Alert: Gifs in this chapter, so computer viewing is recommended
Credit to Livvielove for Kit’s dialogue!
End of Volume 2 Arc 2
No one’s POV
Nikolas and Kit approached the Talent Troupe with slower steps on Niko’s part. He was quite suddenly aware of a lot of different things, like the way the tent hovered, and how nice the sun felt at this temperature and maybe they could stall outside some more….
“Oy, lad? You holdin’ up alright?” Kit asked, casting him a glance.
“I might be a tad nervous…or a lot.” He admitted. “Now that we’re here…”
“‘Tis to be expected, but I wanted to lay somethin’ down for ye before we go in: I’ve got your back, Niko. This is your time to say your piece and you’ve got this. I just want ye to know that he can’t do nothing to ye if ye don’t want ‘im to.” She nodded and he smiled in response.
Nikolas took in a deep breath feeling a lot more solid as they entered the tent. The place was closed down to visitors and the main performance area was empty. They passed through the curtains to reach the behind the scenes.
A small child wasted no time in running over to grasp Kit’s pants, and Niko watched as she dropped down.
“Kit!” The kid Niko could only assume was Mouse, exclaimed. “Kit! Kit! Kit. Kit.”
The name was repeated several times, at first with excitement and joy, and then gradually descending into a worried panic tone.
“That bad, eh?” Kit sighed. “Figures. Where’s ol’ Hag? We can try and talk some sense into ‘er… but one way or another we’ll get this sorted. You’ll be safe, I promise. I’ll make sure of it meself.” Kit smiled, and then turned to Niko. “Mouse, this ‘ere is Niko, Niko – Mouse. Niko’s asked to train with me, Mouse. What-cha think?”
“Nice to meet you.” Nikolas smiled as the kid looked up at him.
Mouse cast a narrowed gaze at him, but after a few seconds seemed content. Mouse extended a hand.
Nikolas gladly took it, weirdly happy to have gotten a ten year old’s approval. The handshake only lasted a few seconds before Mouse turned back to Kit, grabbing her hand to show her where Haginda was.
“Aye, I won’t be far, lad. Seems I ‘ave some business to tend to.” Kit said as she let herself be led away.
Nikolas gave a small wave to Kit and Mouse as they left, and his eyes scoured the area again.
He knew he was here. He hadn’t seen him yet, but the involuntary clenching of his own hands was proof enough for him.
There wasn’t just the knowledge that his father was around that was setting him on edge. The whole tent had a worrying energy and his astral had switched on twice now of its accord. Almost on cue, his view changed to astral again.
Something was happening here, and it didn’t feel good. Reminded him too much of the cat and the curse that used to be attached to it.
Actually really too much. He kept astral on this time, noticing something further inside the tent. Tentacles of smoke it looked like…there is a curse here.
He walked cautiously towards it, not wanting a repeat of a curse attacking him. Ashe had taught him how to create a shield in astral, but he wasn’t as quick as she was to bring it up yet.
He still kept his fingers ready.
At just the right angle this time, he spotted Assaria Clavez. Seemingly she was raking a knife against some kind of orb. It didn’t seem to be doing anything on the outside…
In astral however, it looked like she was torturing it somehow. With every rake the orb would tremble tentacles of smoke pooled out from the scratches. If Nikolas got anywhere near in astral he’d get hit, and with the way his astral was spazzing out on him….well he knew everything he needed to do his best to stay away from there.
Assaria looked back, eyes locking on him, or most likely, eyes looking at a shadow only she could see hidden behind the boy’s shoulder.
Nikolas retreated out of her line of sight. He should just wait this out.
Kit would be done soon and they could leave here. Whatever Assaria was doing couldn’t be good. He didn’t need to see his father either. On the contrary, he’d do fine without! He wasn’t ready.
No, it’s okay. He was just afraid. He’d practiced with Kit, he was ready. If the worst happened, she’d assured him he wouldn’t be alone. He owed it to himself to find his father. His last surviving parent.
He also owed it to these people to let them know Assaria was basically poking and prodding a curse beast right now.
He didn’t need to approach anyone himself though as a tall man came to see him.
“Hi there, you came with Kit didn’t you?” He asked, extending his hand.
Nikolas took it, a little intimidated by the strength of the handshake. ”Yeah, my name’s Nikolas.”
Niko tried to ignore the spark of recognition in the man’s eyes.
Nikolas? Oh you mean Xavier’s son?
He nervously continued talking before the man could vocally make that connection. “Not to be rude, but you guys know that Assaria is playing with a curse right now right? Curses are dangerous, those are basically instant death spells.”
“That’s Fenlarcy.” He explained. “You’re right it’s very dangerous, several people have died already. She says it’s because he’s trapped inside. She’s the only one who can come close to him. Don’t worry, she’s got this under control, it responds to her. Just steer clear from it.” He said with such assurance and a hint of condescendence, that Nikolas had no idea how to even begin explaining to him that Assaria shouldn’t be trusted with anything – especially not a knife.
