She is the girl known by everyone and no one.
Sora Heks is a prodigy at Foxfire Academy who frequently gets picked on for her strange behaviour, but she's more than anyone thinks she is. Besides being a messenger for the clandestine organisation, the Black Swan, Sora's unique, unexplainable mind is what made Project Moonlark happen — but that is the least of her concern when something unexpected happens and gets her banished from the Lost Cities and into the dangerous unknown of the Neutral Territories. Luckily, she's not alone. Closely accompanied by her brother Soreas, Sora sets off to attend Exillium, where past, present, and future all entwine together to change everything she's ever known.
She is the girl everyone thinks they understand.
Everyone thinks they know who Cordelia Malum is. Cheerful, and always up for some fun, Corey is always that friend who you could trust with almost anything. Or so they think. When her parents were murdered by the Neverseen almost nine years ago, Cordelia has not stopped in her quest to seek revenge. Along with her powerful telepathic ability, she's the perfect spy for the Black Swan. But she's about to find out, that sometimes, it's not that bad, letting someone in. After all, what was that human saying again? Ah, "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."
She is the girl of nightmares and shadows.
Avyela Ellis. In the Lost Cities, she's known as the one who started 'The Nightmare', a night of pain, blood, and nightmares. In the eyes of her organization, she is one of the most suitable for violent spy missions. And to other Shades, she's the girl who managed to find a way to manipulate something more than just shadows, the girl who had been out of control before she even manifested. Banished at the mere age of six, Avy finds herself being the longest standing Wayward, having reached her eighth year a few months ago. But as plans are made and changed, Avy knows that the time for fun is coming nearer, especially when a mysterious girl appears in the light.
They are misfits living in a world on fire.
When the three of them inevitably meet out of fate, they're about to find themselves in a world where they couldn't believe they have been living in for their whole lives. Every step further into their world's underbelly makes them realise how far each organisation is willing to go. Every scheme they uncover turns into a whole other timeline they have to stop before it's too late. But it turns out each of them has something they wish to hide in the deepest, darkest parts of their souls, and no one knows how far one another is willing to go to protect the things they love the most. Will they be able to withstand the consequences of knowing?
She is the girl known by everyone and no one.
Sora Heks could feel the stares.
She could feel the stares boring into her back as she hurried through the halls of the Golden Tower as the whispers hissed in her ears.
She squeezed her eyes shut, but they flew wide open again when she bumped arms with a girl. Yelping, she stumbled back a few steps, almost bulldozing into someone behind. Sora muttered a short word of apology and veered past the girl, continuing to rush past everyone with lightning speed.
The whispers grew louder and louder, reaching to the point that they were as clear as day.
They were nothing but rumours. The rumours would always get around, spreading faster than even Everblaze— but no one dared to say that word out loud. They were childish and immature but somehow always hit her harder than she’d expected.
The scroll tucked away carefully in her cape pocket threatened to fall out, but she could not do anything that would make her look conspicuous--not that she was not already. But she didn't think anyone would be able to guess what she was actually doing.
Sora skidded past another fellow Level Seven and took off running again. She heard somebody call her name in the distance behind, but she did not bother to look back. She was already running late, and time waited for no elf.
“Miss Heks!” A loud, booming voice reverberated through the halls, making Sora jump as she pulled to an abrupt stop. She pressed a hand to the lockers beside her, struggling to catch her breath as she slowly raised her eyes to lock gazes with none other than the Beacon of the Golden Tower. Her heart sank, and she resisted the urge to fish in her cape pocket to make sure that the scroll had not dropped out.
Master Theta’s glare was even more skewering than the stares and whispers that Sora usually would receive. This time, it was her turn to stumble back a few steps. A few prodigies hung by the sidelines, watching the two of them with wide, frightened eyes, but no one dared to step out and stand up for her.
Sora was not offended or even surprised. After all, no one ever did anything heroic for her.
“No running in school premises,” Master Theta said sternly, her eyebrows furrowed together fiercely and her hands on her hips.
Sora bowed her head as if bathing in her own shame, but inwardly she was scheming how she would get away from this difficult compromise. “I--I’m truly sorry, Master Theta,” said Sora, making her voice wobble to make it seem realer than it was. “I--I really didn’t mean to. I’m sorry.”
Master Theta opened her mouth like she wanted to say something else, but changed her mind after a moment and nodded her head. “Just don’t do it again, Miss Heks. And detention for you tomorrow. Do not forget.”
Sora inclined her head deeply, and before Master Theta could call her out again, she brisk-walked away from the humiliating scene.
