"Stop calling me 'little one'!" Quylla hated that moniker, it made her feel like a child.
"We're the same age and I'm even quite tall for my age." With her 1.6 meters (5'3") she was indeed tall by Mogar's standards. Because of her thin build, she seemed even taller.
"You are short compared to me." Lith shrugged. He never expected these Murderers Anonymous meetings to become a habit for the surviving members of the group.
Yet after noticing how much talking with him helped Phloria to relieve her burden, Lith became the sponsor for the three girls until they felt ready to share their demons with each other.
Friya and Phloria had recovered quickly. Maybe because the academy kept their minds busy, or maybe because after so many tears and so much grieving they had come to terms with the truth that saving both Jirni and Yurial was just a pipe dream.
The anniversary of Nalear's attack had recently passed, so Lith wasn't surprised when Quylla called him and asked for his help. He was glad to see she had been eating again. Her cheeks were rosy and she was even starting to gain weight in the right places.
"How is it going with Kalan?" Before confronting the elephant in the room, Lith wanted to make Quylla relax with small talk about her boyfriend.
"We broke up yesterday." She replied with a sigh.
'Nice move, Freud.' Lith inwardly cursed at his bad luck.
'It's not your fault, you had no way of knowing.' Solus consoled him.
"I don't need to know who dumped who to tell you that he is a d*ck. It's his loss."
"What makes you so sure it's his fault we broke up?" Quylla chuckled. Lith's unconditional support meant a lot to her.
"Well, you started dating less than two months ago. The only reasons I can think of for such an abrupt ending is either you found out he was cheating on you, or he rushed for the fifth year and he wouldn't take a no for an answer. Either way, he is a d*ck."
Fifth year was the Mogar's slang equivalent for the home run in a relationship.
Quylla blushing instead of getting angry at her ex made Lith understand it was the latter.
"How is Tista doing?" Quylla changed the topic. There were things she didn't like to talk about with Lith.
"Good. After the mock exam she got a group of her own. Two girls and two boys, just like ours. Tista's jury is still out on whether or not they are sincere."
"How come you're so relaxed? Aren't you worried about the boys?" Quylla would have expected Lith to have run background checks or at least have intimidated them.
"Tista knows that if she needs my help she just has to ask." Lith shrugged.
"She must learn to fend for herself and become a good judge of character. My role isn't to prevent her from stumbling and falling, only to help her in standing back up."
Those words shocked Quylla. Lith was so calm and mature instead of his usual overprotective self.
"If someone tries something funny or hurts her, they may find themselves accident prone. Maybe even going missing for good, but that's another story." He winked.
Lith meant to make her laugh with his joke, yet Quylla became sad.
"Do you still think about Yurial?" She asked while staring at the ground.
"Yes. Almost every day." Lith sighed.
"I still regret never making that trip with you guys at the end of the fourth year. I also regret not being a better friend. Before meeting you guys, I was completely alone. Don't get me wrong, I love my family, but they know nothing about magic.
"My mother still thinks that with a book and a bit of effort everything is possible. She doesn't realize how much work there is behind every single spell. Nor does she realize the things I had to do to get where I am and earn all the money I bring home.
I know it's my fault for always keeping them in the dark, but I felt lonely nonetheless."
'I don't know what would have become of me without you, Solus. You are the best thing that ever happened to me.' He inwardly added, making Solus incredibly happy.
"Even if I didn't realize it earlier, you guys are my magical family. After the second exam, Yurial realized his faults and did his best to become a good friend. A brother. Yet I was too conceited to notice."
Lith handed Quylla one of Yurial's notebooks. It was opened to a page where, after discussing one of the impossible arrays, Yurial had let his mind wander about his feelings towards the group and Quylla in particular.
He expressed his regrets for having treated her as an asset rather than a person at first, thinking only of how he could exploit her help to improve his grades. Yurial also wrote about how he had protected her from the shadows, getting rid of those who approached her with a hidden agenda.
"I think Quylla is too kind for her own good." Yurial wrote. "Don't let her know that I told you, but I believe she's the most dazzling girl I've ever met. Despite Quylla's harsh life, she retained her sweet and loving personality.
"I wish I didn't always act like an idiot in front of her. I hope one day I'll be able to repay all the kindness she has showered me with, even when I did nothing to deserve it. I hope she'll think fondly of me like I do of her."
Quylla started sobbing. She dropped the notebook, incapable of reading those words for one second longer. She felt undeserving of such affection.
"How can you forgive me for what I did?" She said through the tears. "I'm sure Yurial spent his last moments of life hating me. Thinking I had betrayed his trust."
Lith embraced her. He caressed her hair and back while she vented her pain.
"You have nothing to be forgiven for." He said.
"I didn't show you that notebook to torture you, but only to let you know what his feelings for you were. Yurial could never hate you. He loved us too much to have such thoughts. I'm sure he was worried more about you than about himself."
Lith paused for a second before continuing.
"Quylla, no one blames you for what happened but yourself. Life is for the living, not for the dead. You can't let Nalear's madness ruin your life. Don't turn him into a vengeful ghost haunting you. That's the only thing Yurial could never forgive you for."
Lith knew he was being a hypocrite, yet he didn't care. Carl's death was always lingering in the back of his mind, affecting every decision he made. Getting over the untimely death of a loved one wasn't something he should preach about to others.
'My body count has already reached three digits, while Quylla has still a chance to be normal. She needs hope more than anything else.' He thought.
Feeling that little, frail body quivering through tears, Lith deeply regretted having given Nalear a swift death instead of one filled with excruciating agony.