Chapter 5: Immunity Four

The dull ache in his chest was still prevalent that morning. Considering it wasn’t anything like the excruciating pain he’d endured yesterday, Micah couldn’t complain.

Sitting at the edge of the bed, he marveled at the mattress and the plush pillows. 

The last time he’d slept on a mattress was at a derelict hostel a few years ago. Typically, his mother had always claimed the mattress and Micah had never expected anything less. He’d only seen a small section of the train, and already, it possessed far more lavish items than he had the honor of possessing his entire lifetime.

Next to the bed lay a black and gold military uniform.

Micah’s assumptions proved accurate, then. Josiah planned to take him to Concordia Academy. 

He would recognize that uniform anywhere, as it was on the propaganda booklet when he applied each term.

It was a handsome uniform. Included with the uniform were fitted black pants with knee-length combat boots that buckled below the knees. A form-fitting jacket was worn over a standard blouse and black tie. Gold trim outlined the jacket’s lapels and a black belt fit around the middle. White gloves completed the ensemble.

He stared at the uniform, wondering if Josiah had put it there to test his obedience.

Not caring for the man’s intentions, as he was more than eager to attend the academy, Micah donned the uniform. 

As he bent down to buckle his boots, he spied a sword lying on the ground at the foot of the bed. Frozen, Micah gazed at the familiar object, feeling something tighten in his chest. He reached for the sheath and held it tenderly, his fingers deliberately running the length of the scabbard.

This was unquestionably Idris’ sword.

Micah remembered the strain around the man’s eyes as he offered the gift. At the time, he hadn’t understood the man’s reluctance.

Now, he had his suspicions that Idris had sensed his impending execution. A master traditionally presented his sword to his prized pupil when their lessons commenced. 

Idris had seemed surprised over Josiah’s attack, but Josiah had undoubtedly given him the order to present Micah with his sword. That should have been enough forewarning. Yet, even with the premeditative warning, Idris had decided to stay in Region 20.

Micah withdrew the blade from its scabbard, silently vowing that he would wield Idris’ sword with integrity and proficiency. 

He’d make his master proud by honoring his memory and his teachings.

As the silver blade reflected his image, Micah suddenly noticed his eyes.

Someone had removed the charm. Instead of the warm gold, they were now a pale blue. With his black lashes, the light color contrasted sharply, making his gaze sharp and entirely unnerving.

Too unique.

Too noticeable.

Slamming the hilt back into the scabbard, Micah lay the sword on his mattress before making his way to the compartment door. He tugged on the white gloves and tested the door handle with his forefinger.  

Surprisingly, the door opened, allowing him to exit.

Micah kept his steps light and his posture regal. As he swept noiselessly down the corridor, he observed the room up ahead. 

Several people gathered, their crimson robes signifying their allegiance to the royal guard, but their laid-back postures a clear indication they were not on duty. A number of them were either reading, eating, or dozing. A few were even engaged in a card game.

Micah stopped briefly in the entrance of the common area.

From the corner of his eye, he noticed Josiah sitting to his right. The Igni king seemed engrossed in his work, hardly giving Micah proper acknowledgement. Nevertheless, the man was most likely aware of his presence, just as Micah was responsive to Josiah's proximity.

Ignoring the stares and the glowers from the royal guards, Micah narrowed his sights on a man and woman on the other side of the divider, near what looked to be the dining area. Judging from their white and blue attire, they were the Healers who worked on him yesterday.

The heels of his boots struck the floor as he passed the critical gazes.

He was hardly worried.

He was above them anyway.

As he passed by one of the guards, his eyes wandered to the man’s hand, noticing the bandaged stump. Clearly, this was the captain from the tavern. 

He met the captain’s fiery glare with a blank stare, feeling the hostility exude from the warrior. He would certainly need to watch his back with this one. Just because the Igni guard lost his hand did not mean he also lost his desire for retaliation.

Micah offered a coy smile before turning his attention to the two Healers. He wasn’t in any mood to socialize, but these two would serve his purpose well. He had questions.

The female became aware of him first. Her eyes widened and her cheeks colored.

Micah would acknowledge her last, as he knew proper etiquette demanded him to speak to the head Healer first. As he planted his feet together in front of the white-haired Healer, the man finally looked up from his ridiculously oversized tome. 

