Alice from Wonderland – 2

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Tablet of the Worlds

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volume two

“My books are water. To the nigi of great geniuses is wine. Everyone drinks water.”

Mark Twain

“You are too accustomed to the idea that everyone perceives the world the same. But this is not so. If you get together and try to retell each other the simplest and most obvious concepts for you, you will understand that you all live in completely different worlds.

And only your comfort determines your mental calmness.

In this case, a person who believes that he is a giraffe and lives in the world with this knowledge is as normal as a person who believes that the grass is green and the sky is blue.

Some of you believe in UFOs, some in God, some in your morning breakfast and a cup of coffee. Living in harmony with your faith — you are completely healthy, but as soon as you start to defend your point of view — how faith in God will make you kill, faith in UFOs — to fear being abducted, faith in a cup of coffee in the morning — will become the center of your universe and destroy your life…

The physicist will begin to give you arguments that the sky is not blue, and the biologist will prove that the grass is not green. In the end, you will be left alone with an empty, cold and completely unknown world to you, which it most likely is.

So it doesn’t matter what kind of ghosts you inhabit your world. As long as you believe in them — they exist, as long as you don’t fight them — they are not dangerous.”

James roger

“All the beautiful things that have ever happened in the world first appeared in someone’s imagination. Appreciate him, respect him.”

Astrid Lindgren

“The greatest magic is to control your own destiny.

From birth, individuality is assiduously killed in us. Teachers zealously insist that it is always easier to follow someone else’s path, because this is already a trodden path along which millions of people walked before us. It’s safe and secure. Just think: there is so much to learn at school! But how to find your way in life, for some reason, they do not teach.

Where to find the road?

Ask the compass that is inside you. With the right attitude and concentration, he will answer all questions.

How do you know that this is really your direction?

Take just a few steps forward. If the path is correct, lunar wings will grow behind you, and the most incredible and unexpected adventures will await you. And no one can turn you off this path. Even you yourself.”

Alisa Gromova

Chapter #1. Observers

I will look for you forever

Even if you don’t even know about that.

This path is marked with a star for me,

And I’ll get there, I’ll drive a flock of birds.

And the madness of the wind rushing in

Into your life like a lost wanderer

For you I fall asleep

I will paint the dawn in the early morning.

And you will become the sun or the rainbow,

But you can’t believe it, of course.

You will certainly recognize me

After all, I am the one who keeps you forever.

Anyone who claims to know everything is either stupid by nature, or blatantly lies. To whom, you ask? It seems that, first of all, to himself. The world is much larger than we can even imagine. Its boundaries are measured neither by megabytes, nor by the level of the TV and radio signal. To be honest, he has no boundaries at all, like imagination, which is this very world.

What do you know about the Watchers?

You don’t have to worry: no one knows anything about them. They simply exist next to us and strive not to interfere with what is happening on Earth. One of their tasks is to prevent any interactions between people and the inhabitants of a mysterious country hidden from our sight by the Mist.

We all have seen these impenetrable clouds at least once in our lives: as if they had descended from the sky to hide an important secret from us. But few of us imagine that there, beyond the border of this whitish thicket, there is a whole country that wanders the world in search of “recharging” for its existence. The mist of which it is composed absorbs people’s nightmares, their fears and emotions.

This country is called the Radiance. Few have heard of her. Largely thanks to the work of the Observers. As a rule, these persons are of little interest in everything that happens in the human world and even in the Radiance itself. However, what happened this summer forced them to step out of the shadows.

Velimir measured the forest paths with a walk, sifting through the dry foliage with his long legs with polished boots. Hiding under a huge black umbrella, he carelessly hummed melodies that he had heard in the human world only recently. He was incredibly calm, while the forest around him was frighteningly gloomy and sobbing inconsolably in a wall of cold autumn rain.

There was not a soul around, but this also did not bother the traveler with an umbrella.

Velimir was dressed in a strict black suit with a tie, but he looked ridiculous in it, as if the uniform did not fit him in size. In his free hand, he held a bulky dark case, closed with three silver locks.

The guy was seventeen, but he was already considered the youngest Observer in the history of the Universe. Moreover, Velimir was a close student of Ardamir Gromov — the Supreme Magician and, according to some sources, one of the founders of the Shining.

He walked for a long time, sometimes losing his path among centuries-old pines and firs. Honestly, Velimir was in no hurry. He enjoyed every moment of his stay on Earth, every step he took.

And the forest, meanwhile, became more and more formidable: the darkness deepened, even despite the daylight hours, the downpour intensified at times.

Velimir stopped, trying to see something around him. It was almost impossible to do this because of the solid rain wall. And yet, he noticed something in the depths of the forest.

It was a small, hastily hammered together wooden table with benches. Such homemade products can be found today in almost any Russian forest, in places where people have a picnic. But Velimir knew that this table was special. And indeed: as soon as he sat down at it and folded the umbrella, drops of rain began to fly around the traveler, and the table itself remained dry and unharmed, as if an invisible roof hung over it.

Putting aside the umbrella and case, Velimir straightened up, obediently folded his hands on the table and began to wait. In less than a minute, dishes with treats and three glasses of wine began to appear on the tabletop in front of him.

Velimir did not touch the food and only continued to wait patiently.

“You’re early,” came a man’s voice, and a tall old man with a long gray beard appeared opposite the boy at the table. Ardamir Gromov was dressed in a light autumn robe, buttoned up like a cloak. “But that’s for the best. I need to discuss something with you.

“Okay,” Velimir nodded obediently. — I’m listening to you, teacher.

— I want to talk to you about my granddaughter.

Ardamir looked curiously at the face of his disciple, but did not find the slightest emotion on it.

— Yes, I know about her, teacher, — Velimir responded. “We’re on Earth because of her, don’t we?

— Right, — smiled Ardamir. “But before we begin our conversation, I would like to ask you not to interfere with the plan.

— I don’t quite understand you, teacher.

— No, I am convinced that you understood me correctly. Promise me that you will not interfere with what will be discussed here. Give me your word, Velimir!

— Sure! the guy gasped in his hearts. — Anything you ask.

— Excellent, — Ardamir leaned back rather, lifted a glass of wine from the table and took a few sips from it: — You have an excellent taste for drinks, Ermandigor!

— I try, — a new voice croaked, which was ten times more terrible than the darkness around. At the same instant, something like a very ancient old man appeared at the table, overgrown from head to toe with moss, mushrooms and leaves. Velimir immediately recognized him — it was the spirit of the Siyan forest, its chief ruler.

— Well, — Ardamir cleared his throat, collecting his thoughts, — let’s get down to business. What is your sister up to, Ermandigor?

There was an awkward pause, after which the Lord of the Forest said:

— It is not in my rules to discuss the actions of Mariharme.

It became so quiet in the forest, as if the sound of the rain had simply been turned off using the remote control. Ardamir exchanged a glance with Velimir, after which he lifted an unfinished glass of wine from the table and drained it instantly.

“We know that your sister was trying to find the multicolor,” Velimir joined in the conversation. — We are also informed why she needed him.

“The Tablet of the Worlds,” Yermandigor said after a moment of silence. “I tried to dissuade her many times. But you know my sister. If she thinks about something, she will stop at nothing.

— What is she going to do with Simila Gromova? — Ardamir’s eyes like lightning flashed in the gloom of bad weather.

“Her name is Alice,” Velimir corrected, but instantly stopped short, meeting the stern gaze of the teacher.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, returning his attention to Ermandigor. — So what is she up to? What are her plans for the girl?

