What?

Cosme paused slightly in bewilderment. He clearly had not expected the other to change the topic so completely. He completely forgot how to react to the shift in conversation. How did it come to this? Why did the other say that? Did he do something he wasn’t supposed to?

Clarence could feel the other’s astonishment and bewilderment…..and bashfulness? Even the hand that was gripping at his neck had loosened its hold. This had Clarence avoid for now the ugliness of being choked to death. Or really, the ugliness of brawling and making a scene on Leila’s special day. He truly didn’t want to activate his clock gears and could just imagine what damage they would inevitably do to this theatre’s nice pink marble hallway.

And it likely wouldn’t have much affect on this Cruor. He was no random hoodlum with mediocre power like the ones he had seen a few nights ago. While Norms could only look up at the powers and talents possessed by the Eximius races, but amongst the Eximius themselves there existed a ranking of power. Some in particular were blessed by the Creator from birth to have much more potent powers and talents that had them stand apart from the masses. But of course, those were only the rare handfuls.

Even so, one was enough to leave a life long impression. No wonder alchemy became so popular and wide spread. It provided not just Norms but also the weaker Eximius another way to make up for or even change the natural disadvantages they were born with.

The thoughts flickered by instantaneously and without a trace. Clarence’s face remained cool and composed, and the arm he had leaning on the other’s shoulder shifted slightly to move downward and hook the other’s chin with a slender finger. The soothing voice continued softly, “I don’t much like this way of hitting on someone. If I didn’t know better I would have thought you had a grudge against me. There are much more pleasant methods, would you like to know?”

As he said so, silver blue eyes roamed over the blood red mist concealing the other and randomly focused on two spots. Normally distant eyes focused sharply on those two spots where he presumed the other’s eyes to be and his own face moved gradually closer. Finally stopping when warm lips made contact with the blood red mist.

When Cosme saw this he immediately fell into a daze. He knew that the other could not make out his features at all and yet he felt as if that pair of silver blue eyes could see him clearly. And even that kiss, though it did not land on his lips, felt as real and soft as if it had, warm breath fanning over his face.

Bloody blue blazes!

Cosme snatched back the hand that had been holding on the other’s neck, feeling as if the palm of his hand and fingers were burning with the other’s body heat. He unconciously rubbed his fingers together and felt as if he could still feel the sensation of the other’s smooth skin.

His pale complexion became stained with a blush as red as the blood mist he concealed himself with. He was too flustered to stay any longer and think of a response to the other’s question, or have his own answered when he left in a rush. The blood red mist receded like a tidal wave, sounding strangely like the fluttering of thousands of butterfly wings flapping in unison.

Clarence’s vision was no longer obstructed by blood red mist and he found himself standing alone once again in the pink marble hallway. Pale thin lips curved minutely but soon smoothed over.

Silver blue eyes flashed with unasked questions. What an unexpectedly bashful fellow. A dangerous character but with an out of place shy streak. It gave him a sense of deja vu.

My Miranda…..he had not forgotten what the strange Cruor who had suddenly accosted him called him earlier.

Indeed, this was a day that caused long buried memories from the past to resurface in the most unexpected situations.

❂❂❂

“Congratulations, Leila! The performance was spectacular!” Dawn exclaimed as they met up with Leila who had finished changing and taking off the costume makeup in the backstage dressing room.

Clarence also handed over a bouquet of purple irises and orange lilies that Zifeng had somehow managed to manifest out of nowhere.

Leila smiled wildly as she buried her nose in the flowers.

“I’m glad you liked it. It seems my nervousness did not manage to detract from the show.”

“Nonsense, dear. You shone like a star, we couldn’t take our eyes off of you.” Mrs. Nightfall patted her granddaughter’s hand.

“Gran!”

Everyone laughed at Leila’s rare show of embarrassment.

Before they separated, Mrs. Nightfall did not forget to give Clarence a warning pinch on the arm.

“Yes, Professor?” Clarence asked with a wisely hidden long-suffering sigh.

“I heard from Dawn you’ll be showing your new friends around New Apple. Make sure to stop by the School tomorrow, you hear?”

“Yes, Ma’am.” Clarence replied obediently with a lauded sense of self-preservation. Secretly though, he gave Dawn a narrowed eye look.

To which she ignored. Dawn knew full well what a paper tiger he was when it came to people he was close to.

“Zifeng, I have to apologize for only just welcoming you now to New Apple. And I had even promised to show you around when your brother had asked me the favor!” Dawn looked apologetically at Zifeng. She had met Zifeng and his brother Zixian earlier while accompanying her father on the trip to Jinling in the Sky Dyansty. While she was instantly taken with Zifeng’s older brother, unfortunately, to use a Sky Dyansty expression, the falling flowers yearn for love, but the heartless brook ripples on.

Still, she was a magnanimous gal and was able to put aside any awkward feelings. And even promised to show Zifeng around when he arrived in New Apple. But who knew she would be so busy right after going back to work?

Zifeng smiled gently, “Miss Fairchild has nothing to apologize for. You have done more for me than you know by introducing me to Clarence.”

Dawn paused, and bright hazel eyes wandered between Zifeng and Clarence thoughtfully.

“Dawn! What are you doing over there?” Leila called over her shoulder as she caught sight of Dawn who had stopped walking and fallen behind their group.

“Ai! Coming!” Dawn slapped her forehead and then caught up with the others in a rapid click of heels.

❂❂❂

The next day, as promised, they made their way to the School of Alchemy first thing in the morning.

The nearly two century old School was a young establishment compared to most, but it was the most famous educational institution in American Federal. Perhaps even in the world.

