Nana's death had a deep impact on both Lith and Tista, although for entirely different reasons. For Lith, it was one mourning too much. In the past four years, he had lost more people he loved than in his whole first life.
He left the academy for good after saying goodbye to all his colleagues.
"It's a pity Lith didn't change his mind." Marth said while drinking vintage wine with his friends from the light department.
"He could have been a good Professor, after some proper training. I have decided to turn his version of Principles of Advanced Magic into an elective course. Many find it difficult, but those who succeed reap too many benefits to discard it as a failed experiment."
"I'm glad he's leaving." Vastor took a big sip from his cup. "He's still young. The academy is better suited for old coots like us or madmen. Our duty is not only to teach magic, but also to guide people in life.
Lith can't guide anyone, the kid is still lost in whatever the gods threw at him."
"Indeed." Manohar emptied his cup in one gulp. He liked drinking with company. Alcohol made people easier to bear for him and vice versa.
"Although I resent being called an old coot. I'm the youngest one in the room, after all. Also, although he may be an odd fella, I can guarantee you that Marth is not a madman. You should apologize to him Vastor."
It was hard to understand when Manohar was serious and when he wasn't. Especially after the second bottle. The three men laughed merrily at the joke. They were eager for winter to come. It was the only time of the year they could properly rest.
For Tista, Nana's death was the moment she became truly aware of her own mortality. She had lost several patients over the years, but never someone she cared about. Tista realized she had to decide if power was worth so much suffering.
She found solace in spending time together with her family, but at the same time, she felt isolated. They knew nothing about magic and even less about Awakened ones, so she spent more and more time with Solus.
Lith was happy his companion had finally found a friend. Sometimes he would leave Solus in her tower form, allowing the two girls to be alone while he was elsewhere.
"Have you decided what you want to do?" Solus asked.
"Yeah. I'm done with the academy for now. I'll spend the winter together with my family and friends. I'll leave the first day of spring in a random direction." Tista replied.
"For a while, I'll stop being a Healer. I'm sick of always having to worry so much for others. I want some me time for once. Money will not be an issue for a long time. I never spent a dime of what I earned working with Nana.
Lith always paid for everything. What about you?"
"Meaning?" Solus was confused.
"Are you still unclear about your feelings for my brother?"
"I'm still as clueless as I was the first day I met you." She sighed.
"Well, you can't just live your life like a damn sidekick. You are a great girl, Solus. Maybe you two should work on getting you a body. Maybe the reason why you are so confused is because you spend too much time together.
You need to make your own friends, experience a life that's only your own."
"How would I survive? Without a mana geyser or your brother, I won't last long. Lith would be forced to stick around and delay all of his plans until I'm done. It wouldn't be fair."
"I don't think so." Tista shook her head. "Maybe having your roles reversed for once might help both of you. I believe Lith would be happy to give you a chance at life."
Meanwhile, Lith was at the Ernas Household.
Most of his recent losses were related to his life at the academy, so he felt the need to share his burden with someone that had lived those events with him. Quylla was not an option since she had too much on her plate already.
That had led Friya and Lith to become closer, even if it wasn't in the way she would have liked. With her family's history, Friya was the one who could best relate to his mental state.
Lith was lying on a sofa, with his head on Friya's lap while she caressed his soft hair.
"Good gods, when will you stop growing?" She lamented. Lith was now an adult by Mogar's standards and also a giant at 1.83 meters tall (6').
"Soon, I hope. Otherwise I'll be forced to spend a fortune on clothing. The Skinwalker armor is nearing its limits and I'd like to avoid getting a new one." He sighed.
"I'm glad to see that you and Quylla are alright. After losing Protector, Selia, Yurial, Phloria, and now Nana I don't know if I can take another blow."
"Protector, Selia, and Phloria are not dead!" She rebuked. "They are simply…"
"Gone? Lost to me? Disappeared from my life?" Lith cut her short.
"What's the difference? Until Protector stops playing dead, I will not be able to find him. As for Phloria, I haven't heard from her in two years. She might have become a completely different person."
"I'm sure she still cares for you."
"Yeah? Then why did she never call? Not even for my birthday?" Lith rebuked.
"I don't know, maybe for the same reason you never called her?" Friya clicked her tongue in disapproval.
"Wherever she is, she has the right to be happy. I prefer to be a happy memory rather than a chain preventing her from enjoying what she now has. That's why I don't call her."
"That's funny. She said almost the same thing the last time we talked."
"She what?"Lith tried to jump up on his feet, but Friya pushed his chest forcing him back down.
"Did you really expect Phloria not to call her family for two years? If you want to know where she is, you just have to ask."
"What are you going to do with your life?" Lith asked.
"First, I'll pretend to not notice you just dodged the question." Friya sneered. "Second, since Quylla is going back to the academy in spring, I think I'll take a few missions from the Association.
I'll see the world, meet new people, and rack up merits. Three birds with one stone. Hopefully, I'll also find a decent man. Both the academy and the Court have been an utter disappointment." Friya's love life was similar to Lith's. It was filled with short, meaningless relationships that frustrated her to no end.
When spring arrived, the heirs of the Ernas and Verhen Households moved on the next step of their lives. Lith reached the recruitment center fully prepared.
Everything valuable he had was safely stored in his pocket dimension while Solus was concealed in his mouth, wrapped around one of his teeth. Orion had explained the whole procedure to him, allowing Lith to make preparation for when things would go south.
'Always the optimist.' Solus sighed.
'Always the nagger.' Lith replied. 'Besides, I resent that.'