The lord of the forest grew gloomy with each subsequent second, and with him the forest itself became even more terrible. Frequent lightning flashed in the sky, and thunder rumbled.

However, everything stopped in an instant, as soon as Ermandigor was distracted from his thoughts and turned to Velimir — he tried not to look at Ardamir.

— Mariharme is going to tell the Council of Observers that Alice is seriously ill. Do you understand what I’m talking about and what can come of it?

Velimir did not answer. He just fidgeted nervously in place, which did not escape the teacher’s attentive gaze.

“It’s worse than I imagined,” Ardamir said, stroking his gray beard. — Well, in any case, the girl’s fate is rather sad. Sooner or later she will be removed from this path.

“This is a very unusual girl,” added Yermandigor and nodded in the affirmative, as if answering his own thoughts. “Her courage and purity of soul cannot be compared to anyone in the Shining. It is a pity that her age is not long.

Velimir was about to say something, but another stern look from the elderly teacher made him change his mind. All he did was take out his black case with three silver locks and handed it to the forest spirit. Hermandigor gleefully grabbed him and hastened to hide from prying eyes.

“It contains everything you need for further actions,” Velimir said in a half-whisper. After a pause, he added, “I need your help. Can I rely on you?

— Velimir! — the gray-haired Ardamir insistently shouted at the guy. But he pretended not to hear anything.

Yermandigor, without uttering a word, nodded.

— Okay. In this case, I will contact you, — the guy summed up.

The weather around continued to deteriorate. But Velimir was no longer interested in this: all his thoughts were entirely concentrated on the thirteen-year-old schoolgirl, whose name was Alisa Gromova.

This girl had only a couple of weeks to live. And he could do nothing to prevent the inevitable.

Chapter #2. Star

— Do you see the star?

— I see. She is the largest among the rest! Do you think she knows about us?

— Hardly. We are too small for her.

At a small window, huddled together, sat a boy and a girl about eight years old. Directly at them, not hiding its majesty, a star looked through the window glass. She was noticeably different from the others — her light eclipsed the stars in the neighborhood.

— T s really believe that parents will take away you? the girl asked.

— I know it — there was a voice in the darkness Anton and.

For a split second, it seemed like there was a knock on the window. But it was only the wind.

“He’s strong for you,” the girl leaned closer to her friend’s face so that in the light of a lamppost she could see the numerous abrasions and bruises under his eyes.

“Nothing,” he said.

— Why didn’t you give him lunch? You knew he was going to beat you.

“I knew,” Anton replied. He didn’t want to talk about it and decided to change the subject: “ I don’t care. You know, in my dreams I saw my mother again.

— T s also do not know how it looks — the beginning it was a girl, but then fell silent. At this time, the dull blows of rain on the frozen asphalt were heard outside the window.

— So what? What if he and and cope? What if you remember and t about me?

The boy fell silent. Understanding reality completely frightened off his dreams.

— Sometimes it seems to me that I am not like everyone else. Other. Maybe that’s why no one wants to adopt me. At least you have a grandmother. Maybe she will take me to her place too?

— I don’t know. What if your mom is found? You do n’t know where she is, “the girl again looked closely at the swollen boy’s face. — Well, maybe she’s already dead.

— It is not so, — whispered Anton and wanted to go to sleep, but at this moment is, of attention was attracted by slowly moving silhouette behind a window.

Through the wall of pouring rain, the man creeping was barely visible. He was wearing what looked like an old traveling cloak. The figure moved slowly and, as it seemed, was searching diligently for something in the windows of the sleeping boarding school. At the same time, as if not wanting to expose the mysterious guest, the rain began to beat even more heavily on the cornice, hiding the stranger with a dense wall of its drops. The man in the raincoat continued to move along the walls of the orphanage, gazing intently at the flooded glass.

— Who do you think it is? The girl whispered.

— I do not know. H Averno e watchman. The guys said that he was not himself.

— Looks like that.

After some time, Anton said:

“I don’t want to be taken away from here. We will never see each other then.

— I’ll ask grandmother, — the girl sniffed.

— Promise that we will never part.

— I promise. Then you promise too.

— What?

— Find my mom.

Girl n e said, only sadly turned away and hurried to disappear in the night’s e room s.

In the silence, only her footsteps were heard, but they were destined to fall silent under the muffled creak of the closing door. Anton, however, continued to watch the flickering m among the rain streaks silhouette. A wild, but soul- caressing thought flashed through his head again: what if this person is looking for him? What if he knows something about his family? Maybe he came to pick him up from this place?

The bright light of a mysterious star in the night sky continued to break through the raindrops, blind, intoxicate and enchant, enveloping the alluring charms of the merciless Morpheus. Her Majesty Night took its toll.

Anton looked at the star, and it seemed even more attractive than before. Probably his mom is looking at her too. Mr. de same is it? Does he know about its existence?

He was too small for everything that was going on around him. But this boy understood one thing for sure: he was not alone in this world. Even living in the House of the Forgotten (as the adult children called the orphanage), Anton understood perfectly well that somewhere there was a person who was very dear to him.

…The dream disappeared as soon as Alice opened her eyes. She was scared in earnest: it’s one thing when you see your own dreams, and another thing when you dream of strangers.

Chapter #3. Strange circumstances

The bacon squirt seductively in the pan, lost in the bubbling eggs in the butter. Not that Esiria was bad at cooking — she just had to re-learn how to live a normal human life — without magic. And it was not easy.

The return turned out to be more difficult than initially thought. From the very first day, she realized that she did not remember anything at all. This is a very strange feeling, as if everything that you know from the very birth has completely disappeared from memory. Even the simplest and most commonplace things: using the elevator, turning on the gas stove and even cooking, turned out to be something incredibly difficult for her. Esiria did not succeed in many things, which is why Alice often found her in tears.

In just a few days of autumn, their lives have changed a lot. It was necessary to learn to live as one friendly family. But it was precisely this condition that seemed practically impossible for two.

This morning everything went awry again. At first, Esiria confused salt and sugar, which made the breakfast just awful. A little later, another quarrel occurred between her and Alice about Prodmir Gromov. But the girl did not want to hear anything — neither about her crazy father, nor about her own destiny, nor about her important role in the life of a huge country living behind a fog.

Fortunately, today was school day, and Alice, using an excuse, hastened to quickly disappear from home. Throwing a school backpack over her shoulders, she jumped out onto the landing, not forgetting to slam the door loudly.

Of course, she was in no hurry to go to school. Especially after meeting his own sister, like two drops of water similar to her. For Alice, who had never even imagined her existence, the unexpected discovery was a great shock.

The impostor who came to school on September 1 instead of the heroine of our story was named Elaina. She was the next point of the insidious and calculating plan of Evdokia Gromova — Alice’s grandmother.

Elaine was also thirteen, and she looked like an incredibly exact copy of her sister. That is why, being completely sure that Alice died at the hands of her own father, Evdokia decided to replace her with Yeleina so that no one would notice anything. However, something happened that was not at all included in the old woman’s plans — Alice was able to stay alive.

Esiriya tried to make excuses for a long time that she did not want to tell the girl about her twin sister in order to protect her from unnecessary worries. But she did not want to hear anything. Alice remained true to the facts: she was deceived all her life. Even her own mother lied to her! It was very difficult to understand and, moreover, to forgive.

