- The Kingdom of Luton, home of the royal castle, Coros Academy, cobblestone streets, tall viny plants, delicate flowers, little black birds, and stray alley cats that steal from merchants. - ✦ Where an encounter goes awry. ✦
kei ueno. It was a sleepy evening. The sky had been cloaked with a steady grey sheet of clouds all day, hiding the sun and muting its light, making everything feel dull and miserable. Kei, on the other hand, was in high spirits, because he could feel that today was the day. He was hot on his bounty's trail, and in short order he'd be dragging him back to the people that'd hired him and collecting the payment that was almost suspiciously too good to be true. Kei couldn't imagine what kind of trouble the student, Alba Fairney, had gotten himself into, but it must have been some kind of scandal, because those people that had approached him, probably thinking they looked very mysterious in their heavy cloaks, had been insistent that he carry out his work as quickly and quietly as possible. Kei had also been given a vague warning that "this person is dangerous" and "do not underestimate his desperation", but quite honestly, Kei had seen it all before. Capturing a blond-haired twenty year old shortie wasn't going to be any trouble.
However, it had become clear to Kei a few days ago, when he'd begun the search for the fugitive, that although Fairney was no expert, he wasn't exactly clueless either. His tracks had been swept over, and finding any trace that had left behind was tricky. Kei had been forced to resort to the old-school method of simply asking around and trusting that the physical description he’d received was accurate.
Kei always delivered what he promised. In fact, he’d never not delivered. In fact, he usually delivered early, and was never, ever late. Not only did Kei want to find Fairney today, he was going to, because it was on his schedule, and his schedule was almost never wrong.
It was Kei’s opinion that the best way to start looking for someone who didn’t want to be found was to be easy to find yourself. More often than not, the person who was trying to hide was constantly looking over their shoulder, trying to scan every face and searching for the one who was just a little too normal. It was then that they would begin to make their mistakes, because by focusing too much on the people who blended in, they would completely overlook the people who looked different. This was why Kei made no effort to look inconspicuous—not that he stood out like a sore thumb anyway.
Wrapped in a myriad of fabrics that draped around his strong frame and hung in shades of black and grey, Kei’s appearance was simultaneously scruffy and perilous. His right arm was completely covered with a tight black sleeve that hooked over his thumb, and his left arm was wound loosely with draping black fabric that left his forearm bare. The hilt of some weapon rose at an angle from behind his left shoulder, although the blade was covered with a draping sheath of dark fabric that hid its shape. Kei’s hair was pulled back in a loose knot on the back of his head, and a few rogue strands framed his jawline.
It wasn’t that he was extraordinarily tall, or unusually unpleasant-looking. On the contrary, Kei’s face, although stony, was peculiarly delicate, in a wild-sort of way—almost like a dangerous, endangered species. It was the breadth of his shoulders, the slight upward tilt of his chin, the way in which his eyes raked over every square inch of space int the marketplace, that made Kei something slightly out of the ordinary. If nothing else, he didn’t mesh organically with the people of Luton.
The streets weren’t crowded, but the movement of people was still fluid enough to force Kei to slow his pace. He had to keep moving, because there was a lot of a ground yet to cover, but he couldn’t afford to risk looking over just one more blond head of hair. The eyes, his employers had told him, will betray him. Bright green. Kei wondered if they were green like young grass, or like the eyes of a cat, but he had a strange sense of certainty that he would know Fairney when he saw him. Fairney—something about the name annoyed Kei. Pretentious, high-class possibly. Or in leagues with them. Spoiled, no doubt. Kei had already decided, without meeting him, that he disliked him immensely, and that the sooner he handed him in, the better he would feel.
There. Like a bloodhound hot on the trail, Kei spotted a mop of flaxen hair, and slim fingers that were slipping between the locks. Although several meters away, he could guess that the height was correct, as well as the length of hair. His skin was pale, but not unhealthily so, and there was something about the way he just stood there that irritated Kei even more than the color of his hair, which Kei decided he hated. Yes, that had to be Fairney. Kei's inner sense had never betrayed him yet.
Kei slowly lifted his hand over his shoulder and drew out the blade that was hooked on his back. It was a curved silver sword, not quite as bent as a sickle but more delicate than a scimitar. Dark swirls were engraved along the blade, and there was a small red strip of leather that dangled free at the edge of the hilt.
