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"—and that—is how you conjure a familiar!" Oohira Reon's voice rang in the open hall. He brandished a hand over the resting cat, its tail curling with leisure as it blinked slowly at the small group of students. The ones sitting nearest him clapped politely; Kenjirou was not among them.

He sat closer to door, back pressed against the edge of the table with his arms crossed firmly. He wasn't there because he needed extra tutoring—thank you for your effort though, Oohira—he was simply bored. The teacher's assistant chuckled awkwardly and scratched the back of his neck before coughing loudly into his fist. The cat took one look at him and stretched, then hopped off the table to a duo of girls who cooed and giggled as it settled between them.

"Right, traitor." Kenjirou wasn't near the front in the slightest, yet the hall echoed his very disgruntled TA friend who began to stack up his papers. Everyone else began to pack their bags, stuffing books and pens back into their bags. He yawned and unfolded his arms, movements slow and lazy as he followed the crowd.

From his peripheral, he noticed someone occupy the empty spot next to him. But instead of sitting like the average person, this student put a foot on the seat and stepped up, perching on the edge of the table.

"Did I miss anything?" The words couldn't be directed at him—were they?

The tap on his shoulder confirmed that, yes, the stranger was talking to him. Kenjirou stood and hefted his bag over his shoulder, then turned to face him. The stranger stared at him and repeated, "Did I miss anything?"

From his sluggish demeanor, Kenjirou could guess that he had just woken up. Tawny hair that resembled a bird's nest more than a head of hair sat atop of a tired face. His eyes, dark and almond-shaped, supported large, dark bags that ringed like those in a tree. What really gave it away was the large, circular red spot that marked his forehead; he'd definitely fallen asleep on top of something.

When he didn't answer immediately, the stranger tilted his head and leaned forward, elbows settling on his knees as he cradled his head in his palms. The way he stared was unnerving, as if he could gaze well into Kenjirou's tightly guarded soul.

"Not really," he finally answered. If the stranger noticed him pull away just a fraction, he didn't comment on it. Rather, he hummed and sat back, arms falling behind him with his fingers splayed out across the surface.

"Mk."

 

--

 

"No, no. The logistics of it say that if you move your hand this way—," Semi flicked his wrist and drew a rune into the air, "—that it should work." Then he dropped his hand. The air before them started to sizzle, and the lingering rune began to redden, becoming hotter and hotter until Kenjirou had to take a few steps back.

As quickly as it'd come, it vanished, rune sucked into a vortex of dead spells. Senior and underclassman both gaped at the spot. One was dumbfounded that it obviously hadn't worked. The other watched with a brow arched, mouth curled in a scoff. Semi pivoted on his heel and pointed at Kenjirou, lips pursed in frustration.

"Not a word out of you," his senior grunted. "Not even—"

"—I told you so?" Kenjirou finished, sarcasm heavy in his tone. Semi's glare grew heated—almost as intense as his failed spell—but Kenjirou didn't back down. He only gestured over Semi's face. "You might want to figure...that out."

Semi pulled back, face twisted into confusion. With another wave, Kenjirou pointed at his eyebrows. Or lack of. His senior reached up, and when he felt smooth skin instead of a line of fine hairs, his eyes widened, and he dashed to the window to check his reflection.

"Oh fuck," he groaned and covered his missing eyebrows. Kenjirou only glanced away and pulled his mouth into a straight line. "Don't tell anyone about this?" Semi pleaded; he continued to stroke at the skin above his eyes.

Well, he wasn't going to mention it anyway. The others were going to see one way or another. If lucky, Semi could sneak to the medical ward and suffer through a humiliating bout of having to explain how he had seared off his eyebrows. But if unlucky, he'd be caught on the journey there—a much more likely scenario since his closest friend and tormentor always managed to find him.

"Semi!" Ah, and there he was. Tendou peeked into the room, his shock of red hair inexplicably a beacon of fire in the sunlight. "Reon is looking for you. He says that Wakatoshi wants to borrow your—say, what are you doing there?" His tone turned sly. Judging by Semi's panicked expression and Tendou's manic features, Kenjirou knew it was time to leave.