Dark blue eyes widened a fraction and the man hurriedly scrambled to his feet.  

A gesture of reverence.

An inappropriate gesture between a simple commoner and a ranked Healer.

“Ez— Micah,” the man recovered sloppily, instantly spurring Micah’s close regard. He held out his hand, appearing far too exuberant. “It’s good to see you up and about. I was just going to check up on you, but I’m afraid I got preoccupied with my text.”

Micah grasped the man’s hand and shook it thrice. 

He was familiar with Keegan’s cheerfulness back in Region 20, but this Healer was on a completely different level. Even when quietly standing, a nervous, excited energy seemed to cloak the man, causing his limbs to twitch relentlessly. 

Nevertheless, Ember always stressed the importance of manners, no matter how painful it may be to act on them.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do much of anything without your work, Healer…”

It took a moment for the man to grasp what Micah was insinuating. 

“Healer Destan,” the man supplied happily.

Micah bowed his head. “Thank you, Healer Destan.”

He then turned to look at the silent female. Another thing his mother educated to the point of monotony was the proper way to treat a woman. One thing in particular was the way to greet a woman for the first time. 

He held out a hand to her, and much to his relief, she had enough common sense to place her fingers upon his glove. Grasping the small hand, Micah looked into her eyes.

“And you are?” he purred.

Pink stained her already rosy cheeks. She exhaled shakily and tried to smile past her nervousness. 


She was smitten with him, he noted jadedly. She was relatively pretty, a few years his senior, but she appeared young enough to be a healer-in-training.

“Thank you for your hard work as well, Healer Kendra.” 

He bowed lowly at the waist. His lips gently brushed against her knuckles, not too much to be personal, yet still personable enough for gratitude.

Healer Destan gave a bark-like laugh and clasped Micah on the back.

“A chip off your old man’s block, I’d say.” He gestured to the bench. “Please, sit.”

Micah smiled thinly and took the offered seat. He watched the male Healer through lowered lashes, drawing the obvious conclusion that Destan knew his past. 

Not only had he almost addressed him as ‘Ezra’, but he also indicated he knew Calder. Both this man and Josiah knew his birthright. Micah just hoped the information would stay between the three of them and didn’t extend to the royal guards as well.

“Eat,” Destan encouraged, motioning toward the table in front of him.

Micah had noticed the table earlier, but hadn’t truly taken it in. Now, it took a great deal of effort not to show his surprise over the sheer amount of food. 

“Is this a usual amount for breakfast?” he asked casually, suspending his disbelief.

Destan leaned forward and whispered, “I suppose it’s one of the perks of traveling with royalty.” He reached for a bowl of fruit. “Your stomach needs to grow accustomed to the capital’s rich fare. I would suggest eating fruit for breakfast, soups, and breads for lunch and dinner. We can see how you feel after a week before starting on heavier dishes.”

“Region 20 doesn’t have a wide variety of foods, do they?” Kendra asked.

Micah accepted the bowl of fruit and stabbed a peeled item with his fork. 

“No, we don’t. I don’t recognize half of the dishes on the table.”

“Really?” She seemed generally surprised. “What do you usually eat?”

He was more than aware of the heavy silence coming from the other side of the common area. The guards were feigning disinterest, yet they were clearly listening in. 

They were easily entertained.

“Shallots and tomatoes, sometimes almonds,” Micah responded airily. He looked at her, catching her eyes before she glanced away. “Occasionally, we’d hunt wild boar for meat and dehydrate it for jerky. Unfortunately, many of the hunters preferred selling it to traders, who in turn sell it at the capital.”   

“And fruit… desserts…”

“All expensive rarities,” Micah humored her. “With the exception of apples.”

Destan spoke up. “Region 20 is close to the old Igni Empire, Kendra. They generally experience warm, dry climates.” 

Kendra grabbed something from the table and set it next to his plate. 

“Then you have to try the chocolate turnover.” She flashed Destan a defensive look. “Just one won’t hurt him.”

“Maybe just half,” Destan suggested.

“It looks lovely,” Micah declared tensely, staring down at the triangle-looking pastry.

He found it difficult to share her enthusiasm, especially when he had lived in poverty for many years. Children grew up not knowing the taste of chocolate. They grew up malnourished and starved of proper diets. 