"Fairney." Kei's voice rang clear, just loud enough to carry audibly, but quiet enough that it might have been a voice in Fairney's head. "Please don't run. I have a schedule to keep."
He should have known today would be a bad day, or that something bad would happen, at the very least. Chilly and dark and dreary, without the sun even peeking through the clouds once to shed a hint of light onto the inhabitants of Luton. A perfect setup for a terrible thing to occur.
Throughout the entire day, he thought that it would rain, which is why he had stayed inside during the daylight hours. Inside the shops, he was warm and protected, and he was safe from any prying eyes. His arm was still hurting, a sharp pain that made him wince whenever he moved his hand too quickly, and his bandage was all bloody, too. He didn’t want to set out on his journey before the injury was closed, but he knew he could not linger in the city surrounding the castle and his old academy any longer.
He had to leave his home. He had to leave behind everything he knew. He had to leave his friends and his family. He had to get to his destination. He had to do what needed to be done. Nothing could distract him from his goal.
After only barely getting away from the academy, with the long deep laceration on his wrist that arched down close to his palm, he realized that he was doomed. If he stayed in Luton or any of the nearby cities he’d be captured, or captured then tortured, or captured then made into an example of some sort, or captured then killed, or captured then kept alive and forced, with a spell, to do things he would never do naturally. He could use his magic to disguise himself and get out of the city that way, though the injury on his left arm was an impairment on his casting capabilities.
It was one of the most severe injuries he’d ever had in his entire life. Not only did it bleed excessively, he thought, but it had coated his hand in blood completely and decided to stop bleeding so much after he stitched his skin together, with the help of his magic. To say he had been concerned would be an understatement. He had barely been able to even move his hand while it was still a new wound, which resulted in him thinking it had been damaged permanently, which then resulted in his shaking badly and trying to contain his panic, only a little successfully.
He looked down at his left hand and curled his fingers into a fist to reassess the damage. It hurt to move them but all of his fingers curled like they were supposed to and he could squeeze them, although doing so was a mistake. He uncurled his fingers and pulled the sleeve of his jacket over his wrist, to keep the blood-stained bandage hidden.
His attackers knew where to hit him, when they were chasing after him. They hadn’t aimed to kill him. Just to harm him so he was a less capable magician. They had succeeded, perfectly, annoyingly. He hated that they hit his left arm, because even though it wasn’t his dominant hand, he still used it whenever he was spellcasting. Not all the time, granted, since he knew several spells that did not even require any gestures, but having it bloody and sore and painful to move was not going to be a whole lot of fun to deal with. He guessed the person who had inflicted the injury onto his arm had thought the same, which is why his attacker had tried to remove his hand.
Thankfully, whoever his attacker was had not succeeded. Alba Fairney still had both of his hands, even though one he could not use as fully as he could the other. The wound would heal and he would be fine eventually. He very much hoped that he would still have complete use of his hand whenever he fully recovered. No, he didn't hope, because then that could lead him to being disappointed. He knew he would make a full recovery. No doubt.
He realized he had stopped moving and sighed, then ran his right hand through his hair, pushing his hood down, and stepped closer to a building on the side of the street. His arm hurt. He was hungry. He didn’t have enough medical supplies in his bag to last the entire length of his journey. He had books in his bag, too, and it looked like it was going to rain.
See? Dark. Dreary. Terrible. He didn't want his books to get damaged.
He pulled on the strap of his bag, the somewhat worn and slightly tattered one he had used during his entire schooling, that crossed over his chest and glanced down at it, then saw a girl slap a hand over her mouth near him and let out a squeaky noise. He frowned and reached up to pull his hood up, ducking his head down to go unnoticed, but then he heard his family name.
He squeezed his eyes shut and dropped his hand. Okay. He had three options. One: he could pretend he didn’t hear it, but the way the girl was staring at whoever was behind him told him that feigning ignorance would not be advisable. Two: he could walk away and hope that whoever had said his name would not follow him, which was incredibly unlikely. Three: he could turn around and see whoever was talking to him about not running (which he should do) and schedules (which he did not care about) and try to talk with the guy.
All of these options were horrible. He disliked all of them intensely. He knew, or he assumed, that he was being tracked down, since he was Coros Academy’s Most Wanted Student now, but he had really, really, really hoped that he’d be able to at least get out of Luton before he was found.
But of course he had not been able to, because today was cloudy and dreary and terrible things always happened on days like this.