Hell, the man sounded so convinced that Niko himself held a moment of doubt on whether he was exaggerating or not. Everyone who had ever dealt with her, however, always had the strong advice to stay away from her. To keep her locked away.
That is, almost everyone.
Xavier hadn’t been imagining things. His sixth sense hadn’t been lying to him. It was hard to judge what it was telling him these days, with Assaria constantly poking the orb. It was sending him waves and waves of worry and panic, but Xavier was at a loss of what to do.
Apart from that first day, no one else had died, and everyone was so absurdly convinced that Assaria was doing her best to help…The few times Xavier had tried to drag her away, the others had converged on him. He was a powerful witch, he knew a spell that would incapacitate them all, but there was always one around with a bucket of goo.
Maybe those were excuses, but he was starting to believe it too. No one else had died, and she was only testing random different things on it. This was beyond her power altogether – which a reminder, she had none. His sixth sense was acting up purely as a warning that if anyone else touched it they would die. Actually this may be the better option! Assaria had convinced everyone else not to touch it. No one else would die now.
It’s Not like Haginda was worried and she was as attuned as Xavier, if not more. She easily dismissed his worries with a wave of her hand. She certainly wouldn’t let Assaria frolic if there was a real risk.
Or at least, that’s what Xavier was telling himself to justify ignoring the whole situation and his sixth sense. But now it was telling him his son was nearby, and that wasn’t something he could ignore.
He marched towards him, almost with a skip in his step. “Nikolas! You’re here.” He exclaimed happily, he reached out – to hug him? Touch him? Who knew. Something to further confirm he really was here.
Nikolas took a step back and let out a nervous sound.
“Look at you! You’ve grown in a year.” Xavier grinned, unfazed by Niko’s reaction. “You must have all sorts of stories to tell me. Is Nikita with you?”
Niko said nothing, eyeing his father, searching for something.
“Come, let’s sit and catch up.” Xavier said, holding his son’s arm to drag him.
Nikolas roughly tore his arm away. “No.” He shook his head. “Catch up.” He snorted then, the most reaction he’d given so far.
“I’ve been stuck here for over a year Niko, I don’t know what’s happened.”
“You don’t know that pa died?”
Xavier’s throat tightened at the reminder. “I do, I heard about Ed.” He said in a quiet voice.
“Did you know about the house blowing up? Erin died too.” Nikolas passively said.
“Yes we have news here Niko.” Xavier said a little impatiently.
“Do you have phones too?” Nikolas shot back with just as much control as he had the rest.
Xavier let out a small sigh. “We’ve a lot to talk about. Let’s go outside where we won’t bother people.”
“No, I don’t feel safe being alone with you.” Nikolas admitted, avoiding eye contact.
“Niko…I wouldn’t hurt you.” Xavier said, frowning in worry at his son.
“You would and you did.”
“What are you doing here?” Xavier asked, looking at his son sadly now.
“I’m with Kit.” He replied plainly.
“Ah,” Xavier looked around, the elephant in the room weighing heavily on the conversation now. “I’m glad you’re okay Niko. Are you happy?” He tempted.
Niko clenched his jaw, the words he’d been reciting with Kit itching to come out. He was waiting for some kind of transition, some perfect spot in the conversation to say what he wanted. His father’s nice disposition made this difficult. It made him feel like a child just waiting to complain about the past.
Are you happy?
“Had fun completely bypassing my comment?” Nikolas asked. Xavier frowned a bit. “I don’t want to do small talk. You hurt me. That’s what happened last time we saw each other.”
“Niko you’re fine.” Xavier said. More than fine, there was pride to be had looking at how he’d aged.
Nikolas grimaced. “As long as it doesn’t show right?”
“What happened was unfortunate. The spell got out of hand and yes some feelings got hurt. But you were only asleep for an hour not much more. We went through a whole trial for this Niko, we dragged the whole family into it. Can we move on? It’s in the past. We’ve lost Ed, we’ve lost-” Xavier said, getting emotional.
“Stop!” Nikolas cut in sharply. He didn’t want to hear this guilt trip.
“Really? Is that how you want this conversation to go?”
“You don’t realize it, you don’t listen. It’s not that I lost an hour to sleep. It’s that you made me a prisoner.” Nikolas snapped, but his father’s face made it obvious he still wasn’t hearing him. “You don’t get to talk about the people we’ve lost when you were cooped up here. Niki and I do. We had a funeral for pa. We had to deal with the house being brought down.”
“You’re angry because I wasn’t there? Nikolas, I can’t leave here. I would’ve gone to see you both if I could. You don’t realize how hard this was, being away from you both. I wanted nothing more than to come back to you two.” Xavier said.
“That’s bullshit. If you really wanted it, you would’ve found your way back. Either way, it did me good to be away from you.”
