician. 

He looked at me with great intensity. I squinted my eyes at him, wondering if he was gonna shoot some flirty answer when I asked the question. “Asra… truth or dare?” 

His voice was smooth like butter when he replied, “Whichever you want.” He seemed serious though, that I should’ve chosen for him. 

“Truth,” I said. As tempting as it was to dare him to do something, I wanted to know one thing that I never got to ask before. “Who was Lucio to you?” 

Asra repeated the question himself, his eyes widening a bit. Until I saw something deeper in those amethyst irises. Something like sorrow and pity. But then his calm features changed to a look of pure contempt. His eyes held a piercing glare at the picture on the wall of Lucio. 

He finally spoke, his voice low and cold. “He’s the one person I can never forgive. That’s why I’ll never be able to forget him…” His expression was replaced with something completely different when he looked back at me. “And… I won’t forget his favorite game of all. Tarot, with whatever rules he wanted,” he said, pulling out his deck from the pocket of the silky robe. 

He shuffled them fluidly and set the deck down for me. 

“Past, present, future… Why don’t we each turn over one?” 

I took a deep breath and laid three cards down onto the bedspread. 

“Nadia, would you like to choose first?” he asked, an encouraging smile on his face. 

“Ah, let’s see.” She leaned over my shoulder and pondered which she should pick. “I pick this one… High Priestess, Reversed. She was my favorite… but Reversed…” she trailed off. 

“As long as I’ve known you, you’ve had an incredible sense of intuition. But you kept that part of yourself secret. I don’t know why…” Asra said. 

“As a magician, you understand that such things aren’t necessarily a gift. I feel like this card understands. It speaks to me.” The CEO’s eyes grew distant, the area in between her brows began to glow a white light. But it looked as if it was causing her pain. She lifted her hand to cover the area, groaning and lowering herself onto the pillows. “Ooh, of course, it has to happen now. This headache…”

“You have them often?” the magician asked, pouring her a glass of cool water. Nadia nodded in response as she took the glass. She thanked him and waved to us to continue. It was Asra’s turn next. 

“Hmm… This one. The Devil…” he mumbled, listening to the card he had flipped. “A trap that I let myself fall into… A bond that I refused to escape. That’s ominous… This was Lucio’s favorite. What could it mean?” His brows knitted together as he pondered. 

“That card… Was that the goat you saw?” Nadia asked. 

I took a glance at the card. I shook my head and answered, “No, it was smaller and less attractive.” 

“Yes, exactly. Your turn…” the magician said. 

I flipped the last card over, wondering what the future could be. “Death. Reversed…” I whispered, listening as hard as I could for a soft hiss. The sound of a light whisper. 

“You are the same. Nothing has changed. You have forgotten everything you learned. But the power to transform yourself grows inside of you.” 

Nadia repeated Death’s words to herself, looking to Asra. “Death is transformation. It would have been Lucio’s favorite, if he understood it. Instead, he spent his whole life, running, hiding…” He looked at the picture on the wall. “In the picture, he asked to have Death under his heel. Do you want to know why? Because even after all the death he caused, he still was afraid to face it.”

This got on Lucio’s last nerve. 

“YOU TAKE THAT BACK!” 

His voice was more prominent. He didn’t care anymore. There was a huge gust of scorching wind in the room. An entity, or Lucio, thrust Asra across the room and pinned him against the picture. Nadia and I instantly stood to our feet, shocked. 

“I’m not afraid to face anything!! Take it back!” he shouted, anger was heavy in his voice. The fact that it sounded like a horrible screech would’ve scared anyone. 

But, Asra didn’t look afraid in the slightest. If anything, he wanted to provoke Lucio further. “Is that a dare? Because it’s certainly not the truth.” 

Another screech echoed and bounced off of the walls of the grand bedroom. Next, the lights went out. Lucio growled Asra’s name, long and drawn out in frustration. “You have always been impossible!! Impossible to hate… and impossible to love.” 

The whole room was instantly illuminated by one focal point of light. Asra. His robe was thrown open, revealing a glowing seal on his chest, right over his heart. I had never seen it on him before, despite it looking like his own spellwork. He never taught me anything like it either… 

I heard a scoff from the goat. “For someone with this, you’re high and mighty about following the rules. And look where it got you, your sweet little love is here by your side.” 

Asra huffed, unafraid of Lucio and his words and actions. “And look where it got you. Stuck between worlds.” 

“You honestly think I’m trapped? You think you’re the only one who can pass between?” 

Another ear-splitting roar could be heard, and the lights finally flickered back to life. And there he was. The goat. The thing that Lucio became. “Just because I don’t choose to show myself, doesn’t mean that I can’t! I can show myself whenever I want!! And you’ll pay for making me do it while I’m still incomplete.” The creature's large claw clamped around Asra’s throat, making my heart stop. I took one step and instantly Asra’s eyes snapped to me, telling me not to move. To stay away. 

But, dammit, it was so difficult not to move and help. All I could use was my voice. “You’re stronger than him, Asra!” 

Lucio’s crimson eyes drifted to me, his claw remaining. “You think this brat is stronger than me?! I’ve got him wriggling like a worm! Pinned like a bug!” he shouted. He turned back to Asra. “You could have this too, you know. You just have to accept him. You’ll all see what I’ve learned and gained. Until then… Don’t even think about forgetting me.” 