He turned to face whoever was speaking to him and paused, then squinted. This guy did not look like any of the people who had chased after him. He was not hiding behind a cloak and his dark eyes were too intense, and he didn’t have the air to him that every magician had. A hired hand, then? Probably. The blade he was holding looked foreign, with those pretty spirals and the bright red tassel hanging off the end of it. Either it was a foreign weapon or he had requested it be made specifically for him.
Whatever the case was, this situation was incredibly unfortunate. Not for Alba, of course, but for this poor guy who was sent to come get him.
He glanced toward where the lady had been and saw she had vacated the premises expeditiously. Smart girl. He turned his attention back to the stranger with the weapon and pulled up an easy smile, taking a step back.
“I don’t think you really want to use that on me, sir,” Alba said cheerfully, lifting his right hand and waving it dismissively. “I mean, who even is this Fairney person? What kind of name is that? Sounds like a pretty lame name to me. Is it one of those fancy magician names? Do you have to kill him or something? That’s, like, super unfortunate for him, wow.” He gasped and brought his hand to cover his mouth. “But I’m not him,” he continued, waving his hand and sending a ball of light floating over to the stranger, “so I don’t think I have to worry too much.”
The ball of light moved closer to the stranger, then exploded with a loud, fizzy pop! sound, scattering harmless light all over the strangers face. Alba bolted, turning quickly down an alley close to him. He had no idea where to go in the creepy back alleys of his hometown but he needed to get as far away from the stranger as he could.
kei ueno. Everything about Fairney screamed suspicion. The way he didn't even flinch, or act afraid, or really done anything that someone who wasn't guilty would have done. His smile was easy, his stance almost innocently relaxed, and his eyes blazing green. That was Fairney, and Kei would bet real money on it.
The grip on his blade didn't shift in the slightest. Its tip hovered in the air, kept firmly in place with a hand that refused to waver. There was a quiet strength there; it was a heavy sword, at least heavier than most would have expected, yet Kei held it stretched out without a problem.
It was only when Fairney spun something in the air, a globe of golden light, and sent it floating toward him like a rogue balloon that a sliver of uncertainty cut through Kei's eyes. This was unexpected. Unnatural. Was it a trick of the light? Smoke and mirrors? He'd dealt with parlor tricks like those before, but something in his gut screamed otherwise. Now his blade tilted up, hooked toward the globe, but before it could make contact the globe exploded in sparks, and Kei found himself stumbling backward, spots dancing in his vision as if he'd just been staring directly at the sun. His lips parted, almost ready to make a cry, but he managed to contain himself, although his gut was now telling him that something was indeed very wrong. He was shaken, something that didn't happen often, because what he'd just seen came into contradiction with the world he was familiar with. Witchcraft? Black arts?
What have I gotten myself into?
Kei might have considered dropping the job then and there, if it wasn't for the sum he'd been promised, as well as the generous advanced payment.
The eyes of marketplace sellers and buyers had already begun to turn in curiosity, but now all attention had been drawn to Kei as he bolted after Fairney, his blade turned inward against the back of his arm so that it had no danger of hooking anything he didn't intend. His feet hit the cobblestone with muffled tread, not completely silent but much quieter than Fairney's. The runaway was light on his feet, but so was Kei, although he felt more comfortable weaving through foothills and pockets of forest rather than slim alleyways and puddles of stagnant water.
"Please don't." Kei's voice was hardly strained, although not completely even either. Frustration laced his tone, clear by the way he dragged out the last syllable, and the lapse of accent in the way he softened his "t". Rounding the sharp corner of an alleyway lined with empty crates, he finally caught a good glimpse of Fairney, hood fluttering behind him, with gold hair streaming over top. "I don't have time," and with that, he surged forward with a greater burst of speed, feet gliding as if they were hardly making contact with the ground. Fairney was much shorter than he, and although he moved quick, he was no match for Kei's height.
His arm latched around Fairney's, jerking him backward and bringing them both to a stop. Part of him had almost hesitated to grab Fairney, only because of what he'd seen earlier, but a job was a job, and he couldn't be completely sure that this boy had made some deal with the devil. It had to have been some trick of the light. A clever ploy, nothing more. Or at least he would convince himself of that for as long as he could. His other hand tightened on the hilt of his blade, shifting it slowly so that it curved around Fairney's shoulder, inches from his cheek.
Kei's grip was vicelike, not budging an inch nor releasing a whisp of pressure. "Kneel. Hands on your head."