The crowd cleared and she heaved a sigh of relief, risking a split second to pat her pocket to ensure that the scroll was still there even after all the chaos.
She then allowed herself a little victorious smile, before sprinting off to the Leapmaster.
“Hey, Soreas!” she shouted over the noise of the crowd queuing to get onto the Leapmaster. Everyone’s heads turned over to stare at her, but she flipped her hair at them and smiled slyly at the boy who was already second in line. “Mind if I cut?”
The redheaded boy glanced sideways at her, before gesturing at her to come to his side. Sora walked past the line of glaring prodigies and sidled up to him. He gave her a knowing look with those pale aquamarine eyes of his.
“What?” she asked innocently.
“You’re running late,” Soreas stated simply in Japanese, making her flush in both embarrassment and anger. “You need to hurry over there, and fast. What in Eternalia took you so long?”
“Theta,” said Sora simply in the same language, drawing out each syllable like a lazy breeze blowing at their stray hairs. “And we’re not in Eternalia. I'm lucky she wasn’t in her usual dramatic mood today. I remember what happened last time. It was the worst --”
She was cut off abruptly when Soreas shoved her towards the platform of the Leapmaster. Sora gasped in shock as she flailed her limbs, trying to find a steady stand.
“Good luck,” was all her brother said.
Sora got a grip of herself and the railing as she shouted, “Moonglade!”
When Sora materialised on the rocky grounds of Moonglade, a familiar-looking man was already waiting for her, his arms crossed against his chest.
Sora barely remembered to reach into her Foxfire satchel and take out a long, dark cloak, wrapping it against her figure and pulling up the hood to cast her face in shadow. If anyone who happened to come to Moonglade at this timing noticed the two mysterious people doing conspicuous things, they would have been alerted. And nobody in the Black Swan wanted that to happen.
“You’re late,” he said simply, his beady blue eyes fixed on her form as she approached. Sora gave him a look, but did not say anything to protest otherwise as she took the bound scroll out of her pocket and held it out for him to take.
“I apologize. I had a slight delay,” she explained. “Master Theta doesn’t seem to like me very much.”
His lips twisted into an amused smile as he took the scroll away from her carefully. “Maybe you’ll have an easier time after I become Beacon.”
She tried to stifle her snort as she rolled her eyes at him. “Like that’s ever going to happen. That aside… are you faring well over there? I heard she manifested her first-ever ability. How did she react?”
“Do you really need to know?”
“Yes, because I care. And are you forgetting that I played a big part in Project Moonlark?” The words slipped her mouth before her mind could filter them.
Once her words settled in, her eyes widened and she bit the inside of her cheek nervously, wanting to watch his reaction but not daring to meet his eyes either.
When he did not say anything for another five seconds, Sora mustered up the courage to open her mouth again. “Forgive me, but I wish to know. We’re all in the same team after all. If there’s anything I can do to help…” Her voice trailed off as she raised her head to look at him with the best pleading expression she could manage.
The man who went by the pseudonym Mr Forkle heaved a big sigh. Sora looked at him expectantly, but all he did was untie the ribbon and unfurl the scroll. Sora gritted her teeth in impatience as his eyes scanned the contents of the scroll slowly, keeping his face expressionless.
After what seemed like an eternity, Mr Forkle rolled up the scroll again and said, “All is well over at the Forbidden Cities. Miss Foster is fine.”
“That’s too…” Sora hesitated before continuing, “Well… that’s too… vague.”
His eyes softened for a rare moment. “In the words of Alden Vacker, there is no reason to worry, Miss Heks. Rest assured.”
“You will update me immediately if there’s anything amiss, right?” asked Sora anxiously, glancing back instinctively to check if the coast was clear.
“You have my word,” Mr Forkle replied, turning his head to gaze at the horizon.
The sky was bathed in a pinkish-orange light, and reflected into his eyes as he continued, “It’s getting late. You should get home. Is Soreas well?”
“He’s always well,” Sora retorted, “because you don’t give him anything to do.”
Mr. Forkle’s eyes did not falter as he continued staring into the distance, as if he was trying to think into the future. “His role will come, soon enough. But it’s clear that you were meant to do greater things than him, Miss Heks.”
“What do you mean?” asked Sora, frowning in confusion at his ambiguous words. “You’re not a Descryer. And you're clearly not a Shade. I don't have to believe anything you say.”
Either Mr Forkle did not hear her, or he simply chose to ignore her as he stuffed the scroll in his pocket and handed her a temporary leaping crystal.