He audibly sighed and make his way to the door, ignoring Semi's pleading at Tendou to just leave. The latter ignored him and rushed by Kenjirou with a loud, "See ya' later, Shirabu!" Kenjirou didn't bother to answer and slipped out the door—face first into a hovering stack of books.

There was a blinding pain, and he could faintly make out the sound of books cluttering to the ground, volume after volume colliding with the old wooden floors. He cried out from shock, but more from the rising annoyance and gripping pain that stemmed from the bridge of his nose. Eyes squeezed shut, he covered the lower half of his face and touched the sensitive area. It stung and he flinched.

"Are you all right?" the perpetrator asked. His voice was familiar, yet Kenjirou didn't have the time or patience to figure it out. Instead, he poked at it again and hissed, then let out the foulest string of curses that would have his mother—or any mother—scrubbing his mouth out with soap. "I'll take that as a no."

With that, he glared blindly through the tears building in his eyes. There was a tall silhouette standing before him, and when he blinked the tears away, he could make out a head of messy tawny hair. The stranger bent down to eye level, and Kenjirou resisted the urge to kick his shins. He didn't need to damage his nose and his pride. Kenjirou jerked back and scowled.

His vision was slow to focus without blurring, and soon he was able to see that it was the student from yesterday. The one that looked like he had a serious sleep-deprivation problem. He was lanky, full height a good head taller than Kenjirou, but he hadn't been able to see that the day before with him perched on the edge of the table.

Kenjirou glared up, but then his gaze flickered to his chest, where underneath his cloak, he could make out the crossed swords over a black shield sewed into his vest. The same symbol stitched into Tendou's vest. It was almost unnoticeable, unlike Kenjirou's own symbol whose shield was silver instead of black.

"I could heal that, if you want?" the student offered. He held up a finger and without a warning, brought it down to prod at the bridge of Kenjirou's nose.

"I don't need dark magic to heal myself, thanks," he muttered, not bothering to hide the bitterness that lined his voice. It came out nasally, though the venom was still there.

The stranger pulled his hand back. "Well, that's just prejudiced. Our magic can be used for good." Then he added as an afterthought, "Though our methods may be a little less than conventional." He sniffed and then ran a hand through his hair, a feat that Kenjirou didn't know was possible. "Really, I feel bad. Let me heal it?"

Kenjirou narrowed his eyes in suspicion but didn't move. Apparently, that exasperated the student who held up a hand and flicked his wrist. His rune burned in the air, and the pain in Kenjirou's nose subsided until it became a dull throb that faded to nothing. It stayed in the air, burning bright, and then the student sliced a hand through it, dissipating it.

"I don't recognize that spell," Kenjirou uttered and rubbed his nose. He moved his fingers up until they brushed against the bridge, where he felt nothing. No pain. No sensitivity. It was like he hadn't slammed his face into a stack of volumes in the first place.

"Does it matter? It's healed now, right?"

Kenjirou was about to ask more, when a yelp that sounded suspiciously like Tendou echoed through the door. It was thrown open and Tendou stumbled out, followed by  Semi, who had a hand covering the area over his eyes. Tendou grasped at the bridge of his nose, tears streaming down his face.

"Taichi!" Tendou accused, "Did you do that?!" He completely disregarded Kenjirou's existence, red irises focused on the stranger's face. Taichi shrugged, a slow lift of his shoulders.

"Maybe, maybe not. But you might want to get that checked out. You're crying," Taichi pointed out.

Tendou sagged and moaned, "I was laughing at Semi-Semi here until I was hit by magic—literally. I think my nose is broken."

"It's not broken. Just bruised."

"It was like getting hit with a bag full of bricks."

"Books," Kenjirou interjected. The others finally noticed his presence with Tendou narrowing his eyes, Taichi staring, and Semi's wide gaze turning into a full glare. "You were hit with books." That's when the two upperclassmen noticed the volumes of books scattered across the hall. Kenjirou waved a spell and the books glided into one neat stack.