The state of depression only intensified every day. At some point, Alice began to catch herself thinking that something had broken inside her. Very important and vital. The Gift of the Three Lights began to return to her little by little, but completely out of control. For example, sometimes Alice had dreams that belonged to completely different people, her moon wings appeared by themselves at night, and the girl woke up floating in the air, and the mysterious appearance of a fiery compass arrow became so frequent that it became a cause for concern. But Alice was in no hurry to tell Esiria about this.

And now, demonstratively slamming the door, she pretended to go to school. This was completely unlike the Alice that everyone knew before they met the Shining.

Autumn struck wild cold on all living things in Aleksinsk. This small in size, but already decently modernized town with the onset of September, completely drowned in huge puddles and endless mud. The weather was not at all conducive to walking, presenting passers-by with fine drizzle.

After spinning a little near the entrance, Alice mechanically looked at the neighboring high-rise building: Dimka Filippov is probably already at school. But she was not particularly worried: today is the first training session in football, which means that they will definitely see each other. It remains only to decide where to spend the whole day. So much so that one of the teachers and classmates did not notice her.

Only the thought of a library came to mind. And since there were no other options in mind, the girl confidently walked there.

The library, as always, was the saddest and depressing place in all of Aleksinsk. Tons of literature in a monolith laid out along the walls greeted every visitor. Time stopped here long ago — Alice thought awkwardly about Anton, who would definitely like it here.

With every minute of staying within the walls of the library, the girl became sad, realizing that the books here did not stand on the shelves at all, but simply outlived their long century, plunging along with their stories under a thick layer of age-old dust.

As soon as she noticed the girl, a thin librarian with stretched cheekbones and huge glasses on her nose, nervously fidgeted in place, as if Alice were the first visitor to the library this whole year.

— Looking for something specific, kid?

— Anything from Denis Lee Meyer? — Alice said at random. In fact, she didn’t want to read at all.

Overjoyed at the request, the librarian awkwardly turned on her slender crooked legs and hurried to get lost among the endless rows of book shelves.

— Do you like to read? Or do you just miss the Shining?

In surprise, the girl almost jumped to the ceiling. Out of nowhere, a tall old man with a silver beard and in a very strange light robe appeared next to her. Of course, she recognized him — something, and it was difficult to confuse Ardamir Gromov with someone.

— So you returned?

— Yes, — the old man nodded, examining the spines of books sticking out on the sides. “I have some business on this planet, Alice. But nobody knows about my return yet. Many people still consider my existence a fairy tale, a figment of the imagination.

The girl looked at him, but Ardamir was already smiling with might and main, as if he had said something incredibly funny.

“By the way, you skipped school,” he remarked casually.

— Seriously? — the girl looked away.

— Do not forget that I am your grandfather, Alice!

— And I did not ask you to be one! — she flared up. — If it was my will, I would forever remain an orphan! Admit it, what do you want from me this time?

Ardamir rubbed his lush beard, after which he said:

“I wanted to talk to you about that. I think it’s wrong when you torment yourself with thoughts of inevitability. That you have no choice. But you…

— What is this? — the librarian who came to the rescue interrupted them. — She sternly looked at Ardamir, then handed the girl a small volume: — I advise you this one, child. And as for you, — she looked at the old man sternly: — My library is not a shelter for the homeless! Next time, if you would like to visit here, I advise you to dress in accordance with the cultural institution.

To which Ardamir just smiled and winked at her, like an old acquaintance.

— I’m leaving. See you again, Alice. Although the name Simila suits you better.

Having said this, the old man disappeared right into the air. But the librarian did not react at all to this. She didn’t even scream with fear, nor tried to run away. Instead, she just yawned and stared at Alice with a sad look.

— Read it, it will be interesting for you, — she smiled, pointing to the book in the girl’s hands. — Good fairy tales.

With these words, she sighed loudly and again hastened to get lost in the rows of books.

Riddles again. Alice’s life was like the same unprepossessing volume with a tight binding, which now lay in her hands. Only those stories were invented by someone, but her life was not.

After spinning a little among the rows of books, she hastily stuffed the book into her school backpack and hurried to leave the walls of the library as soon as possible — the librarian’s behavior still instilled a sense of suspicion in the girl.

Alice spent the rest of the day in the city park until it was time to practice.

Forgetting everything in the world, she, headlong, rushed to the nearest stadium. It was far enough from the park, but the girl decidedly refused to use the bus. She liked to run forward and feel the wind pick up her hair and burn her face. A breath of freedom, as she called it.

A few meters before the stadium, she had a strong ache in her side, which made her take her usual step. Before my eyes — for a split second — a fiery compass needle flashed and immediately disappeared. Alice twisted her head around, but did not find anything suspicious around her. Imagined.

The first training session of the new school year was incredibly exhausting. Coach Nikolai Mikhailovich, a short man with gray temples and bushy eyebrows, gave no mercy to anyone, including Alice, even though she was the only girl on the team.

Dima Filippov was at his best. During training, he had to visit both the role of the striker and the role of the goalkeeper. The only person who managed to beat him was, of course, Alice.

— Don’t give in! — growled disgruntled Nikolai Mikhailovich, chewing the referee’s whistle in his teeth. At first, Alice thought that she herself was able to score goals so deftly, but a little later it also came to her: Filippov really succumbed to her.

— Are you afraid that I will not beat you? — she whispered in his ear, running past.

— Silenok is not enough! he chuckled.

Collecting all her will into a fist, Alice rushed to the ball faster than anyone. Blow — the grass of the stadium lawn flies into the sky in the wake of the ball and flies directly into the palms of the grinning Filippov.


And then the inexplicable happened again. The ball, as if obeying the girl, froze abruptly in the air and turned to another corner.


On Filippov’s face, the grin began to slowly spread, turning into surprise. Alice herself was shocked by what had happened. The rest of the guys on the team could not hide the shock either. The same cannot be said about the coach, who in an instant blamed everything on a strong wind and immediately rushed to continue the game.

Alice grabbed her head with her hands: dozens of fiery arrows circled around her. They were madly spinning around their axis, causing the girl genuine horror. But no one else saw it.

Chapter #4. Diary notes

Alice returned home after dark. She could hardly cope with the wild tremors in her body — the panic that settled in her heart was merciless.

The lights in the kitchen were still on. Esiriya sat at the table with a stone face and, in silence, watched as the dishes were washed in the sink by themselves and immediately stacked neatly into a tall pile. Noticing Alice, she raised her eyes and said in a tired voice:

— They called from school. They asked what happened to you? You haven’t been to class again today?

Alice wanted to think of something to justify herself, but limited herself to only a drawn-out sniff.

“I see,” Esiriya said wearily, lost in thought. Two or three minutes passed before she spoke again: — Alice, I think you shouldn’t go to school anymore. At least this one.

Alice stared even more at her mother, realizing that she was now far from in good spirits.

“I saw Ardamir,” the girl squeezed out of herself, carefully watching Esiria’s reaction. — In library.

— I know, — she answered, but instantly stopped short: — Just don’t ask where!

Alice pursed her lips, trying to look more at the enchanted kettle running on the floor:

— I thought it was over. There in the Shining.

— Do not be silly! Esiriya suddenly flared up. — You are now a Pure Soul! Do you think this will be forgotten so soon? Do you think that after returning from the fog, you will become an ordinary girl? Ah, Alice-Alice … — she shook her head sympathetically: — You’ve never been like that. You know. Your father…

“I don’t want to hear about him!” Sorry mom, but I’m tired! It was a difficult game…

Without saying goodbye, Alice hurried to her room with a quick step and instantly locked the door.