Sora stared at the light the transparent crystal reflected as it glimmered brightly in the setting sun. It was the eleventh time she had received an identical copy of a light path to her house, but she still had never gotten used to it.
“Go,” Mr Forkle ordered sternly. And when she did not move, he added, “Now!”
Sora said nothing more as she held the crystal to the sky and stepped into the light path that had been created. She swore she saw Mr Forkle’s expressionless facade crumble away, but she thought that it must have been just a hallucination due to the blinding light.
She glittered onto the cobblestone pathway of Mettle Manor and made her way calmly to the double doors of the mansion as if nothing had happened. Because as far as most people thought, nothing happened.
Before she could knock, the doors swung wide open and Soreas peeked out at her, staring at her through his floppy red bangs.
“You’re finally back,” he said, grabbing her wrist and pulling her inside to the empty foyer. “That took longer than usual. I wonder why?”
“It’s just Mr Forkle being Mr Forkle,” sighed Sora, pushing past her brother to race up the spiral staircase that led to their bedrooms, ripping off her dark cloak and stuffing it back into her satchel at the same time. “Sometimes I really don’t understand him.”
“Well, what can you expect? After all, he’s just a weird part-time Mentor of the Universe. I mean, that’s only one of his coverups, but I think that says it all already.” The sound of Soreas’s footsteps rang out in the empty space as he sped up to chase after his sister. “But seriously, what happened?”
“Nothing happened, Soreas. That’s the thing! He refuses to tell me anything about Project Moonlark. He seems to have forgotten who was the one who played a big part in creating her!” Sora’s voice grew louder and louder by each word, showing her frustration. She struggled to catch her breath as she clambered up each arduous step. “He just thinks that he can rule over us just because he says ‘ you kids.’”
“I don’t understand.”
“I—I don’t expect you to.” Sora shooed Soreas away and raced into her bedroom, slamming the door shut and locking it twice. She sighed in relief, pressing her trembling form against the wall as she slid down to the tiled floor, feeling the coldness of the marble seep into her bones.
The bedroom was dimmed by the closed blinds, little light filtering in from the gaps. Sora reached down to untie the shoelaces on her boots with shaky hands, her mind too fogged to focus on anything more complicated. And yet, there was still space for memories to surface.
Her mind tried to push them down and make them sink to the bottom— where they ought to be— but they persisted, sending a flurry of motion images floating across her eyes.
A girl bearing a striking resemblance to her, except for her dark aquamarine eyes— a stark contrast to Sora’s pale ones. Her cheeky smile, stretching across her face. The loving way she looked at her twin as she reached out to pull her in a hug.
The fleeting look of fear on her face when Sora found her with a suspicious cloaked figure, and the anger flashing across her eyes when she was accused of being Beguiled.
But did you really mean it? Did you? Tell me the truth. Tell me the truth! Please!
Sora clenched her fists so tightly that her knuckles turned white, and the pain of her fingernails cutting into her flesh brought her back to reality.
Dazed, she looked around bemusedly, before her gaze landed on her half-untied boots.
Suddenly feeling a wave of rage overwhelm her, Sora ripped off the boots from her feet and hurled them at the table lamp on the opposite side of the room. They hit their target perfectly, striking the lamp with blasting force and knocking it to the floor, shattering it into a million shards of crystal and glass.
The metallic toes of the boots shimmered in the dim light, making Sora shiver.
The excitement of the moment had faded away and Sora winced at the ugly state of her room. She realised she was shaking rigorously, and pulled her legs closer to her chest as she sat in the corner of her room, letting her tears flow out silently. Faintly, she could hear Soreas’s frantic voice asking what had happened, and his never-relenting knocking on the mahogany door, but she ignored him as she hugged herself tighter until her nails turned pale.
She could feel a spark of a strange power light up her world of darkness, flickering in and out with the unsteady rhythm of her breathing. She tried to calm down, tried to get herself to rest her mind, but her emotions only grew more ragged with each second, and the unfamiliar energy sizzled stronger, making her toes and her fingertips buzz.
A strange gravity seemed to be rooting her to the floor of her bedroom and when she tried to walk, the downward force only got more intense.
Without warning, the marble floor she was standing on gave way beneath her feet and splintered into sharp, jagged rocks falling in time with her. Sora tried to scream, but the loud, explosive sound of the rocks crashing down took her voice away completely. She felt herself plummet down and down, the wind whooshing in her ears, and she realized what was going to happen too late. She screamed again, and closed her eyes, not wanting to look down.