That was all he said, before his figure phased into the air, disappearing into nothing. Asra took a huge intake of air, his hands coming up to his neck. The room returned to a normal temperature, the heat slowly dissipating in the room. 

“Please tell me you saw that, Nadia.”  

Nadia looked completely speechless, but she slowly nodded her head despite the shock. “I saw everything.”

Chapter Text

After the incident that took place, we all moved to a sitting room in the mansion. The whole walk was silent, which was understandable. None of us ever encountered something like that before so it needed time to sink in. Especially for Nadia. 

She sat down onto the lavish couch, immediately bringing her hand up to gently massage her temples. The butler walked in, serving tea for all of us before quickly proceeding out of the room. Asra sat down on a lounge chair, an aching red mark across his throat. I walked up to him, lifting my hand to rest where the tender skin was. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. Before I could even begin though, Asra’s hand grasped mine. When I opened my eyes, I could see the worry in his gaze. 

“It’s fine, Asra…” 

I wondered how he could’ve been worried about me when he was just attacked by a powerful entity. And not just any entity. It was Lucio. The single person he said he could never forgive. Even when I wanted to help, Asra wouldn’t allow it. I felt like my heart was overflowing with love for the magician. I kissed him on the forehead before I returned my focus to his mark.

I thought of how much I wanted to heal him. How much I wanted that soon-to-be bruise to go away. How much I loved and adored this person that sat right in front of me. And how much I wanted to cherish him. My fingertips glowed with a white light and ran across his sensitive skin. Asra let out a much needed exhale while I continued. 

I felt slightly light-headed, but that was normal for anyone who was healing someone. It’s basically like giving a large portion of your energy away, which can be restored with a little bit of food and rest. 

After I finished, Asra kissed my wrist. “Thank you,” he whispered, nuzzling into my hand. He gestured for me to sit down in the lounge chair next to his. The golden sun poured through the decorative curtains, naturally warming the room. It was comforting, unlike Lucio’s raging winds that we just experienced. We all took a moment to gather ourselves. Nadia looked deep in thought… 

“So… they’re real after all. My nightmares… Lucio is back. And he gained some kind of power,” she said, sighing at the end. She lifted the mug of tea to her lips, taking a long sip. 

Asra’s expression looked just as conflicted as the CEO’s. “He said we would see everything he had gained soon. It’ll probably be at the Masquerade,” he said. “Or, he’s just lying. He doesn’t seem to be able to change his appearance… At least not yet. But he knows how to hide. I don’t think he’ll come out again until his transformation is complete.” 

Transformation… Despite the gleaming sun's warmth, we all felt a sudden shiver run through our spines. All of these events… seemed so unreal. Nadia set down her mug of tea and sighed once more. “It will be difficult to navigate this situation. We will need to avoid panic, for the Masquerade.”

The magician nodded. “Yes. And we don’t know who we can trust…” 

“Right… Some might call me naive for even trusting you,” she said, her eyes flicking to Asra and then to me. 

Suddenly the door of the sitting-room opened. It was thankfully Portia. We all shifted a little in our seats. Nadia cleared her throat and spoke, the fatigue in her voice was gone. “For the time being, I extend both of you my invitation to stay as guests. You are welcome to leave… But if something needs my attention, don’t hesitate to find me.” 

Another person entered the room. The butler from before. “Magician, Asra, your room is ready. If you’d like, I’ll guide you.” 

Said person’s eyes slightly widened. “I’m not staying with her?” he asked, glancing at me. 

Nadia gave us a knowing smile, but reassured the magician. “You are in the room right next to hers. She won’t be far.” She continued, “You both have a set of clothes in your room you can wear as well. I thought that I could provide you both something more festive to wear.”

“I’m sure you picked well. You always put together my best looks,” Asra said. But not even a second later, he corrected himself, “ The best looks.” 

“Is that so…” Nadia gave us a mysterious smile before she left with Portia.


The butler showed us to our rooms, both Asra and I parted ways. It was darker outside by the time we were dressed in our beautiful outfits. I wondered what we were going to be doing. 

I exited my room and instantly spotted Portia. She looked a little… uncertain. I could feel it as well. She was nervously biting her lip, deep in thought. Her blue eyes lifted to meet mine, and she immediately smiled. It was kind of forced though. 

“Hey there. I just wanted to ask… Um, how was the blessing? All blessed up in there?” she asked. Even her voice sounded different. She continued before I could answer. “You know, I never heard of soothing a ghost by bringing them all their favorite things.” 

I felt slightly frustrated that I couldn’t tell Portia, a genuinely kind person that I trusted, about anything that happened. I didn’t want to tell her without asking Nadia and Asra… I wished that I could just say something. 

I only nodded my head, dejected that I couldn’t speak so openly with her. But… it was like she accepted it. “Okay, okay. I won’t ask. Magicians are so mysterious. And, wow! Nadia’s tailors outdid themselves on this one. You look rrrravishing,” she said, giving me a satisfied nod. 

I was wearing a gown that flowed so fluidly whenever I turned. The fabric was so fine and perfectly layered with rich colors. It was a modern style, but it still stuck with the traditional Vesuvian embroidery. The gown reminded me of something, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it reminded me of the clothing that I wore from before. 

