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“That’s it! That’s exactly how the protection is done! You made it, Selunia! You made it!” Elis shouted happily, clapping her hands.

Hearing her words, Selunia hastily opened her eyes and looked closely. She saw how a big transparent veil, on which light streams of protective energy played spectacularly, floated around her enthusiastic friend.

“That’s it!” Selunia exclaimed, overcome with emotion, hardly believing what she was seeing. “This time I’ve really succeeded at making a full protection—I think.”

“Why are you unsure?” Elis asked, pouting dramatically. “If you still don’t believe, why don’t you try to attack me?” she added, twirling once in place, to show Selunia that the sheer coating was entirely closed around her.

“Attack you?!”

“Yes, come on! Try! Rest assured; if it doesn’t hold up, I’ll protect myself, no problem. Just strike a few times, to convince yourself that you’ve made it!”

Selunia sat silent while Elis playfully smiled at her. The translucent layer was emphasizing Elis’ light and gentle figure. She had long strawberry hair, azure eyes, and delicate clothes—a pale pink, knee-length laced dress. Elis was Selunia’s bosom friend, who mastered magic protections and energetic attacks. Selunia was no match for her, but still didn’t feel like hitting her with a flesh-burning globe of magic energy.

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Elis dropped the smile and gave Selunia an angry stare.

“Come on,” she commanded. “I’m getting bored here.”

Selunia let out a sigh, then raised one hand in the air, aimed it at Elis like a gun, and concentrated on the attack. The crystal pieces encrusted in the fighting gloves she wore rapidly emanated a string of shining rays, which flew over Elis like laser bullets. It was a simple and intentionally weak attack. Selunia wanted to be cautious.

To the joy of the two girls, the rays didn’t pass through the protective cloth, but vanished immediately on contact with it.

“Wow, it really worked!” Selunia exclaimed.

“Yeah, what did I tell you? Now you know all the crystal-gloves’ fighting and defensive techniques.”

“Well, I had to. Since I got the news from the general that he’d soon take me with him to the Arid Kingdom, I realized I needed to learn all these techniques as quickly as possible. I want to at least be useful there, because here at the White Castle, I haven’t succeeded in awakening my inner power, and so…” Selunia lowered her eyes to the ground.

“Hey, Selunia, leave that aside for now.” Elis compassionately got closer to her, followed by the protective veil. She shared Selunia’s regret. The absence of inner power was a great barrier to Selunia’s progress at the Castle and, with time, it would become an obstacle to their friendship. Both of them were well aware of this matter.

“And anyway, you don’t need that now!” a male voice said.

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Selunia and Elis turned to the newcomer. It was Ryan, the youngest prince of the White Castle: a boy around twenty, tall and with an angelic aspect just like Elis. In fact, everyone from this stronghold could be identified by this sort of look. The light or pale colors were characteristically theirs, especially for hair and eyes.

The stronghold itself was a place of paradise. In the middle it had a great building, a white stone palace with a round shape, that integrated harmoniously with the large garden around it, which was full of flowers, bushes, hedges, and decorative trees. Pastel butterflies and singing birds embellished the sight. The stronghold had no fence, but a thick forest with a magical barrier, which made access to the inside impossible for ordinary people.

Selunia was the only one among the residents of the stronghold who was distinguished by strong colors: purple-blue eyes and warm-shaded dark hair. While they all had extraordinary appearances, she, except for her intense eye color, looked as normal as any mortal could. Still, she wore their style of clothing: something similar to Elis’ dress, but with a brown tint.

“Everything you can do with these crystal-gloves exceeds by far the skills of those from the Arid Kingdom,” Ryan said calmly, stopping in front of them. “Only to us it’s a trifle,” he added, amused as he shattered the protection with a simple touch before Selunia’s forlorn eyes.

Elis frowned. “Ryan, don’t be mean!”

“I’m not mean!” He quickly defended himself, visibly troubled by her words.

Selunia chuckled, watching how they behaved. Any small discussion between them entertained her, as it always brought to light the fact that they liked each other.

“All I said is that everything she knows is enough for a place like the Arid Kingdom,” continued Ryan, staring at Elis. He then turned to Selunia and asked her, “Have you practiced the sword?”

“Sure, sure. I love swords,” she replied, rolling her eyes.

“Who needs a sword when you’ve got crystal-gloves?” Elis chuckled.

Selunia still went to take a sword from a nearby stone bench, and started to superficially execute some sword attack moves before Elis’ entertained eyes.

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Ryan watched for a few moments how she was twirling slowly, cutting through the air aimlessly. He shook his head. Then, drawing a folded piece of paper out of his pocket, he told her, “Okay, enough, I got it. There’s no need for you to show me anymore. I came to tell you that I’d just received a letter from the general of the Arid Kingdom.”

Selunia dropped the sword and dashed to take the letter out of his hand. As she read it impatiently, her eyes widened; she said with surprise, “The general will take me today!”

“What?!” exclaimed Elis, startled. “So early?”

“When today, more exactly?” Ryan asked, surprised as well. “How unexpected…”

“Around twelve o’clock,” Selunia answered, letting her arms fall by her sides.

“Truth is, it’s not a great distance between us and the Aridens’ Palace,” Ryan said thoughtfully.

The girls looked at each other with sadness. Their separation had come sooner than they’d expected. Selunia sighed. She was trying to come to terms with her fate. She didn’t dislike the idea of setting off to the Aridens’ Palace, but the idea of leaving the White Castle didn’t make her happy.

Elis shuddered a little, forced a smile to reappear on her face, and said, “Well then, let’s get you ready for your departure! What are we waiting for? Come on!”

Grabbing her by the hands with a contagious joyfulness, Elis dragged Selunia after her.

Ryan watched how they went to the palace. He had a reasonable, detached attitude towards her leaving.

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