Chapter 6
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It took Cale over a week to recuperate. During that time, Julius would visit every day, bringing food and medicine with him. No matter how much Cale assured him that he was getting better and that he could get these things for himself, Julius would simply scoff in his face and ignore him.

Somehow, that only made him seem more adorable.

Cale blinked himself to awareness as he shook his head and pulled on the final layer of his uniform, stepping into the boots as he went to the door. He flung his satchel over his shoulder, opened the door and left. 

While he had diligently done all his homework and kept up with his studying as much as he was able to while stuck in his bed, he had no doubt that he had only fallen further behind. No matter how many notes Julius scared off of his classmates, without the context provided by the teacher and class, they were next to useless. Studying them, in the end, hadn't done him much good. 

He sighed as he locked the door and started traipsing through the hallways, on the way to the cafeteria for the first time in almost two weeks.

As he walked, he only passed a handful of students, all of them going in the same direction as him. At this point, it was a small enough number who were awake as early as him that he could recognize each and every one of them, even though he had no idea who they actually were. They nodded to each other as they passed through the hallways, an unspoken agreement of leaving each other alone keeping them from making conversations. The sun hadn't even risen yet; the only people awake now were those like Cale, who valued studying over friendship.

That wasn't to say that they were rude, they simply didn't force themselves to make nice and distract each other from valuable time that could be better spent learning.

Julius wasn't in the cafeteria when he arrived, which was for the best. Cale had taken advantage of Julius to the degree that he wondered when the teenager had had time to sleep, and he didn't fault Julius for taking the time to sleep in. He also didn't expect Julius to keep him company when eating, just because he had taken care of him and Cale had gotten used to it.

He clicked his tongue as he gathered his tray full of the breakfast that he usually enjoyed and that he had been robbed of for the last time. It was lucky that they served hot chocolate drinks, though Julius had told him that there usually weren't any left by the time the teenager got there.  Cale though, early as was, had never had a problem.

Going to his usual table, he sat himself down, putting his satchel sitting on the opposite chair and slowly ate his breakfast, savoring it.

His eyes drifted over the rest of the cafeteria as he ate, humming slightly due to the good taste. The breakfast offered by the school was simple but that didn't mean it wasn't tasty. His eyes shut as he could finally taste it properly, his appetite having entirely abandoned him during his illness.

"Puhh..." He put his hand over his stomach as he leaned back on his chair and stared up at the high domed ceiling.

He smiled. That was a good meal.

His eyes slid over to the old clock on the wall and he sighed. It was a little passed half to seven, which meant that he had over an hour until classes started. And the library opened at seven in the morning on the dot, every day. 

Cale stood from his seat and deposited the tray on the shelves. He wandered back to his table and pulled out a book and a notebook, settling in to study until the library opened and he could move there. It would still be a while until the cafeteria filled up anyway, and this was how he usually spent his days. 

Before he knew it, he looked up at the clock and saw that it was only a few more minutes until the library doors opened. He packed up his stuff and grimaced as the volume in the room rose as more and more people entered to eat their breakfast.

He left the cafeteria just as Sayer entered it and the two passed each other by, neither saying a word to the other.

Cale's lips twitched a little as he kept walking. 

The library opened its large doors when he pulled at them. He went in and took a refreshing deep breath. Though it had hardly been any time at all in the grand scheme of things, it felt as though it had been ages since he had last been here. He found that he had missed it. 

Cale waved to the librarian as he walked past her, and she nodded back at him stiffly.

Walking over to his usual corner, Cale unloaded his books on the table and sat down to really get  into things. 

He immediately started biting his lip in frustration. 

By the time that classes started, Cale was about ready to set fire to something. This wasn't a feeling he often had, but when every book he found on the subject simply informed him that an incantation was a phrase used to invoke ones magic, without telling him how it did it... well, it was annoying to say the least. He wanted the actual science of it, he wanted to know why it worked they way it did.

Why the incantations worked in the first place. Somebody must have made them up, yet there was no mentions of that in the history or magic books. They were in the common language spoken in this land, but the books told him that in other countries, the same incantations were in different languages. So did it have less to do with the words themselves and more to do with the meaning of them?

Cale wasn't a scientist. But in the face of this mystery, he couldn't help himself. It woke his imagination like nothing else had since he came to this world.

Still, no matter how much he wanted time to slow down so that he could read all the books he could see around him, time was a cruel mistress. What felt like only a couple of minutes after he had sat down and started reading, he looked up and was faced with an unsympathetic clock. It was time for class and if he didn't want to be late, he'd have to hurry.