“Nadia is in the ballroom with some important guests…” Portia said, guiding me towards the said room. I felt a small pang of worry in the back of my mind. I wondered who they were… 

“Do you dance?” Portia asked. She was so good at easing my thoughts with something lighthearted. 

I repeated the question, reminiscing about the time in Nopal when we danced our hearts out. He said that I was a natural then, and even in my past. All I knew was that I wasn’t terrible at it. 

When I entered the ballroom, I was wholly conscious of the way I walked, and my posture. I saw three finely dressed people, surrounding Nadia. They were beautiful. One of them already noticed me without even turning around. Her eyes reminded me of a hawk’s eyes. Her amber irises caught me off guard for a moment with how sharp their gaze was. 

She asked, “Is this Asra?” 

Nadia’s lips curled and she shook her head. “This is his special someone…” My face flushed at her words, my heart already racing. 

“Her energy is so developed,” she said. 

Another woman piped up. “And so beautiful! What a gorgeous aura…” she said, her eyes shining in the appealing lighting. The woman’s smile was like a ray of sun. 

A green-haired woman standing next to Nadia also spoke. Her hair was long, flowy, and looked so silky. She had a kind and warm smile. “We’ve heard a lot of good things about you. I am Nasmira, Nadia’s older sister. And this is Nahara and Navra.” Her voice had such a sweet lilt to it. “Will your spouse be joining us?” 

Spouse… My cheeks felt like they were aflame. Nadia quickly chimed in, “Ah, Nasmira, they aren’t married yet.” 

Yet…! 

“Oh, I’m sorry. From the way Nadia told us about you both, I just assumed. So he must be your fiance.” 

“W-well-”

“Oh, that’s him, isn’t it?” Navra asked, her eyes filled with excitement. I whirled around to spot a figure emerging from the grand staircase in the magnificent room. Asra. 

The sight of him in his dazzling outfit took my breath away. He looked radiant always, but the outfit just brought out more of it in all the right ways. As soon as he felt everyone’s stares I could tell he was a little shy. His ears were flushed a rosy red as he made his way over. Once his gaze landed on me, his lips formed the most beautiful smile. 

“Wow…” he whispered, his eyes taking all of me in. “I didn’t even recognize you at first.” We both looked like completely different people. 

Looking at all of the different colors and patterns of his outfit made my heart sing. But the plunging neckline was tempting me the most. 

“I like this,” I said. He gave me a bashful laugh and thanked me in response. 

“You look beautiful,” he said. 

You look beautiful.” 

“I feel a little weird. The staff treated me differently… Like royalty. I feel like I should treat you the same,” he said, taking my hands in his. 

Nadia gave us a warm smile and cleared her throat. We both shyly focused our attention on the group. “So, preparations for the Masquerade are reaching the final stages. All there is left is this room. Soon, it’ll be decorated.”

Nahara turned to me. “Have you been dancing? Honing your moves?” 

I answered honestly. “Not enough.” I gave Asra a pointed glance, which he returned with a flustered smile. 

Navra clicked her tongue and said, “Dance is spontaneous, dance is the body taking control back from the mind! Both of you, if you would like to demonstrate… and we’ll deal with the music.” She gave us a wink before turning and making her way over to a section of lounge chairs with her sisters. 

Nadia grabbed a remote that rested on an elegant end table. Asra and I made our way to the middle of the room, hand in hand. “We’ve been so wrapped up with things, that I neglected the most important thing of all…” the magician said, his voice low and sultry. “Spending time with you. This our first Masquerade together for you, right? It’s going to be a memorable one.” 

We both heard the beep of the remote in Nadia’s hand, the music starting to swell and echo in the room. Asra took my hands and guided them to his hips. “Don’t worry about fancy footwork. Do what feels natural, and I’ll follow.” 

And he was right. I took one step forward and he took one back. Soon, I was spinning, my dress flowing freely like it was made for this dance. He caught me by the hand, his amethyst eyes aflame with love. I had never seen him look at me like that before. It sent my heart racing just looking at him. 

“What is it?” he asked, easily flowing with my feet and the music. Our hands connected and he looked down at our dancing feet, fluidly following along. “In all the time we’ve spent together… I don’t think you’ve looked at me this way,” I answered.

He hummed and gave me a seductive smile. “You mean I’ve never been caught.” 

Oh, my goodness…  

He spun me once more and I crossed under his arms, pressing my back into his chest. “How long?” 

“Who knows? By the time I noticed, I was in too deep…” he said, twisting me out of his embrace, our hands still interlocked. He looked deep into my eyes with a familiar intensity. “How long do you think we’ve known each other?” he asked.

I didn't have anything to go off of, so I purely guessed. 

“Five years?”  

He shook his head, his lips still curled into a teasing grin. “Longer.” 

Longer…?  

He pulled me back into his arms, catching my leg over his hip. We were completely flushed together, and for a moment I was distracted. But even so, I couldn’t ever remember past the three years we’d been together. 

Asra released our closeness and dipped me so I could look up into his face. I was going to guess anyway, so why not assume longer than six years? 

“Eight years?” I asked. 

“Even longer.” 

