Author's Note:

So … um … yeah. Please let me know if some of the names don't look right in this chapter. I tried, I really did. Sorry.

Chapter Seventeen: The Protection

I rushed off the stage as soon as Odelia vanished in another shower of golden sparks. My circle mates were waiting for me, each with a look of either disappointment or accusation on their faces. Clearly, this was not at all what they'd expected. I imagined it would be heartbreaking to find out that one of the deities whom they'd faithfully worshipped for their entire life was planning to practically destroy the layers of our carefully structured society. It was heartbreaking for me as well, but I'd had much longer to get used to it than they.

I raised my hands in front of me, fingers spread. "That was not my idea. And I'm … sorry about that," I added with a grimace. When I'd put my plan into motion, I hadn't thought about how it would affect the rest of Daeas's citizens. I was glad that Odelia's darker side had come into the light, but as I stood there staring at the distraught faces of my older companions, I wished that I could have found a gentler way to get the same results.

"So you knew about it?" Darion demanded.

So not only did he feel betrayed by Odelia, he felt betrayed by me in extension. I had to tread carefully here. If I so much as phrased something wrong, I'd be kicked out of the circle, and probably out of the class one headquarters. On second thought, that would bring me much closer to my goal, I realized.

"She told me about her plans a few months ago," I admitted. Honesty was the best way to go. I'd be honest and deal with whatever consequences the truth brought.

"And you chose to keep that little fact to yourself? You didn't think it would be important to warn someone that-?" the headmaster was so livid that he could not finish his thought.

"I didn't think it was important?" It came out more like a question than a statement. I cowered away from him, realizing how pathetic my response was. Then I realized how my words sounded. Though I'd already assured them that Odelia and I did not share the same ideas, I'd just all but told them that I'd support the insane deity. This situation had never felt so real and pressing before that moment.

When my four circle mates began to exchange looks, I began to panic. I'd decided to tell the truth. I had to explain this properly to them before … before they did something I couldn't predict. Because maybe they wouldn't kick me out of class one headquarters. Maybe they'd lock me up somewhere instead, and I'd be miserable and alive and Odelia could continue her plotting.

"I don't know," I said desperately. "The things that happen in my realm … it's like I'm dreaming. It's like it isn't actually happening. So yes I knew about it, and yes I've been trying to think of a plausible solution, but it didn't seem … it wasn't …" I gesticulated wildly as I searched for the words. "She didn't seem like a plausible threat until now. I mean, Odelia's a deity! She's not supposed to be … like that!" I took a deep breath, releasing my hands from their fists and letting my head tip back. "How do I stop her?" I asked finally.

"Wait, you want to stop her?" The anger drained from Estella's body. "Why didn't you say so earlier?"

I just sighed, not bothering to point out that I had said so—twice, in fact. "I don't know. But that doesn't matter. How do I stop her?" I already knew how to stop her temporarily, but at least what I could do would give the others time to come up with a permanent plan.

The four of them shared glances, probably to ask each other if I was lying. Finally, Ambrosine spoke up. "There's a section in class one's library that I think would help us. And yes, I said us. We are going to find a solution together, because you are not strong enough to stop her by yourself," she said with a stern glair. "It would also be helpful if you could find out why Odelia wants you to be queen, but we cannot do that right now. Odelia has officially created another side, and by keeping you in class one headquarters, we've officially said that we're on yours, and hers by extension. We'll need to cast a dome of protection around the academy campus so we can protect the students." She thought for a moment, then added, "It will be the same one we used for the island's ritual I think, but with a few minor adjustments as our area is smaller…"

We continued to discuss the ritual, but I was only partially concentrating on the others' words. The rest of my mind was celebrating. I'd managed to fix the situation with my circle mates. For one thing, they were no longer worshipping me; and for another, they were going to help keep us all safe from Odelia's mysterious plans.

We exited the building through the back door. The old fire magic wielder created a portal, and upon stepping through it we arrived near the front doors of the academy.

"Domitia, head to the central tower. We'll take our places around you," the older woman commanded. We all sprinted off in different directions toward our respective towers.

I arrived at the central tower out of breath. It was set up similarly to the one I'd been on a week ago, but the screens weren't as effective because the sun was directly overhead.

"Domitia, do you need more time to create your ritual?" Estella asked.

I closed my eyes in frustration. They'd be wasting five minutes of precious time by watching me stand there and weave a ritual. There was nothing I could do about it though, so I nodded before going into my void and starting to weave.

I hoped that it would take less time than usual. The design was etched into my mind, so I didn't have to make sure that it was perfect.

When I was done, I brought it out of my void and held it out in front of me for a final inspection.

"Looks good," Estella's voice startled me. I looked up, coming to the same conclusion myself.

"On the count of three, Ambrosine instructed, "one, two, three!"

This time there wasn't a ritual to remove. A few seconds after we started, the four other spells appeared in the air above me. I attached mine, spreading the essence of the Spirit magic to the farthest reaches of the round campus. Right on cue, a chorus of shouts could be heard in the distance. It sounded like a combination of chanting and yelling. I'd never heard such a thing before, but I could guess what it meant: protesters were outside the gates. We'd finished just in time.