He swore to himself as he quickly gathered up his things and hurried out of the library.


For the next couple of days, Cale didn't see Julius at all. He was so busy with his studies that there was simply no time to visit the teenager and likewise, Julius didn't visit him. Cale assumed that he was still catching up on sleep and didn't think anything of it.

In the mean time, it felt like he was drowning in schoolwork. He was so busy that he got less sleep than when he was sick, which in hindsight wasn't a surprise. He had spent a lot of time sleeping. It made sense, considering how little sleep he had been getting since coming to this school, a combination of worry about his eventual death and his studies. 

But it did make it hard for him to catch up on his work, even with all the homework he had done; it simply wasn't enough for somebody who could barely even understand the material. 

If he had to guess, he was at grade school level compared to everyone else here.

And frantic studying could only do so much, when the books refused to explain things, assuming that students would already know this and that. Probably accurate in regards to students who grew up in this world, but he hadn't.

As such, he was frequently forced to look up terms and information, which would make him look up even more stuff that he didn't understand in order to understand the original thing he hadn't understood, leaving him in an endless spiral of studying. 

It was exhausting and he now had definite proof that his soul hadn't magically improved this body's immune-system.

Calla was weak, and yet Cale was so busy that he had no time to take care of himself.

This could only lead to one thing; soon or later he was going to collapse again from overworking. He would probably catch some other disease and be bed-bound again for who knows how long. And normally, the prospect of this would make him back off, calm down and do things the proper way. He didn't like being sick.

But he had no other options. He was out of time. He could only pray that he managed to keep going regardless of how many times he fell sick.

He shook his head at the turn his thoughts had taken, depressed that even in his mind he could only tell himself to buckle up. Sighing, Cale pressed his head against the cold, scratchy paper of a really old book and closed his eyes. He breathed in deeply, the scent of an old book meeting him, and counted to ten. His eyes were tired and he knew that he needed sleep, and he was going to get it, he was... just not now.

Soon. When he had finished this essay, he was going to go straight to his room and sleep. 

The problem was that the essay's subject was so far above his level that he had no idea what he was even writing anymore. He had gotten lost in the researching and now he was just confused.

He thumped his head against the book and groaned. Cale blinked his eyes open slowly and was faced by the alien letters on the yellowing page, written in faded black ink. He slowly sat himself up properly, stretched his back and cracked his neck, grimacing at the loud popping noise. The sooner he finished this essay, the sooner he could finally get some proper sleep.

Cale yawned as he pulled the notebook closer to him and stared at the various notes he had cluttered all over it. A whole notebook filled, dedicated to a single essay, simply because there were so many things that he didn't know, that others just thought of as common sense.

He had never felt more like an outsider.

A quiet pair of footsteps came closer to him and he wasn't surprised when he heard, "Mister Frosthaze?" coming from behind him.

Cale glanced over his shoulder and gave a quick, tired smile to the librarian. Well, one of three librarians and two assistants, this place was so big that one person simply wasn't enough. She smiled slightly back at him.

"We're closing in half-an-hour," she said, sounding genuinely apologetic. "Do you want to borrow those books?"

Cale's gaze slid to the clock on the wall some distance from him. It was already a miracle that the library was open to midnight in the first place. He let out a puff of breath and nodded gratefully to the librarian. Mrs Jane had only ever been kind to him, helping him log the books he was constantly borrowing.

She was in her mid-forties, if he had to guess, and had a kind, open face, at odds with her timid personality. She was nice and had never made him feel like he wasn't welcome, even though they saw each other so often that she had recently started expressing concern for him.

Apparently, Julius had told her that the reason he was sick was due to overworking.

Cale couldn't blame him.

Mrs Jane helped him gather up the books that he needed to borrow so that he could finish writing his essay in his room. She packed them into his satchel while he hurried to put the books that he no longer needed back on the shelves. Once done, he thanked her and took back his satchel, slinging it over his shoulder — by now well-used to the heavy weight of it.

She saw him off when he left the library before returning to clean up before it closed. Thus, Cale walked back to his room.

He fumbled with the key when he came, so tired that his eyes occasionally crossed and he had trouble getting the key into the lock. When he finally managed it, he breathed out a sigh and flung the door open, letting it close with a bang behind him. Twisting the lock to ensure nobody else would be able to enter, he pulled off his boots and crossed the room to his desk. He unloaded the books and notebooks on it and gripped a pencil in his hand as he sat down.