The next morning Esiriya announced that she would go to school herself and check if her daughter was there. Alice, on the other hand, did not miss the opportunity to sneer that she did not specify which of the daughters in question. The girl was simply killed when her mother asked to accept the existence of a twin sister. It was beyond her strength.

Another day in the newly-made Gromov family began with a visit from an annoying neighbor from the ground floor. Reporting some kind of plumbing accident, he handed Esiriya a couple of empty cans and fidgeted nervously in the hallway, staring at the faded wallpaper.

The woman was even more worried. She only recently learned to confidently handle the microwave and gas stove, and from that she was afraid, inadvertently, to give out her unusual abilities. Grabbing the canisters, she rushed to the kitchen, knocking down, in a hurry, a saucepan standing at the table. The neighbor, following her with an astonished, admiring glance, turned his attention to Alice who had come out to the noise. The girl rubbed her sleepy eyes and greeted her guest.

— How are you doing at school? — tried to start a conversation neighbor.

He was unprepossessing, small, a little more than a dwarf, a little man, with a huge bald patch on his head and an unkempt appearance. From the moment when Esiriya and Alice settled in this house, a neighbor suspiciously visited them.

Meanwhile, Esiriya, having fiddled with the mixer for a bit and received only a displeased rumbling in response, decided to use what she knew best. After hitting the water tap a couple of times and uttering a barely perceptible spell, the water instantly hummed down the pipe and quickly rushed into the canister.

— Hold! She handed the canisters filled with water to the man.

— Oh, — he mysteriously smiled at the hostess. — What I can do without you!

Quickly taking his leave, he immediately hurried to hide behind the front door, promising that he was in debt.

Nothing more happened this morning. Alice nevertheless decided to go to school, although she understood that a serious conversation awaited her with the teachers, not to mention the director, whose origin she did not even want to remember.

Alice’s premonition did not disappoint: immediately after the first lesson she was invited to the teacher’s room. First, the class teacher Anna Germanovna gave her a lecture for about ten minutes about the importance of getting a quality education. “You’re the best student in our school,” she sighed. “What’s happening to you?” A little later, she asked Alice the question she had been trying to ask since the morning:

— Alice, forgive me for interfering with your family, but I would like to ask where is your sister? She didn’t show up for class. I called your grandmother, but it turns out she no longer lives in Foggy.

“I don’t know,” Alice answered. — I don’t communicate with them.

Indeed, when she came to class, Elaina was not in class. She did not appear in the following days, which both pleased and worried Alice at the same time. Be that as it may, but classmates adopted a strategy not to notice either her or the twin, as if they did not exist at all in nature. To be honest, Alice liked it more than the way she was treated in the last school year.

But the teachers — those who once admired the girl, changed their attitude towards her in an instant. Every day, more and more entries appeared in Alice’s diary in red ink. Esiria was summoned to school many times, but she never showed up there.

The only thing that saved Alice from everything that was happening around was football. And also Dima Filippov, with whom it was always pleasant to chat about something that was not associated with her unusual pedigree. For hours after training, they could talk about the latest events in the world, interesting films and even music, in which Alice, to be honest, did not really understand much.

Lately, she tried not to think about Anton. Although it was not very easy to do this. They still met — though only in a dream. Alice every night saw what the young eiku dreamed. These dreams were exactly Anton, she knew it for sure. In them, the girl saw his past, and sometimes her own image, smiling back at him.

Once in a dream, Alice saw Ardamir, who was peacefully talking with Anton and his mother, the red-haired Svetlana, over a cup of jasmine tea. It was very difficult to catch something from their conversation. But, judging by the reaction of the participants in the tea party, what Ardamir said shocked the guy very much. “No,” Alice heard clearly the hysterical cry of her friend. — I do not believe you! You’re lying! It is not true!”

Awakening followed. Alice woke up in a cold sweat, meeting the sympathetic gaze of her mother, whose silent “sorry” was simply killing.

All the girl’s desperate attempts to become ordinary again failed miserably. Every day she clearly understood that inside her was the most powerful force in the Universe — the Gift of Three Lights. She looked at Esiria and was afraid that soon she too would not be able to take a step without the moon magicians, she would forget everything in the world.

— Gromova, return to earth! — ordered the stern voice of Anna Germanovna. — I ask again: did your mother see your diary? I expect her every day at school! Is she going to honor us with her attention or not?

— Why don’t you ask her herself? — Alice pretended that she was terribly interested in two cacti growing on the windowsill.

Anna Germanovna prepared to burst into a loud scream, but she was interrupted by the school director Vasily Ivanovich, who entered the office. He was still an unsightly balding man of about fifty, with a feline look and the same inner essence. Alice knew for sure about her now.

— And, Gromova, are you already here? he said gloomily and indifferently. — I’m waiting for you in my office. Right now.

After nervously greeting the teachers, he grabbed someone’s class magazine from the table and hurried back to his apartment.

Anna Germanovna exchanged strange looks with her colleagues, after which she loudly declared:

— Go, Gromova. The director is out of sorts today. He has guests.

Not understanding anything and, frankly speaking, not wanting to do this, Alice quickly walked towards the exit.

The school hallway roared like bees in a hive. The little ones flying in different directions did not give any chances to dodge to the side, risking crashing into something solid and high. For example, in a huge broad-shouldered man, fidgeting fidgeting at a distance from the director’s office. He was dressed in a strict black suit, which made him seem even more severe and unyielding.

Dodging a handful of classmates, Alice walked past him — straight to the principal’s door. The man in the suit just threw an unperturbed look at her, and then returned his attention to the opposite part of the corridor, from where frightened teachers peeped out from behind the door of the teacher’s room.

— Come in, — said the voice, as soon as the girl touched the door handle.

There were three strangers in the school director’s office — two adults, about thirty or forty years old, and one very young guy. All of them were dressed in the same black suits, making an already gloomy impression on Alice and director Vasily Ivanovich.

“And here she is,” the director muttered grimly, introducing his guests to Alice.

One of the “men in black” smiled at the girl and motioned for her to sit next to them at the table. Vasily Ivanovich jumped up nervously and waved his hand in front of him, as if driving away an annoying fly. In an instant, right in front of Alice, by itself, a chair appeared, and the girl obediently sat down in it. She knew perfectly well that her director was actually a brownie and was quite capable of such tricks.

But she was very much embarrassed by the reaction to the incident of the “men in black” — she did not exist at all.

Only Velimir, the youngest of the intruders, stared at the girl attentively, trying not to show his concern.

— So, you say, Vasilus, that this is Simila Gromova?

— Yes, — the director nodded.

— My name is Alice! — the girl protested, but immediately calmed down, seeing Velimir, who was sitting opposite her and with a glance tried to tell her that now is the time to shut up.

One of the Watchers stretched out his hand to Alice and said:

— Allow your palm, madam.

She obediently held out her right hand to the stranger. The observer clung to her so hard it hurt her. After a short pause, he turned the girl’s hand on the inside and curled his lips in a satisfied grin.

— That’s right, gentlemen. In front of us is really Simila or, as you wish, Alisa Gromova. Daughter of the recently departed ruler of the Radiance.

There was a tense silence in the director’s office. Alice looked frightened at the faces of those present, and gradually it dawned on her: this meeting did not promise anything good for her. Especially when all these people were well aware of the existence of the Radiance and about Prodmir Gromov, and about Alice herself.

