Isaac’s gray eyes burst open, the sound of his heartbeat filling his head. The brown sheets of his bunk were as itchy as usual, and all the other boys were still sound asleep in their bunks. He placed his hand to his chest, feeling his pounding heart, and silently rolled out his bed. His hair was short, black with a tuft of white towards the front, still was a mess from the bed, marked onto his pale skin under his left eye was a small orange rectangle. The room itself was long and rectangular, the floor and walls were made of smooth damp stone, several clothing-filled shelves were spaced out along the inner wall, and three triangular windows let the rising sun leak into the bunk room.
He grabbed his dark gray gambeson off a shelf and held his breath as he snuck out of the room. Entering the cold stone hallway Isaac exhaled and slipped into his training garb. He hated talking to these people, more than anything else in the world. Isaac was fairly sure he hadn’t made a single actual friend during the entirety of his two years in training, only a few loose acquaintances, and if any of them considered him a friend he’d be more surprised than anyone. Luckily after today he only had to wake up like this one more time. Then he and everyone else here would be divided up and sent either to an Apprenticeship in one of the Hunter legions, if they were lucky, and get to avoid actual combat for a bit longer, or if they are unlucky they would be shipped off right to the front lines.
Isaac shivered at the thought of the front lines, and the Spearhead Legion. Everyone heard the horror stories. Some delighted in them like they were tales of glory, things to be sought after and emulated, but anyone with half a brain knew the truth, only the truly skilled Magic-Users survive long in Spearhead. He wasn’t quite sure what being alive meant to him, but he knew for a fact that he wanted to stay like that. That’s why he was hoping and praying to the Three Saints with all his might that he would be assigned to the Auxiliary Legion, have a cushy apprenticeship, and never even get close to seeing the front lines.
He reached the end of the hallway, where a large wooden door emblazoned with a beautiful carving of a rose rested. Isaac grabbed onto the metal handle of the door and yanked it open, the cold morning air blasting him in the face as he walked out onto the pathway. The rising sun’s light danced across the pinkish roofs of the great city of Roserum, slowly melting the frost that had accumulated on the windows of its residents, some small shops and stalls were beginning to open and sell what little goods they had to the few passerby’s that were awake at this hour, above it all was where Isaac stood. The great Castle Burgund, which hung over the city like a deep-red mountain made of gothic spires, and Buttresses, the castle had played many roles in the history of Fallende, but none more crucial than its role now as the home of the countries Grand Leader Naztchez. Isaac had heard that the countries true capital was in the very middle of the country but had to be abandoned after the Bluts appeared.
This view, during this time of year, had been Isaac’s favorite part of Training. These next two days might be the last he would have where he could feel certain about waking up in the morning. Becoming a Blut Hunter was never a choice that Isaac, or most of the other kids here, got to make for themselves.
Another wooden door waited for him at the end of the walkway, he opened it, and inside waiting for him was a large windowless room with a cracked stone floor, torches dotted along the walls, a second door was embedded in the wall across from him. Isaac walked up to the closest wall and slumped against it, making sure to keep his head down. His morning routine was a trade-off, he might be able to avoid the initial conversations with his fellow students, but the looks he gets when they all flood into this room make him wish that a Blut would tear out his throat. Although not everyone in his class inspired the same gut reaction in him. Daphne, a super talented Color Mage, made his stomach feel all twisted up and warm when he saw her, but he knew she’d never show interest in someone like him. He wasn’t the best looking in the class, he was an Orange and she was a Red, native to this Canton, and he couldn’t even project his magic, just manipulate what already surrounded him.
Isaac knew his limits, he had to face them very early into the training when Instructor Hans made them fight in mock combat, any little confidence or pride that he had in his Magic melted away before his very eyes. He was an Elemental, and his chosen discipline was rare granted, but he didn’t know how to use it very well, and there were other elementals here with much more common specialties that could kill him before he could even try and manipulate his element.
Isaac scrunched up further against the wall. “It will all be fine if I can make it into Auxiliary,” he repeated over and over in his head, “If I can make it in there then I’ll have a chance to at least get to thirty.”
The door in front of him flew open, scaring him. A tall man entered the room with embroidered blue robes and with a white sash around his neck, that marked him as an Instructor, his hair was blonde and to his shoulders, he had a small goatee of the same color, hazel eyes, and a small blue rectangle under his left eye. Isaac immediately began to nervously chew on his thumbnail.
“Isaac Schwarzschild,” The man remarked, his tone a perfect mix of curious and condescending, “You are early again. Now that I think about it, you’ve been early every day since the second day of instruction.”
The man’s face changed to one of approval. “I’ve always appreciated people that go the extra mile, and your enthusiasm for my teachings has not been lost on me.”