Glancing at the clock, he was dismayed to note that it was still ticking closer to midnight. If he could help it, he didn't want to be up past two in the morning, not when he had to get up around six in order to get to the cafeteria and then the library in time.

But there was nothing to be done about it except focusing.

An hour later and nearly done with this godforsaken essay that he just wanted to set on fire, Cale rubbed his eyes for what felt like the millionth time. 

He stared down at the last page of what he had written, satisfied to note that he had finally written down all the relevant information and all that was left was the closing paragraph — the conclusion. Wracking his brain, he grimaced as he finally decided to just babble something ineligible on it and hope it made sense. He was too tired to put any more thought into this, but the deadline was tomorrow so he had no choice.

He would look it over once more after he had eaten breakfast tomorrow, once he had gotten a good night's sleep and was well-rested. Scribbling down the last word, he made sure that he had signed it with the proper name and then breathed out a large gust of air.

"Finally," he muttered to himself and stood from the desk chair, stretching his back as he did so.

He had been sitting leaning over a table the whole day and his body had grown stiff. Cale frowned when he looked over at the clock on the wall, sitting there like it was judging him. But it wasn't two o'clock yet, so he counted it as a win.

Throwing his stiff uniform off, he hurried through his pre-sleep routine and then crawled into the bed, his eyes closing before he was even fully on it. It took him no time at all to fall asleep.

In fact, it felt like no time at all had passed when he was woken up by harsh knocks on the door. A feeling of deja vu overcame him as he squinted it at, suspicious of why anyone would knock at... four in the morning according to his clock. 

Apparently, he had been so tired he had forgotten to turn the lights off.


"W-what?" he croaked out.

"Frosthaze, let me in!" somebody called from the other side. He couldn't recognize the voice and had no idea why they were at his door.

Had Calla had some kind of night-time rendezvous going on with someone?

He was so tired that even his thoughts made no sense.

"Who... is it?" he slowly asked as he was on the verge of slipping back into slumber.

He yawned and shoved his head deeper into the comfy pillow. From the other side of the door the stranger responded with, "Angelica, now open the door! We need to talk, I think—"

Then the voice went quiet. 

After a few minutes of silence during which Cale was dozing peacefully, the girl's voice came again. "Wait, this isn't Sayer's room. What am I... that bitch gave me the wrong number, oh it is on. You think just because I drank a few glasses of wine I'm suddenly an idiot? Hah! You're gonna pay for this, damn you!"

The voice got lower and lower as the mysterious girl left, complaining and promising revenge the entire way.

It hadn't been him who she was looking for. She was on the search for Sayer and must have gotten the room numbers mixed up. A relief, as Cale had no desire to become a part of some kind of misunderstanding. It was bad enough that he maybe, sort of, probably, kind of had non-platonic feelings in regards to Julius, he didn't need anymore drama on top of that.

At least he knew who she was now. 

Angelica Rosethorne was rich, beautiful and came from an excellent pedigree, being the oldest child and only daughter of a duke. She got everything she could ever want or need with but a word to her father and her position in the polite society was at a level where most girls were required to play nice with her.

Her lifestyle was expensive and in the book she was described as the typical villainess, making trouble just for the sake of trouble or due to jealousy. Supposedly she was a jealous woman who scorned anyone prettier than her. Crafty, with a head for numbers and a burning drive to be somebody, she was portrayed as an evil woman who would do anything for her ambitions and had no fear of trampling over people to succeed.

Greedy, self-centered and spoiled; the magical recipe of every misunderstood villainess, destined for a bad ending and fated to be humiliated by the very people she sought to impress.

She was also in love with Sayer.

Cale wondered what she was really like, outside the limited scope of the protagonist's thoughts.

After all, every good story needed a love rival.


Yawning, Cale followed the rest of the class out of the classroom. The last class of the day had just ended, and Cale was exhausted. He had only been back in school for about a week, and already all the energy that he had been storing up was gone, lost with the wind. Stumbling a little on his tired feet, Cale frowned down at them.

"Mr Frosthaze," the teacher said and Cale reluctantly turned around. Valerio the Villain faced him head-on, looking at him as if he was severely disappointed. "If you need more time to recover from your illness, you should take the next week off. It wouldn't do for you to fall ill again so soon, after all."