"You guys should head toward the medical wing," Taichi said. It'd be imperceptible to the others at their angle, but Kenjirou could clearly see his finger moving along the air. The small rune burned, and the books began to levitate until they hovered at Kenjirou's eye level. Tendou snorted and winced in pain.

Semi stepped forward and shoved Tendou forward, one hand still covering his missing eyebrows. The two upperclassmen started down the hall, Tendou still disgruntled and grumbling over whatever Taichi had done.

They waited until their two seniors turned down another hall. Then Kenjirou snorted, drawing Taichi's attention back to him. "Thank you," he said, "and you're right. Your methods are unconventional, but I can't deny that I enjoyed that one."

"Ah." Taichi held up a finger. "I explicitly said, 'a little less than conventional.' That doesn't mean it's unconventional." He tapped the stack of hovering books and let them float forward. "And you're welcome." Taichi sent him a small smile and side stepped to go down the opposite end.

Kenjirou watched him, then shook his head. "You're so weird."

 

--

 

Through years of practice, Theodora the Great spent a majority of her time on perfecting the conjuring spell. Of all her attempts, she recorded the fiftieth year to be successful when she managed to summon a familiar through spell casting rather than searching through the woods, as was common in 1542—

Someone plopped next to him, jerking him out of his concentration. Taichi sat next to him, apple in mouth as he reached to grab a banana off the tray. Kenjirou furrowed his brows but said nothing, finishing the sentence he'd left off on.

He glanced over at Taichi, who fished a book from his bag and slapped it on the table, spine jumping off the surface before clattering down. It caused the student in front of him to jump, and a few curious students glanced over before returning to eat breakfast.

Noticing Kenjirou's gaze, Taichi angled his head down at him with a slow arch of his brow. Kenjirou held his steady stare and broke it when he turned back. Taichi said nothing, just proceeded to continue munching on his apple and began to read.

They fell into a comfortable silence, neither saying a word to each other.

"I think I figured it out."

Kenjirou looked up at the interruption to see Semi staring at him, eyebrows having grown back. There was no cloak slung over his shoulders, so the coat of arms that mirrored Shirabu's was proudly displayed on his chest. He sat directly in front of him, fingers interlaced as he leaned over the table.

He set down the book, letting the spine slam the surface and then fall with enough force to shake their small table. Semi didn't flinch, already accustomed to Kenjirou's every day habits. Kenjirou leaned over the text and pointed at Semi's face. "How long did that take?"

Semi swatted the hand away and scowled, pulling back to cross his arms tightly across his chest. "It didn't take any time. All I needed was a potion. Apparently, it's not uncommon for students to burn their brows off during their first year."

"Yeah, first year," Kenjirou scoffed. "You're what, in your final year now?" Taichi snorted from next to him, but when they both looked over at him, his head was still bowed, eyes glued to the text.

"Go on, I'm just here," Taichi snorted, but he never looked up and turned the page.

Semi's frown deepened, and he swiped a grape off of Kenjirou's plate, then pointed at Taichi. "You've been hanging around Satori too much," he said, words interspersed between each bite. "Anyway," he directed this at Kenjirou, "I was supposed to flick my wrist to the right, not the left. The left would coincidentally cause a burning charm. The right would have frozen the water like it should have."

Kenjirou groaned, all his pent up frustrations regarding his beloved senior coming out as an exasperated growl. "I warned you earlier that it was the right, and then what? You chose the left—and stop stealing my grapes." He yanked the plate away from Semi's thieving hands, but the latter managed to swipe a bundle of grapes.

To his dismay, the last bundle was stolen when Tendou came up from behind them to snatch it off his plate. He situated himself next to Semi, shoulders knocking as he tilted forward to grab at the banana off of Taichi's plate. Using it, he gestured between them both.

"Since when have you two been friends?" he asked, stuffing his mouth with fruit. Semi nodded in agreement. Kenjirou glanced over at Taichi, who did the same. Then they both shrugged.

