Chapter 23

2.4K 245 12

            Kallai sat down onto the soft, needle blanketed ground, her nostrils flaring at the thick scent of pine that filled the dark space underneath the tree’s thick branches. She’d almost forgotten about this hiding place of hers, a favourite when she’d still been in Brown, but one that had been discovered shortly before she went into Pink. She hoped the others had forgotten about it the same way she had.

            She had barely laid her lunch cloth down when the branches around her began to rattle and sway, causing the sun to pierce through the gloom and create sparkling golden patterns across the moss and pine needles that covered most of the earth’s brown with their shades of green.

            Kallai looked up and smiled as the branches were shoved to one side and Shuu forced his way in beside her. “Bleh,” he said, swatting pine needles away from his mouth and out of his hair. “A more difficult spot to reach you not could have chosen. Why here?”

            “It’s quiet, no one comes in here, there’s enough space, and I can see the door to my dormitory from here,” she said, nodding at the grey wall that was just visible through the thick branches. “It’s easier if you come in from the other side. The branches aren’t as big there.”

            He snorted and looked around at the cave-like space. “Your advice I think I will take,” Shuu said, finally settling into his usual cross-legged position. He snatched a piece of cheese off the cloth and chewed it, silent, as Kallai took a small bite out of the small chicken pie that was the lunch’s main piece.

            “You, Sparrow” he said, once he’d swallowed his mouthful. “Why, when Rachine you useless, spellless failure are called, her robe on fire did not set? It her would have stopped. Amusing too, it would have been.”

            Kallai choked slightly and began coughing as a piece of her lunch went down the wrong tube. Shuu tilted her head back by her chin as she continued to hack, ignoring the way her hands flailed close to his arms. A moment later and Kallai could breathe normally again. She swallowed and looked at him.

            Shuu shrugged. “Air mage I am. My question, now please answer.”

            “Thank you,” she said, before shaking her head. “I couldn’t do something like that to her. It could seriously hurt her, especially if she panicked and couldn’t put the fire out herself. And I don’t want to make any more enemies. I’ve learned to ignore the talk. It doesn’t really bother me. I just want everyone to stop attacking me physically. I can handle everything else, just not having to go to the physiker’s all the time. And I really don’t like pain, mine, or anyone else’s.”

            “If on fire you them did set, everyone you alone would leave.”

            Kallai sighed and actually met Shuu’s eyes for a whole second before looking down at her lap. “I can’t. If I did something like that, it’d be no different than what they do to me. I know how much it hurts. And what if I just kept doing it, telling myself that they deserved it, until I became them? I don’t think I could live with myself then. It’s better that I just ignore them. If I wait until we graduate, I won’t have to see any of them ever again if I don’t want.”

            Shuu stared at her for several seconds before shrugging. “You, too nice are,” he said, snagging a roll. “If me it were, every person who mean things said, it would regret. To death, it regret. But I, with my own, every threat answer. No weakness I will show. No vulnerabilities will I have.”

            She frowned and glanced at him. “That sounds like you don’t have anyone you trust, anyone you can really be yourself with. I still have Sevilen, no matter what happens. Don’t you have any friends at home?”

            “People I time with spend I do have. My parents who are I most love. Others my age…not good together we are.”

            Kallai blinked, realizing she’d never thought of Shuu as anything but popular, the centre of attention and everything fun. He was so confident that she’d just assumed… Her shock was so great that her mouth opened before she could stop herself. “Why?” she instantly flushed and looked away.

            Shuu ran a hand through his hair. “No great thing it is. When younger we were, the others me not for did care. My father earth mage is. On ground comfortable I am, they not were. Some things they did say. But stronger air mage I am, so soon they to stop learned. At magic, I very good am.”

            Looking back at him, Kallai reached out and put her hand over the one he was supporting himself with as he leaned back. “I’m your friend,” she said. “That is, if you want me to be. I’ll understand if you don’t. I mean, I don’t really know how to have a friend, but if you’re okay with that-”

            He cut her off with a laugh. “Sparrow, relax. You as a friend I would like,” he said, grinning. “Always fire mage on your side good to have is. Now, more practice we will do, so real fire mage you will be.”

            Kallai’s answering smile was bright, her chest filled with more of the glorious, glittering warmth she knew was happiness. She had a friend. A real friend. As she inhaled the rest of her lunch as quickly as she could, she vowed to herself to do everything she could both to be the best friend to Shuu she could be, and to keep him safe.

Blowing EmbersWhere stories live. Discover now