Valerio looked serious, as if he actually meant it. Like he wasn't the ultimate villain, the hidden boss, of this whole novel. Cale frowned and his eyes drifted away from the uncomfortably intense blue of the villain's eyes.

"I'm fine," Cale insisted. Truly, it didn't matter if he was fine or not, he had things to get done and it wouldn't wait for him to get better.

For months now, he had managed to stay out of the Sayer's and the plot's way, a success that he didn't intend to squander. He never ate with Sayer, never spent any time around him, had successfully managed to remove himself from all association with him — Cale had thought that he was doing pretty well so far. If only Calla's frail body wouldn't betray him.

Valerio sent him a questioning look, and Cale ducked his head, "I'll rest over the weekend," he promised, feeling chastised for some reason.

He wondered where Julius was right now, what he was doing? As far as Cale could remember, Julius' last class for the day — and the entire week, as it was Friday now — had already ended. They hadn't seen each other for this whole week and while Cale didn't begrudge Julius getting his due rest, he had found himself missing the younger boy. He wet his dry lips and nodded his head at Valerio, "I promise to take better care of myself."

Then he left the classroom after Valerio nodded at him. It still left him reeling, after all this time, how good a teacher Valerio actually was. Cale's best grades was in Valerio's class, and that was not an accident.

His feet took him toward the library, toward the corner where Julius often waited for him. He hadn't seen him there for the whole week, but habits were hard to break. 

Still, Cale's steps faltered when he caught sight of the teenage boy leaning against the wall.

"Frosthaze," Julius nodded coldly at him and pushed off from the wall with his foot, straightening himself and standing tall. Cale's eyes drifted over Julius' body and his eyes lingered on the bright blond hair. It looked longer, reaching Julius' shoulders.

He smiled, "Julius."

Julius looked him over, from the bottom of his toes all the way up to Cale's hair that was, once again, slipping out of the hastily made braid, and his gaze finally stopped on Cale's face. He frowned and Cale found himself taking a step back out of reflex. He knew that look. He had been subjected to it many times while he was sick.

"You haven't been resting enough," Julius declared, like it was obvious.

Cale gulped. "I've been busy with homework and studying," he defended himself. Seeing the look on Julius' face, Cale took hold of his satchel and gripped tightly to his bosom, warily looking back at Julius. Julius' green eyes glanced at the bag that Cale was defending and then the boy sighed.

"Stop looking at me like that. I'm not going to attack you," Julius said and took a step closer. He was now within arm's length of Cale.

Cale looked down on him. Though Julius had maybe grown a little bit since they had first met, Cale was still taller. Cale didn't expect that to last, but for now he could look down on Julius and be met with steely eyes looking back at him. Julius had probably never even noticed the height difference, had he? The same way that he apparently hadn't given any thought to the age difference.

Cale sighed and let his bag go, "I know you're not. I'm sorry," he apologized and watched the frown on Julius' face melt away.

"Good," Julius nodded. "Where are you going? You're going to rest now, right?"

Cale nodded, seeing no reason to argue with him. Besides, if he went to bed early tonight, he would have more energy to study over the weekend, when he had no classes to distract him from his homework. When looking at it that way, going back to his room now and taking it easy this evening seemed like a sensible choice.

He was well aware that his frantic studying wasn't sensible in the least. He knew full well that not resting so soon after he had been sick precisely because of this issue was stupid of him, but he didn't see any other options. He had to graduate this year.

They started walking toward the dorms and Cale gracefully didn't ask why Julius was following him. The teenager probably just wanted to make sure that Cale wasn't lying, that he would actually get some rest tonight and take it easy. Understandable, considering how Cale had spent his time the last week.

As they walked next to each other and got closer and closer to Cale's room, Cale was privy to the sight of Julius' starting to glare. Everything and everyone that they passed by, Julius would glare into submission and their fellow students hurriedly moved out of their way. Cale didn't blame them, Julius' glare was a frightening thing, the kind of thing that belonged in a horror movie on a wronged ghost.

Amused despite himself, Cale's lips twitched into a smile as he watched a student let out a squeak when catching sight of Julius and abruptly turning the other way, blatantly running away. 

Cale laughed softly, turning it into a cough when Julius turned that infamous glare on him.

They reached Cale's room safe and sound. Julius' foot tapped impatiently on the ground while Cale unlocked and opened the door and Cale sent him another amused glance over his shoulder as he entered his room. Cale threw the satchel full of books on the bed and then sat himself down next to it, watching as Julius immediately started to inspect the room. 

