Kylan looked up at the girl he’d met in school. She was older now. Strangely enough, he was younger. She had been the one person who’d ever seemed to care how he felt or what he thought. When all his other peers had taken to avoiding him because of his misanthropic ways, she had continued to reach out.

Somewhere along the way, they had become friends. He had thought numerous times of asking her out to one of the innumerable social events that the campus had. However, that would have meant that he would have had to be in a crowd of people. It was something he couldn’t handle.

Now, it was too late. The spell that had killed so many had made him little more than a child. She would never see him as anything more. He stepped up to her and tried to smile. She was here, as many mages were, to find a potential apprentice. The other children here were young enough to be molded to their future master’s ideas of what a mage should be.

“Hello, little one,” Emara said softly. “What’s your name?”

“K – Keiji,” he replied. “This… this is Lansky.” He gestured at the water sprite that was his familiar. Emara had never seen his familiar when they’d been in school together, but as a potential master, it was her prerogative to see him now.

“Would you like to learn potions crafting?” she asked, her voice gentle.

It occurred to Kylan that she was speaking to him as one might a skittish animal. Then he recalled that she had always spoken to him in this manner. He nodded once and took the hand she held out to him. Her touch was gentle. A part of him wished that he had allowed that touch when he was her peer. He shook the thought away and followed his new master and guardian out of the crèche.