The Boy With No Fire. Aine should be a fire wielder, but isn't.
The Ophiuchus have no place in this world. They offer us nothing.
They are disgusting.
They aren't even human.
We should just rid ourselves of them...
Where is my fire?
"Aine the laame!"
A rush of steps thundered after Aine. The horrible made-up harmony partnering with the sprinting feet. The slamming footsteps and pitchy off tone voice bounced down the rocky corridor.
Aine's satchel whipped around slapping his side as he grabbed a corner to keep himself from falling. His sandals slipped on the slate floor, but he kept on his feet and ran from the haunting singing echoing at his heels. His pursuer one step behind.
"Aine the lame!"
The song was badly written and had begun as a joke at the start of last year but had stuck as a daily punishment, the author none other than Vhagn. His chaser, the only one thinking it was funny, and someone who had made it his personal vendetta to make every day of Aine's life at school, a nightmare.
Aine clamped his hands over his ears, trying to staunch the flow of noise coming from his back. The verses! They weren't even good. Recklessly he drove himself down the halls, his shoes smacking the flagstones, the sound not nearly loud enough to drown out the song behind him, but his legs carried him fast enough that he stayed out of reach of Vhagn's fists.
In their world the social hierarchy order was defined when one was born. No one had a choice in the matter; one must always be respectful and obedient towards those stationed above. The star constellations governed the land, but oh, how the heavens had forsaken him thus yet.
Being born a Sagittarius, social order he ranked ninth, but while that put him at a slight disadvantage his problem wasn't where his birth had placed him.
His pursuer and daily tormentor, Vhagn, a Leo, sat at a higher position than Aine at fifth. This meant without having someone higher than Vhagn fight for Aine, he was on his own, Vhagn having no one to answer to. He could bully Aine any time he felt like.
Aine followed the soft bend of the wall entering a long corridor with a solid wall of stone on his left and arches leading him on his right, past a grassy courtyard. One of few that sat inside Saziel Academy.
"Where are his fla-a-ames?" Forced laughter followed the verse. Aine didn't deserve this. He, like everyone else was here because they had to be, but it wasn't his fault his element hadn't awakened yet.
Aine kept at his flight ahead of Vhagn. He would never get to class at this rate. He was already on the wrong side of the school and continuing in the opposite direction from the room he needed to be in.
Then his feet slipped again. A dusting of sand had blown in and made the smooth stones even slipperier than normal. His hands scrabbled at the floor catching him, but the shift of his feet cost him time. He could hear Vhagn charging behind him like a Taurus, and the two pairs of feet with Vhagn, right at his heels. Even a growl of breath seeping out of Vhagn as he spotted Aine falling caught Aine's hearing. Aine felt his fingers bend painfully as he used force to push himself back up.
He slammed himself into an open hall.
And then came to a flat stop.
He laid his palms against the dead end and his forehead against the cool stone. It was a relief from the hot, humid air that filled the halls blowing in through the open archways and windows. Three pairs of footsteps came to a hammering stop behind him, the sound thunderous in the small space.
"Grab his bag."
Behind him he heard chuckling between bouts of panting as they caught their breath. The two with Vhagn, Bane and Garren, were his, in one word, lackies. They were both Virgos and being on the social ladder at sixth they had no choice but to listen to Vhagn.
They all stood staring Aine down. Grins and red patchy faces glaring back at him.
Aine was trapped standing in the alcove with only a bench and a small window. He couldn't if he wanted, attempt squeezing out. Not that, that would be a better choice. There was no ground outside of the window, or any of the windows at Saziel Academy with the school built out of a mountain and far up from the ground.
The school was founded by a Libra almost one hundred years ago and the Master had designed the Academy with intentions of teaching the young about the adult ways and how their society worked. But not everything had gone according to plan in the decades after.
Sitting midway up the second highest mountain, Odonn, a fall from the school's height guaranteed death.
The stones beneath his feet and ringing the window, a decorative but simple design, were purple-hued and the walls had a blue tint that melded well with the floor. He took all this in to distract himself as his satchel was torn from his shoulder and he was spun around.
At that moment he spotted a petite girl with a round, fair face, a dusting of freckles across her cheeks and nose running past. He saw her pale blue hair was styled in soft waves today. He met her eyes, the color of her hair, big and bright with nervousness. She rushed past the alcove where Aine stood locked behind a wall of two Virgos and a Leo. He saw her glance at the four of them. Saw her glance at him. Made eye contact with her, silently willing her to stop and help him, after all, she was his friend.
But then she was gone, rushing off to the lesson they were all supposed to be in.
Lyr had abandoned him. There were no other words for it. She could have easily helped him. A single word from her mouth would have set him free; Lyr was a Cancer.
He looked back to Vhagn meeting the fiery arrogance staring back.
Vhagn ripped Aine's bag from Bane's grip and furiously started digging through.
His things were flung through the air, some to the ground, some pummeling him. A glass ink jar was purposely launched with a strength Aine didn't possess to the ground by his feet. The black liquid drenched his legs soaking into the soft leather of his sandals and up even to the bottom of his brown shorts. Out came also, his feather pens, wooden scroll holders, his thin parchments, the papers sent fluttering through the air. They snapped and flipped as they sang a song of upended things, falling like the swing of a pendulum, back and forth, descending as they went. Sometimes slowly as their edges tilted up, but then nose diving downwards again in the shape of a slope.
When Vhagn had emptied his bag, Aine's things strewn across the floor, he tossed the bag at Aine with a smirk.