He lifted me and spun me once again, all the way down his arms and back into his hold. I thought of how much we connected when we were together. With how effortless it was to guess the movement of the other, I believed that we were together for the longest time. And I felt that we both were in love. 

The hammering pulse that I had, and the look on his face made me feel like I knew the answer. 

Yes…  

The tempo changed. When we cast our glances towards Nadia and her sisters, they were all sitting there with a look of admiration. We both felt flustered at their audience, Asra pulling me close to him again so he could hide his face in my shoulder. We slowly moved together, holding each other. 

“I haven’t felt carefree like this is forever. Everything is perfect. I never want to let you out of my arms again,” he said. My heart was racing at his words, thrumming with the music. His hands slid down my arms and to my hips. Instinctively I snaked my arms over Asra’s shoulders. 

“If you told me a month ago that we would be dancing here, the mansion ballroom, surrounded by the most successful people. Together. With you looking at me the way you are now… I would never in my wildest dreams have believed you…” I rested my chin in the crook of his shoulder, the scent from when we were in the shower together still prominent. 

“Is this your wildest dream?” I whispered. Asra took an intake of breath at the closeness. 

“Oh, love… You have no idea how wild my dreams can be. But to be with you here, right now, with everything there is ahead of us. It is pretty wild,” he said. My fingers weaved into his soft locks. We were brow to brow, so close… 

“And is this how we were… before?” I asked. 

“What do you mean?”

“Were we… together?” 

“Define together."

“How would you define it?” 

He hummed to himself. “Well… were we inseparable? Did we spend every moment together? No. After we first met, I didn’t see you as much… And whenever I did, and eventually said goodbye, I knew that we wouldn’t talk or see each other for a while. And I felt… like I was making a huge mistake every time,” he explained. His eyes kept searching mine, like I was the biggest mystery he had ever come across. 

“You felt that way about me?” 

“Not at first. The first time we met, I honestly thought that I’d never see you again. But, then I did at school. Then the year after that… and the year after that. I… found myself thinking about you a lot. I was always wondering what you were doing, wherever you were. I kept visiting you after a while, using the excuse of wanting to learn more about magic. Or wanting to play outside or play games… But, I just wanted to see you. And then, eventually..." he trailed off, his face going red.

I grinned and didn't push it. Instead, I asked, “I knew about magic?”  

“Of course. I’ll never know how much you knew, but… you didn’t have a familiar.” 

“I didn’t?” 

“Not that I knew of. I tried to guess which animals might suit you, but no luck. Don’t worry. We’ll find one for you. It’ll happen when it happens. I promise.” 

I huffed a laugh. “Easy for you to say, you already found the one for you.” 

“I sure have. You were actually there… When Faust first hatched.” 

Wow…  

Then I felt somewhat... dejected. I wished that I could've remembered something as precious as that. But I didn't... 

"I'm sorry that I... I can't remember that..." 

We slowed our movements, just slightly. Asra lifted his eyes to mine, a look of sadness flashing across his features. 

"You don't have to be sorry for that, love... It's not your fault, okay?" 

I nodded my head, wondering why he had such a downcast expression. I felt a pang in my heart. He felt something, but I couldn't understand it fully... But it was gone as quickly as it came, replaced with a warm smile. 

The music slowed and eventually stopped. We barely even noticed though. Our hands weaved together as we made our way back over the group.

“Wow! What passion! What a dance! Ahh, where are we? I must be returning from a secret world between the two of you,” Navra voiced, passionately. 

“Indeed. You both move so seamlessly together,” Nadia said.

Asra and I were thoroughly embarrassed. 

Nasmira’s green brows knitted with concern. “You both look a little red. Should we go out onto the veranda?” she asked. 

Navra clapped her hands with vigor. “Yes, yes! The moon is shining, and the night is still young.”


Nasmira gave out a happy sigh as soon as we reached the fresh evening air. “Oh, what a nice night! Your garden is also blooming beautifully, Didi.”

“Yes, this will be one of the few safe havens from the party…” Nadia mumbled. 

Nahara said, “It was a surprise for you to invite us. You never liked parties.”

“Oh, the Masquerade is something completely different… The people here live for it.” 

Navra made a thoughtful humming sound before she turned to me and asked, “Really? Do you live for it?”

Live for it…?  

I had never been to the Masquerade before, at least not that I remembered. Of course, I began to feel frustrated again. Do I tell them about my memories, or no…?

But Asra answered smoothly. “The Masquerade was where we both met,” he said. 

It was…?

I swiveled my head towards the Magician, trying to conceal the look of surprise on my face. He gave me a reassuring smile, but also a guilty one. 

“When I was younger, I was doing magic tricks for some change. And selling masks that I made with my friend Muriel. But on that specific day, he stayed home while I set up my stand behind a particular magic shop to do fortunes. It was your Aunts shop at the time… We had only just met when the streets began to fill with people, cheering. You were crowded into my booth, and we only caught a glimpse of the special visitor… Nadia Satrinava. That was the day you arrived… nine years ago.”

Nine years… That was how long we’ve known each other… 

I couldn’t help but give Asra an incredulous expression. I never knew that… 

“Nine… Has it been that long? And how much has changed since then?” Nadia asked, her voice a low whisper. 

Nasmira looked a bit worried, wringing her delicate hands together. “You seem somewhat changed yourself, Didi.” 