 

--

 

Taichi began to join him for breakfast, and sometimes, if in the library, Kenjirou would find a seat next to Taichi, who spent most, if not all, of his time slumped over his book or softly snoring away. If Kenjirou ever met with Semi, there was a good ninety percent chance that Tendou would be there. In turn, there was a good chance that Taichi would be there as well.

Though he'd never say it out loud, having Taichi there made hanging with Tendou and Semi much more bearable.

 

--

 

"Taichi's been around a lot lately," Semi said. He yanked up a fistful of grass and threw them into the air. They caught the wind and drifted away, blades of green contrasting against a blue sky. Kenjirou hummed, straining to keep his focus on his essay, but from the way the ink harshly dotted his notebook and the way his fingers tightened on his pen, he knew he was far from focused.

"Has he?" Kenjirou settled. He didn't know when or how Taichi had become a small part of his life. Every morning—every day—he would see Taichi, eyes hooded, hair a rat's nest, slouching on crossed arms. He'd be greeted by a slurred, "'ello," before the latter would fall right back to sleep. Sometimes, he'd wake with ink imprinted to his forehead or cheeks, and Kenjirou would wave a spell into existence to wipe it off.

There'd been only two occasions when Taichi hadn't showed up. And those two occasions were noticeable. His absence had left a weird gaping hole at Kenjirou's side and in his concentration. Somehow, Taichi had become a constant.

"It's a little weird, isn't it?" Semi continued. He leaned back, supporting himself on his palms and tilting his head toward the sky. "Being friends with someone who practices dark magic." 

"That's probably just Tendou."

Semi croaked out a laugh, choking at the unexpected comment. "Probably. Satori's odd." He sighed, "But in your case, with your entire lineage practicing good, does it feel weird?"

Kenjirou shifted, and swallowing was suddenly difficult at the mention of his family. "Just because we practice good doesn't mean we use it for good," he said quietly. "Just like how practicing dark magic doesn't immediately mean you're bad."

"Of course," Semi agreed, sensing that he'd nearly crossed a line. He tore up another fistful of grass and tossed it into the air. This time, Kenjirou watched the blades of grass drift away.

 

--

 

"You're quiet today." Taichi's voice was sleep-addled, but Kenjirou knew that was how he normally spoke anyway. When he turned his head, he was surprised by how close Taichi's face was to his. The latter blinked with narrowed eyes, as if shielding them from the sun, but his gaze never wavered from Kenjirou's face.

Kenjirou set down his pen and pinched the area between his brows. "I don't know what you're talking about. I'm always quiet." In truth, he'd been reading the same line for over ten minutes as his mind drifted elsewhere.

Taichi hummed. "Mm, no. You normally cluck your tongue or sigh every few minutes. Or you make this weird noise in the back of your throat when reading something you don't like, which happens more frequently than you think." This caught him off guard. Kenjirou didn't do all that—did he? "So yes, you're quiet today."

"Do I really do all that?" he asked, somewhat stunned. Not for the first time, Taichi sent him a small smile and his brows lifted in amusement. And not for the first time, Kenjirou felt his heart skip a beat.

"More than you think," he answered. Taichi shifted and leaned his upper arm flat against his table, letting his fist support his head. "Chin up. Things will be fine."

There was a moment of silence on Kenjirou's end. "How did you know something was wrong? How did you find out?"

His friend shrugged and lifted his arm to settle back onto his book. He turned away from Kenjirou's pointed question and answered, "I didn't. I have no idea what's going on. But things tend to play out fine by the end, no matter how stressful things seem at present." Then he flipped a page in his notebook and scribbled over the surface.

Taichi's words of wisdom always came out at the most random times, but every time they did, they left Kenjirou in a state of thoughtful silence.

 

--

 

It was breakfast when trouble began to brew.

And it started with Semi plopping himself in front of Taichi and Kenjirou, a letter pinched between his index and middle finger.

