"Hey," someone called, "are you alone, Mine?"
As soon as he heard his name being called, Mine turned his head to identify the source of the voice. He then proceeded to rest his hand on his chin, using it as a support for the weight of his head, while he looked at the person standing in front of him from head to toe. Despite the dim lighting of purple and blue hues, he recognized the person who had called out to him.
With a hint of disdain, he let out a snort. "Yeah, and I’m waiting for the exact moment to leave," he chuckled, replenishing his glass with red wine. "What are you doing here, Addai?"
"I was kind enough to offer my illustrious presence, and this is how you treat me?" dramatically said.
Mine chuckled and offered a seat to his daily nuisance. He was alone, so the person's it wouldn't be that boring anymore, also, it could be his escape route from that tedious party. Talking about party, the event held by University of Magic celebrated the awards it received and its nominated professors, as well as its founding anniversary that same day.
Most of the teachers were excited, but not all of them. At the beginning of the day Mine planned ways of politely declining the invitation Soleil gave him (even though he was one of the awarded teachers) but Abannak sent a message in the teachers' group chat asking who would go that night and who wouldn't. Also, the vice director made everyone recall the meeting, and most of the teachers confirmed their presence, even the ones who were visibly sick, like Lydia and Fani. Aarush also confirmed, but Mine knew he wasn't going at all, as he had just rescued a stray cat that morning, and the little kitten needed his attention.
Mine grieved a lot. He didn't like those kinds of gatherings because every once in a while they would ask countless things about him, putting him on a pedestal made of fragile gold. Still, no excuses were found, so he had to go against his will.
"The newest teacher had the balls to show up tonight… how brave to come to such a social gathering."
His co-worker looked at him with a grim expression, eyes telling him that he didn't want to come either. The gentleman in question was attired in a pristine white dress shirt and a pair of sleek black formal trousers, exuding a vibe that was nothing too flashy - unlike Soleil's strikingly colorful attire adorned with flowery and sunny prints. The fabric was top-notch quality, comfortable, and lightweight - an ideal choice for the meeting.
"Mr. Soleil came all beaming, so I couldn't say no..." Addai sighed.
"So you have a soft spot for smiles..." Mine teased, crossing his arms.
“For some of them, yes," Addai teased him back with a wink and a grin.
"Ugh, that was gross," Mine laughed. "Who could guess a smile is the Great Addai's weakness... interesting," flashed a smile before sipping on his glass of wine.
"The Great people also have flaws," Addai said, with hints of a joyful speech.
The smell of alcoholic beverages was starting to kick in Mine, who insisted on finishing the bottle of champagne he was sharing with Mr. Shire earlier – who had to cut the celebration short because his wife was already falling asleep as much as he was. Addai took the bottle, placed it closer to him, and poured some of the drink into his glass as well while the other teacher grumbled about how he stole his drink.
The music, once slow and monotonous, gradually became more and more agitated, and the lights also changed their nuances, becoming warmer and orange, matching the engaging and happy rhythm of the music. Mine was tired of hearing them on Woltz and Aarush's playlist but hearing them with the dance floor available had a totally different feeling.
Could his clothes rip? Perhaps. Would he sweat a lot? Yes, but since his hair was tied up… he could try.
“The dancefloor is on fire today, huh?” Addai glanced at the teachers cheering the DJ.
"Yeah…" Mine rested a hand on his chin. "It seems fun."
From salsa to (classic and electric) swing, to foxtrot... The lights danced like the music playing, and the dancers enjoyed themselves more and more on the dance floor – boosted by the mysterious booze Soleil brought for the celebration. Mine also wanted to join the dance floor; after all, he loved seeing the lights shine on him, feeling the music permeate through his limbs and ears, and smiling while the drops of sweat fell to the floor... but he couldn't, or at least he thought so.
“Why don’t you go there and twist your ankle?” Addai teased.
“Hmpf, as if I’d make such a beginner mistake," Mine snorted.
“Oh really? So the Great Mine is all mighty with everything- hey, release my hand.”
“I’ll shut your mouth,” yanked Addai to the dancefloor.
“NO! I’m a terrible dancer!!!” cried, trying to set himself free from the fierce grab, but failing once Mine started teasing him more and more.
Throwing Addai away and catching him again, Mine firmly held his hand. A mischievous smile permeated his face while the other teacher was frightened by the speed of his movements. He laughed and had fun, throwing Addai and catching him back, making the teacher spin like a ballerina and come back, getting very close to him. It was as if he was guiding him through the jumbled lyrics, but the rhythm remained clear and crystal clear enough for him to follow his mind's steps.
Then, he took Addai's hands again – taking advantage of his confusion – and placed Addai's right hand on Mine’s waist, and he tightly held the other free hand. Mine adjusted the hand on his waist again and placed it close to his shoulder but a little lower, on his back. Satisfied with the position of his hands, he began to guide his temporary dance partner.
Step, step, side, and close together. The movement their feet made was sloppy at first once Addai couldn't process the steps clearly, but after a quick argument, Mine taught him how to do it right.
Step, step, sidestep, and close together. Slow, slow, quick, quick.
Again. Step, step, sidestep, and close together. Slow, slow, quick, quick.
The music was too loud for them to hear each other, so Mine’s hand gently rubbed Addai’s shoulder and grinned, telling him with his eyes that he was doing good. Addai averted eyes, but couldn't avoid the gaze locked on him, who watched his moves, face and expressions.
When the air conditioning no longer cooled them or anyone on the dance floor, and their clothes started getting damp, it was more than enough of an indication for them to rest a little.
“See? It wasn’t that bad,” Mine posed proudly, fanning himself with his hands - and fortunately, both ankles weren't twisted.