Meanwhile, the Observer continued:

“I feel a unique power inside this girl. Oh yeah. This is the Gift of Three Fires, which gives her the right to claim the title of a new Pure Soul. But is everything so wonderful? The corners of his lips quivered with slyness again. — Everyone in this office is well aware that besides Alisa Gromova, another owner of the Gift of Three Lights is studying within the walls of this school.

— This is true. Her name is Yeleina Gromova, — reported Vasily Ivanovich. It was obvious that he was uncomfortable. He tried not to look at Alice at all.

“That’s right,” the second Observer smiled. He spoke incredibly coldly and without any emotion. — As we know, this is Alisa Gromova’s sister. Who, by her birthright, just like the young lady sitting with us, inherited a great gift. I must admit, this is the first time in our century when the Three Great Fires gave their power to two children at once. It is surprising.

“And yet,” added the first Observer, releasing the girl’s hand. — There are clear traditions and laws that do not allow two Pure Souls to rule the Shining at once. Based on this, we are forced to remove one of the candidates from the path in order to maintain balance on Earth.

“We are taking Alisa Gromova with us,” his colleague said loudly. “It’s in your best interest not to hinder us, Vasilus.

— What? — the director choked with surprise.

Alice seemed to wake up from a dream. A wild cold shot through her.

— The girl must be eliminated in order to preserve the Radiance. We cannot admit…

— But why me? — Alice squeaked in a trembling voice, falling through somewhere. “I don’t need any gift or title! I assure you, I will not claim your stupid titles and power!

“There is another reason why we cannot allow this girl to exist,” the first Observer said. “Inside her, as far as I know, is not only the Gift of Three Lights. You and I know very well, Vasilus, that Alisa Gromova is a traveler.

The girl looked blankly at the director — the brownie:

— Who am I?

“You are a traveler,” Velimir spoke for the first time. — Let’s call it a disease. Deviation from the norm.

— What nonsense? — the girl rolled her eyes.

“We cannot allow this girl to become a Pure Soul, Vasilus,” said one of the Watchers. — The disease can progress, it cannot be controlled. Who knows what will happen if the traveler’s abilities merge with the Gift of Three Lights. We cannot risk it. Everything has already been decided. She goes with us. You can leave your schoolbag here, girl. You won’t need it anymore.

Alice, paralyzed with fear, looked imploringly at the director, but he only sighed heavily.

— Well, it was nice to talk, Vasilus, — the second Observer squeezed out of himself and held out his hand to Alice. — Come on.

The girl grabbed onto her chair with both hands, looking for salvation in panic. And it came from where she didn’t even expect. Velimir slowly rose from the table and said loudly:

— Is it worth rushing with such a decision, colleagues?

The observers froze in attention:

— What do you mean, Velimir?

— The fact that we always have time to fulfill our mission, — He threw a barely perceptible glance at Alice, and then again turned to his senior colleagues: — I mean that this girl may still be useful to us.

— What are you talking about, boy? — the director interrupted the conversation.

— About the secret plan of your mistress, Vasilus! — Velimir announced publicly. Despite his young age, he spoke in such a way that all adults listened to him with genuine respect. — Everyone here knows about the futile idea of Marikharme or — as you wish — Evdokia Gromova regarding Ardamirov’s color. Alas, thanks to the incredible abilities of this girl — he looked at Alice again — we never got the pleasure of contemplating how the old woman gets her hands on the chance to create a new world. And at the same time destroy the Radiance.

Alice in his voice could not fully understand whether she was to blame or, on the contrary, he was giving her a compliment. In any case, she liked this Observer more than anyone else.

— You know that Ardamirov’s color has exhausted its mysterious properties, never fulfilling the dream of old Gromova. However, Evdokia is still confident that she is able to find a way to destroy the boundaries of the great Mist.

— And how, pray tell, is she planning to do this? — exclaimed one of the Observers, drowning out the bell ringing from behind the door for the lesson.

“The Tablet of the Worlds,” Velimir answered indifferently. — As you know, a spell is applied on it that cancels the power of the Mist. Thanks to this, Evdokia Gromova intends to bring all her ideas to life. If she succeeds, the human world and the Radiance will learn about each other’s existence. We will certainly not allow this. However, it will be interesting for us to know whether Evdokia Gromova is capable of this or not.

— Yes, but only the Pure Soul can find the Tablet! the second Observer protested. — And the old woman already has it! This is Elaina Gromova!

— What if she can’t do it? — Velimir spoke slowly, prudently. — What if the transfer spell, implemented many years ago by Prodmir Gromov, worked somehow differently than we suppose? What happens if the desired ability is not found in Elaina the Gromova? We cannot know for sure without being convinced of this. Ardamir will not forgive us for such a liberty.

Having finished his speech, the young man sat down contentedly in his chair and began to study the faces of the adult Observers. Those, in turn, plunged into long and difficult thoughts.

Several minutes of tense silence passed when one of the Observers delivered the verdict:

— The girl will stay alive for now. But she is forbidden to study in Eik’s classes. Watch this, Vasilus! It’s in your best interest. Her abilities must be fully manifested!

“I’ll follow,” the director coughed, wiping off the sweat on his forehead with his sleeve. — You can go to class, Alice.

Before the bullet flew out of the director’s office, the girl once again met Velimir’s eyes and mentally thanked him. The guy realized this without unnecessary gestures and slightly smiled back at her. Alice swore to herself that she would definitely find an opportunity to talk to him. Something told her that this young man had answers to many of her questions.

Chapter #5. When your mom has a date with a terrible neighbor

The key ducked into the keyhole as usual and, after a couple of turns, opened the door. Tiredly throwing off her school backpack, Alice took off her shoes and hurried into the kitchen. Hunger helped not to think about what had happened, to which the girl was incredibly happy. However, the voices coming from there made her tensely stop and listen.

It turns out that while she was at school, her mother had a great free time with a cup of tea with a new acquaintance — a neighbor from the ground floor. They sat across from each other at the table and, leisurely, ate the rest of the cream cake. In the center of the table stood an absurdly large vase of red apples, probably from a neighbor.

Realizing that Alice had returned, the man jerked sharply, as if he had met face to face with a ghost, jumped up from the table, muttered something like: “I have to go,” and, as if scalded, rushed out of the apartment.

— What did he forget here? — Alice glared at her mother, braiding her elbows as she walked.

“He just came to visit,” she retorted, continuing, as if nothing had happened, to finish her tea. — We are neighbors, Alice! By the way, he is a very good person. You need to get to know him better.

“I thought my father meant something to you.

“That’s right,” Esiriya put down the cup on the table and looked seriously at her daughter. — I will always love him, no matter what he does. But life goes on, Alice. We must fight on. Do you think it’s easy for me to get back to normal life without a single friend? I don’t even remember if I have any relatives in this city! Do you think it’s easier for me than yours?

Alice silently grabbed an apple from the table and sniffed:

— I don’t know how to think. My mom came a month ago. No offense.

— Don’t say that, Alice! Esiriya exclaimed, trying to contain the rush of excitement. — You are not an orphan and you never were!

— You can tell this to Elaine! Why didn’t you say that she also has the Gift of Three Fires?

Esiriya froze, lowered her eyes guiltily.

— Sorry. I knew it would be so. It’s true: you both received from your father what he wanted to pass on to only one of his heirs.

— Yes, but at the same time he decided, for some reason, to kill me. Don’t you find this strange?