"You," Semi started, his tone simultaneously accusatory and tired, "need to reply to your mother. She's been hounding me with letters. So please save me an early death by sending her a letter back?"

Kenjirou froze, and the grape in his mouth suddenly lacked all sweetness it had before. Then book in hand weighed more like lead than bound paper. Semi tilted his wrist and offered the letter. All Kenjirou could do was stare at the wax seal that acted as the border between him and his family.

Avoidance had never coursed through his veins, let alone his family name, yet this was one thing that bothered him more than any ridiculous assignment could. So rather than pluck the letter from Semi's fingers and read his mother's letter, he lifted a hand and mindlessly drew a rune into the air.

Within seconds, the letter was engulfed in flames.

Semi swore and dropped it onto the metal tray, where he proceeded to hit it with his cloak until the fire went out. Kenjirou's vision tunneled, and there was an odd sort of ringing in his ears. It was overwhelming. Semi glared at him, and he knew Taichi was staring, but he couldn't find it within himself to care. 

So he stood, picking up his bag, stuffing his book under his arm, and exiting the hall as quickly as he could.

 

--

 

The next morning, Kenjirou didn't bother to come down to breakfast, staying in bed with his arms stuffed underneath his pillow. Semi nearly passed him by, but a second glance caused him to do a double take and gape. Before he could say anything, Kenjirou yanked the pillow from under his head and stuffed it over his ears, blocking Semi in every way possible.

And when he looked up again, he was gone.

 

--

 

There was another letter by his bedside when he woke the next morning. The red wax shone brightly in the sunlight, almost like it was mocking him.

Kenjirou burned that as well.

 

--

 

"Oi!" The shout came from outside of his door, and Kenjirou turned to glance at its general direction. "Dark practitioners aren't allowed—"

The words were cut off when the door slammed open, and Taichi stepped into the room. He observed the room for a minute, hooded eyes gazing from bed to bed until they made contact with Kenjirou's pathetic form curled in his bed. Then he moved toward him, swift and lanky. He didn't say a word, just left a plate of grapes next to his bed.

The student that yelled earlier could only watch with his mouth hanging open as Taichi exited with Kenjirou staring at his back as he disappeared from sight.

 

--

 

"Don't forget to angle your spell so that its full potential can be felt." Ushijima pointed at the board and moved his arm, flicking his wrist so that the students could see the rune's clear angles. "If you make it too long, you run the risk of setting fire to your cloak. Now, turn to your partner and prepare to—"

The door opened without warning, and everyone turned to watch Oikawa poke his head through the door. He glanced around the room, turning up his nose when he noticed Ushijima watching him curiously. "Ushiwaka," he greeted stiffly. "I'm here for Shirabu Kenjirou."

"Oikawa," Ushijima greeted back, though his tone was much more pleasant—which wasn't saying much. "Of course. And have you thought over our conversation? You should have become the theory professor. You have an aptitude for theoretical spell casting."

If possible, Oikawa's scowled deepened. "I'm fine with where I am. Astronomy has a stronger calling than theories. Anyway, Shirabu Kenjirou?"

Kenjirou raised his hand, and Oikawa's face softened toward him. "Please grab your things. The dean is calling you to his office." He nodded and began to collect his belongings off his desk. His classmate gave him a wide-eyed stare. No matter the circumstances, Kenjirou had never been called to the dean's office.

Slinging his bag over his shoulder, he walked to the door, ignoring the curious gazes that felt as if they were burning his skin. Oikawa widened the opening, and Kenjirou moved past him, keeping his head low. Thankfully, Oikawa didn't say a word as he led him to the dean's office.

To Kenjirou's building dread, the first person he saw was Taichi, who was shelving the books along the walls. The latter barely glanced up at the sound of the door opening, but his head snapped up the moment he realized it was Kenjirou walking in. They exchanged looks: Taichi, worried and relieved, Kenjirou, exhausted and resigned.

However, when he turned his head, his heart dropped from his chest into the sinking pit that was his stomach. There, sitting in front of the dean, was his mother.