He couldn’t hear footsteps behind him as he ducked around the corners in the alleys. Maybe he managed to lose the guy with the pretty spiral sword and the long hair, though he didn’t think the guy would give up that easily. He had some schedule to keep and told Alba not to run, which definitely seemed to Alba like he was some hired hand or collector of some sort. If he was some hired hand that had been sent after him then Alba would not be able to get away as easily as he wanted to. Which majorly sucked.
Running down alleys and flashing bright lights at the guy wouldn’t be enough. He could kick up the cobblestone under his feet and send them at the hired hand sword guy, but how effective would pebbles really be against a tall guy with a blade? He might be able to bat them away or swat at them. The cobblestone underfoot could also be forced upright to trip the guy up, or the bricks in the sides of the buildings might be good for whamming against the guy’s body. Surely the tall guy wouldn’t be able to dodge bricks that lunged out at him from the walls next to him, right?
Alba glanced back to see how close the guy was and almost fell over his own feet when he saw the guy was right there. Right on his heels, reaching out to him. He wasn't quick enough to avoid being grabbed and let out a cry when the stranger yanked on his left arm, feeling the tears well in his eyes. He blinked them back and tried to dig his fingers under the guy's grip to loosen his hold on him, to give his wound air to breathe, but all that pathetic attempt resulted in was only scraping his nails against his wound. It was still bleeding, soaking through the bandage, and this jerk just made it even worse. He could feel the hot liquid throbbing in his arm, pulsing with pain, and he felt the abnormal warmth get underneath his nails.
The guy didn’t budge. His fingers were like lead. He even lifted his sword, too close to Alba’s pretty face, and said something stupid. Kneel. Hands on his head. As if Alba would ever do that to some thug with a blade who could be bought so easily. He couldn’t even put both of his hands on his head if he wanted to, since the asshole was still holding onto one of them way too tightly, and he really didn’t even want to move. The sword was too close to his cheek.
Ignoring the stranger and his ridiculous command, Alba instead studied the brick wall next to them. He hadn’t used a spell to manipulate heavy objects in a while. Paper was easy, and so was fabric. Stone could be problematic, since it was a part of the elementals, and he knew that brick would also be just as, if not more, difficult to convince to move. He needed to try. He glanced back at the stranger and took a breath, then closed his eyes and recited the incantation softly, voice kept at a whisper.
And nothing happened.
The brick next to them was still. There weren’t bricks pelting the guy’s arms. They hadn’t even moved an inch. The cobblestone was unbothered at their feet. Nothing was happening. A wave of anxiety hit Alba and he tried to step away from the guy, and he found he was able to. The guy had let go of his arm. Okay, so not nothing. That happened. Why? He clutched his arm close to his chest protectively and looked the stranger over, eyebrows furrowed, frown present. His heartbeat, rapid, worried, slightly pumped from running, could be heard thumping against eardrums.
What did he say? What spell had he recited? He couldn’t remember. It was obviously not the spell he wanted but the guy was not harmed in any other way that he could see. That didn’t mean that nothing had happened. Something did happen. He did cast something. A spell. He recited an incantation. He felt his lips move and heard something come out of his throat.
Alba took another step away from the stranger, running his hands through his hair, disregarding the pulsing pain in his left arm. He quickly looked the stranger over again, making sure he hadn't accidentally added any extra parts onto him or caused a plant to grow out of him. Well, okay, that was fine. No extra parts was good. No plants. No blood. His heart was hammering against his chest, and now it was not from having run for his life. He cast something and he had no idea what it was. What was it? What could it possibly have been? It wasn’t one of those harming spells he read about in Aunt Vivianne’s journals, the ones that they used in wars. The guy was not hurt or bleeding anywhere. Maybe it was internal, then? Internal bleeding was something he could achieve with one of those spells. Or he was feeling ill. Or there was something wrong with his head. Or was there something wrong with the alley?
One look around told him no. Which meant he cast a spell he didn’t know on a stranger. He cast a spell and had no idea what he even said. A spell that could be anything. A spell that could have done anything to this guy with the sword and the schedule to keep.
This was probably not good. Definitely, it was not good. Bad. Bad. Bad. Very bad. This was very bad. A disaster.
“Are you…” Alba started, then dropped his hands from his hair and took a quick breath, which did nothing to calm his racing heart.