Navra also looked different, despite how bubbly her personality usually was. “Yes, we’ve been wanting to ask you something, but we don’t have to talk about it here if you want…” 

The CEO shook her head and assured her, “Whatever you have to say, you can say it in front of them as well.” 

Nahara was first, her expression serious. “Fine. We’ve heard about your plans to arrest this doctor.”

“We understand the justification, of course, but… he will be executed? And why not have the police look into the problem?” Nasmira questioned.

“Yes, he will be executed for the crime he committed. And the police of Vesuvia… unfortunately aren’t the best. They’ve lost him countless times,” Nadia explained. 

“Even the people here want him executed?” Nahara asked. 

“Yes… I’m actually shocked at their want for revenge. At least… that’s what my board said. But Portia said something completely different…” 

Her green-haired sister asked what I wanted to ask for a while. “And you trust them? Your board?” 

It was as if Nadia never asked herself that before. She instantly looked as if she was questioning herself on the spot. But, speaking of the devil, two members of the board arrived. They scuttled into the room, looking suspicious as always. 

Volta decided to speak first. “Nadia! Wonderful news!” 

Vulgora’s chapped lips curled into the most devious smile and continued, “We have informed the mayor, and succeeded the extermination.” 

“The extermination?” Nasmira asked, clearly still worried. 

But Nadia reassured her sister, “Nothing you need to worry about. Thank you, both. Did anyone get a live specimen during the extermination?” 

Volta gave a small burp and anxiously shook her head. “Uhm, no, there was unfortunately nothing left to munch off of, Nadia.” 

… 

Okay, they are truly suspicious…  

Nadia continued anyway, “...I see. Well, that is wonderful news then. Maybe everything is starting to fall into place.” 

Nahara suddenly asked, “Is that Chandra?” Her stoic eyes watched as the opalescent owl swooped down, but refused the perch. She let out an alarmed shriek and took flight once more towards the center of the garden. The fountain… 

“What did she say?” Asra asked. 

“There seems to be… someone by the fountain.” 

I wondered how an intruder could even enter the grounds, aside from the servant’s door that Asra and I used. I thought there was security everywhere, including cameras. How did this person slip by…?  

Nadia only hesitated for a second before waving to a security guard standing by the stairs of the balcony. He then signaled the rest nearby to follow us into the garden. Overhead, I could hear a distant shrieking of a raven circling where the intruder supposedly was. I felt like I had seen it somewhere before… 

Asra was silent the whole way, his amethyst eyes were focused on something that I couldn’t see… 

There was a lanky figure leaning over the edge of the water of the fountain. Water dripped and ran down his sharp features. He made no move to run though, instead, he turned and I instantly recognized him. The auburn curls and the eyepatch. It was none other than Doctor Julian Devorak. 

“Oh, please forgive me. I thought I might try and freshen up before I asked for an audience,” he said. His voice was sure, and almost… theatrical. 

“Doctor Devorak! I was… not expecting you,” Nadia mumbled, just as surprised as everyone else. 

“Then you won’t be expecting THIS! ” he exclaimed, turning towards Asra. “I have come to accept my punishment. What can I say, the guilt was eating me alive. But that’s not all. I come to lay bare the secret I have only just revealed for myself… I was not acting alone.” 

He pointed an accusatory gloved finger towards the white-haired magician. “Asra! You manipulator, you secret keeper, you wheeler and dealer, you were my partner in crime! Deny it, I dare you.” 

All eyes slid over to the said person. Asra looked completely rendered speechless at the dramatic accusation. 

What… is going on here…?

Chapter Text

The security guards immediately went into action. First, it was Julian. While he was being cuffed, he kept giving Asra an accusingly with a dastardly looking smile. “You can’t slip away from me now, magician!” he exclaimed, while being ushered to the front of the mansion. 

“Ilya, what are you talking about?” Asra asked, his face showing clear confusion. 

The guards began to cuff Asra, and my heart felt like it was sinking. “Wait!” I said, my hands tightly gripping Asra’s silky clothes.  

“It’s fine, love,” he said, giving me a reassuring smile. “They’re just going to take me to the police station. You can still meet me there.”

“But, you didn’t do anything…” 

I gave a desperate glance towards Nadia, but her expression showed that it was too late anyway. Right… I had forgotten that these guards were assigned to arrest Julian at all costs if they saw him by chance. And that most likely included anyone who was claimed an accomplice… 

“I was still accused… Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out. Together, okay?” 

I didn’t reply. No, more like I couldn’t. It hurt to see him being taken away. 

When I didn’t respond he continued, “So you’re the worrywart now.” 

I couldn’t help but smile from his words. He was trying his best to cheer me up in the situation, despite him being the one in handcuffs. My eyes lifted, and my lips crashed into his. I knew that we would see each other again… but I still wanted to give a proper goodbye. 

When we parted, the security guards guided him away towards the front of the mansion with Julian. I could feel a comforting hand rest on my shoulder. Nadia’s. 

“What will they do?” I asked, my voice barely above a whisper. 

She took a moment to reply, as if this wasn’t what she wanted either. And it was difficult for her too… “Well… After they’re taken to the station, they’ll get searched, and they will give samples. Then interviewed, and then the police will decide if they will be charged or not,” she explained. 