Meanwhile, the citizens near the capital gorged themselves on table spreads full of food. They probably threw away most of it, unaware of the people who constantly died of starvation around the less-funded regions of Concordia.

They also seemed ill informed. 

Blissfully ignorant.  

As Micah popped a grape in his mouth, he became aware of the eyes on him. He turned, catching Destan’s fascinated stare.

“Tell me, what is the extent of your powers?” Destan grabbed a glass of water and set it next to Micah. “I’ve heard you are an ice Elemental.”

Micah looked over at the guards, unwilling to speak about his abilities.

“Don’t worry about that lot,” Destan declared, sensing Micah’s reluctance. “They’re loyal to Lord Josiah. If he doesn’t want information to leak out, they’ll be tightlipped.” He tapped the glass. “You’re immune to my healing and other forms of Elemental magic.”

Micah cursed mentally. 

He knew he was immune from Elemental magic, but he hadn’t realized that included healing as well. It would certainly explain the smell of tonics when he woke up. 

Immunity to healing was certainly a weakness. His enemies would be able to injure him and Micah would be at a disadvantage because it took time to heal, unlike others who could heal quickly by water Elementals.

“Can you turn it into ice?” Destan persisted, obviously not willing to give up.

“I can’t,” Micah replied curtly. “I can only turn things to ice if they have been manipulated first by either a water or fire Elemental.”

“Interesting,” the Healer mused. He reached over and touched the glass of water, using his Elemental magic to make the water bubble and sway. “Can you do it now?”

Such childish entertainment…  

He supposed the curiosity was only natural.

Clearing his face of any displeasure, Micah reached over and settled his palm over the sloshing water. Instantly, the glass fogged and the water became a chunk of solid ice. The glass then shattered a moment later, spitting Micah with several shards. 

He blinked and wiped a hand down his face, smearing the tiny blotches of blood with his gloves. 

Really, he should have seen that coming.

“Oh Varuna!” Destan cursed. The Unda Healer quickly picked up the pieces of glass and placed them into a basket.

Micah watched him, thinking it was slightly amusing hearing the curse word Varuna. 

Varuna was the name of the Water God the Unda people worshipped. Where Micah grew up, as most of the citizens of Region 20 were of Igni descent, they worshiped the Fire God, Agni. Ember never found much reason to pray or worship Agni. 

In fact, she was rather cynical about the whole thing.

Micah had to agree with her.

“Are we close to Concordia’s capital?” Micah inquired after Destan stopped fumbling with the broken glass. He wanted to steer away from their current conversation and get some of his own questions answered.

Kendra reached over Micah’s shoulder and opened the curtains. 

“We should arrive by this evening. Look, you can see it in the distance.”

Disregarding his breakfast, Micah stood and approached the window to get a better angle.

It was raining outside, yet he could still see the landmarks. The bridge they traveled on arched high above a body of water. It was the largest source of water Micah ever remembered seeing. In the distance, mountains stretched high into the sky, their peaks boasting whitecaps, apparent even in the grim, rainy weather.

Kendra proved correct in that the capital was not too far.

Buildings outlined the horizon near the mountains. Buildings so tall, so strong, Micah had trouble imagining them. 

He moved closer, hoping to get a better view. 

His breath fogged the glass as he stared stonily at the capital. This was his inheritance. His mother robbed him of his childhood, a childhood he could have experienced here.

A part of him knew he had a rightful claim to this city, this kingdom, but it was too alien to him. Too surreal, intangible. Ember never dwelled too long about what would happen if he changed his mind and decided to accept his inheritance. 

No matter.

He had no intention of taking the throne.

“You’ll be there soon enough,” Healer Destan informed hastily. “You need to eat.”

Micah pulled himself away from the window, acknowledging he had stared for far too long. 

As he moved to sit again, he caught Josiah’s gaze from across the compartment. The man held his book aloft, yet his orange gaze penetrated straight through Micah. 

Matching the man’s expression with his own indifference, Micah sat back down and grabbed the bowl of fruit. The questions he had intended to ask the Healers didn’t seem quite so pressing anymore.

He would get information eventually.

He just wasn’t in a hurry.

* * * *

It was hard to conceal his initial reaction when they finally arrived at the capital.

The palace was the first thing he observed. It was impossible not to admire first. 