“Thank you, sir.” Isaac quickly replied before putting his head down once again.
Instructor Hans gave a nod. “You Oranges, ”he began,” are known to be quite lazy people, some of the least productive in all of Fallende, so imagine my surprise when one of the most diligent students, of this class cycle at least, turned out to be an Orange. Honestly, I still have a hard time believing it now and it has been two years.”
Isaac clenched his hands tightly. He hated when people brought up his Mark, especially the way that Hans was now. He barely remembered what it was like in his home Canton of Oranalone and the Canton they were in now was Redfall, not Bluerise, so Hans wasn’t a native here either. So he had no idea why he always acted so high and mighty about his Mark since he was in the same position as Isaac.
“That plus your rare magic selection made you quite the interesting student to teach,” Hans continued to muse aloud, ”Not as interesting as Malcolm mind you, now that is a Trainee with talent, but it would be a shame to waste you, Schwarzschild.”
“Thank you, sir” Isaac repeated, hiding his discomfort the best he could behind the soft clack of his teeth on his nail.
“You know your place, Schwarzschild, that is something that a lot of your peers could learn from, more so than any magic you could ever possibly cast. ”Hans laughed,” I do hope some of your classmates have learned at least a little from your sterling example. Mostly the Greens, they can be so unwieldy.”
Normally Hans would just ignore Isaac as he stood and waited against the wall, but today something was different about the Instructor, a glint of pride in his eye that the class of students he had overseen for two years was finally going to graduate. Isaac wondered if the pride were legitimate or if Hans was just thinking of all the achievements, he could take credit for if anyone in the class became a big-time Hunter.
The door that Isaac entered through opened and the sound of footsteps flooded into the room. His classmates had arrived, and Isaac watched the group of twenty with bated breath, sinking a little further into his stance with every look he got from his classmates.
One of the students, a larger boy with short brown hair, a green rectangle under his eye, a brown gambeson, two short swords at his sides, and an ugly scarred face approached him. “Trying to sink into the wall again, huh, Baby’s Breath?”
The boy was named Adrian, and he was one of Isaac’s few acquaintances. The two of them met when they were much younger, both being placed in the same state orphanage. Adrian used to bully him, one time forcing him to eat several handfuls of baby’s breath flowers from the orphanage garden, hence the nickname.
“You could be a bit nicer than that, can’t you Adrian?” A girl’s voice asked from beside Isaac, “this is one of the last times we are all going to be together like this. The least you could do is call him by his real name.”
Isaac turned towards the voice and saw a sickly-looking girl with black hair tied back into a ponytail, and a red rectangle under her eye. Her name was Velonia and she was his other acquaintance. Velonia was a bit of an enigma in the class, even Isaac had managed to hear all sorts of rumors about her. She never practiced Magic with the class, nobody knew where she slept, and as far as he knew nobody knew had ever found out her last name.
The three of them were the definition of acquaintances by convenience. None of them fit into any other group for one reason or another and they just kind of drifted towards each other. A group of outcasts if there ever was one.
While Velonia and Adrian began an exchange about the morals of referring to Isaac by a nickname he received via an act of cruelty, Isaac’s eyes were drawn to another girl in the class who was talking and laughing with a friend. She had brown hair and a delicate face, her rectangle was red, and her eyes were like two beautiful blue lakes that Isaac felt like he could swim inside forever. Daphne was the only person in the world that Isaac wanted to spend more time with. He wanted to approach her so bad and start a conversation, he knew they’d hit it off if he approached her, but the simple idea of rejection or of him making a fool of himself in front of her made it damn sure that he wasn’t going to say a word. He hated himself for it, there were only two days left where he would be able to form any type of bond before one or both of them was sent to the front lines to die for Fallende and bring forth a brighter future, or whatever nonsense the Instructors always prattled on about.
Isaac watched Daphne’s eyes shift focus from the freckle spattered face of her best friend Violet to someone else. A well-built, handsome classmate of theirs with two daggers at his hips, a demeanor that oozed confidence, short black hair, and a blue mark under his eye. The boy calmly walked up to Daphne like he couldn’t see how intimidatingly her beauty was and started a conversation with her and Violet. He chewed on his nail harder.
Isaacs’ face turned into a rotten scowl and he whipped his head away. He hated Malcolm. He hated him so much. He wanted his power so bad, the power to walk up to and talk to people, to feel comfortable in his skin, and seize the world by the horns.
“Baby’s Breath, you okay?” Adrian asked, staring down at him.
“Y-yeah,” Isaac managed to stutter out, ”why?”
“You just stared at Daphne for a solid two minutes then got angry and whipped your head away when Malcolm walked up, ”Velonia replied plainly before Adrian could respond. Isaac felt himself deflate.