No. He had no time to worry about this. The guy was after him. He had to get away from Luton. This stranger was just a poor schmuck that got some spell put on him that Alba didn’t know, but it didn’t matter. The spell was probably not actually that bad and it made the guy release him. The guy shouldn’t have gotten himself involved in magician problems in the first place. He had no one to blame except himself, really.
Alba took another step back, but he couldn’t peel his eyes away from the guy. He studied him again, taking in his face and the clothes. He looked fine. There was no injury anywhere. Seriously. Maybe nothing actually happened.
He really needed to leave.
“Are you feeling okay?” Alba asked, going against all the warning bells going off in his head. “I mean, like, are you fine? You’re not bleeding anywhere? Are you feeling okay? I just, I, uh, I don’t…” he trailed off and shook his head. “Because if you are fine, then, you know, I think I really should go, actually, so…” He took a couple more steps backwards, clutching at his backpack strap. “Yeah, I have to go, so… I'm sure you're fine, right? Yes. Right. Okay. So, bye.” He kept moving backwards, watching the guy to see if the spell he cast (or did not cast, hopefully) would do anything horrible to the stranger.
kei ueno. Immediately, something clouded Fairney's delicate face, and Kei knew that he was in pain. A wound? His arm trembled where he grasped it, and between his fingers he could see a glimmer of blood bubbling through the bandage. Oh. He hadn't even noticed the bandage, so focused as he was on halting Fairney's flight. It didn't make much of a difference; wherever Fairney would end up, it wasn't Kei's problem. His employers could handle it. In any case, the wound kept Fairney from struggling away, although the younger man didn't look as though he was exactly eager to comply with Kei's command. In fact, his eyes scanned the walls behind him, as if looking for an avenue of escape, although there was little chance of that. The alley was thin and completely barren; the only way to run was forward or backward, and Kei was confident that he'd be able to grab him again.
His lips parted to bark something in impatience, but Fairney's did at the same time, and uttered something under his breath that Kei couldn't catch. A profanity? Maybe a plea for a bargain? Kei may have been a hired hand but he was an honorable one, and he wouldn't go back on the word he'd pledged to his employers, no matter how much money this runt offered. He didn't exactly look like he had funds on him, anyway. His eyes narrowed, and he was just getting ready to kick out a foot to knock Fairney to his knees, but suddenly, he froze.
It had started as the beat of his own heart, and while Kei hadn't noticed it until now, he realized that it was racing. He hadn't been running fast or far enough to make it beat this hard, and anyway, it was different; it was more like his heart was leaping, jumping, even dancing. His ribcage felt brittle against the pounding within it. He blinked a few times, met Fairney's eyes, and suddenly his skin prickled with goosebumps, and heat rushed into his face. With a gasp, he released Fairney's arm as if he'd been holding a hot iron, and he stumbled backward a step, still looking straight at the other, shorter man.
He didn't know what was happening—his brain felt strangely fuzzy and unintelligible—but he did know one thing. No—he refused to acknowledge it, no matter how light his head felt now, nor how he felt compelled to step closer to Fairney, although he managed to keep his feet glued to the cobblestone. Fairney was talking now, his voice strangely concerned especially considering what Kei's intentions had been just seconds prior. Kei let out a hot, shaky breath, his face stretched with an internal struggle that was quickly overwhelming every scrap of conscience within him. It was a battle he hadn't even had a chance in.
With the last ounce of his white-hot hatred for Fairney, which was quickly draining, Kei suddenly rushed forward, his blade raised high and just about to slash down, ready to administer a wound that would put the man safely out of commission, but suddenly his feet tangled, and he stumbled to his knees, his sword clattering to the ground. He made no move to retrieve it, but simply stared up at Fairney, his eyes hollow and frightened. There was no doubt about it now, Kei was firmly and solidly bewitched.
"You..." He swallowed quickly, and a shudder ran through his body. Fairney looked just about ready to bolt, but Kei knew that he would just chase after him, although for a far different reason than before. His job was all but forgotten. "What did you do?"
It was at that moment, gazing up at Fairney, that Kei began to realize, with horror, how beautiful Fairney had suddenly become. Was it a trick of the light? His hair, which Kei had considered messy and mop-like only moments before, was now endearingly so, falling around his face in waves and curves that made his heart beat faster than ever. And his eyes—Kei couldn't stop meeting them, the striking green tugging at his heartstrings. He could almost see his reflection in them, he was that close. Fairney's lips were pursed with shock, and all Kei wanted to do was get a closer look at them.