Bracing herself for the impact, she counted the seconds to distract herself from her fear--
She bounced off something spherical and landed on a soft surface. With bleary eyes, she realized that she had landed on the living room sofa. It hurt when she tried to get up, but she resisted the agony as she cast a confused glance around her. A wind that had seemed to come out of nowhere whipped her hair into her face, and she pushed the annoying auburn strands out of her eyes, trying to get a sense of what had happened, and what still was happening.
“Sora!” someone screamed, piercing to her ears. Sora blinked in surprise as Soreas lunged toward her, dodging little pieces of plaster falling from above as he made his way over. “Are you alright?”
“What… just… happened?” Sora managed to croak out. Her eyes flickered over to Soreas’s arm, where a large gash ran from his elbow to his wrist. “You’re bleeding!”
“So are you.” Soreas’ voice was clearly shaking terribly as he pulled Sora to her feet. “Let’s go find Mum and Dad. They might be trapped in the fallen debris. You— you can explain later.”
“What--what if they…” Sora didn’t dare to finish her sentence, in case saying it out loud would make it true. A sob bubbled up her throat and escaped her lips. The sound of her crying amongst all the ruins sounded foreign to her, but once the floodgates were open, there was no stopping the rest of the tears from falling out.
“Hey,” whispered Soreas, taking her hand in his. “It’s going to be okay. I promise.”
“How— how do you know that?” said Sora, her voice growing louder and louder and more agitated by each second. “Why does everyone claim they know what’ll happen? First Mr. Forkle, now you! Can you really say everything will be alright? When I was the one who started all this?” She gestured wildly around the ruins around her. Her knees knocked into each other and she sank down to the floor, burying her face in her hands, her whole body shaking with each sob.
“Sora,” Soreas tried desperately, “we still have to go and see if Mum and Dad are safe and sound. Let’s go, please. I can cover us with my wind.”
“Suit yourself. I’m not going,” said Sora, slapping his hand away. She was not sure if it was the ground or herself shaking as she raced past Soreas and out of the damaged doors. Outside, the dark night sky with its glittering stars taunted her every second as she watched her house tumble down and give way one by one.
What just happened? How did I cause our house to collapse? How did I cause the floor to tremble and splinter and give way? Did I manifest a new ability? What is it?
Her mind ran through all the possible elvin special abilities that could have caused such a disaster, and the sickening realisation dawned on her. She looked down at her hands and gasped. Her fingertips were glowing with a strange yellowish light.
Her eyes roved over to the still-grassy pastures to her left, where a bed of morning glories hung dull and wilted over the night sky. These flowers only bloomed in the morning and the afternoon sun, where the light danced over them and made their curled petals unfurl.
Slowly, shakily, Sora made her way over to the bed of flowers and kneeled beside an unopened spiral bud of morning glory and caressed its petals with a gentleness she didn’t know she had. She’d seen other people with this uncommon ability do the same— usually for entertainment, sometimes for display— but usually they were gnomes, the intelligent species who could make unbloomed flowers bloom like there was no tomorrow.
She watched in both amazement and disbelief as the unbloomed morning glory slowly stretched its petals outwards, unravelling into full bloom. The morning glory grew more radiant and brighter with each second of Sora’s touch, until Sora broke away from the flower and backed up a few steps, her hands still on the grassy ground.
Sora realised her mistake too late, and she ripped her hands away from the grass and stood up on her bare feet. Making the morning glory bloom at night had been surprisingly therapeutic and calming, and she didn’t think any more mini earthquakes would come her way. Not for tonight, anyway.
The grass she had touched with her hands had grown longer and more slender, and it was visibly fresher and more lucid than the rest of the grassy plains. Shakily, Sora released a breath she hadn’t realise she’d been holding.
She was a Terrakinetic. Deemed to be one of the rarest, and most destructive talents an elf could have. She supposedly now had some control over one of the four elements, just like Soreas, who had control over the element of air. And she had zero understanding or knowledge about it, except that she’d just learnt that her hands brought life while her feet brought destruction.
She needed her boots more than ever, and she knew they would survive this tumbledown. They were made out of elliniaum, a material that was fireproof, lightning-proof, shockproof and stainless all in one.
She closed her eyes and turned away from the awe-filled sight, instead turning her attention back to the home she’d just destroyed and hoping and praying with all her heart that Soreas and her parents would be alright.
Coward coward coward. You’re such a coward.
She might be spared from the sight of everything crashing down but the sound still rippled through her ears like a hypersonic soundwave and she could do nothing to stop it. She clamped her hands onto her ears, but even with the terrifying noise muffled, it was still bound to appear in her nightmares.
Despite her hypocrisy, she muttered under her breath, “Everything will be okay. Everything will be okay.”