"Hey, what's up?" Evia asked, announcing her presence as she entered the air conditioned office. The man behind the desk stood up, extending his hand to her.

"Hello Evia, how are you?" His voice was jovial and deep. His blond hair was pulled back into a small pony tail, but a few strands were free and hung about his face. The cuffs of his light blue button up shirt were folded back, and the top button of his shirt was undone. Tossed in one of the chairs lining the wall was a suit jacket and a tie.

"I'm good. And you Zaemor?" Evia shook his hand, then sat down.

"I'm getting by." Zaemor smiled slightly, sitting as well. "What can I do for you?"

"I was wondering if you could . . ." Evia hesitated, before saying, "make a love potion."

Zaemor blinked, leaning back in his chair. "Why ever would you want that?"

"Because I don't think he looks at me that way." Evia looked down at her hands folded in her lap, her lips curving down.

"I'm sorry, but I can't do that. Why don't you find someone else? Someone who will actually love you back?"

"But you can make any potion you want," Evia pressed, "and if it doesn't exist then you can invent one."

"No Evia, it's not that." Zaemor rubbed his forehead, standing up and looking out his window at the compound. "I'm not going to do it, and that's it." After a moment, he asked, "Who is it? That you're in . . ."

Evia blushed. "Breydon."

"I see." Zaemor pursed his lips. "That can cause problems you know. Misplaced passions can end up being the downfall of your group. My advice to you would be to get over him."


"Evia," Zaemor said firmly, "listen to me. I'm doing this for your own good. With the structure of your group, it's best for no one to have those kinds of feelings, especially within." There was an uncomfortable silence for a moment, and to break it he asked, "How is your training coming?"

"We're the best, that's for sure." Evia looked down.

"It's been a year and a half now. From what I can tell, this experiment has been successful. I've seen your battles against your fellow students, and I must say you far out-league them."

"They are hardly fellow students," Evia shot back, meeting Zaemor's eyes .

"I see," Zaemor mused. "Do you resent the Leaders for their choice concerning you?"

"I do . . ." Evia answered reluctantly. "They didn't have the right to take the four of us and isolate us like they did. But because of that and our intense training, we've become the best fighters around, and that far outweighs everything else."

"Perhaps. If you ever want to talk, just let me know, okay?" Zaemor walked forward and Evia stood up. Then, with his arm around Evia's shoulders, walked with her to the door. "You can trust me with anything."

"Thank you Zaemor." Evia avoided his eyes though. He had that look, and every time she saw it she was excited with guilt, even though they had both reached an understanding long ago.


"That is our decision." The Leader looked cooly at Zaemor, who was fuming.

"But what about our contract? Those were the terms on which I agreed to help you!" Zaemor started pacing, covering his eyes with his hand.

"It's been determined that the four of them need to stick together, for the best of our Academy."

"What about the Graduation Ritual you're planning a few months from now? What's the difference between that and what I want?"

"We've also determined it's unethical to use a person as payment. You will be compensated in other ways."

"Everything you've done with them has been unethical. That's not why you've made this decision."

"I'm sorry, but that's what the council has decided."

"Fine," Zaemor stopped, and pointed at the Leader, "but don't think I'm going to accept this."

The Leader stood up as Zaemor left, and another man entered the room from a side door. "He is daring to go against the Supreme Leader and the Council."

"Indeed, we have given him too much power."

Evia flexed her left hand, wincing at the stinging tattoo on her skin. She was sitting on the couch in their apartment, with her back leaning against Daythan. Her long white hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail, which contrasted against Daythan's dark shirt.

"What's wrong?" he asked laughing, "Can't take the pain?"

Evia scowled, and elbowed him. Daythan shoved her back, and Evia slapped the back of his hand, causing him to yelp and pull away.

"Hey you two," Breydon interjected. "Behave. We're moving up now, and we should act like it."

"No matter how we act, we'll always be set apart," Cereno said, holding up his left hand with a new tattoo on it also. His sea green hair was pulled back like always, revealing his long elven ears, and his eyes had that same sad apathetic expression they always had.

"Well, as leader, I say we at least need to act dignified." Breydon folded his arms, lifting his head higher.

"Yes, your Majesty." Daythan stood up, causing Evia to fall back slightly. "Sorry hun, but I seriously need a smoke. It's driving me crazy."

"Go on, I'll just use Breydon as a backrest." Evia looked up playfully at Breydon. "That is, if you want to sit down."

Breydon looked down at his watch. "Actually, it's time for me to go pick up the battle costumes. Then we'll be sent out on our first assigned mission, so I have to get the details for that too. Catch you later."

After he left, Cereno looked over at Evia, who was sitting sulkily on the couch with her arms crossed over her stomach. "Do you want to talk?" Evia shook her head. Sitting down on the couch, Cereno asked another question, "Did you go see Zaemor?"

"Yeah, this morning before the tattoos. He said the same thing you did." Evia laughed dryly.

"I'm sorry, but it'll work out eventually. You'll hurt for a little bit, but it'll go away."

"You think so?" Evia moved around so she could rest her head on Cereno's shoulder.

"I know so. Now where's that tough girl who wouldn't take crap from anyone, and could hold her own amongst three tough guys?"

"She was beaten into submission." Evia smiled, and stood up. "I'm going to go see Zaemor again. Maybe I can convince him."

Cereno sunk back into the sofa with a sigh, gazing blankly around the den of the apartment, that had been allotted to them after coming back into the society.

"We have a very important mission for you. Successfully complete this, and we'll consider this to be your final test and proceed with the Graduation Ritual."

The four of them were silent for a moment, until Breydon asked, "What is it?"

"Instructor Zaemor has been plotting against the Council." The Leader's words fell down like a bomb. Evia was stunned. "And he must be stopped."

"No, that can't be true." Evia shook her head. "Zaemor was the one who . . ."

"He was the one who made most of the potions we use. Intelligence has told us that he's been creating new potions without permission. And what's more, when he was confronted, he killed the officer, and is hiding on the compound somewhere. We need you to bring him to us alive."

"We'll do it. Treason must never go unpunished," Breydon said firmly. "You have our solid promise."

A/N: This is sort of a prologue to the main story, Ephemerality. However, it's not actually going to be in the main story, which will start at the Graduation Ritual.