Chapter 28

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            Eyes fluttering open, Kallai found herself looking up at grey stone. Her hands twitched slightly, and she could feel something cushiony underneath, making her realize she was on a bed. Studying the stone ceiling above her, it only took her a few moments to realize she was actually in her own bed.

            Kallai sat up slowly, both because she still had bruises that would twinge if she moved wrong, and because she was trying to figure this out. She didn’t remember going to bed last night. And she was still wearing yesterday’s robes, with even her sash still on. In fact, she didn’t remember anything after…

            She shivered. They might have deserved it, she might only have been defending herself, but the fact that she was capable of that kind of destruction, that kind of torture and terrorizing of others, frightened Kallai. Rubbing her arms, she glanced around her room, focusing on that rather than her memories.

            It looked just the way she’d left it, except for a couple of papers that had fallen to her floor. She frowned slightly before smiling. The papers had more likely been blown onto the floor, which meant that it had been Shuu who had brought her back. He was the only one she really trusted in her room at this school, except maybe a few of the faculty, but even then, she didn’t like the idea of them in her room. Not her one haven in the whole of the school.

            Kallai slid off her bed, flinching slightly as her feet met the cool stone of the floor. She had enough to do to get ready that she didn’t have time to let her thoughts overwhelm him. She concentrated on her morning routine to the exclusion of everything else.

            Dressed in clean robes and a clean undershirt, her hair brushed until it puffed out in a halo around her head, her soft soled indoor shoes on, Kallai was ready. But standing in the middle of the room, with nothing else to do, she couldn’t help but remember what she’d done last night. And more than that, she worried about how people were going to react to it. At least a few of her tormentors would want revenge, she was sure. She didn’t know if she could replicate yesterday’s shield, but if it came to it, she’d definitely try.

            The thought of fire, the fire that lived inside her skin it seemed, helped Kallai relax slightly. Yes, she’d gone too far last night, had done things she never should have done to anyone, even if they deserved it, but at least they’d left her alone. And as long as she had the fire, she might be able to get people to leave her alone. At least, that’s what she hoped.

            Taking a steadying breath and hunching her shoulders up, Kallai unlocked her door and walked out. She heard a gasp and whirled, one hand one her door’s handle in case she had to run back inside. But the noise had come from Vyona. The other girl stared at Kallai, before grabbing her friend Rheta’s hand, and hurrying away down the hall with frequent glances over her shoulder.

            Kallai watched them leave, actually standing up straight from the shock. Then she shook her head and turned around to face the other end of the hall. Whatever Vyona had seen or thought she’d seen behind Kallai, she doubted it would end up bothering her. Not when the other girl scared herself with ghosts and monsters on a monthly basis.

            Staying close to the wall, she walked quickly, but with her head down, as she headed toward the dining hall. Kallai wasn’t happy to realize that it was later in the morning than she’d thought, when most of the other students came down for breakfast as well. She huddled closer to the wall as she moved, ignoring the stares and whispered comments between people. She just wouldn’t listen to the insults they were making about her.

            The doors to the dining hall were in her view, when Kallai heard a shout of “Hey, Spellless.” She let her shoulders rise higher as she dropped her head a bit and pretended that she hadn’t heard anything. She tried to hurry her steps, but sudden grey movement in front of her had her stopping.

            Kallai glanced up through the curtain of her hair, and felt her heart begin to pound at the sight of Sidra standing in front of her. Her mouth gone dry, she tried to swallow, as the older girl smiled down at her. “You’re not actually going to go eat, are you? I mean, the school gives us food so that we have the energy to do magic, but since you can’t, isn’t it just a waste? Aren’t you actually stealing?”

            As people all around began to stop, stare, and whisper to each other, Kallai said nothing. Nor did she move. She just stayed in the same position, hoping Sidra would get bored of her non response and leave. She felt her hair stir, tickling her ear, just as a very familiar voice said, in tones of disappointment and disgust, “Sparrow.”

            She froze, wondering where Shuu was, and going pale at the thought of him being caught in the school. But as the breeze continued to tease the hair around her ear, she realized he was probably somewhere else and just using his winds to communicate with her. The voice she’d hear had only barely been audible to her, so she was probably okay, no one would know that she was hearing something. Maybe if she didn’t respond, he’d stop. She hoped he was being careful-

            “Hey,” Sidra’s voice cut through Kallai’s thoughts. “Are you even listening to me, Spellless?”

            When she didn’t reply, Sidra glared. Her hand shot out and she grabbed Kallai’s shoulder in a painful grip, one doubly so since she still had half-healed bruises there. She winced at the pressure, feeling the pain as a hot wash into her veins. The extra heat seemed to ignite inside of her, setting the temper Kallai had only recently rediscovered she had, to burning.

            She yanked herself out of Sidra’s grasp, letting her head come up and her hair fall away to reveal her glaring eyes. While inside she still shook, terrified of what kind of response she was going to get, of what fresh harassment this might cause, Kallai still let the words bubbling up with her anger fall out. “If you touch me again,” she said, glad that her fear and worry weren’t audible in her voice. “I’ll scorch you.”

            Sidra stared at her for a moment, mouth dropping open. Then she glared herself and stepped forward so she was only inches from Kallai. “Oh yeah? And how are you going to do that?” she sneered. “You’re the Spellless Wonder, the Incredible Exploding Girl. How are you going to scorch me?”

            Even as she finished speaking, Sidra lashed out with both hands this time, grabbing Kallai’s wrists in a tight hold, a mocking smile on her lips. While a large part of her continued to shake and panic, the anger that had been so long repressed gave Kallai the jolt she needed to act. She let the heat inside of herself rise, let it roll out along her skin, a thin layer of fire without light or visible flames.

            Yelping, Sidra immediately let go of Kallai and backed away, her eyes on the sudden redness of her hands. Kallai let the heat sink back into her, so her skin was its normal temperature again. While she wanted to duck her head again and hurry away, there were too many people watching, staring, and she knew if she didn’t project confidence, they’d been on her in seconds.

            While she was back to trembling inwardly, fear making her want to hide, Kallai kept her head up and continued on towards the dining hall. A breeze slid through her hair to tickle her ear, leaving her with the sound of Shuu’s chuckles as she kept walking.

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