"There are two things that you must never forget about being an Awakened." Lith explained.
"The first is that our secret cannot be shared with anyone. The history of Garlen continent is full of mages and researchers that go missing in 'accidents' when they tried to share their theories about it.
I have no idea how many Awakened ones are out there, so far I met only Nalear and Farg. I only discovered their nature when they decided so. Sadly, there is no way to tell a fake from a true mage."
"Two of our Professors are Awakened?" The news shocked Tista.
"Yes." Lith nodded. "What I am trying to say is that not only you can't tell anyone about your new powers, but also that if you ever get found out you have to kill them."
Lith's eyes and voice were stone cold.
"Kill them? Why?"
"Think about it." Lith sneered. "A mage is a weapon and as such is strictly regulated. An Awakened one is both a weapon and the key to longevity. What do you think nobles and Royals would do to us, to our family to get their hands on such power?"
Lith paused, letting Tista ponder on his words. She wasn't a naïve little girl anymore. The academy had been her wake up call. Tista now knew what to expect from others.
"Do you mean that not even your group…"
"No one knows but you." Lith shook his head.
"Not even Phloria?"
"No. She noticed something was amiss with me, but Phloria never pushed me to reveal her the truth. It's one of the reasons why she was so precious to me." Lith sighed.
"The second thing is that every time you use Accumulation or Invigoration your life gets longer. By drawing in the world energy you'll consume less and less of your own, allowing you to live for centuries.
It means you'll see our family, your husband and children wither and die while you'll still look twenty. I'm giving you a choice I didn't have. You can either just practice true magic and live a normal life or also use those techniques to become stronger but be progressively set apart from humans."
"I'm sorry, but I need some air." Tista stood up and ran away from Lith's room. Her head was spinning because of all those sudden revelations. She felt suffocating. Despite the tower was actually spacious, Tista had the impression the walls were collapsing on her.
Only when she walked out of the door and into the familiar Trawn woods the world seemed to regain a semblance of normality.
"Would you like some company or do you prefer to stay alone?" Solus's voice made her flinch, but just for a second.
"Oh Solus, thank the gods you are here." Tista turned around and hugged the wisp. Much to Solus's surprise, her arms didn't pass through. She could actually feel Tista's embrace as if it was Lith's.
"Can we take a walk? All that talking about killing in cold blood and immortality seriously freaked me out." Being touched by another human being freaked out Solus too. Also, she had no idea what to say to Tista without scaring her.
Solus knew Tista like she was her own sister, while Tista knew nothing about her.
"Sure, but I can't get very far from the tower. The further I get, the smaller the wisp becomes until I'm forced back inside." Solus did her best to not let her voice quiver.
'By my maker, our first meeting couldn't go any worse. First, she took me for a peeping tom, now she'll pity me. I must find something smart or funny to say to salvage the situation.'
Tista walked around and away from the tower until Solus's wisp became the size of a tennis ball. For several minutes they remained silent, the only audible sounds were the rustling of the leaves and the woods' bird calls.
That situation was a nightmare for Solus. Her consciousness was far enough from Lith to not feel his presence in her mind anymore and at the same time, she realized how awkward that quiet was.
'Oh gods! Why does she say nothing? I'm not used to silence, Lith's minds is always a noisy mess. Am I supposed to break the ice or is it better to wait for her to open up?'
Solus's first human interaction wasn't as she had always pictured it. She had been linked to Lith's mind and emotions for so long that she was not used not to know what the other person was thinking.
Tista's expression was unfathomable to her. She seemed to be worried, disgusted and annoyed all at the same time. Solus started panicking, thinking that Tista's silence was due to her regretting the choice of bringing Solus along.
"I'm so confused. What do you think I should do, Solus?" Tista asked.
"I'm sorry, I have no idea what you are talking about." Solus's voice was cracking due to the strain she was under.
"I'd like you to get closer to the tower, though."
"Do you think Lith is right about killing?" She continued walking at a fast pace.
"Please, Tista, get back. One more step and you'll be stark naked. My clothes, remember?" Solus yelped, her wisp was on the verge of disappearing.
Tista cursed at her stupidity, walking towards the tower as fast as she could. She noticed how her body had never felt so light.
"As for the killing, yes. I think he is right." Solus sighed. The wisp was back at half of its original size.
"I was just like you at the beginning, but all the things Lith and I experienced together changed my mind. Even if the person that discovers your secret is a good one, would you really risk your whole family's lives just to save a stranger?
"Would you risk them becoming hostages to keep you on a leash? There's nothing that people with power wouldn't do to not lose their power, even using slave items. Do you want to be a slave?"
Solus projected in front of Tista some of the images from Nalear's attack. The chaos and bloodshed forced her to avert her eyes.
"Please stop. I got what you mean." Solus stopped the projection, giving Tista some time to think.
"What do you think is better between longevity and power? I mean, the stronger I get the longer I'll live, but I'm scared of ending up all alone. You have already lived for so long, do you have any advice for me?"
Solus felt flattered by so much trust in her judgment despite they had just shortly met.
"Honestly, no. I have no choice on the matter. I'm glad I lost all my previous memories, otherwise I would have gone insane a long time ago. There's one thing I can tell you, though. Your brother and I are as scared as you are of being alone.
Lith always worries about the day he will grieve your deaths, while I worry about him. I'm so scared of losing Lith that I can't sleep for days after he fights a strong enemy. I'm scared at the thought that he will grow old and die while I'll be forced to look for a new host."