— Alice, listen to you, finally! — Tears trembled in Esiria’s eyes. — Your grandmother… You yourself know very well what kind of person she is.

— Why aren’t you with Elaina now? — Alice, in a fit of emotions, decided to ask her most important question, which she kept inside herself for a long time. — She’s your daughter, isn’t she? Moreover, you know her from the very birth — she was always by your side. Why would such a friend care for me?

It was a knockout. Esiria’s face darkened, as if she were determined to throw the girl away with a bambdus spell. But then she calmed down, limiting herself only to a deep sigh:

— Elaine was taught from early childhood to be a Pure Soul, to take the place of her father. I do not exist for her, Alice, finally understand this! For your sister, there is only a debt to the Shining. This is all that is in her heart. While I was in captivity, Elaina never visited me. For all these ten years! Can you believe it? If not for Eustace, I would not have known how my daughter is growing.

— So that’s why he was able to persuade the Queen not to give me to my father? — gasped Alice, remembering her summer adventures in the castle of the insidious witch. “Did she decide that I was Elaine?” Was she afraid that she would be able to give Prodmir one who would become a Pure Soul? Just think: and I, a fool, decided that they were all afraid of Prodmir!

“Your grandmother’s anger, Alice, is much worse,” Esiriya came up from behind and gently hugged her daughter, guiltily tucking her chin into her shoulder, wrapped in curls. “Somehow I’ll dare to tell you what she did to me when I refused to fight against your father. — For a split second Esiriya thought, and then turned Alice to face her: — I always loved you and guarded your peace, remember this! Especially now that you…

She didn’t finish — the doorbell rang. Esiriya hurried to open it, but froze in indecision a few steps away. The door swung open on its own, revealing two young guests in front of it. It was so unexpected, as if all this time they had just been waiting for Esiria to start talking about Elaine.

It was she who stood on the threshold — a mirror copy of Alice. She was accompanied by a strong lanky guy, whom Alice had already managed, in order, to forget a little from the moment of their last meeting. Noticing him, she almost threw herself on his shoulders, but immediately stopped, bumping into the calculating grin of her twin sister.

Esiria struggled a little with her confusion, and immediately began to fuss:

— How unexpected. And we only talked about you. Come on in quickly. My girl, come in…

— Enough! — Elaine said coldly, not taking her eyes off Alice. The twin still stood on the threshold and, firmly grasping Anton, did not allow him to take a step away from him. — You shouldn’t shout everywhere about our family ties. I do not like it. And yet, Lotto and I have come to you on business.

Alice pursed her lips, fearing to break loose and not give this upstart cuffs. “Lotto and I …", “… on business …". How dare this impostor behave like that? Who is she to call Anton by the name of Siyansk?

The guy, all this time trying not to look at Alice, suddenly turned his attention to Esiria:

“Do you know what happened at school today? They wanted to take her.

“I don’t think this is a reason for frustration,” Elaine chuckled loudly, rolling her eyes in disgust. — It’s all the same, sooner or later, will happen. Right, Esiria? However, be that as it may, my grandmother decided to postpone this event so that ETA — she again stared at Alice — would do her some favor.

“That’s right,” Anton added, still addressing only Esiria. — We were asked to tell you that Alice is expected this weekend at the Manor of the Sands, the Thunder family estate.

Alice instantly shook her head, peering in protest at her mother’s inscrutable face:

— I’m not going there! Do what you want, but I won’t go to them!

“Okay,” Esiriya sighed, ignoring her daughter’s remark. — Tell Mariharme that we will definitely come.

— Only she! — raised her voice Elaine, pointing her finger at her sister and not taking her eyes off her mother. “Your leg won’t be there, understand?

Esiria said nothing. She only followed the chilling gaze of her daughter with horror, and then closed the door behind the guests.

— Please don’t make me go there alone, please, mother! — Alice’s puppy look did not seem to touch the woman at all.

— We’ll have to, — anxiety in Esiria’s voice crept and lurked in the girl’s soul. — It is very important. But I promise you you won’t go there alone. There will be someone with you who will always save you from trouble. Now please go back to the kitchen and dine properly. Did you agree?

After being defeated in the battle of discussion, Alice was forced to snort and obey. Moreover, my stomach was really rumbling with hunger.

After lunch, she locked herself in her room, not wanting to see anyone or talk to anyone. Pulling her mobile phone out of the pocket of her jeans, she began to send an SMS message to Dima Filippov:

“Hello! Are you already at home?”.

About a minute later, the answer knocked on the phone:

“Yes. I am waiting for you on VKontakte! :)”

Alice immediately rushed to a brand new computer, received in addition to a new apartment. At least that’s how the girl wanted to think. Soon, Filippov’s radiant face appeared on the screen in front of her:

— Hello! Why are you so sad?

— I was summoned to the director today, — Alice shrugged her shoulders, looking tiredly at the plane of the monitor, behind which was her friend. — We have training today, right?

The guy was a little embarrassed, as if the girl asked some very inappropriate question:

“You know, actually, I was going to invite you to the movies. Well, for a movie. But if you don’t want to, you can forget these nonsense. I will not be offended, honestly.

— Suggest to skip workout? Crazy?

Alice raised her eyebrows, reprovingly examining the boy’s purple face.

— Well, I… just, — he muttered, staring somewhere at the computer keyboard.

— Okay, just kidding — I agree, — Alice smiled. — But, mind you, let’s go to the comedy! I already have enough tragedies in my life.

— Super, — Dimka breathed out with relief. — Then I’ll come for you. Now I’ll just do my homework on physics and run.

— Oh, and I need it! Okay, I’ll wait. Come on!

The video call was cut off, leaving Alice alone with her thoughts.

Of course, she didn’t plan to do any homework. Well, let them call the director again! No, it’s better to Esiria. But she seemed to be afraid of everything related to her school.

Mentally summoning the moon wings, the girl soared a couple of meters from the floor and hovered in the air, covering her face with her palms. She wanted to cry so badly, but she couldn’t.

Something small, like a dragonfly, sank onto her shoulder. Alice immediately recognized Agate, a little fairy who once belonged to her father. She was so much like young Esiria that Alice still could not get used to it.

— Hello! the fairy waved her tiny hand at her.

— Hello, — Alice answered wearily, still trying to comprehend her inner state. — What have you forgotten here?

“I am doing your father’s last wish,” Agatha said, swaying her neat legs. “My master is no longer there, which means that I can choose a new one myself. And it’s you.

“I don’t need a fairy, don’t be offended,” the girl said in the same distant manner, burying her head on the floor.

— And nobody asks you! Agate propped her hips with small fists. — If I were you, I would still do my homework. Tomorrow they will definitely ask you.

— Listen, Agate! If I need a fortune teller to find out the future, I’d better go to the station.

“You’re sure you don’t need fortune-tellers,” the fairy snorted with displeasure. — In any case, if you need me, you just need to call me.

With these words, Agate hastened to disappear. Although Alice was sure that she was still on her shoulder, only invisible.

The evening was more positive than the day. Dimka Filippov, as promised, went for Alice, and together they went to the cinema. This was the first time that she agreed to neglect football training. I wonder if it will take place without the captain and the main mascot of the team? However, our heroine had fun without sports.

In those minutes she was again the most ordinary girl who, as it should be, adores flowers and goes on dates. At least the bunch of asters presented by the Filippovs pleased her. And going to the movies seemed more like a date than a simple desire to watch a movie. And then they sat for a long time in a small cafe, devouring huge portions of ice cream from glass bowls and laughing at not always decent anecdotes about football players.