While it was a distance away from Micah’s current position, it stood tall and dominated over all the other buildings. Pale stone and glass were the two materials that made up the castle’s exterior walls. Its architecture was domineering and impressive, something Micah could not remember recalling as a child.

Concordia Military Academy was the second structure he spied during his quick inspection. 

Contrasting the palace, dark stone and metal masked the academy’s exterior. It was large compared to the nearby structures, peculiar in its geometric shape, but not even close to the impressive sprawl of the palace.

Micah received only a few stares as he followed Healer Destan and Kendra to the row of black carriages. Dressed in his academy uniform, he supposed it was a bit early in the year to be donning the attire. It also didn’t help matters to follow the royal guard. 

Fortunately, Josiah had gone ahead of the group. The Igni Elemental most likely wanted to avoid drawing Calder’s attention to Micah as much as possible.

“You’re in the last carriage, Micah.” Healer Destan placed his hand upon Micah’s shoulder. “We will meet at the academy.” 

Micah supplied a quick nod of acknowledgement and approached the last carriage.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t alone.

“Welcome home, Ezra,” Josiah greeted with false cordiality.

Recovering from his initial surprise, Micah climbed into the carriage and shut the door behind him. 

Once he settled opposite of his uncle, Micah smiled humorlessly. “Are we headed to the palace?”

Josiah hardly took the bait. “Concordia Military Academy.” 

The carriage jerked forward, obediently following in line with the rest of them. Micah regarded Josiah, just as the man regarded him. 

“I want you to forget everything Ember ever told you.”

The fire Elemental’s words took Micah by surprise. He stared, unable to respond adequately. Josiah hardly appeared mocking, and every bit… solemn. There was still a smolder of intensity and wickedness in his eyes, yet Micah acknowledged the absolute seriousness.

“I understand you want to play, as do I, but now is not the time to extract any sort of vengeance.” Josiah crossed his legs and cupped his hands over his knees. “Now is your chance to learn and make a name for yourself. Do not ruin it.”

Micah blinked.

“You’re not ready,” Josiah continued. “I admit that you are far more refined than I imagined you’d be, but when it comes to Calder and myself, you are the furthest away to slitting our throats as you could possibly be.”

“I appreciate your honesty,” Micah whispered sarcastically.

“When you are ready, when you are able to outmaneuver us, I want you to do so out of your own, personal vendetta.” Josiah tilted his head ever so slightly. “It pains me to know you operate under Ember’s hysterical and inane accusations. You only live to accomplish what she trained you to accomplish. But there is so much more to your destiny.”

At his sides, Micah clenched his fists.

Josiah was, in all actuality, taking the role of a guardian, not an opponent. 

There was a possibility that this could be a manipulation tactic, but Micah was at a loss of what it could achieve.

“I am not—”

“You are.” Josiah uncrossed his legs and leaned toward the stony, unemotional Micah. “Tell me, Ezra, did Ember ever tell you why you were conceived in the first place?”

Pale eyes narrowed. “To unite the Unda and Igni people.”

“Exactly,” he said. “And did Ember ever discuss a future where you successfully united the two cultures together?” Josiah reached forward and placed a possessive hand on Micah’s knee. “Or was that vision simply lost amongst extracting revenge?”

“I know exactly what you’re doing. It won’t work.”

The Elemental exhaled with amusement. “I only speak the truth. Judging from your response, she never once encouraged you to take the throne for yourself.” 

As if it were stating its claim, the hand on his knee burned. Micah sat motionlessly, staring at Josiah in silence.  

“You are the rightful heir.” Josiah took back his hand. “I’ve read all of your application essays throughout the years.”

Micah quirked a brow. “I’m flattered.”

White teeth clenched in a predatory grin. “You have good ideas and strong opinions. You are your own identity. It’s time you discover your path, not finish your mother’s road.”

“Just as long as it adheres to your plans?”

“Naturally,” Josiah agreed easily.

The young man sat quietly, mulling over Josiah’s words. 

In all actuality, Josiah hadn’t said anything Micah hadn’t known. He knew Ember wanted revenge. He knew he’d been a simple tool since his childhood. To Josiah, Micah was a windup doll, viewing the world with only one duty, with one mission to complete.

However, if he usurped Josiah and Calder, what would come after? 