It may be young but it was the first School of Alchemy in the world, and had a very colorful history. Founded in the 1800’s it saw the rise of New Alchemists and alchemy, the political upheaval of the Age of Revolution, and the fires and gunpowder of the Race Wars. As the first educational institution solely for the study of alchemy it had played an enormous role in the development of New Alchemy which combined the arcane and magical with the modern technology that was overtaking the same period. The Industrial Revolution was elevated to new heights with the addition of alchemy and for the first time in centuries Norms were once again making their voices known.

The Age of Revolution was a time of not only change but the birth of new ideas. It was a time where danger and opportunities went hand in hand, revolutionary heroes and brilliant innovators sprouting up like weeds, and the world was once again filled with energy and passion. In a sense it was an era of rebirth and enlightenment. The world now would not be what it was like without that critical point in history.

And having witnessed such a spectacular and flourishing period and even being the very core of where the world’s most brilliant and heroic gathered to instigate a change that would sweep the world off its feet——it was no wonder the School of Alchemy held such a exalted and esteemed position in the hearts of not just academists but the public as a whole. 

Not even its role and responsibility during the Early Machine Age could pull it off its golden pedestal. Because, while the School of Alchemy may have produced notorious alumni such as Gideon Elkhart, it produced even more young people who went on to become illustrious and venerable leaders and influencers of their world.

“With such an illustrious and famous alma mater, don’t you feel as if you have dragged down the good name of your fellow School alumni?” Mikhail smirked in a teasing manner.

“I mean, just look at the alumni list——award winning innovators, powerful politicians, influential entrepreneurs…..tsk tsk.”

Clarence ignored the Sylva trying to provoke him for a reaction. He led them down a cobble paved road on University Avenue. Though, the School of Alchemy may be the most famous location in the area, the University Ave was still in itself a charming and scenic place for sightseeing. The several blocks that made up the Ave originally sprung up around the School and to this day maintained its old world design with cobbled streets, old fashion lamp posts, and quaint one or two story shops selling coffee, pastries, stationary and other merchandises targeted towards students and academists.

After taking several winding shortcuts, they arrived at a section of the School’s campus. A large sign could be seen hanging at the entrance. From a distance it looked to only be inscribed with the School’s name and its emblem, a large stylized sun. But when looked at in a different angle, one could see that instead of a sun surrounded with rays there was a moon surrounded with stars instead. And the inscription ‘The School of Alchemy’ also seem to shimmer into the school’s motto ‘Astra Inclinant, Sed Non Obligant’ when the sunlight glance off the words just right.

So long as one’s eyes pause briefly on the sign, they would feel as if they had been sucked into a mysterious space where large stars were born and died. The sounds of enormous explosions and millions of shining flecks of dust flooding the senses, as if witnessing life and death in close proximity, causing hearts to tremble in their chests.

Clarence glanced briefly at Zifeng and Mikhail and was unsurprised to see their unsettled expressions and quick aversion from the sign. While the sign was made of the most common materials, the person who had done the inscription had quite profound knowledge of old alchemy, weaving countless alchemical runes and symbols into each stroke.

At the moment, there was a long line of people at the entrance they were currently at. Every person, both Norms and Eximius alike were covered with light sweat from the bright spring sun, but their eyes were filled with reverence and anticipation.

Clarence only glanced briefly at them before pressing an ornate looking key to a point on the sign. Instantly, a second smaller entrance appeared underneath.

“The School of Alchemy has three main entrances and at every one of them such a situation can be seen.” Clarence motioned to the long line, “Therefore, it was prudent to create a separate entrance for staff and visiting alumni or important visitors.”

Compared with the liveliness outside, the inside of the School had a much more tranquil air. While the steps of everyone were quick and purposeful, they were at the same time without sound. The only sounds were faint and came from the opened windows of the buildings where classes were currently being held. This section of the School gave out a very scholarly and solemn aura. But as they walked further in, livelier noises could be heard.

The three of them could see many people gathered in a large outdoor area, both Norms and Eximius alike sparring with alchemical weapons.

Both Zifeng and Mikhail paused to watch in interest. “This is?”

Clarence replied, “The students here don’t only learn the theoretical side of alchemy but also the practical. Especially in the Alchemical Mechanics and Weaponry class where students are required to test out their own creations. This way, any flaws or inaccuracies can be found and corrected. The Practice Field is the livliest place on campus and also the largest section.”

“So it seems you haven’t completely forgotten the School after all.” An arched voice sounded suddenly from behind.

Clarence turned around.

In front of him was a young man looking to have been recently graduated and still possessed the aura of a student. But the past months out in society had also left its marks and he held himself in an even more confident and cultured manner.

“Oh, hello there, Forever No. 2.” Clarence waved idly at the newcomer.

“Clarence Light!” Immediately, the polished aura of a society elite disappeared and in its place was an angry hedgehog. Even the perfectly coiffed chestnut locks seem to stand on end like the quills of the small animal.

Felix Hart almost jumped in anger at that familiar moniker from his school days. He narrowed pale grey eyes on the tall and casually dressed figure in front of him. The same khaki trench coat, plain black button down and worn jeans that he had seen the four years they were at school together looked just as lazy and a sore to the eyes.

Pushing up the silver rimmed spectacles on his nose in a quick angry gesture, Felix tried to calm himself with a familiar mantra——I shall not get angry at this idler, I shall not get angry at this idler.

“Ai! I see you’re quite nostalgic for our School as well. Or could it be you lost your job at the Alchemist Council?” Clarence blinked silver blue eyes which currently held a rare wicked glint in them, much to the raised eyebrows of the two men at his side.

“…..” Shall not get angry, my ass!

Previous ♪✧♡TOC❀✧♪

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