“But… Didn’t you say that this city wants Julian executed? And if they know Asra is an accomplice…” 

They might want him executed too…  

I couldn’t even say that. It made me sick to even think that would happen. My heart felt like it had been broken in two at just the thought that people would want him… dead. 

Impossible. 

Asra was that weird, cool magician that ran the shop. Almost everyone knew him in Center City. He was always so kind to everyone. But would that help his case at all? Would that convince the police at all? Most likely not. 

Nadia’s voice snapped me out of my terrible thoughts. “Don’t worry. I don’t want your special someone to be arrested for something he didn’t do. We’ll get through this.”


Asra sat in the cell of the police station, an officer just right outside. Next to him was Ilya. The one who got him into this mess. His night with his love was ruined. He could tell just from her face that she was so worried. He didn’t want to see her like that… 

“So, uh, Asra… How have you been lately?” the doctor asked. Asra could see him through the cold blue bars of the cell. 

How… have I been…?

“Well, the shop’s been good. I was just helping Nadia out with the up and coming Masquerade. So life has been pretty crazy, but otherwise, fine.” 

“Oh, really?”

No. Did you think that I would say something so nonchalant? You got me stuck in this cell for a crime that I didn’t even commit.” 

“We’re going to be on trial for Lucio’s murder. And I know you know something about it. Something I don’t.”

Asra heaved a sigh. “I do? How long have you been rehearsing that line?” he asked. 

“I- you- it’s not like I had anything better to do last night!” From what Asra could see, Julian's face was flushed. Until his grey eye widened in realization. “No, no, I won’t let you dance around the issue this time. I know there was something strange about Lucio’s death. Creepy. Probably magic.” 

“Right, and if it was ‘creepy magic,’ it must have been me. Am I following?”

The doctor groaned and ran a gloved hand through his locks. “This sounded better in my head.” He stood and began to pace in the small cell. “You were at the mansion. You hated Lucio. And you cursed me, so-”

“I didn’t curse you, Ilya.” 

… 

“Wait… What? You didn’t curse me?” Julian asked, his lips parted in surprise. 

Asra felt a bubbling sensation of annoyance and frustration. He answered, “No. And I could have told you that without being locked in this cell.” The magician let out another sigh, his brows furrowing. “Is that it? I’m in this place as revenge for a curse that I didn’t even place?” 

“No, that’s not what I- this is impossible. You’ve always been impossible,” Julian said, shaking his head. He was also getting a little heated. 

Impossible… Just like what Lucio said… 

“Try again. You’ve called me worse than that.” 

The officer outside of the cell banged on the door. “Hey! Can’t you both be quiet?” they grunted.

All Asra wanted was to be home with his love. Laying in bed with her, playing with her hair, or her playing with his, it didn’t matter. Eating food, watching their favorite movies together, and maybe a little more… But, no. He knew he was going to be questioned for hours, maybe even days. And Ilya even longer. How was he going to get out of this mess? He knew that he could easily escape, even without his trusty bag. But that wasn't right... He didn't want to be like Ilya. 

The locks to the heavy door clicked. When it opened the officer gestured for Asra to stand. “You got an interview since you were the accused,” they said, taking out their handcuffs. 

“What about him?” Asra asked, turning around so they could cuff him. 

“He’ll go straight to court for the crime he claimed he committed. And then they will decide the sentence.” 

“Execution?” 

The officer didn’t answer. Instead, they lead Asra towards the room where the interview would be held. The magician gave Ilya one last look before turning the corner in the fluorescent-lit hallway.


I walked through the doors of the police station. It was the day after Asra and the doctor were arrested, bright and early. I walked up to the front desk. A woman was typing on the computer while sipping a mug of coffee, barely even noticing that I entered the building. 

When she lifted her tired eyes to me, she took one long drag from her coffee before reluctantly setting it back down. 

“How may I help you, ma’am?” she asked. 

“Um, hello. I was just wondering if people were allowed to visit people who were already arrested. Uh, here.” 

“No, ma’am. We rarely ever let people visit someone who is in the custody of the police and is already detained.”

A confident and stoic sounding voice filled the lobby. Nadia. “ Perhaps, you can make an exception for this girl here,” she voiced, resting both of her warm hands on my shoulders. She towered over me and the desk jockey since she was wearing heels that day. Her piercing red eyes were set on the front desk. 

The lady seemed to instantly recognize Nadia. I could tell just from her bulging eyes and her slacked jaw. After a moment of recollecting herself, she replied, “I-I’m sorry, Ms. Satrinava. But I still can’t allow it. I would if I could, but I might lose my job…” she explained. 

“There’s no need to worry about that. I’ll do my very best to make sure that you’ll be protected. I have permission from Mrs. Flournoy herself. Here, this is the document that can prove it,” Nadia stated, laying a neatly folded piece of paper on the desk. 

Flournoy… Isn’t that the mayor…?

The woman sitting behind the desk seemed to be at a loss for words. She couldn’t deny that she had to let me pass. And neither could her superiors.


I made my way with another officer where the detained were held. I could hear what sounded like distant bickering echoing off the white walls of the hallway. We reached the end where Asra and Julian were, in two separate cells. 

The officer that was guarding the cells looked annoyed at the arguments that were taking place. After the person explained to them what was going on, they moved aside and unlocked the door. 

