Chosen One, 66

Mistakes Are an Ever-Present Part of Life, and Navigating Them Never Gets Easier

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“Thus,” professed Yancy, “we can see that the Pillar becomes more available for conjuring magic closer to its pinnacle. The reason for this is unknown…yes, Isaac?”

Isaac was mildly surprised to be called on; he’d only had his hand up for a few seconds. Normally when people put their hands up—which wasn’t very often—Yancy didn’t notice for quite a long time. “Uh,” he said, really having needed a few more seconds to compose what he wanted to say. But everyone was looking at him now. “I read that some people think the Pillars intersect with the Elements that wizards use. Do you think it could be why different types of magic are easier with different parts of the Pillars?”

What Isaac didn’t add was that he was almost certain that was true, just because his few lessons with Ronaldo—which had fallen off entirely lately as he’d been busy with something else—had taught him which threads of power were the Elements, and they were definitely the ones that intersected the Pillars.

Yancy took a moment to look sagacious—that was a word Oliver had used to describe Yancy once and Isaac liked it because it meant smart, but also old—by looking at Isaac without speaking and absently stroking his beard. “That is a possibility,” Yancy decided. “The Elements are a force that is poorly understood by mages, as the Pillars no doubt are for wizards. It is difficult to speak about potential effects they may have on each other when there exists nobody proficient in the use of both. It is very possible that their presence as a corollary force changes the nature of the Pillars—or is defined by them. Logically, one has to assume that the Pillars are the originating power from which the Elements spring.”

A chime went off, and Yancy looked up as if surprised. “Blast, we’re out of time. I shall see you all tomorrow, when we will talk about the mechanics of conjuring. And I shall tell you the requirements for your essay as well.”

Isaac nodded, not believing that last part for a second. Yancy had said that at the end of every class so far. He gathered his stuff and headed out of the room, smiling at Yancy. “See you tomorrow.”

“And you as well, Isaac. Thank you for your question. It was most insightful.”

Isaac shrugged. “I was just repeating someone else’s question.”

“Most scholars do.”

“Yeah,” Isaac laughed. “That’s me, a scholar.”

“You might be surprised,” Yancy said, smiling.

“Sure. I’ll see you tomorrow, Yancy.” Isaac waved and left.

In the doorway, a hand fell on his shoulder. “Hey,” Nicholas said.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Can I talk to you?”

“Sure,” Isaac said, and instead of leaving the building with everyone else, he let Nicholas lead him into an empty room across the hall. “Don’t forget we have Twila’s class in a few minutes, though.” If Nicholas wanted a blowjob or something it was going to have to be fast.

“Yeah, yeah,” Nicholas said, nodding. He looked distracted.

“Are you okay?” Isaac asked him, sitting on a table. “You’ve been kind of invisible lately, I’ve hardly seen you.”

“I’ve been in the library,” Nicholas said, shaking his head.

“Studying?” The term had barely started. And Nicholas got better grades than Isaac but it wasn’t like he was a bookworm.

“Yeah, I got interested in how portals worked and stuff. Listen, why didn’t you tell me about Spencer?”

“Oh,” Isaac said. Right, of course. That was fair. “Sorry.”

“I don’t want you to apologize, I want you to tell me why you didn’t think it was important for me to know that one of my friends might be trying to kill us.”

“Because he wasn’t,” Isaac told him. “I knew he wasn’t.”

“You don’t get to make that call,” Nicholas said, shaking his head. “It’s great that he didn’t end up hurting anyone. But he could have and you didn’t know he wouldn’t.”

“I know him, Nicholas.”

“You knew Christopher too,” Nicholas said.

“That’s…” Isaac looked away, heat in his cheeks. “That’s not fair. That was different.”

“Only because it turned out differently. You had no way of knowing it wasn’t going to be the same thing, Isaac.”

“I…look, I know it wasn’t a good idea, okay? I don’t need you to tell me I’m dumb.”

“I’m not.”

“It sure fucking feels like it.”

“Why are you getting mad at me?” Nicholas asked.

“I’m…” Isaac didn’t know. “I’m not.” He was, though.

Nicholas sighed. “All I want to know is why is you didn’t tell me.”

“I couldn’t find you.”

“For a week? We have four classes together. We live a floor apart. The guys told me you came looking for me once. You couldn’t find me? Did you try?”

Nicholas being mad made Isaac mad, and he tried so hard not to be because Nicholas was also not wrong and he knew it. But that just made Isaac madder because he knew he’d fucked up. “I thought if you knew you’d tell the archmage,” he said after a minute. “That’s why I didn’t tell you. Because I didn’t think you’d keep it a secret.” Isaac slid down from the table, walked off a few steps. “Peter already wanted to and he only wasn’t because I asked him not to. I was worried you guys would gang up on me and force me to go and I’d promised Spencer I wouldn’t.”

“And you thought a promise you made to someone who lied to you was more important than what your friends thought was best?” Nicholas asked.

“I trusted Spencer.”

“I think you mean you wanted to trust him.”

“You don’t know what I was thinking,” Isaac snapped. The fact that Nicholas was right was making this harder.

“I might have if you’d told me,” Nicholas challenged. “I get that you trusted Spencer and that’s fine. But why didn’t you trust me?”

“I…” Isaac didn’t know. He didn’t know and he didn’t know what to say. That question broke his anger, turned it into something else. “I’m sorry, okay?”

“Yeah, I know.” Nicholas didn’t sound happy with that. He went to the door and pulled it open. “Whatever, it’s over now. I’m mad that you didn’t tell me. It was shitty of you, Isaac. And it wasn’t like you.”

“Yeah.” Isaac couldn’t look at him. He was right. “I know. I’m sorry.”

“I know you are. But were you sorry before you knew I was mad about it?” Nicholas sighed.

Isaac hadn’t been, not really. And he didn’t have an answer. Which was clearly enough of an answer for Nicholas, who turned away. “Come on,” he said. “We’re going to be late for class and Twila’s going to make us be test cases.”

“Yeah,” Isaac muttered, following after Nicholas without looking at him. Now he felt like crap and the worst part was, he knew it was his own stupid fault.

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