Chapter 17

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            Rika slumped in her chair, muscles still trembling faintly from her morning workout. Damek sat across from her, while Ahisu had taken the seat at the head of the kitchen table, staring at a point near the oven. On the table in front of them was a basket of fruit, two loaves of bread and a plate of cheese. Rika had no idea where they’d come from. They certainly hadn’t been there yesterday.

           Damek caught her eye, frowning slightly. “You weren’t very focused out there today. I hope your magic lessons aren’t distracting you.”

            She dropped her head to the table, groaning. “Don’t talk to me about my magic lessons.”

            He chuckled. “Oh come on, it can’t have been that bad.”

            Rika’s head snapped back up so she could glare at him. “Want to bet? Let’s see, I failed to light the candle, change the taste of the water, make the plant do something, make the air do anything, copy the symbols they did whatever they were supposed to do, change the colour of the iron arrowhead, send my spirit or sense beyond my body, materialize something from home onto the table, and of course, my favourite. Instead of filling the glass with something, I managed to make it shrink.”

            Seeing the look Ahisu turned on her, she sighed. “The only test I didn’t mess up was the paper one. So far, my only magical talent seems to be in levitating paper. Not the kind of power I was hoping for. It’s not even anything useful.”

          Damek looked to the mage, one eyebrow up. “So what kind of magic does she have?”

            “I don’t know,” Ahisu said after several seconds. “I will test her further.”

            Rika groaned again and buried her head in her arms. Damek looked to the mage then back to Rika. He cleared his throat and said “Well, we ought to start planning out what we’re going to do when we leave and provision ourselves while we have the chance. I mean, we can’t stay here forever. Not and find you a mage to send you home. I think we should continue on towards the capital. Tomorrow, if we’re ready.”

            It took the passing of a handful of heartbeats before Rika raised her head. “What kind of planning?”

            “Well,” he said quickly. “We got stopped before right? So we should have our stories down as to who we all are and what we’re doing. Just so that if they try and question us separately, we’ll be ready.”

            “Like how you called me Darrika?”

            Damek shrugged. “Everyone in my hometown names their children with the same first letter. Darrika was the first name that popped into my head that sounded kind of like yours. I thought it sounded fine.”

            Rika had to laugh at his defensive tone. “It’s fine. So if you’re my weird, blue-haired brother, then who’s Ahisu? There’s no way we can say he’s related to us too. We’re enough of a stretch as it is.”

            “A family friend. He’s escorting us home. We can say…he had business in the area and we met up and are all travelling back to Cotess together. He’s obviously a mage, so no one’s going to ask why we decided to travel with him. Now we only need to think of a reason for us to have been all the way in Saimore to begin with.”

            She frowned for a second, thinking. “Well, you could have been learning more martial arts styles, which you kind of were, and I came with you because…I was looking for new styles and ideas for clothes. I still have an empty notebook and some pencils in my bag. I can draw some outfits, and say that I’m a fashion designer. I actually read a couple of books that had fashion designers as main characters and one that was a how-to guide. I know enough to sound like someone who is a real designer. And as long as they don’t think my drawings are too bad, which they will be since I can’t draw, I can probably pull it off.”

            Damek grinned. “Perfect! My only concern now is your book. I think it must give off some kind of magic,” he said, glancing at Ahisu for confirmation. When the mage nodded, he continued. “I really think it’d be best if we had Ahisu carry it. He’s very obviously a mage. And to be honest, I think the book’s what the soldiers are looking for. The way they’re looking for foreigners, the way we were attacked, I’m really worried they’re looking for you.”

            Rika shook her head, cheeks pale. “That’s what I don’t get. Why would anyone be looking for me? I can’t fight, we’ve already established I’m nearly useless at magic, and it’s not like I was anyone important at home. I was just a normal high school student. Well, mostly normal. And this is another world, so it’s not like anything from home would influence things here, right?”

            He sighed. “I don’t know. There’s a lot about this we don’t know and some I don’t think we’ll ever be able to find out. It’s best just to concentrate on what we can do. Which reminds me,” Damek said, before turning his gaze on Ahisu. “I need to talk to you for a minute.”

            She watched them walk over to the other side of the room, their backs to her. She frowned, wondering what could have them whispering to each other the way they were, Damek actually glancing at her at one point. Her frown deepened. So they were talking about her, were they? Ahisu might be all but a robot, but Damek was an easier target. For all his mother-henning, she knew she could still fluster him, even make him turn bright red. She’d find out what they were saying soon enough.

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