Life regained those colors that had been lost last summer in the fog of Radiance. It turned out that Alice still knows how to smile and even laugh at her awkwardness.

And they also met a funny and incredibly sociable boy named Arthur, who studied with them in the same school — albeit in a parallel class. To be honest, they didn’t even notice how he sat down with them in a cafe with some stupid questions about school breakfasts and the physics Olympiad. A little later, it turned out that Arthur was writing an article for the school wall newspaper.

The return home was already in the dark. A couple of missed calls from Esiria on her mobile said that another serious conversation awaited Alice. However, now she did not want to think about that at all. The girl was so great that she wanted to sing and dance right in the middle of the street. When the time came to say goodbye, Dimka Filippov awkwardly bent down to her and hastily kissed her on the lips, not forgetting to blush deeply.

— Till tomorrow!

— Thank you, it was great, — Alice said in confusion to the figure quickly moving away from her.

— So you liked it? a familiar voice sounded from behind her. Anton, slowly, stepped out of the shadows, rewarding the girl with a familiar grin: — This eccentric does not know how to kiss. Am I wrong?

Alice looked at him as if he were a mere vision from her many dreams.

“You don’t kiss very well yourself!” she answered defiantly. — What have you forgotten here?

Anton twisted his smile even more:

— I wanted to look at you. I see football is good for you.

Alice wanted to sarcastically answer something, but instead asked a question that had been circulating in her tongue for a long time:

— So you’re with her now? With this Elaina?

Anton darkened for the first time. He shivered a little, looked back at the eye sockets of the windows shining in the darkness, and whispered so that only Alice could hear him:

— You don’t know much. You can not understand. I have known your sister since childhood. She is very dear to me.

— What?

Alice shuddered, but the world was still crumbling around her. At first, she just wanted to smack a solid slap in the face of this fool, but she could only shrug and ask Anton to let her through to the entrance. However, he grabbed her hand, stopping her in the middle of the high steps.

The guy, silently, looked at the girl, unable to decide on something.

“I beg you, get out of my dreams,” Alice whispered, not taking her eyes off him. — Leave me alone, do you hear? I beg you… do not let go of my hand.

The last phrase made Anton freeze in indecision. He felt Alice’s palm slip out of his fingers with great difficulty.

“Yeleina and I met at the orphanage,” he said quietly. “I didn’t know she had a sister. So I thought then, in the forest, and then too, that you are her.

— I see, — Alice frowned and, with all the strength, rewarded the guy with a weighty slap in the face.

— Ay! For what?

— For all. And I really thought I meant something to you.

Without saying goodbye, she quickly walked towards her entrance, leaving the guy standing in the darkness of the street.

The late September evening was cold and gloomy. Almost all of the leaves fell from the trees, exposing the helpless and ugly curves of the chilled branches to the street lamp. The wind pierced to the thread, which made Alice risk a serious cold.

Having twisted a little at the intercom, she entered the entrance and hurried to the elevator, but it was broken. I had to climb to the fifth floor on my own. Already on the way to the apartment, she ran into Esiriya, who was also hurrying home, holding the arm with her neighbor. Both were drunk enough and giggled inappropriately about something of their own. Noticing Alice, Esiriya blushed guiltily, never finding the right words. But, fortunately, the girl was not up to it.

Alice hurriedly went into her room, closing the door behind her, and fell exhausted on the bed. Even with her eyes closed, she clearly heard Agate landing on the pillow next to her and whispering something to her, trying to comfort her. But Alice did not hear the fairy — she longed to wake up and understand that all this was just another nightmare.

Chapter #6. Astronomy teacher

Call for a lesson.

Alice lost count — how much she heard his sound!

She walked slowly into the classroom, closing the door behind her. All of her classmates had already taken their places as usual, preparing textbooks on astronomy. This subject appeared only last year, and was taught by the elderly Alevtina Gennadievna, a mathematics teacher. It so happened that there was no specialized teacher at the school, and the director did not manage to find a new teacher.

Alice sat down at the farthest desk, trying not to look at the other guys. Her heart was still heavy. Even with her mother this morning she did not want to talk, although she really needed to somehow explain herself last evening. Alice looked around the classroom: her disgusting sister was still not there, which slightly lifted her spirits.

She quickly pulled out a textbook with a notebook and pencil case from her brand new portfolio, and then humbly began to wait for the teacher. But instead of Alevtina Gennadievna, three entered the class.

The first guys saw the director Vasily Ivanovich, more familiar to Alice by the name of Vasilus. Everyone in the class jumped up from their chairs to greet him.

— Sit down! he ordered, trying to suppress the panic inside himself. — I have an important message.

The two who entered after the director only confirmed Alice’s fears that the visitors were after her soul. Ardamir Gromov entered the school office with a slow but majestic gait… True, this time he exchanged his old robes for a strict business suit. In this form, the old man looked even more ridiculous than before. His huge silver beard, blending smoothly with his mustache, hung down neatly to cover his tie.

Velimir obediently followed Ardamir — also dressed in a strict business suit of black color. In his hand he held a small case with three locks.

“Children,” Vasily Ivanovich coughed into his fist, trying to get the students’ attention back. — I have to inform you that as of today our school has a new director. Let me introduce you: Gromov Ardamir Petrovich, — Vasily Ivanovich looked sideways at Ardamir, after which he continued: — Maybe a few words?

Ardamir nodded in agreement, after which he turned to all the guys, keeping his eyes on Alice:

— This academic year, you all have become much more mature than you were in the past. This means not only the level of knowledge gained, but also responsibility to their actions. In front of their own destinies — perhaps it will be more true. I am sure that our school will help you in choosing your future path in adulthood. Though certainly some of you have found it already, haven’t you?

Ardamir looked exclusively at Alice, which made the girl uncomfortable.

“One more message,” Vasily Ivanovich cleared his throat, again returning the schoolchildren’s gazes to himself. — From today Alevtina Gennadievna does not work in our school. She finally decided to retire. Nevertheless, we are not going to cancel the lesson of astronomy. Moreover, the hours of this subject in the school curriculum and especially in your class will be significantly increased. In this regard, I present to you your new teacher of astronomy — Velimir Andreevich, who, despite his young age, was able to prove the right to be a teacher. I hope you will treat him with all the respect, as you would other teachers in our school.

At the sight of the new teacher, the girls in the class shifted noisily in their chairs, and the boys smiled derisively. Velimir himself did not react to this in any way. He looked around the whole class, then sternly and imperiously said:

— Put your textbooks and notebooks aside. The lesson has already begun. Therefore, it’s time to find out your knowledge. As soon as the directors leave this room, a serious test awaits you. Its results will show whether you will receive homework in astronomy or not.

For some time, the guys hesitated, but they realized that it was bad jokes with Velimir.

Five minutes after the departure of Ardamir and Vasily Ivanovich, the young teacher sat down at the table, put his briefcase on it, after which he handed out blank notebooks to everyone and outlined the questions to which the children had to answer.

Alice coped with the task faster than anyone else, adding on the sheet at the end: “I need to talk to you.” Having handed over the work, she returned to her place and began to greedily drill Velimir with her eyes, but he pretended to admire the view of the school stadium from the class window.

When the bell rang for recess, he ordered everyone to hand over their work, after which he called to Alice to stay.

Left alone, Velimir went up to Alice and said:

— As you can see, there are fewer and fewer people in this school whom you could trust.