She leapt up the moment she saw him, relief evident in her features. Yet her cheeks were more gaunt than he remembered. The bags underneath her eyes rivaled Taichi's, an indication of her lack of sleep.

"Kenjirou," she greeted, then pointed at the seat next to her. "Please, sit. I have news for you." He nodded stiffly, and it was another moment of silence before he made his way to her. Dropping his back next to his chair, he settled down, angling away from her. The dean leaned forward, interlacing his fingers.

"Is this about my schoolwork?" Kenjirou asked, though he was certain his mother had come for another reason.

The dean shook his head with a somber smile. "No, your grades are phenomenal. It's about your cousin." And there it was. The words spread an icy sensation down his spine until he was stiff with discomfort.

"What about him?" he managed. His mother reached over and tentatively placed a hand on his shoulder. The motion made him flinch, and she tore her hand away.

"He's been charged," she started, placing her hands back into her lap, "for attempted murder and robbery." From his peripheral, Kenjirou noticed Taichi freeze, book half-shelved.

"Oh," he uttered. His hands defaulted to the hem of his shirt, where he wrung the fabric. Every penetrating thought caused him to tighten his grip until he could see it begin to wrinkle. "Was my testimony enough?"

His mother nodded furiously and reached over to cup his hands. "Yes. It was enough. I just wanted to let you know the good news. You're going to be fine."

With a deep breath, he stood, nearly knocking the chair over, and picked up his bag. The dean and his mother stared up at him, a mixture of pity and melancholy painted on their faces.

"If that's all, I'd like to leave."

 

--

 

He was excused from his classes the next day with explicit instructions from the dean to allow him to rest. At first, he was adamant that changing his schedule wouldn't change a thing, but when he collapsed into bed, he was suddenly engulfed by the exhaustion that'd overtaken his limbs.

In the morning, Taichi entered his room again, though Kenjirou faked sleep whenever he heard the door open. He knew because Semi had been there, whispering, "Why do you always bring grapes?" Then there was a soft clatter of a metal tray being set on his bedside table.

Taichi's answer was simple.

"He likes them."

 

--

 

The next day, Taichi brought him more grapes, quietly leaving them next to his bedside table and then leaving just as silently.

He did the same the day after that.

And the days Kenjirou didn't show up to breakfast.

 

--

 

For the first time, he wasn't feigning sleep. Kenjirou sat with his back against the headboard, covers pulled over his lap. The fabric underneath his hands were wrinkled, courtesy of his terrible habit of squeezing and wringing whenever he fell into an uncomfortable thought.

The door opened, and he didn't have to look up to see that it was Taichi. His footsteps stalled at the threshold before resuming toward Kenjirou's bed. This time, when he set down the grapes, Kenjirou patted the bed next to him.

Taichi hesitated but accepted the invitation, settling on the edge of his mattress.

"How are you feeling?" he asked. His fingers were interlaced on his lap; Kenjirou's were squeezing the blanket.

"Better," he answered. "Thank you for bringing breakfast. You didn't need to do it though."

Taichi shrugged and tilted his head up, eyes roaming the dorm with interest. "Semi said you weren't eating." He reached over to pull the tray off of the table, setting them on Kenjirou's lap. His intentions were clear: eat.

Kenjirou loosened his grip on his covers and grasped at the bundle, yanking the grape off its stem. Rather than pop it into his mouth, he rolled it around his hand.

"You heard about my cousin." It came out more as a statement than a question, but Taichi nodded anyway.

"Hiro practiced light magic, like the rest of my family," he started. Taichi twisted his head so quickly, Kenjirou thought it'd snap off his neck.

"You don't have to tell me—"

"—but I want to, if you're willing to listen." They stared at each other, Taichi's normally hooded eyes blown wider than Kenjirou had ever seen them. Then he nodded slowly, lowering his head but twisting his body so that it faced Kenjirou.