“I almost fainted…” Addai breathed, fanning himself with a spell.
“You step on my feet twice,” grinned teasingly. “So, it means I’m still the best in everything.”
“… I’ll let you win this time,” chuckled. “No alcohol, you need water,” took the bottle of warm champagne away from Mine and gave him a bottle of water instead.
After the brief fun time, the fatigue started consuming his body, which revealed this state through his eyes. And to make things worse, curious souls eventually came to talk to Mine about his award and how he felt being the youngest professor at the university. Suffocating, uncomfortable and stomach-knotting sensations disturbed his smile, that displayed for everyone in that party like a porcelain mask full of cracks. Each compliment felt like thorns, each grin felt like shots and each handshake made him numb. He wanted to forget it all, become anesthetized... maybe Addai's drink could help...
"Hey, what did I told you about alcohol?" Addai approached.
Since when had he left the table?
"You have terrible dark circles under your eyes," his colleague noticed. "Is it about the miasma contamination the other day?" Addai asked, approaching a little more for a better check.
“I'll survive, don't worry,” said carefree, contrasting to his heavy eyes.
“Here, drink more water,” offered, filling Mine’s cup, “and no more alcohol,” he sat on his seat again, hands full of plastic things. "Ah, I brought some desserts from the main table."
There were chocolates of all different sizes, shapes, and flavors – at least five to seven inside the plastic cup Addai put on the table – accompanied by some small plates with pieces of strawberry pie and a plum cake. Addai couldn't get anything else because his hand wouldn't be able to carry everything at the same time, and appearing at the sweets table every time would raise the suspicions of some children who were also doing the same thing as him.
“You snatched them!” Mine marveled, taking a small, rounded chocolate. “Wait, when did you take them?”
"You were too busy talking so highly of yourself to the others that I got some time to brawl for them," Addai explained, placing them on the dessert plate. "Your speech was interesting, humble and all... oh, I liked when you talked about-"
“Don’t make the precious desserts as bitter as your chattering,” shushed Addai from continuing pestering him about how embarrassingly he talked to a few people earlier.
“Ha ha ha! I’ll shush if you give me the piece of cake you’re sneakily trying to hide.”
"… why don't you eat the pie over there?"
“Consider a piece of the cake as the transportation fee,” grinned.
"… eat a piece of shit instead," grumbled, giving him a spoon of cake.
Just as Addai was about to savor another bite of the delicious plum cake, a young lady unexpectedly appeared. She looked delicate yet elegant and seemed to be around the same age as Mine. Her left hand held a cup of Soleil's exquisite booze - which emitted a delightful aroma - while the other hand was curled protectively over the neckline of her dress, suggesting a subtle shyness or discomfort in this unfamiliar setting.
"Excuse m-me...” she hesitated. “I wanted to talk to Mr. Karawaga, like... you're my inspiration!"
The young lady stuttered before sitting down next to them and striking up a conversation with Mine - while Addai tried to blend into the background. As the conversation progressed, Mine's social energy drained rapidly, like the battery in his phone - which had already died in his pocket. He searched for a way to politely end the conversation, but the woman kept talking and talking.
"Soleil is calling for you," Addai patted the new teacher's shoulder.
“Ah! Ok, thanks!" she smiled and turned to Mine. "Ahem, it was a pleasure talking to you."
She extended her hand for Mine to shake – as a final greeting of the night – and he, naturally, extended his hand as well. Her hands were slender and smooth to the touch, and her nails were well polished and manicured, which required her to take time out that day to get a manicure. Just as they were about to shake hands, Addai was quicker and took Mine's hand, stealthily looking at her. She flinched and pretended to take her glass back, fiddling with the cup.
"It was my pleasure too, Mrs." Addai grinned and stared at her nails, which she hid on her lap. "Have a nice and enchanting night," tightened the grip on Mine's hands.
The green-haired boy didn't notice earlier, but Addai was wearing a black leather glove, which he recognized as the model of practice for more aggressive spells done with the hand being the mana's channeling "instrument." The gloves were exquisite and rough, but his hands were soft and warm, contrasting with what partially covered it.
"Y-You too," she stood up and quickly vanished among the crowd.
Once the young girl had departed, Addai shifted his attention towards Mine and slowly released his grip on Mine's hands.
As Mine fixed his gaze on Addai's, he observed how differently his colleague's pupils contrasted with the darkness of the room. They were thin, and a small bright red line crossed a portion of the iris - which contrasted more with the blue side than the gold side.
It seemed that Addai called him a few times but without success, so he patted Mine on the cheeks to get him to come back from wherever he had gone – and he didn't come back very happy, but he didn't express his dissatisfaction.
"You hear me? She was going to touch you with a spell," Addai warned, Mine still looking at his iris.
It was funny. The colors, once mixed with the purple and blue lights, turned brighter for a reason, as if the environment didn't stain the original colors of the iris. They glowed, shimmering like faint neon paint. Maybe Mine was too tired to ponder about it, so he focused more on the phenomenon than on Addai's words.
"You need to be careful with certain smiles."
But this time, he paid attention to what Addai said. He chuckled and crossed his arms. "Like yours?"
"Hm," he snorted, "yeah, like mine."
"I knew it," Mine grinned, stuffing his mouth with another bonbon. "Oh, this ugly face of yours is better when you smile. You even look like a decent person, congratulations."
"I can't say if you mean it or not," laughed.
"Oh," Mine voiced after his cellphone rang a notification from the 'agenda' app.
"Our monthly tutoring meeting is in two days," Mine recalled. "Let's look for a good café, and don't forget to show up."
"Ah..." he deeply sighed, also stuffing his mouth with a bonbon. "I won't forget it..." grieved.