No no no... Words began to bubble up in Kei's throat like bile, and as he realized what they were, he tried as hard as he could to swallow them again. But the confession that, under normal circumstances, would have flowed naturally after weeks and months, was pulled out of him violently and only after a few seconds, so quickly and under such strain that it physically hurt him. His hands clutched at the fabric around his chest as if it was choking him.
"I—I love you." The color drained from Kei's face, although it was quickly replaced by another blush, this one more furious than the last. Cold humiliation trickled from his head and into the rest of his body, but the foreign sensations that had been enjected into him overrode it with a heat he couldn't control. "What did you do to me?"
The world grinded to a halt. All it took was three words, uttered in desperation and horror. The following question sounded far away. Alba barely even heard it.
I love you. I love you. I love you.
But he was a complete stranger.
“You don’t,” Alba whispered, staring at the guy on the ground, who was looking up at him with such a twisted and awful expression. “You don’t even know me. There’s no way you could love me. Did you hit your head somewhere? Or did you drink a potion? Or—”
Or was he hit with a spell recently? One that was spoken so softly? One that one Alba Fairney did not actually know the result of? Oh no. No. No. No. Not possible. A love spell? Was that what he cast? On a complete stranger? How did he even know any love spell? How did he even cast a manipulation spell like that? Who in his family had that kind of magic?
Ugh, he felt like he was going to be sick. He breathed out slowly and closed his eyes, stepping away from the stranger who almost sliced him down with his sword, which now was abandoned on the ground. He moved over to the brick wall and leaned against it, running his hands through his hair and trying very hard not to freak out completely. His wrist hurt so badly and he could feel the blood running down his arm but he did not care.
A love spell. A spell that made someone fall in love with someone else. He cast a love spell. He didn’t even know what he said when he cast. He just spoke and words came out. He just opened his mouth and his brain provided him with something that he had no idea about. He could have said any other spell except for a love spell and it would have been so much better. A wounding spell? Easy to fix. If he had extra limbs? Also easy to remedy. Paralyzing him or giving him mental issues or turning him into an animal? Everything else would be more preferable than a spell that made someone fall in love.
Because he had no idea how to break spells like that.
Yes, he had learned how to cast emotional manipulation spells, and, yes, he had used them once before, but he despised how they made him feel and what they did to people. He always set a countdown for them so that they never lasted that long because manipulating people into feeling certain ways was too nasty and evil. He never messed with intense emotions, like anger or fear or sorrow or love. All he really did was confuse people, then he let the spell end after a few hours, because being perpetually confused would ruin someone's life.
So would being in love with a complete stranger.
Why did it have to be a love spell? Why love? Out of every emotion? Love was almost impossible to control. It was undefinable and took on so many different forms and could make people do very drastic things. People killed over love. They lost their minds over it. They went insane because of it.
If the spell made the guy feel genuine love and not infatuation or a very intense like, then Alba thought he’d really be doomed for good. He was already being chased by the people from his academy and he had to get out of Luton and get to his destination before anyone could find him. Except, of course, someone had found him, and he had cursed him with a love spell, and he was still in Luton, and the people from the academy were still after him.
And someone he didn’t even know the name of said he loved him. Maybe it wasn’t really love. He really hoped it was just like a lot and wow what a cutie and not I am full on in love with you and I will give my life to protect you. He really badly did not want it to be the last option. The last option was the worst option. Knowing his rotten luck, the spell would make him feel that last option, which was absolutely awful.
He had to think of this logically. He took a deep breath and held it for a few seconds, then released it and looked back at the stranger. He could fix this. He could. Every spell had a way to break it. A way to reverse it. He just needed to figure out what spell he even cast then find the incantation to end it.
And he had to figure out what to do with this poor guy who really should not have involved himself in magician problems.
“I,” Alba started, then he tapped the strap of his bag and pulled it around so it was in front of him. “I am very sorry but I’m sure I have a way to fix this somehow,” he said, opening his bag and pulling a book out. He flipped through it quickly, scanning the pages for anything that’d help him. “Not this one,” he murmured, putting the book back and taking another one out.
He did this with three other books and was unsuccessful in his searching. He shoved the last book written in a language he knew back into his bag and eyed the one he really hated, but didn’t pull it out and instead closed his bag. Nothing about love spells in the books he read over and over again, but there might be something in the last one. Or in a book at a library or back home. He couldn't go back home or to the library. He had to get out of Luton. He was very screwed.