Micah faltered at the image, never really imaging a life after Josiah and Calder. He was surprised at the panic he felt, the blackness, the emptiness.

He breathed evenly, not giving anything away from his expression. 

“If you knew where Ember and I were all this time why didn’t you take me away?” Micah inquired stiffly. It was hard to conceal the bitterness. “You claim my mother was—”

“Unbalanced? She was.” Josiah examined Micah closely. “I didn’t want Calder to have you and I couldn’t take possession of a child without him taking notice. I had to wait until you were older so you could blend in with my military. I was confident enough that you could shake Ember’s influence by the time I collected you. I am not too sure now.”

Micah’s eyes flashed. “You put us through hell. You put me through hell by leaving me alone with her. I have my own reasons to want to see you destroyed.” 

His comment was enough to silence Josiah, at least for a fleeting moment. The fire Elemental deliberated Micah, his face a mask of porcelain. 

“Be that as it may, you still aren’t ready.” Josiah leaned against his seat. “I want your word that you’ll focus on excelling at the academy. You’ll forget about your silly vengeance and learn. I want a worthy partner, child, you are far from that yet.”

“Opponent,” Micah corrected. “Not a partner.”

Josiah’s eyes lightened into something akin to fondness. “Opponent or partner, you still aren’t ready.”

“Will I meet Calder before I’m ready?”


The stern, firm response surprised Micah. It was unanticipated that Josiah would broadcast a weakness. He refused to let Calder claim any part of Micah, at least not until he accomplished whatever it was he wanted to accomplish.

“It will eventually come out, don’t you think?” Micah goaded. “Healer Destan already knows who I am. Your royal guards know about my immunity to the Elements. And you removed the charm on my eyes.”

“There are hundreds of biracial citizens in the capital. I hardly doubt the topic of your eye color will come up in any social circles besides the ladies' gossiping table.” At Josiah’s tone and comment, the back of Micah’s neck flushed. “As for my royal guards, I picked my most loyal servants. They, unlike the lady gossiping table, will not talk.”

Servants, Micah noted subconsciously, not soldiers.

“As for your abilities…” Josiah trailed off, his voice growing husky, hoarse with renowned interest. “No matter how impressive they are, reserve them for when you’re alone with me. You are good with the sword and your words. That should be enough.”

Micah shifted, once again noting a peculiar phrase. “Reserve them for you?”

“You and I will be having our own, private lessons.”

The carriage stopped in front of the academy, yet Micah was too distracted with Josiah to study the intimidating building. He struggled for an eloquent response as Josiah made a move to escape the carriage.


Micah trailed off as he watched Josiah open the door and step gracefully from the carriage. 

This wasn’t going according to plan. But then again, whatever plans he had conjured during his time with his mother really weren’t realistic, were they? Josiah proved far more capable than Micah initially anticipated. 

The man was always one-step ahead, or more appropriately, three strides ahead.

“Ezra,” Josiah murmured quietly from outside the carriage. “Your time with your mother was spent pitying her for the situation your father and I put her through many years ago.” 

The fire Elemental grabbed the door to the carriage and leaned inside, his voice only meant for Micah’s ears. Orange eyes gazed fervently up at the younger man, their eerie sheen all but smoldering in the dank atmosphere of the carriage. 

“But would you pity her if you found out she started that fire?” Josiah pitched his voice even lower, causing the hair on Micah’s arms to stand. “Would you pity her if you knew she put you in the flames?”

Micah jerked, seeing red. “You bastard—”

“I was too late,” Josiah continued calmly, intently, hardly bothered by Micah’s anger. “I was in a panic when I ran to your nursery, thinking I’d lost you. Imagine my surprise when I saw you sitting untouched, yet frightened in the flames.”

It was a lie.

All of it was lies.

“You may think I’m your enemy now, but I refuse to experience that desperation of losing you again. Your protection is my top priority. I can’t say your mother ever felt the same.”

“You’re lying,” Micah whispered.

Josiah stared intently at Micah before he chuckled. He took a step back, regaining his egotism. “Believe what you’d like. But ask yourself how your mother knew of your immunity. How did your mother know how to train you?”

He left Micah then, gliding toward the academy with his flock of crimson-clad guards at his heels. 

Micah stared after him, his mind oddly blank.

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