Asra’s eyes snapped to the door of the cell, and as soon as he saw me, a warm smile spread across his face. 

“You’re alright…” he whispered, standing from the concrete floor. He moved to embrace me but got yanked back from the chains that were connected to the wall. Asra sighed and raised his cuffed hands. “Ever since I told them I knew magic, they gave me enchanted handcuffs. So I can’t escape. Even though I didn’t plan to…” 

He smoothed the creases from his outfit and looked to the cell to his left. “This is the infamous Doctor Julian Devorak. I believe you’ve met him before.” 

I glanced at the doctor and his eye immediately averted away from me. That’s when I realized that I didn’t tell Asra about how we met. Or when we talked at the Rowdy Raven. 

“We’ve met a few times,” I said. 

Asra grinned. “Really? A few times? Aside from when he broke into our shop?” he asked. 

Julian finally piped up. “Uh… Listen, it’s not that interesting-” 

“I found him at the Rowdy Raven. And he even offered to buy me a drink.” 

“I just, you know, thought I’d get to know the person trying to find me and arrest me!” he said, almost as if he was making an excuse for himself. 

Asra’s cunning eyes seemed to cut through the bars of the cells we were in. “...Oh, Ilya. That does sound like something you would do.” 

Julian continued to explain. Or tried. “It was a spur of the moment thing! Rather like, uh, our current situation.” 

The magician’s eyes widened at his words. And I could feel the sudden sense of bafflement in Asra’s questions. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying? You interrupted my evening with her, disrupted my plans, and got me arrested… all of some ridiculous whim?!

The doctor quickly tried to explain once more. “It’s not like that! I’ve been trying to find you ever since I came back to Vesuvia. I needed answers from you! So when I saw you at the mansion… I took a chance. And, uh, well… here we are.” 

Asra was quick to reply, “Ilya, I don’t just vanish into a cloud of smoke! You didn’t need to get me arrested just to talk. I’m not that hard to find!” 

… 

“...Am I?” he asked. It sounded like he was questioning himself more than us. But Julian looked to me for a second opinion, and eventually, Asra did as well. 

I remembered the times that I wanted to contact Asra. I rarely got a reply. He didn’t read my messages either… And sometimes, he just left without a single word about where he was going, and what he was going to be doing. The only indication would be postcards that he’d send or give to me when he miraculously came back. And that’s the thing though. 

He always comes back… 

But… maybe Julian did have a point. 

“You do like to vanish sometimes,” I answered. Asra shuffled his feet in the increasingly uncomfortable silence. 

“If you couldn’t follow me… if you didn’t share my troubles… I thought that I might’ve been able to protect you. But I was wrong. The time for keeping secrets is long past. Just look at Ilya and I,” he said, gesturing to the other cell where the lanky doctor sat. He continued, “I wasn’t avoiding you, Ilya. I’ve been leaving for my own reasons, but also for more information about Lucio too.” 

“And I came back to Vesuvia for the very same thing. Ooh, the irony is delicious. I should write a play about all this,” he said, giving a toothy grin. 

But the air changed when Asra mentioned the goatman. “Ilya… We saw Lucio. Or something that used to be him.” 

Julian gave Asra his full attention. “Are you saying that… Lucio is alive?” he asked, his voice low and discreet. 

“Not exactly alive. But he is coming back. I’m sure of it.” 

I understood the look of disbelief on Julian’s face. It all sounded pretty crazy.

“...What?! Where? How?” he asked. 

“We first saw him in the forest outside Vesuvia. THen at the mansion. And he’s stronger each time he appears. The beetles are back too. We found a whole swarm of them in Nopal,” Asra explained. 

Julian’s face went pale. “You’ve also seen the beetles? Both of you?” 

I nodded. How could I have forgotten about the blood-red swarm in the depths of the dam we were in. 

The doctor shook his head, looking dejected. “I thought the beetles were a figment of my guilty imagination,” he said. 

“As imaginative you are, the beetles are real. And so is Lucio. We were with Nadia, figuring out what to do about all this when…” Asra shook his chained arms in front of Julian. 

“Oh. I, uh, I didn’t know. I thought you might be up to something more… nefarious.” 

“Of course you didn’t know. I didn’t tell you. I wasn’t even sure if you’d believe me about Lucio.” 

“Well, it makes sense. If the beetles are back too,” Julian said. His lips curled into a charming smile. “But even you have to admit, it sounds like a ghost story. Or a scary movie.” 

The tall doctor stood and thrust out his chest in an imperious pose. “Ooooh, I am the murdered CEO! Back to haunt my city that I could never truly control!” he said, dramatically falling to his knees with his hand over his face. 

Asra tried to frown, but he couldn’t help the smile that cracked through. “That’s not nearly as overbearing as Lucio.” 

The mood changed, and they didn’t seem to be as tense with each other as before. But I knew that that didn’t change their predicament. They were still in the police station, and they might’ve been up for trial. 

“We need to focus on what’s next,” I said. 

Asra nodded his head. “You’re right, love. One problem at a time. Well, Ilya? When you’re up for trial are you still going to martyr yourself?” he asked. 

“Well, we still don’t know what’s going to happen with you, Asra. I know for a fact that I’ll be going to trial though. But if you do end up with me, then who will be trying us?” Julian asked. 