“I, um.” He ran his right hand through his hair and let out a breath. “I might have kind of possibly accidentally, completely accidentally, cursed you. With a, uh, a spell. That… That I don’t know how to… break? Because, I mean, you really do not actually love me, because you don’t even know who I am, and I have no idea who you are. So it’s a spell. A love spell. That… I’ll fix…” He trailed off and pressed his lips together, looking away from the guy. “I’ll fix it. I promise I will. But I don’t… Um.”
What could he do to explain this? He was doing such a bad job. He took another breath and nodded twice. No, he could explain it. He was a good magician. He’d be fine.
“It’s not in any of my books. Uh, the spell that I recited. So um, so…” He eyed the stranger. “Are you okay? How are you feeling? That’d be a really good way to figure out what exactly the spell is. Do you feel wrong? I mean, obviously you feel wrong, but, like, physically? You don’t look bad or unwell or anything.” He examined the guy, then nodded again. “Yeah. So. How are you feeling, exactly?”
kei ueno. With the world he knew crumbling and fading away, a new reality began to assemble for Kei, and it was centered around a man he didn't know. All he had was a name, and with his heart desperate to find more about him to love, the name repeated over and over in his mind.
Alba Fairney. Alba Fairney. Like the name of an angel, Kei thought he'd never heard four syllables sound more beautiful together. It infuriated him, that his heart didn't just like the name but loved it, would do anything to make sure it stayed on his lips and before his eyes. As he stared at Fairney, unblinkingly, despairingly, he drank in every shift in expression that the other made. He too seemed distraught, almost guilty in the way he began to stutter and even apologize. Despite himself, Kei felt his heart ache, and he had the most incredible urge to reassure the man that had nothing to be sorry for. In fact, he found his lips moving before he could stop himself.
"It's alright," he choked, hands curling tighter into the fabric of his shirt, and suddenly his head fell forward in distressing realization of what he'd just said. "Fuck—Spell? Fix it?" He was shaking like a leaf now, although he wasn't exhausted or cold. It made him feel disgustingly weak, and yet his newfound adoration put a strange strength in his limbs that he didn't want to use. Even Fairney's voice made him want to pull the man in tight, hear him whisper those words into his ear...
His watery gaze returned to Fairney again, who'd given his attention to Kei's current state. Why didn't he just run away? Surely this... whatever it was... wasn't mutual? It didn't exactly seem that the other man was looking at him with anything other than agitation, even as Kei's eyes trailed down to stare at those perfectly formed lips again, just long enough that it couldn't have been perceived as a mistake. His face felt hotter than an iron.
"Just stop talking. Stop." Feeling as though his limbs were made of lead, Kei dragged himself to his feet and stumbled back against the opposite brick wall of the alley. He finally noticed his sword, discarded on the ground, but made no move to retrieve it. He already knew that he wouldn't be able to use it if he tried. His eyes snapped up toward Fairney. "I feel—What kind of question is that? You're making me feel..." Instead of finishing, he grit his teeth and swallowed the words to describe the infatuation clouding his mind. And it wasn't just infatuation; he didn't think Fairney was the most attractive person he'd ever seen. He thought he was someone he could live with for the rest of his life. Someone he could love. Someone he already loved.
"Just—just get away from me." Resolved that Fairney could bring him nothing but misery, Kei began to edge along the brick wall, finally bending down to pick up his sword and rehook it on his back. His eyes never left Fairney, until he turned and began to walk away.
And turned back, agony written on his features, as if it was physically hurting him to put distance between them.
"You really have cursed me. Sadist." The slight accent was now audible in his voice, melodious and flowing, lingering on the vowels and drawing out the softest sounds in a hiss. There was a slight sheen of sweat on his forehead, and a few loose strands of black hair were plastered to his face. There was a wild look in his eyes. "I can't leave. I could never—f-forgive myself. I—It's like you've invaded my mind. My chest hurts." His fingers spread over where his heart was hidden, and his eyes steeled. "And now I can't finish my job—I'd never turn you in because I—fuck," and at that Kei wheezed, hardly able to hold back the two words he'd almost said again.
I love you, Alba Fairney.
"Fix me. Do it now." His fingers wrapped around the handle of his sword but trembled. He could draw it if he really tried, he told himself. But to actually harm Fairney—he looked back down at the man's injured arm again, heart jumping into his mouth at the sight of blood trailing down his skin.