"But it wasn't enough for him. So when he graduated from the academy, he started to practice dark magic as well. He found friends who practiced it—students who'd graduated with a proficiency in dark spells. In fact, his girlfriend also practiced dark magic." He sighed and tore off another grape off its stem.

"But I guess it wasn't enough, and he got greedy. He'd always been close to my family, particularly my father, who'd taken care of him every summer since he'd been twelve. So last winter, he broke into our study, hoping to find my father's collection of rare, dark volumes. He knew my parents were visiting family in another region, but he didn't know that I'd be home." Taichi breathed in a sharp intake of air.

He's been charged for attempted murder and robbery.

"His girlfriend helped him, and they somehow got past the security charms. But when he saw me, he panicked and cast a spell that nearly killed me. It would've had his girlfriend not intervened. She saved me, countering his dark spell with her own once they both realized what he'd done. But in turn, the spell nearly killed her." One of the grapes rolled off the edge of the platter.

"You want to know what the worst part was? He ran. He left her and ran, leaving me to call for help. They caught him a month later, but he refused to say a word, partly because his parents has always coddled him, and they told him not to say anything to taint the family name. Unfortunately, that meant the courts could only rely on my testimony until his girlfriend finally woke up, which happened a few weeks ago, and slowly regained her memories and strength enough for her to testify as well."

He sighed and sat back heavily, letting his spine hit the headboard with so much force that it rattled. There was a release as he finished the story, a weight lifted off his shoulders and the breath in his lungs cleared. Because he finally managed to tell someone.

Taichi reached forward and picked up the fallen grape, setting it back on the tray. He ran a hand through his hair and exhaled heavily. Then he looked up and sent a small smile towards Kenjirou.

"Are you all right now? Are things ok for you?" He drew a rune into the air and conjured a bowl, plucking the grapes Kenjirou had pulled off the bundle and collecting them in the wooden bowl.

Kenjirou huffed a laugh at the question. "I don't know. I guess it's both a yes and a no? Truthfully, when I shut my eyes, I sometimes see the spell he'd drawn hovering in midair, seconds before it erupted. And then the sensation of floating. Of nothing." The corner of Taichi's mouth twitched in disapproval. His grip on the bowl tightened until Kenjirou could see his knuckles turn white. "But for now, I've been fine. Thanks to Semi, Tendou, everyone around me. Including you. Especially you." Taichi moved his gaze to meet with Kenjirou's. "It's nice to have someone around me, especially someone special enough to feel comfortable with even in silence."

At that, Taichi's grip loosened, and his lips spread into a soft smile. "We're both born from silence, aren't we?" he joked. "Even if we practice differing magic."

Kenjirou reiterated the words he'd said to Semi. "Just because we practice good doesn't mean we use it for good. Just like how practicing dark magic doesn't immediately mean you're bad."

His friend reached over to lift the bundle off the tray, carefully plucking grapes from their stems and dropping them into the bowl. "Thank you for telling me."

"As long as you tell no one else."

"Of course."

 

--

 

 "Oh? You're back?" Semi tilted his head up at Tendou's words, evidently cricking his neck as he made a face and grabbed onto the back of his head.

"Shirabu!" he exclaimed, though his name came out warbled. "How are you feeling? Better?"

Kenjirou nodded and settled in front of his senior, just as Taichi slid into his seat across from Tendou. "Better than before."

Tendou snorted, using the carrot stick in his hand to point towards Taichi. "That's good to hear. What'd you do? Use a spell to cast away the bad feelings?"

"Yeah." Taichi shrugged and picked an apple from the platter, taking a large bite out of it. Tendou and Semi stared at him, unsure whether to take him seriously or not.

Then Tendou whistled and Semi knocked his shoulder into him with a glare. "Let me know the spell, so I can use it here on Semi-Semi when he's upset." Semi scowled and shoved him hard—Tendou nearly fell off his seat. The latter's shoulders shook with laughter and when he righted himself, gazed expectantly at Taichi.

"I wish I could tell you," Taichi started, then caught Kenjirou's eyes with a wink, "but it's a secret."