“There will be a jury and a judge,” I answered. 

The doctor paused, thinking. Asra only looked over to him and grinned. “You always say that you’re good with people, Ilya. Maybe it’s time you put your theatrical skills to the test.” 

Julian smirked and replied, “Is that a challenge? I believe that’s a challenge.” 

“I wouldn’t dream of challenging you. Warming people up to me isn’t my strong suit.” 

“Oh, I don’t know about that. She came all the way down to the police station and past the officers just for you. Which is a rare circumstance,” the doctor said. 

For the first time in the police station, the magician paused. As if he realized… 

Asra turned to me, holding out his hand. “He’s right. Oh, love. What would I do without you?” he asked, pulling me closer towards him. My arms snaked around his torso, tightly embracing his warmth. He did the same, sighing contentedly. 

Suddenly, I could feel a playful spark coming from Asra’s aura. He smiled into the crook of my neck and then turned to the doctor. “Ilya, she gives the most wonderful hugs,” he said, a glimpse of mischief in his eyes. 

“W-well that’s nice and all, but I can’t really do anything with these bars,” Julian said. 

I decided to play along… 

I glanced towards the cell’s door and saw the two officers facing the wall adjacent to us. 

Perfect…  

I lifted my hand to the blue bars and gripped the cold metal. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I imagined the unsettling and uncomfortable feeling to just… disappear. 

I did this many times before under Asra’s watchful eye. He said that it was a good trick if I ever wanted to get out of a pickle. I knew that he could've done this before when he first arrived to the station. But Asra wasn't the one to just blatantly escape without a well thought out plan.

Soon, my hand seemed to close and clench into a fist with nothing in between. I opened my eyes and saw that I created a perfect hole for me to step through and into the doctor's cell. The edges phased in and out. I didn’t have a lot of time. I took one more glance over at the officers and climbed through, holding my hand out to Julian. I gave him an encouraging smile and tried hard to conceal the laughter that was bubbling up in my chest. His face was priceless… 

He looked as if he was at a loss for words. His one eye was as wide as a saucer, and his brows raised high in shock. After another moment of just getting a hold of what I just did, he finally spoke. 

“W-wait, uh, how did you…?” he trailed off, rubbing his eye at the waves of energy coming off the edge of the hole I created. 

I grabbed his hand and pulled the lanky man through and into Asra’s cell. My arms wrapped around his, pulling him just a bit closer to the both of us. 

“I promise I won’t bite,” Asra whispered, playfully grinning at the flushed doctor. 

“R-really? I, uh, I hope not.” 

Hmmm…  

My hands slid only a little bit further up his arms and Asra’s did the same. I could feel the heat radiating off of this man. 

“See, Ilya? It’s not so bad after all,” Asra said, his voice low because of the officers. 

“...No, not so bad. Thanks… But, uh, why do you both smell like a calmer version of a Bath and Body Works?” he asked. 

“Nadia helped us freshen up at the mansion. I hope I still look presentable for the court.” 

“Hah! That’s if you go to court. And you don’t look like you’ve spent even a minute in police custody!” Julian’s gloved hands roamed across the fabric of Asra’s outfit. 

“Magic, Ilya. And a little motivation…” Asra said, winking at me. He sighed and closed his eyes. “I’d love to stay like this, but we have a visitor.” 

Asra gently let go of the both of us and kneeled. I could see a hint of lavender making its way through the other empty cells, avoiding the eyes of the officers. Faust. She slithered up Asra’s arm, flicking her tongue in greeting. 

“I was wondering when you would join us,” Asra said, very gently rubbing some dust off the top of her noggin. 

“Big friend coming!” she whispered. 

“He’s coming here? But… this place only has terrible memories for him. If he came back because of me…” Asra trailed off, a mix of worry and sorrow in his eyes. 

“What? Who are you talking about?” Julian asked. The doctor began to make his way back into his original cell, still giving the edges of the portal a baffled look. 

“A friend of mine who’s coming. But he’s… not good with crowds.” I instantly thought back on how there was a growing number of people outside of the police station since Nadia had arrived with me. 

I closed the hole that I created, and turned to Asra, who gave me a meaningful look. “Remember the smell of myrrh?” 

I recalled the sweet, earthy, and warm scent. And I brought to a name that was tied with it. “Muriel.” 

Julian looked utterly perplexed, glancing at all of us before asking, “Muriel? IS that another magician?” 

“No. You wouldn’t remember him… At least not by that name. Faust, can you make sure he’s all right?” 

“Yes!” And she slithered away before one of the officers turned around and knocked on the heavy door. They didn’t wait for a reply and instead, just opened the door, suspiciously glancing at the two of us.

Then, I could hear Portia’s voice coming down from the hall. “Are you still down here? I don’t think we have much more time!” she said. “They want to question you too though. Since you were technically Nadia’s lead investigator in finding Julian.” 

I turned to Asra one last time, not wanting to leave him at all. But he gave me an encouraging smile and waved to me. “Don’t worry about me. I still have to get questioned again soon…” he said. I nodded and tried to give my best smile. I didn’t want him to go to court. Because that would stick with him forever… 

I reluctantly went to go get questioned. At least I knew that if Asra went to court with Julian, I would be there as well.