"I still don't see how anyone could just walk into that." Cleao waved a hand at the crystal. "It looks solid. I might just break my nose!"
Majic smiled. "Just try putting your hands through first," he suggested. "It'll be easier that way. You do want to go back home, don't you?"
"Well…" Cleao put a finger to her lips, in thought. "Sort of…"
Orphen made an impatient noise. "What sort of answer is that? If you're going to go, then hurry and go. Quit wasting our time."
"What did you say!?"
It was going to be hard to get used to Cleao being gone… Majic could easily count her as his closest friend - and even almost like a real sister, sometimes. He was going to miss her more than a little, and - though his teacher would never admit it - he knew Orphen would as well.
This wasn't the first goodbye they'd had to say since everything had been finished, either.
Flameheart was gone for good, but the knowledge of his crime was no longer a secret or a speculation. Eris had told them, before they left, that if he hadn't been killed, it was certain that he would have been exiled from the White Tower and stripped of his rank.
"I've been promoted to Journeyman," she told Majic, plucking at the front of her new cream-colored robe. "I was almost ready anyway, and the Elders approved of the action I took. I'll be starting in my classes with the new term."
"I'm glad for you," he said, sincerely. "I just wish there was something I could do to thank you. We never would have come out of this alive if it weren't for you."
She blushed, turning her face away. "Well… maybe, you could…"
"I could…?" he prompted, when she didn't finish.
Her face went scarlet. "Maybe… a-a-a-a… a k-k-k…"
Majic took pity. "Thank you, Eris," he said seriously, and leaned over to plant a quick kiss on her flushed cheek. "We'll stop by and visit some time. I promise."
"Y-Yes." She had a hand touching her cheek softly, and she met his eyes shyly. But she did manage to smile in return. "I know."
Oddly, he was looking forward to that. Eris was a nice girl.
Azalie was gone now, too. By the time Orphen, Majic, and Cleao had made their way back to the Black Tower, she'd already fully recovered from her imprisonment in the crystal, and had packed what remained of her belongings. She hadn't greeted them when they came back - hadn't needed to, obviously. Orphen went straight to her room as soon as they'd arrived and hadn't come out for hours. When he had come out, he refused to tell anyone what they'd talked about… but he hadn't looked grim or unhappy.
One day, Majic resolved, he would hear about it.
The next morning, very early, Azalie had departed from the Black Tower, and no one knew where she'd gone. Majic was vaguely sorry that he'd never gotten the chance to meet her. She had been an important part of Orphen's life, and he felt he would've liked to know her. Cleao was obviously disappointed too, and she was quite vocal about it.
And Orphen himself had been oddly subdued.
"Ten days is too short!" Cleao broke off the argument to complain. "Majic, you should've asked for longer! Ten weeks… ten months, even! Think of how many adventures we could've had…"
"Think of how many chances that'd give her to kill us with her cooking," Orphen added.
"Shut up!" Cleao leveled a finger at him. "You never did learn to appreciate all my efforts… but!" She placed her hands on her hips, adopting a lofty expression. "I guess I can forgive you. Only because I'm leaving, though."
Orphen made a disinterested noise, but the sides of his mouth quirked up in a smile.
"What are you two going to do when I'm gone?" she asked, ignoring him.
Majic answered before his teacher could. "Oshou-sama and I are going to hide the blood crystals again," he told her. "We talked about it for a while last night, and agreed that that was the best plan. When the crystals were at the Temple, they were easy to get to, and any sorcerer could summon the Dragon. This way, it won't be so easy to ask for something dangerous."
"Sounds like fun," she said, wistfully. Then she fixed him with an exasperated stare. "Hey… how long are you going to call him 'Oshou-sama', anyway?"
"Forever," Orphen retorted, before Majic could open his mouth.
"Geez!" Cleao sighed. "You should stand up to him a little more, Majic!" she chided - then impulsively jumped forward and caught him in a hug. "I'll miss you!"
"Me too." He smiled, hugging back. "What are you going to tell your mother and sister when you come back without me?"
"I'll think of something." She backed off and flashed a wicked smile - then, before he could protest, she hugged Orphen as well.
"Hey, you - !" The sorcerer didn't get a chance to protest; Cleao was already bouncing back to the crystal.
"Bye bye!" she called cheerfully, and slid into the smooth black surface.
"Cleao…" Majic could help but laugh. I'm really going to miss her…
"Well." Orphen seemed to struggle for something to say; his expression was neutral, but Majic wasn't buying it for a second. After a moment, he gave up and hooked an arm around his apprentice's shoulders to cover himself. "Let's go."
"Yeah." The blond wiped at the corners of his eyes, hoping Orphen wouldn't notice. There shouldn't be a reason to cry right now; he had everything he'd hoped for, and the future looked bright.
But it's okay, for just a little while, I guess.
Majic smiled over his shoulder at the wall of black crystal, and then turned to follow his lover back toward the rest of his life.