Wicadia wasn’t as large as Mocoza, but it was more heavily defended. In addition to walls, it had watchtowers and more guards at the gate.
“Is this a really dangerous city?” Serena asked.
“Not at all,” Sylvie said. “It’s actually very safe. It’s home to many powerful magic users and crime is virtually non-existent within its walls. In your second year as an initiate, you’ll be sent here to study magic.”
“The security is because it’s a sovereign city,” Inés explained. “The Academy basically rules over the people. Strictly speaking, they don’t have any enemies among royals or aristocrats and most kingdoms will happily make arrangements for their court mages to study here, but there are plenty of royals who would happily make a move to try and take control of the Academy for their kingdom exclusively, if they thought they could manage it.”
“Which is why they have to stay vigilant,” Sylvie stated. “If they showed weakness, it could be devastating.”
The three approached the guards and Sylvie answered several basic questions before they were permitted entry.
“Now what?” Serena asked. “Do we take Miss Kane up on her offer?”
“Who?” Inés asked.
“Lady Astrid Kane,” Sylvie answered. “You lifted her carriage out of the mud, remember?”
“Oh, her,” Inés said. “I’d forgotten what her name was.” She rummaged through her bag. “I’ve still got her token, so we could. but it’s awfully early to go right away.”
“Agreed,” Sylvie said. “And I should very much love to see the academy again.”
“Then let’s drop in for a visit,” Inés said. “I wonder if Luc will remember me?”
“Don’t you dare embarrass us in front of Miss Elivy!” Sylvie cautioned.
“What do you take me for?” Inés asked. “I’ll just talk to her. Although, if she wants to go further I would happily oblige.” She got a big smile on her face.
“Is she that pretty?” Serena asked.
“Gorgeous,” Inés answered. “But you have nothing to worry about.” Inés winked at her. “You’re just as gorgeous as her.”
Sylvie rolled her eyes. “This is why I have to worry about being embarrassed,” she muttered.
The trio made their way to the academy. It was a massive building, towering upward with walls that looked like refractive crystal. To the left and right of the main building were dormitories.
Sylvie and Inés moved to the left. Near that dorm, was a massive garden with more flower varieties than Serena had ever seen before.
“It’s so pretty,” she muttered. “But won’t we get in trouble for being here without permission?”
“Not at all,” Inés stated. “Since we studied here, they’ll be fine with us visiting. Besides, I know why Sylvie wanted to come here first.”
Serena looked over at Sylvie. She was walking slowly forward, looking around from side to side almost like she was looking for something.
Inés and Serena followed a slight distance behind, seemingly unnoticed. Finally, Sylvie’s face lit up and she broke into a run. Inés gestured for Serena to stop and pointed.
A tall, thin girl was sitting under a tree. She had flowing blonde hair and was wearing white robes. Her eyes were tightly shut.
“Illyana!” Sylvie called.
The girls head turned to face Sylvie, but her eyes remained shut. Her face was clouded with confusion for a moment before realisation kicked in. “Oh, if it isn’t Sylvie,” she said. She was very soft-spoken. “It’s been a long time. Let me see how you’ve changed.” She rose and reached forward. Sylvie moved and guided Illyana’s hands to her face.
Illyana gently touched Sylvie’s face. Quickly and skilfully moving her hands over it. Finally, she pulled away. “Your hair is longer,” she observed.
“Maybe a little,” Sylvie said. She was giving Illyana a gentle smile and her face was flushed.
“It’s wonderful to meet you again,” Illyana said. “Are you on your graduation journey?”
“I am,” Sylvie said. “I had to pass through Wicadia and I thought I’d drop by to see you. Do you mind?”
“Not at all,” Illyana stated. “And your companions are?”
Sylvie looked back at Inés and Serena with an expression that implied that she’d forgotten they were there. “You remember the lecherous mermaid, I’m sure,” Sylvie said.
“Hey, Illyana,” Inés called
“Hi, Inés,” Illyana said. Let me see you.” She walked towards Inés, tripping over a stone. Sylvie reached out and caught her before she fell.
“Are you all right?” Sylvie asked.
“Yes, thank you,” Illyana said. She got back on her feet and made her way to Inés, touching her face like she had Sylvie’s.
“Did you get taller?” Illyana asked.
“By quite a bit,” Inés answered. “Allow me to introduce our rookie, Serena Rabelle.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Illyana said. She held her hand out. Serena moved over to grasp it.
“The pleasure is mine,” she said.
“I’m afraid we cant stay long, but I’d love to catch up as much as we can,” Sylvie said.
“I’d like that too,” Illyana said. “Come, sit with me.”
“We’ll leave you to it,” Inés said. “There are some other people I’d like to say hi to. Serena, come along with me.” Inés winked at Sylvie.
“Oh, sure,” Serena said.
The two walked a distance away. “So, who are we going to see?” Serna asked.
Inés shrugged. “Whoever I recognise, I guess. I had quite a few friends when I was here. Mainly, I just want to let Sylvie have some alone time with Illyana. You probably noticed that she has a major crush on that girl.”
Serena nodded. “It’s a little surprising. I’d have thought that Sylvie could hide her feelings better.”
Inés shrugged. “She doesn’t really have to. You can see it, easily, but you may have noticed that she doesn’t let you hear it.”
“I see,” Serena said. “That makes sense but I don’t understand. Is the damage to Miss Illyana’s eyes so bad that they can’t fix it, even with access to the strongest magic?”
“It’s not really a matter of damage,” Inés explained. “She was born like that. So, there’s really nothing that magic can do for her.”