— I wanted to know about what happened then, in Vasilus’s office.

— I am the Observer, Alice. Plus your grandfather’s student. But he’d better not know that I’m talking to you about something that is different from questions of astronomy.

Velimir smiled, holding out his palm to Alice:

— Nevertheless, you can trust me. I’m on your side.

The girl pursed her lips hesitantly and responded with a handshake.

“So I won’t be the only one in this school who knows the truth,” she said.

“Apparently, you don’t know much, Alice,” Velimir smiled. — In this school, in addition to ordinary students, eiks also study. Only in parallel classes from you. While you do the math, they are also taught how to control their abilities. Of course, ordinary students should not know about this, this is a secret. And in order to finally dispel your doubts, I will say that all the eiki in this school are the children of those who once — a very long time ago — were able to deceive the Mist and escape from the Shining. Of course, now that this country has moored to Aleksinsk, it has become much easier to teach eiks — the power of the Fog helps this.

— So Anton also studies in such a class?

— Right. And, more recently, your sister Elaina is the same.

— And why then … — Alice did not finish.

— Why don’t you study with them? — Velimir guessed. — This is Ardamir’s condition. I barely managed to persuade him to let you live. Better be content with what you have, okay?

— So half of the school is eiki?

— Maybe. But since many people take them for ordinary people, it would be better to keep this way. Did you agree?

— All right, — Alice nodded. — So my grandfather is afraid that I can learn to be moon charmers?

— To the very point, — Velimir sighed. — Ardamir is really scared. That’s why he put me to you. But, I think, if you want, I could work out with you so that you know at least some basic self-defense techniques. Just in case, of course. You are facing very serious tests. Don’t ask about it — you yourself will soon find out everything.

Velimir smiled again and was instantly distracted by parsing a whole stack of ink-filled pages.

— When will I be able to deal with lunar magicians? — Alice’s voice broke the silence.

Velimir raised his eyes to her, in which there was no doubt that she would agree:

— At least today. After the sixth lesson, Ardamir appointed a general assembly for the teachers. I think I can get away with him, do you think?

— All right, — Alice nodded. — I will come.

The girl spent the rest of her time waiting for the sixth lesson. During recess, all the guys in her class actively discussed the new astronomy teacher, coming up with funny nicknames and ways to make fun of him. The topic of the relatively new “crazy” old man — the director — was not left aside either. Many even expressed their surprise that Vasily Ivanovich was replaced by a man who, for sure, is already a hundred years old.

But that wasn’t what Alice was concerned about. Velimir’s words that Eiki were taught at her school didn’t leave her mind. Now she knew exactly where Elaina had gone, where Anton had studied. It’s just somehow strange, why did the other students never know about it?

But even if it was a secret, the eiki would still meet her at recess. But she did not meet either Anton, or Elaina, or other students with supernormal abilities.

The time until the sixth lesson flew by very quickly. As Velimir said, all the students were allowed to go home, and the teachers were gathered in the office of the new director.

Taking the opportunity, Alice hurried along the empty school corridor to the astronomy classroom. Velimir was already there — in a suit and tie he still looked somewhat ridiculous for his age.

— Thought you were caught, — he smiled, greeting Alice. “Your grandfather is very difficult to deceive. It is not for nothing that he is the supreme magician of all Three Fires.

Velimir ran his hand over the maps of the starry sky, hung along the walls of the study room.

— In our usual lessons, I will tell you about space and the Universe only what is accepted among ordinary people. What is written in the books. But in Eik’s classes we will go through a little different. You’ve heard of the Three Great Fires before, haven’t you?

— Yes, — Alice confirmed, trying to remember everything in detail. — I think my mother said that the Three Fires are the Earth, the Moon and the Sun. Together, they create a power that only a Pure Soul can possess. And then, only in the Radiance, among the Mist

— Exactly, — Velimir smiled. — True, I would argue about the Mist, of course. The Gift of Three Fires is the ability to use the powers of all the planets that you have named. To possess it, it is not enough to be a magician or an eic. What is important is what is inside you, in your soul. That is why the Gift of Three Fires gives its owner the opportunity to become a Pure Soul.

— Tell me, can there be several people with such a gift in the Shining?

Alice carefully pushed the chair from behind the desk and immediately plopped down on it, devouring Velimir with her eyes. He, in turn, also sat down at his table and sighed loudly:

— Throughout the history of the Shining, the title of the Pure Soul was passed down from father to son. As a rule, it was the elite in governing the country, from among the court magicians of Ishgud, the keepers of the towers. And usually it was the Gromovs.

Velimir chuckled a little, noticing how Alice shuddered at the mention of her last name. However, he continued:

— But your mother, Alice, proved that not only magicians can have high spiritual qualities in order to become a Pure Soul. Yes, Esiriya is not a magician or even an eik. She is a simple person born and raised among the human world. And, be that as it may, despite all the intrigues of Ardamir and Marikharme — that is, Evdokia, your grandmother — Esiria became the first in the history of Shining with a Pure Soul and at the same time a simple person.

As you can see, Alice, history tends to change sooner or later. But the principles and rules of the existence of all living things in the Radiance remain unchanged. In particular, the fact that only one holder of the title of Pure Soul can rule the country, as well as command the great Mist. What Prodmir Gromov did was contrary to the rules. He shared his Gift to share with his unborn child. And this led to an imbalance not only in the Radiance.

It so happened that due to violation of the laws there was a failure in the flow of energies of the Three Fires. Several people on this planet at once became the owners of one single Gift. Now, if I am not mistaken, there are three of them.

“Yes, but my father is dead,” exclaimed Alice.

“That’s right,” Velimir confirmed. “But I’m not talking about him, but about your mother. Evdokia still believes that Esiria completely lost her Gift when Prodmir took it away from her by force. But only few people know that the Gift of Three Fires cannot be completely taken away from a Pure Soul. Your mom really lost it for a while, but her soul remained the same. As far as I know, Esiria has completely recovered its strength over the years.

— So she can become a Pure Soul again?

— Yes and no. Do not forget that you and your sister also have this Gift. Someone has developed it to a greater extent, someone should work out a little, — Velimir smiled again and winked at the girl. — But this Gift is still only one, whatever one may say. Simply split into several pieces and scattered across your souls. It turns out that none of you are able to use the Gift of Three Fires in full force.

Alice looked around mechanically to make sure they weren’t being overheard:

“Is that why the Watchers wanted to pick me up?

“Yes and no,” Velimir said again. “You see, besides me, none of the Watchers know that there are three of you. Rather, they are not aware of Esiria. But you and Yeleina were much less fortunate. Ardamir ordered to remove one of you from the path so as not to violate the laws of the universe.

— Let him take this Elaine!

— Not so simple. Compared to her, you, Alice, represent a special danger for Ardamir, and what a sin to conceal — for all the people living in the Shining, a special danger. It’s all about who you are from birth.

— And who am I?

— You are a traveler, Alice. A creature that is capable of destroying our entire Universe in a matter of seconds. All worlds in an instant. And this can scare even Ardamir Gromov.

Chapter #7. Travelers

Alice felt her heart beating wildly. She felt something similar when she first found out about her unusual origin. Or when she rushed after the dying Anton into the abyss of the Dead Waterfall.

Velimir was silent, carefully observing the girl’s reaction.

The classroom was terribly cold and empty. And if the first circumstance was a consequence of the fact that the heating season had not yet arrived in the city, then the latter, rather, was somewhere deep inside Alice.

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