"Pick up your mess, Sentien! Why do you leave your trash on the floor?" Vhagn shouted, calling Aine by his Sagittarius Class. "I thought the Sagittarius were a neat clan!"
Vhagn's face cracked, an ear-to-ear grin as if he'd just heard the funniest joke. Bane and Garren laughed along with him, slapping their knees to satisfy Vhagn.
Vhagn took a step forward, Aine immediately backing away in time with his steps until he was pressing flat against the wall, the open window on his right.
"Wouldn't it be funny if you weren't a Sagittarius, but an Ophi instead?" Vhagn's breath stank. The warm wave rolled into Aine's face, like the cloud from a smoking pipe of a man with spiderwebs of wrinkles across his skin, the smell burning his nostrils, almost as if they'd set aflame on their own from the reeking smell.
"Vhagn, you're not supposed to say that word!" Garren whispered.
Vhagn glanced over his shoulder and snapped, "Don't tell me what to do! I get to tell you what to do! Not the other way around!"
Aine felt the cool stone against his cheek the texture rough like sand on paper as he tried disappearing into the wall, wishing he could while Vhagn brandished his rank to his minions.
Vhagn turned away from Bane and Garren once satisfied he'd gotten his dominance across, and raised a hand making Aine shrink his chin to his chest. Vhagn tapped the back of his fingers against Aine's cheek. And then the other cheek. Aine was stuck between the wall and Vhagn and Vhagn's fingers tapped his face again. Each tap becoming harder, finally turning into slaps cracking like lightning.
"What are you going to do little Sentien?" Vhagn asked through a large grin.
Vhagn doubled over and grabbed his stomach. Once he'd regained enough breath, he pulled his arm back and let another slap ring to keep the game going. This one sent an echo bouncing down the halls behind them.
"Let's play ring-around-the-Ainey!" Vhagn called. He grabbed a fist of Aine's shirt and dragged him forward then tossed him with a kick at the back of a leg until he was flailing forward, arms like a windmill.
Garren grabbed him from under both arms but instead of helping him, as Aine knew he wouldn't, he spun him around for a second time and threw him like a bag of potatoes to Bane.
Aine's feet danced across the stones trying to catch his balance before he was at the mercy of Bane. But luck never seemed to be on his side.
Bane easily plucked him from his path and threw him across to Vhagn.
Their laughter rose as they hurled him from one to the other. Sometimes they changed it up, shoving him to Garren instead of Bane or from Bane back to Vhagn.
Vhagn's hand found its way beside his head flat against the stone as he leaned down to whisper in Aine's ear. The warm air tickled the fine hairs in his ear.
Vhagn had let him flop to the ground too dizzy to keep on his wobbly legs.
"Time's just about up. Do you still think you're going to get your powers?" Vhagn paused, listening to Aine struggle to find his breath again. "You're only fooling yourself. Everyone can see it." He pulled back, standing straight with a victorious smile on his face. "The year ends in just a set of new moons. You better start praying they don't cast you from the castle tops."
Vhagn took a hold of Aine's brown vest and hauled him up only to shove him onto the bench.
"If you were a real Alejia, fire wouldn't burn you!" Vhagn said with a grin using the fire user term. He held up a hand. All five of his fingers were alight with flames. His fingers like standing candles.
His hand snapped forward, a quick jab almost to the nose making Aine leap back. The sound of his shoes scrabbling to get as far away as he could echoed his hastiness.
"Let me put a hand on your shoulder," Vhagn said, his blue eyes narrowing. His voice had taken an octave lower as he shifted his chin to his chest and his forehead forward.
He watched Vhagn's hand inch closer.
Aine could feel the heat bathing his skin like five small suns. It was hot and itching to burn his skin.
He heard someone clear their throat from the opening of the alcove, the sound like stones shaken together.
The four of them looked, Bane and Garren having to fully turn around to see, finding a scholar standing in the entry. His foot tapped with an irritated air and a scowl creased his deeply trenched face.
The scholar looked over Aine and knew at once the old Libra recognized him when he spoke, the scholar his Geography Master.
"What are you three doing?" the scholar asked. The man's voice as deep and gravelly as his throat clearing. He was purposely ignoring Aine.
His teachers had given up on the boy with no flames. He knew what they thought of him.
Master Thalika, as he was called, bore more winkles on his forehead than Aine could count, his skin a ghostly white, with dark spots, a large sprinkling near his left temple. His chin hung in thin folds from is boney neck. To Aine he looked more like an aging turkey, than a Master.
"Well?" Again, the rocky voice.
"Nothing, Master," Vhagn said, suddenly sheepish. A complete turn around from how he acted only seconds ago. Only Masters who taught could tell a child a station above them what to do. In some ways they held more power than the nobles.
He threw a pointed finger down the way Lyr had gone. "Get a move on to class you three." The scholar's long robbed sleeves wavered around his knees with the raise of his arm. Something caught in his throat again, and he had trouble hacking it up.
"And you, clean this mess." The scholar pointed around to the scattering of Aine's broken things, having to clear his throat many times with spit finally dislodging what had hindered his speech. The act turned Aine's stomach, both from the sound and the release of phlegm. The scholar took a handkerchief from a pocket to wipe the spittle from his lips and blew his nose with force.
"Yes, Master," Aine mumbled. He watched the scholar crumple the handkerchief and walk away, following after Vhagn and the other two. He would make sure they got to class, unlike Aine. No one cared what he did anymore, no longer even bothering to make him go to class.
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