Xavier sighed. “Oh Niko.”
“No, no you don’t get to do that.” Niko cut in harshly. “You don’t get to keep acting as if you know what’s best for me. You lost that privilege, you realize that right?”
Xavier gave a small smile, a condescending one. “I’m your father-”
“No.” Nikolas snapped, his voice, otherwise calm and leveled, was a warning now. Xavier blinked. “No, you aren’t.”
Xavier chuckled. “You can’t just disown me as your-”
“Yes I can, because I just did. I don’t want a father if making me his puppet is the only way I can be his son.”
Xavier took a few seconds to recompose himself. Nikolas was starting to grate. A year away had made him resentful. He’d built up a vision of what had gone down that was far worse than the original. It hadn’t been that bad. It had been a simple mistake.
“You know that’s not what happened.” Xavier said tensely.
“No, pretty sure that’s what the spell was about. I didn’t even have freedom of speech.” Niko said, almost with a shrug.
“Everything I’ve ever done was to protect you and your sister, I thought that was clear.”
“Oh yeah, you totally cast a spell on my sister too. Protection for everyone right?”
“Your sister didn’t need me to-”
“Right, cause she’s not a troublesome brat.”
“Yes, precisely!” Xavier angrily snapped, tired of being interrupted. “You can’t take care of yourself Niko. You were throwing yourself into pits of danger as naturally as you took a breath. Every other day I’d hear about how you got into a fight, and if you didn’t win it that’s because they’d beaten you half to death. I tried talking to you. I didn’t want to lose a son, what else was I supposed to do!?”
“Maybe listen!? Instead of imposing your view on me!” Nikolas shouted back. “For all these claims that I couldn’t take care of myself, I still spent a whole year without you and I somehow managed it. Somehow I’m still alive. Fun fact, that usually means you weren’t an important factor.” Xavier shook his head, and Nikolas picked up again before he gathered his thoughts. “How can you even claim to know what’s best when you let loose that woman?” Nikolas asked. He gestured in the general area Assaria was, just as Niko’s astral flickered again.
Assaria had struck the orb again, sending another wave of worry at Xavier and forcing Niko’s astral to activate temporarily.
“Is this why we’re having this conversation? So you can judge me for my decisions? So you can feel better by having proof that I can make mistakes?”
Nikolas let out a frustrated sigh. “Ah, nevermind.” He glanced in Assaria’s direction again, where the curse’s movements had gotten more erratic. It felt less and less safe.
“Excuse me? Nevermind?”
“This conversation is going nowhere. ‘Nice’ seeing you.” Nikolas said with air quotes. He took another step away from his father.
“Wait Nikolas, you can’t leave a conversation like this. Let’s just sit down somewhere.” Xavier said, closing the distance.
Niko shook his head. “No it’s good, I’ve said what I wanted. I’m just going to wait for Kit.”
“And then you’re just going to leave? Leave me here because we had a little argument?”
“You’re not my responsibility. I’m not going to force you to do something you don’t want.” Nikolas replied and turned his back to him.
“Nikolas.” Xavier said, but his son kept walking away. “Nikolas.” He said sharper, but there was no reaction. He yelled the third time. “Nikolas!”
This time he stopped, and so did everyone else. Xavier’s hands were pulsating with magic.
At first, there was fear. Magic.
But then he remembered where he was and who he was.
Xavier seemed to relax at finally getting his son’s attention. “Niko don’t turn your back to me.” He said carefully. He raised his hand up to gesture at his son to come back. A hand still wrapped in magic, a warning and a precaution. In case he refused…like a backup control bar.
The sudden silence of the troupe set Xavier on edge. He started to get anxious. He repeated his son’s name with more insistence now, taking a step forwards. The magic around his hands started to react to his growing panic at everyone’s reactions.
Xavier was dubbed the most powerful witch alive, merely because of the quantity of raw magic he held. Aleccas had nevertheless beaten him easily. The Keeper witch had told Niko his secret. While one had strength…the other had precision.
Nikolas brought his arms up, his rings glowing in response to his magic and he muttered a few words, his hands twisting to the flow of the spell. In a few seconds two protection bubbles had surrounded Xavier’s hands, blocking the magic from exiting.
Xavier watched, unable to react fast enough as Nikolas took steps towards him, casting another spell, a levitation spell that brought both the protection spheres up to Xavier’s face. And then with one last third spell, Niko instructed both spells to release their energy in a wave that knocked Xavier to the floor, completely disorienting him.
Nikolas stood over his father, heaving from his beating heart that hadn’t believed he could manage it.
“You have no control over me.” He said, each word weighing heavily.
Xavier stayed on the ground, looking up at the boy who’d once fought him to hell and back on training magic, who used to take weeks to learn a simple spell and who had cast three consecutive ones so rapidly Xavier would’ve missed one if he’d blinked.
He hadn’t needed him after all.
There was nothing left to say.
“He’ll be home soon.”