Julius dragged his finger along one of the shelves, frowning at the tip of it when he brought it back. "You didn't clean at all," Julius clicked his tongue disapprovingly.

Cale fiddled with the pillows on his bed, over half of them having been given to his by Julius during the time he was sick. He settled them against the headboard and then sat with his back to them, leaning back against the softness and sighing in pleasure. Cale closed his eyes as his body reacted to the restful position by instantly relaxing. With his eyes closed, it didn't take him long to start dozing; he really hadn't been getting enough sleep lately.

He didn't know how long he dozed, half-asleep and unaware of what was going on around him. But when he finally blinked his eyes open again, the sun had set and Julius was entering the room again with a tray full of food.

"You didn't have to," Cale said as he hurried out of the bed and moved to take the tray. Julius ignored him and walked over to the desk, settling the tray down on it after Cale quickly moved the notebooks, scattered papers and books on it to the side. Cale continued to say, "You could have woken me up."

"You need the rest," Julius stated and stepped back from the table. He waved his arm toward the tray and stared at Cale in silence until Cale sighed and sat down on the desk chair. 

Picking up the utensils, Cale at the food and drank the milk in record time. He hadn't eaten since lunch and he was hungrier than he thought. He guessed that his body must be trying to recover some of his energy by eating, now when he wasn't sleeping as much as he should. It made sense, he thought.

He leaned back on his chair and glanced over at Julius. While Cale had been eating, Julius had gotten a book from Cale's shelves and sat down on his bed to read it. 

Observing the young man, Cale's eyes drifted from his hair slipping forward over his face, to his intense green eyes and to the gentle slope of his neck. Cale gave himself permission to look for a minute, before he abruptly turned his gaze away and closed his eyes. He rubbed his eyes harshly, disgusted with himself for giving in to his baser urges.

When he peeked out at Julius between his fingers, Julius was staring at him. Cale swallowed uneasily and asked, "What?"

"We need to talk," Julius said and closed the book with a loud thump.

Cale brought his hands down from his face to his lap, crossed his leg over the other and tried to look approachable. Had Julius discovered that Cale was... lusting after him? Had he figured out where Cale looked so often? What Cale felt for him, the disgusting truth of his lacking morality? Frowning, Cale questioned, "About what?"

"I've talked with your parents," Julius started. Julius moved so that he leaned back on his hands and looked at Cale from half-lidded eyes. 

It was too much for Cale's heart, "What about?"

"About your marriage," Julius licked his lips and then stated imperiously, "About me marrying you."


Cale's heart stopped in chest and he stared with wide eyes at the younger man. "What?" he managed to squeeze out through his suddenly dry mouth. He licked his dry lips and clenched his hands together, squeezing them together on his lap. He closed his eyes and took a controlling breath before he opened them again and demanded, "What?"

"They've agreed to letting me court you," Julius stated, as if it was that simple. Like he wasn't walking all over Cale's heart, like he wasn't trampling over all of his beliefs. Julius continued, "We've agreed that should the courting go well, my family will pay for the wedding. Of course, we won't get married until I graduate, but we can discuss that when you're less overwhelmed."

"What?" Cale asked again, still unable to really understand what was going on.

Julius sighed. Then he stood and walked over to Cale. He patted Cale's shoulder gently and said, kinder than Cale had ever heard him speak, "If you don't want this, tell your parents. Nothing is set in stone."

He stepped back and his lips were quirked just slightly at the edges. It was probably the first time that Cale had ever seen him actually smile, tiny as it was. Cale dragged in a rough breath, frowning harshly. He shook his head in an attempt to clear it, but it was still loud, so loud that he could barely hear himself think. 

It was all happening so fast.

"We hardly know each other. Are you sure you're fine with me?" Cale asked, then he frowned. That wasn't what he wanted to ask. "You're fine with the age difference? I'm almost five years older than you."

Julius shrugged. "That's what the courting is for. Besides, we won't be getting married before I graduate anyway, your parents insisted."

Staring down at his lap, Cale turned the idea around in his head. Was it truly that easy? It didn't feel like it should be. "Do you even like me?" Cale asked, unable to keep the words from leaving him.

"Of course I do. I wouldn't have asked your parents for permission to court you otherwise," Julius stated simply.

Cale looked up at him. It couldn't be this easy, but when he saw the intense and determined look on Julius' face, he found that he didn't have any objections. He would panic soon, he knew, but when Julius looked at him like that, he couldn't remember why.