Chapter 21

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            When the winds released them, and Kallai could see again, she found that they weren’t on the roof as she’d expected. It actually took her a second to figure out where they were, with the moon only half full and still low on the horizon. She could see the sky overhead, the stars looking like silver fireflies suspended in velvet of the darkest blue, but the view she had of the way the small mountain their school was on dropped away confused her for a moment. It didn’t look like it had any other time she’d seen it.

            Then she looked down.

            Kallai yelped and wrapped her arms around Shuu’s neck, ignoring the pain it caused, as she realized that what lay below her was the school’s woods. And that they were hovering over the trees with nothing supporting them.

            Shuu winced, and reached up, carefully unhooking the arms she had crushing his neck. “Relax,” he said. “I not you let fall. Air mage I am.”

            Slowly, he got Kallai to let him go. Only then did he, just as carefully, remove that arm holding her knees, so that her legs dropped down. She froze, but she could feel the air conforming to her shape, supporting her, like how she’d floated in the Salt Sea she’d visited as a child with Sevilen and their family.

When the tension began to drain from her body, Shuu pulled away his other arm. Kallai shot her hand out when he started, grabbing his, not trusting even him not to drop her or to have his magic fail so she plummeted to her death. He only shrugged.

            As she continued to look around, Kallai began to relax and enjoy the weightless feeling she had just hanging there. Glancing at her, Shuu suddenly grinned and towed her as he rose up higher. Kallai gasped, but in pleasure this time, as more of the mountain, forest, and field tapestry that made up the countryside was revealed in the silver light of the moon. Never in her wildest dreams had she ever thought she’d fly.

            She turned to look at Shuu, her own lip curving up into a face-splitting smile. “Thank you,” she whispered, half afraid a loud noise would cause the whole thing to break apart, like a dream under the morning sun. “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever done.”

            He shrugged, but his grin didn’t dim. “It nothing is. Flying my favourite thing to do is. You, I thought, also would it enjoy.”

            “It’s incredible.”

            “For an elemental mage, this kind of thing easy is. Our magic of the natural world is. The five elements themselves our magic do shape. If you do listen, if you for it do feel, your own magic will appear.”

            She frowned slightly. “I don’t really understand.”

            “Your power, like mine, to the world around us is connected. It nature itself is. All elements in everything present are. Relax, on that focus, and your power manifest should. It not force do, only it through you allow to flow. With your eyes closed, easier it will be.”

            As loathe as she was to lose her new, hawk-eye view, Kallai still closed her eyes. She tried to let herself just be, without thinking of anything else, just letting her senses pick things up. Shuu’s hand was warm and dry and he smelled faintly of soap and some kind of darker, smokier scent. She could hear his breathing, laid over with the gentle hoot of an owl and the chirping of crickets below them. She could still faintly taste blood in her mouth, something that made her aware of the heat in her veins. And, as she realized suddenly, she could feel the heat in Shuu’s veins as well.

            She opened her eyes and held up her free hand. She let that heat, the warmth that made her face flush and left her feeling giddy and invincible at the same time, roll down her arm and pool into her palm. Even as she watched, light flared there, finally stabilizing into a fist sized ball of snapping flames.

            Kallai could only stare, slowly realizing that the fire wasn’t hurting her, and in fact, felt quite nice, especially with the breezes that were always wrapped around Shuu. He nodded as he watched the flames, his face thrown half into shadow by their light. “That much I did suspect. Only fire and spirit elements easy to hide are. But spirit beyond rare is, so fire far more likely was. Not much natural fire occurs, so little your interest and obsession there was to show. But now…Now, all fires you obey. Well, with practice, they you obey.”

            “I’m a…I’m an elemental mage?”

            Shuu nodded. “Fire mage you are. Or fire witch if that you prefer. Heat and light yours are. No fire you will harm. Your body fire can create. Fire mages, of all elemental mages, best at fighting are. Great warrior you could become.”

            She shook her head. “I don’t think I could do that. But I…I don’t think I’ll ever be cold again,” she whispered, eyes still on the movement of the fire in her hand. But I could…I could maybe save people from a fire by controlling it, or I could help when snow traps people, or maybe even work with metals and the new steam engines. I bet if people know I’m good with fire, I can get all sorts of jobs.”

            “And your freedom you will have. No one with fire mage argues. One anger and…poof, nothing but ash.”

           Kallai smiled at him, the edges of her eyes crinkling up. “Thank you, Shuu,” she said, trying put all of her joy, relief, and gratitude into her tone. “Without you…I owe you everything.”

            She wasn’t sure how successful she’d been, but the way Shuu flapped his hand at her and looked away gave her hope that he’d understood how she felt.

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